Monday, October 22, 2012

Lucy is 7 Months



...And she's got two teeth. Look at those chompers!!! Still waiting on some hair though :)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lucy is 6 Months!


Our little Lucy turned 6 months last week!  We started her on solids last weekend using the Baby Led Weaning method.  So far I don't think she's actually swallowed any of the food that's gone into her mouth, but we'll keep trying and hope that one day soon it will click for her.  Right now she's happy to grab at the food and chomp on it a bit (no teeth yet) before pushing it out with her tongue. 

Foods she's tried: 
- steamed broccoli
- rice
- avocado
- round crackers
- animal crackers
- pear
- lettuce

Tonight we're having breakfast for dinner, so Lucy will get toast fingers and some banana!

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Monday, August 20, 2012

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies


It isn't often that my husband makes special requests for baked goodies; he's more of an "I'll eat whatever you make" kind of guy. So on the rare occasion that he makes a suggestion, I'm all ears. Recently he asked for white chocolate macadamia nut cookies (one of my favorites!), and of course I obliged. The recipe I chose is from the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. It's the White Chocolate Chip variation of their Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Don't make the mistake I did and over bake them! Even when a recipe explicitly says "Don't overbake," I have a hard time following directions. I'm a notrious cookie over-baker because I don't like gooey cookies...but sometimes that backfires and my cookies end up too dry!
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Thick and Chewy Macadamia and White Chocolate Chip Cookies
From the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
Makes about 24 cookies

Ingredients
 2 cups (10 ⅔ oz) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
12 tbsp/1½ sticks/170g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed (7 oz) light brown sugar
½ cup (3½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cup (9 oz) white chocolate chips
1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped


Adjust the oven racks to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the melted butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, 1 or 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beater as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chips and nuts until incorporated.

Working with 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay them on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 20 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

We're not very adventurous when it comes to Indian cuisine in our household. When we've gone out for Indian food, I almost always get butter chicken or saag paneer while the Mister prefers chicken tikka masala. Since we're making a conscious effort to reduce the number of times we dine out each month, I thought I'd try my hand at making chicken tikka masala at home. The recipe I seem to come across the most when searching online is the one from Pioneer Woman's website. On the first try, I made it pretty much as written (minus the ginger, because I could not find any decent specimens at the grocer). It was good, but we found it to be a bit much with all that cream. When I made it again I switched from diced tomatoes to crushed and reduced the amount of cream by half. I also had a hard time getting the chicken to char as well as she did with the broiler (this is one of those times I wish we had a gas oven!), so I used a Foreman-type grill and got better results. Give it a try!Photobucket

Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Serves 6

3-4 whole chicken breasts (I used 6 large tenderloins)
kosher salt
ground coriander
cumin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbl. butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp. granulated)
3 Tbl. Garam Masala
1 Tbl. paprika (optional, for color)
1 Tbl. sugar
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream

Season the chicken breasts with kosher salt, coriander, and cumin.  Coat with plain yogurt.  Cover and let marinate in refrigerator for about 2 hours.  Broil chicken for 5-7 minutes per side, until chicken has some charred, slightly blackened edges.  (You can also cook the chicken for about 7 minutes in a George Foremen grill)  Remove from oven and set aside.

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a large skillet and saute the onions over medium-high heat until slightly browned.  Add garlic, 1 Tablespoon salt, Garam Masala seasoning, paprika, sugar, and crushed tomatoes.  Stir well and let simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop the cooked chicken into 1-inch pieces.

