Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Delight

Pumpkin Delight

Another great, easy Fall dessert.

18.25 oz. yellow cake mix (reserve 1 c.)
1 stick butter, melted
1 egg

29 oz. can pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2/3 c. milk
1 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt

1 c. reserved cake mix
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make crust by combining cake mix, butter, and egg. Press into a greased 13x9 baking pan. You'll probably need to use your (clean) hands.

Make filling by combining listed ingredients, and pour over the crust.

Make topping by mixing together cake mix, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in cold butter to create a crumble. Sprinkle over the filling.

Bake for 50 minutes.
Cool completely.
Cut and serve.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

It's two days before Halloween. Have you carved your pumpkins yet? Are you carving them tonight? Are you looking for a recipe to toast your seeds? If so, you've come to the right place!

I'll be honest: As a child, I don't remember ever really loving pumpkin seeds. My three brothers and I would carve; Dad would supervise; and Mom would be gathering our seeds, rinsing, prepping, and baking. And then, after a job well done, we would eye our pumpkins admiringly (or with sympathy depending on how they looked) and eat pumpkin seeds. I'd eat a few and be done.

This year, I had to toast The Mr.'s and I's seeds, because.. well.. that's just what you do after you carve pumpkins. And they were good! I like pumpkin seeds now!

I guess I don't know how I didn't appreciate them before. I mean.. they're drenched in butter and salt...

4-5 c. pumpkin seeds (we got this amount from 2 large pumpkins)
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Make sure your seeds are rinsed well, with chunks of pulp removed. A few remaining strings here and there won't hurt anyone. Allow them to dry in a colander. Here again, they don't need to be DRY; just not dripping wet.

On a cookie sheet, dump pumpkin seeds. Resist the urge to spread them out all pretty yet.

Melt butter and pour over pumpkin seeds. Now you can spread evenly across the cookie sheet. Season generously with salt.

Bake for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so. If you are baking a smaller amount of seeds than I have listed above, your layer will be thinner, and therefore, your cooking time could be reduced to about 45 minutes or so.

The best way to know if they're done? Taste test. Buttery, salty, crunchy. Yum.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chicken-Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Chicken-Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Serves 4 (but can be easily modified for 2).

I found this recipe in Better Homes & Gardens, a magazine I'm quickly finding offers a lot of great recipes. It was easy to throw together, and went over very well between The Mr. and I. To serve two, simply cut the recipe in half.

1 box dried rigatoni, penne, or other bite-size pasta of your choice
2 c. fresh broccoli florets
2 c. cooked and chopped chicken (or meat off of 2+ lb. rotisserie chicken)
(1) 5-6 oz. pkg. semisoft cheese with garlic and herbs
3/4-1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained and snipped
fresh flat-leaf parsley, optional

In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to the package directions, adding broccoli florets during the last 3 minutes of cooking time. While pasta is cooking, prepare chicken.

Drain pasta and broccoli; set aside.
In the same saucepan, combine cheese, milk, tomatoes, and 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.

Add pasta mixture and chicken. Heat through. If necessary, thin with additional milk.

A Note From The Little Lady: I used RondelĂ©® Light Garlic and Herbs. Boursin would be another good brand to use. Typically, these cheeses are found with other gourmet cheeses near the deli counter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mushroom Tartlets

Mushroom Tartlets

Makes 48 tartlets.

These received rave reviews! They require a fair amount of time but are, simultaneously, really easy. These came from a great book I have called Cocktail Parties Straight Up. The "make-ahead factor" included below is one of their great tips.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, softened
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt

2 T. butter
16 oz. (roughly 7 c.) mixed wild mushrooms, finely chopped
1 c. chopped green onions
4 T. balsamic vinegar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 t. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

Prepare the crust by beating the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the flour and salt and mix until well blended. From the mixture into a ball, cover, and chill 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling, melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the mushrooms and green onions, and cook until the mushrooms are tender, 5-10 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid, then add balsamic vinegar and stir thoroughly. Cook for 1 more minute. Let the mixture cool slightly.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, flour, thyme, and salt with a spoon. Stir in the cheeses, then stir in the mushrooms.

