Monday, December 29, 2014

Pizza Crescents

Well, hello again!  I hope this finds you all recovering from a wonderful holiday, with tons of food, fun, family, friends, and joy!  It was the Christmas of my dreams this year.  After almost 7 years I got to spend Christmas with my son and his family.  The best gift I received was to be able to watch them open gifts and share happiness and love.  What better way to celebrate the birth of my Savior!  Bliss, it was pure bliss.

After taking the week off from blogging, I wanted to jump back in with something perfect for your New Years parties or just if you are at home alone.  These are so easy, one of my sisters made them for our family Christmas a few weeks ago and I thought, I had to share them, they were so easy yet so good.  I did add a couple of extra steps, because, that is just how I roll.  It is the only thing I thought could make them better!  She had eaten them at a work party and had no idea what they were called, so I am calling them simply "Pizza Crescents".

These really couldn't be easier to make.  Just pick up a few ingredients and get to assembling.  They are addictive, you might want to double the recipe, because honestly, I think they would freeze like a dream for lunches, school, or adults, or snacks.  So just keep that in mind.  Bake them off as per the instructions, let cool and bag them up maybe 2 in a bag, my son would have loved these in his school lunch!!

This recipe yields 16 pizza crescents:

2 rolls of  refrigerator crescent rolls (8 per roll)
sliced pepperoni (I used 3 per roll so you will need 48 slices)
8 mozzarella string cheese sticks
3 tbsp. butter, melted
Italian seasoning

Preheat your oven to the recommended temperature on your crescent rolls.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Cut all of your string cheese in half, and get your pepperoni ready to go.  Unroll the crescent dough and work with one at a time.  Lay the pepperoni at the wide end, and lay the cheese on top, and roll that baby up, nice and easy!

This is kind of a "rinse and repeat" situation.  Get them all filled and rolled and line them up on your tray.  Now, sprinkle with a little Italian seasoning on top.  You will bake them for the recommended time on the package.  I found that using the longest recommended time works best.  If it says 11-13 minutes, go with 13. 

While they are baking, melt your butter.  When they come out of the oven, immediately brush on a little melted butter and then sprinkle on some more Italian seasoning.  Let cool just a couple of minutes and dip in!  Make sure to serve with some pizza sauce or marinara sauce. DO NOT be tempted to add the sauce into the pizza roll.  I mean you can, but it is a hot mess friends.  Ask me how I know.  If you add enough for it to make a difference, that is!

Enjoy these as an appetizer, light lunch, kids lunch, or anytime.  I mean let's be honest with each other, there is never a BAD time for pizza!!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Popcorn Crunch

We are closer!  I am almost done, with EVERYTHING!!  Almost!

I wanted to share a fun popcorn recipe because, candy covered popcorn is one of my favorites and I have never tried making it at home.  I tried it, it is a dream, and frankly, I have no intention of sharing my stash.  You are going to have to make your own!

You may notice the recipe calls for M&M's and sprinkles, however, oddly, you can't see any in the photo.  Every. Single. Photo was the same.  I can't believe I didn't realize they all fell to the bottom but I don't think they did!  I don't know what happened!  Food blogger photo failure!  Just trust me!!

This is easy, and you will love it.  It is festive and a nice snack to just keep in a bowl to nibble on!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did and make sure to make a little extra popcorn, you may prefer it with more!!

You will need:
16-18 cups of popcorn  (I used regular old fashioned popcorn)

To do it the old fashioned way, in case you are to young to remember!!  Add 3 tbsp. oil (veg, peanut, or canola) into a LARGE pot with a lid.  Add in 3/4 cup of popcorn, put the lid on and wait for the first pop.  Using hot pads or oven mitts, keep one hand on the lid and gently move the pot around until the pop slows to almost a stop.  Turn off the burner and move the pot off the stove and let sit 5 minutes.  In this case, until cool. 

If you are using microwave popcorn I am guessing you would need a good 6 bags.  But try it the old fashioned way, come on, just do it!

For the rest of the recipe you will need:
2 boxes of red jello, your choice of flavor (sm. 3-3.4 oz. size)
1/2 cup butter
6 T light corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
red food coloring
1/2 cup assorted Christmas sprinkles
1/2-1 cup M&Ms
1/4 cup melted white chocolate (I tinted mine red) optional!

After you have placed 16 cups of popcorn into a large bowl, make sure to line a large cookie sheet (or 2) with parchment paper and set aside.  Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.

Now, melt the butter and syrup in a saucepan over pretty low heat.  When the butter is melted add sugar and gelatin (jello) and bring to a boil over medium heat. At this point add in a bit of red food coloring, I don't like faded colors!  You can choose to leave it out, but bright colors ROCK!  Reduce your heat and let simmer about 4-5 minutes, stirring almost constantly.

Now CAREFULLY pour the syrup over the bowl of popcorn.  Stir like a fool, while the syrup is still hot, get the popcorn covered. If you feel you need more popcorn, add it now and stir.  It is just to your personal preference. 