Add heavy cream and chicken pieces to the pan.  Stir and allow to heat.  Serve over basmati rice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Cheesecake


It's that time again!  This month's Crazy Cooking Challenge theme is...CHEESECAKE!  The rules have changed for this month's challenge, so recipes we select no longer have to come from a blog.  Recipes can come from anywhere, so the possibilities are nearly endless.  I selected Cookies and Cream Mini Cheesecakes from the May 2007 issue of First for Women magazine.  They were delicious!  Like many cheesecakes, these freeze really well.  We stashed most of the batch in the freezer and popped them out to defrost while we had supper.  You won't be disappointed with this recipe.  Be sure to visit the other challenge participants for more yummy cheesecake recipes!
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Mini Oreo Cheesecakes
Yield: 12 servings
Source: May 07, 2007 issue of First for Women magazine

Crust:
10 chocolate sandwich cookies, ground
2 Tbl. sugar
2 Tbl. melted butter

Filling:
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
8 chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325°F.  In bowl, combine ground chocolate sandwich cookies with sugar and melted butter.  Divide mixture evenly among 12 paper-lined muffin cups; press to form crusts.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar for 2 minutes.  Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each.  Stir in 8 chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped, and vanilla extract.  Divide cream cheese mixture evenly among prepared muffin cups.

Bake 20 minutes, or until center is almost set.  Cool completely and chill before serving.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Coconut Granola



If you're looking to incorporate more oats into your diet but don't like the taste/texture of oatmeal, why not try some granola?  Here's an easy recipe for granola that you can make with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry!  I like my granola with dried fruits and sometimes nuts, but they're not included in the recipe because in my experience the granola stays crunchier longer if it's stored "plain".  Just add your favorite mix-ins before serving.  I like a small bowl of this (it's really hearty!) with milk for breakfast, but it's also great with yogurt. 


Coconut Granola
Adapted from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

7 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 Tbl. cinnamon
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbl. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper (can also use two 9x13" pans).

In large bowl combine oats, coconut, and cinnamon.  Stir to evenly distribute, and set bowl aside.

Combine brown sugar, sugar, oil, and honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and add vanilla extract (careful, the mixture may bubble up a bit).  Pour over oat mixture and stir thoroughly.  Spread into the lined sheet pan.

Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.  Stir granola, then return to oven.  Turn the oven off and leave the granola in there for 3-4 hours. (I do 4 hours)  The heat left in the oven will finish cooking this.  Once 3-4 hours have passed, remove from the oven (it will probably be slightly warm) and break into small pieces.  Let cool completely and store in an air tight container.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


Here's a recipe for classic oatmeal raisin cookies that I think you'll really enjoy.  It comes from Cooks Illustrated, so you know it has to be good!  While most oatmeal raisin cookies tend toward the cinnamony side (my favorite!), these don't have any cinnamon at all.  The recipe calls for freshly grated nutmeg, which brings out the "oaty-ness" of the cookies better.  Not a fan of raisins?  No problem!  Feel free to swap them out with chocolate chips!


Big Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

makes 16 to 20 large cookies

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raisins


Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Mix in the oats and chocolate chunks until evenly distributed in the dough.


Divide the dough into 2 tablespoon balls and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between them. Bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown (the centers will still be pale - don't overbake). Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool a few minutes before removing them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough (be sure to let the baking sheet cool in between batches).


Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Milk Cookies for New Mommas


Whether you're a new momma looking to boost your milk supply or just looking for a healthy and yummy treat, these cookies might be just the thing you're looking for.  I found the recipe on the Peaceful Parenting website and have made them at least 5 times since coming home from the hospital.  The cookies are packed with good-for-you ingredients (rolled oats, flax seed, brewer's yeast) that also happen to be galactagogues (they help with lactation).  Of course, this doesn't mean that only nursing mommas can eat these--if you're not already lactating these cookies will not cause you start producing milk.  (For the record, Hubby likes to eat these just as much as I do!) They're super yummy and really hearty.  I highly recommend them!

The recipe below if from the Peaceful Parenting website.  I've switched the order of some ingredients to match the order in which I prepare the recipe, which I've written in my own words below.


