Monday, May 27, 2013

She Wore an Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (Cake)

Summer is quickly approaching, ready or not!  I can't wait for the hot summer sun, and fun!  Are you all summer fans?   I know baking and cooking is set aside for cold meals, sandwiches, bbq's, fresh fruits and veggies.  Sometimes the last thing you want to do on a 100 degree day is crank that oven up.  BLEH!!  Makes me hot just thinking about it. But trust me when I tell you the cuteness of this cake is worth it! 

I saw this idea done on cookies over on the Woodland Bakery YouTube channel quite some time ago.  The video no longer exists so I can't link it but check out Gretchen over there!  She did these cookies and I thought how PERFECT on a cake.  She did this around Valentines Day (you will understand why later) and so it has been that long since I have wanted to recreate these adorable cookies with cake.  I also knew, I HAD to recreate this with one niece in particular, Jenna.  She is a summer girl for certain!  She is such a delightful young woman and I just knew this project was right up her alley.

I love cooking with my nieces, from the little ones to grown ones!  More than the cooking is spending time with them, finding out what is going on in their lives, and learning more about who they are becoming.  It is so exciting, I am proud of them all (and my nephews too).   So when my niece told me she had classes winding down, and had time after clinicals, I couldn't wait to see her OR hang out with her.  We have made a few dates before and then had to cancel so it was about time we got it together!

For this cake, you will need 2 heart shaped pans.  If you only have one, just bake the first cake, let it cool and then bake the second cake.  Heck I suppose if you are a gifted "cutter" you could do 2, 9x13 cakes and cut them into heart shapes.  You can use a cake mix or a from scratch cake, it makes no difference.  Just end up with 2 heart shaped cakes.  I used a yellow cake mix, as I thought it would simulate a nice "tan"!   HOWEVER, we ended up frosting it all in a flesh tone because we didn't want part of the cake left unfrosted.  This post is going to give you the method, my butter cream recipe, and the food coloring formula we found for flesh colored icing (Caucasian).  Because the answer is, YES, I forgot to pick up flesh colored food coloring.  Sue me.

I am giving you the directions for THIS cake.  How we did it, the colors we used.  You can change these colors, you can just frost it using a knife instead of piping bags, I mean you know how this goes, the choices are yours, I can only tell you how we did ours!

Vanilla Butter cream Icing
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temp
1lb powdered sugar
4-5 tbsp cold milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
Cream together butter and sugar, add in vanilla.  Add milk 1 tbsp at a time, I used 4, but you may choose to use more or less.  Just use enough to get to the consistency you need for piping or icing. 

Here is how to divide the icing up.  Divide into separate bowls as follows:
1/4  flesh colored (recipe below)
1/2 white
1/4 yellow (as bright or light as you choose)

To get flesh colored icing, in a SEPARATE BOWL  add together 8 drops of yellow, 6 drops of red, and 2 drops of green, food coloring.  DO NOT mix it in the icing.  Add a few drops at a time to your bowl of white icing, until you get the color you want.  It worked perfectly for us! We just googled it and came up with it on Yahoo Answers! 

For this cake you will need:
2 heart shaped cakes
Piping bags
tips (star tip any size and a writing tip to do the tie and outline)
offset spatula
large cookie sheet, board or platter it will fit on. 
1 batch of butter cream icing

Place your cakes on your large cookie sheet or whatever you are using to build the cake on.  The top heart will be upside down and the bottom cake will also be upside down.  Drop the point that is fitting into the top heart, between the 2 sides.  Wow, this instruction isn't going well.  Point the up or the down to the side of the center..........yea, that is about as much sense as I feel this is making so let me just give you a photo.  This is after it had been trimmed a bit to fit together, and icing in flesh colored icing!  So once you get it trimmed and fit together, frost it.  You do not want to use the flesh colored icing where you are putting the bikini, it will just be to much icing and you left only enough to cover the top and sides of the NAKED parts of the cake! So to speak........  OMGOSH, we iced it all mostly, DO NOT DO WHAT WE DID.  LOL  Really though just frost where the "skin" would be showing.  Use a cup of hot water if needed to smooth it out as nicely as you can.  Don't forget the SIDES!  Nobody wants cellulite on their own butt OR on their cake! Sorry this is sideways.

