Archive for January, 2012


Count Down to a Super Sunday

January 30, 2012

Sunday is the big football day.  Not that I’m that invested in it, my favorite team didn’t make it.  And no it’s not the Bears.  I haven’t been a Bears fan since 1987, when the Bears let Otis Wilson go.  I’m a Saints fan.

I thought that I would share some great game day food this week.  I’m starting out with some of my favorite appetizers.  Some of my favorite man friendly appetizers.  A large group of people gathered around a sporting event calls for some great appetizers.

Why not try one of these:

Or maybe this next one.  The crunchy won ton and warm filling are so good together.  I make the filling ahead and prep the won tons ahead as well.  Once people start to arrive, I start to put the filling in the won tons.  Serve them warm, or they’ll get soggy and that’s not good.  If you prep them to be eaten as they come out of the oven, they’ll go quickly.

I’m planning to share some great dips later in the week.  Why do ladies love the dips and men love the finger food?

Sausage Stars

  • 1 lb Cooked Breakfast Sausage, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 C Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 C Monterey Jack Cheese, grated
  • 1 C Ranch Dressing
  • 1-6 oz can of Black Olives, sliced
  • 1/2 C Red Pepper, chopped
  • 1-package Won Ton Wrappers

After cooking and draining the sausage, combine it with the cheeses, ranch dressing, black olives and red peppers.  Set aside.

Using a brush, lightly grease a mini-muffin tin.  Press a wrapper in each prepared cup.  Bake the won tons for five minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until golden.  Remove from the oven and fill each won ton with sausage filling.  Return to the oven and cook until bubbly, about five minutes.

Serve warm.

Makes about four dozen.


Spiced Up Cookies

January 25, 2012

I love a good bargain.  That’s why when I was shopping at Target after Christmas, I came across some cinnamon m&m’s in the sale aisle.  I wasn’t even aware that there were such a thing as cinnamon flavored m&m’s.  Did you?  I bought two bags for the price of one.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with the bag once I had a spare minute.

Make cookies, of course.  Who doesn’t like cookies made with m&m’s?  I finally got around to make these cookies the other day.  I used the basic recipe on the back of a bag of chocolate morsels.  I prefer to use a certain brand of morsels, but use whatever you like.  I chose to add milk chocolate morsels.  I thought they would complement the cinnamon flavor of the m&m’s.  I also thought that adding nutmeg would counteract any artificial flavor from the m&m’s.

I like my cookies chewy, and tend to slightly under cook them.  That way they are still chewy a few days after I’ve backed them, that is if there are any left.

Cinnamon M&M Cookies

  • 1 C Butter
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 3/4 C Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1 t Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 1/4 C Flour
  • 1 t Baking Soda
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1 C Milk Chocolate Chips
  • 1-9.9 oz bag of Cinnamon M & M’s

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and nutmeg in a medium-sized bowl.  Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars together.  Add the vanilla and eggs to the butter mixture.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Stir in the milk chocolate chips and m&m’s.  Drop the batter onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Another Perfect Winter Meal

January 22, 2012

We had more snow on Friday.  I’m not sure how much.  Maybe six or eight inches.  I honestly don’t keep track.  To me snow is more of an inconvenience than anything.  I lost that gleeful feeling toward snow a long time ago.  I think it may have coincided with getting my driver’s license.

I don’t hate driving in snow, but I don’t like it.  Friday’s snow added 30 minutes on to my commute home.  That’s not too bad.  I’ve been stuck in snow longer.  The problem with the snow by me is the drifts.  The snow drifts a lot.  So even if the roads have just been plowed, you can’t tell.  I actually got stuck going up my driveway.  It took four attempts before I could park in the garage.  The ironic thing was that the snow wasn’t wet.  Do you know what I mean?  It wasn’t good packing snow, which usually causes me more trouble in the car.  Or truck.  I don’t have four-wheel drive on the mammoth vehicle I drive, so stopping and starting are always an adventure in the snow.

The upside of the snow was that Meeshie went sledding with a few of her friends yesterday.  It was her first time.  I know.  I’m a bad mom, but I wasn’t aware of any great snow hills near me.  Until yesterday, that is.  I was invited too, but I needed to stay home and make dinner.  I’m hoping to join in next time.  I made them some cinnamon cider to keep them warm.  Meeshie had a great time, thanks Maribeth and Carol for taking her.  Is it still considered sledding if you sit in the warm car with a hot spiked beverage?  Because I can do that.

I stayed home and made this pasta dish.  I love baked ziti and yesterday was a perfect day for it.  This dish feeds a large crowd.  I’ve made it for past Superbowl parties.  I love that you can make the cream sauce a couple of days ahead.