Divide the chilled dough into 48 pieces. Press each piece into the cup of an ungreased mini muffin tin so it covers the bottom and sides. This does not have to be precise -- the dough puffs a bit when baked and is surprisingly sturdy.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into the cups so it's level with the top of each cup. Bake until the tart crusts are puffed and golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

Make-Ahead Factor: The dough can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept covered and refrigerated. The cooked tartlets can be refrigerated for 1 day or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Warm them in a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes if tarts were refrigerated, 20 to 25 if frozen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Quilt, Part 1

The Quilt, Part 1

About 2 years ago, I decided to make a quilt. The Mr. and I were in a long-distance relationship at the time, so many of our weekends were spent driving to see each other. Since he was in med school, I went to him most of the time. Now, as you may expect, The Mr. had a lot of studying to do, so even when I was in town visiting for the weekend, it didn't mean that he was exempt from his responsibilities as a student. There were many a Saturday afternoon that I busied myself with puzzles, books, Spider Solitaire, you name it! That's when the little lightbulb in my head went off! I should make a quilt! By hand! And work on it diligently as The Mr. studies for hours on end!

So off I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics. I was determined to keep costs low, and since I've always liked the look of a patchwork quilt, I headed to the scrap bins. I pulled out a number of fabrics that I thought would work together, added some needles, scissors, and quilting thread to my basket, and purchased my new project.

For whatever reason, the quilting didn't take off like I'd hoped. I worked on it the first weekend, leaving it there to resume upon my return. But, instead of resuming upon my return, my Best Idea Project collected dust at The Mr.'s apartment. The Mr., gathering his books would say, "Aren't you going to work on your quilt?" "Nahh, not today." So there it sat, only a few squares accomplished, for the remainder of the year.

This past fall, I resurrected work on The Quilt! The Mr. loves to watch TV. It amazes me, and probably others, how he manages to keep tabs on so many different shows despite his crazy schedule. But he does. And he likes when I watch said shows with him. So I work on my quilt. And it's coming along, slowly but surely. After receiving a sewing machine for the wedding, I thought I might switch over to using that. I can assure you that sewing a quilt by hand is no fast process. But when I mentioned this grand idea aloud at a family dinner, Mimo, dear grandma and founder of many recipes on this site, shook her head. "If you're making an authentic quilt, you have to sew it by hand." So, honoring Mimo, and the purist quilter she is, I have continued sewing by hand. Plus, it would be pretty difficult to take a sewing machine to the couch, and like I mentioned, The Mr. likes when I watch the shows with him.

I can't promise when I'll be finished, but here's a preview of The Quilt.

A square, pre-assembly:

The color combinations I plan on using:

Goal size: to fit a twin bed. We'll see what happens...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cinnamon Stick Candle Holders

Cinnamon Stick Candle Holders

Just another project I got involved with while The Mr. was away...

tea light/votive candle holders
6" cinnamon sticks
hot glue gun
hot glue sticks
raffia or twine

What I used:
5 glass candle holders, (3) were 5-1/2" tall, (2) were 3-1/2" tall
(4) 6-oz. packages of cinnamon sticks (approx. 17-19 sticks per candle holder)
hot glue gun and glue

I found my candle holders on the clearance rack at Tuesday Morning. Not only were they cheap, but they were perfect for this project. At just the right height for 6" cinnamon sticks (which I found, also very cheap, at Drug Mart), they were designed so that the candle sat a few inches up from the bottom. This isn't a huge detail, but I liked how it would allow more flickering light to escape.
Using your glue gun, attach the cinnamon sticks to the outside of the candle holder. Hot glue will make this project that much easier. You can try to substitute a different type of glue, but believe me when I tell you that you will appreciate the immediately bonding and lasting hold of hot glue. You can pick one up at Target for less than $5. It's worth it.