Major Milk Makin' Cookies
By Kathleen Major

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (try it with white wheat too!)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup flax (I use ground flaxseed meal)
3 Tbl. brewer's yeast (can find at health food stores or GNC)
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups rolled oats (thick-cut or old fashioned)
2 cups (12 oz.) chocolate chips*
1 cup chopped nuts of your choice (I like walnuts here)

*for a fun trail mix version, try using 1/2 cup each: chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries, and chopped dried apricots.  Yum!


Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl; set aside.

Combine peanut butter, butter, flax seed, brewer's yeast, water, and both sugars in a mixing bowl and blend thoroughly.  Blend in eggs until incorporated.  Stir in flour mixture until just moistened.

Add oats, chocolate chips, and nuts.  Stir in by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon.  Portion dough out onto lined cookie sheets, flatten slightly and bake at 350°F until cookies are done (I use an ice cream scoop that is about 1/4 cup to make 20 cookies and bake for about 15-16 minutes.  The original calls for 12 minutes, but does not state a recipe yield or cookie size.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lucy is 4 Months!

 Hi there!

These past 4 months have zoomed by so unbelievably fast.  Where did the time go?  Lucy is growing by leaps and bounds.  At our last count, she is in the 90-95th percentile for both height and weight.  She's a big happy baby!  I'm enjoying being a Mommy more than I ever thought possible.  Lucy has been such a wonderful baby, and lately she's been very generous in dishing out the smiles and squeals!  Though I have to admit one of my favorite things to do is snuggle up in bed with her after we've both had breakfast.  It's the best!


Anyway, I have 3 new recipes to share with you coming up soon.  They all feature oatmeal, which is widely used as a natural galactagogue.  So if you're looking for a little boost in your milk supply, be on the lookout!  (These recipes are tasty for everyone though, not just new Mommas!)
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Monday, May 7, 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Grilled Cheese


Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup were a staple for me during Lent this year, but honestly I could eat them almost every day if I had a chance to.  Hubby prefers his pressed in a George Foreman®-type grill, I like mine on the skillet, but we both prefer them straight up--good ole' American cheese between two pieces of squishy white sandwich bread...no recipe needed. For this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge, the grilled cheese sandwich theme forced me to move outside my comfort zone and explore other ways to make it.

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I had bookmarked a recipe for Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese a while back on the blog Closet Cooking, but never got a chance to make it until now.  It was delicious!  We both enjoyed our sandwiches, and my only regret is that I only bought enough peppers to make one sandwich a piece for us.  Sure, it took longer to prepare than a "regular" grilled cheese sandwich, but if you have the time (or the craving for jalapeño poppers) it is well worth it.  Visit Kevin at Closet Cooking to view the original recipe and tips for making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich, and while you're there be sure to check out the rest of his blog.  He has a whole category for grilled cheese!


Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese
by Kevin of Closet Cooking 

2 jalapeño peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
2 slices sourdough bread
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup jack and cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon tortilla chips, crumbled
Directions
  1. Place the peppers on a baking sheet with the cut side facing down.
  2. Place the baking sheet on the top shelf in the oven and broil until the outer layer of the skin has blackened, about 8-14 minutes.
  3. Place the peppers in a zip-lock bag or other sealable container, seal and let them cool until you can handle them, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the skins from the peppers. The skins should easily "pinch" off.
  5. Butter the outside of each slice of bread and spread the cream cheese on the inside. Sprinkle half of the cheese on the cream cheese of one slice of bread, top with the jalapenos, crumbled tortilla chips, the remaining cheese and finally the other slice of bread.
  6. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.
  7. Add the sandwich and grill until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 2-4 minutes per side.

Don't forget to stop by the other entries for this month's challenge!
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lucy is One Month!


It's hard to believe it's been ONE MONTH since Lucy was born.  Our days right now are full of milk, snuggles, and eating things like ramen noodles and bologna sandwiches.*  And I am fortunate enough to be able to stay home with her until June.  Life is good!