Next, using a toothpick or skewer, map out your bikini.  Ours, obviously was more of a granny panty style bathing suit, but you do what you want.  It is so much easier to map it out, that way there is no guessing.  The bottom of the top heart is obviously the "bikini top" and the bottom of the bottom heart is the "bikini bottom" is that all politically correct enough because there are MUCH easier words I COULD use.  HA!

Now, place your white icing in a piping bag fitted with a plain round writing tip.  Use it to outline the bikini.  You MAY need to thin that icing out a WEE bit, but you may not.  Just get a nice outline so all the rest is mindless "filling in".  Also do your ties at this point if you are doing the "ties around the neck" style. 

Now switch that tip out for your star tip (white frosting).  Any size star tip will work.  Begin filling in all of those outlines.  It is a little tedious, but not bad and the more you do it the faster it goes!  You can also just do this part with a plain spatula and frost it flat.   I am just obsessed with piping bags.  I remember when my mom used to decorate cakes, there was no airbrushes, or edible computer transfers, she used a star tip and "colored" everything in!   When you are done you will have something that looks like.....

Now, rinse that star tip out and put it unto a piping bag of your yellow frosting.  Time for the POLKA DOTS!!  Add them in as big or small and as few or many as you like!  Be creative!

When you are done you can always go back in and add more, or fill in more if you need to.  Here is "our" finished product, being proudly displayed by Jenna herself!!

So there you have it, the perfect cake for a summer girl.  I think making miniature cakes, and letting little girls decorate them for a birthday party would be a blast.  Of course, as long as I don't have to clean up.  Make this cake and post me your photos on Facebook or Twitter!!

Your "flipflop thwackin"chefwannabe

PS.  If you are lost and this makes no sense and you can't figure it out from the photos......I am sorry, I have no excuses, but I trust even if my words aren't sensible, you can figure it out.  Granny panties to string bikini's...........CHEERS!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Finally, we see the SUN!  This cloudy, dreary stuff was on my last raw nerve and quite frankly, I am tired of it!  Give me 20 degrees, just GIVE ME SUN!  I love spring, I love tulips and I love peony's and I love fresh air and green grass.  I am in heaven this time of year!! 

So how do YOU feel about brussel sprouts?  I swear, I have turned every brussel sprout hater into a lover after they eat these.  The funny part is, they aren't anything spectacular, nothing I am sure a bazillion other people don't do.  I think the problem lies in the preparation of the actual brussel sprout.  People get it mushy or crunchy, no happy medium.

Now, to prep the brussel sprouts, you will choose either fresh or frozen.   No turning your noses up, frozen is fine.  Trust me.  They will retain a nice bright green color too!!  No icky, nasty dark mushy green syndrome here!

You will need approx 3/4 to 1lb of brussel sprouts. 

FROZEN- Take out of the freezer and microwave 2 minutes.  Leave in the bag until ready to saute.

FRESH-  Clean the outer leaves off if you need too.  Place into salted boiling water, boil for 3-4 minutes.  No more, no less.  Drain. 

In a large skillet, add in 1 tbsp butter, 4 slices of bacon that you have cut into small pieces.  Saute for 3 minutes. 

Add in drained brussel sprouts and saute another 3 minutes.  Crack some fresh cracked black pepper over the top and serve!

Trust me, this might just turn your brussel sprout hating family/friends into brussel sprout lovers.  I mean if bacon doesn't help turn them to the sprout side, NOTHING can!!

Your "thank GOD for brussel sprouts" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Eclair No Bake Dessert

Long ago, in a place far, far away......

