Pizza Sauce

pizzasauce

My husband is a gadget guy. I’m sure I’ve told you that before. You need a degree in engineering to run the tv remote  and have to call tech support to get something to print. Luckily, he’s also my own personal  tech support, so that works out pretty good for me.

Well, he recently came home one night with that “cat who ate the canary look” and refused to answer any questions as to where he had been and specifically “What did you buy?!” The fact that my son ran upstairs immediately told me they had definitely been up to something.

I didn’t find out what that something was until the next day when my mom popped over and asked me what that “thing” was in the garage. My husband gave a shout out to my son that he better “Run! The jig is up!” and again he turned around and ran past me to get up the stairs before I could grab hold of the little bugger.

Turns out the “thing” was a pizza oven. And technically it belongs in the garage, as it is the size of a Volkswagen. Truth y’all! A Volkswagen! Alright, maybe a Mini Cooper. But you get the idea.

It looks like a smoker of some sort. It is fueled by propane and heats up to like a zillion degrees and the pizza stone inside spins to cook evenly. If you stand too close your eyebrows will start to singe, for realz!

Honestly though, despite the size, it cooks a mean pizza. Crispy crust, browned cheese, curly pepperoni. There is nothing better than when the pepperoni curls into little cups that hold the grease. Sorry, there isn’t.

Usually by him bringing home some new toy, I am issued a challenge. This challenge was of course to master the pizza. We’ve tried several different crust recipes (will post later) and we have finally nailed the sauce.

Actually, he nailed the sauce. I say this with much pride, as he is not much of a cook. But he is persistent. He is also very methodical. He has to have a recipe and there’s no deviating from it. He enjoys the “science” behind cooking. He loves the Food Network show Good Eats with Alton Brown who explores the origin of ingredients and how and why they do what they do. He’s like Bill Nye the Science Guy, but in the kitchen.

Pizza sauce is different from marinara. It is thicker so as not to soggify the crust. In case you weren’t aware, soggify is a word. You know “to render soggy”. Just giving you a little vocab lesson. It is extremely flavorful loaded with garlic, Italian herbs, olive oil and good quality peeled, crushed tomatoes. Any acidity is balanced out by a few tablespoons of brown sugar and carrot. Kind of strange, I know. But it totally works!

My kids don’t like the texture of the tomatoes, a little too “chunky” for them. You know, like a real vegetable, God forbid! So once it’s cooked, I throw it in my blender for a couple spins and it creates the perfect pizza sauce texture. But feel free to leave it as is if you like a chunkier sauce. Just remember, it is a bit more liquidy (I’m pretty sure that’s a word).

You don’t need a pizza oven to cook up a good pizza either, just the right ingredients and a  super hot oven. This sauce is perfect and a great base for any kind of toppings you want to throw on. This sauce is on the sweeter side, which I am a fan of. Like a “beach pizza” type sauce.

Now I don’t have to order out for pizza. This pie is better than any of the local pizza joints and the kids love making their own pies. This sauce is a total winner and makes up for the lost space in the garage. I can’t wait for the next gadget to arrive.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 (28 ounce) can ground peeled tomatoes (I use Pastene brand)
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion, minced or chopped
  • 12 teaspoon  dried basil
  • 12 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 12 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 14 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves fresh minced garlic, or pressed
  • 1 baby carrot pressed through a garlic press or very finely minced ( about a 1/2 Tbls)
  • 2 Tbls brown sugar
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Add all ingredients, stir and simmer uncovered on low, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. It does splatter a bit, I put a cover half-way on to let the steam escape and semi save my stove from being covered in sauce.
  3. Place hot sauce in blender or food processor and give it a couple whirls to get rid of the chunks, if desired.

Note: Sauce can be easily be frozen and thawed before use.

Recipe slightly modified from Food.com thanks Iron Mike!

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Tomato Zucchini Strata

zucchini strata

It’s summertime!

DUH! I know I’m stating the obvious here. But summer is so short here in New England that I have to shout it out with joy every day. I am still having nightmares of the winter we just had **Shudder**. As a matter of fact, I think I still have a patch of snow in the backyard.

