Monday, December 31, 2012

Devilish Eggs - a crowd pleaser

Whenever we are invited to a family gathering, my husband is forced to bring his deviled eggs or he may as well not even show his face. The family go nuts over them. I admit they are the best deviled egg I've tried. It's a perfect combination of creamy and kick.

For this post, I am stealing his recipe. Hubs and I are similar chefs ("chefs" used very lightly). We rarely measure anything out. This is very true for this recipe. For creamier eggs, use more mayo or for not so creamy eggs, use less mayo. For an extra kick, use more mustard or for less kick, use less mustard.

Here we go!

What you'll need:

1 dozen eggs
Yellow mustard

Deviled egg tray
Cake decorating icing gun (not necessary but makes it much easier)

Boil the eggs for a good 20 minutes and let cool. Once cooled, peel and slice eggs in half. Separate the yolk from the egg white. Put the yolk in a mixing bowl and the egg white in an "egg tray".

Set the whites aside and mash the yolks. Mix in mayo, start with a cup and add more until you've reached the creaminess you desire. Mix in mustard, start with 1/2 tbsp and add more until you are satisfied. Dash with pepper. Blend together until the mixture is nice and creamy. Try to avoid a lumpy mixture.

Spoon mixture into the decorating gun and begin filling the egg whites. Squeeze about 1 tbsp into each egg white. Sprinkle each egg with paprika. Wham bam... you've got yourself a kick butt appetizer.

Top ten - Adult Beverages

Searching for the perfect New Years Eve cocktail? Cara and I are here to save the day. Check out our top ten list of adult beverages.

1. White Russian
  •  Kahlua
  • Vodka
  • Cream 
  • Ice

2. Root Beet Float
  • Root Beer Schnapps
  • Coke
  • Half and Half
  • Ice

3. Pineapple Upside Down Cake
  • Vanilla Vodka
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Drop of Grenadine 
  • Ice

 4. Electric Lemonade
  • Vodka
  • Blue curacao
  • Lemonade
  • Ice

 5. Jell-O Shots
  • check out the link... YUM!

6. Fun in Fargo (made at Granite City)
  • Coconut Rum
  • Strawberry Schnapps
  • Midori
  • Pineapple Juice

7. Bailey's on ice

8. Dreamsicle
  • OJ
  • Triple Sec
  • Vanilla Vodka
  • Half-and-half

9. Wine
  • Tisdale Sweet Red
  • Sweet Bitch Pinot Grigio
  • Barefoot White Zin

10. Beer
  • Leinenkugel's Honey Weiss
  • Blue Moon Winter Ale


**As always, drink responsibly. Do not drink and drive.**

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup

Nothing beats a good soup. Once the cold weather hits, soup is commonly found on our weekly meal plan. It’s a comfort food full of warm and delicious bits of this and that. You can have a broth base or cream base. You add chicken, beef, vegetables or whatever you choose. You really can’t go wrong. 

The soup I’m bringing you today is Southwest Chicken Tortilla. I made it for the first time about a month ago. The ingredients told me I wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s a broth base soup with a flare of Mexican goodness. 

Prep does take some time, but I wouldn’t let that scare you. The blood, sweat and tears are totally worth it. I’m being dramatic, it’s not that bad. 

Here we go!

What you need:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 15 oz. can of sweet whole corn kernels, drained
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
5 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
Shredded cheese, cheddar or fiesta blend
Tortilla strips

Boil chicken breasts in 5 cups of broth until fully cooked. While chicken is cooking, chop the vegetables. Pull chicken from pot (keep medium heat on) and shred it. Once shredded add it back to the pot. Add the vegetables (both canned and chopped), stir it up. Add the seasonings. Bring the soup to a boil, stirring here and there, simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes. 

Top soup with shredded cheese, sour cream (I didn't, but it's an option) and tortilla strips*. 

As with any soup, add or substract any ingredient you want. Want a kick? Add serrano pepper or green chiles. Be creative!

