Saturday, August 3, 2013

Back in the Day Biscones

I recently came across this cookbook on instagram and couldn't be more tickled that I did.
It's a gem.
Great recipes, great tips and they've all been delicious!

Last week I started at the beginning of the book and went through all the recipes I wanted to try. I ended up with quite a few but first on my list (well, after already having made the chocolate chip cookies and blueberry muffins) were Biscones.

What, pray tell is a biscone? A cross between a biscuit and a scone, of course! 
Loaded with lots of delicious butter and buttermilk.
These were light, tender and oh so very good!

Buttermilk Biscones
from The Back In the Day Bakery Cookbook

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs baking powder, preferably aluminum free
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (sadly I was out of this)
1/2 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes (2 sticks)
1 cup dried fruit (such as sour cherries or currants), optional
1 1/2 c buttermilk, or as needed
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of fine sea salt- for egg wash
1/4 cup cardamom sugar or turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat liner.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom- whisk until incorporated.  Add the butter and working quickly, cut it in with a pastry blender.  You should have various sized pieces of butter from sandy patches to pea-sized chunks and some larger bits as well. Add the dried fruit, if using, and toss to distribute.

Gradually pour in the buttermilk and gently fold the ingredients until you have a soft dough and there are no bits of flour in the bottom of the bowl.  You should still see lumps of butter in the dough; these will give you light and flaky biscuits! The dough should be moist and slightly sticky.

Dust the top of the batter with a little flour and with a large ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Arranging them about 1 inch apart so that the biscones have room to rise and puff up in the oven. Lightly tap down the tops and brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the biscones are lightly golden and fully baked. Serve warm or room temp with your favorite jam. These are best eaten the day they are baked.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Zucchinis Abound (and recipes, too)!

(crazy behemoth zucchinis)

It's that time of year again... the sun has worked its charm on our little seedlings. They've been watered and nurtured and now the plants are churning out zucchini like crazy!

Here are a few of my favorite ways to eat this vegetable...


Pierogi Sautéd with onions, peppers, zucchini and basil

                                                            Mock (Zucchini) Crabcakes
                                                                    or just call them zucchini pancakes

2 Cups grated zucchini, unpeeled and squeezed out of any liquid
1 onion, grated or finely chopped
1 c Italian bread crumbs (or plain and add some italian seasoning)
1 Tbs mayo
1 Tbs Old Bay seasoning
1 egg, beaten

Combine all those ingredients. Adjust the texture, if needed- too dry, add more egg; too wet, add a bit more bread crumbs.
Heat some oil in a skillet (whatever you want- veg, coconut, olive)- take a Tbs of mix and place in hot pan, use the back of the spoon to smoosh it down and create a flatter pancake.
Fry for 2-3 minutes per side.

original recipe from Pittsburgh Post Gazette Aug. 2002

So all that said, what's YOUR favorite way to use up this versatile and plentiful ingredient?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Make it SOON: Margarita Cake

If only I had a picture of the entire cake to show you... alas, I didn't think about sharing this gem of a cake until AFTER we nearly devoured it all up!

A friend of mine makes a similar cake that is very good too and that's where my fascination with Margarita cake came from in the first place.

I can't recall if I didn't have the recipe or if I decided to make this on the spur of the moment (usually THAT is the answer), but I happened upon the Cake Mix Dr's version of this cake and whoa... it is so super good. I decided to make this for a group of friends of mine who happened to be getting together on the day of the Pope's election. He's from Argentina and well, I decided a Margarita Cake was the BEST way to CELEBRATE! 

(I am not ashamed to say I LOVE an excuse to make a CAKE!)

Three words to describe this cake:

Okay, that last one is more than a word, but really, the glaze/icing part of this is boozy and tart and all that!

Margarita Cake

The Cake:
1 box of yellow or lemon cake mix- I always reach for lemon supreme- Duncan Hines, I believe
1/2 package vanilla instant pudding mix (4 TBS)
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice - I have been using the little bottle of lime juice from the produce section- works well in a pinch, but you still need a lime for the cake/glaze!
1/4 cup Tequila
2 Tbs Triple Sec
1 tsp grated lime zest
4 large eggs

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (may have skipped that)
1 Tbs each of tequila, triple sec, & lime juice
1-2 tsps lime zest


1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour (very well) a 12 cup bundt pan. 

