Monday, December 29, 2008

Homemade Pizza Dough: BBQ Chicken Pizza

One of my Christmas presents from my mom was a "baking supply box" with spices, yeast, natural honey and vanilla, and high end baking utensils. I decided to put some of these to use and make a homemade pizza dough. This dough can be made slightly sweet or traditional by adding or omiting the honey. I prefer the sweet (especially with this recipe).

I have never been a big fan of pork (sausage and pepporoni), but my husband LOVES these and other meats on his pizza. I prefer the veggies. One way we compromise is to make this BBQ Chicken Pizza. I only put the veggies on my half. :)

Pizza Dough At Home
(Adapted from: Baking Illustrated)
Makes enough for 2 large pizzas.
If you want to make pizza dough in the morning and let it rise on the counter all day, use the 1/2 teaspoon and let the covered dough rise at cool room temperature (until doubled in size, about 8 hours. You can prolong the rising time even further by refrigerating the covered dough for up to 16 hours and then letting it rise on the counter until doubled in size, which will take 6 to 8 hours.
If you prefer to use the dough right away, increase the yeast to 1 full envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons). Letting the dough rise, double in size in 1 ½ to 2 hours.

1/2 cup warm water
1/3 envelope (about ½ teaspoon) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl
1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
2. Combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, 3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size (8 hours if using 1/3 envelope of yeast or 1 1/2 to 2 hours for full envelope). Press the dough to deflate it.

8:00am Homemade Pizza Dough before rising (doubled in size after 8 hours)

BBQ Chicken Pizza
1 recipe Pizza Dough (see above)
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on the stretched dough
1 pound boneless chicken breast, diced
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (mix of basil, oregano, parsley)
Choice of veggies: Onion, Pepper, Mushrooms, etc. (about 1 cup chopped)
1 1/4 cups BBQ sauce
Cornmeal for dusting the pizza peel
1 1/4 cups BBQ sauce
4 ounces mozerella cheese, shredded (about 1 cups)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare the dough as directed in the Pizza Dough recipe. Place a pizza stone on a rack in oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

2. While preparing the dough, heat the garlic and oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the diced chicken and sauté until golden brown about 7-8 minutes. And salt and pepper to taste. Transfer chicken to a bowl and add 1/4 cup favorite BBQ sauce and Italian seasoning. Set BBQ chicken aside. In the same pan used for the chicken, add choice of veggies: onion, mushrooms, peppers, etc. Saute until tender, about 7 minutes.

3. Full recipe makes 4 individual pizzas. When cooking for two, place unused ball of dough in refrigerator or freezer for later use. Divide dough ball into two equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, shape the dough, then transfer it to a pizza peel that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal.
4. Lightly brush the dough round with olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup BBQ sauce over the dough round, leaving a ½-inch border uncovered. Scatter half of chicken and veggies evenly over the sauce. Top toppings with the mozerella cheese. Repeat for remaining dough ball.

5. Slide the dough onto the heated stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan, cut into wedges, and serve immediately. Recipe makes enough for 2 individual pizzas.

7:00pm The finished product!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Goodies to All!

It's Christmas Eve day and I decided to surprise co-workers, neighbors, and our faithful mail man with a little treat. :) This bark is festive and simple to make. It also tastes great! The mix of sweet and tart dried cranberries, sea salt and roasted nuts, and smooth white chocolate is a wonderful flavor combination. Enjoy!

Recipe Inspired by: Ina Garten on The Food Network

1 pound finely chopped white chocolate
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 1/4 cups mixed nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, and walnuts), toasted


Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper and set aside.

Pour a couple inches of water into the bottom half of the double boiler and heat over medium-low to just below a simmer. Put the chopped chocolate in the top half of the double boiler and set over the hot water. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. (An alternative method would be to melt chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each heating.)

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. Spread nuts evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 7-8 minutes or until nuts become fragrant. (Check after 5 minutes)

Quickly stir the fruit, salt, and nuts into the chocolate. Spread chocolate mixture out on the prepared baking sheet so it's about 1/2-inch thick and the fruit and nuts are coated. Sprinkle some dried cranberries on top for visual appeal. Set bark aside at room temperature to harden or refrigerate for 35-50 minutes. Break into angled pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Christmas Cookies! Easy, Festive and Cost Saving!

Can you ever have too many Christmas cookies? I don't think so. They make great gifts for unsuspecting family, friends, and co-workers. Today I decided to make a basic soft sugar cookie recipe into three different types of cookies. The results were fantastic! We plan on enjoying these during our Beechy Christmas get-together.

Soft Sugar Cookie Dough Recipe:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (omit vanilla if making three types of different cookies)
4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
Decorator sugars or favorite frosting

Combine sugar and butter in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs (and vanilla if using); continue beating until well mixed.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Reduce speed to low. Beat, adding flour mixture alternately with sour cream and scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Divide dough into four separate sections; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

Cookie Type One: Candy Cane Cookies
Take 2 sections of above cookie dough.
Add 6-7 drops of red food coloring to one section and mix with hands (I wore rubber gloves)
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons peppermint extract to the "white dough"

Heat oven to 400°F. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness and shape into a rectangle. Keeping sections separate. Cut dough into thin strips (horizontally). Roll strips to equal length and thickness. Braid one strip of red dough and one strip of plain dough together. Pinch at ends. Curve to shape of a candy cane. Place several inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8-9 minutes .
*Tipes: Work with cold dough and do not over flour your dough/work surface.

