Monday, January 30, 2012

Mexican Chocolate Brownies

I love chocolate..... expecially in a gooey brownie. I have been in a Mexican mood lately, I even made Tamales over the weekend... so when I ran across this recipe here  I just had to give it a try. After all, who doesn't like Mexican chocolate... it's chocolate with a kick! I tweaked the recipe a little.. it was very similar to my Saucepan brownie recipe, and I love how easy those are and the fact that you only dirty one pan, so that is where my tweaking came in to play, I put them together like that recipe. Just a warning though, these don't taste 'hot' at first, they get you on the second bite in the back of your throat. And they get spicier the longer they sit...so the next day you might want to warm one up in the microwave and put a scoop of vanilla icecream with a drizzle of chocolate sauce on the top to help with the spice... Can you say YUMMO???!!

Mexican Chocolate Brownies
1/2 cup butter
2-oz bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped ( I used 1-1oz square unsweetened and 1 -1oz square semi-     sweet, because that is what I had on hand)
2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (if you like ALOT of spice go for a heaping 1/4 teaspoon ful)
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate semi-sweet chocolate Chunks

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8 or 9×9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. (I prefer parchment paper... easy clean up!)
In a medium size saucepan,  melt butter and chocolate together. Stir with a whisk until very smooth. Stir in cocoa powder and whisk again until fully incorporated. Set aside to cool slightly.
Next whisk the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Then add your eggs one at a time whisking rapidly after each one (so they don't scramble, you could temper the eggs with a little of the chocolate mixture, but I find whisking fast right after adding each of the eggs works) Next add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. In another bowl sift flour, ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt together, then add to the chocolate mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until brownies set and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the pan comes out with only a few moist crumbs, not batter, attached.
Cool in the pan completely before slicing. OR do like I do and eat one while still warm... who can resist a warm brownie.....
Makes 24 brownies.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Posole Rojo (Red Pork and Hominy Soup)

This is a delicious soup or stew (or should we say stoup like Rachel Ray) that I got out of my Food Network magazine. I had been looking for a good Posole recipe for a while. Jim's mom used to make him Menudo alot when he was growing up. She made it for us one year for Christmas Breakfast and after I saw what was in it, I couldn't eat it...(it has pigs feet and tripe in it). But Posole is a similar soup only made with a pork roast and hominy. I can handle that. This recipe even teaches you how to make your own chili sauce! Yum!! You can find quite the assortment of dried chillies in the Mexican food section of most grocery stores. It was easy!! (Although, be careful when rinsing the sieve out after you have made the sauce... I had a mist going and I think I invented my own 'pepper spray'... I couldn't quit choking!!) This soup was YUMMO!! it reminded me of those Hawaiian Chicken haystacks, where there is a basic dish and then everyone adds their desired toppings and makes it a meal! We especially liked putting some of the extra chili sauce, diced onion, and fresh cilantro on ours. Enjoy!

Posole Rojo
Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine
Serves:6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup dried chiles de arbol
4 or 5 dried ancho chiles
6 cloves garlic (2 smashed, 4 finely chopped)
Kosher salt
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut in half  (mine was about a 3 pound roast)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, chopped
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 bay leaf
3 15-ounce cans white hominy, drained and rinsed

For toppings:
Diced avocado, grated Cheese, Sour cream,  shredded cabbage, diced onion, fresh chopped cilantro, and /or tortilla chips

Directions:
Break the stems off the chiles de arbol and ancho chiles and shake out as many seeds as possible. Put the chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water; weigh down the chiles with a plate to keep them submerged and soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Transfer the chiles and 1 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid to a blender. Add the smashed garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt and blend until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pushing the sauce through with a rubber spatula; discard the solids.

Rub the pork all over with the cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt; set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook 2 minutes. Increase the heat to medium high. Push the onion and garlic to one side of the pot; add the pork to the other side and sear, turning, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Stir in 2 cups water, the chicken broth, oregano, bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of the chile sauce (depending on your taste). Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Partially cover and cook, turning the pork a few times, until tender, about 3 hours.

