October 25, 2011

Dinner Club - Theme Comfort Food

Dinner Club was this past Friday and the theme was Comfort Food.  I can't even tell you how happy that made me.  I'm all about comfort food and seeing what other peoples favorites are.  Melissa Y hosted this time and she made the delicious hot cocoa you see above.  She also made a main dish but it's a secret family recipe that she can't share so I didn't even take a picture of it.

The hot chocolate was perfectly sweet with a hint of cinnamon.  She made hers and put it in a slow cooker to keep warm.  GREAT party idea!

Hot Cocoa

1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cups of cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup hot water
1 gallon of milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon

In large saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa & salt. Add hot water slowly, mixing well. Cook over med heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. Add milk and heat to serving temperature, DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat and add vanilla and cinnamon, whipping with a whisk. Serve hot with marshmallows or whipped cream.

Lisa F made this totally delicious clam chowder.  I'm telling you that this rivals any clam chowder I've had at a restaurant. Very thick, creamy, full of clams and rich flavor.

Clam Chowder

1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of potato soup
1 (10.75 ounce) can New England clam chowder
2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams
1 quart half-and-half cream
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 potatoes peeled and cut up
1 pkg bacon cut up

Mix cream of celery soup, cream of potato soup, clam chowder, 1 can undrained clams, 1 can drained clams, potato, half-and-half cream, and whipping cream into a slow cooker.

Cover, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Add cooked bacon at the end


TiNeill R made two items and I totally fell in love with both.  I'm not the worlds biggest cucumber lover but I couldn't stop eating this! There was a saltiness in the creamy mixture and the dill on top of the cucumber was so yummy.  I could have eaten all of this myself. 

Creamy Dill Cucumber Toasties



TiNeill also made these show stopper cupcakes.  They had a rolo INSIDE.  I find it hard to even think of anything more tempting.

Rolo Cupcakes

1 (18.25 ounce) package Devil’s Food Cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs; lightly beaten
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon of vanilla
24 frozen Rolos (freeze for at least 2 hours)

For the frosting

4 sticks unsalted butter; room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
⅓ cup caramel syrup
1 1/2 pounds confectioners’ sugar

For the ganache

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
24 Rolos for garnish


For the cupcakes
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Line (2) 12 cup muffin tins with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs, water and vanilla until well combined and smooth.

4. Evenly divide the batter amongst the prepared pans. {I use a large cookie scoop from OXO to scoop my batter; it holds 3 tablespoons}.

5. Gently push a frozen Rolo into the center of the batter and smooth the surface making sure to cover the candy with batter.

6. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch. A small divot may appear in the center of the cupcake, no worries though because you’ll cover that with frosting.

7. Cool cupcakes thoroughly on wire rack.

For the frosting

1. Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract, salt and caramel syrup and combine well.

2. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, give it a taste and decide if you want to add in more caramel syrup. For thicker frosting you can gradually add in a little more sugar.

For the ganache

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the heavy cream until very hot, but not boiling.

2. Place chocolate pieces in a heat safe bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth and thoroughly combined. Whisk in the honey, corn syrup, and vanilla. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Do not let the glaze sit for too long or it will harden up before you spoon it over the frosting.

3. Spoon the glaze on the tops of the frosted cupcakes, allowing it to drip down the sides a little bit. Don’t add too much glaze or it will drip all over your liners.

4. Top each cupcake with a Rolo.

5. Store cupcakes in the refrigerator. Remove them to room temperature one hour before serving.

Anjanette made this Chicken Pot Pie.  Perfect comfort food dish, full of creamy sauce and chunks of chicken with veggies.  I loved it!

