Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cinnamon Bun Caramel Popcorn

Just the thought of this deliciousness makes my mouth water! I love fun kinds of popcorn and this is my most recent fave! It's super easy but looks like you spent hours slaving over a hot stove...For my kids' school teachers as an end of year "thank you," I put the popcorn in some cute little star glass candy dishes (dollar store!), wrapped them in cellophane with a cute ribbon and off they went! This is definitely a recipe I will try to keep the ingredients for on-hand. Perfect for a family movie night or drop-in guests!
Cinnamon Bun Caramel Popcorn
Kate Jones and Sara Wells

12 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup un-popped kernals, popped)
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup real butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup (honey makes a good substitution)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 squares almond bark

Note: You can also used microwave popcorn instead. If you choose this option, look for one that is a natural flavor, low in butter and salt.

1. Preheat oven to 250.
2. Place popcorn and chopped pecans in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a 2 quart capacity microwave safe bowl. Mix well. Chop the butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup over everything. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and then stir to combine. Return to microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and stir and then microwave for 2 more minutes.
4. Remove from microwave and add vanilla and baking soda. Stir to combine. The mixture will foam and rise. Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and pecans and stir until everything is coated.
5. Spread popcorn mixture onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
6. Remove the pan from oven and spread mixture out on a large piece of parchment, wax paper, or foil sprayed with cooking spray.
7. Melt the almond bark according to package directions. Drizzle over popcorn mixture. When the almond bark is hardened and popcorn is cool, break into chunks and enjoy!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chicken Salad

Refreshing for summer, this creamy chicken salad is delicious served with yummy rolls.
Chicken Salad

8 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
2 cups seedless red grapes, cut in half
2 cups cashews

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp white or white wine vinegar

Pour over dressing and refrigerate. Serve on lettuce leaves.

Note: I half the recipe for my family. It is huge! (And not very good left-over....since the cashews get soft...)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tangy Cauliflower

Can't get your kids to eat their veggies? This recipe is sure to change their minds! A favorite of my children, this is one of the most requested side dishes from my kitchen...

Tangy Cauliflower

1 medium head cauliflower
1/4 cup water

Put in microwavable bowl, cover and cook on high for 9 minutes. Drain.

Mix together:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp salt

Cover cauliflower with sauce and 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese. Return to microwave for 1 1/2-2 minutes uncovered.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

1 large can (31 oz) Pork and Beans
1 large onion chopped (or 2 Tbsp minced onion soaked in cold water for 5 minutes...with your hand, take onions from water and squeeze out excess water before adding to recipe)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 lb. bacon

Mix together all ingredients except bacon and pour into a casserole dish or 9X9 pan. Add uncooked bacon strips to the top. Bake at 200 for 2 hours. Cut up bacon into small pieces and mix in. Serves 8. (This is my preferred method.)

If you are in a hurry, you can microwave the beans (minus the bacon) instead of baking in the oven. Make sure it is in a microwavable dish, cover with wax paper and cook 3-4 minutes on high and then 10-12 minutes on medium low. Cook bacon in a frying pan and add to beans.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Orange Rolls

This could be the recipe that my kids request most. Perfect for a dinner roll, these are as good as dessert! Add to the deliciousness, ease and simple ingredients and you have a perfect side-dish or yummy addition to brunch.

Orange Rolls

12 Rhodes rolls cut in half
(thaw 6 at a time in a baggie in the microwave for 45 seconds)
Arrange rolls in a 9X13 greased glass pan

Mix in sauce pan:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 cube)
grated peel of an orange (or 1 Tbsp orange peel)
Bring to a quick boil. Pour over rolls. Let rise. (Rising takes 1-2 hours)
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Drizzle hot rolls with glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp orange juice (made up to drink)

Easy Spinach Salad

I always try to have the ingredients for this on-hand. Super easy, delicious and looks like you put time and effort into something fancy...A great addition to any meal.
Spinach Salad

1 bag pre-packaged spinach leaves
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 mango, peeled and chopped
1/2-1 cup candied nuts (I like brown sugar pecans found in the baking aisle)
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 lb. bacon, optional
1/2-3/4 bottle of Brianna's Poppy Seed Dressing

Add ingredients in given order. Toss and enjoy! Note: Other variations such as apples, mandarin oranges, pears, sweetened slivered almonds or walnuts are delicious combinations too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Creme Brulee

One of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures, creme brulee just might be my number one dessert of choice...Love it! The hubby knows if creme brulee is anywhere near the menu at a restaurant where we're eating...we won't be going home without some...In fact, once a month, he attends a work meeting without me at a fancy restaurant in town and without fail, my knight in shining armor comes home dawning some goodness a la creme! And now for the past couple of years, it has become a family favorite at home too...especially for the kids watching dad and the torch!

Crème Brulee

Mike and Molly Johnson

6 egg yolks

6 tablespoons white sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Beat egg yolks, 4 tablespoons sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until thick and creamy.

