Monday, October 29, 2012

Un-Recipe Files - Candy Corn Mix


I feel like I have been slipping with the fall/Halloween themed recipes this year.  Here are a few items from last year that may be perfect for this week’s Halloween parties.
I am definitely in a Halloween mood after this weekend.  I went out to the suburbs and did a little trick or treating with my niece and nephews.  The cutest hippie and skeleton I have ever seen.  I didn’t get a picture of the ninja.  He was pretty cute too!
The kids were able to get a jump start on the trick or treating by going around to participating local businesses. I think they need some training on trick or treating best practices.  They were picking gummy teeth over Snickers and Smarties over Reese’s.  They’ll learn.
I have mixed emotions about candy corn.  I have no desire to eat it by itself but absolutely love it when it is paired with something salty like popcorn or peanuts.  So this un-recipe file is obviously nothing new or innovative, but just a reminder of what to do with the candy corn that always shows up this time of year. Mix it with salted peanuts or salted mixed nuts and it becomes the perfect pairing.
My mom mixed up a canister of candy corn and peanuts and put it out with a little tag for the workers at their new house.  She said they emptied it an afternoon so she refilled it and the same thing happened the next day.  There is just something addictive about that combination!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

World’s Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Perfect Pairing: Ready-to-go freezer cookies

Why yes, I did make up the name of this recipe! 
In my house, no other attempt is made at improving the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, because we have the best right here.
I have mentioned my love of the show, Friends, on this blog.  One of my all-time favorite episodes is the one with Phoebe’s cookies.  Monica was dying to know Phoebe’s grandma’s secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Apparently it made the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.  Monica made many attempts to recreate the recipe, with no luck.  Of course hilarity ensued when she got to the bottom of the story.  I could try to retell the story, but you might as well just watch it.  Never gets old.
Funny enough, this recipe was actually passed down from my great grandma Lucy.  I’m not kidding when I say it is the best.  The cookies always turn out chewy on the inside and slightly crisp around the outside.  My mom has been making them for us our entire lives.  I am 99% certain that is what we are eating in the picture below.  I never thought I would go topless on this blog….
You can also vary the cookies by adding coconut, butterscotch chips, or walnuts.  Personally, I prefer the old standard, oatmeal and chocolate chip.

The Perfect Pairing for this fantastic recipe is to freeze the leftover dough in ready-to-go cookies.  The recipe makes a big batch of cookie dough so there is always some leftover for the freezer and it freezes really well.  If you are feeling super organized you can scoop out perfect portions with your spring-loaded scoop, layer them between waxed paper, and freeze.  If you want just one cookie (yeah, right) you can pull it out and bake one off in the oven, or even in the microwave. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna Roll-Ups

Perfect Pairing:  Waxed paper

I have a great lasagna recipe that I will have to share someday.  It is absolutely fantastic, but pretty heavy and rich.  I really like these vegetarian lasagna roll-ups because they are comparatively light.  For some reason I also get a kick out of the perfect rolled up portions. 
The roll-ups look like they might be time consuming but once you get the setup figured out it goes pretty quickly.  Fortunately for you I went through a couple of trial and errors and I have developed a method that keeps the assembly line chugging along.
The Perfect Pairing for the roll-ups is waxed paper.  Weird, right?  See below for an explanation.

After mixing up the ricotta blend and cooking the mushrooms and noodles, I group them all together on the counter.  I lay a large piece of waxed paper on the counter and spray it with cooking spray.  The waxed paper creates a great workspace to lay out the noodles, and the cooking spray keeps them from sticking to the paper.  Of course, the easy clean-up is a bonus.

Spread some ricotta mixture on each noodle and top with the mushroom blend.  Lasagna noodles can be a little fussy so I recommend cooking the entire box even though you will only be using 12 noodles.  You will probably run across a few that have torn in the cooking process.  Better safe than sorry.  No one has ever called me a rebel. 

