Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chili Con Queso - Revved Up!

This recipe is for all the people who are sitting around trying to come up with something fun to make for their Superbowl party. This chili con queso is one of my all-time favorite dips, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman Cooks. I've made this the last couple of times we've had get togethers and it's always a big hit.

Not only is it sure to be a hit, but it's quick and easy to make. You can increase or decrease the spiciness depending on your taste preference. You'll notice the recipe calls for 1 to 3 jalapeno peppers. The real heat from the peppers comes from the inside membranes. I usually throw in two peppers but strip the membranes from one of them. This gives it a nice kick, but not so much that your mouth is on fire.

I've gotten into the habit of serving this up in our fondue pot, as it needs to stay warm. It makes a rather large batch, so serve it in something fairly big - a crock pot would work perfectly. And it is just perfect served with tortilla chips.

So stop racking your brain about your Superbowl menu. Buy some drinks, make a serving of Swedish meatballs, maybe some small sandwiches, and this dip. And enjoy the game!

p.s. I have no idea who I'm rooting for, as I'm not a football follower. Who should I root for?

Chili Con Queso - Revved Up!

2 lb package Velveeta Cheese
1 lb package Hot Breakfast Sausage (Jimmy Dean, Potter’s, etc.)
½ large onion
1 regular can Rotel (either Regular or Extra Hot, according to preference)
1 7-oz can diced green chilies
1 to 3 finely diced jalapeno peppers, according to preference

1. Chop the onion and brown with the breakfast sausage. Drain excess fat then return to pan. Cut Velveeta into cubes and add to warm skillet. Add Rotel and green chilies, and stir together over low heat until mixture is melted. Add finely diced jalapenos, stir together, and serve warm with tortilla chips.

Queso can be frozen flat in Ziploc bags and reheated.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TWD: The Dog Ate My Dorie Assignment

If I were a teacher and ever had a kid tell me that his dog ate his homework, I'd surely think "whatever" and roll my eyes. But now I'm (very unfortunately) using the excuse.

You see, my 70-pound golden retriever has some real issues. She's very well known for eating things that she shouldn't. But the problem is that she tricks me. That's right, she tricks me, so it's not my fault. She goes through these spurts where she's really, really bad for about two weeks straight. We don't leave her alone in the house, we remove all items from the countertops and we keep a close eye on her at all times. And then she all of a sudden goes back to being a really good dog... for a good 6 months or so. Then we get really easy on her - leave her in the house to roam free while we're not around, no accidents, no problems, nothing. And she's a perfect little angel. For such a long time that we forget she ever had a problem. Until she suddenly strikes again.

I made this week's assignment, the Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread. I used an 8x8-inch pan and had leftover batter. I decided I'd make muffins with the leftover batter and threw in some cranberries for extra flavorful muffins. I fortunately even snapped a quick picture of them fresh out of the oven:

And then, since everyone said the gingerbread was better the second day, I wrapped them all up well and sat them waaaay in the back corner of my countertop to sit for a day. The next morning my family and I went out for several hours. Then, get this - my husband and I had the conversation on our way home about how great Sandy (our dog) has been lately.

When we arrived home, we very unsuspectingly walked into the house. And then Sandy ran under the coffee table and started wagging her tail in a very guilty manner. That's a sure sign she did something bad while we were gone. Except... I didn't see anything at first. But then I step into the kitchen and see this on the countertop and the floor:


And then it hits me... where's the gingerbread?!?! WHERE IS THE GINGERBREAD?!?!?

I know right where it is - in Sandy's stomach. Before you start to worry, she has eaten worse. Some of which include an entire package of chocolate fudge, a chocolate rum cake, and numerous tissues and paper products. She clearly must have a stomach of steel because she's always fine after eating such things. And to make the situation a tad bit better, my sister-in-law and a co-worker of hers who are both veterinarians, were staying at our house that weekend for a work conference they had to attend. So Sandy was in good hands following this debacle. Unfortunately, the veterinarians had no dessert while they stayed with us.

I think the worst part of this is that I reeeally wanted this gingerbread. I didn't even get a tiny, single, little bite. That darn dog.

Well, if anyone wants the recipe, you'll find it on Heather's site Sherry Trifle.

Better luck next week!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Broccoli-Cheddar Puff and an Award!

Does anyone else have recipes in their recipe box/binder that they know they want to make someday but just never get around to actually doing it? Well, that sums up this recipe for me. I have a big binder that I keep all of the recipes I've found that I know I want to try someday. This recipe has been in my binder for years and years (it's so old, I have no idea where I got it). It just looks and sounds like something I'd love. But... I'd never gotten around to making it.

So I finally decided that I needed to make it already! I usually stick to easy side dishes that I can whip together in a hurry. I think that's why I kept passing over this one. It is rather time consuming and something you need to plan ahead for. But it's perfect for company and will certainly end up being the star of your meal. And I absolutely love the bright colors - the greens and yellows look so delicious.

