Sunday, November 22, 2015

S'more Treat Bars

I found this recipe on the Macaroni and Cheesecake blog while looking for a s'more bar recipe, and made them immediately.  I did make a few small changes (mini chocolate chips and more marshmallows), but the gist is definitely the same.  These bars are a great choice if you're looking for a dessert that is really easy to make and love both Rice Krispie treats and s'mores, like we do!  About half of the bars went to our neighbor as a thanks for helping us move our new couch, but my husband and I polished the rest of the pan off over about 3 days.  Yum!

S'more Treat Bars

12 oz box Golden Grahams cereal
5 Tbsp butter
16 oz bag mini marshmallows, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 C mini chocolate chips

Place the mini chocolate chips in the freezer a few hours before you make this recipe.

Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish and set aside.

Place butter and all but 3 cups of the mini marshmallows in a large pot and melt over medium-high heat, stirring until fully melted.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Stir in cereal until evenly coated, then add the additional 2 C marshmallows and 1 C of the frozen chocolate chips.  Stir very quickly and just enough to evenly distribute the additions, you don't want them to melt too much.  

Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish.  Grease your hands (nonstick spray works great for this) and evenly press the cereal mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 C mini chocolate chips on top of the bars and press down again so they'll stick.

Let bars cool completely, then cut into squares.  These keep well covered tightly and stored at room temperature for a few days.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cheddar Bacon Potato Waffles

I came upon this recipe on Serious Eats and decided to make it the next day because by some coincidence, I had all of the ingredients in my refrigerator (even cooked bacon) except for the mashed potatoes.  After buying 3 of the biggest potatoes I've ever seen and making them into mashed potatoes, we were ready to go. 

The batter was easy to make, but the cooking process required some tinkering.  I started out cooking the batter in my panini press because I was worried it would gunk up my waffle iron (my waffle iron is well seasoned and I didn't want to ruin it by having to wash it to remove stuck on bits), but that didn't work so well.  The waffles ended up very thin and fragile.  However, I could see the batter didn't stick to the grill plates, so decided to chance it with my waffle iron after all.  It worked great!  No sticking at all.  

You do need to cook them just right, though.  The temperature should be low enough that the waffle can cook through nicely inside without getting overdone on the outside.  If you cook the waffles at too high of a temperature, they will turn golden on the outside, but will be very difficult to remove from the iron because the inside will be too soft.  You will need to experiment some with your waffle iron and use a timer, but in my Black & Decker waffle iron, 6 minutes with the temperature at to the lowest waffle setting was perfect.  Additionally, if you open the iron too early, the waffle will tear in half with half stuck to the bottom grate and half to the top, so leave it alone for 3 minutes or so before checking!  I also decided to make big waffles instead of smaller ones because the batter tended to join together in the waffle iron, anyway.  You can just cut them apart along the indentations if you want smaller ones.
All the fiddling paid off, though, because these waffles were awesome!  When I asked my husband how many stars they get, he said, "a million!"- high praise!  I really enjoyed them, too.  Very yummy.  Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and tons of flavor from the cheese, bacon, and green onions.  I also didn't mash my potatoes very finely, so the waffles had delightful little chunks of potato in them.  The waffles are great plain, but a little sour cream makes them extra special.  For some reason salad with waffles seemed kind of odd, so we had them with applesauce on the side.
Below is my slightly tweaked version of the recipe.  I doubled also doubled it.  To make the mashed potatoes, I just added about 4 Tbsp butter, enough milk to make them the right consistency, and salt and pepper to taste.  This would be a great use for leftover mashed potatoes, though!
Quick Note:  Leftover waffles can be reheated on a parchment paper lined baking sheet in an oven set to 350 until hot and crispy, about 15 minutes.
Cheddar Bacon Potato Waffles
about 5 C of your favorite mashed potato recipe (leftover or freshly made, mine were warm)
1/2 C buttermilk
1/4 C vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 C grated cheddar
3/4 C cooked, crumbled bacon
1/3 C sliced green onions
1 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Brush the plates of a waffle iron with canola oil, and preheat the waffle iron to medium.
Place the mashed potatoes into a large mixing bowl.  Add buttermilk, oil, eggs, cheddar, bacon, and green onions, and stir until combined.  In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper, then stir it into the wet ingredients until well mixed.
To make waffles, spoon about 1 C batter (amount depends on how much your iron holds!) into the center of the greased, preheated waffle iron, and cook until the outside is dark golden.  Don't check on the waffle for at least 3 minutes or you could accidentally tear the waffle in half.  Use a timer so you can get the number of minutes right for the other waffles.  If you can't easily remove the waffle when the outside is dark golden, lower the heat on your waffle iron and cook for another minute or two.
Keep already cooked waffles hot on a platter in the oven set to warm.
Serve waffles with sour cream if desired and fresh fruit or applesauce on the side.
Yield:  About 8 servings as a main dish

