Monthly Archives: October 2011

Saturday Selections: Crispy Fried Pepper Jack Wedges

Back a million years ago before The Hubs and I had kids, we used to enjoy fun things that normal people get to do. Things like going out to eat.

While today if we go to a restaurant, we have to go extra early to spare the large crowds from hungry child meltdowns, back then we would sometimes go early voluntarily and take advantage of happy hour specials. We would drink beers and order half priced appetizers while having uninterrupted conversations. It was an all around grand time.

One of the places we would sometimes go had these awesome little fried triangles of pepper jack cheese.

I randomly started craving these recently and thought not only would they be easy to whip up here at the house (where my food covered and screaming kids would bother nobody but us), but they would also be perfect for a Saturday Selection recipe.

I hope you guys will try these. They were silly easy to put together. I even managed to get these fried up while my Little Monkey was eating lunch.

See what I mean about food coverage? Sure, she’s cute now, but would you really like to sit next to that while trying to cut your $15 plate of chicken? Not exactly appetizing.

First you take a block of cheese and cut it into about 1/2 inch slices.

Then you lie them fat side down and cut them diagonally so that you have a cute little wedge.

Get out three bowls and fill one with seasoned flour, one with a couple of eggs and a splash of water, and another with plain breadcrumbs.

Now just dredge the wedges in each bowl, assembly line style.

But here is the big secret that I learned from my friend Giada De Laurentiis.  Dredge them twice! Once they have gone all the way through all of the dunking stations, take them through again. This gives you that thick crispy crust that you get in restaurant fried cheese.

See what kind of fun things you can learn by keeping the Food Network on all day?

Then fry them up in about a quarter inch of hot oil for about 1 minute per side.

Crispy. Crunchy. Hot. Melty. Pepper. Jack. Cheese.

Now if only we could figure out a way to keep my kids neat and quiet during dinner. Then we would be set.

Fried Pepper Jack Cheese Wedges

1 8 oz block of pepper jack cheese

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten with a splash of water

1 cup plain breadcrumbs

enough oil for frying

Heat 1/4 to 1/2 an inch of oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.

Cut cheese into 1/2 inch slices. Then lay on side and cut diagonally to make two wedges.

Pour flour with salt and pepper, eggs, and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls.

Starting with the flour, dredge each wedge through each bowl and then repeat the process again.

Place on a baking sheet until ready to fry. They may be refrigerated or frozen at this point, but I would strongly recommend letting them come to room temperature before going into the oil.

When oil is hot, cook wedges for about 1 minute on each side. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.

Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes

If there is one thing other than tasty recipes that I would like for you all take away from this blog, it is that cooking with your kids around is not only doable, but can be extremely fun and a lot of times down right entertaining.

However, there are certain times when even I wish my kids weren’t in the kitchen.

Times like this past weekend when I volunteered myself to make roughly 60 cupcakes for a baby shower. I thought, “Hey, this will be no big deal. The Hubs can watch the girls and I will just knock those cupcakes out in a few hours.”

Ummmm. Yeah.

Here’s what really went down. That morning, The Hubs offered to help out with some home improvement at his boss’s house. So I was stuck trying to bake cupcakes while The Little Dude played on the computer (thank you, NickJr.com!) and The Monkey napped.  That wasn’t too bad, I managed to get all of the cupcakes baked before she got up. Woot!

I was starting to feel pretty smug about how well it was all going until it came time to frost and decorate the bad boys. Even though The Hubs was back home and doing his best,The Dude just seemed bored. So she looked to me for entertainment. You try explaining to a three year old, why she can’t have a cupcake. 

Me:  “Honey, I’m so sorry but these are cupcakes for my friend’s party.” (Holy crap! I can’t believe I just told her I was going to a party! What was I thinking?!)

Dude:  “Can I come to the party?”

Me:  “No baby. I’m so sorry. You can’t come to the party.”

Dude:  “Well, can I have a taste of frosting?”

And on and on it went.

Then The Monkey, who is normally one of the happiest babies you will ever meet, decided to pick this day to be super cranky, take short naps, and be mega clingy to Mommy.

Oh my.

So what should have been only a few hours worth of work, literally took me all day long.

All. Day.

Basically, I don’t really care if I never see these cupcakes again.

Oh wait. Yes I do. They are delicious.

Everybody really seemed to like them. Including my sweet pregnant friend. Which is all that matters in the end.

