"It's the company, not the cooking, that makes the meal!" ~Perilee 
(Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Homemade Big Hunk

I love pintrest and I love homemade candy.  When I saw this on pintrest I knew I had to try it.  When I googled it I found three different sources and they were all the same recipe.  I love how fresh and soft they are to eat.


1 larger bottle Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts (lightly salted)
3 (7 oz) jars Kraft Marshmallow Creme
2 1/4 cups light corn syrup
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
6 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt

Butter a large cookie sheet. Scatter peanuts equally on cookie sheet. Place marshmallow creme in a LARGE bowl, set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine corn syrup and sugar. Place over high heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil. Clip on candy thermometer to side of pan. Cook to 280 degrees F, or to soft crack stage. Remove from heat and let stand 2 minutes undisturbed.

Without scraping, pour entire batch into marshmallow cream and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add butter, vanilla, and salt and stir with wooden spoon until butter is incorporated.

Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly across peanuts. Allow to stand at room temperature until firm, about 3 hours. Cut and wrap in wax paper.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lady Bug Cake

Our Sweet Little Daisy Turned Two-September 17. 
She loves bugs, so we decided to make her a lady bug cake.
She was so cute when I showed her the finished cake she yelled, "Bug!" and kissed the cake. It was one of those priceless moments you wish you could have had on video.

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

This picture does not do this dessert justice. Check out Ourbestbites.com for a professional picture. Homemade ice cream melts quickly which is what happened here. I didn't think to take a picture until after the quest had eaten and returned to their Color Code Lecture we had as part of our clinic staff party evening. (Yes, I am a blue for those of you who know about color coding. That's why you get details and sometimes their details you don't need...LOL...they are just for me and my memories of good times in life.)
The first time I made this recipe was when I got a pound of fresh cherries in my bountiful basket. I am not a huge cherry lover, but I do love this ice cream
Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream
Recipe by Our Best Bites http://www.ourbestbites.com/2010/06/cherry-chocolate-ice-cream/

1 1/2 cups 2% milk (I have used 1 % every time and been happy with the ice cream)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups cherries, pitted and halved or quartered
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 4.5-ounce dark chocolate bar (about 1 cup shavings; you can grate them in your food processor or with a cheese grater or microplane **

(I tried using chocolate chips the first time. If you have to do it too, I recommend using mini chocolate chips. Don't make the mistake I did the first time around and try to make the chocolate chips like shavings; doesn't work so well! :-) It changes the texture of the ice cream too. The second time around we made it with shavings of the candy bar and it was much nicer.)

Combine milk and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium until bubbles form around the edges.  Remove from heat.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk eggs thoroughly.  Very slowly, add 1/2 of the hot milk mixture, whisking the eggs constantly.  Return the pan with the remaining milk mixture to the stove top and then whisk the egg and milk mixture back to the saucepan, whisking constantly.  Be careful not to heat the eggs too hot too fast, or they’ll curdle.
Add the heavy cream.  Over medium-low heat and stirring constantly, continue heating the custard mixture to 160 degrees F.  It will start to thicken quickly.

Once ready, remove from heat and add the copped cherries immediately.  Add vanilla and almond extracts as well.  Let the custard cool (you can use an ice bath if you want to speed that process up) and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

Once chilled, transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions.  While the ice cream is churning, grate the chocolate.  Add the chocolate shavings into the ice cream when there’s just a few minutes left.  If you wait too long and it’s already too thick, just stir them in by hand as you transfer your ice cream into another container.  Freeze for several hours before serving.  Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

**We love to make the ice cream with chunks of brownies in it! I would omit the chocolate bar shavings and just go for big chunks of chewy chocolaty brownies. It is making my mouth water just thinking of it on the pallet.  The night of our party we made the recipe as listed and put it on top of a brownie baked in the ramekin before hand. I like it both on top of the brownie and with the brownie mixed in. 

No Bake Berry Cheesecake Parfaits

This recipe was one I got from Annies Eats (http://www.annies-eats.com/2012/07/02/berry-cheesecake-parfaits-no-bake/) via Lynnette while they were here visiting family this past August. We had such a great visit having their family stay with us for a few days. When good friends get together their is always bound to be good eats as well. We ended up serving these tasty little parfaits at the clinic staff party too. Along with Our Best Bites to die for fresh "Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream" on a brownie bottom.

