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  1. Homemade Samoa Cookies

    September 16, 2012 by admin

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    Recently, my mom had some shredded coconut she wanted to use and offered to bake macaroons for my husband and me.  Only problem was, we don’t like macaroons!  She asked if there was something she could make that my husband might like and the only thing I could think of with coconut that he enjoys are a certain Girl Scout cookie.  Hmmm…  Any time you want to rip off a recipe for something it’s as easy as searching Google for whatever you want plus “recipe.”  My mom used to instructions at this website.

    This recipe is a little involved and took a while because of all the steps involved.  You have to make and bake shortbread, toast the coconut, and in our case, we even made the caramel for the topping since we didn’t have any caramel candies at home.  To make everything a little easier, we chose not to cut holes in the middles of the cookies to skip a step and make spreading the topping simpler.  I definitely think it was worth it to sacrifice the hole in the cookie and use that time to make the caramel, as it turned out very tasty!

    You’ll find on the instructable site that there are links to a simple shortbread recipe and the caramel topping.  Both worked great!  If you’ve never worked with caramel before, the recipe says to cook it to a “firm ball” stage.  This means, when you drop a dollop in cool water and take it out with your fingers you can roll it into a pliable ball that is still a little soft.  Cook longer, and your caramel will be too hard.  If it’s not cooked long enough the caramel may be too gooey and never set on the cookie.  For reference, the recipe said to boil the mixture for 20 minutes, and our caramel was ready after about 17.  For the chocolate bottom and drizzle, we used Ghiradelli 60% baking chunks and bars.

    The cookies turned out amazing!  I’m not even a huge fan of these cookies to begin with, but homemade they were simply heavenly!  I think an easier and just as delicious way to enjoy this treat would be to press the shortbread into a 9×13 and bake it through, then top with the caramel coconut mixture and either drizzle with melted chocolate or top with chocolate chunks and let them melt on the warm caramel.  Once cooled, they could be cut into bar cookies.  This would be faster and easier than spreading caramel on each shortbread cookie.  All that would be missing is the chocolate bottom.  If I ever try this, I’ll let you know how it goes!

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  2. Pot Pie From Leftovers

    November 25, 2011 by admin

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    This is something that I often do when I have lots of leftover meat and don’t want to get bored with it.  I have used it for barbecue chicken and pork tenderloin.  I thought Thanksgiving would be a good time to post this, because as I sit here eating sweet potatoes for breakfast, I’m betting that a lot of you have leftovers too!

    You can make these pies in individual servings if you have small oven safe dishes, or you can make one in a larger dish to share.  All you have to do is shred the meat with a fork, and then add whatever sides  you want to eat with it.  Turkey and mashed potatoes with green beans?  Turkey and gravy with cranberry sauce?  Ham and sweet potatoes?

    Ingredients:

    Leftover mixture made with shredded meat (see above)

    2 cups Bisquick mix

    1 cup milk

    1 tbsp melted butter

    1 tsp. garlic powder

    pinch of salt (optional)

    Dried Parsley (optional topping)

    1. Spread leftover mixture into desired container or pan. Preheat oven to 400.

    2. Mix next 5 ingredients in a bowl, spoon on top of the leftovers and spread to cover completely.

    3. If you have some, top with dried parsley.

    4. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until topping is puffy and golden.  (Any extra topping can be spooned on a cookie sheet to make biscuits.

    5. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

    Enjoy your Thanksgiving remix meal! :)

    Note: If you don’t have Bisquick make your own at home.

     

     

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  3. Internet Recipes of the Week

    November 22, 2011 by admin

    1. Tonight for dinner I made The Pampered Chef’s Autumn Risotto with cranberries and chicken recipe. It was simply amazing!  If you don’t have the “deep covered baker” they talk about in the recipe you can use the stovetop directions and it comes out fine.  Perfect Fall recipe!

    2.  Ever thought about doing something different for Thanksgiving?  Check out Paula Deen’s Pineapple Casserole recipe.  It is very easy, decadent, and unexpectedly delicious if you want to add a last minute addition to your table.

    3. Want to make something wonderful for breakfast or brunch over the Thanksgiving weekend?  Try homemade cinnamon rolls.  This is my favorite recipe. Try adding chopped Craisins to the dough before spreading the filling and adding the zest of one orange to the icing.

