Friday, December 23, 2011


I'm posting my last 2 sweet recipes today just in time for Christmas! Savory and breakfast holiday fare to come after the holiday...(won't help for Christmas this year, but maybe New Years or next year?!)
I cannot adequately sing the praises that these pastries deserve. Cream puffs and eclairs (as far as I'm concerned they're pretty much the same thing, just in different shapes and maybe true cream puffs don't have icing?) are my all-time favorite pastry delight. Let's just sum it up with: light and creamy custard filling that is to die for-you'll want to just pull up a chair and spoon and dig in, easier than you think choux paste, CHOCOLATE icing, and fancy show stopping dessert, k? K.

You can make these as 12 LARGE cream puffs or any number of smaller sizes. A large soup spoon size blob of pastry dough makes a couple dozen or so 2-3 inch (2-bite) puffs. Or a regular spoon size blob of dough makes upwards of 3 dozen or more 1 1/2 inch (bite-size) puffs. And the pastry cream can be any flavor you want. This recipe is measurements for either almond or vanilla cream. It's the best pastry cream recipe I've found. Use it for fruit pizza or tarts, anything that calls for pastry cream and you'll be one happy camper.


Cream Puffs
{I have tripled and quadrupled this recipe with great success. I don't do the same amount of pastry cream though. For a triple batch of dough, I only make a double batch of pastry cream and so on. But if only making one batch, particularly if you plan to make 12 large puffs, I'd still make the full batch of pastry cream.}

Choux Paste:
1/2 cup salted butter
1 cup water
1/4 t salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Oven at 375. Have 2 large cookies sheet with silpat liners or parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray ready. In 2 quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, stir water, butter, and salt until boiling. Remove from heat and add flour all at once. Stir vigorously until ball forms. Place mixture in bowl of mixer. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Using a large spoon, drop batter onto cookie sheets in 12 large mounds. Bake at 375 for 50-75 minutes. You want them really dry, but obviously not burnt! Start checking at 50 minutes. If making smaller puffs 50 minutes it usually spot on. Cool and fill with pastry and ice with chocolate icing. Recipes follow...

Pastry Cream:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 egg yolks
either 1 1/2 t vanilla or 1 t almond extract, choose your flavor
1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream

Combine sugar, flour, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Stir in milk. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly (a flat edged wooden spoon comes in handy here for scraping the bottom as it thickens to prevent burning) until it thickens and boils, about 7-10 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk 6 egg yolks together. Add a small amount of hot milk mixture to egg yolk bowl to temper and then using a wire whisk, slowly add tempered egg yolks into remaining hot milk mixture. Cook over medium low (DO NOT BOIL) until thickened and easily coats the back of a spoon. About 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chosen extract. Cover surface with plastic wrap. (You want the plastic wrap to actually touch the custard, this prevents a nasty crust from forming!) Refrigerate and chill well, at least 2 hours. Once custard has chilled, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form and gently fold the 2 together.

To fill puffs: If making large puffs, just cut a slit in each puff and spoon filling inside. It's OK for it to show, more rustic and appetizing that way. OR you may fill a pastry bag, with a decent size tip, full of the cream and pierce each puff and fill that way. Squeeze bag slowly until a little cream comes out of fill hole, or until the puff gives way a bit.

Chocolate Icing:
2 squares (2 oz) semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 T butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 T milk

Melt chocolate and butter together in a saucepan over low heat. Add powdered sugar and milk. Whisk really well, until lumps are gone. Doing this over the heat helps. I keep mine on the heat while I ice, so that the icing stays on the thin side and can easily coat. To ice: Dip filled cream puffs upside down in icing, let excess drip off a bit and then place right side up on cookie sheet or plate. Serve immediately or refrigerate till ready to serve.

NOTE: If I'm making a large batch, I usually make and freeze the puffs either filled or un-filled until I'm ready to do the rest. It can be a labor intensive process, but thankfully lends itself well to being done in stages. And when serving at christmas time I crush up some candy canes and sprinkle on top before the icing sets.

Peppermint Bark Rice Krispie Treats

I know rice krispie treats are hardly a recipe. I mean it's really just cereal, marshmallows, and butter. But this festive version deserves recipe status recognition. They are SO yummy and so cute. All the wonderfulness of peppermint bark, but far more simple and kids and adults alike love them. Or at least we did. Personally, I wouldn't mind a plate of these delivered to my front step any time of the year but especially right now. If you're looking for a quick and easy giveaway treat (or eat it yourself treat), these have got you covered!

Peppermint Bark Rice Krispie Treats
{Recipe from Our Best Bites}

1 10.5 ounce bag peppermint mini marshmallows*
4 T real butter, plus extra to butter the pan
5-6 cups rice krispie cereal or something comparable (I liked it with less cereal, 5 cup range)
3 T semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 T white chocolate chips
1/2 t veggie oil, divided
a few drops peppermint extract
3 medium candy canes, crushed

*In place of peppermint marshmallows, if you can't find them, use regular than add about a 1/4 t peppermint extract to the melted marshmallow mixture. Possibly more to taste.

Line a 9x13 pan with foil and lightly butter bottom and sides of foil-lined pan.

Melt butter and marshmallows over low hear on the stove (or in the microwave). I added a 1/2 cup of regular marshmallows to mine, because it's yummier that way! Pour over large bowl of rice krispie cereal and quickly stir to coat thoroughly. If you need to add more cereal because it's too goopy, go right ahead. I barely added any more than the 5 cups. With buttered hands, press mixture into prepared pan.

