Friday, November 30, 2012

Recipe Swap: Double Chocolate Cookies with Peppermint Patty Surprise

It's time for my favorite theme of WC Recipe Swap...Blogger's Choice!

I was very tempted to make Char Siu off of Kate's Recipe Box since it's something I felt every good Asian person should try to make at home sometime.  But, in the end the Holiday Bug took over and I decided I'd rather do something more seasonably festive.

These cookies look quite plain on the outside but inside a peppermint patty surprise is hiding and waiting to be unwrapped and discovered.  When you go to mold the cookie, do make sure to seal it well or the surprise will be revealed and melted out.  Kate left her cookies completely naked but I thought they could use a little holiday sparkle so I rolled them in sugar before baking.  It wasn't until later that I realized the original recipe from Rachael Ray actually called for a white chocolate drizzle and crushed candy canes.  The photos I saw from other blogs were SUPER CUTE and FESTIVE!  Another difference in Kate's recipe is that the peppermint patties and molded cookies weren't chilled.  I'd recommend doing this so the cookies stay thick and don't spread so much.

I brought some into work and they were a crowd pleaser.  It reminded me of a thin mint but soft and with a creamier interior.  By the end of the day I had THREE co-workers asking me for the recipe and telling me they were stalking my blog for it to be posted.  Definitely add this to your Christmas cookie plate!

Thank you Kate for sharing and Sarah at Taste of Home Cooking for hosting.

One Year Ago: Tex-Mex Meatloaf with Chipotle-Tomato Glaze and Emily's guest post for General Tso's Chicken
Three Years Ago: It was clearly Thanksgiving time because I shared tons of different posts!  Sweet Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, Baked Mac and Cheese (from Pioneer Woman), Pumpkin Fluff Dip, and Broccoli Salad

Double Chocolate Cookies with Peppermint Patty Surprise

Double Chocolate Cookies with Peppermint Patty Surprise

Yields: 2 dozen cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz.) unsalted butter, slightly softened 
  • 1 egg 
  • 24 miniature (about 1 1/2-inch) peppermint patties, such as York, unwrapped and chilled 
Optional for decorating:
  • Granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces white chocolate (not chips), chopped 
  • Peppermint candy canes or candies, crushed or finely chopped
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the flour, cocoa powder, sugars, salt and baking soda on low speed. Beat in butter, then the egg.   It will be crumbly but don't worry, it all works out when the heat of your hands makes the dough soft and pliable during molding.  Turn the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and flatted into a disk; seal. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. 
  2.  Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Like 2 large cookie sheets with parchment. Working with 1 tablespoon of dough at a time (highly recommend the medium sized Oxo Cookie Scoop to make this task a breeze!) , evenly encase each peppermint patty with dough. If desired, roll each cookie with granulated sugar.  For a cookie that doesn't spread as much, chill in the refrigerator.  Bake until just firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Remove pans from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan (until anything that oozed out sets and is firm enough so it won't explode when you move it!). Transfer the cookies on the parchment to a rack to cool completely. 
  3. If decorating with white chocolate and candy canes: Meanwhile, in a double broiler or small, heatproof bowl, set over a small saucepan of simmering water, melt half of the white chocolate, stirring until melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining white chocolate until smooth.  Drizzle the white chocolate over the cookies.  Immediately sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies.  Let set completely before serving or storing.
Source: Every Day with Rachael Ray, December 2011 as seen on Kate's Recipe Box

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mac and Cheese Contest Entry #4: Creamy Stove Top Mac 'n' Cheese

Are you ready for the smoothest, creamiest, cheesiest macaroni that ever existed??  This is it without a doubt.  My in-laws and not-actually-a-huge-mac-and-cheese-fan of a husband named this the best mac and cheese yet.  But I'm not ready to declare a winner because we're only halfway through and each recipe has had its strengths...

So why was this one so well loved, you ask?  Looking at the ingredients, you'll note that this one contains eggs for richness.  It also uses evaporated milk.  Many mac and cheese experts have studied the use of milk, cream, and evaporated milk and generally, the latter is the key to ultra creamy, ultra smooth cheese sauce.  It's also the most forgiving when you need to reheat it (but, I guarantee that with this particular recipe, you won't have leftovers!).  As for the cheese factor, there is a whopping 3 CUPS of pure cheddar coating just 2 relatively meager cups (1/2 box) of macaroni.  When you compare the ratio versus previous recipes, there is usually about a 1:1 ratio of pasta to cheese versus this one is 1.5:1.  Even the vivid orange color told you how cheesy it would be.  Yes.  Cheese pleaseee!