*don't skip the greasing and flouring step... the last time I made the cake, I did this step but must not have checked to make sure I did it very well and my cake stuck. It still tasted great, but it looked a little less appetizing. 

2. Place the cake mix in your mixer and turn it on low to break up any lumps. Then add the pudding mix (4 Tbs only!) through the eggs into the mixer. Turn on low and mix a minute or two. Scrape down the sides and mix on medium for 2 minutes until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a rubber spatula, scrape all around the bowl making sure all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the wet. The batter will be thick and should be smooth.

3. Pour into your prepared Bundt pan and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes. The top of the cake (well, bottom since it's in a bundt pan) should spring back when you press on it. Insert a toothpick to make sure it's down- it will come out clean with a few dry crumbs on it.

4. Let the cake cook on a wire rack 10-15 minutes- another important step. (Rushing this step may have been the other reason my cake stuck a bit.)
Run a knife along the sides of the pan and don't forget the middle part! Tap the pan on the counter a few times and then invert it onto your cake plate. Before you lift it, I tap the top with the handle of a spatula. Let the cake cool again- 25 minutes longer.

5. While the cake cools, make your glaze. Place powdered sugar, triple sec, tequila and lime juice in the mixer bowl. Add lime zest if you'd like. (I added lime zest to this as well- the original recipe says to garnish with lime slices, but I like the flecks of green zest in my glaze). Whisk until the powdered sugar is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Spoon over the COOLED cake. (alternatively, you can poke holes into the top of the cake and then spoon the glaze over the cake). Let the glaze set for 10 minutes and then serve!

A bundt cake like this will serve 12-16 people- all depending on thick you make your slices!

Monday, June 24, 2013

White Pizza

It wasn't too long ago that I shared with you The Pizza Dough that Changed My Life. It truly has. I don't exaggerate much (stifles laughter).

We were getting home from a few days away the other day and I thought pizza would be a great option for dinner because it's easy. Now I realize when I say that, that most people grab their take out pizza flyers and start perusing what place they're going to order from that night. However, they don't call me Crafty for nothing and well, when I think pizza, I think of making the dough and throwing some toppings on it! (hey, I buy DelGrosso's pizza sauce, so there you have my "easy" button)

So, really, when I tell you that this dough is so simple to make... can you just trust me and try it sometime? It really is THAT good and once you get the hang of it, you can have pizza in about an hour. And if you're all organized and have the dry ingredients already portioned out in zippie bags, you're going to knock this one out even faster!

okay, okay, onto the actual pizza recipe!

I'm about 28 weeks pregnant now with bambino number 6 and the worst part of pregnancy for me every.single.time is the heartburn. Tomato sauces seem to be the major culprit but really, when we get down to brass tacks, I think anything that goes down is bound to give me heartburn at this point. The good news is, is that in 2 more months and a few weeks, the heartburn will go away for good and I will be holding a brandy new baby!

where was I? oh yes, pizza.

I thought if I cancelled out the red sauce and went with a white sauce, I might "help" the heartburn stay away or something along those lines. Nah, it didn't work, but good gravy am I glad I did some searching around and found THIS recipe which I combined with some swiss chard (that I GREW on my back PORCH- say what!?!?), sautéed mushrooms, grape tomatoes, mozzarella and feta.  We had ourselves a winning pie!

Crafty's White Pizza ala Annie's White Sauce
This sauce recipe makes enough for ONE half of my pizza dough. We used a traditional red sauce on the other pie.

Pizza dough

White Sauce (from Annie's Eats Spinoccoli Pizza)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup whipping cream/heavy cream
1 garlic clove- I like Trader Joe's crushed garlic
3-6 Tbsp parmesan cheese
little S&P

Toppings of your choice:
(in the picture above)
swiss chard
sautéed mushrooms
mozzarella cheese
grape tomatoes

parchment paper
pizza stone

Step 1: Make your pizza dough about an hour before you'll need it and up to a day before you'll need it. You can keep it in the fridge after you've kneaded it a bit and it will rise perfectly. I take it out about 30 minutes or more before I'm ready to roll.

Step 2: Make the white sauce. Melt butter and add flour. Whisk together and cook about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the cream to combine making sure you incorporate after each addition. Add garlic and S&P. let simmer a bit to thicken. Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust S&P to taste.