*I had a hard time finding the tortilla strips and almost gave up. I finally found them at another grocery store. Please don't give up on the strips, the soup really is boosted by these sly dogs. Another idea… substitute Dorito Cool Ranch chips.

Cozy up by the fire and enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Cookies...

So here its been a week since I hosted my annual baking day and I'm just now sharing some of my recipes.  Anyone else out there need another week until Christmas???  Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one that doesn't have all my shopping done the day after Thanksgiving.  I don't like to rush the holidays and to be honest, my time management skills seemed to have disappeared when I became a parent.  I do make my annual baking day a priority though no matter how frazzled I feel in December.  I've been hosting it ever since college.  I've kept it primarily with the same group of gals but the process has definitely evolved over the years.  Currently, everyone makes 2-3 cookies/candies at home and then brings 1-2 recipes (and the ingredients) to make with the group.  We enjoy baking together so we didn't want to eliminate the baking fun but it takes TOO long to bake everything together.  Please feel free to share in the comments how your cookie exchange works!

This year, I was excited to try the Mint Oreo Truffle recipe I found in the magical land of Pinterest.  You can find that recipe here.  Oh my word were those babies good.  I'll save that recipe to make any time I'm in the doghouse with Studmuffin.

Next little goodie I've seen using Nutter Butters but my youngest has a peanut sensitivity so I had to find something else for the base.  I think these Rudolph Mallows turned out pretty cute and were yummy.  There's no formal recipe - I melted chocolate almond bark, dipped marshmallows in it and placed halved pretzels and red M&Ms to make the antlers and noses.

Ok, these are one of my favorites from my childhood.  My aunt introduced Cream Wafers one year at a holiday gathering and I was hooked.  Just a heads up, the dough is very pesky but they are so worth the hassle.

Cream Wafers
1 c. butter at room temp
1/3 c. whipping cream
2 c. flour
small bowl of approx. 1/2 c. sugar

Mix well, cover & chill.  Roll about 1/3 of the dough on floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick.  Cut into 1 1/2 inch circles and set both sides into sugar bowl to lightly cover. After placing on baking sheet, prick each cookie a few times with a fork.  Cook 7-9 minutes at 375 degrees - do not brown.  Immediately remove from pan to cool.

Filling - cream 1/4 c. butter, 3/4 c. powdered sugar, 1 t. vanilla, few drops of desired food coloring, few drops of water.  Spread light layer of filling between 2 wafers to make a little sandwich.  The cookies are very fragile so you'll learn quickly to handle with care! 

Next up is my Grandma Taylor's sour cream cookie recipe.  This is a treasured family recipe that I may catch some flack for sharing on the interwebs but since there are plenty of sour cream cookies to be found out there, I'm going to share since I think this one is the best.  This comes from my English heritage and some would know them as a tea biscuit.  The traditional frosting uses grated orange peel but my mom and some of her siblings didn't like that so regular frosting was used or just butter.  Definitely another childhood favorite. 

Grandma Taylor's Sour Cream Cookies
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1 c. butter
1 c. sour cream - room temp
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. baking soda
6 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, vanilla. Stir sour cream and baking soda just until it starts to puff up. Add to butter mix. Add remaining ingredients. Roll out on floured space 1/2 in thick. Bake at 350 degrees on lower shelf of oven until they "puff up" then move to top shelf and finish baking (total of 8-10 min). Cool and frost with your frosting of choice. 

Here's my final baking day stash this year which doesn't really do it justice.  I love the variety that I get from baking day but most of all, getting to spend time with some fabulous women, including my best friend, Mel.  Happy Christmas baking, everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Leftover melted chocolate?

We recently had a snow day so I had to quickly come up with activities for my daycare kids. You have to understand, these kids will hang me by my feet if they get bored enough.