Stir in the hominy and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the pork starts falling apart, about 1 more hour. Remove the bay leaf. Transfer the pork to a cutting board; roughly chop and return to the pot. Add some water or broth if the posole is too thick. Season with salt. Serve with assorted toppings and the remaining chile sauce.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ratatouille

I LOVED this recipe....I got it from my cute niece Emily... THANKS Emily!! Have you watched the Disney movie "Ratatouille"? It's one of my favs because it's all about cooking and being a chef. In it the mouse cooks this for the mean restaurant critic and he loves it. Since I'm looking for different vegetable recipes besides steamed broccoli (that gets boring after awhile, I might add) I thought I would give this a try. I made a few tweaks to the recipe by adding a little Italian seasoning to the veggies and I sauteed my veggies a minute or two before layering into the casserole dish. I was afraid they wouldn't get cooked all the way through...especially the peppers and the onions. It smelled sooooo good while it was baking I couldn't wait to taste it!  and it turned out YUMMO!! I love eggplant.. the flavor of this dish is to die for... I think I could have eaten the whole thing myself! I served it along side some grilled steak. This does turn out quite juicy... but we didn't mind, our steak soaked up the juices. Just keep that in mind when cooking, you could serve over noodles or rice to soak up the juices, or in a bowl. That's how I ate my leftovers, I sliced up my leftover steak into a bowl and put the Ratatouille on top. YUMMO!

Ratatouille
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Italian Seasoning or dried basil
salt to taste
1 cup (about) grated Parmesan cheese
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 zucchini, sliced
1 large onion, sliced into rings
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup to 1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

Directions:
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat bottom and sides of a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
2.Peel and dice your eggplant. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add your garlic and saute 1 minute, then add your eggplant, saute 1 to 2 minutes; while it's cooking sprinkle a pinch of Italian seasoning and dried Parsley over it along with a sprinkle of Salt and pepper. 
While your eggplant is cooking slice your zucchini.
3.Spread eggplant mixture evenly across bottom of prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.
Saute your zucchini for a couple of minutes sprinkling with a pinch of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper like you did the egg plant. While it's cooking slice your onion.
Spread zucchini in an even layer over top of the eggplant. Sprinkle with 1 more Tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Continue cooking and  layering in this fashion, with onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, and tomatoes, covering each layer with 1 Tablespoon cheese.  I cooked each veggie for a minute or two while I sliced the next one  called for and seasoned each with a pinch of  Italian seasoning, salt and pepper: the only veggie I didn't cook before layering was the Tomatoes... they cook enough while baking.
**This sauteing just gets the cooking process started I think.
4.Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes uncovered. When there is only about 5 minutes left on the baking time, sprinkle with Mozzarella Cheese and let finish baking. Remove from oven and let rest for about 5 to 10 minutes for the juices to settle.
Serve with any grilled meat, or serve over noodles or rice. Enjoy!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Lofthouse" Style Sugar Cookies

I worked in Albertson's Bakery for 18 years of my life... not realizing that I stayed there sooo long because baking was my passion. Of course I didn't get to do alot of the 'fun' stuff because I wasn't the baker... or the cake decorator, but I did get to frost the donuts, and ice a few cakes on the cake decorator's day off. But I did get to help customers, and half of my passion is having people enjoy what I cook. So I was happy to help people with cakes, breads, donuts and other pastries. When the bakery started to do less scratch baking and incorporate some items that were made at a warehouse, I enjoyed it a little less... but I still enjoyed waiting on customers. One of the items they brought in were the Lofthouse sugar cookies, you know the ones, they're soft, and usually have pink icing with sprinkles, but the color of icing changes during the holidays. The first time I 'accidently' dropped a box so it broke open and we just HAD to eat them, man oh man, I wanted to create that cookie at home. Soft cookies with a frosting to die for.... and I think I finally found a recipe!!! There were ALOT of different sites on the internet that had this same recipe or something very similar, so I gave it a try. YUM!! I made a batch and took it to work to try out on my co-workers and most thought they were good and reminded them of the "lofthouse' cookies. Some said mine were even better. (I think it's my frosting, that's my tweaking) This recipe is a keeper.... All I can say is make yourself wait at least 6 or 7 hours before eating. I ate one right after making them and thought they weren't anything special, and the next morning I had one for breakfast and goodness! Delicious!! Something about letting them set overnight seems to let the flavors develop... of course I had mine covered so they didn't dry out! Just be prepared to eat a couple and have a glass of milk handy! Enjoy!