Wanna see what they looked like at the shower?

Cute huh?

I can’t take credit for the cupcake design, I saw pictures on the internet of  similar ones that fit this shower’s theme. The whole event was put together by one of my other sweet neighbors who is incredibly creative and crafty. She’s basically an all around know-it-all (in a good way), who I ask advice from on everything from fitness and nutrition tips, to fun fun things to do with my girls, to how to arrange pictures on my walls. I have been pestering her for some time now to start her own blog so she can impart all of her useful knowledge on the world (P.S. I think you should all leave comments telling her to get blogging!).

I mean come on, wouldn’t you like to know how to make stuff like this?

But anywho, lets get back to those cupcakes shall we?

I was kind of going for a mulled apple cider flavor. Something that had a nice fall feel to it. They are so so very moist and tender, and are rich with spices. They have an intense warm sweetness thanks to the molasses, which pairs quite nicely with the less sweet brown sugar cream cheese frosting.

They are the perfect autumn cupckae to bake up this week…and totally easy to do with your kids, so long as you aren’t baking a ton and trying to decorate them for someone else’s party.

Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes

(Adapted from Applesauce Cupcakes from The Lady and Sons, Too! by Paula Deen, and Spice Cake from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham)

Makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups applesauce

2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350

Cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl stir together flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cayenne, and salt. Set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, heat applesauce and baking soda together about 1 minute, until hot. Stir and set aside.

Stir egg, molasses, and vanilla into butter mixture until combined, scraping down sides of bowl once.

Fold in dry ingredients.

Add hot applesauce to the batter and fold in until just combined.

Place in muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

(Adapted from allrecipes.com)

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 tablespoon honey.

Combine cream cheese, butter, sugar, and vanilla.

When mixture is smooth, add in honey.

Saturday Selections: Caramel Pumpkin S’mores

In a lot of ways, a s’more may be the most perfect dessert. They require no work, they are ready in about 5 minutes, they don’t mess up your kitchen, and everybody, everywhere loves them.

But lets be honest, you know the best part is it gives you an excuse to throw out fun quotes from The Sandlot.

“You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”

Yeah. That is good time to me.

The great thing about these particular s’mores is that they are all warmed up with toasty, cozy, carmael-y, and spicy pumpkin flavors.

It was pretty fun making these with my Little Dude too. It was her first s’more experience.

You’re killin’ me, Dude!

These are s’more stuff, Dude. Pay attention.

FIRST, you take the graham. You spread the pumpkin mixture on the graham.

THEN you take the CHOCOLATE and place it on the PUMPKIN.

Next up is the mallow.

You place the mallow on the chocolate and let it toast up in the oven.

Oh yeah. She’s ready to “stuff” now.

I think she was a pretty big fan.

She wanted to eat them “for-ev-ver.”

Caramel Pumpkin S’mores

Makes 5 s’mores

1/4 cup pumpkin

2 teaspoons caramel sauce

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon ginger

5 sheets graham crackers

dark chocolate chips

marshmallows

In a bowl combine pumpkin, caramel, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger.

Top pumpkin on graham cracker half, followed by chocolate chips, and marshmallows.

Place on a baking sheet and roast under a broiler until marshmallows are golden and toasted.

Top with graham cracker half.

I think I may be coming around on this whole pumpkin thing.

White Chocolate Candy Corn M&M and Peanut Butter Oat Balls

See? This is exactly why I don’t watch the news.

I am apparently one of those nut jobs who takes every little dramatic story that is reported waaaay to seriously.

About a month ago, I started seeing info pop up on my Twitter feed about these White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms.

At first, I thought it was some sort of fake advertisement. I started looking around the internets and couldn’t really find anything about it. Then as time went by, I kept seeing more and more tidbits here and there and basically got the impression that they were a real thing but very hard to find. So I started getting all obsessive and paranoid that I would never have the pleasure of trying out these fun little candies. It got to the point where every time I went to Walmart, I would slowly and methodically walk down the candy aisle, scouring the shelves for that one elusive bag that I just knew had to be hiding somewhere. Does this sound like something a sane person does while shopping with a three year old? Yeah. Didn’t think so.

So you can imagine how excited I was when I finally saw them at my Walmart one afternoon while I was picking up a few random odds and ends. I’m pretty sure I squealed. Then before I knew what I was doing, I grabbed three bags and threw them in my cart. Three bags!