I met my bestie, Mel.   She taught in the classroom next to me and my principal suggested I introduce myself because we were both young, (see I told you it was a long time ago) and she thought we would get along well.  So that morning, when we met in the gym to get our students, I saw her walk in.  She appeared about 7 feet tall and had ALL this red (natural) LONG, curly hair bouncing side to side.  I thought to myself, "self, she isn't friend material look at her strutting in here like a diva".  She had on 4 inch heel boots, and was gorgeous and I thought, "wow, she is obviously delusional with her perfect hair, high heeled boots, makeup, accessories and all her tallness, in PRE-K".    Anyway, isn't it funny (and sad) how we judge people.  I think I was actually not judging, but intimidated by all that hair.  I finally decided to invite her class over to our classroom for a dance party after several days of being asked, "Have you met Melissa yet"?  It has been downhill ever since!!  We laugh over this still, 10 years later.   After 2 marriages (neither of us were married when we met) , 3 kids (almost), lots of tears, laughter, sadness, joy and 1500 miles apart later we are still best friends.  She married a wonderful man and they are creating a beautiful family!  I am so happy for ALL of them!  Oh WAIT.....did I mention, I picked her husband for her?  Ok well not really, but I facilitated it, isn't that just as important?  Thanks to her visiting me in Nebraska, and a blizzard, she is one adoring wife, of Tom!!

Mel with her husband Tom and son Jackson (and a little pink bun in the oven too)!
As we become better friends and started spending more time together outside of work, Mel just became part of our family.  She would come over and I would have a list, we affectionately called "the tall girl list".  You guessed it, she helped me paint rooms, hang curtains, cleaned out top cupboards. HA!  Oh, the painting...........!  Was not her favorite tall girl list chore.   I know she is thrilled over my creation of the tall girl last even to this day.  Yea, I am sure she is...

I was just starting to get into cooking, and she dubbed me the "soup Nazi".  Soup has always been my thing.  We would concoct some amazing creamy, fattening soup, slap a Grands biscuit on top and hang out, for hours, or days!  Mel on the other hand, is Betty Crocker.  There is nothing this woman doesn't bake or create.  It would become a tradition for her to make us this Eclair Dessert or we would go pick up french silk pie, (before I knew how to make it)  and we would stay up all night, my husband was working grave shifts then, and just laugh and have great adventures.  She was part of our family from the beginning and it just seemed like we had always been friends.  My husband had to nickname her Rusty.  I am sure she enjoys that to this day as much as she enjoyed the tall girl list back then!

I am not sure how I survived life before her, and there are times the distance since my husband and I moved will kill me but, one day Mel, I swear we will be neighbors, and I won't have 1500 miles separating me from my sister from another mister!  Thanks for sharing your life,  your food, and yourself with us all these years, you have never really been a friend, you have just been part of our family! 

Aren't girlfriends the best?  Are there things you do with your girlfriends that are hilarious and fun?  Did I mention we used to drive through the worst parts of Philly just for fun?  OMG, we drove through some sort of "event" on this narrow street in Fishtown and we couldn't get out of it so you threw the car in reverse and backed up 2 blocks to get out of it?! "Yelling" at me the whole time, "OMG OMG OMG OMG, WHY do you NEVER give me the right directions ANYWHERE" ROFL  I miss our adventures, Ikea, Staples (mwaaahaha), farms out in Franklinville and coffee, at Fortesque at midnight.  Some of these I still laugh out loud about when I think of them!  I love you and miss you!!

Eclair No Bake Dessert
3 small boxes of vanilla instant pudding (I used sugar free)
4 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 - 8oz tub of cool whip (feel free to substitute fresh sweetened whipped cream)
16 ounces of chocolate frosting.  (it can be store bought, or homemade)
1 box graham crackers (not the cinnamon ones)

In a large bowl combine pudding mix, vanilla, and milk.  With an electric mixer, beat until combined.  Fold in cool whip or whipped cream.  In a 9x13 pan, lay the bottom with graham crackers.  Don't crush them, lay the crackers so they cover the bottom.  Add half of your pudding mixture on top and spread evenly.  Add another layer of graham crackers and the rest of the pudding mixture.  Now take your icing and microwave it for a few seconds to make it almost runny.  It will pour easily over the top and you can use an offset spatula or knife to spread it out.  If you don't heat it up to thin it out, it will be impossible (obviously) to spread it over soft pudding.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.  I like to put mine in the freezer for a few minutes as well, I like the texture when it has been SLIGHTLY frozen but not completely.  Feel free to just chill if you like.