Berry Cheesecake Parfaits {no bake}
Yield: 12 servings

For the strawberry topping:*
1½ cups chopped strawberries 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
2 cups low-fat greek yogurt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

For the blueberry topping:*
For the graham cracker base:
For the cheesecake layer: 

1  To make the strawberry topping, combine the strawberries and sugar in a small bowl and toss with a fork to combine.  Let stand at least 1 hour, stirring once or twice, until the berries have released their juices.  Mash the berries a bit with the fork.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
2  To make the blueberry topping, combine the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  In a small pinch bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.  Stir the berries occasionally when they begin to release their juices.  Once the juices are bubbling, stir in the cornstarch mixture.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice.  Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
3  Set out 12 mini mason jars (small glasses will also work).  In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter.  Stir with a fork until evenly combined.  Scoop about 1½ tablespoons of the mixture into the bottom of each jar and tamp down gently with the bottom of a small glass.
4  To make the cheesecake mixture, combine the cream cheese and greek yogurt in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl.  Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes.  Blend in the vanilla and heavy cream on low speed, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes more.  Divide the mixture between the serving jars.  Spoon the blueberry topping over 6 of the servings.  Spoon the strawberry topping over the remaining servings, partially draining of the excess juices before using.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
5  *The quantities of ingredients listed for the blueberry and strawberry toppings will make just the right amount for this recipe.  If you prefer to make only one type of topping, you will need to make a double batch.

** I used the same instructions for the strawberry topping using raspberries.

Slow Cooker Tuscan-Style Chicken Sandwiches

One afternoon I needed to find some good crockpot recipes to help me get through the meal times during soccer season when practice made it hard to have a meal on the table, homework completed, and kids in bed on a school schedule not a summer schedule. So I printed several to try. This was one of the first ones we put to the test. It did not disappoint us! We served it at a clinic staff party we held at our house. It received rave reviews then too. It is a 5 star recipe for me and many others. I give it stars for simplicity, flavor, and a time saving!

I can't readily find Foccia bread so I used Torta bread rolls from Costco and loved it! I have also roasted my own peppers from the garden. Both tasted well. I will say that the banana peppers vs red bell the major difference for me was by using the red it added a splash of color to the dish.
Slow Cooker Tuscan-Style Chicken Sandwiches

1 1/4 lb. (about 6) boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup roasted red bell pepper (from a jar), cut into bite-size strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons pesto (See Homemade recipe below)
Foccia (Italian flat bread) or Torta bread
Tomato Slices

1. Place chicken thighs in 3 1/2 or 4-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with garlic, roasted pepper strips and salt.
2. Cover; cook on Low setting for 6 to 7 hours.
3. Just before serving, remove chicken from slow cooker; place on large plate. Shred chicken with 2 forks; return to slow cooker and mix well.
4. In small bowl, combine mayonnaise and pesto; blend well. Cut focaccia into 6 wedges; split each in half. Spread cut sides with mayonnaise mixture. With slotted spoon, place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture onto bottom half of each focaccia wedge. Top each with tomato slice and top half of focaccia.
Makes 6 sandwiches

Make the Most of This Recipe With Tips From The Betty Crocker® Kitchens
Ingredient Info
Focaccia is a flat, round Italian bread with a dense texture that slices perfectly for sandwiches. Look for focaccia in the grocery store's bakery or deli, or stop by an Italian bakery.
Kitchen Tip
Freeze any remaining pesto to use on pasta or crostini, or to add a flavor-boost to sauce, soups, eggs and rice. Drop pesto in 1- to 2-tablespoon portions onto a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet; freeze until firm. Transfer the frozen pesto portions to a food storage freezer bag. Remove only what you need, then return the resealed bag to the freezer.

Nutrition Information:

1 Serving (1 Sandwich)Calories 460(Calories from Fat 225),Total Fat 25g(Saturated Fat 5g,),Cholesterol 65mg;Sodium 920mg;Total Carbohydrate 33g(Dietary Fiber 1g,Sugars 2g),Protein 26g;Percent Daily Value*:Exchanges:2 Starch;3 Lean Meat;3 Fat;Carbohydrate Choices:2 ;*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.


1/2 cup pinenuts*
2.5 oz Fresh Basil
1 clove garlic
5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Place in a food processor and processes all ingredients until texture is smooth and creamy.

