Monday, December 31, 2007

Easy Rum Cake

Well, as 2007 comes to a close, what better way than to celebrate with a cake doused in alcohol?

Ok, well it's not literally doused in alcohol, but it's a main ingredient that you can definitely taste to say the least. I whipped this puppy up pretty quickly since cake mix was a base for it. A sweet little year-end treat for my husband and I!

Easy Rum Cake
(adapted from

1 cup chopped pecans
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup dark rum
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix*

1/2 cup butter
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup rum
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch tube or Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix together the cake mix, 1/2 cup rum, eggs, 1/2 cup water, oil, and vanilla pudding mix. Pour batter over the nuts in the pan.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool, and invert cake on a serving plate. Prick the top of the cake.

Glaze: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in 1/8 cup water and the 1/2 cup sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove glaze from heat, and stir in 1/4 cup rum, and powdered sugar. Drizzle and smooth evenly over the top and sides.

*I used cook-n-serve pudding mix by accident and it turned out fine*

And on that note, a Happy New Year to all!!! Best wishes to everyone for 2008!!!

Deviled Eggs

The other night my friend Sam & her main man Joe hosted a small get together at their home. After asking her about 100 times what I could bring and her responding "Just you and Greg" I made an executive decision to make some deviled eggs, since my girl Sam loves egg salad, and this was a comprable appetizer. So here's my take on them. You may want to add more or less mayonnaise to the recipe, it all depends on how "mushy" you like your filling I suppose!

I did steal a Paula Deen idea on this one - make one extra egg to mash up with the rest of the yolks so all of your eggs are nice and full. Doesn't Paula just rock???

Deviled Eggs

13 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup mayo
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 1/2 tablespoons creamy italian dressing
Pinch of onion powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

Slice 12 eggs in half and remove yolks. Transfer yolks and 13th egg to mixing bowl. Mash egg and yolks well, being sure to disguise the egg white. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Fill each egg half.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

I really wanted to try to make something a little different for breakfast yesterday morning. So I started searching through some of my "recipe boxes" online to see if anything struck me when I stumbled upon a Rachael Ray recipe that I had saved eons ago for Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes.

I was reading the recipe and realized that she was starting from scratch (flour, baking powder, etc.) and I figured - why do that when I have a box of Bisquick in the cupboard???

So, I set out to "sorta" use her recipe as inspiration then make it my own and this is what happened:

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

2 cups Bisquick
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/2 heaping cup of oats (I used quick cooking)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 mashed ripe banana*

Combine all dry ingredients then whisk in wet ingredients until well blended.

Spray pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter in pan in approximately 1/3 cup increments and cook at medium heat on each side for 2-4 minutes. Serve with maple syrup or honey.

*This is an RR tip - if you don't have a ripe banana, just place your not-so-ripe banana in the microwave for about 15 seconds (this should make it soft enough for mashing)*

I personally think this recipe would be great with some raisins in it, but my husband doesn't like raisins so I left them out (he's no fun like that sometimes). When I was about halfway through cooking the batch, I added some chocolate chips for something different. Either way, we really enjoyed them, and they are pretty darn oatmeal cookie-ish - at least as close as you'll get with a pancake!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Like eating cookie dough right from the bowl, w/o that pesky salmonella issue...

So, this weekend I was pretty busy prepping for Christmas Eve at our pad. I was whipping up the dough for Cookie Dough Truffles to serve as a dessert Monday night when I went to grab vanilla extract out of the cabinet. I don't always measure anything that is a teaspoon or under, and, in my haste, I just splashed some right into the batter and quickly realized my mistake.

It was Peppermint Extract. Big oops! The incident was definitely pretty high up there on the "Robin-Oops Scale" as my husband affectionatately called it once I shared the news with him. But the bottle is pretty much identical to a vanilla extract bottle! Either way it could not be salvaged and that batch promptly went in the trash! At least I hadn't thrown all of the ingredients in yet, so it wasn't a complete waste.

Luckily the next batch went off without a hitch, just without vanilla extract because apparently I'm out of the stuff (oops). It still came out quite tasty and they were a big hit Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day.

