Thursday, January 31, 2013

Homemade Caramel Sauce & Brownies

Why is our page called Caramel Living, you ask?  When Mel and I started to brainstorm a creative joint venture, the issue of a name came up.  We took some time to think of names and guess what?  We both independently came up with the same name, Caramel.  You see, it combines parts of our real names.  We're geniuses and it was clearly meant to be if we both thought of the same name!  So we set up the blog and then created the Facebook page.  As we have grown, we have been asked "where's your caramel recipe?!?!"  Based on our recipes that have been posted so far, you probably think we should really be Cheesy Living.  We do love cheese.  :)  In any case, we now have a caramel recipe on the blog.  I made caramel sauce last night and it was SOOOO good.  It was really easy, which I was surprised by since I reviewed several recipes on the internet and started to get nervous that my first batch may very well be a disaster.  I settled on a recipe that contained several cautions and comments to the effect of, "don't worry if you are a beginner and mess it up, you'll get it eventually."  I bought a new candy thermometer and was all set.  Then at the last minute I realized I was going to use up too much of the white sugar making the brownies (below).  I had to find a pinch hitter recipe.  Boy am I glad with the switch because this recipe was easy and the resulting sauce is delicious.  I'm honestly surprised at how well it turned out.  I do have to admit, I was disappointed I didn't get to use the new candy thermometer but I'll use it for my next project - wrapped caramels for our 500th Facebook fan along with the person who referred her.  They'll be arriving soon, Jami & Jill!  :)

Saucy Salted Caramel
Adapted from the Pioneer Woman

1 packed cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
4 T butter
1/4 t kosher salt
1 t vanilla 

Place brown sugar, cream, butter and salt in medium saucepan and cook over medium heat while whisking slowly for 5-7 minutes.  Add the vanilla and heat another minute to thicken further.  Remove from heat and pour into container.  As it cools, it will thicken even more.  Serve right away or store in refrigerator.  Warm to serve.

Now the question is, what can I serve this incredible caramel sauce with???  This morning, I added a spoonful to my latte.  Ermagawd it was good. Last night I made the following brownies to drizzle the caramel over.  The brownies are also very easy to make and so, so good.  They really aren't that much more work to make than brownies out of a box so try it!  Just remember, no matter how yummy unsweetened chocolate looks, its NOT until you add sugar.  :)  

Homemade Brownies
From Baker's

4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar (I tend to use a little less, like 1 3/4)
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup pecans or walnuts (I don't add nuts because we have a nut sensitivity in the family)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 13x9 or 9x9 (for thicker brownies) with aluminum foil and grease foil.  Microwave chocolate and butter on high for 2 minutes.  Stir until chocolate is melted.  Stir in sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla and stir well.  Next add the flour and nuts.  Spread into pan and bake for 27-32 minutes (as long as a toothpick comes out clean when inserted).  You can remove the foil and just wrap over top for easy storage. 

For the above pictured double-decker brownie, I put walnuts on a single layer brownie, drizzled with the caramel sauce, topped it with another brownie and added another layer of walnuts and sauce.  Delish! 



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Midwest Chicken Enchiladas

A few weeks ago, Chicken Enchiladas were popping up all over Facebook. I had leftover ingredients from my Creamy Cheesy Chicken Wraps so I jumped on the enchilada train too. 

This simple recipe, from my mom, doesn’t require much time or too many ingredients. Bonus and bonus, right?

Here we go!

What you’ll need:
  • 3lbs chicken breast
  • 4- 6 medium to large flour shells
  • 26 oz. cream of chicken (or mushroom) soup
  • 1 large onion (I used up my leftover scallions)
  • 8 oz. can of chiles
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cups of your choice of cheese
  • Pepper
  • 1 large tomato (diced)
  • Sour cream
Boil chicken in water or chicken broth. Cut up onions and mushrooms. Combine onions, mushrooms and chiles. Once chicken is cooked thoroughly shred it and add it to the onion mixture, sprinkle in some pepper and mix well. 

