Friday, March 30, 2012

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Once again, I know March isn't exactly pumpkin season.  I should be making something Springy or Easter-ish.   But I have the upcoming joy of moving soon, so I am in pantry cleaning mode.  I had a can of pumpkin that survived Fall, but needed to go.  So I flipped through some cookbooks and found this recipe for pumpkin snickerdoodles that I hadn't tried yet.  I was preparing desserts for a party I was going to (the same one I made Twix caramel popcorn for) so I thought these would be perfect.  This way I could use up my pumpkin, but my husband couldn't complain about having to eat a bunch of pumpkin stuff.  He's not pumpkin's biggest fan.

So I whipped up a batch and took them to our party hot out of the oven.  When we got there, the main course was still cooking.  I set my tray of cookies out where some people were sitting.  I kid you not, half of them were gone before we even starting eating supper.  So I guess you could say they were a hit!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cheesy Guacamole Panini

I saw a pin on Pinterest a while back ago for a grilled cheese guacamole sandwich that looked fantastic.  I loved the idea, but never bothered pinning it, or checking it out.  Fast forward a bit.  I then found myself with no lunch plan and an avocado I needed to eat.  That post came back to my mind and I knew I now had lunch plans!

So I whipped up a batch of fresh guacamole.  You can check out my favorite guacamole recipe (heaven in a bowl!) or make your own.  I used Mexican blend cheese because I thought it would go well with the guacamole.  And it did!  But feel free to use whatever you have on hand.  I'm not the boss of you!  I was afraid if I made a regular grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with guacamole I would dump out all the good stuff while flipping.  So I made a "panini."  I use quotations because I don't actually have a panini press.  If you also don't have a panini press, no worries.  An indoor grill like a George Foreman works.  No Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine?  Put the sandwich on a skillet like you would for a grilled cheese sandwich and then top it with a heavy pot like a Dutch oven.  Problem solved!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Twix Caramel Popcorn

Believe it or not, I used to think I didn't like caramel popcorn.  As a kid, when my family got one of those bins of popcorn for Christmas, I stuck with plain stuff, and maybe took a handful of white cheddar.  But no caramel for me.  I also thought I didn't like chocolate.  I was a very stupid child.  Now I know that I love both.  Unfortunately, maybe I love both a little too much!

I saw this recipe for Twix caramel popcorn on Two Peas and Their Pod's website and knew I had to try it.  Caramel corn drizzled with melted chocolate and garnished with Twix bars sounds pretty darn good to me!  I bought a big bag of Twix Fun Size candy bars and have been playing around with adding them to some goodies while trying to keep my husband out of them.  Some of my experiments have been more successful than others.  Some days I have been more successful at keeping my husband out of the Twix than others.  This recipe came from a tested source so it wasn't much of an experiment.  But it was totally successful!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whole Wheat Maple Pecan Scones with Maple Icing

This post is dedicated to my mother-in-law.  Last year for my birthday she got me The Pioneer Woman Cooks, which is a fantastic cookbook and the original source of this recipe (I health-ed it up a little bit!).  My birthday is approaching again, and yesterday I got a package from her with several more cookbooks, including The Pioneer Woman's new cookbook.  Score!  Not only did she provide me with this recipe, she made The Pioneer Woman's maple pecan scones for us while we were visiting last year.  I kid you not, these were my first scones EVER!  And I was instantly in love.  It doesn't hurt that they were maple pecan, which is one of my favorite flavor combinations.  But since that time I have made myself several other scones (a few of which I have already shared) and have loved them all. 

I have been wanting to make these scones myself since the moment I took my first bite of the batch my mother-in-law made.  They are so delectable!  We're talking about flaky, buttery, scones with crunchy bits of pecans covered with a sugary, maple-y icing, topped with more crushed pecans.  Add a cup of hot coffee and you have pure breakfast nirvana.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Makeover Monday: Secret Ingredient Tuna Salad

Today's makeover recipe is going to be short and sweet.  Why?  Because after 5 straight days of rain and clouds last week, it is 80 degrees and beautiful today, and I want to be outside!  Also, I am writing about tuna salad which is simple to make!  Now, you might be wondering why I am making over tuna salad.  It's tuna.  It's salad.  Must be healthy already, right?  Wrong.  There is one particular ingredient in standard tuna salad that sullies the good name of tuna. 