Also, I was worried about the food coloring effecting the taste of my cookies and therefore didn't add enough to get a deep red color. If you are may want to add more then 6-7 drops. :)

Cookie Type Two: Sparkle Christmas Bulbs
Portion of Soft Cookie Dough (from above)
Vanilla or Almond Extract
Red or Green sugar crystals (or other sprinkles)


Add 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract to a portion of dough from above. Shape into one inch balls (I recommend using a cookie scoop or melon baller). Roll in red or green sugar crystals.

Bake for 7-8 minutes in 400 degree oven.

Cookie Type Three: Thumb Print Cookies


Portion of Soft Cookie Dough (from above)
Chopped walnuts or almonds
Favorite jam or jelly

Shape dough into one inch balls (I recommend using a cookie scoop or melon baller). Roll in walnuts or almonds.

Using your smallest finger, create a "bowl" in the center of your cookie ball. Fill "bowl" with your favorite jam (I used raspberry because of its festive red color).

Bake for 8-9 minutes in 400 degree oven.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Mom's Triple Layer Brownies

It's Christmas time! That means time for Mom's Triple Layer Brownies. :) These are my most favorite brownies in the world. Not only are they rich and delicious, I associate these with special Christmas memories...

1. Following Christmas Eve church service, driving around the neighborhoods near our home and looking at Christmas lights while Christmas music played on the radio.

2. Stockings came first on Christmas morning-- but not before Mom turned on the Christmas music (signaling it was safe to emerge from our bedrooms).

3. Protesting while my Mom "made" us watch Miracle on 34th Street each Christmas (my sister and I agree we gave her a hard time every year, but secretly cherish this time)

What are some of your family's Christmas traditions and memories? I'd love to see them posted!


Pre-heat Oven 350 degrees

FIRST LAYER: 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 lb of butter (must use butter)

2 cups of sugar

3 eggs

1 cup of flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. almond extract

Melt chocolate, butter together over low heat. Cool slightly; add eggs, sugar and extracts. Blend well. Stir in flour until blended. Turn into greased & floured 9x 13 metal pan.

Bake in pre-heated ovens for 25 mins. Or until toothpick comes out clean.

SECOND LAYER: 6 tbls. Butter

3 1/2 cups of powder sugar (sifted)

5 tbls. Milk

1 tsp. Vanilla

Melt butter until brown, golden nutty color. Immediately stir in remaining ingredients. Spread over cooled brownie layer.

Chill until set & firm

THIRD LAYER: 1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

6 tbls. Butter

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Melt chips & butter together. Stir in sugar. Pour over cooled 2nd layer & spread.

Finish with drizzling powered sugar or sugar glaze over top.

The beautiful creator of these treats:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grandma's Christmas Fudge

Each Christmas, my grandma makes THE BEST fudge. This week I called her to see if she would pass on her "secret" recipe to me. :) She started listing the ingredients and quantities of each. I was surprised to hear the recipe uses whole (or 2%) milk rather then condensed milk. My grandma said this gives the fudge a richer taste. After she finished giving me the recipe I asked her the recipe came from (expecting it to be some family secret, with a great story behind it, passed down by generation). Grandma said "It came from the back of the Hershey's Coca can in the 70's". Oh boy! I laughed and thanked grandma for sharing "the secret". It took some hunting, but I found the exact recipe on the Hershey's website. Enjoy! It is delicious.

Rich Coca Fudge by Hershey's
3 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) (My grandma adds walnuts, but I did not add either)

1. Line 8- inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil.

2. Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in heavy medium size saucepan; stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to full rolling boil. Boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 234°F on candy thermometer

3. Remove from heat before adding butter and vanilla. DO NOT STIR. Cool at room temperature. Beat with wooden spoon until fudge thickens and just begins to lose some of its gloss. Quickly spread into prepared pan; cool completely (refrigerate for at least 2 hours is recommended)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Return of the Whoopie Pie!

Whoopie Pie!

This is my husband’s favorite dessert! I received this recipe from my wonderful and talented sister-in-law, Peg, at my bridal shower. I posted it to my blog in March, but am reposting it to submit to Joelen’s Holiday Cookie Swap Adventure (

Peg makes these delicious cookies every year…I can’t wait to enjoy them during Christmas with the Beechy family. :)


1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup Crisco
2 eggs- beaten
4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup “Sour milk” (1 cup milk plus 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice- stir let stand 5 minutes before use)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients (accept water). Then add boiling water. Mix well. Spoon onto greased cookie sheet and bake 8-9 minutes.

1 pound powdered sugar
¾ cup Crisco
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons water
Mix well and spread between two cooled cookies

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Butter-Balls (and I'm not talking turkey :) )

It seems our weather went straight from fall-like to blistering January temperatures. Burrrr! Today was 20 degrees and blowing snow. A perfect day to stay in and bake! I decided to make myself a cup of hot tea which lead to a craving for something sweet to go with. Having used the last of our eggs, my options were slightly limited. I found these yummy treats on a recipe search through and made a few changes to our liking.
These are supper easy to make and taste a cinnamony-sugary shortbread cookie!

