Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day Hot Chocolate Bar

We had a great time with Tyson's family on Christmas day.  I got lots of cute pictures of the nieces and nephews, but the SD card we had in the camera malfunctioned and erased them all.  So sad!  That means you'll have to do with the recipe for Hot Chocolate and no photos.  Darn!

My nieces and nephews LOVED this hot chocolate.  I hope you do, too! I'll include amounts for both a small batch of hot chocolate and for a large batch.  The instructions are the same for both.  I adapted the recipe from a recipe found here:, but I altered the sugar content and the preparation instructions.  Enjoy!

Hot Chocolate (Small Batch)
1/3 cup unsweetened Cocoa (I used Dutch Processed)
1/2 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3-1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup half and half

Hot Chocolate for a Crowd
1-2/3 cups unsweetened Cocoa (I used Dutch Processed)
2-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1-2/3 cups boiling water
1 gallon  milk (I used 2%)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla
4 cups (2 pints) half and half

1.  Combine cocoa, sugar and salt in a saucepan with a whisk.  Stir in the water and cook on low.  Bring to a boil and boil 1 minute.  (For your own chocolate milk sauce like Hershey's, stop here and refrigerate the syrup in an airtight container.  It will last for a few weeks.)

2.  Slowly stir in the milk and cook on medium, stirring constantly.  Cook until very hot, but not boiling.  It is important to constantly stir the milk to prevent it from burning on the bottom of the pan.

3.  Remove pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and half and half.  The half and half should cool the mixture down to the perfect drinking temperature.  Serve in heat-proof cups.

We served this hot chocolate with several toppings.  I got the idea from my friend Tamra Dobler.  She serves her hot chocolate with fresh whipped cream, crushed peppermint pieces, toffee pieces, caramel bits, mini chocolate chips, marshmallows, etc.  Just line the cups of a jumbo cupcake pan with tissue and fill each cup with a different topping.  The kids and adults had lots of fun customizing their cocoa.  Hope you do too!

As mentioned in step 1, you can cook the cocoa, sugar, salt and water, then cool it and put it in a clean bottle in the fridge.  This syrup can be used to make chocolate milk, served on ice cream, etc.  Basically, it can replace the good 'ole Hershey's syrup.  I was thinking of trying to make it with Splenda or Truvia because the sugar free versions of chocolate syrup you can buy in the store are kinda gross.  I'll let you know how it turns out!

My mom made a new recipe this year called Pecan Brittle.  I'll post that recipe soon!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

White Bean and Kale Soup with Smoked Sausage

The temperature is dropping and I had some small white beans to use up.  So... Soup!  This weekend, I spent Saturday with my good friend Tamra and her family.  Amelie and I played 'fishing' over the back of the couch with a jump rope, and Peyton and I played peek-a-boo.  It was so much fun playing with the kids!  I brought the soup over for lunch and Tamra made pitas from scratch.  Both were yummy!

I'm sorry to say that I forgot to snap a photo before we ate the soup.  Just trust me-- its good.  White beans in a flavorful chicken broth with bright green kale, celery, carrots and smoked sausage.  Warms you right up!  Here's my recipe.

White Bean and Kale Soup with Smoked Sausage
8 oz. white beans, rinsed and picked over
smoked beef sausage (I used Hillshire Farms)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz. low sodium chicken broth (The kirkland brand from Costco is REALLY good)
1 tsp dried basil
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped

1.  Place beans  in a pot with enough water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, then put the lid on and let them sit for an hour.  Drain.

2.  Cut the sausage in slices (rounds), then cut each round in half (half-moon shape).  Fry over medium-high heat in a soup pot in 2 batches.  Remove to a bowl and place in the refrigerator.  The frying should take about 5-7 minutes per batch-- you want the sausage to render its fat and get slightly brown.  Don't worry about the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  Brown bits = flavor! :)

3.  Place the onion in the pot with the fat from the sausage and saute until slightly transparent.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in about a cup of broth and scrape up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Add the rest of the broth, carrots, celery, and beans.  Sprinkle dried basil over the broth.  Bring to a slight boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

4.  After 30 minutes, add the sausage and stir.  Add water if necessary as the beans will soak up liquid as they cook.  Cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes.

5.  Add the kale, remove from the heat, and replace the lid.  Let stand for 10 minutes, then stir in the kale.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

6.  If desired, you can add 1/2 cup cream at this point to make it a bit more creamy.

Enjoy!  Here's to snowballs, snowmen and steamy bowl of white bean soup!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vanilla Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting

'Tis the season! Tomorrow, we are having a hot cocoa party at work. Everyone is encouraged to bring a treat to share. I decided that I'd bake up some good Vanilla Sugar Cookies! My mom made these cookies every year when I was young. We'd make them for Christmas and Valentine's Day. So much fun! The cookies are super soft and the buttercream frosting is to die for! I remember that we'd have to make a double batch of frosting and give the extra to our neighbor, Annie. She'd eat the frosting by the spoonful. :)

I got the idea for the Reindeer Cookies from a Martha Stewart web page. I made them using the gingerbread man cookie cutter! The face is chocolate frosting, the nose is a red-hot, and the eyes are white chocolate chips dipped in chocolate frosting. Cute, eh?