"Lofthouse" Style Sugar Cookies
For the Cookies:
6 cups flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, at room temperature (**note this recipe doesn't have salt in the cookies... use Salted butter for the best results, if using salt free butter add about 1/4 teaspoon of table salt to the dough)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups light sour cream   (I like Daisy brand... do a dollop,... do do a dollop!)Sorry.......

For the Frosting:
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon coconut extract (this is my tweak... I think it just adds that extra YUM to the icing)
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons heavy cream
Dash of Salt
Several drops food coloring
Sprinkles

Directions:
In a medium bowl, whisk 5 cups of flour, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beater attached, cream the butter and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat at low speed until combined.

Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed. Dough needs to obtain the right consistency for rolling, so add additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until this is achieved (up to 1 cup more flour). Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1 1/2 inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight (or at least 5 to 6 hours)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper ( I love parchment paper!!) or spray them with nonstick cooking spray, set aside.

Generously flour a work area and rolling pin. (here is another tweak I learned off the food network, mix powdered sugar in with your flour when flouring your surface before rolling out the dough-- I use a 1 to 1 ratio.... this gives them a better flavor...With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Don't go any thicker or you'll will get really thick puffy cookies. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes, until pale golden. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. ( you might think baking them at 425 is too high, but it's perfect!! I baked mine for the 7 minutes, then removed to a cooling rack right after I took them out of the oven.)

To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, vanilla and coconut extract. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until it's all incorporated..it will probably be lumpy and very dry... Next  add in heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired spreading consistency is achieved, also add a few drops of food coloring at this time if you are going to use it. Add a dash or two of salt .... Salt helps take out the overly 'Sweet' taste of the frosting... all you need is a dash or two though. Once I get the icing pretty smooth and to a spreadable consisency, I turn the mixer to medium speed and whip for about 2 minutes... this gets it to a light fluffy frosting that's yummo!!
Once cookies have cooled completely, frost and add sprinkles. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container. Let cookies sit for several hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop.
                                                          Yields: about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quick Chicken Fricassee

As you know I love to watch cooking shows.... and one of my new favorites is "America's Test Kitchen". They give awesome hints and tips for delicious recipes, one episode that I watched was all about Chicken. They roasted a chicken and then did this recipe for Chicken Fricassee... It looked yummo! And seemed lighter in calories so I thought I would give it a shot... I"m always looking for lighter recipes since trying to shed a few pounds after my fattening December... :)   This was awesome!! I served ours with steamed broccoli but you could also serve this over rice or noodles along side a steamed veggie. Also my chicken breasts were quite thick.. I think I should have butterflied them, or before serving sliced the chicken into pieces and then poured the sauce over it. Any way you serve it though, it was delicious!

Quick Chicken Fricassee
Serves 4 to 6
Note:Two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley leaves may be substituted for the tarragon in this recipe.

Ingredients:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts , thighs, or a combination (If the chicken breasts are thick, I suggest butterflying them)
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound mushrooms , stems trimmed, caps wiped clean and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium onion , chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup dry white wine (I substituted chicken broth)
 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 medium garlic clove , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup sour cream
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon (see note above)

