Easy Vanilla Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

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Easy Vanilla Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream

Hands down, these are the EASIEST cupcakes I’ve EVER made.  I have Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction to thank for that.  This is her recipe for Very Vanilla Cupcakes with only one very minor change.

Sally’s recipe calls for 1/2 a vanilla bean in addition to 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and I did not have a vanilla bean.

So, what do you do when you need a vanilla bean?  You call your son who works at a neighborhood grocery store, less than 2 miles away at 10pm on a Friday night.

Of course, this particular store only carries “organic” vanilla beans of three different varieties, and they are priced at $5.99, $10.79 and $12.79.  Those prices are for ONE vanilla bean.  Are you people crazy??!!

So since I haven’t won the lottery lately, I opted to make the recipe with just the 2 teaspoons of vanilla, but you know what… They’re still soft and sweet with a very vanilla flavor.  I think I’ve found my new go-to vanilla cupcake recipe.

I did order some reasonably priced vanilla beans online last night, so I will be trying this recipe again very soon, once my order arrives.

Let me show you just how easy this is… Anytime I can make a recipe and only dirty one bowl, I am ALL in!    The fewer dishes to wash, the better!

Instead of measuring my dry ingredients into a bowl, I measured them onto a piece of parchment and then just used the knife that I used for leveling the dry ingredients to gently mix the dry ingredients together.

Either in a bowl or on a piece of parchment, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Dry Ingredients

In a medium bowl, melt your butter, and add in your sugar, combining the two ingredients.  It will be gritty.  Then add in egg whites, yogurt, milk and vanilla, and use a whisk to blend ingredients together.  OK, here is where I realized I had forgotten to take a photo of the wet ingredients, duh…

Wet and Dry Ingredients

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend well with a whisk until combined.  The batter will be very thick and smooth.

Vanilla Cupcake Batter

Fill 12 lined muffin cups and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.

Ready for the oven

Mine were ready at 22 minutes.

Fresh from the oven

Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack, until completely cool, about an hour.

Easy Vanilla Cupcakes cooling

I frosted these with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting and then topped them off with Cinnamon Sugar for a little added sparkle and cinnamon flavor.

Easy Vanilla Cupcakes I

Sometimes you just need things to be easy with no complications, and I can guarantee you that this recipe will not disappoint.  They are incredibly easy, but oh so good!

Easy Vanilla Cupcakes

Thanks Sally!  These cupcakes are DA BOMB!  I can’t wait to try them with the vanilla bean seeds added.

Easy Vanilla Cupcake Single

Happy Saturday Everyone!  Prayers go out to the Houston Firefighters who lost their lives yesterday, and their families.  God Bless.

Easy Vanilla Cupcakes II

Easy Vanilla Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

 

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 12 count muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl or on a piece of parchment paper if you’re lazy, combine your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Gently mix to combine.
  3. In a large microwaveable bowl, melt the butter and then stir in the sugar.  Mixture will be very gritty.
  4. Stir in egg whites, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract with a whisk and and combine until smooth.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until thick and smooth with no lumps.
  6. Divide batter evenly (my favorite tool here is a #16 ice cream scoop, as it’s the perfect size for evenly dividing the batter) between the 12 liners.  I always tap my pan on the counter top a few times to get out any air bubbles.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Mine were perfect at 22 minutes.
  8. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then move to a cooling rack until completely cool, about an hour.
  9. Frost with Cinnamon Buttercream frosting – recipe follows.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 and 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream; more if needed (I used 4)
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed together (for sprinkling on top after frosting)
  1. Beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and heavy cream and beat until light and fluffy, adding in more heavy cream if necessary, to get the desired consistency.
  3. Using a spatula or decorator bag (or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off), decorate or frost the cupcakes.  I had a small amount of frosting leftover.
  4. Combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on top of the finished cupcakes for a little added sparkle and cinnamon flavor.
  5. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Recipe Source: Cupcake – Sally’s Baking Addiction

Frosting – Slightly adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor



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Biscoff Rice Krispie Bars (No Marshmallows!)

Biscoff Rice Krispie Bars

My 18 year old son calls me “The Biscoff Queen”. I suppose I have gotten a little carried away lately with the Biscoff recipes, but I just can’t seem to help myself… I’m lovin this stuff!  I’m really reeling it in this time though, so only one more Biscoff post after this one. Scouts Honor!

I’ve always loved traditional Rice Krispie treats, but this recipe is a little more decadent than your average marshmallow-laden Rice Krispie Treat.

The combination of Biscoff Spread, corn syrup, and sugar transform an ordinary box of Rice Krispies into something very special. Once heated, they make a very gooey substance that binds the Rice Krispies perfectly.  After cooling, the Biscoff Rice Krispie Bars firm up very nicely and cut beautifully into nice even squares.  Thick and chewy with that gingery, graham cracker-like flavor that is uniquely Biscoff.

This recipe only has 4 ingredients and could not be easier.  On the stove top, in a small sauce pan, heat corn syrup and sugar over low heat until it is well combined and the sugar has dissolved.

Corn Syrup & Sugar

Remove from the heat and stir in your Biscoff Spread carefully (it’s hot!) until well combined.

Corn Syrup, Sugar & Biscoff

Combine Biscoff mixture with the Rice Krispies and gently toss and mix until well combined and the cereal is completely coated.

Biscoff Mixture & Rice Krispies

Then very gently press into a 9 X 13 inch pan that has been greased or sprayed.  I freeze my butter wrappers and use them for greasing my pans.  Anytime I make bars, I also line my pan with foil, bringing it over the edge, for easier bar removal and cutting.

Biscoff Rice Krispies in foil lined pan

Allow bars to cool and then lift them out with the foil and cut into squares.  This recipe made 24 bars, but the yield could be more or less, just depending on how big you cut your squares.

Biscoff Rice Krispies on foil

Biscoff Rice Krispie Bars

1 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup Biscoff Spread

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Put Rice Krispies in a very large bowl and set aside.  In a small to medium sauce pan, combine sugar and corn syrup and cook over low heat until sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from the heat and stir in Biscoff Spread until well combined.  Pour Biscoff mixture over the Rice Krispies and toss and mix together until the cereal is completely coated.  With buttered hands, spread and gently press mixture into a well-greased (foil-lined) 9 X 13 inch pan.  Allow mixture to cool and then remove foil from pan and cut into squares.  Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for 3-5 days.

See how thick and chewy they are…

Biscoff Rice Krispie Bars 2

I love traditional Rice Krispie Treats with marshmallows, don’t get me wrong, but when you want something extra special, try these bars… They aren’t quite as healthy as the ones made with marshmallows, but man are they lip-smacking good!

Biscoff Rice Krispie Bars 3

Happy Memorial Day Everyone!!  Thanks to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and those who continue to serve and protect our great country every day.  Freedom isn’t FREE.

Biscoff Rice Krispie Bars I

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Biscoff Glazed Popcorn (Microwave)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin Biscoff Glazed Popcorn OK, I know I promised that my Oatmeal Biscoff Cinnamon Chip Cookies would be my last post about Biscoff Spread for a while, but that was before I started thinking about some of my favorite popcorn recipes, and it struck me how great Biscoff Spread would be in my Peanut Butter glazed popcorn recipe.  Yes, I know, I’ve got Biscoff on the brain.  I’ve yet to find a recipe with peanut butter, where Biscoff cannot be successfully substituted for the peanut butter.