I just love snowmen. They are one of my favorite winter things. These little guys have mini m&ms for eyes, and a combo of mini m&ms and red hots for buttons. Snowflakes are fun to decorate as well. The sugar makes them sparkle!

Some stars and Stockings...
Candy canes and stockings. The frosting I was using for the stripes was a bit tricky to work with.

Arranged on a platter, they look pretty good! Here are the stars, trees, stockings and reindeer.

And my FAVORITE photo of the cookies-- candycanes, snowmen and snowflakes. :)
Please enjoy these treasured family recipes!
Vanilla Sugar Cookies
1 cup shortening (do not use butter flavored)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups sugar
2 lg eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
6 cups all purpose flour
1. Cream shortening, sour cream, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and blend well. Add the vanilla and stir to combine.
2. Whisk the baking powder and salt into the all purpose flour, then slowly add to the sour cream mixture, a cup at a time, beating well after each addition. The dough will be very stiff, but shouldn't be crumbly. I like to add just 1/2 cup at a time after I've added about 3/4th of the flour. Pat dough into a container, cover with a lid, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or at least overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
4. Cut the dough into 4 sections and roll one section at a time on a well floured surface to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Place the dough in the fridge when not being rolled. Use 3-5 inch cookie cutters to cut the cookies and carefully place on the cookie sheets. If the dough sticks to the counter, use some unflavored dental floss to slide underneath the dough (between the dough and the counter).
5. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes-- do not overbake or the cookies will be dry. The cookies should be barely lightly browned on the bottom. Let stand in the pan for a couple minutes, then remove the whole sheet of parchment to a wire cooling rack.
6. Store in an airtight container on the counter to keep the cookies soft. Frost when cooled to room temperature.
Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
5 cups powdered sugar
3 to 5 Tbsp Milk
1. Cream butter and shortening in a stand mixer or with electric mixer until well blended, stopping to scrape down the bowl a few times. Add in vanilla and mix well.
2. Add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time, beating well with each addition. After adding the 3rd cup, add a Tbsp of milk. Alternate the sugar and milk until all the sugar is added. Add an additional 1 to 2 Tbsp milk if needed to reach spreading consistency.
3. For cookies, remove a couple scoops to a smaller bowl for coloring if desired. Be sure to stir well after the addition of food coloring to ensure a streak-free frosting.
This frosting may be spread on top of cookies or placed in a pastry bag for piping onto the cookies. Finish decorations with candy and sprinkles. Let sit out for a few hours or overnight before stacking in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper for storage.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

While looking through some blogs, I came across a recipe for White Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies on TwoPeasandTheirPod. The recipe looked great, so I decided to give it a try.

The results were wonderful! I have a new favorite Christmas cookie. The outside is crispy and the inside is soft and chewy. Give it a try!

White Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 lg eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups old fashioned oats
12 oz white chocolate chips
1 cup pomegranate arils
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla, whip well.
2. Add baking soda, baking powder, and salt to flour; mix well. Slowly stir into the butter mixture. Stir in the oats and white chips by hand.
3. Form 1 tbsp dough into a ball using your hands. Flatten into a disc. They should look like this:

4. Press 5 to 6 pomegranate arils into each cookie. They should look like this:

5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (mine took 12 minutes and I roated half way through). The edges should be slightly brown. Don't worry if the middle doesn't look done-- it is. Let cool for a few minutes on the pan then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Happy Holiday Baking!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Gingerbread Biscotti

I saw this recipe on and just had to try it. The recipe was for Gingerbread Biscotti and I made it even better by dipping it in chocolate. It is just perfect for this time of year and would be wonderful in a gift basket to a coffee lover.
I had never made biscotti before. I have to admit that I had some doubts in the beginning, but everything worked out just fine. As long as the biscotti are cut while still warm, the loaf won't crumble to bits on you.
Here's the recipe from with adapted directions:
Gingerbread Biscotti
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used Canola)
1 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2-1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Stir together flours, baking powder and spices. Set aside.
2. Stir together the oil, sugar, eggs and molasses. Whip for about 30 seconds.
3. Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet mixture. A very stiff dough will form. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a large cookie sheet (or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with oil like I did).
5. With well greased hands, remove 1/2 of the chilled dough from the bowl and pat it into a ball. With your hands, lengthen the ball into a roll that is about the width of the cookie sheet. Place on the prepared sheet and pat down to a loaf that is about 1/2 inch thick.
6. Repeat with remaining dough. You should be able to fit both loaves on one baking sheet. If not, just put the rest of the dough back in the refrigerator until you are ready to shape it.
7. Bake the log for 25 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool about 10 minutes on a wire rack.
8. Place the baked loaf on a cutting board and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices with a very sharp knife. Arrange on cookie sheet, cut sides up. Bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes per side to make the biscotti crunchy (I baked them for 7 minutes).
9. Cool to room temperature before coating with chocolate.