3. Pour cream into a saucepan and stir over low heat until it almost comes to boil. Remove the cream from heat immediately. Stir a few tablespoons of warm cream into the egg yolk mixture; whisk briskly until thoroughly combined. Pour the remaining cream into the egg mixture and whisk briskly.

4. Skim foam off top with strainer and discard. Pour into individual ramekins. Set individual dishes in a baking dish and place on preheated oven shelf. Pour hot water in dish until water level is halfway up ramekins.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 15-30 minutes. They are done when you shake the dish gently and they jiggle just slightly in the middle. The jiggle shouldn't be a liquid jiggle, but more of a gelatin-like jiggle.

6. Remove from oven and cool in the water bath for about 15 minutes, then remove and place in the refrigerator to chill. Just before serving, sprinkle the tops with white granulated sugar and shake off the excess. Broil on highest rack till caramelized (approx 3 minutes) or use a propane torch (my preference, like pictured above...can be purchased at drug or hardware stores, online or at Walmart or Target) to caramelize tops till browned but not black. Serve immediately topped with berries and a dob of whipped cream.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Best. Rolls. Ever

I LOVE really good bread. I could eat a whole batch of delicious homemade rolls. Throw in some homemade raspberry or peach jam and we're in big trouble...These are by far my favorite basic dinner roll...Melt in your mouth deliciousness! Note: This recipe is easy but must be thought through ahead of time as the dough needs to be refrigerated overnight. It also makes a ton of rolls...be prepared to share with friends! Yield: 48-56 crescent rolls

Crescent Rolls
Amy Hansen

2 packages yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
2 cups warm water
1 cup butter, melted and mixed with 1 cup sugar to cool down
6 beaten eggs (with fork)
1 1/2 tsp salt
8 cups flour

Mix yeast with 2 Tbsp of the sugar and 2 cups water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add melted butter, sugar and eggs. Mix well. Sift flour and salt and mix well. Let rise 2 hours and refrigerate overnight.

Separate dough into four parts. Roll each part into large circle and brush with butter. Cut like pie into 12-16 wedges and roll into crescents. Let rise 5-6 hours. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Cafe Rio Salad

I know there are a lot of variations on this recipe out there, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. Even though it requires a lot of ingredients, it really is pretty easy to make. If you have leftover meat, you can use the same ingredients and make burritos that are fantastic as well. Yummy! We just had this, but I forgot to snap a picture...if you have been to Cafe Rio or Costa Vida, just picture their yummy salads. :-)

(Recipe courtesy Nicole Steiner)

Cafe Rio Pork
Place 3 lbs pork roast in crock pot with 1 1/2 cans of Coca-Cola Classic mixed with 1 cup of brown sugar. Cook on high. Heat overnight or for about 8 hours until tender. Shred with two forks. Season with 1 tsp. garlic salt, 1/4 c. barbecue sauce, and 3/4 cup ketchup.
Creamy Cilantro Salad Dressing

3 fresh tomatillos cut into quarters
1 pkg Ranch Buttermilk dressing mix
1 cup mayonnaise*
1/3-1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender and refrigerate at least one hour. (*For a thicker dressing, reduce mayonnaise to 1/3 cup and add 1/2 cup sour cream to the mixture.)

Note: dressing is best if used in the first few days after making it.
Other ingredients (in order of how to assemble it.) You can leave out anything you may not like (or have on hand.)

8 flour tortillas
2 cups cooked Spanish rice
2 cups cooked black or pinto beans
Shredded pork
2 heads Romaine lettuce (or you can buy 2 bags of Sweet Baby Greens)
Pico de Gallo
Lime Wedges
Corn tortilla strips
Creamy tomatillo dressing

Chicken Chinese Salad

So, just factoring the cost of groceries, it is super nice to be able to buy one item and use it in 2 recipes. My sister and I do this when it comes to buying cabbage. Let me demonstrate. We use half of the cabbage in the Chicken Chinese Salad recipe, and then use the other half in this recipe. The best part is, that they are 2 totally different tastes.

Chicken Chinese Salad

2 chicken breasts - cooked and diced
1/2 head of cabbage - chopped
1 pkg. Top Ramon

1/4 c. salad oil
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 seasoning packet from Top Ramon

Crush Top Ramon noodles and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 until lightly browned (approx. 10 min.) Cool.

Combine chopped cabbage, cooked, diced chicken, and cooled noodles.

Mix thoroughly or shake together ingredients for dressing. Pour over cabbage, chicken, noodle mixture and toss.

Side notes:
*Easy to double if needed.
*I cut up all the cabbage in one day and save half for the other recipe, so I don't have to chop it twice.
*My husband's favorite thing is the crunchy Ramon noodles. I do an extra package of the noodles and put them in a bowl so we can add them to our liking at the dinner table.
*Other bonus: my kids LOVE it!

Mashed Potato Casserole

This is a hearty, total comfort food recipe. One I could eat all the time.