This popcorn has that warm, spice-like flavor that is uniquely Biscoff.  Believe me, you need some of this!

My apologies for the sub-standard (in process) photos.  I got a hankering to make this at 9:00pm when there was no good lighting.  Sometimes you just have to cook, and can’t wait.

This time I’ve made things even easier for you, by making it in the microwave instead of on the stove top.  You can literally be eating this popcorn in about 45 minutes.

For the sake of my waistline, I’ve halved the recipe, but it can very easily be doubled for a crowd.

It’s as simple as popping your popcorn, anyway you want to pop it.  Hot-Air popper, microwave bags of popcorn or the old fashioned way in a pot on the stove, all work for this recipe.

After your popcorn is ready, make sure it’s in a very large bowl.  You’re going to be pouring a very hot, gooey substance over the popcorn and tossing and mixing until it’s all coated, so a BIG BOWL is key, to keep the very hot, gooey stuff in the bowl where it belongs.

Put all your ingredients for the glaze, except the vanilla, in a very large glass bowl.  One with a handle is very helpful, but any large microwaveable bowl will do.  Microwave for one minute to melt the butter and give a stir to combine all ingredients. Biscoff Glazed Popcorn

Back in the microwave for 2 more minutes and when it comes out, it will be boiling and bubbly. Bubbly Biscoff Glazed Popcorn

Add the vanilla and stir well.   Working very quickly, pour the hot, gooey mixture over your popcorn and toss and stir until all kernels are evenly coated. Biscoff Glazed Popcorn Bowl

Place in a large baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray (for even less clean up, you can line the pan with foil if you like) and bake in a 250°F oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring after every 10 minutes. Biscoff Glazed Popcorn Pan

Spread the popcorn in a single layer evenly out onto waxed paper, parchment paper, or foil,  and allow to cool for about 15-20 minutes.  The glazed popcorn will harden as it cools.  The oven does a very nice job of crisping up the popcorn and baking on the glaze for a crispy crunch.  This Biscoff Glazed Popcorn makes a great movie-night treat!

Biscoff Glazed Popcorn

Yield: 6 cups

  • 6 tablespoons un-popped popcorn kernels or 1/2 bag of microwaveable popcorn (natural, un-buttered works best here)
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff Spread
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Spray a large baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Pop your popcorn and place in a very large bowl.
  4. Combine Biscoff Spread, corn syrup, butter, and salt in a large microwaveable bowl and microwave for 1 minute on full power to melt the butter.
  5. Give it a stir to combine all the ingredients and then put back in the microwave on full power for 2 more minutes.  After 2 minutes, the mixture will be boiling and bubbly.
  6. Remove from the microwave and stir in the vanilla to combine.
  7. Pour warm mixture over popcorn, stirring and tossing very gently to combine.
  8. When all kernels are evenly coated, turn out onto your sprayed baking pan and arrange into an even layer.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  (I baked mine for 25 minutes)
  10. Remove from the oven and spread out in an even single layer on waxed paper, parchment paper, or foil, to cool for 15-20 minutes.  When cool, store in an airtight container or zip-loc bag, for up to one week.

Biscoff Glazed Popcorn I

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Oatmeal Biscoff Cinnamon Chip Cookies

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Oatmeal Biscoff Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Have you ever baked with Cinnamon Chips?  They are great to add to muffins, scones, cookies, coffee cakes… the possibilities are endless.  They can be a little hard to find in some stores, but my local Albertson’s carries them all the time.  They are usually readily available during the holiday season from Thanksgiving thru Christmas.

I really am trying to get Biscoff Spread out of my head, but then the idea for these cookies popped in there instead, so I had to act on it, right?

These Oatmeal Biscoff Cinnamon Chip Cookies (yes, I know that’s a long name) have a very chewy texture with just a pop of  cinnamon flavor from the cinnamon chips and a rich, deep, warm flavor from the Biscoff and dark brown sugar.  I love it anytime I can make cookies without having to wait for the butter to soften (No, I just don’t like using the microwave, too inconsistent) and these babies are made with melted butter, so you can get started on them right away.

I promise, only one more post about Biscoff and then I’m moving on…

Oatmeal Biscoff Cinnamon Chip Cookie Collage

Oatmeal Biscoff Cinnamon Chip Cookies

2 cups flour

1 cup quick cooking oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips

1 stick butter, melted

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup Biscoff Spread

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, baking powder, dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon chips.
  3. Mix well to combine dry ingredients and then add butter, egg, vanilla and Biscoff.
  4. Mix until the dough holds together and is well combined.  It is a very heavy dough.  You may need to use your hands to help the dough come together.
  5. Shape into 1-inch balls and place onto a lightly sprayed baking sheet (Or use parchment, my preference).
  6. Very slightly flatten cookies with the bottom of a drinking glass.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are very light golden and just set.
  8. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
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Greek Yogurt Pound Cake with White Chocolate Strawberry Sauce

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake with text

Ever make something wonderful and then forget to take photos before it’s eaten? Guilty as charged!  Since I forgot to take photos before all the pound cake was gobbled up last weekend, this post was postponed until I got home so that I could take more photos.  So I got busy with other things this week and forgot all about it until now.  Let’s just pretend that it’s still last weekend and go from there.  This recipe makes two large pound cake loaves, so I just happened to have another at home.

From last weekend: What a glorious Mother’s Day Weekend this has turned out to be! We are out doing some camping (OK, RVing, we don’t actually rough it) with 3 other couples and the weather could not be more perfect for being outdoors. Most of our campouts include a Saturday night dinner potluck with everyone contributing something to the meal. This time we decided that everyone would bring their own meat to grill and we’d all do side dishes, desserts, etc. My contribution to the meal is a slightly modified Sour Cream Pound Cake with White Chocolate Strawberry Sauce.  I made the pound cake before we left home for camping and wrapped it up tightly in foil and put it in my RV freezer. I’ll whip up the ridiculously quick and easy white chocolate sauce just before serving. Pound Cake is a wonderful spring and summertime dessert because you can dress it up so many ways, with sauces, fresh berries and other fruits, or even frosting. This pound cake is modified from Paula Deen’s Grandmother Paul’s Sour Cream Pound Cake.  Paula is my favorite southern cook of all time.  In fact, David and I went to her cooking show in Dallas last September.  We really enjoyed her show (she is highly entertaining) and she is just as genuine in person as she comes across on her TV show.

The two-ingredient decadent and sweet white chocolate strawberry sauce comes from Bake or Break and takes no time at all in the microwave.  The ease of this sauce by using strawberry preserves is sheer genius.

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake

2 sticks butter, softened

3 cups sugar

1 cup greek fat-free yogurt

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°F.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer and then add the sour cream until well blended.  Combine the flour and baking soda and add it to the creamed mixture alternately, with the eggs, beating each egg well, before adding the next.  Add in the vanilla and blend well and pour the batter into a greased and floured bundt pan or (2) 9 X 5 inch loaf pans.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

White Chocolate Strawberry Sauce

1/2 cup strawberry preserves

1/2 cup white chocolate

Melt the white chocolate in a microwaveable bowl until melted when stirred, about 30-45 seconds.  Add preserves to the melted white chocolate and stir until well blended.  Serve over sliced pound cake.