Heat both the white chocolate chips and semi-sweet, each with a 1/4 t oil and a few drops of peppermint extract added to just the semi-sweet, until melted. Drizzle both chocolates on top of treats and sprinkle with crushed candy canes while the chocolate is still wet so they will stick. Let sit until chocolate is set-up or throw in the fridge or freezer to speed it up a bit. Cut into any size square and share!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cherry Almond Fudge

I have a friend. Her name is Ginger. She makes the best homemade chocolate candy I've had the pleasure of sinking my teeth into. And she's the kind of friend who not only shares her amazing tidbits but also shares how she makes them. The day after thanksgiving this year found me in her home, dabbling in homemade turtles, almond roca, and FUDGE!

Her fudge is coconut flavored and just simply the best. But since we give goodie plates to many of the same people I decided as much as I love (and I mean LOVE) the coconut version, it would be best if I came up with my own version. And so cherry almond fudge was born. I'm so proud! Her basic recipe is perfect for varying with different flavor combos and add-ins (vanilla extract and chopped walnuts, peanut butter swirl, rocky road-mini marshmallows & almonds, etc.) so play away. But my version and her versions are great places to start.

You can be a fudge making machine too, so easy and turns out amazing every darn time.

Cherry Almond Fudge
{Recipe from Ginger D. The quality of chocolate you use makes all the difference. Ginger uses Peter's brand that she has shipped in 10 lb slabs, I've also used Mercken's, but here where I live there are only grocery store brands to choose from and symphony brand chocolate is probably your best bet from there. NO Hershey's brand please!}

1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter (G uses margarine, I only had butter-both were fine)
12 oz. good quality (such as ghiradelli) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 lb high quality milk chocolate
1 regular size jar marshmallow fluff
2 t almond extract
1 cup finely chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup or more finely chopped dry-roasted but not salted almonds

In the bowl of mixer combine both chocolates, margarine or butter, marshmallow fluff, and almond extract. Set aside.

In heavy saucepan, bring evap milk and sugar to a boil over medium high heat. Stir all the time, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan frequently (I find a flat ended wooden spoon works best). Boil softly and stir constantly for 5 minutes. Pour hot mixture over ingredients in mixing bowl and let stand to melt chocolate (5 minutes or so). Turn on mixture with paddle attachment and mix for about 2 minutes. Add chopped cherries and almonds and beat well combined. Pour into any of the following lined pans (parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray) 9x13, 9x13 and 9x9 pans, or cookie sheet. One 9x13 will mean thicker pieces. Whereas the other 2 options will be a bit thinner, but still plenty thick. Let cool, cover and refrigerate until needed. Store covered in either fridge or freezer. Best served at room temp.

Ginger's Coconut Version:
Substitute 1 t coconut oil for 2 t almond extract and 1 14 oz bag of coconut for chopped cherries and almonds.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Peppermint Candy Cane Kiss Brownies

Let's have a few posts about holiday goodies shall we?
Oh my word these puppies are gooood! I made them last year for Christmas goodie plates and they instantly attained rock star status (in my mind) and so naturally they will be given this year as well. They are the fudgiest, mintiest, chocolate-y-est, brownies around. All those things are divine, but for me the kicker is the layer of chocolate bars sandwiched in the middle. Hoo boy! That's all I have to say about that.

I've also made these as a non-mint offering (because believe me you'll want to eat them all year round even when candy cane kisses aren't available) and substituted almond extract for peppermint and used chopped toffee almond symphony bars or hershey nuggets for the top layer. Yum.

A word to the wise, they are RICH--so little 1 inch squares are about all you can handle portion-wise and that means they're great for sharing. One pan goes a long ways. Enjoy!

Peppermint Candy Cane Kiss Brownies
{Recipe source: Annie's Eats}

8 oz. UNsweetened baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups SALTED butter (original recipe calls for unsalted, I made both and preferred salted-but pick your poison I guess)
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 1/2 t peppermint extract (make sure it's peppermint, not just plain mint)
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
2 cups flour
4-5 regular size hershey bars, broken into segments
1 bag hershey candy cane kisses, unwrapped and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Combine unsweeted chocolate and butter in heavy sauce pan and melt over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat. In bowl of mixer, mix sugar and eggs until well blended. Add salt, peppermint and vanilla extracts. With mixer running, slowly pour in butter/chocolate mixture. Add flour mixing just until combined. Do not over-mix.

Spread half of batter into the prepared pan. Add layer of hershey bars all over. Spread remaining batter on top evenly and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Leave oven on and remove brownies briefly to sprinkle on chopped candy cane kisses. Return to oven for 2-3 more minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool to room temp. Chill brownies until candy has firmed up. Slice and serve.

**Note: I'm left to wonder if cutting the brownies while at room temp (before chilling) might not be a bad idea. When I've cut them chilled the candy cane topping tends to crack off a bit. Just an idea. And I have been known to let the kisses melt as per the recipe and them spread the chocolate around using an off-set spatula into a smooth "frosting" of sorts once removed from oven. Not as cute, but chocolate does stay on a bit better. Also I find these are best on the cool end of chilled, but not quite room temp. Definitely not a good served-warm candidate, they need to set-up a bit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cheesy Basil Stuffed Chicken

This picture is disgusting but this dish is absolutely not! If you want a very appetizing picture click here. Otherwise just know that this was a winner. Juicy chicken is stuffed with delightfully creamy mozzarella and fresh basil and then slathered with mayonnaise and sprinkled with fresh bread crumbs, hence the juicy-ness. And as if that isn't enough you then dot the entire pan with grape tomatoes, that roast along with it and create the most wonderful flavor combination in your mouth once you dig in. Oh my yum! This is the main dish I served alongside Wednesday's recipe: Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Pasta. The perfect duo. That Mel really knows a good recipe when she sees one!