Chocolate Dipping:
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided

1. Place 1 cup of the chocolate chips in a microwave bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir well, then microwave an additional 20 seconds. Stir until smooth.

NOTE: I used mini chocolate chips because that was all I had on hand. Regular chocolate chips may take an additional 20 to 40 seconds to melt.

2. Spoon a bit of melted chocolate onto one side of the biscotti and spread into a thin layer using a small spatula or the back of a spoon. Let cool, chocolate side up, on parchment paper.

If you would like, sprinkles, shredded coconut, or chopped nuts could be added while the chocolate was still wet.

I can't wait to try other Biscotti recipes! I'm having one right now with my morning coffee. Have a great weekend!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner Rolls

The story begins on a farm. We called it 'the fat farm'. It was the place we went every Thanksgiving when I was growing up. The enticing aromas of roasting turkey, cooking potatoes, and yeast greeted you as soon as you walked in the door. Soon after, you were enveloped in a hug so tight you could barely breathe!

I would hang up my coat in the closet and follow the other ladies in my family to the kitchen. There, I would help form the Parker House rolls and get them into the oven. The rolls cooked while the turkey was resting and the gravy was being made. As soon as they came out of the oven, they were lovingly coated in salted butter. These were the best rolls on the planet and they were made by my Great Grandma Minnie.

Grandma Minnie passed away in 2007 at the age of 102. She cooked Thanksgiving dinner for her family for over 50 years in a row. Imagine that! I tried to learn how to make rolls from her, but she never measured anything. If you asked her for a recipe, she couldn't give you one. She could tell you what was in the food, but couldn't tell you how much.

"How much flour should I add, Grandma?"

"Enough so that it feels right."

Ha ha! I miss her so much. Well, today I ran across a recipe on the Martha Stewart website and decided to try it. I read through the recipe, gathered the ingredients, and put everything together. What came out of the oven tasted just like Great Grandma Minnie's rolls! Hooray! I will confess-- I messed up on the recipe but it turned out wonderful! So, here is my recipe for Thanksgiving Dinner Rolls, Great Grandma Minnie style (adapted from Martha Stewart).

Thanksgiving Dinner Rolls
Great Grandma Minnie Style
1/4 cup warm water (115 degrees F)
2 tsp rapid rise yeast (2 envelopes)
1-1/2 cups warm whole milk (115 degrees F)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the bowl and pans
1/4 cup sugar
2-1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp salted butter, melted
1. Place warm water in a small bowl with a little bit of the sugar (1 tsp). Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In the bowl of a standing mixer or in a large bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, remaining sugar, salt and the eggs. Whisk in the yeast mixture.
2. With the mixer on low or with a large wooden spoon, mix in the 3 cups of bread flour. If using a mixer, give it a good whirl, then switch the whisk attachment to a dough hook. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the remaining 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour a little at a time. The resulting dough should be a little shaggy. You can also do this my hand with a large wooden spoon, but the mixer is a lot easier! Once all the flour is incorporated, let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.
3. Mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for another 2 minutes. If kneading by hand, knead it on a lightly floured counter for 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form into a large ball.
4. Coat a large bowl with melted unsalted butter. Place the large ball of dough in the bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until doubled in size.
5. Butter two 13x9" pans. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Deflate the dough by gently pushing it down and turning it over in the bowl. Pinch off golf-ball-sized pieces and make into balls. Place the balls of dough in the pan, 3 across and 5 long so each pan holds 15 rolls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put the oven racks in the bottom third and top third of the oven. When the rolls are done rising, remove the plastic wrap and place one pan on the bottom rack and one pan on the top rack. Cook for 10 minutes, rotate the pans top to bottom, back to front, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until evenly golden brown.
7. Remove from oven and place the pan on cooling racks. Lightly brush with salted butter and allow to cool. After 10 minutes, remove the rolls from the pans and allow to cool completely on the cooling rack. These rolls are HEAVENLY when devoured while still warm with fresh melted butter.
Love you and miss you, Great Grandma Minnie!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Butternut Squash Salad and Soup

Say Hello to Bella! She's one of my parents' new pups. My parents adopted Bella and her sister, Gracie, a couple weekends ago. I haven't EVER seen my Dad giggle so much. :) Ralfie and Tobie had the joy of spending a week at their house while I went on a business trip to Pittsburgh. Ralfie was the best cousin! He was really good with the girls.
Tobie was scared to death of them! He spent most of his time on the couch or ottoman where the girls couldn't get to him.

Here's Mr Ralfie making sure the girls are playing nice. Bella just loves cuddling up in that lion neck pillow that my mom found. Ralfie was a little nervous about the girls playing with his bear or his bone, but other than that he made a very good cousin!

And Mr. Ralfie again after his haircut yesterday. Tried to get a pic of Tobie but it didn't turn out. Darn!

And now on to dinner. I made this Butternut Squash Salad last night. There are a few suggestions I have for making it better. As is, it was ok. I learned something-- Butternut squash is MUCH easier to peel once its cooked!
I served it along side a grilled chicken breast with a bit of blue cheese crumbles.

