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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chocolate-Banana Monkey Cupcakes

When my little man turned one, we had a monkey-themed party for him.  I wasted a whole bunch of time online trying to find the cutest and yummiest monkey cupcakes.  Anyway, these cupcakes were the final result of my efforts.  I was happy with how they turned out and the hubs and I had lots of fun assembling the monkeys.   Naturally, monkey cupcakes should be banana-flavored, right?  So, I searched for the perfect recipe.  This was it.  I loved how moist the banana made the chocolate cupcakes, and like banana bread, these cupcakes were even better the next day--which is perfect if you're throwing a monkey party and want to do a few things in advance.  I ended up making half of the cupcakes Chocolate-Banana and the other half plain banana with the leftover batter from the monkey smash cake.  They were almost too cute to eat! 

Chocolate-Banana Monkey Cupcakes
*Makes 12 cupcakes

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
⅓ cup cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
Wet Ingredients:
1 egg
½ cup ripe, mashed banana (about 1 medium)
½ cup warm water
¼ cup milk
¼ cup oil
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 12 regular-sized muffin cups with baking liners.  

In a large mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients (first 6 listed) together.  In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together (next 6).  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.  The batter will be quite runny.  Fill baking liners ¾ of the way full.  (I like to dump the prepared batter into a pitcher to fill the muffin cups so I don’t make a drippy mess everywhere.)  Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow to cool before frosting.  

Recipe Source:  Joy of Baking

Chocolate (or brown-colored) frosting.  I frosted some with chocolate cream cheese frosting and some with chocolate buttercream frosting.  

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!)
3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Recipe Source: Savory Sweet Life

For the Monkey Face:
Nilla Wafers
Nutter Butter Bites or Mini Nilla Wafers or Mini Ritz crackers
Mini Marshmallows
Mini M&Ms--the red and yellow ones make creepy-looking monkeys!
Chocolate Sprinkles
Extra chocolate frosting in a piping bag to draw nose and mouth

Monkey face inspiration: Pinterest,  ketchupface 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday-Doodles {aka Festive Snickerdoodles}

These are totally going to be the cookies we make for Santa this year!

I posted a recipe for snickerdoodles not too long ago. Here is the same recipe with a festive/holiday twist, now known as Holiday-Doodles! These are the cookies we sent around to some neighbors and friends. These would be great for leaving out for Santa. I love these cookies. I bake them on the shorter end of the time (recipe calls for 7-10 minutes). I like to pull them out when they barely look done and they are soft and chewy. I love eating them warm with a glass of ice cold milk!

Holiday-Doodles {aka Festive Snickerdoodles}
Printable Version

3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons green colored sugar (or green sugar sprinkles)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons red colored sugar (or red sugar sprinkles)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.

In another mixing bowl beat butter for 30 seconds; add 2 cups sugar and beat until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add eggs, milk and vanilla; beat well. Add dry ingredient mixture to butter/sugar mixture and mix until well combined.

In two separate bowls mix 3 tablespoons of green colored sugar or green sugar sprinkles and 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and the same thing with red. Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the two different colored cinnamon-sugar mixes. Place balls of dough on a silicone-lined or greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart; flatten cookie dough ball with the bottom of a drinking glass. Bake for about 7-10 minutes (see note about bake time). Let cookies cool on baking sheet 1-2 minutes before removing to cooling rack to cool completely.

Note: Depending on how long you bake these, they will turn out slightly different in taste and texture. If you bake them on the shorter end of the bake time, they will be softer and chewier. If you bake them a bit longer, you'll get a crisp and slightly crunchy cookie. Remember that when you pull them out and let them set for one to two minutes they will still cook a bit more.

Recipe Source: adapted from Diana K.

Cran-Orange Salad {with Orange Vinaigrette Dressing}

We had a family Christmas party this last weekend and I was in charge of a green salad. I love a good green salad, but when it's topped with goodies like sweet juicy oranges, flavorful cranberries, crisp fresh jicama, and candied almonds and doused with a light, sweet, zesty dressing I am practically hypnotized. My mother-in-law made this salad for us a few weeks ago when we came over for dinner, and I almost had no interest in the rest of the meal. If I was truly selfish I could have just taken the salad bowl and poured me some dressing and ate the whole bowl. Sooooo good! This is a great winter salad since oranges are so good at this time of year.