Now pour your popcorn out unto your lined cookie sheet(s) and smooth into an even layer like this.

Bake for 10 minutes, HOWEVER, after 5 minutes, remove pans and give it a careful toss, replace into the oven and bake another 5 minutes.

When it is done, remove, and sprinkle on 1/2 cup assorted Christmas sprinkles, and 1/2 cup (or more) of Christmas M&Ms. Now is the time to drizzle over any white chocolate if you choose!!  I colored mine red!  Let cool completely, break it up into pieces and enjoy!!  Keep covered in an airtight container to keep fresh and crunchy!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

-Just For 2 Series: Simple Oyster Stew For Two

I feel like the title should say in parenthesis "And being the daughter of Santa" !

Happy ALMOST Christmas! ACK!  Who has their shopping, wrapping, decorating and baking done?  Not me!  I did take time though to make one of my husbands favorite soups, and I wanted to share our food tradition as a child in my family since it includes this!

What says "Christmas" like oyster stew?  Well it does for me anyway, my mom always made oyster stew on Christmas Eve.   My family always opened gifts on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning we woke up to what Santa had left us!

Ok, wait, let me back up. (You know there is a story here)  My dad has played Santa for probably 50 years or more.  He has a beautiful suit, he is a jolly man, who has the perfect build for Santa! (wink)  He was always Santa at all of our local stores, movie theatre and local events.  MANY times we sat on his lap, asking for our biggest dreams, having no idea it was our own daddy under that beard and wig.  Magical, to me, it is just magical as an adult looking back.  As we got older, and grandkids came into the picture, we had an "incident".  My nephew Brandon, probably  4 or 5 at the time, walked into Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom while we were getting "Santa" ready.  He stopped dead in his tracks, almost like time stood still.  He said, "Grandp..Santa"?  Well, now that creates a problem with about 10 other grandkids in the other room, doesn't it?  (and about 10 more that would come later along with the greats!) So it became common knowledge to the grands in the family that Grandpa was one of Santa's "helpers".  That realistically Santa couldn't get everywhere in one night, but they couldn't tell their friends because he wouldn't be able to keep his special suit and make so many children happy.  Hey, call it what you want, it has worked for a good 30 years now!  We would white shoe polish all of his facial hair since he had black hair, even when he shaved it looked dark, cherry red the tip of his nose, cheeks and lips, double side tape his moustache in place so his beard would fall in a perfect wave down his rich red velvet jacket.  His wig, was smoothed and perfectly fixed before he it was topped off with the magical hat that seemed to instantly transform him into the real Santa.   We would pull up his boots topped with white fur, then on went the snow white gloves and his little wire rimmed glasses.  He would gather his big red bag that "Mrs. Claus" made and off we would go.  Lots of us kids helped but a few of us loved it more than others.  He took these jobs on Christmas Eve to help fund Christmas for his own 10 children and wife.  Starting at about 5pm, one of us, or a couple of us would drive him from job to job, there would be gifts left in garages, in cars, in backyards, and in dog houses. He would fill his bag with them and knock on the front door, or just burst through as he would turn his head and holler back out the door "Come on Blitzen, calm down"  or "Donner, don't you take Rudolph's carrots" or other similar lines.  Sometimes we would peek in windows undetectable to absorb some of the Christmas joy being spread by the man we simply called "dad" but always knew he was made to be, lived his life just like, and in our hearts WAS the REAL Santa.   We helped him deliver a horse with her mane adorned in tinsel, in the snow and ice, up a huge icy hill.  We had to get her at a local stable and walk her to her new home!  There were puppies, kittens,  and one of the most moving deliveries was a simple candy cane, to a woman lying in her bed, taking her last breathes.  She wanted Santa to bring her a candy cane.  In small towns word travels fast and he had heard of her last wish.   So he entered her home with a gentle "HoHoHo", walked her bedroom that had not much more than a bed, and a light bulb hanging from a wire.  With snow falling outside her window  on that Christmas eve he gave her, that candy cane and witnessed the smile of an angel.  He kneeled beside her to pray and as she grabbed his white gloved hand she said, "It's really you Santa".  Her last words.  He was infamous for entering mass right after communion, during the time we call meditation.  He would enter through the back of the church in his santa suit, walked quietly down the center aisle to the stares of disbelief of every child (and adult) there.  He knelt at the nativity, removed his hat, and later admitted that he shed a tear and prayed for all children and families to be healed, happy, and always know the love of Christ.  He got up, put his hat back on, and walked quiet as could be right back out. Sometimes he couldn't resist a faint "HO HO HO MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL" as he exited.    I am guessing you could hear a pin drop for the  next 5 minutes. 

