I'm just a busy wife and mom who loves to cook (and hates to clean up afterward), balancing the many hats I wear and trying to look cool, calm, and collected while doing it...

Oh, and I rarely measure anything when I cook, so consider yourself warned. Love good food. Try new things. Eat to your heart's content.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake Deliciousness!

Last year for my husband's birthday, which happens to be New Year's Day, he requested Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake instead of the usual cake. After going through many recipes on the interwebs, I thought this one sounded good, so I tweaked it little to make it my own. It is sooo incredibly rich and delicious, that he has requested it once again for his birthday tomorrow.
 This is why we don't start start our "eating healthy" New Year's resolution until about the 5th or 6th of January, when this goodness is all gone, and our birthdays have passed (mine is Jan. 3rd... gotta love how three out of four of our family members birthdays and Christmas are all within about 12 days of each other!)
Happy New Year everybody!! (And happy eating!)
2 cups finely ground Oreo cookie crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
 3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
 2 teaspoons pure (no imitation people... that's just wrong.) vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
3 large eggs
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, warmed
8-10 large peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped (or some of those new super mini ones from either Reese's, or Trader Joe's. We personally like TJ's better...)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat bottom and sides of a spring form pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together cookie crumbs and melted butter until well combined; evenly press into bottom of pan. Bake 8 minutes or until crisp.

In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese until creamy - about 2 minutes. Beat in granulated sugar and vanilla until incorporated. Beat in melted chocolate until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until just combined. Pour batter over crust, and swirl peanut butter into the mixture. Bake 55-60 minutes or until well risen, set, and only slightly jiggly. In the last five minutes of baking, sprinkle peanut butter cups over the top.

Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Lightly cover and refrigerate until cold - about 4 hours - or until ready to serve.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tater Tot Casserole!

Straight from school cafeterias in the 1960's, aka Lunch Lady Land, I bring you a super easy, probably not super healthy (Cream of Mushroom Soup is involved... need I say more?!) recipe for Tater Tot Casserole!

Tater Tot Casserole
1 lb. Ground beef or turkey
Seasoning for the meat (I like onion, garlic, seasoning salt, pepper. and that good ol' 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe's)
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 can of green beans, drained (you can sub other veggies here. Peas and corn work... I just hate them!)
32oz bag of frozen Tater Tots
Cheese... probably 1 1/2- 2 cups... I never measure...

Preheat your oven to 375.
Put an even layer of frozen tots in a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese.
Cook meat with seasoning until it's done.
Add the mushroom soup and green beans to the meat. Pour that over the tots in the pan. Add the rest of the tots to the top of the meat mixture, and top with cheese.
Cover and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook 15 more minutes, until it starts to brown.

**This Picture is terrible... sorry!

Stuffed Peppers... or Zucchini even!

Okay, so this recipe made A LOT! I made it not only for our family (6, including my parents), but also for a friend who recently had a baby. 10 big ol' peppers to be exact. Great for a crowd, or for freezing for a later meal.This recipe is super versatile too. You can make it how it is, stuffed into peppers. You can make it how it is, leaving out the chopped zucchini, and stuff it into zucchini. You can even leave out the rice in the mix, and serve it over rice instead... or bake it all in a casserole... your choice. And you can tweak it to your liking, and what you have on hand. Good stuff!

Stuffed Peppers
1 lb. Ground Beef
2 links Bratwurst, casings removed
3 Link Italian Sausage, casings removed (Don't judge. I like to mix my meats!)
Seasoning Salt
Italian Seasoning
21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe's (I seriously love the flavor of this no-salt seasoning!)
Onion Flakes and Garlic Powder (fresh is always better. I was just lazy and used dehydrated.)
Splash or two of Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup, or so, White Wine
2 hand fulls of Baby Carrots, finely chopped
1 Medium Zucchini, finely chopped
1 Bag Frozen Rice Medley (Brown and Red Rice, and Black Barley) from Trader Joe's, or 2 cups   cooked brown rice
1 28 oz. can Petite Diced Tomatoes
12 oz. Italian Cheese Blend (I used Quattro Formaggio Blend from TJ's), divided.
10 Bell Peppers, any color (I like the ones with four bumps on the bottom... they stand up better)

Brown and chop the meat with all the seasonings.

Add the finely chopped carrots and zucchini. (The Pampered Chef Food Chopper is a life saver people!)

Cook until the meat is thoroughly done. Add balsamic vinegar, wine, tomatoes. Cook uncovered until the liquid is reduced a little.

Make the rice according to package directions, then add it into the mix. Turn off heat.

While that is all cooking away, wash and dry your peppers. Cut off just the tops, and remove the seeds and veins. Place them in a somewhat deep casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

Put about 1 Tbsp of the cheese in the bottom of each pepper.

Add about 3/4 of a cup of the cheese to the somewhat-cooled meat mixture.

Start spooning the mixture into each pepper.

Top them evenly with remaining cheese.

Cover with foil.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Take the foil off and cook another 15-20 minutes, until hot, melty. bubbly, browned, etc.

I usually serve mine with fresh bread and a green salad. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Is The Time For Love... And Baking!

**Update: I think I figured out the picture posting issue I was having... we shall see if it worked!*** 

Yeah, still figuring this whole blogging thing out... sorry for almost a week since my last post. And only one recipe so far. I might just totally suck at this... But I'm gonna do it anyway! ;) Oh, and I can't get my pictures from my phone to my computer, so I'll have to update the pics onto the blog later... sorry. :/

So every year at Christmastime, my mom, Sophie and I have a whole day (sometimes even a weekend) of baking and treat making. It's fun, and we usually have too many cookies and crap to even know what to do with when we're done! This year is no exception, and tomorrow we will be going at it, baking sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, coconut cream macaroons, graham cracker squares (an old family favorite that I've not seen anywhere else...) , magic bars, and snowball cookies. Fat kid's dream, am I right?!

I actually started today by making a double recipe (6 pounds!!) of fudge! I use the recipe on the back of the marshmallow cream jar. It's the best, and pretty easy. Here is is for your easy access:

Classic Fantasy Fudge

6cups sugar

3 sticks butter

2 small cans (5 oz each.) evaporated milk (Do not use sweetened condensed milk.)

2 12 oz. bags Semi-Sweet Chocolate chips

2 jars (7 oz. each) JET-PUFFED Marshmallow Creme

2 tsp. vanilla
Line 9 x 13 pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil (I use a dutch oven type pot) on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 4 min. (or until candy thermometer reaches 234°F... I don't use one, I just time it) stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
Add chocolate and marshmallow creme; stir until melted. Add vanilla; mix well.
Pour into prepared pan; spread to cover bottom of pan. Cool completely. Use foil handles to lift fudge from pan before cutting into squares. This makes a TON of fudge...

Coconut Cream Macaroons

1/3 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract (or almond, if you like that sort of thing...)
2 tsp. orange juice
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 cups sweetened coconut, divided

Beat Butter, cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Add egg yolk, vanilla and OJ, beat well.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in 3 cups coconut.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm enough to handle.

Heat Oven to 350*. Shape dough into 1-in. balls. Roll balls in the remaining 2 cups of coconut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet

Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Cool 1-2 minutes, then carefully move them to a wire cooling rack.

I drizzle it with chocolate ganache. For that, take about 1 cup of chocolate chips that have been melted in the microwave with a couple tablespoons of sugar and a splash of milk, and put it in a ziplock baggie. Snip a tiny bit of the corner of the baggie off , and drizzle over the cookies. 

You could also press an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss into each cookie (Like the peanut butter blossoms cookies) as soon as they come out of the oven, instead of doing the drizzle... either way is delish!

Makes about 4 dozen.

Here are some of our other recipes that we've been using for years (most of them since I was little, and even since my parents were kids...

1 cup Butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups flour

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and salt together
Slowly add flour, dough will be stiff
Roll dough into walnut size balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 400*
Bake 10 minutes, just until set but not brown. Cool slightly and roll in powdered sugar while warm. After they are completely cool, roll a second time.
*This recipe needs to be doubled because they are so good and one recipe is not enough!
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
a pinch of salt
2 cups chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix everything together, it will be VERY thick! Spread in a very well greased 8x8 pan. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes, you will want them just light brown and soft. Can be doubled for a 9x13 pan. Cool and cut.

SUGAR COOKIES (This one makes a TON of cookies!)
Cream together WELL:
1 cup butter
1 cup shortening (I use butter flavored)
1 cup sugar
Add: (beat together)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine dry ingredients:
4 cups flour
2 Tablespoons baking POWDER
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Gradually add dry to wet, mix well. Refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight.. Work with "fist" size handfuls. Roll out onto floured surface. If dough is sticky just knead in small amounts of flour. Cut into shapes and place on cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 350*
Bake 7-8 minutes to start, increase time if needed. Cookies should be set and a tiny bit golden on bottom edges. Remove carefully to cooling rack. Frost/decorate when completely cool.

Combine dry ingredients in bowl:
4 cups Flour
2 teaspoons Ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a large bowl (largest mixer bowl) beat 3/4 cup shortening about 30 seconds
Add 1 CUP Brown sugar; beat til fluffy
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
2 Tablespoons vinegar
Gradually add flour mixture, blend well. Dough will be stiff!
Work with small amount; roll onto floured surface about 1/8" thick. Gently lift to greased cookie sheet.
Preheat oven to 375*
Bake ONLY 5-6 minutes, until just set. Cookies will set as they cool. Cool slightly before removing from sheets as they will break if too soon.
This is our FAVORITE gingerbread recipe ~ frost/decorate and ENJOY!
I hope you all enjoy these Christmas baking traditions as much as our family!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Penne with Chicken and Mushrooms in Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Well, as promised in my first post, here's the recipe I said I would post. It's kind of my own variation of the Pampered Chef's Harvest Pasta Skillet (a vegetarian one-pot recipe which is super yummy too!) So without further ado...

 Penne with Chicken and Mushrooms in Pumpkin Cream Sauce

16 oz penne pasta
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 Tbsp. olive oil (I used the kind that's infused with rosemary, but whatever you have is fine)
1-2 Tbsp. butter
5 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp or so 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe's (Or whatever salt-free seasoning you've got)
1 15 oz. can solid packed pumpkin
2ish cups chicken broth
1 cup (maybe a tad more) of fat free half & half
1-2 Tbsp. Moroccan Rub from Pampered Chef *
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (divided)
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced
Salt & Pepper
1/4 cup shelled, chopped pistachios

Ok, so first you cook the pasta, pretty much according to directions, except don't let it cook all the way. Maybe only cook it half way.
While that's cooking, you saute the mushrooms and garlic in the oil and butter with the no-salt seasoning stuff in a large pan.
In a large bowl, mix the pumpkin, broth, 1/2 & 1/2 and Moroccan Rub (*a mix of sweet and savory spices, cinnamon, cumin, ginger and lemon. You can just use more of the non-salty seasoning if you want...) until well combined (no more chunks of pumpkin puree). Add the pumpkin/broth mixture to the pan with the mushrooms and garlic. Add 1/4 cup or so of grated Parmesan cheese and the cooked chicken. It'll be really thin... that's how you want it for now.
Now add the 1/2 way done pasta to the sauce, and mix well so its all coated. Let the pasta finish cooking uncovered in the sauce (the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta and will thicken...) when it's done, top with the remaining 1/4 cup or so of Parmesan and the chopped pistachios... Now eat. :) This makes at least 6 servings.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Very First Post (but hopefully not my last...)

So here I am at almost 11pm (That's like 2 hours past my bedtime folks... I'm a mom to a BUSY almost 2 year old boy, and sassy 6 year old girl. What can I say...) and I'm trying to figure this whole bloggy thing out... What did I get myself into? (I havn't even told my husband I'm doing this yet. Just one more thing on my plate, right honey. No pun intended. Ok, yes it was..)
I will say, though, that I made a delicious pasta tonight with chicken and mushrooms in a pumpkin Parmesan cream sauce... I'll post all about it tomorrow, sans pictures, since I forgot to take them. :/ Like I said, figuring this all out.
For now I'm off to bed, like the old lady that I am. Really this was just a test of the Megan Blogcasting System... it was only a test.