Friday, January 31, 2014

Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds

Yes, they are.  Oh?  I thought I heard you say, "are these as good as they sound" and my reply of course was, "yes, they are". 

I have been on an almond kick.  Nuts in general.  So, if you aren't a nut lover, the next week or so might be difficult for you.  I had these back around the holidays and I am just now getting to recreate them, (2nd time is a charm for the record). 

I get so many ideas and recipe ideas when I try to recreate things I have eaten.  Even better when I make my own twisted up versions of things I have eaten.  Some of you all through anything in a crock pot, I add anything to pasta! HA!  I have a sister, #2 to be exact who I mentioned previously adds peas to every damn dish under the sun.  Worse yet is #5 who adds peppers and onions to every dang thing.  I have given up on helping these people.  We all know someone who is the one ingredient wonder, they add that baby to everything!  What does your one ingredient wonder add? 

My ingredient this month has been nuts.  What can ya do, we all go through phases right? 

Now you will need roasted almonds.  IF you do not buy or have access to already roasted almonds, just toss those babies on a baking sheet into a 325 oven for about 15 minutes. 
Wa-LA.  Got me?

These are a perfect "picky" food.  Game night, game day, party food, you name it, these are delish!

You will need
3 cups whole almonds
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tsps. cinnamon

In a large skillet OFF of the heat, add sugar, water and cinnamon.  Whisk or stir until all ingredients are combined.  Add in your almonds and stir until they are well coated.  Now is where the patience comes in.  It took me 8 minutes on a med-med/high burner, constantly stirring to get these babies done.  The mixture will become very syrupy.  No worries, at some point, maybe 6 or 7 minutes in, there will be much less syrup, if any at all, and the almonds will almost look furry.  HA!  Who says that about their food?  At least we aren't cooking chicken, right?  Furry chicken?
Anyway, when this happens remove immediately from the heat.  Dump them out on a baking sheet, separate them well.  You know, ya gotta keep em' separated.  Let them cool completely, and then hit it.  Nosh on these babies until the cows come up. 

Enjoy friends!  I know we did!

Your "feeling nutty" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No Bake Almond Joy Bars

I love that phrase "no bake".  Do you?  Although in the dead of summer I love it more, but it always makes me feel invincible when I tackle something no bake.  It is like fool proof, a child could make it.  I am always thinking to myself, "YES, girl you GOT this".  No bake, baking.  Genius.

I am STILL using up what I overbought for Christmas.  Seriously, ridiculous.  I am not a coconut fan, but my husband is and since he just had surgery I am out to make him smile.   We all know if we feed the tummy, we feed the soul right?   Almond Joy is the candy bar someone who hated me would buy me.  It is the opposite for my husband.  Now almonds, definitely, chocolate, absolutely, coconut, bleh.  People either love it or hate it don't they?  Not many fence riders on the subject of coconut.  I KNEW he was going to love these.  And he did. 

Since it is so easy, let's get with it.  Here is what you will need, not many ingredients at all!

2-3 cups milk chocolate chips (please use dark, semi sweet, whatever kind of chocolate you enjoy)
1 14oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups sweetened coconut
2 cups whole almonds (roasted or not)

Line an 8x8 or 9x9 square dish with half of your chocolate chips in the microwave.  30 seconds at a time and stir until melted.  Spread into the bottom evenly.  Set aside while you combine the condensed milk, and coconut in a bowl.  Make sure they are completely mixed.  Spread this mixture on top of the chocolate.  Sprinkle your almonds on top (or you can add them to your top chocolate layer. Set in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Now, melt the remaining chocolate and spread it on top.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Longer or overnight is even better.

See how easy?  I told you!

Your "nono on the coco" Chefwannabe

Monday, January 27, 2014

German Chocolate Cake

Where did German chocolate cake get its name?  Is it really German?  I should google that, shouldn't I?  I am making this for a birthday in a few weeks and needed to do a trial run.  Never, have I made this particular flavor of cake and it seems MANY of you love it!  I find I am bad about that.  I don't make things I wouldn't like to eat, usually.  Sometimes I do. 