As I was preparing this one on the stove I thought it was a bit too soupy again but the cheese sauce does thicken on standing and clings to every little noodle.  Plus as we just discussed, the cheese to pasta ratio is part of what makes it great.  I think it would still be okay if you tried to stretch the recipe by adding up to another 1/2 to 1 cup of macaroni, though.  Brenda says to add crushed Ritz crackers if desired.  I gave it a go but personally like it better without.  They get mushy pretty quickly which kind of defeats the purpose of adding them for an oven-like crunch factor.

Thank you so much Brenda for sharing this awesome recipe.  It was the quintessential no frills, creamy stove top classic cheddar mac recipe.

And for you, dear readers, another mac and cheese recipe means another chance to WIN!  Please as you share each entry, come back and comment on the blog post because that's the only way I can track and enter you into the contest to win either Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown or Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin!  As always, see this page for full contest details :).

Three Years Ago: Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Creamy Stove Top Mac 'n' Cheese

  • 8 oz (2 cups) macaroni
  • salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tsp water
  • 1/4 tsp Tabasco
  • Pepper
  • 4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 12 oz (3 cups) cheddar cheese, shredded (I used 8 oz mild and 4 oz sharp cheddar)
  • Ritz crackers, crushed (optional)
  1. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large pot for the macaroni. Stir in 1 1/2 tsp salt and macaroni. Cook until almost tender but still a little firm to the bite.
  2. Mix together the eggs, half of the evaporated milk, the mustard mixture, Tabasco, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Set the pot over low heat and stir in the butter until melted.
  4. Stir in the egg mixture and half of the cheddar. Continue to cook over low heat, gradually stirring in the remaining milk and cheddar, until mixture is hot and creamy, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Top with crushed Ritz crackers if desired.
Source: The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, page 234 as submitted by Brenda F.

Monday, November 19, 2012

SRC: Cinnabon Caramel Corn!  I just might be in trouble now that I discovered this recipe.  I've always loved gourmet popcorn and for awhile, I spent a small fortune on Dale and Thomas Popcorn.  Now that I tried this recipe, someone's going to have to save me from myself!

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was introduced to Veronica's blog, Veronica's Cornucopia.  She makes roughly a 2-to-1 ratio of sweets to meals and sides so I figured sweets were the way to go.  I didn't have to search far because right in her highlighted popular recipes listings I found something that immediately caught my eye - Cinnabon caramel corn.

In making this recipe, I actually got to kill two birds with one stone.  I'd seen recipes for homemade microwave popcorn floating around pinterest for quite a while now.  It is said that all that is needed to create healthy, homemade popcorn was corn kernels, a paper lunch sack, and a microwave.  I followed the directions and held my breath while watching the bag spin round and round on the microwave turn table.  Then, like magic, I heard the kernels start to pop!  Pop, pop, pop pop pop!  Once it was done, I cautiously opened the bag and there they were.  Fresh, fluffy, perfectly cooked popcorn that was made in under 3 minutes without oil, without scary microwave popcorn bag liner chemicals, and without a special machine.  It was amazing!

Now, I could have topped my popcorn with a bit of salt, butter, and/or other seasonings and then stopped there for a pretty healthy, fiber-filled snack.  But, I pushed onward knowing this batch of popcorn had a different destiny.  Dutifully I used my microwave again to prepare the caramel and  then coated my precious popcorn with the mixture.  Then it went into the waiting oven and it got all caramelized and crispy.  With each stir I had to "sample" the warm caramel corn to ensure it was progressing.  Finally, it was done.  Again, I could have stopped right here but no, it needed a bit more to complete its gourmet transformation.  A quick drizzle with the almond bark and then another "sample".  Perfection!  I'm pretty sure I could have stood at my kitchen island and ate the entire pan warm and fresh from the oven.  After it cooled, I "sampled" some more.  Cinnamon and caramel and nuts and chocolate oh my!  Needless to say, I was hooked!

Seeing how easy this recipe was, I promised my husband that I'd make him his own special batch drizzled with his favorite sweets combination, peanut butter and chocolate.  This would make an excellent holiday and/or Christmas gift.  Your friends will think you're such a crafty person and may not believe you when you say that you made it from scratch.  They'll probably even beg you for the recipe ;).

