Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Homemade Microwave Popcorn

I must admit that I love popcorn. Is there anyone out there that doesn't? The days of popping it on top of your stove was over ruled by microwave popcorn, but at a cost and it's not just to your wallet. I hope you are brave enough to read the ingredient list on the store bought versions, that speaks volumes. I have read many articles about how bad the store bought versions are so I gave up my microwave popcorn. Until....I made this version myself. Now once again I can eat my popcorn with wild abandonment and not feel guilty. Freedom! A girl just needs a crunchy salty snack every now and then. You may add any seasoning that you wish, salt, garlic salt, Parmesan cheese, etc. My son bought me some cheese popcorn seasoning for popcorn, he knows I'm a sucker for a new spice. Thank you Matt for inspiring me to make this recipe.

  • 1/2 cup popcorn
  • 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • salt, or seasoning of your choice 
  • lunch bag size brown paper bag, mine was 6 1/8 x 4 x 12 3/8 inches

In a medium size bowl add popcorn, oil, and salt. Mix together well and pour into bag, folding and sealing many times over. 

All microwaves are different, but mine was cooked perfectly after 2 minutes. If you are unsure about time just stand there and watch and as soon as it stops popping continuously remove it from the microwave.

Carefully open it because it is very hot and hot steam comes out when you open it. So don't be a ding a ling and peek into the bag and burn your eyeball! Did I just say that, yes I did, please be careful. Open it over top of your serving bowl and eat ASAP. Season it with more seasoning if needed. Enjoy!

* CLEAN UP TIP* Make sure you wipe out your microwave oven bottom to get the oil spot left behind.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Roasted Chicken Roaster ~ Spatchcock Style

Spatchcock Chicken Roaster was a big winner at our house tonight. I love to roast my chicken on the grill, but I needed to make a cooking adjustment for this windy cold Winter day. All you need to do is cut out the backbone and press hard on this baby bone side down on the breast to help flatten it out, then season and bake. Soon you will be rewarded with a tender juicy chicken with nice crispy skin. Bingo! I added a small bag of Yukon Gold potatoes to the mix and roasted those babies right on in there with Mr.Roaster. Also this method of cooking makes it so much easier to carve and speeds up the cooking time. You know what, I like this method better because crispy chicken skin and tender juicy chicken is where it's at.

  • Chicken Roaster, mine was a little over 8 lbs.
  • Mrs.Dash salt free seasoning (tomato, basil, & garlic flavor)
  • Yukon Gold gourmet petite potatoes, 1 1/2 lb bag
  • garlic flavored olive oil
  • freshly ground sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

The hardest part to this recipe is cutting away the backbone and trust me it's not that hard. My Stud Muffin did well removing it under my supervision. I recommend sharp kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. The average person can easily do this, shame on my Frankeneck for not letting me be able to.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile remove inside packet of gizzards, neck and such, rinse bird well inside and out with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Place chicken on a large platter back side up. Cut out backbone down one side then the next, follow this on either side of the tail by back legs. I threw my insides and gizzard stuff away, but you could easily simmer it to make a broth for later or to make gravy. 

Sprinkle the chicken liberally with Mrs.Dash seasoning. My potatoes were cleaned and did not need to be washed. I guess gourmet means cleaned, ready to go and perfect. It should be for the price so if you want to save some money you can just wash and cut up a larger potato. Now add the potatoes to a medium size bowl and drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes and add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Mix until coated evenly.

Coat a large roasting pan with cooking spray ~~~ for easier clean up. Place chicken in the center of the pan and scatter potatoes evenly around chicken. I scraped out the excess oil from the potato bowl and spread it evenly on top of the chicken skin.

Every oven is different, but my 8 lb roaster was ready after 90 minutes at 450 degrees. 

If you are cooking for more people you may want to double up on the potatoes. I love how the chicken juices season the potatoes, it makes them extra delicious. Be creative and add a variety of vegetables to roast. Also I'm sure the chicken fat leftover in the pan would make an excellent gravy for this meal. We are trying to watch what we eat so we did not indulge in making gravy for us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Red Lentil Soup with Spinach

Oh boy did I hit the Jackpot when I made this recipe. It sounded so delicious and indeed it is. I love when I find a healthy recipe that is ever so tasty too. Double goodness! I found this recipe on the Kaiser Permanente site. I know it's not an original from me, but of course I put my own twist on it to make it extra special.

When I make soup it has to be a big batch, so I just about doubled the recipe for starters. Think big like me. Of course it needed more garlic (it keeps the vampires away), and a few other changes. Stud Muffin loved this one as much as I did and it was a first for me to make the same soup twice in one week. Once you try this baby you will crave it for a regular fix. I found the red lentils (look orange to me), in the dried bean section and I bought the Goya brand ones. I love Goya products, they have a great price and quality.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 10 cloves of garlic (yes count em 10), peeled and pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 cups water
  • 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable base ( I used chicken)
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 2 1/2 cups red lentils
  • 8 oz bag fresh baby spinach

In a large soup pot over medium heat saute the garlic and onion until translucent. 

Add the next 8 ingredients to the soup pot and bring to a boil, now add the lentils and bring to a boil again. Cover pot and lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Then stir in the fresh spinach, don't worry it looks like alot at first, but then it wilts down. Stir well and simmer for about 5 more minutes or until the spinach wilts down. Enjoy!

I freeze the remaining tomato paste for later use, waste not want not. This soup is not only delicious and healthy, it is also so quick and easy to make. I knew I was in a love with this soup when I almost had it for breakfast, guess what ~  lunch time came a bit early that day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crockpot Cashew Clusters

Only four ingredients and a crockpot away to a simple yet ever so scrumptious recipe. My candy making skills are my weakest link, until I made this one. I have respect for candy makers and their attention to fine detail, I just don't have it. I have seen numerous crockpot candy recipes, but I could not find one that uses quality chocolates. So this is my version. Ghirardelli is by far one of the best chocolates that I can get my hands on. I researched Ghirardelli's melting wafers and found out that they are only made for the Holiday season and when they sell out that is it until next year. I found 2 lb bags ($7.98 per bag), of these treasures at Sam's Club in Frederick, MD. I also saw smaller bags in the grocery stores and on Amazon, but if you bargain shop like I do you will get the best bang for your buck at Sam's Club. I even found a 2 lb container of Planter's fancy whole jumbo cashews there for $12.98 as well.

You can find the Baker's German chocolate in any larger chain grocery store. Also I made 60 candy pieces with this recipe and in hindsight I wish I made them smaller. If you want to make a smaller batch I recommend you cut this recipe in half. Don't be a scrooge, share the love and make their fat cells sing while you are at it. I am so excited that I can hardly wait to share these with my family and friends over the Holidays.

Could you imagine how good these would taste made with macadamia nuts!

Theses babies only cost me $25.39 for my batch of Crockpot Cashew Clusters. That is a great price for such a large quantity of quality chocolates. Enjoy!

  • 2 lbs Ghirardelli white melting wafers
  • 2 cups Ghirardelli dark melting wafers
  • 2 lbs Planter's fancy whole cashews with sea salt
  • 1 4oz bar Baker's German sweet chocolate baking bar
IMPORTANT TIPS! Know your crockpot  as low is much hotter on some and the temp varies. My crockpot is old so that means it does not get as hot a as a new one. Mine is 180- 250 watts, it will say that on the bottom of the crockpot how many watts, too high a wattage will not work either. Also it is a 5 qt. crockpot and this recipes fills it up. If yours runs on the hot side set on low, this recipe will BURN. Also slow cookers cook hotter than a crockpot and do not work for this recipe.

Turn crockpot on low and add the cashews first, then the white wafers, the dark chocolate wafers and the German chocolate on top after you broke it into the scored sections. Put lid on and DO NOT PEEK, after 3 hours open lid and stir until all is mixed well. TIP! When you open the lid the chocolate will still have it's original shape, but as soon as you stir it the chocolate melds together. 

When candy is mixed well add by spoonfuls onto a large cookie sheet lined with wax paper. I used a cookie dough scoop dispenser that looks like a mini ice cream scoop. As I said earlier I made 60 pieces of candy and wish I made them smaller. So fill the scoop evenly and level on top to make them a bit smaller.

As you add them to the cookie sheet this is the time to shape them a bit nicer as you go so there are not any rogue cashews sticking out at odd angles. No worries because no matter how they are shaped they will still make your fat cells sing with delight. Chill in fridge for about 30 minutes or until set.

  •  3 cups Ghirardelli white melting wafers
  •  1 cup Ghirardelli dark chocolate wafers
  •  1 lb cashews
  • 1/2 of a 4 oz bar of  Baker's German's sweet chocolate baking bar

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pepper Jack Mac & Cheese

I love Mac & Cheese and also spicy food so I decided to beef of my mac & cheese with some added spice. I must admit that this recipe is not for anyone that is a spice wimp. If you are a cry baby about spice then you are best to ignore this one. I added pickled jalapenos on top as a garnish and must tell you that it makes it over the top hot. It's up to you if you choose to add the extra extreme heat, I will tell you that it is plenty hot enough without them. If you are daring go ahead as there is not any danger in trying it. The beauty of it is that if the jalapenos are too hot you can pick them off and still enjoy your spicy deliciousness.

I saw Wacky Mac Veggie Shapes in the grocery store and that inspired me to make this dish.

  • 1, 12 oz bag of Wacky Mac veggie noodles
  • 1/2 cup Smart Balance Margarine, original
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, I used fat free
  • 2, 8 oz block of pepper jack cheese, sliced thin
  • picked jalapenos, strictly optional

Cook noodles according to package directions and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile melt margarine in a large pot, as soon as the margarine is melted add the flour, mix together well with a whisk to make sure that there are not any lumps. 

Immediately add; milk, salt, pepper, cayenne and onion powder. Stir over medium heat until mixture starts to thicken, now add the cheese and stir occasionally until it is melted through. 

Drain pasta and then add pasta to the pot of the melted cheese mixture, mix well. Spray your baking dish with cooking spray and add the noodles and cheese mixture. Add the optional jalapenos on top at this time if you choose to be daring

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Enjoy!

Below is a pic of my Wacky Mac Veggie shapes that inspired this dish. Go figure. 

If you can't find Wacky Mac Veggie Shape noodles use 12 oz of any noodle of your choice.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chicken Cacciatore

I must admit that I am a Italian food snob only because my Mom made the best Italian food. As a matter of fact my Italian Great Grandmother taught my Mom how to cook and in turn my Mom passed on the importance and the love of good homemade food to me. I have made the recipe simpler and easier to make without compromising any flavor.

If you want a one pot meal that all you have to do is plop the ingredients into a pot and let it simmer for a few hours than this baby is for you. I love how the chicken is so tender that you can cut it with a fork. Another bonus is the aroma of this dish simmering on a cold day will delight your sniffer like only Italian food can do. Mangia!

  • 1 (29 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup white wine, the drinkable kind
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic from jar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • about 4 -6 oz fresh white mushrooms, cleaned & sliced thin
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • flour for dusting
Add first 7 ingredients to a 4 1/2 qt pot, stir well and simmer covered over low heat for 1 hour. 

Dredge chicken breast onto a plate covered with flour,  lightly coating the chicken. Add raw chicken breast (yes raw), one at a time to simmering sauce laying them on their side so that all will fit in the pot. Once all chicken breasts are coated and in the pot cover with a lid and simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally if you want. 

The only thing you need to be careful about is that the heat is not too high as to burn the sauce. Or too low, you will want to see light bubbles simmering away not a boil. It will take some time to get to this point of simmering since we are cooking on a low heat. 

I buy individual frozen portions of chicken breasts and have even started this dish with frozen chicken and it is still scrumptious! The olive oil adds a nice flavor to the sauce and I found that I could skip browning the chicken in the oil and still get the same great flavor by simply adding it into the sauce. 

I always serve my Cacciatore with Angel Hair pasta or Capellini imported from Italy. I love the thin pasta and it cooks in mere minutes. Serves six.

If you want to make this in a crockpot I would recommend you cook it for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.

My one pot wonder of pure deliciousness!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mini Pumpkin Pies~~~16 count

Who would ever think that a martini glass and pumpkin pie would have anything in common. Well I have a tale to tell. It all started with seeing little pumpkin tarts in the grocery store. I confess that I almost bought them, sins of all sins. I must say that common sense prevailed and I knew in my heart that I could make them and not only that but mine would taste better and be fresher. It baffles my mind how long these store baked good expiration dates go on and on, it's just not natural. So back to my tale. I did not have a circular cookie cutter so I scrounged up my Stud Muffin's martini glass to do the circular cuts. It was perfect! I did purchase Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts to help make this recipe quick and easy. By all means if you have the time please make your crust from scratch, don't let me stop you from that.
  • 1 package Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, 14.5 oz.
  • 1 can, 15 oz pure pumpkin
  • 1 can, 12 oz evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Remove pie crust from refrigerator and set out at room temp for 15 minutes. Meanwhile in a medium size bowl whisk together; sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, & cloves, now set it aside. In a large bowl whisk together; pumpkin, evaporated milk, & eggs, set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Now it's time to roll out the pie crust onto a floured surface and you will need to roll it out into a 15 inch circle so that the crust is not too thick. You should be able to cut out 8 circles from each crust with your martini glass (my glass was 4 1/2 inches wide at the top). If you can not get enough out of your pie crusts you will need to press scraps together and roll it again, if you need to do this you either did not roll it out thin enough or you did not place the circle cuts close enough together. Make sure that there is plenty of flour on the back of the circle of crust so that it will not stick to the muffin pan.

My Martini dough crust cutter, thanks Stud Muffin!

After rolling and cutting out crust center the crust over the top of the muffin pan and gently press down with a small juice glass.

To the large bowl add the dry mixture from the medium bowl and whisk together well. Pour slightly less than 1/3 cup of the pumpkin mixture into each mini pie crust. Being careful not to spill on the edges so the crust will not stick later. Place in oven for and bake for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes longer or until knife in center comes out clean.

Now cool these babies on a wire rack for 15 minutes. If any filling has seeped over the edge of the pie it will make the crust stick, if that happened gently run a thin knife around edges to break pie loose. After removing pies let cool for another 30 minutes on wire rack before you cover and refrigerate them to cool. Chill for several hours or overnight to let flavors meld. I like to serve mine with a little fat free Reddi Whip.