akawest

12/22/08

Grape Tomatoes are so Cute

Mexican Pasta Salad


1 pound of rotini pasta, cooked

Mix with dressing (recipe below)


1 cup Ranch dressing mixed with:
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin


Add:
2 cups grape tomatoes
1 cup shredded Mexican Blend cheese
2 green onions, including tops, sliced
19 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
6 oz black olives, halved
4.5 oz chopped green chiles, drained

Mix well and chill.

Rocky Road Fudge

I made this as a gift for BG's bus driver, a few friends, and as an addition to cookie trays for both of our families.

Rocky Road Fudge


2 cups chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk (I use fat-free)
2 tablespoons butter

In heavy saucepan, over low heat,
melt chocolate chips, butter, and
sweetened condensed milk


In large bowl, combine 2 cups peanuts, 1 cup maraschino cherries, halved
and 1 10 1/2 oz package mini marshmallows

Fold in chocolate mixture
Spread in waxed paper-lined 13x9 inch baking pan




Chill 2 hours or until firm

Remove from pan; peel off paper and cut into squares
.

12/19/08

My New Favorite Cookies

Christmas Cookies

Can't Leave Alone Bars

* 1 package (18-1/4 ounces) white cake mix
* 2 eggs
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk (I used fat-free)
* 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
* 1/4 cup butter, cubed


In a large bowl, combine the dry cake mix, eggs and oil.

With floured hands, press two-thirds of the mixture into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Set remaining cake mixture aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the milk, chocolate chips and butter. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 30 seconds; stir. Microwave 30-45 seconds longer or until chips and butter are melted; stir until smooth. Pour over crust.

Drop by teaspoonfuls of remaining cake mixture over top. (I flattened out pieces first) Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool before cutting. Yield: 3 dozen.

Linking to Taste and Tell Thursdays

Popcorn Balls



BG's braces were removed recently, making popcorn again a staple in her diet. As a treat for her classmates, and bowling league pals, she decided that she would make popcorn balls. SH was excited as well. I found the recipe, brought home the ingredients, and because I could not find the candy thermometer (maybe it broke, and I threw it away), explained the definition of hard and soft crack to SH.

Look at all that gooey goodness

This is the recipe that we used. SH popped the popcorn in a pan on the stove according to directions that I found online. He said he had used this method as a child. We had an electric popcorn maker, so this was all new to me.

Popcorn Balls
  • 18 cups popped popcorn
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

1. Remove all unpopped kernels from popped popcorn*. Put popcorn in a greased 17x12x2-inch baking or roasting pan. Keep popcorn warm in a 300 degree F oven while making syrup.


2. For syrup mixture, butter the sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In saucepan combine sugar, water, corn syrup, vinegar, and salt. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils, stirring to dissolve sugar (about 6 minutes). Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring occasionally, until thermometer registers 250 degree F, hard-ball stage (about 20 minutes).

3. Remove saucepan from heat; remove thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Pour syrup mixture over the hot popcorn and stir gently to coat. Cool until the popcorn mixture can be handled easily. With buttered hands, quickly shape the mixture into 2-1/2-inch diameter balls. Wrap each popcorn ball in plastic wrap. We used wax paper. Makes about 20 popcorn balls.

*Don't grab the metal bowl of popcorn that has come directly from the oven. That is what I did before I started picking out burning hot unpopped kernels.


The recipe made 18 popcorn balls

Wrapped and ready for delivery

Linking to some of these great sites!
 





12/17/08

Pillsbury Rocks

Fat, sugar, and nuts make for a super easy and yummy breakfast
creation.
I haven't made this in a while. I do remember that it was heavenly,
so it will be making a reappearance this year on
our table Christmas morning, along with the
breakfast casserole that I am reposting.




Crescent Caramel Swirl

INGREDIENTS:

1/2cup butter (do not use margarine)
1/2cup chopped nuts
3/4cup firmly packed brown sugar
1tablespoon water
2ans (8 oz each) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
DIRECTIONS:

.Heat oven to 350°F.
In 1-quart saucepan, melt butter. Coat bottom and sides of
12-cup fluted tube cake pan with 2 tablespoons of the
melted butter;
sprinkle pan with 3 tablespoons of the nuts.

Add remaining nuts, brown sugar and water to remaining
melted butter.
Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Boil and stir 1 minute.


Remove dough from cans; do not unroll. Cut each long
roll into 8 slices.
Arrange 8 slices, cut side down, in nut-lined pan; separate
layers of each pinwheel slightly.

Spoon half of brown sugar mixture over dough.
Place remaining 8 dough slices alternately over bottom layer.
Spoon remaining brown sugar mixture over slices.