Special thank you to April of the blog Angel's Homestead SRC ring leader and Debbi of the blog Debbi Does Dinner, our Group C Hostess!  Please also check the blog hop to see what everyone else in Group C made this month!

By the way, have you shared then commented on each of my Mac and Cheese Monday posts?  Each week there's a new chance to win either Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown or Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin!  See here for full contest details.  Good luck!
Cinnabon Caramel Corn

Cinnabon Caramel Corn

  • 12 cups Easy Microwave Popcorn (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans 
  • 1 cup brown sugar 
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/4 cup Karo syrup (or honey makes a good substitution) 
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) real salted butter
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 3 squares almond bark
For the Easy Microwave Popcorn
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, divided
  • 2 brown paper lunch bags
  1. Place 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels into each bag.  Fold the bag over in half-inch increments, twice.
  2. Place one of the bags in the microwave standing upright and set for 3 minutes (popcorn may be done after 2:30 to 2:45) or use the popcorn button if available.  Listen carefully for kernels to stop popping.  As soon as the popping stops, take the bag out of the microwave.  Repeat with the second bag.
  3. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  4. Place popcorn and chopped pecans in a large bowl and set aside.
  5. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a 2 liter capacity microwave safe bowl.  Mix well.  Chop butter into chunks and place on top of the sugar mixture.  Pour corn syrup over the top of everything.  Microwave the mixture on high for 30 seconds and then stir to combine.  Return to microwave and heat for 2 minutes.  Remove and stir again.  Then, return to the microwave for 2 minutes more.  
  6. Remove from the microwave and add in vanilla and baking soda.  Stir to combine.  The mixture will foam and rise.  Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pecans and stir until well coated.
  7. Spread coated popcorn mixture onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan.  Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.
  8. Melt almond bark according to package instructions.   Using a fork, drizzle all over the popcorn mixture.  
  9. When almond bark is hardened and popcorn is cool, break into chunks and enjoy!
Source: Slightly modified from Veronica's Cornucopia as originally from Our Best Bites; Easy Microwave Popcorn from Good Thymes and Good Food as seen on Prevention RD

Mac and Cheese Contest Entry #3: Bonnie's Grammy's Mac and Cheese

Before sharing this week's macaroni and cheese entry, I want to share a photo.  You remember my dog Toby, right?  Yep, he's a cute little fella as you can see below.

But wait a second.  On closer inspection you'd notice that to the side of my cute posing pup is a book.  And that book has a chunk of the cover chewed off.  And if you were to look at that same book in real life, you'd see doggy love bites all over as well.  And that same book, my dear readers, was the copy of Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown that I had planned to give away in this contest!

How he got to it I'm still not quite sure as it was sitting high up on my desk.  And, it had been sitting there for weeks before Toby finally decided to do a "taste test" of his own.  Yes, Ms. Brown, the photos in your book look SO delicious that even my dear beagle could not resist taking a literal bite out of them.  Only, Toby must not have gotten the memo that there wasn't ACTUAL mac and cheese inside the book!  But fear not, this just means that I get to keep this now well-loved copy and will buy a brand new one for the winner.  Because as cute as he is, I'm sure you don't really want the one that has been in my dog's mouth...

So back to recipe sharing.  This recipe comes from Bonnie and she got it from her grandmother.  Looking at it, you can tell it's totally a family recipe.  There are no measurements.  I'll admit that when I first saw this in my email, I was skeptical.  Just four ingredients and using cheese that's not freshly shredded?  Humph!  The cheese snob in me and the cheese goddesses Ellen Brown and Laura Werlin would turn their noses up at this straight away.

What's funny is that in her submission, Bonnie said "I hope you enjoy this even if you don't choose it for the contest".  But a contest is a contest and so I dutifully made it...adding a splash of cream for extra richness.  I made homemade stewed tomatoes from my stash of canned tomatoes figuring if this recipe was going to have a few simple ingredients, I might as well start from the best.  I stirred it when it came out of the oven and looked a little soupy.  But that's okay because Bonnie also mentioned that she personally thought it was better only slightly warm or even the next day as the flavors continue to meld together and the cheese sauce becomes thicker.