For my shorter candle holders, I broke off some ends of the cinnamon sticks to make them more appropriately sized.

After the sticks are glued all the way around the candle holder, you are ready to add the raffia. Another nice thing about hot glue is that it dries so fast. No need to let the glue dry before moving on to your next step.

Okay, enough about my praises for hot glue.

Wrap the raffia around a few times, finishing with a bow. Or you can just knot it. Or do whatever else you feel inclined to do. Wrap some higher; wrap some lower. There's no right or wrong here.

Add tea lights or votives and you're good to go!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookie Cups

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookie Cups

Makes 40.

I know, I know, another peanut butter and chocolate recipe. But... who's complaining?
Recipe from

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
2 T. milk
1-3/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
40 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Beat in egg, vanilla, and milk.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add to the mixing bowl until well incorporated.
Shape into 40 balls and place into an ungreased mini muffin tin.
Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately press a peanut butter cup into the center of each ball. Cool completely and remove from pan.

A Note From The Little Lady: To make removing wrappers easier, place peanut butter cups in the freezer for a bit beforehand. The wrappers will come off "cleaner" than if they are room temperature. You can return the peanut butter cups to the fridge after unwrapping, which keeps them firm for when you press them into the cookies.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009



Makes 3-1/2 dozen.

A cookie jar classic. A cinnamon-y, sugary treat that warms your heart.

1 c. margarine, softened
1-1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2-3/4 c. flour
2 t. cream of tarter
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cream margarine and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to mixing bowl.

Mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough balls and coat with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake for 8-9 minutes. After taking them out of the oven, immediately remove cookies from baking sheet and transfer to a cooling rack.

A Note From The Little Lady: If you find that your dough balls aren't holding their shape, try chilling your dough first. Also, if you don't have cream of tarter on hand, substitute with 2 t. white vinegar. You won't notice the difference.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009



Serves 14-16.

There are a millions of chili recipes out there. So many, in fact, that I couldn't pick just one. Instead, I pulled from multiple and made up my own basic recipe. Feel free to modify as you like, using the variations I suggest below, or by creating your own version.

3 lb. ground beef
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
29 oz. can tomato sauce
(2) 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes
15 oz. can chili beans
15 oz. can kidney beans
15 oz. can pinto beans
6 oz. can tomato paste
1 T. Worchestershire sauce
1 T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. brown sugar

In a large skillet, or a large stock pot, brown ground beef and garlic over medium heat. Drain and crumble. Season with salt and pepper
(If using a crock pot, transfer beef and garlic to crock pot at this time.)
In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine ground beef, garlic, onion and green pepper. Add in remaining ingredients, and allow to simmer for at least 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
In a crock pot, cook on low for 8 hours. The longer it simmers, the better it tastes, which is why using your crock pot is a good option.

Serve with shredded cheddar and sour cream.

Easy Variations: Substitute ground pork/turkey/chicken for half (or all) of the ground beef; stir in a tablespoon of hot sauce; use black beans in place of one of the types suggested above; add a can of diced green chiles; stir in a bottle of your favorite beer, etc.

A Note From The Little Lady: Chili freezes well, and is a great meal to have on hand over the winter months. Freeze in containers with sizes suitable to your needs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Swirl

Makes 2 standard loaves, or 4 mini loaves.

I found this recipe in A Taste of Home magazine. When I was away at college, my grandma used to send me packages of her cooking magazines after she had looked through them herself. This recipe came from one of those magazines, with a few slightly modifications. A creamy, swirly center gives your traditional pumpkin bread a snazzy new appeal.

