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This is one of my all-time favorite go-to meals–chili! Now, I am not by any means a chili purist. I like my chili completely full of yummy beans, and I am completely laissez faire about the meat. Nonetheless, this is pretty much the easiest, fastest chili to make; it makes great leftovers, it freezes wonderfully; what more could you want? I have been making this chili for a few years now and I don’t remember the original source for the recipe, but honestly, I have modified it so much it barely resembles the original anymore. Also, I tend to make it a little bit different each time–more of this, less of that. It is really a recipe that holds up well to modifying for taste, what’s already in your pantry, or general capriciousness. Also, just a fair warning–your can opener will get some heavy duty use for this recipe!

That is one thick bowl of chili!

 

Kathy’s “Dump It in a Pot” Chili

  • 1 package (16 – 20 oz.) lean ground beef or ground turkey (Heck, you could probably even use vegetarian crumbles if you wanted to make this a vegetarian meal)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 green peppers, chopped
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas) drained and rinsed
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 – 2 tsp. cumin

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef or turkey, onion, green pepper, and garlic until the meat is browned and the onion is translucent and tender. If needed, drain fat. Stir in the beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, and green chilies. Add chili powder, basil, oregano, black pepper, and cumin. The chili will be quite thick and stew-like. If needed/desired, add a couple of cups of water to thin it. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let simmer at least 20 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese if desired. Pairs well with cornbread or tortilla chips.

 

 

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Well, it looks like I am somehow making not blogging a habit. Funny how it is. I feel all motivated, and then, whoops, there it goes out the window. 12 Days of Cookie-mas, well, it ended up being only five. That was due to my hurting my back and being laid-up for a couple of  weeks; I couldn’t even stand long enough to bake cookies, much less sit up straight to write blog posts about them. Other than that, though, I really have no excuse. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy blogging–I do–it just seems to be a lower priority than it maybe ought to be. For me, blogging isn’t particularly easy. I mean, the words flow very easily when I am actually ready to write, but all the preparation for the actual writing just takes it out of me. Since I often blog about food, not only do I need to cook it, but I need to photograph and edit the pictures. Which doesn’t take long, but by that point, I often seem to lose steam. When I do more style-based posts, it takes probably 2+ hours of work per post. I am not quitting blogging, it just really seems to take more out of me than I think one would assume it would.

So anyway, now that I’ve whined a bit, here is what I made for Valentine’s Day. I am not really much of a Valentine’s Day person. I don’t dislike the holiday, it just isn’t an important one to me. But any excuse to make desserts I will take! Funny thing about cupcakes for me–this was the first time I’ve made them. Yep, somehow to cupcake craze passed right over me. But with desserts, there really is no late! And oh my goodness were they fantastically delicious!

three chocolate cupcakes with pale pink swirled frosting and red sprinkles
Aww, aren’t they cute?

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Via Baking Bites

For cupcakes:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee granules (I used decaf, single-serving packets; these actually)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

For frosting:

  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk
  • 2-3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 – 3 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • Sugar sprinkles (optional)

First, we make the cupcake base. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 48 mini muffin cups with mini muffin liners. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, coffee powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.) A lot of the coffee crystals will not go through the sifter. Its okay, just discard the stubborn bits. In another bowl, whisk together milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and vinegar. It will get slightly frothy. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fill muffin cups 2/3 to 3/4 way full. I found a table teaspoon works well for this. Bake cupcakes for 10 – 12 minutes until tester comes out clean. In my oven, it took more like 11 – 13 minutes, but no harm in checking at the ten minute mark. Remove the cupcakes to wire rack and let cool completely before frosting. Note: I used silver metallic muffin liners because it was for a special day, but I highly discourage this! When removing the cupcakes from the hot pans, the metallic liners will burn your fingers!

While the cupcakes are cooling, its good to get started on the frosting. Using a stand mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Make sure to scrape down the beater and sides of the bowl frequently. Beat in the vanilla extract and add 1 Tbsp. of the milk. Add the second Tbsp. if needed. Remember not to lick the measuring spoon used to measure the vanilla extract–it smells better than it tastes. Add a couple drops of food coloring if desired. Gradually add powdered sugar until frosting is desired consistency. I used approximately 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar, but would probably add more in the future–my frosting was a bit limp.

Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost the cupcakes as desired. I used a decorator bag with a medium star tip and swirled the frosting on, but I suppose the frosting could be spread if need be. Add sprinkles to top if desired.

