October 28, 2014

Homemade Taco Seasoning

This easy recipe from My Baking Addiction eliminates the need to buy taco seasoning, which is helpful if you want to eliminate extra chemicals and additives from your diet ... or you have no taco seasoning in your pantry and a hankering for tacos. Either reason is valid.

As always, you can adjust this however you deem appropriate to make it spicier, ease the spice or change the flavor profile. It works just fine as is, though.

Homemade Taco Seasoning
4 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
3 tsp. sea salt
4 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients together, and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 2/3 cup. Use 1-2 Tbsp. per pound of meat.

October 21, 2014

Butterfinger Cupcakes

Normally I'm a peanut butter cup person, but a Butterfinger will definitely catch my attention. That's why these cupcakes from Make Bake Celebrate earned a spot on my to-do list. Use your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, and top them with this delicious and creative frosting. Yum!

Butterfinger Cupcakes
18 chocolate cupcakes
6 full-size butterfingers, plus an extra one for garnish
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp. milk
Orange food gel, optional

Unwrap your candy bars.Using a vegetable peelers, scrap the chocolate off the bars into a bowl, and set aside for topping.

Finely crush the Butterfinger, preferably using a blender, to get a finely crushed powder. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Then add in peanut butter, and mix until combined well. Add the crushed butterfingers crumbs. Mix until fully combined, and then slowly mix in powdered sugar.

If you would like to deepen the orange color, add a few drops of orange food coloring until you reach a nice butterfinger orange. Once all is mixed well and desired color is achieved, add in 1 Tbsp. milk at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Frost cupcakes, and sprinkle with reserved chocolate shavings and extra candy bar pieces. Makes 18 cupcakes.

October 9, 2014

Snickers Cookies

When we moved to our new house in August, my husband joked that he would run to the grocery store to have all the ingredients for cookies easily on hand, so I could bake the first cookies of the new house. I think he was actually serious, but he had to wait more than a week to get these tasty cookies from Bakers Royale. I made a batch of these, partially to share with our neighbors who gifted us a delicious casserole and bottle of win our first weekend here. (We are blessed with good neighbors ... or at least neighbors who share food with us!)

These are good cookies. If you have someone who is a fan of Snickers, these are for them!

Snickers Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 sticks butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2  cup sliced Snickers, (approximately one bag of mini size Snickers)
1 cup chocolate chips

Combine flour and baking soda in a bowl. Place 10 Tbsp. butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking and using the handle of pan to swirl the butter around in the skillet. Swirl butter constantly until it becomes a dark golden brown in color and gives off a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, and transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 6 Tbsp. butter into hot butter until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to brown butter mixture, and whisk until fully incorporated. Add eggs, and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Rest mixture for 3 minutes, and then whisk for another 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using a sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips, and ensure no flour pockets remain.

Scoop approximately two heaping tablespoons of dough, flatten it into a round disc and place a Snickers slice on top. Fold edges over Snickers to seal it in. Place cookies 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Press extra Snickers into the top of the cookie.

Bake cookies 1 sheet at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, about 10 to 14 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool cookies. Makes 24 cookies.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm not normally one to buy specialty jars of nut butters (because I'd eat the entire jar with a spoon without my husband realizing it existed). I made an exception for these cookies from Bakerella. I was sold at salted caramel, so I bought the spread. I've bought 2 jars and made two batches of these delicious cookies ... and ate the rest of both jars with a spoon. (And, yes, we apparently managed to eat 2 batches without capturing a single photograph. As I've taught my son to say, buggersnap!)

I think these cookies are rather tasty. I prefer to actually overbake them a bit to have crunchier edges and still a soft center. I also altered the chilling time a bit, to help the cookies keep their shape better. My aunt said these may be the best cookies she's ever eaten. They're not my personal favorite, but they are pretty darn good.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup Salted Caramel Hazelnut Spread
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
16 oz. semisweet chocolate baking wafers (or chips)
Sea salt for sprinkling 
Preheat oven to 350°F, and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt together.
In a mixer, cream butter, sugars and hazelnut spread until light and fluffy.Add eggs and vanilla, and mix until combined. Add flour, and mix on low until incorporated. Stir in chocolate wafers. Chill dough in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Scoop dough onto parchment paper about two inches apart, and sprinkle tops with sea salt. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool, but they are best while still melty. Makes about 30 cookies.

Chocolate Chia Ice Cream

I've made chia pudding before and enjoyed it, so when I came across this recipe from Top with Cinnamon, I was intrigued. It's easy to make, and it tastes a bit more like an adult version of ice cream to me. A more sophisticated (less cloyingly sweet) dark chocolate taste. Don't get me wrong, I like cloyingly sweet more than the next person, but this is the kind of ice cream that I would feel like I'm benefiting my body by eating immediately following a run.

Chocolate Chia Ice Cream
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 2/3 cup vanilla almond milk
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 oz. dark chocolate, melted

Stir all the ingredients together in a medium container until completely combined. Chill the mixture overnight (or for at least four hours). Pour the soaked mixture into a high-powered blender, and puree until completely smooth. Return the mixture back to the container, and chill until ready to churn.

Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions. Transfer the churned mixture to a lidded container, and freeze until firm enough to scoop. Serve with desired toppings.

Caramel Sauce

This is dangerous. So dangerous there is no picture of it. The entire batch was consumed in 24 hours. Caramel sauce usually requires quite a bit of attention, not necessarily time, and I'm still hit or miss at making perfect homemade caramel sauce. When I hit, it's sheer perfection in my mouth. When I miss, I set off smoke detectors and have a very sticky pan to clean with nothing delicious to show for it. Or I have underdone caramel because I'm afraid of the situation I described above.

Cookies and Cups found an easy way to get instant gratification, and I followed her lead. This is so simple, takes no more than 5 minutes and requires no skill. The result is a caramel sauce that certainly fills that need, although it's not nearly as rich or complex as the truer versions. I find it tastes best initially and gets a bit grainy when reheating. Still, that didn't prevent us from polishing off the leftovers. (But I'm trying to help you justify the entire batch disappearing at once.)

Caramel Sauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt (add more or less as desired)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

In a 4-cup microwave-safe glass bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar and heavy cream, whisking until smooth. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, and remove to stir. Return to microwave, and heat for 2 more minutes until bubbly and slightly thickened.

Stir in salt and vanilla, and allow to cool until warm, not hot. Mixture will thicken as it cools. Serve warm. If caramel cools completely, reheat by placing in microwave for 20-25 seconds. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of caramel.

Savory Bacon Granola

Bacon is breakfast food. Granola is breakfast food. But, I had never encountered bacon in granola until I found this recipe on Honestly Yum. I was intrigued and thought it would be right up my husband's alley.

I think I might have liked this more than my husband. There's something about the crunch of sunflower seeds, with the smoky hints of bacon and slight sweet from the apple that really worked for me. (And, it appears we ate this without taking any pictures. Or I can't locate the pictures now in the jumble that is our lives currently. Honestly Yum had pretty pictures if you need a visual.)

Savory Bacon Granola
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried apples, diced
1 egg white
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. maple syrup

Preheat oven at 325°F. Cut bacon into small cubes, and cook in a pan over medium high heat until fat renders and just begins to tan around the edges. (I used mostly pre-cooked bacon crumbles that we purchase from Neuske's. Best bacon ever.) Remove bacon from pan, and drain on paper towels.
Combine oats, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, dried apple and bacon in a large bowl, and toss to combine.

Whisk an egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Add maple syrup and oil to the bowl of the oat mixture, and add egg white. Toss to coat. Pour evenly on baking sheet lined with parchment, and bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely, and store in an air-tight container. Makes about 4 cups.

Minion Birthday Cake

We did a belated birthday celebration for our 1-year-old son since for some odd reason our entire family didn't join us as Crater Lake on vacation to celebrate on his actual birthday. With the hoopla of moving to a new place shortly after our 3-week vacation, we decided to combine his birthday celebration with his brother turning 3. I realize this is probably the only year I will get away with a joint celebration since their birthdays are nearly 2 months apart ... but it sure was nice to have the chaos just once.

We had a blast with the birthday and went with a "yellow minion" or Despicable Me theme. We didn't go overboard with decorations, but my favorite was the cake. I was extremely pleased how it turned out. No recipe for this post, although I used a riff of a previous graham cracker cupcake with a whipped cream cheese frosting. I followed Bakerella's post for the minions. Her work is amazing ... mine, not so much. I was still impressed with these as a first attempt at cake pops.

Here are some pics of the cake:

Smoky Shrimp and Gouda Grits

My mom spent a couple days with us, helping supervise our fledglings while we juggled a few appointments. She stayed one more day than she originally planned, citing that she wanted to be available if the boys were sick the next day and unable to go to their sitter. I personally think my husband's Tequila Sunrise Margaritas are the real reason she stayed ...

Regardless, I decided to make this recipe from How Sweet It Is the last night she was here. My mom is a huge fan of seafood and Southern food, so it worked out perfectly (since my husband omitted the shrimp and used leftover chicken to make chicken and grits ... yeah, that's not the next big thing). The shrimp pack a lot of flavor, and the grits are fantastic. I cannot wait to combine the leftover grits with a fried egg this morning for breakfast.

Smoky Shrimp and Gouda Grits
Gouda Grits
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup quick-cooking grits
8 oz. gouda cheese, freshly grated
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper 
Smoky Shrimp
1 pound raw peeled and deveined shrimp
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
4 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, add the grits, and whisk constantly until they are fully mixed into the stock, about a minute or two. Reduce the heat to low, and cover, stirring once or twice more, until the grits are thicker and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the grated cheese, salt and pepper.

While the grits are cooking, pat the shrimp completely dry with paper towels. Once dry, season them  with the salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder and cumin. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the butter. Once the butter begins to sizzle, add the shrimp (in batches to avoid overcrowding), and cook on both sides until pink. When the shrimp are finished, stir in the garlic, and cook for a second. Remove shrimp from the skillet, and pour the remaining butter into the grits. Stir to combine.

Spoon the grits into a bowl, and add the shrimp on top. Makes 2-4 servings. 

October 2, 2014

Blackberry Cobbler Biscuits

Oh my! These biscuits disappeared in no time ... as did the puff pastry treats I made with the leftover fillings. These are so delicious. The biscuits themselves are a perfect combination of buttery goodness with crunchy, slightly chewy edges.

I modified these from The Candied Appetite with a bag of frozen blackberries my uncle had shared with us. I don't have an exact recipe on the filling, but I'll do my best approximations. To minimize the amount of time I had to wait in the morning to shove these into my mouth, I made and refrigerated the filling and streusel overnight. Worked like a charm.

Blackberry Cobbler Biscuits
Blackberry Filling
1 quart blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oats
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
4 Tbsp. cold butter, diced
2 cups flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
1 stick butter, cold and diced
1 Tbsp. honey
2/3 cup cold buttermilk
2 Tbsp. butter, melted for brushing

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper,  and set aside. Combine all filling ingredients over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until desired consistency. Chill until ready to fill biscuits.

To make the streusel topping, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk until evenly combined. Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas. Set off to the side.

To make the biscuits, in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cream of tartar. Add in the butter and cut in until it resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas. Stir in the buttermilk and honey until the dough comes together and no longer appears to be dry. Transfer to a floured work surface, and knead once or twice to gather it together. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle about half an inch thick. Spread the berry mixture onto one side of the rolled dough. (You will have extra of this as well as the streusel.) Top with the streusel filling, and then fold the dough over the berries and streusel, like a book. Press down on the edges slightly. Cut into 10 even pieces, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops liberally with melted butter.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on the tops and edges. Allow to cool down slightly to avoid scalding yourself. Makes 10 amazing biscuits.

Marinated "Sun-Dried" Tomatoes

When my parents brought me some tomatoes before they headed on vacation, I remembered this recipe I found from Mouth From the South. These are so simple to make and taste delicious. I found myself munching on a surprising number of them before tossing them in the freezer for later, which is not my norm with tomatoes.

All of them are currently in the freezer for long-term storage, which is where they ended up before I snagged any pictures. Perhaps at some point I will manage a picture, but use your imagination or check out the original post.

Here's my ever-so-slightly modified version.

Marinated Sun-Dried Tomatoes
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 Tbsp. rosemary, chopped
Smoked sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
5 cloves garlic
20 or more tomatoes, cut into slices

Mix everything together except the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, and marinate for at least several hours in the refridgerator. Remove tomatoes from marinade, and spread out on dehydrator trays, and dry until desired texture. I pulled mine when they were somewhat pliable but mostly dried. Since there's so much oil in the marinade, store the dried tomatoes in the freezer.