Butter Balls-II (asterisks note my changes)

1 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (*I omitted)
For decorating:
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar (*I omitted)
*2 tablespoon cinnamon
*1/4 cup sugar (a little more)

Beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, beat until fluffy. Add flour, and beat at low speed until well blended, stir in pecans (I omitted).

*I refrigerate the dough for 2 hours because I find it easier to work with, but the recipe works well without refrigeration.

Shape into one inch balls (I recommend using a cookie scoop or melon baller). Bake at 325 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Remove and cool. Roll in confectioners’ sugar*

*Here I rolled in a mix of cinnamon and sugar while still warm because I didn’t have an open box of confectioners’ sugar.

They turned out great!

By the way....where do you hang your stockings if your house doesn't have a fire place? I am open to suggestions. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Best Sugar Cookies Ever!

These sugar cookies will live up to this claim every time....I promise.
During our four day stay with my husband's family over Thanksgiving, I made these with my mother-in-law to welcome the start of the Christmas season. The secret to this recipe is the sour cream. My grandma has been making this soft sugar cookie for years, but I recently discovered it on the back of the Land O Lakes butter box. I omit the orange peel (not included in my grandma's recipe), but I bet including it would make this recipe equally or even more delicious.

The cookie below was my husband's giant snowman cookie. I thought he was very cute. :) (The snowman and my husband)

Soft Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
Decorator sugars or favorite frosting

Combine sugar and butter in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; continue beating until well mixed.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Reduce speed to low. Beat, adding flour mixture alternately with sour cream and scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Divide dough into four separate sections; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

Heat oven to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, one portion at a time (keeping remaining dough refrigerated), to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with 3-inch cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Sprinkle cookies with decorator sugars or bake plain and frost once completely cooled.

Bake for 6 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Easy Apple Cider Pork Chops

This was a delicious and quick weeknight dinner! Chris said we are definitely adding these pork chops to the regular rotation. I typically don't like pork; however, I enjoyed it tonight. I didn't have any onion on hand; however, next time I will serve these with carmalized onions and maybe some apple slices. Yum!

Easy Apple Cider Pork Chops

1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoon butter
1 clove minced garlic
3 pork chops, 3/4-inch thick
Salt and pepper
Flour, enough to coat pork chops
1 cup Apple Cider
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Mix cornstarch and water and set aside.
Melt butter in skillet with garlic. Meanwhile, add salt and pepper to chops and coat in flour. Add chops to skillet and cook until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side.
Mix together cider, brown sugar, and soy sauce. Add to skillet and heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes or until done.
Move chops to one side of pan (or remove from pan completely). Add cornstarch mixture to opposite side. Cook and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Serve sauce over chops.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

O-H....I-O! Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars

It's game day! The Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan game might as well be considered another holiday in our house because our family rarely misses the occassion for a game time party. This year was pretty low key as my parents went to the game and Chris and I watched from home. Now..what is a day home with some great football without some really great game time snacks??

I decided to make these yummy sweet treats for dessert. It is safe to say these are the best, easiest bar cookies that I've made yet. Inspired by the recipe on the side of my Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk can and these Passion Bars from, I changed the recipe to accommodate Chris' dislike for nuts and available ingredients in the pantry.
They were almost as SWEET as our victory over Michigan! :) O-H...I-O!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 pinch of salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup peanut butter, heated to a consistency that is easy to stir (I used the microwave for 30 seconds)
2 cup semisweet chocolate chips ( 12 ounce bag)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter to form a crumbly mixture. Reserve 3/4 cups of the crumbs, and pat the rest evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter. Spread evenly over the oatmeal layer. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the peanut butter layer, then crumble the reserved crust over the top.
Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

To Grandma's house we go...with cookie sandwiches!

A visit to grandma's is LONG overdue. Chris and I have missed weekly Sunday dinners due to work schedules most of the summer and fall. At last we get to spend time with family this week! I have offered to bring a dessert. Since my mom has the chocolate chip cookie baking perfected (none better then her cookies in my opinion)....I needed to give my cookies a little something extra.
Based on the contents of my pantry (specifically the four jars of peanut butter-- an amazing grocery store deal) I came up with these mini-chocolate chip peanut butter sandwich cookies. The photo doesn't make them appear too "mini", but trust me they are. :)
Chris has been my "taste tester" this morning and he gives his stamp of approval. I can't wait to visit with my family tomorrow! (And eat these mini-cookies.)

Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg) chocolate chips

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded 1/2 teaspoon full onto ungreased baking sheets (I usually get 30 “full size” cookies from this recipe, but today I made 60 mini-cookies).
BAKE for 7-8 minutes (larger cookies back 9-11 minutes) or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2-3 tablespoons cream or milk
In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in 1/2 of the confectioner's sugar. Mix in 2 tablespoon of cream. Beat in the remaining confectioners' sugar. If necessary, add a little more cream or milk until the frosting reaches a good spreading consistency.

Simply spread peanut butter frosting on one cookie and top with a second cookie. Make sure cookies are completely cooled.

*Also, it works best to leave one cookie flat on your work service so it doesn't break with the force of the knife while you spread the frosting. Push second cookie on top gently. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Garlic Chicken Veggy Pasta

On a cold, lazy Sunday nothing warms you up like a yummy bowl of pasta! At least that is my opinion. :) Dinner tonight was easy and delicious! This pasta was one of those "add a little of this...add a little more...taste right" dishes that I created with ingredients on hand.
Chris commented on how GOOD it smelled while cooking and (even better) how GREAT it tasted! I agree. This dish will definitely be added to our usual dinner rotation.