Ok, shake it off Lisa. Bring it back to summer. Beautiful, glorious, summer.

“Da da… Da
doo bah bah ba baba boo
The hot and the cold are both so intense
Put ’em together, it just makes sense!”

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself! I just love that song. Oh Olaf, you make me smile.

Jeez! I cannot focus today!

Okay so, during the summer I do my standard groceries at the grocery store, but all my fruits and vegetables come from the many farm stands around. We try to eat a little lighter, a bit healthier, which is totally easy to do with all the farm fresh produce. Each week, it’s something different. Whatever is abundant is what I buy.

Right now farmers are putting out their heirloom tomatoes, sweet crisp corn, cucumbers and of course zucchini.

If you’ve ever planted zucchini, you know how much it produces. You graciously bring them to your coworkers or leave them in your front yard for passers-by to grab. Then you’re forced to make zucchini bread, muffins, cookies, cakes, brownies, cupcakes and so on. They can be sautéed, stuffed, battered, fried, baked and grilled. Good gravy the list just keeps going! The possibilities are endless.

Yup, face it. You’re eating zucchini for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Deal. So you better have a few good recipes in your arsenal.

On my quest for yet another zucchini recipe, I came across this strata from Midwest Living. It looked so flavorful and satisfying as a summer meal, I was glad I had just hit the zucchini and cherry tomato lottery at the farm. Let’s not forget how super easy it is to put together. It is best made the night before and chilled overnight in the fridge then popped in the oven to bake the next day, making it great for a brunch item or quick breakfast.

Zucchini and sweet cherry tomatoes are lightly in butter and garlic, layered with hearty French bread and Swiss cheese then soaked in a rich egg mixture seasoned with aromatic fresh chopped herbs. Heaven!

I’ve never been to Italy, have you? If you have I’m totally jealous of you right now. I can imagine this would be a dish one would find there. Which puts Italy back on my bucket list of top places to visit. After Disney of course. DOI! Every place come after Disney.

I completely enjoyed this dish and so did my guinea pigs *ahem* co-workers. I think the center was a bit runny, as zukes tend to hold a lot of water. But, making sure it is completely cooked through and golden should eliminate that problem.

This is definitely a recipe to hold onto when zucchinis have taken over your life.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, whole
  • 2 cups sliced zucchini
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
  • 8 cups dry French bread cubes*
  • 3 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In an extra-large skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add tomatoes and zucchini. After 3-4 minutes, add the garlic and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Don’t let garlic Stir occasionally, or until tomatoes begin to lose their firm round shape; remove from heat.
  2. Place half of the bread cubes in a greased 3-quart baking dish. Top with half of the vegetable mixture and half of the cheese. Repeat layers with remaining bread cubes, vegetable mixture and cheese.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, parsley, basil, chives, salt  and pepper. Carefully pour egg mixture evenly over bread mixture in dish. Using the back of a spoon, gently press down on layers. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  4. Remove casserole from fridge. Preheat oven to 325 degrees . Bake for 50 to 65** minutes or until puffed, golden and set (160 degrees ). Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Tip

  • *To dry bread cubes: Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, using a serrated knife. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Arrange cubes in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring once or twice.

Tip #2

  • ** If chilled overnight, baking time will be longer than if only chilled 2 hours.
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Apple Slab Pie

apple slab pie2

Hey there!

‘Sup?

If there is one thing you should know about me it’s this. I’m always late. ALWAYS!

“You’ll be late for your own funeral”. 

Ha Ha. Heard it.

“If you’re not twenty minutes early, you’re already late”.

Really? What does that even mean?

Well, just so I wouldn’t let you down, I’m posting a late, great 4th of July treat. I know it was Saturday. Don’t lecture me. This is a great recipe to use all Summer long though, so it won’t go to waste, trust me.

I hope you had a great holiday weekend. I had a much needed long weekend of doing pretty much nothing except sleeping late, hanging with the family, going out to eat and of course taking several trips to the ice cream shop. I really wish I could wear my yoga pants to work. Just sayin.

I did however find time in my lounging schedule to make this amazing dessert. What would the 4th of July be without an all-American apple pie? Warm, sweet, cinnamon-y (it’s a word) tender apples encompassed in buttery, flaky dough served warm with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Drool.

One problem (as there could be any problems with pie) is your average pie only serves about eight. Unless you’re serving someone like me, then it serves maybe two. MAYBE. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in.

But, that can be a major issue at a big backyard get together. Lots of people standing around holding plates of food in one hand and a drink in the other, which  leads to another problem. Not enough table space. Or not enough hands. Or maybe too much food. OK sorry, that was just crazy talk there.

Whichever it may be, too few hands or too few tables, it’s a problem. Sure you can sit on the ground and spread out your assortment of paper and plastic dinnerware, place napkins under your butt to hold them down against a breeze while you stuff your face with burgers, salads, hot dogs and of course pie, but that’s a bit barbaric for me people. I don’t know about you, but I like to sit at a table, with my plate in front of me, eating one thing at a time, saving the best for last. That being pie, or dessert of any kind. If I’m being truthful, I’ll take down a packet of sugar after a meal if there are no dessert options around. I’m very sophisticated you know. Again, please don’t lecture me. I have dessert issues.

That being said, this baby serves a great big, hungry crowd. It’s also not as drippy as a regular pie so you can hold a slice in one hand and toss a horseshoe with the other. Now really, can you get any better than that? Nope. Now I wouldn’t do that of course. But it’s a perfect solution for those less crazy and rigid than myself.

Of course you can still put it in a bowl with some ice cream if that’s how you feel it must be done. Who am I to stop you?

This pie is more like a giant pop tart or toaster strudel than a pie. As I said, it isn’t as juicy and the dough is super flaky. It’s kind of a cross between a traditional pie crust and puff pastry. It holds up well against the apple juices without getting soggy, yet it is far from dry.

Dare I say, perfect?

I dare.

This recipe is a teeny tiny bit adapted from the incredibly talented Deb at Smitten Kitchen. Click over and view her photo tutorial and get a ton of pie dough tips.

Apple Slab Pie

Crust
3 3/4 (470 grams) cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup very cold water

Filling
3 1/2 to 4 pounds **apples, peeled, cored and sliced into approximately 1/2-inch chunks (about 8 cups)
Squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon table salt

To finish
2 tablespoons heavy cream or one egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Glaze (optional, but really, who are we kidding?)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk, water, lemon juice or fresh apple cider, plus a drop or two more if needed

Make pie crust: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in the bottom of a large, bowl. Using a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of tiny peas. Stir in the water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a craggy mass forms. Get your hands in the bowl and knead it just two or three times to form a ball. Divide dough roughly in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour or up to two days or slip plastic-wrapped dough into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 to 2 months. To defrost, leave in fridge for a day.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line bottom of 10x15x1-inch baking sheet or jellyroll pan with parchment paper.

Prepare filling: In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice until coated. Top with remaining filling ingredients and stir to evenly coat.

Assemble pie: On a lightly floured surface, roll one of your dough halves into an 18-by-13-inch rectangle. Work quickly to keep the dough as cold as possible and use enough flour so it doesn’t stick to the counter. Transfer to your prepared baking sheet and gently drape some of the overhang in so that the dough fills out the inner edges and corners. Trim dough to approximately 3/4-inch over the sides of the pan.

Pour apple mixture over and spread evenly.

Place in the fridge to chill while you roll the second of your dough halves into a 16-by-11-inch rectangle. Drape over filling and fold the bottom crust’s overhang over the edges sealing them together. Cut small slits to vent. Brush lid heavy cream or egg wash. Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until just warm enough to touch, about 45 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and liquid of your choice until pourable. Use a spoon to drizzle over top.

Serve, cut into squares or rectangles, warm or at room temperature.

It will keep at room temperature for at 2-3 days, but it won’t last that long.

**Check out Jane Lear’s Apple Guide for information on best apples to use

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Mornings

The similarities to being born are uncanny.

Think about it. One minute you’re in a dark, warm, comfy place then all of a sudden you’re being thrust out into the cold, hard world.

My morning routine typically starts with the morning breath of a lively little 8 year old, 2 inches from my face, poking me in the arm and informing me that I need to  “get my stick”.  The stick she is referring to would be the plunger.

Nothing makes my husband laugh harder than the phrase “Mom! Get your stick!”. He could be in a sound sleep and that will still cause him to chuckle. He’s a sick, sick man that husband of mine.

Next, it’s time to get the kiddos their breakfast. I’m big on breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, you know.

Usually I make pancakes or waffles. Sometimes scrambled eggs and toast or an English muffin and jam. Cereal is dinner in our house. We’re a little backward. I know. This morning I used flour instead of pancake mix. Even fresh maple syrup couldn’t help those things.

Now mind you, while I am making breakfast I am typically dodging dry erase markers that are being hurled at me by an extremely irritable, hungry, impatient cat. This will continue until he is out of markers. Then he moves on to either destruction of property or aggravated assault, which may or may not include biting my calf or slapping me (claws out) as I walk by, just to let me know he means business.

I love my cat.

At that point I’ll feed him so he’ll leave me alone and I won’t have to kill him. But he’ll eat so fast that he throws up. Usually on a carpet somewhere. The house is 99% hardwood floors, yet he will find the one, small carpeted area in the house to vomit on. Did I mention how much I love my cat?

Then carpool. A couple of us parents take turns driving the kids to school. So some mornings I have to load everyone up and head out around 7:15. Andrew is good about not complaining that I drive him and his friends to school in my pajamas. Smart too. Wisecracks will only get them a personal escort to class.

Back home for the next phase. Getting Nina and I ready to go.

Nina, “Miss Independent” is great about getting herself ready for the day.  She’ll put her lunch and snacks together, get dressed, do her hair and still have time to watch some Sponge Bob before the bus comes at 8:20.

I do have to keep an eye on her though. Today’s lunch consisted of cookies, leftover Halloween candy (I still can’t find her stash), pepperoni, Doritos and a jelly jar of apple juice. I love that girl. She tries. I’ll give her that. This demands a remake or I may receive a call from school nurse to educate me on the importance of good nutrition.

When it’s time to head outside for the bus, I usually send the dog with her to wait so I can get myself together. My dog Bailey reminds me of “Nana” from Peter Pan. She would never let a stranger enter the yard. Ever! You can ask the UPS man. He’ll tell ya. If he ever dares to come back.

I get my breakfast, lunch and snack together while still keeping one eye out the window to make sure that there are no shenanigans going on outside. I make a tea, a coffee and fill my water jug to bring to work. I may be part camel. This morning I pushed the button on the Keurig and realized I had forgotten to put the cup under the spout.

“What the insert curse word here!”

Ever done that? There really should be a sensor of some sort. Keurig, if you’re listening, can you maybe incorporate that on your next model? I’d really appreciate it.

Ugh.

But, oh joy, now I get to go to work. That makes waking up to all this totally worth it. Someone needs to come up with a font called “Sarcasm“. Just sayin.

What’s your morning routine like? Do you get things ready the night before or do you live on the edge like me? I’d love to hear.

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Square Pegs

comparison

I have been at this blogging thing for going on four years now.

Every year around my blogiversary I toy with the idea of shutting it down.

“I gave it a real shot! It’s just not fulfilling the dream I had when I started. I’m done!”

So I thought a little harder than I ever had before and realized, in all honesty, I haven’t been true to myself. I really haven’t given it a real shot, especially after reading about some successful bloggers. Dang, they work hard! Success hasn’t just happened to them. They have put in the time, the effort, the sacrifice.

I simply haven’t.

The occasional post, then nothing, then excuses to my loyal readers. That’s what I’ve become. After a couple of months of soul-searching, waffling back and forth, to quit or not to quit and lots of tears about what a failure I am, it finally hit me.

For four years I have been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

I realized, I had pretty much proclaimed my site a food blog. I mean, I can cook but at this point I can’t compare to some of those amazing food bloggers out there. You know the ones who can dump out a can of dog food and make it look so good you have to run out and grab all the supplies and cook it up immediately and serve it at a dinner party? Yup, them.

Then I read this.

“Too many days are wasted comparing ourselves to others and wishing to be something we aren’t. Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses and it is only when you accept everything you are-and aren’t- that you will truly succeed”.

And thought “It’s ok I’m not a food blogger”. It is something I’m good at, but maybe it isn’t everything I’m good at.

So I compiled a list of my strengths and weaknesses, my goals, my boundaries and my walls and most importantly, my excuses. I put them on paper so I could stare them down and address them.

I always thought time was my biggest issue. Like I don’t have any to spare. I’m too busy being a good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good housekeeper, a good everything! There’s no time for me.

“When will I find the time to photograph a meal, or ever develop a recipe?”.

Then it hit me! Duh! I’m busy being a good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good housekeeper, a good employee. I’m not just a cook. I’m all these things! This was my niche!

My time was being spent trying to be something I wasn’t. And all I was doing was spinning my wheels.

Now it’s time to make the changes.

One of my most awesomest (yeah, it’s a word) friends, Danielle at ENJI Daily had written an article about change, which I refer to a lot. She has also reminded me that every failure is a gift, a means of growth. It’s just how we look at it. And that almost no one goes from point A to point B in a linear way, we have little learning curves along the way.

I believe you have to be ready for change. So, for the first time in my life, I’m going to listen to the people around me who tell me I’m amazing and I’m simply going to be amazing.

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Double Chocolate Cherry Dream Cookies

chocolate cherry cookiesAre you ready for Valentine’s Day? You do know it’s Saturday, right? Ok, just making sure you knew.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. My mother in law used to call them “Hallmark Holidays“.  Of course she didn’t like much, but I tend to agree with her on this one. I’m pretty lucky in that my husband spoils me all the time, not just February 14th.

Aw

Also, I’m not very traditional. I hate cut flowers, chocolate is so cliché and cards are too corny for words. So yeah, I could really care less. For real. I’m not just saying that so I can get mad when I don’t get anything.

I know he feels like he has to do something. Probably so the guys don’t razz him. But personally, I think he should tell them they’re just jealous that their wives aren’t as easy-going and awesome as his wife. He can totally back that statement with the fact that he never once changed a diaper and the kids come to me to unclog the toilets. Just sayin.

That being said, I still love all the Valentine’s Day hoopla. I get all sorts of happy when I walk the holiday aisles at Target. And I love helping Nina put together the perfect Valentines treats for her class party. Oh my God I sound like a Martha Stewart wannabe. I know, I hear myself. Honestly, if Andrew would still let me, I’d send him to school with pretty little treats and TMNT cards for all the girls.

Sorry, I’m getting weepy thinking about my baby boy getting older.

Back to Valentine’s Day. I came across these NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Delightfulls while strolling the baking aisle the other day and could not resist myself. They screamed Valentine! And boy were they right!

These oversized cookies were so chewy and rich, yet not overly sweet. If you have a sweetie who needs a sweetie, I suggest giving these a try. I guarantee you’ll get a smooch for it.

Double Chocolate Cherry Dream Cookies

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 c (12-oz pkg) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® DelightFulls Dark Chocolate Cherry filled morsels
1/4 c. NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Mini Morsels (optional)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Use a large ice cream scoop and drop onto parchment lined baking sheets.

BAKE for 10 minutes or until cookies are slightly underdone in the center. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from verybestbaking.com

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Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

chicken taco chili

Do you have a crock pot?

Do you love chili?

Do you want a meal all ready for you when you get home from a long day at work?

Even better, a healthy meal?

This is the easiest, yummiest chili I have ever made. There is no browning of the meat before you throw it in the crock pot (I hate that). You just dump it all in and, voila! Dinner!

