Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkin Rice Krispies Treats

I made these little cuties for my nephew's birthday party.  They are easy to make and super cute!  The kids loved them.  They're great for Halloween or Thanksgiving.  Here's how I made them:

PUMPKIN RICE KRISPIES TREATS

1/2 stick butter
4 cups mini marshmallows
5 cups rice krispies cereal
Orange food coloring (or red and yellow food coloring)
30 tootsie roll midgies

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted.  Once melted, add orange food coloring.  Stir well.  Put cereal in a large bowl.  Pour melted marshmallows over the cereal and stir well.  When totally combined, let sit a few minutes to cool a bit.

The secret to success here is wet hands.  Wet your hands with cold water, then take a heaping tablespoonful of the mixture and squeeze it together into a ball.  Roll gently.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  If your hands get sticky, just wet them again.  After you roll all 30 balls, add the tootsie roll stem.  Make a small indention in the top of the ball with your finger.  Place the tootsie roll in the indentiuon and squeeze the cereal around it to hold it in place.




That's it.  Easy, cute and festive.  Make these for Halloween or any time this Autumn season.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Silver Dollar Pumpkin Pie Pancakes with Butter Pecan Syrup

If you read my blog, you know I love everything about Fall (I won't shut up about it).  I am also a self-proclaimed pumpkin nut.  Since I will be cooking/baking/thinking about all things pumpkin, I thought I would bring you along for the ride on the pumpkin crazy train.

This morning, I whipped up Pumpkin Pie Pancakes.  And, as if that wasn't enough, I gilded the lily (or maybe gilded the pumpkin?) by making Butter Pecan Syrup to go with them.  Yum!  They were so good it was like eating dessert for breakfast.  But, pumpkin is so good for you that it's really a health food, if you think about it (You have to think really hard).

This recipe makes about 16 silver dollar sized pancakes.  It's very easy to double or triple depending on how hungry you are.

Here's how I did it:

SILVER DOLLAR PUMPKIN PIE PANCAKES

1 cup complete pancake mix (the kind where you only need to add water)
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup pumpkin (not pie filling mix, pure pumpkin)
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp cinnamon + a pinch of nutmeg)

Place everything in a bowl and mix gently just until combined.  It's very important that you don't over mix.  Over mixing will cause your pancakes to be tough and nobody wants that.

Heat a skillet (I like cast iron) over medium-low heat.  Melt a little butter (or spray with cooking spray but we're making butter pecan syrup to go over these, so just use butter, seriously) in the skillet.  Using a small scoop (or a Tablespoon) drop batter into skillet (make sure it's hot first).  Don't overcrowd them.  I do about 4 at a time.




Let them cook until the edges start to set and the bottom is golden.  Gently flip each pancake over to cook on the other side.  They don't take long at all and always less time on the second side.  That's why I like to make small, silver dollar sized pancakes (They cook faster, I eat sooner).




Since you cook them in batches, as they are done, set them on a plate and loosely cover with foil.  This will keep them warm until you are finished cooking them all.




While the pancakes are cooking, make the syrup:

A note about the cane syrup:  I love Steen's brand.  It's made in Louisiana.  It's made from pure cane sugar (no preservatives or additives) and it's insanely delicious.  If you can't find cane syrup, you can substitute dark corn syrup or even regular pancake syrup.  But look for Steen's.  You will love it so much you just might write me a thank you note.





BUTTER PECAN SYRUP

1 cup dark cane syrup
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 TBS butter (real butter, no substitute)

Heat everything together in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Once it comes to a gentle boil, turn it off.  Stir it well and let it sit until you're ready to eat pancakes.







I can honestly say, these are the best pancakes I have ever eaten.  The pumpkin makes them moist, the spices give them great flavor and the syrup, well let's just say I could take a bath in it (if it wasn't so sticky).  Make these.  Now.  Then go ahead and write me that Thank You note.  You're welcome. by the way.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake (made in the slow cooker!)