* Mr. K/"Daddy" is home with us tomorrow, so we'll get to have grilled cheese sandwiches.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Blueberry Muffins

First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a joyous and blessed Easter!  This post is going live on Holy Saturday, but of course I had it written well before that.  By now I've welcomed my sweet baby girl into the world (due date was 2 weeks ago), so naturally I'll have my hands full for a while as we adjust to parenthood.  Be back soon with some updates and baby pictures!


I was super excited to make my entry for this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge.  Tina, our hostess over at Moms Crazy Cooking, chose "Blueberry Muffins" as the theme for April.  (To find out more about the challenge click HERE)  Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits and always have been.  We have four varieties planted in our backyard right now, but of course it is too early in the season to harvest any decent berries (though with the crazy weather we've had this winter there are already a few berries on the bush).  Here's hoping that this year's berries will be tasty, because last year they were pretty sour! 

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Anyway, back to the blueberry muffins... I found the recipe for "Cake Mix Blueberry Muffins" on the What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine Blog, which is full of some really tasty looking photos and recipes!  Be sure to check out the blog before you start your meal planning for the week.  The only changes I made to the recipe were to increase the amount of blueberries to 2 cups (we like blueberries!) and bake the muffins in a jumbo muffin pan instead of a standard muffin pan (bigger is better!). 


Cake Mix Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Pegasuslegend of What's Cookin' Italian Style Cuisine
Yield: 10 jumbo muffins

2 cups fresh blueberries
18.25 oz. box white cake mix (I used Duncan Hines®)
3 oz. box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place paper liners in a jumbo muffin pan(s). 

Toss blueberries with 1 Tablespoon of cake mix; set aside.  Place remaining cake mix, instant pudding mix, eggs, oil, milk, and vanilla in a mixer bowl.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl as needed.  Fold in blueberries.  Portion into jumbo muffin cups, using about 2/3 cup batter in each cup.  Bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown and muffins test done.

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Check out all the other blueberry muffin entries in this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge! Be sure to click on my entry below :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Creamy Guacamole Dip


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Since green and/or rainbow colored foods are pretty much a requirement for St. Patrick's Day, here is a recipe for a guacamole style dip that's perfect for any time of the year.  I don't know where the original recipe comes from; I've been using a copy that's been sitting in my recipe binder for a few years.  I've made some changes here and there, and I think I've finally settled on a version of the dip that comes darned close to perfection!  My sister affectionately refers to this dip as "crack dip" because of how addictive it is, so it's a good thing the batch size is plenty generous! :)


Creamy Guacamole Dip
Yield: about 5 cups

juice of 1 lime
10 oz. can Ro-tel® tomatoes, undrained
4 oz. can chopped green chiles, undrained
4 or 5 ripe avocadoes (depends on size)
16 oz. sour cream
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
small handful chopped cilantro (optional)

Place lime juice, tomatoes, and chiles in the bowl of a food processor.  Add the avocadoes to the food processor, pulsing after each addition.  (This covers the avocadoes in the acidic juices and helps retain their green color.)  Add remaining ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth.  Dip may be served immediately or divided into containers and chilled until serving time.  Over time, the dip will darken and turn brownish...which isn't pretty but is still okay to eat!  Serve with tortilla chips or your favorite dunking items.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

New York Style Cheesecake

Special thanks to Mr. K for plating up and taking the photo for this post!

While going through our combined collection of cookbooks and recipe cards/booklets, I came across an old promotional booklet for Eagle® Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk.  It's about 5 inches tall and features twenty recipes and looked like it was from the eighties:


I had big plans to make a New York style cheesecake and slice it, separate the slices with parchment paper, and stash it away in the freezer for whenever those cheesecake cravings strike.  We proceeded to enjoy the cheesecake over the course of a week or so, changing up the toppings each time (stawberry, chocolate, caramel sauce, lemon curd, peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, etc.).  By the end there was nothing left for the freezer!  Oh well.  Take that as a good sign that this is one tasty cheesecake! 

