17 December 2011

The fine people over at Marx Foods have issued another blogger challenge.  The challenge this time was to create a decadent chocolate recipe using one of the following ingredients: fennel pollen, dried Habanero chiles, dried Puya chiles, coconut sugar, granulated candy cap mushrooms, and vanilla beans.

My thoughts immediately gravitated toward the dried chiles.  I love a tiny little bit of heat in chocolate.  A few years ago, Haagen Dazs had a flavor of ice cream called Mayan Chocolate.  It didn't have any chiles in it, but it did have cinnamon, which I had never really had paired with chocolate before.  But having cinnamon in chocolate really opens the door to spicing chocolate up even more.  A year or so ago I made some "Mexican brownies" for a church dinner that involved adding chipotle powder and cinnamon to brownie batter.  So good.

So I knew I wanted to do a spicy chocolate thing, but what?  I tried to make fudge, but it was an epic failure (my second epic fudge failure in the last two months.  I'm pretty sure I am DONE trying to make fudge!).  Then I got the idea to make a spiced hot fudge sauce to go over ice cream and other desserts.  This one was an instant winner!

Spiced Hot Fudge Sauce

2-3 dried Habanero chiles
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
⅓ cup cocoa
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter

Remove the seeds and ribs from the chiles and crumble them into a spice or coffee grinder.  Grind until it becomes a fine powder.  Measure out ⅛ tsp – ¼ tsp, depending on how spicy you want the sauce to be.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, cinnamon, and chile powder.  Stir to remove any lumps.  Add milk and stir.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil until sauce has reached desired consistency, keeping in mind that the sauce will thicken a bit as it cools.  Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.

Serve warm over ice cream, cheesecake, pound cake, and anything else you can think of!

It turned out so well and was super duper easy to make.  While it was really good with the ice cream, I had to really restrain myself not to just eat it all off the spoon!  And it's really easy to adjust to your heat preferences. I wanted some spice, but we don't like things too hot, so I used ⅛ tsp.  It was perfect for us.  If you use any more than that, you better like things HOT!

If you think this hot fudge sauce sounds good, please go over to the Marx Foods Blog and vote for it. My recipe is certainly the simplest one on the ballot, but complicated doesn't always mean tastier, right? :)

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16 December 2011

It's Friday! How about some dessert?  These are some little treasures I made a while back.  I'm not sure why I haven't blogged about them yet, but it works out because today is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day!  So it's the perfect day to share this lovely recipe with you.  I got it from the blog Make Happy.

Chocolate-Covered Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls

½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp brown sugar
⅛ tsp salt
1½ cups pretzels, crushed 
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper.

In a small bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, and salt. Stir until all ingredients are completely blended and smooth.  Add pretzel bits to peanut butter mixture and mix thoroughly.
Add powdered sugar and mix thoroughly. 

Take about a tablespoon of the peanut butter pretzel mixture into your fingers and gently pat it into a ball with your fingertips.  If the peanut butter starts sticking to your fingers, your fingers are too warm. Run your fingers under cold water for a minute to chill them, and begin rolling again.  Place the peanut butter balls onto the prepared baking sheet. Place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

After the peanut butter balls have chilled, prepare the chocolate. Pour the chocolate chips into a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. If needed, microwave for another 10 seconds and stir again. Continue until the chips are completely melted.

Place one peanut butter ball into the melted chocolate and gently roll it around with a fork until completely coated. Remove from the bowl with the fork and place back onto the waxed paper. Repeat for all other balls.  Once all the peanut butter balls are coated in chocolate, return the sheet to the refrigerator and chill another 30 minutes.

Makes approximately 18 balls.

Putting pretzels in desserts is really big right now, and after trying these, I can see why!  I've definitely had my share of chocolate covered peanut butter balls in my lifetime, but adding pretzels takes them to a whole new level!  I absolutely love the little bit of crunch and texture they give and then they've also got that salty/sweet thing going on too.  They're pretty perfect!

