Thursday, January 30, 2014

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

It has been crazy cold here in South Louisiana.  It was 16 degrees last night.  That's not normal by any means!  My kids have been out of school the past three days due to snow and ice (we can not drive in that, sad but true).  So, with all the cold, we are doing whatever it takes to stay warm.  The best-tasting way to do that is Hot Chocolate.  Every winter I like to make up a batch of this homemade hot chocolate mix.  It is so good.  But, a warning, this recipe makes a ton of mix!  You may want to cut it in half.  But, if you make the entire batch it is perfect for giving away as gifts.  I used to give it to my kids teachers in a pretty cellophane bag with a Christmas mug.  They loved it.  You could also put it in mason jars and give it as hostess or neighbor gifts.  Or, you could just keep it all and drink it to stay warm on these crazy cold winter days!


8 cups of chocolate NesQuick powdered mix (about a 2 pound box)
1 lb. box powdered sugar
11 oz. container of powdered coffee creamer
8 quart box of powdered milk (dry milk powder)

Combine all of the ingredients in a very large bowl (if you don't have a giant bowl, use a big pot).  Stir well.  Be sure it is completely combined.  I mixed this in my gigantic pasta pot.

To serve, fill your mug half full with the mix.

Fill the rest of the way with very hot (not quite boiling) water.  Stir well.

This hot chocolate is sweet and creamy, so good.  My son likes mini marshmallows on top and my daughter likes a dollop of cool whip with a sprinkling of cinnamon.  I like mine plain.  Any way you serve it, it's good stuff!

Like I said earlier, this recipe makes a bunch!  I store it in gallon size zip top bags.  But to make it easy to serve, I reuse the container the coffee creamer came in.  After cleaning and drying it and removing the label, I write "Hot Chocolate Mix" on the front and the directions on the back.  This makes it simple for the kids to fix their own.

So, give this hot chocolate mix a try and stay warm.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cajun Mardi Gras Cake

Today my Mama and Daddy came to visit.  I wanted to make something sweet to share with them.  My Daddy loves coconut and pecans, so I immediately thought of this cake.  It's easy, super delicious, plus, I always have the ingredients on hand.  I don't know where it got it's name, but I've been making this cake for as long as I can remember.  One taste and you'll know why.

Note:  I made half this recipe because I only had 1/2 cup of pecans on hand.  But, if you can, make the whole recipe.  It won't go to waste, trust me.  Here's the whole recipe.


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple


3/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cup coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 cake pan with cooking spray.  Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs and pineapple with juice.  Mix at low speed just until blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Don't over cook or it will be dry!  Have topping ready when cake is done.

To make the topping:

In a medium saucepan, combine evaporated milk, sugar and butter.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring the whole time.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, coconut and pecans.

When cake comes out of the oven, use a skewer (or end of a wooden spoon or a fork) to poke holes all over the cake.  Do this while it's hot.

Spread the topping over the cake.

Let it cool before cutting.

This cake is so good!  The topping is amazing!  You could even just make the topping and pour it over store bought pound cake for a super fast "homemade" dessert.  Or, you could spread it on brownies!  Ooh, that would be awesome!  Or, pour it over ice cream!  Sorry, I get excited about food the way others get excited about winning the lottery.  It's irrational and crazy, but fun.  So, enjoy this cake during the upcoming Mardi Gras season and beyond.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tropical Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is one of those dishes that can be made a million different ways.  I've blogged about my basic chicken salad recipe before.  It's one of my favorite lunches.  When I have leftover chicken, I usually make some sort of chicken salad out of it.  I recently made Pineapple Teriyaki Grilled Chicken, with grilled pineapple rings.  Yum!  So, of course, when I had one piece left over, I had to make a salad.  This one was a winner!  It's my new favorite.

First I'll tell you how I made the grilled chicken.  You will definitely want to make extra so you can make the chicken salad (Am I overselling this?  I don't think so).


4 boneless chicken breasts
1 small can pineapple rings
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 TBS Canola oil
1 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp seasoned salt

Drain and reserve juice from pineapple.  Dry the pineapple rings.  Set aside.  Add reserved juice to a bowl or large measuring cup.  Whisk in soy sauce, oil, brown sugar, garlic powder, ginger and seasoned salt.  Place chicken in a large zip bag and add marinade.  Place the bag on a plate (in case it leaks) and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Take out of the fridge and let sit on the counter for 20 minutes.  Never put ice cold meat on the grill!  It will seize up and get tough.

Grill on medium heat about 6 minutes per side.  Grill dried pineapple 1-2 minutes per side.  Serve pineapple on t

If it's too cold where you live to grill right now, you can make this on a grill pan or in a cast iron skillet.

Sorry I don't have a photo.  It got erased somehow.  I will add one the next time I make this, which will be soon.  Yeah, it's yummy.

Now, here's how I make the chicken salad:


1 leftover grilled chicken breast, cubed
1 leftover pineapple ring, chopped
1 TBS finely diced onion
1 TBS finely diced red bell pepper
1 TBS roasted sunflower seed kernels
1 TBS mayonnaise
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt/pepper

Mix mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well.  Make sure everything is coated with the dressing.  Let sit for a while to develop the flavors.

This was even better the next day!  The sweetness of the pineapple with the saltiness of the sunflower seeds is perfect!  It's definitely my new favorite way to make chicken salad.  Did I say that already?  Oh well.  Give this one a try, you'll love it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Peas and Macaroni Soup

This is yet another dish I learned from my Mother-in-law.  She is Italian and from Brooklyn.  You know the Italian Brooklyn ladies you see in the movies?  That's her.  Yes, she's just as cool as she sounds, a no nonsense, tell it like it is, love you with all her heart and stuff you with food till you bust kind of lady.  Plus, she's more of a friend than a typical pushy Mother-in-law.  I'm lucky to have her in my life.  Right now, she's battling cancer.  But she's a tough braud, the toughest I know.  She'll tell it where it can go and what it can do when it gets there.

She's taught me a lot about cooking over the years and here's a dish she loves.  You will, too.  It's a great comfort food.


3 TBS oil
1/4 of an onion, sliced very thin
1 can sweet peas, do not drain
1 small can tomato sauce with basil & oregano
3 TBS chopped fresh parsley
8 oz small pasta (small shells, ditalini, elbow)

Boil water for the pasta.  Season the pasta water with a lot of salt.  You will use this later.

Add oil and onions to a medium-sized pot.  Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently.  You want the onions to caramelize.

Once the onions are caramelized, add the can of peas with the liquid.  This liquid helps thicken the soup.  Add tomato sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.

When the pasta is almost done (it will finish cooking in the soup), reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water before draining.  Or you can just use a slotted spoon to scoop all the pasta out, keeping the water in the pot.

Add the pasta to the peas and stir well.  Add a little of the reserved pasta water to make the peas as soupy as you like.  Salt and pepper to taste again.  Stir in fresh parsley.  Serve it up in bowls.  You can even add a little more of the pasta water to each bowl, depending on how soupy each person wants it.  I like it thicker, my husband likes it soupier.

I like to serve some easy garlic toast with this.  Here's a trick for infusing garlic flavor into butter.  Crack a peeled garlic clove and place it in a microwave safe mug.  Add 1 TBS oil and 1 TBS butter.  Cover with a paper towel and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Let it sit for a few minutes, then brush onto slices of bread.  Toast them up in the oven.  This just gives a hint of garlic, good flavor without being overpowering.

Try this comforting meal and see how good simple can be.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cinnamon Roll King Cake

Mardi Gras is a big deal around here.  The kids get a week off from school.  There are parades for weeks (Yes, I said weeks).  It's a ginormous party!  I love the decorations (purple, green and gold), the music and the floats.  But, my favorite part of Carnival season is King Cake.

The King Cake is made from braided dough, traditionally with cinnamon inside.  But there are tons of different flavors.  It's baked up then slathered with icing and topped with purple, green and gold sugar.  It originated at parties celebrating Twelfth Night, or when the three wise men, or Kings, visited the baby Jesus.  That's why we put a baby inside the cake.  Whoever gets the piece with the baby has to buy the next cake.  Twelfth Night is the start of the Mardi Gras season and it runs through Mardi Gras day, which is 47 days before Easter Sunday (the day before Ash Wednesday).

If you can't get your hands on a King Cake, you can easily make your own using a can of cinnamon rolls.  It's not the same as a true New Orleans bakery king cake, but it's pretty tasty!  Here's how you do it:

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Take the cinnamon rolls out of the can and unroll three of them on a cookie sheet (I used my Pampered Chef baking stone).

Pinch the ends together, then braid them, pinching the other end together, too.

Repeat with another three cinnamon rolls.  Then, connect them in an oval.

There will be two rolls left over (8 in the can).  You can unroll those last two, twist them together and form into a circle to make a mini King Cake.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  They'll be puffed up and golden.

Let them cool.  Then, frost with the icing included with the can.  Finally, sprinkle with purple, green and gold sugars.  If you can't find these colored sugars, you can make them.  Just put regular white granulated sugar into three small zip bags.  Add a few drops of food coloring and squeeze the bag until you get the color you're looking for.  Red and blue makes purple.  Yellow and blue make green.  (Hey, maybe someone didn't know)  Here's what the finished product looks like:

If you don't have a plastic baby to put inside, that's OK.  You can use any small toy or even a dried bean.  Just stick it inside the cake from underneath.  Don't forget to let your guests know it's there, you don't want anyone choking!  It's happened.

Enjoy this easy cinnamon roll King Cake and Happy Mardi Gras!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Like Wendy's Frosty? Try This Copy Cat Recipe

One of the many wonderful things about living in South Louisiana is the mild winters.  I can remember wearing shorts on Christmas day before.  However, you know what they say about Louisiana?  If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute, it'll change.  Case in point, the other night it was 13 degrees here.  Today it was 70.  Seriously.

We were gonna have gumbo today while we watched the Saints game but it was so warm that we grilled chicken instead.  And for dessert I made a homemade version of a Wendy's Frosty.  I saw this on Pinterest and had to try it because my son, aka pickiest eater ever, actually loves the Frosty.  It was so easy!  Just 3 ingredients!  Plus it gave me a reason to use the new Kitchenaid ice cream attachment I got for Christmas.  Here's how I did it:

HINT:  This recipe made enough for two batches.  I poured half into my ice cream maker and saved the other half in the fridge for another time.


1 can condensed milk
1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip, thawed
1/2 gallon chocolate milk

Mix all ingredients together until well combined.  Turn chilled ice cream maker on and, while running, pour in the mixture.  Let it run for about 20 minutes.  That's it!  I used a ladle to serve it up.

Pickiest eater ever declared, "It tastes exactly like it!".  And it really did!  Then he got mad after I cleaned out the ice cream maker because he wanted to lick the bowl.  I'll have to make the other half for him later.

If you have Frosty lovers in your house, make this recipe.  It could not be easier.  Who says you can't eat ice cream in the winter?  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Waffles

It has been unseasonably cold here in South Louisiana.  Like crazy cold.  Like 13 degrees cold.  We aren't made for that.  Electricity went out all over the place due to extra strain on the system and trees limbs falling on lines.  My kids school was one of those places that couldn't stay up and running.  About an hour after they got there, they were told to go home.  So, I decided to make them a second breakfast.  Just because.  I have a waffle maker but haven't used it in a while.  We pulled it out of the cabinet, dusted it off and put it to good use.

I love regular waffles, but wanted something different.  It needed to be easy, though.  Here's what we did:


2 cups complete pancake mix (the kind where you just add water)
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, mix together pancake mix and cinnamon.  Add water, oil and applesauce.  Mix until combined but don't over mix or you'll get tough waffles!

Heat your waffle iron and lightly grease it with a little oil.  I use a silicone brush.  If you don't have one, use tongs and a wadded up paper towel to grease it.

When it's ready, use an ice cream scoop to fill with batter (about 1/4 cup full for mine, follow your manufacturer's directions).  Cook until the steam stops, about 4 - 5 minutes or so.

These came out light and fluffy with just the right amount of spice.  Delicious!  My daughter, who weighs 98 lbs soaking wet, ate three!  She loved them.

This recipe makes about 12.  We didn't eat them all so I cooled them on a wire rack (so they didn't get soggy) and then put them in a freezer bag (between layers of wax paper).  I froze them so all the kids have to do is take a couple out and pop them in the toaster.

So, there you have it, easy, delicious apple cinnamon waffles.  If you don't have a waffle maker, you can use this batter to make pancakes.  If you're not an apple cinnamon fan, substitute brown sugar and maple syrup.  Or pecans.  Or chocolate chips.  Whatever you like.  The pancake mix base makes these so easy to customize.  Experiment and have some fun with your breakfast!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chickpea Burgers

First off let me say Happy New Year!  Have you been making resolutions?  Most people do this time of year.  It's a time of rebirth and new beginnings so it's only natural that we decide we must lose 30 pounds in 3 days or work out 7 hours a day, 8 days a week.  Right?  Well, not me.  I think I've mellowed as I've gotten older.  I no longer see the need to be seen as "having it all together".  Oh, who am I kidding, I've always been a little off (wonderfully weird, I like to call it).  Who cares what others think?  As long as I'm the best version of me, that's all that matters.  So, on that note, here's my resolution:  eat a little healthier.  That's it.  I find if something is too restrictive I won't stick with it.  And with that in mind I made a pretty healthy lunch today, which also tasted good.  Imagine that!


1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small clove garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried dill
Salt/pepper to taste
1 egg
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
oil for frying (olive or canola)

Get out your food processor for this recipe.  It makes it a lot easier!  Pulse the carrot until chopped into tiny pieces.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.  Add the garlic clove to the processor and pulse to chop.  To the garlic, add drained chickpeas, cumin, dill, salt and pepper to taste.  Pulse until it becomes a rough paste, then add carrot, egg and flour.  Pulse until its evenly mixed but not too much.  You want it to still have some texture.  Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Divide the mixture into patties.  You can make them big or small, whatever you like.  (I made them small so I could stuff them into a lettuce wrap.  Kinda like falafel)

Fry them in the hot oil for 2-4 minutes on each side depending on how big you make them.  Drain on a paper towel.

These were very tasty and super healthy!  And if you are worried about the oil from frying, just remember that our bodies need fat to work properly!  Especially good fats, like olive or canola oil.

I ate them in a lettuce wrap with some hot salsa.  Yum!  They make a perfect light, but filling lunch.  I think this resolution thing might work out.  Happy New Year!