I like to make the salad as follows. Mix whatever greens I want in a bowl, and then top with the orange bits, cranberries, and jicama. I don't toss it simply because it seems that whenever I do all the goodies end up on the bottom and you can't get at them as easily. And there always seems to be enough goodies in the bottom by the time we eat that much. I then serve the candied almonds on the side so you can add however much you want, and I also serve the dressing on the side so the lettuce doesn't get soggy by mixing it all together in the bowl.

Note: I bought dried cranberries sweetened with sugar at the regular grocery store. When my mother-in-law made this salad she bought dried cranberries at the health food store, the were sweetened in fruit juice before they were dried. They were to. die. for. I forgot to stop by the health food store or that would have been what I used.

Cran-Orange Salad {with Orange Vinaigrette Dressing}
Printable Version

Mixed Greens
Dried Cranberries
Fresh Orange, peeled, sectioned, and sliced into bite-size bits
Jicama, diced
Crumbled Feta or Blue Cheese (optional)
Candided Almonds

Orange Vinaigrette Dressing:
½ teaspoon orange zest
⅓ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix

Shake above ingredients in pint jar and chill. Serve over above salad recipe.

Recipe Source: slightly adapted from Maureen G. (originally from Geri Brown)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Creamy Sausage & Kale Soup (Like Zuppa Toscana)

zuppa toscana, creamy, sausage, kale, soup, leesh and lu
This is one of my favorite things about cold weather! In college, I remember going with my girlfriends after big tests or finals to Olive Garden for the soup, salad, and breadsticks. The waiters probably hated us for as long as we stayed and chatted and ate and ate...and ate. This soup tastes just like their Zuppa Toscana. It’s definitely my favorite one on their menu--and I’ve had my fair share of bowls there. It brings back lots of good memories for me each time I make it.

Also, it’s perfect for serving when you have guests because you can make it ahead and leave it on low on the stove or dump it in the crockpot (just don’t overcook the potatoes if you’re planning to do this). Also, don’t add the cream and kale until you are ready to serve it. We served it in these bread bowls when we last had guests. 

zuppa toscana, creamy, sausage, kale, soup, leesh and lu

Creamy Sausage and Kale Soup - Zuppa Toscana
Printable Version

1 pound Italian Sausage (I use the Jimmy Dean HOT sausage--use whatever you like!)
2 large potatoes, sliced to bite size (about 2 ½ - 3 cups)
1 large onion, diced (about 1 - 1 ½ cups)
½ pound bacon, cooked, crumbled (You could use bacon bits in a pinch, too!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper (my addition since I like it a bit spicy--you can leave it out for a milder version)
2 cups kale, chopped (It shrinks down a lot, so if you are a kale-lover, use more--maybe 4-8 cups)
2 cans (14.5 oz) chicken broth - about 3 ⅔ cups if you make your own
1 quart (4 cups) water
1 cup whipping cream

Cook sausage, drain, and crumble. In a large pot, saute onions until translucent. Add potatoes, broth, water, crushed red peppers, and garlic. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are fork tender. Add sausage and bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 10 minutes longer. Turn to low heat. Just before serving, add cream and kale and heat through. 

Recipe Source: Tressa Haderlie - Canyon Ridge Cooking - North Logan 14th Neighborhood Cookbook 

zuppa toscana, creamy, sausage, kale, soup, leesh and lu
Original post photo. Other photos update Nov 12, 2014

zuppa toscana, creamy, sausage, kale, soup, leesh and lu

Friday, December 9, 2011

Deluxe Chocolate Truffles {Plain Chocolate or Flavored}

Woah, it's been a while! I know I promised some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes in my last post, but we moved our whole house and selves all of the sudden. We knew it was coming, but it came much faster than we anticipated, and we've been running ever since. So I will post those recipes eventually, maybe I'll save them for next fall, then you'll have something to look forward to.