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels

This is another recipe from Macaroni and Cheesecake.  We love buffalo chicken, so of course it caught my eye.  I've had bad luck in the past with refrigerated tortilla rolls getting soggy, but these ones were fine.  I used a mixture of new tortillas and slightly stale ones.  The stale ones softened perfectly and the fresh ones were a little softer than that, but still okay.  This is an appetizer recipe, but we actually had them for dinner and loved them!  When I make them for dinner next time, I'm going to cut the cream cheese in half.  They were fine this way, but a bit richer than I would prefer for a main dish.

Quick Note:  I used my food processor to grate the cheddar, chop the green onions, and shred the chicken.

Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I used the breasts from a rotisserie chicken)
2 green onions, finely chopped
8 oz soft style cream cheese, softened briefly in the microwave (this is the cream cheese in a little tub)
1 1/4 C finely grated cheddar cheese
1/2 C Frank's Red Hot Sauce
2 tablespoons dry ranch dressing mix (I used my own)
8 six inch flour tortillas

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except flour tortillas.  Stir until well combined.  Place 1/8 of mixture on each tortilla and spread evenly to the edges with a spatula.  Roll tortillas up tightly, place on a plate, and keep covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  To serve, slice rolls into 3/4 inch wide pinwheels and arrange on a plate.

The pinwheels keep nicely in the refrigerator for a few days.  I experimented with placing two of the rolls in the freezer and will update after they've thawed.

Yield: 8 servings as a main dish and probably about 25 as an appetizer.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Candy Bar Brownies

Yet another recipe from Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen mystery series, this time from The Cream Puff Murder!  This is more of an idea than a recipe, but it sure is a good idea.  We polished off the pan of brownies in a day and a half, even though they're very rich.  My husband, the chocolate and brownie lover, said these brownies seemed more like a candy bar than a brownie!  They're good at room temperature, but best a couple of hours after they come out of the oven and are still a little bit warm because the chocolate in the middle isn't completely set up yet. 
Quick Note:  The original recipe said to use a mix for a 9 by 13 pan, but to bake it in an 8 by 8 pan.  I used a mix for an 8 by 8 pan and have no regrets, they were perfect.  I fear the larger mix in the smaller pan would have overflowed.  Also, the recipe said to use a plain mix, but I used one with a caramel swirl and we loved how it turned out!  If you can't find a mix with a caramel swirl, you can try swirling in 1/4 C caramel ice cream topping, but no promises on how it will turn out.  I tried doing this recently with Twix brownies and used Smuckers Salted Caramel sauce and the caramel kind of boiled off and disappeared into the batter.

Update 8/15/16: I made these a different way, and they were even better.  I used a regular brownie mix, put chopped peanut butter cups and Hershey bars in the middle according to the directions below.  After the brownies were done baking, I made a caramel sauce by melting 5 oz (by weight) soft caramels with 1/4 C milk over medium-low heat.  I poked some holes in the brownies with a meat fork, then poured the caramel sauce over top.  They were awesome brownies!  So gooey and chocolaty that they were best eaten with a fork.  Good alternative if you have a little more time on your hands and want an over the top brownie or if you can't find a mix with caramel swirl.

