Friday, August 31, 2012

Bacon, Broccoli, Mac and Cheese

 The original recipe for this can be found here.

However, I found I didn't have enough patience after work to go through a few extra steps, and I didn't want to add onions, so here's my (sl)easy work night version...

6 C broccoli, steamed, but still a bit firm
2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 box of pasta (I used the veggie mix pasta)
3 C low fat milk
1 cup shredded cheeses (1/2C sharp cheddar, 1/2C your choice)
1. Heat up milk and pasta in a pot over medium heat.  Cook until pasta is al dente.
2. Stir in 1 cup of cheese shreds until smooth.
3. Toss in broccoli and bacon.
4. Serve and enjoy.

You can play around with this recipe, add more or less, change out broccoli for spinach or a different green veg, etc.  I made 6 good sized servings, and they're just as good for leftovers as they are that first night!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Salted Caramel Butter Cream Double Chocolate Cupcakes

The original recipe for these amazing cupcakes can be found over at Sweet Bliss Bakery. As soon as I read it, I knew I had to make it.  The problem was finding an excuse to make cupcakes.

Odd, huh?

For the cupcakes, your ingredient list includes...
Chocolate cake box mix (your favorite)
3 eggs
1/2 C melted butter
1 C water
3 Tbsp cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
1. Mix ingredients.
2. Place in paper lined muffin tins (1/2-2/3 full)
3. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
4. Cool for 5, then remove from tin to finish cooling.

Caramel Ingredients:
1/2 C sugar
2 T water
1/4 C heavy cream
1 1/2 t vanilla
1. Bring water and sugar to a boil, in a small pan on med-high heat.
(I only had a very large pan, making this nearly impossible)
2. Have your cream and vanilla ready to go as your working.
3.Once sugar water boils, leave it be (NO STIRRING) for 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, and slowly mix in cream and vanilla.  It will froth, so be careful!  Mix until completely smooth.
5. Set aside to cool.

Butter Cream Ingredients:
1 C butter, softened
4 C+ powdered sugar

1. Cream butter in a medium bowl
2. Slowly add powdered sugar to desired consistency.
3. Add in cooled caramel and blend to desired smoothness.  If you need to, add more powdered sugar.

Additional, Optional, Toppings:
Caramel Sauce (Smuckers, Hersheys, or your favorite local sauce)
Chocolate shavings or curls.  I just used my small cheese grater and Bakers semi-sweet chocolate.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Can Do Attitude: Easy Garden Salsa

 Yeah, all of those tomatoes are fresh out of my garden.  Everything else, not so much, but these ingredients made a double batch of salsa, so 16 and 3/4 quart jars.

Also, I only used one head of garlic, and one of those really large onions.
And yes, I did use all those peppers.  I wanted a nice variety of spice, so there are random hot red peppers and purple bells from my garden, Anaheims, poblanos, jalapenos, whites, and yellow bells.  You can use as much or as little as you'd want.  I love chunky salsas with lots of pepper.
As far as the tomatoes go, I just divided my crop in half (since I was doubling the recipe).  They're Roma tomatoes, so I seeded most of them, but there wasn't a lot to worry about.

For each batch, I diced half in bigger chunks, then used my slap chop to finely dice the other half.  The chopper also made quick work of the onions and peppers.  I still wore gloves, though, because that juice gets everywhere and I hate accidentally getting it in my eyes (or worse) when cleaning up.

So, the ingredients for one batch (about 6-8 quarts)
8 C tomatoes; chopped, diced, and drained
2 1/2 C onions, diced
1 1/2 C green peppers, diced
1 C jalapeno, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground pepper
1/8 C (or less) canning salt (optional)
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C vinegar
15 oz can tomato sauce
12 oz can tomato paste

Mix everything together in a large pot.
Bring to a slow boil.
Boil for ten minutes.

Follow proper canning procedures.  Sterilized jars, boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Let cool and wait at least 24 hours before storing.

