Friday, April 26, 2013

Cowboy Joe Casserole

Do you ever just feel a little down and out and a little bit tired but you're not sure why?  Well, I call it the winter funk.  Everybody is just sick and tired of the snow.  And that's where I was when I had been cruising the interwebs and found a recipe for Cowboy Lasagna.  I figured this could be the last hurrah for winter . . .and then get the heck outta here and bring on spring.  

It sounded pretty good:  ground beef, onion, tomato, cheese, tots.   What could go wrong?

This recipe is certainly easy enough to throw together.  I'll warn you though - 1) it's like a sloppy joe casserole with tater tots and is very sweet.  2) If you are not a corn fan, omit the corn.  That's what I'll be doing the next time I make this.

Ick.   Corn.  

Corn is best consumed by itself - not mixed in with other stuff.  And it's not a vegetable.  It's a grain.  'Nuff said.

Cowboy Joe Casserole
1.5 lbs Ground Beef
1 Small Onion, diced
1 Can Tomato Soup (condensed)
3 TB Mustard Powder
2 TB Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Can of Corn (optional), drained
1 Small Jar Pickled Pepperocini's, diced
1 TB Worcestershire Sauce
2 Cups Cheese (I used Colby)
1 Bag Tater Tots

Spray pan and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large skillet, add the meat, onion, mustard powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire and ground black pepper.  Cook on medium high heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks.  Cook until well done.  At this point, stir in the can of tomato soup (do not dilute), the corn, and the pepperocini's.  Stir well.  Pour into the prepared pan.  Evenly distribute the cheese.  Next, evenly distribute the tator tots.  Bake for 1/2 hour - 45 minutes or until the tots are golden brown.  

I do have to admit though, this did taste better the next day as leftovers for lunch :)

A few notes for the next time I make this:
1)  My family (myself included) thought this was a little sweet - I would ditch the tomato soup and use salsa or diced tomatoes instead.
2) I would also omit the corn

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala . . .sounds fancy, doesn't it?  It really isn't.  Don't let the name fool you.  It is, indeed, quite delicious though.  It's one of my favorite dishes - and when it's done well, it absolutely fantastic.  But, when it isn't done well - well, it's horrible!  And I've had a few horrible renditions of it from restaurants.   What exactly is it?  Chicken Marsala is lightly coated chicken breasts in a brown sauce that uses Marsala wine and mushrooms.  It's a little bit sweet and also savory.  Often, you'll see it served with either pasta or mashed potatoes.  It's completely delectable either way.  

Where do you even get Marsala?  You can either purchase it at your favorite liquor store (buy SWEET Marsala) or at the grocery store.  Most grocers have some cooking wines stocked - our local store places them near the vinegars.

Chicken Marsala
serves 4

1 Pound Chicken Breasts, Boneless and Skinless
1 Envelope (about 1 oz) Brown Gravy Mix
1/4 Cup Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Morton's Nature's Seasoning (OR 1/2 Teaspoon Salt and 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
2 Cups Fresh Mushrooms, Sliced
2/3 Cup Marsala Wine

Prepare the gravy mix as directed on the packaging.  Set aside for later use.

Combine the flour and Nature's Seasoning in a pie plate or shallow dish until well blended.  

Next, heat the oil in a large frying pan and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  A few pieces at time, dredge them in the seasoned flour and add to the hot frying pan.  Continue to do so until all the chicken is coated and cooking in the pan.  As well, add the chopped onion to the pan at this time in addition to the mushrooms.

Once the chicken is no longer pink inside and mostly cooked through, add the Marsala to the skillet.  Let it heat through and be sure to stir everything and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits that may be stuck to the bottom.  Those little bits are very flavorful!!  Add the prepared brown gravy and stir to coat chicken/mushroom/onions.  Continue to heat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the sauce is warm.

Personally, I prefer to eat this dish with pasta.  However, it's equally delish with mashed potatoes.  Regardless, you'll want something nice and starchy to sop up all that nummy Marsala sauce!

Please note, in the above picture I served it with some cute little pasta shells (I just tossed it all together into a large serving bowl).  And if by chance you have leftovers - it also reheats well!  And your coworkers will be all jealous too . .. it smells that good and tastes even better.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Oatmeal Cake with Coconut Caramel Glaze

Comfort Food.  In April.  This is wrong.  I shouldn't need comfort food in APRIL.  For Pete's Sake!  April showers are supposed to bring May flowers . . . and by showers, it should be RAIN showers, not snow showers!  However, here we are in MN with snow showers in April.  I really shouldn't be that surprised.  After all, I am  a lifelong Minnesotan (except for those college years).  And many, many moons ago - it snowed on my senior junior prom night . . .which was in May.  Any who, as I am rambling . ..  the snow showers thwarted the spring in my step and the grayness outside coupled with the cold, wet snow made me hungry for Oatmeal Cake.  By far, this is one of my favorite cakes.  Whenever my mom would make it, I could hardly stand the wait to eat it.  Or to sneak/pick at the coconut when she wasn't looking :)

Mmmmmmmm . .. so soft, moist and laced with cinnamon.  You can't even tell there is oatmeal in it.  And look at that frosting . . .if that's what you want to call it.  I prefer to call it caramelly, coconutty l-o-v-e.  Yes, yes . . .my love.  Just look at it . ...all browned with all that butter and toasted - how could I not pick a strand or two of coconut off the top when Ma wasn't cooking?