Chicken Pot Pie

2 cups cooked diced chicken
1 can cream of celery soup concentrate
1 can cream of chicken soup concentrate
1 cup half and half
1 cup milk
3 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 tbsp powdered onion
1 tsp powdered garlic
½ tsp seasoning salt
1½ tsp cornstarch
2 prepared pie crusts

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all ingredients, except cornstarch and pie crusts, in a pot over medium heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid scorching. Add cornstarch and cook for another 10 minutes until thickened. Oil a casserole dish and line the bottom with 1 prepared pie crust. Cook bottom crust in oven for no more than 10 minutes, just until it starts to flake. Remove from oven and pour filling over bottom crust, then place second crust on top. Brush top crust with butter and poke a few holes to vent. Bake for about 15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Lisa W made two items, the pineapple cake left and some queso dip. Both were a big hit.  The queso was simply Velveeta and a can of Retell tomatoes.  The cake was a boxed yellow cake mix and she put a delicious pineapple frosting on top.
Pineapple Frosting

1 pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 can drained crushed pineapple
1 tub of cool whip.

I made the chocolate cake with butter cream icing above which I posted about separately.

October 23, 2011

Chocolate Cake with Butter Cream Frosting

Dinner Club this month was "Comfort Food" and I made chocolate cake. I made my chocolate cake look like a pumpkin because it's October and I'm festive like that. I can't think of anything more comforting then chocolate cake.  Well that's not entirely true, everything at the dinner club was comforting but there's an entirely different post for that.

I read about this recipe on one of the blogs I follow "I am baker" and she said it's her go-to chocolate cake recipe and I would whole heartedly agree.  This is so moist, light, great chocolate flavor, easy to make.  Just perfect.  I think you'll be adding this one to your go-to favorite recipe's too.

I obviously used a bundt pan to make mine but you could use any kind of pan you like, 9x13, two 9 inch rounds, cupcakes, whatever.

I didn't feel like photographing the process up to this point was needed since it's pretty self explanatory. 

I cooked this bundt cake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes and then gave it the toothpick test and it was perfect.

I used a butter cream frosting recipe that I found on the Food Network site and it is incredible.  I loved the texture and vanilla flavor. 

To make the frosting you just need 4 ingredients.  Butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla and heavy cream.  Mix the butter and sugar together first until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and cream to the texture you prefer. 


I used 12 drops of yellow and 4 drops of red to make the orange color. The green was easy, just
keep adding until you've reached the color you're looking for.

I frosted the entire cake orange first.  Then frosted a shot glass green and used a cut paper cup under the shot glass for the stem.  I put the remaining green frosting in a zip lock bag and cut the corner off so I could pipe the green lines on the rest of the cake.

I had extra frosting so I used it to make some leaves.

Everyone seemed to really enjoy it and when I got home my husband tried it and said it's his new favorite chocolate cake and frosting.  I highly recommend these recipes.

The chocolate cake recipe was found here

The buttercream frosting recipe was found here

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your cake pan with cooking spray liberally.

In a large bowl sift together the flour sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  I usually add the salt after the sifting since kosher salt usually doesn't fit easy get sifted for me.

In the bowl of your stand mixer add the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together and then slowly add the dry ingredients.  After it's all mixed together well add the hot coffee and mix until blended.

Pour into your baking dish and bake for between 35-40 minutes.  You will want to watch it toward the end and test it often depending on which dish you are using.  My Bundt pan took about 40 minutes.

3 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

In the bowl of your stand mixer add the confectioners sugar and the butter.  Mix on slow speed at first and then bring up to medium speed for three minutes.

Add the vanilla and cream and mix for an additional minute.

October 19, 2011

5 Minute Fudge

Fudge in 5 minutes?  Yep, I promise.  I saw the recipe and was like "yeah right" but honestly it came together that quickly.  You do need some time for it to chill in the refrigerator before cutting but that's the longest part of this recipe.  I brought some to work today and it got great reviews!  It's got a slightly different texture than the slow process fudge you might be used to - but different in a good way.  It's not grainy at ALL.  Very smooth, great chocolate flavor.  With only three ingredients you can't beat this recipe for a quick treat. You won't even need your stove!!!

Add a can of sweetened condensed milk to the chocolate chips and butter.

Microwave for a couple minutes and then stir.  Now microwave again for another couple of minutes.  You shouldn't need more than 5 minutes for this process.

You might need to stir briskly to get the fudge to come together after microwaving.  You should see it start to turn into a smooth chocolate after a few quick stirs. 

