Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fantastical Food Fight: Earl Grey Shortbread

Time for the second Fantastical Food Fight!  This month's assignment was shortbread cookies.  A friend of mine on Facebook recently mentioned making shortbread cookies with earl grey tea in them.  I love earl grey (and basically bergamot anything), so really didn't even consider making any other type of shortbread.  My friend used a different recipe that had thumbprints filled with jam.  That sounds delicious, but I wanted something simpler so the earl grey flavor could shine.  This base recipe was originally called Scottish Shortbread and comes from Taste of Home.  I added the tea.
Verdict?  Yum!  I used only one tea bag and couldn't taste much tea, so I put 2 tea bags in the instructions below.  Better to start out with not enough than too much, right?  Regardless, this is some tasty shortbread.  Very buttery and crunchy.  The brown sugar adds a lot of flavor and you'd never guess how few ingredients are in the recipe.  I can't wait to make these again with more tea.

Unrelated, but I finally got a new camera so the iPad food photos will be no more.  Enjoy the still terrible, but slightly less terrible food pictures!
Earl Grey Shortbread
1 C salted butter, softened
1/2 C brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
about 2 C flour
contents of 2 earl grey tea bags, crushed (I used a mortar and pestle and Tazo brand earl grey)
Preheat oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar.  Add flour and tea, mix until well combined- it will look dry at first.  When dough comes together, remove it to a clean counter and knead for 5 minutes.  You can add a little more flour if you need to.  The goal is to have a rather stiff, but not dry or crumbly dough.
Roll dough out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into 1 by 3 inch pieces.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and arrange 1 inch apart.  Poke cookies with a fork.  Bake until light golden around the edges, about 20 to 30 minutes.  Allow to cool, then store in a tin.
Yield:  About 24 cookies

Monday, December 5, 2016

BBQ Mac & Cheese

I've mentioned this before, but I was a very picky child.  My mom is a good cook, but ungrateful little me had very particular taste buds.  My palate expanded hugely when I was a foreign exchange student my freshman year of high school, and I returned to the US as an adventurous eater, but my parents separated while I was out of the country and my mom didn't cook much after that.  That's pretty much when I started learning to cook!

Because all of my years of being fortunate enough to have my mom cook dinner every night coincided with me being a picky eater, there aren't actually very many recipes in my "lifetime favorites from Mom" recipe category.  I've always loved her white chicken chili, 57 Meatballs, a mushroom chicken casserole recipe I haven't had since I was about 13 years old, an herbed chicken and potatoes recipe I haven't made yet, pumpkin spice cookies, and... this recipe.  (Side note: why haven't I shared any of these favorite on this blog in the 5 years I've been posting?)
It's not really the kind of recipe my mom would usually make and I'm not sure why she chose to make it since the ingredients are a bit odd, but make it she did.  As a mac and cheese lover from the start, even the rather strong flavors appealed to me and this was one of my favorite things my mom made when I was a kid.  The original recipe was apparently called Macaroni for Morons (mean!), but young me named it BBQ Mac & Cheese and that's how it has been known ever since.  There isn't any BBQ sauce in it, but it has a slightly similar flavor and apparently 6 year old me thought it tasted like BBQ sauce.  My mom's version actually has more butter, more cheese, and no mustard, but my husband and I like it this way :)
BBQ Mac & Cheese
1 lb macaroni
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 C chili sauce (Heinz chili sauce, not the spicy asian kind)
1/4 C Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
black pepper and seasoned salt to taste
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add macaroni.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until macaroni is tender.  Drain and return to pot.  Add butter, place pot back on burner over low, and cook until butter melts.  Add chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard, and stir to combine.  Add cheese and stir until melted and hot.  Stir in pepper and seasoned salt to taste.
Yield:  About 8 side dish servings.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yellow Cornbread

This is not a southern style cornbread.  I understand that in the south, cornbread is supposed to be made with a) white cornmeal, b) no flour, and c) no sugar.  Occasionally I make the cornbread recipe from Southern Plate, which fits those requirements, but we kind of like this recipe even more.  It's Canadian!  And has flour, sugar, and I like using yellow cornmeal because it's prettier!  My kitchen, my rules, and sometimes we want a sweet, yellow cornbread.

This recipe is originally from AllRecipes and I've been making it for years.  I've tried a lot of cornbread recipes, and this one is pretty perfect: sweet but not too sweet, soft, moist but not too moist, and just generally yummy.  This is a half recipe because a 9 by 13 pan of cornbread is just more than my husband and I can eat before it goes stale.  My one change is to reverse the amounts of cornbread and flour so there's more of the former.  It makes the perfect cornbread and is my go-to recipe.

Yellow Cornbread

1 C yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 C milk
3/4 C flour
1/3 C sugar
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 C vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 and grease an 8 by 8 inch baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together cornmeal and milk.  Let it sit for 5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, and stir until well combined and smooth.  Pour into prepared baking dish.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Yield: About 9 servings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fantastical Food Fight: Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs

In the wake of the sad demise of Secret Recipe Club, I've decided to join another bloggy cooking group.  This one is called Fantastical Food Fight.  It's pretty different from SRC and I don't know if any other blogging group could take SRC's place in my heart, but I'm happy to give it a go.  With this one, all we have to do is choose and make a recipe from any source that fits a certain category (it can't be a recipe you've shared before), then post about it.  This month's assignment is deviled eggs.
My husband is crazy about deviled eggs and I make them fairly frequently.  Usually they're just the standard deviled eggs, which for some reason I've never posted a recipe for, or Deviled Eyes on Halloween.  My first thought was to make bacon deviled eggs (I even have cooked leftover bacon in my refrigerator right now!), but while briefly snooping around online deviled egg recipes, I found this one for Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs over at Country Living.  All I can say is YUM!  In typical form, I fussed with the recipe a little and added garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and changed the kind of mustard.
Verdict?  Good!  These would be nice to make for a special occasion, maybe Christmas.  Deviled eggs are often a rather impromptu thing I toss together and this recipe needs more planning because it has some ingredients I don't typically have, but that's okay.  It's nice to make special treats sometimes, and as far as special treats go, this one is pretty damned easy to make.  Next time I'll cut back on the cream cheese and add more cheddar so it has more of a cheddar flavor, and I'll use freshly grated cheddar instead of the packaged kind.  The amount of cream cheese in the recipe tasted fine, but it made a LOT of filling as is and adding more cheddar without reducing the cream cheese would just be too much.
Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs
12 eggs, boiled, cooled, peeled and cut in half
2 oz grated cheddar cheese
3 oz cream cheese (I used the whipped kind)
1/4 C mayo
3 Tbsp diced canned pimentos, plus more for garnish
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp yellow or dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Place egg yolks in a flat bottomed bowl and mash them with a fork until fluffy.  Stir in grated cheddar, cream cheese, mayo, pimentos, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Scoop a little into each egg half and garnish with a diced pimento.  Refrigerate eggs for an hour or so until they're cold all the way through, then serve.

