Macaroni and Cheese

A recipe from Pioneer Woman. Comfort food for the colder weather. We were too anxious to eat it so we didn't bake it, but I'm sure that would've been delicious. Also, I used penne instead of macaroni. If you do this, you have to measure out more than 4 cups noodles, because the noodles are larger and measure differently. Makes sense right? Macaroni would pack in the measuring cup more, but there are more air spaces around the larger penne noodles. Okay I'm tired. No more explaining. Just make this.

Ok I've recieved some feedback and I have a post-edit. I actually didn't have dry mustard and instead did a squirt of Dijon mustard instead. Someone who used the dry said it tasted funny. Maybe try 1 1/2 tsp of Dijon mustard instead of the dry.

Homemade Mac and Cheese

4 cups dried macaroni
¼ cup (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons) butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups whole milk
2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard (I used 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard instead)
1 egg, beaten
1 lb. cheese, grated
½ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
½ teaspoon seasoned salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
*Optional spices: cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme

If you're planning on baking it, cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. (If you're serving it right out of the pot, cook it fully.) Drain.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat egg. In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes, whisking constantly. Don’t let it burn. Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for five minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low. Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking eggs. Whisk together till smooth. Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth. Add in cheese and stir to melt. Add salts and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Serve immediately (very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Recipe from Pioneer Woman.


Chicken, Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder

I always thought making chowder would take forever. Why did I think that? This meal was so quick and easy I didn't even have to plan ahead. Just ran by the store on my way home to pick up a few ingredients, and had it made within 30 minutes of arriving home! It was delicious too, and unique since it had sweet potatoes instead of regular and a hint of cumin. Very yummy and a perfect fall meal to warm you up from the inside out. We served it with large rolls, toasted with melted cheese under the broiler. It would also be great in a bread bowl.

Chicken, Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder

3 cups whole milk
1 cup yellow corn muffin mix
2 T. butter
1 onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
1 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 " cubes
2 sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
3 cups frozen corn (not thawed)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix milk and muffin mix in bowl until well combined. Meanwhile, heat butter in large pot over medium heat until foaming. Add onion and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, chicken and sweet potatoes. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until sweet potatoes are just tender, about 8 minutes.

Stir in milk and muffin mixture and simmer until soup thickens, about 10 minutes. Add cheese and corn and cook until cheese begins to melt, about 2 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.

This would easily serve 10 people. We halved it and had leftovers for a few days.

Recipe from My Kitchen Cafe.


Special K Treats

Special K Treats are like Rice Krispie Treats, but wayyyyy better. They're Rice Krispie Treats on steroids. They are more gooey and have a nutty, brown-sugary taste that is just divine. Don't be alarmed when you see how much butter is in them. Just take deep breaths and embrace it. You'll be so happy when you taste them. These are really great and so easy to throw together. Try them. I bet you can't eat just one!

Special K Treats

1 lb butter (yes, that's FOUR cubes - gasp!)
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 16 oz bag mini marshmallows
1 package slivered almonds (around 10 oz)
1 tsp vanilla
1 16 oz box Special K

Combine butter and sugars in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, for about 30-60 seconds. Add marshmallows, remove from heat, stir constantly to melt. (If they don't melt, put the pan back on the stove on low heat and continue stirring.) Add 1 tsp vanilla, stir in. Fold in the Special K and almonds. Spread in 9 x 13 pan.

Recipe from Kaylene Harding. (My husband's wonderful mom.)


Pumpkin Pancakes

So maybe I'm a little obsessed with pumpkin lately. Embrace it, it's Autumn! These pancakes were soft and fluffy and delicious with a hint of spice and pumpkin flavor. They were a perfect weekend morning breakfast. Delicious with maple syrup, and maybe a dollop of whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pancakes

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ⅔ cups buttermilk
¾ cup canned solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
more butter for griddle

Heat a skillet or griddle to medium. Mix first 9 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Whisk buttermilk, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, and melted butter in medium bowl until well blended. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Melt butter in skillet or griddle. Working in batches, drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto skillet or griddle. Cook pancakes until bubbles form on top and bottoms are golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip and cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. Keep cooked pancakes warm until ready to serve by piling on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven.

Serves 6-8.