I served mine over some brown rice, with a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt, some avocado slices and fresh cilantro. OMG! So good! It is just as good the next day for lunch.

Thank you Skinnytaste for all your amazing healthy recipes.

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White Chocolate Spritz Cookies

white chocolate spritz valentine cookies

So after being stuck in the house for days, thank you Juno. I was feeling a little blah. I started thinking about being isolated and lonely and thought, “I think I need to brighten someone’s day!”.

So, I made these cookies. Any recipe where I can shoot a cookie out of a gun is alright in my book. Just sayin.

I love Spritz cookies. They are just the right size for a small treat and are so cute. The cream cheese in the dough gave them a bit of tang which is balanced out beautifully by the sweetness of the white chocolate. They were decorated nicely by Nina who desperately needed to participate in something other than shoveling for awhile. You can customize the shape and color for any holiday or theme.

After they were decorated and set, I packaged them up all pretty, so as not to shove them in my face all day and today I put them in the mail.

I sent them to a couple of people I don’t get to see very often who may also be stuck at home and may need a little something to brighten their day.

After participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap in December, I realized that getting cookies in the mail is pretty much one of the nicest surprises EVAH! So, I have decided to incorporate it into my routine. Whenever I make some cookies, I put aside a dozen and send it to someone I love.

Do you need some love? Let me know where you are (privately of course) and maybe you’ll find a sweet little package in your mailbox.

Oh yeah, here is the recipe for these little cuties. If you don’t have a cookie press, you can use a pastry bag and large star tip to make a rosette or any shape of your choice.

White Chocolate Spritz Cookies
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
11-1/4 ounces (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional if using sprinkles or sugar instead of dipping in chocolate)
Colored sugars or other decorations for sprinkling (optional)
8 oz. white chocolate, melted

Heat the oven to 375°F. With a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a hand mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat again until blended. Add the flour and mix on low speed until blended.

Fit a cookie press with a die plate (I used the flower). Fill the barrel of the press with dough. You can create a “log” of dough and slide it into the barrel or just stuff it in (like I do). Press the cookies directly onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with colored sugar if using. If dipping in chocolate do not brush with egg white.

Bake until the cookies are just golden around the edges, approximately 10 minutes (it’s best to bake one sheet at a time). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet on a rack for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Be sure the baking sheet is cool before spritzing more cookies.

If dipping, melt chocolate in either a double boiler or simply microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each, until melted. Be careful not to burn. Once melted, dip the top of the cookie and place on a cooling sheet and sprinkle with jimmies and sugar before chocolate sets.

You can also use different color melting wafers and milk and dark chocolate as well as white. Whatever floats your boat.

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from here

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Valentine Puppy Chow

valentine puppy chow

It’s cold. Real cold. And dreary. Super dreary.

Baking helps.

Baking something sweet and pretty, really helps.

Baking something sweet, pretty and so easy it isn’t even funny. Therapeutic!

I haven’t had puppy chow in years. Or shall I say “In a dog’s age”? Sorry, that was lame.

If you have never had this stuff, you’ve got to make it. It’s candy and sugar coated Chex cereal tossed with other yummy stuff. There are endless recipes out there, but today I’m going to share a perfect Valentine treat. Nina had a bake sale and she demanded everything be pink. So we gave these a try and they were a huge success.

When Nina came home on the day of the bake sale, I asked her what she bought. She rattled off all sorts of frosted cookies and mini cupcakes.

“Didn’t you even get some of your own treats?”

“Mom! By the time I got there, they were gone! My friends said you make THE BEST bake sale treats you just didn’t make enough! For realz!”

I must say, I do make some rocking bake sale treats in cute little packages. It’s all in the marketing, by the way.

This recipe totally revived my love for these tasty, bite-size bits of heaven. I am already gathering new recipes to try out. The strawberry cake mix in this recipe is really awesome though.

Warning: These are highly addictive and are not diet friendly. Unless eaten one at a time, veeeeery slooooowly. Then they are totally calorie free. Ok, not really. But you can tell yourself that if you must.