Cookie Dough Truffles

Full on Truffle shot. Yummers! (p.s. you know you love my snowmen paper towels)

I had to taste test one obviously (only 1, not the whole pan as it appears like here), so here's what it looks like inside

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate morsels
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
1 1/2 tablespoons shortening

Beat butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Add egg substitute and vanilla; beat well. Add flour to butter mixture; beat well. Stir in miniature chocolate morsels and chopped pecans. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Shape mixture into 1 inch balls. Cover and freeze balls until very firm.

Place package morsels and shortening in a glass bowl. Using two forks, quickly dip frozen truffles into melted chocolate, coating completely. Place on wax paper to harden. Store truffles in refrigerator 2 to 3 days.

Crab, Carrots, Christmas...I guess I like the letter "C"

I mentioned in an earlier post how Christmas Eve isn't a huge food affair in my family. It's mostly centered around Meat Pie but I always serve at least one other food item on that night. Usually it's a "standalone" - in other words, it's not something that needs an additional side dish of any sort.

In my adventures for looking for something different to make for the "standalone" (in the past when my parents' hosted my mother would make meatballs or lasagna or something to that effect), I wanted something a little different and stumbled upon this Crab Quiche recipe. I asked some friends what they thought and they were so-so about the idea and, so was I. When I think quiche I tend to think breakfast so I pondered some other ideas that were given to me (thanks, Janine, you always have the best ideas). But I just couldn't get over this crab quiche obsession I had, so, I just sucked it up and made it and I was pretty happy with the result - this would obviously make probably an even better brunch menu item. I found the recipe on but made a some moderations (which is how it appears below). If anything, it needed a tad more seasoning, but now I at least know for next time. Also, I think next time I will add another egg or two and just up the cook time for a bit. The pie plate seemed as though it could have been "fuller." (p.s. I have to laugh at the picture below, for some reason I cut 2 is like "baby slice" hahaha).

Crab Quiche

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 6 oz can lump crab meat
1 cup shredded mozzarella
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of cinnamon
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, mayonnaise, flour, and milk until thoroughly blended. Stir in crab, cheese, and onion. Spread into pie shell.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

So there's my "first C." My second C is my recipe for Catalina Carrots which is my own creation that I've made several times. I told my mother I'd make a side dish for Christmas day since she had made a 2nd meat pie for Christmas Eve so I volunteered to bring the carrots.

Catalina Carrots

2lbs baby carrots boiled to "al dente" state
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup Catalina salad dressing
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

Saute minced garlic in olive oil on medium heat until slightly browned. Add carrots and toss thoroughly in olive oil.

After sauteeing carrots for 5-10 minutes, add Italian seasoning and Catalina dressing. Turn heat to a medium-low setting and continue to saute carrots for about 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and saute for another 10 minutes or so until carrots soften up a bit. Serve hot.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A couple quick apps

Well our little get together went well last night. I can't believe Christmas is 2 days away! I got everything done ahead of time so it really helped keep my stress level low while we were getting ready for guests to arrive. Here are 2 other appetizers I served that actually have some sort of recipe, (besides the bacon appetizers I wrote about below). The first is a recipe my friend Cathy gave me awhile back and it's just so easy (and yummy). The second is a find from For the latter, I added brown sugar to the onions per the suggestions of those who tried it before me. It came out quite tasty. We served it with Pita Chips (thanks for bringing those, Amy!).

Quick Kielbasa Bites

1 Package(s) kielbasa
1/2 Cup(s) honey
1/2 Cup(s) brown sugar

Slice kielbasa into 1/2 inch thick slices. Toss slices with brown sugar to coat. Place onto cookie sheet lightly greased with cooking spray and drizzle with honey. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, broil 5 minutes or until you reach desired crispiness. Put a toothpick in each slice to serve.

Caramelized Onion Dip

Cooking spray
3 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons low-fat sour cream, divided
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) block-style 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (I actually added soy sauce since I had no W.S. in the house)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add brown sugar; cover and cook 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; cool.

Combine 1 tablespoon sour cream and cream cheese, stirring well. Add remaining sour cream, mayonnaise, and remaining ingredients, and stir well to combine. Stir in onion. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with pita chips.

Well, lots to do the next couple of days. We are hosting a small Christmas Eve celebration with family and in my family that means: Tourtiere, aka French Meat Pies. This year my mom is making one and I'm making one. It could end up being a Meat Pie show down! Don't expect to see the recipe here though. While I've written it down for friends who have inquired in the past, I don't know if what I've written down could ever truly do it justice. I never used a recipe myself. Everyone makes them their own way too. I learned by watching my mother, but I do some things differently from her. I think that is the great thing about it - everyone's is unique.

