Friday, May 31, 2013

Magic Burger Dust

I swear this really is magic.  This seasoning takes ordinary hamburgers and kicks them up to awesome hamburgers with just a dusting.  Not only that, but it's also magic how just a few pantry staples mixed together make something so delicious.  When we have a large crowd, it's just easier to get the premade burgers from the meat counter than make them ourselves (when I'm also making baked beans, potato salad, and who knows how many bars and other treats).  And this burger sprinkle makes the difference between those store bought patties tasting like that's where they came from and homemade burgers.  Just my little secret.  That I'm now sharing with you, and with my Foodie Pen Pal, cause I sent her some of this stuff, too!

The Lean Green Bean

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pancakes

So, yeah, these are a lot better than regular, plain buttermilk pancakes.  Like, a lot.  The pancakes are fluffy and light with a perfect peanut butter flavor and speckled with chocolate chips for just a bit of extra sweetness and pairing this perfect combination of flavors for breakfast.  I topped mine with a smear of peanut butter and banana slices while Dave dressed his up with maple syrup--both of which were delicious.  And one of my favorite parts about making a massive amount of pancakes for just the two of us mean I only have to make a big breakfast once to have several days worth of pancakes tucked away in the freezer for a quick morning.  Dave loves it because we package the leftover pancakes in foil wrapped bundles and toss them into a single zip top bag in the freezer, unlabeled, so he never knows what he's going to get in the morning.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Patriotic Dipped Strawberries

It's official!  Or unofficial.  Either way, today begins what we all consider the start of summer.  Let the cookouts, BBQ's parties and vacations begin.  And if you're looking for a fun and festive, not to mention quick, treat for your event today, look no further.  These cute dipped strawberries are perfect--sweet, tasty, seasonal and precisely the kind of celebratory dessert that everyone will love.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Banana Bread Pancakes

Yeah. Pancakes. That taste like banana bread.  Mmm, my tummy grumbles and mouth waters just thinking about them. Lots of banana goodness and baked bread spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, these pancakes are so good and so easy to make, you'll wonder why you even made ordinary plain pancakes.  For a little extra oomph, you could toss in some chopped nuts, chocolate chips or some other extra tastiness, but these certainly are delicious enough to enjoy just as they are.  Dave and I scuffled over the leftovers that I packaged up in the freezer.  And now that they are all gone, I'll need to whip up another batch soon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Vegetarian Lasagna with Swiss Chard

Wanna hear a secret?  Come here.  Closer.  Shh....don't tell anyone, but lasagna isn't really that hard to make.  I know, right?  Everyone makes such a big deal about it.  Should you boil the noodles first and burn your fingers?  Or buy the "oven-ready" noodles and get a funny texture?  Wanna know what I do?  Neither.  I use regular, plain lasagna noodles, but I don't boil them before I bake up my casserole.  And every time, they come out perfectly, tender and able to hold together layers of cheese and sauce, and this time some Swiss chard.  The method for this lasagna is the same I've been using for years, with the addition of some sauteed Swiss chard, which can be completely eliminated or replaced with spinach, kale, or whatever you fancy.  The result is a cheesy, creamy, filling lasagna that is perfect for a crowd.  The Swiss chard adds a bit of freshness and a different flavor element that's a bit spicy and a touch of spring.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Philly Chicken Sandwiches

There's something about peppers and onions that just makes a meal that much better.  And there is no shortage of the tasty veggies in this dish, with the addition of sliced mushrooms to season up the chicken and make an overflowing sandwich full of flavor to make a hearty lunch or quick and easy dinner.  Toss it all in the crock pot, let it do it's thing of cooking everything down into a tender, delicious messy goodness and there you have it.  Pile up on top of toasted buns with some melted provolone and dinner is done.  The chicken is tender and seasoned to give a hint of traditional Philly cheesesteak flavor.  We wanted to have these for dinner, but ended up cooking them the next morning for a perfect lunch after a busy day around the house.  I'm looking forward to the leftovers if I can get to them before Dave.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches

I grew up in Pennsylvania and Dave and met in college there.  In our tiny college town we were lucky to have not one but two(!) Sheetz stores, the gas station equivalent to Amazon, carrying everything from gas to bait, including the MTO (made to order) food that makes Sheetz so awesome.  Frequent study sessions were interrupted by a midnight run for nachos or subs.  And even though I live over 300 miles from the nearest Sheetz (and will make travel plans around being able to stop at that particular Sheetz on the way to and from Pittsburgh), I swear by the joy that is a Schmuffin.  It's my favorite MTO and no matter what time of day, it's the one that I must get every time I go there.  While I've never had an Egg McMuffin, I just love that breakfast sandwich, especially with cheese and bacon (and all the other varied fixin's Sheetz lovingly will top it with).  Now, whenever the craving strikes, we can reach right into the freezer.  These make ahead egg sandwiches are perfect and totally customizable.  If whole wheat English muffins aren't your thing, use a the regular kind. Or a mini bagel.  Choose cheddar instead of American cheese.  Fried egg or scrambled.  Bacon or sausage.  It's like an MTO station in my very own house!  (Minus the other options.  And the touch screen.  And someone else making it for me.  But otherwise, exactly the same.)  In less than 20 minutes, I prepped a dozen sandwiches, wrapped them, labeled and into the freezer they went, ready for a quick pop in the microwave any morning, regardless of how busy we might be.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes

Much as I love to bake and cook, when I come home from work, the last thing I want to do is hurry to put together a complicated dinner.  If it's not already finished in the crock pot, the next best thing (besides leftovers), is a recipe that can be pulled together with a few ingredients and quickly.  Ideally it'd be hearty and healthy, but beggars can't always be choosers.  Unless they're begging for this recipe.  I was thrilled with this recipe.  Loaded baked potatoes in general make me happy--stuffed with all kinds of cheese, veggies, seasoning and other fixings, and this sweet potato version takes that all to a new level.  We love sweet potatoes and have gotten an abundance from our CSA this winter, so finding new ways to enjoy them is always a plus.  Lots of veggie and hearty black beans seasoned up with a little spiced up sour cream, salsa, and cheese, this dish is the perfect meal for a hurried weeknight, but it also makes an awesome lunch.  I made the whole batch and saved the leftover filling to shove into newly baked sweet potatoes the next couple of days.  Besides being completely delicious, these loaded baked sweet potatoes are hearty and healthy for anyone looking to keep calories in check.  Load up on all the fiber and protein in one amazing dish.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Super Quick Pizza Crust

We make homemade pizza a lot.  Probably 2 or 3 times a month, and closer to once a week.  Normally I grab the whole wheat dough balls from the deli section at the grocery store.  They're handy, freeze well and usually make a pretty great crust.  The problem is when they get a few days old, the dough starts to spread and break down, making them really difficult to stretch.   You end up with spots that are super thin, almost transparent and get holes, and other spots with thick, tough dough.  So I've been on the lookout for an easy, simple homemade pizza dough that I can make quickly for those last minute pizza nights.   This is even easier than the store bought stuff, especially for those nights that I forget to take the dough out of the freezer and we don't want to wait 4 hours for it to thaw, resulting in dinner at 11 pm.  The result is a wheat dough that's not tough, but chewy and tender and is the perfect base for all your favorite pizza toppings.  We dressed ours up with this homemade pizza sauce, some mozzarella and pepperoni for a perfect weekend meal.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cherry Bon Bon Cookies

Surprisingly, these may be my favorite cookie of the master mix series.  And they have coconut in them!  Who would have believed it?  These are a soft cookie packed with lots of goodies, like mini chocolate chips, chopped maraschino cherries and coconut flakes to make a cookie that's packed with flavor.  Made with the same master cookie mix I've featured all week, it's awesome how easy these were to make.  There's barely any measuring to do here, all done with a bowl, a pastry blender and a spatula so you've got minimal clean up and a cookie with maximum taste.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Andes Mint Cookies

I love mint and chocolate. It's one of my favorite combinations, so I'll surely hop on a recipe that mixes the two.  And since there was such a recipe using my master cookie mix, I needed to give it a go.  The cookie is flavored with melted chocolate and topped with an Andes mint for a tasty and refreshing cookie that's just perfectly delicious.  With a big glass of milk, these cookies are good any time, especially since they come together so quickly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Apricot White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dried apricots are probably one of the underutilized fruits for baking.  I really like the unique sweetness they bring to a dish, just slightly more sophisticated than other mix ins.  The Cranberry Apricot Bars I've made continue to be a huge hit, as to the Apricot Blondies I've shared before.  The almond flavoring highlights the apricot, and the white chocolate lends a creamy sweetness.  And as expected, these cookies, from a master cookie mix, you get a sweet, tender cookie that's just a bit more high end than a typical cookie.  That's why I made them for my friend Cindy for birthday baking--just a to class things up a bit.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Oatmeal Scotchies

Now for something completely different, these Oatmeal Scotchies cookies came from the same master cookie mix as yesterday's chocolate chip cookies.  Dave was over the moon for these cookies.  He was so excited when I made the Oatmeal Scotchies Muffins, that I knew I needed to include this recipe in my master mix collection.  Strong nutty flavor interrupted by lovely butterscotch chips, these cookies are sweet and satisfying.  With a crunchy exterior and soft interior, you'll love how perfect these scotchies turn out, without being dry or dense.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Master Cookie Mix (and Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Yes, I realize I've posted chocolate chip cookies in the past (finally) and a variety of souped up versions of chocolate chip cookies (like these.  And these and these.  Definitely these. Ok, I'll stop there.)  But this recipe is different.  It's made with a master mix that you can whip up and use as a starter to make all kinds of delicious cookies.  I'm a huge fan of the convenience and time savings that goes behind using a prepackaged mix, and this is a version that you can make yourself. So you know exactly what's in it rather than what can sometimes be a questionable ingredient list on the packaged mixes from the grocery store.  And to show you just how versatile this master mix is, I'm sharing a week's worth of cookies that started with these simple ingredients. All with great flavors and completely different!  Starting with these simple chocolate chip cookies.  Delicious, simple with a perfect blend of sweet, salt and chocolate, these chocolate chip cookies are super easy to make when you scoop out some of this master cookie mix and add a few other ingredients.  If you're a chocolate chip cookie traditionalist and short on time, these might just be the cookies you're looking for.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mini Margarita Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting

If you're looking for a party cupcake, look no further.  Seriously these mini cupcakes are like margarita shots, complete with tequila, salt and a lime chaser.  But sweet, fluffy and a perfect cake texture.  The frosting has a bit of tequila and lime and a pretty green shade letting you know these aren't just mini cupcakes.  Brushing the cupcakes with a touch of tequila before frosting really lets the flavors seep in since the batter itself only has a hint of tequila in addition to lime and zest.  These are perfect for a party, particularly because they lend a bit of sweetness to what might be an otherwise spicy spread for Cinco de Mayo, but also because the mini version is perfect for a buffet, letting guests take part in several options without feeling gluttonous.  Plus they're super cute.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Shredded Taco Chicken

You will kick yourself for not figuring out how easy and delicious this is.  I did.  Super simple to put together, makes a ton so it's great for a crowd, and versatile for not just tacos but any dish where you would want to add some seasoned shredded chicken.  I had some of this shredded chicken on hand and thought about using it in my Skillet Chicken Nachos a few weeks ago, which would have made that quick dish even quicker.  Much as we love spice and heat, I actually enjoy that this shredded chicken is seasoned just enough, inviting you to put it on a taco and top it with sauce, salsa, jalapenos and all kinds of other goods.  I've made this a handful of times in the past year, including last year's Cinco de Mayo party that centered around a make your own taco/burrito bar.  I'll freeze leftovers for a quick weeknight meal, too.  Just a few ingredients, a slow cooker and a few hours later, you've got the best tasting shredded chicken for some mighty fine tacos.