12 ounce package fusilli pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cubed
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 carrot, sliced 1/4 inch thick slices
1 (10 ounce) package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
frozen sweet corn (previously cut from 2 ears of fresh corn)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 6-7 minutes, or until al dente; drain and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika and add to pan with garlic. Saute for 5 to 7 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (no longer pink). Remove chicken and set aside. In the same skillet used to sauté chicken, add all vegetables. Saute 5-6 minutes or until tender. Add lemon, wine and broth and heat 2 more minutes. Add remaining butter and oil. Add reserved chicken and pasta.
Remove from heat and stir in basil, parsley and cheese. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Time out from cooking for a girl from Pumpkin Town....

Not really Pumpkin hometown is actually Circleville, Ohio....home of the Circleville Pumpkin Show. The oldest and largest fall festival in Ohio and also claimed to be (by Circleville natives and others) "The greatest free show on earth". Above is a photo of the "pumpkin" water tower visible from my parent's house (5 miles outside of the city).

The Circleville Pumpkin Show is a 4 day festival held in downtown Circleville the third week of October from Wednesday to Saturday. The streets of the city are closed to allow for booths, rides, displays, crafts, and over 300,000 visitors. For a city with a population of 12,000...that is a lot of visitors!

There is so much to see and do. In the center of the town is the pumpkin tower. It displays more than 100,000 pounds of pumpkins, squash, and gourds. There is a contest for the largest pumpkin. In 2007, there was a record winning pumpkin. This pumpkin weighed in at 1524.5 lbs! (See photo below)

My favorite display is the was once called “The World's Largest Pumpkin Pie”. (Rumor has it a group in California made one bigger, but we don't like to talk about that in Circleville. :) )
This huge pumpkin treat is baked annually for the Pumpkin Show by Lindsey’s Bakery on Main Street in Circleville, Ohio. This pie is 14 feet in diameter and weighs over 400 pounds. Want to try and make it at home? :)

According to the ladies at Lindsey’s, the recipe is as follows: 360 pounds of sugar, 795 lbs. of pumpkin, 60 lbs. powdered milk, 75 gallons of water, 60 doz. eggs, 1 lb. salt, 1 lb. spices, 400 lbs. flour.

15 people to mix
Bake 10 hours - cool 6 hours.

That is a lot of pie!! The first time we went to the pumpkin show my husband asked if they slice the pie and serve it. Yuck! I doubt it. The pie sits out for a couple weeks before it is feed to local live stock. Besides, I'm not sure I would want to eat a pie that has been sitting out for 300,000 people to hold their faces over :)

On the topic of pumpkin treats, there are a variety of interesting foods available at the Pumpkin Show that go beyond pumpkin pie. Such as....Pumpkin Burgers, Pumpkin Pizza, Pumpkin Chili, Pumpkin Pancakes, Pumpkin Donuts, and Pumpkin Ice Cream to name a few.

My favorite pumpkin treat is the Pumpkin Roll. This year my mom bought a whole frozen one for me to bring to my husband (who was working) and for us to enjoy for weeks after the Pumpkin Show. :) (Thanks, Mom!)

I have great memories from childhood to high school years at the Pumpkin Show. Now I enjoy seeing old friends who return to visit and running the Pumpkin Classic. A 5 mile run held on the Saturday morning of Pumpkin Show.

I encourage anyone who likes fall festivals to visit. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cake from Scratch

Today was Chris' 24 hours off this week and since it was dark and rainy outside we spent a cozy day inside. I decided to brighten our day with cake. This was the best from-scratch cake I've made. I found the recipe on a search just before making it.

Please disregard Chris' fork marks in the photo :) He was literally standing over me begging me to give him his piece of cake back.

Colettes’ White Cake Recipe

1 cup all-purpose (original recipe calls for 9 ounces)
1 cup cake flour (original recipe calls for 9 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar (21 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (9)-inch round pans. Sift together the flours and baking powder.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl until fluffy. Add the salt and vanilla and mix well. Add the eggs, scraping the sides of the bowl, and mix until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with the milk, mixing after each addition and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined. Do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks and remove the pans. Let the cakes cool completely. Wrap and refrigerate before decorating.

Butter Cream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 tablespoons milk, or as needed
3 cups confectioners' sugar (1 box)

Place butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Using a hand or stand mixer, gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mini Mock-Cheesecakes by Ashleigh

This is one of the first recipes I have "created" based on necessity. :) I really wanted cheesecake, but I only had 1 egg, 1 block of cream cheese, no sour cream, and no graham cracker crumbs. Not a good start, right? After searching the Internet for a recipe I decided to combine various ideas found on Food Network and Allrecipes to create these delicious treats!

Mini Mock-Cheesecakes by Ashleigh

1/3 cup butter (1 stick minus 1 teaspoon)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats

Cheesecake Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon butter (left from the 1/3 cup butter above)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
Juice from 1/2 of a fresh lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar. Add flour and oats and stir. Pat 1 spoonful into a greased 12 cup muffin pan. (Reserve remaining mix for top.) Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, cream together cream cheese, butter, sugar, egg and milk. Add lemon juice and vanilla.
After removing crust from oven, decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees. Spoon cream cheese mixture over crust (muffin cups should be almost full). Sprinkle reserved crumbs over top. Bake for 20 minutes. *Turn off the oven and leave cheesecakes inside for 40 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer to refrigerator and chill overnight.

These only get better the longer they sit…but good luck keeping them around :)

*Turning the oven off and leaving the cheesecakes inside will allow the filling to harden without over cooking your crusts.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Taco Night! Good bye pre-packaged seasoning mix!

Tonight I made tacos using my own blend of seasonings. I decided to stop and measure/record each ingredient just in case it came out great and I wanted to blog about it. Now I am so glad I did! I highly recommend everyone try making your own seasoning. The flavor is much more rich and authentic. You can taste and appreciate each spice rather then just tasting a lot of salt. :)

In addition to our tacos, we had our "staple mexican side dish". Anytime we have mexican at home we include our house version of Chipotle's rice. Yum! Tonight I was lazy...but this recipe is even better with Basmati or a medium grain rice (rather then minute rice).

Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

For the tacos:

Set saute pan over medium heat and add oil. Once hot, place a finely diced onion (I use 1/2 onion) in the pan and saute until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add meat (works great with ground beef, chicken, or pork) to the pan and cook, breaking the pieces up as they cook, until the meat is browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with homemade taco seasoning (about 2 tablespoons per 1 lb of meat). Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup beef broth to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook the meat, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

*You can also add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste when adding the liquid (but Chris doesn’t like tomatoes)

Serve with your favorite taco fixings :)

Our House Chipotle Rice

1 cup packed cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cups quick cooking (instant) white rice
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Lemon juice (a good “squeeze”)

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and cook rice as directed. Squeeze lemon over rice. Fluff with fork and serve!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Housewarming Gift....All the way from Alaska! And the "Homemade Boxed Cake Mix"

My wondeful friend, Deb, sent me a cake all the way from Alaska! Well...actually she sent me a beautiful, hand-painted mixing bowl by Pamela's Cottage. The bowl contained a cake mix, container of frosting, and a wooden spoon. This was such a cute gift! (Thanks, Deb!)

I decided to use this gift as an opportunity to share a "secret" I have been using for about a year to doctor up store-bought cake mix and frosting to make them taste more homemade. Once you try it you will never follow the directions on the back of the box again!

The More Homemade Tasting Boxed Cake Mix

1 box cake mix
2 eggs
1 stick butter
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (*or I substitute 1 1/4 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice)

Combine butter, eggs, and milk in bowl and mix well 1-2 minutes. Add cake mix and mix to combine. Pre-heat and bake cake as directed on box.

The More Homemade Tasting Store-Bought Frosting
1 container favorite frosting
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Mix frosting and sugar using a hand or stand mixer until frosting doubles in size.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Beef Stroganoff Pockets

Rice two nights ago....pasta last night....what's a girl to do when she has beef defrosting for straganoff?!

Chris and I eat A LOT of pasta and rice (which is fine by me :)) but tonight I decided to try something new. Inspired by my husband's love for crescent rolls...I decided to make a homemade "hot pocket" version of beef stroganoff. It turned out to be pretty good! This is my grandma's stroganoff recipe. I HIGHLY recommend it. We typically serve this over egg noodles. YUM!

Beef Stroganoff Pockets

1 pound beef chuck roast
1/3 cup white or red wine

2 ounces butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced (less if you wish)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed beef broth
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 of a block (2 ounces) cream cheese
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Directions for preparing filling:

Marinade beef in wine for 1-2 hours before cooking. Discard marinade.
Place butter, garlic, and onion in a skillet. Saute 3-4 minutes or until onion is transparent. Add beef and cook until brown. Combine flour, beef broth, and mustard in a small bowl. Add broth mixture to skillet and bring to just a boil. Turn heat to low and cook 40-45 minutes (to allow meat to tenderize and sauce to thicken). Stir in sour cream and cream cheese the last 5 minutes of cooking. Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions for filling and baking pockets:

If using right away, allow mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes before filling dough. If making mixture ahead of time, allow to cool 10 minutes then refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350. *Separate crescent dough into four rectangles. Firmly press perforations to seal. Spoon 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture onto the center of each rectangle. Pull 4 corners of dough to center of chicken mixture and pinch edges together firmly to seal.

Place sandwiches on an ungreased waxed paper lined cookie sheet (for easy clean up). Brush tops of sandwiches with 1 tablespoon of melted butter or margarine. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

*Keep dough refrigerated until ready to use. Work quickly to avoid dough becoming too soft.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hershey's Best Brownies: An oldie....always a goodie. :)

I recently made Hershey's Best Brownies for a co-worker's birthday. I did not make the frosting, but added 2 cups of Hershey's chocolate chips for some extra chocolaty goodness :)She loved much she took the photo for me (photography is a hobby of hers--great job, Jen!)

Best Brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350. Grease 9-inch square baking pan.

2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Stir in chocolate chips (I gently stir, keeping most of chips near the top of the batter to prevent them from falling to the bottom or coat with flour)

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares. About 16 brownies.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The "This is MUCH better then Filet Mignon!" Burger

These burgers were pretty good, but I'm not so sure I would agree with "better then filet mignon". This was my husbands reaction to these tasty burgers I made last night. Chris was unable to attend a Drug Rep dinner at a local 4 star steakhouse so I decided to make him one of his favorite meals....burgers nad fries :) And while I was at it I decided to continue to try and use up the left-over party food.

These burgers had an amazing taste and texture! No ketchup required :) And this is coming from someone who loves condiments and doesn't typically enjoy ground beef (me)!

1 lb. ground chuck or sirloin (I used 85/15)
12 Fire Roasted Tomato and Olive Oil Triscuits, crushed to a pulp :)
1/2 onion, divided
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
4 hamburger buns

Place meat in a bowl. Grate 2 to 3 tablespoons of onion into it—use a fairly fine grater so you get just the juice and very finely grated raw onion. Now mix in about 2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce and some black pepper, to taste. Mix using hands (I wear rubber gloves because I hate touching raw meat) until combined- but don’t over mix/handle meat. It ruins the final texture of your burger.

Form into patties--Preheat a grill or a griddle. Divide the ground beef to 4 (4-ounce) patties. Each portion of the beef should be hand patted. Cook on the grill or griddle until the meat is done to your liking. Season with garlic salt and black pepper. Toast the bun on the grill or griddle

If desired, top with remaining onion and other fixin’s

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Our NEW Home and All the Fun!

It has been way too long since my last post. Life has been busy. :) At the end of June, Chris and I bought our first home :) This summer has been spent moving, organizing, painting and making the house our own. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun.

Last weekend was perhaps the most fun had in our new home so far. Chris and I hosted a Housewarming Party with 50 family and friends. It was a blast! Over a dozen kids running around certainly helps break in a new home! :)

Keeping with the theme of the are a few very simple appetizer recipes I made that everyone seemed to really enjoy. I look forward to posting many more delicious dishes created in my NEW, very own kitchen! :)

Buffalo Chicken Dip My Way...The Make Ahead Way

4 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper (to taste)

1 8 oz. block cream cheese
8 oz. Hot Sauce
1 green onion, diced
shredded cheese blend (if desired)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Season frozen chicken breasts with garlic, salt and pepper. Wrap chicken in foil and place on baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes (or until chicken is no longer pink). Remove from oven and unwrap foil. Allow chicken to cool inside foil packet (leaving chicken in all of its juices). Shred chicken with a fork.

Place chicken (and broth from foil), cream cheese, hot sauce, and green onion in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Two hours before party begins, place mix in a slow cooker and warm. Stir occasionally. Sprinkle with shredded chese if desired.

This recipe is so easy since it can be made the day before and you don't need to thaw the chicken. You can easily make this the day you plan to enjoy it and place the mix directly in a slow cooker to heat. Serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Bacon Blue Cheese Ball

10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
10 ounces sour cream
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2 green onions, diced
1/2 cup pecans

Combine crumbled bacon, sour cream, blue cheese, and onion in a bowl and mix to combine. Spoon mixture on to a piece of wax paper and form into a ball. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 2 hours (I refrigerated mine overnight). Just before serving, roll cheese ball in pecans to coat. Serve with assorted crackers and veggies.

*This was great with the new Roast Tomato Triscuits. But just as yummy when I ate the left over with Ritz crackers the next day ;)

Strawberry Cream Cheese Fruit Dip (By Grandma Ruby)

1 8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 single serving container Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk (a little less-to get desired consistency)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with hand mixer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Serve with assorted fruit. Great with apples, bananas, cantaloupe, strawberries, and grapes.

*I've found adding a splash of lemon juice makes the flavor more intense. Yum!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Special, Non-Cooking Related Post: My Brother

(Matt going to Prom 2008)

Warning: I am about to be all mushy and sentimental. :)

This felt blog worthy because I am full of so much emotion I had to write about it! I can't believe my "little" brother is going to prom! I can't accurately call Matt my "little" brother anymore. I can not believe how fast the time has gone by. Almost as if it were yesterday I can remember holding him as a tiny baby the day my parents brought him home from the hospital. I remember watching him play t-ball and his first day of school....
Now, seventeen years later he is a young man. I am so proud of him. In addition to being handsome ;) he is extremely caring, respectful, and funny. I am so excited to watch him as he enters adulthood. my. It is overwhelming to think of my sweet, younger brother doing all these things. However, I am extremely excited and look forward to sharing all these momentous occasions with him. I love you, Matt!

(Senior pic)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Peanut Butter Bars!

I once told Chris "You and I go together like Peanut butter and chocolate! :) He kind of looked at me funny; however, to me....the two were MADE for each other (kind of like Chris and I)! I made these Peanut Butter Bars from the Allrecipes website for a movie night with our good friends. I changed a few things and the result was OUTSTANDING!

Recipe after modifications:

1 cup butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup peanut butter
*1 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Combine butter and 1 cup peanut butter in a medium saucepan. Heat over low heat until mixture is smooth and blended. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter and peanut butter mixture, graham cracker crumbs, and confectioners' sugar until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips with the 2 tablespoons peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth (I microwaved chips 1 minute at a time and it took just 2 minutes and 30 seconds). Spread over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.