Interesting flavor combo! Here's the recipe:
Cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out all the seeds. Cut the 'Bowl' part off of the top part. Then cut into 1"x1" strips. Put these in a pot and add just enough chicken stock/broth to cover. Add 1/2 of a chopped onion. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the squash from the liquid (but save the liquid!) and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, peel and cut the squash into bite-size pieces. Save 2 cups for the salad and add the rest back to the broth. The squash should be just underdone.
For the dressing, whisk together 2 Tbsp cider vinegar, 1-1/2 Tbsp apple juice or apple butter, 1 Tbsp canola oil, 1/2 tsp dried parsley or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley and 1/4c chopped red onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for about 10 minutes. I used dried parsley but I think fresh chopped parsley would have been much better.
Add the cooked squash pieces and toss. Serve with grilled chicken and blue cheese. Blue cheese would make a GREAT addition to this salad, along with dried cranberries and toasted sliced pecans. Yum!
As for the rest of that squash in the pot, make soup! Let it simmer another 5-7 minutes, then remove from the heat and zip with an immersion blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and whatever spices you have around. Curry is nice, fresh rosemary would be good. This makes a silky flavorful soup! I think I'll use a few Tbsp of pumpkin butter in mine. Yum!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Boo-tiful Graveyard!

We had a 'Creepy Treats and Sides' contest at work as part of our Halloween party. It was sooo much fun! My entry won 2nd place in the 'Tasty' category. I put together a graveyard using cupcakes. It was a lot of fun to decorate. Here's what I did:

1. Bake cupcakes. I used a small can of pumpkin (about 15 oz.), 2/3 of that can of water and a spice cake mix for the first batch. Just mix them up, use some fancy Halloween cupcake wrappers, and bake them according to package directions. Very good with chocolate icing. I also baked up a batch of Butter Pecan cake mix and paired it with caramel frosting. Just bake the cupcakes-- Don't frost them yet.

2. Buy a box/bag of oreos or equivalent. Twist apart the cookies and scrape off all the frosting. Put the chocolate wafers in a large ziploc bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible, then bash the bag with a rolling pin or the bottom of a small saucepan until they are completely crushed. This will be your dirt.

3. Buy a bag or two of Milano cookies. I used the kind with dark chocolate. Using a small piping tip, pipe the letters 'RIP' on each. They should look like this:

4. Frost the cupcakes. I used chocolate frosting for the pumpkin cupcakes and caramel frosting for the butter pecan cupcakes. Once the cupcakes are frosted, press the Milano cookie tombstone halfway in and sprinkle with dirt. Place a few bone sprinkles on each (I found those cute bloody bones and Target) and viola-- a Bootiful Graveyard. Here are a few pics of the finished product:

Pumpkin Chocolate

Butter Pecan Caramel
Hope everyone had a great Halloweekend! Now we can look forward to Thanksgiving in a few short weeks. What will you be cooking?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Marinara Sauce and how to cook Brown Rice

This weekend was nice and relaxing! Friday night, I took Ham Fried Rice using brown rice over to Tamra's for dinner with her family. It's always fun to see Alan, Peyton and Amelie. Amelie always has stories to tell! I making this recipe, I found a new way to prepare brown rice that will make it perfect every time! Sorry, but no photos. You'll just have to take my word that it looks and tastes great!

Saturday, I went to Tamra's for lunch and spent the afternoon shopping with Tamra and Amelie. I picked up some cute Halloween decorations at Target. I just couldn't help it! I've been going through withdrawls. After that, I went to dinner with my neighbor Corby, then got some things done around the house.

Sunday, I went to the Home & Garden Show at the Idaho Center in Nampa. The one in Idaho Falls is better in my opinion. After that, I came home and made marinara sauce from scratch. I had to do something with all the donated tomatoes I've been getting!

Hope you all had a great weekend as well. Until next time.... Cheers!

Best Brown Rice
2-1/2 cups water
1 Tbl butter
1-1/2 cups brown rice (the slow cooking kind)
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring the water and butter to a boil on the stovetop. Place the rice and salt in a heat-proof 2.5 Qt casserole.
2. Pour the water/butter over the rice and stir briefly. Cover tightly, and bake for 50 minutes.
3. Remove from oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
4. Fluff with a fork and serve!

Ham Fried Brown Rice
1 Tbl butter
2 Tbl soy sauce
2 stalks celery
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
8 oz. lean ham, cubed
1 small can bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed
4-5 cups cooked brown rice
3 scallions, chopped
2 eggs, scrambled and chopped up
Sesame oil (optional)
Soy Sauce (optional)

1. Heat butter and soy sauce in a LARGE skillet over medium heat. I used my deep 12-inch skillet. Add the celery and mushrooms. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Add ham and cook until the ham is very warm. Add the rice and bamboo shoots, cook another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Fold in the scallions and eggs. Cook another 5 minutes or until heated through. I stirred in another couple Tbl of soy sauce and a couple Tbl of sesame oil at the end. Serve with soy sauce on the side.