Pumpkin Cookies

It's that time of year, folks. Nothing says "autumn" like a big warm pumpkin cookie with chocolate and butterscotch chips. These are really good. I made another recipe for pumpkin cookies last week, and these ones blew those first ones out of the water. So make these! While you're at it, make some pumpkin hot cocoa to go with it. Then cosy up on the couch with a blanket and a good book and bask in the glory that is fall.

Hop Scotch Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla paste (extract will work just fine)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, milk, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add vanilla and chips. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Recipe and photo from Abbie (love her), originally found on My Baking Addiction.

Pumpkin Spice Hot Chocolate

We don't have hot cocoa mix, so we got a little creative. But this little concoction turned out just like a dream. Delicious! Try it out.

Pumpkin Hot Chocolate

1 mug of milk (2% or whole preferred)
a good long squeeze from a bottle of chocolate syrup
1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp powdered sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbs canned pumpkin

Stir the chocolate syrup into the milk, then microwave for a minute or so, to desired heat. Stir in cocoa powder, powdered sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin. Add more of each ingredient as needed, to taste. Add marshmallows, curl up on couch, and sip luxuriously. ;)

And just look how much happiness and joy it will bring to your loved ones when you make it for them.


Pork Barbacoa (Cafe Rio Sweet Pork)

There are a lot of restaurants in NYC (that was the understatement of the year), but we have yet to find something that tastes like good old Cafe Rio back home. This recipe for shredded sweet pork is ridiculously easy and comes strikingly close to the real thing. It's a perfect meal for Sunday since you can put it in a little before church and it'll be ready when you get home. It's delicious in tacos, salad, enchiladas, burritos, you name it. You can go all out and heat up some black beans and cook some rice with lime and cilantro. Below I've also posted the closest recipe I've found to their signature dressing. It's not perfect, but it's very close.

Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa

2 ½ lbs. pork roast
⅓ cup water
1 clove garlic, minced {or ⅛ teaspoon garlic salt}
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
1 cup canned green enchilada sauce {or salsa verde}
1 cup brown sugar

Put pork, water, garlic, salt and pepper in crock pot on high for 4 hours. Drain, shred pork with two forks. Stir together green enchilada sauce and brown sugar, pour over pork and stir in. Serve in burritos, tacos, salad, etc.

Tomatillo Cilantro Ranch Dressing

3 large tomatillos
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
½ cup mayo
½ cup sour cream
1 envelope buttermilk ranch dressing mix
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 jalapeno {half it if you don't like the heat}

Remove Husks from tomatillos, wash, quarter and broil until soft, about 7 minutes. Combine everything in blender until smooth. Chill for at least one hour for flavors to blend.


Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Oh my gosh, these are seriously some of the best cupcakes I've ever had, anywhere. I'm not kidding people. These are incredible. Do yourself a favor and go make them right now. The frosting has this amazing flavor, and how could it not, I mean come on, are you kidding me? White chocolate raspberry cream cheese? Yes, please! These are also incredibly cute and would be just perfect for a little girls' birthday party or baby shower, or bridal shower, for that matter. But even if it's not a special occasion, make them, you'll be so glad you did!

Chocolate Cupcakes:

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup oil (I use canola)
2 cups hot water
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything in a bowl until you get a thin batter. Pour the batter into muffin tins with cupcake liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. {Ours baked for about 19 minutes.}

White Chocolate Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
6 ounces melted white chocolate {we used white chocolate chips}
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons raspberry extract
4 1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar {we liked less, about 3 1/2-4}
a tiny bit of red food coloring

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water, or in microwave on low setting, stirring frequently and being careful not to overheat. Once the chocolate is melted, set aside to cool slightly. Beat cream cheese in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy, gradually add in melted white chocolate and beat until smooth. Beat in butter, vanilla and raspberry extracts. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until it is all incorporated and smooth. Beat in as much food coloring as you need for desired color.

Frost the cupcakes and if desired, garnish with white and semi sweet chocolate chips! So cute!

Makes 20-24 cupcakes. And just look how thrilled it will make you to eat them:

Recipe found via Abbie, on My Baking Addiction.


Peach Crisp

In response to a post I wrote about missing home and my mother's peaches, that wonderful woman sent another whole box of them to me! I woke up Saturday morning and ran down the stairs like it was Christmas, to find my box waiting for me. We made pancakes with peaches, and since then I've been so excited to make peach crisp. Had to buy ice cream first, because come on, you can't eat peach crisp without ice cream. Here is the recipe I found. It was just perfect! Totally satisfied my craving. The crunchy topping is sugary and cinnamony and delicious.