Now on to Christmas stuff! We made these yummy truffles the other day, and they were definitely a pleaser. I have a feeling the won't just be a holiday treat around our house. They are quite versatile. You can make them simply plain chocolate, or you can flavor it with several options. I chose to make them plain and roll some in cocoa, and dip the rest in white chocolate and top them with nuts and coconut! Yum!

The basis of these truffles is Ganache. Fancy word for bittersweet chocolate and cream combined! Ganache is simply and purely melts in your mouth! I love that blissful feeling of chocolate melting the moment I bite into it. The simpleness of this recipe is what got me. The ingredients are simple: chocolate and cream (flavoring if you're feeling fancy), and whatever you want to dip them in or garnish them with. I also love that the process of making the chocolate involves microwaving the cream and chocolate....again simple, and less clean up!

Whether you are making these as gifts, for yourself, or for someone you love, they will be sure to please! Enjoy!

Deluxe Chocolate Truffles {Plain Chocolate or Flavored}
Printable Version
Yield: approximately 3 dozen 1" truffles

2 cups (about 12 oz.) finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream

Flavorings (optional)
Choose one of the following, if desired; you can also choose to leave your truffles just plain chocolate:
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon raspberry flavor combined with 1/4 cup melted raspberry jam
1 tablespoon espresso powder + 1 1/2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
1/2 teaspoon hazelnut flavor + toasted chopped hazelnuts
1/8 teaspoon orange oil + 1 to 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1/2 cup finely chopped toffee or praline candy bar

1 pound finely chopped chocolate or chocolate chips (about 2 2/3 cups) OR 1 cup (3 ounces) cocoa

Chopped nuts, sprinkles/jimmies, sugar decorations, nonpareils, cocoa nibs, and/or toasted coconut.

Centers: Place the chocolate and cream in a microwave-proof bowl. Heat in the microwave until the cream is very hot. Remove from the microwave and stir until the chocolate is melted. Add the flavors or flavor combinations of your choice. Stir till everything is well-combined.

Line a 9" x 13" baking sheet with parchment or plastic wrap, and pour the chocolate over it; don't spread it out. Cover the pan, and refrigerate for 60 to 90 minutes, until the mixture is thick and "scoopable." You can put it in the freezer too for 15 minutes at a time and keep checking to see if it’s “scoopable”, if you get it too hard just leave it out for a few minutes and it will soften up quick. Quicker than you think too, so keep an close eye on it.

Assembly: When the mixture is cool enough to hold its shape, scoop small balls of the chocolate onto a baking sheet that's been lightly dusted with cocoa. A teaspoon cookie scoop is exactly the right size for this; you want balls that are about the size of a small chestnut, or a small melon ball. For perfectly round truffles, quickly roll each one between the palms of your hands. You have to do this quickly, or the chocolate will become too soft. Your palms will soon be coated with chocolate... yum! Refrigerate the centers for about 30 minutes, covered, till they've firmed up a bit.

Coating: To take the simplest route, coat the shaped centers in unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process preferred, as it's smoother in flavor than natural). Put the cocoa in a shallow bowl and roll the centers around in it.

To coat with melted chocolate, heat 2 cups of the chopped chocolate (reserving some to add later) with 2 tablespoons coconut oil or shortening (reserving some to add later) in the microwave until it's melted. Add the remaining chopped (unmelted) chocolate to the melted chocolate. Stir constantly until the chocolate is thick and shiny.

This is the potentially messy part. If you have a chocolate dipping tool, use it to dip each center in the melted chocolate, setting the dipped truffles on a piece of parchment or waxed paper. Immediately, as you make them, sprinkle each truffle with the garnish of your choice. I don’t have a chocolate dipping tool so I broke the two middle prongs off of a plastic fork and it worked great.

Something to keep in mind: If leave these truffles at room temperature they will be very very soft. I think they are absolutely perfect to eat fresh out of the fridge. You can avoid keeping them in the fridge at a party or wherever if they are dipped in chocolate, any truffles you roll in cocoa will really get soft and droopy fast.