Home-Made Marinara

5 lbs tomatoes, washed
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
4oz. can tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill one half of your sink with cold water and some ice cubes.
2. Cut a shallow 'x' in the bottom of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes into the pot of boiling water and let it cook for about 1 minute. Remove the tomatoes and immediately immerse them in the cold water bath. This should make the skins very easy to peel off. I did half my tomatoes at a time. When they are in the cold water bath, they should look like this:

Peel the skins off. They should come off very easily and the tomatoes should look like this:

3. Cut each tomato horizontally in half (be careful because they are slippery) and de-seed them over a 'garbage bowl' or over the sink. This is what you should be left with:

4. Chop the seeded tomatoes up.
5. In a large pot, heat a few Tbl of good olive oil. Add in the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.
6. Add the salt, sugar, basil and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about an hour. After an hour, it should look like this:

7. Use a stick blender to blend the veggies up to the desired consistency. I like mine pretty smooth. Add the tomato paste and stir until completely dissolved. Cook another 10 minutes or so. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Trust me-- you will need to add salt.
8. It's ready! Use it as a sauce over pasta with some meatballs (that was dinner tonight).

I have a lot of sauce left over-- about 5-1/2 cups. I'm going to freeze a pint, give a pint away, and use the rest as pizza sauce later on in the week. If you're in the mood for a really good soup, take a pint of sauce and add a can (14.5 oz.) of chicken or vegetable broth. Stir in some Parmesan cheese and a Tbl or two of cream and serve with garlic bread. Yum!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

Finally feeling better after having a 2-day stomach flu. Yuck! Yesterday, I made some chicken noodle soup. The soup was warm and comforting-- just what I needed. When I was little, Grandma Rapp would fix me chicken broth with a pinch of cayenne in it when I was sick. The cayenne wasn't overly hot, but gave the broth a warming sensation that immediately made you feel better-- especially if you had a sore throat. I made my soup the quick way but it was still really good. Here's the recipe:

Chicken Noodle Soup:

1 large carrot, sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

1/4 onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 quart chicken stock (low sodium)

1 cup Home style Egg Noodles

1 can chicken meat (the larger one, I think its 8 oz or so)

1. Saute vegetables, thyme and black pepper in a couple tsp of oil until onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes over medium heat.

2. Pour in the chicken stock and add the cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, then add the noodles. Cook according to the directions on the noodle package (mine took 18 minutes).

3. Add the can of chicken during the last 5 minutes of cooking the noodles. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Leftover chicken could be used here, but I didn't have any so I used the can!

4. Once the cooking time is up, taste for seasoning to see if you needed any salt. There was enough in the stock and canned chicken for me.

5. Ladle into a big bowl and eat. Here's to a happy and healthy Fall!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pampered Chef Party and Recipes (Almost No Knead Bread, Artichoke Dip, Carmel Pecan Chocolate Ganache Cups)

Tobie in the kitchen. Look at his back feet! He cracks me up.

Chicken grilling in the grill pan.

Almost No Knead Bread stuffed with Artichoke Dip. Heaven!

We had a great time last night. It was interesting to see how everyone fit into the tiny little townhouse kitchen, but it was a beautiful night and we mostly gathered outside.

The food was GREAT! I made two recipes of Almost No Knead Bread (Cooks Illustrated, one white and one wheat), artichoke dip to go inside one of the loaves of bread, Harvest Grains from Trader Joes with garlic, parmesan and tomatoes, steamed broccoli, and grilled chicken in the grill pan. We finished it all off with Caramel Pecan Chocolate Ganache Cups (went very well with the Cupcake Vineyards Shiraz).

As promised, here are the recipes. I will post pics of the artichoke dip in the bread bowl a bit later, but the pics of the dessert really didn't turn out very well.

Almost No Knead Bread (Cook's Illustrated)
3 cups all-purpose flour**
1/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast
1-1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup + 2 Tbl water, at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 Tbl mild flavored beer (I used Rolling Rock because that's what Ty drinks)
1 Tbl white vinegar

1. Whisk flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Make a well or dip in the middle and pour in the water, beer, and vinegar. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold the mixture from the bottom of the bowl until a shaggy ball forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours. I usually do this just before I go to bed and let it rise overnight.

2. Lay a 12x18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside a 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Lightly flour your countertop and dump the dough onto the counter. Dust the top of the dough with flour as well. Knead 10 to 15 times with clean hands. Shape the dough into a ball by pulling the edges toward the middle. Place the dough, seam side down, in the middle of the parchment lined skillet and lighltly spray the top with nonstick spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and lest rise at least 2 hours (longer for wheat dough).

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and place a 6-8 quart heavy bottomed Dutch Oven with the lid on the rack. I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven and remove the knob on the lid. Heat oven to 500 degrees.

4. Lightly flour the top of the risen dough and use a sharp knife to cut a 6 inch long, 1/2-inch deep slash across the top of the dough. Carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and remove the lid. Pick up the dough by lifting the edges of the parchment paper and carefully lower into the pot. Let the excess paper hang over the edge of the pot. Cover the pot and place in oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake until the loaf is a deep brown color, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Remove the pot from the oven, then carefully remove the bread from the pot and transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temp,about 2 hours. Enjoy!