After they played in the snow, we decided to make chocolate covered marshmallows. Each kid decorated one with their choice of sprinkles. It was great, the kiddos had a blast.

This post isn't about chocolate covered marshmallows though. I think you smarties can easily figure out how to construct a c/c marshmallow. This post is about the leftover chocolate I had.

I decided to make club crackers with peanut butter slathered in the middle. At first I thought about dunking the whole peanut butter sandwich in the chocolate, but quickly thought it might be fun and more appealing to drizzle the chocolate on top. Fun and appealing it was. They turned out pretty cute too. I made about 10-12 sandwiches and they were gone by bedtime. And no, I didn't eat them all! I'd call that success.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Club Crackers*

*M&M's have nothing to do with this concoction. They were just conveniently hanging out in my kitchen so I used them. Also, please don't be jealous of my fancy paper plate. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Slow-cooked Pulled Pork

Today’s “Friday Quickie” is pulled pork (beef, chicken). Pulled meat… fast you ask? Yes, it’s true, kind of. There's a minor catch. The meat must be slow-cooked. While it does take all day to cook, it's fast and easy to prepare once it's done.

Here we go!

Prepare 3 lbs of boneless country style pork or beef ribs or chicken breast (pork is cheapest) in a crockpot. You can use a rub on the meat if you prefer, I choose not to. Add water to the crockpot, enough to almost or completely cover the meat, turn to low heat. We eat dinner between 6:00pm and 7:00pm. I start cooking the meat by 10:00am at the latest. 


Fast forward to 6:00pm(ish). Remove meat from crockpot. Don’t pour the water/juices from the crockpot quite yet. The meat is so awesomely tender it basically falls apart. I use 2 forks, 1 to hold the meat and the other to shred the meat. It pretty much shreds effortlessly. If your side dishes have not been prepared yet, put the meat back into the crockpot. Let it soak up more yummy moistness. Strain the meat a bit before putting it on the plate.

When we have this meal, my husband usually makes jo-jo potatoes. Those are timely, but oh so good with pulled pork. You could also have a bean salad, coleslaw or french fries/tator tots. 

Our area has an amazing mom and pop style bar-b-q restaurant. Lucky for us, they sell their signature sauce in takeout jars. KC Masterpiece or Jack Daniels sauce does not compare... not even close. My suggestion is to find a local bar-b-q diner with an amazing sauce and purchase a jar of it. It really does make a difference. 

Although this meal takes all day to cook, the serving part is actually fast and easy. This meal feeds our family of six (p.s. it's a total winner with the kids!) and we generally have leftovers. It’s delish reheated too!

Add this to your meal plan today!

Other options for the pulled meat:

Nachos with all the fixings
Soft shell tacos with all the fixings
Pulled meat sandwich
Spinach salad with veggies and meat (use bar-b-q sauce)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cookie exchange

Last weekend, Cara hosted a “baking day”. She has hosted this day for many years. There are usually at least 4 people. This means… lots of goodies!!

We all bring 2 or 3 pre-made treats and make 1 more at the actual exchange. I have never left a “baking day” and felt disappointed. I guess that’s not true. I’m disappointed that I have to share the goodies with my family. My family turns into leeches as soon as I walk through the door. Their eyes grow twice the size and they begin to drool like they have a hole in their lip. All for good reason.

Here are just some of the cookies and goodies…

Almond Sugar Cookies:

I found this recipe on this blog. I wanted something different and more… sophisticated, if you will. I absolutely love a good sugar cookie. It’s probably my favorite. They must be soft though. These cookies meet my requirements. They are soft and delicious with a flare of almond flavoring. 