Notes: I refrigerated for about 3 hours. Keep refrigerated until 20 minutes before serving and slicing. These are perfect after 20 minutes at room temperature!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


On Saturday, April 26th my mom and I participated in a 5K walk/run sponsored by Panera in Centerville, Ohio. All proceeds went to benefit the Children's Hunger Alliance – helping thousands of hungry children in Ohio. Medals and gift cards were awarded to the top three finishers overall male and female in each age group. After the race, everyone celebrated at the finish line with fresh bagels, pastries and sandwiches from Panera Bread. Yum!
As you can see in the picture my AWESOME mom and myself both finished top three in our age groups. Actually...we both finished 2nd! There were 609 people running/walking the race. We had a blast together. We always do! I was so glad my mom made the trip to run with me. :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


My favorite dessert as a child was my grandma’s Strawberry Shortcake. Before Chris and I were married he thought “Strawberry Shortcake” was filling that disgusting, pre-packaged sponge cake cups with strawberries. Yuck. The first time grandma made her recipe for Chris, she told him “this is how we make it right”.
I found this dessert courtesy of Paula Dean and made a few changes to incorporate my grandma’s delicious recipe. The result….one SCRUPTIOUS STRAWBERY SHORTCAKE!

For the cake:
Grandma’s “Southern” Fashion Shortcake (recipe below)
**I choose to cut each individual shortcake into 6 “cubes” to create the trifle layer with bite-size pieces. You may also slice shortcake in half using a serrated knife, horizontally and then create layers.

For the custard:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

For the glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1 container fresh strawberries, cut into quarters
Whole fresh strawberries and mint leaves, for garnish

For the custard:
Mix together cream cheese, condensed milk, and whipped topping in a bowl; refrigerate.

For the glaze:
Place sliced strawberries in a bowl/container with lid and sprinkle with sugar. Refrigerate for several hours to allow strawberries and sugar to create their own sweet juicy glaze.

For assembly:
Place 1 layer of cake in a large clear bowl. Top with a layer of glaze, followed by a layer of custard mixture. Repeat layering in this order for remaining cake, glaze and custard. Top cake with 3 whole fresh strawberries and fresh mint leaves.

Grandma’s “Southern” Fashion Shortcake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and cream of tartar. Cut in butter. Stir in cream and egg. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 2 minutes. Press into a half-inch thick sheet. Cut into squares. Place on baking sheets.
Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, or until golden.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Jumped on the Blake Makes bandwagon!

This week I discovered the wonderful Blake Makes food blog. Black Killian is from New Orleans and as an added bonus to his amazing recipes and food photos, Blake and his wife offer FREEBIES! A few days after joining I found the first Sooper Heroes post! The Chutney Crostata Give-Away followed by the All-Day-sign-up-24-free-jars-of-chutney! I was so excited to see my name at the top of the recent winners post.
Look for updates once I receive my winnings. :)

Sweet treat for my Sweetie.

We can’t spend a Friday night in without dessert! I am really in the “cupcake” mood lately and these delicious treats definitely did the trick! Rich, chocolaty, and peanut buttery…..yum! The cupcakes themselves came from, but as I was combining ingredients, I tasted the batter and it didn’t taste “fudgy” enough for my taste. I included my changes in parenthesis. The Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting is also from cut the recipe in half). I have used it MANY times. It is delicious!

Chris was sweet enough to help me with the photography. He wasn't satisfied with his "bite" photo and decided he should cut the cupcake in half for a second shoot. :) He was so careful to make a clean, neat cut in the cupcake! Too cute.(Shhh....don't tell him I published both pics!)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar (**I added 1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup baking cocoa (**I added 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 teaspoon salt
In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, water, oil, vinegar and vanilla; mix well. Pour into 18 greased or paper-lined muffin cups.
For filling, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar in another mixing bowl. Add egg and salt; mix well. Drop by tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons milk, or as needed
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.
Frost cupcakes once they have cooled completely.

Finally....Friday Night Together!

It has been 3 months since Chris and I had a Friday night together due to Chris’ 7pm-7am shift. No more! Chris is done with nights and I am so very happy! To celebrate many more dinners together these upcoming months I wanted to make his favorite meal.
I have mentioned what a picky eater he is and posted his favorite dish in March 2007 Chris loves chicken alfredo (he orders it everywhere we go). At home, I have been making the EXACT same sauce for over two years. I decided to go CRAZY and try a new recipe (which is very daring since Chris likes to stick to a good thing when he finds it). :) I am so glad I was feeling adventurous! Chris loved the change! I was inspired by a recipe I found on In an attempt to sneak some “green” in to my picky husbands diet, I added one of the only vegetables he will eat….broccoli. Chris’ review….”Mmmmmm”.
In addition to the pasta, we had some delicious Oven Fried Chicken Tenders. I recently read (I apologize for not recalling which of the many food blogs I read that I saw this post) someone used cereal and bagel chips to coat chicken tenders. I decided to give it a try! The result….delicious! A simple, Chris pleasing meal. :)

Chris’ Special Broccoli Alfredo Pasta
Inspired and modified from

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 teaspoons minced garlic
8 ounces pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
1 bag steamed broccoli florets (Birdseye Steam Fresh)
3 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
4 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoon red pepper flakes (Adds a great kick!)
salt to taste (additional for pasta water)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Parsley (garnish)
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Combine broth and garlic cloves in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes.
After the garlic has simmered about 10 minutes, cook pasta in the boiling water, stirring often, for 9 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, add cornstarch mixture to simmering broth; whisk it until slightly thickened, about 15 seconds. Remove from the heat and whisk in sour cream, nutmeg, pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt. Return the pot to very low heat to keep the sauce warm. (Do not boil.)
Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Add bag of steamed broccoli. Add the sauce and 3/4 cup Parmesan; toss to coat well. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, passing the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan separately.