(I am still an angel food cake with seven minute icing girl)

Anyhoodle, just wanted to share this with you since, well, you know, it turned out, the first time!  I admittedly researched many different recipes.  I wanted an easy one, but I wanted it to be good.  I combined a couple, and it worked like a charm.  A mix between the more labor intensive variety and the easy peasy variety.  I don't even like coconut, and I love this.  Why?  Because you can hardly taste the coconut! HA!

I did learn one important fact.  Oh wait, did you see I made it heart shaped?  Aww, love is already in the air!  Anyway, what I learned was, it seems you should traditionally ice your cake while the cake and frosting are hot.  Not when you are making a 2 layer cake.  Don't ask me how I know, just trust that I am leading you down the right path!

German chocolate cake mix  (use 2, 9inch pans or a 13x19)
Prepare according to package directions.  I always add a tsp of vanilla into my mix as well.  Let cool COMPLETELY before icing if doing a 2 layer cake, otherwise, feel free to frost it as soon as your frosting is done!

German Chocolate Cake Frosting:
2- 14oz. cans sweetened condensed milk
2 egg yolks
6 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups coconut (sweetened)
1 2/3 cup pecans (chopped or smashed into smallish pieces
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a COLD medium sauce pan, add condensed milk, egg yolks, butter, and brown sugar.  Turn heat on to medium and stir, almost continuously until mixture begins to bubble slightly and thicken.  This could take 5 minutes or more.  Do not walk away from it, because when you do, you are basically putting out to the frosting gods "please allow my frosting to BURN".  They listen ya know.  And it WILL happen. 
When the mixture is thickened considerably, add in coconut,  pecans and vanilla extract.  Stir until all ingredients are well combined and then let sit for 1 hour.  (after it gets to room temp put in the fridge for the rest of the hour! Remember this is ONLY if you are making a 2 layer cake)

Make a thin layer between the layers and then frost it up buttercup!

I am told by a German Chocolate Expert, this was by far, the best frosting of its kind he had ever eaten.  I mean different strokes for different folks but, just sayin....

Your "advisor to the frosting Gods" Chefwannabe

Friday, January 24, 2014

(Almost) Aversa's Macaroni Salad

I would say this is a copycat recipe, except it isn't.  It is THE recipe.  They gave me the recipe.  So I didn't copy it, I made it.  The real deal.  No fakin' the funk here friends. 

In case you don't know about Aversa's.  They are an amazing Italian Bakery/Deli, in south Jersey.  I got addicted to their macaroni salad, while we were home during my husbands father's illness.  They make the best Pinoli cookies ever and were OUT the day I went to get my goods to bring home! 

Anyway, the ironic thing is, that for 35 years, I have refused to put a single piece of macaroni in my mouth from any mac salad other than my moms.  It is just the way it is, she makes the best and there is no two ways about it in my mind.  You know what got me to try this mac salad?  The pasta shape.  My absolute favorite.  Cavatappi.  It will suck me in every SINGLE time. 

The reason I say "ALMOST" is because, the only thing to make this better is sitting at my mother in laws table, enjoying family while throwin' it back.

This is such a simple recipe, you won't believe that it tastes as good as it does.  Love it or lump it, this is my new go to mac salad.  The End.

1lb spiral pasta  (cavatappi or whatever your brand calls it)
1 stalk of celery, finely minced
1 small carrot, grated
1/4 cup, finely minced onion
2/3 cup Hellman's
salt and pepper

Boil your pasta in WELL SALTED WATER.  You should always do this, but in this case, it is part of the flavor so be generous!  Cook pasta just to the low end of the time range.  If you over cook the pasta, you are doomed.  Cook until al dente.  Drain when done and quickly rinse with cold water.  This will help stop the cooking and you don't want it overcooking into mush.  This will also help cool the pasta for refrigeration.  In a large bowl place the pasta, and add all other ingredients.  Toss and toss and toss.  That amount of mayo is perfect for the amount of pasta even if it doesn't seem like it.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. 

Easy, isn't it?  I told you!

Your "Aversa, Aversa, you hurta my purse-a" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chocolate Valentine Candy Cane Hearts

I told you to be looking for mini candy canes on clearance, haven't I?

I know, you knew, this was why.  Didn't you?

There isn't any story here, no history, OR herstory, just adorable treats.  I have seen these floating around the Internet for awhile, but just had to give them a try myself.  I am not a girl who passes up something this easy, ever!

You will need:
Mini Candy Canes (I suppose you could use big ones, CHOCOLATE ones!)
Chocolate Chips, or melts if your choice and color

Make sure to line your pan with foil or parchment, it just is easier because these break so easily!  Lay your candy canes out and using a piping bag or a small spoon, fill them with the chocolate you have melted. 

IF your chocolate needs thinned a bit, add a few drops of vegetable oil to it. 

Let harden and put them in a sweet bag with a ribbon for your valentine!

Your "already has her Valentine" Chefwannabe

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ranch Oven Fried Chicken

Evening friends!  I hope you are all well, or at least well fed, and happy!

This recipe was an experiment with myself.  I was at dinner with some of my sisters and brothers in law, and one of my sisters ordered this off of the menu.  I was skeptical.  I still don't get how baking chicken in the oven can make it crispy.  I mean it is obvious I think it isn't possible because, I have never done it.  Everyone else always says it works so I thought I would recreate these babies at home and find out for sure!  They were perfect, in fact they are far better than the restaurant where they were originally ordered!

For the seasoning, just use a dry packet or you can find my recipe for Ranch Seasoning mix here. or just buy it.  Mix it in with the melted butter for just an extra kick or ranch.  I found that the wavy Lays are the best, as they are a wee bit thicker.  You can make your crumbs almost dust or leave them a tiny bit chunky.  If they are TO chunky though, they won't stick to the chicken.   I am so bossy, aren't I??

I love these dipped in ketchup.  I felt like dipping them in ranch was kind of like eating a poached egg on a chicken cutlet.  I couldn't do it.  It seems to....I don't know, cruel?  HA!

Enjoy these as much as we did.  Remember, nobody said these were healthy, but if you figure that butter covers 9-12 chicken strips, it doesn't feel so bad in your mind.  I promise!

For this recipe, you will need:
3 large bones skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 3 or 4 strips each
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp dry ranch dressing mix
9 1/2 ounce bag of Lays Wavy Ranch Potato Chip. (made into crumbs)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and set aside.
Melt your butter in a bowl and then add the dry ranch seasoning to the butter.  Get your potato chip crumbs into a large Ziploc bag.  Place your chicken strips into the bowl and using tongs or a fork, make sure they are ALL COATED in the butter.  One at a time, place them into your potato chip bag and press the coating into the chicken.  When it is all coated,  lay on to the baking sheet and continue with the rest of your chicken.

Yes, that is a mess on the counter, because YES, I do make messes when I cook!
Bake for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of your strips, mine took approx. 30 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes on the pan, and serve.  My favorite way is with ketchup.  I love ranch with ketchup!

Your "officially a believer" Chefwannabe

Friday, January 17, 2014

Homemade Pizza Seasoning

Greetings fellow pizza lovers!  (or I assume you are).  We pizza lovers, we know how we like our pizza don't we?  We don't stray easily either, do we?  We are the movers and shakers of the universe, trust me, I know we HAVE to be!

You know that I profess to have the best pizza dough recipe on earth right?  Well I decided I would also share with you my homemade pizza seasoning.  I get crazy when I see the amount of salt in these prepackaged seasonings.  YIKES!  Never mind the MSG, fillers, etc.  Just give me the flavor people, just the flavor and I will be golden.  They won't do it.  So, I make my own.  Actually I make it sound like I have been making my own for years and that is not the case.  I have been making my own for a few months.  It took me a couple of batches to work it out how I wanted it to taste.  I am happy with it, my family and friends love it and I hope you do too!

