If you get melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly. ~Author Unknown

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Strawberry Gooey Butter Cookies

I snagged this one from my good friend Nikki. Her go-to recipe are these amazing melt-in-your-mouth perfect chewy little cookies, you can find the original recipe here. They are super easy to make and even easier to form an addiction on!

A few weeks ago, Nikki visited for a fun day of crafts, crazy toddlers, baking cookies, and dinner. We decided to alter her favorite recipe to take it to another level...needless to say, we were very satisfied with the results! Even better? We already have other plans in the making to see how many other ways we can play around with this charming cake-like confection ;)

{{Just in time for Valentines Day}}

Strawberry Gooey Butter Cookies

8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla
15.25 oz pkg strawberry cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist)
1/4 C confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350º.

In a medium bowl, cream together cream cheese & butter. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add cake mix and stir until just combined.

Put confectioners' sugar in a small bowl. Roll the dough into 1" balls, then lightly coat in confectioners' sugar. Place 1" apart over an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-13 min. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Store in an air-tight container or in the freezer. No need to thaw!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reusing Parmesan Cheese Containers

Being a family of three, often times we buy something that will not get used in time before it goes bad....unless of course we want to eat or drink the same thing everyday, which we don't since we love variety! 

Number one item we buy that gets wasted around here and that I hate buying since I never need more then a tablespoon or two: fresh herbs. 

Of course using fresh over dried is far more flavorful and for a lot of great recipes, necessary. Sure you can often substitute dried over fresh, but unless your dried herbs are kept in appropriate storage and used within a few months (which let's face it...most of them are well past their prime), you will not get the most out of them. Not to mention, the colors in dried are dull and not as pretty...who doesn't like their end result to turn out pretty after all the work you put into it? Not me..

*I have a solution*

You know those green little plastic containers that store your grated Parmesan cheese? They have the convenient little holes in the top or a wider mouth for larger amounts... you  know what I am talking about... Well, next time instead of tossing it to your recycle bin, reuse it! Wash it out really well with hot soapy water, remove the label while at it, and allow it to air dry, and store it somewhere until the next time you have fresh herbs you are ready to toss out. My collection is small but it is growing now that I have caught onto this great tip. 

Here is what I did with fresh parsley and cilantro:

  • Rinse thoroughly, pat dry with paper towels.
  •  Finely chop all the leaves up, discarding stems. 
  •  Place a sheet of parchment paper over-top a cookie sheet. Spread the parsley OR cilantro in a thin layer across the parchment paper. Freeze at least 30 min.
  •  Remove from freezer, quickly fold parchment paper up half way to allow the frozen parsley/cilantro to easily slide right into your Parmesan container. (I use the parchment paper because the herbs will defrost quickly and then will likely stick to your hands or cookie sheet). 
  •  Close lid, label the top or side of container with a sharpie, and it should store easily in the door of your freezer. 
  •  When ready to use, no need to thaw, just sprinkle or use the larger mouth of the lid to get what you need. Saves on grocery bills too!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cheesesteak-Style Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

On chilly nights, there is nothing better than throwing on some comfy pjs and fuzzy socks and finding comfort in a toasty, ooey-gooey grilled cheese sandwich! I have tried various versions of these and have yet to try one that has failed my expectations.  Tonight, I have a mock version of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich in the spotlight, but I encourage comments of your favorite way to make a grilled cheese :)

Cheesesteak-Style Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (makes 3 sandwiches)

6 slices country-style buttermilk bread

about 3 tbsp spreadable butter
6 slices American cheese slices
12 slices thinly sliced deli roast beef
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp canola oil

Heat oil in small pan over medium high heat. Saute bell pepper and onion until tender and onion starts to turn a light golden brown. Remove from heat.

On a workspace on your counter (I find over a cutting board works best for easy clean up), lay bread slices out flat. Spread a thin layer of butter on top of each piece. Turn the slices over, butter-side down. On 3 of the slices place a slice of cheese* (see note below). Next, apply 4 slices of the roast beef, folding each one in half. Then take about 1/4 C of the bell pepper & onion mixture and insert between the layers of roast beef (I pocketed mine into the folded over slices to reduce the filling from falling out). Last, top with another slice of cheese* (see note below). Top with slice of bread, butter-side up. 