Yield: 12 reasonable sized servings, more like 3-4 Mr Cheese with Noodles servings

Pumpkin Pie Spice

It's so much cheaper to mix up your own pumpkin pie spice than to purchase it!  Plus you can customize the ratio of spices in the mix to your own preferences.  I've only bought pumpkin pie spice once in my life and it was when I was about 16 and very new to cooking.  It sat in the pantry for a long time because I didn't like the flavor, it had too much cloves or nutmeg or something.  This version has lots of allspice because I adore allspice!  
Note that you can use this in pretty much any recipe that calls for cinnamon.  So far I have used it in pancakes, pumpkin bread, apple pie jam, apple dump cake, and several other things.  The one thing I haven't used it for is pumpkin pie, but we aren't big pumpkin pie fans in this house!  Also, the blend stores very well.  Just put it in a glass jar and keep it in a cabinet.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 T cinnamon
1 T ginger
2 t allspice
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t cloves
Yield: 1/2 cup

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Secret Recipe Club: Grandma Pizza

Today is the very last Secret Recipe Club post.  I've been a member of the group for 2 1/2 years, but the organizers decided to end it.  Very sad.  It was fun while it lasted.
My blog for this month was Karen's Kitchen Stories.  Unsurprisingly, it's written by a lady named Karen, and Karen has been blogging since 2012.  She's a member of multiple online cooking groups and really likes to bake bread!  Her blog has many tempting recipes.  I chose Grandma Pizza, but Yukon Gold Potato Wedges, Peanut Butter Whirligigs, Buffalo Chicken Baked Mac & Cheese, and Rosemary, Cayenne, and Brown Sugar Cashews all called out to me.  My original plan was actually to make the buffalo mac and cheese, but I had to change plans.  I will still make it sometime soon, along with the cashews for Christmas.
So, Grandma Pizza.  I had never heard of it, but it sure looked and sounded good.  It's a rather rustic looking style of pizza, always rectangular or square, that has just recently become popular in restaurants in some areas, seemingly in the northeastern part of the US.  This particular version has a make ahead pizza crust (convenient!).  No fancy toppings for this one, just fresh basil.  My pizza didn't get the basil because I was headed out of town the next day and wouldn't have been able to use up the rest of the package of basil before I left.  No regrets over choosing this for my last SRC, it was great and I'll make it again for sure! 

Grandma Pizza
1 tsp instant yeast (this is a specific kind!)
3 C bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 C lukewarm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 C crushed tomatoes
4 oz sliced or grated mozzarella
sliced fresh basil to taste
Mix first 4 ingredients in a large bowl (I used my stand mixer) until it comes together.  It will look shaggy and ugly, that's okay.  Pour the oil into a gallon Ziploc bag and swirl it around to coat the inside.  Put the dough wad into the bag and seal it.  Refrigerate overnight or for 2 days (I did 2 days).
Preheat oven to 375 and plop the dough wad, complete with olive oil, onto a 9 by 13 rimmed metal baking pan.  Squish the dough into a rectangle with your fingers.  The dough may be stubborn since it's cold, but just keep trying.  sprinkle the tomatoes over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch edge, then sprinkle the cheese over top.  Sprinkle the basil over the cheese.
Bake the pizza until the cheese is bubbly and a bit browned and the bottom is crisp, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Jam & Oat Bars

This is a Pioneer Woman recipe.  I stumbled upon it recently, couldn't stop thinking about it, and had the ingredients on hand, so whipped it up!  It's so quick to make, and the bars are wonderful.  For some reason I had been reluctant to make this kind of bar with jam instead of making my own fruit filling, and let me tell you, that reluctance was unfounded.  These bars will be made many times over.  I used Bonne Maman cherry preserves for this batch, but it seems like pretty much any jam would work.  Just don't skimp on the jam!  A full 13 oz jar went into this.
These bars are pretty perfect as is, but I'd like to experiment with it in the future.  Perhaps applesauce in place of the 3/4 stick of butter (it would still have a full stick!) and half the sugar.  Normally I don't worry about healthifying desserts, but almost 2 sticks of butter really is a lot for such a thin dessert and the jam itself has plenty of sugar.  I'll update this after I try it out!  If those tweaks don't work, well, full butter and sugar it is.
Jam & Oat Bars
1 1/2 C oats (I used instant)
1 1/2 C flour
1 C brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 sticks cold salted butter, cut into cubes (add 1/4 tsp salt if your butter is unsalted)
13 oz jar jam (I used Bonne Maman Cherry Preserves)
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 dish.  Place first 4 ingredients in bowl of stand mixer and mix until combined.  Add butter and mix until everything comes together in a chunky dough.  Press half of the dough into the prepared dish and spread jam on top, going almost to the edges (jam will burn a little if it touches the edges).  Sprinkle remaining dough on top and press down gently.  Bake until golden, about 35 minutes.
Yield: 12 servings

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hard Boiled Egg Bake

Ooh, this is an ugly recipe, but it sure tastes good!  This could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  The recipe is from AllRecipes.
Hard Boiled Egg Bake
8 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 C milk
1 C chicken broth
dash poultry seasoning
dash cayenne pepper
seasoned salt to taste
1/2 C grated cheddar
Preheat oven to 450 and grease an 8 by 8 baking dish.  Arrange eggs in dish.
Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add flour and stir constantly until golden, about two minutes.  Stir in milk about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring until smooth between additions.  Stir in chicken broth and seasonings.  Pour over eggs and top with grated cheddar.  Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.  Serve over toast.
Yield: 6 servings