Yes, I'm talking about mayonnaise.  Even the measly amount of mayonnaise in the traditional tuna salad I made over, just 1/4 cup, packs in 19 grams of fat and 230 calories!  That's more than twice the calories you get from the can of tuna in this salad.  So what you end up with is your lean, healthy, tuna swimming around in a sea of fatty mayonnaise, and after a few innocent seeming sandwiches, you find yourself with a sea of fat around your midsection.  Fortunately, I have a life raft to take you out of your sea of fat and onto skinny island!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pepperoni Mozzarella Sticks

As I said in my Wednesday post on Asian Honey BBQ Wings, I am totally digging the March Madness action going on this weekend.  In case you missed it, the Sweet Sixteen started last night.  The thrills continued with a great upset and some final possession finishes.  You've gotta love it!  Unless your favorite team lost.  In that case, I feel your pain.  Maybe you don't love it if you have no interest in sports.  In that case, I don't follow.

Anyway, in my post on Wednesday I lamented the loss of college days when friends would gather at a sports bar to watch a big game.  Well, today one of my husband's coworkers invited us to a Sweet Sixteen watch party.  Sometimes whining pays off!  I've been working this afternoon on what I am going to bring to the party, so I thought I would share with you what you should bring to your next party--pepperoni mozzarella sticks.  If you aren't convinced by the name that these are awesome, there's nothing I can do for you.  But in case you need further information, I'm talking about melted mozzarella cheese wrapped up in pepperoni slices, wrapped up in a biscuit crust.  I don't care if you watch basketball or not.  You need to make these this weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Strawberry Lemonade Smoothie

It's still raining!  I am sitting on my couch lamenting the loss of the beautiful, sunny weather we enjoyed last week.  During that magical time I made my favorite, go-to smoothie-strawberry lemonade smoothies.  I am hoping that if I post this recipe today, the sun will come out again someday! 

This smoothie is like sunshine in a glass.  I love it!  To understand my love for this drink, you need to understand my love for another drink--Sonic's Lemonberry Fruit Slush.  Out of the 398,929 drink possibilities at Sonic, the Lemonberry Fruit Slush is my automatic choice, every time.  It is sweet, slightly tart, has little pieces of strawberries, and has quenched my thirst on many a hot summer day.  I used to drive a tractor for my dad in the summers and I can attest that nothing is more refreshing than a good slush!  I didn't mean for it to happen, but I made this smoothie out of happy accident, and I think it tastes just like the Lemonberry Fruit Slush!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Asian Honey BBQ Oven-Baked Chicken Wings

I don't like sports.  I love sports.  I can't get enough.  Imagine my love for March Madness!  I watched a ton of basketball in the past weeks, and I already can't wait for the Sweet Sixteen to start tomorrow.  Other than my beloved K-State wildcats being knocked out of the tournament on Saturday, it has been a great month of basketball!  And I don't like wings.  I love wings.  Put wings and sports together, and I am one happy gal!  Perhaps I have been brainwashed by too many Buffalo Wild Wings commercials, but there is something magical about watching a big game while chowing down on wings.  

I do have many fond memories of watching March Madness games at Buffalo Wild Wings (including an overtime thriller where K-State defeated Xavier) and Hooters in Topeka with my husband's law school friends.  Good times!  Unfortunately, those days are a thing of the past.  With no Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters nearby, we have been watching games at home.  Fortunately, I now know how to make my own wings.  And I love them!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bananas Foster Baked Oatmeal

Earlier this month I shared my first encounter with steel cut oats and baked oatmeal in my recipe for baked pumpkin spice oatmeal.  Right now in Southeast Kansas we are in the middle of a forecast for three straight days of rain.  As I sit in my house listening to the rain and wait for the government to come declare my backyard a national wetland, I have oatmeal on my mind again.  What's better on a cloudy, dreary morning than a hot bowl of oatmeal?

