Friday, October 29, 2010 is at it Again!

.... But this time it's my turn! Woo hoo! Remember the fabulous giveaway they offered all my readers last month!? I was excited for the chance for one of YOU to spend $35 on something great from their collection of 200+online stores - with a convenient one-spot check out. Well now I am the lucky one that gets to choose a fabulous product of my own to review and rave about. What will I choose!!?? The obvious answer is something for the kitchen - after all, this is a food blog!! LOL But maybe I'd rather have a new dining room table (OK, OK, that's kinda in the kitchen)! I think Hubby would love it if I got him a new grill (I know, I know - we're still talking food prep! I can't help it!) If I wanted to be a good mom I could get the kids one of the 10,000+ toys available on CSN's site. If I'm gonna be selfish - which I think I deserve to be sometimes - I just might end up with some new bedding for my room!? Ooooo... a nice, comfy, cozy, fluffy, cuddly quilt, perhaps!? There is so much to choose from - keep your eyes peeled for my review in the coming weeks!! I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cake Balls

It's Halloween Party season at school! And for the over-achieving mom that means more time in the kitchen coming up with great homemade treats for them to bring in to class. And this leads me to a gripe.... it makes me sad each & every year when I bring goodies to the Halloween/Christmas/Valentine's/Birthday parties and I am the ONLY one with something homemade (I know some schools only allow store-bought things - ours is not one of them). It just makes me sad that people don't have that extra hour for their kids. Or do they - but they're just addicted to the convenience of the Walmart cupcakes with 3 inches of frosting that is so full of dye that it changes the color of your... um... you know... stuff. Whatever the case, in the 15+ times that I have brought goodies in I'm always the lone scratch goodies. C'mon, folks! Give your kids some love! Go homemade this year - even if it's just a pan of boxed brownies!!

Well, this year I decided to go with cake balls for Nolan - and not just plain cake balls.... EYE BALLS! Ewwwww. What 5 year old wouldn't love to crunch into one of these!!??

Grab some of this:

A box of cake mix (to make a 9x13), a tub of frosting (16oz) and a pack of almond bark.

The flavor combinations you go with are totally up to you. I've done chocolate cake with chocolate frosting & chocolate almond bark & they are really good! Like think Ho-Ho or Ding Dong. Good.

Step 1: Bake the cake, according to the package directions.

Let it cool & then *gasp* break it into pieces & crumble it in a bowl. I always feel like I'm doing something criminal for this part! Add in the frosting & combine it well.

You can mix it several ways - wooden spoon, mush it in a ziplock bag, use your hands in a bowl or, like I do, with a pastry blender!

Roll them into balls. Your hands will get messy - just rinse them every 10 balls or so. And be sure you don't go too big. I though bigger would be better - it's not. Last time I measured them out with my 2 Tbsp cookie scoop but they were just too big. Bite-sized is better so, if you use a cookie scoop, go with the one Tbsp one.

Pop them into the freezer for an hour or so. If you don't they'll fall apart in the almond bark.

Melt the almond bark according to the package directions & dip the balls, one at a time. And only take like 8 balls out of the freezer at a time. Once they're dipped they can just sit on the counter in an air-tight container, but when you're dipping you want them pretty solid. Pick whatever dipping method works for you - I've done 2 forks & also toothpicks. Either is fine. Just dip & tap the excess off against the side of the bowl.

Dip & tap!

And now, because I'm making eyeballs... decorate!

And with the red velvet inside, a bite will reveal the red, bloody guts of the eyeballs! Ewwww. I mean YUM!!!! LOL

(My camera's just a little pocket-sized point & shoot so I have a hard time getting good focus. Darn it.)

I hope you'll try 'em! Play with the flavors & make your own! They're really good. And addicting. And easy (they just take a little while from start to finish!)

Cake Pops:

1 box cake mix (9x13)
1 tub frosting (16oz)
1 pkg almond bark

Bake the cake. Let it cool completely. Crumble cake into a large bowl. Add frosting & combine thoroughly. Shape into small balls - no bigger that a large marble. Freeze for about an hour.