Greek Yogurt Pound Cake 2

Mexican Chicken & Rice Skillet

Mexican Chicken Rice Skillet with text

I’m a planner... Especially when it comes to meals.  I plan my meals every week and prepare a grocery list according to my meal plan.  BUT, sometimes whatever I have planned for dinner, just isn’t floating my boat.  This recipe was born on one of those days.  I knew I wanted something Mexican, and only had chicken in the fridge, so I started digging thru the fridge and pantry and came up with the ingredients for this recipe.  AND, it’s actually healthy and very low-calorie… BONUS!!

So today was not a great day… Our air conditioning went out around 7:30pm last night and we aren’t able to get the a/c tech out here until Monday, ugh!  It’s May in Texas and the high was 90° today, so in an effort to keep the house as cool as possible, I cooked outside using the side burner on my Charbroil TRU Infra-red Grill.  If you’re thinking about getting a new grill, I highly recommend this one.  I’ve had it for almost a year now and it’s the best grill we’ve ever owned.  It has very even heating and will heat to about 500-600 degrees in 15 minutes.  Because it’s an infra-red grill, there’s a U-shaped trough over the burners, which means no flare-ups at all.  You can spray cooking spray directly on the cast iron grill grates and not worry about flames shooting up or setting the house on fire.

There is a bit of prep involved in this recipe, but really, it couldn’t be simpler.  Cook your rice according to the package directions, you’ll need 1 and 1/2 cups cooked rice.  Start out with some taco seasoning and chicken breast strips, and cook in a pan with cooking spray until done, about 8 minutes.  Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.  Spray pan with more cooking spray.

Chicken with taco seasoning

Slice up your veggies, cut up your stewed tomatoes, press or mince your garlic, thaw out your frozen corn and get your spices ready.  Add your onion, green peppers and zucchini to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes.

Cast of Characters

After your veggies are done, add in the tomatoes, corn and spices, combining well, and bring to a boil.  Add in your chicken and rice and simmer until heated through.  Serve with salsa and tortilla chips if desired.

Mexican Chicken complete

If you’re a lover of Mexican food, you’re going to want to try this!  It’s spicy but won’t hurt you.  The veggies are sauteed just enough to be crisp tender and the cumin and chili powder give it that distinct Mexican flavor that Tex-mex is famous for.

Mexican Chicken Rice Skillet 2

With the highs in the 90’s again tomorrow and no air conditioning til Monday, I think tomorrow’s dinner will definitely be a cold one.  🙂

Mexican Chicken & Rice Skillet

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

1 and 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning

Cooking spray

1 medium onion, cut into thin strips

1 medium green pepper, cut into thin strips

1 1/2 cups zucchini squash, halved and sliced about 3/4″ thick

2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced or pressed

1 can stewed tomatoes, cut up

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1  and 1/2 cups cooked rice

fresh cilantro (optional)

Coat chicken strips with taco seasoning and toss to coat.  Spray a large skillet with cooking spray,and stir-fry chicken unit no longer pink.  Remove and set aside.  In the same skillet, add more non-stick spray and saute the onion, green pepper and zucchini for about 5 minutes, until crisp tender, adding the garlic at the very end of the saute just until fragrant.  Stir in the tomatoes, corn, salt, cumin and chili powder and bring to a boil.  Add in chicken and rice and cook until heated through.  Add in chopped fresh cilantro (if desired) right before serving.

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Biscoff Snickerdoodles

Biscoff Snickerdoodles text

Sometimes I just can’t seem to let things go…. I’m still obsessing over Biscoff Spread and still creating new ways to indulge.  I keep telling myself to move on, but that. ain’t. happenin. yet… These Biscoff Snickerdoodles are almost like my tried and true Snickerdoodles recipe, but with a much deeper, richer flavor, thanks to that distinct gingerbread, caramel-like flavor of the Biscoff Spread.  Whether you’re a culinary expert or novice baker, these are quick to mix up and get in the oven.  Too hot to turn on your oven?  Try these Biscoff No-Bake Cookies.

Make sure you don’t omit the cream of tartar because it’s crucial as  it works with the baking soda for leavening.  Be sure and set your timer so that you don’t over bake.  You definitely want to maintain that wonderful chewy texture that Snickerdoodles are famous for.

Biscoff Snickerdoodles stacked

These are my new “favorite cookie”.  Well… this week anyway.

Biscoff Snickerdoodles with jar

Surely I’ve convinced a few of you to go out and buy yourself a jar of Biscoff Spread…. The possibilities are endless!

Biscoff Snickerdoodles

Makes 42-48 cookies, depending on the size of your dough balls.

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup Biscoff Spread

2 eggs

2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar (Do not omit)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs and Biscoff spread and combine with an electric mixer.
  • Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, and combine thoroughly until the dough comes together.
  • Shape dough into 1-inch balls (Use a small cookie scoop if you have one.  It makes the task of diving the dough easier and your dough balls are more uniform that way.  You still have to roll them after scooping, though.)
  • In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon and roll balls in the sugar mixture.
  • Place 2 inches apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.  I always use parchment, but it’s not necessary.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are just set.  Immediately remove from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack to cool, so that they do not continue to bake.

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Ultra Creamy Macaroni & Cheese (slow cooker)

Ultra Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Is there anything that screams “comfort food” more than Macaroni & Cheese?  I’m not much of a Velveeta fan, so this Macaroni & Cheese is loaded with REAL cheese.  One thing you will love about this Macaroni & Cheese recipe is how easy it is to have it ready at the same time as the rest of your meal.  It takes about 2 1/2  hours from start to finish, give or take a couple of minutes and comes out perfect every time.  I honestly do not know where the original recipe came from as I’ve had it for quite some time, but I’ve adapted it to make it somewhat healthier… I mean, really?  How healthy can Macaroni and Cheese be, loaded with all that cheese?  This recipe had 3 3/4 cups of cheese and 3/4 cup of sour cream and I’m using 3 cups of cheese and 3/4 cup of non-fat greek yogurt instead.  The original recipe also included whole milk and 3 eggs and I’m using 2% milk and have completely omitted the eggs from this version.

I’ll never go back to making Macaroni & Cheese the traditional way.  This recipe has a very creamy texture and is loaded with honest to goodness cheese flavor… I could eat this stuff all day!

OK, people, bear with me on these photos… I waited a little too late in the day to start all this, and then add cloudy, dark, rainy skies to the mix and there was very little natural light for my photos coming in thru the windows, so I did the best I could with the photo editor.

First Step: Melt the butter and cheese together in a small to medium saucepan until it looks like this:

Butter and Cheese

Step 2: Spray your slow cooker with non-stick spray and combine all ingredients, except for your cooked pasta.  OK, I know this looks a little freaky and scary, but it will all turn out wonderfully creamy in the end.  There will be some lumps and it won’t be smooth at all at this point.  This is what you can expect:

All ingredients except Macaroni

Step 3: Add in your cooked, drained macaroni and stir.  The hot macaroni will somewhat melt some of those lumps and it will begin to look a little less scary at this point.  This photo has all ingredients combined and is ready to be put on the slow cooker base and set to low for 2 hours.