Step 2.1: Preheat your oven to HOT- 425 works.

Step  3: Roll out your dough. I divide my dough into two and roll it out on a piece of parchment paper. This just makes it easier for me to slide it onto the HOT as HADES pizza stone.

Step 4: dress your pizza. First, brush some olive oil onto the edge of your pizza crust. I sprinkled some granulated garlic on top of that (parmesan would be nice, too) Add a smathering of sauce. A thin layer of mozzarella and then any other toppings you want.

Step 5: Take a upside down sheet pan and SLIDE your pizza onto it (you're using this as your makeshift pizza peel)... then slide it onto the hot pizza stone. (alternatively, you can use the sheet pan right side up with your pizza on it, if you don't have a pizza stone (but really, you should... it makes the crust soooooooooooo good)

Step 6: Bake about 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is just how YOU like it.

Step 7: VERY IMPORTANT- if you're using a pizza stone, let your pizza rest up a bit on it after you take it out of the oven. This step ensures the crust will be crisp on the bottom. It retains an amazing amount of heat  and will keep your pizza hot!

Step 8: enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pastry Wrapped Sausages with Maple Dijon Dipping Sauce

Funny story. Have you ever seen a recipe and visually cataloged it in your brain... maybe even added the ingredients to your shopping list and then bought them only to find that you cannot, for the life of you, remember where you saw/read that recipe?

That happened to me a month ago. Searched my internet history, Pinterest boards, ziplist file, recent magazines I had read and still... couldn't find this recipe. Then I googled it. And I found similar recipes but not THE one... the one that was in my head and I could literally see a picture of how these things were made, in my mind.

And a few weeks ago I finally happened upon it in a new cookbook I received for Christmas, Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites! I couldn't believe when I saw the little inset picture on the corner of page 8. It was exactly what I had imprinted in my mind.

To be completely honest, I know I could have recreated this recipe but I really just wanted to FIND where I saw it!

So I picked up the rest of the ingredients at the store today set on making these as an after-school snack for the boys. I knew they'd love them. And they did. I made enough for two batches. One for today and another in the freezer for another day! So my recipe below is doubled. You do all the work once and get to enjoy them twice!

While the little sausage bites are great, the addition of the dipping sauce is really good. I recommend you go for it.

Pastry Wrapped Sausages with Maple Dijon Dipping Sauce
adapted from Savoring the Season with Our Best Bites, pg 8

1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package
2 pkgs breakfast sausages- about 14 links; 12 oz each
1/2 cup shredded cheese- I used sharp cheddar
little maple syrup
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

Maple-Dijon Dipping Sauce

2 Tbs Dijon mustard
4 Tbs maple syrup
4 Tbs mayonnaise

whisk until combined, refrigerate until ready to serve.
*incidentally, I think I did a 2, 2, 2 ratio on the sauce and it was still really good. So go ahead and use a little less maple syrup and mayo. Remember too how much you are making... I served about half of my sausages and froze the rest.

For the Sausages:

Unfold the puff pastry onto a silpat or lightly floured surface.  Sprinkle the top lightly with flour and roll out to about 12x12 square. Mine was not quite square as you see. Use a knife to cut into 3 equal portions. Brush one side with a little maple syrup (real maple syrup, okay I guess you could use pancake syrup but why?)

Place about 3 sausages down one side (lengthwise)  of the puff pastry, in each section. If you have a little extra dough, cut a sausage to fit. Sprinkle cheese right beside the sausage, just a little. You can skip the cheese if you'd like. These are quite adaptable. Now starting from the edge where the sausages are, roll them up until the pastry is all around them. Pinch the seam to seal.
(forgot to take a picture of this most important of the recipe. mea culpa)

Cut sausages up using a serrated knife (it worked best for me, but then I felt like the kitchen shears did an equally impressive job getting through the sausage casings). I got about 3 bites per sausage or.... this many... which is more, I know, but I wanted them to be snack size.

Repeat these steps until you've used all your pastry dough.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash. 
Take this un-egg washed batch and flash freeze it while you continue making your wrapped sausages. I did this with half of them and they're ready to be popped in the oven for the next snack time or game day or get together!