Here is what is incredible about that fact:

1. I never buy candy. N.E.V.E.R. For one thing, The Hubs and I can’t control ourselves when we have it, and truthfully I don’t really even care that much for candy anyway (…I know…if it makes you feel any better, it is really hard for me to admit that).

2. While candy corn is The Hubs’ very very favorite Halloween candy, I can’t stand it. I think it tastes terrible.

So there I was, having a little Happy Parade all up and down Walmart, for something that I would never normally purchase and was pretty sure I wasn’t even going to want to eat.

Oh well.

My craziness is your gain I suppose.

While I didn’t really love the M&Ms by themselves, these little nuggets even brought a candy corn non-believer like me, back for seconds.

I don’t know if you could ask for more really, this stuff is literally three ingredients and requires no baking or cooking. If you can stir and warm things in the microwave, you can make these. And the Halloween colors and slight candy corn flavor make these a really fun non-gross looking (yeah, I’m talking to you, Brain Cupcakes and Monster Toes!) Halloween treat.

First, coarsely chop up a handful of the M&Ms. This is going to give the balls some crunch and give you those fun Halloween colors.

Then you melt your peanut butter in the microwave and set it aside.

I just want you to know, it took every ounce of willpower I had not to turn that bowl up and drink the peanut butter right then and there.

Next up, microwave some M&Ms for 30 seconds.

See how they are starting to crack open? This is a very exciting thing.

Give them a stir (you can be like me and use the same spoon you stirred the peanut butter with) and then microwave them for another 30 seconds.

Now start to crush them with the back of your spoon to release all of the white chocolate goodness.

Then plop that over into your peanut butter and stir, baby, stir!

Now add this mixture over into your oats along with the chopped M&Ms and stir it all together.

And, hey, I don’t care if you start licking the inside of the peanut butter bowl now. You just go right on ahead.

I used a 2 tablespoon scoop to lift out the mixture and then gently molded it into little balls with my hands. This part is admittedly pretty messy, so if you would rather, you could just press it down into a pan and then cut into little bars when you are ready to eat it. I actually considered molding them into a round cake pan and then cutting them into little triangles to sort of mirror the whole candy corn thing. It would be really cute.

Either way, refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes and then they are yours to devour as you please.

Uh-oh. I think I hear the nightly news coming on, I better go turn that off real quick before I start digging a fallout shelter in my back yard or something.

White Chocolate Candy Corn M&M and Peanut Butter Oat Balls

3/4 cup White Chocolate Candy Corn M&Ms, divided

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup old fashioned oats

Coarsely chop 1/4 cup M&Ms.

Microwave peanut butter 45 seconds. Stir and set aside.

In a separate bowl, microwave remaining 1/2 cup M&Ms for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave 30 seconds more. Crush M&Ms with the back of a spoon and stir.

Add melted M&Ms to the melted peanut butter and stir to combine.

Add peanut butter mixture and 1/4 cup chopped M&Ms to oats in a large bowl and stir until well combined.

Form into balls and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Oh and P.S. I have been reading that some people are worried that there may be a pumpkin shortage this year, so guess how many cans of pumpkin I have in my pantry right now?

Three. Yep. And you know I don’t even really care about pumpkin…

What is happening to me?

Saturday Selections: Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

It looks like buffalo wings and potato skins had a love child, and it just showed up to watch the game with you.

Maybe you weren’t expecting to hang out with it today. Maybe you like watching the game with your usual friends.

But it’s cool, you get along great. The two of you feel like old friends.

You may even find yourself asking it back over for next Saturday’s game as well.

I can’t wait for you guys to try these.

So much flavor going on here: a little spicy, a little tangy, a little creamy, a little crunchy, and whole lotta cheesy.

And you are going to feel like such a rock star for making your own potato skins.

First things first, place your potatoes in the microwave for a few minutes, just to soften them up a little bit.

Once they have cooled down enough to handle, gently scoop out the insides, leaving about a 1/4 inch border of potatoes all around the edges. And don’t you dare throw that potato away!

Guess what I used mine for?

This. I sure did.

Now give the top and bottom of these potato skins a light spritz with cooking spray, and a little sprinkling of ranch seasoning. Then I gently rubbed it in to try and get it evenly spread around.

Bake them up until they start to get golden and crispy on the edges.