Anywho, I've rambled enough. Merry Christmas to all!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thank you, Pioneer Woman!!!

So my husband and I are having a little Christmas get together on Saturday and I wanted to get a jump start on a couple of appetizers, since tomorrow itself is a loss for preparation time. I am celebrating Chrsitmas with my dad's side during the day, something I only found out about after I invited guests over for that same night, so I'm trying to get ready as much as I can ahead of time.

I love looking at other foodie blogs and one that I love is "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" (there's a link on this page to the right of this blog). Not only does she have great recipes, but she also has a great sense of humor. So, I was browsing through her blog a few days ago when I stumbled upon this gem of a recipe! I made them last night and they are well worth the wait. I am not the biggest bacon fan around and even I appreciated the one I taste tested. I'd post a picture of the final product but honestly her pictures are so much better and do this recipe so much more justice! I just wanted to share a great blog and a great recipe! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chewy Maple Cookies

I don't have much to say about these except for the fact that they were gooooooooooooooood!

Chewy Maple Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup real maple syrup (I added a couple extra tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.

In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, syrup, and vanilla until well mixed.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture. Stir in coconut. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2-inches apart onto greased baking sheets.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Crockpot Sesame Chicken

I'd like to shout once again from the mountain tops...not that there are any in RI...but nevertheless, I want to shout from a large hill that I love my crockpot, and most of all, the wonderful things I can make in it!

But since this is not an ode to my crockpot, and rather me sharing a new recipe, here it goes:

Crockpot Sesame Chicken

About 3 large chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch chunks
Dash of pepper
1 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons minced garlic
Toasted sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients except for sesame seeds in 5 quart crockpot. Cover and cook on low 4-5 hours. Mix sesame seeds into crockpot just before serving. Serve over white rice.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Breakfast: The day's most important meal, especially if you have to shovel!!

Well, we here in New England are experiencing yet another icy blast. Thursday's snow storm left our state in total gridlock. It took me almost 2 hours to get home (and I work only 3 1/2 miles away!) and my poor husband had a 7 1/2 ride home for a 16 mile drive that typically takes no more than 30 minutes (and no, that's not a typo, it really took him 7 1/2 hours!). Luckily today's storm is happening on a weekend so we don't have to worry about commuting home, but it's still made for a mess since Mother Nature has been showing us all how she can present H20 to us in 3 different forms: snow, sleet, and rain. Yeah, she really isn't all about going easy on us the past few days!

To give my husband and I ample energy for the shoveling job we were going to be taking on this morning, I whipped up a batch of Apple Cinnamon Waffles. Everyone can tell me until they're blue in the face to eat my Wheaties, but I'm sorry, cereal just wasn't going to cut it today!

This recipe is from the "Simple and Delicious" magazine (with a couple of tweaks). The recipe says it makes 12 waffles, I was only able to make 8, but that may be because I have a Belgian Waffler maker that makes larger than your average waffles!

Apple Spice Waffles

2 cups biscuit/baking mix
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup chopped apple (I used Granny Smith)

In a large bowl, combine biscuit mix, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Combine eggs and milk; stir into dry ingredients until smooth. Stir in butter and apple.

Bake in preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions until golden brown. Serve with maple syrup.

Secondly, in the spirit of revisiting some older recipes, I decided to whip up a batch of Chocolate Chip Surprise Muffins to pack for breakfast this coming week. It's a nice easy recipe with a little bit of a twist - a sweet cream cheese filling in the middle. If you want to eat these warm from the oven, I suggest letting these cool a bit before eating (that cream cheese gets SUPER hot), or just eat them at room temperature (they're still yummy).

Chocolate Chip Surprise Muffins

3 Ounces softened cream cheese
1 Tablespoon plus 1/2 cup, divided sugar
1 Tablespoons plus 1 cup, divided milk
1/3 Cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 Cups flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Teaspoons salt
1/2 Cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 400. Grease bottoms only of 12 regular size muffin cups with shortening or cooking spray or line with paper baking cups. In small bowl, mix cream cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth, set aside.

