Thursday, December 29, 2011

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

I declared this week in my home to be "soup week"'s almost too cold to eat anything but! And so, my husband has been served soup every night this week- an old favorite and a couple of new ones (including one that he deemed "not blog worthy"). This recipe for creamy chicken noodle soup was my best soup of the week (so says my husband and I think I agree!).
I used a rotisserie chicken to save time, as well as store bought broth. This soup is so light and fresh tasting- thanks to the grated lemon rind! Ooh, what a great addition to this old favorite, if I do say so myself!
Please try this soup sometime this winter! It will warm you right up! Serve with a nice crusty bread. Enjoy!

2 Tbl. butter
1 shallot, minced
1 - 2 tsp garlic, minced
2 quarts of chicken stock/broth
1 c. water
4 carrots, sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
2 c. dry egg noodles (broken into bite sized pieces using your hand)
5 mushrooms, chopped
1 to 2 cups of white meat from a rotisserie chicken, cut into bit-sized cubes (use as much or as little meat as your family prefers)
2 Tbl fresh parsley OR 1 Tbl dried parsley
1 Tbl grated lemon rind
1 Tbl lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning spice (if you don't have this use 1/4 tsp oregano & 1/4 tsp basil)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 c. grated Parmesan (the cheap stuff that looks like powder - it dissolves better than freshly shredded)
1/3 c. heavy cream (don't skimp on this! It really adds to the flavor!)

In large soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Once butter starts to sizzle, add shallots and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add chicken stock and water to pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and stir in carrots; cook for 3 minutes. Add celery and cook for another 7 minutes. Add egg noodles and cook another 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, chicken, lemon rind, lemon juice, rosemary, Italian seasonings, salt and pepper. Let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.

Just before you are ready to serve, add grated Parmesan and heavy cream. Stir well and cook for another 2 minutes until soup is heated all the way through. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Every year I make cinnamon rolls from scratch on Christmas morning. In the past I've jumped from recipe to recipe, always looking for the ultimate roll - I think I have finally found it! These Alton Brown overnight cinnamon rolls are involved for sure- many steps are required, including a second rise overnight in the refrigerator. But, it's once a year- and it's Christmas for goodness sakes- so, I think the time put in was worth it! I will definitely make them next year (and maybe even give 'em a go at Easter, too). Here is the recipe taken directly from the Food Network site:



  • 4 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 large whole egg, room temperature
  • 2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
  • 6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
  • 20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
  • 1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray


  • 8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons


  • 2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened, approximately 1/4 cup
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 5 1/2 ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups


For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls.

Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Perfect candy for the holidays- tastes great and easy as pie! This recipe made enough for me to share with my family AND two of my neighbors! Let your kids help!

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 cups white chocolate chips
12 regular size candy canes, wrappers removed

Line a large lipped baking sheet with foil. Generously spray the foil with cooking spray.

In a large microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir. Return to microwave and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove and stir. Repeat this until the chips are completely melted and smooth. Spread chocolate on the greased foil. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes until chocolate has hardened.

Crush 10 candy canes in a large Ziploc bag while the chocolate is in the fridge. If you are too impatient for the old crush-in-the-bag-with-a-rolling-pin-trick, then you can pulse candy canes in the food processor. Do not turn the canes into dust, but rather, tiny bits. Crush the remaining two candy canes separately and set aside.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave repeating the same steps as the chocolate. Stir till smooth. Add the 10 crushed candy canes to the white chocolate and stir to combine.

Remove the hardened chocolate from the fridge. Pour the white chocolate with candy cane bits on top of the chocolate and spread. Sprinkle the extra two candy canes on top of the white chocolate (you may need to lightly press them in with your hands).

