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!