Easy or what?  The best thing is the memories it brings back, AND how delish it is.
Your "besties forever" chefwannabe

PS.  FYI, if there were written on paper, it would be unreadable because of my tears...HAPPY ones of course!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

Have you ever gone into a store and saw something you thought was outrageously priced and thought to yourself..........


It went more like this.  Have you ever gone into a store and saw something you thought was outrageously priced and started to think, and then your husband blurts out, "OMG you could TOTALLY make these".  Yea that is how it happened at Trader Joe's.  We saw these cookies.  I am sure now, they weren't nearly as flippin' fantastic as these cookies, but we saw them there.  I decided I was going home to get on this one.  I mean, how hard could it be?  It wasn't.  It was easy AND, I just changed up an old recipe that I thought would work and holy cow my friends, it worked out WELL.

When I asked my husband to taste test them, he said nothing.  And then he looked at me and said, "Don't let Little Debbie get ahold of this".  He took another bite and said, "Oh yea, this is possibly my most favorite dessert you have ever made".  Isn't he a PEACH?    So I decided no experimenting needed.  So here we go, I hope you try them and love them as much as we did.  They are like a mix between carrot cake and an oatmeal cookie.  The texture rocks the filling rocks and they just pretty much rock.  OK enough........

1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely grated or food processed carrots (4 Sm carrots for me)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  In your mixer bowl or large mixing bowl add in butter and sugar.  Cream together for 1 minute.  Add in salt, soda, cinnamon, and vanilla and mix until combined.  Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing each in completely before moving to the next.  Now add in your flour, oats and carrots.  When all ingredients are completely combined, you are ready to bake!!

I used a small scoop for my cookies.  Since there will technically be 2 cookies in each sandwich, I went with a smaller scoop and it worked perfectly.    Scoop unto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes.  Mine worked out at 10 minutes exactly.  Let cook for 2 minutes on the pan and then remove to a cooling rack. 

You are going to kill me, I THINK this made 65-70 cookies, so between 30 and 35 finished sandwich cookies.  This is what happens when I think I am going to just remember something and don't jot it down.  And the answer is, YES.  The cookies are gone so I can't count now! Pffft!

Let the cookies all cool completely before you slather and slap!  That is my term for slathering on the filling and slapping them together.  I never claimed to be normal..........

Also, I refrigerated mine, if you don't think it is neccesary, leave them out.  Freeze some, they are the BOMB right out of the freezer. 

Cream Cheese Filling
1- 8oz. block of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter
1-3 tsp milk (this all depends on your mixture)

Combine all ingredients.  Then get on with your slather and slap technique!!  Flip your cookies....haha.  Flip your COOKIE over, slather the bottom with a generous amount of filling, slap another one on the bottom and there you go!

BEST.  Cookies.  EVER. 
Your "enough said" Chefwannabe

Friday, May 17, 2013

Orange Swirl Meringues

Meringues.  I swear, I love these things.  I don't care if they are in the form of cookies, pavlova, top of a pie, it makes NO difference.  I love the crispy outside and perfect marshmallow-ee inside.  Makes me happy for sure!

This recipe has been sitting in a magazine on the coffee table for a good year now.   Yes, dead serious.  There is a small pile of magazines sitting there for random reading and this recipe was in one of them.  So 6 months ago I took a huge step, and ripped the recipe out and threw the magazine away.  Definite big girl panty move, eh?  Another 6 months and I actually make the recipe.  Pathetic.  I know.  Doesn't matter, it is amazing.   This could easily be changed out with say....lime or lemon zest, and the color green or yellow to match.  I think a combo of all 3 on a huge plate would be SO cool.   So get your piping bag, and work this out.  They are easy and fun.  You will love them!

Don't sweat the small stuff, the painting of the food coloring is easy, and really you could color the entire batter if you like and avoid that whole drama all together!  Use any tip you like, I used no tip and just cut the tip of my bag off at a place I thought would create a nice size cookie.  I love when you have choices, when things aren't so meticulous, my gosh, I would be a hot mess.  NO comments! HA!

