December 31, 2013

Top 5 of 2013

Crockpot Ham and Bean Soup

I couldn't get enough of this soup when I made it.  Very simple and totally delicious, this was my most viewed recipe of 2013.  With the weather so chilly right now, I think I'll go make some.

Samoa Brownies

I fell in love with this recipe the moment I dumped a truckload of caramel coconut over the top and then drizzled it with chocolate.  How can you not love this?

Baked Potato Casserole

Everyone should keep this recipe in their recipe box for those unexpected visitors.  No strange ingredients and in fact you probably have them all available right at this very moment. Combine them together and you get a sure fire hit at the dinner table.

Pineapple Gelato

Number four most viewed recipe from my blog is this Gelato.  I'm thrilled that people were so drawn to it because it is mighty tasty.  Very cool and refreshing on a hot day.

Baked Old Fashioned Donuts

Last but not least, one of my favorite recipes for an old fashioned cake donut that is baked in my very own oven.  I used the baking part as an excuse to eat more.

Thanks to all of you who visit my blog, pin it on Pinterest or share it on Facebook.  I appreciate all of your support and hope to see you and all your friends in 2014!

December 30, 2013

Butterscotch Squares

If you've ever been, currently are or have ever lived in the Northwest you will recognize the name of "See's Candy".  This recipe is meant to be a copycat recipe of their butterscotch squares candy.

I thought this was a super easy recipe to follow and the end result was a super sweet, super yummy candy.  Now, pay close attention because I don't say this very often.  This candy is super SWEET.  So cut the squares very small.  I made mine about 1 inch square and literally had to eat it in sections with a break in between.  You might be able to lesson the sweetness a little if you used a darker chocolate coating but overall I like the milk chocolate.

I think this is a great treat to serve at a party since it doesn't take more then a bite to get your sweet tooth fix.  Overall, very yummy and I'm glad I tried it.

CopyCat Butterscotch Squares
Recipe from CrazyForCrust

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 16 ounces melting chocolate for dipping (like Candiquick or almond bark)
Cooking Directions
  1. Line a 9x9 or 8x8 inch pan with tin foil and then spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium high heat, combine the brown sugar, cream and butter.  Stir until melted.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  
  3. Use a candy thermometer to bring mixture to 236º, stirring occasionally.  About 7-8 minutes.  
  4. Turn the heat off and stir in the vanilla and salt.  Whisk in the powdered sugar and pour into the prepared pan. 
  5. Let set at room temperature for a few hours or up a day ahead of time. 
  6. Remove the foil from the pan and use a large knife to cut the square into quarters.  Now cut each quarter into small squares.  Use a swift cut to avoid breaking pieces. 
  7. Melt the chocolate according to the package directions and then dip each square, tapping off the excess chocolate.  Place on wax paper and chill to set. 

December 27, 2013

Chocolate Covered Caramels

7-minute microwave caramels to be exact.  This was one of my favorite candies that I made this year.  My love for caramels combined with my love of chocolate made this a dangerous dessert for me to keep in my house.  I did give some away but I should have given it ALL away because I ate them like, well, like candy.  I kept them in the refrigerator but if you take them out about 10 minutes prior to eating they are perfect.  If you leave them out for too long the chocolate gets a little to melty, if you eat them cold the caramel isn't chewy it's brittle.  Trust me, I tested it both ways.

If you're timid about trying to make caramels then this is a great recipe to try since you don't need a candy thermometer and you don't have to think about what "stage" it's in.  If you follow the directions carefully you will have delicious caramels.

It is very important to read the directions carefully, all the way through, before you begin.  After reading the directions I was scared to deviate.  I'm glad I didn't.  You should make this when you can dedicate the 7 minutes to nothing but this process.  Do it when the kids are outside or napping, don't answer the phone, don't talk to anyone.  Concentrate on the process, it's only 7 minutes, you can do it.