You can see that the chocolate is melting against my fingers in the pic above.  That's because I had to take about 30 blurry shots to get one good one!

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15 December 2011

Today is reveal day for the Improv Cooking Challenge.  The premise of this challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

Improv Challenge

Last month, the challenge was pumpkin and cream cheese and I made those lovely Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls.  They were a big hit!  I'm probably even more excited about my recipe for this month's challenge ingredients: eggnog and cranberries.  I don't think I have ever cooked or baked with eggnog before.  It's not something I like to drink, but I don't mind the flavor, so I was eager to try it in a baked good.  And muffins are my go-to baked good of choice, which you already know if you are a regular reader.

I found this recipe for Eggnog Cranberry White Chocolate Muffins at Your Homebased Mom.  I was not familiar with Leigh Anne's blog, but she has some really tasty-looking stuff on there!  I thought these muffins sounded so delicious.  I made just a few minor adjustments.  Here's my amended recipe.

Cranberry Eggnog White Chocolate Chip Muffins

2¼ cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup eggnog
5 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 cup white chocolate chips
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, slightly softened

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Coat 18 muffin cups with baking spray.  

In a medium bowl, add together the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to combine.  In a large bowl, add together the sugar, eggs, eggnog, oil, and almond extract.  Stir until well combined.   Add in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Fold in the cranberries and white chocolate chips.  Do not over mix.

Divide the batter among the 18 muffin cups.

For the streusel topping, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or a fork until a coarse, crumbly mixture forms.  Sprinkle the mixture  on top of the muffin batter.

Bake for about 18-22 minutes, or a until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Makes 1½ dozen muffins.

I know this recipe pretty well by now, as I made it three times in about a month.  I made these muffins once, to try them out for the challenge, and they were so good that I made another batch to give to my sister when we went to her house for Thanksgiving, then I made them again for our fellowship/coffee time at church earlier this month.  They are not the easiest muffins to throw together; chopping the cranberries is quite tedious, but the end result is so much better than using dried cranberries.  I love the bright tartness they add to the muffins. They are the perfect balance to the sweetness of the other ingredients.  And I just love their vibrant red color.

As Leigh Anne says in her post, these muffins taste like Christmas!

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12 December 2011

I hope you're in the mood for muffins, because I've got two great recipes to share with you this week.  And guess what?  They're both Christmas-y muffin recipes.  I love cooking seasonal food.  Food doesn't get much more Christmas-y than gingerbread.  I pinned a Gingerbread Waffle recipe to Pinterest a long time ago and so far it has gotten 30 repins.  Unfortunately, I don't have a waffle-maker. :(  So what's the next best thing?  Gingerbread muffins!  This is a Betty Crocker recipe.

Gingerbread Muffins

¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
⅓ cup milk
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
Raw sugar

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with baking spray and set aside.

In large bowl, combine brown sugar, molasses, milk, oil, and egg.  In a another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice.  Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients, until just combined, being careful not to over-stir. 

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle each cup with a generous pinch of raw sugar.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

I changed almost nothing about this recipe.  It called for a white chocolate drizzle that I left off.  While it sounds good, they most certainly don't need it.  They are so great on their own. I think they're really good with a little smear of butter.

Now you know I am not much of a baker, so these muffins are as close to gingerbread men as I am going to get!

Come back on Thursday for another awesome Christmas muffin recipe.

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08 December 2011

I recently cooked with a veggie I had never used before.  Kale.  I don't know why I had never used it before; I like leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard.  So when Grimmway Farms sent me a coupon for free produce, I thought it was high time to give kale a shot.  It's winter, so of course, my mind automatically went to soup.  Even though I had not had kale before, it just seemed like it would go well with beans and sausage.  Here's what I came up with.

White Bean, Sausage, and Kale Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
2 cans white beans, one drained and rinsed, the other not
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
6 cups red kale, chopped

Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until onion begins to get soft.  Add sausage and break up into chunks.  Cook until sausage is  browned and cooked through.  Drain off grease.