All ingredients, including macaroni

Ultra Creamy Macaroni & Cheese (slow cooker)

Servings: 12-15    Prep time: 30 minutes or less     Cook time: 2 hours

3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

3/4 cup non-fat greek yogurt (I like Fage brand)

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed cheddar cheese soup

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 cups 2% milk

3/4 teaspoon dry mustard

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Boil the macaroni for 7 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  While your macaroni is cooking, in a small to medium saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter and add in the cheese slowly, until it is all combined, melted and ooey gooey.

Spray a 3-6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray, and combine the cheese/butter mixture, non-fat greek yogurt, cheddar cheese soup, salt, milk, mustard, and pepper and stir well.   It will be very lumpy and have a weird texture at this point.  Don’t worry, it won’t stay this way.  It will be creamy when done.

Add drained macaroni and stir again.  Set the slow cooker to the low setting and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove from slow cooker and serve.  It has a wonderfully creamy texture and takes about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish.  It re-heats very well in the microwave with a little milk added before re-heating.

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Easy To Stuff Manicotti

Easy To Stuff Manicotti with text

This recipe is so easy, it almost isn’t a recipe.  I think this is a Taste of Home recipe I got from their magazine many years ago.  When you’re just not in the mood to cook, it’s a very easy dinner to get into the oven.  My family loves this!  Heck, who doesn’t love loads of hot, melty cheese?  I haven’t made this in forever, but I wanted something Italian and something that would get me out of the kitchen in a hurry.  This one did it.  Add a green salad and garlic bread and you’ve got a meal.  It makes a large 9 X 13 inch pan, and leftovers re-heat well in the microwave.

Easy to Stuff Manicotti

1 package Manicotti shells (14 count)

1 pound lean ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 (26 oz) jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (You certainly may use homemade here)

14 pieces string cheese, unwrapped

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9 X 13 inch baking pan with non-stick spray.  Cook the manicotti shells according to the package directions, but reduce the cooking time by 1 minute.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown the ground beef and onion and drain fat.  Add the jar of spaghetti sauce to the meat and onion mixture and cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add half of the sauce mixture to the bottom of your prepared baking dish and spread to cover evenly.  When the manicotti shells are done, remove them from the pot with tongs and drain on foil.  Allow to cool enough to be handled and then stuff each manicotti shell with a piece of string cheese and arrange in the baking pan.  Cover the manicotti shells with the remaining sauce mixture, covering them as evenly as possible.  Bake covered for 25-30 minutes and them remove from oven and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.  Put back in the oven uncovered for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until cheese has melted.  Serve with Garlic Bread and a Salad for a complete meal.

Easy to Stuff Manicotti Dinner

Recipe Source: Taste of Home

Biscoff No-Bake Cookies

Biscoff No-Bake Cookies text and banner

I discovered Biscoff Spread several months ago and it’s still an obsession.  Here’s a little about Biscoff’s history: This is straight from the Biscoff website.  “Biscoff Spread’s story begins in Belgium in early 2007 with the simple but brilliant idea of Els Scheppers, a culinary enthusiast. Her idea? Create a creamy spread with the unique taste of Lotus Speculoos cookies. With recipe in hand, Els entered the Belgian prime time TV show “De Bedenkers” (The Inventors), competing against 2,000 other entrants. On November 25th a jury of food experts and TV personalities chose Els’s Speculoos spread recipe as one of the finalists of the competition. Lotus Bakeries and Els Scheppers worked together to perfect the recipe and so gave birth to this new culinary delight!”  Biscoff is a very creamy, warm caramely, gingery, cinnamony, smooth as silk spread with a texture very similar to peanut butter, only in my opinion it’s a little smoother.  This magnificent spread can be used in literally any baking recipe in place of peanut butter.  I love it on toast for breakfast or even straight out of the jar with a spoon… it’s that good!  I LOVE Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies and started thinking that substituting Biscoff spread for the peanut butter would make a fabulous cookie.  I was right!  You’re gonna love these.  Our local Walmart Neighborhood Market carries Biscoff, and you can also get it at Whole Foods, but not all grocery stores have it yet.  Go find yourself a jar of Biscoff and make these cookies.  Literally 10 minutes from start to finish.

Biscoff No-Bakes with open jar

Biscoff No-Bake Cookies

1 stick butter

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup Biscoff Spread (You can also use Cookie Butter from Trader Joe’s but I think Biscoff is better)

3 cups quick cooking oats

In a medium saucepan, bring butter, sugar and milk to a rolling boil.  (A rolling boil just means that it will continue to boil even when stirred).  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and Biscoff spread and gently combine.  Mixture will be very hot, so take care in stirring.  Once it’s all combined, stir in your oats until completely coated and saturated.  Drop by teaspoonfuls or tablespoonfuls, depending on how large you want your cookie, onto waxed paper or parchment paper.  I used a cookie scoop for this step.  Allow to set until cool and cookies are set.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.  Enjoy!

Stacked Biscoff No Bakes

Biscoff No-Bakes closed jar better

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Everyday Mom's Meals

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

Today I’m sharing The Pioneer Woman’s Strawberry Oatmeal Bars.  When I first started watching Ree on Food Network, this was one of the very first recipes she made on her show.  It was also the first of many Pioneer Woman recipes that I have tried.  These Strawberry Oatmeal Bars have a buttery top and bottom crust with strawberry preserves sandwiched between them.  This recipe comes together in just a few minutes and except for cutting in the butter, takes very little effort.  I’ve found that my fingers work much better for cutting in the butter, instead of a pastry blender.  One of these bars would be great with a tall glass of milk.

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

1 3/4 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups Old fashioned oats or Quick Cooking oats (either works great)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

10-12 ounces strawberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9 X 13 inch pan. (I save my butter wrappers in the freezer and anytime I need to butter a pan, just pull one out and rub it all over the pan).  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.  With a pastry blender or your fingers, cut in the butter until it is in very small pieces, combined well with the other ingredients and very crumbly.  Take half this mixture and press it into the bottom of  the buttered pan to make a crust.  Spread the strawberry preserves very gently over this bottom crust, being careful not to drag the oat mixture around while you spread.  Sprinkle the remainder of the crust mixture over the top of the strawberry preserves and lightly pat down, forming a top crust.  Bake for 30-40 minutes (Mine took exactly 35 minutes) until crust is golden brown and bubbly around the edges.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack.  Cut into bars.

Adapted slightly from: The Pioneer Woman

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

Looking for something quick and easy to put on the dinner table tonight? Well look no further, because you can have this on the table in as few as 20-25 minutes. It’s a one skillet side dish that is easy to make and clean-up after, with only one skillet to wash. This pasta side dish is great served with chicken or fish. One of our favorite meals, includes this side dish and a delicious brown sugar grilled salmon. If you haven’t tried orzo before, you’re gonna love this one! Orzo looks a lot like rice, but is made from semolina flour and is a very small sized pasta. The orzo is toasted in butter, then simmers in chicken broth and is finished off with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Very simple, but very delicious!

Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta

14.5 ounces chicken broth, canned or homemade (I use Better than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base to make my chicken broth)

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish (You may substitute 1 teaspoon dried basil for the 1/4 cup of fresh, but fresh is definitely better here)

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus a little extra for garnish.

In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and toast the orzo for about 5 minutes until golden, stirring constantly. Add the chicken broth. The skillet will be hot and the mixture will come to an immediate boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 13-15 minutes, until all liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup fresh basil and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, mixing until well combined. Garnish with additional parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon fresh basil.