 Candy Bar Brownies
1 8 by 8 box brownie mix with a caramel swirl (I used Duncan Hines Salted Caramel)
ingredients specified on brownie mix
2 giant size milk chocolate Hershey Symphony candy bars, or other chocolate candy, chopped up
Preheat oven to temperature specified on brownie mix and grease an 8 by 8 baking dish.
Prepare brownie mix according to box instructions, and spread half of the batter in the prepared baking dish. 
Top with the chocolate bars, breaking them as necessary to fit.  You want it to be one flat layer and will have some chocolate left over, but I don't see that as a problem!
Spread remaining brownie batter on top of chocolate so it's covered.  Drizzle the caramel evenly over the brownie batter, then use a butter knife to swirl it through the batter.
Bake brownies according to box directions.  They're done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.  The melted chocolate may get on the toothpick, but you should be able to tell the difference between melted chocolate and raw brownie batter.
Let brownies cool until just a little bit warm (about 2 hours), then serve.  Cover leftovers with foil.  You can serve leftover brownies at room temperature or warm them up in the microwave for a few seconds.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

Like many people, my husband and I are fond of ranch dressing and ranch flavored things.  Sophisticated?  Definitely not.  Tasty?  Definitely yes!  I have a homemade ranch dressing that we both love, but sometimes recipes call for dry ranch powder, so I decided to make some myself.  After looking at many recipes online, I settled on the one from Brown Eyed Baker because it looked good and I've had success with the few recipes of hers I've made before.  As usual, I tweaked the recipe a bit, but it turned out great and what's pictured below is actually the last of the batch I made.  Time to make it again!

I should note that I only actually made this mix into salad dressing once because I was out of other dressings.  It was good- better than store bought dressing- but not as good as the homemade fresh kind.  The rest of the mix has gone into recipes that call for the dry kind.  Because I only made it into salad dressing once and it was spur of the moment, I didn't measure anything.  If you want to turn this into liquid salad dressing, I suggest stirring together milk and mayo until it has the right consistency, then stirring in the dressing mix until it tastes right.  Soon I will update this with more specific measurements.

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

1 C buttermilk powder
2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp dried chives
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Process everything in food processor, and store in a jar in refrigerator for 3 months.  3 tablespoons of the mix is equivalent to 1 packet of purchased ranch dressing mix.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Basic Meatloaf

I honestly couldn't decide whether or not to post this meatloaf recipe because it's rather similar to another meatloaf I make.  The main difference is that this recipe has sour cream and parmesan in it.  In the end, I decided to post this anyway because the entire reason I made it is because I had half a container of sour cream that needed to be used up, and I can see that happening again!  The recipe is from AllRecipes and was originally called Eileen's Meatloaf.
Waffling aside, this is a good meatloaf recipe.  Nothing fancy, but tasty and with a good texture.  My husband gave it a score of 10/10.
Basic Meatloaf
1 1/2 C Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs (I actually used plain panko and added a little dried basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, and salt)
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1 egg
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 C sour cream
1/2 C grated parmesan
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
ketchup for on top (about 1/2 C, use your judgment)
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9 by 11 baking dish.
In a large bowl, stir together everything except ground beef and ketchup.  Crumble in ground beef and stir until well combined, or mix with your hands.
In the prepared baking dish, form meat into an approximately 8 by 10 inch loaf.  Spread desired amount of ketchup on top.
Bake meatloaf until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees, about 50 minutes, then remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.
Yield:  About 8 servings.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Orange Poppy Seed Waffles with Cranberry Syrup

This month's Secret Recipe Club recipe comes from the blog Adventures in All Things Food!  This blog is written by a lady named Andrea who has a very busy life with her husband, 3 truly adorable children, and a farm.  She is very talented and covers all kinds of topics on her blog, including, of course, food.  There are lots of great looking recipes on her blog, and I chose Orange Poppy Seed Waffles with Cranberry Syrup.  They seemed like the perfect breakfast for a lazy autumn day!  Other awesome looking recipes include Roasted Red Pepper and Tortellini Soup, and Chocolate Chip Malt Cookies.

The waffles and syrup both turned out great.  My only change was to add the juice of half a navel orange to the waffle batter instead of just 1 tablespoon.  This is the only time I can remember making waffles good and flavorful enough to eat without syrup or toppings of any sort!  They're delicious and the orange flavor comes through nicely.  I love poppy seeds so would probably double the amount next time.  In the future I will also experiment with making the batter into pancakes because the waffles turned out very fluffy and I think would do nicely as pancakes.

We loved the syrup, too, and it was perfect exactly as written.  Mine didn't have the beautiful jewel tone of Andrea's- you should have seen the color of the cranberries after cooking for 10 hours!- but it tasted great.  The orange flavor in the syrup is subtle and easy to miss, but it's still wonderful.  Usually I have a strong preference for regular maple syrup on waffles and pancakes, but I really enjoyed this cranberry syrup and didn't put normal syrup on mine at all.  A first!  In the future, I will experiment with cooking the syrup entirely on the stove so it will have a prettier color, but that's minor.  The recipe also made a lot more syrup than needed for the single batch of waffles, so I'm going to try it with plain pancakes as well.