Instructions
1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Heat butter and oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, place chicken in skillet and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip chicken and continue to cook until browned on second side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate.
2. Add mushrooms, onion, and wine to now-empty skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add broth and bring mixture to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Add chicken and any accumulated juices to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in breasts and 175 degrees when inserted in thighs, 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Transfer chicken to clean platter and tent loosely with foil. (another way to serve this if your chicken breasts are thick is to slice it then pour the sauce over, that way the chicken soaks up more of the sauce) Whisk sour cream and egg yolk together in medium bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly stir ½ cup sauce into sour cream mixture. Stirring constantly, slowly pour sour cream mixture into simmering sauce. Stir in nutmeg, lemon juice, and tarragon; return to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Like I said before this is good by itself, or since it's saucy it would be good over rice or cooked egg noodles. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spaghetti with Bacon, Brussels Sprouts and Artichokes

I found this recipe on one of my favorite recipe blogs (click here) and I just had to give it a try... after all is there anything that  isn't good that has bacon in it?I had been on a search for some new recipes that were a little lighter than what I  usually cook and had different vegetables in them. My hubby is on one of those kicks where he doesn't want many carbs but more meat and veggies... I thought this would work even though it has spaghetti noodles in it, I used the 'whole grain with more protein in them' noodles and didn't use quite as many as the recipe calls for. Still good! And I found that I even like Brussels Sprouts! YUM!

Spaghetti with Bacon, Brussels Sprouts and Artichokes
yield: 2 entrees, 4 sides
Ingredients:
1/2 lb. spaghetti (Use whole grain for a healthier twist)
4 slices thick sliced pepper bacon
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 package frozen, baby Brussel Sprouts ( I used Picsweet, thawed  and then I cut in half)
    or you can use 1- 1/2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts, cut in half
1-(14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drain and cut into quarters
1/2 cup grated parmigiana reggiano cheese
salt, to taste

Directions:
Bring large pot of water to boil. Salt water and add in pasta. Cook to al dente, (about 7 minutes) drain and set aside.
In the mean time, in a deep skillet, cook bacon slices to your liking. Drain on paper towels. Pour off excess bacon grease leaving 2 tablespoons. {If your bacon didn’t give off enough grease, make up the difference in olive oil.} Saute onions,  brussels sprouts and salt until tender, about 5 minutes. Chop bacon slices into smaller pieces. Stir in artichoke hearts and garlic, saute for another minute, then add the bacon, hot pasta and cheese. Toss together, taste and adjust seasonings. If you find the dish is on the dry side, stir in some reserved pasta water or heavy cream. I liked mine just the way it turned out. You can eat this as a main dish or as a side dish served with grilled steak or chicken! YUM!  (my picture wasn't quite as pretty as the lady's that I got the recipe from was, but still tasted good!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

This may seem like I should have posted this recipe in December, but I just got it. My mom used to make a wonderful Molasses Cookie when I was young, and I had tried to get her recipe, but she lost it and hadn't been able to find it again. I had been on the search for a Molasses/ Gingerbread cookie that would remind me of those cookies that Mom used to make, but with no luck.... until now!!! A friend from church had brought us a little Christmas treat last month, and in them were these amazing cookies! When I took a bite I was transported back to my childhood with the smell, taste and chewiness of these cookies! YUM!!! Thanks Alecia for sharing these cookies AND the recipe!! All you need to go with these is a glass of milk....and a little will power! (I think I ate 4 right out of the oven!!)

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar  (+ about 1/4 cup for rolling dough balls in before baking)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses + 1 Tablespoon
2-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger together, whisk to combine and set aside.
Cream together butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes)
Add egg and molasses to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Next add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until it's all incorporated.
Roll dough into small balls (I used my small cookie scoop) and roll in a small bowl of granulated sugar. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet (or spray cookie sheet with a non-stick cooking spray. I love using parchment paper... clean up is easy) Bake at 350 for 7 to 8 minutes. (I baked mine for 8 minutes and they were perfect! don't over bake... that is the key to chewy cookies) Enjoy!!
**Note that there is no salt in this recipe.... so use Salted butter, I think using unsalted butter would make for a not quite as good cookie..