Recipe Source: Slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chocolate Candy Cane Blossoms

I spotted these beauties on Pinterest last week. Of all the recipes I’ve pinned, I’ve probably only made 4 or 5. But these were too cute to resist making. And it helped that I happen to love Candy Cane Kisses. Oh, and the chocolate cookies are even mint chocolate--which I also happen to love. So, naturally I made them. And they were delicious. And cute--except, they weren’t as cute as the ones in the original picture because I’m not the most patient person so I shaped fewer big balls of dough, instead of lots of little ones.

These are a fun, festive treat and would make a great addition to a holiday dessert bar, a goodie plate to take to neighbors, or a plate for Santa. The cookie dough is not overly sweet, so if you like things on the sweeter side you could add a bit more sugar to taste.

Chocolate Candy Cane Blossoms
Printable Version
makes about 40-50 small cookies if you’re patient--if you’re me, it made about 26 larger cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 package Hershey’s candy cane kisses

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine butter and shortening and stir for 30 seconds.
Add sugar, cocoa powder, and baking powder and mix well.
Next, add egg, milk, and peppermint extract.
Add flour a little bit at a time. If the dough gets too tough for the beaters, use a spoon.
Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour covered.
Form the dough into 1 inch small balls and place on a parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Immediately after taking out of the oven, press in a candy cane kiss. Allow to cool completely before removing cookies from baking sheet. (If you try to move them too early, the kisses will be all melty and flatten almost completely resulting in a chocolate cookie with what looks like a peppermint nipple. Which is weird, so, just don’t move them till they’ve cooled completely. Mmmkay? That is, unless you want nipple cookies...)

Recipe Source: Cafe Zupa's Blog

Friday, December 2, 2011

Almond Sheet Cake

I better start off by saying that I think margarine is of the devil.  I am a true blue butter-lover.  I think my mom and her dad had a lot to do with that.  I remember my Grandpa, a dairy farmer, always telling me that margarine would kill me faster than butter would.  While that may not be entirely true, I’m normally not willing to risk it.  That is, until this cake came around.  I got the recipe from my MIL after she made if for us a few times.  When I read the recipe and it clearly stated to use margarine, NOT butter, I almost dismissed it.  But then I remember how tasty it was.  So, I sucked it up and bought some margarine just for this cake.  I would have just experimented with butter to see how it turned out, but I was taking it to a baby shower and didn’t want to botch it, so I stuck to the recipe.  It was just as good as I remembered.  Dangerously good.  

So if you are a margarine-hater as I am, don’t completely dismiss this.  Just give it one try.  This sheet cake is a fabulous crowd-pleaser and you won’t be disappointed.  I made it this week and ate way more than I should have.  Like 6 pieces.  At least.  I was planning to freeze the leftovers, but they kind of just disappeared...oops.

Texas Almond Sheet Cake
Printable Version
1 cup water            
1 cup margarine (has to be margarine – NOT butter)
2 cups flour                        
2 cups sugar
2 beaten eggs                     
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease and flour a sheet pan--jelly roll or quarter sheet pan will work.  Bring margarine and water to a boil in a large saucepan.  In a mixing bowl, combine and whisk dry ingredients together--flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Combine wet ingredients in a separate mixing bowl.  Once margarine and water has reached a boil, add the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth and combined.  Pour into greased and floured pan.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 min.  Frost while warm.

Bring to a boil:  
½ cup margarine             
¼ cup milk
4 cups powdered sugar            
1 tsp almond extract

**If anyone decides to try it with butter, let me know how it turns out for you!

Recipe Source: My mother-in-law, Karen

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

{The Best} Pumpkin Pie

As Thanksgiving is quickly approaching I wanted to post a few recipes that I make each year at Thanksgiving because, well, Thanksgiving dinner is not Thanksgiving dinner without these few dishes in my book! Leesh recently posted this cranberry cream salad that is always at our Thanksgiving dinner. And today I am sharing with you my favorite and seriously 'the best' pumpkin pie. This recipe comes from some of our dear friends, Bradey & Lacey M.

*Later on in the month, I will share with our homemade stuffing recipe. I can't wait! Thanksgiving is seriously my favorite!

