2/27/09

Grilled Chicken Fajitas

When we lived in Southern California there was a very simple, quick and easy meal we had about every two weeks. It was simply marinating chicken breasts in citrus, grilling them and serving them on a flour tortilla with a side of sour cream, guacamole, sometimes some shredded cheddar, and salsa. So simple and so good on a hot sunny day!

This recipe is one I came across a year or two ago and I am pretty sure it came from Old El Paso brand sauces. I smiled because it is so similar to the one I have made for almost 21 years now. Because I don't use amounts in my cooking this one gives you amounts to base your recipe on. Add or delete as you wish. I like to add a little Italian dressing to it sometimes and of course adding a little lemon juice doesn't hurt either!





Grilled Chicken Fajitas

1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 4x1/4-inch strips
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
8 flour tortillas
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup guacamole

Mix lime juice, oil and chili powder in a heavy-duty resealable plastic food-storage bag. Add chicken and onion; turn to coat with marinade. Seal bag and refrigerate 2-24 hours. Brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Cover and grill chicken and onion 4 to 6 inches from medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, brushing frequently with marinade and turning once, until chicken is no longer pink in center. Discard any remaining marinade.

Divide chicken and onion among tortillas, placing in center. Fold one end of tortilla up about 1 inch over chicken mixture; fold right and left sides over folded end, overlapping. Fold remaining end down. Top with salsa and guacamole.
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2/24/09

A Mardi Gras King Cake



Although I'm Catholic and do recognize Lent, I do not, nor have I ever celebrated Mardi Gras. Heck, these days I would bet most 'celebrating' it aren't even aware what they are celebrating anyway! LOL. It's a time to head to New Orleans, go bra-less, party, drink yourself into a stupor and flash for beads. However, getting back to the roots; it's a time to drink and eat before the fasting begins for Lent, which runs through Easter.

Serving a King's Cake during Mardi Gras celebrations is a tradition that honors the Magi who visited the baby Jesus on the Epiphany (January 6). The cake is shaped in a ring with a plastic baby placed inside the dough, before baking, to represent the baby Jesus. The cake is then decorated with the purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras, and divided among guests. Whoever finds the baby doll will host the next King's Cake celebration or bring the next King's Cake to the celebration.

Because I've never made a King's Cake I had to search and mix and mingle some recipes. The yeast amount seems odd to me, but I meshed together two recipes - one from a church cookbook and another from Southern Living (2006) and they both seem to think the amount is ok. For those of you who celebrate; enjoy!



Mardi Gras King Cake

16 oz. container sour cream
1/3 c sugar
1/4 c butter
1 t salt
4 1/2 t active dry yeast
1/2 c warm water (100° to 110°)
T sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 cups bread flour
1/3 c butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon


Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Set aside, and cool mixture to 100° to 110°. Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.

Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.

Knead with the bread paddle about 7-8 minutes or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead by hand until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread 1/3 cup softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle.

Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 375° for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden. Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes). Drizzle a powdered sugar glaze evenly over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored sugars, alternating colors. Let cool completely.

Cream Cheese-Filled King Cake: Prepare each 22- x 12-inch dough rectangle as directed. Omit 1/3 cup softened butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. Increase 1/2 cup sugar to 3/4 cup sugar. Beat 3/4 cup sugar; 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened; 1 large egg; and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on each dough rectangle, leaving 1-inch borders. Proceed with recipe as directed.



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2/23/09

Homemade Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips

Last Friday I was craving hot, thick homemade style tortilla chips like you find in many Mexican restaurants. We always have flour tortillas on hand so I grabbed a few, heated some oil and quelled my craving.

Now you can too!

Quick easy, they are amazingly fast to make. You can bake them but I admit I never do because I'm too impatient. If I was to bake them I would spray them with Pam or similar spray and then bake at 400 until crisp and golden.


Homemade Tortilla Chips




Flour Tortillas
oil
salt is optional


Heat 1 cup or two of oil in a pan while you lay 2 or 3 tortilla's on top of each other on a cutting board. Slice each round in half, half again and half again to get perfect triangles or just rip the tortillas in half and rip them into bite sized pieces.

