Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monkey Bread with Cream Cheese Filling

The other day I posted a picture of a dessert I made, and I had a few requests for the recipe. It's a monkey bread; those of you familiar with that will know that it's a pull-apart bread. This one is filled with cream cheese and chocolate (yum!) so for me, it was more of a dessert than your typical breakfast bread. It's perfect for a brunch or dessert, but just know that it is sticky, so use a fork to pull apart instead of just grabbing it, haha. I saw this recipe on Facebook, so I have no idea to whom to give credit for it, but thanks! :)  Be aware that this can be a bit time-consuming; I think it took me about an hour or so to get it together, plus an additional 30 minutes or so for baking, and another 10 minutes for cooling. It's not something I will make often, but it's a good recipe to have tucked away for those events that need something yummy, easy, and just a little different. 

INGREDIENTS:
2-16 oz containers of regular biscuits (although mine were the butter style)
8 oz cream cheese block
chocolate chips
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 3500
Spray a Bundt pan with nonstick spray.

Slice all the biscuits in half, so you get 32 pieces.



Dice the cream cheese into 32 cubes.



Flatten out each biscuit piece. Have the cream cheese and a bowl of chocolate chips at hand. Place 1 cube of cream cheese and about 4-6 chocolate chips in the middle of each flattened biscuit piece. You can sort of smush the cream cheese and the chips will stay in better. Fold the biscuit dough around them; I called this diapering the filling, because that's what it reminded me of (we have babies on the brain over here!) :) 



Shape each piece into a ball. Aren't they cute? I managed not to eat a single one before they were baked; a hard thing for this dough-loving person!



Grab a 1-gallon plastic bag, and fill it with the sugar and cinnamon. After this is combined, add 2 or 3 dough balls to the bag, seal it, and sort of roll it around to coat the dough. Do this with all the dough balls.



In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the brown sugar and butter, heat for about 70 seconds, and stir very well. This is your caramel glaze.



Place half the walnut pieces in the bottom of your Bundt pan (remember to have it sprayed well with nonstick cooking spray). Add half the dough balls, and pour over half the caramel glaze evenly. Repeat with the rest of the walnuts, dough pieces, and glaze.



Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. When it's done, remove it from the oven and invert the pan using your serving plate. Let it cool at least 10 minutes or so; this allows the glaze to drip from the Bundt pan onto the dessert. Yes, I used my pizza pan covered with foil, because I didn't have a serving plate big enough. So much for presentation. Ha!




ENJOY!!!


Monday, February 1, 2016

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

I posted this picture of my King Ranch Chicken casserole the other day on Facebook and had a few requests for the recipe. This is a traditional Texas casserole, supposedly from the kitchens of the actual ranch in south Texas. King Ranch is one of the largest ranches in the U.S. and is about 825,000 acres – their website says they are bigger than the state of Rhode Island. I was told this was served to ranch hands for lunch, etc. I can’t verify that story, but I can verify that is one of the yummiest (and easiest) casseroles to make. It also freezes well. I usually just add a simple tossed salad to the side and call it a meal. My bad picture doesn't do it justice and frankly, looking at this picture, I think I'd add more cheese :)

KING RANCH CHICKEN
1 large  chicken, baked, boned and shredded
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup chicken broth
1 (10-ounce) can of Ro-Tel tomatoes
½ large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
½ bell pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp cumin
Chili powder to taste
12 (8-inch) corn tortillas cut into small squares*
2 cups store-bought grated Mexican-blend cheese (8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, sauté the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Combine the cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, and tomatoes. Stir in salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Stir until warm, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer the tortillas, chicken, sauce, then cheese in the pan for 2 or 3 layers (like a lasagna), ending with the tortillas. Top the casserole with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese is hot and bubbly. Enjoy!!!


*Notes:
I have also used flour tortillas, which I prefer to corn. It makes a milder casserole, and I really like the flavor. 


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

LEMONADE CAKE

I had so many inquiries for the recipe of this cake, I dusted off the ole blog and typed one. Thank you, by the way, I've been wanting to get back into my blog and maybe this is the incentive I need! :)  

This is not a cake for anyone with a fear of calories! It is delicious though. I did not take pictures while I was working on it, since it's mostly baking a box cake, but here is a picture of the finished cake: 



This is not my recipe; I found it on Facebook, and I have no idea where it came from, so if you have any information on that, please share it. It would be nice to credit the original baker :) 

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:
1 lemon boxed cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lemonade from frozen concentrate (I used Minute Maid)

Glaze:
2 tablespoons lemonade from frozen concentrate
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water

Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese (block)
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
3 tablespoons lemonade from frozen concentrate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

How to make:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spray 2 - 8" round cake pans generously with cooking/baking spray.