Melt almond bark according to instructions. Dip balls, one at a time, working in small batches. Set dipped balls on wax paper to set up. Store on the counter in an air-tight container.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Made a Button!

I'm so proud of myself! I actually figured it out!
Woo hooo, woo hooo! *happy dance*
Do you like me enough to grab it for your blog!?
You'll find it on the right side bar! Thanks!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pan Fried Asparagus with Garlic

Asparagus has a sweet spot with me. We never had it growing up so as a young adult it was a completely strange, foreign green 'thing' that I was very intimidated by. I had no desire to try it, prepare it or even see it on someone else's plate! Asparagus. Even the name is a little exclusive sounding & somewhat off-putting, you know!? Until one day we were eating dinner at my in-laws' house & my father-in-law somehow got on the topic of asparagus. Except he didn't call it asparagus - he called it ditch weed! DITCH WEED! LOL In one phrase he tore down the hoity-toity walls I'd built around this elegant, higher-class-than-me green shoot & turned it into something not only tangible & approachable, but into some poor, unloved stick that I was doing a favor by welcoming it into my kitchen! And toady I prepared it on the stove top with some fresh sliced garlic. Wanna see how I did it?

You'll need:

Asparagus, butter, olive oil & garlic.

First prep your ditch weed!
To do that you can either just take a knife to the last inch or two of the stalk or if you grab each end of the stalk in each hand & gently bend it it'll snap at its natural breaking point. Just get rid of the woody end of the stalk - you don't want to be chewing on tree bark!

Now get a pan on the stove, crank the heat to medium high. Throw some butter in the pan; once it's melted add your asparagus. Roll it around in the pan so it all gets coated with some butter & then grab your olive oil & just drizzle back & forth over the asparagus a few passes. Sprinkle on some salt & pepper.

Let it go for maybe 4-5 minutes - you're just looking for the green to get bright. Don't over cook your asparagus. Mushy asparagus is not awesome.

See how much brighter it is!??

Now toss on some THINLY sliced garlic. I have a fancy-schmancy tool that makes it paper thin. It's great! Just toss it around the pan for a few minutes - bring out that strong garlic perfection! Only go for a minute or two - again, NO mushy ditch weed!

You know what's wonderful about ultra-thin garlic slices? They get crispy! Like little garlic chips! Oh. My. Goodness.

Good stuff. See those crispy garlic chips? Paired up with perfect, pan fried asparagus. Delicious!

Pan Fried Asparagus with Garlic:

1 bunch of asparagus
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cut the woody ends from your asparagus. Melt butter in a pan over med-high heat. Add asparagus, toss around to coat. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the color brightens. Add garlic, cook another minute or two. Enjoy!!

Banana Crumb Bread

I called Hubby at work to talk about a potential Christmas gift for our kids & heard his partner & captain yelling in the background, trying to talk to me over the phone. They're getting spoiled. I often bake treats and deliver a plate to the station, just to get them out of the house. The yelling was a request - for Banana Bread! So, of course I'm a sucker for requests so I hopped into the kitchen and went to work. Lucky for them I had some fairly ripe bananas on the counters waiting for me to turn them into something great!


Bananas, walnuts (optional), milk, egg, margarine, baking soda, baking powder, salt, flour & sugar.

First step is to cream together the margarine & sugar.

Then add the egg & blend again.

Get your bananas all mashed up.

Add it to the mix & blend it well.

Now mix the flour, baking powder, soda & salt in a bowl. Add it to the batter.

Next stpe is to add in your milk & nuts. Do you have one of these? A food chopper? They are great. I love mine. They work for dicing up SO many things, from nuts to veggies to cooked bacon - anything you need a dice on. Depending on the number of hits you can get a finer dice. Also great for a frustrating day when you just need to hit something!! LOL

Spray your loaf pan with some PAM & pour in your batter.

Now, you can just pop it into the oven at this step, if that's your style. But... I'm an over achiever so we're taking it a little further! Grab a couple more ingredients - we're making a crumb topping! Flour, cinnamon, butter & brown sugar.

Mix your flour, sugar & cinnamon in a small bowl & mash in the butter. Keep going until it looks kinda like cornmeal. Coarse crumbs.

Throw it down over the top of your bread & it's ready to pop into the oven!