Here is a photo of the last time my dad was able to dress up.  We hold our Christmas celebration in a school gymnamsium since there are so many of us, 10 kids, spouses, grandkids, great grandkids but he always tried to dress up and make sure all of the kids sat on Grandp--oops, Santa's lap.  I will cherish this photo forever, this is my dad, the giver, the miracle worker, the rescuer, the selfless human who will take the shirt off of his back for a stranger, (and has).  The loving, supportive father, who would be surrounded by his children and grandchildren everyday if he could.  He was born to be Santa and in our hearts he always will be.  Now, he is just able to sit back in his grandpa clothes, and enjoy his family together, kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.  He is in all of his glory when he has his family near. 

This is how I grew up celebrating Christmas Eve.  I wanted to share it with you, so you could experience the magic of how the day went for me.  After my dad was done, he would come home, sneak in the back door, get cleaned up and join us for dinner. which was ALWAYS, chicken noodle soup, potato soup and oyster stew.  We were a large struggling family so oyster stew was a holiday treat that was not afforded any other time of year.  In the middle of the rural Midwest you don't get fresh oysters either, so my mom would use those from a can which is exactly how I made mine for you.  We would have deli meats and cheeses for sandwiches, then open gifts and then get dressed in our new Christmas dresses and suits and head to midnight mass where my mom was the choir director and organist.  Memories..........   Thanks for letting me share mine with you. 

If you are able to get fresh oysters, I would use a dozen for this recipe.  Keep the liquor, the juice from them, you will need it!  Even if you used canned, keep the juice!

This will generously serve two, maybe 3.  So if you need a bigger batch just double it or triple it.  I used 2 cans of oysters because my husband loves them but one is really probably enough for most people.  I will leave that part up to you.  This is three ingredients plus salt and pepper, does it get much easier?

You will need:
2 cups half and half
4-5 tbsp. butter (I know, but it is Christmas guys!)
1 dozen fresh oysters with liquid or 1-2, 8oz cans
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan melt your butter.  While it is melting drain your oysters but KEEP the juice!  When the butter is melted, add in just the liquid from the oysters and the half and half.  Let simmer for 3-4 minutes, until it is almost simmering.  Add in oysters and simmer for 2-3 more minutes.  If you are using fresh oysters, as soon as you see them start to curl they are done.  Don't over cook this or they will be tough!  Now salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Could it be easier?  It is silky, and perfect.  My mom would be proud, and Santa, well, Santa would be to busy to eat a bowl, but wouldn't mind, because spreading joy to the world is exactly what my dad does. 

People will jokingly say, "You know, if you don't believe in Santa (insert a plethora of endings).  I always reply with "I know Santa is real, he is my dad". 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Caffe Mocha Spoons

Do you know how many times I have made these spoons?  A LOT!  I debated over if I should share them or not, they are so easy and honestly, does one really need directions?  Well, you see which voice won my inner battle, eh?

I love cookie trays, I really do.  I do not like brown cookie trays.  This is all old news, but you know the ones that are all brown cookies, dry looking, mystery crumb stuff that you feel like you shouldn't even eat?  The unidentifiable stuff, the dry, choking hazard stuff, it is just a bummer.

I like adding fun things like this to trays.  Maybe even some marshmallows, or find an old fashioned glass jar, add some cold milk and deliver it ASAP with a bunch of these spoons.  Maybe a bag of popcorn too!  How fun is THAT?

I might have stirred one of these into my Boston Cream Coffee this morning, and it might have been amazing.  I do hope you give them a try.

Oh and for the record, I saw these in a store recently, they had candy sprinkled on top.  I don't know about you but I am not about to have floaties in my drink.  DOWN WITH FLOATIES.  Ewww!

You will need:
20-24 plastic spoons (use real spoons if you want to thrift store for some)
2 cups milk chocolate chips (divided)
3/4 cup instant coffee granules

Melt 1 cup of milk chocolate chips either in a microwave, 30 seconds at a time or in a double boiler setup.  When it is completely melted, stir in the instant coffee granules.  When mixture is all combined, use a butter knife or another spoon and fill the spoons up with the mixture.  Level them off at the top or leave them a little higher, the choice is yours.  Set on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet until all are done.  Refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Now, melt the remaining milk chocolate, and dip each spoon in and give it a full turn, covering the coffee/chocolate mixture.  Let the extra chocolate drip off and place back on parchment.  Let sit until hardened.  (You can place back in the fridge).  When they are set, melt the white chocolate and using a spoon or piping bag, zig zag, polka dot, or curly que your way to completion!

While I did not show it in the photo, if you are using these as gifts, attach a tag that says to stir 6-8 ounces of hot milk.  Let the spoon sit for a few seconds and then stir.   You will enjoy a cup of chocolaty, coffee, warm goodness!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

ACK! 15 more days until Christmas!  Are you ready?  How are you doing on the shopping?  Are you at the "OMG I have no have to pay more than the price of the gift to get it shipped in time" phase yet?  I started wrapping last night.  We discussed, if you follow me on Facebook about how I am about that kind of thing.  Yikes.  But I enjoy soft lights, Christmas music and beautifully wrapping the gifts we have chosen for those we love.  It is relaxing, and my husband always says I should start a gift wrapping business at the holidays!