All in all, a great breakfast treat that really tasted (and smelled!) like autumn/winter!  This would make a great Thanksgiving or Christmas breakfast.  Thank you for the great recipes, Andrea!  These waffles will definitely be on my table again!

Cranberry Syrup

1 1/2 C fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 C sugar
2 C water
zest of one large orange
2 Tbsp cornstarch

In a slow cooker, stir together all ingredients except cornstarch.  Cook overnight, 8-10 hours.  Strain liquid through a fine meshed sieve into a medium pan and press the berries against the sieve with a spoon to extract as much juice as possible.  Discard cranberries.

Bring the liquid to a boil.  While you wait for it to boil, stir together 1/4 C cold water and the 2 Tbsp cornstarch.  Use one hand to stir boiling liquid while you pour the cornstarch slurry in a small stream.  Continue to simmer until syrup thickens, then cook for another minute or two.  Remove pan from heat, pour into a small pitcher (you can let it cool a bit in the pan first if you're worried the pitcher will shatter), and set aside while you prepare the waffles.

Yield: About 3 cups

Orange Poppy Seed Waffles

1 3/4 C flour
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp poppy seeds (do 2 if you love poppy seeds like I do)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 C buttermilk
zest of one large orange
juice of 1/2 of a large orange
1 stick salted butter, melted

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until smooth.  Whisk in buttermilk, zest, and orange juice.  Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.  Stir in melted butter.  Let batter rest for 20 minutes.

While the batter rests, preheat and grease your waffle iron.  Cook waffles according to manufacturer's instructions.  Place an oven safe plate in your oven set to warm and add the finished waffles as they cook.  Serve waffles with butter and the cranberry orange syrup.

Yield:  This recipe made 4 large waffles on my Black & Decker iron, which makes for 4 servings.  How many waffles it makes will depend on your waffle iron.

Eyeball Cupcakes

My boss asked me to make some Halloween cupcakes, and of course I was happy to oblige.  Other people were already bringing owl, witch hat, ghost, and spider cupcakes, so I was left looking for an easy to decorate cupcake that would still look good.  My enthusiasm for cupcake decorating is strong, but my talent is less so, and these eyeballs from The Brewer & The Baker were a great choice!  The cupcakes went over very well at work and were immediately recognized as eyeballs.  Several people also commented on enjoying the lime flavor.

When I made these eyeball cupcakes, I just placed the gummi candies right on top of the veiny cupcakes.  Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me that the red from the vein frosting would show through the translucent gummis and they ended up looking more brown than green.  Below, I included instructions to spread a small amount of white frosting on the bottom of each gummi so the red veins won't be visible.

Quick Note:  If you can't find Lifesaver Gummis, you can just use regular Lifesavers.  Adhere the Mini M&Ms with a tiny bit of frosting.  I went with the gummis because these cupcakes were for toddlers and preschoolers and I feared the Lifesavers could be a choking hazard.
Eyeball Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix (enough to make 24 cupcakes)
1 small box lime Jell-o powder
1 can white frosting
1 squeeze pouch red frosting (or you can add lots of red gel food coloring to additional white frosting)
1 package Lifesaver Gummis (one package had 27 green candies, you can always make different colored eyes if you run out of green)
24 brown Mini M&Ms (you can buy these in either a large bag or small tubes, two tubes had enough brown candies)

Preheat oven and prepare cake mix according to package directions, adding the box of Jell-o powder to the mix.  Bake in 24 cupcake papers according to box directions.  Cool completely.

Set aside about 3 tablespoons of the white frosting, then frost the cupcakes with the remaining frosting.  Pipe red frosting over the cupcakes to look like veins.  

Place one Mini M&M into the center of each green Lifesaver Gummi, it should be a perfect fit.  I did it so the M and Lifesaver logo were facing the same direction.  

One at a time, spread a small amount of white frosting over the bottom of the Lifesaver Gummi (do this on the side with the M and the Lifesaver logo), then immediately place frosting side down on the center of a cupcake.  Repeat with remaining candies and cupcakes.

Yield: 24 cupcakes