At the risk of repeating myself, I love all things Fall.  I love the beautiful weather, the new shows on television, sweaters and boots, but especially, pumpkin!  This time of year, I go a little pumpkin nutty.  I put pumpkin in everything!  My coffee (of course), muffins, pancakes, syrup, gravy, everything.  But I think this is my favorite, pumpkin cheesecake!  It is creamy and wonderful and spiced just right.  The mixture of cream cheese and ricotta cheese makes it so delicious.  Bonus:  you make it in a slow cooker!  Seriously!  I saw a lady do this on T.V. and had to try it.  I changed the recipe up a bit (added pumpkin for starters) and it came out great.  The moist cooking environment keeps the cheesecake from cracking (like it can in the oven).  Here's how I did it:


PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

1 cup ricotta cheese
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling! Plain pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Zest of half an orange
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt
graham cracker crust (I buy the pre-made kind)

In a food processor (or stand mixer), puree the ricotta cheese until smooth (scrape down the sides as needed).  Add the cream cheese and process until smooth.  Add the sugar and process long enough so that it is not grainy (a minute or two).  Add the eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, orange zest, pumpkin pie spice and salt.  Process until smooth.



Place a bowl in your slow cooker.




Place a plate on top of the bowl.  This makes a stable surface for your cheesecake to sit on.  You don't want it directly on the bottom of the slow cooker.  It'll be too hot.




Place the crust on the plate.



Pour the batter into the crust.




Place a thick layer of paper towels (4 or 5) over the top of the slow cooker.  Don't let the paper towels touch the cheesecake.  The paper towels keep the condensation from falling down on to the cheesecake.



Put the lid on tight and cook on HIGH for 2 hours or until the cheesecake is set in the middle. (Don't keep lifting the lid to check on it!  Once you lift the lid, it takes a long time for the slow cooker to regain heat).



Let cool for 30 minutes then place in the fridge and chill.  I let it chill overnight, but it should be ok after a few hours.





All I can say is YUM!  If you like pumpkin pie, you will like this.  It's so creamy and spiced just right.  Plus, I just think it's cool that I made a cheesecake in the slow cooker.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pork Chops with Apple Butter Gravy

I just adore Autumn.  But, living in South Louisiana, I don't see much of it.  Every now and then we get a glimpse of beautiful Fall weather, like the last few days.  Low humidity, sunshine and cool nights, just glorious!  Most years we get two Summers and head right into Winter.  So, I enjoy these days as much as I can and "Fall It Up".  By that, I mean I sit outside more, add pumpkin to just about everything, take my sweaters out and gaze at them lovingly, and make Fall Food.  This recipe is a great example of Fall Food.

PORK CHOPS WITH APPLE BUTTER GRAVY

4 bone-in pork chops (the bone adds great flavor)
2 TBS canola oil
salt/pepper
ground thyme
2 TBS soy sauce (I like low sodium variety)
2 TBS apple butter
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water

Season the pork chops with salt, pepper and ground thyme on both sides.  Let them sit out on the counter for about 15 minutes (by taking the chill off the meat, it will cook more evenly and be more tender).  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add canola oil.  Brown the pork chops on each side (about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness).  Remove to a plate and set aside.  With the skillet still on medium-high heat, add the water and scrape the bottom of the pan to get up the bits of meat stuck to the bottom (flavor!).  Add soy sauce and apple butter.  Let this simmer (lower the heat a bit) for a few minutes.  Then, add the chicken broth and salt and pepper to taste (be careful because the soy and broth can be salty).  Return the pork chops to the skillet and let them simmer in the gravy for 10 minutes (flip them over halfway through).




That's it!  Super easy and so delicious.  This dish definitely tastes like Fall!  The pork goes so well with the sweet and spice of the apple butter.  Fall on a plate!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Broccoli Cheese Soup

The other day I got a hankering for broccoli cheese soup.  I called the hubby to see if he would swing by Quiznos and pick some up.  He told me that Quiznos had closed down!  Aw man!  I love their broccoli cheese soup.  What was I to do?  I searched the kitchen and guess what?  I had everything I needed to make it myself.  And boy was it good!