When the oil is hot (about 350 but do not over heat or your tortilla will burn instantly) place a few tortillas in the hot oil, fry about 5-7 seconds, flip over and fry another 10 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel covered platter to drain. Sprinkle with salt if you need to but very little as I tried it both ways and I think they are better without salt. Repeat with all and serve with your favorite cheese sauce, guacamole or salsa.






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2/22/09

My Basic White Bread Dough Recipe for... Everything!

About ten years ago I bought my first (and only) bread machine. My sole intent for was one purpose only; I could not seam to make a yeast bread dough and knead it enough. My few sad attempts were flat or rocks (or both) and I knew I was just too impatient to knead it correctly (and I did not have a stand mixer either, only a small $9 Walmart special hand mixer).

After I got my bread dough machine and started to make breads I realized an important fact; My family and I didn't like bread machine breads. We didn't like the shape or the size or the texture. But if I used my bread machine to mix, knead and raise and then removed the dough to make my own bread loaves, braids, buns, etc; it was perfect and we loved it.


For ten years I've been using this recipe for everything from bread to cinnamon rolls to buns and bread bowls and more. It's a basic white dough recipe that is forgiving and simple. I've adapted the recipe to be mixed in my KitchenAid stand mixer simply by messing up one day while making bread but not really thinking about what I was doing. I grabbed this recipe and the stand mixer I use to mix my pizza dough and before I knew it I had the bread paddle going with this recipe. I waited to see what would happen but it worked! So feel free to adapt this recipe to your own styles and uses. It accepts garlic powder and salt and Italian spices well and I've never had it fail on me.


Classic White Bread Dough

12 oz. water
1 1/2 t salt
2 T butter
4 c bread flour or all purpose flour
2-3 T dry milk (I pour it in but never measure)
2 T sugar
1 3/4 t dry yeast (although I don't always measure this either as mine comes from a large jar). One package is 2 1/4 t though so leave about a teaspoon and it's about right.


Place into your bread machine in order listed (water, salt butter, flour, milk, sugar, yeast) unless of course your machine has a different order needed to achieve results (some make you do the dry first). I put them in this order in my KitchenAid mixer by accident and pulsed it to mix for the first minute or so and then left it on the lowest level to knead for about 10-15 minutes and then left it to raise, punched it down, kneaded it a little bit and left it to raise again and it worked out great.

Use the dough as you want. For bread it makes 2 loaves - bake about 25 minutes at 350. I used it last week for homemade hamburger buns which are FAR more filling than the airy store bought versions and fill up my hungry teens much better and faster than the little store bought versions.
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2/20/09

Rice and Artichoke Salad

Growing up as a kid of the 80's in an itty bitty tiny town the heartland of America, hours from the nearest 'big city' I think I was in 7th grade before I tasted my first yogurt. My Dad was grossed out when he saw it (strawberry) because he had always believed it was made out of raw eggs. So it's probably no surprise to find out I didn't have star fruit until the early 1990's. Feta cheese? Mid-1990's. I didn't have an artichoke until oh, 2000. Yes, it's almost embarrassing now, but I think I bought my first fresh artichoke about 9 years ago and? I was hooked. So were my kids. Now I could start a poem that would go "Artichokes; How I love thee! Let me count the ways!!!"

I've started to collect quite a number of artichoke recipes simply because I cannot get enough of them in any form (although steamed dipped in butter is my ultimate favorite). With the economy as it is and money tight I've found myself starting to buy something else from my childhood; Rice a Roni. For a buck a box you can't beat it as a quick, simple and delicious side dish. This recipe uses two of them and turns it into a cold salad.


Rice and Artichoke Salad

1 box mix chicken-flavored vermicelli-rice mix - prepared
1 box mix fried rice mix with almonds - prepared
2 jars (6 oz. size) marinated artichoke hearts
3/4 c green pepper, chopped
1/2 c olives, sliced
8 green onions, chopped
4 cups cooked diced chicken
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon curry powder


Drain and chop artichoke hearts, reserve the marinade. Mix the 2 kinds of rice, artichokes, pepper, olives, onion and chicken. Stir or whisk together the artichoke marinade, mayonnaise and curry powder. Add to rice salad and blend. Chill.
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2/19/09

Americana - a Big House with Black Shutters, Front Porch Swing and Blueberry Muffins



Blueberry muffins seem so Americana to me. Here is a recipe to tweak to make it 'yours' with the addition of a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, changing some of the milk to buttermilk or sour cream, or even


Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 egg

1/3 c milk
1 c fresh blueberries
1/2 c brown sugar sugar
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c butter, cubed
1 t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Blend with a fork. Mix this with flour mixture just until moist - do not over mix! Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until done.