**When making the wheat version, I use 2 cups all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour. The resulting dough will need to rise a bit longer than the white dough.

Artichoke Dip (Pampered Chef Recipe Card)
2-16 oz. bread bowls or two loaves of Almost No Knead Bread
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
14.5 oz can artichoke hears, drained well, chopped, and drained again
1 clove garlic, minced
1 envelope Vegetable Soup Mix (1.8 oz., I used Knorr)
8 oz. sour cream
1 Tbl lemon juice
Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice the top third off of one of the bread bowls. Using a small knife, carefully hollow out the bowl, leaving about a 1-1/2" bread border on each side and bottom. Place on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Cut the middle of the bread, top third, and second loaf into 1" cubes. Arrange the cubes around the hollowed out loaf and spray lightly with cooking spray.

2. In a medium sized, microwave-safe bowl, whisk cream cheese until smooth. Slowly whisk in milk, then stir in artichoke hearts, garlic, and veggie soup mix. Microwave on high 5 to 7 minutes or until hot but not boiling.

3. Stir sour cream and lemon juice into the warm artichoke mixture, then pour into the hollowed out bread loaf. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of the dip and over the bread cubes.

4. Bake in oven for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the bread cubes are lightly toasted and the dip is bubbly. Serve immediately.

Caramel Pecan Chocolate Ganache Cups
9 Nilla Wafers
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I use Ghiradelli)
1 cup whipping cream*
1/4 tsp espresso powder or 1 Tbl strong coffee**
2 Tbl caramel sauce***
Extra caramel sauce
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
whipped cream

1. Line 9 muffin cups with liners and place a Nilla wafer at the bottom of each cup.
2. In a medium sized bowl, combine the chocolate, cream and espresso powder. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir briefly, then microwave an additional 45 seconds.
3. Whisk until smooth and dark brown in color. This will take about 2 minutes to get everything completely mixed. Add the caramel sauce and stir well.
4. Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
5. Just before serving, add 1-2 tsp caramel sauce to the top of each cup. Top with whipped cream and toasted pecans. Serve with a spoon.

*For a firmer texture, use whipping cream. For a light and soft texture similar to pudding, use half and half.
**This ingredient is optional, but highly encouraged. The coffee accentuates the chocolate and makes it taste more like chocolate.
***seedless raspberry preserves or orange marmalade may also be used.

Goodness! That was a lot of typing. Have a great weekend!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This weekend was nice and relaxing. The stores are starting to put out their Halloween decorations! You know me and Halloween-- I can't wait! :) I got a cute set of prep bowls that are black with little dancing skeletons and ghosts on them. So fun! I'm going to fill them with goodies like Parmesan zucchini crisps, fresh applesauce, sliced fresh pears, etc. See? I'm keeping my goodies on the healthy side.

This weekend, a friends washer went out. She came over to my house with her laundry and I got to play with her two adorable kids! Amelie (3 yr old) and I played 'race car'. She'd sit in the laundry basket and I'd scoot her up and down the hallway as fast as I could. By the time we were done, we were both giggling with hair standing straight out from the static electricity we generated. While the laundry was going, Amelie also helped me make a Fresh Apple Pecan Struesel cake. The house smelled great!

After they left to go home, I made one of my favorite fall meals, Chicken Tortilla Soup. I love how the spicy savory broth warms me from the inside out. The garnishes of fresh avocado, low fat Mexican cheese, and tortilla chips really take it to the next level. The veggies are hidden in this one. ;)

Now on to another week. This Thursday, Tamra and I are going to Pittsburgh again for training. We're looking forward to lox and cream cheese for breakfast in the Denver airport, 3 days of Starbucks, and fresh fish for dinner. Yay!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
-2 split bone-in, skin-on, chicken breasts (about 1-1/2 lbs), skin removed and trimmed of excess fat (could sub 4 bone-in chicken thighs if desired)
-8 cups low sodium chicken broth
-1 very large white onion, trimmed of root end, quartered and peeled
-4 medium garlic cloves, minced
-8 to 10 sprigs fresh cilantro
-1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
-2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered
-jalapeno chile
- 1 chipotle chile plus up to 1 Tbl. adobo sauce
-1 Tbl vegetable oil
-1 lime, cut in wedges
-1 Hass avocado, chopped
-1 cup 2% low fat Mexican Blend cheese
- fresh cilantro
- tortilla chips
-sour cream

1. Bring chicken, broth, 2 onion quarters, 2 garlic cloves, cilantro, oregano, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a large plate. Pour broth through a strainer and discard solids. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and discard the bones.

2. Puree tomatoes, 2 onion quarters, 2 garlic cloves, jalapeno, and chipotle chili with 1 tsp adobo sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth. Heat oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add the tomato/onion puree and 1/8 tsp salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has darkened in color, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir the broth back into the tomato mixture, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend the flavors, about 15 minutes. Taste soup. If desired, add up to 2 teaspoons additional adobo sauce.