Bake 23 to 33 minutes or until deep golden brown.
Cool 3 minutes.
Turn pan upside down onto heatproof serving platter
or waxed paper. Serve warm.


Breakfast Casserole

You
can refrigerate this casserole overnight, but take
it out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before
baking.

INGREDIENTS:

* 1/2 pound spicy or mild pork sausage
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 4 cups (16 oz.) frozen diced hash
brown potatoes
, thawed
* 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
* 3 eggs, beaten
* 1 cup milk
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* mild salsa, optional

In a large skillet, cook sausage and onion, breaking
up sausage with a spatula. When sausage is cooked
through, drain off excess fat.

In an 8x8x2-inch square baking dish, layer the hash
brown potatoes
, half of the shredded cheese, browned
sausage and onion mixture, and remaining shredded
cheese.

In a bowl, combine eggs, milk and pepper; pour egg
mixture over cheese.

Bake, covered, in a 350° oven for 45 to 55 minutes or
until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.
Transfer casserole to a wire rack and let stand for 10
to 15 minutes.

Cut into squares. Serve with salsa, if desired.
Serves 6.

12/13/08

Cookie Exchange

CottageMagpie is hosting a Virtual Cookie Exchange, as is The Creamer Chronicles. I am bringing very messy, but delicious, Thumbprint Cookies.

I used this recipe, but rolled in egg whites and chopped walnuts before baking.

THUMBPRINT COOKIES


1 c. butter, softened
2 egg yolks
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. sugar

Cream butter, gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour and salt; add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Chill. Roll dough into 1 inch balls; place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press thumb in each cookie leaving an indentation. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Do not brown. Cool on wire racks. Place a messy amount of frosting in each cookie.
Frosting

1 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. cocoa
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. milk

Combine sugar, cocoa, and milk in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, and boil 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in butter and vanilla. Beat until mixture is of spreading consistency.

12/10/08

Pretty Shiny Things

With the house for sale, I decided not to decorate this year. I gave away our tree on Freecycle a few months back. I did, however, fill a bowl with ornaments. The dining room table now has a centerpiece.

No Calories in this Trifle



These have adorned our tree for the past four years

I am quite content to enjoy everyone else's gorgeous holiday decor this year. Dd1 sent pictures.



Her tree and balcony





12/7/08

Gingerbread Disaster

Look how cute this gingerbread house looks on the box.

I have always liked gingerbread houses. I have twice attempted to make one. The first time I attempted to bake the gingerbread from scratch. The results were a disaster. The second time I made a gingerbread house, I used a kit. The result was not a pretty sight. I displayed the creation with embarrassment.

Although, I am creative, I am not skilled when it comes to using icing. My cakes taste better than they look. I have never attempted icing flowers. I have thought of taking a cake decorating class. My competitive nature has stopped me, as I will not enjoy being the worst student in the class. Trust me, I will be.

I purchased a gingerbread house kit about three years ago, in the hopes that dd1 would create a masterpiece. She is much better at this type of activity. She never completed the house. The box sat in the pantry. In 2006 she moved into her own apartment in Florida. She did not get to spend that Christmas or Christmas 2007 with us.

While she was here visiting this year for Thanksgiving, I asked her if she wanted to take the kit back home with her. She declined. I decided dd2 and I would make the gingerbread house.



The pieces are ready to go

Dd2 mixes the icing


The house easily goes together

The house dries before the roof is added as per the instructions

Dd2 decorates the house

I was quite pleased as dd2 and I built the house. We were both adding the candy decorations when disaster struck. While trying to get a piece of candy to stick to the roof, dd2 became a bit heavy handed. She cracked the roof into two pieces.

Instead of trying to "glue" the pieces together, I dumped the entire creation into the trash. Dd2 washed the dishes. She wasn't upset in the least. She told me that she found this entire gingerbread house idea boring. I sulked for all of a minute.

While I make a darn good gingerbread as in cake, and I can bake gingerbread men, I can not make a house. I will never be able to create anything from gingerbread that is pretty. I will leave that to the experts, i.e., most other people. :)


Dd1's young friends visiting the
best gingerbread house


The lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is filled with a full-sized Victorian gingerbread house, bringing a little more magic to the holidays. The 16-foot-high dream house is made with 1,050 pounds of honey, 600 pounds of powered sugar, 800 pounds of flour, 140 pints of egg whites and 180 pounds of apricot glaze. Best part is, the house is also a candy shop, full of treats to take home including gingerbread shingles and smaller replicas of the House itself.
-Orlando Restaurant Examiner

12/4/08

Crock Pot Black Beans and Rice

Let the "I hate cold weather" Whining Begin

I am home today, not planning to leave the house. I am cold. I will be cold until sometime in May. The house is for sale. We want to move to Florida, where my whining will be lessened. I promise never to complain about the hot summers. I would much rather sweat, and yes, I sweat, than shiver.