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  4. Raspberry Chipotle Cream Cheese Spread

    by admin

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    This is one of the simplest appetizers you can make, and your guests will be impressed!  It’s been making appearances at parties and dinners in Texas for several years now.  Don’t, however, mistake it for a piece of raspberry-smothered cheesecake however, like a friend’s coworker once did.  Not only did she take the whole slice of dip, but she was very surprised by the spiciness of the “cheesecake.”   To make this, all you have to do is pour some Fischer and Wieser roasted raspberry chipotle sauce over a brick of cream cheese.  Serve with Carr’s water crackers and watch it disappear!  You will probably need to continue to pour additional sauce on the cheese throughout the evening.

    If you don’t live in Texas, the Fischer and Wieser sauce can be difficult to find – you may have to go to a specialty store, or you could order online.  I found some raspberry chipotle grilling sauce at Target here in Hawaii recently and added some pureed raspberries and chipotle Tabasco to it to give it a thicker texture, and it worked really well, although I will be ordering some Fischer and Wieser sauce very soon.

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  5. Better Buttermilk Pancakes

    November 18, 2011 by admin

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    Maybe you’re happy with your regular pancakes, but mine, well, they seemed a little flat.  I like to try to find the BEST recipe for everything I make, so I did a little searching of recipes on the internet and found several tips and tricks.  Most of these magic pancake recipes centered around one theme: carbonation.  Some people swear making pancakes with beer is the best!  Although I haven’t tried that, I did decide to try the widespread advice of using club soda as the liquid in a pancake recipe.  Really?  Substitute carbonated water for milk?  It just didn’t sound right.  However the solution was in my fridge, where I keep a canister of powdered buttermilk.  This stuff can be prepared with water on the spot and makes a great substitute.  Buttermilk spoils, and I don’t use it often so I don’t keep it in stock unless I really need it.  With the powdered buttermilk I can whip some up anytime by adding 4 tbsp. of it per cup of water.  But what if I used club soda instead of water??? So I tried it, it worked great – the carbonation makes the pancakes nice and fluffy!  Here’s a simple recipe that makes excellent pancakes:

    2 cups Bisquick mix

    1 cup club soda

    4 tbsp. buttermilk powder

    2 eggs

    2 tbsp sugar

    1 tsp vanilla

    1.  Mix club soda and buttermilk powder together then combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, preferably with a pouring spout until just combined (tiny lumps are okay.)

    2. Pour from the bowl onto a hot lightly greased skillet.  Pancakes are ready to flip with tiny air bubbles start popping on the top of the uncooked surface.

    No Bisquick?  A quick search can tell you how to make your own mix at home using flour, baking powder, salt, and butter.  Or, you can just search a pancake recipe and substitute club soda.  Is anyone brave enough to make these with beer???

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  6. Bacon Mushroom Mac ‘n’ Cheese

    November 14, 2011 by admin

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    When I was a kid, I refused to eat the powder mac and cheese that came in a box.  Hated it.  I remember one time my mom told me we were all going out for ice cream after dinner, and that if I didn’t eat my mac and cheese I could not have any ice cream.  My mom wasn’t (and still isn’t) known for empty threats, so I knew I had to suffer through the powder mac if I wanted ice cream, and I’m not known for passing on dessert.  To get through it, I ended up drowning my mac in barbecue sauce.  Ewwwww!  It was disgusting but I did it and got my ice cream.  As an adult, I learned to make mac and cheese the way I like it – with actual cheese.  I initially used the Betty Crocker recipe, which is similar to this one, and a great option.  I got this recipe from a friend who got it from the Mueller’s Pasta box.  I have changed it a little to make it cheesier and accommodate the packages that the Cracker Barrel cheeses come in, and of course, to add bacon to it, because everything tastes better with bacon.

    Although I have always used whole milk and real butter with this recipe, it’s okay to experiment with lower fat/calorie options like 2% milk or lower fat butter and/or cheese.  Substitutions like these will always affect the taste and texture, so it’s up to your tastes and whether you think it’s worth the reduction in calories and fat. The panko crumbs can be found on the Asian food aisle at the grocery store, or with the bread crumbs.  Panko is easily found in Hawaii, however if you can’t find it where you are, you can substitute Italian bread crumbs and omit the Italian Seasoning.

    Bacon Mushroom Mac and Cheese

    10 strips of bacon (I use Oscar Meyer maple bacon)

    2 cups chopped mushrooms

    4 Tbsp corn starch

    2 tsp salt

    1 tsp ground mustard

    5 cups milk

    4 Tbsp butter

    10 oz. Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated

    10 oz. Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Vermont White Cheddar, grated

    16 oz al dente cooked pasta (I like to use large pasta like shells or bowties.)

    1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

    1 tsp. Italian Seasoning

    1. Preheat oven to 375.  Cook the bacon and then the mushrooms in a frying pan.  Drain bacon on paper towels and set mushrooms aside.

    2. In a medium saucepan, combine the corn starch, salt, and mustard with the milk.  Add butter, stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for one minute or until thickened and smooth.  Remove from heat.  Note: Do not over cook this mixture.  Start on a lower heat and gradually increase it.  I stir this with a wooden spatula that is safe on my pan and has a flat edge to scrape the bottom as I stir so no milk gets burned.

    3. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese slowly until melted, reserving the rest for the topping.  Add pasta, bacon, and mushrooms and pour into a greased 9×13 pan.  Combine remaining cheese, panko crumbs, and Italian seasoning.  Sprinkle over the casserole and bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. After baking, let cool for 10 minutes, then serve immediately.

    This tastes great as leftovers, but the texture is just not the same.  I would suggest making it right before it is to be served for this reason.

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  7. Sweet Potatoes, Three (completely!) different ways

    November 13, 2011 by admin

    As Thanksgiving approaches and you plan your menu and do your shopping, think about doing something a little different at the table this year with an old favorite.  Sweet potatoes were absent on my plate when I was a child – I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because I was such a picky eater and refused to eat anything unfamiliar (I usually had some turkey, maybe cranberries, and a couple of rolls.)  Boy, was I missing out!  These are three very different ways to serve (and eat!) sweet potatoes:

    Sweet Potato Gnocchi – This version is sooooo delicious and unique!  I haven’t made it myself, but have eaten it twice, and YUM!  It’s a very non-traditional way to go, but this is an excellent, interesting (in a good way) dish from Giada De Laurentiis.

    Sweet Potatoes Gratin -  I have made this Bobby Flay recipe several times.  It seems so simple, and even as you’re making it, you’ll wonder how this can possibly be flavorful.  Well, it is bursting with flavor – a little spice even.  This has always been a hit for me.  Once again, this is a very non-traditional recipe, but if you want to create a unique twist on an old classic, this is a very delicious way to do it!  It could definitely work well if you’re going to a large dinner where this could be served alongside traditional sweet potatoes.

    Ruth’s Chris Sweet Potato Casserole – For me, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse’s sweet potato casserole is the ultimate traditional sweet potato dish.  I order it every time I go – it’s like having candy as a side dish!  If your family isn’t too attached to their recipe or you want to try a different recipe, give this a shot.  Marshmallows could go well with this recipe as well. NOTE: Before making the recipe, read the comments.  Several people have stated that the amounts of butter in the crust and potatoes were reversed from the chef’s actual recipe, so you may want to make the changes they suggest.

    So, what do you look for when shopping for a sweet potato?  There are all different colors – orange, beige, purple – which do you buy?  Why are some called yams?  The Library of Congress explains a little bit about that here.  I usually either go for the orange variety or ones that have a beige flesh and purplish skin.  If you’re a traditionalist, stick with the orange.  If not, experiment!

    Have fun planning and shopping for Thanksgiving!  I’ll be sharing some more recipes as we get closer to the big day!

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  8. Maple Pecan Sandies

    by admin

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    These cookies are cute, delicious, and great for the holidays!  The shortbread itself is not too sweet, which makes it an excellent pair for the super sweet maple brown sugar frosting.  I must admit I am not a huge fan of nuts in baking, but pecans have such a great texture that isn’t too crunchy and blends well with these melt in your mouth treats.

    The shortbread base from the recipe has been adapted from Uncle Bill’s Whipped Shortbread on www.food.com (formerly RecipeZaar.)  It is the only shortbread recipe I use and is one of my all time favorite cookie recipes because of it’s simplicity, amazing texture, and versatility.

    For the cookies:

    1 cup butter, softened

    1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

    1 tsp. vanilla

    1 tbsp. maple syrup

    1 1/2 cups flour

    1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

    For the topping:

    1/4 cup butter

    1/4 cup maple syrup

    1/4 cup brown sugar

    1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

    24 pecan halves

    Yield: 2 dozen small cookies.  These will disappear fast, you may want to double the recipe!