I might answer that question with this: baked oatmeal with caramelized bananas and a splash of rum.  You've got to love a boozy breakfast!  I loved the pumpkin oatmeal mixture in my baked pumpkin spice oatmeal, but I thought the real star of the dish was the caramelized bananas the oatmeal rested on.  I knew right away that I would be making this dish again, but with mashed bananas instead of the pumpkin.  And then I thought that if I was going to make make bananas the main theme of the dish, I should use one of my favorite desserts, Bananas Foster, as my inspiration.  I did, and it was awesome!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Makeover Monday: Low Fat Silky Chocolate Pie

I've featured a few "secret ingredient" recipes on Makeover Monday so far.  I started with using pumpkin to boost the creaminess in my Skinny Potato Soup, and I also lightened up mashed potatoes by swapping some of the spuds for cauliflower in my Skinny Garlic Mashed Potatoes.  Today I'm doing dessert.  Chocolate pie without the guilt?  Yes please!

This was not my idea.  I found this recipe (and a whole bunch more I really, really want to try!) in an issue of Diabetic Living magazine that featured diabetes-friendly chocolate dessert.  When I saw this issue I felt like I had won the lottery!  I now have quite the arsenal of better-for-me, sweet-tooth-satisfying desserts that are tested and proven, and I didn't even have to pull a brain muscle coming up with them.  And they're all chocolatey.  I guess good things do happen to good people!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sausage & Cheddar Biscuit Balls (Bonus: Homemade Buttermilk Bisquick)

Many of the foods I make don't show up on my blog for quite some time.  There are many things I love that just haven't made it here yet.  They'll get there day in the sun eventually!  But this is not one of those foods.  I made these sausage and cheddar biscuit balls last night to eat while watching a little (OK, a lot) of March Madness, and I loved them so much I just had to share them today so you can make them ASAP, and enjoy them while you are watching a little, or a lot, of basketball this weekend.

I've had similar sausage balls before, but had never made them before yesterday.  I've had a recipe bookmarked in an old church cookbook for a while.  Although I like sausage, I don't eat it very often.  Actually, I take that back.  I don't cook it very often.  Sausage happens to be one of my favorite pizza toppings, and I eat pizza more than I would care to admit!  I finally decided yesterday it was time for me to cook up some sausage.  This original recipe (which, incidentally, happens to be from my Aunt Kathy) calls for Bisquick.  I haven't bought Bisquick in years.  I have discovered that it is cheaper to make my own version of it, and it takes only a few minutes to do.  So as a bonus today, I'm also including a recipe for a homemade version of Bisquick.  I guess you caught me in a good mood; it's Friday, it's March Madness, and it's a beautiful day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Walnuts

I'm not a big St. Patrick's Day fan.  Here are a few reasons: I own exactly one green item of clothing, I'm not Irish, I don't enjoy drinking until I make myself sick, and I am past the age where it is appropriate to pinch people who aren't wearing green (I'm not sure what the cutoff is, but I'm pretty sure I crossed that bridge several years ago!).  So March 17th is just another day for me.  But because I know not everyone else out there is a Srooge about St. Patrick's day, and curiosity finally got the best of me, I made some Irish soda bread this week.

I have an old cookbook with a recipe for Irish soda bread that I've been wanting to make for a while, mainly just because I have never had it.  I'm sure there's a million varieties of Irish soda bread, and I didn't even know how authentic mine was, but I decided to give it a shot.  I liked that the recipe I used included whole wheat flour and the option of adding some dried fruit.  I used raisins because that's what was in my pantry.  This recipe suggested 2 cups of dried fruit.  I like raisins, but I don't like them that much, so I did half raisins and half walnuts.  Adding raisins and walnuts made this bread a lot more interesting!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Get excited!  I am about to share something spectacular with you!  I saw this recipe for mini chocolate chip cookies with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on Tasty Kitchen and immediately added it to my recipe box.  I knew I had to make these because this recipe combines my husband's two favorite things in world (me not included of course!)--Reese's and chocolate chip cookies.  Plus, I don't mind them either!  I think it makes me feel better to believe I'm making desserts for him, not me. 

