28 January 2014

Butterscotch Puppy Chow (Muddy Buddies)

Are you headed to a big Super Bowl party this weekend?  My husband and I are not into football at all (I'm a baseball girl, thankyouverymuch), so we will not be watching "the big game".  While I don't get everyone's obsession with football, I can definitely appreciate the food aspect of the Super Bowl and its parties.  I have a couple of super simple snack recipes to share with you this week.  These recipes are great because they are way better than just opening a bag of something from the store, but they don't require much time in the kitchen.

First up is a yummy snacky-type dessert.  Puppy Chow.  Or do you call it Muddy Buddies?  I have heard it both ways.  I grew up calling it Puppy Chow, so that has stuck in my mind.  Call it whatever you want; it's good!  The traditional version is a mixture of chocolate and peanut butter of course, but there have a myriad of twists on it lately.  Have you seen them?  They all look and sound so delicious.  I came across this recipe for a butterscotch version at Sally's Baking Addiction and just had to try it since I am obsessed with all things butterscotch.  One of my most favorite flavors ever.

Butterscotch Puppy Chow

6½ cups Rice Chex 
1 (11 oz.) pkg butterscotch chips
½ cup creamy peanut butter 
2 cups powdered sugar

Pour the cereal into a very large bowl with a lid. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butterscotch morsels and peanut butter. Stir constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and pour over the cereal.  Fold the butterscotch mixture very carefully into the cereal, being careful not to crunch up the cereal.  

Pour the powdered sugar on top of the cereal and put the lid on the bowl.  Shake the bowl until the powdered sugar is evenly distributed over the cereal.  Use a large slotted spoon to separate the cereal from the extra powdered sugar and place the cereal in a serving bowl.

Store at room temperature up to 2 weeks. 

Makes 6½ cups.

This is so amazing.  It comes together in about 5 minutes.  I love that.  This would be such a perfect thing to take to a Super Bowl party.  I made it on New Year's Eve and took it to our friends' house.  I was delighted to realize that my box of Rice Chex contained 13 cups, so there was exactly enough leftover needed for a second batch, which I made last week to cheer myself up when my husband was out of town for four days.

I seriously don't know if I can go back to traditional puppy chow now that I've had the butterscotch version.  So addicting!  My almost-six-year-old and I nearly had it all gone by the time my husband came home.  We left him a few bites. :)

On Thursday I'll share a great savory snack for your Super Bowl party.  And a quick shout-out to my mother-in-law, who made me that pretty table runner in the photo above. Thanks Tammy!

25 January 2014

Well, we've entered the time of year when my blog posts get much fewer and far between.  Winter always gets me down and I can't get motivated to do anything.  Blah!  I have been trying new recipes every week, but am not able to photograph most of them since it's gets dark long before dinnertime.  I do have a huge backlog of recipes I have photographed, just waiting to be posted, so today I decided to cross one off the list.

This is a recipe I discovered last fall.  We have a good friend who recently moved near to us and we invited him over for lunch around his birthday since he was so far away from his family and friends.  We asked him what he would like for his birthday meal and he mentioned that he liked Indian food.  I had very little experience making Indian food, but I remembered that I wanted to try this recipe and it seemed pretty easy.  I thought it would be a good "starter" Indian dish.  I got the recipe from Emily Bites.


2 tsp canola oil
1 small onion, diced
2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp Garam Masala 
½ tsp red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
2 cups frozen peas

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened and golden. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon until brown and cooked through. Drain off grease.  Add the garlic, tomatoes, ginger, Garam Masala, and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook, stirring regularly, for 3-5 minutes until tomatoes are softened and flavors are combined. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and more Garam Masala if desired.  Add the peas and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes until the peas are softened without being mushy.   

Serve with naan or rice.

Makes 6-8 servings.

This dish is awesome because it is so flavorful and a little "exotic", but is really no more difficult to make than sloppy joes.  You are basically just browning ground beef and adding seasonings.  I use Penzey's Garam Masala, of course, but it can also be found in the regular grocery store.  You can also use powdered garlic and ginger instead of fresh and fresh tomatoes instead of canned if you want.  It's a very versatile dish.  

So if you have been intimidated by trying to make Indian food at home, start with this dish.  It's pretty much fool-proof.  And it's a real crowd pleaser.

Hopefully I can get over my winter blahs enough next week to share another recipe or two!

16 January 2014

It's time to begin another great year of Improv Challenges!  

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

This month's assigned ingredients were cheese and crackers.  I love cheese and crackers!  They make a great snack, and I often have them for lunch as well.  I live in Wisconsin, a mere 5 miles from the infamous place called The Cheese Castle, so I never have a shortage of awesome cheeses to try out.  But I had to really think about it to come up with something to "do" with the cheese and crackers instead of just eating them as-is.  So I did some Pinterest searching (it has become my search engine of choice for recipes) and came upon a picture of adorable owls made out of cheese and crackers.  Owls have been quite popular lately, so I guess that is the inspiration here.  From what I could figure out, these owls first appeared in Family Fun Magazine.  I found them on the blog I Love My Kids.  You can just look at the picture to recreate these little cuties, but here's the specifics of how I made them.

Owl Crackers

Four large crackers (I used multigrain Breton)
¼ cup whipped cream cheese
4 mini Ritz Bits sandwich crackers
Small bag sliced almonds
Small bag whole almonds
Small box raisins

Spread a layer of cream cheese on each round cracker, using the tip of the butter knife to make small indents for feathers.  Separate the Ritz cracker sandwiches and press on the large cracker for eyes.  Put a small dab of cream cheese on the raisins and place them on the Ritz.  Finish by pressing on an almond beak and almond-slice feathers.  (The beak looks best if you lay it on its side instead of flat.)