Btw, I am SO savvy, I managed to use those egg yolks I had leftover in another recipe today.  I know, I KNOW.  Are you that cool??  Don't throw them away, find a good use, you paid for them, USE THEM!!

Here is what you will need:
3 large egg whites, at room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
orange food coloring (gel)
piping bag

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  In a heatproof bowl, add eggs whites, sugar and salt.  Place over a pot of simmering water and whisk until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the pot of water when it feel smooth between your fingers.  Add in vanilla and cream of tartar and combine with your whisk until completely incorporated.

Pour mixture into your stand mixer bowl OR, keep in the current bowl.  You will need to beat this mixture until the whites are at the stiff peak stage.  You should be able to turn your beater or whisk attachment upside down the egg whites will remain standing up.  This could take 7-9 minutes.  So get on with your bad self and get to beating! HA!  When you get to stiff peaks, add in orange zest and just beat long enough to incorporate it. 

While this is happening take a paint brush and paint 1-3 lines INSIDE of your piping bag.  From the very bottom to the top.   It is helpful to put your bag inside of a tall drinking glass, fold the top over the edges and fill.  Regardless of how you do it, just get it done the best you can, there is no harm in not getting things exact. 

Pipe in a small circle and build up as you can see in the photo.  Really you can pipe them how you want, but if you want the swirl look do it in circles instead of one plop, so to speak.  Your cookies will have strong color the first few, as you can see in my photo, which made absolutely no difference to me, so just go with it.

When you have them all piped, put into the oven for 1hr 15 minutes.  Then, shut the oven off and let sit another 15 with the door opened slightly.  Remove and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

These were fun to make, I am a sucker for a meringue, all day, errr day!
Your "never can resist ORANGE food" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rice Pudding

My husband has emailed me 3 times from work wondering if this would be ready when he got home.  Yes, it is one of his favorite and yes, it is THAT good. 

There are so many variations of rice pudding but personally, while not fond of the texture of rice pudding, I would say this is the best, vanilla, creamy, goodness!!  I might be partial, but at the same time, I am quite brutally honest, so yea, it is the best and easiest!  My dad grooves on raisins in his rice pudding.  I, think raisins are really little bug corpses.  I mean, I don't know that for a fact, but I guarantee, if examined closely, they would be outlawed! :)   You guess it, not a fan of the raisin.  I will be sending a big bowl of this to my parents in a couple of days, I will make them a double batch and I will add raisins, because you know why?  I am the their youngest and most perfect child.  I mean, it is what it is right?  Come on "youngest children", you know what I mean?!  They would expect nothing less than that from us.  HA!

I mention in the ingredients to make sure your egg is room temperature.  When you add it, add slowly and don't stop stirring, we don't want scrambled eggs here and if the egg is at room temp it is closer to the temp of the scalding, boiling, mixture and not like, COLD to ya know....hotter than the sun.   I like to make sure I have everything measured out and ready to go. This is another one you are going to need some good music for.  You will have lots of dance party time while you stand at the stove and stir.  DO NOT, leave the stove kids!

3/4 cup white rice (uncooked)
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups milk (divided
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten (make sure it is at room temp)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup raisins (optional) Blech! 

In a small pot, bring water to a boil, add in white rice, turn down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Keep checking it so it doesn't stick or boil dry!  Trust me, keep it low, again, TRUST ME!

In a clean, medium saucepan, add in rice, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups milk.  Stir on medium until mixture begins to thicken, it could take 12-15 minutes.  Be patient and do not walk away, it will burn so fast you won't know what hit ya!  After it has thickened, (15 min point if you aren' sure), add in the remaining milk, egg, and raisins (if adding), stir until combined and cook another minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, add in butter, and vanilla, stir until melted and divide into 4 small dishes or ramekins. 

I hope you enjoy this creamy, perfect every single stinkin' time rice pudding.  I am off to make a double batch for my sister to deliver to my parents this weekend! 