6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1 T. flour
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

1 c. cooked or canned pumpkin
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
1-1/2 c. sugar
1-2/3 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat cream cheese, sugar, and flour together in a small bowl. Add egg; mix to blend. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, oil, and eggs. Add sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, and cinnamon; mix to blend. Pour half of the batter into two standard (or four mini) greased loaf pans. Carefully spread filling over batter. Add remaining batter, covering filling. (This can be difficult. If some filling shows through, don't worry about it. Unless your anal, of course, then take the time to careful cover all filling.)

Bake for 60-70 minutes (35 minutes for mini loaves) or until bread is cooked through. Cool. Remove from pans. Store in refrigerator.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dad's Favorite Granola

Dad's Favorite Granola

My dad has always been a granola lover. Well, mainly cereal in general. I have memories of him eating cereal as "dessert" after dinner. I always thought it was strange, but now I find myself doing the exact same thing. The Mr. probably thinks I'm the strange one now! One year, for Christmas, I gave him this homemade version to enjoy. He loved it, so I try to make it from time to time. Most recently, I whipped up a batch for Boss's Day (today, October 16), because, well, he's my boss! And he's an amazing one at that! I'm a lucky employee.

I have adapted this recipe from the original, Megan's Favoirte Granola, on

7 c. rolled oats
1-1/4 c. wheat germ
1-1/4 c. oat bran
2-3 c. mixed nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.)

3/4 c. honey
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 c. vegetable oil
1-1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon

2-3 c. dried frut (raisins, cranberries, dates, etc.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with foil.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining ingredients besides dried fruit (honey through cinnamon). Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and stir throughout dry ingredients until evenly distributed and fully coated. Spread mixture between two baking sheets.

Bake for 19-20 minutes, stirring halfway through and rotating baking sheets from top and bottom racks.

Cool. Stir in dried fruit.

A Note From The Little Lady: If you don't use rolled oats often and are buying them specifically for this recipe, there is a 18-oz. oats container out there that has just under 7 c.; feel free to use that.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oreo Truffles, For Two

Oreo Truffles, For Two

Makes 4 truffles.

If you're at all familiar with what's "in" these days in the cooking and baking world, you are probably already very familiar with Oreo Truffles. In an attempt to offer up a new variation of an already famous recipe, I have created a small-batch version. When you're cooking for two, you don't need dozens of truffles around the house. One of two things might happen: 1) You will OD and end up wasting the rest or 2) you will become fat and resent making the truffles in the first place. So, save time, money, and your waistline and make just. enough.

6 Oreo cookies (1.8 oz. snack pack)
1 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 oz. chocolate (2 squares Baker's chocolate), melted

Using a food processor, finely crush Oreo cookies. (You can also crush these in a plastic bag, which will result in a "chunkier" consistency, but won't affect them greatly in the end. I use both methods, depending on preference and time constraints. And when you're crushing 4 cookies, it can be hard to muster the strength to get out the food processor...)

Blend cookie crumbs with cream cheese. Form into 4 balls. Place on a plate lined with wax paper and refrigerate for a few hours.
Melt chocolate in microwave (or double boiler) and fully coat cookie balls. Return to wax-lined plate. Drizzle additional chocolate, if desired.
Refrigerate for another few hours.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fresh Apple Cake

Fresh Apple Cake

Autumn is a season with seemingly endless possibilities of foods to cook and bake. There are so many foods that just scream FALL, football, changing leaves, and crisp air. This is yet another one of those recipes. The real story behind this cake is that it was supposed to be a bundt cake. Well, that bundt cake was an epic fail. But the cake that had baked inside that bundt was moist, flavorful, and too good to be included under the miserable label "failure." So, I instead made it a 13x9 pan. And since cake is not cake unless it's frosted, I added some of that as well.

