Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I just want to point out a couple of new features added here. One, the "search" button is back. It disappeared for awhile because it was not working properly. Now, if there is a recipe you saw and wanted to get back to or are looking for recipes using certain ingredients, use the search bar to the left to find what you are looking for.

Also, I had several people let me know their frustration in printing recipes off The Olive Tree without printing photos or tons of unecessary pages. You will now see a link in each post that says "Printable Version". Simply click this link and you will be directed to the recipe with no extras, just to print! I hope these features make your visit and cooking much more pleasant! I LOVE recommendations like these so please let me know if there is something you would like to see!

Today I thought I would share a recipe that you can use for your New Year's Eve get together or just make at home for yourself! This is a mouth-watering hot dip that you can bake ahead and keep warm in a small crock pot or warmer. I will warn you, it is addicting! This is not too spicy, but just right. One of my favorites!

*Printable Version*

What You Need:
2 10 ounce cans chicken, drained
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup blue cheese dressing
2/3 cup buffalo wing sauce {I like Frank's brand}
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients and place into baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly in the center. Serve with crackers or celery or keep warm until ready to serve! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Homemade Peppermint Patties {Last Minute Gift Idea}

It seems like I said I was finished with gifts and wrapping weeks ago, however at least every few days I remember one more thing I needed or an unexpected gift arrives. You know how it goes. I ended up needing a few gifts last minute and after a painful hour wandering a busy chain store and finding nothing but crowds and frustration, I decided my kitchen was a better place to be. I saw this recipe at Savory Sweet Life and decided to try. You could have these made in the time it takes to drive somewhere and back and it will be so much more impressive and thoughtful. If you are done with Christmas gifts, these would still be great for a holiday party. I'm thinking New Year's Eve! I didn't document the process as well as she did, so I've included some of her pictures with mine.

Printable Version

What You Need:
1 14 oz. can of condensed milk
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons shortening

Add condensed milk, 2 cups of powdered sugar, and peppermint extract to a large mixing bowl. Mix everything on medium speed with mixer until ingredients are combined. Continue adding powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until you have a dough that is pliable but firm. At this point I covered and refrigerated the dough for about 30 minutes but you do not have to. Remove from the fridge and roll 3/4" balls with the palms of your hands. Press each ball down slightly and place on a parchment covered sheet. The first time I flattened mine too much. They should look like this:

Place the sheet into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour. Now you can make your chocolate coating. All this requires is melting the chocolate chips in the microwave {I do 1 minute to start, stir, and then 30 second increments}. Or you can use a double boiler on the stovetop. Thin the melted chocolate with the melted shortening. Let cool just a couple of minutes and then remove your disks from the freezer. Now you will place the disk on a fork and dip into the chocolate coating like this:

Place coated disks back onto the parchment and allow them to set. I put mine in the fridge overnight but you do not need to let them set that long. That's it! While they were setting up, I put together some cute bags to deliver them. {Now you will see the difference in my horrible photography skills!}

Here is my finished product: {Next time I want to add crushed candy cane or peppermints to the chocolate tops before they set}

Wrap them in tissue paper & tie:

I used paper bags. Fold down the top, cut slits the size of your ribbon and run the ribbon through. {After placing your chocolates inside the bag, of course!}:

Now give them away if you can avoid eating them all! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chewy Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies

This year I didn't do as much baking and treat making for the holidays as I usually do. It kind of left me wanting something more. So when I saw a from-scratch recipe for these I wanted to make them. {Okay I didn't really have the drive to make them but really wanted to have them}. I was in the grocery store with fresh ginger and molasses in my cart and walking down the baking aisle when I saw Betty Crocker's Gingerbread Cake & Cookie mix. And then... the whole idea went out the window because I decided to cheat and use a mix and just make up the chocolate part. I have to say, they really turned out yummy. If you need a quick cookie idea for an exchange or a gift or guests, I don't think you will be disappointed. They are super easy!