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Flaky Buttery Biscuits

This recipe is from Martha Stewart and it makes 9 big, fluffy biscuits that were a perfect pair with the apple pie jam I made.  I've only made these biscuits once, but the recipe is good enough to replace my old biscuit recipe.  My only changes were that I didn't need all the milk (no surprise there, since you aren't supposed to just dump in all the milk with any biscuit recipe unless it's drop biscuits), and I chose to make square biscuits.  It's just simpler and faster that way and minimizes how much the dough is handled, but you're welcome to roll the dough out and cut it into rounds if you want.
Flaky Buttery Biscuits
1 3/4 C flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter
about 3/4 C milk
Preheat oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cut the cold butter into small cubes and immediately add to the dry ingredients.  Use your fingers or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like a very coarse cornmeal.  Pour in 1/2 C milk and stir lightly with a fork, just until the dough comes together.  If it's too dry, you can add the rest of the milk a tablespoon or two at a time.  Knead gently just until the dough looks uniform (this should only be 15 seconds or so), be careful not to over work it.  You want a dough that's just a little tacky.  
Dump the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and gently form it into a square about 3/4 inch thick.  Use a knife to cut the square into 9 biscuits.  Leave them touching on the baking sheet, and bake until golden, about 13 to 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.
Yield: 9 large biscuits

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Apple Pie Jam

My husband and I went to a you-pick apple farm last month and came home with 8 lbs of apples.  It was the very last day the farm was open, so many of the apples left were extremely tiny (some were as small as cherries) and very, very sour.  We ate the bigger ones as is, but I knew I had to do something involving a lot of sugar with the tiny ones!  So I hit Google and found Apple Pie Jam.  This is actually a combination of two recipes from Taste of Home and, plus my own inevitable twists.  The basics came from   The original says to peel the apples, but no way was I peeling cherry sized apples.  There would have been nothing left.  A hit with the immersion blender after the apples softened in the pot took care of the skins, and the rosy skins made the jam a lovely color.  
And how was the jam?  Great!  Very similar to apple butter, but definitely not the same.  It's kind of hard to describe, but if you like jam and apple butter, you will love this.  One batch of this wasn't actually enough to use all of the tiny apples, and I'm probably going to make it again later this week.
Apple Pie Jam
6 C chopped apples, with peels
1/2 T pumpkin pie spice (I used this recipe)
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 C water
1 packet powdered pectin (I used Ball, this was 6 T from a larger canister)
3 C white sugar
2 C dark brown sugar
Place apples, spice, lemon juice, and water in a large pot and cook over medium until apples are tender.  Puree with immersion blender.  Stir in pectin and bring to a boil while stirring.  Stir in sugar.  Raise temperature to medium-high, or whatever temperature is needed to maintain a rolling boil.  When the jam is boiling hard enough that stirring doesn't make it stop boiling, set a timer to 1 minute and cook, stirring constantly.  
When the minute is up, immediately remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir until it stops boiling.  Fill jars with hot jam.  Allow to cool, then put the lids on.  Refrigerate until chilled, then put any jars that you won't use right away in the freezer.  Refrigerated jam stays good for a week or two.  Just thaw jars as needed in the refrigerator for a day or two.
Yield: 5 or 6 pint jars

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Secret Recipe Club: Lemon Vanilla Salad Dressing

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Shockingly Delicious.  Shockingly Delicious is written by a woman named Dorothy who is a writer, long time cook, and mom.  Dorothy has so many amazing looking recipes on her blog!  I had such a hard time choosing one because the recipes look so interesting.  I considered Vegetarian Chard Soup, Slow Cooker Hawaiian Kalua Pork, Hot Gooey Caramel Pie, and Rustic Herbed Stuffing with Greens.  I'll probably make the stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving because it looks so good.  We don't even normally have stuffing at Thanksgiving because my family can take it or leave it, but that one looks too interesting not to try.
Anyway, I chose Lemon Vanilla Salad Dressing.  What unique ingredients, I've never seen vanilla in dressing before.  Though I was a little suspicious of how it would turn out, I'm happy to say it's quite good.  Unique and tasty, the flavors totally work!  My husband liked it, too, and he has pretty traditional tastes when it comes to salad and dressings.  I'm having flashbacks to his horror when I served a kale salad with chopped apples, walnuts, and dried cranberries topped with an avocado lemon dressing.  Usually he loves what I make, but he still talks about how bad that was.  I liked it...  Point is, even he enjoyed this dressing, unique and dare I say "girly" as it may be.

I served the dressing over plain bagged salad from the grocery store, but added some of the last of my baby tomatoes and peppers from my garden.  I meant to give the salad a sprinkle of dried cranberries, too, but forgot.  Oops!  What I can say for sure is that I'll definitely make this dressing again.  It would be great in the summer since the flavors are so light, or in the dead of winter to perk things up a bit.  Thanks for the awesomeness, Dorothy!
One last thing: I received a sad e-mail saying that November would be the last month of Secret Recipe Club because they're closing up shop.  I remember how excited I was to join 2 1/2 years ago.  The rules were that you had to have 100 recipe posts WITH pictures, and a recipe index, so I spent quite a while building up my collection of recipes with photos (it isn't second nature of me to take a picture of what I cook!) and making the index before I applied.  How disappointing for it to be over.  
I'll still lurk around some of my favorite blogs that I found through SRC, like Making Memories with your Kids, Chef in Disguise, Mother Would Know, The Pajama Chef, and BCMom's Kitchen, but it won't be the same.  All of the blogs I've been assigned to have been great though.  Many of the SRC recipes I've made are ones I still make, and I've tried a lot of recipes that I never would have tried. and I've thoroughly enjoyed the past two and a half years of Secret Recipe Club.  Does anyone know of other cooking blog groups like this?
  Lemon Vanilla Salad Dressing
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (I used Nielsen-Massey brand, yum!)
pinch salt
Place all ingredients in a bowl and blend with an immersion blender for about 30 seconds or until all ingredients are combined and the dressing has thickened slightly.  Alternatively, you can mix it up in a blender.
Yield: 1/2 C dressing

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chewy Chocolate Fudge Caramel Frosting

I know it may not sound like a good thing for frosting to be chewy, but trust me on this.  It's not chewy like gummi bears, but chewy like a homemade caramel candy, with a solid helping of chocolate.  It starts out the perfect glossy spreading consistency, then firms up into a thick, fudgy texture.  How could that not be good?  Let me note that I have no idea how well this would work with a layer cake where the frosting has to stick to the sides, but it works well on cupcakes or spread over a 9 by 13 inch cake left in the pan.

This frosting is also astonishingly easy to make and only has two ingredients: chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk.  It's the fudge frosting from Joanne Fluke's titular fudge cupcake recipe.  I was excited about trying the cupcake recipe for months because I've had a lot of luck with her recipes and love all things raspberry (the "secret" ingredient in the cupcake batter is raspberry syrup), but didn't care for the cupcakes themselves.  They weren't very chocolatey, but were both dense and dry.  Sorry, Joanne.  The frosting, on the other hand: divine!  Make it!