1 1/2 C white sugar
2/3 C unsalted butter (cold)
2/3 C shortening (room temp)
2 eggs
2 tsp almond extract
2 3/4 C cake flour
1 C all purpose flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
sugar in the raw (*My thought… I used regular sugar. A course sugar would have made it better. Hindsight… wish I would have used colored sugar*)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking sheet with parchment or silicone baking mat.
  • Cream sugar, butter and shortening. Stir in eggs and almond extract.
  • Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add to butter/egg mixture.
  • Use electric mixture to ensure dough is thoroughly combined.
  • Chill dough in fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Roll about 2 tsp of dough into a ball and roll in raw sugar. Place on prepared pan.
  • Bake cookies for 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven and gently press the tops of the cookies flat with the back of a spoon while they are still warm and pliable (not totally necessary).
  • Return bowl of dough to fridge in between baking batches.
  • Move cookies from cookie sheet to cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely.
  • A tip: DO NOT bake cookies longer than 7-8 minutes (*Mel’s thought: I baked mine for about 10 minutes because my oven must be different than the original blogger’s. Use your own discretion. You do want the cookies to appear slightly under baked. This is true for most cookies, IMO. They will firm up as they cool). 
Almond Sugar Cookies

Holiday Cake Cookies

These cookies looked yummy and very kid friendly! I could tell as I was mixing the ingredients together this would be a very rich cookie. I was right. Too rich for my taste buds. I was not a fan. My kids… not a fan either. The recipe calls for an entire box of cake mix. IF I was to make these cookies again I would use about half of the box and substitute flour for the other half.
You are probably wondering why I am posting this if I didn’t like them. Even if I didn’t enjoy them, maybe a reader will. With the half box/extra flour adjustment, I think they might be pretty good. 

Original recipe: here

1 box (18.25 oz) vanilla/white cake mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable/canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sprinkles
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix and baking powder. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla by hand. Add the egg mixture to the cake mixture and stir to form a dough- stir vigorously until all of the pockets of dry cake mix are gone.  Gently mix in the sprinkles – you do not want to dye the cookie dough by over stirring the sprinkles.
  • Drop rounded 1-inch balls of dough onto prepared baking sheet.  
  • Bake for 9 minutes – do not let the cookies get brown.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes; they will be very soft at first. As they cool, the tops will settle down so you will not have to press the cookies down yourself. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Holiday Cake Cookies

Saltine Toffee:

These were all the rage at my son’s school fundraiser (bake sale) back in October. Chocolate, saltine crackers and homemade toffee. Hmmm… I was quite intrigued. I knew it would make my Christmas baking list. This goodie is pretty tasty. One thing I would do differently is boil the brown sugar/butter mixture a bit longer (until sugar dissolved more). 

1 cup butter (no margarine)
1 cup brown sugar
Enough crackers to fill a cookie sheet
1 bag of chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray then cover with foil. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Spread saltines on cookie sheet, creating a flat layer.
  • Mix brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan, stir frequently, once the mixture begins to boil reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until mixture has reached a nice thick consistency.
  • Pour thickened mixture over saltines.
  • Spread toffee evenly over crackers.
  • Bake until toffee becomes bubbly (about 5-10 minutes).  
  • Remove from oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.  
  • Shake chocolate chips on top and let them melt.  
  • Spread chocolate evenly over crackers/toffee.  
  • Let cool or put in the fridge to harden.  
  • After about an hour, break off a piece and taste. Yum!
  • Break into a bunch of pieces. Some small, some large, it’s up to you.
  • Freeze or refrigerate leftovers… if there are any

Saltine Toffee
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheese Crackers

Yum, yum and yum! I didn't make these at the exchange, but I feel the need to share them. These are so kid (and adult) friendly. They are also very cute!

Box of cheese crackers (Cheese Its, Cheese Nips)
Peanut Butter
Chocolate chips 

  • Prepare parchment paper on table or cookie sheet.
  • Spread PB on crackers and top each one with another cracker (sandwich... cracker, PB, cracker).
  • Melt chips in a double boiler.
  • Dip cheese cracker sandwich into melted chocolate.
  • Place chocolate covered sandwich on parchment paper and add sprinkles.
  • Let sandwiches harden.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheese Crackers