Chocolate Covered Caramels
Recipe from Avery Cooks

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup (light colored variety)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • chocolate for dipping (I used half a bag of milk chocolate chips and 1/2 a bag of semi-sweet)
  • 1 to 4 Tbsp vegetable shortening (optional but will make them shiny and pretty)
  • sprinkles, jimmies, crushed nuts, sea salt, graham crackers, etc.
  1. Have all of your ingredients ready beforehand, this is fast moving. 
  2. Line a 8x8 or 9x9 square pan with tin foil, then spray with cooking spray. 
  3. Use a very large microwave safe bowl (it will get very hot).  You need room for the bubbling up that this will do in the microwave so just use the biggest one you have that will fit in the microwave. 
  4. Melt the butter for about 45 seconds or until completely melted. 
  5. Add the sugars, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk to the melted butter and stir until smooth. 
  6. Microwave again on high heat for 3 minutes 30 seconds. 
  7. Use a hot pad to remove the bowl from the microwave and scrape down the sides very well.  Even though it doesn't appear to be much on the sides, you need to get ALL the sugar crystals off the sides of the bowl otherwise your caramel will be grainy.  Once you've scraped down the sides, use a damp paper towel to wipe the sides down.  You don't want any sugar crystals on the sides of the bowl. 
  8. Return the bowl to the microwave for another 3 minutes 30 seconds. Watch this last cook cycle carefully so you can stop the microwave if it does begin to bubble up and might potentially go over the top of your bowl.  Use a hot pad to remove the bowl from the microwave and very carefully add the vanilla extract.  The mixture will bubble up when the vanilla is added.  Stir to incorporate - being very careful as it will be extremely hot and bubbly. 
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and then cover with tin foil and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. 
  10. When cool, lift the tin foil sides up and place it on a cutting board.  Use a sharp knife to cut the caramels into small cubes.  I did this by cutting the square into 6 long strips first, then 6 strips in the other direction.  If the caramel is still cold it will almost break off after the initial cut. As they warm, they will get softer. 
  11. Use the double boiling method to melt the chocolate, or use the microwave in intervals to melt it but not over cook it. 
  12. Make sure the caramels are still cold when you dip them into the chocolate.  You may need to refrigerate them while you are melting the chocolate so they are cold and don't melt while you are dipping them. 
  13. Use a fork to dip them into the chocolate, tap off the excess and place on wax paper or parchment paper. Sprinkle them with whatever you choose. 
  14. Place them into the refrigerator to set the chocolate.  Move them to an airtight bag or container. I would keep them refrigerated until about 10 minutes prior to eating. 

December 23, 2013

PW's Big Chocolate Birthday Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

My husbands birthday was this past Friday and this was his cake.  Four layers of deliciousness. He loves raspberry so the layers were slathered in raspberry jam and then the entire thing was frosted with chocolate buttercream.  It was yummy. 

He first saw this recipe while I was watching a DVR'd episode of The Pioneer Woman and told me this was the cake for him.  Of course he had my add some raspberry layers which I was happy to do for the birthday boy. 

I love this cake recipe, usually it's a sheet cake recipe but I've made it as cupcakes too.  It's divine, I love the texture and flavor.  I have posted this recipe on a smaller scale before, but it was nice and handy to have the appropriate measurements for this 4-layer version.  

If you're doing the raspberry jam layers, don't go too heavy on the jam.  If you do, the layers will start to slide off to the side. Not a good look.

Big Chocolate Raspberry Cake
modified slightly from The Pioneer Woman

  • 4 sticks butter, softened + more for the pans
  • 8 heaping Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder +  more for the pans
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 whole eggs
  • **Raspberry Jam (see below)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º, grease 4 - 9" round cake pans, then coat with cocoa powder
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Set aside. 
  3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and then add the cocoa powder and mix until smooth. Add the boiling water and allow to boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. 
  4. Add the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and stir will.  let cool slightly. 
  5. In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla extract and the eggs that been beaten. 
  6. Slowly add to the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. 
  7. Put and equal amount of batter into the four prepared pans. 
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. 
  9. Let cool completely before frosting, cool the layers in the refrigerator for best results before frosting. 
**If you're going to add the raspberry layers - I used a jar of my favorite raspberry preserves and put them in each layer - no frosting, just preserves.  Go easy on the preserves otherwise the layers will side off each other. 

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Recipe from Savory Sweet Life

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp almond extract
  • 4 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
  1. In your stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy - 2-3 minutes. 
  2. Add the confectioners sugar, use low speed until the mix has come together (to prevent your kitchen from being covered in a cloud of sugar). 
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth. 
  4. If you need a thicker frosting, add a little more sugar one Tbsp at a time.  If it needs to be thinned, add a little more milk. 

December 18, 2013

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows

This is what happens when I have nothing sweet in the house and my holiday baking day is only four days away but I just can't wait! I get myself into trouble.  It doesn't help that I've got a sweet's loving little girl who encourages this outrageous behavior.  She even helped!  Do you think I could blame it all on her and claim to be the victim?

Didn't think so.

People know me way to well to believe that malarky.

Even thought this isn't much of a "recipe", there are a million ways to dress these babies up and make them super special.

For example:

Crushed candy canes.

Sprinkles - this one is my daughters.  She loves some sprinkles, the more the better in her book.

You could also roll them in crushed graham cracker (like a Smore), drizzle them with white chocolate, roll them in those tiny little M&M's or any tiny or cut up candy, or you could melt mint chocolate chips which are plentiful during the holiday season.  I've also seen where you can dip them in caramel first, then in chocolate.  I will be trying that one later. I bet crushed up toffee would be awesome! The possibilities are endless.