Mashed Potato Casserole

1 lb. hamburger
1 lb. carrots
1/2 head cabbage - cut small

In separate pots, cook carrots, cabbage (until it is not crispy), and potatoes. Brown hamburger in frying pan.

Once carrots and cabbage are cooked, combine and season to taste with butter, salt, and pepper.

Mash potatoes and season to taste...prepare them however you like your mashed potatoes.

In casserole dish, place hamburger, carrots, and cabbage at the bottom. Top with mashed potatoes.

Green Party Punch

Hosted a little get-together for a dear friend's birthday. Of course, we had to have something fun to drink...(kind of my favorite part of entertaining...) This particular drink is fun for spring, summer or winter holidays. In the spring, I serve it with limes floating, in the summer, with limes and cherries and in the winter, limes and cranberries...Very festive!

Green Party Punch

2 (3 oz packages) lime Jell-O
1 quart hot water
1 (46 oz) can pineapple juice
2 (12 oz ) cans frozen orange juice, thawed
2 cups white sugar
4 1/2 cups cold water
2 liters ginger ale
limes, cherries or cranberries for floating, optional

In large saucepan, dissolve Jell-O in water (1 qt). Cool. Pour into large punchbowl, stir in pineapple juice, OJ concentrate, sugar and 4 1/2 cups cold water. Pour in ginger ale just before serving.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms and Red Peppers

If you can't tell from most of the posts (and our waistlines), we are more bakers than cooks. However, this recipe makes me feel like a gourmet chef and it is SOOOO yummy!

Creamy Orzo with Chicken, Mushrooms, and Red Peppers
(recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts - cut into small chunks
2 red bell peppers
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, quartered
1 tsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound orzo pasta
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 cup reserved pasta water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
juice from one lemon, squeezed

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add orzo and cook as directed on package. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain orzo and set aside.

While orzo cooks, heat olive oil over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to oil and brown.

When nicely browned (not cooked) add peppers, mushrooms, and thyme. Stir and cook for 5 minutes - until most of liquid has evaporated.

Add garlic until fragrant (approx. 1 min)

Add cream cheese and coat well.

Add reserve pasta water and bring to simmer. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir.

Add orzo, Parmesan, lemon juice, and parsley.

Garnish with Parmesan and parsley. Serve and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Warning: Very addictive!!

Do I really have to say anything after you read the title of this dessert? Okay, I will add one thing...chocolate whipped cream on top. Okay, now do I need to say more?

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

Sift 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder into a packaged Angel Food cake mix, and prepare, bake, and cool as usual.

Top with Chocolate Whipped Cream, made the following way...Stir thoroughly into 1 pint whipping cream:
3 Tbsp. sifted cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar

The trick with getting good, thick whipped cream once you have added those ingredients is to put the mixture in the freezer until it crystallizes around the edges and then whip it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cheesecake Cheeseball

Okay, I'm addicted! I absolutely LOVE this treat! (Maybe its because I got the recipe from one of my favorite people and it makes me think of her....or maybe its because this recipe is to die for!) I take it places all the time as an appetizer and it always gets rave reviews. Years ago (wow, that makes me sound OLD!) I used to make it as the recipe calls for and would roll it into a ball and refrigerate it. (Much more like a traditional cheeseball...) But that was when I could easily find graham cracker sticks...but I don't think they are made anymore...So...two, maybe three options. Follow the recipe exactly and serve with Scooby Snacks. I will warn you though that you will get harassed for serving doggy treats. Or...just mix all the ingredients together right before its needed and serve at room temperature (like pictured) with graham crackers, broken into pieces. (If you try to use regular graham crackers with the original recipe, they just break and are hard for people to "dip." )The third option, which isn't my favorite but doable, is to serve with animal crackers.

Cheesecake Cheeseball
Nicole Steiner

1 (8oz) cream cheese
1 cube butter
(Let sit out to soften for a few hours...)

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
A handful (or three!) of mini chocolate chips...(I like the chocolate chips throughout...It is up to you how many you want, if any...)

Refrigerate 3-4 hours. Remove from fridge, roll into a ball, roll in mini chocolate chips and chopped nuts (I like pecans or walnuts). Re-refrigerate for a few hours just to hold shape. Serve with graham cracker sticks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

This was a fun dessert on Easter. I made some mini and some regular size and the recipe made oodles! I'm not really all that big on carrot cake, so I was pleasantly surprised when these melted in my mouth. And then I convinced myself they were healthy since there is pineapple, applesauce and a large amount of carrots in them and ate a couple more...Note: I opted out of the nuts.
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Paula Deen

4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 8-oz. can of crushed pineapple, well drained
3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Small pinch of ground cloves
3 cups grated carrots, grate on larger side of cheese grater
1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh coconut, shaved and toasted

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugars, pineapple and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and small pinch of ground cloves. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into muffin tins lined with cups. Fill each liner 3/4 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 min. Let cupcakes cool completely. While cooling, prepare frosting.

Combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pile the frosting high on the cooled cupcakes and garnish with the toasted coconut if desired.