Baked Ziti with Mushrooms

  • 3 Yellow Bell Peppers
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • 2 C Half and Half
  • 1 1/2 lbs Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers, chopped
  • 2 Orange Bell Peppers, chopped
  • 1 lb Ziti ( I actually used Mezzi Rigatoni)
  • 8 Scallions (green part only)
  • 2 C Parmesan, freshly grated
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg

Chop the yellow peppers, onion, and mince the garlic.  Add all three to a heavy saucepan lined with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and stir occasionally, until the peppers are soft; about 15 minutes.  Stir in the half and half and nutmeg.  Allow to cool and add to a blender and puree in batches.  If you don’t allow the mixture to cool be aware that blending hot liquids:  use small batches and vent the blender.  Use a towel over the blender, this will help prevent any heat explosions.   Set this mixture aside.

In a large skillet, add the remaining olive oil, mushrooms and red and orange peppers.  Season with pepper.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes.  Set aside.

Cooke the pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1 C of pasta water.  Drain the pasta.  Combine the pasta, half and half mixture, mushrooms and peppers, pasta water and 1 1/2 C of parmesan.  Place in a 3 or 4 quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until hot and begins to brown.

If making ahead, combine the sauce and prepare the mushroom mixture.  Set in the fridge for up to two days ahead.  Make sure the sauce and mushrooms are at room temperature before proceeding.  Adjust your cooking time in the oven accordingly.

Makes 8 to 10 servings!

Serve with your favorite bread and salad.

Ekat’s Kitchen.


Something Spicy

January 17, 2012

It’s been cold around here lately.  We had snow last week, a little more today and now we are gearing up for some cold weather.  Ah, winter in Chicago.  It’s days like today that makes most Chicagoans smile during the hot, humid summer.  Or at least I do.
A cold day like today makes me want to enjoy a hot dish.  Orange chicken is just that dish.  What I love is that I can control the heat level.  So, even though my husband and I love spicy food, the dish can be less hot for Meeshie.  And let me tell you Meeshie is a big fan of orange chicken.  She’s also a big fan of sweet and sour chicken.
This dish uses the same technique as the sweet and sour chicken:  the egg wash/corn starch dip before the frying.   It’s a messy step but worth it, just make sure to keep one hand dry and one wet, it’ll still be messy but not so bad.  I also prep everything the night before, just like the sweet and sour chicken, to let the sauce soak into the chicken.
The first time I made this, I used 1 T of crushed red pepper.  It was spicy (not too spicy), and Meeshie commented about it but still ate it.  Since then, I’ve made it with less red pepper and she always asks about the heat level.  Once she realizes it isn’t that spicy she digs right in and enjoys!
Orange Chicken
  • 2 Whole Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 C plus 2 T Cornstarch
  • 1 C Orange Juice
  • 1 C Water, with 2 T reserved
  • 1 Lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2 T Vinegar
  • 1/2 C Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 t Ground Ginger
  • 1 t Garlic Powder
  • 2 T Soy Sauce
  • 1 t-1 T Crushed Red Pepper, depending on your heat level

Cut the chicken up into chunks, season with salt and pepper.  Dip the chicken in the 1/2 C cornstarch then the eggs.  Fry in a little oil until browned and place in a 9×13 baking dish (I use my Pyrex).  Mix the orange juice, water less the 2 T, vinegar, lemon juice, zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and soy sauce together.  Mix the 2 T cornstarch with the 2 T water, mix into the sauce and add the red pepper.

You can then let it sit in the fridge over night or cook immediately.  I usually prep it all and place it in the fridge overnight.

Bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Serve with white rice or fried rice.

I’m linked to Ekat’s Kitchen today.


Happy New Year!

January 11, 2012

It’s not to late to say Happy New Year, is it?  This month, New Year’s Day actually, commemorates my second year of blogging.  This post is actually my 275th.  I can’t believe it.  It really doesn’t seem like two years since I started sharing my thoughts and recipes with all of you.

To celebrate my second anniversary, I’m sharing my top five most viewed posts.  Funny thing is that these posts were most viewed last year, but were all written in 2010.  Makes me wonder what things will be looked at in 2012.

At the top of the list is one of my favorite coffee cakes.  It’s a blueberry raspberry coffee cake, but don’t be fooled.  I’ve made it with blackberries, too.  This cake is moist and so easy to make.

Next, is oreo cupcakes with oreo frosting.  These are so moist and yummy.  I’ve actually made cake pops with some leftover cupcakes and frosting.  These have been my go to cupcake for Meeshie’s birthday for the last two years.

How about a great yellow cake recipe?  Everyone should have one.  This is absolutely the best yellow cake recipe I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of yellow cake.

Speaking of cake pops, my reindeer ones were a big hit last year.  I’m not sure why.  I’ve shared quite a few cake pops and I’m not sure why this one has risen to the top…

Last, is a cake from my husband’s childhood, bobovka.  It’s a moist cake made with yeast and poppy seed filling.   This is a great cake warm and equally great the next day.

Happy blogging and thanks for sharing your comments and encouragement!