Cheesy Basil Stuffed Chicken
{Only slightly adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe}

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (please shred your own! it melts so much better)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 T heavy cream
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper or season-all
4-6 boneless chicken breasts, cut in half (it's better if these aren't super thin)
3 T+ (I used more) mayonnaise
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (pulsed mine in the food processor)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 T olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes (if using cherry's that are on the bigger side, cut in half)
kosher salt and pepper

Adjust rack to middle position and heat oven to 425. In a medium bowl combine the mozzarella, 2 T minced basil, cream, lemon, juice, 2 t minced garlic, 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper.

Cut a pocket in each piece of chicken, season chicken inside and out with with salt and pepper OR season-all and stuff each piece with cheese mixture. You want it in there pretty good without a bunch hanging out, it's good if it's somewhat "closed". Place stuffed chicken in a greased 9x13 baking dish and spread the tops evenly with mayonnaise. This is what helps them to stay moist and give them a bit more flavor so I say be fairly generous.

In a separate bowl combine fresh bread crumbs, remaining garlic, remaining fresh basil, 1.4 cup of parmesan, and 1 T olive oil. Sprinkle crumb mixture over chicken, pressing lightly to adhere. Toss grape tomatoes with remaining tablespoon of oil, 1/4 t kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange tomatoes in the baking dish around the chicken. Bake until crumbs are golden brown and the chicken is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: Can be ahead. Assemble chicken and slather on mayo. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. Then add bread crumb mixture and tomatoes and bake.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Pasta

Wow this was such a tasty dish! I made it over the weekend and served it to company. But really once I tasted it all I wanted to do was hoard it all myself. And then I ate the leftovers for 2 days and couldn't stop dreaming about it in between.

The cauliflower and garlic are both roasted. For those who may not have tried roasted garlic and are balking at the 2 entire heads of garlic called for, never fear! Roasting the garlic really mellows it's flavor/bite and turns it into something wondrous indeed. I took the liberty of adding some cream and chicken broth to the original recipe and didn't regret it one little bit. And the toasted walnuts on top were the perfect finishing touch.

I think you'll find that this is the perfect accompaniment to many, many main dishes (I'll share what I served it with in a later post) and it could easily be a meatless main dish in it's own right. It's filling and oh so tasty!

Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Pasta
{Adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe}

2 heads garlic, papery skins mostly removed (but keep it intact), top 1/4 of heads cut off from pointy end of garlic and thrown away
6 T olive oil
1 head cauliflower (the bigger the better in my opinion)
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/4 t sugar
1 pound fusilli or rotini or campanelle pasta
1/4 t red pepper flakes
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 cup+ fresh grated parmesan
1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
chicken broth
heavy cream

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place trimmed heads of garlic, cut side up on a square piece of foil and drizzle with 1 t or so of olive oil. Gather foil up and around garlic to seal well. Place foil packet directly on rack of heated oven. Roast until garlic is very tender, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool. (May do this a few hours ahead of time and just leave garlic out till ready)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and place a large rimmed baking sheet on middle rack to preheat. Trim outer leaves off the cauliflower and cut it into bite size pieces. Toss in a bowl with 2 T oil, salt, pepper, and sugar. Remove hot baking sheet from oven and carefully spread cauliflower out on it. Sheet back into the oven and roast cauliflower until it's browned and tender, 15-20 minutes.

While cauliflower is roasting bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 T salt to water and stir in pasta; cook until al dente. Meanwhile squeeze cooled, roasted garlic out of skins into a small bowl. Using a fork, mash garlic well until it's a smooth paste. Stir in red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in remaining 1/4 cup olive oil.

Drain the pasta and return pasta to pot. Add the chopped cauliflower, stir in garlic sauce, 1/2 cup of chicken broth, cream, and 1 cup of cheese. Adjust the consistency by adding more chicken broth and/or cream. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and additional grated cheese. Serves 4-6.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thai Chicken Pizza

Another out of the ordinary pizza combo. Thai food is so amazingly delicious and as it turns out thai flavors on a pizza are pretty darn good too. This was delightfully different. My son who strangely doesn't like pizza (tell me-what boy doesn't like pizza?!) rolled his eyes when we sat down to this meal. But we have a must-taste rule at our dinner table and before I knew it he was chowing down and going back for seconds and thirds and exclaiming "this is so good Mom!". Take THAT non-pizza lover! I found myself sneaking another piece after the kids went to bed-but hey, at least it wasn't my usual chocolate. A word to the wise-this can be a bit spicy, but just skip or tone down the red pepper flakes and you should be good. We liked ours with the heat though.