Preheat oven to 350. Spread some of the cream of chicken soup on the bottom of the baking pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Spoon some chicken mixture into each flour shell. I tend to put it on the left of the shell and roll it semi-tight. Add them seam side down to the baking pan.

Spread the remaining soup over each enchilada. Add cheese to the top. 

Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Top with sour cream and diced tomatoes. 

I'm seriously craving this now!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Windchillin' Cheesy Veggie Soup

Mel and I live in the frozen tundra of the Midwest.  It's cold.  It's colder than freezing actually.  Last week we had a spell of below zero temps with windchills so far in the negatives that you wouldn't think humans could survive here.  But we do.  What hits the spot on impossibly freezing days like we've had?  Hot comfort foods...and this Cheesy Veggie Soup is one of my family's favorites.  It tastes even better as leftovers but usually there isn't any left to make it to that point.  Recipe adapted from Jean Hall.

Cheesy Veggie Soup

1/2 to 1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3-4 potatoes, cubed
2 3/4 c. water
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
dash of pepper
2 t chicken soup base
1 T cornstarch
1/4 c. cold water
1 can cream of chicken soup
4 c.  frozen vegetables of your choosing, thawed (can use fresh but will want to boil them separately 5-7 min to soften)
8 oz. Velveeta, cubed (haven't found a good substitute yet)

Cook onion and celery in a large saucepan with a dallop of olive oil until the onion is tender.  Add the potatoes, 2 3/4 c. water, chicken soup base, garlic powder, salt & pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir cornstarch into 1/4 c. cold water until smooth.  Slowly add to soup. Boil for a few minutes until thickened.  Add condensed soup.  Reduce heat and add veggies.  Cook until veggies are softened to you liking.  Stir in cheese until melted. 

Stay bundled up & warm, Caramel Delights!  And if you live in a warm, sunny place - just keep that to yourself.  :) 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's Meal Plan Thursday

BBQ Chicken Legs

Add chicken legs to crockpot and pour your favorite BBQ sauce over the legs. Turn crockpot to low and bake 6-8 hours. Easy peasy!

Tator Tot Hotdish

  • 1 lbs ground beef/turkey
  • 1 bag of tator tots
  • 1 26 oz cream of chicken soup
  • 1 10.5 oz vegetable soup
  • 4 cups mixed veggies
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake tator tots while you brown the ground meat, dash with salt and pepper. Steam veggies for about 5-6 minutes. Add soup and steamed veggies to browned meat. Simmer. After tots have baked for about 20 minutes, remove from oven. Pour meat/soup into a deep baking dish, add baked tots to the top. Bake from another 15-20 minutes.

Crispy Chicken Nuggets and Homey Mac and Cheese

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Quick Apple Pie

Happy National Pie Day! I'm not a huge "pie" person, but I've been wanting to attempt an apple pie filling for quite awhile. Mainly because I want to make apple dumplings. When I read that January 23, 2013 was going to be dedicated to all things "pie" I saw my chance. For the fillings anyway... the dumplings will come some other time.

I'm new-ish to the baking world. Maybe someday I'll be awesome and won't need to copy someone's recipe. For now, I'll copy and make changes accordingly.

Just the filling:

  • 3 cups thinly sliced apples (you can add more, my preference is less)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 5 cups water

In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and set aside. Pour water into a Dutch oven/stew pot over medium heat. Mix together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add to water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Be sure to scrap the bottom of the pot as you stir.

Add apples and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
Now for the crust. Ready? A tube of Pillsbury biscuits. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin pan. Cut the biscuits in half. Roll out one half of the biscuit. Lay it over the muffin slot and press it to the bottom and against the sides of the slot, avoid tearing the biscuit. Take that delicious apple pie filling and fill to almost the top. 

Grab the other biscuit half. Roll it out a little less. Cut 4 small slits into the center making an incomplete "X" shape. Use this half to cover the pie filling half, gently press top biscuit to the bottom biscuit. Don't worry if you're not able to perfectly smush them together. The uncooked dough fuses together (mostly) as it bakes. Smear a bit of butter over the top and sprinkle on some cinnamon and sugar.