Hint: to prevent the white grit from collecting on your tops, add about 1/2 C of white vinegar to your water bath.  It helps reduce/eliminate the residue.  ( I obviously forgot this step!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grown Up Ice Cream Cake

 I've made ice cream cakes before, from ice cream sandwiches.  They're super simple, and everyone loves them.

However, when I saw this recipe, I knew I needed to try it.

Ingredients: (Bottom Layer)
Your favorite brownie mix and its ingredients
Andes Candies (or their baking chips)

Directions:(bottom layer)
Mix as the box directs, adding about 1/2 bag of Andes to the mix. (or chop about 15 Andes candies)
Bake at the appropriate temperature, but use a 9x13 pan so you get a thin layer of brownie.
This will take about half of the time that an 8x8 or 9x9 would take, so make sure you watch your brownies.
*A little underdone is best, so you get a fudgy layer in your cake.*
Let completely cool in the freezer.
 Ingredients: (Ice Cream Layer)
1.5 quart of mint chocolate chip ice cream
Directions:(ice cream layer) 
Completely soften ice cream until it can be stirred with a spoon without resistance.
Spread ice cream evenly over brownie layer.
Put back into the freezer to re-harden.

 Ingredients: (Ganache Layer)
1 C dark/semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4-1/2 tsp mint/peppermint extract
15-20 Oreos, crushed
Directions: (Ganache Layer)
Combine chips and cream in microwave safe container.
Heat until soft

Whisk smooth, adding in the mint extract to taste.
Let cool to room temperature.
Spread over ice cream layer.  Add crushed Oreos across the entire layer.
Place back in freezer.
Ingredients: (Whipped Layer)
8 oz whipped topping, thawed
Green food coloring/gel (optional)
Remaining Andes candies bites (or 15-20 Andes shaved or chopped into pieces)

Directions: (Whipped Layer)
Add a hint of food coloring to the whipped topping. Spread over ganache/Oreo layer.
Sprinkle remaining Andes candies pieces across the top.
Place back in the freezer until ready to serve.

Before serving, it's best to take it out of the freezer to soften for about 5-10 minutes to help with cutting.  As you can see by the above picture, I didn't completely freeze each layer before adding the next one, so it's not as clean and crisp as it could be.

Know what?

Didn't matter.  Still amazing, and my ten guests easily plowed through most of it without issue.

Awesome summer treat, or specialty cake for special occasions.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Garden Sides and Salads

I've been harvesting up like a fiend, and was entertaining last weekend.  Being as I didn't want to buy anything (or much of anything), I pulled together what I could find from the garden and pantry and made due.

1st Dish: I made beet salad.  But, I've made (and you've read) that before, so I won't bore you with those details again.  But, for the record, it's good EVERY time you make it.  And people don't seem to bore of it, so double bonus.
2nd Dish: Yellow squash casserole.
3 medium squash, sliced
1/2 stick of butter (4T), melted
1 small sweet onion, diced
about 20 saltines, crushed

Saute onions.  Boil squash until al dente (not soft).
Combine veg with about 1/4 of the cracker crumbs.
Place in greased 8x8 dish.  Top with remaining crackers, then top with melted butter.
Bake at 350 until the crackers turn golden.  Everything is already cooked, so it's just to combine the flavors so nicely.

3rd Dish: Cucumber, Tomato, and Feta Salad

4-6 Roma Tomatoes, diced large-ish
2 Cucumbers, diced large-ish
1/2 C Feta crumbles
Dressing Ingredients:
2 T red wine vinegar
3 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine first three ingredients in a bowl.
Whisk dressing ingredients.
Toss everything together just before serving.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Wendy's Frosties!

 Here's a low fat (but not low calorie) easy copycat recipe for Wendy's Frosties.  The best part about this is that it's three ingredients, you can use anything generic, and within about a half hour (with a good ice cream machine) you can enjoy Frosties with your besties in no time.

1 tub whipped topping
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1/2 gallon of chocolate milk
Add all ingredients to a large bowl.


Add to your cold ice cream maker (or follow whatever instructions that have come with your maker).

When you hit the right consistency, remove, pour, and serve.

