Archive for the ‘Appetizers/Drinks’ Category


Fall Treat!

September 30, 2013

caramel corn


I know I’ve established my family’s love of Garrett’s popcorn.  It’s that love of caramel corn that caused me to dig up an old recipe.  I remember making caramel corn with my mom.  I also remember how quickly my brothers would swoop in and eat all that confectionary goodness.

For some reason I associate caramel corn with the fall.  Maybe it’s the warm color of the caramel.  Nothing says fall more than that golden brown color.  Plus the smell of it roasting in the oven is heavenly.  Just the memory of that wonderful smell brings a smile to my face as I type.

 This is a perfect after school snack.  Again, hello fall!  Make it fun and put it in a little brown bag and tuck it into a lunch box.  This fresh and simple recipe won’t last long.  A perfect treat to enjoy that can be tailored to you.

I pop my corn on the stove.  It’s just as easy as the microwave kind, without that after taste.  But you use whatever popcorn you prefer.

Mix it up and add sea salt before the last toss.  Or spice it up with nutmeg and cinnamon.  And, of course, you can also add some nuts like almonds or cashews.

 caramel corn viCaramel Popcorn

  • 4 quarts popped popcorn (1/2 C unpopped)
  • 2 C Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 C Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 C Butter
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1/2 t Baking Soda
  • 1 t Vanilla

 Add popcorn to large shallow roasting pan and place in preheated 250°F oven while preparing caramel.  Mix brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil 5 minutes WITHOUT STIRRING. Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour syrup mixture over warm popcorn, stirring to coat evenly. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces. Store inn tightly covered container.


Something for the Trail

May 14, 2013

c ii 11may13Meeshie and I went to camp this past weekend with her girl scout troop.  I love her troop.  Every girl makes me smile and every mom makes me laugh.  To say I had a great weekend, is really underselling it.  We had perfect weather.  The activities included: archery, candle making, rifle shooting, rock climbing, canoeing, paddle boating, hiking and horse back riding.  The picture above is one of the two awesome slides for the girls to enjoy.  The hiking was world-class.  Lots of trails and beautiful sights.

Meeshie asked that I make trail mix for the trip.  This was a perfect treat.  Everyone enjoyed it.  I transferred it to a resealable bag and it went very quickly.

I used a fabulous recipe from Alton Brown.  I love him.  I really wish that Good Eats was still on the air.  I have to get my fix through reruns, which is better than nothing.

The key to good trail mix, in my opinion, is good granola.  Thanks again Alton.

trail mix iiiGranola

  • 3 C Rolled Oats
  • 1 C Silvered Almonds
  • 1 C Cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 C Shredded Sweet Coconut
  • 1/2 t Nutmeg
  • 1 t Cinnamon
  • 1/4 C Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 C Honey
  • 2 T Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 t Salt
  • 1 C Raisins

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins.  In a separate bowl, combine the honey, vegetable oil, and salt.  Combine both mixtures and pour the granola on a large jelly roll pan or two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake in 250 degree oven for and hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent over browning.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

trail mix iiTrail Mix

  • 3 C Dried Fruit (I used bananas, mangos and blueberries)
  • 2 C Granola (see above recipe)
  • 1 C M&Ms

Combined ingredients in a large bowl resealable bowl.



Chili Pie

February 17, 2013

chili pie iiWe went the Chicago Auto Show over the weekend.  It’s always a great way to look at all the new cars without the hassle of the salesman.  Of course, if you go there because you’re in the market for a car, you can always find someone willing to contact you.

On the way home we stopped at a bakery.  Now you may be wondering why we would stop at a bakery when I seem to always be baking.  I love a good bakery.  I love the smells, the display case, the happy people behind the counter.  Unfortunately, a good bakery is hard to find these days.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice bakeries out there, but not all of them are good.  The one we went to has been around for a while, so they know what they are doing.  We bought some fabulous turtle cookies there, but when we were about to leave I noticed something.  It was chili pie.  I asked the girl behind the counter about it, and once we got in the car, my husband said “please, you have to make that pie.”