Bake at 375-400 (they forgot to mention the oven setting in their cookbook!) for 15-20 minutes. You want them to look like this:

Serve alongside the dipping sauce and enjoy!

They have the thumbs up from our crew! The Big People in the house really loved them as well! Did I mention the sauce was fabulous? It was!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bread and Butter Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Once March rolls around I start thinking about what we'll eat on St. Patrick's Day. Yes. Beginning March 1st, I start thinking about it. Now for the past 3 years I've been making corned beef and cabbage with potatoes and carrots. Oh and soda bread. And the now infamous St. Paddy's Day Sauce- that stuff is so very good.

We started our celebrating with Pimm's Cups (Pimm's is a type of gin and you add it to Sprite with a wedge of lemon, that's OUR version and it works!)  and a smattering of fruits and cheese and the soda bread spread with Kerrygold Butter.

The Corned Beef couldn't be easier to make. I buy the packaged kind and just throw it in a pot cover the beef with water and I do add that seasoning packet because why not? It's there right?

Once the beef is cooked through I remove it to a platter and cover it and then I throw in my sliced (not cored) cabbage, peeled carrots and potatoes. They need to boil and that cabbage needs to cook the longest it seems. I'm usually running late and thankfully, my mom has been nearby to help me out in the kitchen.

This year, she brought parsnips and cooked them once she got to our house. She slices them really thin, like long julienned strips, if you will. Then sautés them in butter until the edges brown a bit. OH MY. They caramelize and sweeten beyond their original sweetness and it's just a real treat. 

I threw my soda bread together on St. Patrick's Day morning because I ran out of time the day before. It didn't take long at all. And I'll be posting that recipe as it was quick and really good.

Lastly, the Bread and Butter Pudding with Whiskey Sauce (and Vanilla Sauce). The creme de la creme. The icing on the cake. The perfect accompaniment to our wonderful dinner.  It was a bit more time consuming than I thought but that's mainly because I hadn't really read through the recipe as well as  I should have prior to the day. I suggest reading the recipe a few times before you're in the MIDST of making a recipe. Good thing to do. I made this for my full-blooded Italian father who likes to poke fun of the Irish and their food but LOVES bread pudding.

So we'll start with dessert and work our way backwards...

Bread and Butter Pudding with Whiskey Sauce (and Vanilla Sauce)

1/4 cup golden raisins- I used regular 'ol raisins
1/2 cup hot water
4 Tbs butter at room temp
10 slices of white bread- let's just say a loaf of bread, crusts removed
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten

Whiskey Sauce
1 cup milk
2 Tbs sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbs Irish Whiskey (or leave that out and add vanilla in it's place)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a casserole dish with butter (square, oblong, something pretty). Stick your cut bread in it first to see what will fit and then butter it.

In a small bowl, combine raisins and water and let soak 10 minutes. drain and set aside until ready to add to pudding

Remove the crusts from the bread and butter one side. Cut each slice in half (diagonally would be nice). Arrange half of the bread, buttered side up, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the raisins over the bread (I tucked a few under some of the slices.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, cream, vanilla, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil, 5-7 minutes. I stirred with a whisk in the beginning and then switched to a wooden spoon. Using the wooden spoon allows you to see when the sauce has thickened. When you can drag your finger along the back of the spoon and it leaves a line in the sauce... it's ready! Remove sauce from heat and slowly add a ladle of the cream mixture to the eggs while you whisk them. You need to temper the eggs OR you will have scrambled egg custard. No good. Keep adding the hot cream to the eggs and then pour this mixture over your arranged bread. Let sit for 10 minutes. I sprinkled the top of mine with cinnamon.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in a larger pan- roasting pan worked for me. Add hot water to the pan around the covered dish. You're creating a hot water bath so the custard cooks evenly in the oven. Go to about 2/3 up the sides of the dish. This is down easily if you place the larger pan with the dish in it on the oven rack, THEN add the hot water. Bake about 50-55 minutes, until the custard is set. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from larger baking pan.

To make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the milk over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly (just like before) add a little of the eggs to the hot milk as you whisk. It will temper the eggs and you shouldn't have scrambled eggs. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.**  Stir in the whiskey now OR divide the sauce into two containers and add a little less whiskey to one and 2 tsp of vanilla to the other.

To serve, spoon the warm pudding onto plates and pour the sauce of your choice over the pudding.