4. Stir in shredded chicken and simmer about 5 minutes to heat through. To serve, place portions of crushed tortilla chips in the bottom of individual bowls and ladle the soup on top. Pass the garnishes separately.

Makes about 8 1-cup servings of soup.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Feeling Ambitious-- Refried Beans, Applesauce, and Zucchini Bread!

Tyson came for the long weekend (Labor Day Weekend). We had tons of fun! On Saturday, we looked at houses in Star, ID-- and decided we still like Middleton. That night, we had the neighbor over for a BBQ (grilled chicken, corn on the cob, etc.).
Sunday, we drove up to McCall. It was a busy little town! We stopped at My Father's Place for hamburgers and fries (OMG!!) and ate at the lake watching the sailboats. Once we were done eating, we drove to Ponderosa State Park. It was great! They have a lot of hiking and biking trails there. We took the pups on a 90 minute hike. After the hike, we headed back to Payette. The pups were pooped!
Monday, Tyson left at 11am to go home. I went to Purdums (produce stand) and got inspired. When I got home, I made Refried Beans in the big crock pot, applesauce in the little crock pot, and Zucchini Bread. They all turned out great! The Refried Beans recipe is from Sherelle Christensen. I went to high school with her and she has one of my favorite blogs-- with really yummy recipes! The Zucchini Bread recipe was from my neighbor Aimee Hughes. I tweaked it a bit. The applesauce recipe was just one I made up and it turned out great! The recipes are below. Hope y'all have a great week!
Fresh Applesauce
6-8 apples (I used 4 pink lady and 2 granny smith apples)
1 Tbl brown sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1. Core, peel and chop the apples. Place in the crock pot.
2. Sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar on top. Stir well.
3. Cook on low for 8-9 hours, stirring occasionally.
4. Use a potato masher to mash the apples to the desired consistency. Taste, and add more cinnamon and/or brown sugar if needed.
Refried Beans
5 cups dried pinto beans, picked through and rinsed well
5 slices bacon, halved
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalepeno, cut in half lengthwise
1 Tbl seasoning salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried garlic
2 Tbl. cumin
1 Tbl. chili powder
1. Place beans in a large pot and add water to cover them by one inch. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
2. Put the bacon, onion, and jalepeno in the crock pot. Add the beans and the rest of the ingredients. Add enought water to just cover. Stir well.
3. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Check the water level every couple of hours and add water as necessary. After 6 hours or so, remove bacon and jalepeno.
4. Let beans cool, then refry them!
5. To refry, put about a Tbl. of corn oil or vegetable oil in a pot. Add about 2 cups of drained beans and mash with a potato masher until desired consistency. The cooking liquid from the beans can be added to thin out the mixture. Taste for seasoning, and cook on low, stirring often, until bubbly.
Zucchini Bread
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2-1/4 cups white sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup sliced almonds
1. Grease and flour 2 8x4 inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well. Stir in Zucchini and nuts until well combined. Divide batter between the two prepared pans.
4. Bake for 60 minutes. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely.
The bread will freeze well and keeps in the refrigerator for weeks. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Caprese and Roasted Veggies (purple cauliflower)

It's officially September! I can't believe how fast this year is going by. We only have another few weeks of farm stand goodness, so I've been cooking veggies like crazy! Last night, the neighbors and I decided to have a veggie dinner. We started off with Caprese, my favorite summer salad. We also had grilled sweet corn, marinated cukes, cantaloupe and Parmesan zucchini crisps. It was wonderful!

Earlier this week, I turned on the oven and roasted the veggies I had lying around. I tossed a sweet onion, yellow summer squash, purple bell pepper and purple cauliflower in olive oil. I then spread it out on a pan and baked it at 350°F for 30 minutes. Then I cut up a golden tomato and threw that on top with some garlic and herb seasoning. Returned it to the oven at 400°F for about 20 minutes and it was HEAVEN! This really isn't the best picture in the world, but you get the idea.

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced
1-2 Tomatoes, sliced thick
Fresh Basil
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
1. Put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and reduce by at least half to make a sweet syrup. Set aside to cool.
2. Layer cheese, tomatoes and basil on a platter or plate.
3. Drizzle with balsamic and olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Done!
Marinated Cucumbers:
Peel and slice a cucumber. Place in a bowl with enough seasoned rice vinegar to just cover. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let stand about 10 minutes and serve. Sometimes I also like to add a bit of sweet onion or fresh dill. Yum!
Parmesan Zucchini Crisps (Ellie Krieger, Food Network): Look it up! For some reason, it won't let me cut and paste anything into Blogger. :(
Soup is on the horizon, but not for a few weeks. We'll be in the 90's this Labor Day weekend and that's just too hot for soup! :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fresh Apple streusel Pecan Cake

This was the perfect recipe for a cool day like today. It wasn't difficule to put together, smelled heavenly while it was baking, and tasted great with a cool glass of milk. I was a bit suprised with how it turned out. The dough was very stiff for cake batter. I plopped the batter in the pan and greased my hands so I could spread it around without it sticking to my fingers. Glad it turned out so well! Here is the recipe. Enjoy!