Ingredients:
5 ounces white chocolate chips
5 ounces red candy melts
1 teaspoon shortening
5 cups Chex cereal
1 cup strawberry cake mix
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 package valentines chocolate M&M’s

1. Divid the Chex mix into two bowls. (2 1/2 cup in each)
2. In microwave safe dish, melt the 5 ounces white chocolate chips. Add 1/2 teaspoon shortening so that the chocolate spreads evenly evenly. Microwave 30 seconds at a time and be careful not to burn the chocolate. Dump this in the first bowl of chex and mix evenly to coat all of the chex cereal.
2. Melt the red candy melts in the same manner. Once melted, pour this over the second bowl of divided chex and mix until coated.
3. In two gallon size ziplock bags, put 1/2 cup strawberry cake mix and 1/4 cup powdered sugar in each bag. Dump each bowl of chex mix in each bag and shake until coated with the powdered sugar and strawberry powdered cake mix.
4. Mix in the M&M’s
5. Package in little cello bags with pretty ribbon for a sweet little Valentine treat.

Recipe adapted from the fabulous Alyssa at The Recipe Critic

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Roasted Chicken

roast chicken

I am doing my very best at eating clean now that I have completed my cleanse. And I’ve got to say, I think I’m killing it! I made it through the weekend, Pats playoff game included without eating crap and actually without overeating at all. Although I didn’t hit the gym, but I can only handle one hurdle at a time, so I won’t beat myself up too much.  Does beating myself up count as a workout? Well, it should.

One of my biggest challenges during the week, as I am sure it is for most, is time. Like, not enough of it.

I typically spend my Sunday getting ready for the week. Prepping food, cleaning the house, looking at everyone’s schedules and trying to get a mental picture of our week. Now that I am hitting the gym, it is even more important to get as much done before the Monday chaos begins.

Today, I’m going to share with you a simple recipe that can help you through the week. It takes very little preparation and you aren’t standing over the stove cooking, so you can be taking care of other things.

It is a simple roasted chicken.

Even if you aren’t a “cook” you can easily tackle this and have fresh, healthy, tender chicken for sandwiches, enchiladas, salads, whatever.

I must tell you first, if you are cooking meat, you need a good meat thermometer. It is a must!  Each piece of meat is different. Every oven is different. Times and temps here are just guidelines.

I use the Thermapen. It is a bit pricey, but worth it. I got mine as a gift from the hubby. He digs gadgets. He comes home with some pretty cool stuff that I typically raise my nose at and ask him what he was thinking, then when he isn’t looking I hug it and ask it how I ever got through my life without it. Like this shirt folder, which by the way, is fun for the whole family. We had shirt folding races on New Year’s Eve. Yah, I know. You wish you lived my life. I get that aaaaaalllll the time! NOT! 

But okay, back to the chicken.

To make sure it stays nice and juicy, a quick brining step is all you need. Combine 1/2 cup salt and 2 quarts of water in a large stockpot and stir to dissolve.

Place the chicken in the brine and cover. My pot was small enough that the entire bird was submerged, but you may want to flip it halfway through to make sure the entire bird gets covered. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Remove the bird from the brine and pat dry. Brush entire bird with 2 tablespoons melted butter and season with salt and pepper. You can add some herbs or lemon to the cavity if you wish, but it’s all up to you. I don’t. But that’s just me.

Preheat oven to 375F and place the bird in a roasting pan, breast side down. Cook for 15 minutes then turn the chicken so it is breast side up and increase the oven temp to 450F. Roast until and instant-read thermometer reads 160F in the breast and around 170F in the thigh, about 30-35 minutes. Again, this is where an instant-read thermometer comes in. It is an essential kitchen tool. Nothing worse than cutting into a pink chicken. Grody!

Once chicken is cooled, pick the meat off the bones and shred with 2 forks and store in the fridge for use during the week or it makes a great quick dinner as well. Some mashed potatoes and a vegetable and voila! Dinner!

Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of the totes UH-MAZING Annie at annies-eats

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