February 29, 2012

Margherite Pizza

The most basic and simple of pizza, yet so good.  The Margherite.  Supposedly the first pizza ever made.  My daughter had been requesting the Margherite for a few weeks and even though I make homemade pizza every Saturday, I typically use shredded mozzarella.  And the Margherite?  Well, she calls for the real deal.  Fresh sliced.  So it wasn't until this week I 'got around' to making it.  (And then, admittedly, I was busy doing other things and it baked about 4 minutes too long so it's a little darker than I would normally serve) but it was still wonderful. 

Usually I like to put artichoke on here as well, which I love.  I also did not have Roma style tomatoes so i used the tomatoes we had on hand.  Feel free to play with the recipe and make it your own!

Margherite Pizza

1 pizza crust, homemade or bought
3 medium Roma tomatoes
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil leaves (about 10-12) chopped or julienned (I didn't have fresh so I used dried)
1 tablespoon fresh minced or pressed garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil

Slice tomatoes and fresh mozzarella into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick if you can.  Arrive the tomato slices on a pizza crust.  Arrange mozzarella on top.  Sprinkle on the basil, sprinkle the garlic and drizzle the oil.  Bake at 450 for 7-8 minutes if you are using a pre-baked crust and 17-20 minutes at 400 degrees if the crust is unbaked or homemade.

I'll be honest, I can never slice my mozarella 1/8 inch thick

Ready for the oven

Don't forget it's baking like I did! 

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Cafe Breve, Caffe' Latte, Mocha, Cappuccino, Americano.... Coffee!

This morning I was sipping fresh, hot coffee in my left hand while my right hand clicked through my recipe photos and files, deciding what to post today.  It's early morning and not being a breakfast person, only coffee sounds good. 

I saw this image that depicts the most popular coffee drinks, and easily shows how to make them using a graphic.  I've had it in my files forever for personal use but never thought about posting it to my collection online.  Why not?  I have no idea!

Silly me!  This is an excellent guide to show you how to make the same very delicious drinks you are probably spending $5 on at the coffee shop each morning.  So, I'm posting it now... and returning to my kitchen for another cup of fresh, hot, strong, black, coffee.

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February 27, 2012

Homemade Hot Wings

Hot Wings are loved by so many people, a restaurant or two have made their mark on society by featuring this very food.   It's a favorite in our home on game days when my crew always liked me to make what we call "football food" (which is basically just finger foods and things they can eat while watching the game) but we enjoy Hot Wings so much that we often serve them for dinner at the table as well. 

I posted this recipe previously back in 2009 in honor of my son, who would list my hot wings as one of his top 3 favorite foods.   We had them this week for dinner and I was just a little sad that he is now in college over 1,000 miles away and wasn't here to share them with us. 

Our family loves hot and spicy and we have a vast array of specialty "really" hot sauces we collect.  Because of this, I sometimes play with the basic recipe and add amounts from drops to 1/4 cup of other sauces to make them 'fire' hot or add different flavors from my husbands sauce collection.  You would do well to start with the basic recipe the first time, but feel free to play with your food once you know the level of hot your crew can handle.

Hot Wings

1 cup Frank's Red Hot Pepper Sauce
1/3 c canola oil
1 t  granulated sugar
1 t  garlic powder
1 t  coarse, fresh ground black pepper (less if you are using store bought ground)
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 egg yolk
2 t  water
2 t  cornstarch

Precook about 2-4 lbs. drumettes and chicken wing portions your favorite way.  (In an oven, an electric skillet, by grilling or if you purchase pre-cooked, warm in the microwave.)  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.  Serve with Ranch Dressing and celery sticks to help cool the mouths of your guests as they enjoy them.

I like to grill or bake ours, but I also quick them quickly in the skillet if time is a factor as well
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February 25, 2012

Dress Up a Plain White Cake - Make it a Homemade Jello Cake

As you know, we entertained house guests earlier this week.  The day before they arrived I made a white Cream Cake but decided at the last minute to make it into a jello cake, as my father was visiting and it's one of his favorites.  Little did I know that my father-in-law loved it even more!  My Dad, my husband and I all had one slice and for the next three days my FIL had 2 slices a day.  Suffice to say, he loved it. 

Jello Cake

1 white cake
1 small package jello of your choice (we usually use cherry or raspberry)
1+ cup boiling water
Whipped Cream

Bake a white cake of your choice in your size pan of choice - (homemade or store bought, doesn't matter).  Use a skewer, a fork, a chop stick or some other thin, straight prong to punch holes all over the cake after you take it out of the oven. 
Mix the jello with a heaping cup of boiling water.  Stir until dissolved.  Drizzle the jello all over the cake, slowly and evenly.  Refrigerate the cake for at least 2-3 hours.  Whip heavy cream with sugar and vanilla to taste OR if you prefer, use store bought Cool Whip.  Cover the cake.  Chill until serving.  So pretty and you can do this with cup cakes too!

