Trieste’s Seasoned Turkey Burger and Homemade Cajun Spice Blend

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The other week, as we were heating up our lunches in the little kitchen area at work, Trieste told me about a really good turkey burger she had made. I had never made a turkey burger myself…I’m not sure why–I guess I just think of beef when it comes to burgers, and never thought about trying a turkey burger. But when Trieste told me what was in the recipe, I had a hunch I would like it. So I made a note to buy some ground turkey on my next trip to the grocery store and made this burger a few days ago. And I did like it…very much! It’s mildly seasoned with Cajun spice blend and has finely diced onion, bell pepper, and some fresh cilantro mixed in with the ground turkey, which give the burger a great flavor! I added some chopped green chiles, which you can’t really taste, but I think it added a little to the juiciness of the burger. If you don’t care for ground turkey, I think this recipe would also work great with ground beef, although I haven’t actually tried that yet.

The recipe makes one burger, which is handy if you are just cooking for one or two…you don’t have to make a big batch of burgers! If you do need to make more, just multiply the recipe by the number of burgers you are wanting to make. If you don’t happen to have Cajun spice blend on hand, I’m also including a recipe for one you can make yourself!

TRIESTE’S SEASONED TURKEY BURGER (makes 1 burger)

  • 4 ounces ground turkey
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun spice blend, divided
  • 1/8 cup finely diced bell pepper
  • 1/8 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon finely diced green chiles, canned or fresh, optional (if using fresh, remove seeds)
  • 1 Tablespoon finely diced fresh cilantro
  • cooking spray or a little olive oil
  • whole wheat burger bun or roll
  • some thinly–sliced onion, grilled, to top burger (optional)

You can cook this burger in a frying pan on the stovetop, or you can make it in the oven in an oven-proof skillet or baking pan. Or, you could probably grill it if you have one of those small countertop indoor electric kitchen grills.

If making this in your oven, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a medium-size oven-proof skillet or baking pan in the oven (I used a cast iron skillet).

Place the ground turkey in a small mixing bowl and add the salt and pepper with 1/2 teaspoon of the Cajun spice blend. Using a fork, blend the seasonings and the ground turkey well. Add the second 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun spice blend, the bell pepper, onion, green chiles (if desired), and cilantro; blend all ingredients well.

Form a patty with this mixture (this makes a thick, good-sized patty–mine was about 3/4 inch thick). Spray your skillet or pan lightly with oil (or coat lightly with some olive oil, which is what I did). Add the burger to the skillet or pan. If frying this on your stovetop, cook burger until done, turning several times to cook evenly. If making this in your oven, place skillet with burger in oven and cook for about 5 minutes on one side, then turn burger over and cook 5 minutes more, or until done. NOTE: my burger was not quite done after the 10 minutes in the oven; instead of keeping it in the oven longer, I just decided to take it out of the oven and fry it on the stovetop a little while longer until it was done. I added some onion slices to the pan, too, so I could top the burger with grilled onion.

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I decided to use a whole wheat roll instead of a burger bun, and I put some mayo, lettuce (I used arugula) and a tomato slice on the top half of the roll. I topped the burger with my grilled onions. It was delicious! :) Put whatever you like best on your burger. And if you want to be extra healthy, serve it with some apple wedges instead of potatoes!

Here’s a recipe for Cajun Spice Blend if you want to try making your own…

CAJUN SPICE BLEND (from Allrecipes)

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional–this will make the blend hotter!)

Stir together all ingredients until well blended. Store in an airtight container. Makes 1/4 cup.

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Oreo Snowman Cookie Truffles

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Jane makes so many cute and fun treats! She made those Peas and Carrots Cupcakes I posted last spring, and she recently made these Oreo Snowman Truffles. Some Oreo Truffles I’ve seen are made with the golden Oreos, but these are made with the yummy chocolate originals…my favorite! Jane took the photo I’ve posted above, and she said these are really easy to make. If you’re making these for a special event, you can make them a few days in advance and store them in the refrigerator. You don’t have to decorate these truffles as snowmen–you can leave them plain or roll them in sugar, nuts, or sprinkles, but they sure are cute as snowmen! Here is Jane’s recipe and instructions on how she decorated them…

OREO SNOWMAN COOKIE TRUFFLES (makes 40)

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (18-ounce) package Oreo® Cookies, finely crushed
  • 1 package White Almond Bark  (for dipping the truffles)
  • a few discs of orange-colored Wilton Candy Melts

Crush cookies in food processor until finely ground. Add softened cream cheese to the cookie crumbs and process until well-blended.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Shape into 40 (1-inch) balls and place on cookie sheet. Freeze 10 to 20 minutes.