Recipe Source: Allrecipes.com

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Grilled Salmon

I did not grow up in a seafood eating family.  My family’s idea of seafood was a Catfish Fry.  I only started eating seafood about 8-10 years ago on an RV trip to Florida with a group of good friends who loved seafood and encouraged me to try it all.  We dined out every night on seafood fresh from the ocean, and I soon began to realize what I’d been missing.  In the past couple of years, I’ve started making a few seafood dishes at home and this Grilled Salmon is a regular in our menu rotation.  I like a lot of variety in my menu planning, but I can happily eat this once a week and never get tired of it.  It has a wonderful brown sugar and soy sauce marinade that really enhances the flavor of the Salmon.  Throw it on a screaming hot grill and the marinade does its magic and caramelizes on the salmon, making for one spectacular piece of fish.

Salmon on Platter

Grilled Salmon

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup soy sauce (I usually use low-sodium)

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4-5 large salmon fillets

lemon pepper seasoning to taste

granulated garlic to taste (garlic powder works fine here)

salt to taste

Season salmon fillets with lemon pepper, granulated garlic and salt on both sides.  In a large ziploc bag, combine brown sugar, soy sauce, water and vegetable oil, mixing until brown sugar is dissolved.  Add your seasoned salmon fillets to the ziploc bag and remove as much air as possible and seal.  Refrigerate and marinate for 2 to 3 hours.  Preheat your grill to around 500°F.  Place salmon fillets on the grill at an angle and grill for 3 minutes.  Turn the salmon fillets in the opposite direction and grill for 2 minutes more.  (Doing it this way will give you beautiful diamond grill marks) Very carefully flip salmon fillets over to avoid breaking (I use a very large grilling spatula and pair of tongs to do this), and grill for 2 more minutes.  Remove from grill and dig in!

Adapted from: Allrecipes.com

Single Salmon with grill marks

White Strawberry Sangria

TGIF!!  I am so ready for the weekend, and to get the weekend started, we wanted something a little more special than an ordinary ole glass of wine… Now I’m not knocking a glass of wine, but this fruity, very strawberry, glass of Sangria, made cocktail time a lot more interesting today.  Last summer we did a Peach Sangria, that was infused with juicy summer peaches and lots of other fruits and we totally loved it, so when I saw this recipe for White Strawberry Sangria, I knew we had to try it.  This sangria definitely screams summer and in my neck of the woods, summer is right around the corner.  Beware, it’s very EASY to drink.  Try it, you’ll like it!

Double Strawberry Sangria close up

White Strawberry Sangria

5 servings

1 750-milliliter bottle white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Moscato

1/2 cup strawberry schnapps

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups sliced strawberries

In a 2-quart pitcher, combine wine, strawberry schnapps and sugar and stir well until combined and sugar is dissolved.  Add strawberries and stir to combine.  Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.  Serve over ice and garnish with a strawberry fan on the rim of the glass, if desired.  For a good visual on how to make a strawberry fan, check this out.

Recipe Source: In Good Taste

Single Strawberry Sangria

Smoked Baby Back Ribs

Perfect Rib Platter with text

Today was a perfect day for “smokin” some ribs… The temp hit about 80 degrees this afternoon, so I uncovered the smoker and got busy.  I have a Great Outdoors Smokey Mountain smoker that I purchased from Wal-mart a couple of years ago.  It was inexpensive and does a great job of smoking meat.  Smoking ribs are a several step process, so I’ll explain as I go.  I had intended to take a photo of the ribs as soon as they came off the smoker, before they were cut, but with 3 other hungry people waiting and drooling, I forgot all about it.  Take my word for it, these ribs were as good as I’ve had in any rib joint and so easy that anyone can do it, even if you don’t have a smoker.  Any grill can be set up for indirect heat for smoking ribs.  For expert advice about smoking ribs, go to Amazing Ribs.com

2 racks pork baby back ribs (you can also use St. Louis style ribs, but we prefer baby backs)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1/4 to 1/2 cup Rib Rub (recipe found here)

1 1/2 cups hickory chips or 4-5 hickory wood chunks, soaked for about 30 minutes (I prefer the chips, both can be purchased at Walmart)

Your favorite BBQ sauce (We like Stubbs and Sweet Baby Rays and mix the two together to get just the right amount of spicy and sweet)

Step 1: Set up your smoker.  Fill the water pan with water and the wood box with drained soaked hickory chips or wood chunks

Step 2: Open your package of vacuum sealed ribs and rinse them off.  I usually put down foil on the countertop, but was out today, so I put plastic wrap all over my kitchen island to keep the mess to a minimum.

Raw ribs

Step 3: Turn the ribs over and take a knife and insert it under the membrane on the back of the ribs and lift it up, pulling it all the way off.  Once you get a hold on the membrane it will come off very easily and in one piece.  The membrane is tough and removing it also allows the smoke to permeate the meat better.

Ribs membrane removal

Step 4: Rub 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil on each side of both racks of ribs.  This will help your rib rub to stick to the ribs better.  Then take your rib rub and sprinkle liberally over both sides of both racks, patting down lightly with your hands to help the rub stay in place.

Ribs with rub

Preheat your smoker to 225°F and put the ribs inside.  One on each rack.

Ribs in Smoker enhanced 2

Close the door and smoke for about 4 hours, or until done.  Because of all the bones, you cannot take a temperature reading to see if the ribs are cooked properly.  But when you lift them with your tongs, they should almost start to crack or come apart when you pick them up.  I started my ribs at 1:30pm and they were ready at 5:30pm.

It is very important that you maintain a steady temperature of 225-250 degrees during the entire smoking process.  For tender ribs, you want “low and slow”.

Perfect Temperature

When done, remove the ribs from your smoker and brush lightly with your favorite barbecue sauce.  You may serve them at this point, but I prefer to put them back in the smoker for another 15 minutes to “set” the barbecue sauce.

Enjoy!!  Ribs done right are simply scrumptious!

Snickerdoodles

Cookies are definitely my weakness.  Of all the things I bake, there’s nothing I LOVE more than a fresh, warm, chewy cookie.  I think we’ve already established that I’m crazy for cinnamon, so it should be no surprise that these Snickerdoodles are one of my all-time favorite cookies.  You NEED to bake these cookies.  You will LOVE them, too.  Your family will LOVE you for baking them.  They have a wonderful slightly crisp exterior from the cinnamon sugar coating, but once you take a bite, it’s all chewy deliciousness inside.

Snickerdoodle and milk 4

I’ve been making these for over 30 years, so I have no idea where the original recipe came from.

Yield: 42 cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

2 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, and then add eggs and vanilla, blending well.  Combine flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt and whisk together, then add to the butter mixture, mixing until well combined and dough comes together.  I use a small cookie scoop to scoop out the dough balls so that they are all uniform in size, and then I roll each in a  ball.  If you don’t have a cookie scoop, then just pinch off sections of dough and roll them into 1-inch balls.  Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl, and roll balls of dough in this mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I use a 13 X 18 (1/2 sheet) pan and get 15 dough balls on each sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.   Mine were perfect at 9 minutes.   I believe it’s better to under bake than over bake here.