With mixer, beat all your ingredients on low for 30 seconds and then on medium for 2 minutes. Keep the remaining frozen lemonade concentrate in the freezer - you will need it again. Bake according to package directions until cake is set and toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans - about an hour. Do not remove cake from cake pans. When the cakes are cooled, level them off so they are flat on top. Poke holes in the cakes using a fork.

Next make your glaze: in a medium bowl combine powdered sugar, lemonade and water. Stir until smooth. Pour equally over the top of the cakes, which are still in their cake pans. Cover and let sit for at least an hour, but overnight is best in refrigerator.

For frosting, cream butter and cream cheese together until combined. With mixer on low, add your lemonade and vanilla. Slowly add in your powdered sugar, and then beat on medium for 1-2 minutes until smooth. When ready to frost, remove your cakes from the refrigerator. Loosen cake around the edges with a butter knife so they will release easily.
Frost as desired.


This makes a very rich-tasting cake. It is very good and very sweet. I'm not sure I would make it 'just for us' again; I did end up giving most of it to friends and neighbors, since there is no way 2 of us can eat a cake this big. However, if I ever needed a cake for a party or church social, this would be great. It tastes wonderful while sipping a cup of coffee.

Let me know if you make one and what you think of it. As my grandson says: "Bake and enjoy!"










Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reducing the Phone Bill! Guest Post


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pecan Pie Bark

One of my goals for 2015, besides posting more on my blog here, is to test out more new recipes. In a busy life, it's easy to just go with what you know, right? I like to cook, because I really like to eat!! So with that in mind, I have a category on my Wunderlist for cooking ideas, and a file folder with recipes I have printed close by. I hope to try something new or something I haven't made in a while about once every 7 to 10 days. We'll see. :)

Today, because it's Christmas time and because I have an incredible sweet tooth, it's the Pecan Pie Bark. I have no idea where I got this recipe- maybe Facebook, maybe from a magazine, maybe from Pinterest, who knows? It's super easy and of course, how could you go wrong for taste when it's pecans, sugar, and butter?  Here's the recipe:



  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup white (granulated) sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup pecan halves (I chopped mine into big chunks instead of just halves)
  • About 2 packages (approximately 12 sheets) honey graham crackers



  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Lay your graham crackers tightly across the area of a lightly greased, rimmed baking or cookie sheet. Trim any crackers to fit the sides of the pan if needed (mine needed trimming about 1/4 of an inch). Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, and pecans to a boil over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Carefully and evenly pour the boiled mixture over the entire plane of graham crackers, spreading pecans around evenly.
  3. Immediately pop baking sheet into the oven and bake for 8 minutes.
  4. Allow bark to cool completely before breaking into pieces and storing in an airtight container.


pecan pie bark in the pan, cooling

THAT'S IT! Seriously, how much easier can this get?? I did not break mine into small pieces, however. I took a sheet of wax paper, put that over the cookie sheet, and flipped it over onto my counter (like taking a cake out of the pan). That left the perfect squares of the graham crackers exposed. I have to say I used a generic brand of graham crackers, not that most popular brand, so my graham crackers were these very nice, small squares. I just separated each graham cracker and put them in my container. Anyone who wants one can have a whole cracker, or break it into pieces if they prefer. 

These are yummy!! They remind me of pralines, but not as chewy or creamy. A Texan through and through even tho I live in California, I LOVE pecans, so I didn't think this recipe could go wrong, unless the sugar didn't set. The timing seems just fine though. My sugar syrup worked out fine using the times above.

This would make a quick and yummy gift, or a nice, sweet addition to any holiday get-together. I can't wait to have some with my coffee in the morning! Let me know if you make it and how you like it!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie


This all started because I had leftover baked chicken. We’d had it just-baked, in salads, etc. Usually, I will just make chicken and rice to use it up, but I wanted something different this time. These little pies were so good and oh so easy!! So I will try to recreate what I did here, for you and for me, lol. Typical of my cooking experiments, I sorta winged it, so you will need to use your own experience to help build this dish (but it will be so worth it).