While cookies are in the freezer, lay out a sheet of wax paper. Melt the orange candy melts. Place melted discs in a small Ziploc bag. Cut a very small corner off one end of the Ziploc bag and squeeze out 40 small “noses” onto the wax paper, taking care to make a pointed tip; let cool.

While these are cooling, melt the White Almond Bark. Then dip the oreo truffles in the melted bark and place in a single layer on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. Let them slightly set, then decorate by poking eyes and mouths with a toothpick.  Attach a nose to each truffle with a dollop of melted chocolate.

You can store these in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Have fun making this sweet winter treat! :)

If you’ve never melted bark or chocolate, or dipped cookie balls before, I found these tips over at Kraft in the Kraft Kitchen Tips section:

HOW TO MELT CHOCOLATE: Place unwrapped chocolate squares in microwaveable bowl. Microwave on HIGH 2-1/2 minutes or until chocolate is completely melted, stirring every 30 seconds.

HOW TO EASILY DIP COOKIE TRUFFLES: To easily coat cookie truffles with the melted chocolate, add them, in batches, to bowl of melted chocolate. Use 2 forks to roll truffles in chocolate until evenly coated. Remove truffles with forks, letting excess chocolate drip back into bowl. Place truffles in prepared pan; let stand until chocolate coating is firm.

Note: If any melted chocolate remains after all truffles are coated, store in tightly covered container at room temperature until you’re ready to use for another recipe.

Lidia’s Cookie Press Sugar Cookies

I received some really special homemade goodies just before Christmas from my friend Lidia and her family. Her husband Rick is a co-worker of mine. Lidia is a very talented baker and cook, (and a super Pampered Chef consultant) and she had made some homemade Hot Pepper Jelly, Sweet Hot Strawberry Sauce, and Pickled Eggplant…what a treat! And in addition to that, she had put together a plate of beautifully decorated cookies…too pretty to eat! But I didn’t let that stop me. :)  Those cookies tasted as great as they looked!

I thought the cookie press cookies looked so cute, and I’m happy to say that Lidia is sharing her recipe with us! Cookie press cookies are not only great around the Christmas and New Year holidays, they’re perfect for other special days like Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day. They’re also a wonderful treat for tea time get-togethers and wedding or baby showers because they’re so pretty and dainty.

So, next time you want to make a really special cookie, keep Lidia’s recipe in mind!

LIDIA’S COOKIE PRESS SUGAR COOKIES

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, cream shortening, butter, and sugar, blending well. Add egg and almond extract to mixture and cream some more until well blended. In another bowl, mix flour and salt together, then add to the butter mixture. Fill your cookie press with the dough and press out cookie shapes onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 9 minutes. Makes about 60 cookies.

After the cookies cool, you can have fun decorating them with your favorite decorating frostings and sprinkles. This little Christmas tree was one of my favorites. Have fun making these!

And thanks for sharing your recipe, Lidia!

Moving and Hot Ham and Cheese Rolls

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I’ve been busy moving these past few weeks, which is why I haven’t been posting much. My little house sold much sooner than I expected (one week, in fact!), so I had to find a rental place really quick! Now I’m in the process of unpacking…I’m not sure which is worse–packing things up, moving them, or unpacking them! I still have more unpacking to do, but the stacks and stacks of boxes are getting smaller…so things should be back to normal in the next few weeks.

Because of the move, I haven’t been cooking much. But a friend of mine, Brian, brought some Hot Ham and Cheese Rolls to work that his wife Elizabeth made and they were so good I asked him if I could share the recipe on my blog. They’re made with frozen bread dough, which cuts down on prep time, and they’re perfect for serving at breakfast or brunch. Brian took some great pictures of these rolls, too, to give you an idea of what they look like. Serve them right out of the oven while the rolls are warm and the cheese is melty, and you won’t be able to stop at just one!

ELIZABETH’S HOT HAM AND CHEESE ROLLS

  • 1 Loaf of frozen bread dough (purchased from the Freezer section of  your grocery store)
  • Ranch dressing
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pound chopped deli ham
  • 4 oz. (or 1/2 of an 8-ounce package) of shredded Parmesan cheese

The night before, place one loaf of frozen bread dough in a glass 9 x 13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Cover loosely with  plastic wrap that has also been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Place in refrigerator overnight or allow to thaw for a couple of hours on counter.

In the morning, take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.  On a lightly-floured surface, gently roll or press dough loaf out into a rectangle shape (about the size of an 11 x 15″ jelly roll pan). Making these are similar to making cinnamon rolls: spread  a light coating of Ranch dressing all over the dough (just as you would spread the butter for cinnamon rolls), then sprinkle the chopped ham over the dressing and then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over everything.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  You can add garlic salt, too.