Bake for about 13-15 minutes. They may appear done on the outside but the inside may not be fully cooked. It's a good idea to test one by lifting the top, if possible, or breaking one open slightly.

Serve with a scoop or two of ice cream. I happened to have cinnamon ice cream in the freezer. No kidding... I totally saw fireworks when I ate this. I even crashed my daily allowance of sugar for this sweet treat. I didn't eat it all but I certainly could have.

I played with idea of making homemade caramel sauce but I didn't have time. Maybe this weekend I'll do that. I only made two of these little guys. I'm saving the rest to make fresh on my fun day (when I can eat anything I want). Also, I want to take pictures to show the techniques I used. Once I do, I'll add them to this post.

Store the leftover Quick Apple Pies in the refrigerator and reheat for a midnight snack or breakfast, whichever works best for you.

If you have any remaining filling, pour it into freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch free space at the top. Seal and freeze. Can be stored for up to 12 months. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's Meal-Plan Thursday

Welcome to our new segment "It's Meal-Plan Thursday".

I swear by meal planning. It has saved me time and money at the grocery store. I started doing it about 3 years ago and haven't stopped. I shop on the weekends and I would much rather be doing something else besides roaming the grocery store aisles for hours while deciding what to feed my family.

What I do: I have a saved spreadsheet in Excel. I enter what I want to serve for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I have an abundance of something (like noodles or ground turkey), I plan a meal that will include that item. I print it out. On the back I title a column for each grocery store section I will visit (ex: diary, can/box, meats, fruits/vegetables, etc). I look through the cupboards/freezer/refrigerator and add whatever I need to buy.

I will plan on posting a new meal-plan every Thursday. I am sure I will miss a few here and there. If /when that happens feel free to revert back to an old one (find it under "TAGS" on the right side of this page). I am only posting dinner ideas. Tip: making extra = lunch for the next day (reduces eating out) :)

I hope this will be helpful and I would love to hear feedback from you. Give it try and please drop a note to let me know if it's working out for you.

Here is our first meal-plan (followed by a few recipes)!!


  • 1 lbs. ground beef/turkey
  • 4 cups of tomato or V-8 juice
  • 15 oz. can light red kidney beans
  • 3 large tomatoes (or 15 oz. can of diced petite toms)
  • 1 cup fresh mushroom
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chili pepper
  • 1 tbsp.  garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Brown meat, I don’t chop the meat up too much. I like bigger chunks of ground meat in my chili. Add browned meat (you don’t necessarily need to brown the meat before adding it to the pot… I just choose to), juice and beans to the crockpot or stewing pot. Cut up the veggies, add them to the pot. Add chili pepper and salt/pepper. Stir together. 

Crockpot = 4 hours
Stewing pot over medium-low = 30 - 45 minutes.

Tip: add more or less juice depending on your desired consistency

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

  • 1 lbs. linguine, fettuccine or spaghetti noodles (for a healthier option try whole grain)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 15 oz. Bertolli Garlic Alfredo Sauce (I hope to one day give you a homemade recipe)
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 large tomato

Prepare skillet with olive oil, warm oil for a few minutes over medium heat. Slice raw chicken into strips, add to skillet and tend to it occasionally. Slice veggies (minus tomato), steam broccoli until tender and add to skillet once chicken is fully cooked.  Stir in sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes. 

Serve over cooked noodles and top with diced tomato. 

Scramble Omlet
  • 8 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 tbsp pancake mix
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper
Whisk eggs, milk and pancake mix together. The pancake mix adds a bit of fluff to the egg. Chop up veggies.  Add olive oil to skillet, begin warming over medium heat. Add egg mixture to warmed skillet. Pour veggies over eggs, dash with salt and pepper and scramble the mixture until eggs are completely cooked. Reduce heat to warm and cover top of eggs with cheese, cover the pan to allow cheese to melt.