Chewy Chocolate Fudge Caramel Frosting

14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

Pour sweetened condensed milk into a medium sauce pan and heat over medium, stirring frequently, just until it's hot and bubbly.  Remove from heat and wait for the bubbles to subside a little (about 30 seconds), then dump in the chocolate chips.  Stir mixture until chocolate chips are melted and the frosting is thick, glossy, and very smooth.  Spread immediately over cake or brownies.  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Nectarine Banana Bread

This is just my regular banana bread with diced nectarines added, but it sure is good, and worthy of its own post!  Wow!  It's so moist, dense (in a good way), and sweet that it's practically cake.  One large loaf has 3 bananas and 3 nectarines in it, so it's full of fruit.  The nice thing is that you can taste both the nectarines and the bananas well.  Banana tends to cover up all other flavors, but because the nectarines are diced and not pureed, they come through great.  In the future, I'd like to try adding fresh raspberries instead of the nectarines and see how that turns out.
Nectarine Banana Bread
3/4 C softened butter
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
3-4 mashed overripe bananas (you want about 1 1/2 C)
2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C buttermilk
3 nectarines, peeled and diced
Preheat oven to 350and grease a one large bread pan (I use this one) or two normal sized ones.
Mix butter and sugar until fluffy, then mix in eggs and bananas.  Add baking soda, salt, and half of the flour to the mixing bowl and beat to combine.  Stir in 1/2 of the buttermilk, then stir in the rest of the flour.  Stir in the last of the buttermilk until everything is well combined.  Stir in diced nectarines.  Spread batter in prepared bread pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour for a large loaf, or around 40-50 minutes for two normal loaves.  You can cover the pan with foil if the bread browns too much.  Let baked bread rest for about 20 minutes, then invert it onto a plate to finish cooling. 

Yield: About 12 servings

Friday, September 9, 2016

Junk Food Fruit Salad

I love fresh fruit, and few things are better than a big bowl of fresh pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, mangoes, and kiwis all chopped up and tossed together.  So why does fruit salad made with canned fruit, pudding mix, and Cool Whip still so good?  I have no idea, but it is.  I've been making this recipe a couple of times a year for a long time now (with a special version at Christmas), so I think it deserves to be on my blog.  It may be low brow, but I kind of am too, so there you go.
You can use whatever flavor instant pudding mix you like.  Pistachio is the norm, and that's what I use at Christmas, but the rest of the time, I always use cheesecake pudding mix.  Also, the exact amount of fruit you use is up to you.  This time I used only two cans in addition to the pineapple (pears and peaches), but I often use 4 or so cans, and like for at least a couple of those to be a tropical fruit mix with mango, papaya, and pineapple.  Sometimes I also add grapes or bananas, but bananas only if it will be eaten quickly.
 Junk Food Fruit Salad
20 oz can crushed pineapple, with juice
3 oz box instant cheesecake pudding mix
2-4 additional cans of fruit, drained and cut into bite sized pieces if necessary
optional: 1 1/2 C mini marshmallows
8 oz tub Cool Whip, thawed
Drain pineapple juice from can into large mixing bowl.  Add pudding mix and stir until well combined and smooth.  Stir in crushed pineapple, then remaining fruit and mini marshmallows.  Fold in Cool Whip until evenly mixed.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.  This keeps well in the refrigerator for 4 days or so.
Yield: 8 to 12 servings

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Secret Recipe Club: Chocolate Apricot Marshmallow Crunch

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Mother Would Know, which is written by a wonderful woman named Laura.  Laura is the mother to two grown children, but is ready and willing to be the fill-in mom for anyone who needs cooking advice!  Her blog has great recipes, lots and lots of tips, and is incredibly welcoming.  I really enjoyed poking around on the blog.
There were plenty of very appealing recipes to pick from.  I strongly considered Overnight Holiday Dinner Buns, Moist Almond Bread, and Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes, and will probably make all three very soon.  The recipe I ended up choosing was Chocolate Apricot Marshmallow Crunch: Rice Krispie treats topped with mini marshmallows and diced up dried apricots.  Why have I never thought of putting apricots on Rice Krispie Treats?  The combo just sounded amazing, and I was already looking for a dessert recipe to try, so the choice was simple.
How did they turn out?  Every bit as good as I hoped!  My husband and I were happy I made a double batch.  I'm also grateful for the trick I learned from Laura- use parchment paper to press down the cereal mixture and the topping!  It won't stick and works much better than a spoon or hands.  Why didn't I think of that before?  The funniest part is that a few hours before I made these treats, my own mom called and in the course of the conversation, she mentioned that parchment paper was awesome for pressing sticky Rice Krispie Treats into the pan.  So, thank you to both Mother Would Know and my actual mother!
My tiny changes were to not soak the apricots in juice because the chewy texture of the plain apricots appealed to me, and I added vanilla extract, because why not?  Regardless, what a fun and slightly different dessert choice for any time of year, but especially autumn/Halloween because of the colors.  I actually chose them in part because of the colors.  We live in Alaska and I love it here, but the end of summer is always sad and a tiny bit panic inducing as we gear up for another 6+ months of nonstop snow and cold.  I make a real effort to to try to get excited about autumn: wintry foods, Halloween movies, fall decorations, etc.  These Rice Krispie Treats fit in perfectly.  Thank you, Laura, both for the great recipe and for helping ease the transition into fall!
Chocolate Apricot Marshmallow Crunch
1/2 C finely diced dried apricots
1/3 C mini chocolate chips
3 Tbsp butter
8 oz mini marshmallows (by weight)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 C Rice Krispies cereal
Cut two long strips of parchment paper to fit the inside of an 8 by 8 baking dish with a few inches of overhang on each end.  Overlap the strips so they make a + sign in the dish.  Set aside.
Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat, then add marshmallows and cook, stirring constantly, just until marshmallows are melted.  Immediately remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, then the cereal.  
Once the cereal is completely coated, dump it into the prepared baking dish and press it in evenly with the back of a spoon.  You can use the parchment paper ends to press the mixture down, too.  Sprinkle the apricot pieces and mini chocolate chips evenly over the cereal mixture.  Use the long ends of parchment paper to firmly press the topping down.  
Let set for a couple of hours until cutting into pieces to serve- you can use the parchment paper overhang to lift the Rice Krispie Treats out of the dish and then cut them into serving pieces.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Breakfast Biscuits