Thai Chicken Pizza
{Recipe from Tasty Kitchen Blog}

1 batch of favorite pizza dough, thinner crust is best in this case
Cornmeal for sprinkling pizza stone/pan
1/4-1/2 cup thai sweet red chili sauce (found mine in specialty asian section store)
1 whole shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 whole zucchini, thinly sliced
1 t or less red chili flakes
1 cup cooked shredded chicken (I simmered mine in chicken broth with a dash of curry powder)
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella (grating your own is always better for the melting factor)
A small handful of finely chopped peanuts
2 T fresh cilantro
2 T fresh basil (thai or otherwise)

Preheat your oven to 500 and roll or shape/stretch dough until 1/4 inch thick. Place dough on pizza stone, pan, or cookie sheet that has been lightly sprinkled with corn meal. (I usually spray first with cooking spray). Spread a thin layer of sweet chili sauce over pizza dough. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Layer on shallots, zucchini, and chicken. Spread shredded mozzarella evenly over entire pizza. Place in oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until cheese is golden and crust is lightly golden. (Keep a good eye on it, as ovens may vary). Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, cilantro, and basil. Slice and serve.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

I realize fall and Thanksgiving and Halloween have all come and gone and we're probably all "pumpkin-ed" out, but nevertheless here's my favorite recipe for pumpkin bars. It comes from my friend Shannon and although I had another pumpkin bar recipe once upon a time, when I tried hers I knew this had to be the one. There's just something about it. Everything tastes better when someone else makes it, but even making these myself I was more than happy to devour more than anyone ever should. Save the recipe for next year or make them today-either way your tummy will thank you!

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
{Recipe from Shannon R., Hi Shannon!}

2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
2 cups pumpkin (I just used a typical can)
1/2 t salt
2 cups flour
2 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325. Grease with cooking spray and flour a 11x17 cookie cheese. Mix all ingredients in order. Pour into greased cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 325. After bars have cooled sufficiently (I like them just a tad warm so that the frosting warms a bit and smoothes out nicely), mix together frosting ingredients and frost. Sprinkle with cinnamon if you'd like.

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 t vanilla
3/4 cup oleo or butter, soft
2-3 cups powdered sugar (depends on your desired consistency, I err on the side of less for a "thinner" frosting)
Splash of milk, as needed.

Cream together and frost.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Life-Changing White Chicken Chili

2 recipes today, yay! Pico de gallo follows. Hopefully back on the posting bandwagon, after a bit of a for no good reason break!
This is far and away the best soup recipe I have. It's even award-winning! As in it won first place at our ward chili cook-off one year long ago. However I was not the one who made it then, a friend of mine did and I immediately tracked her down for the recipe.
I usually make it in the crock pot but it can also be made on the stovetop, depending on your time constraints and what really takes it over the the top is a generous spoonful of homemade pico de gallo. A. Maze. Ing.

White Chicken Chili {Crock Pot}
Note: The recipe below is for stove-top directions, but following it are the crock pot directions.

Original Stove-Top Version: (smaller quantity-thicker and more chili-like)
1 lb chicken breast
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15oz. cans great northern beans
1 can chicken broth
2 4 oz cans diced green chilies
1 t salt
1 t cumin
1 t pepper
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 T finely minced jalepeno (or more to taste)
All seasonings may need to be adjusted to taste (salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne)

Cook chicken in broth, remove and shred. Saute onion and garlic until tender. Add to broth. Add beans (mostly drained), chilies, spices, jalapeno, and shredded chicken. Bring to boil, reduce heat, summer uncovered 30 minutes. Turn to low, stir in sour cream and whipping cream. Serve with a generous spoonful of pico de gallo.

Crock Pot Version: (feeds more and is a bit thinner, more soup-like)
2 chicken breasts, frozen or fresh
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 15oz. cans great northern beans
1 32 oz. carton chicken broth (4 cups)
1 small+1 large cans diced green chilies
1+ t salt
2 t cumin
1+ t pepper
1/4+ t cayenne pepper
1 1/2 to 2 cups sour cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 T finely minced jalepeno (or more to taste)
All seasonings may need to be adjusted to taste (salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne)

Place fresh of frozen chicken breasts in crock pot. Pour in 2 cups chicken broth, making sure the breast are immersed-add more broth if neccessary. Cook on high 4 hours, until shreddable. Shred chicken and place back in crock pot. May need to skim the chicken broth a bit. Saute onions and garlic in a bit of oil until tender and fragrant. Add to crock pot. Pour in remaining broth (if any is left), mostly drained beans, green chilies, salt, cumin, pepper, and cayenne. Cook on low for another 3-4 hours, or high 2 hours. 30 minutes before serving add sour cream, whipping cream, and jalapenos. Before serving, taste and adjust if neccessary. I usually always add more salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne. Ladle into bowl and serve with fresh pico.

Basic Pico de Gallo a la Emily

Pico de gallo. That wonderful, wonderful condiment. I'm not a huge fan of dipping in pico, there are other homemade salsas I like better for that application, but I AM a huge fan of using it as my mexican food topping of choice. Chicken tacos x's 2, enchiladas, you name it if it's latin american inspired-I'm heaping pico de gallo on top every single time. (My taste buds say ground meat mexican dishes aren't good candidates for pico-but shredded pork, beef, or chicken numbers definitely are.) I'm sharing this in conjunction with this amazing white chicken chili because it's an absolutely necessary addition in my humble opinion.
It can seem a tad time-consuming what with the chopping, and seeding, and chopping some more. But it's oh so worth it.