All of these spices can be purchased at your grocery store, or even your dollar store.  I chopped my recipe down to make a 1 cup size amount but just double or triple the ingredients for more.  I use it to flavor cooked sauces, I use it straight from the jar on pizza, no matter how you do it, cooked or just sprinkle it from the jar!

Pizza Seasoning:
2 tbsp. dried minced garlic
2 tbsp. dried minced green bell pepper
2 tbsp. dried minced onion
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup oregano
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, or jar.  Mix (or shake) until combined.  You CAN put this through your mini food processor to make it a finer mix, but I use this in sauces as well as on top of pizza or in pizza sauce, so I like the texture of it.  This makes about 1 cup of seasoning.  It is easily doubled or tripled with no problem! 

Make sure to adjust the red pepper flakes to your liking.  Add more, or don't add any at all depending on the heat level you enjoy.  Me?  I need some heat friends, I LOVE some heat!

Your "pizza lovin' Chefwannabe

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chunky Monkey Cake

You know "chunky monkey" can only mean 2 things. CHOCOLATE and BANANA.  I know, there are a few other things in the famous ice cream, but for me, just the chocolate and just the banana please.  Combine it into a moist cake and I am goin' down kids.  DOWN!

I wanted this to be bars.  I turned out cake.  I mean, it COULD be classified as bars.  You just should eat it with a fork, BUT, you don't have to.   I think I like it this way.  I know I like it this way or I wouldn't have posted it for you.  (can you tell I am beyond tired?)

Anyway, if you follow me on Facebook or if Facebook actually shows my posts to you, you will see what I did with these last night.  HA!  I packed a container full to send to work with my hubby, only I planted a fake rubbery, looks like it was cut off finger into the container.  These are the things I do that just make me chuckle to myself.  They found it and I got an email back saying, "it's ON like donkey kong".  He will never shake me.  I will always be the better prankster.  Always. 

Here is the recipe, it is easy and quick and boy is it delectable!

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 very ripe bananas (if not ripened and mushy, microwave for a couple of minutes to soften)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups milk chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine butter, and sugar until mixed completely.  Add eggs, one at a time until completely mixed in.  Now if your bananas are soft, through them right in and if you are using a stand mixer or hand mixer they will just break up on their own.  Even if you are hand mixing you should be fine.  Now toss in the rest of the ingredients, salt, baking soda, flour, vanilla, and then chocolate chips.  Don't over mix!  Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  When a toothpick comes out clean, it is done!  Let cool completely and then drizzle with icing.  (recipe below)

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp. milk

Mix together until combined and drizzle over cooled cake.

Your "chunky monkey lovin'" Chefwannabe

Monday, January 13, 2014

Peanut Butter Chicken

Peanut butter, plus chicken, sort of equal, what in the HECK are you talking about.  No I am not a satay fan.  Or should I say I never THOUGHT I was. 

My husband eats this peanut butter chicken at our favorite Chinese place pretty often.  I have never tried it because, hey, the thought almost makes me erp.  True story.  But last week I decided since I tried octopus a few days prior, I could handle peanut butter chicken.  SO good.  SO subtle.  I mean do I love LOVE it?  No.  Could I eat it, if I had to, oh absolutely.  Ok wait, maybe I would eat it, even if I didn't have to.  Whatever, the point is, it wasn't at all what I assumed or expected it would be.  I wanted to go home and try to recreate it.  It isn't exactly the same, trust me, my husband was pretty up front about that, but we loved it anyway. 

So while I may not be cooking this at the Honger anytime soon, it was a hit in my kitchen, and I am stickin' to it, like peanut butter on jelly!

For the chicken in this recipe you can use boneless skinless thighs, I actually would have preferred it.  However, last time chicken breasts were on sale, I had some out of body experience and bought so many packages, there is room for nothing else in the freezer, so I went with it.  I cut mine in half thickness wise.  So they are thin.  It avoided me having to pound them out and end up with huge piece of chicken to deal with.  So go with your gut folks, just go with your gut! 

6 pieces of boneless chicken (your choice as discussed above)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup ground peanuts
2 cups flour
2 eggs
splash of water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Prepare your 3 dishes for dredging.  In one dish place breadcrumbs and ground peanuts and mix them up.  In the second dish, you will put your flour, and in the 3rd dish you will whisk your eggs with a splash of water.