What You Need:
1 Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cake & Cookie Mix {or I guess whatever brand you like}
1/2 cup hot water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon  baking cocoa
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare cookie mix according to the directions. I wanted mine soft and chewy so this called for the water and butter. Add the baking cocoa and melted chocolate chips and mix well. Roll the dough into balls and roll in sugar. Place on the cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes until the edges are just starting to set. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack. Enjoy!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Smoked Gouda & Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I love mashed potatoes. Like in the way that if we have them for dinner, I can eat them for breakfast love them. It depends whether you like them with some texture or smooth, but I use a potato ricer when I make mine, which makes them smooth. Okay, onto the recipe. I first tried this a couple of  years ago when my sister in law, Jamie, made them for a holiday dinner. She made them again this Thanksgiving and they are seriously good. {She got the recipe from here}. I have actually not made these yet on my own, but highly recommend it for your holiday meal!

What You Need:
 1 head garlic
 1 teaspoon olive oil
 3 pounds russet potatoes
 2 teaspoons salt
 1/2 pound smoked gouda, shredded
 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
 1/2 cup heavy cream {add more as needed}
 salt and pepper to taste
 to roast the garlic:
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove outer layers of garlic skin. Cut off the top quarter inch of the head, exposing the tops of each of thegarlic cloves. Wrap garlic in foil or place into an oven-proof
ramekin. Drizzle with olive oil and cover tightly. Roast for 45 minutes. Uncover and roast for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
 To prepare the potatoes:
 Peel and chop potatoes, placing them into a large pot. Cover with cold water and cook over medium-high heat, bringing the water to a slow boil, until the potatoes are fork tender (approximately 20 minutes). When potatoes are done, drain in a colander and return to the warm pot. If you are using or want to try using a ricer, this is the point you would use it. Once done, add butter, garlic, cheese, and cream. If using ricer, stir the ingredients together until combined. Otherwise, mash until the desired consistency.  Serve warm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's For Dinner Wednesday

For dinner tonight at our house, it is one of our favorite easy Mexican dishes, technically called Citrus Pulled Pork, but tonight I am making it with chicken instead. I am using the slow cooker and for two chicken breasts cooking it on low for about 3 hours. I posted this recipe back in May but you can easily click over to it here. Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fresh Lemon Cream Crepes

This is my new favorite breakfast/brunch recipe! I made these for Sunday breakfast and while its a given that I will love every bite, its hit or miss with my hubby and he loved (three and a half) of them too! This recipe is on the Betty Crocker website made with Bisquick baking mix but I adapted it and made the crepes from scratch, so that part of the original recipe is changed. I followed their recipe for the cream filling though and it is amazing. I also made some with nutella and berries for my little boy. There are definitely endless fillings you can use for crepes but I am telling you, this lemon cream one can not be beat. The lemon is not overpowering at all because it is balanced by the sour cream. These would be perfect for your holiday breakfasts or brunches. I had never made crepes before and they are easy. My only tip is that for my 10 inch pan, I used around 1/4 cup plus a tablespoon of batter to make them as thin as they should be. If you are using an 8 inch pan, 3 tablespoons of batter might be closer to enough. You may need to try out a couple and see how much batter you need each time.

What You Need: {Crepes}
 4 eggs, lightly beaten
 1 1/3 cups milk
 2 tablespoons butter, melted
 1 cup all-purpose flour
 2 tablespoons white sugar
 1/2 teaspoon salt


1. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, melted butter, flour sugar and salt until smooth.

2. Heat a medium-sized skillet or crepe pan over medium heat. Grease pan with a small amount of butter or oil applied with a brush or paper towel. {I used a non-stick pan and found the butter in the pan was not necessary. There is plenty in the crepe batter.} Spoon about 3 tablespoons crepe batter into hot pan, tilting the pan so that bottom surface is evenly coated. Cook over medium heat, 1 to 2 minutes on a side, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and keep warm.