Here's all you need.

1 bag of regular sized marshmallows.
1 bag of your favorite chocolate chips.
Cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or wax paper.

Just melt the chocolate in a double boiler, dip the tip of the toothpick in chocolate before inserting it into the marshmallow and dip, roll, sprinkle until your heats content.  Refrigerate when you're done dipping and decorating to set the chocolate.

December 16, 2013

Quick Queso

I know many of you will be attending a party of some sort this coming weekend.  I have a quick easy suggestion for an appetizer you can bring with you.

First of all, I saw these cute tortilla chips at WalMart.  Then I grabbed a cube of white Velveeta and a can of Rotel tomatoes and that's it!  I know many of you might already have this recipe, but if you don't you're missing out on some quick party magic.  Easy, delicious!

There is a slight "kick" with this, if you prefer no kick you can also just add some mild salsa.

Another suggestion is to brown some breakfast sausage or some Italian sausage and stir that in as well. So many possibilities.  The version above has the pretty red, green and white colors though. Very festive.

Quick Queso

  • I box White Velveeta
  • 1 can (10 oz) Rotel (tomatoes with green chilies)
Cooking Directions
  1. Cut the Velveeta in large chunks and put into a large saucepan.
  2. Begin melting over low heat.
  3. Add the can of Rotel, juice and all. Stir until smooth.
  4. Serve warm.

December 12, 2013

I met The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond!

Sorry for my lack of posting yesterday, but I was getting ready for this. 

Meeting Ree Drummond has been on the top of my list….well for years really, but mostly for the last month or so.  As soon as I found out she would be coming to Charlotte to sign copies of her new book, I knew I'd be going. 

Let me set the scene for you: 

I arrived at the bookstore around 4 pm (for a 6pm signing), bought the book, got my number (number 200) and waited to be called into my line spot at 5pm.  All of us women stood around chatting until Ree strolled into the bookstore at 6pm sharp.  Can I just say that my shock wasn't as much seeing Ree as seeing that she was completely ALONE!  Ree, if you need a personal assistant I'm here for you!! I thought she'd at least have an agent, publisher, friend, someone with her!  

She walked up the LONG line of people and stopped in front of my little section of the line and said, "I guess I'll just follow the line until I find my seat."  She waved and was so kind, big smiles; it was magical. 

Next was the waiting game.  I've never been to a book signing before so I didn't know what to expect but apparently they are all different based on the person.  Ree just happens to love to chat and take pictures with people and take her time with everyone.  It took about 2 1/2 hours to make my way to her after she started signing.  Of course, by the time I got her to my voice was gone and I sounded like that little "Charley in the box" toy on that Santa show.  I was squeaky and it was awesome.  I just handed over my books, squatted down with my daughter for a quick picture, chatted briefly about how strangely my name is spelled, and then I was off.  

Ree is really the nicest person.  Even after signing books for more than two hours, by the time I reached her she was pleasant, didn't rush us, and smiled brightly.  We were her last stop before heading home to Oklahoma to see her family for the holiday's, and yet she was so pleasant and beautiful.  I'm so glad my first experience at a book signing was with The Pioneer Woman.  I've read things about her, staying for as long as it takes to sign all the books, and I know that to be true.  The book store had closed by the time I left and they were going to stay open for as long as it took to get everyone in line.  It was fabulous.  If you ever get a chance to meet her, it's WELL worth your time!

Oh, and one more thing, it was the strangest thing, when I met her I felt like we were old friends.  Seriously.  I wasn't nervous and I didn't trip and land on my face.  After watching her on TV, reading her blog every day, and having all her books, it was just second nature to see her in person.  Very calming experience.  :)

Special thanks to my husband for occupying our daughter during the long wait, driving us, and taking our picture.  One of her "helpers" took my camera and took a picture also but it's fuzzy. Thank you honey!

December 9, 2013

Sweet Potato Casserole

This was by far my favorite dish on Thanksgiving.  I love sweet potatoes, but I also love sweet dishes so this one has all that covered.  I plan to make this every year from now on.

This is a super simple casserole to throw together.  It's as easy as boiling the potatoes until tender and then just mashing them with the rest of the ingredients, topping with marshmallows and baking.  Simple.

You can taste a little hint of the orange juice which doesn't overpower the flavor of the sweet potato.  The marshmallows get crunchy on top (my favorite part) and sort of ooze over the potatoes. It's just fabulous.  There's no other way to describe it.