Tentatively, I took a bite.  And then, a big smile spread across my face.  I closed my eyes and was taken back to my own childhood.  It was something I had long forgotten but this recipe took me back there.  I remembered a nostalgic time of Mom making a homemade chicken broth and serving it with macaroni noodles.  Being the cheese head that I was (and still am today!) I would sometimes add a slice or two of Kraft American singles and microwave it until melted.  I'd stir it together and call it macaroni and cheese.  Come to think of it.  That was probably one of the first original "recipes" that I ever made myself.

You see, this recipe is so simple and so pure.  It's best eaten with a spoon instead of a fork because the sauce, though very creamy and cheesy, is liquidy.  But it's addicting.  I really can't explain it!  My mother-in-law felt this was the best recipe to date.  I also thoroughly enjoyed it so thank you so much Bonnie for sharing your grandmother's recipe!

Thank you to those that have been sharing and then commenting on each of my Mac and Cheese Mondays posts.  To make it easier for you, every post always has social media buttons for sharing at the bottom of the post.  I noticed there are more shares than comments so if you want to make it count as a contest entry, please be sure to leave a comment letting me know you have shared as this is the only way I can keep track of who you are!  You want to do this so you can enter to win one of two great cookbooks: Mac &Cheese by Ellen Brown or Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin!  See this page for full contest details :).

Three Years Ago: Classic Pot Roast

Bonnie's Grammy's Mac and Cheese


  • 1 box large elbow macaroni 
  • 1 package Kraft American singles (the orange kind) 
  • 1 can of stewed tomatoes (I usually use the Italian seasoned ones, but any flavor will work!) 
  • Milk (Christine's Option: Add a little cream for extra richness and extra creamy mac!)

  1. Cook the macaroni until al dente, according to the instructions on the box.
  2. Put the pasta back in the pan and add the stewed tomatoes (juice and all!).  Pour the pasta and tomato mixture into a clear, glass lasagna pan.  Add enough milk directly into the pan so that it reaches half-way up the sides.  Cover the top of the pasta with a layer a cheese slices. 
  3. Bake in a 350 oven until the cheese is melted.  Take the pan out of the oven and carefully stir the melted cheese into the pasta.
  4. Eat!
Source: Bonnie's Grammy as submitted by Bonnie

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recipe Swap: Taco Dip

Football season is upon us. Sadly, the only sport I actually enjoy watching is hockey and they are still on lockout (BOO). And to be honest, when it comes to watching sporting events, my favorite event is the epic eating fest of foods that are just far too bad for you. When else is it considered acceptable to park yourself in front of a tv and eat tons of greasy chips, dips, and other unhealthy yet awesome foods?

This recipe swap theme was Game Day and I submitted the Outback copycat Blooming Onion with Dipping Sauce recipe. I received a traditional Taco Dip from Nicole at Cookies on Friday. It's a recipe of unknown origins that has been handed down through the family.

Though I've eaten taco dips many times before, I've never made one.  Since there was no game for me to watch, after having a few generously dipped chips and staying true to the recipe, I ended up turning this into a taco salad dinner. Somehow this made me feel like it was an acceptable meal but I still ate far to much of it. It's like crack. So creamy and addicting even with fat-free and low-fat substitutions!  It's also amazingly simple to put together.  Yum.

Checkout the rest of the swap submissions in the blog hop below and thanks as usual to Sarah at Taste of Home Cooking for hosting!

One Year Ago: Cheesy Chili Mac
Three Years Ago: Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

Taco Dip

  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey 
  • 1 package taco seasoning (I used a low-sodium version)
  • 15 ounce can refried beans (I used a fat-free version)
  • 1-1/2 cups sour cream (I used a low-fat version)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese 
  • Toppings: Sliced olives, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, red onions, jalapeno peppers
  • Tortilla Chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have a large pie plate ready.
  2. In a medium skillet, cook the ground beef over medium high heat. Drain the meat and add the taco seasoning as the package directs. Allow to cool slightly.
  3. Spread the refried beans in the pie plate. Top with the ground beef. Top with a layer of sour cream and then with the cheese.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are heated through. Top with desired toppings before serving. 
Source: Submitted by Nicole at Cookies on Friday

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Savory BBQ Pulled Pork Cinnamon Roll

What I'm about to share with you may sound weird.  In fact, tons of my facebook fans who saw the sneak peek photo said they would have to see and try it to believe it.  But by the end of this post, I'll have you being a believer.  And once I break it down for you, you'll come to understand that what sounds crazy is actually quite genius!