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Cream Puff Dessert

When I was a teenager I babysat two or three summers in a row for a family with first one and later, two little girls. They didn't have much variety in foods in their home and the parents didn't seem to do a lot of cooking but once or twice a year they would make something that seemed almost magical to me since I didn't grow up in a household that made these; eclairs and homemade cream puffs. I think I could have eaten 20 of them a day. They would make triple batches of them and kept them in their deep freeze. Until then I had no idea you could make eclairs. Ah the joy of pastries! As for cream puffs, they were one of my all time favorite desserts but one that I rarely got unless I went to my Grandma's house as my Mom said she couldn't make them right and only her sister (my Aunt) could.

As an adult I try to make cream puffs at least twice a year and although my family doesn't eat... ok, inhale them like I do, they are a favorite. Once in a while when I want a 'quick' dessert I make this. It's a cheaters version of cream puffs. A dessert when you don't have the time or inclination to make individual puffs. Try it - YUM!

Cream Puff Dessert


1 stick butter
1 c water
1 c flour
4 eggs
2 - 3 oz. boxes or 1 large box instant vanilla pudding (or make your own!)
3 c milk
8 oz softened cream cheese
9 oz Cool whip
Hot fudge sauce


Bring the butter and water to boil in a saucepan. Add flour and beat with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball (this will happen fairly quickly). Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition until the dough loses it's gloss. Spread into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 400 for 30 25-30 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Beat together with an electric mixer; pudding, milk and cream cheese. Spread on cooled crust. Top with Cool whip and drizzle with warm hot fudge sauce or chocolate syrup.
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Homemade Donuts - Fried or Baked

When I was growing up I either had store bought donuts from the local bakery (a special treat once in a great while... but that is what made it special!) or I would eat my Grandmother or my Moms donuts which were actually the 'cheaters' version of using canned biscuits, fried in hot oil and sprinkled with sugar.

I haven't made (or even ate!) a donut in a few years, but I have a couple recipes in my file box and it's time I added one or two versions of them onto my website collection as well. Maybe, if my kids are lucky, it will prompt me to make them this weekend!


Homemade Donuts

4 1/2 t dry yeast or 2 (.25 ounce) envelopes dry yeast
1/4 c warm water (110 degrees)
1 1/2 c lukewarm milk
scant 3/4 c sugar
1 t salt
2 eggs
1/3 c shortening
5 c all-purpose flour
If you are going to fry them, then clean, new vegetable oil for frying


Glaze:
1/2 stick real butter (1/4 cup)
2 c confectioners' (powdered) or icing sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla
3-4 T hot water or as needed

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a small bowl or cup. Let stand for 5 minutes (it should look foamy after a few minutes, this is how you'll know your yeast is still good).

In a large mixing bowl (like a KitchenAid mixer if you have one), mix together the yeast and water with the milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and about 2 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed until blended and then beat in the remaining flour gradually. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover and set in a warm place to rise until double in size. (This can take a few hours depending on the temperature in your home and where the dough is.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and gently roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a floured doughnut cutter or if you don't have one, 2 round cookie cutters - large and small, first with the big circle and then a smaller round 'hole' cut from the center. Let doughnuts sit out to rise again until double. Cover loosely with a cloth.

If frying: Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large heavy skillet to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Slide doughnuts into the hot oil using a wide spatula. Turn doughnuts over as they rise to the surface. Fry doughnuts on each side until golden brown. Remove from hot oil, to drain on a wire rack. Although I've never baked these myself, you can bake them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes (I'm told).