On at least one weekend day every week, I make my husband and I a nice breakfast.  More often than not that means pancakes, but I also like making beggagels, waffles, french toast, muffins, omelets, or occasionally a breakfast casserole or something like this.  I found this recipe on a website called Spoon University earlier this week and thought it sounded perfect for a weekend treat.  They're really good and turned out pretty much how I expected them to: Soft, warm, nice smoky crunch from the bacon, cheesy, and just all around yummy.  We had them with fresh plums, and it was a very yummy breakfast that I'll make again.  Conveniently, I only had to buy the biscuit dough because I pretty much always have the other ingredients in my refrigerator already.
It occurred to me while we were eating these that there's no reason why they couldn't be served as a side to go with chicken or something at dinner.  I think I just saw bacon and thought of breakfast.  They'll probably stay mostly a breakfast thing for us because they're a bit more caloric and involved than I prefer side dishes to be, but that's just me.  I'll probably make them to go with dinner at some point.  The leftovers will be going with my husband to work for lunch and I'm going to try freezing a couple of them.
Pardon the lack of photo.  My camera went to heaven and I don't have a cell phone, so no easy way to take pictures when I made this recipe!
Quick Note:  You really have to use the flaky layer biscuits for this, not the plain kind, because the layers make it so you can separate them into halves cleanly.  Make sure the tube of biscuits says "flaky layers" on it.  Also, I just added a sprinkle of dried chives instead of fresh green onions because my green onions were looking floppy and unappealing.
Cheesy Bacon Ranch Breakfast Biscuits
tube of 8 refrigerated jumbo sized flaky layer biscuits (they must be the flaky layer variety!)
ranch dressing
8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
about 1 C grated cheddar cheese
about 3 Tbsp sliced green onions or 1 1/2 Tbsp sliced fresh chives
Preheat oven to 350 (or temperature indicated on package of biscuits) and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place biscuits an inch or so apart on baking sheet.  Bake until the biscuits just begin to turn golden on top, about 8 minutes.
Remove baking sheet from oven and gently pull the top half off each one.  Spread a little ranch dressing on each bottom half, sprinkle with 1/8th of the bacon, a generous sprinkle of shredded cheese, and some green onions or chives.  Replace tops, and sprinkle with a little more cheese.  
Bake until nicely golden brown on top, about 5 minutes more.  Remove baking sheet from oven and let biscuits cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
Yield: 8 biscuits

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chops

This recipe from Crockin' Girls is very simple, but very good.  Pork loin chops are very lean (other than the fat on the edge) and are often tough when cooked, but for some reason these ones were tender enough to cut with a fork.  The flavor was great, too.  It has a little bit of a tex mex flair to it because of the chiles in the Ro-Tel.  I served it with garlic mashed potatoes and kale salad with a sweet dressing and it was a really nice dinner.  
Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chops
9 thick pork loin chops (I cut the fat off)
2 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
Montreal steak seasoning to taste
1 oz packet dry ranch dressing mix
2 10 oz cans Ro-Tel tomatoes (diced tomatoes with green chiles), undrained
Melt butter in a large skillet and add garlic.  Add pork chops and sprinkle one side with Montreal steak seasoning.  Brown chops on both sides, then arrange them in a slow cooker.  Sprinkle ranch dressing mix on top, then pour on tomatoes.  Cover and cook until meat is cooked through, about 4 hours on low.
Yield: 9 servings

Monday, August 22, 2016

Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

This recipe really surprised me by how good it is!  I was just looking for a quick, easy, no fuss mac and cheese to serve along with Easter dinner, and came upon this one on Recipes That Crock.  Cream of mushroom soup in mac and cheese, how odd, but I decided to give it a go because you'll never know if you don't try.  Wonder of wonders, it turned out really well.  My husband ranked it in his top 3 mac and cheese favorites and I thought it was really good, too.  This is a great choice if you're cooking a bunch of things and need a side dish that can tend to itself for a while, or if you're headed to a potluck and need something that will stay nice and hot and tasty.
Quick Note: You can puree the cream of mushroom soup with a food processor or immersion blended if you (or the people you're serving it to) won't like the little bits of mushroom in the finished mac and cheese.  Also, use freshly grated cheddar for this because the coating on purchased grated cheese may prevent it from melting into the sauce nicely.
Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese
12 oz macaroni (cavatappi is pictured because the store was out of macaroni)
10.25 oz can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 C milk
2 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 tsp seasoned salt (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper 
12-16 oz freshly grated cheddar cheese, divided
Cook macaroni in salted water until partly softened, but still underdone.  Drain and return to pot.  Add cream of mushroom soup, milk, seasoned salt, and pepper, then stir in 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 C grated cheddar (I used 3).  Taste and add more salt if needed.  Grease the crock of a small slow cooker and add mac and cheese.  
Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours, or high for about an hour and a half- exact amount of time will depend on your slow cooker.  You can stir halfway through to make sure it cooks evenly, but don't stir after that or the mac and cheese won't have a baked consistency to it.
Remove lid, sprinkle with an extra 1/2 to 1 C grated cheddar, and continue to cook until cheese has melted.
Yield: 10 side dish servings

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peanut Butter Pie

This is probably the recipe on my blog that I feel the most sentimental about.  My husband and I found it in a free booklet of Smucker's recipes at the grocery store in the summer of 2006, when we'd just been dating for a couple of months.  Seeing as we're both peanut butter lovers and had basically been eating our way through all of the peanut butter pies offered as dessert at the restaurants around town, we scurried home from the store with the ingredients for the pie and made it that night.  A favorite was born.  We started a little tradition of making peanut butter pie together every year on our dating anniversary, in addition to once or twice randomly throughout the rest of the year.  My husband even proposed to me on our dating anniversary in 2009 while we were eating this pie.  It's definitely a special recipe to us, and I don't really have an explanation for why I haven't posted it until now!
As much as I enjoy trying different versions of the same recipe (I have multiple favorite recipes for mac and cheese, spaghetti sauce, baked ziti, chocolate cake, etc), this is the one and only peanut butter pie recipe I've ever made.  The reason isn't actually really sentimentality (not entirely, at least), it's just that this pie is incredible and can't really be improved upon, so I haven't tried!  I found the recipe in a Smucker's booklet, but it online it can be found here on the Jif website, where it's called Decadent Peanut Butter Pie.  I have changed a couple of small things, namely that we like to divide the fudge into two layers and I use less Cool Whip because I've never seen a 12 oz tub of it at the store.  I also streamline the process a bit (no waiting for it to chill in the refrigerator between layers) and make my own cookie crust.
Quick Note:  If you don't have a food processor, you can crush the cookies in a gallon Ziploc bag with a rolling pin and just mix up the filling in a mixing bowl with a spoon.
Peanut Butter Pie
25 Oreo cookies
5 Tbsp butter, melted
8 oz brick cream cheese, softened
1/2 C sugar
1 C peanut butter, plus 2 Tbsp more for garnish
11 oz jar hot fudge topping for ice cream
8 oz tub Cool Whip, thawed
Place Oreo cookies in the bowl of a food processor and process until they turn into crumbs.  Pour in melted butter and pulse until well combined.  Dump cookie crumbs into a pie plate and press evenly along the bottom and up the sides.  Set aside.
Wipe out food processor.  Add cream cheese, sugar, and peanut butter, and pulse until combined.  Scrape down sides with a spatula, and pulse again until mixture is smooth.  Remove cutting blade.  Add 2/3 of the container of Cool Whip to the food processor and fold into the peanut butter mixture with a spatula until well combined.  Set aside.
Heat jar of hot fudge in jar according to directions on the label, then pour half of the jar into the pie crust.  Spread over the bottom of the pie crust with a spoon.  Set the rest of the hot fudge aside.  Spread pie filling evenly into the crust.  Top with the remaining hot fudge, reserving 2 tablespoons.  Spread to cover the filling evenly.  Spread remaining Cool Whip over the hot fudge.
To make the garnish, spoon the remaining 2 tablespoons hot fudge into a small Ziploc bag and the remaining 2 tablespoons peanut butter into another small Ziploc bag.  Cut the tip off one of the corners of the bag with the fudge and pipe it randomly over the pie.  Microwave the bag with the peanut butter for about 10 seconds (just so the peanut butter melts), then do the same as with the bag of hot fudge.
Place pie in refrigerator and chill until filling is set, about 4 hours.  Enjoy!
Yield:  About 8 servings.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Pizza Subs