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chex Mix

I LOVE this stuff... but it is addicting! I got this recipe from a friend I work with, who brought it for her "Treat the office day". I made it to give to neighbors for a Christmas treat this year and I thought I would post it now since the Super Bowl is coming up and this would make a great super bowl snack. It makes alot so be sure you have lots of people to share it with!! YUM! And for variation try adding Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal to it instead of the Honey Grahams for a twist. Enjoy!!

Chex Mix
2 cups light Corn syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
3 sticks butter (1-1/2 cups)
1 box Corn Chex
1 box Rice Chex
1 box Golden Graham Cereal
1 package Baker's Sweetened Coconut
1 package Slivered Almonds

Combine your cereals, coconut, and almonds in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a large sauce pan, combine the corn syrup, sugar and butter; cook and stir over medium/high heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Let this come to a boil, make sure it's a good rolling boil, then remove from heat.
Pour the sugar mixture over the cereal mixture and toss to coat. When everything is coated, spread chex mix out on a piece of aluminum foil to cool. (I put mine on 2 cookie sheets covered with foil.)
Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Creamy Avocado Salsa

I love watching the food channels on Saturday morning while I'm waking up in bed on Saturday morning... it's my most favorite thing!! This last Saturday I watched 'Rick Bayless-Mexico, one plate at a time' and he was featuring tacos.... and you know how I LOVE tacos!! He made this Salsa and made it sound sooooo amazing I had to give it a shot. He drizzled his over shrimp but I made Pork Carnitas (see my recipe here)and had it on those.. and it was AMAZING! You could drizzle this over any kind of meat in a taco that you like. I think I will try shrimp next. My hubby is all into eating healthy (I'm trying) so he ate his with just the meat, cheese and this drizzled on it with a side of black beans (no tortilla) but I caved and had to have a tortilla... I brushed it with a little olive oil and sauteed it in a skillet... not much oil so that 's healthier right? I know it looks a bit like split pea soup  or baby food but give it a try... it's awesome.

Creamy Avocado Salsa
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 Serrano chilies, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/3 cup roughly chopped, loosely packed cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup water (or more, if necessary)
1 ripe avocado, pit removed, flesh scooped from the skin and roughly chopped
Salt (to taste)

Directions
In a blender  or food processor combine the peanuts, chilies, cilantro, lime juice and 1/2 cup water. Blend until completely smooth . Add the avocado and pulse until thoroughly blended. Taste and season with salt, (about 1/2 teaspoon), and thin with additional water if necessary, I added about 2 Tablespoons more since mine was pretty thick.

Serve on tacos, enchilada's, or whatever you desire!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Samoa Bark

This was another treat I made to give to friends at Christmas time... but make it anytime. I love the Samoa cookies you get from Girl scouts, I think I could eat pretty much a whole box. This recipe tastes pretty much like those!! and you get a whole pan full! YUM!! I got the original recipe here and followed it pretty close except I toast my coconut differently. Enjoy!

Samoa Bark
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate + 2 oz for drizzle
35-40 shortbread cookies (I used Lorna Doone)
14 oz bag of caramels
3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
3 Tbsp water

Instructions
1.Line a baking sheet with parchement paper (or you can use foil). Set aside.
2.Melt 12 oz of semi-sweet chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. (I prefer double boiler).
3.Spread the melted chocolate to your desired thickness…I went thin-ish.
4.Top your warm chocolate evenly with your shortbread cookies.
5.Place baking sheet in freezer while you do the next steps.
6.Spread your coconut onto another large baking sheet spreading out so it's a thin layer, then place into a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes. Check on this occasionally and stir it around a bit. When the coconut starts to turn brown it happens quickly, so keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.. you want it good and toasty but not burned. Stir around and let brown all over.
7.Meanwhile unwrap all your caramels and place them in a medium saucepan along with 2 Tbsp of water over medium-low heat.
8.Stir continuously until the caramel has JUST melted. You don’t want to over heat the caramel, as it will make it hard. Immediately fold in your toasted coconut.
9.Remove your chocolate from the freezer and spread the caramel/coconut evenly on top.
10.Melt your remaining 2 oz of chocolate using whatever melting process you prefer and drizzle over the top of the caramel/coconut.
11.Put back in the freezer for 5 minutes to set the chocolate.
12.Cut and enjoy!