Melt butter a microwave safe bowl. Stir in confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Stir in hot water one tablespoon at a time until the icing is somewhat thin, but not watery. Dip warm donuts into the glaze and place on a cookie rack with a piece of foil, wax paper, brown paper or a cookie sheet under to catch the drips.
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2/18/09

Breakfast Pizza (Using Hashbrowns for the crust)


Although I've eaten Breakfast Pizza a couple times at morning receptions or brunches, and I really love it - I'm not a 'breakfast person' and don't typically eat breakfast (other than my hot, strong, black coffee!). I like waffles, nutty whole grain pancakes, eggs, toast, cereal, hashbrowns.... but I don't typically like to eat in the mornings. I'm not hungry yet and I really only want coffee so I rarely make the breakfast foods. Only one of our three kids eats breakfasts; the other two tend not to be breakfast people either. They don't eat until about 10:00 am. My husband? He's like me. Coffee. Black and strong.

Make them for dinner you say? Um, no.

I have this thing about fixing breakfast for dinner. I won't do it. I hate when breakfast is served for dinner and have only done it twice in my lifetime, when the three kids were very young.

A week ago my 13 year old came home from a sleepover and suggested I make Breakfast Pizza soon. I agreed, as I love Breakfast Pizza (hashbrowns, peppers, cheese, scrambled eggs, ham....). With it on my mind, I checked our ingredients on Monday and since we had most of the ingredients on hand I decided to make it that night for dinner. What I didn't have I'd improvise on.

Here is what I came up with!


Breakfast Pizza (no crust needed!)

1 large package frozen hashbrowns; 28 oz. approximately, give or take
(I used the kind with red and green peppers already in it. You can use plain
and use any style - shredded or cubed).
1 egg, beaten with 1 T water
salt and pepper


8 eggs
1/2 c milk
salt and pepper to season
1-2 cups chopped ham or diced, cooked bacon (I used turkey bacon) or cooked sausage
1/4 c chopped bell peppers (unless you bought the potato hashbrowns with them already in)
1/2 c tiny diced green onion UNLESS YOU HAVE ONION HATERS in your house. In that case use;
1/2 t onion powder and keep your mouth shut.
mushrooms (if you desire)
1 & 1/2 cups - 2 cups shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a round baking stone with parchment paper. Mix the hashbrown potatoes with the beaten egg. Spread over the baking stone and shape nicely and press down to form a 'crust'.

Bake in the oven 10 - 25 minutes. (10 for thin, shredded hashbrowns, and longer if you used the larger, cubed hashbrowns). Prepare the eggs by whisking in milk, seasoning with salt and pepper and microwaving 3 minutes, chopping up and stirring and then microwaving another 3 minutes. Chop again and spread over the potatoes.

Add your bacon or ham or sausage, peppers, onions, etc. and then sprinkle and spread the cheese on top. Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese is completely melted. Cut and serve.



Mixing the beaten egg with the hashbrowns




I used turkey bacon that I diced and cooked in the microwave


The hashbrowns formed into a circle on the baking stone


Sprinkled with cheese and ready to bake!

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2/17/09

How Do I Clean my Self Cleaning Oven?

I am always happy to help my readers out with questions about recipes, foods, household hints and tips; and I'm simply amazed at the number of requests I have for "How do I clean my Pampered Chef baking stones?" Another topic that is confusing for new or young cooks, or even older cooks that have replaced their ovens for the first time in years only to find it's a self-cleaning style is; "How do I clean a self cleaning oven!?"

I remember wondering that too!

As a teen we didn't own an oven with a self cleaning feature. I accidentally started the cleaning cycle at a home I was babysitting in when I was making their kids cookies and closed the locking mechanism on the front. On their model (in the 80's) all you had to do was engage the lock to start the process! Luckily I immediately was pushing CANCEL CANCEL CANCEL before my chocolate chip cookies turned to ash and I ruined their cookie sheets!

I didn't come into contact with another self cleaning oven for about 10 years. When we moved into one of our previous homes with brand new appliances I was introduced to the self cleaning oven... and it didn't go very well.

I ignored it completely for the first 8-9 months but finally I took a deep breath, delved into the owners manual and followed the simple instructions to start the cleaning process.

Oh the smell!

Let me warn you; an awful, horrible smell is normal. Don't be alarmed like I was and immediately rush to the oven and turn it off. The first few times you use it will be burning off some of the chemicals in the finish as well so I suggest opening all your windows and planning to do this at least 2-3 days before you expect to be entertaining company.

