Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chocolate Fondue

I love fondue, I love chocolate, I love dipping things into other yummy things! This is the best of all three!!! Some of our favorite dippers are: marshmallows, pound cake, brownie chunks, apples, strawberries, bananas.

A candle fondue pot works best for this. Just pre-heat the pot a bit before adding the chocolate.

3/4 cup half & half

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup liquor or strong coffee

Heat creams in double boiler until they bubble. Reduce heat and slowly add chocolate chips, stirring each addition until melted and smooth. When chocolate is all melted, add liquor or coffee. Stir well. Pour into fondue pot. Use for dipping your favorite treats and enjoy!

fondue 01

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vanilla Syrup

What do you do when you have a craving for vanilla spice chai latte but don’t have vanilla syrup and are too lazy to go out and get some??? You make your own… And this one is no trouble at all. I did it! Store it in a pretty little bottle in the fridge and use it up in a few weeks in all your favorite coffee or tea drinks.

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

4 vanilla beans, split in two up to 1” from tip

1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (recipe to make your own HERE)

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Pour syrup through a sieve lined with cheesecloth to strain out vanilla beans. There will be a bit of seeds left in the syrup.

Let cool, pour into bottle and store in fridge.

vanilla syrup 01

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spicy Ranch Saltines

I found this recipe on Pinterest and decided it was just what our Superbowl party at church needed. But when I found MINI SALTINES at the store, I was so excited that I actually gasped out loud! You get very strange looks from the other shoppers when you gasp while grabbing a box of Saltines off the shelf… Oh, that poor pathetic woman. What must her life be like that she is so excited by salt crackers???

I’m almost 40 now and that doesn’t bother me a bit! And I used them to make some of the most scrumptious snack crackers ever… So there! :oP

spicy ranch saltines 01

Here’s the recipe for you to try:

1 cup vegetable oil

1 package ranch dressing mix

2 Tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes (you can use more or less depending on your heat tolerance)

1 box of mini saltines

Heat your oven to 250. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

Mix the oil, dressing mix and pepper flakes in a small bowl.

Pour over the crackers that have been placed in a large bowl. Toss well to coat. This will take a few minutes. But be careful! You don’t want a bowl full of crumbs…

Place crackers on the baking sheet and pour the extra ranchy-peppery oil over the top of the crackers.

spicy ranch saltines 02

Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through baking.

Let cool and store in airtight bags or containers.

spicy ranch saltines 03

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lasagna Roll-Ups

This is my new favorite way to prepare lasagna! I love it! It isn’t any more difficult and is so much easier and prettier to serve than a slab of falling apart lasagna. It went together fast and didn’t take nearly as long to bake, either.

I made 10 rolls for our supper with salad and bread and it was enough to serve the 5 of us. But this recipe can be easily changed to make as little or as much as you need. You could also add cooked meat like pepperoni, Italian sausage or hamburger.

This recipe is for 10 lasagna roll-ups:

1 can spaghetti sauce

10 lasagna noodles: boiled, drained, rinsed, and laid out to dry on a towel

1 container ricotta cheese

2-3 cups shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

1 egg, beaten

2-4 cloves of minced garlic

chopped spinach, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, thaw it and pat it dry before using)

Spray a glass 9x13 baking pan with non-stick spray. Cover the bottom with spaghetti sauce.

Mix the ricotta, half the shredded cheeses, egg and garlic in a small bowl. Stir in spinach.

Spread a bit of the ricotta mixture on each noodle.

lasangna rolls 03

Loosely roll them and place them seam side down in the baking dish.

lasangna rolls 02Pour the rest of the sauce over the top of the rolls. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses.

lasangna rolls 04Cover with foil and bake at 350 until bubbly and heated through. It took mine about 30-40 minutes.

lasangna rolls 05

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Honey Cranberry Chicken

I have made this for about 15 years now. I don’t even know where the original recipe is anymore. In fact, I just kind of know how to make it. I am going to have to really think about it in order to post this recipe….

But it is worth the effort on my part so that you, too, may enjoy this moist and tasty chicken. Simple enough for every day but elegant enough for a special occasion.

cran chicken 04

1/2 – 3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup butter

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup chopped green onion

3 Tablespoons honey

Place 1/2-3/4 cup dried cranberries in a glass bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit.

cran chicken 01

Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Salt and pepper 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Brown the chicken in the skillet until golden brown on both sides.

Add 1/4 cup of green onion and sauté for about 30 seconds. Stir them to keep the onions from burning or sticking.

cran chicken 02 Pour in the cranberries and the water they have been soaking in.

cran chicken 03 

Cover the skillet and turn heat to low. Simmer the chicken until it is done and no longer pink, 165 degrees.

Remove lid and return heat to medium-high, let most of the liquid boil away. Stir in honey.