 **I actually forgot to do this part. I added the hot milk to my egg yolk mixture... slowly and still had a little scrambling occur. No worries. I simply poured the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and had perfectly smooth sauce. I then divided it into two containers, added 1 Tbs whiskey to one and the vanilla to the other.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sprinkle-filled Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have posted a chocolate chip cookie recipe every now and then. I've been partial to Sharyn's and love making the BIG cookie, too. Yet, with all the recipes I have in my file and the ones that I love and swear by... I'm always game to try another recipe.

When I was pinning all my ideas to my secret board for Sophia's birthday party, I found the Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe at Sally's Baking Addiction. She's my hero. Sally painstakingly went through trial and error 7x over to come up with the secrets behind this cookie. And if that wasn't enough, she added sprinkles.

Sprinkles get me EVERY. TIME.

They're just the happiest little bursts of color that make anything better: pancakes, yogurt, cookies, popcorn. Hot dogs. no, not hot dogs. I promise I've never eaten a sprinkle ridden hot dog.

Off track.

Okay, so give these a go and the next time I talk about cookies, I would be remiss if I didn't post and talk about "Happy's" Ultimates. They're really good, too. She should post them on her new blog.... (wink wink)

Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 1/4 c yellow or white boxed cake mix
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash of salt- my addition
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 egg, room temp
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c chocolate chips (can use semi-sweet and white together)
1/2 c sprinkles- whatever colors you love

1. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Stir with a whisk (or sift) to incorporate well and break up any lumps from the cake mix.

2. Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed of an electric mixer. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until creamy

3. Add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in the chips and sprinkles. Don't over mix.

 {this is where I taste the dough. it's raw and all that and I don't care. I love it}

4. Form into cone like balls (rocket ships maybe). Sally swears by this method and you can head to the recipe link above to see a more detailed step on this, but really, it's worth making them cone-like. I form them into these shapes THEN refrigerate for 1 hour.... or more. Refrigerating helps the cookies to not spread so much.

5. Preheat the oven to 350°. Place cold dough onto your baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until edges are slightly browned. The center will still look soft, but as they cool, it will set. Allow them to sit on the baking sheet for 4 minutes then transfer to a wire rack or set on a brown paper bag to cool. (see image below)

These can certainly be frozen and I do love a frozen chocolate chip cookie.

Thank God I still have some in the freezer because I can barely make it through typing this without going to nab one of them!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Party Food: Spinach Balls

After all that talk the other day about parties and my Aunt Lynn's recipes, I thought it might behoove me to add her spinach ball recipe here.

I have the little newspaper clipping that she used with her notes scribbled on the top of when she first made these.... 1990 to be exact. They're very good and flavorful, I did tweak the recipe just a tiny bit as I had a spinach ball recipe, too, and enjoyed mine. So I married the two together. But to be fair, it's mostly her recipe that I use.

I mentioned before that while these are a great appetizer for parties big or small, they also make a great side dish! Kids love eating finger foods and this does have spinach in it! Give it a try... you make a big batch and keep them in the freezer and whenever you need a side dish to go with those nuggets, throw these in the oven with them!

Spinach Balls
sent into a local Pgh. paper back in the early 90's

2 boxes frozen spinach, well drained (the recipe says to cook it, why? I've never cooked the spinach and they turn out great)
2 cups Pepperidge Farm herb seasoned stuffing mix- might need to break up the larger pieces
4-5 eggs, beaten
4 green onions, chopped - I used white parts and green parts
1/2 cup butter, melted - this I changed from margarine
1/2- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley)

Combine all the ingredients, mix well and form into small balls- about 1" in diameter (think one bite).
Place on a cookie sheet and flash freeze, then place in plastic bags in the freezer until needed.
Bake frozen in a preheated 375° for 12-15 minutes- you want them a little browned, but not burnt. I usually use parchment or a silpat as it's quick cleanup when you're having a party! You certainly don't want to washing dishes the whole time, right?


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Party Food: Tomato Canapes

If you're having a party, chances are you're going to need food. While it's very easy to go to a big box store and buy all those adorable little frozen appetizers that they've got all ready to go for you, there's something about making your own. I'm a big fan of "make some things, buy some things" as our time is truly precious and well, you just can't fit it all into a day's work (or sometimes even a week's work). I guess we just pick and choose what we have time to make and do. And I'm a big fan of slicing the work up into spurts: do a little this day, a little more the next and so on until the job is done.