Peach Crisp

6-8 medium peaches, peeled and sliced into thin slices
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest (or a few drops of lemon juice will do)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup white flour
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
8 tablespoons slightly softened butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix first 4 ingredients until blended thoroughly. Spray a 2.5 qt baking dish with cooking spray and add peaches. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the fruit is baking in the oven, add flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon and butter to a mixing bowl. Mix ingredients with your fingers until crumbly. Once the fruit has cooked 20 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top of the peaches. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes longer. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Recipe found on For the Love of Cooking.


Burgers and Fries

Klane and I really enjoy a good burger with fries. We also enjoy saving money. Therefore a burger for $6-10 at a restaurant sometimes isn't the best answer. We like to make burgers and fries at home. It is easy and fun, so here we go.

Burgers (for three-four people)

1 lb ground beef
Worcestershire Sauce (1 Tbs?)
Seasoned Salt (a few good shakes)
Pepper (less shakes)
Soy Sauce (1 tsp?)
Minced garlic (1/4 tsp?)
Slices of cheese
Buns, Lettuce, Tomato

Kind of funny that I'm posting this as a recipe. You just squish the seasonings into the meat, use as much of them as you want. Then form them into patties. The cook them in a pan (a grill pan would be better but whatever). Top with a slice of cheese at the end of grilling. We like to mix it up and copy things from restaurants. Mushroom + swiss? Bacon + cheddar? Add some avocado? Caramelized onions? Just go wild. It'll be greasy and delicious.

Fries (for two)

2 Baking Potatoes (we used Idaho)
Oil (I've heard Peanut oil is best, we used vegetable)
Mayo + Ketchup = FRY SAUCE

Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch sticks. Fill a large bowl with cold water, soak the potato sticks in water in the fridge for at least an hour. It pulls the starch out and allows them to fry better. Take them out of the water and dry them off thoroughly with paper towels. Heat oil over med-high heat on stovetop. Fry the potatoes in a single layer until just slightly crispy (not brown yet), turning once. Remove from pot to paper towel lined plates. Turn the heat up a little and fry them again till golden brown. Serve with fry sauce and lots of it!


Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Made our favorite Banana Cupcakes. (I almost want to let my bananas go brown, just for an excuse to bake with them.) Decided to mix it up and try a different frosting when I found this one on Smitten Kitchen. I've never seen a frosting with brown sugar. Since it has a higher moisture content than powdered sugar, cornstarch is added to lighten it up and thicken it a little. It was really yummy!

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and vanilla, beat until frosting is smooth and light. Chill the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens back up a bit, about 30 minutes, then spread or dollop on cooled cupcakes.

Recipe found on Smitten Kitchen. Her pictures are much prettier than mine too, I think it's a combination of light brown sugar and natural light.


Frozen Lemon Cake

Friend Casey found this dessert and we made it on a Thursday afternoon. Then she made it again and had us over on Sunday to share. Then I made it again on Monday to feed the missionaries. I am loving this dessert right now! It's different than my usual chocolate/caramel/peanut butter routine. It's a light and fresh tasting dessert. Perfect for summer, but would be great anytime. The lemon taste was nicely balanced with the sweet. It's creamy, but light enough to serve up a big slice and not feel too full. Four of us devoured an 8x8 pan, no problem. Maybe you should double it....

Frozen Lemon Cake

1 1/4 cup crushed graham crackers, divided
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 eggs, separated
1 lemon (all juice and all zest) {you can use 3 Tbs bottled lemon juice instead}
½ cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons sugar, divided

Combine 1 cup of the crushed graham crackers with the melted butter, stirring until a crumbly loose mixture forms. Line the bottom of an 8x8-inch pan with the mixture.

In a bowl set over hot water (not boiling) mix egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and sugar. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. It will take about 10 minutes for the mixture to thicken. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool.

Beat egg whites until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until glossy, stiff peaks form. Next, beat whipped cream until fluffy, and gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar. Then, gently fold all three mixtures together.

Spread the mixture in the pan over the prepared crust. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of crushed crackers. Place in freezer for at least 3 hours. When you're ready to serve, remove from the freezer, and cut into squares and plate them. Then allow to melt ever so slightly - about 4-5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe found on Vintage Victuals.