Starting with the long side, roll up dough and toppings jelly roll–style (Elizabeth rolls hers about 2 1/2 times). Then pinch to seal the edges all along the length of roll.  Slice into 1-inch slices.  Place rolls, cut side down, in your 9 x 13” glass baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Cover with a towel and let rolls rise for about 30 minutes.  Then bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes or until lightly browned.  Makes about 15 to 16 rolls.

Elizabeth adds, “It’s so easy to just go ahead and do two loaves at the same time.  Roll both rolls out, then spread Ranch dressing on both, etc.  Same amount of work for double the rolls!”

Thanks, Elizabeth and Brian, for sharing this yummy recipe!

Eat Your Peas and Carrots!

My foodie friend Jane made some really cute cupcakes a few weeks ago. She made Peas and Carrots Cupcakes and Popcorn Cupcakes–I’ll show you the Popcorn Cupcakes in a little bit.

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The “peas” are green Skittles® and the “carrots” are orange Starburst® candies–just cut an orange square candy piece into fourths to get four cubes that look a lot like carrot chunks! Frost your cupcakes with white or green tinted icing, then add the candies on top, pressing them into the frosting.

Jane also showed me a photo of some other fun cupcakes decorated like food…I’ve seen photos of cupcakes like these on the web, and they’re called TV Dinner Cupcakes. This photo is from a lifestyle and design blog called BlackEiffel.

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Here are instructions for the TV dinner cupcakes from MarthaStewart.com…the instructions are also in the cookbook Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack.

TV DINNER CUPCAKES  (makes a total of 6 cupcakes)

You’ll need 6 vanilla cupcakes, baked in silver foil liners.

FOR DRUMSTICKS (makes 3):

  • 1/4 cup white chocolate melting wafers, melted
  • 1 cup Vanilla Frosting (homemade or canned)
  • 3 plain store-bought doughnut holes
  • 1 cup cornflake crumbs
Place the bone template (from the book Hello, Cupcake) on a baking sheet (or draw your own shape of half a bone–you’ll have to estimate the size). Cover with parchment paper; set aside. Place melted chocolate into a resealable plastic bag and snip a 1/8-inch corner from the bag. Following the bone template, pipe an outline onto the parchment paper. Fill the bone in with chocolate and lightly tap pan to smooth top of chocolate. Repeat process 3 times. Refrigerate until firm, about 5 minutes.
Spread vanilla frosting on top of 3 cupcakes, mounding it slightly. Place 1 doughnut hole on top of each cupcake. Spread frosting over the doughnut hole until it is smooth and covered. Place cornflake crumbs in a medium bowl. Gently press frosted cupcakes in crumbs to cover completely. Place cupcakes in a 6-cup disposable aluminum cupcake baking tray. Using a sharp knife, make a small slit in the top of each crumbed doughnut hole. Carefully peel 1 chocolate bone from the parchment paper and insert the pointed end into one of the slits. Repeat with remaining 2 bones and cupcakes.
FOR MASHED POTATOES (makes 1):
  • 1 yellow fruit chew, such as Laffy Taffys® or Starbursts®, cut into a 1-inch square
  • 3 tablespoons Vanilla Frosting (homemade or canned)
  • 1/2 tablespoon store-bought caramel sauce, heated
Spread vanilla frosting on 1 cupcake, mounding it slightly. Use a small spoon to create a well in the center of the frosting. Place cupcake in aluminum baking tray. Place yellow fruit chew in the well at an angle. Drizzle caramel sauce on top of cupcake so that it fills the well and spills over like gravy.
FOR PEAS AND CARROTS (makes 1):
  • 3 orange fruit chews, such as Starbursts®, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons Vanilla Frosting (homemade or canned)
  • Green gel food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons green candies, like Skittles® or M&M’s®
Color vanilla frosting with green food coloring and spread on top of 1 cupcake. Arrange orange fruit chews and green candies on top of cupcake, pressing them into the frosting. Place cupcake in aluminum baking tray.
FOR CHOCOLATE PUDDING (makes 1):

Place chocolate frosting in a resealable plastic bag; press out all the excess air and seal to enclose. Snip a 1/4-inch corner from the bag. Pipe chocolate frosting into a spiral swirl onto the remaining cupcake. Top with sprinkles and place in aluminum baking tray. Serve.

Now here are the Popcorn Cupcakes Jane made–aren’t they cute? She followed instructions on how to make them at eHow.
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Here are the steps…Jane said they were easy to make! All you need are cupcakes, frosting, and miniature marshmallows.