I did get in the kitchen yesterday and get these wonderful treats made.  They are a favorite in our family, and I wanted to make sure to share the really special treats we love with you this year.  It is a really busy time and developing new recipes this time of year, (which actually started 2 months ago for me.  I am like retail!) I just want to enjoy the beauty of the season, the reason for the season, my family and friends and spending a lot of time developing anything new isn't in my game plan for this month, especially this year with my grandchildren now living in the same city.  They are our families Christmas miracles as they were born last Christmas Eve, 6 weeks early and yet, they have grown into beautiful, funny, healthy little monkeys who we can't imagine life without!  Though this isn't technically their first Christmas, it kind of is.

I have to share one of their Christmas photos with you!

These cookies are so good.  The chocolate flavor is rich, and though the actual cookies isn't super sweet, the addition of the white chocolate drizzle and crushed peppermint, makes it the perfect cookie.  When you see the amount of sugar you might say, "WHOA", but using the unsweetened chocolate, in addition makes the flavor so much richer.  It makes over 5 dozen cookies, don't worry, you won't consume it all at once! They are easy, the dough is beautiful, and they don't take long to bake or cool.  I think it would be fun to let the kids drizzle and sprinkle them with anything they like! 

Here is what you will need:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsps. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate (I used the already melted variety because I had it on hand)
1 cup white chocolate chips melted
crushed candy canes (how many is up to you)
You can use any other candy or decoration to sprinkle over the top as well it doesn't have to be peppermint!

In a large bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer, cream together, cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla extract together until creamy.  Add in baking soda and mix well.  Start adding in  your flour and beat (stand or hand mixer) slowly at first, so you don't get covered in flour and add until it is all incorporated!  Now, pour in your melted unsweetened chocolate and let it mix until well combined. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Take a tablespoon size scoop or actual spoon and roll that amount into a ball. Next roll it into a long snake shape, you can do them as small or as big as you like, but the size I did, I got a nice size cookie, and ended up with over 5 dozen.  Shape them into a candy cane shape and place on parchment lined or non stick cooking spray, sprayed, cookie sheets.  I easily get 12 on a sheet, they don't spread a lot but they do spread a bit. 

Bake for 10 minutes.  That is the exact time that I find keeps them soft, even with the carry over cooking.  Place them on a cooling rack to cool!

Melt white chocolate in either a double boiler set up or in the microwave, 20 seconds at a time on half power.  Trust me, just trust me.  Place into a piping bag or Ziploc that you have cut the tip off of.  You can even just use a spoon or fork to drizzle.  While the white chocolate is still wet, sprinkle with your crushed peppermint candy or whatever you choose to sprinkle on them.  Let sit until the chocolate is set and enjoy!


Monday, December 8, 2014


I love the Grinch!  I seriously, must watch this movie 10 times each holiday season.  Then there are those few times during the year I just need my "fix"!

But let's get to the real questions....lollipops or suckers?  Lollipops to me, but suckers to most where I grew up.  It is funny how all of these regional things never seem to occur to you until you move to a new region.

It has been a heck of a week.  I made these 4 days ago, and never got them shared with you until now.  So sorry but, the truth is, I have 2 crying grandbabies in the other room so we need to make this a quickie!  I think these would be awesome added to your holiday cookie trays and thanks Yolli Ltd. for these cute lollipop sticks!  They have everything you need for all things sweet in your life!

These are made from Jolly Ranchers candy.  You must use the hard candy, not the soft chews!!  I went to a party store where I could get all red and green but heck, use all the colors if you want!

You will need, but the quantities are really up to you!

Popsicle or lollipop sticks (as many as you need)
Jolly Ranchers (all unwrapped)
Parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.  Place your unwrapped candy however you want them to melt.  Make sure they are touching, I used different patterns, but I use 2 or 3 for each one.  I think that makes a decent size who-pop!  Place into oven (WITHOUT THE STICKS) for 5-6 minutes.  They will have melted together to touch, when you get them out, immediately take your stick and sort of roll it into the middle so it is all covered with the candy.  If you are using a flat stick, you can actually lay them down on the parchment and put the hard candy on them and let them melt right onto the stick.   Let cool 15 minutes and wham, bam, thank you WHOVILLE for these adorable pops!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Three Meat Quiche

Good Morning......err... wait, evening! HA!  Eggs, sausage, etc, had me thinking morning, but in reality, this can be eaten anytime!  This is my first quiche, ever.  It is true, I have never made a quiche.  Why not you ask?  No idea, none at all, just haven't. 

This was a request of my husband.  And how about this, I have him thinking like a food blogger/food stylist.  He asked me to not put the bacon inside but make the top a lattice work of bacon.  Genius.  He is adorable and he never ceases to throw out ideas for me.  I love that he is so supportive, I am grateful and blessed.  He is a meat man, so I made this a 3 meat quiche.  I mean, it is basically a savory custard, what have I been so afraid of?  I feel so silly!  This is EASILY made ahead if you are expecting company.  And how about lunch with a salad?!  Soup and some quiche, YES!