This treat is just a simple chocolate chip cookie dough that you put in a mini muffin tin and bake, then stuff with Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  Easy!  These turned out wonderful.  My husband liked them as much as I thought he would.  As a matter of fact, he said it was the best thing he's ever eaten.  And as his food preparer, I like to think he eats well! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Whole Wheat Sweet Potato Pancakes with Cinnamon Pecan Streusel

Last week I shared my maple mashed sweet potato recipe and I promised I would let you know what I did with my leftovers.  Without any further ado, here it is--sweet potato pancakes!  I have seen several sweet potato pancake recipes here and there on the world wide web (remember when people used to call it that?) but I passed them up.  They came back to me when I was wondering what I was going to do with the mountain of leftover mashed sweet potatoes I had.  Sweet potato pancakes seemed liked a great use for mashed sweet potatoes that already had a hint of maple flavor.  Put maple syrup on them and you have double maple!  So I searched a couple of recipes, tweaked them a little bit, and made a batch.

I loved these pancakes!  They were hearty from the whole grains, plenty thick, perfectly spiced, and very moist.  Just what I love in a good pancake!  These are similar to the pumpkin pancakes I made this fall, but they have a higher proportion of sweet potato.  While making these, I had an epiphany.  I have a recipe for pumpkin pancakes with a streusel topping that I have never made.  Because the flavors of the two pancakes are similar, I tried the streusel topping on my sweet potato pancakes, with some added pecans.  Sweet potatoes and pecans are meant to be together.  It all came together for some of the most amazing pancakes I have ever had!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Makeover Monday: Reduced Fat Sloppy Joe Cornbread Bake

This recipe is a bit of a Frankenstein.  Gather 'round and I'll tell you its tale!  Shortly after getting married, I bought some hamburger buns, a packet of seasonings, and made Sloppy Joes.  My husband politely told me that although Sloppy Joes are okay, if we are having beef on a hamburger bun, he would just prefer that we have cheeseburgers.  So I consented to not making Sloppy Joes anymore.  I like them, but I could live without them.  

Then about a year ago, I found a recipe for Sloppy Joe cornbread bake.  This recipe for a Sloppy Joe base topped with cornbread seemed to solve my dilemma.  I could have the goodness of Sloppy Joe, but it wasn't on a bun, so it wasn't competing with cheeseburgers for my husband's affection.  Before I had a chance to make it, I saw a recipe for Sloppy Joes that included a can of beans.  I am always trying to get more beans in my diet, and this sounded like a great way to do so.  

So I combined those two ideas and added beans to the Sloppy Joe cornbread bake.  I made it a few times using a packet of Sloppy Joe seasonings, and I never had any complaints.  I was satisfied with my Sloppy Joe situation.  Then I found a recipe for reduced fat Sloppy Joes in Cook's Country that was made from scratch.  This kept getting better and better!  So I combined the three recipes together into one reduced fat Sloppy Joe cornbread bake.  It's alive!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Recently I found myself with another giant sweet potato from my neighbors to prepare.  I wanted sweet potatoes with some steak I was making.  I was broiling the steaks, so cooking sweet potatoes in the oven as I did with my honey-roasted sweet potatoes and balsamic vinaigrette oven-baked sweet potatoes fries wasn't an option.  I have also made sweet potato bread and rosemary sweet potato biscuits, but I had been eating bread with my French onion soup and garlic bread with spaghetti so I wasn't in the mood for bread.  Then a great idea came to me.  How about mashed sweet potatoes?

I have never made mashed sweet potatoes before, or even had them for that matter.  But it sounded pretty good.  I did some searching on the internet and found approximately 1 zillion recipes for mashed sweet potatoes.  As I often do, I basically picked various things I liked from the different recipes I found and came up with my own version.  One recipe I saw had maple in it.  I knew I was keeping that idea!  Some had cinnamon in the mashed potatoes, but I decided I would leave that as a garnish in case I decided I didn't want it.  Most recipes called for adding milk, but I opted for using the water I boiled the potatoes in.  It worked out really well because the sweet potato is naturally a little silkier than a traditional Russet potato.  Plus by reusing that water, you reclaim some of the nutrients that are lost in boiling the potatoes.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

French Bread

Last week I shared what I have to believe is the best ever recipe for French onion soup.  No one has commented any differently yet, so that's what I'm going with!  I mentioned in that post that I topped the soup with some bread, a la me.  Today is a cold, rainy, windy day in Southeast Kansas so I thought it would be an appropriate time to share the recipe I used for my French bread that I put on my French onion soup.  Oui!  (Man, I am on a multi-cultural roll this week!)