Roll up each noodle.  I like to leave a little piece of noodle at the end with no filling, it helps it to stick together.
Place all of the roll-ups seam side down in the pan.
 Cover with sauce and cheese.

 Bake until bubbly and delicious!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Perfect Pairing:  Fall music

My parents just moved into a new home and I went for a quick visit to see the (almost) finished house and to help them get settled.  As it turned out I was WAY too distracted by the new kitchen to do much settling and unpacking.  I did definitely break in the kitchen for them.
I don’t know if it was the gorgeous views from the kitchen windows but I was totally inspired to make something utterly fall-like and pumpkin-y.  Can you blame me?
 The base of the cupcake is a spice cake mix and 100% canned pumpkin.  There is no oil or fat added, which makes me feel slightly better about them.  Might as well top them off with cream cheese frosting.  Hey, I used light cream cheese.
If you are in the mood for a great fall dessert, try out these cupcakes.  They were perfect.  Just the right amount of pumpkin and fall spices.

The Perfect Pairing for these cupcakes is some really relaxing fall music.  Nothing about this music is specifically “autumn-like” but it is perfect background music while cooking.  Something about fall is very subtle and relaxing and this music is perfect.  Please note, I have not reviewed the videos, I am purely commenting on the music.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Overnight French Toast

Perfect Pairing:  Odds and ends of bread

I’m really sorry about this.
I have had a few friends ask me for brunch recipes.  I always send the same few over including the cornbread strata, all-purpose breakfast casserole, and this overnight French toast recipe.  I always apologize for sending it because I really enjoy providing healthy and delicious recipes, but this one does not exactly fall under the healthy category.  It could be worse, I suppose, but it is no egg white omelet. 
Anyway, I ran across this recipe on Food For My Family a few years ago and was blown away.  It is so simple!  It is so crazy good!  It takes about 10 minutes to put the base together before you go to bed, and then a few minutes in the morning to add the topping.  So simple.  The bread almost takes on a custard consistency.  It reminds me of bread pudding.  The top is crunchy and sweet.  You can use a drizzle of syrup to serve, but it hardly needs it.

The Perfect Pairing for this recipe are all of the odds and ends of bread products hanging out in your bread drawer/freezer/refrigerator.  Might as well throw in that leftover hot dog bun and the sorta stale French bread from yesterday’s dinner.  In fact, you want slightly stale bread so that it soaks up the milk mixture.  If you have fresh bread you can slice and toast in the oven a bit.  Thank you Food For My Family for the awesome recipe!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Coconut Curry Grilled Pineapple

Perfect Pairing:  Marinated chicken

I am slowly getting to be more adventurous with the grill.  I used to always leave the grilling up to my dad and brothers, but I find myself grilling more and more.  In all honesty, if I am with the men in my family they are still in charge of the grill.   I have a feeling that will never change.  Men like fire.
You might as well grill your side dishes if you have the grill heated up.  I grill all kinds of vegetables and fruit.  I think the best grilled fruit is pineapple, it is straight up delicious.
I had grilled plain pineapple a lot (and it was great), but decided to make a quick coconut and curry marinade.  It really added a lot to the fruit.  Grilled pineapple is very sweet and this marinade adds a savory side as well.  I like the kick of curry and cayenne. 
My brother recommended brushing the pineapple with leftover marinade while it was grilling.  This was key.  It kept the pineapple moist and added a lot of flavor.
The recipe makes quite a bit of marinade.  It is not easy to cut the marinade in half because of the can of coconut milk.  Of course, you could easily marinate two pineapples.  My solution was to use half of the marinade for pineapple and the other half for chicken.