Turns out, I had just made chili a few days prior and I’d been waiting to try a new pie crust recipe.

I’m not going to share my chili recipe.  I think that most people feel that their chili is the best chili.  Maybe that’s true.  Regardless, everyone has their go to recipe.

This pie can be eaten as an entrée or leave the top layer of pie crust off and serve it with tortilla chips at your next get together.

I have to mention, though, that this is by far the best pie crust I’ve ever had.  Tthe vodka prevents cracking when you roll it out.  It also makes a very flakey crust that browns evenly.  I like to make pie crust, stick it in a Ziploc bag and store it in the freezer.  This recipe makes 1 9-inch pie crust, which translates into two crusts, the top and bottom.

chili pie iiiPie Crust

  • 2 1/2 C Flour
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 T Sugar
  • 1 C cold Butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices (or 12 T and 1/2 C cold vegetable shortening)
  • 1/4 C Vodka, chilled
  • 1/4 C Water, ice cold

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, add the flour, salt and sugar and pulse a few times

Add the butter (or butter and shortening) and process until the dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down sides and pulse again until pea-size pieces to start to form.

With the machine on, slowly add the vodka and water until it just comes together.  Dump the contents onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Divide the dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap, or a place in Ziploc bag.  Refrigerate at least 45 minutes or place in the freezer.

Chili Pie

  • Pie Crust (one for the bottom and one for the top)
  • 4-5 C Chili  (I didn’t actually measure, I just filled the pie plate)
  • 1 C Shredded Cheese, divided
  • 1/2 C Onion, diced

Line the pie plate with pie crust.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes, making sure to line the crust with weights.  (Remember that once you’ve worked the crust into the plate, put it back into the fridge to rest for 20 minutes before placing into the oven.) Remove the crust from the oven.  Layer  shredded cheese onto the crust, add the chili, add another layer of cheese, sprinkle with diced onion and place the crust on top.  Cut slits into the crust and place the pie back into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Serve warm.



Another Great Dip

January 15, 2013

artichoke spinach dipMy sister and her family came over last week.  My niece went to San Diego during the Christmas break with her high school band and they came over to watch it.  My niece’s band participated in the Balloon Parade and the Holiday Bowl’s half-time.  The Balloon Parade was televised, but the half-time performance was not.

We had a good time watching the parade and enjoying some great snacks.  One of those snacks was this artichoke spinach dip.  It makes a nice size portion, but I’ve found that if a I place the dip in smaller containers it works better.  Maybe because it makes me feel less of a glutton.

I’ve been making this dip for years, but it had moved out of my rotation.  Until now.  I knew I needed to make this after I saw the jumbo jars of artichoke hearts at Costco.   I suppose you could make this dip with regular cream cheese, but I never have.  It has just the right amount of garlic, spinach and artichoke heart ratio.  Serve this at your next get together or football party and watch it disappear.

artichoke spinach dip iiArtichoke Spinach Dip

  • 1/2 C Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1-10 oz package Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove all moisture
  • 1 C Artichoke Hearts in oil, drained
  • 1-8 oz container of soft garlic-chive cream cheese
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 C Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • Pepper, fresh ground
  • Bread Crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In blender or food processor, add parmesan cheese, garlic, spinach, artichoke, cream cheese, and eggs.  Blend thoroughly.  Add mixture to medium-sized bowl.  Fold in Mozzarella cheese.  Transfer to a baking dish.  Garnish with pepper and bread crumbs.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until heated trough.  Serve with your favorite tortilla chips, crackers or pita chips.


More Snacks!

October 24, 2012

I’m a sucker for Reese’s Pieces.  I don’t want to say that a certain movie with a loveable alien changed my life, but maybe it did.  This snack is like puppy chow on steroids.  It’s just as simple and just as addicting.  I would suggest using either pretzel sticks or the snaps, but really use whatever you prefer.

The original recipe calls for more white chocolate, but I didn’t really miss it.