Basic Pico de Gallo
A word to the wise-this is more a list of ingredients and less a use this exact amount recipe. Personalize to your tastes and taste plenty as you go to direct what you add more of. The real key with pico is to use LOTS of the non-tomato items. Most people use onions and cilantro as a minor addition to tomatoes. Don't do it! Shoot for an equal amount of onions to tomato ratio. And plenty of cilantro is a must. Lastly, removing the juicy seedy pulp from the tomatoes before chopping and adding them to the bowl is crucial in my opinion. More time consuming, but crucial.

6+ roma tomatoes, halved, seeds and extra juice removed, and chopped into itty bitty pieces
1 large white onion, chopped into pieces similar in size to tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
juice of one lime or lemon
1 T white vinegar, give or take
plenty of kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 jalapeno, mostly seeded and very finely minced
garlic powder to taste if desired
generous handful of cilantro, chopped
Optional: red pepper flakes for added heat

Combine all ingredients, taste and adjust. Best if you let sit a bit before serving so flavors can meld. Keeps for about a day, but really not any longer. Best served the same day.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Indoor Smores {No Bake}

Our family loves s'mores so much. Too much. We eat them all summer long, roasting marshmallows in our backyard if we aren't camping and of course if we are! And then in the winter we've been known to roast them in our fireplace or broil them in the oven or even the microwave and if we're feeling particularly lazy a small bowl of marshmallows, chocolate chips, and a few graham crackers does the trick. And that's just for the traditional s'mores. We've also had s'mores hot chocolate. And I have a s'mores chocolate chip cookie recipe bookmarked to try someday. See it's a bona fide addiction!

And then there are these amazing little bars of no-bake s'more goodness. My friend Carolee was visiting us one summer and slapped these out for us and we could not have loved them more. And in typical Emily fashion I went an indoor s'mores binge and probably overdid it, because it'd been quite awhile since I'd made them. But the other day I all of a sudden had to have them again and promptly made them for our family movie night and was ashamed and maybe a little mad at myself that I'd waited so long ;0)
You are SO gonna love these dangerously delicious treats!

Indoor S'Mores
{Slightly adapted recipe from: Carolee}

3/4 cup light corn syrup
3 T butter
1 pkg (11.5 oz) milk chocolate chips
3 cups mini marshmallows, divided
1 t vanilla
1 box golden graham cereal (12 oz or about 9 cups)

Grease 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Heat syrup, butter, choco chips to boiling, stir constantly. Turn down heat and add 2 cups mini marshmallows and stir well until melted and well combined. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Mix cereal and remaining cup of marshmallows in large mixing bowl. Pour chocolate mixture over all and while using sturdy rubber spatula work quickly to thoroughly coat cereal. Press warm mixture into the greased baking dish using hands coated to cooking spray to spread evenly and compress. Let stand at least 1 hour. Cut into squares and serve. Makes about 24 squares. Store at room temp up to two days. I imagine these could be frozen or refrigerated to last longer, but our never stick around that long, so I don't know for certain!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fluffy Mandarin Orange Salad

I realize this isn't exactly winter-time fare and that's it's a bit strange to see a somewhat summery salad/side sitting in snow! But I had a carton of cottage cheese that needed using and we like this any old time of the year. It's a great way to round out any meal and add a little sweetness to your plate to offset all that yummy savory. My sis-in-law Sam shared this recipe with me ages ago and I was shocked at how simple it was considering how amazing it tastes. My kids love this! We generally go the all orange route, but think that this could be definitely be adapted to almost any flavor gelatin and a fair number of fruits, i.e. peach with canned peaches, raspberry with fresh or maybe even frozen raspberries, strawberry with fresh strawberries-you get the picture I'm sure! Or mix and match: peach gelatin with raspberries and so on. Enjoy experimenting with this super easy and delicious recipe!

Fluffy Mandarin Orange Salad
{Recipe from my fabulous cook of a sister-in-law Sam}

16 oz + large or small curd cottage cheese
1 regular size carton whipped topping, thawed
1 package orange Jell-O (smaller or larger works, just use what you've got on hand)
2 cans mandarin oranges, drained

In large bowl gently mix cottage cheese, orange jell-o, and mandarin oranges together. When thoroughly mixed gently fold in whipped topping and make sure it's well-combined. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve. SO easy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oven Baked Jo-Jo Potatoes w/ BBQ Fry Sauce

I hope I'm not the only one guilty of an unhealthy addiction to the jo-jo potatoes at the grocery store deli? We don't get them often, but when we do it's all I can do to share them with my poor children. But now I can make them at home! These aren't a sure-fire replication by any means but they were super tasty and I imagine a bit more healthy than their deli counterparts, being oven baked with minimal oil. As for the bbq fry sauce, holy smokes I wanted to drink it! So gross I know, but it was delightfully yummy and a nice detour from the more traditional ketchup. Plus it's a total no-brainer just 2 basic ingredients and you're on your way to dipping heaven. These are a great side dish to be sure!

Oven Baked Jo-Jo Potatoes
{Recipe source: Real Mom Kitchen}

4-5 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
4 T olive oil
1 tsp season-all or other favorite seasoning
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 475. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Then slice each half into wedges end to end. Should get about 8-12 wedges from each potato. Place wedges on cookie sheet and drizzle with oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with seasonings and toss again. Make sure potatoes are in a single layer on sheet and baking at 475 for 12 minutes, turn or toss potatoes as well as you can and then bake another 12 of so minutes until fork tender.