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February 24, 2012

Dutch Letters

Readers who have popped in here a time or two over the last few months know that we just finished a relocation 1000 miles away to the deep South.  Readers who have been around a little longer might know that this was move number 11 for us.  From Los Angeles to Minneapolis, from Nashville to Birmingham and more than a few places in between, we've been blessed to have been able to relocate often and enjoy the awesome differences in the regions of this great country.  One of the food items I've got a craving for happens to be from a tiny little dot of a town in Iowa.

If you happen to be driving through the Midwest, be sure to stop by Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, Iowa and eat 2 or 3 Dutch Letters for me.  No, really

If I had to choose between Cream Puffs with vanilla infused whipped heavy cream or the traditional flaky almond Dutch Letters... I'm not sure I could.  I'll take both.  Two of each actually.  With fresh, hot, black coffee.

And if you aren't traveling through Iowa (that's not Ohio and not Idaho... but Iowa), then perhaps you might want to jot down this recipe, like I did, so I can make them at home.  Even though I know they won't be as fabulous as the ones made in Pella.  But, then again, they've been doing this since they opened in 1898.  They're pretty good at it by now.

Dutch Letters

4 1/2 c flour
1 t  salt
1 lb. butter, cold, cut into tiny pieces
2 eggs
8 oz. almond paste
2 egg whites
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
1 t  vanilla extract
scant 1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 c milk

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt; add butter and toss until flour evenly coats butter. In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 cup cold water and add to flour-butter mixture; stir to form a loose dough. Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and knead until dough comes together, about 10 strokes. Roll dough into a 15" x 10" rectangle. Fold up the 2 short sides of rectangle so they meet in middle, and then fold dough like a book. Rotate rectangle 90°; repeat rolling and folding technique. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Uncover; and repeat rolling and folding technique twice more. Wrap dough with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat almond paste and 1 egg white on medium-high speed of a hand mixer until smooth. Add remaining egg white and the sugars, and beat until smooth, 1-2 minutes; set filling aside. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining egg and milk; set egg wash aside.

Cut dough crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Transfer 1 dough piece to a lightly floured work surface, chilling remaining 3 pieces. Roll dough into a 12 ½" x 10" rectangle; cut rectangle into five 10" x 2 ½" strips. Working with one strip at a time, put 1 heaping tbsp. filling lengthwise down the center of the strip, using your fingers to spread it to each end. Using a pastry brush, brush egg wash down one edge and then, beginning with the dry side, roll strip over filling and into a cigar shape. Transfer pastry rolls, seam side down, to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and form into an "S" shape; repeat with remaining dough, filling. and egg wash.

Heat oven to 375°. Brush each pastry with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake, rotating baking sheets once halfway through cooking, until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.Print Friendly and PDF

February 22, 2012

Low Carb Sugar Free Ketchup

My sugar free ketchup simmering on the stove

Good Morning!  You are about to learn another little tidbit about me (whether you care or not, LOL.)   I'm a closet Doris Day fan.  My favorites might be Please Don't Eat the Daisies and The Thrill of it All! but I'd really be hard pressed to choose because I love most of them (there are a couple clinkers in there over the years that I don't care for).

I didn't grow up watching these movies in our family home, so the first time I saw The Thrill of it All!  was after I was already in my early twenties.  It was the first time I realized anyone could make their own ketchup. And I wanted to make it.  After that, I did start to garden, grew my own tomatoes and started to make and can my own ketchup, tomato juice and the best-ever Homemade Salsa.  All thanks to Doris Day!

Today's recipe is for Sugar Free Ketchup.  I don't can this and I don't typically use my homegrown tomatoes.  For this version, I make enough for one bottle at a time, use tomato paste and I keep it in a recycled ketchup bottle clearly marked "Sugar Free".  Play with this recipe!  After you make this, adjust the spices a little bit to what you like.  Add a little more of this, a little bit less of that until you get the sweetness and spices to what you love.  You may never go back to 'regular' store bought ketchup again.

Sugar Free Ketchup

12 oz. tomato paste (be careful for sugar - try Contadina or the newer Hunts without sugar added)
** You can also use 1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste and 1 - 8 oz. can tomato sauce (I like this flavor combination!)
approximately 6 oz. water (rinse the tomato paste/sauce tins with a bit of water swirled around and pour it in the saucepan)
1/3 c white vinegar
4 T sweetener of choice
1 T salt (I use less but it's up to you and your tastes)
1 t onion powder
dash of; allspice, ground cloves and tiny dash of cinnamon
1/8 t garlic powder

Whisk together.  You can serve this or refrigerate it immediately or you can simmer it.  If you have time, simmer in a saucepan over medium low heat at a low bubble for about 20 minutes.  This thickens it and I think improves the flavors just a bit.  But if you don't have time or don't want to, you don't have to simmer.  Just put it in a mason jar with a lid or recycle a ketchup or other dressing bottle.  This will make about  1 3/4 - 1 1/2 cups or so of ketchup depending on if you simmer it and how long as that tends to reduce it and thicken it a bit.