Refrigerator for 1 hour or until completely hardened. Remove from fridge. Gently peel all the bark off the foil. Then break or cut into uneven misshapen pieces. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stefanie's Breakfast Casserole

My sister-in-law, Stefanie, shared her family recipe for sausage breakfast casserole with me years ago. Now I make it all the time, especially when I have company. It's quick to make and is loved by everyone who eats it. I really wanted to post this before Christmas since I know many of you have family in town and need to make a dish that will serve a lot of people. This is perfect! Great to bring for a potluck brunch, too!
*Sometimes when I'm cooking the sausage I add a 1/2 minced onion. I have also added a minced jalapeno to the sausage when cooking (this really spices it up!!).  If you prefer a more mild spice, you can add a 4oz can of green chiles at the same time you pour on the eggs.

1 tube of crescent rolls
1 lb. Jimmy Dean sausage, cooked and broken into fine crumbles
10 eggs, whisked
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350F

Spray a 9X13" baking pan with cooking spray. For the first layer of the casserole, lay down the crescent rolls.

Layer the cooked sausage on top of the crescent rolls.

Next pour the whisked eggs on top of the cooked sausage crumbles.

Finally, sprinkle the cheese on top of the eggs.

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting into squares. If you like, serve with salsa.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I think the vast majority of us were scarred by brussel sprouts in some way or another as children. I remember one sad evening when I begrudgingly sat at the table for 30 minutes staring at a plateful of over-cooked, boiled brussel sprouts. After many threats of no dessert, I finally caved and put one in my mouth...that resulted in some gagging and don’t need to know the rest of the gory details. My dad thinks this story is hilarious (it was he who demanded I eat them or else!)...he had no idea the effect that night had on me! Alas, I went for nearly two decades without allowing a sprout to pass my lips! And then...a revelation! There is another way to cook a sprout...drum roll...ROASTING!  Roasting takes them from a sad, soggy, slimy veggie, to a glorious, delightfully crunchy and deliciously yummy sweet baby cabbage! Oh heaven!
Okay, so, why this long story? Just give me the recipe already, you say! Well, I want all of you with similar tales to give brussel sprouts another chance! They are so good when roasted that my husband and I will fight over the last one! Oh and if you needed another reason besides taste, roasting is much more healthy than boiling...
You can make these straight up with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper & sugar. Or if you want to make them less healthy (but a little more yummy) try adding the bacon crumbles...they may act as a disguise when serving them to your family...

1 lb of brussel sprouts, trimmed and depending on the size of the sprout, halved or quartered
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
3 Tbl onion, finely minced (optional)
3 slices of bacon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F

Toss the cut brussel sprouts in a mixing bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar till all the sprouts are evenly coated.  Spread them out on a baking pan lined with foil. Roast for 17 - 20 minutes, or until sprouts have started to brown and the top leaves get a little crispy. Serve and watch skeptical faces break out into huge, happy grins!

If you want to add the bacon:
Cook bacon slices in a skillet. Once bacon is crispy, remove from pan and save only enough of the bacon grease to coat the bottom of the skillet. Chop bacon and set aside. Add the minced onion to skillet lightly coated in bacon grease and cook for five minutes. Add onion along with the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar to the brussel sprouts. Follow the directions above. Plate sprouts and sprinkle them with bacon crumbles.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie/Oreo/Fudgy Brownie Bars

I snagged this recipe off another blog a couple months ago and was just dying to try it out! The perfect opportunity arrived when my sister-in-law's family visited for Thanksgiving. I had the pleasure of watching my sweet nieces and nephew one night at my mother-in-law's house while all the grown-ups went out for dinner. And me, being the very fun auntie that I am, said, "Let's make a crazy chocolate chip cookie/Oreo/fudge brownie concoction and then pig out! Who wants to help?!" Well, they all (including my three kiddos) shouted, "I DO!" All seven kids took turns measuring and pouring and mixing. These bars were really fun to make and were decadent to say the least! But, it was a great activity for the kids (ages 2 to 14) to actively participate in. The best part of the whole thing for me was watching them all lick the spoons and the bowls      
All the kids help stir the cookie dough
Step #1. Ingredients for chocolate chip cookies - 1st layer:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 12-oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Make cookies according to the directions on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie bag. Please note that I omitted 1/4 c. of flour from the Toll House bag recipe.