BBQ Fry Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup favorite bbq sauce (we do Sweet Baby Ray's)

Mix mayo and bbq sauce together in bowl until smooth. Serve!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shredded Southwest Beef Tacos {Crock Pot} w/ Chipotle Coleslaw

These tacos were a delightful little addition to our taco repertoire. I usually lean more towards the chicken variety, but every now and then it's nice to have some beef and one of the great things about these, aside from the crock pot of course, is that they make a large quantity of southwest flavored, shredded beef that I imagine could be easily frozen and used in any number of other applications. Homemade baked taquitos, smothered burritos, quesadillas, or some seriously filling nachos come to mind. But what I loved the most about them was the cool, smoky chipotle flavored coleslaw to serve on top. I loved how the crispy, cool, creamy coleslaw offset the warm, somewhat spicy beef. A fabulous texture party going on in my mouth. I definitely recommend trying these and loving all the left over meat options you'll have because of it.

Shredded Southwest Beef Tacos {Crock Pot} w/ Chipotle Coleslaw
{recipe from Cooking like a Champion via Smitten Kitchen}

3 pounds beef brisket or bottom round
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 spanish or yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled or petite diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 to 2 whole canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses (optional, I left this out-thought it sounded kinda gross)
To serve:
Corn or flour tortillas
Chipotle Slaw, recipe follows

Season all sides of beef roast with salt and pepper. Heat veggie oil in skillet on med-high heat just shy of smoking. Sear meat on all sides. Place in slow cooker. To drippings in pan add garlic, onion, chili powder, coriander and cumin and stir until fragrant about a minute. Add vinegar and scrape up bits from bottom of skillet. Stir in water, tomatoes (crushing them if using whole), chipotles, and bay leaves. Pour all of the mixture over meat in slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Shred beef and add back into crock pot juices a little while before serving. Serve on tortillas topped with chipotles coleslaw.

Chipotle Coleslaw

2 t finely chopped canned chipotles in adobo

1/2 cup mayo

2 T honey

1 T fresh lime juice

1/2 pound (about 2 cups) shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion

Combine chipotle, mayo, honey, and lime juice in large bowl. Add cabbage and onions, tossing to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Turtle Brownies

Back when we lived in good old Provo and were getting ready to move to Alaska a kind friend of mine brought in dinner to us. Things were a little hectic, kitchen stuff was packed, and we were feeling so done with fast food. So you can imagine how welcome a homemade meal was at the time. We sat in the living room on boxes eating this delicious meal with an odd assortment of paper products. It was in that somewhat bizarre state that I first tasted this little gem of a dessert and I enjoyed them all the more for it. Almost as soon as we were done eating, I called said friend and told her I must have this recipe even if I had to write it down on a napkin (since the paper was all packed) and stuff it as padding into a box. She was nice enough to remind me that email was still an option even if our computer wasn't available. After we moved, into my inbox the recipe came and we've been enjoying them ever since. What's not love about the ease of a cake mix, gooey caramel, crunchy nuts, and a sprinkling of chocolate chips? Absolutely nothing, that's what!

Turtle Brownies
{Recipe source: Sarah H.}

1 package chocolate cake mix
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix (5.6 oz)
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup evaporated milk, divided
1 14 oz package caramels, unwrapped
1 cup chocolate chips (we like milk)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

In a bowl, stir together cake mix, dry pudding, butter, and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Press 1/2 of mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 325 for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt caramels and remaining 1/4 cup evap milk, stirring frequently. Spread caramel mixture over baked layer. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Drop remaining cake mix in teaspoonfuls over the brownies. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the top is set. Let cool completely before trying to cut. Tip: run sharp knife blade under hot water periodically while cutting to help make clean cuts through the caramel layer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ham & Swiss Sliders with Poppyseed Sauce

Wanna a recipe for the tastiest little bite of a sandwich out there? Well here you go! I'm telling you these are one of the best sandwiches I've had the pleasure of eating. They are super easy. They can easily be made in bulk and are perfect for a luncheon, church function or potluck, baby shower, wedding shower or just plain weeknight dinner. They go great with soups, or salads, or pastas, or good old potato chips. They're good hot or cold and they will knock your socks off. Have I sung their praises and functionality enough yet?

The secret's in the sauce, although it might seems a little strange at first to assemble a perfectly good ham sandwich and then pour sauce all over it and bake it, it is not. The finished product is sandwich perfection and you'll want to make a boat load because these little babies go fast. In fact, I might just have to put them on the dinner menu again this week. So hurry up and plan a lunch and join your friends in dying and going to heaven eating these!

Ham and Swiss Sliders
{Recipe source: My good friend Tammy M. Note: On the rolls, you can use either King's Hawaiian style rolls as shown above or hard kaiser-like rolls which will be larger and a dozen or fewer will work with the sauce amount. I like them both ways and say try both and pick your preference or mood for that day!}

12-24 good hard rolls or king's hawaiian rolls
12-24 slices good quality honey ham
12-24 small slices of swiss cheese
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup miracle whip

1 T poppy seeds
1 1/2 T yellow mustard or honey mustard
1 stick butter, melted
1 T minced onion, dried is fine
1/2 t worcestershire

Mix mayo and miracle whip together. Spread onto both sides of cut rolls. Place a slice of ham and slice of swiss inside each roll. Place prepared sandwiches close together on a cookie sheet or large baking dish.

Mix ingredients for sauce together and pour evenly over all the sandwiches (note: I like to let my sauce cool and slightly thicken a bit, spoon it over the tops of each sandwich, and that way it melts down over the sandwich as it bakes instead of immediately pooling at the bottom). Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until cheese is melted. Uncover and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Serve warm.