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February 21, 2012

Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken (started in the crock pot)

I'm going to apologize up front for the hastiness of this post. Today is the third day having my father and father-in-law visiting us from out of state and although I've been cooking in a whirlwind, I have not had time to post (nor did I take photos of the meals - I'm not sure how I'd explain my camera snapping of our food to them...) 

The first night here I took the easy route and we grilled cheeseburgers and I made a simple Italian Pasta Salad.   The second evening was a real Seafood Feast.  It was so good!  Steamed Crab Legs, amazing Crab Cakes, Butterfly Shrimp...   and last night the only requirement was that the meal included my FIL's request;  Potatoes.  Any form.  But he really loves potatoes.  So made a Roasted Chicken and served with it Rosemary Thyme Potatoes, cheesy breadsticks, a fruit salad and I made some of the pan drippings into a simple gravy.   It was a huge hit.

This is not the actual chicken I made last night as I made up a hickory infused seasoning for the chicken but I had these photos from a previous meal I made the family which used the same cooking process to ensure an incredibly tender and flavorful chicken.  Every time.

Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken
(started in the crock pot - finished in the oven)
1 whole chicken - rinsed well
1 lemon
1 onion
fresh minced garlic
lemon pepper seasoning
olive oil

Slice the lemon and onion in half and insert them into the poultry.  Place the chicken in a crock pot or slow cooker.  Season the top with your spices.  If you like bland chicken, go easy.  If you like flavor infused, then go a little heavier.  There is no 'right' or 'wrong'.  Play with it.   Cook your chicken in the crock pot as long as you need to.  By this I mean - if you are starting this at 8:am and won't need to serve it until 6:pm, then cook it on low for 10 hours.  If you are starting it at 3:30 pm and need it by dinner, put it on high at 3 hours.  The idea is that the chicken is going to do most of it's cooking in the crock pot. 

Later you will have a lot of juice in the crock pot and your chicken is going to be almost ready to fall apart.  But because it's in the crock pot, it's not going to be a pretty golden brown, and it's not going to be crisp or ready to serve.  Carefully drain off the liquid (I use the lid, crack it open about 1 inch and carefully pour the liquid into a casserole dish or other dish, leaving the chicken in the pot.) 

Transferring the chicken to a baking sheet or serving dish.  The chicken is so tender at this point you have to handle it with kid gloves or it will fall apart.  After trial and error, the easiest way I've found to transfer the chicken to a baking pan is to lay the baking pan over the crockpot (which now has no liquid left in it and is unplugged)  and flip it quickly upside down so the chicken is now upside down on the baking sheet.  Carefully use a large spatula to quickly turn the chicken over.   If your chicken is quite that tender and can still hold its shape, you can use two large metal spatulas to lift and quickly transfer it to a baking sheet or pan for oven use.

Now, either bake the chicken quickly at about 450 degrees to brown it or you can place it under a broiler in the oven for about 4 minutes.   When the top is a beautiful brown and the skin has crisped up nicely, it's time to serve.

An onion and a lemon provide the flavor

Cook it and forget it.  Leave it to cook... ignore it for a few hours.

It's tender and flavorful but not pretty.  So this is where you roast it or broil it to finish.

When I need about 15 minutes before serving I'll bake it.  If I'm ready for it now, I'll broil it for 4 minutes.
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February 19, 2012

How to Clean Pampered Chef Stoneware (Pizza Stones) (Updated from 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2015)

I originally wrote a quick (and somewhat rambling) post about this topic back in 2007. I updated a tiny little sentence at the end to say "hey, I still own these and still clean them this way" in 2009.  And now, another update for 2015.  SAME pans and I  still clean them the SAME way.

To clean stoneware, Pampered Chef instructions say not to use soap and water on your stones.  You use the little plastic scraper they send with the stone to scrape off any food, but soap will remove your seasoning which gives it the non-stick surface you work so hard to give it when you first purchase it.

My stones 'live' in the oven at all times, even though they are not being used, they are always 'clean' and ready to be used from the high heat but of course, they are dark from seasoning and use.

This is probably what your stones look like too - if you truly are a cook/baker and use them, and didn't just buy them for looks.  And although my stones are old enough, and well seasoned enough that I do actually use soap and water to quickly clean them if I've made something like fish on them.... for real cleaning, I still use my self-cleaning oven cycle to clean the stones.

Yes... to clean them, I simply keep them in the oven when I clean it.  The stones are left in the oven, the oven is set to run one of it's automatic self-cleaning cycles (in which it cleans itself with high heat) and my stones come out looking brand new. 