3 c. peeled, diced apple (I used 1 medium granny smith and 1 large honeycrisp)
2 T. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
3 c. flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
2-1/2 t. vanilla
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine apple, 2 T. sugar, and 2 t. cinnamon and toss to evenly coat.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cream sugars and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla.
Fold in apple mixture and pour into a greased 13x9 square baking pan.
Bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Frost with cream cheese icing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Filet Mignon with Creamy Bleu Cheese Grits and Mushroom Saute

Filet Mignon with Creamy Bleu Cheese Grits and Mushroom Saute

Serves 2.

A fancy, romantic meal for two. To be honest, although I'm giving you a recipe for two, I originally only made this for myself, and myself alone. The Mr. is away for a month, and after a week of frozen meals and cereal, I needed a stick-to-your-ribs tasty treat. So, I had a date with myself and took advantage of the chance to prepare something The Mr. does not care for (and thus, we rarely eat)... mushrooms. When you're cooking for yourself, those kind of rules no longer apply. :)

Filet continues to be a challenge for me. Every time, the meat is a different shape (I wasn't wild about the longer, thinner shape of this one) and a different thickness, which completely eliminates the chance to land upon a tried-and-true cooking method and time. I'm giving you guidelines, but if you have a preferred method, please use it!

The combination of the filet, grits, and mushrooms went together really well. Any combination of the three tasted great together. Recipes adapted from

Filet Mignon
(2) 4-6 oz. filets
salt and pepper
2 T. olive oil

Season filets and allow to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. (The shock and result of cold meat against a hot pan isn't as ideal as meat that has had the chance to lose its chill.) Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Allow the pan to fully heat up -- don't get impatient and put the meat on too early. When the pan is ready, add filets. You should hear that "chiizchhhhh" sound as it sears. After 4-5 minutes (depending on your desired degree of doneness), flip and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

Creamy Bleu Cheese Grits
1-1/2 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. quick-cooking grits
1/2 c. bleu cheese
dash pepper

Bring broth, milk, and salt to a boil. Whisk in grits; reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until grits become thick, stirring consistently. Stir in bleu cheese and spices. When cheese has melted and began to blend evenly with the grits, you are ready to serve.

Mushroom Saute
2 T. butter
8 oz. fresh mushroom blend
2 T. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook until soft, approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Rain Before It Falls

The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe

I'm not quite sure why, but for as long as I can remember, I've always associated books with colors. A bright, cheerful book would be a yellow; a scary book a black; a calm, peaceful book a blue. This book, from the get-go, was a grey, or washed out brown. Not much excitement to it; not much happiness. To be honest, when I got to page 30, it took me a while to pick the book back up again and continue. It was kind of depressing, and reminded me of a rainy day. At page 30, I wasn't really "into it." Thankfully, since it was a book I was reading for book club, I knew I had to finish. So I picked up where I left off and continued on. And I must say, I began to get sucked in and developed a higher appreciation for the book that I had possessed before. When the book ended, I still felt it was a washed out brown, but I was glad I read it. It made me think about things in new ways, and I felt it was beneficial to my soul... dark and gloomy though it was. And I loved reading about how "the rain before it falls" came to be.

From Publisher's Weekly:

Starred Review. In the latest from acclaimed London novelist Coe (The Rotter's Club), the story of two cousins' friendship is keyed to a hatred that is handed down from mother to daughter across generations, as in a Greek tragedy. Evacuated from London to her aunt and uncle's Shropshire farm, Rosamond bonds with her older cousin, Beatrix, who is emotionally abused by her mother. Beatrix grows up to abuse her daughter, Thea (in one unforgettable scene, Beatrix takes a knife and flies after Thea after Thea has ruined a blouse), with repercussions that reach the next generation. All of this is narrated in retrospect by an elderly Rosamond into a tape recorder: she is recording the family's history for Imogene, Beatrix's granddaughter, who is blind, and whom Rosamond hasn't seen in 20 years. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Rosamond's fundamental flaw and limit is her decency, a quality Coe weaves beautifully into the Shropshire and London settings—along with violence. Through relatively narrow lives on a narrow isle, Coe articulates a fierce, emotional current whose sweep catches the reader and doesn't let go until the very end.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Reese Cup Cookie Bars