POPCORN CUPCAKES

  1. Bake a regular batch of cupcakes, using a cupcake pan lined with paper or aluminum cupcake liners. Although white or light-colored cupcakes are easier to cover with icing, the cupcakes can be any flavor you like. Allow the cupcakes to cool (Jane used a cake mix to make her cupcakes).
  2. Frost the cupcakes with white frosting. Use homemade frosting, or simplify the process with boxed or canned frosting (Jane used canned frosting on her cupcakes).
  3. Cut an ‘X’ shape into the top of each miniature marshmallow, using a clean pair of scissors. Leave the bottom of the marshmallow intact. Cut enough miniature marshmallows to cover the top of each cupcake (about 30 to 40 miniature marshmallows).
  4. Press the miniature marshmallows into the frosting on the top of the cupcakes. Pile the marshmallows so the cupcake looks like a bag filled with popcorn.
  5. Place a small amount of water in a cup. Add a few drops of yellow food coloring to create a buttery color. Use a pastry brush or a clean paintbrush to coat the miniature marshmallows with the butter-colored water.
  6. Create bands from red construction paper, or use red and white striped gift wrapping paper. The bands should be large enough to wrap around the base of the cupcake — about 8 inches by 1 and 1/4 inches. Alternatively, create a band on your computer, then duplicate it several times. Note: Jane used a pre-made band she found at Scribd.com
  7. Wrap a paper band around the base of each cupcake, securing each band with a piece of clear tape.

Hope you have fun trying these out!

Linked to Foodie Friday, I’m Lovin’ It Friday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for a Saturday, Make it Yours Day, Show and Tell, Strut Your Stuff.

Garden of Flowers Cupcakes

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These are the pretty flower cupcakes I told you about in an earlier post, Springtime and Easter Cupcake Cuteness. These were also made by my friend, Ann, and this recipe is also from the cookbook Celebrating Cupcakes and Muffins. These cupcakes have chocolate chips in the batter and are topped with a smooth, creamy Royal Icing. They’re perfect for any spring celebration, whether it’s Easter, Mother’s Day, a spring birthday, a garden party–or just whenever you want to make some pretty cupcakes! The original recipe has a custard filling, but Ann made hers just with the chocolate chips, and they were very yummy! This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

GARDEN OF FLOWERS CUPCAKES (adapted from Celebrating Cupcakes and Muffins)

VANILLA CHOCOLATE CHIP CUPCAKE BATTER:

  • 1 1/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 Tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a standard cupcake pan with paper liners. In the bowl of an electric mixter, cream butter and sugar until fluffy and smooth. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk and beating on very low speed just until batter forms. Be careful not to over mix! Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into paper cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool to room temperature.

TRADITIONAL ROYAL ICING (Makes about 2 cups):

  • 2 large egg whites (or 1/4 cup pasteurized liquid egg whites)
  • 1  to 1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • Gel food coloring, optional
  • Flavored extract, optional

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites and lemon juice until frothy. Add sugar gradually while beating on medium speed until mixture is smooth and shiny. Increase mixer speed to high and beat for about 5 minutes, until stiff glossy peaks form and mixture is stable enough to glaze a cupcake. To check consistency, dip a spoon in the glaze and draw it upward, letting a bit fall back into the bowl. If the glaze can be seen on the surface of the mixture for 5 to 7 seconds, the icing is ready. If the mixture is still a bit runny, beat in more sugar and test again. Add food coloring and extract if desired and use immediately.

ASSEMBLING THE CUPCAKES:

  • 12 edible sugar flowers
  • Assorted sprinkles for top of cupcakes, optional

Prepare cupcakes and cool completely. Prepare icing; top each cupcake with 1 teaspoon icing. Sprinkle on colorful sugar or sprinkle toppings if desired, and place a sugar flower in center before icing sets. Set cupcakes aside until icing sets and serve.

This cupcake is so pretty with the pink sugar sprinkled on top…

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You can really be creative with these when you’re choosing your frosting color, flowers, and sprinkles. Hope you have fun trying them out! :)

Linked to Sunday Showcase, Made by You Mondays, Tasty Tuesday, Muffin Monday.

Matt’s Couscous and Lentil Salad

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I have many friends who are great cooks, and Matt is one of them–in fact, I fully expect him to go to culinary school one day and become a professional chef! Everything he makes is really good. Like me, he loves baking sweets and rich desserts, but also likes making healthy dishes…like this Couscous and Lentil Salad. He brought it in to work for a special lunch gathering one day and I had the chance to taste some of it. I loved it! Not only does it taste great, it’s also made with lots of healthy ingredients…lentils, olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese…what’s not to like about this? :) I asked Matt if I could have his recipe so I could share it with you. It’s a great side dish for lunch or dinner. It’s actually a good meal in itself if you’re wanting something light and healthy.