BROCCOLI CHEESE SOUP

2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1/2 an onion, diced
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (shred it yourself)
1 cup shredded Velveeta
1 (12 oz) pkg frozen chopped broccoli
Salt/pepper

Microwave the broccoli according to the package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt butter.  Saute the diced onion in the butter until soft (about 5 minutes).  Sprinkle the flour over the butter.  Let it cook, stirring, for a few minutes.  Salt and pepper (to your taste).  Whisk in the milk.  Bring it to a boil, whisking.  Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until it thickens (it doesn't take long).  Add the chicken broth (to make it totally vegetarian, use vegetable broth instead), then add all of the shredded cheese.

A note about cheese:  Don't use the pre-shredded stuff!  It has some weird stuff on it to keep it from sticking together in the bag and it doesn't melt well.  Shred it yourself.  It's so much better!  And the reason I use cheddar and Velveeta is because cheddar has great flavor and the Velveeta makes it super smooth.  Good combo.

Once the cheese melts, add in the cooked broccoli.  Taste it and see if it needs more salt and/or pepper.  At this point you can leave it as it is (with big chunks of broccoli) or you can use an immersion blender to puree it.  I just got an immersion blender so, of course, I pureed mine.  (I love kitchen gadgets!). But, it's good chunky, too.




Smooth, creamy, cheesy goodness!  Sorry Quiznos, I like mine better.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Buffalo Baked Chicken

Just about everyone likes buffalo wings.  Delicious flavor, crispy skin, tender meat, yum!  That was the inspiration for this simple supper.  And, SURPRISE, my pickiest eater ever son loved it!  Woohoo, mom win!  Here's how you make it:

BUFFALO BAKED CHICKEN

Bone-in chicken thighs (you can use legs, too)
Salt/pepper
Louisiana hot sauce (I like Crystal brand)
Butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.  Rub a little (or a lot) hot sauce into the chicken.  Massage it a little so it gets all over the chicken (under the skin, too).  Let the chicken sit a while (your preheating the oven anyway).


Cut butter into thin pats.  Place one pat on top of each piece of chicken.  This will help with the flavor and help crisp the skin.


Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.



The chicken is crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.  Plus it makes a delicious little "sauce" on the bottom of the pan.  Spoon this over the chicken to make it truly decadent.  If you like things really spicy, add a lot of hot sauce.  If not, just use a little.  It will give it a wonderful flavor without being too hot to handle.  This one is definitely a keeper.  Anytime my pickiest eater ever son comments not once, not twice, but three times that he likes a dish, it becomes part of the repertoire.  (And I smile the smile of a truly happy Mom)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

(Crock) Pot Roast

My Old School Italian Husband loves pot roast.  It's one of his favorite dishes.  You know, slow cooked roast beef with potatoes, onions, celery and carrots that's simmered all day on the stove.  It is delicious but kind of a pain in the neck.  I mean, who has time to babysit a roast?  You gotta keep checking the liquid level and adding more water blah blah blah.  Who needs it?

I get the same result just sticking everything in the crock pot!  It's super easy.  I just throw it together in the morning and forget about it.  Then, I have a yummy, comforting supper waiting for me that evening.  My husband gets his pot roast and I get to relax all day!  Win win!

(CROCK) POT ROAST

2 - 3 lb. Chuck roast (great use for inexpensive cut of meat)
2 medium russet potatoes, cut into chunks
1 cup baby carrots
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
14 oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 packet brown gravy mix (McCormick)
1 tsp Italian seasoning

Place potatoes, carrots, celery and onions into crock pot.



Season with salt and pepper.  Place roast on top.  Season roast with salt and pepper.



In a large measuring cup, mix canned tomatoes (including juice), gravy mix and Italian seasoning.  Stir well.  (I zip it in the blender because my pickiest eater ever son hates tomatoes but likes tomato sauce.  Go figure.  But you can skip the blender if you like chunks of tomato).  Pour over the roast.





Cover crock pot and cook on low 6 - 8 hours.  The meat will shrink but it becomes tender and juicy and so delicious!  The tomatoes help to tenderize the meat and form a wonderful gravy.  The veggies soak up all the flavors, too.  Yum!








This recipe is a must try.  You'll love how easy it is and your family will love how yummy it is.  Like I said, win win!