The Perfect Pairing for Coconut Curry Grilled Pineapple is marinated chicken.  After separating out half of the pineapple marinade I added cumin, ground coriander and the chicken breasts.  The chicken was grilled alongside the pineapple.  They went so well together.  I made this meal for my parents and grandma this summer and everyone raved.  In fact, my grandma said she would pay $23 for that meal in a restaurant.  Let’s just say that is a really big deal for Grandma Rosie.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Turkey Enchiladas

Perfect Pairing:  Double batch
I decided that it is really hard to take a pretty picture of enchiladas.  While they may not be beautiful, they are really tasty.  I like to use lean ground turkey and fat free refried beans in this recipe to keep the fat down.  They are great served with sour cream and cilantro with a salad on the side.
I have never been a big fan of getting my hands or utensils really messy when cooking but I just have to deal with it in this recipe.  It is hard to not have sauce all over your hands and spoon. 
The trick is to coat both sides of the tortilla with enchilada sauce before filling it.  I use the same pan that I used to brown the turkey

The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is a double batch.  Once you have the assembly line going it does not take much time to make another pan.  They can be frozen and thrown in the oven for a great dinner when you are too busy to prepare something.  You could also freeze them in 8x8 dishes for a smaller crowd.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Un-Recipe Files - Grilled Pesto Shrimp


I pretty much enjoy everything that goes along with cooking.  Even the tedious tasks that make some people crazy like chopping, stirring risotto, getting the last of the mayonnaise/peanut butter/honey out of the jar.  I like all of those things. 
I do NOT enjoy peeling and deveining shrimp.  Do not, do not, do not. 
A couple of years ago my family was on vacation in Cabo and my dad bought a few pounds of shrimp directly off one of the shrimp boats while he was deep sea fishing with my brother.  We had a kitchen in our condo and my brother and I had some great ideas for the shrimp.  I was tasked with peeling and deveining those suckers.  Oh my gosh, I think I worked on them for two hours.  I distinctly remember the sun shining when I started and it was black outside when I finished. 
Fortunately, I have a fabulous grocery store right next to me that always sells fresh shrimp that are peel and vein free.  Luxury. 
As long as you don’t have to mess with deveining the shrimp, this appetizer could not be easier.  Just marinate raw, fresh shrimp in pesto (store bought or homemade) for a couple of hours.  Heat up the grill and toss them on.  Serve with toothpicks to adoring fans.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lake House Brownies

Perfect Pairing:  Eight cup microwaveable bowl
Lake House Brownies are kind of a big deal in my family.  I am sure they had a different name at one time but we started calling them Lake House Brownies a long time ago because we always seemed to have them at the lake and the name stuck.

My aunt Pam started making these years ago to bring to the lake in the summer.  Everyone always lost their mind over those brownies.  We pretty much told Aunt Pam that she was not allowed back unless she came with Lake House Brownies.  Not really.  Well, kind of. 
My brother had his bachelor party at the lake with about 30 guys.  No joke, 30 guys stayed for the weekend and consumed crazy amounts of bacon.  There was probably beer involved, but that is just a good guess.  I just remember hearing about the bacon.  Anyway, my aunt was driving through and brought a pan of brownies.  She hand delivered them to my dad and told him that he better hide the pan.  I think the last time she brought them my dad never got a chance to get one.  Well, my cousin Scott heard there were Lake House Brownies under the bed and pulled them out for everyone.  Sadly, my dad never got one.  It is kind of a sore spot to this day.  You really have to watch Scott.
I wanted to take a picture of the brownies this summer for the blog.  Apparently I waited a little too long.  When I looked in the refrigerator this is what I found.  I guess no one wanted to be responsible for taking the last piece.
What I am trying to say is that these brownies are really good.  Insanely good.  How could you go wrong?  Homemade brownie bottom, marshmallow cream, and a topping of chocolate, peanut butter and rice cereal.  Amazing.

The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is an eight cup microwaveable bowl, like the one by Pyrex.  This seems like such a simple tool but it is one thing I would not be without in my kitchen.  It is great to melt the chocolate and peanut butter, and is large enough to stir in the rice cereal.  It always cleans up easily in the dishwasher.  Gotta have it.

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