The savory BBQ Pulled Pork Cinnamon Roll.  It is the love child of two American favorites - BBQ Pulled Pork and Cinnamon Rolls.  It is savory with a touch of sweetness.  Consider that cinnamon and brown sugar, the basic components of a traditional cinnamon roll filling, are easily ingredients in a pork entree glaze or bbq sauce, anyway.  Then, consider that a cinnamon roll, is no more than a bread bun that's rolled up all fancy.  Instead of serving pulled pork on a bun, it's rolled up cinnamon bun style!  And then it's drizzled with extra barbecue sauce.  Because no one likes a naked cinnamon roll and it just looks pretty.  Suddenly, what seems like a freak Frankenstein dish is not that mad but instead makes perfect sense!

Once I tried this dish, my mind started racing and considering all of the other savory cinnamon roll possibilities.  I could stuff it with shredded buffalo chicken and either cheddar or blue cheese with a drizzle of ranch or blue cheese dressing.  Or how about that fantastic Hawaiian Pulled Chicken and jazzed up hawaiian bread dough and then finishing with some of that extra sauce?  Yes...I think I shall be trying to bring some of these recipes to reality someday soon.  This recipe opened up my mind to a whole new world of possibilities!

Give it a try, I think you'll like it!

One Year Ago: Roast Beef with Onion Gravy
Three Years Ago: Corn Casserole and Sweet Potato Souffle

Savory BBQ Pulled Pork Cinnamon Roll


For the dough
  • 1/2 cup milk (2%)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 - 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
For the Filling
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Leftover BBQ Pulled Pork (suggest 2 recipes of Slow Cooker Pulled Pork)
For Drizzling
  • Additional BBQ sauce
  1. Heat the milk and butter in s mall saucepan or in the microwave until the butter melts.  Set aside and allow to cool until the mixture is lukewarm (about 100 degrees).
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together warm water, yeast, sugar, and eggs at low speed until well combined.  Then add the warm milk mixture and 2 cups of flour.  Mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.
  3. Switch to the dough hook attachment.  Add another 2 cups of flour and continue to knead at medium speed until dough forms a ball and is smooth, about 10 minutes.  If needed, add additional flour by the tablespoon to make the dough come together.  Cover bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel and leave in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in size  (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours).
  4. Meanwhile, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.  Generously butter a 9x13 metal baking pan.
  5. After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle with the short side facing you.  Brush the melted butter over the surface of the dough.  Then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Finally, spread a healthy layer of pulled pork over the surface of the dough leaving a 1-inch strip on one of the short sides.  Tightly roll the dough into a spiral and pinch the free end to seal.
  6. Using a piece of string or sharp serrated knife, cut the roll into six equal slices and place them swirl side up in the prepared 9x13 pan.  Cover with a clean, damp dish cloth and allow to rise until puffy and almost doubled (about 1 hour).  Near the end of the second rise time, preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Bake rolls at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes.  Drizzle with your favorite barbecue sauce and serve warm.
Source: Adapted from Food Pusher

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mac and Cheese Contest Entry #2: Smoked Macaroni and Cheese

"Smoked" is the perfect description of the predominant flavor in this macaroni and cheese.  My in-laws swore it was the smell of bacon but really, it was all just smoked gouda.  I'm a sucker for smoked gouda.  In fact, it's my favorite cheese.

The seasonings were also interesting.  Most mac and cheese use either hot sauce, mustard, and/or cayenne pepper as is the case of this recipe to make the flavors pop.  But, I've never seen tomato paste in a macaroni and cheese recipe before. It added a welcome depth to this classic dish.  As it only calls for one tablespoon, I was very glad to have a handy stock of frozen tomato paste cubes in just that size.  If you haven't tried it yet, next time you open a can, just measure them into tablespoon sized portions and freeze.  When you need them, pop them out and add to your dish.  No more waste!

As I was combining the noodles with the sauce I was seriously salivating from the smell.  So, I decided to "cheat" and sneak a bite (anyone else do this?) before I put it into the oven to finish.  This is when I got *really* excited.  It tasted even better than it smelled!  I was tempted to stop right then and there but alas, I had to continue to be true to the recipe that was submitted.  And I'm glad I did that because the crunchy topping on this macaroni was really good (and pretty!), too!