My machine could only hold 1/2 batch at a time, but I do have two drums, so I just did them back to back and froze the second batch for later.

Super simple, and super amazing!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Quick {Pumpkin} Muffins

Oh, Pinterest.  Must you make my days so full of longing for amazing food?

The bigger problem?  Dieting.   It's not that I hate dieting.  At least, no more than the next guy. 
The problem is when you start to scroll Pinterest.  You can enjoy all of these beautiful looking recipes, but then you remember you're in a death match with two friends to see who can lose a certain percentage of body mass the quickest.

The result?  Really random dieting foods.  As we all know by now, breakfast is a problem for me. As in, I don't ever eat it, and that's where your daily diet is supposed to start.

The solution, however, is seemingly more simple than I imagined.  And it tastes SO GOOD.
Imagine the buttery flavor of a classic yellow cake.  Or the more savory richness of devil's food cake.  Now, put those into a muffin.     Bam!  Done!  That's right, no pumpkin flavor, just the box mix.

Ingredients: 1 box mix, 1 (15oz) can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie puree, just pumpkin)

Directions: Mix dry cake mix and pureed pumpkin.  Place in greased muffin tins.  Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes (use a toothpick).  Serve and enjoy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Home Grown Beet Salad

Heading out to jazz in the park, and we quickly needed to find a picnic friendly dish where we already had the ingredients.

Luckily for us, we have a bunch of beets ready for the pulling.  This is the first year I've planted beets in the garden, since I'm not, typically, a beet eater.  However, my mom loves them, and I know they're relatively easy to can, so I thought I'd give them a try.

I planted Chioggia beets, primarily because they had cool stripes in the picture.
Also, because they were available when I wanted to plant them in my garden, so it worked all around.

Sure enough, when you cut off the tops - there are some really fluorescent stripes!

6 large beets
2 T chopped parsley (I used cilantro since it was in the garden)
2 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T olive oil
Minced red onion, salt, and pepper to taste

I was surprised how many of the stripes remained after cooking!

1. Boil beets until tender.  Remove from water, then remove skins when cool enough to touch.
2. Cube the cooled beets.
3. Mix with remaining ingredients.
4. Let marinate in the fridge 1 hour (up to 24 hours), before serving.

As a non-beet eater, I was really surprised how sweet and amazing these were.  Definitely will do this recipe again!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pineapple Spread

Here's a simple spread or dip that I was pleasantly surprised with.  It's easy, goes well on crackers, or celery, and we also served it with Tomato Basil Wheat Thins.

2 packages (8 ounce size) cream cheese, softened
1 can (8 ounce size) crushed pineapple, drained
4 tablespoons finely chopped green onions (more finely than my assistant did in this pic, preferably)
1/2 C finely chopped green bell pepper
Mix and serve.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fruit Pizza

Here's a simple, refreshing dessert that you can modify however you'd like.
Sugar Cookie dough
Assorted fruit of your choice (I used white peaches, raspberries, kiwi, and blueberries)
Large tub of Cool Whip
8 oz cream cheese, softened

1. Roll sugar cookie dough into 1" balls.  Place balls in greased mini muffin pans and bake according to package directions.  They will (most likely) finish under time since they're small, but cook them until lightly browned.  Cool, then remove the little cups.
2. Blend Cool Whip and Cream Cheese with a hand mixer.  Place a dollop in each cookie cup.
3. Slice, dice, or chop fruit of choice, as necessary.  Top each cookie cup with at least 3 fruit slices, if possible.
4. Serve as close to assembly as possible.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Polynesian Curried Shrimp Dip

When I read this recipe, I expected more than a dip, but it turns out you just have skewers of  shrimp, pineapple, and/or mixed olives and serve this dip in a hollowed out pineapple.  It's easy, but impresses everyone, I guarantee that.

1 pineapple (hollowed, insides sliced into bites)
72 ripe, pitted olives
72 deveined, cooked shrimp
2 C sour cream
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp salt

Directions: Skewer first three ingredients.  Mix last three and serve inside pineapple.  Serve immediately, or wrap and refrigerate until serving.