Bacon and Egg Salad Sandwich

I mentioned earlier this week, just how much I LOVE bacon and eggs.  Here’s a bacon and egg recipe that’s not necessarily for breakfast but makes a delicious, easy-to-fix lunch or dinner.  The first time I made this, I had leftover deviled eggs from a New Year’s Eve party and just chopped them all up and added bacon.  The entire family loved it, so it ended up on the menu again, only this time I didn’t have leftover deviled eggs to start with.  The eggs, mustard and mayo make a very creamy egg salad and the bacon adds just the right balance of crunch and saltiness.  I think next time, I’ll add just a little dill pickle relish.  I hope you’ll give it a try.  I’m not too happy with the photo of the sandwich… I almost forgot to take one and the lighting was not so good.  By the time I tried to make it better in Photoshop, I just wasn’t in the mood and just couldn’t seem to get it right.  Oh, and I totally forgot to take a photo of the Bacon and Egg Salad with the dressing all combined… can you say, airhead?  Take my word for it, this Bacon and Egg Salad is delicious!  Sometimes simple recipes are the absolute best.

Bacon and Egg Salad Sandwiches-1

8 large hard boiled eggs

8 slices bacon, fried crisp and chopped (I used thick-sliced pre-cooked bacon from Costco–it’s the best!)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 heaping tablespoon yellow mustard

2 tablespoons dill pickle relish (optional – I will definitely do this next time)

Your choice of sandwich bread

Chop or grate boiled eggs and place in a medium sized bowl.  (Instead of chopping mine, I put them through an egg slicer horizontally and sliced them and then picked up each entire sliced egg immediately, keeping it together, and put it back through the egg slicer again, but this time vertically.  Easy Peasy and they were “chopped” in no time).

Add your bacon to the bowl and combine chopped eggs and bacon.  Then add your mayonnaise and yellow mustard and mix well.

Spread on your choice of sandwich bread and enjoy!  Told ya it was easy.  🙂

Mexican Inspired Turkey Burgers

Along with Pizza, Hamburgers are definitely one of America’s Favorite casual foods.  Nothing better than a juicy hamburger with the cheese melted to perfection on a buttered and toasted bun.  Today’s burger is a bit more of a healthy take on the traditional burger with some Tex-Mex thrown in.  We’ve traded in regular hamburger buns for Sandwich Thins in this recipe and didn’t even miss them.  We definitely saved a few calories there, too.  Top it off with either regular or low-fat cheddar or pepper jack cheese and you’ve got a great casual meal.

Mexican Inspired Turkey Burgers

1/4 cup salsa

1/4  cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

3 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano                                                                                           PTDC0004_edited-1

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (19 oz.) package 93% Lean Ground Turkey

4 hamburger buns or Sandwich Thins

Your desired Hamburger Toppings such as pickle, onion, tomato and lettuce

In a large bowl, combine Ground Turkey, salsa, cheese, paprika, oregano, cumin, sugar, garlic powder, thyme, salt and cayenne and mix well, shaping into four burgers.

Coat grill with cooking spray and grill, covered, over medium high heat for 5-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165° and juices run clear.

Place burgers on buns and top with additional cheese if desired and your favorite condiments and hamburger toppings.

Source: Taste of Home 2009 Healthy Cooking Annual Recipes, also at Taste of Home

Sunburst Lemon Bars

Sunburst Lemon Bars

What says spring better than a Sunburst Lemon Bar?  To me, spring is all about fresh, bright flavors, and you can’t get much brighter or fresher than these killer Sunburst Lemon Bars.  Instead of the traditional powdered sugar topping, this one has a light lemon glaze on top that really complements the tart creamy lemon filling.  We just can’t stop eating them!

Yield: 32 bars

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Filling:

4 large eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Note: Depending on the size of your lemons, you will need from 2-4 lemons for the juice and lemon peel in this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, flour and lemon peel on low speed until crumbly.  Line a 9 X 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over the long sides of the pan.  This will make removing the bars from the pan much easier later, allowing you to get more precise cuts.  Press this crust mixture evenly into the bottom of the lined pan.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until light golden brown.

Meanwhile, In a large bowl with wire whisk, lightly beat eggs.  Beat in remaining filling ingredients except lemon juice and lemon peel until well blended.  Beat in ¼ cup lemon juice and peel.

Remove partially baked base from oven.  Pour filling evenly over warm base and return to oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes longer until top is light golden brown.  Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl, mix 1 cup powdered sugar and enough lemon juice for desired spreading consistency until smooth.  Remove baked base and filling from pan and spread glaze over cooled lemon bars.  Cut into bars and store in the refrigerator.  We like them cold right out of the refrigerator, but you can always allow the bars to come to room temperature before eating.

Sunburst Lemon Bars Stacked

Very slightly adapted from: So How’s It Taste

Everyday Mom's Meals

Sunday Morning Breakfast Scramble

I love lazy Sunday mornings… no alarm clock waking me up at the crack of dawn.  Getting out of bed when I’m ready… No quickie breakfast eaten while I work… Just a nice, relaxing morning at my own pace with no demands and no place I HAVE to be.  This breakfast scramble has all the things in it I LOVE for breakfast and it’s  fairly quick and easy, too.  It’s very versatile and can be eaten with biscuits, toast, or nothing at all.  You could also throw in some jalapenos, green chiles or Cilantro and Mexican seasonings for a Tex-Mex version and maybe use Pepper Jack instead of cheddar.   I have also used sausage or ham in place of the bacon and those were equally yummy.  This morning it turned into breakfast burritos and was very filling and delicious.

Microwaving the diced potatoes before adding them to the skillet, gives them a good head start and means less time in the skillet, so they stay together and don’t fall apart.  Season each layer with salt and pepper before adding the next.  I use three potatoes in this because we LOVE potatoes, but you could always cut it down to two so that the ratio of eggs to potato is a little more even.  It’s going to be a gorgeous day here in Texas… Enjoy it where ever you are!

Breakfast Scramble

3 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes

1 tablespoon water

8 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

8 slices bacon, fried until crisp and chopped or crumbled (Pre-cooked bacon cooked in the microwave works great, too!)  Or you may use diced ham (about 1 cup) or 1/2 lb. browned pork or turkey sausage.

2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and drain your diced potatoes well in a colander, and then place into a microwaveable bowl along with the 1 tablespoon of water and microwave for 5 minutes.  Take them out and give them a quick stir and then microwave for 5 more minutes.  While your potatoes are cooking, fry the bacon until crisp and then lay on paper towels to drain and absorb some of the great.  Heat your vegetable oil on medium high heat in a large skillet and put in the potatoes, arranging them into an even layer over the bottom of the skillet.  If you fried your bacon and have leftover bacon grease, then definitely use that in place of the oil for even more added flavor.  I didn’t have any raw bacon on hand so I used thick sliced pre-cooked bacon that I microwaved for 1 1/2 minutes.  Put on the lid and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the potatoes are brown and crispy on the bottom.  Using a spatula, flip and turn over the potatoes, again arranging them into a single layer, and cook for 3-4 more minutes.  While the potatoes are cooking, combine the eggs and milk and whisk with a fork, adding salt and pepper to taste.  When your potatoes are brown and crispy, season with salt and pepper, then pour in your egg mixture and add the chopped/crumbled bacon.  Turn the heat down to low and cook and turn the mixture until the eggs are set to your liking.  Top it off with the shredded sharp cheddar cheese and put the lid back on just long enough for the cheese to melt.  This makes a huge skillet full.  I store leftovers in the fridge for easy weekday breakfasts.  Just re-heat in the microwave on 60% power until heated through and hot and pair with your favorite bread or flour tortillas.