In large bowl, beat remaining milk, oil, and egg with fork or wire whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients just until flour is moistened. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups while keeping some aside.

Place about 1 rounded teaspoon of filling on batter in muffin cups. Top with remaining batter that was previously set aside.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove to cooling rack. Cool 5 minutes. Serve warm or cool.

Well, my hubby just had to go outside again to shovel the end of our driveway. The plows finally only just came by a half and hour ago and of course we got plowed in! Good thing I have a good dinner planned for us tonight which if it tastes as good as it smells right now, you will definitely get to read about it in the near future! Ta ta for now, kiddies!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Apple & Brown Sugar Corned Beef

This is a great crockpot recipe for corned beef from the "Fix It and Forget It" cookbook (I've edited it a bit). I've made it before and it's a nice contrast with the slightly sweet apple/brown sugar flavor and the saltiness of the corned beef. The leftovers make for great sandwiches the next day. Yum!

Apple & Brown Sugar Corned Beef

2 1/2 - 3lb corned beef brisket
3 medium potatoes, quartered
1/2 lb baby carrots
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
4 - 4 1/2 cups of apple juice (add enough to cover the corned beef if this isn't quite enough)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place meat, potatoes, carrots, and onion in 6 quart slow cooker.

Combine next 5 ingredients and pour into slow cooker. Cover. Cook on high 6-6 1/2 hours or low 10-12 hours or until veggies and meat are tender. When serving, pour excess juice from the crockpot over the top of beef and vegetables.

Oatmeal Cream Pies

This afternoon we had a Yankee Swap exchange at work. We made it a "dessert social" so we were all asked to bring something. I marked down "cookies" on the list. Why I chose such a broad category and why I even chose cookies in the first place is a mystery to me. So, me being me, I decide I need to look for something fun.

I was browsing through some blogs I really enjoy, and I found a great recipe on "...and a Cookie for Dessert." for Oatmeal Cream Pies. After reading Brooke's entry I decided I'd definitely use the recipe. I was able to find a different filling recipe on (in fact it was associated with a chocolate sandwich cookie recipe) but I did make some modifications to it (more Fluff!). Also, I left the raisins out since a) I didn't have any at home and b) my husband doesn't like raisins. All in all, I'm pretty happy with how these came out! Thanks, Brooke, for the inspiration.

Oatmeal Cream Pies

1/2pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
1cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)

1/2 stick of butter
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 jar (7.5oz) of marshmallow Fluff
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely.

While cookies are baking, beat filling ingredients on low with hand mixer until well combined. When cookies have cooled completely, generously spread filling on flat side of half of the cookies, then use the other half of the cookies to top them to make sandwiches (I made about 18 sandwiches with the amount of filling this recipe makes).

Store in "sandwiches" in refrigerator (this helps filling to "set" - as you'll see by the picture above, it's a little "oozy" at first). Take out of refrigerator about a half hour before serving to bring up to room temperature.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday night dinner

Last night we had my sister-in-law and her boyfriend over for dinner. For the main course - Penne with Pink Vodka sauce. Now I apologize for the picture upfront since it looked better on my camera screen - the sauce was a bit pinker in person. I got the recipe from but I've moderated it to be a bit healthier (i.e. half and half instead of heavy cream), added some chicken, etc.

As a side I wanted to try making homemade biscuits (from They weren't bad....but I'll be honest that I totally prefer the Pilsbury doughboy's version. I'll probably make these again and in the meantime, before I do, hopefully I will find a way to up the taste factor a bit. On the bright side between the 4 of us we ate all 13 of them (the recipe is supposed to make 14) so I guess they weren't that bad! On a side note, I got to break out my bread basket with warming stone for the first time (just got it as a Secret Santa gift) because of these biscuits...woohoo!

Lastly was dessert (duh!) - chocolate molten cakes. After the 4 of us finished our dessert, my husband promptly inquired "Are there anymore?" Unfortunately the recipe only makes 4 Chocolate Molten cakes at a time so my answer was no! But this recipe is a definite keeper, I'll be making them again! I'm bummed I didn't think to take a picture of them opened up with the fudge-y middle oozing out (yum!) but we were so busy enjoying them it never crossed my mind.