Yield 48 cupcakes, lots of extra frosting. Send lots of cupcakes to work, as 48 is way too many for two people to eat, even though they are mini cupcakes!

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“On the fifth day of Cookie-mas my oven and I made: five snickerdoodles! Four honey lemon cookiesthree chocolate crinklestwo peanut butter cookies, and crunchy sandy almond cookies

Well, Christmas panic is finally setting in. I realized today that there are only two more weeks and a day until Christmas. I still have so much to do: Christmas cards to make and send out, presents to buy and wrap, shipping boxes to purchase. It really is quite overwhelming. At the same time, I am the type of person who works best with a deadline and a “to do” list, so at least I have that going for me. And snickerdoodles to keep up my strength and energy! And delicious snickerdoodles they are; oh so simple, and oh so delicious!

Here, have one...or a whole stack!

“Mrs. Sigg’s” Snickerdoodles

By Beth Sigworth via Allrecipes
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. white sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, 1-1/2 cups sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Pour flour mixture into creamed mixture and blend. The dough will be pretty sticky. In a small bowl, combine the 2 Tbsp. of sugar and cinnamon. With dry hands, roll heaping  Tablespoons of dough into balls. Roll dough balls into cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place balls 2″ apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake 9-10 minutes or until set. Remove onto cooling racks. Yield 4-1/2 dozen cookies.

These cookies could not be easier to make, and they are a great, crisp snack cookie. They flatten out quite a bit, but I had no problems with them spreading and becoming “monster cookies.”

Reviews

Kathy: “9/10. I haven’t had snickerdoodles in a very long time, but they are delicious! They have a great texture, crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Yum!”

Joe: “8.5/10. There’s just enough spice in the cookie to hit you where it counts, as a good snickerdoodle should. It makes me want to savor the cookie.”

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“On the fourth day of Cookie-mas my oven and I made: four honey lemon cookies, three chocolate crinklestwo peanut butter cookies, and crunchy sandy almond cookies

Oh my gosh, this is actually happening! We’re one-third done with Cookie-mas! Yum! And I’ve yet to have any catastrophic cookie failures, so I’ve got that going for me. This recipe is the first frosted cookie I’ve ever made. And to be totally honest, I was actually a little bit scared. But they turned out pretty good–provided you like lemon!

Very lemony--see the zest?

Honey Lemon Cookies

by Betty Thompson via Allrecipes
  • 7 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon extract

ICING

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (I used the fresh juice from the lemon I zested for the peel above)
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon peel (optional.)

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg. Meanwhile, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the honey, yogurt, grated lemon peel, and the lemon extract. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the honey mixture into the creamed mixture. Drop dough by heaping Tablespoon approximately 2″ apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Brush icing over cookies while they are still warm and sprinkle with lemon peel. Yield 3 dozen.

For this recipe, I changed a couple of things. Primarily, I did not end up sprinkling grated lemon peel over the icing. As it turned out, one lemon provided just enough zest for the cookies themselves, and plenty of fresh juice to make the icing, but no where near enough zest to sprinkle on top. And it seemed wasteful to zest another lemon. In the end, I was glad I ran out of peel, because the cookies were very lemon-y already, and I’m really not sure how much lemony-er they would have gotten had I sprinkled fresh peel on top. However, the peel probably would have made them prettier, and would have made them more identifiable as lemon cookies; as it was, they looked quite a bit like sugar cookies, and I made sure Joe warned his coworkers that they were citrus as he passed them out.

Reviews

Kathy: “8/10. A soft, surprisingly substantial cookie. Nice lemon flavor with a good honey undertone. I think they taste even better a couple of days later.”

Joe: “9/10. I like my lemon cookies to be very lemony. And these were lemony! I found them very soft and chewy. Bet you can’t eat just ten!”

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“On the third day of Cookie-mas my oven and I made: three chocolate crinkles, two peanut butter cookies, and crunchy sandy almond cookies

If there is any food I love more than chocolate, I can’t think of one! Chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, chocolate candy; it’s all wonderful! So of course a chocolate cookie had to be featured for Cookie-mas, right? This recipe is easily halved. Though having halved it and eaten one (or four) I am now wondering if I should have made the full batch!

Try to eat just one!