Oven Fried Chicken Tenders
Cooking Spray (I used Pam Olive Oil)
1 cups rice-corn crispy cereal, (I used Crispex)
2 cups broken bagel chips
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (8-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in to strips (4 strips per breast- 8 total)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

First, combine crispy cereal and bagel chips in blender or food processor and pulverize until crumb consistency.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a resealable plastic bag or shallow dish, combine cereal/bagel chip mixture, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, paprika, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Mix well and set aside.
Brush each chicken breast with Dijon mustard. Add chicken to seasoning mixture with tongs and turn to coat both sides. Transfer chicken to prepared baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter in Holmes County

After a wonderful visit the weekend before, Chris and I headed back to his parents' house in Winesburg. Sadly, this trip was a result of Chris' grandmother's passing away on March 19, 2008. She had been sick from cancer these past few months. Chris' mother is an amazing woman and is very strong in her faith. She is relying on the Lord to help her through her grief and finding comfort in the thought of her mother pain-free in Heaven.
It was wonderful to be with Chris' family for Easter. I decided to contribute to the "Easter Carry-in" by making some adorable cupcakes. These cupcakes were adapted from my grandmother's "Loaded Chocolate Cake". The "Easter Egg Nest" decorating idea came from Betty Crocker; however, rather then use coconut (which I am allergic to) I used chow mein noodles covered in melted chocolate and peanut butter. Yum!

I included some "short cuts" for this recipe. It is great either way. Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Cupcakes

24 paper cupcake liners
1 Box Devil’s Food Cake Mix (I use Duncan Hines)
1 (12-ounce) package peanut butter chocolate (recipe below) or 24 miniature peanut butter cups

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 regular muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.

Prepare the cake mix according to package directions. Fill the cups half full with cake batter. Place about 1 tablespoon peanut butter chocolate mixture in the center of the batter, or press 1 peanut butter cup into the batter in each muffin cup until the batter meets the top edge of the peanut butter cup.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cupcakes are set. When they can be handled safely, remove them from the muffin tins and let cool completely on wire racks. Decorate with frosting (recipe below).
**While cupcakes bake, I prepare the “birds nests” and frosting.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Filling:
12 ounces (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter

Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or microwave safe bowl. Stir in peanut butter until well blended. Spoon filling in to cupcake liners (about 1 tablespoon).

Fudgy Peanut Butter Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl and pour melted chocolate chips over. Gradually mix in milk one tablespoon at a time until frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.

**Fudgy Peanut Butter Frosting (Short cut)
1 container Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Melt peanut butter until smooth (easily stirred) in a microwave safe bowl. Stir in container of frosting. Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter “Bird Nests”:

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
6 ounces chow mien noodles (half of a standard size bag)
Wax paper
Favorite brand jelly beans (about 50 beans)

Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or microwave safe bowl. Stir in peanut butter until well blended. Stir in chow mien noodles. Using a regular table spoon, spoon mixture into piles or “nests” on to wax paper. Let cool and set for 1-2 hours at room temperature or refrigerator. Use to top frosted cupcakes. Place 3 jelly beans or “eggs” in nests once nests are on top of cupcakes.

***Tip: I like to make a “bucket” or indentation using my finger in the center of the nests so the jelly beans don’t roll away.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Long Overdue!

I can't believe my last blog post was in December! It has been a long, busy winter for sure and I am so glad Spring is almost here! Chris has just 96 days left in his horrible Surgical Intern year. Things are looking up as we look to purchase our first home together and have more time to spend together once this year is over. (It ends in June.)
This weekend I got a reminder of how wonderful it is to spend time with Chris. He had FOUR ENTIRE DAYS OFF (unheard of)! We traveled to Chris' parents house in Amish County. When we were there we hiked in the snow and mud to look at a water fall near his parents' house. It was a lot of fun. I also helped prepare a Mexican dinner while visiting. Chris' mom asked that I teach her how to make my Mexican Rice. We served that with tacos and corn souffle. It turned out great! And it was really fun cooking dinner with my mother-in-law. Enjoy!

(Sorry about the picture. I took it with my cell phone!)

Original Mexican Rice Recipe (modified from

Olive Oil (enough to coat saucepan)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup chopped white onions

1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers

2 cups converted long-grain rice

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons chipotle taco seasoning (recommended: Ortega)

4 cups chicken stock

**Chopped green onions

**Sour cream

In a medium saucepan (with lid), add garlic, onion, and pepper and cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add rice and cook another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, seasoning, and stock in saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve with green onions and sour cream as garnish.

Ashleigh’s version

In place of taco seasoning pack add:

2 teaspoons of chili powder.

Salt to taste (1 1/2 teaspoons of salt)

Pepper to taste (1/2 teaspoon black pepper)

1 teaspoon of ground cumin.

3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves (or sub. cilantro spice)

(Note: On a hectic weeknight, you can also substitute a jar of your favorite chunky salsa and omit the chopping/cooking/adding of the white onion, green pepper, and tomatoes. :)