Reese Cup Cookie Bars

Based on the ingredients, this recipe seems almost "too easy" to warrant putting on here, but these are phenomenal and deserve to be recognized. The first time I tried these, I fell madly in love with them and knew that I just had to track down the baker of this wonderful creation and somehow leave that day with the recipe. Little did I know they would require so little work! If you love the peanut butter-chocolate combination that so many people go wild for, combined with the soft, gooey flavor of chocolate chip cookies, gives these easy - but oh so delicious - cookie bars a try.

2 packages Chocolate Chip cookie mix
1 package Peanut Butter cookie mix
24-36 Miniature Reese Peanut Butter Cups
Eggs, oil, and butter as required by cookie mixes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare all three cookie mixes together in one large bowl, adding appropriate ingredients according to the directions on the packages.
Spread cookie dough in a 13x9 pan (for thicker bars) or a jelly roll pan (for slightly thinner, but still thick, bars).
Bake for approximately 35 minutes (less for jelly roll bars) or until golden brown and cooked through.
While the cookie bars are in the oven, unwrap at least 24 miniature peanut butter cups (I use 24 for a 13x9 pan, but use more for a jelly roll pans). Immediately after taking the pan out of the oven, press peanut butter cups into the cookie bars.
Cool. Salivate. Serve. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Frosted Pumpkin Butter Cookies

Cut-Out Butter Cookies

Makes ~36 pumpkins (4"). More or less depending on the size of your cookie cutters.

This cookie recipe has been passed down through the generations. Whenever I think about trying something else, I just can't get myself to stray from the tried-and-true. Plus, I love the tradition and sentimentality of knowing that my mom's mom's mom made these same cookies. They are a rich, buttery cookie -- perfect iced or simply sprinkled with sugar.

1 lb. (4 sticks) butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
4-1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla. Beat well.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add to mixing bowl until all is incorporated and well combined.
Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

On a well-floured surface, roll out cookie dough (don't forget to flour your rolling pin!) to about 1/4" thick, and cut out cookies with a cookie cutter(s) of your choice. Transfer cookies to a baking sheet and, if you are using them, decorate with sprinkles. I used green sprinkles for the pumpkin stems.

Bake for 6 minutes, or longer if you prefer crispy cookies. Cool on a wire rack.
Frost, if desired.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Broccoli Casserole

Broccoli Casserole

Serves 2.

Mmm.. this was very good. And anything that I can make ahead of time gets bonus points in my book. It helps that I like broccoli steamed and lightly seasoned, so adding in a rich, cheesey cream sauce makes it even harder to resist. Plus, the buttery cracker topping is oh so good.

1 head broccoli, chopped
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 T. butter, melted
1/2 c. crushed Ritz Crackers

cream sauce:
1/2 T. butter
1-1/2 T. flour
1/4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. milk
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour to form a thick, almost doughy consistency. Add chicken broth and milk slowly, stirring consistently. Bring to a gentle boil until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Add cheddar cheese and stir until smooth.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil; add chopped broccoli and after 1 minute, remove from heat and drain. Add broccoli to cheese sauce and mix until evenly coated. Transfer to a baking dish, top with cracker crumbs and butter. Bake for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Country Bob's Meatloaf

Country Bob's Meatloaf

Serves 4.

Meatloaf doesn't photograph well. Or I need to find a better way to do it. I almost didn't even post this picture, because... well.. it just doesn't look very good! But I promise that it tastes a lot better than it looks! Trust me, please! :)

Country Bob's entered our lives when I received a coupon in the mail for a free bottle of their All-Purpose sauce. The Mr. fell in love with it, going through bottles fast. Because his raves seemed worthy of praise, I sent a quick e-mail to Country Bob himself (or the unknown secretary who reads his mail) telling him how well his sauce had gone over. A few weeks later, a package arrived on my doorstep -- a gift pack from Country Bob! We received a brand new bottle of the All-Purpose sauce, along with their "spicy" All-Purpose sauce and some All-Purpose seasoning salt. The Little Lady loves meatloaf, so when I saw a meatloaf recipe incorporating our new favorite condiment and seasoning, I just had to give it a try!