*updated to answer the question in comments:  NO steps missing.  Self cleaning ovens clean spilled food and grease using high temperatures to burn it off.  That's what cleans your stones.  The high temperatures burn off the food and spills.  When you take them out after the self-cleaning cycle they may have a thin layer of ash to wipe off depending on how dark and 'used' your pans were. 

Before cleaning:  a typical, well and often used baking stone right before I clean it

After 1 self-cleaning cycle in the oven. 
Am I telling you to clean your stones like this?  Nope.  You can clean them any way that feels best to you.  But I've had readers contact me asking me about cleaning my pizza stones and this is how I do it.

These are the same two stones I bought in 2005.  

UPDATED:   This post is from 2007, updated in 2009 and now again in 2015 as I had a great question from Joy in the comments regarding finding her old stone in storage and it having mold on it. 

First off;  I have no doubt Pampered Chef would tell you not to use it, as they legally don't want you to do anything that could possibly come back and harm them in any way.  It's the world we live in today.  Having said that, of course I will say the same thing;  you have to do what you feel comfortable doing.  I can't tell you what to do but I can tell you what I would do personally.

First off;  Yes I would try to clean it and use it.  Here is why; mold is easily killed by either bleach or heat.

Yeasts and molds are heat sensitive and destroyed by heat treatments at temperatures of  120°F - 160°F.  They are also killed by bleach.  Considering the oven cleans at 500°F and the entire stoneware is completely 'baked' at 500 all the way through and no moisture is left after 3 hours in a 500°F oven, I (personally) would be comfortable doing so.

If it were me (and this is only me speaking for myself) I would scour it clean with a scrubby.  I would then wash it in hot, soapy water that I've added a strong dose of bleach to.  (I love using a bit of bleach in my dishwater anyway; my Grandmother always did this until the day she died at 94 yrs old, my father does, and I do too.)  I would let it dry at least overnight because you don't want extra moisture in the stone to expand in a hot oven and crack it - and then I would clean it when I cleaned my oven like I did in the photos above (and like I do every time I clean my kitchen oven).

After that your stone will need something fatty baked on it to season it again but simply baking something greasy/oily like store bought canned croissant rolls is usually enough oil to re-season it.

If you bleached it and baked it at 500 degrees and still didn't feel comfortable with it, then you can toss it.

UPDATE:  It's now October of 2015 and I STILL HAVE AND USE THESE SAME PANS. 
Yes. Same pans.  They are now almost 11 years old - used often - and cleaned in the self-cleaning oven about once or twice a year. I never need to 'season' them - even when they come out of the self-clean process and are back to clear gray stone - I can bake on them immediately and nothing sticks as they've been used for so many years.

**Note - if YOU are not comfortable cleaning your stones this way, then please don't do so.  This is just how I do it - and have cleaned them this way at least twice a year for over a decade and will continue to do so as long as I own them.  But I'm not telling anyone else to do it this way.  Just sharing what works for me and I'm glad that years and years (and years) ago I got this tip from someone else.  Print Friendly and PDF

February 18, 2012

Koulourakia - a Greek Pastry

The ethic foods our family grew up with include foods from traditional Sweden and Germany. And, although many ethnic foods have become a main staple in the USA over the past 30 years or so (Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Cuban all come to mind...) you are still hard pressed to find Lutfisk, Lefse and Brunkal at your local restaurant or fast food place. (In the case of Lutfisk, I have to admit, I prefer it that way... LOL).

Over the years, I've come to like many Greek foods. Thankfully those have managed to find their way into American hearts as well. One of their pastries, you may have only had at a Greek Food Fair or perhaps at a Greek restaurant, but it's one you can easily make at home with ingredients you probably have on hand. It's a pastry called Koulourakia (sometimes spelled differently) - which is traditionally served as a twisted rope, sprinkled with sesame seeds. It's not sweet, which is probably why I like it.


1 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs
4 c
3/4 c sugar
3 t baking powder
1 t vanilla
1 beaten egg
Sesame seeds

Cut the butter into the flour and mix with your fingers or two knives. Add baking powder. Beat the eggs with the sugar and add to the flour mixture with the vanilla. Knead thoroughly. Add more flour in small increments if the dough is too sticky. Grabbing a bit of dough about the size of a golf ball, roll out into strips about 3/4 inch wide, fold in half and give it two twists. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds before baking at 350 degree's for about 20 minutes. Cool.Print Friendly and PDF

February 17, 2012

Grilled Steak Marinade

The sizzle of a steak hitting the iron grids of a hot grill is a beautiful sound.  We plan to do a lot of grilling this weekend and next as we have two different groups of visitors coming and grilling out for dinner is not only easy and delicious, but makes conversation more simple.  You can chat and laugh while standing over a grill much easier than trying to hold up  your end of the conversation while running around your kitchen trying to read recipes, get things measured and mixed correctly and watching things in the oven, microwave and stove at the same time.

Grilling is just... good.  And here is a steak marinade to get you started.

Steak Marinade

1/3 c soy sauce
2 T canola oil
1 T brown sugar
3/4 t garlic, minced (about 1 clove)
1 t ground ginger
1 t seasoning salt (like Lawry's) 

Mix all ingredients, whisk until blended and cover your favorite steaks with it.  I find it easy to use a gallon sized Ziploc baggy - place 4 or 5 steaks in it, add the marinade, flip it over a couple times to cover the meat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to about 3-4 hours.  Turn often to make sure the meat is marinated evenly.  Grill as usual to your favorite level of 'done'.

I like to mix the ingredients in a baggy, add the steak, and not have to dirty any bowls or utensils

Marinate at least 30 minutes but no more than about 4 hours unless you like your marinade flavor strong in your meats.
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February 16, 2012

Cream Cheese Crock Pot Chicken

This is one of those recipes I keep in my proverbial back pocket to pull out on a busy day.  I change it and adapt it in many ways from the dry seasoning I use, to whether or not I add onions, the kind of soup on hand, or even whether I serve it as a whole chicken breast or cut them up and serve it over noodles or pasta of some sort.  So many options!   I 'play with my food' and hope you do too.

Cream Cheese Crock Pot Chicken

Chicken breasts or pieces of your choice (anywhere between 3-6 work with this recipe)
1 package dry Italian Dressing seasoning mix (Good Seasons, example)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 - 8 oz. package cream cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 c chicken broth
1 large yellow or sweet onion
2-3 T butter
minced or crushed garlic (about 1/2 teaspoon or 1 clove)

Lay the chicken in the crockpot and sprinkle on the dry dressing mix.  Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours for 6 breasts, less for fewer pieces of course.  About 45 minutes before serving, brown the onion in butter in a pan.  Add the garlic, cream cheese, soup and broth.  Stir smooth and add to the crockpot to cook for 45 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

*Some ways to play with this include;
Use dry Hidden Valley ranch dressing instead of Italian
Use cream of mushroom or celery if you don't have ceram of chicken soup on hand
Place all the ingredients in the crockpot and cook on low for 6-7 hours
Cook all the ingredients in the crockpot at the same time except for the onion.  Brown and add that at the end for flavor.
Use white wine instead of chicken brothPrint Friendly and PDF

February 15, 2012

Quick and Easy Gravy - No pan drippings required

This afternoon I was wondering what the oldest recipe I had uploaded to my files but had never posted was. I made a deal with myself to post whatever recipe was still in 'draft' mode from the beginning of this blog.

 In the end, I broke that deal. It was Eggnog Cookies. And not too many people have extra eggnog left over that they are looking to use up right now. (If you do still have Eggnog in the refrigerator from Christmas, might I suggest you throw it out?).

My next recipe in draft mode, never published was a form of gingerbread and then, a pumpkin pie. The first recipe that I could post from my 'oldest draft mode files' that was even slightly relevant to February, was gravy. And as a lover of gravy on everything from biscuits to bread to potatoes, stuffing and more... gravy is good to make any day of the year!

Quick and Easy Gravy - no pan drippings

1 c. milk
1 T cornstarch
1 chicken bouillon cube

1/4 t ground black pepper

salt to taste
Combine ingredients in a saucepan on the stove. Whisk while cooking over medium to medium-high heat. Bring mixture to boiling stirring frequently. Only boil for 1 minute before removing from heat. Let it stand for a few minutes to thicken a bit while you get the rest of the food on the table. Great on biscuits or mashed potatoes.Print Friendly and PDF

February 14, 2012

Homemade Truffles - Valentine's Day or ANY Day


I have two (2) recipes our family likes to use for homemade truffles.  Using a good quality chocolate chip, both these truffles turn out so incredibly smooth, you would swear it was a Belgian Truffle. I don't really even care for chocolate, but when I make these, you can bet I end up enjoying them as well. 

Homemade Truffles (#1 of 2 recipes our family likes)

1 - 12 oz bag semisweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 T butter
1/4 c whipping cream (heavy cream)
2 T liqueur (I tend to use about 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract instead of liqueur)
1 T shortening

In a heavy saucepan melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Stir in butter and whipping cream and liqueur if you are using it or extract. When smooth, refrigerate 15 minutes until thick enough to hold its shape.

Drop by teaspoon fulls onto parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Form into round balls. Freeze 30 minutes.

In saucepan melt the remaining 1 cup chocolate chips and shortening. When smooth, dip truffles, one at a time into the melted chocolate. Place on the foil covered sheets and immediately sprinkle with crushed nuts, powdered sugar, cocoa or other sprinkles if desired. Refrigerate 10 minutes to set. Drizzle with melted vanilla almond bark or white chips. Store at room temp or refrigerate.











