Monday, February 21, 2011

I love the end of Winter as much as the beginning!

As excited as I get for the first snowfall, I'm equally excited about the "Spring" thaw. The days get warmer, the nights are still chilly and I can see the beginning of my daffodils pushing through! I also take this time as my last chance to cram in some good winter comfort food. I don't have a strong desire for creamy soups, chili or hearty casseroles in the heat of the summer. I decided to make my own version of a classic comfort item....Chicken Pot Pie, in soup form!

Start with the basics: a few carrots, a few stalks of celery (plus the leafy tops) and 1 small onion. Chop everything about the same size.

Throw into a large pot with a couple cloves of minced garlic and a few TBS of butter. I didn't really measure, just eyeball it :)

After the veggies had cooked for a few minutes, I added two large potatoes (peeled and cubed).

To the pot of veggies and potatoes, add about 6 cups of chicken stock or broth and bring to a simmer for about 25 minutes, or until veggies and potatoes are all fork tender.

I usually make my own stock by boiling a whole chicken. I found chickens a few weeks ago for $.39 a lb! I used just the white meat for this.

Add in the meat and then turn heat to Medium-High and stir in about 1 1/2 cups of Half and Half.

Let the soup thicken a bit and adjust with a cornstarch slurry. Mix a couple TBS of cornstarch with COLD water until smooth and gradually add until soup is thick enough. In the last few minutes of cooking, add a few handfuls of frozen peas and season well with Salt and Pepper. (I use LOTS of fresh cracked pepper!!!)

Serve with your favorite bread or biscuit. A hearty bowl of comfort to celebrate the end of Winter!

***If the soup isn't rich enough for your taste, you could also add a little Chicken Bouillon and use Heavy Cream in place of the Half and Half. ***

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How can you NOT love cookie dough?!!

I will admit it, I have a weakness for cookie dough. However, I think my husband actually prefers cookie dough to baked cookies!! When I saw this recipe, I knew it was perfect. I decided to make Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls for Valentine's Day...and I dipped them in chocolate :)

For all you cookie dough lovers out there...these will indulge your need for dough safely. No eggs!!

In a large bowl, cream softened butter with sugar. Stir in flour, vanilla, and water. I also added a 1/2 tsp of salt to the dough, because I love a little salt with chocolate. Mix in semi-sweet mini chips.

I used a scoop to get all the dough balls the same size and then rolled to give them a nice shape. I froze for about 1 hour at this point.

In a narrow, but deep bowl...melt your chocolate coating. I use chocolate Almond Bark.

I like to use a two fork method to remove the chocolate dipped dough balls.

About every five balls, I stopped to top them with sprinkles. Act quickly, before the chocolate dries.

A total of 50 delicious cookie dough balls. They are a little difficult to eat right out of the freezer. I actually like them better after they come to room temp. Store in the freezer and if you are really a dough fan, make some mini dough balls to add to ice cream!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

I love that Snow Days seem to be made for baking!

The Midwest got nailed with a pretty crazy snow storm this week. The forecast for my area kept changing from high amounts (18 inches) to low amounts (4 inches). I didn't necessarily want the snow itself, but I wanted enough to give us a snow day! Well, I got what I wished for...13 inches! Hubby got to leave work early Tuesday and had Wednesday off as well. Seems to mean I was given a great excuse to keep our house warm- and bake!! I've had this recipe in my recipe book forever....I have no idea where I got it!

My recipe calls for:
1 cup of White Sugar
1 cup of Brown Sugar
1 stick of butter- room temp
3 eggs- room temp
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of vanilla
1 1/4 cups Peanut Butter
4 1/2 cups of Rolled Oats
1 Bag Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 Bag of M & M's


Begin by creaming together the butter and both sugars. It will be crumbly well when combined. Add in the peanut butter, mix again and then add your eggs.

Mix in the vanilla and baking soda with your hand mixer, then switch to a wooden spoon and mix in the oats.

Robyn loves to help- so even though I used the WHOLE bag of chocolate chips and M & M's, we measured them a cup at a time :) It's great for counting!

Stir together the dough and scoop heaping spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes...until set but before they start to brown too much.

I made mine in two sizes...the MONSTER sized cookies are a little too big for Robyn :) These are very soft, not chewy or crispy. They stay soft for about a week, if they last that long!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A football food everyone loves!

I love Hot Wings and my husband loves Hot Wings. The beauty of this relationship is that I actually like the "wing" portion and he likes the little drummies. We happily split orders of wings in this way :) We've had great wings all over the place and they all seem to carry a general theme....they are fried. Frying is messy business at home. I don't want or need a deep fryer. Frying makes my kitchen stink and uses tons of oil- not to mention it isn't the healthiest way to cook (Not that there is such a thing as healthy Hot Wings!). I searched for a long time to find a wing recipe I was happy with at home. Not only did I find a good recipe, I found a GREAT recipe!!! Thank you Alton Brown- Buffalo Wings!

It all starts with a steamer basket. Place the basket in a large pot with about 1 inch of water. Bring water to a boil.

Fill the pot with your wings and cover. Turn heat down to Medium. Cook thawed wings about 10 minutes and frozen wings about 15 minutes. Remove from the pot and place on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Refrigerate for 2 hours. I have cheated and done just 1 hour- they turned out fine :)

Remove the wings from the fridge and place on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip and bake another 20 minutes.

I use Frank's Red Hot is by far my favorite for wings and the brand used most in restaurants.

Heat about 1/2 cup of sauce with 4 TBS of butter- this will cover 24-36 wings. You can grate fresh garlic into this mixture as well, but I just throw in a few cloves of smashed garlic while it heats.

Toss wings in the sauce and serve with celery and Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing. Do yourself a favor...if you are going to the trouble of making wings at home, make your own Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing as well. It is so much better!!! I assure you, these are well worth the work and I will never prepare wings any other way. They get crispy just like Fried Wings, and they taste unbelievable!!

A use for leftovers that I love!

I always try to make extra meat when I cook Tacos for dinner. It can be re-purposed so many ways!! I often use it to make a Taco Salad or as a topping for Pizza. If I don't use it the next day, I throw it in the freezer for quick meal inspiration another time. This time, I used it to make Mexican Pizzas.

Robyn loves eating these too, but the round tortillas are a little difficult for her to handle, so I made her heart shaped pizzas using a cookie cutter.

Bake tortillas at 400 degrees for about 4 minutes to lightly toast them. Spread on a thin layer of re-fried beans. I usually have these leftover after Taco night too.

Top with Taco meat and cheese. I used a blend of Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheese. I made Robyn's into sandwiches.  Put back in the 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes until cheese is melted.

Robyn's finished  heart-shaped pizza sandwiches!!

And my Mexican Pizza...I like to top mine with fresh Tomatoes and some pickled Jalapenos. A fun and simple way to make a new meal out of leftovers.