What You Need: {Filling}

 2 cups sour cream
 1/2 cup milk
 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
 1 box (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding mix
 2 cups fresh raspberries
 Powdered sugar
 Additional fresh Raspberries, if desired

1. In a small bowl, beat sour cream, 1/2 cup milk, lemon peel, lemon juice, and pudding mix with whisk until blended.

2. To assemble each crepe, spoon 1/4 cup on filling on one end of crepe; top with 5 raspberries. Roll up; sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with additional raspberries.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Country Style Pork with White Beans

This is such a simple, affordable comfort dish and can be done either in the slow cooker or a dutch oven style pot in the oven at a lower temperature. At first I thought the combination of ingredients was odd but they really come together. This meal is hearty and warm and full of flavor, perfect for the season.  I served this over rice but it stands on its own if you prefer. This over filled my 4 quart slow cooker so I would go with a 6 quart pot if you can. Great northern beans are large, hard beans that hold up well in the slow cooker. If unavailable substitute dried red or kidney beans. Because the beans need to be soaked for at least 8 hours, make sure to plan ahead!

Photo and recipe courtesy of My Kitchen Cafe
What You Need:
1 pound dried great northern beans
3 pounds country style pork ribs (about 12 ribs), trimmed of excess fat
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pound chicken or turkey kielbasa sausage, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 (14.5 ounce each) cans diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Eight to 24 hours before assembling in the slow cooker, rinse the white beans and place them in a large bowl with cold water to cover by at least 2 inches. Let the beans soak anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.

Eight to 9 hours before eating, drain the beans and transfer them to the slow cooker. Dry the pork ribs thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the oil is hot and rippling. Add half of the ribs and brown on all sides, 4-5 minutes. Transfer them to the slow cooker. Return the skillet to medium heat and heat 2 more teaspoons oil until hot and rippling. Brown the remaining ribs and transfer them to the slow cooker.

Return the skillet to medium heat and heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth, tomato paste, celery seed, thyme and bay leaf, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Transfer the onion mixture to slow cooker.

Add the kielbasa, tomatoes and chicken broth to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on either low or high, until the meat is tender, 7 to 8 hours on low or 5 to 6 on high. Before serving, discard the bay leaf, stir in the parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over hot, steamed rice, if desired. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Butter

This recipe took care of three things for me. One, I had quite a bit of extra canned pumpkin left from stocking up in the fall. Two, I always like to make some sort of homemade gifts for Christmas and have done pear butter in the past with good results. And three, made my morning toast ten times better with its delicious-ness! This recipe from Multiply Delicious is incredibly easy. In fact, I mentioned I've done pear and apple butter in the past and this is so much less work since there is no fruit to clean and peel. You may have seen popular store bought versions of it at Trader Joe's or Williams-Sonoma. This recipe will make you around 3-4 pints. I doubled the recipe, used half pint jars, and got 14 out of it.
This is what I would do if you are planning to use it for gifts. You can use these for neighbors, to add to gift baskets, etc.

*Printable Version*

What You Need:
4 cups Pumpkin Puree {will take a bit more than 2 15 oz cans}
1 1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt


In a 5-quart pot, combine all ingredients. Bring to boiling and then reduce the heat. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, 25 minutes or until thick. The mixture will probably spatter as it comes to a boil so watch carefully or it will be all over your kitchen! {This may have happened to me!} Keep stirring and as it loosens up this will stop.

If you are canning:
Ladle into HOT sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Keep jars on a towel. Wipe rims and immediately add sterilized seals and rings. Do not disturb for 24 hours. Mine did not seal right away but were all sealed within the hour.

If you are not canning, ladle into freezer containers or refrigerate and use.

Serve with bread, biscuits, or toast. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Garden Herb Bread

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! We were gone five days and I have been busy trying to catch up. This is a tasty quick bread recipe that I've had for so many years I am not sure of the source. This turns out fairly dense since it does not have a rise, but because of that goes perfectly with soups and stews. This bread is fabulous with this Tortellini Soup. Once the dough is made, I divide it in threes, make long pieces, braid and tuck the ends, as seen in the photo. However if you do not want to do that, shaping it into a bread pan works just fine. Very yummy and easy!
What You Need:
4-6 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 packages of rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1 egg

In a small saucepan, heat milk, water, and butter until just warm. Combine liquid with dry ingredients. Stir in egg. Gradually add flour until a stiff dough is formed. Do not over flour dough. Cover and let rest about 10 minutes. At this time, braid and knot the ends or form into a bread pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes. You may need to cover the top with foil during the last 10 minutes to avoid over browning the top. Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tortellini Soup

We absolutely loved this recipe that I found at Real Mom Kitchen! I've said a lot that I make a lot of home made soup and I love adding new ones to our rotation. This recipe is not only yummy and easy, but affordable. I will tell you this makes a lot so you may need to cut it in half or freeze half (without added tortellini). You need a 6 or 7 quart pot to fit everything. I actually like making doubles. It doesn't take extra work and you have a meal for another night in the freezer.

