Friday, December 23, 2011

Chocolate dipped cappuccino caramels

A friend of mine made these delicious caramels last time we were in Auburn. They are so yummy! The recipe is tweaked from a Better Homes and Garden cookbook.

1 C butter
1 16-oz. pkg brown sugar (2 1/4 C)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 C light corn syrup
3 Tbsp. instant coffee
1 C chopped walnuts
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2-1 tsp. finely shredded orange peel (I omit this)
dark chocolate chips

Line an 8x8x2 in or 9x9x2 in baking pan with foil (the nonstick kind works best). Butter the foil; set aside.
  In heavy 3-qt saucepan melt butter over low heat. Stir in brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup, and coffee.
  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees or candy reaches *firm ball stage. The mixture should boil at moderate, steady rate over the entire surface. Reaching firm ball stage should take 15-20 min.
  Remove saucepan from heat. Immediately stir in walnuts, vanilla, and orange peel. Quickly pour caramel into foil lines baking dish. Allow to cool thoroughly. I put mine in the fridge for a while.
  When caramel is firm, cut caramels into bite size squares. Makes about 3 pounds...60-80 pieces depending on how big you cut them.
  I melt dark chocolate chips and dip the caramels. It is easiest to use two skewers to hold the candy so that you don't leave finger marks. A touch of sea salt on top adds a yummy salty taste to all this sweetness.

*To test firm ball stage: drop a few drops of caramel mixture into cold water. Shape the drops of caramel into a ball. When the caramel is removed from water, it will be firm enough to hold its shape, but should quickly flatten at room temperature.

Wrap and store the caramels for up to 3 weeks in a cool, dry place or up to 9 months in the freezer. These make great gifts!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Baja Style Fish Tacos

These have been added to our list of "regulars".  In fact Morgandy asked me tonight when we were having them again.  They are yummy.  This recipe has been adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

Baja Style Fish Tacos:

Serves 4


4 cups shredded green cabbage (I buy the pre-shedded kind)
5 Tbsp minced fresh clantro
3 scallions sliced thin
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
4 tsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp minced canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp groun coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
4 tilapia fillets (the ones I get are about 8 oz each)
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas
Lime wedges (for serving)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Toss the cabbage, 1/4 cup cilantro, scallions, vinegar, 1 tsp of the oil and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the remaining tablespoon cilantro, mayonnaise, lime juice, chipotles, and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste, Set both aside for serving.

3. Combine the chili powder, coriander, cumin and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl.  Pat the fish dry with paper towels, brush with the remaining tablespoon oil, and rub evenly with the spice mixture.  Place fish in a 9x13 pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake in pre-heated oven for 15 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

4.  While the fish is baking heat a griddle or pan on high heat and heat up the corn tortillas one at a time (about 20 seconds on each side) until they begin to brown.  Alternatively you can place them between wet paper towels and microwave them for a minute or two until they are soft and pliable.  Wrap the warm tortillas in a kitchen towel or aluminum foil to keep them warm.

5.  When fish is done cut fillets into 3 equal pieces.  Smear each tortilla with some of the mayo mixture and top with some of the cabbage slaw and a piece of fish.  Serve with the lime wedges.

According to the original recipe you use mahi-mahi and can substitute halibut, swordfish, or red snapper.   It also calls for the fish and tortillas to be grilled. If you grill the fish it takes 10-14 minutes over high heat, turning once.  It also suggests serving the tacos with grilled corn on the cob and hot sauce.  We usually have it with black beans.

These tacos are really, really good.  They are totally worth the time and effort.  And if there are leftovers the actually re-heat fairly well.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Creamy pesto pasta

1 lb. uncooked noodles (I prefer Rotini noodles)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 8 oz. jar of pesto
2 tblsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, heat 2 tblsp. olive oil and then add chopped onions, minced garlic and cubed chicken breasts. Saute it until chicken is done. Add the jar of pesto and white cooking wine. Stir and let cook for five minutes to cook out the alcohol. Turn off heat and set aside. Cook pasta. Drain water from pasta and add pasta immediately to pesto sauce. Turn on the heat and stir. Add the parmesan cheese and whipping cream. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir until creamy. Serve immediately! This is a family staple in our house!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook Review

We all have a "go to" cookbook.  One we use all the time.  One we know that no matter what we make it will a) work and b) be delicious.