Coffee Cake

January 10, 2012

I love a good coffee cake.  I especially love one that’s easy and uses things from my pantry.  I have a very similar recipe for a coffee cake that I make with butterscotch morsels.  This one has an icing and is only limited by your imagination or what you have on hand.  This could be made with white chocolate and cranberries, or how about some of those yummy caramel bits?  I’ve made other suggestions within the recipe too, but again the possibilities are limitless.

Because you use a box mix, it’s also very moist.  It’s so moist that it’s too difficult to remove from the 9×13 pan it bakes into to give a true coffee cake presence.  But, I’ve just come across a 9×13 springform pan that would be perfect for this.  Too bad my birthday is a few months away.

Meeshie and my husband have devoured this in just a few days.  My husband has actually asked when I plan to make it again.

Coffee Cake

  • 1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 t Cinnamon
  • 1/2 C Pecans, chopped (optional)
  • 1-18.5 oz Yellow Cake Mix
  • 1-6 oz Vanilla Pudding package
  • 1 C Sour Cream
  • 3/4 C Hot Water
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/4 C Vegetable Oil
  • 2 t Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 C Chocolate Chips (or dried fruit, or more nuts, or your favorite jam, or butterscotch morsels, or you get the idea)
  • Icing:
  • 1/3 C Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 T Flour
  • 1/4 C Butter
  • 1/2 C Milk
  • 1/2 t Vanilla
  • Splash of Whiskey (optional and I actually used Bailey’s)

Grease and flour a 9×13 in pan.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts (if using).  Mix well and set aside.  In a separate bowl, measure your filling: chocolate chips, etc, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream and hot water.  Mix well, the batter will be thick.  Add the eggs, oil and extract and mix until very few lumps remain.  Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the cake batter.  Sprinkle the filling over the brown sugar.  Carefully spread the remaining batter over the filling and brown sugar.  Spread and swirl the cake batter and brown sugar mixture.

Bake for 35-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

When the cake is almost finished, prepare the icing.  Combine the sugar and the flour in a small bowl and set aside.  In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter until browned.  Whisk in the flour mixture.  Decrease the heat to low and keep stirring until the mixture comes together.  Stir in the milk and cook until the mixture becomes thick and smooth, like a gravy.  Remove from the heat and add the optional liquor and vanilla.  Let cool slightly and drizzle over the warm coffee cake.

Here’s the original.  Thanks again to Joy the Baker!


Italian Meatballs Revisted

January 4, 2012

I’m reposting this awesome recipe.  We’ve been talking about meatball sandwiches for the last few days.  I’m going to make these this weekend to enjoy.  That way we’ll be ready for the big game too!

I got this great recipe from my girlfriend who in turn got it from her MIL.  Her in-laws owned a restaurant at one time.  These are some serious meatballs.  So easy.  So versatile.  They pack a ton of flavor too.

I actually double this recipe, freeze them and then take out what I need when the mood strikes.

Meeshie loves them with pasta.

Not me.  I love these on a sandwich.  A meatball sandwich, with provolone on a toasted bun.  Heavenly.  The key to keeping them in the bun is to remove a small amount of bread from the bun.  That way the meatballs will stay in the divot in the bun and there won’t be a mess because of a lost meatball.   There will be a mess, but it will be so heavenly!

When I make these, my husband and Meeshie just pluck them off the plate while they drain.


 Italian Meatballs

  • 1-½ pound Ground Chuck
  • 1-½ pound Ground Pork
  • 1 C Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 3 whole Eggs Beaten
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 t Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 2 C Grated Imported Romano Or Parmigiano Cheese
  • 1 T Garlic Powder
  • 1 bunch Fresh Parsley, Chopped
  • 5 cloves Fresh Garlic, Minced
  • 1 whole Onion, Chopped
  • 3 T Butter
  • Oil, For Frying

Sauté the fresh garlic and onion in the butter until onion is tender. Add the chopped parsley and sauté for a minute. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, pork, bread crumbs, eggs, salt, pepper, cheese, and garlic powder. Add the sautéed onion mixture and mix everything together by hand.

In a deep skillet, heat about 3 inches of oil. (I actually use my deep fryer for this part. That way I can fry about a dozen meatballs at once.) I use a medium-sized cookie scoop so that the balls are uniform. If you prefer to make them larger, go for it, but I find that the medium size is perfect for sandwiches.  Scoop the mixture into the hot oil frying for about 3-4 minutes a side. The meatballs will be a nice dark golden brown color. Let them drain on a paper towel.

Once they drain and cool, I place them on a cookie sheet to freeze.  I put them in the freezer for about a half an hour or so and then put them in bags.  This way they wont stick together when you’re ready to heat them up.  When ready to eat, place them in your favorite marinara on a low heat. The longer you let them cook the more tender they’ll be.

I’ve served them when we’ve had people over for the Superbowl.  But you don’t have to wait to have friends over to eat these.

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