Bear in mind that with the long bake time (no water bath needed) and addition of flour, this cheesecake will be drier than the creamy gooey cheescakes you might be used to.  The texture is smooth and dense--firm enough break off cleanly with your fork.  A quick peek at the current NY Style Cheesecake recipe now featured on the Eagle® Brand website shows that they've tweaked their recipe over the years to include less flour than originally called for, as well as a shortened baking time.  Perhaps our tastes have changed over the years?  I'll have to give the newer version of the recipe a try sometime when cream cheese goes on sale again.  An 8 ounce block is currently $1.99 (even generic!); this cheesecake used up my stockpile of cream cheese I scored for $0.88 each!


New York Style Cheesecake
From "Delicious Desserts Made Easy" by Borden

Yield: one 9-inch cheesecake

1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup flour
4 eggs
1 (14-ounce) can Eagle® Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
1 tsp. grated lemon rind (I used lemon extract)

Preheat oven to 300°F.  In saucepan, melt margarine; stir in crumbs and sugar.  Pat firmly on bottom of buttered 9-inch springform pan.  In large mixer bowl, beat cheese until fluffy.  Beat in 1/2 cup flour and 4 eggs; mix well.  Stir in Eagle® Brand, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.  Chill.  Remove side of pan.  Garnish as desired.  Refrigerate leftovers.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Shrimp Fettucine


Seafood fettucine is a very popular dish here in south Louisiana.  I like to think of it as a special occasion dish because it's definitely on the indulgent side in terms of cost and calories...but every now and then it's worth the splurge!  Here's a special recipe for fettucine I received from my mother in law last year.  You can make it using either crawfish or shrimp; it's delicious either way!


Recipe Notes:
  • The original recipe calls for fettucine noodles, but I've switched to egg noodles (thin to medium width).  I find that it's easier to stir and get the goodies distributed when I don't have to fool with the longer noodle strands.
  • One manufacturer's "medium" egg noodle might be another's "wide". What you're looking for here is a noodle comparable in width to a fettucine noodle.
  • Great for feeding a crowd!  Only have 2 mouths to feed?  Leftovers freeze wonderfully.
  • Any size shrimp would work for this recipe, so don't worry about buying the pricier bigger shrimp.  (I used 90-120 count/pound)


Kay's Seafood Fettucine
Serves 8-10 generously

1 1/2 lbs. diced onion, bell pepper, and celery mix
3 sticks butter
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/3 cup flour
1 pint half and half
1 lb. Mexican Velveeta®
2 tsp. Tony Chachere's® seasoning (more or less to taste)
2 lbs. crawfish or shrimp
1 lb. thin to medium egg noodles

Saute vegetable mix in melted butter over medium heat until softened and translucent.  Add minced garlic and flour to pan, stirring well.  Cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occassionally.  Add half and half, cheese, seasoning, and seafood.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent cheese sauce from sticking and burning.

While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook egg noodles according to package directions.  When sauce is ready, add drained noodles and stir to combine.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crazy Cooking Challenge: Spaghetti


The "Spaghetti" theme for this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge really had me excited because spaghetti night is fairly common in our house.  What's not to like about a spaghetti dinner, right?  It's quick, easy, budget-friendly, and a general crowd-pleaser.  Around here we're perfectly content with throwing some cooked ground beef into a jar of sauce and calling it a day, but in keeping with the spirit of the "challenge" part of the Crazy Cooking Challenge I decided to look for a from-scratch sauce recipe.  I knew from the get-go that I wanted to look for a spaghetti and meatballs recipe, as opposed to our usual meat sauce.  Meatballs are a treat indeed!

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At first I had my heart set on Spaghetti and Meatballs All'Amatriciana from Bon Appétit.  Packed with bacon and red pepper flakes, it was just begging for me to make it.  Most of the bloggers who tried the recipe really enjoyed it, aside from the generous amounts of crushed red pepper.  In the end though, laziness won out for me...after all, I will be having a baby in 2 1/2 weeks!  I found a recipe that uses the slow cooker AND doesn't require me to make my own meatballs:  Slow Cooker Spaghetti by Lizzy of The Lizzy Pad.  As an added bonus, it contains pepperoni!


