Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goof Proof Casseroles!

Well, I hope all of you have survived the Black Friday sales and are well on your way to enjoying the Christmas season.  My husband and I braved the mad house at our local Walmart, but I am pleased to report that even with the crowds, everybody had a great attitude.  It seems that the Christmas spirit is alive and well, at least in my little part of the world.   I am sharing a couple of recipes today that are wonderful to take to those holiday gatherings.  I made these two casseroles for our family Thanksgiving this year and they were both hits.  They're also really good leftover (which some casseroles aren't).  The best part is that they are also goof proof (even for the culinary challenged) which is always a BIG PLUS in my cookbook.  Hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

Pineapple Casserole
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 15 oz. cans of chunk pineapple (do NOT drain)
2 Tablespoons of flour or cornstarch (mixed into pineapple juice)
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 stick of butter melted
1 pkg. of Ritz or Townhouse crackers (crumbled)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour both cans of pineapple with juice into mixing bowl.  Add flour or cornstarch and stir until dissolved.  Add sugar and cheese and mix well.  Pour into casserole dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Mix crumbled crackers and butter together in separate bowl with melted butter.   Sprinkle cracker mixture on top of mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until golden brown.  *Note:  This is an excellent side dish for Baked Ham.  The sweetness of the pineapple goes really well with the salty ham.

Baked Bean Casserole
1 lb. cooked Hamburger or Ground Chuck
½ lb. bacon – cooked and diced up
1 Tablespoon Onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons Garlic powder
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
1 15 oz. can Pork and Beans (do not drain)
1 15 oz. can Kidney Beans (do not drain)
1 15 oz. can Butterbeans (drained)

Crock Pot Directions:  Mix all ingredients in crock pot and turn on high for 4 hours.
Oven Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Bake for 45 minutes.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Did I do THAT?!

This post has has absolutely nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with life's little blunders and the ability to laugh and get joy out of them.   This "blunder" is courtesy of my daughter Robin.  Robin has been dancing all her life (since the age of 2) and dances with a pre-professional ballet company.  As a proud mom, I love to see her perform and see how beautiful and graceful she is on the stage.  Then, there's the other side I also get to see.  Sometimes, it's like she's related to "The Three Stooges" or "Steve Urkel."  Being around her can be quite a riot, and it's never, ever dull. 

So here's the story to explain this little video clip:  my daughter, Robin, was asked by a local church to choreograph a praise dance for some younger children to perform in their Christmas musical.  She had been working on this little dance for a bit and decided to tape it for herself, just so she could see how it looked.  She set up her little camera, and this is what happened.....

Her face says it all....just like the commercial says "Priceless."  Until next time, enjoy the beauties around you and laugh at life's blunders.  It makes life so much more enjoyable that way.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cinnabon Coffee Cake

Do you ever have days that you just want to eat something that is so yummy and good but you know you probably shouldn't?  I do, in fact I probably have more of those days than any other kind.  Unfortunately, I am not blessed with the metabolism of a skinny person.  I wish I was the type of person that craved healthy, low-fat dishes but alas, that was not to be.  So, I indulge occasionally, probably more often than I should but not nearly as often as I want to, in the decadent and delicious.  This coffee cake is a winner for two reasons.  The first reason is that it's easy (I don't do difficult) and the second and most important reason is that it's like sin on a  plate.  You know you shouldn't but the temptation is just too strong to resist.  The recipe is easily doubled for a larger crowd and is a definite crowd pleaser.  This is amazing warm out of the oven but can be reheated in the microwave too.    Hope you enjoy!

Until next time, enjoy the beauty around and laugh at the blunders, life is much more enjoyable that way :)

Cinnabon Coffee Cake
Ingredients for Cake
*1 ½  cups self-rising flour (see note if you only have all-purpose flour)
*if you have all-purpose flour, then add 1/8 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons baking powder
½  cup sugar
¾  cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Cinnamon topping
 1 stick room temperature butter
½  cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
½  teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup pecans (optional)

1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cake:   With an electric mixer or stand-up mixer, mix flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Once combined well, slowly stir in 2 T melted butter.   Pour batter into a greased 8 x 8 baking pan.  
ToppingIn a large bowl, mix the 2 sticks of softened butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and pecans (optional) until well combined.  Drop evenly over cake batter by the tablespoon and use a knife to marble/swirl through the cake. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out nearly clean from center.
Glaze:  Place powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  *If too thick, add a couple of drops of milk at a time to get glaze thin enough to pour.  Drizzle over warm cake.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Election Pick Me Up!