Spread cookie dough on the bottom of a well greased 9 X 13" baking pan.
Step #2
One large package of double stuffed Oreos.

Layer the Oreos on top of the cookie dough.
Step #3
Make a family size box of brownies according to the directions on the back of the box. Add 1/4 c. hot fudge sauce to the brownie mix and stir well to combine. Spread the brownie mix on top of the Oreos.
Bake the bars in oven at 350F for 50 to 55 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before cutting (if you can wait that long!)...ENJOY!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This recipe for monkey bread is super easy! Every time I make it, I let the kids help! They love rolling the balls, giving the balls a "sugar bath" and pouring all the cream and butter on top! Monkey bread is a great dish to serve for breakfast during the holidays or when you have guests. It's fun to make and yum to eat! What could be better?

1 lrg Ziplock freezer bag
2 tubes of Pillsbury Grand buttermilk biscuits
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 heaping Tbl. cinnamon
1/2 c. heavy cream
6 Tbl. butter, melted

Oven 350
Put sugars and cinnamon in Ziplock bag and combine. Divide each biscuit into three equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. After dough has been rolled place balls (4-6 at a time) into bag with sugars and cinnamon and shake to coat. Place sugared dough balls into a greased bundt pan. The balls should touch and by the time the last one is put into the pan they will be all squished.

Warm butter and cream in the microwave for about 1 minute. Pour warm cream mixture on top of the sugared dough balls. Sprinkle the leftover sugar and cinnamon on top of the dough balls. Bake for 35 minutes.

Let bread stand at least 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving place.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

I'm telling you straight up, this is the best pot pie I have ever made! Thank you to my rockin' sister-in-law, Jen, for the recipe! Yes, I messed with the filling adding nutmeg, a variety of veggies and a little cream, but, I didn't touch the crust...and this crust is OH-SO-GOOD! Who would have thought using cream cheese in the dough would yield such a magnificently golden, savory crust? This dish was warm, cozy and just the perfect thing to eat on a this very chilly evening! I will make this again and again during the winter months! I bet you will, too!

1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. flour
3 Tbl shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2/3 c. milk
2 Tbl light cream
2 c. cooked chicken, cubed
1/2 c. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. corn (frozen or canned)
1/2 c. carrots, finely chopped (cut the carrots very small so they cook all the way through when baking)

1 2/3 c. flour
2 tsp celery seed
1 8oz pkg cream cheese, cold & cubed
1/3 c. butter, cold and cubed
1 Tbl milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F

Spray an 8"X8" baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Filling Directions:
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots & garlic; saute for 4 minutes, stirring often. Stir in flour, nutmeg and salt & pepper. Cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and milk. Use a whisk to combine liquids with flour mixture. Bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes, stirring all the while. Remove from heat and add vegetables and cooked chicken cubes. Set aside.

Combine flour & celery seed in bowl. Cut in cream cheese and butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.

Work by hand until dough forms ball (you have to REALLY work dough to combine. If you are having trouble, add 1 Tbl of milk. Do not add more than 2 Tbl of milk). Once dough is fully combined, divide into two equal parts. On a lightly floured surface roll both halves of the dough into 8" squares. Place one of the rolled out crusts into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Put dish in the preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove dish from oven and pour all the filling on top of the bottom crust.

Place the other rolled dough on top of the filling. Poke holes in the crust with a fork to let steam escape while baking.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is a golden brown. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rotisserie Chicken with Mediterranean Vegetables

I served this "salad" the other night and my husband and I thought it was amazing! I used rotisserie chicken- which totally saved on time! And with Thanksgiving coming up, I thought left-over turkey would make a great substitute for the chicken! Serve with a good, crusty bread! Enjoy!