What You Need:
1 lb. browned ground beef
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 onion
salt and pepper
3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
8 cups beef broth {I use water with buillon}
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can kidney beans {I used white just due to preference}
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 packet Good Seasoning dry Italian Dressing Mix
1 (10 3/4 oz) can condensed tomato soup
1 (20 oz) pkg Cheese Tortellini
grated parmesan cheese {optional}

Brown  hamburger in a large skillet with the onion, garlic and enough of salt and pepper to taste. Put the canned tomatoes in a blender and blend them until smooth. {I also blended some of the carrots and zucchini here just to hide from my picky eaters}. Put the meat mixture, blended tomatoes and all other ingredients EXCEPT the tortellini  into a large soup pot. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for at least 20 minutes. {Mine simmered for half the day since I cook at noon for dinner}. Partially cover your pot. In a separate medium sized sauce pan cook the tortellini according to package directions.  If you are freezing a portion, separate it now, before adding the pasta. When the tortellini is al dente, drain the water from the tortellini and add it to the soup you are serving now. Serve with grated parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top of each bowl! Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I am having some blog technical difficulties! I know this layout is a little hard to look at. I hope to have it fixed soon. On the upside, I am now a part of the Williams Sonoma Cooks Network. A good majority of the items in my kitchen come from Williams Sonoma because they are of the best quality and actually not overpriced. I love going to their store, browsing the catalog, and something from there is always on my wish list! There are two ads placed on the side of my page. Check them out!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sourdough & Mushroom Stuffing

Here is one more side idea for your holiday meals. I have been craving stuffing for a month but am trying to hold out. When I was growing up the stuffing we had usually used ground sausage so that is also an option you could add here, especially for those that may want to omit or substitute the mushrooms. This recipe can be found on Food Network and also a version at Kneaders Bakery. Just make sure you use a good quality sourdough!

What You Need:
1-pound loaf sourdough bread
8 tablespoons butter
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/2-inch thick in both directions
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 to 4 stalks celery with leaves, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
About 10 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
10 to 12 fresh sage leaves, chopped
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish and set aside. Cut or tear the bread into 1-inch cubes and spread it evenly on 2 baking sheets. Toast the bread in the oven until completely dry and beginning to crisp and brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a few pinches of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add celery, onion, 2 tablespoons butter, and thyme. Once the butter has melted, cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add sage and remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Add chicken broth to skillet and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl. Pour the chicken broth mixture over the bread cubes and toss to combine until the bread cubes absorb the liquid. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish, and sprinkle with parsley. Bake in the center of the oven until heated through and the top is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove the stuffing from the oven and allow to cool about 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ruth's Chris Sweet Potato Casserole

 A few years ago at a company holiday party, we had this dish at a Ruth's Chris steakhouse and loved it so much a few of us set out to find the recipe. Have you ever had it there? Wow, it is to die for. A friend of ours was able to find it and sent it to me, and I have made it every year since. I've passed this recipe onto others who are also addicted. This might be my favorite Thanksgiving dish and I am looking very forward to having it again this year! {Although I'm looking forward to pretty much all of them!} This is an updated replacement to the yams with marshmallows dish that many people use on the holiday.

What You Need: {Crust}
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/3 stick butter, melted

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, well beaten
1 stick butter, melted

Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and butter in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into buttered baking dish. Sprinkle the surface of the sweet potato mixture evenly with the crust mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to set about 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Pudding

If you don't have the Fix it and Forget It Cookbook for the slow cooker, you really should. This book is probably my most used for many years now. The recipe I am sharing today comes from there and has also been a favorite at our house for a long time. In fact, I think I need to make it tonight since I haven't for awhile. Not only is it incredibly good, it will make your house smell yummy and you might just have all the ingredients on hand. I love desserts in the slow cooker! The end result is warm and pumpkin spicy and is perfect topped with whipped cream or even ice cream. You will keep this one forever once you try it!