Oatmeal Cake
1 1/2 Cups Boiling Water
1 Cup Quick-Cooking Oats
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Shortening
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 1/2 Cup Flour
1 Teaspoon Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt

Place oats into bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  Stir and let stand until cool (I usually do this at night and let it sit until morning).  

Combine the sugars, shortening, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla into mixer bowl and mix well.  Add in the oatmeal continue to mix.  Add remaining ingredients and all combined. 

Pour into greased 13x9 cake pan.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes.

Coconut Caramel Glaze
6 Tablespoons Butter
1/4 Cup Milk
1 Cup Nuts (Walnuts or Pecans are great)
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Coconut
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium heat until the sugar and butter are melted and incorporated together.  Spread the warm mixture over the top of the cake.  Broil until browned.

And I will leave you with these final words:  yes, you can have it for breakfast.  It's oatmeal.  Especially since it's April.  And still snowing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pineapple & Cream Cheese Upside Down Cake

First things first:  I love holiday meals desserts.  I always find myself planning out the dessert first . . .and then the meal afterwards.  And truth be told, it was my hubby who found this luscious recipe from Dole. He was perusing the Sunday paper circulars and in the coupon section - there it was.  A coupon, a recipe, and a fabulous picture . . .

And yes, the above picture is from the Dole website.  I would have totally taken a picture of the one I made, but my camera is on the fritz.  I think that it's time to buy a new camera (any recommendations?!?)  BUT - the recipe did truly turn out like the photo above.  I was skeptical at first . . really, are the layers going to look that great?  And yes, they really did.  

Man, now that I am blogging about this, I really could go for a piece of this cake.  Except, it's all gone.  :(  It was that good . . .it disappeared quickly.  

And now for the actual recipe (as printed by Dole):

Pineapple & Cream Cheese Upside Down Cake

1/4 Cup (Unsalted) Butter, melted
1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Can (20 oz) of Dole Pineapple Slices, drained
7 or 8 Maraschino Cherries (stems removed)
1 pkg (9 oz) Yellow Cake - plus the ingredients to prepare it
2 pkgs (8 oz each) Cream Cheese, softened
1 pkg (3 oz) JELL-O Brand Lemon-Flavored Gelatin
2 Eggs

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray 9-inch cake pan or spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray.  If using a spring form pan, wrap foil around the bottom.

Step 2:  Stir together melted butter and brown sugar in pan.   Place 7 or 8 pineapple slices in sugar mixture.  Place cherry in center of each pineapple slice; cut remaining 2 slices of pineapple in half and place decoratively around slice in center of the pan.

Step 3:  Prepare cake mix according to the package directions (if using cake mix larger than 9 oz., a 10 or 12-inch pan is recommended).  Pour half cake batter evenly over pineapple.  Beat cream cheese, lemon gelatin and eggs in bowl of an electric mixer until smooth.  Spread cream cheese mixture gently over cake mix.  Pour remaining cake mix over cheese cake in pan.

Step 4:  Bake 65 to 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Step 5:  Cool 5 minutes.  Loosen edges and turn out onto serving platter.

Reflections:  I made this recipe exactly as it states above.  Reflecting back, there are a few things I would suggest doing differently:

* Prepare your cake batters first and then set them aside.  After that, proceed with the brown sugar/butter and pineapple step.In the time it took me to make the yellow cake batter, spread 1/2 in the pan and then prepare the cheesecake batter etc etc - my brown sugar/butter started to leak out of the pan.  I was a little disappointed in losing some of that caramelly goodness!  

* The recipe says to "cut remaining 2 slices of pineapple in half and place decoratively around slice in center of the pan".  With my spring-form pan, there was no extra space - so I didn't do that.  However, in hindsight, I realize that the pineapple shrinks up a bit  when baking.  So, if you can wedge those pieces in there - you won't regret it!

* I know my oven temp is off by about 3-5 degrees.  And my spring-form pan is dark-coated, but it took me almost 90 minutes to bake this cake.  Granted, it was well worth the wait!  Be sure to plan-in that extra time (don't be thinking this will be baked in 65 minutes and then run off to pick up the kiddo from hockey).  Be sure to "toothpick" check the doneness and keep baking as needed.