    1. Preheat oven to 350.  Mix first 5 cookie ingredients well with electric mixer. Add pecans and stir in.

    2. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake for 13-15 minutes until only lightly browned .  Watch closely – there is a fine line between done and overbaked on these!

    3. Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheets, then move to a wire rack.

    4. Mix all frosting ingredients together, adding the confectioner’s sugar in gradually until desired consistency is reached.

    5. After cookies have cooled, spoon a small amount of frosting on to each cookie, then press a pecan onto the top.  The frosting is very sweet, so you don’t need to use much on each cookie.

    These cookies are delicate, so if you’re transporting them use a hard container like a glass 9×13 pan with a lid.  Store them in an airtight container.

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  9. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake Minis

    November 10, 2011 by admin

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    Miniature cupcakes aren’t just lower in calories than their larger counterparts – they’re so adorable!  Plus, each bite is a little more consistent since the outer edges are so close to the middles, and they’re great for tasting if you’re serving them other desserts because one won’t fill you up.  This recipe is inspired by Reese’s peanut butter cups, of course.

    This recipe starts off with 48 miniature chocolate cupcakes baked from your favorite recipe or box, still warm.  If you are going to use a box mix, use Duncan Hines.  You will notice that all cake mix brands will claim to be the best/most delicious/moistest cake mix out there, but Duncan Hines is definitely the best.  I used Duncan Hines Super Moist Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix.

    After you’ve planned out how you’re going to make your cupcakes, here’s what you’ll need:

    2 medium bags of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis

    1 cup (2 sticks) butter

    1 cup Peanut Butter

    2 lbs. Confectioner’s sugar

    2 tbsp Milk

    Chocolate sprinkles, shavings, or mini chocolate chips for garnish as desired

    1. While still warm, press two mini peanut butter cups into each cupcake – the first one right side up, the next one upside down.  They will look something like this:

    2. Cream butter at room temperature in a mixer add high speed.  Add peanut butter, then gradually add sugar.  Use milk if necessary to thin out the frosting a little.  Here, my dog waits patiently hoping for the mixer to fling a little frosting onto the floor:

    3. Using a frosting spatula, fill a decorating bag fitted desired tip with the peanut butter frosting and frost onto cooled cupcakes.  Top with chocolate sprinkles, shavings, or mini chocolate chips.

     

    I thought for sure that the peanut butter cups would become solid again even in the cake, but they were nice and soft and yummy!  You could also make regular cupcakes with this recipe, just put more candies in the middle.

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  10. Caramel Popcorn

    November 1, 2011 by admin

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    Caramel popcorn is a yummy fall treat!  It’s great for holidays parties, and if you’re a popcorn lover with a sweet tooth you will probably find this recipe super addictive!  I started making caramel popcorn several years ago from a recipe I have in my Betty Crocker Cookbook.  The recipe is available online here.

    I have a few of my own tips and tricks with this recipe to get the consistency and make amazing caramel corn every time.

    First of all, I use microwave popcorn.  I’ve found I need about 3/4 of a bag for each batch I want to make.  I’m not sure if that’s close to the 15 cups of popped popcorn that are called for or not.  Second, I’ve found that the 5 minutes of bubbling isn’t quite enough and that 5 minutes resulted in a gritty texture later on.  To get a slick, shiny, candy-like texture and an almost toffee taste, I let the mixture cook a little longer on the stovetop, letting it bubble like this until it hardens when a little is dropped onto aluminum foil.

     

     

    You’ll also see in my picture above that my baking soda is standing by in the measuring spoon just waiting to be added.  Once the caramel’s done cooking it’s a quick process to stir in the baking soda and it all up and spread it on the popcorn before it begins to cool too much.

    This is my foil “tester.”  I cook the caramel until a little drop hardens after a minute or two into a shiny piece of candy.

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    Finally, I like the popcorn to be really crunchy, so it’s best to eat it after it cools completely.  You can speed the process up by cooling it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes, but not too long or it will get soggy.  Moisture  ruins this treat, so keep it in an airtight container like a ziploc bag.  One time I had this out at a party and noticed that by the end it had taken on too much moisture – now I always keep the bag zipped when it’s not being eaten.

    If you are feeling crazy, add a few nuts to your caramel corn.  I really like macadamia!

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