After consulting the manual again, I turned it back on and opened all the windows (in the middle of winter... in Northern Minnesota). I still couldn't breathe so the dog and I hung out in the basement for a bit. When I came back upstairs I was again shocked into immediately turning off my oven. It was on fire!

Ok. Not really. But there were flames!

Any oil or grease that has dripped to the bottom of your oven will be burned off. This means sometimes you may have flashes of flames. Your oven is insulated however, and it's fine. Just take a deep breath and watch carefully (with a fire extinguisher close... LOL).

It will take between 1-3 hours for a complete cleaning cycle and another 30 minutes or so for the oven to cool down sufficiently to allow you to unlock the locking mechanism.


To Clean Your Oven:

First remove all the racks and pans. If you leave the racks inside the smooth finish will be removed from them, they will discolor and will be difficult to slide in and out.

Close the oven, lock it into place and push the self cleaning cycle on your oven. Mine can be set between 1-4 hours. I typically do 3 hours as my oven is used heavily. If yours isn't heavily soiled you could do 1-2.

Push start.

An awful smell and sometimes even a few flash flare ups are normal. Ignore them unless it's really scary. LOL. I always (to this day) have a fire extinguisher out on the counter when I run mine... just in case.

When the cycle is over you will have ash inside your oven. This is all the spilled food or oils that have been burned to ash at a high temperature.


Wipe it down to clean. I use a damp paper towel for the first 1-2 swipes as it's really, really black and will stain dishcloths. You can see in the photo above I've started to wipe down the left side of the oven. The right side is what a heavily soiled spot from pizza dripping looked like.

Continue to wipe the inside one or two more times (just use water) and there you go! A clean oven!

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2/16/09

Breakfast Pizza on a Baking Stone

Oh the number of recipes I have saved in my files to transfer to my website but never have the time! This is another one that although made regularly in many different ways as it's easy to add and delete ingredients based on your own tastes or your family's preferences, it's always nice to have a 'basic' recipe idea to start with.

This one is officially called Bountiful Bruch Pizza from an old Pampered Chef Stoneware Sensation Cookbook but you've probably heard it called "Breakfast Pizza", "Brunch Pizza" or something similar as it's so very popular and made regularly in homes and even restaurants. Although it calls for lining the stone with parchment, I have to admit that with all times I've been served this pizza at family gatherings, I've never known anyone to use parchment. It's your call!


Breakfast Pizza

1 pkg. (24 ounces) frozen shredded hash brown patties, thawed and broken apart
1 egg, beaten
salt and ground black pepper to taste

7 eggs
1/2 cup milk
Salt and ground black pepper to taste(optional)
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup green onion slices
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover 15" round baking stone with sheet of parchment paper. For crust, combine potatoes, egg, salt and pepper in classic 2 Qt. batter bowl; mix well. Spread potato mixture into 14" circle on prepared stone; pat down with back of spoon. Bake 10 minutes; remove from oven.

For egg topping, whisk eggs and milk in 1 Qt. batter bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Microwave on high 3 minutes; stir. Microwave an additonal 3 minutes; stir. Spread cooked egg mixture evenly over potato crust; top with ham, mushrooms, green onion and bell pepper. Sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven. Bake 10 minutes. To serve, cut into wedges with pizza cutter.
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2/15/09

flourless chocolate cake

Whether you like them for the lack of white, refined flour in them, your diet or just for the deep dark chocolately goodness they bring, flourless cakes are back in the limelight again. Popular years ago, they fell out of fashion for a bit and now seem to be back bigger and better than ever!

I didn't remember to take a picture of my last flourless chocolate cake before my crew dove into it and rendered it invisible so I had to find a random chocolate photo for you from a search engine.

The eggs are important in this recipe as it's the only thing that is going to give this recipe any height. Be sure to incorporate them without breaking them down.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 pound semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 sticks real butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ c Kahlua
8 large eggs
¼ c sugar
2 t vanilla
½ t salt
Whipped Cream for garnish (or confection's sugar or cocoa powder)

Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Wrap the springform pan along the bottom and sides with heavy duty aluminum foil. Place pan in a roasting pan.