*I have also used almonds, but the texture never turns smooth and creamy. It has bits of nuts in it, but still has a nice flavor. I have read that you can also make pesto with peanuts as well. I personally love the pinenut texture best.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Chicken Gnocchi Soup
Time: 30-40 minutes total
Yield: 12 servings
Recipe adapted from Freida Loves Bread and Allrecipes
This recipe got 5 stars from everyone in my family last night. It was a perfect meal for a cold spring evening! Thanks to Jamie for her talents in the kitchen!
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and grated
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2-3 T olive oil
1 Rotisserie Chicken (or 1 Can of Mom’s canned Chicken) reserve juices from chicken 
7 C water
8 chicken bullion cubes
1 (16 ounce) package Potato Gnocchi
4 C half and half 
1 1/2 C spinach, chopped
1 t thyme
1/8 t nutmeg
1 T sugar
1/4 C cold water
5 T cornstarch
salt and pepper  
2 T butter
1. Chop onion. Mince garlic. Julienne and rough chop your carrots. 
2. Heat Olive oil in a large pot up over medium high heat. 
3. When the oil is hot toss your chopped veggies into the pan. Cook them over medium high heat, stirring occasionally for about 5-8 minutes or until the onions are translucent. 
4. Cook and chop your chicken, or use rotisserie chicken. (I used mom’s good canned chicken.)
5. Pour the broth that is left in the bottom of the chicken package into a large measuring cup. You should have about 1 cup of broth from the pan.  (Mom’s canned chicken has roughly 1 cup juices, pour this in with the tender vegetables.) 
Chop chicken
When your veggies are done cooking pour the broth from the chicken and 7 cups of hot water into the pot. Add 8 chicken bullion cubes and give it a nice stir. 
8. Add the chopped chicken and bring the soup to a boil. 
9. Open up the package of Gnocchi and pour it into the pot. Let the soup come to a boil again and allow the gnocchi to cook for about 3-4 minutes. The gnocchi will be cooked  through when they float to the top of the broth. It should happen pretty fast. 
10. Chop about 1 1/2 cups of spinach and toss it into the pot. 
11. Pour in 4 cups of Half and Half, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons of butter and bring soup to a boil. 
12. In a small bowl combine 1/4 C cold water and 5 tablespoons of cornstarch. Mix it well and pour it into the soup pot. 
13. Return the soup to a boil, while you stir. It will thicken as the soup reaches a boil. 
14. Taste it and season it to your liking with salt and pepper. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mozzarella and Ham Panini

This is a quick simple and delicious panini. I love that there is no sauces but olive oil and salt and pepper. It comes together and is ready for the table in around 35 minutes. I tore this recipe out of a Martha Stewart Everyday Cooking magazine years ago.

Mozzarella and Ham Panini

1 Large Loaf of Italian Bread (I use hard rolls or sub rolls. A crusty bread works well)
8 oz Fresh Mozzarella thinly sliced (Regular deli Mozzarella is all I have used fresh is hard to come by in these parts!)
4 oz Shaved Deli Ham (My favorite is Black Forest Ham)
2 oz Baby Spinach (2 cups, loosely packed)
Coarse Salt and Ground Pepper
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Split bread horizontally. Layer one side with cheese, ham, and spinach beginning and ending with mozzarella. Season with salt and pepper as you go. Close sandwich (making sure mozzarella is in direct contact with bread on both sides--its what holds the sandwich together as it melts).

Brush a large baking sheet with some of the oil. Place sandwich on sheet; brush top with remaining oil. Place another baking sheet on top (cover bottom of sheet with aluminum foil-makes for easy clean-up!), press down firmly. (I personally like to put my rectangular pizza stone on top of the cookie sheet to add some weight for the "press")

Bake panini, press down top sheet once or twice during baking (unless you have used my pizza stone idea or a brick would work too), until cheese had melted and sandwich is golden, 20-25 minutes.

If using a loaf, cut into four pieces and serve with salad.

South-of-the-Border Sandwiches (Lion House)

Yes, I have fallen of the face of the earth or so it seems. We have moved into our new house now and life is getting a little more settled. My desire to cook more and try new recipes is returning day by day. This recipe was one I served at a luncheon I hosted for one of my friends birthdays this month. Unknown to me she loves avocado so this recipe made the luncheon for her. I promised to get her the recipe so rather than have to type it out twice I am going for a one time deal here. It was so fun to host this gathering at my new house. True the entry way and other areas are still unfinished, but if I waited until everything was just perfect! I may never get to let my friends know how special they are to me. Perfect or not sometimes you just have to do it! Because I was busy enjoying my guest there is no picture of this recipe for now, but I am sure we will get one eventually. :-)

South-of-the-Border Sandwiches (Lion House Entertaining, p.42)

8 Sandwich roll, split open, or a loaf of french bread sliced
1/2 cup Olives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1/3 cup Sour Cream
1/3 cup Green Onions, chopped
3/4 to 1 pound Cooked Turkey, thinly sliced (I bought Peppered Turkey Breast from the Deli)
2 medium Tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 ripe Avocados, sliced
3/4 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
3/4 cup Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I used Monterey Jack)

In a bowl, combine olives, chili powder, cumin, and salt; set aside 2 Tablespoons of this mixture (for garnishing). Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, and green onions to the remaining olive mixture.

Place bread on a ungreased baking sheet and spread 1 Tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture on each slice or roll. Top with slices of turkey and tomatoes. Spread with another Tablespoon of mayonnaise mixture. Top with sliced avocados and cheese. Sprinkle with the reserved 2 Tablespoons of olive mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through. Makes 8 to 10 Servings.

*Note these are an open face sandwich. I used small hard rolls because I was offering more than one type of sandwich for lunch (The other was a quick simple and Mozzarella and Ham Panini from Martha Stewart's magazine I got years ago.) I wanted the guest to feel welcome to try both if they wanted too. So I was trying to keep the portions reasonable.

Served it with a variety of green salads and brownie ice cream sundaes