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February 13, 2012

Stuffed Ravioli with Alfredo Sauce with Diced Red Peppers

For years I have always made my alfredo sauce from scratch.  I still do - but I've found during this most recent (crazy, hardest-yet to date of 11 of them) relocation to the new state, that having a jar on hand in the pantry has made it quick and easy to throw together a meal when the last thing on earth I had time to do at that moment was... throw together a meal.  Ha ha.

Starting with store bought stuffed, fresh ravioli that my daughter persuaded me to purchase, I was able to set the pasta cooking while I heated up the sauce, added some things to it, warmed up grilled chicken to go with and baked some french bread.  Topped with some Smoked Gouda, it was very good and came together in  minutes.

Store bought items from the pantry made this quick and easy to 'doctor up'.  Yes, I usually make it all from scratch (including the bread, the stuffed ravioli and the sauce) but even using bottled from the store is better than running to a drive through fast food.

Stuffed Ravioli with Alfredo Sauce and Grilled Chicken

1 package refrigerator section fresh stuffed ravioli
1 package pre-cooked grilled chicken breasts or strips
1 bottle alfredo sauce
1 loaf french or garlic bread
Smoked Gouda Cheese - about 1/2 cup grated
Diced red peppers (also can add diced green peppers, sliced green onions, broccoli or mushrooms)

Boil the ravioli according to package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, heat the oven and bake the french bread and heat the chicken strips.  Pour the sauce into a saucepan on the stove and add about 1/2 - 3/4 c diced fresh red pepper (I usually add broccoli and mushrooms as well but didn't this night that I took photos).   Warm the sauce.

Serve the pasta in a large bowl with strips of hot grilled chicken, topped with the sauce and grated smoked gouda on top.  Serve with warm french or garlic bread and a side salad.  So good for a 10 minute to table meal on a very busy night!

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February 10, 2012

Valentine's Day Red Velvet Cake Balls

Brilliant red centers with a dazzling white almond bark coating, sprinkled with sparkling red sugar crystals.  While beautiful on your dessert table at Christmas time, they are perfect for Valentine's Day as well.  Whether you make them into larger, 3 bite sized balls or smaller one or two bites, they are a hit with children and adults alike.

In addition to the recipe ingredients you will need either Lollipop Sticks (available at cake supply stores, online or hobby stores) or for very small balls, toothpicks work. You will also need 1 pound of vanilla almond bark, also known as candy coating; available in the baking aisle of most grocery and general merchandise stores.  (For those that can't find it, you can also order it online here .)  If you absolutely can't find it and don't have time to wait a couple days for an order, you can use white chocolate chips too, but allow more time for them to set up as almond bark sets up quickly at room temperature.

First the cake.  The 'Red Velvet' cake mixes you see in stores are not true Red Velvet.  The Red Velvet you usually find made in bakeries (like Costco and Sam's and grocery stores)  are usually not true Red Velvet.  One of my 'baking' pet peeves through the years are recipes that are basically just a dismal chocolate cake with red food color and called "Red Velvet".   A true Red Velvet Cake has it's own flavor that comes from the buttermilk and vinegar and vanilla used in it.  It's not a chocolate cake and doesn't taste as such.  The cocoa is used to enhance the brilliant red color but not to flavor.  This is a true Red Velvet and it happens to be my second favorite cake in the universe (I'm a die-hard white vanilla cake fan but Red Velvet is number two on the list!)

Red Velvet Cake

1/2 c butter
1½ c sugar (I made it sugar free with Just Like Sugar)
2 eggs
2 oz. red food coloring
3 T cocoa
2¼ c all-purpose flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla
1 c buttermilk
1 T vinegar

Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans or one 9X13 since you are making cake balls and it won't be a layer cake in the end. Preheat oven to 350.
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar (sweetener of choice) in a bowl.  Add the eggs. 
Make a paste with the cocoa and food color.
Add the food color paste and vinegar to the butter/sugar mixture.  Stir the vanilla into the buttermilk.  Add the buttermilk alternately with the flour into the sugar/butter.  Mix well.  Divide batter between the two prepared pans. Bake 30 minutes or until done for the layer pans and 5-7 minutes more for a larger pan. Test for the center to be done.  Remove from oven. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes, then remove cake layers from pan and cool completely.

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting

You can use your favorite frosting (that link goes to the *only* frosting I use for Red Velvet)  or here is a basic cream cheese frosting recipe to use, as many like cream cheese frosting with this particular cake.

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese
16 oz. box powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat softened butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy.  Set aside.

Crumble the cooled cake completely with your hands or use a food processor and process in 2 or 3 batches depending on the size of your appliance.

Mix your frosting recipe into the cake crumbs. Start with about 2 cups of frosting and mix well with a wooden spoon and then, your hands. If it’s a dry mix, add more frosting by quarter cup increments. You want the cake to be the consistency of play dough so it holds together well and forms balls.