It bakes at 350 for an hour. Check on it about half way & then again about 3/4 through. Make sure the edges and/or crumb topping aren't burning. If they're looking more done then the est of the loaf just wrap some foil around the top edge of the pan. Be careful, though! It's a hot pan!!

...... and here she is! Sniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiifffff! Can you smell it!?

Want some!? You're gonna have to make it!!! HAHA!!

Banana Crumb Bread:

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 egg
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium/large ripe bananas)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp butter

In a large bowl cream together the butter & sugar. Add egg & mix well. Add bananas; mix. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda & salt. Add to the batter. Stir in milk & nuts. Pour into greased loaf pan.

In a small bowl mix brown sugar, flour & cinnamon. Using a fork, mash in the butter. Mix until it comes together like coarse crumbs - like cornmeal. Sprinkle on top of batter.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour, checking the top crust for burning periodically. If it's getting too dark tent it with foil. It's done when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Chili

Every Halloween our ward (church congregation) has a Chili Cook-off & Trunk-or-Treat. I've been in charge of the chili cook-off portion of it for the past 4 years so I always make sure to drum up as much interest in it as possible - and what kind of organizer would I be if I didn't bring a pot to put in the running!!?? I only make 2 chilies... regular chili & this one: Buffalo Chicken Chili. I was amazed at the number of entries we had this year. There were 20 pots of chili & 6 pots of white chowders! Holy cow! It was a fun night full of adorable kids all dressed up in fun costumes & on candy-induced sugar highs! LOL

What you'll need:

Ground turkey (or chicken, if you want), carrots, celery, onion, garlic, olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, chipotle chili powder, bay leaf, chicken stock/broth, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, Frank's Red Hot sauce (sorry - just one of those 'brand snob' moments!)

First thing you need to do if dice up all your produce - the carrots, celery, onion & garlic. Make them small - like the size the of... hmmm.... (this is me trying to come up with a size comparison & not getting it!) Just bigger than a pea, I guess.

Put a pot on the stove & get it hot - medium-high. Put in about a tablespoon of olive oil - just turn the pan once, and add the butter. Once the butter is melted add the meat. Cook it 'til it's done, breaking it into small crumbles. You don't want big chunks of meat in this chili so go small!

Once the turkey is all cooked up (about 6-7 minutes) add in your veggies & spices. Give it a good stir & let it go for about 3-4 minutes.

Next you're gonna add all the liquids - the chicken broth, tomatoes & hot sauce. Depending on your heat tolerance you can go less on the hot sauce. I put 1/4 cup & the kids can't eat it. I can but after a few bite I start to feel the sweat beading up & my sinuses clearing! SO maybe if you're a light weight you should go for 2 Tbsp, instead of 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp).

Get it bubbling & then turn the heat down to low & let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

Smells SO good! Warm, savory chili, no beans, good veggies, white meat... and HEAT! Also, the Chipotle Chili Powder (I found mine made by the fancier line of McCormack spices) adds such a great, smokey flavor to this. Try it - you'll like it!

Buffalo Chicken Chili:

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 pounds ground turkey or chicken
2 large carrots
3 celery stalks
1 yellow onion
5 big cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp chipotle chili powder
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
2 cups chicken broth/stock
1/4 cup Franks Red Hot sauce (or less if you want less heat)
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes

Put a pot over med-high heat & get it hot. Add oil & butter. Once butter has melted add meat. Crumble it in the pan until it's fully cooked - about 6 or 7 minutes. Add spices & produce. Let it cook another 3 or 4 minutes & add your liquids. Once it begins to bubble reduce heat & simmer for 30 minutes.

Great with crushed tortilla chips & blue cheese crumbles on top!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Strawberry Spinach Salad

I love salads. And, surprisingly, I'm starting to get my young kids to love them, too! So far, I think their favorite is Caesar Salad, but my 7 year old was receptive to this one, too! Spinach is such a great super food & strawberries are packed with vitamin C, so this recipe is a great way to get all the good stuff into their bellies... oh, and gown ups love it, too!!