So, I said this was 'the best', and I don't usually make such strong claims in my recipe titles. But this recipe is seriously 'the best'. I am a pumpkin pie lover, but had never had a pie like this until exactly 3 Thanksgivings ago (when I was still in the hospital after having my first baby - Bradey & Lacey brought us one whole pie, for me, my hubby, and our new baby!). And I have made sure to have it every year since, and will continue to do so for Thanksgiving dessert here on out.

What is so special about this you might ask? Well, this pumpkin pie is not baked. It is placed in a baked pie shell, but the actual pumpkin filling (goodness) is cooked right on the stove top. The main reason I love this pumpkin pie over all others is because it's more like a pudding or a custard, rather than a baked pie (which I think are too mushy). It sets up quite firm. I love the firm set because it makes for perfect slices that don't fall apart. The pudding like texture, spiced flavor, and buttery crisp crust are absolutely to die for! And with a dollop of whipped cream, it's simply, perfect. Aahhh!

After all my raving over this treat I hope you'll try it out this year, you won't regret it!

{The Best } Pumpkin Pie
Printable Version
Link3 cups milk
3 teaspoons maple syrup
1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
4 eggs, well beaten

In a medium size mixing bowl combine, sugars, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. In a large sauce pan or stockpot heat milk, syrup, and pumpkin over medium heat, stirring often with a wire whisk. When mixture is heated through, slowly stir in the dry ingredient mixture and continue to cook between medium-low and medium heat until mixture is quite thick (it gets tough to stir and will have big bubbles). Slowly add well beaten eggs, mixing constantly so that eggs don’t lump as the cook. Cook 2 more minutes. Pour mixture into baked pie shells. Makes 2-3 pies (depends on if you use small tin pie dishes or large glass or Pyrex-like pie dishes). Chill until cold throughout. Serve with whipped cream on top.

Recipe Source: from Bradey & Lacey M, some of our good friends.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cinnamon Cooked Apples {Breakfast Side/Topper or Ice Cream Topper}

As mentioned in my post earlier this week, I am sharing with you one of our favorite breakfast sides or toppers. They are extremely simple to make, and add the perfect touch to a hot breakfast or a bowl of vanilla ice cream. These are served hot. I especially love these cooked apples on top of waffles, pancakes, and pumpkin pancakes. They also are a yummy topping for ice cream, breakfast side or crepe filling! Be creative! You can use them with lots of things.

Check out our recipe index under 'Breakfast' for other breakfast dishes to serve these with.

Cinnamon Cooked Apples {Breakfast Side/Topper or Ice Cream Topper}
Printable Version
Serves about 3

3 cups sliced apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar (unless your apples are really tart, you can add more to taste)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Place butter in a medium saucepan and turn to med-low, when butter has melted add apples, water, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Cook apples over medium-low to medium heat until bite tender. About 10-15 minutes will do, stirring frequently.

Serve hot over as a breakfast side, or on top of: pancakes, waffles, ice cream, or as a crepe filling.

Recipe Source: Diana K.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sugar Cookies

  • I have never really been a sugar cookie lover, but they are so pretty and fun to decorate, so I usually only make them a few times a year. Every time I make them I swear I won't do it again because they take a lot of time and I usually end up in a disastrous mess where every bowl and measuring cup in my kitchen end up dirty. Now that we have a dishwasher (we didn't for the first 2.5 years of marriage), I feel like I can make sugar cookies without ruining my marriage by arguing whose dish day it is...

    Although I'm not a sugar cookie lover, I do like these ones and they got great reviews when I made them for a little Halloween get-together. Lu posted a Sugar Cookie recipe that she likes to use, but this one is a little bit different, so I wanted to share. This one is bakes for less time at a higher temp and makes a bit more than her recipe. I like 'em soft and chewy, so I roll them thick, but if you like them crispy, you can roll them thinner or just leave them in a few minutes longer.  Happy Halloween!