Smoked Mac and Cheese

My verdict?  Definitely worthy of an upcoming Thanksgiving side dish slot or just for the next time you're craving the comforts of macaroni and cheese.  Thank you so much Stacey for sharing!

I hope you've been sharing and then commenting on each of my Mac and Cheese Mondays posts so you can enter to win one of two great cookbooks: Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown or Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin!  See this page for full contest details.

One Year Ago: Cheesy Italian Meatballs with Marinara Sauce
Three Years Ago: Home Fries and Beach Shrimp

Smoked Macaroni and Cheese

Yields: 8-10 servings

  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 cups shredded smoked gouda cheese, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 oz country-style bread
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 lb rigatoni, cooked slightly under al dente and drained

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a large rectangular baking dish.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the 4 tablespoons butter.  Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the tomato paste.  Add 1 1/2 cups of each cheese and stir until melted.  Season with salt, black pepper, and cayenne.
  3. Tear the bread into crumbs.  In a small bowl, stir together the bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter and season with salt.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the pasta and cheese sauce then pour into the prepared baking dish.  Top with the remaining cheese and the buttered bread crumbs.  Bake until the cheeses are golden and bubbly, about 40 minutes.  If the top becomes too dark, cover with aluminum foil.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Source: Slightly adapted from William's Sonoma as submitted by Stacey

Friday, November 9, 2012

Spicy Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Green Beans

Happy Friday!

I knew this recipe had potential when I looked at the ingredients.  But, I tweaked it a bit knowing that sesame oil isn't meant for cooking (too unstable) but rather drizzled as a finishing garnish.  And, following the tried and true method for all good Asian stir fries.  I watched my mom do it as I grew up and the general formula for a good stir fry is simple.  You get the vegetable oil nice and hot in the pan, add aromatics (like garlic, ginger, and onions) to start your base flavor if you're using them.  Add the meat.  Add the veggies.  Finish with sauce.  Easy peasy, right?

Perhaps the best loved thing about stirfy is the fact that it's so quick to pull a meal together.  Equally easy is the ability to customize it to your liking or use up whatever lonely leftover ingredients you might have.  You can mix and match your meats (like I substituted chicken for the shrimp in this recipe) and veggies.  The real deciding factor in determining a good and bad stir fry meal is the sauce.  And this sauce is a flavorful winner! One of the best I've ever had.

One Year AgoCaramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes
Three Years Ago: Chicken Parmesan

PS: Have you shared and commented on last week's Mac and Cheese Monday #1 post?  Only 2 entries to date so the chance to win is great!  Also, sharing entry #2 on Monday so check back to see what I made and to enter again!

Spicy Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Green Beans

Spicy Garlic and Ginger Chicken with Green Beans

  • 3 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1.5 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 tsp chili sauce (recommend Sriracha!)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 4 tsp cold water
  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3-4 cups green beans, steamed
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds
  1. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar  sugar, garlic, ginger, 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and chili sauce in a bowl.  Whisk to combine and then set aside.
  2. In a large non-stick skillet, add remaining 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat until shimmering.  Add the chicken and cook until white and nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add the steamed green beans to the skillet.  Pour in sauce mixture and allow to simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the cornstarch slurry.  Return to a simmer and cool until thickened (it should coat a spoon).
  3. Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Serve over rice.
Source: Modified from Stephanie Cooks

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

In honor of the US Elections on Tuesday I offered my facebook fans the option of voting on the recipe that I would share on Wednesday.  The results were unanimous.  As I'm typing this blog post, I'm watching the results of the election come in.  No matter what side you're on, I think we can all agree that this recipe is delicious.  And that's something we can all unite around :).

I apologize in advance for the less than stellar photo.  I brought this dish to Thanksgiving themed Dinner Club as a last minute dessert when Emily and Scott could no longer make it.  You see, they were in charge of our only planned dessert for the evening and also our regular "event" photographers.  But they had a great excuse for missing their first dinner club since we started about 3 years ago.  Emily and Scott are the proud new parents of twin girls - Paige and Claire!  They came much earlier than expected but everyone's healthy and well.

As for the cake?  It was amazing!  Moist and full of Fall flavors.  But the best part has to be the fact that it's just dressed up boxed cake mix.  You heard me!  And Shhhh!  Don't give away this little secret because no one would suspect ;).