So thanks to Matt, you can try this too! Let me know how you like it!

COUSCOUS AND LENTIL SALAD

  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar, divided
  • 1 cup couscous (can also use quinoa)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced and mashed into paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves OR basil leaves
  • 1 cup arugula, stems discarded and chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber, seeds removed
  • 3/4 cup feta, crumbled
  • optional: can also add sweet peppers and/or kalamata olives, and use with any combination of the vegetables above. Also works well without the cheese.

Cover lentils with water by a couple of inches and simmer approximately 15 minutes, tasting periodically — they should be just tender and not mushy. Drain well and transfer to a bowl, and stir in one tablespoon vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Prepare couscous according to package directions using water or chicken stock and the 3/4 teaspoon salt. Fluff couscous after standing for 5 minutes and transfer immediately to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil. Cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Whisk together garlic paste (made with the 2 mashed garlic cloves and salt) and remaining vinegar and oil to make a dressing; add salt and pepper to taste. Combine lentils and garlic dressing mixture with couscous and stir well. Cover and chill in refrigerator.

Before serving, stir in remaining ingredients and season to taste. Add more oil and vinegar if necessary.

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Matt said this recipe makes 6 to 8 side servings.

Ann’s Decadent Turtle Brownies

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My friend Ann is a wonderful baker and cook. The other day she brought me a brownie she had made. It looked so good, I had to take a picture of it and ask her for the recipe! She said it was made with a Tastefully Simple Truffle Fudge Brownie Mix, but that you could substitute your favorite brownie mix and it would still be great! These brownies are topped with chocolate chips, chopped pecans, and caramel sauce…one of the most decadent brownies I’ve ever tasted! Here’s an adapted version of the Tastefully Simple recipe, which makes an 8×8″ pan of brownies. If you buy a brownie mix that makes enough for a 9×13″ pan, just double the other ingredients in the recipe.

DECADENT TURTLE BROWNIES (adapted from Tastefully Simple)

Makes an 8×8″ pan 

BATTER:

  • 1 box of your favorite brownie mix for an 8×8″ pan (if your brownie mix fills a 9×13″ pan, just double the rest of the ingredients)
  • The ingredients needed to prepare the mix, such as water, oil, and eggs
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

NOTE: You can also make your brownies from scratch if  you prefer…just make your favorite brownie recipe.

TOPPING:

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup warmed-up caramel sauce or topping*

Prepare brownie mix according to package directions; if you want your brownies to be extra chocolatey, mix 1/2 cup chocolate chips into the batter–this is optional. Spread batter in a greased 8×8″ baking pan and bake as directed.

When the brownies are finished baking, top the hot brownies with the chocolate chips, sprinkled evenly over the top, and then the chopped pecans. Finally, drizzle the warmed caramel sauce or topping over everything. The topping ingredients will get nice and melty and gooey, as you can see in the photos…YUM! Cool brownies completely, then cut into bars.

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*If you want to try making your own homemade caramel sauce, here’s Ina Garten’s recipe from Food Network:

CARAMEL SAUCE

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix the water and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil, uncovered, until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Watch it carefully at the end, as it can go from caramel to burnt very quickly! Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and vanilla extract to the sugar mixture. Simmer until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, or add another 1/4 cup of heavy cream and serve room temperature.

If you like brownies, you’ll have to treat yourself to these!

Linked to Make It Yours Day, Show and Tell, We Did It! Wednesday, Foodie Friday, Sunday Showcase, Sundae Scoop, Potluck Sunday, Sweet Tooth Friday, Sweets for a Saturday.

The Best (Texas) Chocolate Sheet Cake

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A few posts ago, I told you about a recipe for Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes, made by Jane Ann for her department lunch. Well, Jane, who is also in that same department, made this fabulous Texas sheet cake for the dessert. It was super-good…nice and moist, very chocolatey, and topped with a smooth layer of chocolate icing. Jane found the recipe over at The Pioneer Woman, where it’s called The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever. Some people call this cake a Texas Sheet Cake because it’s so big…it’s baked in a big 13 x 18″ sheet pan or jelly roll pan, which measures about 10 x 15″. It’s described on The Pioneer Woman website as “…moist beyond imagination, chocolatey and rich like no tomorrow, and 100% of the time, causes moans and groans from anyone who takes a bite.” And as someone who tasted the cake Jane made, I can verify that this is all true! :)