    (For these cookies, I used the glacé icing recipe that Linds posted on here a while back from the girls over at Our Best Bites, where I got the spiderweb idea. That recipe is definitely a keeper. I think with the glacé icing, the cookies taste better the next day. These are also great smeared thick with some classic cream cheese frosting.)
    Rolled Sugar Cookies
    Printable Version

    1 1/2 cups butter
    2 cups white sugar
    4 eggs
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    5 cups all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt

    In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

    Preheat oven to 400. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on silicone or parchment-lined cookie sheets.
    Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Be careful not to over bake--cookies will not be browned even though they are fully cooked.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

    Recipe Source:

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin pancakes! Oh my yummy! If you made these cookies that I posted a few weeks ago, then you probably didn't use your whole can of pumpkin. I usually buy the big cans, so I had lots leftover. While I could have froze the rest for using later, we saved it in the fridge and have been having pumpkin pancakes for breakfast and brinner! :) They are so yummy drizzled with some homemade maple syrup, or topped with cooked apples.

They are rich in flavor, light and fluffy, and full of fall spices! I hope you enjoy them. They are a perfect fall breakfast, brunch, or brinner!

Pumpkin Pancakes
Printable Version
Serves 6

Note: I usually half this recipe for our family. I still use one egg if I half the recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1+ cups milk

In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a separate bowl combine pumpkin, egg, oil, vinegar, and milk (start with 1 cup, and then add a teaspoon or two at a time to thin until it’s the consistency you like for pancakes). Whisk pumpkin mixture into flour mixture just enough to combine.

Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium heat or slightly lower. Pour our scoop the batter onto the griddle, using about ¼ cup batter for each pancake. Brown on both sides until cooked through.

Serve with butter and maple syrup. And if you want a chocolatey twist, throw in some chocolate chips (about ½ cup).

Recipe Source: adapted from by Ruth. Used several reviews to make adaptations.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Super Nachos

I'm not sure I can even call this a real recipe, but it's a super easy, super fast dinner idea.  I think everyone needs some of those to stick in their back pocket!  I like to pair this with mexican rice or a green salad.

Super Nachos
Tortilla Chips
1 lb ground beef
Taco seasoning (Use store bought or make your own)
2 cups grated cheddar or colby jack cheese
Diced tomatoes
Sliced olives
Avocado or guacamole
Sour Cream
Salsa...or any other toppings you can dream up.  My friend, Haylee, even makes them with grilled chicken.

Preheat oven to 375.  Add salt and pepper to ground beef and brown.  Drain fat and rinse if desired.  Season with taco seasoning according to package directions.  Arrange tortilla chips on a lined baking sheet.  Be careful not to let them overlap too much, or you won't get enough cheesy goodness on each chip!  Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese on top.  Top with all desired topping and finish off with remaining grated cheese.  Keep a close eye on them for about 5 minutes in preheated oven or until the chesse is a melty as you want it.  We like to dip ours in sour cream, salsa, or cilantro-ranch dressing.

Note:  I mixed all the toppings in with some cooked macaroni for my little guy since he can't chew tortilla chips yet.  He loved it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tootsie Pop Ghosts {in an Egg Carton Graveyard}

I have been thinking about and dreaming about our upcoming Halloween party this weekend. We are having several of my nieces and nephews over and my in-laws. I have never really got into Halloween much, but when there are fun things to make and a party to make them for I just can't seem to help myself. It's lots of fun! In my preparation for this party I remembered back to when I was a kid and my mom would make tootsie pops into cute ghosts. So I thought I'd better do that as a fun little party favor for everyone to take.

(see more pictures below for a simple tutorial)

This project is really simple, and if you save your egg carton then you'll probably have everything on hand except the tootsie pops (or you could use blow pops, I think dum-dums are a little small for this, but you could and they'd just be baby ghosts).