Scoop dough out to the size cake ball you want. 30 large or up to 50 or 60 if you are making 1 inch rounds. Roll in your hands until smooth and place each ball on a parchment lined baking sheet. Depending on the size of the cake ball use either a lolly pop stick or toothpick in the top. Place in the freezer and freeze for 2 hours until firm.

Melt the vanilla candy coating (almond bark) according to package directions over low heat or in the microwave. Dip each cake ball into the vanilla and place on parchment paper to set. If you wish you can sprinkle them with desired colored sugar or sprinkles at this point.

Leave on the counter while the candy coating sets. After hard these can be kept in a container as they are as the coating keeps the cake moist. I’ve also froze them for up to a month, and left to thaw on the counter until needed.Print Friendly and PDF

February 09, 2012

Turkey Avocado Sandwich on Sandwich Thins

Turkey Avocado Sandwich on Sandwich Thins - Yum!

For about two weeks, our family couldn't get enough avocados.  Guacamole, sandwiches, halved with lime and salt sprinkled, wraps...  we were all craving them.  Why?  I have no idea, but this is one of the sandwiches I made with them.  Obviously you need to 'play with your food' and use what you have on hand or what you like, but if you make it the way did, you won't have any left over!

Turkey Avocado Sandwich

1 Sandwich Thin (2 pieces)
1 slice provolone cheese
3-4 slices thin turkey breast (we used cracked black pepper style)
2-3 thin slices avocado
1 leaf lettuce
Spicy Mayonnaise (we used Pepperhouse Gourmaise by Boar's Head)
1 slice tomato

Spread mayo thin on bottom and a thicker layer on top.  Layer your sandwich, press together and serve!

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February 08, 2012

Peach Enchiladas with Mountain Dew Sauce

Good Morning dear readers! I've been busy painting the railing outside this morning but got a little too cold and came in to warm up and do some website updating. I decided to go through some of my old files and see what recipes I had hidden away when I spied this one.

And... kind of laughed out loud.

This is one I apparently copied down back in the Spring of 2008.  I think I copied it down in my files as a 'what in the heck?' kind of recipe because although I think the ingredients are interesting, I have to admit that you would be hard pressed to ever find a can of Mountain Dew in my house, and our family has never really enjoyed 'dessert' recipes like this.  They might eat cake, cupcakes, jello or some pies, but desserts like this one just don't fly in our household.  So I'm happy to share it with all of you, but I admit it's one I've never tried.

I have to say; if any of you try this (or have tried it) please share what you thought of it and how it turned out!   

Peach Enchiladas with Mountain Dew Sauce

2 sticks butter
1-1/2 c  sugar
1 t cinnamon
2 packages crescent rolls
4 peaches, peeled and quartered
1 (12-oz) can Mountain Dew soda

Melt butter; add sugar and cinnamon. Unroll crescent rolls and place a peach quarter on each one. Roll from large end to small end of dough. Place into 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour butter mixture over rolls. Pour Mountain Dew over all. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.Print Friendly and PDF

February 03, 2012

Another year has passed already and it's time for my Annual Homemade Valentine's Day Cookies!

As a Mom of three kids, I've been making cookies for little ones for about 21 years now.  The thing is, my kids are getting older and going off to college... but they still want cookies of course!

Every year I make red and pink and white 'pretty' cookies but readers who have been around for a couple years have seen me play with the decor a bit.  Like the year my daughter and her boyfriend broke up right before Valentine's Day so I made her cookies with "loser" "geek" and "luv sux" on them, which cheered her up immensely and made her friends laugh.

And remember when I offered to send cookies with my husband to work for all the guys he works with?

Let me repost that one... (cut and pasted from my original post)

"Honey, I've got a ton of cookies... do you want to take some to work?"
"Yeah... I guess I could. I've got a meeting tomorrow morning with my guys.... I could bring some."
I could tell he was a little hesitant.
"I know. They're kind of girly."
"Too bad they don't say 'John Sucks' on them or something...."
"Oh! But they can!"
And? They did.

I did not photograph the 'personalized' cookies using their names for use on the website, but I took some of the others that said lovey dovey phrases like;

Dude U Suck

Oh Crap

Love Sux


So Not Cool


The personalized cookies said; "John Sux" and "Mike Sux" on them.

I guess when he walked in with the cookies the next morning the guys started to razz my husband and give him a hard time about bringing in little pretty cookies...

"Just read them"

And they did.

And they laughed.

This year, have some fun... make some cookies and get creative with your decorating.  Break-ups, divorce, 'manly' cookies, or pretty little dainty ribbons and hearts....  anything goes!Print Friendly and PDF

Low Carb Greek Feta Pizza

I don't know much longer I'll be posting low carb recipes so grab them while you can!   Actually, this is a food my regular readers will recognize.  A variation on one of my favorite pizza's that I regularly make for our family that has been posted and pictured a number of times.  Normally made with my homemade pizza crust, mayonnaise, garlic, feta cheese, onions and spinach but in order to cut the carbs down to a manageable amount I came up with this today for lunch.