Add beans, broth, and kale.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes or until kale is softened.

Makes 6 servings.

It worked really well.  I made this soup when my mom was visiting and she had never had kale before either.  She heard other people say that it was kind of bitter, so she was a tad skeptical.  But we were all pleasantly surprised that it wasn't bitter at all and had a lovely flavor.  Kale is much sturdier than spinach, and since my mom is not a fan of wilted spinach in soups, she liked it much better than if I had used spinach.  My husband loved it too and my 18 month old daughter gobbled it up!

I love having a wide variety of soups in my repertoire in the winter, so I am glad to have branched out and added a new veggie to the mix.  This is a nice, hearty soup for a cold winter day.

Kim at Everyday Mom chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in January 2013.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

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07 December 2011

Today I am doing my first-ever guest post.  Mandy at Mandy's Recipe Box asked if I would be interested in doing one, so I took her up on the offer.

Mandy‘s Recipe Box

Mandy has a great blog.  If you aren't familiar with it, I encourage you to stop by and check it out.

The recipe I have posted over there is Slow Cooker Sesame Orange Chicken.  It's really easy and really tasty.  

05 December 2011

It's Secret Recipe Club reveal day!  The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  This is my fifth month participating.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

I was excited when I got my assignment for this month and it was My Fiance Likes It So It Must Be Good.  I discovered Peggy's blog when she was assigned mine the first month I joined the SRC.  I've been a follower ever since.  I was excited for the opportunity to reciprocate!  Peggy is a busy gal; she works full time and is also in her first semester of culinary school (yay, Peggy!).  Despite her super busy schedule, she has taken the time to share what she is learning at culinary school with all of her blog readers.  She posted a tutorial on breaking down a whole chicken, which was really helpful.  Then she posted a great recipe for Buffalo Chicken Breast Sandwiches, which is one of the first recipes they made in school.  I knew I wanted to make that, because it is something I had never made before, and I love to use my SRC assignments to challenge myself in areas I haven't yet explored.  So this recipe was perfect.

Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup flour
½ tsp salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets
½ cup of Frank's Wing Sauce
4 hoagie rolls, split
4 slices bacon, cooked
Bleu cheese dressing

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add oil.  Combine flour and salt and coat each chicken cutlet in flour mixture, shaking off any excess.  When oil is shimmering, add chicken to pan.  Cook chicken until golden brown all over, about 5-7 minutes per side.

Remove from pan and coat each cutlet in wing sauce.

Assemble your sandwiches by stacking chicken, bacon, lettuce, and bleu cheese on each bun.

Makes 4 servings.

I didn't change Peggy's recipe very much at all.  I dredged the chicken in flour before browning it, just to give it a little more texture.  The only other thing I changed was to top the sandwiches with bleu cheese dressing.  I love the combination of the hot and spicy with the cool and creamy!  And I know that bacon probably isn't a traditional component to a buffalo chicken sandwich, but I happened to have some in the fridge, and it looked so good on Peggy's sandwich that I thought, who am I to mess with success? :)  I really liked the crunch it provided.

I made these sandwiches for myself, my husband, and my mother, who was visiting from out of town.  None of us like really spicy food, so I was kind of afraid that these sandwiches would be too much.  I really doused the chicken breast that I used in the pic above, but I told Jim and Mom that they could just brush a little bit of the sauce on their chicken.  We were all pleasantly surprised to find that the sandwiches weren't really that spicy.  I ate the one that was completely doused in sauce and I loved it!  Jim's only complaint was that I didn't make enough; he wanted another sandwich!  

Thanks so much, Peggy, for taking us along on your culinary school journey.  I can't wait to see what else you have been learning!

On a side note, one of my recipes was chosen by the Today Show as a finalist in their Home Chef Challenge. I would love it if you would take a minute and drop by their Facebook page to vote for my Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza. If I win, I will be featured on the Today Show's website and could possibly even appear on the Today Show!