Your "not so sure about this rice pudding thing"chefwannabe

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chocolate Covered Cherry Muffins

Good Evening!  I hope this finds you all home and relaxing after a hard day at work!  Maybe you just had dinner, maybe you are waiting for your water to boil, your oven to heat, or your microwave to ding, regardless, I have you covered for dessert.  Or wait.....I mean breakfast, umm, tomorrow. 

These "muffins" taste more like dessert but.......shhhh, don't tell anyone.   I have never eaten a chocolate muffin.  Never.  Can you believe it?  My husband says it is because chocolate muffins are cupcakes.  And heaven knows, I have had my fair share of those so technically, hubby says, I have eaten chocolate muffins.  Well since I am on another use up kick, I had some cherry pie filling, some maraschino cherries and other random things I wanted used up.  You got the final deal here.   I mean who doesn't think, "Heck yeah" when they hear Chocolate Covered Cherry Muffins?  I am on a bit of a muffin kick anyway, it is turning into another biscotti obsession of how many kinds can I possibly make.  Has this ever happened to anyone else, or am I, again, the singular freak? 

These muffins aren't to sweet, they have a nice texture and who doesn't love a surprise cherry in the middle?  Get outta here, they are delish.  DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT, skip the chocolate drizzle on top.  It evens things out perfectly and just shouldn't be left out.  Get in your kitchen and make these, because every morning should start so decadently!

You will need:
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cherry extract
3/4 cup cherry pie filling
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 Sm jar of maraschino cherries (you will need 15ish)
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line muffin/cupcake pan with liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. 

In a large bowl or your stand mixer bowl, add in eggs, butter, buttermilk brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cherry extract.  Mix until all ingredients are well combined.  Continue by adding cherry pie filling and oats to the mix.  Again mix until all ingredients are combined.  Add in flour and mix ONLY until flour is absorbed.  Using a rubber spatula scrape down the sides and fold in chocolate chips.

Fill openings of your muffin tin about 2/3rds full.  You should get 15 muffins.  OK, I got 15 muffins, you might get 14, or 16 but, you just go with whatcha know.......!

Place a maraschino cherry on top of each muffin in the center.  Most of the cherries will sink to the middle, some might stay closer to the top.  No matter, bake for 18-20 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely IN the pan. 
Put chocolate chips in a small Ziploc bag, and microwave 30 seconds at a time until chips are melted.  Cut a TINY bit from the corner and drizzle the tops of the muffins however you want.  Let the chocolate set and serve!

Your "chocolate covered cherries are now for breakfast" chefwannabe

Friday, May 10, 2013

SouthWest Turkey Meatloaf in Pepper Rings

I love the spring!  Singing birds, gentle breezes, the smell of fresh cut grass.  OhhhHhhHhhhHH!  It makes me happy.  Spring is my favorite season, there is nothing about it I do not love.  Oh wait, did I mention I do NOT love when on May 2nd, I wake up to 3 inches of snow?  HALT that love train. 

Spring and Summer usually also means lighter food.  I don't know about you all, but, I just am not as hungry in the summer.  To many fun things to be doing and the heat, oh LAWDY the heat.  You may not think Nebraska is humid, however, I am hear to tell you, it is more humid than anywhere I have lived.  Although after my experience last summer with Georgia humidity, I will never complain again.  See, I didn't complain, I just mentioned it was humid.   Seriously though, it is definitely time for some lighter options, health wise, and weather wise. 

We are ground turkey and chicken lovin' people.  My husband almost never knows when I substitute it for ground beef.  Even if he did notice, he wouldn't mind.  We love turkey burgers and chicken burgers too!  I have been making these little meatloaf stuffed pepper rings for a long time, I just decided it was a good time to share them, since my editor (my husband) informed me I needed too.  HA   I made these in the oven, but they can easily go on your grill.  I think they would make a great wee bit fancier option to a burger too!  I have this thing with cooked peppers.  If they aren't still a little crunchy I can't eat them.  Is it wrong that I peel the burger out, add it to a toasted bun, with slices of avocado, lettuce and tomato?  Well, it is just an OPTION. 