All you need is:
  • Egg carton (12 or 18 count egg carton, depending on how many you want to make)
  • Tootsie pops (blow pops, dum dums (for baby ghosts) or any other round-shaped sucker)
  • Kleenex
  • String, ribbon, colored pipe cleaner wire, fabric, etc for tying
  • Black Permanent Marker
  • Green paint or paper (optional)

Okay, let's get started:

First pain the sides of the egg carton lid green, or cover them with green paper for grass in the graveyard. Then with a permanent marker after the paint has dried write "R.I.P." On each egg holder/tombstone.
Next, place a Kleenex over each tootsie pop and tie a piece or fabric (that's what I used), or any of the following: string, ribbon, colored pipe cleaner wire, yarn, etc. around the bottom of the sucker. And draw to black eyes on. It'd also be cute do buy those googly eyes and glue them on (just make sure it doesn't glue through onto the sucker.
Once the paint is dry on the egg carton, fill it with newspaper. This will help hold the ghost pops up when you put them in....otherwise they will not stand up very well.
Next you'll turn the egg carton so it's upside down (tomb-side up) take a sharp knife and just twist it until you get a small hole in each egg compartment. This way the little ghosties will fit in nice!
Now start putting the ghost in each hole you poked and then soon you'll have a full grave yard of haunting ghosts! :)
Aren't they cute?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Classic Chili

I think I've only made one good Chili before trying this recipe. In the past I've just whipped up something kind of random and called it Chili. But after tasting this Chili, I know that my past in-a-hurry-Chili-whip-ups were not Chili at all. They weren't even half as good as this stuff.

The way I prefer my Chili is like this: Mostly beef and tomatoes, some beans, a slight sweet and mildly spiced flavor, and I like it somewhat thick, but still a bit soupy. That is just what this recipe is all about! It's all of those wonderful things. And it's easy and does not call for any absurd ingredients. Severed with a hot slice of cornbread and slather of butter, it's simply perfect.

After making this marvelous Chili I have come to realize that a long simmer really does bring out the flavor. The slow simmer helps marry all the flavors together, producing a very satisfying bowl of homemade Chili.

Oh man, I don't know what else to say, but you gotta try this!

Classic Chili
Printable Version
Serves 8

2 pounds lean ground beef (I like 93% lean)
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes or 2 quarts home canned tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed

Combine ground beef, onion, and garlic in a large stockpot. Cook and stir frequently over medium-low to medium heat until beef is brown and juices run clean. Drain any excess grease off meat if you’d like.

Add chili powder, salt, oregano, tomatoes (if like to dice my tomatoes before adding to the stockpot. The reason it does not call for diced tomatoes is there is usually less tomato juice in the can/jar. You can also break up the tomatoes with your stirring spoon if you’d like), and tomato sauce. Heat to boiling, reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour plus.

After the hour of simmering add beans and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve warm: plain, or with grated cheese, sour cream, and chips, and/or cornbread.

Note: the key here is to simmer it at least the full amount of time called for, it really brings out the flavor and makes the chili all that it’s supposed to be.

Recipe Source: adapted from by Michelle

Friday, October 14, 2011

Whole Wheat Dinner Muffins

Last night for dinner we had these hearty little muffins. I spotted them on Mel's Kitchen Cafe a while ago and have had them on my "to-make" list for a while. It's too bad I waited as long as I did to try them. They look just like a regular muffin, but don't let that fool you. The thing that makes these babies so delicious is that the egg whites are whipped separately, leaving you with a light and airy, yet hearty muffin. I will definitely be making these again soon. The fact that there is no yeast or rising time is a plus too! I had to restrain myself from eating half the batch last night, but it was worth it because the leftovers made great breakfast muffins

Whole Wheat Dinner Muffins
Printable Version

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (I used white-wheat flour)
4 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons butter, melted, or olive oil
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt
3 tablespoons sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F (325° if you are using a dark or nonstick pan). Grease 16 standard muffin cups; fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping during baking.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, buttermilk, and sour cream until blended. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture just until evenly moistened. Don’t overmix! The batter will be slightly lumpy.

In a clean bowl, using a mixer, beat the egg whites just until they form soft peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until blended, again, taking care not to overmix because that will result in tough, dry muffins.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup nearly level with the rim of the cup. Sprinkle the muffins with the sesame seeds if desired. Bake the muffins until they are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the muffins cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from cups and serve warm or at room temperature with butter and/or jam.

Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe; original recipe adapted from The Willams-Sonoma Cookbook