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28 November 2011

I was going to return to blogging today after taking a week off for Thanksgiving, but then one of my kiddos came down with a stomach bug and we spent part of the night and all day on the couch.

But I did want to share with you some super exciting news.  I have been chosen as a contender for the Today Show's Home Chef Challenge!! This week's theme is pizza, and they chose my Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza as one of the top three pizza recipes.  Please visit the Today Show's Facebook Page to vote for my recipe.  The winner will be featured on Today.com and could possibly even be on the Today Show!

19 November 2011

Less than a week before Thanksgiving and I have another pie recipe for you.  Thanksgiving has nothing to do with why I made this pie; it's really just a timing coincidence.  There is a reason I made this pie but I can't tell you about it yet. This is a Southern Living recipe.

Caramel Pecan Pie

1 refrigerated pie crust
28 caramels
4 tbsp butter
¼ cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla 
¼ tsp salt
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted

Preheat oven to 400°.

Fit piecrust into a 9” pie plate according to package directions; fold edges under, and crimp. Prick bottom and sides of piecrust with a fork.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned; cool on wire rack.

Combine caramels, butter, and water in medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until caramels and butter are melted; remove from heat.

Stir together sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Stir into caramel mixture until thoroughly combined.  Pour into prepared crust.  Top with pecans.

Bake pie at 400° for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, and bake 20 more minutes, shielding edges of crust with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning if necessary.  Remove pie to a wire rack to cool. 

Makes 8 servings.

I had never made pecan pie before, but this was a great recipe to start with! It's so good!  Caramel and pecans go together so well, so it's no surprise that someone decided to put caramel in a pecan pie.  After having this one, I don't see any point in making a regular pecan pie!

So if you are looking for a pie to sit alongside your pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving dessert table, I highly recommend this one.  It's a great alternative for those who don't care for pumpkin pie, but it's still has that "fall" feel to it.

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18 November 2011

It's another chilly November day here in Michigan.  I woke up to snow on the ground for the second time this season.  I've got three new soup recipes that I have made recently, so I thought today would be a good day to share one with you!  This is an adaptation of a recipe I saw in the most recent issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray.

Cheesy Chicken Potato Soup

2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp onion powder
1½ cups chicken, cooked and shredded
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup sour cream
Green onions, sliced, optional

Combine potatoes, stock, and onion powder in a large soup pot.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft.  Reduce heat to low and puree using a stick blender, leaving a few chunks of potato, if desired.  Add chicken, cheese, and sour cream and stir well.  

Serve warm with green onion sprinkled on top, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

For some reason, chicken and potatoes don't really seem to go together in soups, but this works.  I think adding cheese makes everything better!

This recipe is a little bit different from the one in the magazine.  That one had leeks, but I didn't have any so I left that out.  I also used less cheese; that recipe called for 7 oz.  I weighed out 2 cups, and it was just over 5 oz., but that looked like plenty to me.  The green onions were my idea, but I didn't have any the day I made this.  I will definitely use them next time though, because I love green onions with potatoes in almost any form.

This is a warm, comforting, easy to make soup great for a chilly day!

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17 November 2011

I have joined yet another blogging challenge.  I can't help it; they are just so much fun!  They really force me to get out of my comfort zone and make recipes that I wouldn't normally make.

In October, I found out about the Improv Challenge.  The premise of this challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.  I found out about the challenge too late in October to pull a recipe together by the reveal date, so this is my first month participating.  The challenge was cancelled earlier this month, because the blogger who started it removed her blog and disappeared.  But luckily another blogger, Kristen from Frugal Antics of  Harried Homemaker, picked up where she left off and the challenge is back on!