Oatmeal Blueberry Peach Pancakes

I've had this recipe on file for a while. A rainy Saturday morning seemed like the perfect time to try them out. What could be better than ultra-filling oatmeal pancakes in bed on a rainy day? These were just exactly what I hoped they'd be: hearty, puffed, very filling, and perfectly spiced. The blueberries were perfect paired with peaches and cream, and the pancakes had a nice spice flavor with the nutmeg and cinnamon. Yum!

Oatmeal Blueberry Peach Pancakes

1 cup Oats
1 cup Whole-Wheat flour {I actually used white and they were fine}
1 cup All Purpose flour
2 Tbsp. Baking powder
½ Tsp. Nutmeg
½ Tsp. Cinnamon
½ Tsp. Salt
1 ½ cups Milk
¼ cup Vegetable oil
2 Eggs (separated)
1 Tsp. Vanilla
Tbsp. Honey

1-2 peaches
confectioner's sugar
heavy cream

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk together the oats, flours, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Using the same whisk in a second bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, egg yolks, vanilla, and honey. In a third bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks with a hand mixer. Pour the wet into the dry mixture and stir until just combined. Mix in blueberries. Gently fold in the egg whites until incorporated and let the batter rest a few minutes. {This allows time for the baking powder to react and creates air bubbles in the batter, making your pancakes nice and puffed.}

While it's resting, peel and dice the peaches, stir in confectioner's sugar and heavy cream, and warm in microwave if desired. {We also make our maple syrup. Mix ½ cup each of sugar, brown sugar, and water, with a bit of maple extract, in a glass measuring cup. Heat in the microwave till it bubbles. Stir, make sure sugar is dissolved, and you've got maple syrup.}

Pour batter into skillet using about 1/3 cup of batter per pancake, the batter will be thick. Once bubbles form on the outside of the pancake and do not fill in again - it is time to flip them over. Finish cooking, then serve with butter, peaches and cream, and maple syrup.

Serves 6, about 12 pancakes. Or 6 giant pancakes, the way we like to do it. We halved this recipe.

Recipe found on One Food Guy.


Chicken Gyros

There's a big craze in NYC right now about Halal food. One of the things they serve at the numerous Halal street carts is the gyro {pronounced "yee-row" if you're correct and "jai-row" if you're an ignorant New Yorker with a strong accent}, a sort of wrap served on soft pita bread. The famous "white sauce" is the crowning glory of the gyro {and any Halal dish} and is absolutely delicious. The white sauce is actually called tzatziki sauce {don't ask for pronunciation on that one, I got nothing}. We were excited to find a recipe for it. I would make this again, it was yummy and different!

Chicken Gyros

For the tzatziki sauce:
2 cups plain yogurt (not nonfat, if possible)
½ hothouse cucumber or 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice {or bottled... if you're me}
Extra virgin olive oil

For the chicken:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 ¼ lbs. chicken pieces {I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts}

To assemble:
Pita bread
Fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
Red onion, sliced thin

To make the tzatziki sauce, strain the yogurt using cheesecloth over a bowl. Let strain for several hours or overnight, if possible, to remove as much moisture as possible. If you use Oikos you don't have to strain it. {Ok let's be honest here. Did I buy Greek Oikos yogurt? No. Did I strain my yogurt? No. Did the sauce turn out fine anyway? Yes. Might it be delicious if you did it as directed here? Yes. But you may not have cheesecloth on hand. (Where do you get cheesecloth, anyway?) Just sayin.}
Peel, seed, and shred the cucumber. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

To prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Whisk together until mixed well. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
Cook the chicken as desired, either in the skillet or with the broiler. {I diced the chicken breasts and cooked them in a skillet over med-high.} Once the chicken is completely cooked through, transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into strips.
Heat pitas {you could warm them on a dry skillet or griddle or in the microwave}. Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes and sliced onions. Serve immediately.

Recipe found on My Kitchen Cafe.

PIta Bread

Delicious, soft wrap bread. We used it for our Chicken Gyros, but it was also yummy served warm with honey butter (almost like a fried scone). I've heard it would make a great crust for individual pizzas as well. It has a yummy flavor and is very versatile. I'm glad I discovered it!

Soft Pita Bread

3 to 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups boiling water
¼ cup potato flour OR 1/2 cup potato buds or flakes (I used potato flakes)
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon instant yeast

Place 2 cups of the flour into a bowl or the bucket of a bread machine. Pour the boiling water over the flour, and stir till smooth. Cover the bowl or bucket and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the potato flour (or flakes or buds) and 1 cup of the remaining flour with the salt, oil and yeast. Add this to the cooled flour/water mixture, stir, then knead for several minutes (by hand, mixer or bread machine) to form a soft dough.