Recipe Notes:
  • Unless you have a mega capacity slow cooker (7 quarts), I highly recommend cutting the recipe in half.  Or if you're lucky enough to own more than one slow cooker, divide the recipe between two of them and cook them both at once.  I used a 6 quart slow cooker, and it was filled to the brim.  By the time the sauce got up to a nice simmer it was starting to bubble out from underneath the lid and I had to let it cook with the lid off for a while. 
  • This recipe takes a while to cook (10 hours!), so plan accordingly. See if you can set up your slow cooker on a table in the garage like we did.  Spaghetti smells amazing while cooking, but not when it lingers for an eternity after your meal.  Don't know about you, but I can't sleep when I can still smell food :)
  • Lizzy uses both crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes, then purees the sauce for the smoother texture her children prefer.  I skipped this step, but next time I make this I will probably skip the diced tomatoes and use all crushed tomatoes.

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce
Slightly modified from The Lizzy Pad
Yield: 6 generous quarts

2 Tbl. oilve oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. cooked meatballs, thawed if frozen
1 lb. pepperoni, cut into chunks
2 cans (28 oz. each) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cans (28 oz. each) crushed tomatoes
1 can (12 oz.) tomato paste
1 Tbl. dried parsley
2 Tbl. dried basil
2 Tbl. dried oregano
1/4 cup sugar

Optional additions:
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
8 oz. can mushroom pieces, drained 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onions, bell pepper, and garlic.  Sauté vegetables over medium-high heat until tender and golden, stirring frequently.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Brown meatballs in skillet, then transfer to slow cooker.  Add remaining 8 ingredients to slow cooker and stir gently to combine.  (Don't smash those meatballs!)  Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours. 

After sauce has cooked for 4 hours, skim off any fat that has accumulated from the meatballs and pepperoni.  Stir sauce and check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed.  Add crushed red pepper flakes if using.  Continue cooking for another 6 hours on LOW, stirring in mushroom pieces during the final hour (if using).  Skim fat again if needed.  Let cool slightly and serve over cooked spaghetti. 

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Hungry for more? 
Be sure to check out all the other entries in this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge! 
Don't forget to click on my entry in the Linky party below :)


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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pecan Rum Balls


Happy Leap Day!

In honor of this very special "bonus" day, I'm bringing you a very special recipe--one of Mr. K's top secret recipes he makes annually to give out during the Christmas season.  He's been making rum balls for his family for years, and they're hit with everyone who tries them.  His standard recipe calls for regular cocoa and spiced rum (like Captain Morgan's), but this year he experimented and used dark cocoa and dark rum (Meyers) for one of the batches.  The dark rum definitely adds a stronger boozy yummy rummy flavor to the mix! 


Pecan Rum Balls
Yield: 3-4 dozen, depending on size

12 oz. package vanilla wafers
1 cup pecan bits
1 1/2 Tbl. cocoa powder
2 Tbl. Steen's Cane Syrup (can use corn syrup, but it's not quite the same)
3 oz. spiced rum or dark rum
powdered sugar for rolling

Crush vanilla wafers in a food processor.  Add pecan bits and process again to a fine crumb texture.  Mix in cocoa powder.  Transfer to a 1 gallon zip top bag.  Stir together syrup and rum, then add to crumb mixture in bag.  Seal bag and use your hands to work the liquid into the crumbs.  You will end up with a mixture that is similar to damp sand--it will hold together if you squeeze some in your hand, but it will fall apart if you try to roll a ball with your hands.  Mixture may be used now, or allowed to rest overnight.