Penne with Pink Vodka Sauce

1 (16 ounce) package dry penne pasta
3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2/3 cup vodka
2 chicken breasts cooked and diced
1 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (I used no salt added)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 pint half and half

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

In a large skillet, saute garlic in the butter. Add vodka and salt. Cook for 3 minutes. Pour in tomatoes, chicken, and cheese; stir until cheese melts. Stir in half and half and heat thoroughly. Pour sauce over hot pasta and serve.

Homemade Biscuits

1/4 cup shortening
2 cups self-rising flour*
2/3 cup milk

Cut shortening into flour with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake at 475° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

*To make your own self-rising flour (as I had to do) for each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt*

Chocolate Molten Cakes

4 squares Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 Tbsp. flour
Thawed Whipped Topping

Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter four 3/4-cup custard cups or soufflĂ© dishes. Place on baking sheet.

Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1 min. or until butter is melted. Stir with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar until well blended. Blend in eggs and egg yolks with wire whisk. Stir in flour. Divide batter among prepared custard cups.

Bake 13 to 14 min. or until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 min. Carefully run small knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto dessert dishes. Serve immediately with whipped topping.

(Batter can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time – just cover each custard cup with plastic wrap before refrigerating and bring up to room temperature for 1 hour before baking. Or do what I did - prepare in the morning and use the leftover egg whites to make a small omelet for breakfast hahaha).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Tonight we are headed off to our friend Matt's apartment for a small holiday party he and his girlfriend Alexis are throwing and I asked what we could bring - he replied with "something sweet."

Seeing as though I am "cookie-d out" (for lack of a better term - if you are confused, see previous posts!), I went searching through some of my older recipes that I haven't made in awhile. I stumbled upon this recipe for Black Bottom Cupcakes which I haven't made in ages.

They are tasty, but I'm a little disappointed in how much they stuck to the paper muffin liner when I tried one. Also, I put just about the same amount of cream cheese filling on top of each cupcake but you wouldn't know that because the tops of them al look different. Oh well, they're still good and I'd still make them again! Sometimes it doesn't matter how they look as much as how they taste!

Black Bottom Cupcakes

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line muffin tins with paper cups or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt with a mixer on low until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes. (Note: the original recipe calls for these to be baked 25-30 minutes, mine took only 20 so I reduced the cooking time)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cheesy Veggie Rice "Muffins"

The other night I wanted to make a side dish that was a little different from the ordinary. I had seen a recipe long ago for rice "muffins" cooked in a muffin tin and I thought that might be something fun. I kind of "winged it" and came out with this (but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture).

Cheesy Veggie Rice "Muffins"

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups rice
1/2 cup mixed frozen veggies
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspooon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 cups shredded cheese*

Cook rice in boiling water until done. Turn heat to medium-low and add the rest of the ingredients to the pot stirring constantly to ensure cheese and butter melt and are distributed evenly among the rice mixture.

Preheat oven to 350F. Generously spray 9 muffin cups with cooking spray. Place a generous amount of rice mixture into each cup and pack down with the back of a spoon. Lightly spray the top of each "mufin" with cooking spray. Cook in preheated oven for 15 minutes or so, or until rice "muffins" have a very light brown crust on top

*I used a combination of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses since that's what I had on hand in the refrigerator. I think any kind of cheese would do. Add more or less cheese depending on your own tastes*

Sunday, December 2, 2007

C is for Cookie....

Oh for the most important part of a Christmas cookie exchange: cookies.

This was my second year hosting an exchange. It's so much fun! I told the girls that "cookie" was a loose term, that it could be a dessert bar, or fudge, or anywhere else their imagination took them. Everyone emailed me their recipe(s) and I put them in a little packet for everyone to take home. There were some awesome recipes today!!!

Here were my creations! I made 3 different kinds, I thought as the hostess it wouldn't hurt to make some extra! I thought they all came out great (nothing like tooting my own horn, huh?). The Potato Chip Cookies was that one recipe with a huge question mark at the end of it because had no idea how good, or not good, they'd be. But I was intrigued, and, in the end, it was well worth the gamble. The Gingersnaps were labor intensive and the smell of straight molasses makes me sick, but the final product was worth the time and the nausea. I was happy with how the lemon bars tasted (and I'm not even a big lemon fan) but thought they were a little "too done" around the edges. Next time I think I'll shave a couple of minutes off of the bake time in the final step.