Using the Ole brand extreme wellness tortilla, it has 17 grams carbs, but 12 grams fiber so you are left with a total of 5 carbs.  The other ingredients are less than 1 carb except the garlic.  For that, add a carb.  If you can afford just a couple more carbs, go ahead and add a few ripped up spinach leaves and onions and even a diced dried tomato.  If you want to keep the carbs low, make the version I did.

Low Carb Greek Feta Pizza
An American Housewife

1 low carb tortilla
1/3 c mayonnaise
one clove garlic (or about a 1/2 teaspoon)
1/3 c feta cheese, crumbled
sliced black olives - a small 4 oz. can or slice as many as you want from a larger can
dried oregano - about 1/3 teaspoon
*options:  parmesan, spinach leaves, red onion sliced thin, dried tomato

Mix the mayonnaise with the garlic and feta.  Spread on a tortilla.  Sprinkle with oregano and top with black olives (or use Greek olives if you have them on hand.  I don't).

Place under the broiler of your oven for about 3 minutes until golden bubbly.  Remove to a plate, cut like a pizza and serve.  These are awesome appetizers too for a crowd - not necessarily watching carb intakes, but for anyone.Print Friendly and PDF

February 02, 2012

13 Dip or Appetizer Recipes For Your Football Party (or any reason!)

Since I'm not an NFL football fan, I tend to forget there is a 'really big game' coming up.  My husband, ironically IS a really big football fan and enjoys what our family calls "football food".  In other words, foods that can be eaten with his fingers or with the help of a tortilla or other chip as he sits in front of the game.

Since 2006 I've posted about a hundred appetizer or dip recipes that you could use, but for the heck of it, I waded through the ones I posted over the last year or so, and grabbed a few to post here to make it easy to glance through the list and see if there is something that looks good to you.  If you want to dig a little deeper, feel free to use the labels for 'appetizers' on the right hand sidebar.  At the end of the page just hit "older posts" for the next page. 

Layered Taco Dip
Last Minute Bean and Salsa Dip
Homemade Guacamole
Hot Shrimp Dip
Fresh Vegetable Squares (like Pizza but fresh and raw with a Ranch Dressing layer)
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
Gouda Stout Cheese Dip (Try with Guinness!)
Jalapeno Poppers in WonTon skins
Banana Pepper Cheese Ball or Dip
Hot Sausage and Cheese Dip (can be served in a bread bowl)
Fresh Vegetable Dip with BeauMonde Seasoning (a classic)
Cream Cheese WonTons

Enjoy your football parties!

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Homemade Garlic Pita Chips (with a bonus recipe for Spinach Artichoke Dip!)

I used whole wheat pitas - you can use any style you wish

With the big football game parties this weekend, many people are looking for easy dip and appetizer recipes.  I've posted a lot of these over the years, but this morning I was thinking that it had been a few years since I posted my favorite garlic pita chip recipe.  You can find it here.   However, this recipe below is perhaps a little easier for some people to whip up because it doesn't use fresh garlic, but instead, garlic powder - which many already have in their cupboards.  If you fresh garlic, go ahead and try my original recipe.  For quick and easy with what is in the cupboard, check this one out.  GREAT with artichoke spinach dips!

Homemade Garlic Pita Chips

12 pita bread pockets, split apart
1/2 cup olive oil
course salt to taste
garlic powder to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each pita bread into 8 triangles. Place triangles on lined cookie sheet or baking stone.  In a small bowl, combine the oil, garlic, salt, Brush each triangle with oil mixture. Bake for about 10 minutes, golden brown and crisp.  Let cool.

Here is a great dip recipe to go with it.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
enough for a small crowd

8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 - 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese (I like the 1/3 fat)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed

Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 1/2 the Parmesan, the garlic, artichokes, cream cheese and spinach in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a greased/sprayed 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.Print Friendly and PDF

February 01, 2012

Low Carb Sugar Free Almond Pancakes

Ohhh so good and healthy too.  I love nutty pancakes.  Pecans or almonds... yum.  For low carbers on maintenance programs, add this one in!  I had them twice last week with a delicious SF syrup.  Hot and filling when you are tired of the 'same old thing'.

Low Carb Sugar Free Almond Pancakes

5 T almond flour or finely ground almonds
1/2 c vanilla whey protein powder
1 egg
1 T sour cream
1/4 c water
1/2 t baking powder
1 t oil
1 small packet Splenda
1 1/2 t sugar free french vanilla syrup

Mix all ingredients   In a greased skillet, spoon the batter into 3 pancakes.  Cook until golden brown and little bubbles pop.  Flip.  Cook a minute more.  Serve with butter and sugar free syrup.

I grind my own almonds but you can buy them ground as well (click here for Almond Flour )

Just enough batter for about 3 pancakes

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