What You Need:
15 oz can solid pack pumpkin
12 oz can evaporated milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk baking mix
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons vanilla
whipped cream or ice cream to top

Mix together all ingredients except whipped or ice cream. Pour into greased slow cooker. {I make mine in a 6 quart size but you can use whatever size so long as it fits and you'll need to make time adjustments}. Cover and cook on low about 4 hours or until thermometer reads 160 degrees. Serve topped with cream and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Butternut Squash with Walnuts & Vanilla

This is one of those recipes that I feel like could be tinkered with to get it just right and then it would be perfect for my taste. While I could do that before posting it, I think its still a great, simple fall side dish that  would be a great hit at your Thanksgiving dinner so I don't want to miss sharing it. I think you need to try it and let me know what changes you think would make it better. Next time, I'd like to try adding some carmelized onions and some more fall spices like cinnamon. Either way I am a huge fan of butternut squash. I have always had a difficult time in recipes that call for it to be cubed but recently found a website that provided a super easy way. You can find that here. It tastes as good as it looks!

Recipe and photo courtesy Simply Recipes.
What You Need:
1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds, peeled, seeds removed, flesh cut into 1-inch cubes (see how to cut and peel a butternut squash)
1 heaping cup of walnuts
2-3 Tbsp butter
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper to taste

 Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat the cubed squash with a little oil and spread out onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and roast until the cubes begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and toast the walnuts. Stir frequently or they will burn. Once they they start to brown, and you can smell the aroma of toasted walnuts, remove from heat. Melt the butter in the pan with the walnuts over medium-high heat. Toss the walnuts to coat with butter, then add the squash. Toss them to coat with butter.  Add the grated ginger, vanilla extract, black pepper, a little salt and dried thyme and toss once more. Turn off the heat and squeeze some lemon juice over everything. Taste for salt and lemon and add more to taste. If you want this to be a bit more luxurious, mix in another tablespoon of butter or two  before serving. Serves 4. Enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Quick & Delicious Pot Pie

I found this recipe in my recent issue of Simple & Delicious and am so glad I did. I loved this and thought it was the best comfort food for cold weather. I adapted it just slightly with my own preferences and you can do the same.  What a great weeknight meal. You can throw this together in less than ten minutes and everyone will love it. With Thanksgiving approaching, this would be a perfect use for leftover turkey. Now this does use processed things like canned cream soup, but it isn't always reasonable to make everything from scratch, right? Try won't be sorry! Warm, rich, hearty, easy and tasty!

What You Need:

4 cups cubed cooked chicken {Use canned chicken or rotisserie to make it even easier}
1 12 oz. package frozen broccoli in cheese sauce {I used Birdseye that included carrots and cauliflower}
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
2 medium potatoes, cubed {I did NOT use}
3/4 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/4 tsp. pepper

1 1/2 cups biscuit/baking mix {Bisquick works fine}
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large pot or dutch oven, combine all of the filling ingredients and bring to a boil. Transfer to a greased 13 by 9 baking dish. In a separate small bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Spoon over the top of the filling. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden brown. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes with Black Cinnamon Syrup and Jack-O-Lantern Bites

Here are two more fun Halloween meal ideas using pumpkin. How fun would it be to make the pancakes Halloween morning or for a fun dinner? We eat pumpkin pancakes year-round at our house but I think the syrup makes it more festive for the holiday.

What You Need: {Pumpkin Pancakes with Black Cinnamon Syrup}

2 eggs
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
5 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
few drops of orange gel food coloring

Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with no stick spray. Combine eggs, buttermilk, butter, pumpkin, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to blend ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend with mixer until smooth. Add just a few drops of gel food coloring until you get a nice orange. Pour or scoop the batter onto hot skillet, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.When the batter stops bubbling and edges begin to harden, flip the pancakes. They should be golden brown. This will take from 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook other side for the same amount of time, until golden brown. Serve warm with syrup. Makes approximately 16 pancakes.

If you make the pumpkin pancakes and serve with this syrup, you could cut down or even leave out the cinnamon in the pancakes.