There are just a couple of things that need to be done ahead.  You need a pie crust, you can either buy one or use my recipe which is perfection, you can find  it here.  You need to blind bake the crust.   I baked mine at 425 for 12 minutes.  You need the pie crust to be baked so it will hold your custard filling and not get soggy!

While you have that in the oven, use 1lb, thick cut bacon and lattice it on parchment paper laid on a baking sheet.  (see photo) Bake it for 20-30 minutes, same temp as the shell, until it is crispy.  Remove from the oven and let it sit to cool so you can pat off the extra fat.  I can trimmed mine, so when I was ready it would fit perfect on top.  The trimmings you ask?  Cooks treat, duh!  Lower oven to 350 now!

4 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup diced bacon
1/2 lb. ground breakfast sausage, browned and drained
1 lb. thick cut bacon
1 pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In cooled crust, add in browned sausage and diced ham.  Spread evenly like this...

In a bowl whisk together eggs, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese.  Pour over the meat in the pie crust.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until set.  You should be able to insert a knife and have it come out clean.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.  Lay your latticed bacon that you have patted dry of extra grease over the top. 



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Butter Pecan Pie

A classic for sure!  Right?  When I think "Thanksgiving" I think, turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and pecan pie!  It is one of my husbands favorites and I can't wait to share my recipe with you.  I borrowed one from my mom, I like using recipes she has used, but she didn't regularly make it.  Therefore, I played with one she gave me.  So I created my own spin, and upped the butter, of course, and the pecans, of course, and a few other things.  I like this texture, and before this whole pecan pie thing, which, I don't necessarily care for, I never knew I preferred one texture over another with this one. 

Now, I have seen pies that cook the ingredients first, and I have seen recipes with so few pecans, I doubt you could call it a "pecan" pie.  I wanted more of a buttery pecan pie so that is what I created.  I don't know if it is necessarily more or less buttery than any other pie but to me, it is perfection, and to my hubby, it is perfection.  That was all the "go ahead" I needed to share it with you.  This is a toss it in one bowl and pour it in kind of recipe.  This one takes a bit longer to bake, but it will be so well worth your wait! 

I am also including a little recipe for a powdered milk whipped topping.  I was using the powdered milk for some frosting and saw this recipe on the back.  I decided to try it out.  While it isn't fresh sweetened whipping cream (swwooonnn), it is a great substitute in a bind.  It tastes nice, it is easy to make with things that are likely pantry staples for you.  Just please follow the directions just as they are written.  Ask me why I say that.  Go ahead..........    I tell you that because 2 times I didn't follow them exactly and two times, it failed.  Save yourself the hassle!

You will need:

1 9 inch pie crust buy or make mine
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
8 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup whole pecans
aluminum foil or a pie crust guard

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Place your crust into a pie plate if needed.  Finish the edges how you like, IF you like and place in refrigerator.

Combine, corn syrup, eggs, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla into a mixing bowl and whisk together.  There is no need to pull out the standing mixer or even the hand mixer, just whisk this together until smooth and you are done!  Now take crust from refrigerator and place all of the pecans in the bottom of the crust.  I love the combo of chopped and whole.  It just adds some texture and I like it.  Use all chopped if you like.  Just make sure there are 2 cups.  I like "heavy on the nuts".  Now carefully pour your mixture on top of the nuts, place into your oven for 55 minutes, after that cover with foil, and bake another 15-20 minutes.  When the middle barely jiggles or doesn't jiggle at all you are done!  Remove and place on cooling rack.  Let cool COMPLETELY.  We clear on that part?   Serve with love!

For the whipped topping you will need:
1/2 cup ice cold water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered milk
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Now, remember do this in the order I tell you!  I did this in my standing mixer, use an electric mixer if you like.  Combine water and lemon juice, then add your powdered milk and stir until dissolved.  Now beat for 6-10 minutes, until you get a stiff mixture.  Add in sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.  That is it.  I have mine in the refrigerator, I have no idea how it will last, but since I made a double batch the 3rd time I figured I should see how it fares in the fridge. 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Graham Cracker Toffee Crunch

Good evening friends!

Hoping this finds you all enjoying your Monday evening, healthy and happy!  It has been a crazy day for me, and at 3pm on Monday I just not getting this typed up for you! 

As most of you know my parents have been needing us to be with them more (us as in my siblings and I) as they have increasing health needs.  Well my sister Anne was there a couple of weeks ago.  My mom is always having us text or FB message each other with things she MUST tell us.  Well she is always asking me about what I have been cooking and she cuts out recipes she thinks I need to try.  Often she will say, "I would try this one, but I would take out this, and I would precook that, and I would etc....".  She always has an opinion that one!  I am SO glad I don't take after her! (what?!!??!?!)  Anyway she was so adamant I get this recipe she had my sister photograph the newspaper clipping so I could get it made.  I don't recall what the name of the recipe was on there, but, I am sure this isn't the first time some of you have heard of this or perhaps it is a staple at your house.  I had never heard of it or eaten it so I gave it a try. 