Now, while in my family we don't groove on black beans, you could certain add some into the meat mixture.  Just please don't tell me if you did.  OK?  Or you could add some corn.  Don't tell me if you did that either.  Cilantro?  Salsa?  The options are endless, but, I guarantee the flavor is awesome, and it will be a hit, no matter how ya serve it!

1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
2-3 large bell peppers (any color)
1/2 cup grated cheddar, Monterrey jack,  OR pepper jack cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

Get your peppers sliced.  I needed 7 rings for my mixture.  Cut them so you et 2-3 out of each pepper.  I think I even got 4 out of one pepper.  Keep the tops and very bottoms you cut off.  Cut them as thick or thin as you want them.  How thick they are determines how much mixture you need so go with it.  I know you can make it work!

Chop about 2 tbsp of bell pepper VERY fine to add to meat mixture.

In a bowl combine turkey, egg, bread crumbs, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and garlic salt.  Stir in minced bell pepper as well. 

Lay the rings out on your baking sheet and fill them with your meat mixture.  Pat them flat so they fill up the entire pepper ring.   Bake for 30 minutes.   Remove pan and sprinkle cheese on top of each one. 

Put back in the oven that you have turned OFF, to melt cheese.

I hope you enjoy this delicious, healthy dish, that you can make in the oven OR on the grill.  Maybe even serve it along with some Mexican Rice!!
Your "tis the season to lighten things up" chefwannabe

PS.  I had a few of these leftover a couple of days later.  I used a knife and cut them up pretty well and used them for tacos.  Holy..YUM! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mom's Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

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I have another of those "heavenly" recipes!  Remember I told you we found the recipes of my late mother in law's?  Yea, well, this is one of them.  Two of the recipes, including this one, were incomplete.  This is the first one of those two, I have experimented with and worked out.  It has what I believe are all of the ingredients listed, but only 2 items listed had a measurement! ACK!!  I mixed it up as per the measurements shown and then the experimenting began.  I baked one pan of them, and let them cool, and YUCKORAMA!!  They tasted much like what a dog biscuit smells like, the really REALLY cheap ones!  I took the rest of the dough and went back to the drawing board.  I added more of this, more of that and I think I finally got it.  I don't know if this is the original measurements but they are the ones that got me to this chewy, yummy cookie!!

You almost stumped me on this one Donna, but I got your back mama!  We worked it out and are enjoying your recipe you titled simply, "Cookies". 

This is so easy, you are just going to dump everything in, making sure to leave the flour till the end.   In a large bowl or your stand mixer bowl combine,

1/2 cup butter (softened)
3 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup quick oats
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups flour

Mix all ingredients, add in flour and mix just until combined.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line your cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper.  Using a cookie scoop, any size you like, scoop out your cookies.  Using a fork gently press down on them to make the traditional peanut butter cookie criss cross marks!  You need to push them down slightly, because they won't spread much on their own.  You can put them fairly close together for this reason.  Bake for 11-13 minutes.  Mine were perfect at 12.  Remove and put on a cooling rack.  This will yield you about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

I hope you enjoy these basic, but delicious cookies.  This is a perfect recipe to get your children in the kitchen cooking with you!!  These are the perfect cookies to use for my Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies!

Your "how much more heavenly can you get" chefwannabe

Monday, May 6, 2013

Blue Cheese Potato Salad

As most of you have probably noticed by now, this blog is really a family affair.  I am blessed to have a great husband great family who share their recipes, their food and their ideas!  I truly am thankful.

My husband works with a great group of people.   He is always discussing and sharing food ideas with them and Tyler, who works with my husband emailed me this potato salad recipe.  He was telling my husband how amazing it was, and wanted me to try it.  It is a newspaper clipping so I am not sure who the originator is, however I made a few changes anyway.  I wanted to use a few things I had on hand and sort of change up a few things so my husband would eat this.  I don't do blue cheese, so I counted on his refined palette (did I really say that?) to give me the bottom line on this one!  And yes honey, I was KIDDING.  I know he is on his lunch break at work, reading this.  I KNOW he is. 