Pour into an 8x8 inch pan and refrigerate for an hour or so until chilled.  I let mine chill overnight.


Recipe found on the Allrecipes website here

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (you can also use peanut butter chips)
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large microwavable bowl, mix together the chocolate chips, butter and sweetened condensed milk.  Microwave for 2 minutes. Stir and microwave for another 2 minutes or until they mixture is completely melted and can be stirred until smooth.

Pour the chocolate into a well greased 8x8 inch pan and refrigerate until chilled.  Cut into squares.

October 17, 2011

Campfires and wagon rides

We had such a fun weekend.  Busy busy busy! Somewhere in it all we did fit in a campfire and a good opportunity to teach my daughter some marshmallow roasting techniques.  I'm sort of an expert. Do you like the boots she's wearing? I think they go perfectly with the tutu.

Next stop was a nearby ranch that has tons of animals you can feed out of the back of a horse drawn wagon.  It was so much fun! We went in the late afternoon so they had their fill pretty much from a day full of people throwing food at them but with a little pursuasion from our wagon driver they came over for some snacks.

There were so many animals I don't remember what half of them were but I do know that I've never seen a lot of them. 

The Fall Festival was the last stop of the weekend.  At least we got there before they put the horses away this time which meant "someone" had to skip her nap.  Yeah, my daughter had to skip hers too, hahaha I crack myself up. Anyway, she loves horses and I try to get her on one every chance I get.

On this same trip we also tackled a corn maze.  Totally fun, for a while there I actually felt like we might be lost. I think it's not a good corn maze until you feel a little lost. I love fall, don't you?

October 14, 2011

Perfect Pancakes

We're a bunch of carb addicts in my household, in case you haven't noticed.  In my defence, it's hard to have breakfast without carbs.  What I like about having pancakes on a weekend morning is that
1. My daughter can help me make them. Kids love to help. :)
2. They are yummy.
3. You can dress them up any way you want, with fruit, grains, chocolate chips, whatever.  Anything goes.
4. You can freeze the leftovers and then pop them in the microwave on busy weekday mornings!

I love this recipe, they turn out fluffy in the middle and smooth golden brown on the top and bottom.  The flavor is perfection.  I wish I'd come up with this recipe; but I didn't.  You can find the original recipe here.

Here's a helpful tip that you may or may not already know.  If you're trying to make your pancakes somewhat of a uniform size, try using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour the batter onto the griddle. :)

Fluffy Pancakes

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • cooking spray

Start by mixing the milk and the vinegar together in a small bowl which will make buttermilk. Set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl first, then add the wet ingredients and mix together (a whisk works well here) so that there are no lumps.

Heat your griddle or skillet.  If you're using a non-stick griddle you probably won't need the cooking spray.  Otherwise add the cooking spray before scooping 1/4 cup of batter and pouring slowly onto your griddle or skillet.  When you see bubbles forming on the top and the sides begin to look dry it's time to flip them.  Once flipped it only takes a minute to become brown on the other side.  Move to a plate and continue making pancakes until all the batter is used. 

Freeze the leftovers in a freezer plastic storage bag and when ready to warm up just put onto a microwavable safe plate and heat (still frozen) for about 1 minute in the microwave.  Microwaves are all different so the time will depend on how many you're heating up at once and the power of your microwave.

October 12, 2011

Lisa W's Calico Beans

Thank you Lisa!  I love these beans.  Lisa always makes them for our cul-de-sac parties and they are one of the things I can get my daughter to eat and my husband loves them.  We were at Lisa's house recently and she had some of these made and I jumped at the chance to get the recipe!  I made a full batch the next day and froze about half of it for another time. 

I used butter beans because my husband won't eat Lima beans but you can use whatever you like.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix it up. 

You'll need to cook the bacon beforehand.

Pour the mixture into a 9x13 inch pan and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Calico Beans
1/2 lb bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
1/2 lb hamburger, cooked and drained
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 cans pork and beans
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can Lima beans, drained (I used butter beans)
1/3 c. ketchup
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. mustard

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the bacon, drain and crumble then set aside.  Saute the chopped onion just until slightly tender, set aside.  Brown the hamburger and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix carefully.  Pour into a 9x13 inch pan and bake for 1 hour.  Let cool slightly before serving.

October 10, 2011

Princesses and Hay Bales.

How on earth do you fit Princesses and Hay Bales into the same topic?  Well, you go to Disney on Ice and watch princesses and surround yourself with the cutest little kids all totally freaking out over their favorite princesses most of which are dressed up like one, and then you go to a fall festival in your area and pick pumpkins and play on hay bales.  Guess which one my daughter had the most fun at?  Disney you say?  Wrong!  She was just sort of entertained by the Disney Princesses but give that girl a hay bale and she's a happy camper.

Yep, we found the perfect little pumpkin that she proudly carried and showed to everyone on the wagon ride and then tossed it to me over her shoulder when she saw the hay bales.  Geesh.

Inside the arena where we were about to be dazzled by ice skaters in costume!  Well, I was dazzled and my daughter was mildly amused.  It was fun to be able to share with her the joys of living sort of close to a city.  She loves the train ride in and she loves the really tall buildings, and I love that she loves it.

October 8, 2011

Cake Mix Lemon Cookies

Update: I've made this cookie several times over the last several years and this cookie still gets ton's of attention and admiration.

They are the perfect chewy cookie with tons of lemon flavor.  The confectioners sugar that you roll them in before baking make this a very attractive cookie, it crackles when baked.  So pretty. Not to mention the sweetness that is added.

This one's perfect for outdoor parties because they can get warm and not melt all over the place.

Cake Mix Lemon Cookies
Recipe from allrecipes.com

  • 1 box Lemon Cake Mix
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp lemon extract, I used lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper
  3. Mix all of the ingredients except the confectioners sugar in a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  4. Use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to get a ball of dough, roll the ball in the confectioners sugar and place on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart from each other.
  5. Bake for about 8-9 minutes. The bottoms will be golden brown but the tops will remain pale.
  6. Let sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack.

October 6, 2011

Diamond Bread

I've had these cookbooks sitting in my bookshelf for years.  I absolutely love them because there is a picture with each recipe, they are in a three ring type book (two books actually) so the pages easily stay in place when you're making something and the instructions are easy to follow.  For some reason I never remember to look through them and actually make the things I have marked. Probably because I want to make every single page of the book, so no marking necessary. 

I finally got around to making this bread.  I only cut enough off to taste it and then I froze the rest because it's not really a sandwich type bread.  It's very hearty, nutty flavor which would be perfect with a soup or stew.  I plan to break it out again once I get into the full winter swing of things and I've got a nice new soup to try it with.  It's called diamond bread because you bake it in a 9x13 in pan instead of loaf pans and you cut a diamond shape into it before you bake it.

Recipe from "The Great American Home Baking" book.

1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water
1 1/2 c. milk
1 large egg
1/4 c. honey
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 c. rye flour
1 c. old fashioned oats
2 1/2 to 3 c. bread flour

Dissolve the yeast and water (105 - 115 degrees) in the bowl of your stand mixer until foamy (5-10 min.). Stir in the milk, egg, honey, vegetable oil, salt and cinnamon.  Once blended add the rye flour and the oats and beat until blended. Add the bread flour 1/2 c. at a time until a soft dough forms.

On a floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 -10 minutes, adding flour as needed until the dough becomes elastic.  Place the dough in a well greased bowl, turn to coat and then cover and put in a warm place to rise for about an hour until doubled in size.

Grease at 9x13 inch pan and form the dough into it, smoothing the top as much as possible.  Cover and let rise again until doubled in size.  About 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Lightly score the dough with a sharp knife with a diamond pattern, and then bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until hollow sounding when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack.