This is a simple but delicious recipe.  Good for a small crowd if you want to make something easy, or good to make ahead to reheat later.  I most recently made these for my brother and his wife to keep in the freezer for a quick meal after the birth of my nephew.  The original recipe is from Southern Plate.
Pizza Subs
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
7 oz package pepperoni, cut in half and separated
14 oz jar pizza sauce
small can sliced olives, drained
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 C grated mozzarella
8 sub rolls
Brown ground beef, drain.  Stir in all remaining ingredients except cheese and rolls and heat through.  Divide meat mixture evenly among sub rolls and top with grated cheese.  
To serve immediately, preheat oven to 350 and place as many subs as you want to cook on a cookie sheet, then bake until the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes. 
To serve later, wrap the subs tightly in aluminum foil and either refrigerate or freeze.  To heat, bake the foil wrapped sub in a 350 degree oven until heated through (about 20 minutes), making sure to thaw the sub overnight in the refrigerator if it was frozen.  If you don't have access to an oven (like if you take it to work for lunch), you can heat the unwrapped sub in the microwave until hot.  It will still be good, but not as nice as if it was heated in the oven.
Yield: 8 subs

Sunday, July 31, 2016

SRC: Summer Spaghetti

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Dancing Veggies.  Is that a cute name or what?  Dancing Veggies is written by a mom named Amanda who is a vegetarian and enjoys looking for and thinking up recipes that are delicious and not too hard on the wallet.

This was one of those months where I made my SRC recipe really quickly, within a couple days of receiving the assignment.  There were lots of tasty looking options on the blog, and I actually made the delicious Peach Dutch Baby, too, but decided I would share Summer Spaghetti because we loved it so much.  This is a very flavorful dish, but it's not super saucy.  It isn't spaghetti with marinara sauce, it's more like spaghetti in chopped up tomato heaven.  I used a combination of smallish on the vine tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes.

Thanks for the recipe, Amanda, my husband and I were crazy about it!

Quick Note:  The original recipe called for 1/4 C minced fresh basil.  The store didn't have any, so I purchased fresh oregano.  I used it and thought it was delicious, but will probably use dried in the future unless I happen to be growing some.  We didn't notice a big flavor difference between fresh and dried of this particular herb, and that little bundle of oregano cost like $3.  Fresh basil is a different story, though, and would definitely be good in this!

Also, to reheat the leftovers, I put the pasta in a large nonstick skillet with a little chicken broth (you could use veggie broth) and heated it over low until the pasta was tender again.  It was almost as good as the first night, which definitely would not have been the case had I heated it in the microwave!  We would have been eating a giant clump of noodles that way.

Summer Spaghetti

3 Tbsp butter
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, stems removed and chopped coarsely
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano or 1/4 C minced fresh basil
12 oz angel hair pasta, cooked until just before it reaches al dente
salt to taste

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add onion and saute until completely softened, about 15 minutes.  It's okay if the onions turn a little brown, but that's not the goal.  Add the garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.  Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, oregano (add later if you use fresh basil), and salt to taste.  Turn to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.  You want the sauce to be at a gentle simmer.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil while the tomatoes simmer.  Add angel hair and cook until it's a little firmer than you want, then drain and add to the skillet with the sauce.  Cook and stir for a couple of minutes, until pasta is completely coated in sauce and tender.   Add the fresh basil if you're using it, and serve.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oatmeal Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies aka Lactation Cookies

My beautiful little nephew was born recently and my sister-in-law was having some issues with breastfeeding while I was visiting, so I searched the internet and found a cookie recipe that's supposed to help increase a mother's milk supply.  I decided to go with this recipe from, but was forced to leave out the brewer's yeast after not finding any in the 4 stores I looked in.  Brewer's yeast is supposed to increase milk production, but so is flax seed, so I decided to quadruple the flax instead.  The other changes were due to necessity (mini chocolate chips!) and advice (the baking powder to help them puff up a bit more).  
I can't know for sure whether they helped with the milk supply, but I can say they were surprisingly good even for us non-lactaters.  Nice and sweet and soft, and rather unique because of the flax meal, which adds some pleasant texture.  Even my 6 year old nephew enjoyed them, as did my parents and brother.  Honestly, I'd like to make these again, lactation cookie or not.  If you'd like, you can add 4 Tbsp brewer's yeast, though that has a pretty distinctive flavor and probably will not improve the flavor of the cookie.  That's beside the point though if you're making them for milk supply purposes!
Oatmeal Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies aka Lactation Cookies
1/2 C flax meal
10 Tbsp water
1 C butter, softened
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 C oats
6 oz by weight mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Stir together flax meal and water and set aside for 5 minutes while you begin to make the cookie dough.
Beat butter and sugars until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, then flax meal mixture and vanilla extract.  Add flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and mix in.  Add oats and stir just until combined (don't over mix), then stir in mini chocolate chips.
Drop spoonfuls of dough (make as big or small as you'd like, ranging from large cherry to large walnut) onto prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch or two between cookies.  Bake until they begin to turn golden on the edges and on the little craggy bits on the top, anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes depending on your oven and the size of the cookies.  Cool cookies for 10 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
Yield:  About 60 average size cookies