Shepherds Pie

Can you believe I haven't made Shepherd's Pie before??? at least that I can remember, I think I tried once in my early years of marriage but we didn't like it so I never attempted it again. In December during all the hustle and bustle of the season and my cake making I wanted something fast and comforting. I also had a bunch of leftover mashed potatoes from a Sunday pot roast dinner that I needed to use up and decided to give this another chance. I looked up recipes off the Internet, some were made with tomato sauce and others with cream of mushroom soup. I took what I liked about both varieties and this is what I came up with. It was just what I needed!! YUM!

Shepherds Pie
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 medium-size onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1 pint green beans, drained (canned or frozen (about 1 1/2 cups) will work, I just had some home canned beans, if using frozen be sure they are thawed and drained)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained
1 cup frozen diced carrots, thawed and drained
Leftover mashed potatoes (about 3 cups or so.. you want enough to cover the top of a 9x13 casserole dish)
1/4 cup milk (optional... I used it to thin out my potatoes a little)
Lawry's Seasoned Salt (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown the ground beef, onions, and garlic in a large skillet, season with Salt and Pepper to suit your taste ( I always like to season my beef as it's browning). Once the hamburger is browned, drain off any grease.
Next add the cream of mushroom soup, Worcestershire sauce, and water, stirring to incorporate all together, taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Then add in the beans, peas, and carrots, stirring to combine. Place this mixture in a 9x13 baking dish. Set aside.
In a large bowl place your leftover potatoes and the 1/4 cup of milk if needed, use less if your mashed potatoes are spreadable. Season with a little Lawry's seasoned salt to taste, then stir in your grated cheese (use as much cheese as you like, you could save some to sprinkle on the top if desired.)
Spread your mashed potato mixture over the top of your burger mixture by placing dollops of the mixture atop the casserole then spreading smooth with a knife or back of your spoon.
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until potatoes start to turn a golden brown. Enjoy!!

**I just threw this together using what I had when it came to vegetables and mashed potatoes, I didn't really follow any recipe. Feel free to add more or less of whatever you like. I've also seen this made with tater tots used on the top instead of mashed potatoes and the cheese is just sprinkled on top of those. I liked the cheese incorporated into the mashed potato layer but it could just be sprinkled on the top. This is ultimate comfort food if you ask me!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Coconut Snowballs

I love dates....in a dessert that is, my mom used to made a date bar when I was little and I had eaten these at a Christmas party years ago and they reminded me of those. But since then I had been in search of an awesome recipe for a good coconut date ball. I ran across this one evening when browsing recipes on the Internet and it looked Yummo! I made them to go with my plate of goodies that I take to neighbors and friends at Christmas time. I toasted the coconut because I LOVE toasted coconut, but you don't have to. They were delicioso!!

Coconut Snowballs
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup finely chopped dates
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups rice krispies cereal
coconut (about 1 package) toasted (follow directions on the package to toast)

Combine butter, salt, sugar, milk and dates in a large saucepan. Cook about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and using a whisk or wooden spoon to mash the dates a bit.
In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork, then add a 2 spoonfuls of the warm date mixture one at a time to temper the egg a bit (whisking while adding in the hot mixture so your egg doesn't scramble) then add the egg mixture to the date mixture in the saucepan, stirring constantly, cook for about another 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat, add vanilla and stir, then add rice krispies and stir again until all are incorporated. Allow this mixture to cool for about 1 minute.
Place your coconut (toasted or not) into a bowl. Then using a 1 Tablespoon sized cookie scoop (or spoon) scoop a ball of the date mixture into the bowl of coconut. Use your hands to press coconut into the date mixture until fully covered shaping into a ball as you work. (refill the bowl with coconut as needed)
Place finished Snowballs on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish. When all have been made, serve or cover until ready to serve. These can be stored at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. This makes 25 to 30 balls depending on the size you make them. Enjoy!!