Jane made this cake in a 13 x 18″ sheet pan–she had first tried it in a 10 x 15″ pan but said, “…by the time I added the frosting, it was running off the sides. It seemed to work much better in the larger pan. I used the recipe as is, just the larger pan.” So, if you use a 13 x 18″ pan, your cake will be thinner, like the one Jane made. I really liked the thinness of the cake–it kind of looks like a huge pan of brownies when you make it in a pan that big. But the cake will taste great whether you make it in a larger or smaller sheet pan. One thing I found is that if you make this in a 10 x 15″ jelly roll pan, you won’t need to use all the frosting; to avoid having the frosting run off the sides like it did for Jane on her first try with a 10 x 15″ pan, just pour enough frosting on to cover the surface of the cake without going over the edges of the pan–you’ll have about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of frosting left over (just save it to use on another desert).

The frosting will start setting about a half hour after you pour it on the cake, but if you want it to set firmly, you’ll need to give it a few hours.

Jane made the frosting a little differently, too, so it would be really smooth, and I’ve noted how she did that in the recipe below.

THE BEST (TEXAS) CHOCOLATE SHEET CAKE  from The Pioneer Woman

CAKE:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup buttermilk (Or use this tip to make a buttermilk substitute: Place 1/2 Tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough regular milk to bring the liquid up to the 1/2 cup line. Let stand for 5 minutes, then use in the recipe.)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

FROSTING:

  • 1 3/4 sticks butter
  • 4 heaping Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 6 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pound (minus 1/2 cup) powdered sugar (about 3 to 3 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts, optional (Jane did not use nuts in her frosting and it was great…so if you don’t like nuts, leave them out!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.

Melt butter in a saucepan and add cocoa. Stir together. Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into 13 x 18″ sheet cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (if using a 10 x 15″ jelly roll pan, you may need to bake 22 to 23 minutes). NOTE: I greased my pan, but the Pioneer Woman’s recipe doesn’t say to do that, so I guess that’s optional.

While cake is baking, make the icing. If using nuts, chop them finely. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Add the nuts, stir together, and pour over warm cake. (NOTE: if you follow these directions, you’ll notice your frosting is still a little lumpy. To make her frosting really nice and smooth, Jane simply cooked the frosting several minutes longer over low heat, stirring until the mixture was smooth; she also omitted the nuts. You could also leave the nuts out of the frosting mixture and sprinkle them on top of the icing instead). If you made your cake in a 13 x 18″ pan, pour on all the frosting–you may need to spread it a little so it covers the entire cake; if your cake is in a 10 x 15″ pan, just pour enough frosting on to cover the surface of the cake without going over the edges of the pan. You’ll probably have about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of frosting left over.

You can let the frosting cool and set before cutting into squares if you want, or cut into squares while it’s still warm and dig in! The frosting will start setting in about a half hour, but it needs between 1 and 2 hours to set more firmly; at 2 hours, it should be nice and firm.

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As big as this sheet cake is, it disappears pretty quickly!

Linked to Sweets for a Saturday, Sunday Showcase, Potluck Sunday, Tasty Tuesday, Make It Yours Day, Foodie Friday, Sweet Tooth Friday.

Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes

My friend Jane Ann made this cheesy potato casserole the other day. Her department was having a special lunch at work, and this was a side dish she made for the meal. So I took some photos of it and then, of course, I had to eat it…couldn’t let any of this creamy potato cheesiness go to waste! :) It’s a yummy blend of hash browns, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and cheddar cheese, finished off with a crunchy, buttery cornflake topping. You can definitely call this comfort food! It’s very easy to make and Jane Ann found the recipe at Cooks.com. Not only is it great as a side dish for lunch or dinner, it’s perfect for breakfast or brunch…so that gives you plenty of opportunities to try it out!

CHEESY HASH BROWN POTATOES adapted from Cooks.com

Makes a 9×13″ pan of potatoes, about 10 to 12 servings

  • 2 lbs. frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 3/4 cup  (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted and divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion or green onion (Jane Ann substituted dried minced onion)
  • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 pint (2 cups) sour cream (regular or light)
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups crushed corn flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray a 9×13″ pan or baking dish; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine thawed hash browns with 1/2 cup of the melted butter, pepper, salt, and chopped onion, blending well. Add in the soup and sour cream, then the cheddar cheese, mixing everything well. Spread mixture evenly into a 9×13″ baking dish. Mix remaining 1/4 cup melted butter and the crushed corn flakes together and sprinkle over top of casserole. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes. Serve hot.