As I was sitting watching Food Network reruns that I have saved on my DVR, one of my favorite food network stars, the Barefoot Contessa made homemade caramel sauce.  I sat thinking to myself, mmmm, that looks good.  I wish I had some of that.  Unfortunately, I do not have a personal chef at my disposal so I have to make my own caramel sauce.  I realize they sell the caramel dip at the grocery store but then you don’t get to conveniently say that you made it.  Caramel can be very tricky to make homemade and can burn very quickly.  Good news, my recipe is goof proof.  For me, that’s awesome because if it can be messed up, I’ll mess it up.  Now I’m not saying that my caramel is better than Ina’s (I’ll never know because I don’t have the guts to try hers) but I do know that it is a hit wherever this caramel makes an appearance, (from pot lucks to school holiday parties to lunch boxes).  Not to mention the fact that I LOVE saying that I made it and seeing the impressed look on peoples faces.  I didn’t use to see that look a lot (okay, never) but it’s getting better in my middle age.  Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.  Please note that this is not a quick cook recipe but it is SO worth the wait.  I usually put mine in the crock pot and let it do its thing overnight.  It’s like magic!

Until next time, appreciate the beauty around you and laugh at the blunders, life is so much more enjoyable that way! 

Homemade Caramel
1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk (DO NOT OPEN CAN).
1 Crock Pot (small or large - doesn't matter)

1.  Peel off the label of the can.  Do NOT open the can.  Place in crock pot.
2.  Fill crock pot with water until top of can is covered by at least 1 ½ - 2 inches of water.  It is very important that the can be covered well.  Some evaporation will occur and it’s possible that the can will bust if not covered by the water while cooking.
3.  Turn crock pot on low for 8 – 10 hours.   Remove from water carefully and let cool completely.  Do not attempt to open can while hot because it can explode.   The crock pot acts similar to a pressure cooker so it’s necessary for the can to cool before opening.

Serving suggestions:  Eat with a spoon (my personal favorite), slice apples and serve with caramel.  May also be used as an ice cream sauce or pour over warm apple pie.  It also makes awesome caramel macchiato’s.  This stuff is amazing!  Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you!

*Note:  It is possible for the can to leave a rust ring on the bottom of the crockpot.  It does in mine and scrubs out easily with my normal kitchen sponge.  If you are concerned about the ring, I suggest using a small, heat safe bowl or saucer to set the can inside and then place in the crockpot. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How much do I love thee? Enough to make German Pancakes!

My husband LOVES German Pancakes!  This morning after 21 years of marriage, I made them for him for the FIRST time.  My late efforts in making one of his all time favorite foods does not mean that I don't love him dearly.  It just meant that I didn't want to look like an idiot when they turned out more like cement paving stones than the golden, light and heavenly bits of puffed pancakes that they're supposed to be.  I asked my brother-in-law for his recipe after seeing that he had made them for my sister-in-law last weekend.  Since my sweet sister-in-law is always posting about all the wonderful stuff he makes for her, I decided I couldn't be outdone.   A couple of years ago, when I got hooked on the Food Network, I had an epiphany.  I began thinking that cooking has much more to do with heart and soul than the ability to follow a recipe.  When you enjoy doing something, no matter what it is, the results seem to turn out better.  I have found this to be true in my new found exploration and joy in cooking.  I have been willing to try recipes out of my normal comfort zone (recipes that require more than 5 ingredients) and more often than not, they have come out pretty amazing.  The recipe for these German Pancakes is not difficult.  The hardest part is that it does require that you whisk the mixture for about 5 minutes.  As I was making these this morning, and I got to the part of whisking for 5 more minutes, I had to stop and get my KitchenAid mixer out.  I really do love my husband but standing there whisking this batter would make my arm fall off (although he thought I should do it by hand, if I really loved him).  Hey, small steps, right?  Anyway, this recipe is easy, although I do suggest using a hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer.  Unless you're into working out, then this pancake recipe will help you build your biceps.

Until next time, enjoy life's beauties and laugh at the blunders, life is so much better that way.
German Pancakes

German Pancakes - courtesy of Ron Hertz
4-6 Servings
6 eggs (Room Temperature)
1 cup milk
1 cup sifted bread flour or all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter
1 lemon cut into wedges
Confectioners suger (Powdered Sugar)
2-4 Servings
3  eggs (Room Temperature)
½  cup milk
½  cup sifted bread flour or all purpose flour
1/8  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 teaspoons butter
1 lemon cut into wedges

*Bread flour is a high protein flour which helps the pancake rise.  All-Purpose flour may be used but the results will NOT be as light and fluffy.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.   (Note:  It is very important that you preheat you oven)  Make sure that oven rack is in the middle slot.  Place ovenproof skillet (Example: 10 inch iron skillet) in the oven to preheat.  While pan is heating prepare the batter.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy.  ( I suggest using a hand mixer or stand mixer).  Add milk, flour, vanilla extract and cinnamon, and beat for 5 minutes more.  The batter will be thin but should be smooth and creamy.
  3. Using a pot holder, remove the skillet from the oven and add the butter to the skillet letting it melt.  Tilt skillet carefully to let butter coat the sides of the skillet. 
  4. Pour the prepared batter into the hot skillet all at one and immediately return the skillet to the oven.
  5. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.  (Baked until the pancake puffs up around the edges – it may puff irregularly in the center).
  6. End of baking time
  7. Remove from oven and serve immediately.   (Once pancacke is out of the oven, the pancake will begin to deflate, this is normal).