Combine the chocolate, butter, and Kahlua in a metal bowl set over simmering water or in the top of a double boiler. Melt the mixture, stirring constantly, until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until frothy and almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Fold one-third of egg mixture into chocolate mixture using a rubber spatula. Repeat this process two more times, until all of egg mixture has been folded into chocolate mixture.

Pour batter into prepared springform pan and using the pan of boiling/simmering water from under your bowl, pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake at 325 degrees until the cake has risen slightly and edges are just beginning to set, about 25 minutes. Remove cake from roasting pan and cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove foil, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove cake from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Remove springform pan sides, invert cake onto a large plate, and peel away parchment paper from bottom. Reinvert cake on another large plate or serving platter and garnish with whipped cream stars, confectioners' sugar or cocoa powder immediately before serving.
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2/13/09

Sun, Sand, Surf and Frozen Cranberry Margaritas!

Years ago, when we first moved to the upper Midwest from the South I first heard the dark gray, dismal winter sky described as a "mushroom soup sky". That description has always stayed with as it was a perfect way to describe the murkiness of the weather that I've called 'home' for a dozen years now. Seven months out of the year it's cold, dark, gray and snowy. Needless to say by January everyone I know is planning a vacation to 'get away' and find some sunshine.


Of course this has me thinking about seafood, key lime pie and of course, frozen drinks! In honor of all the people who are lucky enough to live in Florida and those lucky enough to be visiting there soon, this recipe is for you!




Cranberry Margarita's

5 ounces Ocean Spray® Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
1 1/2 ounces white tequila
1 1/2 ounces lime juice
1/2 ounce triple sec
5 ounces crushed ice
Strawberry fan, garnish

Put all ingredients, except garnish, in a blender. Blend for a few seconds on high speed or until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour into a large glass. Garnish with a strawberry fan.
Makes 1 serving.
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Product Review: Barilla PLUS pasta




With the economy going down and the price of groceries going up, more people are turning to dry pasta to supplement their meals. However, typical dry pasta isn't always healthy. However there are healthy options. Barilla PLUS is a multi-grain pasta that provides a strong foundation for a nutritionally-balanced meal and has the taste your whole family will enjoy.

Made with wholesome ingredients that are naturally rich in protein, fiber and ALA omega-3 fatty acids, it meets the growing challenges of a family desiring a healthy lifestyle while still providing the great taste they expect from their favorite pasta meals. Face it, kids (and husbands!) can taste when you take their favorite 'noodles' and replace them with a whole wheat version. This one has a taste I think they'll like as well as coming in many different styles so you can continue to present them with their favorite pasta shapes .

I found Barilla in all the local grocery stores in my area, from the Super Walmart to the local Mom and Pop grocery. I don't think you'll have trouble finding it. For extra picky families, try incorporating half 'healthy' and half 'regular' pasta into your recipes the first time or two and then slowly stop the old and in with the new!
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2/12/09

Spicy Sauce for Wings

On Wednesday I gave into my sons request to make... hot wings. He loves my hot wings, and admittedly I do too! I like to use Frank's pepper sauce when I can for the best flavor but any cayenne pepper sauce will work. I even sometimes use Tabasco sauce for this recipe although that makes these wings extra spicy and you want to make sure the people you are serving them to can handle the heat.

When I make these I usually speed the process up a bit by putting the wings in a dutch oven or crock pot to precook them - on high or low depending on when I'm putting them in and how quickly I need them done. You can also bake them in the oven, or in a real hurry; the microwave.





Hot and Spicy Wing Sauce

1 cup Frank's hot pepper sauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch


Precook about 2-4 lbs. drumettes and chicken wing portions. You can completely cook the chicken before mixing the sauce or mix it while the chicken cooks. Up to you!

In a saucepan over medium heat mix the sauce, oil, sugar, garlic, pepper, cayenne and worchestershire sauce. In another small bowl whisk together the egg yolk with the water and cornstarch. Slowly drizzle the yolk mixture in a tiny thin stream as you continually whisk the sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer about 5-10 minutes.

You can apply this to the chicken wings and continue baking to crisp or you can cook the wings completely and then brush or dip this sauce onto them.