So... bookmark this recipe and try it one of these days! Even if it takes you a year or two, it'll be worth it!

Broccoli-Cheddar Puff

5 Tbsp. butter or margarine
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 and 1/4 cups whole milk
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
2 boxes (10 oz. each) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and squeezed dry
7 large eggs, separated
1 and 1/2 cups coarse soft fresh bread crumbs (from 3 slices firm white bread)

1. In 4-quart saucepan, melt 4 Tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, salt, and ground red pepper until blended; cook 1 minute, stirring. Gradually stir in milk; cook until mixture boils and thickens, stirring frequently. Stir in Cheddar; cook just until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in broccoli.

2. In small bowl, with fork, lightly beat egg yolks. Stir in about 1/2 cup cheese sauce. Gradually pour egg-yolk mixture into cheese sauce, stirring rapidly to prevent curdling. Cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease shallow 3 and 1/2 quart ceramic casserole dish or 13x9-inch glass baking dish. In microwave-safe small bowl, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. butter in microwave oven on High 15 to 20 seconds or until melted, swirling bowl once. Add bread crumbs; stir until well combined.

4. In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted. With rubber spatula, gently fold one third of whites into cheese mixture. Fold cheese mixture gently back into remaining whites.

5. Pour mixture into prepared casserole. Sprinkle crumb mixture on top. Bake 40 minutes or until top is browned and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve immediately.

Now for the award! Allie over at Finding Inspiration in Food was kind enough to pass this award onto me. I'm honored, as I think her site is fantastic. I need to take some tips from her on her great food photography.

There are so many amazing blogs out there, but of course I have a few of my very favorites who I'd like to pass this award along to.

First, Cathy from The Tortefeasor. Her food always looks amazing and her commentary is top notch. I'd love to be able to tell a story even half as well as she does. Thanks for always keeping me laughing, Cathy!

Jaime from Good Eats 'N Sweet Treats deserves this so much! Her food creations are absolutely gorgeous - they look better than most I see in cookbooks and magazines. And she has great taste. I want to try everything she posts!

My dear friend Michelle from Sweet Sensations. She is a very old friend of mine and is one of the kindest, sweetest people I know. Her food creations are also very sweet. You'll be drooling all over your keyboard when you see some of the things she makes.

Thanks again Allie for this award!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TWD: Berry Surprise Cake

Up this week - the Berry Surprise Cake. On the outside, it looks like just a regular old cake...

But on the inside lies the surprise...

Gorgeous, delicious strawberries.

Dorie suggested using raspberries for this, but I'm not a big fan of them. I was hoping for a cake that would remind me of strawberry shortcake and fortunately that's just what I ended up with.

But, I can't write this post letting everyone think this was a breeze for me to make. So many things went wrong that I almost threw in the towel. To begin with, I had pockets of flour in my batter but I didn't want to overmix the "diva" batter per Dorie's instructions, so I worried about how it would turn out once baked. And the recipe calls for using an 8-inch pan. All I had was a 9-inch, and I wasn't about to run out and buy a new pan just for this cake. So I used what I had and ended up with a very short cake, which perhaps could also partly be attributed to my batter not being perfect.

And do you think slicing off a layer of a very short cake is easy? Nope, it's not! So the top layer that I took off was very uneven and broken. Then, because I wanted to make matters worse, I followed the wrong directions for the filling. I started out with the cream cheese as called for, then Dorie said to add the sugar, the vanilla, and the cream. Well, I flipped the page back to read the quanitities and accidentally read those of the frosting (which also used sugar, vanilla and cream). So I put in powdered sugar (instead of granulated) with my cream cheese, too little vanilla and the wrong amount of cream. Like I said, things weren't going my way. But it tasted alright, so I decided to just go with it.

Then, in went the berries. Because my cake was so short, I couldn't get in as many as I'd have liked. So it was just a small layer of strawberries for this cake. Fortunately, it ended up tasting quite good despite my frustrations with it. I served it up to some family who also seemed to enjoy it. So all turned out well in the end! And if I ever make this again, I'll buy a 9-inch pan and read the directions a little better.

Many thanks to Mary Ann of Meet Me In The Kitchen for selecting this week's recipe. If you'd like to find the recipe, follow it correctly, and make this yourself, go to her site!

Up next week: Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection is the Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins. I was happy to be making something that wasn't so sweet for a change. The selection was made by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake. She'll have the recipe posted on her blog, and you'll also want to stop by her site to see all of the other fantastic treats she has posted.

I went into making this recipe expecting the final product to be pretty typical cornbread. I really like cornbread, so this thought excited me. However, as I added ingredients such as chili powder, jalapeno and red pepper, I knew it was going to be a bit different than basic cornbread. And WOW, it was very different than the cornbread you're probably used to.