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 c. chopped onion
12 saltine crackers, crushed
3/4 c. Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 t. pepper
1 T Country Bob's Seasoning Salt
1/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together and place in a baking pan in the shape of a loaf (or 4 mini loaves, as shown above). Bake for one hour.

A Note From The Little Lady: If you don't have Country Bob's products, don't feel left out. Simply replace the CB's sauce with any BBQ sauce and the CB's seasoning with a different All-Purpose seasoning of your choice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Goblin Gorp

Goblin Gorp

I found the idea for this (can you even call it recipe?) in the P.E.O. Cooks book I have, and first made it for a college fall break weekend get-away. Snack mixes are always a great thing to have when there are people around to eat it. A handful here, a handful there -- before you know it, it's gone. And the addition of candy corn in this mix makes it slightly different, and more appealing to hungry snackers around Halloween.

Make a mix using all or some of the following:
The only mandatory ingredient: CANDY CORN!

other nuts
Fritos corn chips
Sun Chips
yogurt- or chocolate-covered raisins
...and whatever else tickles your tastebuds

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cheese Dip Baked in a Bread Bowl

Cheese Dip Baked in a Bread Bowl

This is a personal favorite and a definite party pleaser. Everywhere I've taken it, it's been devoured, and the few times it hasn't been eaten 100% (keep in mind that it makes a big batch!), it reheats well the next day. It's good with the bread cubes, tortilla chips, Triscuits, or really anything you feel like dipping into it. :) And just like a bread bowl you'd get filled with soup, the bowl itself is equally tasty.

1 large sourdough bread round
2 c. mayonnaise
2 c. (16 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
5 green onions, chopped
5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Hollow out the sourdough bread to form a bowl. Cube and save the bread you've removed for serving purposes.
In a large bowl, combine mayo, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, green onions, and bacon. Mix well.
Fill bread bowl with the cheese mixture, and wrap bread with foil, leaving the dip exposed (this will preven the bread bowl from burning or getting too crispy).
Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until dip is heated through, bubbling, and slightly golden on top.
Remove foil from bread, and serve with bread cubes and chips.

A Note From The LL: If you want to make this ahead of time, wait to fill bread bowl until shortly before baking. An hour or two in the bowl won't hurt anything, but much longer and you'll risk the bowl getting soggy.

Yes, those are the remains... with bite marks.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Baked Chicken Casserole

Baked Chicken Casserole

Serves 8-10.

This is a good recipe when you want an easy, casual meal that feeds a crowd and won't have you stuck in the kitchen preparing it. Make it before you need it, and when the time comes, throw it in the oven. You'll have dinner in an hour.

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
14 oz. pkg egg noodles
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or use another cream of chicken)
4 T. sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1.5-2 cups topping of your choice (corn flakes, bread crumbs, crushed buttery crackers, etc.)
4 T. (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add garlic, celery, and onion, and cook until soft and fragrant. Take off of heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, cook egg noodles according to directions on the package. Drain.
In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken and noodles with cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups. Mix in sour cream and garlic/celery/onion mixture.
Arrange in a 13x9 baking pan, and top with Corn Flakes, or other topping of your choice. Pour melted butter overtop, and bake for 30 minutes.

A Note From The Little Lady: If you want to make this ahead of time and refrigerate prior to baking, increase baking time to 1 hour. If you're in a total rush, I've found that you can also get away with not pre-cooking the garlic/celery/onion mixture. Instead, just toss them in with the other ingredients. The extra 30 minutes in the oven will assure that they come out soft and cooked through.