*Sandwiches can be assembled a day ahead and kept in the fridge until ready to bake.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

It's that time of year again when our sunlight is waning and that means no natural light to take appetizing food pictures with. But don't let the yellow tint of this photo deter you from trying these deliciously prepared vegetables. Now I know that a lot of people think brussels sprouts are gross. They were the dreaded childhood vegetable for most, right along with peas and broccoli and lima beans right? Basically anything healthy and green. I'd encourage anyone with a list of disliked since childhood foods to revisit those foods with their now grown-up taste buds. I've realized that several things I could have sworn were the most disgusting things ever put on a plate before me, are actually quite good: mushrooms and avocados are couple that come to mind. Similarly, I'd like to think that this actually wonderful veggie gets a bad rap because it hasn't been prepared like this. We serve them with our thanksgiving dinner every year, in place of green bean casserole and it is a most welcome switch. I've made many a brussels sprout hater into a brussels sprout lover with this dish. I'm confident you'll change your mind and wish for brussels sprouts at every meal!

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

2 lbs brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and the top layer of leaves removed, discarded and large sprouts cut in half
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4-5 slices of thick-cut bacon
1 shallot, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
3 T butter
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

After brussels are trimmed and ready, heat large skillet over medium high heat. Cook bacon until crispy, then crumble and set aside. Leave residual bacon grease in pan and add olive oil and butter. Over medium heat briefly saute shallot and garlic, add brussels sprouts and saute for about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and then add chicken broth and put lid on skillet. Cook brussels sprouts until tender and cooked through. Transfer veggies and any remaining sauce to serving platter, top with crumbled bacon and serve.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Candied Walnut Salad

I'm so in love with gourmet or specialty salads. And this one is no exception. It's the perfect fall/winter salad. Apples, dried cranberries, and walnuts-or more importantly candied walnuts hence the name. Not to mention the gorgonzola AKA stinky cheese in our house. I've come a long way in the "stinky" cheese department and although I still choose almost any other dressing over a blue cheese dressing, in this salad I think it's totally needed and actually quite like it. So if you're unsure about it like I was, just go for it.

The dressing is the perfect finishing touch and could easily be used on any number of other salads. It's a great basic red wine vinaigrette to add to your repertoire. I think it's safe to say that if you serve this to your friends and family they'll love you all the more for it...Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve dinner would be perfect. So festive!

Candied Walnut Salad
{slightly adapted Recipe Source: Our Best Bites}

1 large head of romaine
3/4 cup craisins
2 crisp apples
juice of half an orange
crumbled gorgonzola, to taste
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1 recipe honey red wine vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Make dressing. This can be done ahead and kept in fridge until ready to use.
Wash and chop lettuce. Be sure it's well drained.
Caramelize the nuts by placed walnuts and sugar in a small skillet over medium heat. As they warm up stir constantly, especially when the sugar begins to liquefy. Scrape bottom of pan constantly while tossing nuts around to coat well. This step goes really fast and it's easy to burn them. As soon as they appear to be well-coated with just tough of color and no grainy sugar, remove from heat and let cool.
Chop apples, leaving skin on, and toss with orange juice.
To assemble salad, put lettuce in serving bowl. Add in apples, green onions, craisins, crumbled gorgonzola, and cooled candied walnuts (may need to break them up a bit if they're stuck together because of sugar coating). Right before serving drizzle with dressing, a little at a time, and toss, stopping just before you think you should and it's probably perfect. You just want a nice light coating, not a soggy drenching with a pool of dressing in the bottom of the bowl. Adjust if neccessary and serve immediately. Dressed salads don't keep, so if you must serve the dressing on the side-but it's better all mixed together in my opinion.

Honey Red Wine Vinaigrette
{I find this a very versatile dressing that can be used on any number of salads, plus is makes quite a bit and you will have leftovers}

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup honey
2 cloves garlic
1 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 T poppy seeds

In blender combine vinegar, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper. Place lid on blender and turn blender on high. While blender is running, add oil in a steady stream. Once oil is added blend a few second longer and add poppy seeds-don't blend more than a second or two-just enough to mix in the seeds. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Shake well before serving.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sweet Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin {Crock Pot}

I've said before that this, this, and this are the best pork recipes out there and believe you me they are darn good. But my friends, this here recipe is exceptional. I was admittedly a bit unsure of how the balsamic vinegar would play out with the pork, but boy oh boy I need not have worried. It's the perfect pairing.

The pork itself is the picture of ease and juicy, tenderness thanks to the 8+ hours it spends in our little friend the crock pot. And the sauce is the best of full-flavored-a-little-bit-sweet-a-little-bit-sour goodness. If you're dining with the feint of heart, it's nice that the sauce is a condiment that can either be used or skipped, but as my word is my bond you won't want to skip it. That would be a travesty of epic proportions!

With the season of holiday's upon us this would be a stand-out main dish at any event. Also, it's so easy and hands off that you won't need to worry about the main portion of your entertaining meal, you've got that part in the bag! So you can go ahead and dig into more time consuming fancy sides if you want instead. Parties aside this pork will definitely grace our sunday dinner table often and I think it should yours too.