Mustard Vinaigrette:

3 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic cloves, chopped

In a bowl with a cover, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, Dijon mustard, and garlic. Cover and shake to blend. Add the oil and whisk or shake until emulsified.

1 rotisserie chicken (I only use the white breast meat) shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces
6 small red potatoes, quartered
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch squares
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1/2 c. drained marinated artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
1 c. haricot verts (French green beans), trimmed, cut into 3 inch lengths (I put these beans in raw, but, if you prefer, roast them on 400F for 5 minutes or so...just until crisp tender)
12 basil leaves, chopped
4 oz. feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 375.

Prepare a large, rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil and spraying with cooking spray. Combine the potatoes, onion, red peppers, garlic, and salt & pepper to taste and place all on the baking sheet. Toss together with just enough olive oil to coat the vegetables. Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender but still hold their shape when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the chicken.
Add the artichoke hearts, green beans and basil leaves. Toss with vinaigrette. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Divide vegetable mixture between two plates. Sprinkle each dish with feta cheese. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Oatmeal Caramel Bars

My friend, Tammy, gave me this out-of-this-world Martha Stewart cookie bar recipe years has since become one of my most beloved recipes! They always get lots of praise and everyone always asks me for this recipe. So, here it is! Enjoy!

48 soft caramel-candy cubes (1 whole bag does the trick!)
1/2 c heavy cream
2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. packed light brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F

Coat a 9X13" baking pan with cooking spray. Line with a 9X21" sheet of parchment paper, leaving a 2" overhang on each short side (this will help you lift the bars out of the pan once they have baked and cooled). Give the parchment a light spray of cooking spray.

Put the caramels and cream in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until caramels are melted, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

Stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Blend in butter with a fork or your fingertips (I use my fingers- it's messy, but easier!) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press half the mixture onto the bottom of the lined pan. Bake until just set and starting to color around the edges, about 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the baked crust with chocolate chips; drizzle the caramel mixture over the chips and crust and spread until smooth and even. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Use a spatula or your hands (I use my hands, of course- again, it's messy, but easier!) to gently press the crumbs into the caramel. Bake until pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan (I always let it sit for an hour). Use the overhanging parchement to lift the bars from the pan. Cut into squares.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sweet Pea Spread

Okay, I know this sounds completely strange...frozen peas as a dip? But, trust me, it is absolutely delicious! I have served this spread at many a social gathering and it is always a big hit! Please buy the smallest, sweetest bag of frozen peas you can find in the freezer section and make sure you use Pecorino cheese (and not just Parmesan). Pecorino has a strong, nutty flavor that balances well with the peas. Serve this spread with crostini bread and sliced grape tomatoes. Thank you to my friend, Lisa, for this yummy appetizer!

1 bag frozen peas, defrosted (let sit on the counter for about an hour)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
6 mint leaves (optional)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with crackers or bread rounds and sliced grape tomatoes!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Asparagus & Parmesan Puff Pastry

I found this recipe in an old issue of Taste of Home magazine. It makes a delicious accompaniment to a salad or fantastic hor d’ourves! Try these at your next holiday gathering! Enjoy!

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbl lemon juice
5 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 lb bunch of asparagus, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
3 Tbl olive oil
3 Tbl. shredded Parmesan cheese (for sprinkling)

Preheat the oven to 400F

In a small bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and basil.

Unfold the thawed puff pastry onto two baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Cut each sheet into four rectangles, placing them slightly apart on the baking sheets. Spread each rectangle with cream cheese mixture to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Trim asparagus spears to 1 1/2 inches shorter than the pastry. Drizzle with oil.

Bake at 400F for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with the 3 Tbl Parmesan cheese. Slice each pastry in half or quarters, depending on how big you want them. Serve warm.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

Another butternut squash soup to add to your cooking repertoire! Roasting the vegetables before pureeing gives this soup the most delicious, smokey flavor! The spiced almonds gave it a little kick, too! It was the perfect soup to serve on a snowy night in October! Yes, I said SNOW in October! Try this soup on a good and chilly evening - it’ll warm you right up!