Ok, enough of my blabber....without further they are!

Luscious Lemon Bars (sorry for the shadowy picture)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Powdered sugar

Combine 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar.
Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly. Firmly press mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch pan.

Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl; whisk in 2 cups sugar and lemon juice. Combine remaining 1/4 cup flour and baking powder; whisk into egg mixture. Pour batter over crust.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until set. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars, and sprinkle evenly with additional powdered sugar. Yields 2 1/2 dozen

Potato Chip Cookies

1 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups crushed potato chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, white sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Finally, fold in the potato chips and walnuts.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto an unprepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.


2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Sift the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir the mixture to blend evenly, and sift a second time into another bowl.

Place the shortening into a mixing bowl and beat until creamy. Gradually beat in the white sugar. Beat in the egg, and dark molasses. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture into the shortening mixture; stir to thoroughly blend. Sift in the remaining flour mixture, and mix together until a soft dough forms. Pinch off small amounts of dough and roll into 1 inch diameter balls between your hands. Roll each ball in cinnamon sugar, and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven until the tops are rounded and slightly cracked, about 10 minutes. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

What cookie exchange doesn't need a touch of booze???

I got to use my punch bowl set for the first time today!! (And let me just add, it's so pretty! Thanks, Memere!)

Once again, another Cooking Light recipe here (December 2007). I figured I'd give it a whirl, but I did make some changes to this recipe, so that is how it is written below.

Sparkling Cranberry Tea Cocktails

4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
2 family-sized tea bags
2 1/2 cups no-sugar-added cranberry juice
1 cup Madarin flavored vodka
4 1/2 cups ginger ale, chilled

Combine 4 cups water and sugar in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Pour over tea bags. Cover and let stand 5 minutes; discard tea bags. Cool. Stir in juice, and vodka. Chill.

Gently stir in ginger ale. Serve over ice; garnish with rind, if desired.

Cookie Exchange Luncheon

As I mentioned in a previous post, I held a cookie exchange with friends today. I'll post the cookie recipes next, first though, I figured I'd post some of the recipes from the lunch I made!!

First up, White Bean Hummus (no picture, sorry). I know a lot of people are not down with Hummus, but I am, so I made it anyway and served it with crackers. At least I thought it was good, and my friend Lisa did too :-)

White Bean Hummus

1 can (15 oz.) small white beans, drained
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (shhhhh...I used dried thyme!)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper

In a food processor, combine beans, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, fresh thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Whirl until smooth. Spoon into a bowl and set on a platter. Serve with crackers, pita chips, or fresh veggies :-)

Then I also made a lasagna. While I definitely just "wing it" when it comes to lasagna, I used homemade marinara in it. I got this out of my Cooking Light magazine a couple of months ago. It's great, healthy, and unthaws well from the freezer.

Basic Marinara

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onion (about 3 medium)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 (28-ounce) cans no-salt-added crushed tomatoes

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and next 7 ingredients (through fennel seeds); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

To store in the freezer: Ladle room-temperature or chilled sauce into plastic containers or zip-top plastic bags. Seal and freeze for up to four months. Consider freezing the sauce in one-cup increments (two servings' worth). That way, you can pull out exactly as much as you want for future meals.

To boost taste: Long stints in the freezer can dull the taste of tomatoes. To perk up thawed sauce, add one-half teaspoon finely grated lemon rind or one teaspoon balsamic vinegar while reheating.

About 12 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Lastly, as far as "food" goes (recipe worthy ones - ham & cheese sandwiches don't exactly qualify), I made this Paula Deen creation (with a couple of tweaks on my part).

You have to love Paula this world of "fat free" and uber healthiness, Paula still embraces that artery-clogging kind of cooking you know you all love deep down. This was a big hit, I'll definitely be making it again!! (p.s. I did not put the celery in this - as so many do not like it - and I left out the almonds....because I don't like them...haha!)

Hot Chicken Salad

2 cups cooked chicken breast meat, cubed
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
2/3 cup crushed potato chips
1 teaspoon dried thyme (my addition)
1 teaspoon celery salt (my addition)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl combine the chicken, celery, almonds, salt, pepper, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and cheese. Place the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spread the crushed potato chips on top.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly.