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 of 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 of Watts 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.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Burritos~~~ Made Healthier

I just love ethnic foods! My love affair with Burritos spurred me to make this dish healthier. I managed to cut back on the fat and also add fiber without compromising the flavor. Another bonus to this recipe is that it only uses 7 ingredients. The products that I mention for you to use you can find in a grocery store with an extensive ethnic section. This will make 8 nice size burritos. I'll tell you that one of these babies stuffed me.

  • about 1 lb of ground turkey 99% lean
  • 1 medium size sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1 can El Pato tomato sauce
  • 1 can El Pato Salsa de Jalapeno
  • 1 can Goya Rancheros, refried pinto beans
  • 1 pkg La Tortilla Factory tortillas, 8 ct.
  • Reduced fat, grated Mexican cheese blend

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, meanwhile preheat a large nonstick pan over medium heat sprayed with cooking spray. Now add the ground turkey and diced onion to skillet, stir meat well while it cooks until meat is no longer pink. In a 2 cup measuring open Both El Pato canned sauces and mix them together well. Add 1/4 cup of the sauce to the meat mixture along with the Ranchero beans (reserving the rest of the sauce later on for the top of the burritos). Stir mixture well until all is blended in evenly.

La Tortilla factory tortillas are the bomb.They are only 100 calories, 1.5 g fat, and they have 8 g of fiber.

Add 1/2 cup of meat bean mixture to all 8 tortillas and roll them up as shown. Fold in the sides, then the top and roll in the bottom.

I managed to squeeze all 8 of mine into my baking dish. Next you need to top them with remaining sauce and a handful of cheese on top of each one. Now bake those babies in the oven for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pizza from the Weber Kettle Pizza Kit

I must admit that I do have a love affair with Pizza. It has been a favorite if mine as long as I can remember. As a teenager I frequently ate it for breakfast. For now I must give my Stud Muffin the credit for finding our latest food gadget, the Weber Kettlepizza Kit. I thought what a clever idea to be able to turn your Weber grill into a wood burning pizza oven. So next thing you know Mama is on a mission and our trials and mistakes will you help you get off to a great start if you want to try it as well. I will confess that it is a good bit of work, so this is only for the serious pizza lovers who want to make it at home.

I found out that fast, easy and great tasting dough can be made from Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast. I tried the store locator online but none of the grocery stores that said they sold it in their store actually did. I finally found it in my local super Wal-Mart in Frederick. We tried many different dough recipes and this one won hands down. Another one that was great was a pizza dough recipe that I made in my bread machine set on manual, but you do need to proof the dough for several hours or overnight.
It came as a 3 pack and cost $1.34. I get two pizza crusts from one package since we like a thin crust pizza, you will only get one pizza crust if you like it regular. Just follow the directions on the back of the pack and they even have videos you can watch online as stated on the back of the packs. If you want a thick crust you will need to play with making 2 packs at a time. I can't help you with that since I never eat a thick crust pizza and I welcome feed back on that.

Also yellow corn meal is very important!!! Hopefully my constant nagging during this blog post will drum that into your head. You will need to generously coat your pizza stone and your pizza peeler with it, this will let the dough slide off without sticking. I also like to spray my crust with a thin layer of olive oil before I put my sauce on. I make my pizza right on top of the pizza peeler so that it has one less transfer, the hardest part.

Your next important selection will be your sauce that you choose for your pizza. I can not emphasize the importance of a good tasting sauce, it truly can make what would be a perfect tasting pizza just barely OK. There is so much to choose from so use your favorite jar of sauce or canned pizza sauce. I must admit to you that my best tasting pizza came from my homemade spaghetti sauce. The sauce is your choice! Make sure you do not put it on too heavily or your cheese will right slip off of your pizza. As you can see in the pic above all you need is a nice thin layer.

 Don't forget to generously cover the peeler with corn meal for ease of sliding onto the pizza stone. Also do not make it too far in advance, make it just before you need to place it onto the pizza stone or you risk it sticking.
You will also need a chimney charcoal starter to get to your coals cooking quickly since you do not want to use charcoal lighter fluid. You will also need wood chunks to place on top once you get the coals going. We bought our chunks at Home Depot but make sure you buy a big bag of the larger chunks. You will be surprised how fast the big chunks burn off, those small pieces would disintegrate.

You can see our pizza cooking in the oven. IMPORTANT TIP ~~~ Make sure that your stone height is correct by putting the grill grate inside the Keetlepizza ring on the bottom 3 handle bolts. This will keep your stone level with the opening. Also your stone will get all discolored as it seasons, not to worry. Make sure you have cornmeal on the stone so the pizza slides easily. Your pizza will need to be turned after just a few minutes because it is much hotter in the back then it is in the front. Also I recommend not putting on any toppings until you have mastered your pizza peeler skills. Even so no more than 3 toppings per pizza, it is harder to navigate if you use a thin crust pizza vs a regular crust. Also if the pizza developes a bubble in the crust I like to pop it right away with a long bar b q meat fork.
 If you choose to try the Kettlepizza kit you will be rewarded with a great tasting pizza at home. I used Sargento grated reduced fat 4 cheese Italian blend. So my pizza was lower in fat and to help boost the flavor I sprinkled a little bit of grated Asiago cheese on top and some garlic powder before cooking. My pizza cooked in only 5 minutes and look at that golden brown crust. Yum yum!!!

I watched several videos on youtube and found them helpful to get me started with my new adventure. Please do your homework and you too will feel much better prepared. Also make sure you read the suggestion sheet ( directions), that comes with the Kettlepizza kit. Oh and don't forget the corn meal. 

  • 1 pack of Fleishmann's pizza crust yeast
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, & a bit more for dusting
  • 1/1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup very warm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • pizza sauce
  • grated cheese, I used Sargento reduced fat 4 cheese Italian blend
  • garlic powder
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • grated Asiago, optional
  • corn meal
  • olive oil spray
  • optional toppings
  • Weber Kettlepizza Kit for your Weber grill with accessories 
  • Wood chunks meant for cooking on grills
  • Kingsford charcoal
  • Charcoal Chimney
  • High temp cooking mitts

The amount of the dough ingredients is enough for 2 thin crust pizzas or 1 regular crust pizza. I love to eat a sprinkling of Parmesan on top of my pizza.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fresh Lima Bean Soup

I just love the sweet buttery flavor of Lima Beans. Did you know that they are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and are cholesterol - lowering from the plant sterols. Whew! That makes the Lima a win win in my eyes. I can't bring myself to eat something healthy unless it tastes good as well. You can hit the jackpot on the Lima Bean when it comes to taste and nutrition value. My Stud Muffin shucked the 4 1/2 cups of these buttery treasures for me. I lured him on with the promise of fresh Lima Bean soup. Enjoy this nice hearty buttery flavored soup where once again I worked my magic on cutting back on fat, but not on flavor. Trick your fat cells into singing. Enjoy!

  • 4 1/2 cups of freshly shucked Lima Beans*
  • 1/4 cup chicken base
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup yellow meat potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. Smart Balance original margarine
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup Half & Half
In a large 8 qt soup pot over medium heat add first 8 ingredients. Stir well and bring to a low boil, then set to low heat and cover with lid on and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Whisk together Half & Half and cornstarch until there are no longer any lumps left. Now while stirring the soup slowly pour in the Half & Half mixture, constantly stirring. mixture will thicken up immediately. Turn off heat and serve immediately.

*I understand access to fresh Lima Beans is limited and seasonal so use some frozen ones if you do not have access to the fresh ones.