6 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
4 to 6 c. butternut squash, peeled and cubed (I buy this pre-cut & cubed at the grocery store- saves me a world of time!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. brown sugar
6 c. vegetable broth
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 c. to 1 c. milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
3 Tbl heavy cream (optional but yummy!)

Spiced Almonds:
1 Tbl butter, melted
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/3 c. sliced or slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375F

Line a roasting pan with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place carrots, onions, garlic cloves and butternut squash on the pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Sprinkle carrots & butternut squash with brown sugar.

Roast vegetables for 45 minutes or until squash flesh is soft. Remove vegetables from oven and place in a large soup pot. Add broth, thyme and cinnamon, if using. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let soup cool for 20 minutes.

Remove center piece from the top of the blender lid (to let heat escape) and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Blend soup in batches until completely smooth. Return all soup to the pot. Add milk and cream, if using. Stir well and heat to desired temperature. Divide soup between bowls. Sprinkle with Spiced Almonds. Serve with a side salad and crusty bread. Enjoy!

Spiced Almonds:

Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl combine 1 Tbl melted butter, salt and cayenne pepper. Add almonds. Toss to combine. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for 5-8 minutes or until toasted. Watch closely so they do not burn. Cool completely.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Caramel Popcorn

My boys and I love to do crafts and bake together while my daughter takes her afternoon nap. Today we decided to make peanut butter caramel popcorn balls! Popcorn balls are a fun treat any time of the year, but, for some reason I always associate them with Halloween! We doubled the recipe so we could share with our friends! The boys helped me put all the ingredients into the pan and I did all the cooking and "hot" stuff! After I poured the peanut butter caramel onto the popcorn, it was cool enough for the boys to help form some balls themselves! Try making these with your kids! We had a great time and the caramel corn is delicious!!

Cooking spray
1/2 c. unpopped popcorn kernels
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. light-colored corn syrup
2 1/2 Tbl butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250F

Line a large lipped cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper; coat foil or paper with cooking spray.

I pop all my popcorn in an air popper. The corn tastes delicious, is fast to make and is much healthier than microwave popcorn! If you do not have an air-popper, you can cook the kernels in a large soup pot with two tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook kernels for approximately four minutes, shaking the pan all the while. When popping slows, remove pan from heat. Let stand until popping stops.

Combine sugar, syrup, butter and salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and vanilla; stir until smooth. Drizzle over popcorn (make sure the popcorn is in a very large pot); toss well. At this point you can either spread the popcorn mixture out onto prepared pan OR you can CAREFULLY (it’ll still be hot) form popcorn mixture into small balls. Bake the caramel corn or balls at 250F for 1 hour, stirring mixture or turning balls over, every 20 minutes. Cool completely before eating. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes

This is a Paula Deen recipe (hence all the butter) that a friend gave to me. The end result tastes just like pumpkin pie! A great Thanksgiving alternative or just a yummy bar cake to serve anytime! Paula says to bake for 40 - 50 minutes...I baked mine for 45 minutes and they turned out perfect!

1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 Tbl butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream, if desired.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Accordion Potatoes

If you are looking for a highly decadent, throw-calories-to-the-wind, absolutely scrumptious take on a baked potato meets scalloped potatoes au gratin, then boy do I have something for you! I found this recipe on the blog, Look Who’s Cookin’ Now. It was simple to make, yet oh so fancy to serve! And the taste? it cannot be described! This recipe is for two potatoes. I didn’t measure any of the ingredients...just eyeball it- it’s impossible to mess these up!

2 large baking potatoes
cold butter, cut into thin slices
block of Parmesan, cut into thin slices
salt & pepper
olive oil
heavy cream
shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 400F

Clean potatoes. Slice each potato many many times down the width of the potato. Be careful to NOT slice all the way through the potato.