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2/11/09

Get a Free Bottle of Country Bobs All Purpose Sauce!

There are some products that sit unobtrusively on the shelf, waiting for you to notice them, with a folksy, perhaps quaint label. Not flashy, and you probably haven't seen ads on tv or them, they rely on word of mouth or people trying them on a whim. When I first saw a bottle of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce this week, I'm pretty sure I've walked by it on my local store shelf a thousand times and never noticed it.

I'm going to ask you to notice it. I tried it this week for the first time... and loved it so much we had it in another recipe the very next night!

Looking at the label I wasn't sure what kind of sauce it was. My assumption was that it was going to be just like a famous steak sauce with a letter and number it's name. When I showed it to my husband he thought the same and we discussed saving it to have the next time we grilled steaks.

Instead, using a recipe from the brochure (available on their website as well, just follow the link) I gave into my teenage sons request for shrimp cocktails. When I opened and tasted the sauce I stopped and said, "Oh. Wow." It wasn't what I was expecting.

Sweeter than the typical steak sauce, it's a wonderful blend somewhere between a steak sauce, a chili sauce and a bbq sauce. It's all... and neither. It's just... really good! I had to have another taste, and then a third while the 'chef' in me kept asking myself; "What IS it that makes this so good!?"

I never quite figured it out, but the blend of ingredients is truly the perfect 'all purpose' sauce for everything from poultry to steak, from seafood to pork and everything inbetween.



Using a pound of large shrimp, boiled in a simple mixture of water and Old Bay seasoning I used the recipe from Country Bob's website to make the cocktail sauce for the shrimp. I used horseradish sauce instead of pure horseradish though.

The very next night we were having boneless chicken breasts. Wanting a quick and simple marinade I covered them in Kikkoman's Soy Sauce (which is more like a teriyaki sauce as it's thick and sweet) and mixed in 1/2 cup of Bob's Country Sauce. After broiling the breasts I heated the sauce and simmered it 10 minutes and served it along side the chicken that night at dinner. It was... incredible.

I think Country Bob's is the kind of product that a friend or family member introduces you to, and once you try it it becomes a regular staple in your household. That is why I'm going to give you a chance to get your own bottle for free. Just sign up on their website for their newsletter and they will mail you a coupon for a free bottle of their original, all purpose sauce. All registrations are kept confidential and are not sold to marketing companies. One coupon per household.
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2/9/09

Green Beans with Saute'd Garlic and Slivered Almonds

I didn't use a recipe for this one... but oh it was so incredibly good! I'm making a 'garlic lover' out of my husband - who, when we were first married wouldn't have touched onions, garlic, peppers or anything remotely close!

This was simply using fresh garlic, sauteing it in butter in a pan, adding some slivered almonds and steamed organic green beans. Seasoned with a little salt and fresh cracked black pepper... amazing.
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2/6/09

Never Be Too Busy to Make Cookies

When I was pregnant with my third child I had two other children that were age 4 and 2. I cannot recall how many people said something to the effect of "Boy you're going to be busy!" but it's certainly more than I could count off the top of my head.

However, I honestly have to say that having three under the age of 5 really wasn't that 'busy'. They were all little. They were easy to entertain. It was easy to pick up after them. I was a Mommy and wife but also found time to cook, clean, do laundry, run errands, do crafts and household project and repairs, pay the bills, do our taxes and even be the Daisy Girl Scout Leader. It was only after they hit the 9-4 year old group that life started to get busy. By the time I could say I had three kids ages 14-10 it was crazy-head-spinning-busy.

But yet... I still find time to cook, clean, do laundry, do projects, crafts, household repairs and decor and yes, do our taxes and plan vacations.

And I've learned over the years... never, ever be too busy to make your family cookies.


This week is yet another crazy, busy week but when I made the chocolate chocolate chip cookies last week I mixed up the cookie dough for sugar cookies at the same time and just wrapped it in Saran wrap and kept it in the refrigerator. Today or Sunday I hope to get our Annual Valentines Day cookies made... you know the ones; the ANTI-Valentine Day cookies that I'm becoming famous for. LOL.

Although I'm happily married and my daughter is happily dating her boyfriend of 1 & 1/2 years, we all love these cookies! She and my son hand them out to their friends on Valentine's Day and everyone gets a good laugh.




