Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Treats

Maddy surprised Lily with Halloween Barbie as a thank you for taking her with to Chuck E Cheese last weekend. Maddy has the same doll, so they had a blast playing with the twins. Lily said she named her witch Barbie Esmerelda and Maddy's is Griselda. LOL



We decided to make Halloween Butterfinger Cupcakes for dessert. Of course, when I took out all of my ingredients to make them, I realized that someone had used up all of my sugar without telling me. Hmmm...who could that be? Considering I rarely ever use sugar, it must have been someone who drinks coffee everyday...:)
So, while I sent him out to buy me a new 4-lb bag of sugar, I prepared all of the other ingredients the way they do on the Food Network... (I love my little glass bowls...btw...my mom bought me them for Christmas last year. I think there are about 10 nesting bowls. They are made by the Food Network. Love them!)

This recipe is courtesy of Annie Eats. (See the link on the left side of my blog). They can also be easily modified for someone like me who does not eat chocolate because neither the cupcake nor the frosting actually contain chocolate.


Halloween Butterfinger Cupcakes
Cupcake ingredients:
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter at room temp
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp sugar
4 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
2/3 cup buttermilk
12 fun size Butterfingers, cut in half
Frosting ingredients:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
(I thought there was too much frosting, but I am not sure if halving it would be enough)
For garnish: 2-3 Butterfingers, coarsely chopped
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350*. Line cupcakes pans with papers. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium low and add eggs one at a time. Mix in the mashed banana until well combined. With the mixer on low speed alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.
Make frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer combine cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth. Slowly mix in the confectioner's sugar, beating until smooth. Mix in whipped topping until fluffy.
To assemble:
Place a half candy bar on top of each cooled cupcake. Put frosting in a pastry bag ( I skipped this step and just blopped it on top), pipe onto cupcakes, covering the candy bar completely. Sprinkle with chopped candy bars for garnish.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ratatouille and Random, Random Stuff

I love this stoup (kind of a cross between a soup and a stew). The good thing about it, is you can use whatever fresh fall veggies you have on hand. I've made some other ratatouille recipes before and they were more of a chunky roasted veggie mix, whereas this one is more of a liquidy stew. My kids ate it the last time I made it, but Matt told me yesterday that he has decided he doesn't like tomatoes anymore....kids (insert rolling eyes here!)
Here is the recipe I followed last night:
Ratatouille Soup
Ingredients:
EVOO
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Kosher salt & pepper
1 small eggplant, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano are the best, but any will do)
2 cups low-sodium chicken or veg broth
handful of fresh basil leaves (I grow my own)
fresh baguette
1 cup grated gruyere, Swiss, mozzarella or fontinella cheese
The original recipe calls for 3-4 tsp of herbes de Provence (a blend of savory, fennel, thyme and basil) but you can use your favorite seasonings (I used fresh basil, dried parsley, thyme and Old Bay)

You could also add other items such as mushrooms, squash or other root veggies. I happened to have an extra leek on hand, so I threw that in too.

1. Heat about 3 Tbsp of EVOO in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 3 minutes. Add seasonings and 1 tsp salt. Add eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the broth and a handful of basil. Boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

2. Preheat broiler. Brush olive oil on your baguette, sprinkle with herbs. Broil until lightly toasted. Top with cheese, then broil until melted.

3. Puree about half of the soup. You can use a blender (which I've done before when making creamy soups - but it's messy). This time I used my immersion blender (see pic below). It's much easier to clean. I use this when I make salsa too, because my sister, Jackie, does not like chunky salsa (I do), and it breaks it up nicely.


4. If using a blender, return the pureed soup to the pot. If using a handblender, just whip it for a few seconds, so half is pureed and half is chunky. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with cheese toasts.

I also decided to make a Halloween dessert last night. I'll post that recipe tomorrow.

Yesterday I volunteered in Lil's classroom to work on a pumpkin project. Aren't these first graders cute?




Lil's teacher....



Our finished pumpkin...



My current favorite outfit of Zoey's...My parents bought her the shirt at Frankfort Fest and she loves to wear it with red sweats...She thinks she IS Elmo!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bowtie Broccoli, Potato and Leeks

This recipe is an easy way to sneak some veggies into your kids diet. Mine happen to like broccoli, but the addition of leeks is not very obvious in this dish, but adds to the health factor. This is a 2 pot dish, which I don't always love, but it is so yummy, I let it slide.

Bow Tie Pasta with Broccoli, Potato and Leeks
Ingredients:
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large bunch of broccoli crowns/florets, chopped
1 box bow tie pasta (I like whole wheat, but you can use rice pasta for gluten free diets)
4 TBSP butter
2 leeks, sliced into half moons
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan

If you haven't ever worked with leeks before...they are very yummy, mild-flavored and good for you, but they are a bit tricky to work with. The first time I worked with leeks I did not wash them as well as I should have and my meal was grainy from the sand contained in the leeks.