As I have documented many times, I am on a quest to make more homemade bread.  I am growing in confidence, and I just have more time than I used to so I don't have any excuses not to make my own bread.  I have also mentioned the limitations of my small town grocery store.  Well, about two weeks ago said grocery store suddenly closed.  They didn't even have a close-out sale for me to stock up on great bargains!  It was very tragic.  Anyway, I wanted a baguette for my French onion soup, but I would have had to go to a store in another town to get some.  All the more motivation for me to tackle bread on my own!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


There are so many foods my mom us growing up that I loved.  I don't know that I could pick one favorite, but if I had to make a list of my top 10 favorites, cavatini would definitely be up there.  It's not something she made all the time, but it was always a treat when she did.  If you aren't familiar with cavatini, it is a delicious Italian-style casserole with noodles (of course!), beef, tomatoes, green peppers, onion, olives, and mushrooms, and topped with melted mozzarella cheese.  Who could resist that?

I have bummed a lot of my favorite recipes off my mom, but for some reason I never thought to request her recipe for cavatini.  Then a few years ago I inherited some of my grandma's cookbooks.  While going through a collection of recipes from a local bank, I found a recipe for cavatini.  It sounded just like my mom's.  Recipes like this frequently get passed around in a small town, and I was excited to take this one and make it my own.  After making it with a few minor tweaks, my only regret is that I lost so many years without my beloved cavatini.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

I know, I know.  It's March.   I should be posting about things that are green, or Irish, or make you long for Spring.  It's not pumpkin time.  But this recipe for baked pumpkin spice oatmeal has been hanging out in the "Drafts" column for far too long.  Plus, thanks to the magic of canned goods, you can have pumpkin whenever you want.  And it's always good!

I found the original recipe for this dish on Annie's Eats.  At the time, I had never heard of baked oatmeal, but this recipe featured a layer of caramelized bananas covered with a pumpkin-oatmeal mixture and my favorite spices.  It sounded great!  So I saved it and made it several weeks ago.  Thank you, Annie, for introducing me to baked oatmeal because I am now madly in love with it!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Makeover Monday: Low Carb Peanut Butter Cookies

This recipe is dedicated to my little sister.  I have a totally random memory of some failed attempts by my sister and me to make peanut butter cookies.  We had a recipe that we tried a few times, but we could never get these seemingly simple cookies to turn out right.  For whatever reason, I remember I blamed it on the amount of flour in the cookies.  Even at the time I liked to think of myself as being pretty handy in the kitchen so I was really disappointed I couldn't make my own peanut butter cookies and didn't try again for many years.

Imagine my excitement when a few years ago I found a recipe for peanut butter cookies that didn't have flour!  This is one of those recipes I saw somewhere and just jotted down, so I don't remember where I got it.  But I have made it several times and these little cookies have turned out perfectly every time.  Because these cookies don't have flour, I have thought for a long time that if they were made with Splenda instead of sugar they would be a great low carb cookie and perfect for people with diabetes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

French Onion Soup

It's time for another recipe I have had forever and am just now getting around to!  I found this recipe for French onion soup quite some time ago and I had never had French onion soup before so I saved it.  I made this last Friday when I needed a meatless meal and something comforting on a chilly day.
I shouldn't have waited so long.  This is a Cook's Illustrated recipe, so I knew it would be good, but I couldn't have known just how good it was going to be.  As I said, I have never had any other French onion soup so I can't compare it to others, but I thought this was pretty spectacular.  I took one bite of this and went, "uuuummm." 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Peach Poppy Seed Muffins

Yesterday I shared my new favorite recipe for Beef Stew.  Tomorrow I'm posting another soup recipe.  And I have some other wintery recipes I want to get out of my "drafts" column before winter slips away.  I have also been holding on to this peach poppy seed muffin recipe for awhile because it seemed more like a warm weather recipe.  But today I took a walk in a t-shirt, saw a bunch of daffodils in bloom (I love daffodils!), and I had to reset all the clocks in my house after the previous night's thunderstorms.  It felt like Spring.  So in that spirit, I just have to share this recipe! 

These muffins are fresh, fruity, and delicious!  I took these to a church breakfast, and they disappeared at an alarming rate.  I brought these along with my chocolate banana muffins, and the peach poppy seed muffins were gone first!  Yeah, they were more popular than chocolate!