Sweet Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin {Crock Pot}
{doubled and adapted recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe of course!}

4 lbs (give or take) boneless pork loin roast (not tenderloin) rinsed, dried, and trimmed of excess fat and silver skin-blech!
2 t ground sage or poultry seasoning
1 t salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup chicken broth (or water)

1 cup brown sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
4 T soy sauce

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients listed under pork and rub thoroughly all over prepared roast. Place in slow cooker and pour in 1 cup of chicken broth (or water). Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. Near the end of cooking time for the roast remove pork from the slow cooker , shred into medium-large pieces, and place back in juices while you move on to the sauce. Combine all the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens. (doesn't take long)

Arrange shredded pork on serving platter, spooning some of the juices over it. Then drizzle generously with balsamic glaze and serve.

Remove pork from the crock pot, shred, and

Monday, October 31, 2011

Eclair Squares AKA Best Dessert Ever!

If there ever were a dessert to make right this minute, it would be this one for sure. Eclair's and cream puffs are most definitely my all-time favorite pastry of choice. There's just something about that creamy custard filling all enveloped by the chewy sturdy shell and dipped in chocolate that truly can not be beat. Their only downfall is the time-consuming effort it takes to make them. Usually I don't mind that part, it's just that it means they aren't made above twice a year. In steps this dessert. All the amazingness of an eclair with almost zero effort in creating it and yet you still get all the elements. Plus it feeds a crowd easily. Don't delay making this delectable treat a standard in your dessert rotation. You can thank me later!

Eclair Squares
{Recipe source: The Sisters Cafe}

1/2 cup butter
1 cup hot water
1 cup flour
4 eggs
Dash of salt

Bring water and butter to a boil, until butter is melted. Pour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add flour all at once and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is well incorporated before adding the others. Spread onto well-greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Crust will bubble up. As soon as it's removed from the oven use a spatula to flatten those bubbles while it's still hot. Allow to cool while making filling.

2 large boxes (5.1 oz) instant vanilla pudding
4 1/2 cups milk
8 oz cream cheese, softened almost to melting stage
2 cups heavy whipping cream
powdered sugar

Whip pudding with milk and softened cream cheese until mixture is smooth. Spread over cooled crust. Beat heavy cream with 2 heaping spoonfuls of powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream over pudding layer.

Chocolate Sauce:
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 T butter
3 T milk
1 cup powdered sugar

Melt chocolate chips over low heat and add all other ingredients. Beat well with wire whisk until smooth. Drizzle over whipped cream layers. Refrigerate dessert before serving.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beef Stroganoff {Crock Pot}

Boy do we love classic comfort food recipes, especially in the winter. And white, powdered sugar snow winter is precisely what I see out my window. I think that stroganoff lends itself very well to a crock pot meal and you know by now that we love those too. The meat is tender, fall apart goodness and the sauce is little bit tangy and a lot creamy. Serve this over mashed potatoes, rice, or egg noodles and try not to lick your plate.

Beef Stroganoff {Crock Pot}
{Recipe source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe, where else?!}

2-3 lbs stew meat
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 t garlic salt
1 T worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 T ketchup
1/3 cup flour
6 T apple juice (or water)
4-8 ozs mushrooms, sauteed until mostly soft in butter
1/2 cup sour cream

Place stew meat, salt, pepper, and onion in slow cooker. Stir to distribute seasonings. In another bowl mix garlic salt, worcestershire sauce, beef broth and ketchup and pour over meat. Cook 7-9 hours on low or 4-5 on high. About 30 minutes before serving, whisk apple juice and flour together really well and pour into the slow cooker, whisking quickly to prevent lumps. Add sauteed mushrooms too. Cook on high for 30 minutes and then stir in 1/2 cup sour cream right before serving. Serve over rice, noodles, or potatoes.

Can freeze and reheat on the stove or crock pot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rocky Road Cake

All-time favorite ice cream? Definitely Rocky Road. It's chocolate-based and there are things to chew on, 2 musts in my book. So naturally a rocky road cake is going to peak my interest. And while the cake portion seemed a bit dry and crumbly the first day, it softened right up the next day and I could not stop eating the stuff. The thick layer of chewy marshmallows and milk chocolate fudge drizzle were too much for my will-power to control. I'm thinking a sturdy brownie base is a must-try too.
Rocky Road Cake
{Recipe source: Baking Bites}

1/2 cup butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 T cocoa powder
1 t vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup coarse-chopped walnuts
optional: chocolate chips

Marshmallow topping and Fudge Glaze:
10 1/2 oz package mini-marshmallows, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 T milk
2 T butter
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 9x13 pan. In microwave safe bowl, melt 1/2 cup butter and unsweetened chocolate. Stir until smooth. Add cocoa powder and vanilla, stir. Set aside. In bowl of mixer, beat sugar and eggs. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Add chocolate mixture and sour cream to egg/sugar mixture. Slowly add dry ingredients until no streaks of flour remain. Fold in chopped walnuts and chocolate chips, if using. Spread batter into greased pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle all but about 2/3 cup marshmallows evenly over the top. (Approx. 4 cups) Return cake to oven for 2 minutes, until marshmallows are puffy but not browned. Allow cake to cool several minutes while glaze is prepared.

For the glaze: In a small saucepan, combine sugar, milk, and butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and remaining 2/3 cup marshmallows until smooth. While hot, drizzle over still-warm cake. If it starts to cool and get to thick to drizzle just let it re-warm a bit on the stove.

Allow cake to cool completely before slicing.

TIP: While slicing, run blade of sharp knife under hot water to help cut through sticky marshmallows cleanly.