This would be perfect on your holiday dinner table this year.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe from AllRecipes

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 (10.5 package) miniature marshmallows
  1. Place the sliced sweet potatoes in a large pot and fill with cold water until about 1 inch above the potatoes. Cook over medium heat until boiling, continue to boil until the potatoes are fork tender. 
  2. Remove from the heat, drain. 
  3. Use a potato masher, a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand held mixer to puree the potatoes until smooth. 
  4. Add the butter, brown sugar, orange juice and cinnamon and mix well. 
  5. Spread into a 9x13 inch dish and cover with the marshmallows. 
  6. Bake at 350º for 25-30 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden brown and puffy. 

December 6, 2013

Brined, Roasted Turkey Breast

Obviously this information might be more useful to you next year, but I've got to tell you, this recipe makes me want to cook turkey breast more than just once a year. It does require a bit of refrigerator space but the meat is so tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned.  This would work nicely for a large chicken or maybe even two small one's.

I followed the Butterball directions for cooking and it was nice because I didn't need to cover it and then baste it at all during the cooking process.  I coated ours with plain butter but you can certainly spice up your butter or add some orange zest or more rosemary so that the skin is infused with the same flavors that the brine had.  Although, we did detect notes of these flavors on the skin even though we just used plain butter.

Turkey breast was the perfect size choice for our family.  We didn't have so many leftovers that we were sick of them but we had enough to enjoy several turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving.

If you're looking for a new way to make a holiday turkey, this might be worth a try!

Turkey Breast Brine

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp peppercorns
  • 1 medium orange rind, cut into strips
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary
  • 8 cups ice
Cooking Directions
  1. Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a large pot. Stir to dissolve the salt.
  2. Turn off the heat and let sit to come to room temperature.
  3. Add the ice and the turkey.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  5. Remove from the refrigerator, rinse the turkey with clean water.  Dump out the brine (you don't need it anymore) and refill the container with fresh water.  Let the turkey soak in the fresh water for 10 minutes. 
  6. Pat dry with paper towels. 

Roasting the Turkey Breast

Directions from the Butterball Fresh All Natural Whole Turkey Breast insert. 

For Turkey Breasts 3 - 5 1/2 pounds: 2 - 2 1/2 hours
For Turkey Breasts 5 1/2 - 9 pounds: 2 1/2 - 3 hours

Internal temperature should be 170º

  • Preheat the oven to 325º
  • Place the turkey skin side up in a flat roasting pan. DO NOT add water to the pan.  No need to cover it. 
  • Brush the top with oil, spray with cooking spray or rub with butter. 
  • Let turkey stand for 10 minutes after it's done cooking. 

December 4, 2013

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dip

I'm just now getting around to some of the pumpkin recipes I have been wanting to try.  This one was sort of spontaneous since I wasn't sure if the Pumpkin Flan I made earlier was going to turn out.  I made this just in case.  Luckily it did turn out but this was a big hit with everyone anyway.  Easy to make and all I needed to buy were the ginger snaps that I used for dipping.

I loved how creamy the dip was.  The cream cheese blended with the pumpkin so you didn't taste the cream cheese necessarily but it sort of added a little something to the background flavor of the pumpkin puree. I kept the pumpkin pie spice to a minimum until I tasted it and then added more to my taste preference. Refrigeration really does help all the flavors meld together.

Definitely a great recipe for your holiday parties this year!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Dip
Recipe from My Baking Addiction

  • 1 block (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 - 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the cream cheese for about 3 minutes on medium speed.
  2. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the confectioners sugar and then mix for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the pumpkin puree while the speed is on low until it's fully incorporated, then add the vanilla and the pumpkin pie spice and mix.
  4. Refrigerate the mix for at least 3 hours before serving.
  5. Some serving suggestions: gingersnaps, spice cookies, graham crackers or apples.

December 2, 2013

Spinach and Tomatoes

How was your nice long weekend?

Do anything fun?

Are you still eating leftovers? Well we are but that's because we had Thanksgiving on Saturday so they are still welcome and we're not sick of them yet.

I hate to even call this a recipe because there are only two main ingredients involved.  A while ago my friend Amanda came over and had dinner with me.  One dish we made took like 5 minutes and was very good.  Also, please note the nice Christmas colors here.

It's as simple as opening a bag of fresh spinach and a can of diced tomatoes.  Seriously, that's it.  OK, well there are some other minor ingredients.  You can cook the spinach until it's totally wilted or you can barley heat it at all, it's up to you.

Spinach and Tomatoes

  • 1 bag fresh spinach
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
  • Olive Oil for the pan
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish if desired
  1. In a large skillet add some olive oil, about 1 Tbsp or so. Add the garlic and sauté briefly. 
  2. Add the can of tomatoes and cook until heated through. 
  3. Dump in the bag of spinach and stir around.  Cook until desired doneness. The longer you cook it the more wilted the spinach will become. 
  4. Salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Garnish with Parmesan cheese if desired.