Here I sit, dressed in a lovely combination of blue sweatpants, gray Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, pink and black flowered socks, and a red and black hoodie, still cold and the furnace is on 70. I am going to complain all day. Since I am home alone, no one will hear me.

I have the crockpot full of black beans.
This recipe is super simple and sooooo delicious, especially served over brown rice.
Rinse and sort a pound of dried black beans.
Add beans, 5 cups of water, and two cans of Ro Tel Chili Fixin's tomatoes.
Cook on high for 6-8 hours or until the beans are tender.I will try to force myself to be in a happier mood. When the laundry is finished and the house tidied, I will be able to relax a bit. I have more things for the Goodwill. I don't think I am in the mood for taking them today, but that might change. I would enjoy walking around Goodwill. Maybe that would help my mood...maybe.

9/14/08

Greens with Garlic and Raisins

I make mine the easy way, dumping frozen spinach, onion, raisins, and spices into a crockpot. This is the recipe that I used for inspiration.

Greens with Garlic and Raisins



Makes:4 servings

Garam Masaala
1tablespoon cumin seed
1teaspoon cardamom seeds (removed from pods)
1/2teaspoon whole cloves
1/2teaspoon black peppercorns
2dried bay leaves
2three-inch cinnamon sticks, broken

Greens
2tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
1small to medium red onion, cut in half, thinly sliced
5medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1bag (12 oz) washed fresh spinach



1.Heat ungreased 6-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Place all garam masaala ingredients in skillet; roast 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until seeds crackle, spices turn one shade darker and the mixture has a nutty, sweet aroma. Transfer to bowl; cool 3 to 5 minutes.
2.Place roasted spice blend in spice grinder. Grind until mixture looks like the texture of finely ground pepper. Store in airtight jar at room temperature for up to 1 month; beyond that, it will start to lose its full flavor. Makes 1/4 cup spice blend; use 1 teaspoon for this recipe.
3.In wok or deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add raisins; stir-fry about 1 minute or until raisins plump up. Add onion and garlic; stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Stir in spinach; toss 2 to 3 minutes or until wilted. Stir in 1 teaspoon garam masaala and salt. Cook 1 minute.

8/18/08

Valentine's Day



This year I did a 14 day countdown to Valentine's Day. Each night I presented my husband with a poem and a gift.

Coffee Meringue Valentine’s Day Kisses

3/4 c Sugar
3 t powdered instant coffee
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 250′F.
Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor with a metal blade, process the sugar and coffee powder until the texture of the sugar becomes very fine.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and vanilla extract with an electric mixer at medium speed, until very frothy. Add cream of tartar, and continue beating at medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase beater speed to high, and gradually beat in sugar-coffee mixture. Continue beating until soft peaks form and mixture has a glossy sheen.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet, leaving 2″ between cookies.
Bake for 1 hour without opening oven door.
Turn off oven, and let meringues dry in oven 2-3 hours more without opening oven door. At this point you can leave them in the oven overnight.
Remove the meringues from the cookie sheet with a spatula. Store in airtight container.

Crabmeat Stuffed Peppers

I made these for our special dinner. They were definitely delicious.




Serves 4

1 pound fresh lump crabmeat
1/2 cup fat-free
sour cream
1/4 cup seasoned
dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced roasted red peppers (from water-packed jar)
4 poblano peppers, halved and seeded (or similar peppers)
8 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, combine crabmeat, sour cream, bread crumbs and roasted red peppers. Mix gently to combine, being careful not to break up the crab.

Spoon crab mixture into halved poblano peppers and arrange side by side in pan. Top mixture with Parmesan cheese. Cover pan with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 more minutes, until peppers are soft and cheese begins to brown.

Nutrition Score per serving (2 stuffed pepper halves): 209 calories, 15% fat (3 g; <1>

For dessert I served layered pudding parfaits. I used cheesecake and chocolate flavors of instant pudding. I used fat-free half and half instead of milk. I like the way it puffs up the pudding mix.

After dinner we played a silly Valentine's day board game that I found at Target.



I baked pink sugar cookies for my daughter's classmates.




Christmas


Breakfast Casserole

You
can refrigerate this casserole overnight, but take
it out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before
baking.

INGREDIENTS:

* 1/2 pound spicy or mild pork sausage
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 4 cups (16 oz.) frozen diced hash brown potatoes, thawed
* 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
* 3 eggs, beaten
* 1 cup milk
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* mild salsa, optional

In a large skillet, cook sausage and onion, breaking
up sausage with a spatula. When sausage is cooked
through, drain off excess fat.