This was undeniably a hit with my family.  In fact, it was SUCH a hit, that the first time I made it, I didn't get to photograph it, because when I got around to doing it, it was GONE! HA!  If it wasn't so easy to make, I might have minded more, but instead I just chuckled and made a second batch.  I did a couple of things different the second time and liked it better.  Nothing major, just, well......just keep reading!!

Here is what you need:
15 graham crackers.  (enough to cover a cookie sheet, standard-ish size)
1 cup of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup peanuts (you can use whatever kind of nut you like but this is one thing I changed and liked better the second time)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line your crackers up on your cookie sheet.  My recipe says to fill in the edges with crackers you have broken apart.  Forget about it.  Just leave the space.  Otherwise trying to even spread the topping on is a bit annoying.  In a saucepan place butter, and brown sugar, heat until melted.  Here is the next thing I changed.  It says to add the nuts to the brown sugar and butter, however, I just sprinkled them on top the second time and like them better. as you wish but if covered by the toffee layer, they don't have much dimension to me.  Perhaps I am particularly ridiculous, perhaps.  They will get partially covered up anyway to be honest.  So add them in or don't, but pour evenly and then spread to cover your graham crackers.  If you didn't add them sprinkle nuts on while the top is hot.  Place in the oven and bake 10 minutes.  Let cool completely, break apart and devour!

This is dangerous stuff friends.   Put on a safety vest, you are going to need saved, and I want you visible to your rescuer. 


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Loaded Sweet Potato Casserole

Evening friends!

I asked you all on Facebook what you thought the perfect sweet potato dish looked like.  What would you put it in, what do you like it to have, and you all responded with SO MANY things!  I saw everything from the way my mom and few of my sisters make them to entirely new perspectives.  I wanted to create something new for my sweet potatoes and it came to me.  If people can LOAD regular potatoes, why can't I load sweet potatoes?!?!

I saw it all, brown sugar, pecans, butter, pineapple, marshmallows, the list went on and on.  Though my mom was a canned yam woman, toss em' in a casserole, throw on some butter, brown sugar and 4 inches of marshmallows, I wanted something better than that.  I didn't want mush, covered in gag me with a spoon amounts of sweetness.  So here is what I did, and I hope you decide to try it.  There is ONE thing I did not do, that I will do next time.  I WILL add a few marshmallows to the TOP in the last 10 minutes of baking next time.  Simply for that "old times" feeling and look. 

So here is the recipe, YOU wrote, with your comments!!

You will need:
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
1 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp. butter, melted
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans

4 tbsp. softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup miniature marshmallows (optional)

Roast your sweet potatoes, skin on for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Let them cool completely, cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the insides into a bowl.  Now add the brown sugar, butter, salt, and eggs.  Mix to combine completely.  Now fold in the marshmallows and pecans,  and place into about a 2 qt. casserole. 

Now combine your topping ingredients (except marshmallows) with a fork or pastry cutter (or your fingers!).  Sprinkle evenly on top.  Bake at 350 degrees F, for 40 minutes.  IF you are going to add the mini marshmallows, put them on at the 30 minute mark, and then bake for 10 more minutes


Monday, November 17, 2014

Cran Apple Compote

I hate to do this to you.  You know, give you a recipe for something that doesn't look like placenta in a can.  (Canned cranberry jelly).  Wait.  Was that inappropriate?  Sorry, but, you know me.  That stuff wiggles and jiggles and weirds me out in general.  I love when is sucks out and stays in the exact same shape as the can with the imprints on it.  GUH-ROSS!  Oh if you do use that stuff in a can, do you put it on a nice little platter and slice it?  My mom used to do that!! (sorry Ma)

So with all that being said, I am admittedly not a cranberry fan in general.  There are exceptions to most rules, but, just in general, yeah, no thanks.  I wanted to come up with an alternative to cranberry jelly or gelatinous stuff.  This has a thick little syrup, it is easier than ever to make, and people will think you are a genius.  I can definitely see this on my Thanksgiving table, and I hope you put it on yours as well!

The apples are your choice, I used, OMG, I can't remember what kind I used.  You guys, I am dead serious. (laughing so hard).  But use what you want.  Don't fret over it, we will be adding a bit of sugar, and all will be well. 

You will need:
5 ounces dried cranberries
1/2 cup water (divided)
1 tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 med apples, peeled and chopped into pieces of your preference
1/4 cup chopped pecans

In a saucepan combine cranberries, water, sugar and salt.  Bring it to a boil, stirring often, and turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, apples and 1/4 cup more water, bring back to a boil, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.  When the apples have softened a bit, and the syrup has thickened, it is done!  Make sure to sprinkle some extra pecan on top when you serve!

I hope you "not so into cranberry sauce" people like me will enjoy this.  I am not so into fruit period, but like a good foodie, I tried my own dish and it was amazing but, can I be honest and tell you what I did with the leftovers? Baby food........I processed it and froze it so my littles can enjoy it too!  I can't keep it till Thanksgiving!!!

ENJOY!  (sorry about the placenta comment, but not sorry enough to remove it and then mention it again here)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Slow Cooker Shredded Italian Chicken Subs

Good Evening!  It is starting to be REALLY chilly here in the Midwest.  With the time change it is almost dark at 4:30, but truth be told, I don't really mind it.  I mean, winter is supposed to be dark and snowy right?  It isn't like I need it to be light until 9 to be out grillin' up a hog with the neighbors ya know?  Anyway, how do you feel about the time change?

As most of you know, I used to absolutely despise the slow cooker.  I think I am reformed, sort of.  I realize and understand many of you depend on them to feed your families great meals in such a busy world.  I am slowly grasping it, and possibly loving it.  To me slow cookers were to keep chili hot on game day, or meatballs hot, on game day! HAHA.  I have been experimenting and this recipe turned out really well.  I loved it.  A little zing, a lot of flavor, a buttered toasted roll, tons of melty cheese, I mean, "git outta heeeaaa".  I hope you enjoy these subs as much as we did, and the second day, the leftovers went into a nice salad!

4.5 lbs. boneless chicken breasts or thighs (I used breasts)
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
1T. dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Add all ingredients to your slow cooker EXCEPT the chicken.  Whisk together.  Now turn each piece of chicken in the liquid mixture as you add it in.  Turn your slow cooker to low for 5-6 hours or high for 3 hours.  You can shred it or just piece it apart.  Place on a toasted sub roll, use plenty of provolone and melt under your broiler.  Add a couple  of slices of tomato and holy YUM!  A hit with my family! Please just don't forget the buttered and toasted roll and cheese please!

Enjoy this easy dinner!

Monday, November 10, 2014

White Chocolate Pumpkin Nut Muffins

Pumpkin season is in full force and I tried, so hard, not to jump in with both feet, but I did.  Well, actually I didn't.  I bought one can of pumpkin and used it for 2 recipes.  Fair enough?  You know I let nothing go to waste, and it just burns me when I write or make a recipe that calls for half of a can of pumpkin. This year, instead of getting mad, I am getting even.

I was sent a few awesome products by Yolli, a confectionery supplier. Oh my gosh...CUTEST stuff ever! I picked out these tiny, mini cardboard loaf form, called, "Mini-Backform". They come in a pack of 10 and are just about in between the size of a jumbo muffin and regular muffin, just in a loaf shape.  I simply adore the print, and it stays so vibrant after baking, which is a huge plus for me. I am grateful they sent these and wanted to use the rest of that pumpkin for some cozy deliciousness!  You can also find Yolli on Facebook as well!

This recipe will make 10 of these  mini forms, and I would guess 10 jumbo muffins as well. I can't even tell you how good these turned out, I just had to make my husband hide the rest, I keep picking at them.

So let's get our hands dirty, and make these delightful bites of pumpkin sweetness!  Get the coffee on!

You will need:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter (softened)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sliced/slivered almonds (or nut of your choice)
3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Line muffin tins with liners or get your little mini loaf forms put together. 

Cream together, sugars and butter.  When it is nice and creamed together, add in one egg at a time and mix until smooth.  Add in pumpkin, salt and sour cream and mix again.  When it is well incorporated add in baking soda and cinnamon, and flour and mix until the flour is just absorbed.  Don't over mix.  Next toss in the nuts and chips and fold in or give them a quick whirl in your stand mixer.  Fill your forms or liners.  This should make 1 dozen cupcakes or 10 mini loaves.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. 

Sit back and enjoy, because there are one of the best things I have ever tasted!

ENJOY!  You will be seeing a couple of other products from Yolli coming up in holiday blogs.  I can't get enough!!

Disclaimer:  All products were sent to me complimentary.  All opinions are my own, and I was not, and never will be reimbursed for a favorable review of any product. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Uh huh, and you thought these were just plain chocolate cupcakes with cute sprinkles.  OH, NOOOO!  These have so much personality!!  Let me tell you why!

I had Mexican hot chocolate a long time ago.  It was SO good, I loved the little spiciness and tiny bit of heat on my tongue after I took a drink.  It just warmed me right up.  I was thinking about it again recently with the weather getting cold, but needed to make some cupcakes for some adults.  I knew only adults would be eating them and I wanted to set off all of their gastro-intestinal alarms so I thought these would be awesome.  Ok, just kidding.  But the chocolate and the spice and the heat just all work and definitely an unexpected flavor combination.  It isn't enough heat to bother most people and you can definitely use the lesser amount or even none at all.  (or more!). 

These really are just a basic nice dark chocolate cupcake with the addition of a few ingredients.  I will warn you the batter will be VERY thin.  You did nothing wrong.  They are so moist when they are done!  I got about 32 cupcakes from this recipe.  Do not fill your liners more than halfway full.  The icing recipe will be exactly enough if you are piping and maybe a bit more if you are just spreading icing on so be generous if you are doing it that way.  If I were making these for people I knew loved the heat I would have but a tiny sprinkle of cayenne on top.  Instead, I used fun little fall sprinkles!  Like I mentioned before, remove the cayenne and cinnamon if you want just a plain super moist delish chocolate cupcake.  But I encourage you go for the gusto!

1 3/4 cup flour (all purpose)
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
5 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine dry ingredients n a large bowl or in the bowl of your standing mixer.  Add in remaining ingredients except boiling water, mix to combine.  When well combine add in boiling water and mix again, just until the water is incorporated.  This recipe will yield about 28-32 cupcakes.  You could also make in a 9x13 pan.  Cupcakes bake 20-25 minutes.  If you are using a 9x13 bake it for 30-35 minutes!  Let cool and let's make this creamy frosting!

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup warm water (may need an extra couple of tablespoons especially if piping)
4 cups confectioners sugar

Mix all ingredients until smooth and creamy!  Pipe or spread icing on your cupcakes!

Enjoy these unusually delicious treats!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creamy Tomato Soup

I have an announcement people!  It is finally the season where eating soup is socially acceptable.  I mean, it could be 105 outside and I would be eating soup but I said it was "socially acceptable" now.  Thank goodness, I get tired of my closet soup eating in the summer months!  Constantly I hear, "How can you eat soup when it is SO HOT outside"?  I ask in return, "How can you drink a cold glass of water when it is SO COLD outside"?  Same diff peeps.  I digress........

This is one of my favorites and I will be the first to admit, I am a Campbell's Tomato Soup fan.  Yes, yes I am.  However, if I can make it myself, with no chemicals and all that ick, why not?  Will it stop me from keeping cans of it in my pantry, no, will it make me want it this way when I have what I need on hand, definitely.  I made this a huge pot, and we had some for lunch today and we might have it for dinner tonight, I don't care, I LOVE it!

Here is a Simmerman family tip.  Do you love grilled cheese with tomato soup?  Make your grilled cheese, make sure it browns maybe a bit further than you would normally take it.  Now let it cool a couple of minutes, cut into cubes.  Yes, that is right, cubes, then float those babies like croutons in your tomato soup.  Can I get a "HELL YEAH"?!?!  Sorry for the language, sometimes, I can't control it. 

So here we go with the easiest, but so yummy creamy tomato soup.  Now, even though you are using crushed tomatoes, I STILL take the time to stick my immersion blender in the soup and give it  a whiz up.  You don't have to by any means or you could use your blender.  I think it just adds a touch more silkiness to it. 

You will need:
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
2 cups half and half
3/4 cup heavy cream
black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a pot.  Let this simmer for 20 minutes, with the lid partially off, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is burning.  Serve with some golden brown grilled cheese, crackers or just by itself!!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake Bars

How can it already be this time of year?  I probably say this every single year, but, the older I get the older time seems to go.  My mom said it would, boy was she right. 

It is time to start thinking about and planning our Thanksgiving menus!  While I love changing a few things up every year, there are definitely dishes that are tradition that are NOT to be messed with.  Is it like that for you all as well?  If I ever omitted, baked mac and cheese, or coleslaw from a holiday meal, I would be disowned!  This year I am definitely looking forward to Thanksgiving, since our kids have moved here now!  We get to have a real holiday together!  WOOHOO!  I haven't been able to spend a Thanksgiving with my son for about 6 years.  We are just thrilled! 

With all that said, I have a pumpkin loving family.  I wanted something other than a plain pumpkin cheesecake, (however, they are one of my fav's).  I just decided to experiment and when it turned out, I had to test it a second time, I wasn't sure how it turned out this good, but, when I tried it for the 3rd time and my daughter in law informed me, "This is BOMB", I knew it was share worthy!  The texture is crazy awesome and the flavor, well, I mean come on, "pumpkin praline cheesecake".  Pffttt, delish.  I think it will be part of our Thanksgiving dessert table this year.  I hope you make it part of yours too!

OH!  I almost forgot.  The pan you will need...   I used about an 7x10 or something close to that.  A 9x13 will be to big, unless you double your cheesecake layer recipe.  A 9x9 should work nicely.  WHY did I use such an odd size?  I don't know either, but I did.  So just keep that in mind when picking what size to use!

1 yellow cake mix
3/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
8 oz. cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pecans
2 T-1/4 cup maple flavored pancake syrup or maple syrup

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  In a bowl combine dry cake mix and melted butter. 

Press into the bottom of your pan evenly and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove and let cool while you mix up your filling.

Combine, pumpkin puree, cream cheese, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth and creamy.  Pour over crust.  Top with pecans, and then drizzle over your syrup.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until almost set in the middle.  It will jiggle a wee bit.  Remove and let sit until it is room temperature.  Now chill for at LEAST 6 hours.  I think it is best chilled overnight.  Serve with a some sweetened whipped cream, or a small scoop of ice cream even!

MMMM-mmmm good!!