Improv Challenge

The ingredients for this month are pumpkin and cream cheese.  Pretty easy!  I found a great recipe at Picky Palate.  Here's my adaptation.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

1 (12 oz.) can Big and Buttery crescent rolls (8 rolls)
¾ tsp ground cinnamon, divided
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp pumpkin puree
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°.  

Unroll crescent rolls to form 4 rectangles placed side by side, long sides together.  Pinch seams together to form one long rectangle.  Sprinkle with ½ tsp cinnamon.  Place cream cheese, brown sugar, pumpkin, remaining ¼ tsp cinnamon, and nutmeg into a bowl; beat until well combined.  Spread mixture over crescents leaving a ½” border around edges.  

Starting at long end, roll up into a log, then cut into 1” pieces.  Place around the edge of a 9” cake pan that have been sprayed with baking spray.  

Bake for 28-30 minutes or until rolls are golden brown.  Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.  Frost warm rolls with cream cheese frosting recipe below.

2 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp vanilla
½ tbsp pumpkin puree, optional

Mix all ingredients into a large bowl until smooth.  Spread over warm rolls.

Makes 8 servings.

The rolls before frosting.  Isn't it pretty?  Yes, I know I need to iron my tablecloth; I'll get right on that!

My crescents look a little funky because I put them together the wrong way the first time and had to redo it.  I think next time I might use the crescent roll dough that doesn't have the crescent perforations, that's made for recipes like this.

Cream cheese filling.  I had trouble with my filling oozing out as I rolled it up and as I cut it into individual rolls.  As I put them into the pan, it looked so messy that I thought it was a flop and I would have to redo it.  But, as you can see above, they came out of the oven looking beautiful.

These were so good and my family loved them.  I will definitely be making them again!

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16 November 2011

Quiche is a favorite meal at our house.  And it's my go-to meatless meal; easy to throw together when I don't have a new meatless recipe planned to try out.  Earlier this year I shared with you my Broccoli Cheddar Quiche, and in that post, I mentioned that I also make a quiche with a shredded potato crust.  I got lots of feedback about that, people saying that they would love to see that recipe.  Well, I just finally got around to posting it!

Spinach Cheese Quiche with Potato Crust

3 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed and dried
4 tbsp butter, melted
¼ tsp salt
6 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400°.  Place potatoes, butter, and salt in a bowl.  Toss to combine.  Spray a 9” pie plate with cooking spray and spread potatoes evenly in bottom and up the sides.  Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place eggs, spinach, cheese, and salt in a bowl.  Stir to combine.  Remove potato crust from oven and turn oven temperature down to 350°.  Pour in egg/spinach mixture into crust and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until cooked through.  

Makes 6 servings.

My husband loves this quiche.  Seriously raves about it.  He much prefers this potato crust to the pie crust kind.  I love how the potatoes on the outside get all crispy and crunchy.  I can never get the potatoes on the bottom to get crispy, even with the prebaking, but they still make a really nice crust.

Before baking.

I like to keep frozen hash browns on hand for this very reason.  Quiche makes a great last minute meal because I always have eggs and some kind of veggie I can throw in there.  It's really fun to experiment with different kinds.

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Raina at Connor's Cooking chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in June 2012.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

14 November 2011

After doing Thanksgiving-y dishes all last week, it's kind of nice blogging about something completely different.  Unless you are Italian, spaghetti would be the last thing on your Thanksgiving table.  I saw this recipe in Real Simple and couldn't wait to try it.  Bacon in meatballs?  Awesome.

Spaghetti With Bacon Meatballs

¼ cup onion, chopped
3 slices bacon, very coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic
1 lb. ground beef
½ cup grated Parmesan (2 oz.), plus more for garnish
3 tbsp bread crumbs
1 egg
½ tsp salt
12 oz. spaghetti 
3 cups marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 400°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. 

In a food processor, combine the onion, bacon, and garlic; pulse until finely chopped, 10 to 15 times. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the beef, Parmesan, bread crumbs, egg, and salt; mix gently to combine.

Form the beef mixture into 16 meatballs (about 2 tbsp each) and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Heat the marinara sauce in a large skillet over medium heat, 2 to 3 minutes; add the meatballs and toss gently to coat. Serve over the pasta and sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.

So I wasn't really sure how these were going to turn out.  Honestly, I thought the bacon wouldn't be that noticeable wrapped up in all that beef.  But I was wrong.  The bacon gives a nice smokiness to the meatballs. The texture isn't that noticeable, but the flavor definitely is.

I didn't use a food processor; I just chopped up my onions very finely and grated my garlic and mixed everything together by hand.  That works just fine.

These were a huge hit with my family.  It's a nice change from the usual.  I wouldn't make them every time we have spaghetti (I usually use ground beef instead of meatballs), but I will definitely make them again every once in a while for a change of pace.

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11 November 2011

It's the final day of Thanksgiving Week!  Did you enjoy my unique recipes for mashed potatoes, dressing, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes?  I thought I'd end the week on a sweet note with a twist on pumpkin pie.  The nice thing about this recipe is that, while it is definitely different from the traditional pumpkin pie, it is similar enough that anyone expecting pumpkin pie won't be disappointed.  This is the pumpkin pie I have been making for the last three years, and my family always enjoys it.  It's an adaptation of one I found on Food.com.

Pumpkin Crisp Pie

1 refrigerated pie shell, 9” (or homemade)
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup plus 6 tbsp brown sugar, divided
10 oz. evaporated milk
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice, divided
½ cup quick oats
¼ cup pecans, chopped
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter, softened
Whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 425°.  Coat a 9” pie plate with baking spray.  Place pie crust in pie plate, crimping edges.

Combine pumpkin purée, 1 cup brown sugar, evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla, and ½ tsp pie spice in a large bowl. Stir to thoroughly combine. Pour into prepared pie crust.

Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° and bake for an additional 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine quick oats, remaining 6 tbsp brown sugar, pecans, flour, remaining ¼ tsp pie spice, and butter with a fork or pastry cutter. 

Add reserved topping and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool before serving. Serve with whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Now, this isn't just a traditional pumpkin pie that has a streusel topping.  The pumpkin part is a little bit different.  It's creamier and fluffier than traditional pumpkin pie.  It's not dense and packed.  The ingredients are similar, so I'm not exactly sure what makes the difference, but I really like it.  And the streusel topping is really tasty and gives the pie a nice contrast of textures, which I'm always big on.

Isn't it pretty?

I hope that I have inspired you this week to try some new dishes at Thanksgiving this year.  If you do try any of them, leave me a comment and tell me how it went over.  

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10 November 2011

Today is Day Four of Thanksgiving Week.  I have already given you unique recipes for mashed potatoes, dressing, and green beans.  Today I have a really fun sweet potato recipe for you.  One that doesn't involve mini marshmallows!

My family absolutely loves the sweet potato casserole I make every year.  It's one of those dishes that everyone looks forward to the most and is the only thing they request leftovers of.  And I will be making it again this year, but I wanted to experiment with another sweet potato dish to share with you.  I tried a Taste of Home recipe that looked really good, but after trying it twice and being disappointed in it, I gave up.  I decided to skip the casserole dish altogether and do something different with the sweet potatoes.  I often make twice baked potatoes at my Easter feast, so I thought, why not try twice baked sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving?  I have never had a twice baked sweet potato before, but it's got to be good, right?  Right!  I created this recipe (three original recipes in one week, wow!) and I think it's a winner.

Twice Baked Orange Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes

4 large sweet potatoes
4 tbsp butter, divided
Zest of half an orange
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup flour
½ cup pecan chips

Preheat oven to 400°.  

Wrap potatoes individually in foil.  Place in oven and bake for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until soft.  Remove from oven and unwrap.  Let cool just enough to handle.  Line a baking sheet with foil and coat generously with cooking spray.  Place potatoes on the prepared baking sheet.

Cut a large hole in the top of each potato and discard the skin.  Scoop out the flesh of each potato, being careful to leave at least ¼” of flesh around the outside edges to help the shell hold its shape.  Place the flesh in a bowl and mash until smooth.  Add 2 tbsp melted butter, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt.  Mix well.  Place potato mixture back into potato shells, mounding it up on top if necessary.

To make streusel topping, combine brown sugar, flour, and remaining 2 tbsp butter until crumbly.  Fold in pecans.  Evenly distribute streusel topping among potatoes.   

Return potatoes to oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until topping is slightly browned.  Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Now, the picture above may not be the best, but right after I snapped that pic, the platter tilted off the tiny table I use for taking food pics, and the whole thing slid off onto the floor.  Yep.  That happened.  Right before dinner.  My lovely husband cleaned up the mess and was able to salvage enough of the potatoes that landed on the tablecloth and not the floor, that we were still able to give it taste.

The combination of cinnamon and orange is so good in sweet potatoes.  I've got the amounts just right so that you can taste a little bit of each, but they are not overpowering.  The potato filling is mostly savory. I like it that way since the topping is sweet.  But if your family insists on having their sweet potatoes sweet sweet, you can add a little bit of brown sugar (maybe ¼ cup?) to the potato filling as well.

Try to find sweet potatoes shaped like this, kind of shorter and fat, instead of those that are long and skinny.

These potatoes are really good and I think they are a unique alternative to sweet potato casserole.  The nice thing about them is that you can bake the sweet potatoes ahead of time, and prepare the filling, then they just need 10-15 minutes in the oven right before serving.  My sweet potato casserole bakes for around 30 minutes, so that is a nice time saver.  The more things you can prep ahead of time for Thanksgiving dinner, the better!

Tomorrow is the last day of Thanksgiving Week and I am sharing with you a twist on pumpkin pie.

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09 November 2011

It's Day Three of my Thanksgiving Week series.  I have already covered Mashed Potatoes and Dressing, and today we are tackling Green Bean Casserole.  I am really excited to share this recipe with you today.  Are you tired of the boring old green bean casserole that appears on the table every year? The one that comes completely out of cans? If so, you're going to love this recipe.  I saw that The Pioneer Woman but bacon and cheddar cheese in her green bean casserole and I took that idea and ran with it.  This isn't her recipe; she inspired me and I came up with this one.

Bacon Cheddar Green Bean Casserole

2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed
4 slices bacon, chopped
¼ large onion, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt, to taste
6 oz. french fried onions, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cut green beans into pieces, if desired.  Place green beans in a large pot of salted boiling water.  Boil until beans are desired tenderness.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat.  When fat starts to render, add onions and mushrooms and saute until veggies are soft and bacon is fully cooked.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Add flour and cook for a few minutes.  Combine milk and chicken broth; add slowly to saucepan, whisking to incorporate.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and add cheddar cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.  

Add bacon/mushroom mixture and cheese sauce to green beans.  Mix well.  Pour into a 9x13” baking dish and top with french fried onions.

Bake 10-15 minutes, or until onions are golden brown.

Makes 8-10 servings.

I tried to keep this casserole a little reminiscent of the old standby.  I kept the mushrooms in there, and while the sauce is cheesy, it's still somewhat similar to the canned stuff in the old recipe.  I used a combination of milk and stock to achieve that.

This casserole is so good! I have always loved the canned version, but I'm not sure I will be making it again after having this deliciousness!  I mean, really, bacon and cheese?  How can you go wrong?  We had a mock-Thanksgiving meal where I tried out all of my Thanksgiving Week dishes and this is probably what I ate the most of.

I kept the french fried onions on top, because I love those things, but if you don't care for them, you could use Panko breadcrumbs instead.

Come back tomorrow for an out-of-the-box sweet potato recipe (or should I say "out-of-the-casserole-dish"?)  You're going to love it.

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