In an 8x8x2-inch square baking dish, layer the hash
brown potatoes
, half of the shredded cheese, browned
sausage and onion mixture, and remaining shredded
cheese.

In a bowl, combine eggs, milk and pepper; pour egg
mixture over cheese.

Bake, covered, in a 350° oven for 45 to 55 minutes or
until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.
Transfer casserole to a wire rack and let stand for 10
to 15 minutes.

Cut into squares. Serve with salsa, if desired.
Serves 6.
Tree-Shaped Crescent Veggie Appetizers


Makes: 2 trees; 32 appetizers

2 (8-oz.) cans Pillsbury® Refrigerated Crescent Dinner Rolls
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups finely chopped assorted vegetables (bell
peppers, broccoli, carrot, cucumber and/or green
onions
)


1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove dough from cans in
rolled sections (2 sections from each can); do not
unroll. Cut each section into 8 slices (16 slices from
each can).

2. Place slices, cut side down, on ungreased cookie
sheets to form trees. To form each tree, start by
placing 1 slice for top; arrange 2 slices just below,
with sides touching. Continue arranging row of 3
slices, then row of 4 slices, ending with row of 5
slices. Use remaining slice for trunk. Refrigerate one
tree.

3. Bake one tree at 375°F. for 11 to 13 minutes or
until golden brown. Cool 1 minute; carefully loosen
with pancake turner and slide onto wire rack to cool.
Bake and cool second tree.

4. Place each tree on serving platter. In small
bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, dill and
garlic powder; blend until smooth. Spread mixture over
both trees. Decorate trees with assorted vegetable
pieces. Refrigerate until serving
time.

Ghosts in the Graveyard - Halloween Pudding


Ghosts in the Graveyard

3 cups cold milk
2 pkg. (4-serving size each) JELL-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 tub (12 oz.) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping, thawed, divided
15 OREO Cookies, crushed Assorted decorations: Milano Cookies, decorating gel, candy pumpkins, candy corn




Pour milk into large bowl. Add dry pudding mixes. Beat with wire whisk 2 min. or until well blended. Let stand 5 min. Gently stir in 3 cups of the whipped topping and half of the cookie crumbs. Spread evenly into 13x9-inch baking dish; sprinkle with the remaining cookie crumbs. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

  • Decorate creme sandwich cookies with decorating gel to resemble tombstones. Set aside until ready to use.

  • Insert decorated cookies into top of dessert just before serving. Add candies. Drop large spoonfuls of the remaining whipped topping onto dessert to resemble ghosts. Cover and store leftover dessert in refrigerator.

  • Candy Apples

    Chocolate Cafe Au Lait Cake


    Chocolate Cafe Au Lait Cake


    Yield: 12 servings

    1 stick margarine
    1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    1/2 c chopped walnuts
    1 pk (18.25-oz) chocolate fudge cake mix
    1 1/3 c water
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    3 large eggs

    1 1/2 c heavy cream
    1 T instant coffee powder
    1/3 c sifted powdered sugar

    Melt margarine in a medium saucepan over low heat,
    or in a 1-quart glass bowl in a microwave oven on high 1 to
    1-1/4 minutes. Stir in graham cracker crumbs and let
    cool. When cool, stir in chocolate chips and walnuts; set
    aside.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two
    9-inch round cake pans.

    Prepare cake mix according to package directions.
    Turn batter into prepared pans. Sprinkle
    crumb-walnut-chocolate chip mixture over cake batter,
    dividing evenly between pans. Using fingertips or back of a spoon,
    lightly press mixture into batter (crumb mixture should not sink
    all the way into batter.) Bake cake as package directs
    (32 to 35 minutes), or until cake springs back when pushed on.

    Remove cakes from oven; let cool 30 min in pans before unmolding.
    Flip to keep layers crumb side up.
    In a medium bowl, beat cream, coffee powder, and powdered
    sugar
    with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff.

    Place one cooled cake layer, crumb side up, on a serving
    plate. Spread half of whipped cream mixture over cake.
    Top with remaining cake layer, crumb side up.

    Frost sides of cake with remaining whipped cream; do not
    frost top of cake. Refrigerate until serving time.


    Details


    The little things in life can bring great joy. I thought I would begin this blog with a few photos of interesting details.

    This bench is a resting spot for me while the family rides Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

    I haven't sat on this bench for three months. I miss it. I would rather be at a Disney park than anywhere on earth.

    My older daughter has been a cast member since October 2006. I am very proud of her. When she was four years old, during her first WDW visit, she told us she would one day return to be a performer. Fifteen years later, she did just that.