This is my current "go to" book for cooking:

My sister introduced me to The America's Test Kitchen years ago.  If you haven't heard of the series on PBS you should check it out.  It's great; entertaining, informative and educational.  She recently bought this book and then made several recipes from it for us when she was here visiting. My mom bought it and bought one for me.  I've been cooking out of it several times a week for a month. So far everything I've made from it has been good.  Really good.  And don't let the "Healthy" part throw you.  The recipes don't sacrifice taste for health. 

You may have seen my sister and I messaging page numbers on Facebook of what we've tried and liked.  I guess we have been raving so much about it we've already peaked the interest of my aunt and cousin because they just ordered it, too. 

Just like the show this book is filled with tips and tricks and reasoning behind the cooking methods.  It's tabbed dividers make it easy to find what you are looking for and the photos are super helpful.

The one downside to a lot of these recipes is that they involve a lot of chopping and if you have kids at home like I do it may mean you spend nap-time doing food prep.  The end result is worth it to me but I did think it's worth mentioning.  

Here are some of my favorite's so far:

* Southwestern Black Bean Salad (I could eat this
* Vegetable Enchiladas (supposedly my sister made these for a "meat-eating" friend and they said they wouldn't have known there wasn't meat in it if they hadn't been told)
*North African Style Chick Pea Salad
*Baja Grilled Fish Tacos
*Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

I originally titled this post:  The Next Cookbook You Should Add To Your Collection.  I would recommend it to anyone.  You can get it here.  If you do buy it I'd love to know what your favorite recipes are. You can post here or message me a page number on Facebook :).

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Best Carrot Cake Ever!!!!

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups grated peeled carrots (about 10 carrots)
one 8oz. can crushed pineapple, drained (I omit this ingredient)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
one 16oz. box confectioners' sugar, sifted

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans.
2) To make the cake, sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the eggs and vegetable oil and stir until well blended. Fold in the grated carrots, pineapple, and pecans and stir until the mixture in thoroughly blended.
3) Pour one-third of the batter into each of the prepared pans. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the edges have pulled away slightly from the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
4) Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks.
5) To make the icing, place the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer set at medium speed, cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until smooth.
6) Place a cake layer on a serving plate and frost the top. Repeat this procedure with the second and third layers. Finish by icing the sides of the cake. Cut into wedges and serve.

Makes one 8-inch layer cake. Serves 8-10.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sesame Noodles

adapted from Good (click the title to go to the original link)

This is becoming one of our "regular" meals.  It's very easy and yummy.  If you *must* you could add some shrimp or even chicken.  I serve this with gyoza (Chinese dumplings) alongside.

I've halved the original recipe because it makes a lot.  I also limit the spicy-ness for my kiddos.
You can make the sauce earlier in the day to save some time.


- salt
- 8 oz. spaghetti (whole wheat, regular or even rice noodles)
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/8 cup rice vinegar
- 1/8 low-sodium soy sauce
- 1/8 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 Tbsp Asian sesame oil
- 1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp sugar
- pinch crushed red pepper (or more if you like it spicier)
- 2 cups carrots cut into match sticks (save yourself some time and buy the packaged kind)
- 2 small cucumbers (I used Persian cucumbers) cut into matchsticks
- 2 green onions thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds toasted (optional)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

  1. Heat large pot of salted water to boiling over high heat. Add pasta and cook as label directs.
  2. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, with wire whisk or fork, mix orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, peanut butter, oil, ginger, sugar, and crushed red pepper until blended; set sauce aside.
  3. Place carrots in colander; drain pasta over carrots. In large serving bowl, toss pasta mixture, cucumbers, and sliced green onions with sauce in bowl. If you like, sprinkle pasta with sesame seeds. Garnish with green onions and cilantro.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lemon Fish Packets *Updated

My sister Lana gave me this recipe.  It's super easy and very yummy.  I was really surprised at how the lemons softened and mellowed as they cooked.

* I made this during the week and realized I should update it.

1 lb fish (I used tilapia)
1 lemon thinly sliced
1 small onion thinly sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Aluminum Foil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Slice fish into serving portions.  Spread out a larger piece of foil and place fish on it.  Salt and pepper fish then place sliced lemon and onion on top.  Drizzle with olive oil and wrap foil around to make a packet.  Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until fish flakes easily with fork.

A call for Mediterranean Recipes

Our family has recently switched to a Mediterranean diet. That means no red meat, very little white meat, some fish, eggs, lots of fruits, veggies and no dairy. (Well, the kids and I are doing some dairy).

We've made this switch for mostly dietary reasons but also because meat is expensive. It's been a bit of a challenge coming up with new things to cook that fit that category but it's getting easier and I've found some yummy recipes along the way. Also I've lost some weight so that has been a great incentive to keep it up.