Slide a slice of butter in between a potato slice; then slide a slice of Parmesan- keep alternating butter and cheese until you have filled each slice on the potato making it resemble an accordion (I did not use the whole stick of butter- but if you want to, go for it!). Carefully place potatoes on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the potatoes with a bit of olive oil (maybe 1 Tbl per potato). Salt & pepper them. Place potatoes in the oven for 1 hour.

When you take the potatoes out of the oven you will want to gobble them right up right away...but, be patient, there is more! Drizzle each potato with heavy cream (about 1 Tbl per potato). And top each potato with a good helping of shredded cheddar cheese! Return to the oven for another 15 minutes until cheese is nice and bubbly. Remove potatoes from oven - now you will really want to gobble them up! Not yet! Top each spud with a nice wallop of sour cream- why not?! To make yourself feel better, serve with a veggie heavy spinach salad! Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Easy Raviolis with Green Beans & Almonds

I whipped this up last night with ingredients I found in the fridge. It was simple, tasted great and took me less than 20 minutes to make! Husband approved, too!

8 oz green beans, trimmed
12 oz package of fresh or frozen cheese raviolis
4 slices of bacon
1/4 c. onions, finely chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbl sliced almonds

Bring a medium pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook green beans until just tender, 4-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to take the beans out of the boiling water, slice in half and set aside. Add raviolis to the cooking water and cook according to package directions. Drain. Return pasta to empty pot and add 2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil. Stir. Set aside.

While the green beans are boiling, cook bacon in a medium sized skillet. After bacon is cooked crisp, set aside and chop when cooled. Drain all but one teaspoon of grease from the skillet. Return skillet to stove top. Add onions & tomatoes to skillet. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Scrape onions & tomatoes into the pot with the pasta. Add 1 Tbl lemon juice, green beans, bacon and salt. Stir to combine. Divide raviolis between two plates. Sprinkle each serving with 1 Tbl sliced almonds. Season with freshly ground pepper. Serve with a crusty bread and salad. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Curried Red Potato & Edamame Soup

This is a delicious potato soup with an unexpected flavor- curry! It is easy to make and is perfect for a cold Autumn night! Garam masala is an Indian spice...if you can't find it in your regular grocery store, try Whole Foods or a specialty market. Enjoy!

2 Tbl butter
4 medium sized red potatoes (about 2 cups), diced
1 small yellow onion, cut into bite sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl + 1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 Tbl + 1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 c. vegetable broth
1 c. milk
1 Tbl sugar
1 c. frozen edamame, shelled
1 Tbl lime juice
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt for garnish

In a large soup pot, sweat potatoes, onion and garlic in butter over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour, curry powder, garam masala and salt. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add the broth, milk and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in frozen edamame and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice.

Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

S'mores On A Stick

So my baking-genius-of-a-friend, Melissa (Harper Street Treats), made over 800 of these S'mores Pops two weekends ago for a huge family event in Houston to promote her business. She sent me pictures and had me drooling! Melissa told me how to make them and I couldn't believe how simple it, I decided to whip some up on a much smaller scale. Now mine did not turn out as beautiful as hers, but, I imagine they tasted just as yummy! It literally took me 5 minutes to make 10 of should have seen my boys' faces when I gave them these after-school treats!

I bet serving these at a Halloween party would be a huge hit! Or any party really! Give them a shot!!

To make 10 S'mores pops:

10 large marshmallows
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 c. crushed graham crackers (you can buy them pre-crushed!)
10 wooden sticks

Place chocolate chips and canola oil in a small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for one minute and stir. If needed, return chocolate to the microwave for 15 second intervals, stirring after each time. Once chocolate is melted and smooth, it is ready.

Put graham cracker crumbs in another small bowl.

Skewer one marshmallow on the end of a stick. Roll in melted chocolate to coat. Roll in graham cracker crumbs. Repeat with remaining marshmallows.

How simply is that?!