Breakfast Scramble closeup

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Bacon Cheddar Scones wheel framed

I LOVE SCONES!  They are so quick and easy to pull together and you can have them on the table in about 30 minutes.  Pair these flaky, cheesy, bacony scones with some scrambled or fried eggs and you’ve got a great weekend breakfast.  These scones use sour cream, but I’m sure you could sub fat free greek yogurt and get the same delicious results.

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Bacon Cheddar Scones stacked II

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large egg

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

8 slices bacon, cooked, cool and chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped chives (I had green onions, so I used them)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture.  Use the tips of your fingers to work in the butter.  It will be the texture of coarse meal.  In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream and egg until smooth.  Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into the flour mixture until large dough clumps form.  Stir in the cheese, bacon and chives, until they are well incorporate into the dough.  Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball.  At first there may seem like there isn’t enough liquid, but as you press the dough will come together.  Pat dough into a 7 inch disk about 3/4″ thick.  Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 8 triangles.  Place the scones 1 inch apart on the parchment lined baking sheet and brush with heavy cream.  Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.  Best served warm.  This dough freezes extremely well.  To freeze scones and bake later, after cutting dough into triangles, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, then transfer to a ziplock bag.  I’ve done this several times for potluck breakfasts with our camping club, simply thawing them out in the RV fridge over night and then baking them the next morning.  Same great results.

Source: My Baking Addiction

Bacon Cheddar Scones stacked side-view

A Wiener Dog in the Kitchen

A Wiener Dog in the Kitchen

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

So happy it’s the weekend!!  What a stressful and emotional week this week has been, between the tragedy in Boston and the explosion in West, we are ready for some R & R.  Tonight we’re having dinner with some very good friends and it’s my pleasure to bring dessert.  With spring in the air here in Texas, the weather is starting to get a little warmer, so I wanted to make something rich and creamy and decadent, but not too heavy.  This Key Lime Pie should just about do it.  It has a buttery graham cracker crust, topped with a key lime smooth as silk filling, crowned with swirls of real whipped cream and garnished with key lime slices.  It was my first time to make Key Lime Pie, but definitely won’t be my last.  The pie was a big hit at dinner with our friends and we all loved it!  I have a lot of leftover key limes, so I’m going to be making another one tomorrow to freeze.  Aren’t those keys limes adorable?

Key Lime Pie

Yield: 8 servings

Lime Filling:
4 teaspoons grated lime zest
4 egg yolks
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (I used key limes)
 
Graham Cracker Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs or about 9 graham crackers crushed into crumbs.
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
 
Whipped Cream Topping:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled (very cold)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
 
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. Make the filling: Whisk the lime zest and egg yolks together in a medium bowl for 2 minutes.  Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, then the lime juice.  Set aside at room temperature to thicken while you prepare the crust.
3. Make the crust: In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar.  Drizzle the melted butter into the graham cracker/sugar mixture, stirring until well combined.  Once the butter is incorporated, the texture should be like wet sand.  Transfer the crumbs to a 9-inch pie plate and evenly press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the the pie plate forming a pie crust.  Bake the crust until it is fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
 4. Once the crust has cooled, pour the prepared lime filling into the crust.  Bake until the center is set, yet still wiggly when jiggled, 15 to 17 minutes.  Return the pie to the wire rack to cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours. (At this point, the pie can be covered directly with plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
 5. Make the whipped cream: Place electric mixer beaters or whisk, mixing bowl, and heavy cream into the freezer for 10 minutes before making the cream.  Using an electric mixer, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form.  At this point, add the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while continuing to whip the cream, until stiff peaks form.  Decoratively pipe the whipped cream over the filling or spread the whipped cream evenly with a spatula.  Garnish with lime slices if desired, and serve.  Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Recipe from Brown-Eyed Baker

Cinnamon Chip Scones

I’m definitely a bacon and egg kind of girl when it comes to breakfast.  I like em all kinds of ways….in an omelet, breakfast burritos, in a biscuit sandwich, etc, etc, etc.  But sometimes, I just need a little something different, especially when my sweet tooth kicks in.  These flaky, buttery, cinnamonny (is that a word?) scones fit the bill perfectly!  Try em, you’ll like em!

Cinnamon Chip Scones Close up

Cinnamon Chip Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon, divided

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, frozen

1/2 cup cinnamon chips

1/2 cup sour cream

1 large egg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

powdered sugar (optional)

milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Grate butter into the flour mixture using the large holes of a box grater.  Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until it is the texture of coarse meal, and then stir in the cinnamon chips.  In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth.  Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into the flour mixture until large dough clumps form.  Use your hands to make the dough come together.  Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7 to 8 inch circle about 3/4 inch thick.  Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over circle of dough.  Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles.  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart.  Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature, but I believe they are at their best when warm.  Making a powdered sugar glaze with powdered sugar and milk is optional, but the glaze makes them over the top good.

Adapted from Simple Scones

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

Cinnamon and Sugar…. Ahhh!   You are going to love this one because it is so quick and easy.  The cinnamon syrup comes together in the microwave and once it’s been combined to make ooey gooey goodness with the popcorn, it bakes in the oven at a low temperature for 30 minutes to crisp up.  Finished off with a sweet drizzle of marshmallow candy melts, this is one of my favorite sweet treats of all time.  Mother’s Day is coming up in May and a cute canister filled with this popcorn makes a great gift for the “mom who has everything”.

12 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup kernels)
1 cup sugar (You can use brown sugar if you prefer more of a caramel flavor, but I really like to let the cinnamon shine)
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 squares almond bark or 1/2 cup marshmallow candy melts

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Pop your popcorn.  You can use air popped or microwave popcorn.  I prefer air popped cause it’s just easier.

Place popcorn in a very large bowl and set aside.  That is some hot cinnamon goo you are going to be pouring over the popcorn and you need plenty of room to toss it around and get it really coated.

Combine sugar and cinnamon in a big, microwave-safe bowl. I used my 8 cup Pampered Chef Batter Bowl.

Slice butter into pats and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup over the top of everything.

Microwave on high for 30 seconds and then stir to combine.  Microwave for 2 minutes and stir, then microwave for an additional two  minutes.  It will be nice and bubbly.  Remove it from the microwave and stir in your baking soda and vanilla, mixing well.  Beware, it will bubble and foam up quite a bit when you do this.

Immediately pour this hot cinnamon mixture over the popcorn in your large bowl and toss and mix together well until all kernels are evenly coated.  You’ll want to do this as quickly as possible as the mixture does begin to get really thick and start hardening pretty fast.

Once your popcorn is coated, pour it into a well greased large baking pan or sheet pan (lining with foil first makes for easy cleanup) and put it in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring after every 10 minutes.

After it’s been in the oven for 30 minutes, take it out and pour it out onto parchment or waxed paper on the countertop to cool and harden.

Drizzle with your melted almond bark or marshmallow candy melts.  I like to put the candy melts in a ziploc bag in the microwave for melting, then just seal and snip off a corner for easy drizzling.  Allow your almond bark or marshmallow candy melts to dry completely and then put the popcorn in an airtight container or ziploc bag for storage.   If you like cinnamon, you are going to love these!!  Sweet, crunchy, cinnamon goodness!