October 4, 2011

Chocolate Marshmallows

The first time I ever made homemade marshmallows was in Home Economics class in high school.  I've been intimidated of the process for all of these years KNOWING it isn't difficult and yet I still have put it off.  I don't know what happened to me this last weekend to make me decide that it was time to conquer my fears and try something new.  I'm so glad I did.  I really enjoyed these.  I used the basic Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder but might try the Dutch processed kind next time to really kick up the chocolate flavor.  These had a mild chocolate flavor, very soft texture just like you'd expect a homemade marshmallow to be.  After I cut these I rolled them around in a mixture of confectioners sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder.  They are so good.  I can't wait to make just regular one's and then toast them up on a campfire.  I'm not scared anymore and I plan to experiment with lots of new flavors.  So much fun!  The longest part of this process was just waiting all day for them to set up before cutting them. Once you try homemade marshmallows you will never go back to store bought.

Once you've heated the water in the microwave you can add the chocolate powder and mix until smooth.

Combine the gelatin and water in your stand mixer bowl and let sit for 5 minutes or so.

Once the gelatin has set you can incorporate the chocolate mixture and blend until smooth.

In a large sauce pan combine the remaining water, corn syrup and sugar.  Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Once dissolved insert a candy thermometer and let cook until the temperature reaches 240 degrees - do not stir.


Pour the hot liquid into the mixing bowl with the chocolate/gelatin mixture.

Start the mixer on a low speed and gradually increase it until it's on high.  Whip the mixture for about 15-20 minutes.  You'll know it's done when it's lighter in color, fluffy looking but streams off the paddle when you lift it up.  It'll look very shiny but be very sticky.

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan.

Smooth out the top as much as possible and let sit for about 10 hours. When you're ready to cut them, get your work surface ready by covering it with wax paper, sprinkle it with the confectioners sugar and cocoa mixture.  While the marshmallows are still in the pan, sprinkle them with some confectioners sugar and cocoa mixture, then flip them onto the work surface.  Use the instructions below to cut them into squares.

1/3 cup plus 4 tbsp cocoa powder, divided
1-1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp water, divided
3 envelopes gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Line a 9x13 in pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil liberally with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small microwavable bowl, add ¼ cup plus 2 tbsp water and microwave for 2 minutes. Pour 1/3 cup cocoa powder over the hot water, and stir or whisk to dissolve the cocoa. This gets a big sticky.

Place ½ cup cold water in the bowl of a large stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and stir briefly to distribute. Let gelatin sit and dissolve for at least 5 minutes.

Spoon warm cocoa mixture into gelatin, and stir or mix on low to thoroughly combine.

Place remaining 1/2 cup of water, corn syrup, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and insert a candy thermometer.

Cook the syrup mixture without stirring until it reaches 240 degrees on the thermometer. Brush down the sides occasionally with a wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization if needed (I didn't need to). While the candy cooks, briefly run the mixer on low once or twice to ensure the gelatin and cocoa is well-mixed.

Remove the syrup mixture from the heat immediately when it reaches 240 degrees. Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour the hot syrup into the mixer bowl. Be careful, as the syrup is extremely hot. Make sure your mixer speed is set to low to begin with.

Slowly up the speed on the mixer until it is on high.  Whip the mixture for 15-20 minutes.  You will notice the marshmallow liquid changes color and as it whips it will become shiny.  You will know it's done when it's shiny and pours in an even stream when lifting the paddle out of the bowl.
Pour the marshmallow into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Allow it to sit and firm up at room temperature for at least 10 hours.

Sift the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder together. You can either cover your workstation with wax paper or use a cookie sheet to spread some of the sugar/cocoa mixture out.  Pour some of the sugar/cocoa mixture on top of the marshmallows before you take them out of the pan.  Cover liberally and then flip onto your work surface.

Peel the tin foil off of the marshmallows (mine came off very easily). You can spray a large knife with non-stick cooking spray and then coat in the sugar mixture or you can be like me and skip that step.  The marshmallows didn't stick to the knife for me but if they do for you then revert to the previous step. Cut the marshmallow into squares, coating the knife blade with sugar as needed. Roll the marshmallows around in the sugar mixture to coat all sides.
Keep the marshmallows in an airtight container at room temperature.  Do not refrigerate or keep in a humid place.  They will only last about a week so they are best eaten right away.

Recipe changed slightly from here