If you have any recipes that fit this category I'd love to hear them. And I'll be sharing some of what I've found that we've liked too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wonton Chicken Salad

1 head of iceberg lettuce
1/2 lb. wonton wrappers (any brand is fine and you can buy these at a regular grocery store, often in the frozen section)
3 chicken breasts, cooked in water and shredded
4 green onions, chopped
2 tblsp. sesame seeds
1 tblsp. sugar
1 can chopped water chestnuts, cut into tiny pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tblsp. white vinegar
2 tblsp. sesame oil

Wash and chop lettuce. Dry really well. Boil chicken breasts in water and shredded into small pieces. Fry wonton wrappers
in medium-heat oil on stove top until lightly browned. Set aside for later. I usually set them aside on a plate lined with a paper
towel to soak up excess oil. Don't get the oil too hot though or they will burn quickly. Mix all remaining ingredients and pour
over chicken and marinate at least 3 hours in fridge. When ready to serve, pour chicken mixture over lettuce and crumble
friend wonton wrappers and toss to coat. Serve immediately because it gets soggy fast! Yummy.....

This is a family favorite, and while it takes some time to prepare it, it is so worth it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mongolian Beef

Matt's actual name for this is "Hoo Dang! That's good!"

We've had this, we've shared it with friends, and it is always good! I add steamed broccoli and stir it up together. Yum!

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh
ginger root
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 pound beef flank steak,
sliced 1/4 inch thick on the
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup vegetable oil for frying
2 bunches green onions, cut in
2-inch lengths

1.Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and cook and stir the garlic and ginger until they release their fragrance, about 30 seconds. Pour in the soy sauce, water, and brown sugar. Raise the heat to medium-high, and stir 4 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce boils and slightly thickens. Remove sauce from the heat, and set aside.

2.Place the sliced beef into a bowl, and stir the cornstarch into the beef, coating it thoroughly. Allow the beef and cornstarch to sit until most of the juices from the meat have been absorbed by the cornstarch, about 10 minutes.

3.Heat the vegetable oil in a deep-sided skillet or wok to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

4.Shake excess cornstarch from the beef slices, and drop them into the hot oil, a few at a time. Stir briefly, and fry until the edges become crisp and start to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the beef from the oil with a large slotted spoon, and allow to drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

5.Pour the oil out of the skillet or wok, and return the pan to medium heat. Return the beef slices to the pan, stir briefly, and pour in the reserved sauce. Stir once or twice to combine, and add the green onions. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook until the onions have softened and turned bright green, about 2 minutes.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Green Chili Mac N Cheese Casserole

1 1/2 lbs uncooked ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced (or garlic powder if you're in a hurry)
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 jar Texas Two-Step Tomatillo & Green Chili Stew Mix (this comes in a big glass jar in a special section at my HEB where they have their cooking connection class in the middle of the store, but you can probably find it in the jar chili section too. It costs about $8 or $9 at HEB, but it's worth it!)
16 ounces elbow macaroni, penne, or farfalle pasta
1 pound Velveeta, cubed
1/2 cup milk or heavy cream (I use 2%)
1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese

1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Cook macaroni according to package directions in large pot.
3. Meanwhile, cook ground beef, garlic, and onions in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Drain macaroni in colander and use that pot to melt together the velveeta, milk, and green chili mix.
5. Once the velveeta is melted, mix that with the macaroni and ground beef either in that pot and then transfer to a 9x13 baking dish or mix it all together in the baking dish.
6. Top with shredded cheese and bake about 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

I know that the chili mix seems expensive, but this dish goes a LONG way. It easily made 8 adult servings plus several kid servings tonight. It's also excellent for leftover lunches and freezes well as leftovers. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Burger de Ville Salad

Right down the street from us in Montreal was the best burger place called Burger de Ville.  It was so good we ate there usually once a week.  It opened a little over a year ago and within the 6 months was so popular there was always a line.  We started just ordering take out so we could avoid the line.  While their burgers were great, they also made a great salad.  I started making it myself when we wanted to have it with something other than burgers.  I also made a few changes to make it my own.

Here's my take on the BdV Salad:

Spring mix salad
Dried Cranberries
Red onions sliced
Pecan halves
4 oz goat cheese

Balsamic vinaigrette:
1/4 balsamic vinaigrette
3/4 EVOO
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic minced
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Place salad greens in bowl, top with cranberries, pecans, red onions and toss.  Crumble goat cheese on top.  Serve with Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing.