Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Serving Up {Candy}: Oreo Truffles & Cake Balls

Today is a double feature!  Two DELICIOUS recipes for homemade chocolates that anyone can make!

The holidays are upon us and that frequently means that it is time to make goodies to share with friends and neighbors.  Both of these recipes are "cheater" recipes that will taste absolutely gourmet but will not require candy thermometers or anything similarly "daunting".
(another similarly easy candy recipe will be coming later this week - stay tuned)

The Oreo Truffle recipe I first made for a St. Patrick Day treat a few years ago and I opted to crush mint Oreo's and dipped them in green wilton chocolate melts.  They turned out really cute and the mint was really a yummy twist.  Keep that in mind.

The Cake Ball recipe has been all over the internet for years and people get darned creative with them.  The original recipe I saw called for red velvet cake mix and cream cheese frosting.  I have branched out and tried just about every cake/frosting flavor combination you can come up with (yes, even lemon and strawberry - but not those two together!).  My favorite is a chocolate cake mix and a chocolate fudge frosting.  In defense of my playing favorites, I took a plate of these (made with chocolate on chocolate) to a new family in the neighborhood who had just moved from the east coast.  The response I got was that they were "exactly" like some insanely expensive "truffles" that they had enjoyed in their previous hometown and they didn't believe that I had made them - after their enthusiastic response I never dared tell them that I had used a cake mix!

I have been asked before how I "dip" my chocolates.  I learned this little trick a couple of years ago and it is now the only way I "dip".  Take a plastic fork and break off the two middle tines, leaving just the two outside tines in place.  Place your balls of candy in your melted chocolate and use the fork to roll it around and to scoop the finished product out of the chocolate.  (see photo below).
I also have discovered that I prefer parchment paper over wax paper for setting my chocolates on to set up - there is a difference and parchment paper is MUCH better!

(recipe from Kraft foods magazine)
printable version

1 8-ounce pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 pkg. OREO cookies, finely crushed
Milk chocolate (or dark chocolate) wafers, for melting and dipping

Blend cream cheese and cookie crumbs until well blended.
Using cookie scoop, make 1" balls.  Place in refrigerator for an hour or so to make the balls more firm.
In a microwave safe glass bowl, melt your dipping chocolate.  Heat for 1 minute and remove and stir.  Heat for additional 30 minute intervals, stirring between each until smooth.
Remove balls from refrigerator and dip in the melted chocolate.
Place on parchment paper and allow the chocolate to set up.
Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs or holiday sprinkles.

(recipe from Bakerella)
printable version

1 box chocolate cake mix + ingredients to bake as directed on box
1 can chocolate fudge frosting
chocolate bark or "wilton melts" - chocolate or white chocolate

Bake the cake mix, as directed, for 13x9 cake.  Once baked, allow to cool completely and then crumble it into a large bowl.
Add the can of frosting and mix well (I use my beaters).
Using cookie scoop, roll into 1" balls and place in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours to chill and set up.

In a microwave safe glass bowl, melt your dipping chocolate.  Heat for 1 minute and remove and stir.  Heat for additional 30 minute intervals, stirring between each until smooth.
Remove balls from refrigerator and dip in the melted chocolate.
Place on parchment paper and allow the chocolate to set up completely.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Serving Up {Snacks}: Peanut Butter Fritos

Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away.  I have posted my recipes for stuffing, yams, potatoes, beans, rolls and two pies (here and here).  I hope that your Thanksgiving is a delicious success!  I got out of hosting and cooking this Thanksgiving with a doctor's release, so I will be a guest this year and enjoy the delicious traditions of others.

Not to jump ship from Thanksgiving too quickly, but at our home there is as much talk about the "Civil War" game this weekend as there is about turkey day.  Here in Portland, the big game is Oregon State vs U of O.  I don't know if all civil war rivalry games fall on this weekend, but should your big game be this weekend, like ours is, I have the perfect football game snack...Peanut Butter Fritos.  The combination of sweet and salty and crunchy is nearly perfect - this is truly a dangerous combination.  Dangerous but delicious!  And oh so easy!  Give it a try....you will be glad that you did!

(recipe from Skip to My Lou)
printable version

1 package Frito corn chips
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter

Spread corn chips onto a greased baking sheet.
In a saucepan over medium heat, bring corn syrup and sugar to a boil, stirring frequently until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Pour the sauce over the corn chips and lightly toss to coat.
Cool and break into pieces.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Serving Up {Pie}: Decadent Triple Layer Mud Pie

While my mom's recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie is a standard Thanksgiving dessert at our house, we don't generally stop with only one pie offering. In fact, prior to our move from Vegas, we had a traditional "Pie Night" a couple of days after Thanksgiving and were joined each year by another family that we loved and adored greatly. My husband and I discussed having the tradition continue last fall after our move but my heart was not ready to replace those dear friends and so we will wait until their first visit to Oregon and will then pull out the pie :)
(you know who you are and, yes, that was an invitation).

As traditional as pumpkin pie may be, our family Thanksgiving has always included this recipe for Decadent Triple Layer Mud Pie.  It is a favorite.  You can just never go wrong with chocolate!

I would like to give credit to it's source but all that I can remember is that I got the recipe out of a magazine in the waiting room to donate blood.  Weird that I remember it, but it's probably because I tore the page out of the magazine and I would totally chastise my child if they did that to a "public" magazine.  I guess the call of the recipe was just too great for me to ignore.  I have absolutely no regret :)

printable version

3 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 OREO pie crust
½ cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
2 cups cold milk
2 pkg. (4-serving size) chocolate instant pudding
8 ounce cool whip

Mix chocolate and sweetened condensed milk until well blended. Pour into crust and sprinkle with toasted pecans.
Pour milk into a large bowl. Add both packages of pudding and beat with a whisk until well blended.
Spoon 1 ½ cup of pudding over chocolate and pecans in the pie crust.
Add ½ of the cool whip to the remaining pudding; stir until well blended. Spread this over the pudding layer in the crust.
Top with the remaining cool whip, or just add a dallop of cool whip at the time of serving the pie.
Refrigerate 3 hours, or until set.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Serving Up {Vegetable}: Thanksgiving Beans

Last Thanksgiving was the first Thanksgiving in twelve years of marriage that we celebrated with (part of) my husband's family.  Isn't that crazy?  We had just moved to Oregon and were living with my in-laws who were preparing to move back east.  Needless to say, the household in general was a bit topsy turvey.  My sister-in-law and I took care of everything except for the turkey, which we left to my father-in-law.  When it came to vegetables, I prepared a green salad and my sister-in-law prepared roasted brussel sprouts and we both agreed "NO GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE".

When my mother-in-law discovered that there wasn't a green bean casserole on the menu she let me know that it was requested yearly by one family member in particular who was going to be in attendance.  She offered to put it together and we left it at that.  When Thanksgiving arrived, there was a beautiful, creamy green bean casserole on the table - topped with golden crushed croutons and large shredded pieces of Swiss cheese.  I immediately understood that this was not the canned green beans and mushroom soup dish that I had attempted to void from the meal.  In fact, I determined to not title it "green bean casserole" because this is in it's own category - delicious!

(recipe from Marilyn D.)
printable version

2 (12 ounce) bags of French  cut beans (frozen)
2 Tbs. flour
2 Tbs. butter
1 pint sour cream
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. onion powder
½ pound swiss cheese, grated
croutons, crushed

Cook the beans until just tender; drain well.
In a saucepan make a rue by melting the butter and adding the flour; stir until free of lumps. Remove from heat and cool.
Combine sour cream, salt, and onion powder. Add to the cooled rue. Add the grated swiss cheese and then add the beans and mix everything together.
Pour into a buttered glass cooking dish and top with crushed croutons (could use crackers or corn flakes). Dot with additional butter and a bit more swiss cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until heated through.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Serving Up {Potatoes}: Refrigerated Mashed Potatoes

Fall is in the air and I am beginning to crave heartier meals.  Meals that I grew up on, like meat and mashed potatoes.  And these are my mom's ULTIMATE mashed potatoes.  In fact, she took these to every family Thanksgiving gathering that I remember - they are part of the tradition at our house.  I grew up not even appreciating gravy because, trust me, you don't need gravy on these potatoes.  They are loaded with yummy flavors and can definitely stand alone.  (I have since learned to appreciate the gravy and happily drown the turkey and stuffing with gravy).

I am not sure where the name came from, but I assume they are called "refrigerated" because my mom always made these the day before and then refrigerated them until serving them, when they would be warmed through in the oven prior to serving.  That option of making them ahead really helps out when you are in charge of Thanksgiving dinner and need to divide all the labor between a few days.

One last plug for these potatoes - my husband doesn't like potatoes.  Isn't that weird?  But he likes these potatoes and eats them whenever they are served.  So if these are good enough to win over a non-potato eater, you may just have to give them a try.

(recipe from Linda W.)
printable version

5 lbs. potatoes
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbs. butter

Boil the potatoes in salted water.  Mash until smooth, using reserved potato water for liquid.  Add remaining ingredients while potatoes are hot and beat until light and fluffy.  Cool, cover and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, place potatoes in a buttered casserole dish.  Dot the top with additional pats of butter. Bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Serving Up {Side Dish}: Savory Sausage Stuffing

I have to admit that when it comes to stuffings, add some craisins to a box of Stove Top and I am actually quite happy. I guess I am admitting to easily satisfied taste buds or I am giving Stove Top quite the rave review. Hmmmm.

While Stove Top stuffing may meet my needs on a random week night, there is something about Thanksgiving dinner that demands that the onion and celery and garlic be freshly chopped... that the bread cubes be cut by my own hand, brushed with oil and toasted in my own oven... that I throw in some spinach and cashews, and maybe even craisins, by eyeballing it. I have been creating and adjusting this recipe for years. I will admit that this recipe is a bit of work but the end results are, dare I claim, better than Stove Top.

**as written this recipe makes a LOT!  As in, if you aren't taking it to a family gathering, you may want to scale it back**

printable version

2 packages Jimmy Dean sausage (I prefer Sage flavored)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cup onion, diced
1 ½ cup celery, diced
1 cup grated carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
10 ounce pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and drained (I use fresh)
2 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. black pepper
15 ounce herbed dry bread, cubed
(use Italian bread, brush with olive oil and bake until browned)
2 cups chicken broth
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 cups whole cashews
Craisins, optional (wink)

In a large skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink. Add mushrooms, onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook and stir for 10 minutes until vegetables are softened. (If using fresh spinach, add the last 2-3 minutes to wilt it down).
Transfer meat and vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
Pour everything into a large buttered 4-quart casserole dish. Bake for 60 minutes at 325 degrees.
**Stuffing is a snap done in a crockpot. Cut liquid in half and cook for four hours**

Monday, November 7, 2011

Serving Up {Side Dish}: Yams and Apples

It is November! When did that happen? The holidays will be here before we know it.

My home will be the hotel for some out of town visitors this Thanksgiving, but I have been relieved of the duties of hosting or preparing the meal this year. I may not be cooking this year but I do have some Thanksgiving standard dishes that, were I to be cooking, would make their annual appearance. I have posted the rolls and the pie recipes during my pumpkin-a-thon. Here is the first of "the rest" of the menu...

Years ago, back when I only had one baby, a friend from church made this side dish for a Thanksgiving dinner and it instantly became "my" Thanksgiving recipe for yams. Sorry to all of you that go for the yams topped with marshmallows - you won't find them at my house.

The tart apples pair perfectly with the yams in this dish. When I received the written recipe from my friend it did have the option of adding raisins to the dish but I have never taken that option so I can't comment on it. What I can comment on is that I have substituted orange juice in place of the pineapple juice and the results are divine. In fact, it is a bit of a toss up as to which I prefer...

(recipe from Cindy S.)
printable version

3-4 lbs. fresh yams, cooked until tender; cooled and peeled
(or you can use 2 29-ounce cans Yams)
4-5 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 cups pineapple juice (I have had yummy success with orange juice)
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. corn starch
½-1 fresh lemon, juiced
chopped pecans (optional)

Butter a large casserole dish. Alternate layers of sliced apples and cut up yams; set aside.
In a saucepan, mix corn starch and sugar and then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; turn down the temperature and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and squeeze the lemon juice into the sauce and mix well. Pour sauce over the yams and apples. Sprinkle with chopped pecans (optional).
[at this point you can refrigerate until ready to bake]
Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Serving Up {Pie}: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

This recipe wraps up my pumpkin extravaganza that has been going on for the past few weeks.  Hopefully you have found one or two pumpkin recipes that have sent your taste buds salivating.

This final recipe is a perfect lead in to Thanksgiving later this month.  This is the ONLY pumpkin pie that I eat.  After you taste it you will understand why.  No other pumpkin pie compares.  It is the only pumpkin pie recipe my mom ever made growing up and I had no idea that there was anything but Pumpkin Chiffon Pie until I entered the real world and realized how spoiled I had been my entire life.

My mom uses a traditional pie crust when she makes this recipe.  I'm a kid at heart and prefer it with a graham cracker crust.  Either way, you really can't go wrong.

(recipe from Linda W.)
printable version

1 envelope Knox gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Combine the above in a saucepan and stir until well blended. Add:

3/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin

Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from the heat and chill until partially set.

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream, chilled

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating to form stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, whip the cream. Fold both the eggs whites and the cream into the cooled pumpkin mixture. Spoon into a prebaked 9-inch crust (or a graham cracker crust which is my preference) and chill until firm. Serve with additional whipped cream.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Serving Up {Muffins}: Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

These little muffins are like eating little doughnut holes!  You may just want to double the recipe!  They are so yummy!

The original recipe (from Martha Stewart) calls for the batter to be divided between 12 full-size muffin tins.  But we make these as miniature muffins and delight in the cinnamon-sugar to muffin ratio.  Because of the extra step after baking, of "painting" them with melted butter and rolling them in cinnamon-sugar, they make a fun afternoon activity that the kids can join in on.  I know at our house at least, my kids love a recipe that they can help with.  Having fingers coated in cinnamon-sugar when they are done is just an extra bonus!

(recipe from Martha Stewart)
printable version

10 Tbs. butter, softened
3 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs

Sugar Coating:
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare mini muffin pans with shortening or non-stick spray.
In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and allspice.
In a smaller bowl combine the buttermilk and pumpkin puree and whisk together.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Gradually add in flour mixture, alternating additions with the pumpkin mixture until all are combined.

Fill muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until they test done with a toothpick.  Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine sugar and ground cinnamon to make the sugar coating.

Remove muffins from the muffin pan and brush with melted butter and then toss in the sugar mixture.  Allow the muffins to then cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 4 dozen mini muffins