Streusel Topping:
2/3 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats (I used old-fashioned)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
3 Tbl canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar
1 container (6 oz.) Yoplait Greek Fat Free Honey Vanilla Yogurt
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1-1/2 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped, peeled apples (2 medium- I used Pink Ladys)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 x 9-inch pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix streusel ingredients with a fork until crumbly; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat sugar, yogurt, oil, vanilla and eggs with an electric mixer until blended. Add all remaining ingredients except apples; beat on low speed about 1 minute or until blended. Stir in apples. Spread batter in pan. Sprinkle evenly with topping.

3. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with an ice cold glass of milk.

Makes 16 servings.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40-45 minutes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sweet Potato Soup

Though the temperatures in the Treasure Valley are still in the mid to low 90's, I've been craving fall foods! I cannot wait until the temperatures begin to cool, the breeze kicks up, and the leaves begin to turn. I love comforting fall foods like sweet potato soup, jambalaya, zuccini breads, acorn squash, etc. Here's a very versitile recipe that you can customize to whatever mood you're in:

Sweet Potato Soup

1 medium sweet onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbl olive oil

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1" chunks

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes

2 quarts chicken stock



  1. Heat oil in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add onion and garlic and cook on medium-low heat until onions are soft and just begin to turn brown. Add a little sprinkling of salt- this will help pull the moisture from the onion so it breaks down and caramelizes faster.
  2. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, and chicken stock. Cover, bring to a boil. Once to a boil, remove the cover from the pot and simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until the carrots and sweet potatoes are soft.
  3. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender or blend batches of the soup until smooth. Now flavor as desired and enjoy! If doing the sweet versions, you may need to add a bit of sugar.
Suggestions for flavors:

  • fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme
  • Indian spiced (curry and ginger)
  • Thai spiced (curry paste and coconut milk)
  • Mexican spiced (cumin and chili powder)
  • Sweet Spiced (cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar & cream-- serve with a spoonful of marshmallow fluff or a toasted marshmallow on top)
  • Praline Pecan (make the sweet version and add toasted caramelized pecans to the top)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Josie's Tropical Cupcakes

Today was Tamra's 2 year anniversary with Heinz. You know what that means-- an excuse to bake! Hooray!
I made Tropical Cupcakes. Very easy and light- just perfect for summer. They really hit the spot.

After work, Tamra and I are going shopping. $2 camis at Old Navy! Sa-weet!!


1 box angelfood cake mix
20 oz. can crushed pineapple

2 tubs Cool Whip (fat free or sugar free is ok)
2 tsp. Coconut extract, divided
2 tsp. Vanilla, divided
Sweetened coconut

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 3 cupcake pans with liners.

2. Dump the cake mix into a very large bowl. Add the crushed pineapple and mix on low with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Scrape the bowl and mix on medium speed for 1 minute. The cake batter will triple in size so you really need a big bowl!

3. Fill prepared cupcake cups 3/4 full with the batter. Bake for 20 minutes.

4. Let cool 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature.

5. While cupcakes are cooling, lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Spread the coconut on a sheet pan and bake for 3-5 minutes. Stir well and let cool. Set aside.

6. Meanwhile, thaw the cool whip in the refrigerator. Once thawed, stir 1 tsp coconut extract and 1 tsp vanilla into each tub.

7. When cupcakes are cool (just before serving), top each with about 2 Tbl flavored cool whip and a bit of toasted coconut.

8. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Easy and delicious! I took two slices of Parma Sourdough bread and toasted them. Then I cooked turkey bacon in the microwave and added fresh sliced tomato & lettuce greens from the veggie stand. Instead of mayo, I used a freshly mashed avocado. Absolutely wonderful! I also served corn on the cob and marinated cucumbers (seasoned rice vinegar, salt and pepper). Watermelon for dessert. Perfect meal for a hot summer day!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The veggies of Fruitland

Hooray! The veggie stands in Fruitland are FINALLY open! Currently in my fridge: orange cauliflower, fresh broccoli, cucumbers, zuchini, green beans, lettuce greens, patty-hat squash (that's what a little kid called them), corn on the cob, a sweet onion, and a jar of dilly beans. Going to be some good stuff. I also got some Parma Sourdough bread and Chocolate milk. Yum!

Last night, I cut up two small zucchini and sauted them in a pan with canola oil, a little garlic, and some Lawry's seasoning (reduced sodium). When they were almost done, I threw in a tomato I cut up. It was devine! Tonight for dinner, we'll put the Sourdough bread to good use and make some BLT-A's (BLT with Avocado). Can't wait!

I've made some really good friends here that live just down the street. Aimee and Corby are great and their pup, Eddy, loves Ralfie and Tobie. We went on a drive out to Steck Park last night (about 20 miles outside of Weiser, ID). Tobie went directly into the water. He loves to swim! Ralfie doesn't even like to get his feet wet. Here are a few photos.

That's all for now. I'll dig out the camera and post some pics of the produce and dishes I make out of them.