That said, with a little planning and some extra freezer space, there are plenty of appetizers you can make and freeze ahead of time!

When I was growing up, my Aunt Lynnie had a yearly Christmas party at her home.  I can't quite remember the age, but at some point, I was asked if I might like to help out in the kitchen as one of the servers. It was A BIG PARTY. Aunt Lynn had dozens of appetizers and they were all made ahead, labeled and stocked in her big stand up freezer in the basement pantry. My teammate, Renee and I would bake and restock the warming trays as the guests devoured every single treat my Aunt had prepared. It was a labor of love and one that I cannot soon forget. I do believe I've adopted a lot of her interests over the years and making tasty foods is certainly one of them. To help me out, I have all of her copious notebooks where she's written down her menu plans for every party, Garden luncheon, bridge group and family dinner. In addition to those notes, I also have her recipes!

I've shared several of her recipes over the years and one of my favorite party food appetizers is Spinach Balls. I've even started making it as a side dish at dinner as my kids really do love them and well, it does have spinach in it!

When I was prepping for Sophia's first birthday party, I decided early on that it was going to be somewhat simple, as simple as Crafty can be at least. I went with a Sweets and Savories menu and the recipe that follows is a winner indeed! My friend, Marijke, shared Tomato Canapes with me while I was going over my menu plans-  I'm so glad she did. You can make these ahead and use some store bought bruschetta to make it even easier to assemble!

Tomato Canapes

Large jar of prepared bruschetta, drained
3 packages of mini phyllo shells
1/2 cup mayo
1 cup shredded mozzarella
8 slices real bacon chopped up into bits


1. If you've bought yourself some prepared bruschetta, I'd go ahead and drain the majority of the liquid from it so that these little phyllo cups don't end up all soggy bottomed. No one likes a soggy bottom.

2. Leave the phyllo cups in their trays and spoon a little bruschetta into each one, I'd say this is about a half of a regular sized teaspoon (not the measuring type of teaspoon, the one in your silverware drawer)

3. Stir together the mozzarella and mayo (I used light mayo) and use this to "frost" each of the phyllo cups

4. Chop up a few strips of bacon or open up a bag of bacon bits- whatever you've got time for and sprinkle that on top of the frosted phyllo cups

5. Now you can do one of two things, freeze them for later or bake them now! For freezing, I just kept them in their safe little plastic containers and used press 'n seal to seal them tightly. I then put them in a large freezer bag.
To Bake: preheat your oven to 350° and bake for 10-12 minutes. Serve hot.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Taco Salad Our Way

Tacos are a regular on our menu rotation but sometimes you just have to change things up a bit. We're big fans of this little number. It AMAZES me what I can tuck into this salad and still have my kids eat. I owe it all to the Ranch and Taco Sauce combo for the dressing. This couldn't get simpler folks. Just assemble all these ingredients, put out little bowls and have your kids pick and choose what to put in their salad and do it yourself. Either way, you're sure to enjoy taco night reinvented!

Here are a few choices: greated colby cheese, avocado, corn, grape tomatoes, Romaine lettuce : the oranges did NOT go into this salad but were part of a well balanced meal

Also, I had already cooked up my taco meat earlier in the day so this was a quicker dinner. I just use a homemade taco seasoning- check out pinterest for lots of choices there!

Step 1: prep your greens
wash them and cut or tear; throw them in a pretty bowl

Step 2: Grate your cheese
always. I don't care how fast I want dinner to happen, with the exception of mozzarella, I always grate my cheese or have one of my 4 sous chefs grate it
(BTW, that grater is from Pampered Chef and I love it!)

Step 3: Throw the veggies on and start the dressin'
Here I opted for Mom's choice of what goes in the salad.
Then I drizzled with my FAVORITE ranch dressing, Bolthouse Farms Classic Ranch
Than drizzled that with Taco Sauce, medium please.