NOTE: Jane Ann said she would have liked a little more seasoning in this, but I liked it just the way it was…so, you may or may not want to use a little more salt and/or pepper to suit your taste.

Thanks for sharing your recipe with us, Jane Ann!

If these potatoes sound good to you, you may want to try this Cheesy Cream of Onion Hash Brown Casserole…it’s really yummy, too!

Linked to Show and Tell, Make it Yours Day, We Did It! Wednesday, Strut Your Stuff, Potluck Sunday.

Polly’s Corn Casserole-Pure Comfort Food

Photo by Lorinda Gray

Thanks to my friend Lorinda, I had the pleasure of tasting this delicious corn casserole when I was having lunch with her and some other gals at her home one day. We were all commenting on how wonderful this corn casserole was! Lorinda said it was a favorite recipe of hers which she received from her sister Polly. She said it was really easy to make, too. Well, of course we all wanted the recipe! Lorinda said I could share it with you, too, and took this great photo of it! By the way, Lorinda is a very talented award-winning photographer and has a blog of her own called Ragamuffin Photography. You’ll can visit her blog by clicking HERE…she has many wonderful photographs posted for you to enjoy viewing!

And now for the recipe…like most comfort food, it’s very rich. It’s very buttery, too, and has a yummy sweetness. It’s something you’ll really enjoy digging into on a chilly day or any day, for that matter!

POLLY’S CORN CASSEROLE

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 (16-oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (16-oz.) can cream style corn
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix

Melt butter in a 9×9″ casserole dish. Dump in both cans of corn, sour cream, and beaten egg, and stir. Then dump in the cornbread mix and stir well.

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until lightly browned.

Then enjoy every delicious bite!

Linked to Tasty Tuesday, Show  and Tell.

Eileen’s Cranberry Almond Breakfast Scones

My artistic friend Eileen made these delicious scones and gave me the recipe (and this wonderful photo she took of them!) so I could share them with you, too! Eileen adapted her recipe from a cranberry scone recipe she found in a cookbook called Scones, Muffins, and Tea Cakes: Breakfast Breads and Teatime Spreads. These are buttermilk scones made without eggs, flavored with dried cranberries, almonds, and almond extract, and topped with a sweet touch-of-cinnamon glaze–doesn’t that sound yummy? Here is Eileen’s recipe…it makes 16 scones.

CRANBERRY ALMOND BREAKFAST SCONES

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2  teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 6 to 8 pieces
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk

GLAZE

  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the dried cranberries and almond slivers. Pour in the buttermilk and almond extract and mix with spatula until blended.

Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half. On a lightly floured board, roll into 2 circles, approximately ½ to ¾ inch thick. Cut each circle into 8 wedges.

To make the glaze, combine the cream, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl;  set aside.

Bake the scones on the prepared baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are golden. Remove scones from the oven and brush with glaze. Makes 16 scones.

Not only is Eileen a very good baker, she is also a talented artist! Here’s a still life she painted…

Isn’t that beautiful? Eileen is involved in art shows from time to time and has her work shown in galleries, too. She is such a talented artist!

Thanks for sharing your wonderful scone recipe with us, Eileen!

Linked to Sunday Showcase, Sundae Scoop, Potluck Sunday, Tasty Tuesday, Full Plate Thursday, It’s A Keeper Thursday, Foodie Friday, Sweet Tooth Friday.

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Juanita’s Breakfast Bake

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I actually had the chance to eat this breakfast casserole twice–the first time was when Juanita made it for our once-a-month snack day at work (I had taken a photo of it which ended up being way out of focus), and the second time was when Juanita’s daughter Ashley made this for breakfast for our department–what a nice surprise, and so thoughtful of Ashley! Of course, I wanted to try to get another photo of this breakfast item, because I knew how good it was and had been wanting to post it on my blog. Not having my camera handy, my co-worker Justin took this picture with his i-phone…so thanks to Justin and Ashley, you now have a photo and recipe of this yummy breakfast dish!

This is a very easy recipe…and you might be surprised to learn that it’s actually the recipe for Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie, but with ground sausage substituted for the ground beef! Juanita had thought of doing that when she was in a pinch to make something quick and easy for breakfast. Just that one little change in the recipe turns a classic lunch and dinner dish into a great item for breakfast and brunch! Juanita and Ashley made a few other small changes, which I am noting in the recipe. The original recipe is made in a pie plate and serves 6; you can double the recipe like Juanita and Ashley did and make it in a 9×13″ pan if you’re making this for a larger group.