Ingredients:
Baked chicken, cut up in cubes (white and dark meat, mixed)
½ bag of 10 oz. frozen mixed vegies

Sauce:
1-3 generous tablespoons of white flour
2 tablespoons Butter (we use real butter at my house, no margarine)
Chicken broth (actually, I used something called ‘Flavor Boost’ by Swanson… see comments in recipe below)
Milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Crust:
8” pie crust - 1

Dishes:
2 ramekins, each about 4 ¼” diameter and 2” deep
1 foil-covered cookie sheet

What I did:

I made my pie crust dough first, because I like to let it rest in the refrigerator for a few minutes before I roll it out. If you don’t make your own crusts, a store-bought one should be just fine and do whatever you do with one (I've never used one, so I'm blank on how they work, lol).

While the pie dough was resting, I made my sauce. It’s really what I call a roux but I’m not sure a true chef would call what I do a roux. If you've ever made white gravy (remember having bread ‘n gravy or biscuits ‘n gravy?), then it’s a thicker version of that. I get my butter hot and throw in about 2-3 generous tablespoons of white flour (I use a wooden spoon, so about 3 of those). I intended to add chicken broth, but I remembered I’d purchased this stuff called ‘Flavor Boost’, so I opened one of those. It’s a strange packet of chicken goop. I’m not sure I would use it regularly in anything, but it worked ok in this. It looks awful, lol. I suppose it’s a reduced version of chicken broth. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't it (see pic below). However, it worked fine, and one package was enough to give my pie the flavor I was looking for, so I can recommend it for soups, pot pies, etc.  I mixed all these ingredients together to make a very thick sauce, then added milk (we use 1%) to loosen it up a bit and add some volume for my pie. You will have to guess on this (sorry, I didn't measure), but you know for a pot pie, you want your sauce creamy, not runny, and not a lot of it. I added the half bag of mixed veggies and some cubed chicken. I used probably 2 cups of chicken and half the bag of veggies but again, I was eyeballing this based on the size of my ramekin dishes.  I let this filling simmer on the stove while I made the tops to my pie.

Flavor boost (duh)

I rolled out my pie crust. I like to make my own crusts, so make your pie crust as you normally do or if you prefer, just get one of the store-bought ones. One pie crust made both tops, and I didn't put any crust on the bottom of these pies. I used my ramekin and made an indentation in the crust so I could get an idea of the size I needed (see pic). I decided to free-form the top a bit, so I generously cut the crust bigger than my dish. I also buttered the outside of the dish where I thought the crust would hang over, so it would come off easier (because that’s the best part, and I always eat my crusts!).

this just gave me a rough idea of the size, although i made my tops bigger so they would hang down the side of the bowls

I spooned the filling into the ramekins and decided to let them sit just a few minutes, so I wasn't putting my crust on a piping hot pie. I didn't want my crust to ‘melt’ into the pie. While the filling was cooling, I put all my dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Side note: I hate a dirty kitchen with dishes piled up, especially when I’m being creative and make a huge mess. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning up, so one of the first things I do when I’m cooking like this is run a sink full of hot, soapy water. Then, as I use various dishes and spoons and such, I just toss them in the water. When I reach a point in my cooking where I can stop to clean up a bit, these dishes are ready to go in the dishwasher with all that excess shortening or sticky dough or whatever soaked off.

ramekins filled with no top crust yet

ever see a sink full of dirty dishes?? haha

After cleaning things up, I was ready to put my tops on. I just sorta flopped them on top of the ramekins and then molded them to the shape of the bowl, letting the crust hang down a bit over the sides. I cut 4 slits in the top for steam. Then, I decided to really get fancy and make a couple of leaves for each top out of the extra dough. This was easy: I just took a knife, cut an almond shape leaf, then used the knife to press in the veins on the leaf. After the tops were decorated, I brushed some egg mixed with a little of water on top so they would brown nicely.

ready for baking!
Bake them at 4250F for about 30 minutes on the foil-covered cookie sheet (saves your oven in case there’s a pie leak), till you know they are warmed through. Let them rest about 5 minutes or so before serving. I actually put mine in the refrigerator for about an hour and half before I cooked them, because my husband wasn’t home from work yet. I took them directly from the refrigerator to the oven for about 30-40 minutes. I served mine with a piece of cheese and some wonderful wine we had (also a leftover! ha). A nice wedge salad would be good, too.