Chocolate Crinkles

“Chocolate Crinkles II” by Ingrid via Allrecipes
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

In a bowl, sift together cocoa and sugar; stir in vegetable oil. Beat in the eggs one at a time; stir in vanilla. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into cocoa mixture. The dough will be quite stiff, like a thicker brownie batter. Cover and chill for four hours or more. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Pour confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl. Roll dough into 1″ balls or so, hands need not be moistened. Drop balls into confectioners sugar, coating balls. Place on sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

I was really concerned as I was making these cookies. The dough texture seemed very strange to me, a little bit like a thick cake batter. After baking the cookies, I discovered why; these cookies are basically brownie bites. They are a soft cookie with a cake-y center.

Reviews

Kathy: “10/10. Chocolate-y heaven. These cookies are sweet, chewy, and oh-so-full of chocolate flavor. Eating just one is nearly impossible. I am not sure if we will have any left to send with Joe for his co-workers!”

Joe: “9.5/10. For not having any chocolate chips they are incredibly chocolatey. Incredibly chewy, and their brownie-like quality had them biting off clean. The powdered sugar added just enough sweetness to make it “pop” over a conventional brownie. The only thing that prevents it from being a ten is the residue from the sugar.”

 

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“On the second day of Cookie-mas my oven and I made: two peanut butter cookies and crunchy sandy almond cookies!”

I love peanut butter to a ridiculous degree, so I thought peanut butter cookies would be a tasty treat. I was excited by this recipe because it called for chunky rather than smooth peanut butter, and since I prefer chunky PB, I thought this cookie would be a match made in heaven for me.

Crispy, chewy peanut butter cookie

Peanut Butter Cookies

“Dad’s Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies by Kendra Amaro via Allrecipes
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter, and both white and brown sugars. Beat in the egg. Meanwhile, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (I sifted these together.) Slowly stir dry ingredient mixture into peanut butter mixture. Cover and chill for one hour or more. Preheat the oven to 375°. With slightly damp hands, make balls of dough approximately 1″ to 1-1/2″ in diameter. Flatten out with a fork. (I dipped mine in water so it didn’t stick.) Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just set.

For this recipe, I used vegetable shortening. If I were to make these cookies again, I think I would try butter instead. Also, the using of crunchy peanut butter seemed to have no bearing on the finished cookie–I think all of the peanut chunks were pulverized during the creaming process.

Reviews

Kathy: “7/10. These cookies have a great texture–crispy on the outside, a little bit chewy on the inside. The flavor is just not peanut buttery enough in my opinion. I like my peanut butter cookies to have aggressive peanut butter flavor, but these seemed more like a sugar cookie with a touch of peanut butter added rather than a cookie where the peanut butter is the star. It just felt like there were some flavors missing from the finished product.”

Joe: “9/10. I thought it was a good mix of chewy and crunchy. I thought the peanut butter taste was consistent throughout the cookie. It had a great overall texture.”

 

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“On the first day of Cookie-mas my oven and I made: crunchy sandy almond cookies!”

I have dubbed December the “12 Days of Cookie-mas.” From now until around December 25, I am going to cook 12 cookie recipes; some old favorites, some new to try. Today was day one, and I made Almond Drops. This was a new one for me!

Almond Drop Cookie Stack

Almond Drops

From Taste of Home via AllRecipes
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. almond extract
  • 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cups sliced almond

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a mixing bowl (I used my mixer bowl) cream the butter and the sugar until it is very creamy, almost white, 10-12 minutes, making sure to pause every once in a while to scrape down the paddle and the bowl sides. Beat in the almond extract. While the butter and sugar are creaming, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Stir in the almonds. The dough might seem a little more moist than some dough, but it’s okay. Drop teaspoons of the dough around 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes (my cookies took more like 14) or until lightly browned. Cool for a couple of minutes before removing to cooling racks. Yields around 42 cookies.

This recipe is an easy one to halve, a good deal for Joe and I; I think 42 cookies is an awful lot for two people to eat, good thing Joe is willing to offer cookies to his coworkers throughout the month. I halved the recipe and it yielded 24 cookies, so I guess it depends on your cookie-size preference.

Reviews:

Kathy: “7/10. The cookies have a tasty almond-y flavor, but it really could have used more sliced almonds in my opinion. I am an almond fiend, so the more almond-y the better in my book. The texture was not my favorite, very crumbly and messy. I’m not sure if I over baked the cookies or whether they are supposed to be so sandy? Still tasted good, though.”

Joe: “7.5/10. The cookie is good because it is very sweet without being too sweet. The almond texture feels really good. I dock it points because its airy quality, while I recognize that’s just how the cookie works, doesn’t really fit with my preferences; I prefer my cookies to be more substantial and chewy”

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