Makes 4 crackers.

 This is all you need to make these adorable crackers.

My five-year-old, Lena, loved them.  I made them when my three-year-old was at school because she is allergic to dairy.  

These crackers were a big hit with my daughter, so try them out whenever your kids start getting bored with their snacks.

Be sure to check out all the other great cheese and cracker recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with bread and butter.

11 January 2014

It's time again for The Salad Bar, hosted by Wendy of The Weekend Gourmet

This month's theme was Lighten Up!  The idea is to post healthy salads that will help us "detox" after all of our holiday feasting.  This salad came from Cooking Light magazine. It called for goat cheese, but I left that out to make it even more "light".  While it's low in calories, it has a definite "comforting" winter feel to it with the roasted beets.  And the orange honey vinaigrette brightens it up perfectly.

Winter Salad with Roasted Beets

2 medium beets 
Cooking spray
Spring mix lettuce
2 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp honey

Preheat oven to 400°.  Leave root and 1” stem on beets; scrub with a brush. Place beets on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat beets with cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour or until tender. Cool beets slightly. Trim off beet roots and stems; rub off skins. Cut beets into ½” thick wedges.

Place spring mix and spinach on two plates.  Top with roasted beets.

Combine oj concentrate, vinegar, oil, and honey and whisk well to combine.  Drizzle over salad and beets.

Makes 2 salads.

Nutrition Info Per Serving
Calories: 110
Fat: 8g
Sat. Fat: 1g
Carbs: 8g
Fiber: 2g
Protein: 2g

This salad would have been a little prettier if I had been able to find golden beets.  It would be great with a mix of regular and golden, but my grocery store didn't have the golden variety.  The original recipe called for using regular orange juice and cooking it down until it reduced to only 2 tbsp.  I thought it would just be easier to use concentrate.  I'm lazy like that.  I loved the dressing.  

This is a pretty simple salad, but I found it very satisfying.  I really like beets, but don't make them very often because I forget about them.  

So if you're still feeling a little bloated from last month, give this salad a try.  Also check out all the other great "light" salads below.  Come back next week to see salads made with "great grains".

09 January 2014

Did you make a ham on Christmas?  If so, you probably have some leftovers in your freezer.  I love having ham leftovers.  There are so many things you can do with leftover ham.  Today I'm sharing with you an awesome one-pot dinner using cooked ham.  Ham and four different veggies in a velvety cheesy sauce and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs.  I found it in Food Network Magazine and changed it up a bit.  Here's how I make it.

Ham and Vegetable Gratin

5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium Yukon potatoes (about 1 lb.), peeled and ½” dice
1 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups ham, chopped
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp salt
1½ cups low sodium chicken broth
⅔ cup 2% milk
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1½ cups panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees°.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, potatoes, carrots, and peas and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the ham, flour, garlic powder, paprika, and salt and cook, stirring, until combined. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, then stir in the milk and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cheddar cheese.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the panko and cook, stirring constantly, until the panko is slightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Scatter over the ham and vegetable mixture; let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Isn't it beautiful with those perfect golden brown crumbs on top?  

This dish is so yummy!  It's kind of like a pot pie, but with a crunchy topping instead of pastry.  The sauce is so flavorful with the garlic and paprika.  You can leave out the cheese to make this a little healthier, but I'm all about the comfort foods this time of year.  This is definitely comfort food; perfect for a cold January day.

Now, I'm categorizing this as a one-pot meal, even though technically the recipe has you toasting the panko in a separate pan.  If you really want to only wash one pan, then toast the panko first, remove it to a bowl or plate, and proceed with the rest of the recipe.  The only difference is that the breadcrumbs won't be hot when you serve it, but that should be ok because the filling will be hot enough to warm them up when you put them on top.

This is so good that if you don't have any ham leftovers, you need to go to the store and buy some ham just for this!

03 January 2014

Happy New Year!  I debated for a while about what should be my first recipe posted in 2014, and settled on this one.  This is a recipe I created back in August.  I wasn't sure my girls (3 and 5) would eat it since it had some "iffy" ingredients like onions, mushrooms, and most of all, barley. But it totally made my day when both girls raved about how good it was and asked for seconds.  Yay! 

Beef and Barley Skillet

1 cup quick barley
1 tbsp olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. lean ground beef
1½ cups reduced-sodium beef broth
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt to taste
Fresh thyme, chopped

Cook barley according to package directions.  Set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Sauté onion and mushrooms until they are soft.  Remove them from the skillet and set aside.  In the same skillet, brown the ground beef, then drain off the grease.  Add the mushrooms and onions back to the pan.

In a measuring cup, combine the beef broth, cornstarch, and tomato paste.  Stir well until mixture is completely smooth.  Pour this mixture into the skillet, add the cooked barley, and stir to combine.  Increase heat and bring liquid to a boil until slightly thickened.  Reduce heat to low and check for seasoning, adding salt if necessary (I added 1 tsp).  Garnish with fresh thyme if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

This dish is really tasty.  I just love the combination of beef and mushrooms and the little bit of tomato paste gives it another depth of flavor, without making it overly tomato-y.  The barley is really good in here too.  It bulks up the dish and adds fiber and the texture goes really well with the beef and mushrooms.

It's almost a one-pot meal, except for cooking the barley separately.  But even so, it's super easy to throw together on a busy weeknight.  It's also warm and comforting, perfect for the bitterly cold weather we are experiencing here in Wisconsin!

Looking forward to sharing another great year of recipes with you!