Adapted from Keeping Up with the Johnsons

Apple Coleslaw

Spring has officially sprung!  Well at least here in Texas it has, with a forecasted high of 75 degrees today.  Warmer weather means grilling and smoking on our back patio.  Last night I put a 10 lb. Boston Butt on the Smoker and woke up this morning to some “fall apart tender” smoky meat.  I’ll save that one for another day, because today we’re focusing on the supporting star, our favorite Coleslaw.

You say you don’t like coleslaw?  Really?  Well try this one, then.  Before trying this recipe, my boys wouldn’t touch coleslaw with a 10-foot pole.  They do however, LOVE apples, and this coleslaw recipe is chock full of gala and granny smith apples.  It’s tangy and crunchy with a hint of sweetness from the brown sugar in the dressing.  It’s our absolute favorite and a must anytime BBQ is served at the Campbell House.  Today it’s being paired with Smoked Pulled Pork.  Is it lunchtime yet?

By the way, that little mandolin thingy is my trusty Boerner V-Slicer.  Besides my chef’s knife, it is probably the 2nd most used kitchen tool I own.  It’s awesome for slicing, dicing, mincing or julienning.  I got mine from Ebay, but I’m sure Amazon has them too.

Apple Coleslaw  

(Makes 6-8 servings)

3 cups coleslaw mix

1 unpeeled gala apple, cored and chopped finely or julienned

1 unpeeled granny smith apple, cored and chopped finely or julienned

1 carrot, grated (optional, since there’s already some in the coleslaw mix)

3 green onions, finely chopped

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the coleslaw mix, gala apple, granny smith apple, carrot and green onions.  In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise, brown sugar, and lemon juice.  Pour dressing over the salad and mix to combine; refrigerate.

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

My Favorite Dinner Rolls

No-Knead Dinner Rolls captioned

Today I’m sharing my favorite dinner rolls.  I made these last weekend to go with Easter lunch.  They are soft, buttery, melt-in-your mouth delicious!  Did I mention that they are super easy?  Some of my favorite recipes in the world come from Ree Drummond’s site, and these are her No-Knead Dinner Rolls, slightly adapted.  The recipe makes a lot of rolls, so you may want to half it. I even took the leftover roll dough on Tuesday and made Hamburger Buns for our dinner Tuesday night.  They were THE BEST Hamburger buns we’ve ever eaten and definitely took our plain ole cheeseburger to another level.  The dough will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days so you can make it ahead, but you will have to continue punching it down as it does continue to rise.

No-Knead Dinner Rolls

4 cups milk (I used whole milk but have used 2% in the past)

1 cup sugar

2 sticks butter, melted

9 cups flour

2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder

1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda

1 tablespoon salt

Pour 4 cups milk into a stock pot or dutch oven.  Add the sugar and melted butter and stir to combine.  Heat this mixture to lukewarm (between 90 and 110 degrees)

When your mixture has reached the correct temperature range, add in 4 cups of flour and 2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) of active dry yeast.  After the yeast and flour are nicely incorporated, add another 4 cups of flour.  Stir together and allow to sit, covered with a teal towel or lid, for an hour.  After about an hour it should have almost doubled in size.  When it has risen sufficiently, add 1 more cup of flour, 1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder, 1 scant teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon salt.  Stir (or knead just a bit) until combined.

Butter or spray with non-stick cooking spray, 2 or more regular sized muffin pans.  Form the rolls by pinching off a walnut-sized piece of dough and rolling it into a little ball.  Repeat and tuck 3 balls of dough into each buttered muffin cup.  Continue until pans are full and cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for about 1 to 2 hours.

Bake in a 400° oven until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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Oreo Rice Krispie Treats

Oreo Rice Krispies Treats

Oreo Rice Krispies Treats

Not sure why, but I get in such a dilemma when trying to decide what to make for family gatherings.  I always fight myself over going tried-n-true or venturing out and trying something new.  We had the family over on Easter for a late lunch and when I saw these Oreo Rice Krispie Treats from http://www.chef-in-training.com, I knew the family would love them.  I was right…

Golden Oreos Rice Krispie Treats

Golden Oreos Rice Krispie Treats

Oreo Rice Krispie Treats

6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

20 Regular or Golden Oreos, chopped (I made both Regular and Golden Oreos)

6 cups miniature marshmallows

4 tablespoons butter

White chocolate and Wilton Marshmallow Candy Melts, for drizzling (optional)

Butter a 9 X 13 inch pan, or spray with cooking spray (I save up all my butter wrappers in the freezer in a Ziploc bag and use one anytime I need to butter a pan)

In a large bowl, combine Rice Krispies and chopped Oreos.

Chop your Oreos so that some are chunky and some are almost smashed.  I took half the Oreos and chopped them and took the other half and put them in a Ziploc bag and beat and smashed them until they were fine crumbs (you could do the same thing with a food processor, but it’s just easier to use the Ziploc and helps relieve any stress at the same time).

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and marshmallows and heat until melted, stirring constantly.

Pour melted marshmallow mixture over the cereal and Oreos and quickly combine, using a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray (This is key, that is some “sticky stuff”).

Press the combined mixture into your prepared pan and press the mixture in the dish, flattening as needed.

Let cool and then drizzle (optional).  I used Wilton Marshmallow Candy Melts on the ones with Regular Oreos and White Chocolate on the ones with Golden Oreos.  Much to my surprise, the ones with the Golden Oreos were even a bigger hit than the Regular ones.

Golden Rice Krispies 3

Adapted from http://www.chef-in-training.com/2012/12/oreo-rice-krispie-treats.com

Microwave (from scratch) Banana Pudding… Yes, I said microwave!

The microwave is probably the most under utilized piece of cooking equipment in your kitchen.  Most of us use it for popping bags of microwave popcorn and re-heating leftovers.  Banana Pudding is a traditional southern dessert that I’ve been eating and making for most of my life and invokes some wonderful memories of Sunday dinners growing up.  My grandmother would stand over the stove for the 20 or so minutes it would take to make banana pudding and faithfully stir until the magic came together.  She was a wonderful cook and role model, but she often used short cuts such as god forbid, Jello Cook and Serve pudding.  I didn’t know what a from scratch banana pudding was until I was grown and made it myself.  Wow!!  What a revelation!!  Granny didn’t know what she was missing, but now that I do, I always make my pudding from scratch.  I knew there had to be an easier way than standing over a hot stove, so I did a little experimenting with the microwave one day and found that you can get the same results, but much easier and quicker.

Microwave Banana Pudding

Microwave Banana Pudding

Inspired by Original Nilla Banana Pudding

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

3 egg yolks

1 pinch salt

2 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

3-4 ripe bananas, sliced

1 box Nilla Wafers or any other brand of Vanilla Wafer cookies

Whisk together sugar, flour, salt, egg yolks and milk in a large glass mixing bowl or glass 4-cup measuring cup, until well blended.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes, remove and whisk.  Microwave for 2 more minutes, remove and whisk.  Microwave for an additional 2 minutes, removing and whisking in the vanilla.  In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish or casserole dish, layer Nilla Wafers, bananas and pudding mixture and repeat layers with Nilla Wafers.   We like it just like this, no meringue or anything else on top.