Take your chicken, coat completely in flour, shake it off.  Then in egg, and then cover in the bread/peanut crumb mixture.  Set on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet and finish the rest of the chicken.

Heat your frying pan with vegetable oil or whatever oil you choose.  Fry chicken approx. 4-5 minutes on each side.  Cook in MEDIUM or you will burn the outside.  Mine were a bit thicker so I had to cook lower and slower to avoid said scenario.   You can drizzle them with some peanut butter sauce, or just use the sauce for dipping! (recipe below)

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup water
1 tbsp. honey

Mix until combined, and microwave for 30 seconds to warm through.  Done!

Your "peanuuuut, peaanuuuut butter....and CHICKEN" Chefwannabe

Friday, January 10, 2014

Vanilla Glazed Pears

My husband has taken over again.  Not that I mind.  I only mind when his recipes turn out this amazing.  I am beginning to have hallucinations of him coming up with better recipes than me.  We can't let that happen!!

We are in the midst of this freezing cold spell, and a few days ago, my husband wanted "something sweet".  I didn't feel like baking anything, and he wanted pears.  Again, we were both unwilling to brave the cold, so he looked through the pantry and found a big can of canned pears.  I told him, "there ya go...dessert"!  Immediately he said, "I can come up with a recipe with these".  I told him to go for it.  And you guys, he transformed these canned peaches into the most amazing dessert!  I hate pears, in fact, I loathe most fruit.  I ate TWO PEARS!  He served this with vanilla ice cream and the beautiful syrup it makes, OH!  Drool worthy. 

Sometimes, you have to work with what you have.  I loved that he took these canned pears and made them into something I would happily serve at a fancy dinner party.  I mean VERY happily.  And to answer your questions, no, you can't make this with fresh pears.  I mean you could, I suppose, but that would be an entirely different recipe, and would take longer than the 8 minutes this took.  This is a convenient kind of recipe, that you will make over and over.  So to my husband, "Thank you honey"!  You are the fizz in my soda!  Oh wait, I think I was supposed to stop drinking soda.  Oh snap.

Here is what you will need:
29 ounce can of pears in LIGHT syrup (pieces, halves, whatever is fine) do NOT drain
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsps. brown sugar
2 tbsp. good vanilla extract

In a medium nonstick skillet, melt butter, and brown sugar, while continuously whisking.   Add in all of the pear juice from your can of pears, and whisk, add in pears in a single layer and let the mixture simmer until reduced by about half.  When it becomes a nice thickened syrup, add vanilla and gently stir. 

Serve over or under vanilla ice cream, and weep my friends!  What a delish little dessert..  Three cheers for hubs!

Your "I ate pears, and I LIKED it!" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Couscous Almondine

O. M. GOSH.  It is SO cold, I swear I will never get warm.  I always confess, while I must have snow and cold at Christmas, I could leave the snow and just take the cold any day.  But folks, this is taking it a bit to far. -20 wind-chill?  No, this isn't going to work for me.   I just keep thinking to myself, "in 4 months things will be getting green again and spring will be near". (my favorite season)

Now with that whining out of the way, lets talk couscous.  I seriously only ate it for the first time about a month ago.  When my father in law passed away a lovely friend of my mother in laws brought dinner one night and it included couscous.  I dove lips first into the bowl and never looked back.  I picked a bag of couscous up at the Amish Market (funny right?) and almost forgot I had it in the cupboard.  I came across it yesterday as I opened the cupboard and it tumbled out on to my head.   So now that we are home and things have settled down, and holidays are over,  I had to write something up. 

I wasn't sure of the liquid to couscous ratio.  I read all over the place everything from 1 1/2 cup liquid to 1 cup pasta, to an equal ration of 1:1.  Since I had never made it I just picked one.  I mean, why not, right?  I picked the 1 to 1 ratio and it was perfect.  It came out awesome, first time, and that my friends, is what I call "luck".  It was delish!  Perfect for an easy side dish, I mean, what's not to like?!

NOTE: My husband doesn't like almonds in this.  When I explained that, while I appreciated his opinion, I WAS out to make an "almondine" style couscous.  He asked me to put the word, "optional" behind almonds, on my ingredient list.  I told him I would, and technically they ARE, but I am not putting optional behind ALMONDS on a recipe that includes the word ALMONDINE.  If you do it, just don't tell me, I can't take that kind of pressure. 

2 cups good chicken stock (if you think yours is weak toss in a bouillon cube or 2 to amp it up)
2 cups couscous
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. salt (if needed)
1/4 cup sliced or thin sliced almonds (toasted)
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Using a medium to large bowl, place your couscous in it.  Get some saran wrap, or press and seal ready too!

In a small pot, add in chicken stock, pepper, butter, parsley, and salt.  Bring this liquid to a boil and pour it over the couscous and give it a quick stir.  Cover as soon as possible with saran wrap or press and seal.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Remove cover and add in almonds and grated cheese.  Using a fork and fluff it!! Serve!  This will easily feed 4-6 people.

I hope you enjoy this quick and easy side dish!  Get brave and do your own experimenting too!

Your "cuckoo for couscous" Chefwannabe

Monday, January 6, 2014

Warm Chicken Salad (giveaway closed) NEW WINNER PICKED

Good evening foodie family!  First things first.  50,000 Facebook fans?!?!  Are you KIDDING?  Awesomeness.  Thank you!  I thank you for your kind and positive comments, sharing the recipes you think look great, telling your friends about Chefwannabe, and just being great friends.  Yes, I consider all of you friends, like my foodie family!  I can't tell you enough, how important you are.  So keep reading for some fun at the end of this post.  Now, for the recipe......

Quite possibly one of the most VERSATILE dishes you could have in your recipe collection!  Undoubtedly so actually. 

When I thought up this recipe, it was completely from memory.  I ate this once, literally 12 years ago and never got the recipe.  I didn't figure it could be to hard to replicate so I went for it and came out with this fantastic dish.  You could serve this as an appetizer OR as a main dish and here is how. 

Appetizer, serve with crackers or crostini, keep knives nearby, cut the chicken VERY small and use as a hot dip.  DELISH. 

Main Dish, serve with bigger chunks of chicken, and put it over some rice, or egg noodles, a side salad and a veggie.   Leave out the breadcrumbs and serve it hot on a crusty roll!

See what I mean?  It is rich, I won't lie, but that is why I suggested serving with noodles, rice, or crackers, etc.  I love a good versatile recipe and I think I have given you one with this dish.  Let's get started.  It will take you only a few minutes to put together.

2 lbs cooked chicken, cubed
1/2 cup of celery, diced small
1 small can water chestnuts, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
6 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo/salad dressing
1 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used cheddar) divided
/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, mix together, chicken, celery, water chestnuts, almonds, cream cheese, sour cream, mayo/salad dressing, 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and salt and pepper.  Combine all ingredients well and place into a casserole dish you have sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  I used a deep dish round casserole, just use what you think will work for you.  Top with the rest of the cheese and breadcrumbs.  Bake for 25-35 minutes depending on your casserole size.  You are looking for melty cheese and completely heated all the way through. 
50,000 GIVEAWAY!

Now for my surprise.  As you all know I spent a few weeks with family in NJ and PA. I had time to do some shopping at a couple of my favorite stores, Ikea, and The Christmas Tree Shoppe.  Before Facebook made recent changes I expected to hit 50k early in December so some of my shopping included a few Christmas items.  Well, as luck would have it we didn't get there until recently.  So I am giving away a little box of goodies from both stores.  Just a little thank you for all of your support.  I am not telling you what it is it, because they were to be little surprise Christmas gifts so I am keeping that part the same!  I wish it were a huge luxurious gift package, instead it is some of my favorite things, that make cooking fun for me and I hope they do for you as well. The entry form is below, you have 5 ways to enter, so get all 5 of your entries!!  You have until Friday at 9pm CST to enter!

Your "love to share" Chefwannabe
I just emailed you. Please respond within 48 hours!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mexican Chocolate Macaroons

Please tell me I am not the only one who completely overbought supplies for Christmas baking.  It is like losing touch with reality or something.  So I have been scurrying around, with my leftover ingredients sitting out, just waiting to be blown over with a great idea.  This never happened.  Well it happened for a few other ingredients but not these almonds.  Don't get me wrong I would just eat them plain, and forget I ever wanted to use them for anything else but, I felt like I had to put them to better use than that!

I cam across this Mexican Chocolate Macaroon recipe in some little grocery story publication my mom had sent me.  It was the answer to my prayers.  You know, when in doubt, listen to your parents kind of a deal.  These turned out awesome but, I did change a few things.

You will need whole almonds since you need them for the center.  Or at least you are going to need enough whole almonds to fill the centers of your cookies, the rest will be processed so it won't matter for those. This recipe is supposed to make 3 dozen cookies, but I used a larger scoop and got 18.  I guess it depends on what you are using them for.

You will need:
1 cup milk chocolate chips (divided)
1 3/4 cups almonds (slivered, whole, sliced, etc)
1/3 cup WHOLE almonds
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment or spray/grease.  Set aside.

Place 3/4 cup chocolate chips into a food processor, process until they are small chunks.  Add 1 3/4 cup almonds and sugar.  Process using the pulse button until the mixture is fine crumbs.  If you don't use pulse, you risk heating your processor to the point of melting the chocolate.   When the mixture is finely ground, add in egg whites, cinnamon and vanilla.  Process until it just come together to form a dough.  The dough will be sticky. 

Scoop your cookies to your desired size, or roll them into balls.  Place about 2 inches apart.  Press one whole almond in the middle of each cookie.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  I did mine twice as big as recommended and they were done at 8 minutes.  Let them cool on the cookie sheets.  When cooled, remove.

Melt remaining chocolate in a small Ziploc bag, and cut the TINIEST bit off the tip.  Drizzle cookies with the chocolate and let sit long enough to let the chocolate set up. 

These ROCK.  If you love almonds, or chocolate, you have met your perfect match.

Your "feeling like I need coffee with these babies" Chefwannabe

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

BETTER than IKEA, Swedish Meatballs

.....even the ugly deserve love.  You know sometimes food is just not photogenic.  So, if you have eaten Swedish meatballs you know what they look like and you are going to just be nice.  NOTHING makes Swedish meatballs look pretty.  Nothing.

That being said, we were recently home, in South Jersey.  This obviously warranted a trip to a store I used to visit at least twice a month, Ikea.  I don't know how I am surviving without an Ikea where I am, but I am, barely.  I shopped until my husband dropped at the cafe, for his traditional snack, Swedish Meatballs.  We indulged and reminisced and I promised him when we got home I would do my best to make meatballs that taste just like Ikea's.  When he hate these meatballs he said they didn't quite taste like Ikea's, they were BETTER!  WOOHOO!  Better than Ikea Swedish Meatballs?!  That is EXACTLY what I am calling this post now!

These are super easy and super cool for a large crowd.  They are happiest in a crock pot.  Yes, I said it.  Don't dwell on it.  This makes a large batch but as I often tell you, these are easily frozen and reheated for later meals.  Do NOT forget the mashed potatoes or egg noodles, I made both.  I mean isn't life about choices?!

2 lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
3 tbsp. milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.  Make into meatballs using a cookie scoop or just eyeball it.  I got 75 meatballs.  Place on to parchment lined cookie sheets and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

While that is cooking, it is time to make the cream sauce.

5 cups beef stock
6 tbsps. flour
6 tbsps. butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. parsley (fresh or dried)

In a medium sauce pan melt butter and add in flour, whisk to combine and let cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add in beef stock while whisking, let come to a simmer and begin to thicken.  Add in heavy cream and whisk often, let simmer 5-7 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving!

Place all ingredients into a crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours. 


Your "Ikea for you, and Ikea for me" Chefwannabe