Oh, and make this as often as you can, it’s going to go as quickly as you make it.

Peanut Butter Snack Mix

  • 4 C Golden Grahams cereal
  • 2 C Cocoa Puffs cereal
  • 2 C Pretzels
  • 1 C  Reese’s Pieces
  • 1 C Dry-Roasted Peanuts
  • 5 oz white chocolate baking bars or squares, chopped
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 C Powdered Sugar

In large bowl, mix cereals, pretzels, peanut butter candies, peanuts and powdered sugar; set aside.  In a microwavable bowl, microwave white chocolate and butter uncovered on high about 1 minute, until melted and chocolate can be stirred smooth. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated. I but the lid on the container and toss. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

This is another recipe I found via Pinterest.   Here’s the original.


Let’s Snack!

October 8, 2012

I love a good snack.  I especially love one that’s easy to make but also twisted.

Take these pretzels.  They are so good.  Meeshie and my husband can’t stop eating them.  It’s that salty sweet thing.

These are not only a perfect snack, but a perfect gift.  Put these in a mason jar with a bow and give it to your child’s teacher.  Or give as a hostess gift.  Put these out during a party and see them disappear.

Truly, the hardest part of making these is deciding the pretzel shape.  Mix it up by  halving the white chocolate and using some milk chocolate too.  Or sprinkling with red and green sugar for holiday cheer.

But let’s not forget the wonderful aroma of the cinnamon.  This snack smells as good as it looks.  That’s probably why it moves out of the house so quickly.

White Chocolate Cinnamon Pretzels
  • 1  16- 18 oz Bag of Pretzels
  • 2/3 C Oil
  • 1/3 C Sugar
  • 1 ½ t Cinnamon
  • ½ Cup Cinnamon Sugar for sprinkling
  • 1 C White Chocolate Chips
Whisk together oil, sugar, and cinnamon.  Pour the pretzels into a microwave safe bowl and pour oil mixture in.  Stir until coated.  Microwave for 1 minute, remove and stir.  Microwave 45 seconds more.  Spread pretzels evenly onto two cookie sheets covered in parchment paper.  While still warm, sprinkle cinnamon sugar generously.   Pour the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave at 30 second increments until melted.  Drizzle over cooled pretzels.
Here’s the original.

More Zucchini

August 19, 2012

We are still enjoying our garden zucchini.  I’m thanking the unusually hot summer.  I usually don’t have zucchini this long, unless I plant additional halfway through the season.    I thought that since we really enjoy the oven roasted tomatoes, why not try the same method with zucchini?  Why indeed.  These zucchini chips have been eaten so fast, they’ve never made it to the table.  Meeshie keeps asking when I plan to make them again.  Soon, sweetie, I promise.

The thinner you cut the zucchini, the crisper they will become.  The crunch is what makes this so irresistible.  These chips are so worth the time needed to make.  Especially since the time element is the hardest part of the recipe.  The time depends on how thick, or thin, you slice the zucchini.  So please be patient.

Are these perfect for an appetizer?  You bet.  Would these taste heavenly as a side to a hamburger, hot dog, sausage, or your favorite sandwich?  No doubt.  Is this a great way to get your child to eat their veggies?  YES!

Oh, and the red baskets?  My husband saw those at Sur La Table at the beginning of summer.  I thought they would just sit in the cabinet unused.  I was so wrong.  We love these baskets!  We use them for lunch and dinner.  We put hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage in them.  We’ve used them for chicken wings.  I bought the double box of waxed paper from Costco and use that as the liner.

Zucchini Chips

  • 3-4 Medium Zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1-2 T Olive Oil
  • Truffle Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • Parmesan

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, toss the zucchini with the olive oil, salt and pepper to coat the zucchini evenly.  Lay the zucchini on the baking sheet on a single layer.  Bake in a 200 degree oven for 2-3 hours, flipping the zucchini after an hour and half.  If desired, toss the warm chips with freshly grated parmesan.

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