While your skins are toasting up, get out a medium sized bowl and mix up the filling.

Stir together some cream cheese, hot sauce, and ranch seasoning. Then microwave it for about 4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so until it is pretty well smooth. Mine still had a few small lumps of cream cheese, but I didn’t stress out about it too much, and neither should you.

Now stir in your chicken and cheese, and quickly go hide your tortilla chips. The Hubs and I made the mistake of pulling out our chips for sampling purposes, and almost ate all of the filling before I had a chance to put them in the potato skins.

I used some leftover grilled chicken here, but breaded chicken fingers are also smashing in this recipe.

Fill each toasted potato skin with some filling and top it with cheese.

Then bake them up until they are melty and hot.

Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

8 medium Yukon gold potatoes

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup hot sauce

1/2 tablespoon dry ranch seasoning (plus additional for potato skins)

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped

1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 450.

Cook potatoes in the microwave for 8 minutes on high.

Cut in half and scoop out the centers.

Lightly spray both sides of potato skins with cooking spray, sprinkle with ranch seasoning, and gently rub it in.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Turn oven down to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, hot sauce, and ranch seasoning.

Microwave for about 4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until mixture is combined and smooth.

Stir in chicken and 1/2 of cheese.

Place a spoonful of filling into each potato skin and top with more cheddar cheese.

Bake in the oven at 350 for an additional 10 minutes, or until filling is hot and cheese is melted.

Mashed Potato Lasagna

Today’s post is brought to you by my mom.

You can call her Heffie.

Yep. Heffie. Like the female cow except with cutesy “-ie” sound on the end.

That really is her name. You can ask The Dude.

She has been visiting this week, which is so great because she lives about five hours away and I don’t really get to see her as often as I would like. We usually talk on the phone at least once a day (at least). But I am always so excited to have her physically in my house.

The best thing about her being here though is that she and The Dude have an absolutely amazing relationship.

I sincerely hope that all of you readers out there with kids can say that your little ones have a grandparent as amazing as my mom. She has an incredible ability to make The Dude laugh like no one else I have ever seen.

At one point I found them sitting underneath a tree, throwing acorns back up into the branches while screaming and laughing, “You can have it back, Tree! I don’t want it!”

Apparently, this was one of the funniest things my child had ever done in her entire three years of life. The Dude started doing that kind of laugh where no sound comes out, and I’m pretty sure she wet her pants a little (Mom was laughing pretty hard too, but since I don’t help her in the bathroom, I can’t quite say for sure what her pants situation was).

Heffie also always manages to find really fun things to do that would never in a million years occur to me. Here I will spend hours about to bang my head against the wall from boredom of the same ol’ games with the girls, and she thinks of things of things like this.

There they are, eating a snack in the car. Just chillin’. I’m pretty sure there were also some fairly elaborate games played in there prior to the snack, but I never quite understood the rules so I can’t really describe it to you.

Basically, things are super fun at this house when Heffie is in town.

But since this is a cooking blog and not a why-my-mom-is-the-coolest blog, why don’t we go back inside and see what was happening in my kitchen during these shenanigans? I’ve got a little leftover mashed potato recipe for ya.

I love mashed potatoes, but in all honesty, I don’t really enjoy them as much warmed over. So I figured I would give them a little makeover when we had some that needed to be eaten up.

This recipe is actually a major throwback for me and The Hubs. This was something that I started making when we were a newly married couple.

Yes, it is true that I have always been a freak about not wasting food.

Basically, it is just as the name suggests. A couple of  layers of mashed potatoes, sauce, and cheese baked until bubbly and crispy around the edges. Easy peasy, friends. Easy peasy.

And as a bonus,  I am going to give you my go-to tomato sauce recipe as well.

I saute up half of an onion in some olive oil until it starts to brown a little bit. Then I toss in some garlic, a can of diced tomatoes, water, wine, crushed red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning.

I let that come to a hard simmer for about 10 minutes then crush it with a potato masher, but if I need a smooth sauce, I will give it a quick whirl with the immersion blender. Here I give it a quick taste to see how much sugar needs to go in. Every can of tomatoes is different so you should always taste the sauce before adding in sugar. Then I let it continue at a hard simmer for another 10 minutes, until about half of the liquid has evaporated.

At this point, you can just let it simmer on low until you are ready to use it. If you would like it a little thinner though, just go ahead and add in a little more water. The Hubs really likes this chunky, thick, rich sauce so that is how I often serve it.