Do you need heart cookie cutters? Baking pans? Ingredients? Edible food color markers?

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2/5/09

Cream Cheese Chive Sauce... Use it on Your Chicken Too


My husband isn't a big fan of pork chops. I think this is because he grew up in rural Iowa as a child and had them... often. And apparently always the same way. After we were married I would make them my favorite way, which was baked in a mushroom sauce, which our kids love, but my husband would rather have his pork chops plain and dry. I sometimes use a spicy dry rub on them, or one of our all time favorites is to grill them, but in the winter time when it's -30 below zero windchills and our grill wouldn't be able to heat up, this is one sauce that he will eat.

Since it's one of my three kids favorite sauces to go over meat I tried it on chicken about 9 years ago and it was a hit. Since then I make it a couple times a year. If you've tried it on my pork chop recipes, give it a try over chicken. See what you think.

4 chicken breasts
fresh ground black pepper
canola or olive oil
1/2 c chicken broth
4 oz. cream cheese with chives
or plain cream cheese with 2 t chopped chives


Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt fresh ground pepper. Brown in a skillet in a little oil until just done and not pink in the center - don't overcook as the heat will continue to cook them as well and you don't want them dried out. Remove from pan and keep warm on a serving platter. Immediately pour the broth in the hot skillet and deglaze the pan. Add the cream cheese, cut in cubes, and whisk over medium high until melted and smooth. If you are using plain cream cheese, add the chives to the sauce. When smooth, serve over the chicken breasts.
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2/2/09

Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies


Today's recipe is the cookies I mentioned I was making yesterday. They are huge, thick, rich chocolate cookies with mini chocolate chips. The cocoa in them keeps them moist (as long as you don't over cook them!) and will stay moist a few days if they can last that long in your home!





Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c real butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
2 c flour
3/4 c cocoa
1 baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 c mini chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Don't over mix. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt all at once and slowly start the beater to mix it in together. Stir in the chips. Drop by tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes. They will be puffy and moist when they come out of the oven. Let them set for 1-2 minutes, remove from the pan to cool completely. They will flatten as they cool. If you like a crisp cookie, bake them 1-2 minutes longer.




Starting to incorporate the flour and cocoa to the butter and sugar




Before adding the chocolate chips -
I think the dough looks like
chocolate ice cream!

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2/1/09

Mini Buffet Burgers (mini cheeseburgers)

How about some 'real time' photos? Loaded and posted as I take them! LOL. Today is the Super Bowl and although I don't care about football and my family all happens to be gone tonight and won't even BE here to watch it, they all have asked me what I'm going to make for the the Super Bowl? You see, we have what is called "Football Food" (better known as finger foods and appetizers) and it's some of my crews favorite foods. They LOVE fooball Sundays in part because of the foods.

Sure enough I've even got text messages from some of them that aren't home right now; "What are you making for superbowl foods?".

I'm not completely sure what's on the menu but as they will all be coming home at different times and will all be hungry, I'm making sure we have a variety of yummy things on hand 'buffet style'. One of those is the Mini Cheeseburgers I make that are just amazingly good.

I make them using my own homemade rolls; made easy because I put the ingredients into the bread machine to mix and knead for me. (I never actually bake my bread in the machine... just knead it).


The bread is now rising and time to mix the cheeseburger meat mixture;

Mini Buffet Burgers

2 lbs. ground beef
1 c soft bread crumbs
1/2 c finely chopped onion
1-2 T mayonnaise
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 t garlic salt
1 t italian seasoning
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 c shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese mix
20 tiny buns or rolls (mini size from store or homemade)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, mayo, egg and seasoning. Mix well by hand. Press into a jelly roll style pan with a lip on the edge. Bake 25 minutes. Sprinkle the top with the cheese mixture. Bake 8-10 minutes longer. Remove, cut into about 20 squares and place inside the split rolls. Serve with condiments. Great for buffets and crowds and parties.


Mix the first ingredients
in a large bowl
with your hands


Pat into a pan.
Ultimately I use a bigger pan than this and allow 1 inch
around the entire edge for grease to run off.
Today I'm using this pan and putting a large drip pan
under it while it cooks.

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