Serve topped with cranberry mixture.

cran chicken 04

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Crock Pot Cracked Wheat

I really don’t like making breakfast, which is kinda strange since I’ve done it every day for about 17+ years now. Breakfast is my least favorite meal of the day but it is my guys’ FAVORITE meal of the day! So I have made LOTS of breakfasts! That is until this year…

My two oldest started attending college and it is just too hard to coordinate everyone’s morning work and school schedules for a sit-down breakfast. So now it’s an everyone-on-your-own affair. I LOVE it! I feel like I have just gained my freedom from slaving over my griddle/waffle iron/skillet every morning! Wait, I did! :o)

On the other hand, I really miss starting out our day with a sit-down breakfast. We would pray for our day, read and discuss the daily newspaper… It was a great way to start the day! But I don’t miss cooking breakfast…

All this is a round about way to say that I have found a way to have a hot breakfast ready to go whenever it’s needed without cooking in the morning! And it’s all thanks to my crock pot!

You can make cracked wheat in the crock pot the night before and it is all ready to go in the morning! And if you’ve made too much, you can freeze the leftovers in microwave safe containers. Just thaw them in the fridge the night before, add a bit of milk or water, and zap it for about 1 minute or so! Hot breakfast without cooking yet again!

Here’s how you do it:

Pour 1 cup of cracked wheat cereal into your crock pot. Pour in 3 cups of cold water. Give it a quick stir. Turn the crock pot on low and go to sleep for 7-9 hours.

Wake up. Go check your cracked wheat. Give it a stir.

Plop some into a bowl. (Yeah, it really does kinda plop, but it’s hot cereal.) Dress it up with milk, brown sugar, butter, dried fruits, nuts… whatever suits your fancy.

cracked wheat 02 Turn the crock pot on warm if you need it to wait for more eaters.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Browned Butter & Mizithra Pasta

We love the Pasta a’la Homer at the Spaghetti Factory! It is our favorite dish there by far! So simple and yet so perfect! I’ve made it several times at home…

Here’s how ya do it:

Grate mizithra cheese with a fine grater.

Cook your desired amount of angel hair or thin spaghetti pasta. You don’t want anything chunky or heavy for this. Drain and keep hot.

Melt 1 cube of butter in a saucepan over med to med-high heat. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM BROWNING BUTTER!!! Whisk constantly until butter just starts to turn a golden brown and gets this lovely nutty smell! You’ll know when it’s at that point because it will smell heavenly, not burnt!

Pour browned butter over pasta and toss to combine.

Some like to toss the cheese in with the pasta and butter. But we just each sprinkle our own cheese on top.

We also discovered that browned butter and mizithra cheese are delightful on fresh steamed green beans!!! They are the BOMB!

So, then I thought… Why not combine them??? So, I did it. I just chucked some of my frozen green beans from the garden into the water with the pasta.

Then I thought… What’s good with green beans? Bacon! Actually, bacon is good with EVERYTHING so I gave it a shot.

It was a bit salty with the butter, the cheese and the bacon but hey, salt isn’t bad, right???

mizithra pasta 01Whether you choose to eat it au natural or dressed up a bit, you’re sure to enjoy this simple yet elegant dish!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cranberry Coleslaw

We had this again for supper tonight and I still really like it! For two weeks in a row, I have made salad rolls. Salad rolls means having a whole lot of leftover coleslaw mix! I also had a bottle of raspberry vinaigrette that no one wanted to use on their salad… Hmmm??? Would that work??? Yes, it did!

So here’s the result. It could barely qualify as a recipe but it makes a slightly sweet side dish that is super quick to throw together last minute.

Toss coleslaw mix (or shredded cabbage) with dried cranberries, slivered almonds (but I think it would also be good with walnuts or pecans), and any bottled or homemade raspberry vinaigrette.

coleslaw 01  Next time I’m trying an Asian variation with canned mandarin oranges and a sesame dressing. :o)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Irish Cream Mocha Cake

This cake was inspired by one of my favorite winter drinks: hot cocoa, coffee a shot of Irish Cream all topped by a dollop of whipped cream. Yeah, it was like that only richer, denser (but still very moist) and more fattening… That’s why I liked it so much! ;o)

Cake:

1 18 1/2 ounce package chocolate cake mix
1 3 3/4 ounce package yellow instant chocolate pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup very strong coffee
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube or 12 inch bundt pan. Mix next 6 cake ingredients together and pour batter into pan. Bake 1 hour and cool. Invert on a serving plate.

Frosting:

2 cups heavy cream
1/4 - 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream, or more to taste (4 wasn’t quite enough to really taste it)

*1 Tablespoon instant clear gel (for stabilizing, but it is optional)

Whip the cream until thick. Mix sugar and clear gel (if using) and add to cream. Add Irish Cream. Continue to whip until very thick.

Spread onto cooled cake. Serve immediately and store leftover cake in fridge.

Irish cream cake 04

 I only had enough cream to make half a batch of frosting…