Here is what I have learned about how to clean leeks. First, chop off the dark green top and the bottom (like you would to a green onion). Cut the leek in half lengthwise and then slice into half-moons. Place the leeks in a colander and place that inside a bowl. Fill it with water so that the leeks are submerged. This helps to get the sand out from between the layers. I drain and repeat about 3-4 times to get all of the sand out. The water in your bowl will be dirty and sandy. That's a good thing.1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook 10 minutes, then add the broccoli and pasta to the same pot. Cook according to pasta directions. (Mine was for 10 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the leeks, 1 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes.
3. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta, broccoli and potatoes. Return the pasta and veggies to the pot.
4. Add the leeks tot he pot and stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten. Stir in the cheeses and season with salt and pepper.

Btw...fontina cheese can be found in the specialty cheese case. I find it easy to grate with my Pampered Chef cheese grater.

The final product is oh, so good and kid friendly, too!
Last night my kids were in a hyper mood after dinner. They decided to have a race around the house in their jammies. (Well, Matt wasn't in jammies, but the girls were!)




I love these pjs....so cute!


Zoey took a break from all the running...



Lil stopped for a cheesy-grin...


I also finished a layout using my new Scarlet Lime kit...loving the colors...


Monday, October 25, 2010

Easy Country Corn Chowder, Going Away Party, Engagements and Pumpkins...

First things first...a cool, rainy fall day calls for a yummy, warm fall soup... This corn chowder is super easy. It tastes great topped with oyster crackers or a little cheddar cheese or scallions.

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp corn or veggie oil
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp flour
10 oz frozen or canned sweet corn
15 oz chicken or veggie broth
1 qt milk

Add oil and potatoes to a deep pot. Cover and cook 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, red pepper and bay leaves. Season with Old Bay, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and reduce heat, cooking 5 more minutes. Stir occasionally.

Whisk in flour. Cook one more minute, uncovered. Add corn, broth and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 7-10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Yummo!!! :)

This weekend was my sister Jackie's going away party. She and Kenny are moving to Wisconsin. My other sis, Stef, (above with me) got into a bad car accident the morning of the party. She was hit by a drunk driver. Don't drink and drive, people! Stef is okay, but she's in the market for a new car if anyone knows of any good deals!

The day after the going away party, Kenny and Jackie got engaged!! Congrats, you two love-birds!! Date has yet to be set, but they are thinking next year - 2011!


Beautiful ring, isn't it??? It hasn't been sized yet which is why she's wearing it on her pinkie above and is wedged on to her hand in the other pic. LOL

So, last night we decided to carve our pumpkins! We had 3 big ones, but when Jack got the lid off of the third one, it was moldy inside - Gross! And then, my camera battery died right when I was about to take pics of the carving. So, this is the end result. Cute, no?
This is going to be a crazy, busy week...Class Halloween parties, volunteering at the kids' school for a science project using pumpkins, Girl Scout Halloween party, Dance studio Halloween party, and trick-or-treating!!! Lots more pics to come!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Slow-Cooker Italian Sausage and Peppers with Cole Slaw

Yesterday's recipe was for a meatball sub and I said that I reserved the leftover sauce to be used for today's Italian Sausage and Peppers.

Today is another cheater recipe. I feel like most of my recipes would be candidates on Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade, because I use a lot of pre-made foods to make my life easier. Nothing wrong with that, right?

So, here's how I do it. (And all ingredients can be increased or decreased to accomodate your crowd. I made this on Christmas for about 50 relatives.)

First I sliced about 3-4 onions and 2 green peppers into large chunks or slices and put them at the bottom of the crockpot. Next I layered the Italian sausages on top. Today I put about 6 sausages on the top, but I have purchased sausage at Sam's Club in jumbo packs and layered lots in there. Today I chose sweet, Italian sausage, but this works well with spicy sausage too!

Next I dumped the leftover sauce from the meatballs on top, and I added one can of diced tomatoes to get it some texture. If you don't have any leftover sauce, add one or two jars of your favorite pasta sauce, or a couple cans of diced tomates. I cooked it on low for about 7 hours. The sausages were melt-in-your-mouth soft. I served them on buns with a scoop of the peppers and onions.

I made some cole slaw on the side. For this recipe I bought pre-cut slaw mix. If you are feeling ambitious and want to shred your own cabbage and carrots, that works too! To the slaw mix I added about a half cup of plain, low-fat yogurt, about a quarter cup of white vinegar (sometimes I use red wine vinegar), a good shake of coarse salt, pepper and about a teaspoon of white sugar. If you do not have yogurt on hand, you could use mayo, but it's not nearly as healthy. Mix and chill before serving!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meatball Subs, a Challenge and some Scrap...

I have another recipe for you and this one can be a two-fer if you make it that way..
I love Subway's Meatball Subs and so I decided to make my own. It's kind of a cheater recipe because I don't make everything from scratch, but I know you ambitious chefs out there will make this your own.

I start by making my own homemade meatballs. You may be frustrated with my recipe, because, as you know, I don't like to measure!!! So, here is my recipe...don't get mad...