Here are our ingredients:

Spinach, strawberries, slivered almonds, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds, sugar, paprika & diced onion (I am a deceptive little one here - I pictured a fresh onion but then when it came down to prepping it all I tossed it back in the fridge & grabbed some diced dehydrated onion off the shelf instead! LOL Just didn't feel like having tears in my eyes for just a tablespoon of onion!)

First we'll make the dressing. Ideally, you'll mix this up about an hour before you're ready to serve it. You want to give the flavors a chance to combine really well.

I like to use a mason jar for this - just makes for easy mixing/storing but if you'd rather use a bowl that'll work just fine, too!

Add everything but the spinach, berries & nuts to the jar & then give it a good shake. For a while. Make sure to get everything thoroughly blended. (This is a fun job for the kids if you wanna get them involved!)

Now take this jar of sludge that you're probably thinking smells too strongly of Balsamic vinegar into the fridge (don't worry - the taste & smell do not match up in intensity!)

Next we'll prep that salad part of it. Wash up your spinach, hull & slice your berries & throw them into a bowl with the almonds over the top.

Mmmm.... so fresh, bright & happy!

When you're ready to serve, pour on some of the dressing. You won't need it all - I'd say maybe 2/3 at most.

Give it a toss & let it soak for about 10 minutes before dishing it up!

ENJOY!!! It's SoOoOoOoOo good!

Strawberry Spinach Salad:

1 10-oz bag of spinach
1 1-lb container of strawberries
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp minced onion

In a bowl or jar mix everything but the spinach, berries and almonds. Mix well & refrigerate for an hour.

Hull & slice your berries. In a large bowl mix spinach, berries and almonds. Pour dressing (not all of it!!) over salad & toss to coat. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fully Loaded Cookies

I'm sorry... it's been FOREVER since I've posted real food! I need to get some meat back on this blog! It's been all sweets for the last several posts but I just can't help it! I've been in a baking mood - and today was no different. I had no intentions of making anything today but as the baby went down for his afternoon nap & the bigs all went out front to run amuck with the neighbor kids the bug hit me. I needed to bake. So I opened up my recipe file, looked through some of the dessert-type things & tried to decide what I'd make. But I didn't have the cream cheese for one thing or the blueberries for another or the lemon for another or the coconut for another, so instead I closed my computer & stood in front of the cupboards to see what I *did* have (and suppressed the little voice in the back of my head that kept telling me I should figure out what to make for dinner rather than making cookies!) I had half a bag of butterscotch chips, half a bag of white chips, half a bag of chocolate chips, some pecans left in the bottom of the bag, etc.... so I figured I'd throw it all together & see how it turned out! I done good. These are really good cookies! Who knew - everything but the kitchen sink!

Here are our ingredients:

Flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, white chips, diced pecans, oats, eggs, salt, baking soda, vanilla & margarine. I went with brown sugar in this one because it has just a little more moisture than white sugar & I figured with all the dry fixings in this cookie the dough could use a little help staying moist!

First we're gonna cream together the butter & sugar.

Then add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add the vanilla.

Now mix the flour, salt & soda in a separate bowl & add it to the mixture.

Now add all the rest of the junk you found in the pantry!

Now, normally I would use my 1 Tbsp cookie scoop to measure out the cookies but today I was feeling a little frisky... I went for the 2 Tbsp scoop! I'm totally living on the edge. It's exhilarating. Simple joys. Do you have a cookie scoop? If you're answering NO then you have an assignment... GO GET ONE! Once you've used one you'll never go back to the 2-spoon method again! Seriously. Get one.

Now pop them into the oven at 375 for about 10 minutes - until they just start to change color. Let them cool on the pan for a few minutes & then cool them on a rack.

Mmmm..... Here they are!

Look inside...


Fully Loaded Cookies:

2 sticks (1 cup) of margarine, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups oats
1 cup white chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup diced pecans
1/2 cup butterscotch chips

Cream the softened margarine & sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl combine flour, salt & soda. Add to creamed mixture. Add remaining ingredients & mix well.

Scoop 2-Tbsp scoops onto a cookie sheet & bake at 375 for about 10 minutes - until the color just starts to change. Cool on the pan for a few minutes & then cool completely on wire racks.