Now you are ready to assemble the lasagna.

This is one of those great meals, where you get to totally clean up the kitchen before you ever even eat, get some other chores done, or maybe if you are super lucky, get to pour a glass of wine and put your feet up for a minute.

OK. So probably not that last part. But a girl can dream, right?

P.S. My Mom loved this dinner.

It was the least I could do for the person who makes my kid pee her pants, Mom. Love you!

Mashed Potato Lasagna

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 14.5oz can chopped tomatoes

1 can water

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

salt, pepper, and sugar to taste

2 cups mashed potatoes

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

In a medium sauce pan, saute onion in olive oil until golden.

Add garlic, tomatoes, water, wine, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Let simmer on high about 10 minutes.

Crush tomatoes with a potato masher. Taste for salt, pepper, and sugar. Adjust as needed.

Continue on hard simmer for about 10 minutes more, until liquid is reduced by about half.

Preheat oven to 375.

Stir 1 egg into 2 cups mashed potatoes.

Spread half of potatoes into the bottom of a greased 8×8 casserole dish.

Top potatoes with half of tomato sauce.

Sprinkle with half of cheese.

Repeat with the remainder of ingredients.

Bake covered for 40 minutes.

Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Saturday Selections: Bourbon and Coke Whoopie Pies

To me, there are few things in the world as synonymous with Alabama football as bourbon and Cokes.

Back when The Hubs and I were in college, it was just what you drank on game day. I’m not really sure why this is the drink. Maybe because it looks pretty innocent in a red cup while walking around the Quad. Or maybe because the mini bottles are fairly easy to sneak into the stadium and then mix with a Coke you buy on the inside. (For the record, I really never sneaked any in. I was too chicken.)

And just in case you wanted to know, it was considered appropriate Game Day Bourbon and Coke decorum to mix it up with the handle of your shaker and hurl the drink down towards the field when there was a bad play.

I know. Classy, right?

Even now, like some sorta crazy hippie flashback, the mere whiff of bourbon will have me spontaneously shout out, “Roll Tide!”

It was for this reason that I knew I had to make some sort of Saturday Selection inspired by my game day drink of choice in college.

Folks, if you enjoy this beverage, you will absolutely go ape for these cookies.

Oh my gracious.

Lovely, rich, tender, ultra-chocolatey little cakes sandwiched around a sweet buttercream with a hint of Coke.

Oh and did I mention that they are heavily flavored with bourbon?

When I was baking these up, I scooped a little batter onto my finger to get a quick taste, and got a little drunk.

In my pajamas.

At 8:00 in the morning.

While The Dude was eating a bagel.

OK so I’m just kidding about getting drunk part. But I do feel quite certain that had I eaten more than just a taste I would have been feeling it. (“Rollll Tiiiiide!”)

So yeah, I would advise you not to sample too much of the batter before you bake it lest you get wasted face before noon.

I mean, unless that’s your thing. I dunno, maybe it’s game day and you do what you want…whatever…it’s all good.

This is a pretty straight forward little recipe. So don’t worry, you are going to impress all of your friends without making a big fuss in the kitchen.

I made mini whoopie pies because they are pretty rich. I used a 2 tablespoon scoop for each half of the cake.

Then once they were baked and had cooled completely I piped in a generous helping of the Coke buttercream. I used the number 12 Wilton tip, which was the biggest one I had, but just use whatever will be the easiest for you. I promise I won’t tell anybody if you just use a butterknife.

Then you just plop another cake on top of that (The Dude”s technical term for this is “the lid”). You may certainly go ahead and start eating them now, but I really think that they are better once they have a had a little time to set up in the fridge.

Now go on and make these for your football viewing snack today.

This way you can have your cake and drink it too.

Bourbon and Coke Whoopie Pies

Makes 19

For the Coke buttercream:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons Coke

3 cups powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat together butter, vanilla, and Coke until well combined.

Gently mix in powdered sugar and salt.

Pour into piping bag and let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour(but may be made up to one week in advance).

For the cakes:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup bourbon

1/2 cup Coke

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add wet ingredients to the butter mixture.

Gently stir in the dry ingredients a little at a time until well incorporated.

Scoop out 2 tablespoons at a time onto a baking sheet about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Let cool completely before piping icing in between two cakes.

Store pies in the refrigerator.