Using your fingers, pinch off a small portion of the mixture and press it into a ball shape.  Aim for a 1 or 2-bite size ball, about 1" across.  Once all the mixture is used, return the rum balls to the zip top bag and add a bit of powdered sugar.  Seal bag and gently work the bag to coat the rum balls in powdered sugar.  Depending on the humidity and how moist the rum balls are, they may absorb all the sugar.  If that's the case, just add more sugar and continue coating the rum balls.  (The ones pictured above have 2 or 3 coats of sugar on them.)

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bakery Style Peanut Butter Cookies


Our choir is heading to Rome later this year to sing for the Holy Father.  It's one of those opportunities that arises "once in a lifetime", but in my case it's I suppose it's twice in a lifetime!  My senior year of high school, the choir made a trip to Italy for the same reason.  Sadly, I could not go on the trip that year...and I can't go on the trip this year either!  So that's not one, but TWO missed chances to sing for the Pope!  Oh well.  Here's hoping that there will be a third chance to go sometime in the future :)

To help defray some of the expenses, we held a bake sale a few weekends back.  I decided to offer giant version of our favorites for the cause.  I made some big chocolate chip cookies, giant Valentine sprinkled rice crispy treats, and these peanut butter cookies.  Everything was individually wrapped and priced at $1.00.  I thought the chocolate chip cookies would be the first to go, but it was these guys that were flying off the table!


Bakery Style Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Favorite Brand Name All-New Bake Sale Cookbook

Yield: 18 five-inch cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
18 peanut butter cups


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then blend in peanut butter.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in peanut butter.  Stir flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl, then add to creamed mixture until blended. 

Scoop out 1/4 cup balls of dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving plenty of room for spreading (I put 6 cookies on a each 13x18" half sheet pan).  Cut each peanut butter cup into 9 pieces and press pieces into cookie dough, flattening slightly.  Bake at 350°F for 15-17 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown.  Centers will be pale and slightly soft.  Allow to cool 1 minute on baking sheet before removing to cool completely.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Veggie Ventures: Lettuce

Welcome to the Veggie Ventures series, where we'll take a glimpse
at veggies my husband and I want to grow but have never really eaten!

This is the last post of the Veggie Ventures series, as we'll soon be getting our spring garden up and going.  I suppose "Lettuce" as a Veggie Ventures topic is a bit misleading, since we have actually eaten lettuce before.  They're included here because we grew some varieties in our fall/winter garden that we're not used to eating (Iceberg and Romaine are as far as we usually go for our salads!).  Here are some pictures of the four varieties of lettuce we planted in October (pictures taken in January--we're lucky enough to have mild enough winters to grow veggies):

You wouldn't believe how excited I was to see the Butter Beauty actually forming little heads like it was supposed to!  We harvested one head and gave it to my grandmother, who was equally as excited.

 

Grand Rapids is a loose leaf lettuce--the benefit of which is you can continually harvest the leaves over the growing season.  We enjoyed this lettuce for quite a while, though the flavor is more pronounced (bitter vs. mild) as the plant ages.  We also had an unexpected result with this lettuce: instead of growing bigger and spreading out horizontally as the months passed, it started growing upwards.  By mid-February we had a 2 1/2 foot Tower of Lettuce.  No kidding!  I only wish we had snapped a photo before it got hacked down in preparation for spring planting.


I really can't explain what happened with our Iceberg Lettuce.  For some inexplicable reason it never formed heads.  We still harvested and ate the loose leaves, of course, but it left us scratching our heads for an explanation.  Any tips from you veteran gardeners out there?

This lettuce was advertised as a romaine-type lettuce, but as you can clearly see from the photo above, it formed little heads.  Not that we were complaining of course, since the Iceberg failed in that department.  We enjoyed the Little Gem Lettuce but did not find that it was very Romaine-y.


Veggie Verdict:
Yes!  We WILL be growing lettuce again in our garden.  It is a cooler weather crop, so we'll have to plant some NOW in order to get a good harvest in before the heat of a Louisiana summer sets in.  The Grand Rapids Lettuce was our best performer, so that variety definitely wins a spot in the spring garden.


Explore the Series:


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