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Carefully place first sandwich down, cook about 2 min, pressing lightly over top with a spatula and check for desired doneness. Flip, cook another 2 min, pressing lightly with a spatula. Remove sandwich from heat, set aside. Repeat with the other 2 sandwiches. Allow about 5 minutes for sandwich to sit before cutting.

Note- The bread I used was larger than the cheese slices, if that happens when you prepare, apply first piece cheese on far right of sandwich (bottom layer) and second piece of cheese over far left (top layer).

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Raspberry-Pecan Thumbprints

So I am sure we have all seen our fair share of cookies with the holidays just passing. I am also sure a lot of weight-loss resolutions have been made to swear off the junk food. Well I will tell you this, these cookies are worth the splurge on your cheat day! They melt in your mouth, they have a slight crunch to them, and don't forget the sweet little dollop of raspberry jam in the center. :)

I have never made jam thumbprint cookies before today...might not have even tried one (other than the kind with chocolate, also very good!) I was satisfied with these, and even better, they made about a dozen which is perfect for a small family and getting cookies done from start to finish in a small amount of time (I only had to do one batch with my cookie sheet!)

Raspberry-Pecan Thumbprints

1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg, separated
1 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C finely chopped pecans
1/4 C seedless raspberry jam 

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar. Mix in the vanilla and the egg yolk, reserving egg white for a later use.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Slowly mix into the butter mixture. Using your hands, gather into a ball of dough, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 325º. Meanwhile, lightly whisk reserved egg white in a small bowl. Put the pecans in another bowl. Roll the dough into 1" balls. Dip each ball into the egg white, then roll into the pecans. Set on non-stick cookie sheet.  Using your thumb (or bottom of a small measuring teaspoon), press gently into center of ball about half-way through, ease up if dough starts to crack. Bake 15 minutes, remove from oven, gently reform thumbprints (if needed) using the bottom of tsp if too hot to touch. Add a 1/4 tsp dollop over indentation of cookie with jam. Return cookies to oven, bake an additional 3-4 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool on cookie sheet about 3 min before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

These cookies freeze wonderfully, no need to defrost!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chili-Spaghetti Casserole

Today I had my friend Nikki and her 3 year old son, Chase over. We had a day full of crafts planned (painting coffee cups) while our boys played nicely crazily around the house. It was a full on chaos-filled day (aren't those the best?). Despite the frenzied toddlers and the house looking like a tornado of toys, Nikki and I were able to accomplish quite a bit of what we set out to do...while downing a big raspberry-dark chocolate latte to survive the storm!

Our friends stayed for dinner, we made a wonderful (but easy) casserole. Let me tell you, even the pickiest of eaters (Chase), ate his entire serving. Nikki and I kept a look of surprise while we watched him eat with no hesitation!

     Chili-Spaghetti Casserole 
   (adapted from Best Loved Recipes)

8 oz uncooked spaghetti noodles
20 oz ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped small
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
15 oz Hormel Vegetarian Chili w/ Beans
14.5 oz can Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained
1-1/2 C sharp cheddar cheese, divided
3/4 C sour cream  
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder   

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 13x9" glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

 In a large pot, boil salted water and cook spaghetti noodles as directed on package (about 9 min). 

Meanwhile, in a large skillet brown the turkey with the onions until cooked through and onions are translucent. Drain off fat. *Unless your skillet is large enough, pour turkey mixture into a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients reserving 1/2 C shredded cheese.

Drain noodles and add to the mixture. Toss gently, turn out into your prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with remaining 1/2 C cheese. Cover with foil and bake 30 min. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas

I am really excited to post about this new enchilada recipe that I came across. They have all the goodness of your typical white sauce chicken enchiladas but BETTER! First time I ever tried making enchiladas with honey added to them and now I won't go back. I normally don't get up for seconds, but with these, I really wanted too!!! 

Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas
(adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff)

*For the Filling*
1/6 C honey
1/8 C lime juice
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
8oz chicken thighs, cooked and shredded  (I roasted mine in the oven w/ a seasoning rub of pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika)

4-5 flour tortillas (about 8")
8oz shredded monterey jack cheese, divided
1 C green enchilada sauce
1/4 C heavy cream

sour cream, optional
fresh salsa, optional

Mix together honey, lime juice, chili powder, & garlic powder. Add shredded chicken and toss to coat. Transfer to a zip-lock and allow to sit in fridge about 30 min.

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9x9" pan with non-stick spray. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce to cover bottom of pan. Lay tortillas out flat and along the center, add a generous amount of chicken and shredded cheese to each tortilla (saving about 1/2 of the shredded cheese aside). Roll tortillas up and place seam side down in the sauce along side each other. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the enchilada sauce with the cream. Pour over on top of enchiladas and top with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered, 30 min. Allow to sit about 10 min before cutting into. Top with sour cream and fresh salsa if desired.

*For added variety, try this with a red sauce too!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Making Your Own Play Kitchen Food

How many of you have children? I am a mother to an adorable 3 year old boy. While we have lots in common with each other, one thing I don't have in common is the toys and shows he is into. He is very much into Transformers, trucks, tools and as of today, DinoSquad (sp). 
 Last Christmas, I was thrilled that we would be giving him a play kitchen! It was something I could relate to...I might have been more excited about it then he was at first but now he loves it and it always becomes part of our playtime together. 

Well if any of you who have kids and a play kitchen might know... the play food that comes in the cute boxes (the mini versions of Betty Crocker Brownies that are identical to what you might have in your pantry among other copy-cat toy versions) quickly get dented, chewed on (yes, that was the fate of ours), labels peeling etc... 

I actually can't believe I didn't consider doing this before, and I am sure some of you are a step ahead of me on this, but for those who have yet to think of it: Tape up your boxes and food items you used and voila! you have new kitchen play food that you didn't pay extra for and if it gets destroyed (which it probably will), throw it away! What is nice about this, the stuff in their kitchen is constantly restocked with "new toys". I have rinsed out seasoning containers, butter tubs, pasta salads, cereals...you get the idea... I even had an old 9x9" pan and wooden spoon I had no use for, it now sits in his kitchen. Old pot holders, dish towels... so many ways to get more out of their toy kitchen. The only thing I don't advise giving them might be egg cartons for risk of e coli or some other bacteria contamination. 

I would love to hear comments of other ideas anyone might have for getting more out of play kitchens, so if you have any other ideas to add to this, please don't be shy ;)  

Friday, January 4, 2013

Steak & Black Bean Tacos

Gosh I feel like too many days have passed since I posted a blog! We've been kind of busy transitioning after the holidays (packing up decorations, making room for all the new additions...my son's new additions, that is!) We finally have everything settled so now I can get back into posting more regularly :)
Here is a recipe I have had sitting in my "to make" folder for quite a while...years if I had to guess. Yes, I am a huge recipe collector of various different magazines I subscribe to and hundreds of recipe e-newsletters, in addition to the greatness of Pinterest. Needless to say, I have way too many recipes lying around and filling up my email account, that I will be lucky to actually get around to making them.

These easy tacos only need a few ingredients and only take a few minutes to make. The pepper-jack cheese add a little kick of heat, the avocado helps cool it down. You will need to roll your sleeves up for this one, enjoy! 

Steak & Black Bean Tacos
(original recipe source unknown)

1 tbsp oil
1/2 onion, chopped
12oz sirloin steak, sliced
1 tomato, diced, divided
15oz can black beans, drained
8 4" corn tortillas
sour cream
shredded pepper-jack cheese
shredded lettuce
1 avocado, sliced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Heat oil oil in cast-iron skillet. Add onions and saute until soft, about 2-3 min. Add steak and cook over medium heat until desired doneness. Add half of tomatoes and cook until softened. Add beans and heat through. Remove from heat.

Place corn tortillas on a baking sheet. Bake about 3 min, to warm. Assemble: Lay tortilla on plate, along the center spread about 1/2 tbsp sour cream along center. With a slotted spoon, add about 1/4 C steak mixture, 2 tbsp cheese, shredded lettuce, about a tbsp tomato, and 2 slices avocado. Repeat with remaining tortillas.