This recipe calls for minced onion, I grated mine, you all know how hubs and I roll when it comes to onions.  It also called for a particular kind of blue cheese, and honestly I don't think it matters.  It also called for small red potatoes, to boil them, slip the skins off and dice them.  Oh for the love.....just use plain potatoes!  Make sure to add the dressing while the potatoes are still warm, so they soak it all in!  Oh wait I forgot, I substituted dijon mustard for country dijon (grainy) mustard.  And I omitted lemon juice, because you all know, I don't do lemon juice in anything savory.  No. Can. Do. 

My husband says, and I quote, "possibly the best potato salad I have ever eaten".  So there ya go.  Give it a try!! 

Blue Cheese Potato Salad
2 lbs potatoes (peeled and cubed)
4 slices of bacon (fried to crispy and drained)
2 tbsp grated onion
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp Hellman's
2 tsp cider vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese of your choice

Fill a medium pot with water, salt liberally and add in potatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes depending on the size of your cubes.  While they are cooking, in a small bowl add in grated onion, mustard, garlic powder, sour cream, canola oil, Hellman's, cider vinegar and salt and pepper.  Whisk until combined and set aside.  Drain potatoes and put back in the warm pot.  Pour in dressing and carefully toss, don't break up the chunks!   Add crumbled bacon and blue cheese in and continue to mix.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. 

I hope you enjoy this potato salad.  Thank you Tyler for sharing your recipe!!

Your "it is almost picnic time" chefwannabe


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips...

I have been going to do these for SO long.  I mean, really long time.   I finally decided today was the day.  I needed a sweet treat and heck, why not, right?

I considered that this was to easy of a recipe to post.  And then, I realized, some people must have the instructions, they must.  I wonder if I was ever like that?  Give me instructions and you can bet I am straying away from them, ESPECIALLY if they are in writing!  HA!  Youngest child syndrome, it controls my life friends, it CONTROLS my life.

You can use, milk, dark, semi sweet, or white chocolate for me.  In my world, there is nothing besides milk and white, so I used both, one for dipping and one for decorating.  I mean if you groove on dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate, go with it.  OMG you could mix peanut butter and milk chocolate............oh.  OH.  OH.

Now the good thing about this "recipe" is that you won't need a whole bag of chips.  There will be plenty to snack on at midnight, in your bed, in the closet, whatever.  Is it wrong that I forgot to tell you how many I got from this batch?  I am goign to say 16-20 depending on how big your chips are.  Speaking of chips, you MUST (in my opinion) use WaVy chips!  They are sturdier and well, that is what I recommend.

Here we go.......

1 bag of milk chocolate chips (or whatever you choose)
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 bag of wavy chips, (I use rrrrrruffles because they have rrrrrridges)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips or candy melts

In a small bowl pour in your chocolate chips, and vegetable oil.  Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each 30 seconds until melted.  You could do this in a double broiler too.  To much hassle for me though.

While it is melting sort out your chips.  You want the unbroken, unscathed, pure perfection potato chips.  Ok well, I want those, you can use whichever ones you want.  Do not use tongs for this, no forks, no toothpicks.  Scrub your hands and then get those fingers in there.  Dip one side, hold on to the wet chocolate and dip the other, it will even out when you lay it down and nobody will know your paws were on it.  Ever.  Work fast and make sure to let it drip the extra chocolate.  Lay onto a foil or parchment lined cookie sheet.  Do this with all of them and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, back at the microwave, put your white chocolate chips or candy melts in a  small Ziploc bag.  Microwave 20 seconds at a time until they are melted.  Snip the TINIEST bit off the corner and drizzle those pretzels with ribbons of beautiful white chocolate!!  Any designs you want, I just did a basic ziggy, zaggy, crissy, crossy sort of thingy. 

Refrigerate another 15 minutes and serve.  If you have a cool place to keep these, perfect otherwise leave them in the fridge until you are ready to eat!

Enjoy your treats, trust me, it is delicious!

Your "can you possibly make potato chips LESS healthy" chefwannabe