PS: Have you shared my Macaroni and Cheese Mondays post yet and left a comment letting me know you've shared?  Nobody has yet which makes me really sad.  Remember, prizes are at stake here!  And while I wouldn't mind keeping one of these great cookbooks for myself, they're really meant for one of my wonderful readers!

One Year Ago: Strip House Potatoes Romanoff and Chicken and Roasted Root Vegetable Pot Pie
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Pie Fudge and Marinara Magnifica

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze


For the cake
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 can (15 oz) pureed pumpkin
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 box (18 oz) yellow cake mix
  • 1 tsp baking soda
For the topping
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
For the glaze
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the water, pumpkin, eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined.  Add the cake mix and baking soda and mix until just combined.
  3. Grease a 9x13 pan with butter and pour the batter into the pan.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together ingredients for the topping.  Sprinkle over the top of the cake using your fingers.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Combine the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and continue to stir until all the sugar dissolves.
  6. When the cake is finished baking, poke holes over the entire cake surface using a fork or a skewer.  Pour the glaze all over the cake.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: Heather's Dish as seen on Pretty. Good. Food.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mac and Cheese Contest Entry #1: Best Potluck Mac and Cheese

Here is the first installation of what I'll call Mac and Cheese Mondays.  I will be sharing the contest entries that I received each Monday and giving my reviews.

Remember, each time you SHARE MY MAC AND CHEESE POST using your favorite social media (such as your own blog, facebook, twitter, google+, pintrest, etc.) and leave a comment with your email address and the link showing me that you shared is a chance for you, my reader, to win!  You can do this once per recipe for a total of seven (7) entries.  There are two great Mac and Cheese cookbooks at stake: Mac & Cheese by Ellen Brown and Mac and Cheese, Please! by Laura Werlin.

The first entry that I'm sharing was submitted by Sarah at A Taste of Home Cooking.  She modified it slightly from Cook's Country and per her blog post, uses it as a quick freezer meal when accompanied by a healthy side salad to balance the meal.

This mac and cheese was pretty classic for those that like the baked type of mac and cheese.  Everyone knows that a great mac and cheese has to incorporate good quality cheese that's freshly grated from the block for the smoothest texture so that's where I began with this recipe.  But I was surprised by the lack of cheesy flavor given the nice mix of 3 different cheeses in the sauce.  Perhaps I just didn't add enough salt "to taste" but the cheese flavor was quite subdued.  Instead, the onion flavor was most prominent to me.  It was unexpected, but still nice.   My favorite part about this recipe was the nice toasted crunch topping which was studded with Parmesan cheese.  Not only does it provided a great texture and flavor contrast but it makes the mac and cheese look pretty, too!  However, I personally find that the crunch topping comes at the expense of a less creamy mac and cheese and that's just not something I'm willing to trade off.  I'm hoping through this contest I'll be able to find that perfect balance but this isn't it for me.

Thank you Sarah for your entry and looking forward to trying the six others still yet to be made!

Edited to add: I actually enjoyed the leftovers of this more than the fresh dish!  It seemed to get creamier and more balanced in flavor with time.  The cheese flavor was still quite mild but it seemed creamier when reheated in the microwave!  That said, perhaps this is indeed a good freezer meal candidate :).

Best Potluck Mac and Cheese

Best Potluck Mac and Cheese


  • 3-4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into large pieces
  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, 4 Tbsps of which are melted
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb elbow macaroni (Sarah likes to use cavatappi)
  • 5 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmet
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded American cheese (use block American cheese from the deli countery.  Prewrapped slices will result in a drier sauce)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.
  2. Pulse bread, melted butter, and Parmesan in a food processor until ground into a coarse crumb.  Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Cook pasta in bowling salted water until al dente.  Drain and set aside.
  4. In the now-empty pasta pot over medium heat, melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter until foaming.  Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in milk, onion, bay leaves, nutmet, and salt and pepper.  Cook until mixture, stirring occasionally, until it begins to simmer and is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.  Remove the pot off the heat and then slowly whisk in cheeses, stirring until the cheese fully melts.  Stir in cooked macaroni until coated.
  5. Transfer macaroni and cheese mixture to the prepared baking dish and top with the bread crumb mixture.  Bake until cheese is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Source: Slightly modified from Cook's Country as submitted by Sarah of A Taste of Home Cooking