The dough should form a ball, but will remain somewhat sticky (the dough is fairly stiff, so don't be worried - just be careful not to overflour the dough). Add additional flour only if necessary; if kneading by hand, keep your hands and work surface lightly oiled. Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour (I let mine rise up to 2 hours).

Divide the dough into 8 pieces (each about the size of a handball, around 3 ounces), cover, and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Roll each piece into a 7- to 8-inch circle, and fry them without oil on a griddle or frying pan over medium heat for about 1 minute per side, until they're puffed and flecked with brown spots. Adjust the heat if they seem to be cooking either too quickly, or too slowly; cooking too quickly means they may be raw in the center, while too slowly will dry them out. Transfer the cooked breads to a wire rack, stacking them to keep them soft. Serve immediately, or cool slightly before storing in a plastic bag.

Recipe from My Kitchen Cafe.


Cinnamon Roll Muffins

I've been into cinnamon lately. And Joy the Baker. I was drooling over her recipe for cinnamon rolls, and lamenting that I didn't have the time, patience or skill to make them, when she referenced this recipe for people just like me. Hurray! They smell like cinnamon rolls. They look a little like cinnamon rolls. Best of all, they taste like cinnamon rolls! But they are much easier and faster to make. These cinnamon roll muffins were sooo delicious. We finished off all 12 in just two days. (Okay it was mostly me.) And I'm already planning on making them again.

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
⅓ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons active dry or rapid rise yeast
⅔ cup warm milk (100-110F, low fat is fine)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
⅔ cup brown sugar
¾ teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch ground cardamom
{I think this is optional. I've never heard of it and it's only a pinch.}

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoon milk or cream

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Dissolve the yeast in a measuring cup filled with the warmed milk, then stir milk mixture, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg into the flour mixture. Mix well, until very smooth. Pour into prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes.
While the dough rests, mix together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a small bowl using a fork until all the butter has been incorporated into the sugar and mixture is crumbly. Divide the batter between 12 greased muffin cups. Sprinkle evenly on top of rested dough and press the mixture down into the dough with your fingertips (or swirl in with a spatula or fork.)

{Okay, important note here from Angie. I did not realize that you really have to mix most of the topping into the muffin batter. If you leave it just crumbled on top, it will melt and then boil in the oven, and it will boil over, and it will stick to the pan and get hard as soon as you remove it from the oven. So. Just mix it in more, like the picture below, and you should be fine.}

Place pan into a cold oven, then set the oven temperature to 350F.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until bread is lightly browned at the edges and the center of the bread springs back when lightly pressed. Some of the sugar mixture on top may still be bubbling.
Cool for at least 30 minutes before whisking the powdered sugar and milk together to form an icing and drizzling it onto the bread. {Or if you're me, you can't wait and you drizzle it after 5 minutes. It just melted the icing and made it drip over the sides. Still tasted amazing!!) Serve warm. They're also delicious reheated in the microwave.

Makes 12 muffins.

Recipe and photos by Joy the Baker. (Next time I will take my own photos. My muffins weren't as pretty as hers.)


Hoisin Chicken with Rice

I kept seeing hoisin sauce in recipes and had never used it, so gave this one a try. It was yummy and came together very easily and quickly. We were in a hurry to get to the temple so there wasn't time to take a good photo. I snapped this and we ate and ran. Now that I'm posting it I noticed these huge red pepper strips taking over the entire shot. Oh well. It may not look like a magazine but it tasted good.

Hoisin Chicken Rice Bowls

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large red pepper, sliced
1 10-ounce package baby portebello mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces, white and green parts separated
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb), diced
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained, diced
2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 cups hot cooked rice
sesame seeds (optional)
romaine lettuce leaves (optional)

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. Add red pepper and mushrooms and saute for 5 - 6 minutes until tender. Add garlic and saute an additional minute. Add chicken and white parts of onions to pan and cook for 6 - 8 minutes or until cooked through. Stir chicken and red pepper mixture occasionally while it cooks. Add water chestnuts, teriyaki sauce and hoisin sauce and stir to coat the chicken and vegetables. Continue cooking until heated through. Stir in scallion greens and sesame seeds (if desired).

To serve, line a single serving size bowl with romaine leaves. Top with a large scoop of rice and hoisin chicken.

Alternately, you can serve the hoisin chicken mixture wrapped in lettuce leaves or omit the lettuce leaves completely and serve the chicken over rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from My Kitchen Cafe.



Snickerdoodles will always remind me of my dad because they're his favorite cookie. If you want to get on his good side, make him a good batch of snickerdoodles. I just wish I could bring these over to his house to share with him right now! They turned out perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.

Cream of tartar is almost always included in snickerdoodles. I didn't have any on hand, so I was glad to find a recipe without it that came from Martha Stewart (I trust Martha). I did a little research online and found that cream of tartar has acidic properties that help the cookies rise and gives them a little bit of a tart taste. Turns out that baking powder and a bit of lemon juice achieves a similar effect. I thought these turned out great.


2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Gradually stir in flour mixture with a spoon.

2. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 30 (1 inch) balls; roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. (If you don't have parchment paper, you'll have to get the cookies off the sheet quickly after baking or they'll stick. The bottoms of a couple of my cookies got stuck to the baking sheet.)

3. Bake cookies until edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. (As always, check at the lowest time given! 12 minutes in this case. In my experience it's best to take cookies out just before they look done, and they'll be perfect. No one likes a burned cookie. Well, maybe someone does. I don't.)

Makes about 30 cookies.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart, found on eat me, delicious.


Caramel Popcorn

This is 'movie date night in' popcorn. It's 'husband on campout, chick flick watching' popcorn. It's 'gather round the table with friends to chat' popcorn. It's 'lick your fingers and nobody will mind' popcorn. It's good for many occasions. Just not for times you might need to use your hands for anything, because 1) they will be busy shoveling delicious popcorn into your mouth, and 2) they will end up covered in gooey, delicious, sticky caramel.

As you can see, this is a large batch calling for two bags of popcorn. If you're not planning on eating that much, it's a great idea to still make the full batch of caramel, then store half in a jar in your pantry. The next time you're craving caramel popcorn (or you want caramel sauce for ice-cream, brownies, french toast...) you can pull it out and heat it up.

Caramel Popcorn

1 cup brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
½ cup butter
⅔ cup sweetened condensed milk
½ tsp vanilla
2 bags popcorn, popped

Melt first 3 ingredients in saucepan over medium. Add sweetened condensed milk, bring to boil, boil till soft ball stage (drip a little caramel into ice cold water and if it forms into a ball it's ready), about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Pour over popcorn, and devour.

Another recipe from the Harding family.


Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas

Mmmmm..... We can't decide what we love most here. The mixture of melted cheeses? Our favorite barbecue sauce? The caramelized onions? The perfect blends of crispy and chewy, sweet and savory?
I think it's the combination of all those things that make these messy quesadillas so irresistable.

I'm not giving amounts, as this is less of a recipe and more of a meal idea. Increase or decrease quantities as desired for the number of people you're serving.

Barbeque Chicken Quesadillas

onion, sliced (one small onion was about right for two quesadillas)
olive oil
dash salt
dash sugar
chicken, cooked and shredded (we had 2 leftover drumsticks)
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
mozzarella cheese, shredded (any kind of cheese you have will do)
barbecue sauce

Caramelize the onions: Heat olive oil over medium-low heat (about 1 T to 1 onion), add onions, salt and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes.

Wipe out the skillet from the caramelized onions and heat to medium. Pile onions, shredded chicken and cheese on tortilla. Drip a few dollops of barbecue sauce over it, then top with a second tortilla. Toast quesadillas in skillet for a couple minutes on each side, till cheese is melted and tortillas are lightly browned.

Serve with extra barbecue sauce for dipping, if desired.


Black Bean Veggie Dip

Highly addictive. You'll love it. Makes quite a lot, so bring it to a party to share!

Black Bean Veggie Dip

1 green pepper, diced
2 avodados, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
½ cup oil
1 T. lime juice
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 packet dry italian dressing mix
cilantro, finely chopped
green onion, chopped

Place peppers, tomatoes and avocados in serving bowl. Add Lime Juice to keep avocados green (can be done before or after they are added to the others, doesn’t really make a difference).
Add corn and black beans to bowl. Add chopped cilantro and green onions to taste (amount is up to you on how much you like). In a separate bowl, reconstitute Dry Italian Mix with oil and water (The packet will say to put vinegar in, DON’T). Add/stir into veggie bowl. Serve fresh with tortilla chips!

This is another Harding family classic.


Sweet n' Spicy Asian Chicken

The sauce on this chicken is so delicious. Mostly sweet, with a tiny kick. The recipe I used called this 'Bourbon Chicken'. It doesn't have any bourbon so I tried to come up with a more appropriate name. Either way it was very delicious, and of course, fast and easy! The sauce and chicken would go great with a veggie stir fry.

Sweet n' Spicy Asian Chicken

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons oil (for pan-frying)
cornstarch (for dusting)

1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon ginger (I used ground ginger)
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup apple juice
⅓ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
½ cup water
⅓ cup soy sauce

Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces, and lightly dust with cornstarch. Heat oil in your wok and fry chicken bits in batches until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

In a bowl combine all sauce ingredients. Pour into wok and bring to a boil. Add chicken bits back to the pan, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over rice, or by its self. Would also be great mixed with vegetable stir fry.

Recipe from my new favorite food blog, My Kitchen Cafe.


Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Moist, chocolatey... and the zucchini makes it healthy..... right.....?

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

1 ½ cups shredded raw zucchini
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup oil
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Grate the zucchini, using a medium sized grater. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract until well blended (about 2 minutes). Fold in the grated zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating just until combined. Then fold in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove the bread from the pan and cool completely.

Recipe from JoyofBaking.com.


Fudge Brownies

One of those recipes you find and it haunts you until you make it. It didn't help that a friend made them after I'd seen the recipe on her blog, and after tasting them I knew how good they were. Rich and chewy and fudgy, everything a brownie should be. I never do brownies from scratch but these were so easy.

Fudge Brownies

1 cup butter, melted
3 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 x13 baking dish.
Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.
Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove, and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.
Dust with powdered sugar and top with raspberries before serving.

Recipe from the amazing Kelsey Egan.


Blueberry Boy Bait

So I'm slightly obsessed with blueberries lately. I made blueberry pancakes over the weekend that were just divine. And now it's Friday night and Klane's at scouts and what's a girl to do but bake when she's bored? I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and had to try it. With a name like that, how could you resist? I was a little misled thinking it was a dessert cake. It actually reminds me a little of my mom's breakfast cake, or a coffee cake. We had it for dessert but it worked better as breakfast. I added extra blueberries than the recipe calls for, and definitely didn't regret the decision.

Blueberry Boy Bait

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
¾ cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (though buttermilk, which was all I had on hand, worked just great)
½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping:
Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen (one of my very favorite food blogs).


Blueberry Muffins

Did you know July is National Blueberry Month? I didn't - I was informed by Klane, of all people. Anyway, blueberries were on sale this week. Hurray! Mmmm, maybe I'll make pancakes next. Or cake. Or bars. Or scones. I just can't get enough blueberries.

Blueberry Muffins

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 ½ cups blueberries
1 tablespoon flour (if using defrosted frozen berries)

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle-lower part of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together, beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each one. Beat in the grated lemon peel.
4. Beat in one half of the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Beat in one third of the yogurt. Beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients. Beat in a second third of the yogurt. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients and then the remaining yogurt. Again be careful to beat until just incorporated. Do not over beat. Fold in the berries. If you are using frozen berries, defrost them first, drain the excess liquid, and then coat them in a light dusting of flour.
5. Grease a standard 12-muffin muffin pan. Distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick (we use a thin bamboo skewer) to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin and serve slightly warm.

Makes 24 muffins.

They look so happy in there.

Recipe from Simply Recipes.

I should tell you a little secret. I often do not follow recipes because I don't have everything on hand. Whew - glad to get that off my chest. But the reason I'm telling you this is so you will know that you can still make this (and many other recipes) if you don't have every little ingredient. It might be a tad different but it will probably still be delicious. For example: I didn't have fresh lemons (so no lemon zest). Just added some lemon juice instead. Also, I got to the middle and realized I only had about 3/4 cup of vanilla yogurt. I attempted to make up the other 3/4 cup with sour cream and only had about 1/4 cup of that. So I used buttermilk. Well, actually, I didn't have buttermilk, so I used a buttermilk substitute, which is a cup of buttermilk mixed with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Goodness. That's a lot of random substitutions. And you know what? They turned out just perfect!