YUMMMY!!

These were so yummy! Just think- it’s not just for chicken! Beef, turkey, just vegies if you want… it’s a great way to use up leftovers or just something different with your baked chicken, etc. Let me know if you try it! If I left any information out, please send me a note, and I’ll try to explain. Happy cooking!




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Trash to Treasure: Garden Bench!


You know how it is… you’re sitting around one day, having coffee with a friend (me), and you say to her: “I really like the garden bench Jon built for you. Wish I had one.” And that friend (me) says, “Yes! You could certainly use one!” Be careful what you wish for, my dear friend RoseAnn. J

That was on a Thursday morning about a month ago. The very next Saturday, hubby and I leave to run a few errands. As we’re driving down our street, 2 houses down I see my neighbor has put an old garden bench out at the end of her driveway, a signal to all of us who live in my little city that it’s a freebie. It’s adorable- dirty and a bit worn, but adorable!! It looks like a little picket fence with birdhouses on either side- a bit whimsical Victorian.  I immediately text her and say “I want it! Put it back from the street, please. I’ll pick it up when we get back.” She tells me it’s wobbly and in bad shape, and I say please let me check it out first.

yeah, it needs some work!
A couple of hours later, hubby and I walk down and look at it. Yes, it needs some minor repair and a lot of TLC. Hubby looks at me and says “What are you going to do with this?” He knows me well enough to not try talking me out of it; he just can’t figure out where it will fit since he built one for me a few years ago. I just smile, and we carry the bench between us and get it to our house. I take several pictures of it and send them to RoseAnn. “Look!” I say. “I found a project for us to paint. What do you think?” She replies, “I love it!” I smiled. She had no clue it was hers. So I text her again: “Will it work as a garden bench for you?” And I get a response: “Yes!” and “Yea!”  And I smiled again. J

On Sunday, hubby helps me tighten some areas on the bench by putting screws in to replace nails. It takes him about 15 minutes. Then I grab some sandpaper and a rag and start sanding and wiping. When that’s done, I apply the first coat of primer. The bench is starting to look very cute! Another good coat of primer, and the bench is ready for RoseAnn to lend her artist’s touch. 

primed, waiting for RoseAnn's touch
RoseAnn comes over on Monday morning, paints in hand. I love to watch RoseAnn paint. She is an artist, my friends, a real live, honest-to-goodness artist. She can paint anything and it looks like it’s supposed to!! That doesn’t always happen for me, plus I must have a pattern- very little freehanding from me! She’s studying the bench, and we’re discussing various ideas about how to paint the birdhouses. She takes a pencil and starts doing some light sketches on the birdhouses. I grab a chair and watch her work.

She spends the day painting her bench. Once she sketches the idea on the birdhouses, she grabs her paints and starts freehanding. The sketching was just to get the idea cemented in her mind; the painting will be its own process as she works. Honestly, sometimes I think it’s more fun to watch an excellent painter paint than actually paint myself! When RoseAnn gets in her zone, there is no stopping her. She will paint for hours until she is done. I watch for a while, and then get up and go do a few things inside. I check on her now and then, but mostly I leave her to it, letting her creativity flow with no noise or interruptions from nosy little old me. I offer her food and drink, but she’s content to just paint and paint. By midafternoon, she’s done, and it looks absolutely beautiful. 




I still need to paint a white coat or two of regular paint (remember, it just has primer on it) and then it’s done. I do that during the next week and by the next weekend, it’s finished. Everything is dry, and it’s ready to go to RoseAnn’s where she can put on a good coat of varnish to protect it.  On Sunday, hubby and I load it in our van and drive it over. In one week's time, trash to treasure!

ta-da!!!
Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's a picture of the bench hubby built for me several years ago. It's well-used and loaded to the hilt, lol. Inside that cabinet door on the bottom is a pullout drawer filled with potting soil. And yes, that's a black rat on the work space under the shelf... fortunately, he's not real, just a Halloween decoration that I liked so much I've kept it out all year!

hubby builds me the best stuff!
This was such fun! I love the idea that the Universe was listening to RoseAnn’s conversation with me that day, and that I was on the ball and able to answer her request so suddenly. RoseAnn is one of those people who works so hard and does so much for everyone else; it was the greatest pleasure to do something for her. The bench now has a home on her front porch, and it just looks perfect!