Black Cinnamon Syrup

{recipe from Not Martha}
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup water
black food coloring gel

In a saucepan combine all ingredients except for the food coloring gel. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously.
As it starts to heat, add in a little of the black food coloring and mix in, add more until dark. Allow it to boil for a few moments until the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to put into a squeeze bottle.You can make the syrup the night before and warm it by dipping the squeeze bottle in a bowl of warm water.

Jack-O-Lantern Bites

I made these Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin bites last year for Halloween, recipe from Bakerella. The catch is you do need a mini-muffin pan and a pumpkin cookie cutter. I went out and got inexpensive versions of both of those things and they have both come in handy for other uses so I think it is worth it.

What You Need:
2 refrigerated ready-to roll pie crusts
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter {Mine is 3 3/4 in wide. If you don't have one, use a circle and make the stems from the dough scraps}

1/2 cup chocolate morsels
vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use cookie cutter to cut 12 pumpkin shapes from each pie crust. You will need to roll the dough thinner than it comes out of the box.

Press dough shapes into a 24 cup mini muffin tray. (Make 12 at a time, alternating cups to make sure pie crusts don’t overlap each other.)

Apply egg whites from one egg to the top edges of each pie.

Mix cream cheese, sugar, canned pumpkin, remaining 2 eggs, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice together until thoroughly combined.

Spoon mixture into each pumpkin-shaped pie crust.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Remove pies to cool and repeat with second pie crust. Place the muffin tray in the freezer to cool it quickly for re-use.

Makes 24 pies. Keep refrigerated.

To decorate, melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave on medium. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until melted. Add a little vegetable oil to make the chocolate more fluid. Transfer to squeeze bottle, plastic bag with the corner cut off, or piping bag. Drizzle or draw faces on pies. Have fun and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Strawberry Ghosts and Ghost Cookies

Here are two fun ideas to add to your Halloween party or meal. Both are incredibly easy, fun for kids and yummy to eat! I got both of these recipes from Taste of Home.

What You Need: {Strawberry Ghosts}
30 fresh strawberries
8 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon shortening
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Wash strawberries and gently pat with paper towels until completely dry. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate and shortening at 50% power; stir until smooth. Stir in extract.

Dip strawberries in chocolate mixture; place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, allowing excess chocolate to form the ghosts' tails. Immediately press chocolate chips into coating for eyes. Freeze for 5 minutes.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Dip a toothpick into melted chocolate and draw a mouth on each face. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

What You Need: {Ghost Cookies}
1 pound white candy coating, coarsely chopped
1 package (1 pound) Nutter Butter peanut butter cookies
Miniature semisweet chocolate chips


In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating, stirring occasionally. Dip cookies into coating, covering completely. Place on waxed paper.

Brush ends with a pastry brush dipped in coating where fingers touched cookies. While coating is still warm, place two chips on each cookie for eyes. Let stand until set. Store in an airtight container. Yield: about 3 dozen. Have fun & enjoy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Jell-O Worms

This week I am going to be posting some fun Halloween recipes that would be great for parties or just fun for the family. The first one I am posting I made last year as part of our Halloween night dinner and will do again this year. The pictures I am sharing are from last year's dinner and are not very good pictures but give you an idea of what fun things I like to do for the holiday.

For these fun worms, it's important to use a tall, slim container to hold the straws, such as a 1 liter orange juice or milk carton (be sure to use something with a 4 cup capacity). The straws should fit tightly together. If you use too large a container, the gelatin will run right back out before it sets. Also, be sure to buy the straws with the flexible neck, as they give the worms the most realistic "earthworm" appearance. Recipe makes about 100 long worms.