I start with a pound to 1 & 1/2 lbs of lean ground beef. (Sometimes I use turkey...it's whatever I have on hand). In a stainless steel bowl I combine the ground beef with one egg, a splash of milk, a handful of seasoned bread crumbs, about 4-5 cloves of minced garlic, coarse salt, pepper and a sprinkle of dried parsley. I mix it all together and form into little balls. In a saucepan large enough to hold all of the meatballs, I put a small bit of olive oil. I place the meatballs inside so that they are not squashed.

After the meatballs have browned on the bottom (not burned), I turn them over with a plastic spoon. I usually turn about one more time, on to their sides after about 5 more minutes. Drain the fat at the bottom of the pan.

Then I pour my favorite jar of pasta sauce over it. If you like it really saucy, you can pour two jars of sauce over it. (If you only like homemade...feel free to make your own sauce here. My friend Dawn, who is half Irish, half Italian, would never use jarred sauce. She would make her own homemade marinara. You do what works for your lifestyle.)

I let the meatballs simmer in the sauce on low heat for anywhere between 15 - 30 minutes.

Then I use split buns, opened flat. I place a couple slices of my favorite cheese on top of the bun. This time I used white American. Then I ladle about 3 meatballs with sauce onto the bun.

I usually create a condiment platter. It includes: shredded lettuce, sliced black olives, mild banana peppers, jalapenos, sliced tomatoes and onions. This way everyone can choose which toppings they'd like! Yummo!

Now, I served Jack, my mom, my dad, my sister, Jackie and myself and still had sauce leftover. (The kids had buttered noodles, garlic bread and a meatball on the side). I reserved the sauce when all of the meatballs were gone and used it for tonight's meal, which you'll read about tomorrow.




In scrappy news. My friend, Pam, posted a challenge on her blog to take the following ad and use it as inspiration for a scrapbook page. She has a fabulous prize for the winner at http://sewcraftbake.blogspot.com/

Here is my take on the ad challenge.... Tell me what you think...


Here are a few more new layouts that I created.














Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Super Spicy Chicken Chili Stew plus Night Out with Friends...

A few weeks ago my friend, Pam, started her own new blog called http://sewcraftbake.blogspot.com/ It is a great spot if you are looking for craft ideas or recipes. Her first recipe was this great Chicken Chili Stew. I made it for the first time a couple days ago and it was so delicious. However, I decided to spice it up a bit and made it super, duper, burn-the-hair-off-your-chest SPICY!!! So, beware of my recipe if you are weak, but if you like it HOT...go for it!!! Super Spicy Chicken Chili Stew:
*Heat 3/4 cup of chicken broth to boiling. Add 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cubed. Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove chicken.

*Add 4 cloves of garlic. (I prefer jarred, so I added a couple spoonfuls), 2 jalapenos and 2 habaneros. (I grow jalapenos and habaneros in my garden, but I am sure you could use any hot peppers you have on hand. If you do not like it spicy, just omit the peppers all together and rename the dish Boring Chicken Chili-flavored Stew.) Cook 2 minutes. Whisk in 1 Tbsp. flour. (I use whole wheat.)

*Add 1 & 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1 red bell pepper, 1 carrot sliced, 1 cup corn, salt, pepper and a 1/2 tsp cumin.

*Add in approx. 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro. (My favorite part!)

*Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Pam suggested serving with cornbread and that is just what I did. The kids don't like spicy, so I saved an extra chicken breast for them, sauteed it separately and served it to them with steamed spinach and cornbread on the side. Not much extra work for me, and they loved it!




Saturday night I got to hang out with some of my very best friends, whom I have not been able to see in awhile because of all of our busy lives. Here are a few pics of the fun we had. They are terrible pics because Jack took them in a dark, dark place with his camera phone...








The pics were taken at Tavern on Rush. We also had a friend from New York with us, but I don't know why we don't have pics of her. :( We had a great time! Let's do it again soon!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scarecrow Fest and other Fall Fun

This weekend Lily's girl scout (Daisy) troop participated in a service unit scarecrow fest. They had a lot of fun, including: a mummy wrap game... ...decorating a scarecrow. This year the girl's decided to make a Scarecrow Princess...

...Lily helped to stuff the scarecrow, donated the Strawberry Shortcake purse and decorations!...
The girls made trail mix, did science and art projects, went on a tractor ride and had a lot of fun. The weather was perfect for a day filled with outdoor activities! She was wiped when we returned.


Earlier in the weekend, Matt and Lil helped me rake (and jump) into some leaves...complete with Leaf Angels...










I did have a little time to work on some layouts too. This one is of my friend, Sue and I. Sue, if you are reading this...we need to take a more recent pic of the two of us because this is a ridiculously old pic and we need a new one! LOL...
Busted out some paint for this one...

...and this one was lifted from a recent CK...

I also got to see some old friends this weekend and will post pics of that soon. (They are on Jack's phone, so I'll have to get him to upload them for me!)

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