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Jellied Pineapple Rings

I have an odd fondness for Jell-o, considering that I didn't grow up in a household where Jell-o was made frequently (the one time I remember making it with my dad as a kid, it didn't set up!), and I've never really cared for the texture of plain Jell-o without anything added to it, but the fondness is there nonetheless.  It's no surprise, then, that I decided to make these pineapple rings right after I came across the recipe on Joy of Jell-o.
This is seriously one of the quickest, easiest recipes a person could ever make and is about 1/2 a step up from just making a plain box of Jell-o.  It's been around for quite a while, as evidenced by the cute 1960s style ads describing how to make it.  My one change was to use the drained pineapple juice in the Jell-o instead of just dumping it and using water.  I've included that in the directions below, because the added pineapple juice really punched up the flavor.  My husband and I both really enjoyed them, much more than I expected.  
As adorably tacky as these pineapple rings are, I'll probably make a can with lime Jell-o and a can with cherry Jell-o for Christmas.  How cute would they be arranged in alternating colors in a spiral on a platter?
Quick Note:  I suggest using name brand pineapple vs store brand.  We tried it both ways and liked the name brand better.  We also tried both strawberry and lime Jell-o and preferred the lime.
Jellied Pineapple Rings
20 oz can pineapple slices
3 oz box Jell-o powder (I used lime)
Drain pineapple juice from can into a measuring cup.  Add enough water to it so that you have 1 cup total liquid.  Bring liquid to a boil in a small sauce pan, remove from heat, and stir in the Jell-o powder until completely dissolved.  Pour Jell-o mixture over the pineapple rings.  You will have some Jell-o mixture left over, just pour that into an extra bowl to enjoy as a snack.  Place the can of pineapple rings and bowl of extra Jell-o in the refrigerator to solidify.  This will take several hours.
When you're ready to eat the pineapple, dip the can into a bowl of hot water for about 10 seconds.  Flip it upside down over a plate and open it from the bottom with a can opener.  If the can is the traditional style that you had to open with a can opener, you can just gently push/shake the pineapple out of the top of the can.  If the can is the newer style with the pull tab, flip it right side up again and gently push/shake the pineapple slices out the bottom of the can onto the plate.  You want the pineapple to come out the bottom of the can because they will get mangled if they come out the top, since pineapple cans have the pull tabs and are slightly narrower at the top.
Gently slice the rings apart with a knife, and serve.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts

My husband and I made these donuts a few months ago after I saw Tasty's short video showing how to make them.  It was the first time we'd made donuts, and they were a lot of fun.  These are cake style donuts, not the typical yeast dough based glazed donuts.  Someday I'd like to try yeast donuts, but this was a good recipe to start with and very yummy!  They're awesome either glazed or rolled in cinnamon sugar, I actually couldn't decide which I liked better.  Even nicer, they keep very well.  After the first day, they're softer, but pleasantly so and the flavors are very well melded together.  
For the glaze, feel free to use whatever type of extract you want.  I've mentioned it before on this blog, but I despise the flavor of powdered sugar.  I think it's the cornstarch.  Whatever it is, powdered sugar has a very overpowering, unpleasant flavor to me, so I had to use a lot of lemon extract to cover it.  One of these days, I'll buy a bag of powdered sugar that only has sugar as an ingredient, but it's so expensive!  If you don't want to use glaze, you can either leave them plain (not as sweet of course, but really tasty), or roll them in cinnamon sugar.  Or how about lemon sugar, or allspice sugar?  So many possibilities!
One last thing, you can fry the donut holes along with the donuts, they just won't need to cook as long.  If you don't want donut holes, just squish the holes together and roll them out to make more big donuts, but we think donut holes have their own charm.
Quick Note:  The original recipe says to score the donuts so they puff properly while frying, which you are free to do- just make 3 shallow cuts forming a large triangle.  I forgot to do that for the first half of the donuts and they didn't suffer any ill effects.  They puffed up and split around the outside, but I thought they looked cute that way.  
Old Fashioned Sour Cream Donuts
For the donuts:
2 1/4 cup (255 grams) cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sour cream
about 2-3 Tbsp milk
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying (about 2 C)
For the glaze:

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 2 tsp lemon extract, or to taste (or use a different flavor extract)
1/3 cup hot water
Stir together dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg) in a smaller bowl. Set aside.
In mixer bowl, combine butter and sugar on a low speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix together on medium speed. Add half the dry ingredients, blend. Add the sour cream, blend. Add in the rest of the dry ingredients and blend until the dough is well-combined, add enough milk for dough to come together. Place dough in greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for an hour or overnight.
Place chilled dough on a floured surface. Roll out to about 1/3 inch thickness. Cut the donut shapes with round cookie cutters or use a larger glass and a shot glass.
Pour oil into a large skillet so it's about 1 inch deep.  Heat oil to 325°F.  Carefully place the donuts in the oil with heat safe tongs and cook until golden, then flip and cook until golden on the other side. Remove donuts to cookie cooling racks set over paper towels.
After all the donuts are done frying, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, extracts, corn syrup, and hot water until it becomes smooth.  Dip the top of each donut in the glaze and set on a drying rack to allow glaze to dry and any extra to drip off.  Double dip if necessary.  Alternatively, you can roll the hot donuts in cinnamon sugar.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cream Scones Two Ways