Step 4: Eat!
Sorry for the blurry picture, I was HUNGRY!

other topping variations: black beans, salsa, edamame

What would you put on your taco salad?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crunchwraps at Home

I really, really enjoy reading recipes and seeing all the amazing things people are cooking up all over the internet. It inspires me and motivates me to try new things with my family. Sandra, at Full Bellies, Happy Kids, never disappoints and I owe this recipe to her! I'm just going to show you how we recreate the fast food crunch wrap, which ironically, I've never eaten there! I've only heard about it and when I saw Sandra make it I knew I had all those ingredients and should give it a go in lieu of our regular taco night.

Making our own Crunch Wraps:

You'll need:
taco meat
sour cream (optional)
lettuce- shredded iceberg is better than green leaf (I was out for these pics)
refried beans for the non-meat eaters
burrito sized flour tortillas

Step 1: Warm your tortilla slightly in the microwave or on your skillet. If you like sour cream, go ahead and shmear it on your tortilla first, then top with taco meat and shredded cheese

Step 2: Add shredded lettuce and some chips, we chose Doritos because they're fun and tasty. You could also add some tomatoes on top of the lettuce and some more cheese on top of the chips, you're world.

 Step 3: practice origami with your tortilla. You're going for a hexagon like shape, so begin by folding in one side and then work your way around clockwise until all the food is tucked inside

Step 4: Carefully flip it onto a skillet, you could butter it or not. Press down slightly to seal it all in there!

Step 5: Pretty or not, bring them all to the table and CHOW DOWN!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate Chip Muffins with Streusel

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and it's right after the beginning of Lent this year. So while we may not be feasting on chocolate all day, here's a great (and easy) recipe to make for your little love muffins!

To form the muffins into hearts, ball up some tin foil and pop it in between the muffin cup and the muffin paper, then scoop in your batter!

Mom's Super Easy Chocolate Chip Muffins (w/ Streusel)2 cups flour1 cup sugar1/2 cup butter2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar1 cup milk1 egg1 tsp baking soda1/2 - 3/4 cup chocolate chips1) Preheat oven to 3502) Combine milk and lemon juice in a bowl, set aside.3) In a medium microwaveable bowl combine flour, sugar, and butter. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. With a fork crumble. Set aside 1/2 cup of mixture.4) Beat an egg into milk. Add baking soda, let froth. Add to flour mixture. Add chocolate chips. Stir until just combined - do not overmix.5) Divide evenly in paper lined muffin pan (12). Sprinkle with set aside streusel.6) Bake 20 minutes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Indonesian Chicken Tidbits

I have a large assortment of family recipes and every once in awhile I'll be thumbing through them to see if there's anything interesting and different to make for dinner.

I came across this recipe that had the name "Ray" written at the top of it. The whole recipe was actually handwritten and the writing looks very familiar but I'm not sure who, in my family, that it belongs to quite yet. But that's what I love, a hand written recipe, a name to attach to it and the stories just start to formulate in my mind as to when, where and how this recipe came to be in the file! Uncle Ray was my Mom's brother and he died many years ago. I love that I have this recipe to remember him by!

Indonesian Chicken Tidbits has an assortment of ingredients that sound very intriguing put together:  peanut butter, curry, honey, milk and the most shocking to me.... MAYO!?!?!

But I was game, especially with how easy it was to throw together and get this... you cook it in the house, in the oven, under the broiler in about 20 minutes!

The boys and I enjoyed this recipe and I hope you'll be adventurous and it give it a try as well! If you want to make it a bit more fancy/party presentable, thread the chicken onto skewers AFTER it's cooked and serve on a bed of rice.

Indonesian Chicken Tidbits

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts; cut into pieces (about 1 1/2 in)
1/3 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp curry powder
dash or so of salt
2 Tbs honey
2/3 cup mayo
1/4 cup milk

Blend together all the ingredients except the chicken.

Line one large or 2 medium jellyroll pans with foil and spray with non-stick spray.

Add the PB mixture TO THE chicken pieces (not all of it, as you can save some of the sauce to dip the chicken into after it is cooked) and stir to coat.

Separate the chicken out onto the pan and broil for 10 minutes on one side. Watch closely, it may be a minute or two more or less depending on the strength of your broiler!
Take the pan out, flip the chicken pieces and then broil again for about 8-10 minutes- if you think they need it, you could brush more of the sauce onto the chicken before popping them back into the oven.

Serve on skewers or just like this!

We had ours with shelled edamame and pineapple.