What You Need:
1 pkg. (6 oz) purple gelatin {raspberry or grape work}
3/4 oz. unflavored gelatin {usually found by the canning supplies}
3 C. boiling water
3/4 C. whipping cream
green food coloring, as needed
100 plastic straws

In a medium, heat safe mixing bowl, stir together plain and flavored gelatin powders.  Pour boiling water over, stirring until gelatin is fully dissolved.  Allow gelatin to cool til only slightly warm. Stir whipping cream into the gelatin mixture. Stir in green food coloring (you'll probably need 10 drops or more) until your gelatin gets that purpley-brown-grey color of earthworms. With your 100 straws fully extended and snug in your chosen container, pour the gelatin mixture over the straws, filling the container. Cover container and chill at least 8 hours. You can make them and store them this way up to two days in advance of serving. Remove straws from their container. Cutting or ripping a disposable container away is easiest. With hot tap water running, place batches of 4-5 straws under hot running water for a couple quick seconds. Remove "worms" from their straw casings, pressing with fingers and running down the length of the straw, sort of "squishing" the worm out. Set on waxed paper to set up.  Repeat until all worms are removed. Chill, covered, on waxed paper. Serve in a chilled bowl, as pictured. I put crushed chocolate cookies in the bottom first to look like dirt. Have fun and enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

After School Peanut Butter & Honey {Chocolate} Popcorn

For the next week I have a lot of fun recipe ideas for you for Halloween. I have made it a tradition at our house to make a Halloween dinner and I have some breakfast and snack ideas too. For today though...
I found this recipe at Real Mom Kitchen and because it has "after school" in the title, suggests its target is children. While I think this would be a fabulous after school snack that kids would love to eat and also help with in the kitchen, I think its an awesomely addicting snack for anytime, any age. I have company coming this weekend and wanted this out for people to snack on but I'm not sure there is going to be much left by the time they arrive. I had this together in less than five minutes and had all of the ingredients in my pantry. I adore this and will be making it over and over again. Think the soft chewiness of caramel corn without the mess. I ended up drizzling melted chocolate chips over the top of mine also but this is optional!

What You Need:
8 cups popped popcorn {1 bag of microwave if that is what you are using}

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla {optional, I did not use}
1/2 cup melted chocolate {I just used chocolate chips}

Use a large bowl to hold popped popcorn. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and honey. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth. Add vanilla, if using. Pour peanut butter syrup over popcorn and stir to coat. Spread out on to a cookie sheet. Drizzle with chocolate, if using. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Blondies

Ah, people...if you choose to make just one thing that I ever post, choose this. This has been my number one favorite fall recipe for two years running. I am proud to say that this is my very own adaptation and I also know for sure you will love them. The one snag is that this recipe calls for cinnamon chips and I worry some of you may have a hard time finding those. If your grocery store sells them, they will be right in with the chocolate chips. The brand I have is Hershey's. If your grocery store does not carry them, ask them to order them. Seriously! I could suggest substitutions like white chocolate chips but really I think the cinnamon chips kind of make the whole thing. So...look hard! Love, love these. That's all.

*Printable Version*

What You Need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree {If you are having a hard time finding pumpkin right now, Costco has it!}
1 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. With a mixer, cream together both sugars and butter until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well blended. Add the pumpkin puree. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture gradually until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in chocolate and cinnamon chips. Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for about 35-40 minutes. The sides will pull away from the pan. Test the center for doneness. Cool completely in pan. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mexican Skillet Chicken and Rice

Nothing beats a one-pan meal, right? I enjoy the cooking, not so much the washing all the dishes afterward. I thought this recipe was sort of a good twist on a  Mexican dish, something we had not done before. It turned out tasty, quick and easy. I chopped all of the peppers and onion in the food processor to make it go more quickly also. By the way, I made homemade salsa this same night and learned a hard lesson about wearing gloves to handle jalapenos. I got some serious jalapeno skin burn (didn't even know that was possible!) and found out MILK will take the burn away, just in case you ever need to know! Anyway, this recipe is a good weeknight meal. I served ours with some crispy tortillas on the side!

Photo courtesy My Kitchen Cafe

What You Need:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 poblano peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (10 oz.) cans green enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro {optional}

Gently pat the chicken dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Brown the chicken on each side for 1-2 minutes until it is golden but not cooked all the way through. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

In the hot skillet, add the onion and poblano peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook for 30 seconds. Add the enchilada sauce, rice and water, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and set the chicken breasts in the simmering rice mixture, nestling them in a bit. Cover the skillet, set the heat to low and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed and the chicken is cooked through, stirring every five minutes or so to ensure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom.

Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!