I've developed a real love of scones.  I never ate them growing up, probably because my mother doesn't care for them and I took her word that they weren't very good.  Honestly, the first time I had a scone (other than one unimpressive grocery store bakery scone) was when I was about 27 and decided to try a recipe.  Since then, I've made several more recipes for scones and have really liked them all.
This recipe came about because I wanted to make two different types of scones- savory and sweet- but didn't want to end up with 24 scones for 2 people.  I found a rather neutral scone recipe on the King Arthur Flour website, made it as a base, then divided the dough and added mix ins to each bowl.  Both varieties turned out really nice, and complemented each other well: one with dried cherries, chocolate, and almond extract, and the other with cheddar and a generous amount of black pepper.  I served the scones with scrambled eggs, bacon, and grapes on a Sunday morning, and it was an awesome, rather extravagant seeming breakfast.
Quick Note:  The original recipe says to try freezing the scones for 15 minutes before baking because they'll rise even more, but I skipped this part.  Next time I'd like to try it, but the scones turned out really well anyway.  The recipe also said you can sprinkle coarse sugar over the sweet scones before baking.  I didn't have any, so just skipped it, but would like to try it at some point.
Cream Scones Two Ways
For base mixture:
3 C flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 400 and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Mix together in a large bowl.  Scoop 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon of the mixture into a second mixing bowl.
For Cherry Chocolate Almond Scones:
3 Tbsp sugar
1/3 C dried cherries
1/3 C milk chocolate chips
about 1 C cream (may need more or less)
1 tsp almond extract
Into one of the bowls of base scone mixture, stir the 3 Tbsp extra sugar.  Stir in cherries and chocolate chips.  Measure out 3/4 C cream and stir the almond extract into it, drizzle over flour mixture.  Gently toss and stir dough together, adding a little more cream if needed so you have a soft, not too sticky dough.  You may need to use your hands.  Be sure to combine the dough just enough so it comes together, form into a ball.  Set dough aside.
For Peppery Cheddar Scones:
3/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 C sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
Into the other bowl of base scone mixture, stir pepper and cheddar.  Measure out 3/4 C cream and drizzle over flour mixture.  Gently toss and stir dough together, adding a little more cream if needed so you have a soft, not too sticky dough.  You may need to use your hands.  Be sure to combine the dough just enough so it comes together.
Make the dough into a ball and place it off to the side on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Place the other dough ball on the other side of the pan, near the opposite corner.  Pat the dough balls out into 6 inch wide rounds.  Brush with cream, then cut each round into 6 wedges.  Pull the wedges slightly apart from one another.
Bake scones in preheated oven until golden on top and they look cooked through on the sides, about 18 minutes.  Let cool on the pans for a few minutes, then pull them gently apart and serve with butter.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Slow Cooker Mississippi Chicken

This is a super easy, super quick to assemble recipe that uses a couple of packets.  It's not even remotely fancy, and decidedly unbeautiful, but tastes pretty good.  Herby from the ranch, savory from the gravy mix, and with a tiny bit of heat and tang from the peperoncinis.  I found it on the Recipes that Crock blog and had to make it because I was so curious about what the odd ingredients would taste like together!  It's kind of funny that I managed to make a couple of changes to a 5 ingredient recipe, but I did.  Namely, I used chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs and thickened the sauce.  Also, we didn't shred the chicken for chicken sandwiches, but my husband and I agreed it would be really good that way.
Mississippi Chicken
3 lbs chicken breasts
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 packet brown gravy mix
6 peperoncinis (I used the approximate equivalent of sliced)
1/2 stick butter, cut into pats
Grease slow cooker and evenly arrange chicken breasts inside.  Sprinkle with ranch and gravy packets, top with peperoncinis, and arrange butter pats over top.  Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through (low maybe 6 hours, high maybe 4, this will depend entirely on your slow cooker), then break the chicken into serving pieces and stir thoroughly so sauce evenly coats everything.  You can either serve as is, or thicken the sauce.
To thicken the sauce, remove the chicken and place in a bowl.  Pour sauce through a strainer into a sauce pan, and heat over medium-high.  While it heats, stir together 1 Tbsp water and 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch.  When sauce is boiling, pour cornstarch mixture into the pan in a thin stream while stirring.  Continue to cook for a minute or two.  Remove from heat, pour back into slow cooker, add chicken, and stir to coat.
If you want to make this into shredded chicken for chicken sandwiches, just pull out the cooked chicken (don't add cornstarch), shred it, return it to the slow cooker, stir, and turn to high.  Leave the lid off so excess liquid can cook off.  Cook on high for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes so it doesn't burn.  Serve on buns.
Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, July 3, 2016

SRC: Cheesy Rigatoni Bake

I think this month's Secret Recipe Club was just about my quickest turnaround between getting my blog assignment and making the recipe!  I was assigned the blog Crazed Mom, which is written by a mom of 5 (and grandma of 1!) named Nicole.  Nicole is a very prolific blogger and has a ton of recipes to pick from.  I'll probably make more of her recipes this month (specifically looking at Ranch Mac & Cheese, Weeknight Philly Cheesesteaks, Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes, and the very intriguing Buffalo Chicken Spring Rolls), but the first one I made turned out so well, that I'm choosing it for SRC.
The recipe I made is Cheesy Rigatoni Bake.  I chose it because my husband and I love cheesy tomato noodle type casseroles, and I hadn't made one in months and months.  This one looked interesting because it has two types of sauces, neither of which are stirred into the rigatoni, and I liked that it didn't have nearly as much cheese as most similar recipes.  My husband loves cheese, but can't have a ton of it.
The casserole was really good.  As expected, the sauces did seep down into the rigatoni some (in a very delicious way!), but the two types didn't completely blend together.  Between the white sauce and the cheese, the top got perfectly bubbly and golden and irresistible.  The casserole cut into pieces better than most because of the eggs that help bind the pasta together.  I added pepperoni to the top of half of the casserole since there's no meat in the recipe and the layering kind of reminded me of pizza anyway.  We thought the pepperoni was really nice and I'll probably top the entire thing with pepperoni next time.  This is a definite repeat recipe!
Pardon the especially bad photo, my camera broke and I had to use my iPad.
Cheesy Rigatoni Bake
1 lb rigatoni pasta
4 eggs
1 tsp salt, divided
16 oz can Four Cheese Hunt's spaghetti sauce (or another flavor)
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
2 1/4 C milk
2 C grated mozzarella
sliced pepperoni (optional)
1/3 C grated fresh parmesan 
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9 by 13 baking dish.
Cook the rigatoni in lightly salted water until al dente.  You want it to be a little less cooked than you'd prefer because it will cook longer in the oven and the noodles will get softer.  Drain noodles and set aside to cool for a few minutes so the eggs won't cook on contact.
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium-high heat and whisk in flour.  Whisk constantly for about a minute, then whisk in about 1/4 C milk until completely smooth.  Add milk in 1/4 C additions, being sure to whisk between additions until the sauce is completely smooth.  Once all the milk has been added, bring sauce to a simmer while whisking constantly, and cook for about a minute.  Stir in 1/2 tsp salt.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Whisk eggs in a small bowl, then add to rigatoni with 1/2 tsp salt.  Stir until pasta is coated, then pour into prepared baking dish.  Spread spaghetti sauce evenly over top.  Sprinkle with mozzarella.  Spread white sauce over the cheese, then top with the pepperoni, if you're using it.  Sprinkle with the parmesan.  
Bake casserole until bubbly all over and the top is golden, about 40 minutes.  Let sit for 15 minutes before serving so it can set up some.
Yield: 8 servings