JUANITA’S BREAKFAST BAKE (based on the Bisquick® Impossibly Easy Cheeseburger Pie)

  • 1 lb. ground sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup; if you’re not an onion-lover, you can just use 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese (you can substitute Colby Jack or another cheese if you prefer; Pepper Jack might be nice if you like things spicer)
  • 1/2 cup Bisquick® baking mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9″ glass pie plate with cooking spray. In a 10-inch skillet, cook sausage and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sausage is brown; drain fat. Then stir in salt. Spread in pie plate and sprinkle with cheese.

In a small bowl, stir Bisquick® with milk and eggs using a fork or wire whisk; blend well. Pour this mixture into pie plate over the cheese and sausage. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serves 6.

Remember, you can double this recipe and make it in a 9×13″ pan if you want 12 servings. The baking time may be slightly longer, so remember to do the knife-inserted-in-center test!

Debbie’s Honey Pecan Granola

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A friend and co-worker of mine, Denise, gave me a yummy homemade gift this past Christmas season…Honey Pecan Granola. And she included the recipe, too, which I was excited about, because I love this granola! Denise got this wonderful recipe from her daughter’s boyfriend’s mother Debbie. She had given Denise the granola last Christmas and it was so good Denise made three batches this year for Christmas gifts! Hence, I am calling this recipe Debbie’s Honey Pecan Granola, and I’m so glad Debbie made it for Denise so Denise could make it for me! :) I’ll want to carry on that tradition myself next year! But it’s a recipe you’ll also want to make throughout the year for your family and friends because it’s not only really good but it’s healthy, too, sweetened with honey and flaked coconut. It’s great for breakfast with milk or mixed in with yogurt. I like to snack on it just the way it is. Denise told me that others told her it was really good as a topping for vanilla ice cream. So it’s a pretty versatile recipe! Thanks, Debbie and Denise, for sharing this!

DEBBIE’S HONEY PECAN GRANOLA

  • 6 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 225˚F. Combine oats, coconut, and pecans in large bowl.

Microwave oil, honey, and vanilla in small bowl until honey is like the consistency of water, about 1 minute.

Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and combine well. Spread this onto a 15″ greased sheet pan and bake at 225 degrees for 2 1/2 hours, turning granola every 30 minutes to keep it from over-browning.

Remove from oven and spread onto waxed paper (or parchment paper) to cool.

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What a yummy way to start the day! Do you have a favorite granola recipe?

Linked to Sunday Showcase, Potluck Sunday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tasty Tuesday, Show and Tell, Strut Your Stuff, Foodie Friday, Favorite Things Friday, Favorite Things Saturday.

Chex®icago Party Mix

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My friend Sylvia made this Chex®icago Party Mix for a holiday open house. I could not stop eating it! I like the Original Chex® Party Mix, but this is a nice change. It’s called Chex®icago Party Mix because it’s inspired by the sweet and salty caramel-and-cheese popcorn combination that’s popular in Chicago. I started eating popcorn that way about ten years ago, and had no idea it was a favorite Chicago treat! I really like the sweet and salty (and cheesy) combination of flavors, so I have to say that Chicagoans have great taste when it comes to snacks! Now thanks to Sylvia, we all know about it! :)  This recipe makes 24 (1/2) cup servings.

CHEX®ICAGO PARTY MIX adapted from Chex® Mix

  • 3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
  • 3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
  • 2 cups Chocolate Chex® cereal (Sylvia substituted Cocoa Puffs® cereal)
  • 2 cups bite-size square cheese crackers (like Cheez-It® crackers)
  • 3 cups cheese popcorn
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar or molasses (the molasses gives you a heavier, darker caramel coating)
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In large microwavable bowl, mix together cereals, 1 cup of the cheese crackers, and 2 cups of the popcorn; set aside.

Place butter, brown sugar (or molasses), corn syrup, and salt in a 2-cup microwavable measuring cup. Microwave on High for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave on High again until mixture bubbles. Remove from microwave and stir in baking soda. Mixture will foam, but keep stirring until baking soda is dissolved. Pour over the cereal mixture and stir until fully coated.

Microwave this coated mixture on High 4 to 5 minutes, stirring after every minute. Spread on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Let cool about 5 minutes to let caramel fully harden. Stir in remaining 1 cup cheese crackers and 1 cup cheese popcorn, and then it’s ready to serve!

This would be a great snack to serve for the holidays…and perfect for any football game-watching party!

Linked to Sunday Showcase, Sundae Scoop, Potluck Sunday, Motivate Me Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tasty Tuesday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Show and Tell, We Did It! Wednesday, Show Off Your Stuff, Foodie Friday, Favorite Things Friday, I’m Lovin’ It Friday, Favorite Things Saturday.


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