I really loved how the flavors came together in this bread. The muffins had a tiny bit of a spicy kick and they tasted SO much better than any cornbread I've ever had. I REALLY enjoyed these and found them to be incredibly easy to make. I'll definitely be making these again - perhaps with a big bowl of chili next time. Yum!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday's Super Tip: Soft Brown Sugar

Ever pull out your brown sugar and find it to be hard as a rock? I usually end up tossing it and assuming it's no longer good. But, there is indeed a way to keep it soft!

Just throw a piece of bread into your bag of brown sugar. It softens it right up! And for some way-over-my-head, scientific reason, the slice of bread will not mold. So technically you could keep it there indefinitely, although that just seems a little gross. I'd recommend switching it out every so often.

So don't throw that brown sugar away - it can be saved!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Red Velvet Cake Balls

If you haven't ever stumbled across the site Bakerella, I urge you to go check it out. Not only is Bakerella really good at baking and writing, she is insanely creative and talented at food decorating. I am always amazed at her little creations and how picture perfect they are. She makes me want to spend just a tad bit more time when I'm putting on the finishing touches of my baked goods.

So I snatched her very popular recipe for cake balls and found out exactly why they're so famous. And I was surprised at how easy they were to make. I must admit I stared at the picture of her cake balls for a long time and wondered - first of all, how did she do that? And second of all, how long did she spend on hers to make them look that perfect?

This recipe is extremely easy. But be warned, unless you're extremely patient and have a lot of time on your hands, they'll probably come out as brown chocolate blobs like mine did. But the good news is that they're reeeeeally good and you'll get a lot of compliments. My hubby took some to work and was told that I needed to open a business selling these. I don't think they would have said that if they compared mine with Bakerella's, but I guess it's agreed that they tasted good!

Just a note on the recipe - Bakerella suggests using chocolate bark for the outside coating. I couldn't find chocolate bark, but my supermarket sold bags of chocolate candy coating, which worked great for me. And only melt a little at a time - it coats better when it's hot and very melted. If you try them, let me know what you think!

Red Velvet Cake Balls
(recipe from Bakerella)

1 box red velvet cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
1 package chocolate bark (regular or white chocolate)
wax paper

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

Makes 45-50 cake balls.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Peppered Beef Soup in Bread Bowls

One of my favorite things to make this season is soup in the crockpot. I love its warmth and the smells that carry throughout my house, making me hungry pretty much all day long. Everytime you leave and come back in the house, that wonderful smell is waiting for you and making you anticipate dinner all that much more. This soup is no exception. Peppered Beef Soup is hearty and has a wonderful mixture of flavors, thanks in part to the beer and the balsamic vinegar. It's a real crowd pleaser.

I really love ordering soup at a restaurant and having it served up in a bread bowl. Not only is it visually appealing, but the bread is so delicious with the flavors of the soup soaked into it. This bread bowl recipe is extremely easy and is great for company. You can use the inside centers to make croutons, or toast them and serve them alongside soup.

Peppered Beef Soup
(adapted from Southern Living)

1 (4-lb.) sirloin tip beef roast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 medium-size red onion, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
16 oz. package baby carrots
12 oz. bottle lager beer
10.5 oz. can beef broth
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes
1 Tbsp. beef bouillon cubes
1 and 1/2 to 3 tsp. freshly ground pepper, depending on how "peppery" you want it
4 bay leaves
salt to taste

1. Rinse roast, and pat dry. Cut a 1-inch-deep cavity in the shape of an "X" on top of roast (do not cut all the way through roast). Dredge roast in all-purpose flour; shake off excess.

2. Cook roast in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.

3. Place roast in a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Stuff cavity with sliced red onion and minced garlic; top roast with potatoes and baby carrots. Pour beer, beef broth, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce into slow cooker. Sprinkle with parsley, bouillon, and ground pepper. Add bay leaves to liquid in slow cooker.

4. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or until tender. Shred roast using two forks. Season with salt to taste.

Makes 12 cups

Toasted Bread Bowls

6 (5- to 6-inch) artisan bread rounds
vegetable cooking spray
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 inches from top of each bread round; scoop out center, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Reserve soft centers for another use. Lightly coat bread shells and, if desired, cut sides of tops, with cooking spray. Place cut sides up on baking sheets. Sprinkle with cheese.

2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

Makes 6 bread bowls.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sunday's Super Tip - A Safe Cutting Board

I have a few cutting boards that always seem to slide around on my countertop while I'm trying to chop something. Talk about unsafe - it's a miracle I haven't chopped off an extremity yet!

Thankfully I've found a really helpful tip that's going to ensure that I keep all of my extremities. Here's what I do:

Take a paper towel and run it under some water to get it very damp. Put it down on your countertop and place your cutting board on top of it. Next, chop away with peace of mind. That cutting board isn't going anywhere.

Pretty clever, huh?