* Experiments to Try:  as my husband oooooooh'd and awwwwwwww'd eating this wonderful leftover cake on Easter Monday, we had a few thoughts.  That's us - always thinking of the next cake :)  

What if you . . .

- replaced the water in the cake mix ingredients with the pineapple juice

- Somehow added coconut to this recipe.  We are at a controversy here:  hubby says that using coconut extract in the cream cheese batter would be best.  I think that adding unsweetened, shredded coconut into the yellow cake batter would be awesome.   Or, could you somehow use coconut milk in the recipe?  There is definitely room for experimentation here! 

- And then, what if we experimented with different flavors altogether different?  Could this method be used for other cake combinations?  I was pondering the possibilities this week when I wandered over to Jo and Sue's blog - only to find they did a Carrot Cake Cheesecake Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting.   I wonder if this method combined with that carrot cake would work?  Oh the possibilities!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Foodie Penpals

A while back I heard about this really cool thing called Foodie Penpals.  It started back in 2011 and has been going strong for about one and half years.  It is the brainchild of Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean.  Each month, the program keeps growing and growing.  

How it works:  after filing out a request form to join the program, you will be paired with two different people.  One will be someone who you will send a package to and the other person you are pared with will send you a package.  Sound like fun?  I mean, come on, who doesn't love to get something awesome in the mail!

I received my package from a lady named Shannon.

And I was sooooo excited when I received it!  I've been highly stressed out from work lately and when I had picked up the mail one evening and say I had a package - it literally made my day :)  I could hardly wait to rip into it to see what was inside!  And once I got inside the house, I couldn't contain my excitement - I opened it up right away.

Look at all the super fun and yummy stuff . . .all with a little local flavor from her geographical area.  

Let's take a closer look:
1.  Krispy Kreme Apple Pie and Cherry Pie - now, I am familiar with Krispy Kreme, but I had no idea they had anything other than donuts.  Nor do we have Krispy Kreme in this region.  I've already eaten the cherry pie (breakfast anyone??) . . and I highly recommend heating it up a smidge!  Yum-O.  I thought I would wait and share the apple one with my family.  Maybe.  Of course, I might not . ..only time will tell ;)

2.  Moon Pie - AWESOME.  This was actually the first thing I ate.  Immediately.  Once again, we don't have Moon Pie's available to us around these here parts.  But, I have had them when I traveled.  So I knew all too well that I liked them.  And it was delicious.  I did share a bit with my teenage daughter, knowing that she had never had one.  Her comment was, "ohhhhhhh . . .it's like a s'more!".

3. Tortuga Key Lime Rum Cake - I do love anything key lime.  ANYTHING.  I've had a lime problem my whole life.  I've also had a severe cake addiction my whole life.  'Nuff Said.

4.  Yuca Chips - These were far better than I anticipated.  I'm not a big chip eater, so I was a little hesitant about eating them.  However, once opened and I tasted the first one - I was hooked!  They were super crunchy (like a kettle chip) with a great mild flavor.  Not greasy either (which why I don't like chips).  I would totally eat this again.  And again.  

5.  The Best Mexican Cheese Dip Mix - my penpal raved about this mix.  You're supposed to combine it with some Velveeta and milk and then serve with chips. It also came with a recipe on the back for The Best Chicken Enchiladas.  I have not made this yet . . .for fear of annihilating the entire bowl.  I just know it's gonna be delish!

6.  Ground Flax Seed - I loved this!  I used to be a flax seed regular and ate it on everything and baked it into many things.  And then some where along the way, it some how dropped off my regular grocery list.  Receiving this in the package was like a little reminder to get back on track!

7.  Woodman Apiaries Pure Honey - yum.  A local honey.  I haven't cracked it yet . . .but will very, very soon.  I've got a great honey-glazed chicken recipe that is calling me . . .

8.  La Place Taste of Florida Sweet and Hot Sauce - OMG.  It's like Shannon read my mind.  I love sweet and hot sauces!  My favorite way to consume them is with a little cream cheese, a little sauce and pretzels.  

9.  Peppermint Spoons - great for hot chocolate!  Or delicious in my homemade mocha :)

10.  Water Enhancers - what a great little treat :)   This is something I never buy, but was so happy to recieve!  She sent along some Arnie Palmer iced tea lemonade ones and some lime margarita ones.  Very delicious and perfect for at work.

I cannot say enough - THANK YOU!  I loved receiving this foodie package.  It was such a day brightener to get something awesome in the mail!  THANK YOU again Shannon!

If you are interested in participating in the Foodie Penpals Program - then hop on over to The Lean Green Bean and follow her instructions.  You don't even have to have a blog!  And you can sign up for 1 month at a time.  I totally recommend joining!