Friday, February 24, 2012

Saltine Toffee

     This stuff.... there are hardly words to describe how delicious this little treat is!

     Several years ago we were gathered at my grandparents house in Riverside, CA preparing a holiday meal together when my uncle told us about this little dessert/treat he was going to make us. He said that his friend brought it to work one day and it was so addicting and everyone loved it, so he got the recipe to make for us. We were all excited... until we heard the ingredients: saltine crackers mixed with chocolate and a caramely sauce. Now, the chocolate and caramel sauce sounded great... but we were all a little skeptical about it being paired with saltine crackers. But, we told him we'd give it a shot.

     Boy oh boy were we ever so wrong. This is seriously addicting. We all pretty much stuffed ourselves with this rich and tasty treat that we weren't really too hungry when dinner came around. Whoops!

     Now, years later, I remembered the recipe and wanted to try it again, when I searched online for it... everyone was referring to it as "crack" because of how addicting it is... which made me laugh. It is pretty addicting. Therefore, you must go try it! It's super simple and easy to make with very few steps for a super big tasting treat! So, go, right now, and find these items to make this... I'll wait.

30-50 saltine crackers, depending upon how large your cookie sheet is, I used 48 for my large pan
1 C butter (add another 1/4 C if you are using more than 40 crackers)
1 C brown sugar (again, more if you're making a larger batch)
2 C semisweet chocolate chips
*optional: add crushed nuts to the top, or even crushed pretzels would be good... but I'm a purist, just chocolate for me please!

Preheat oven to 400°.

Line cookie sheet with foil and allow extra to fold over the edges for easy clean up.

Line the foil with the saltine crackers, covering the whole sheet, allowing for no space between each.

I have a Paula Dean Jelly Roll pan which is something like 12x17

In a saucepan, allow your butter to melt and add your sugar. Bring to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Reduce heat and continue to simmer for a few minutes more until thickened.
**Be SUPER careful on this step. This is turning into a caramel type sauce and if you touch even a tiny bit it WILL burn you... I say this from multiple experiences. 

Pour this mixture over your crackers, taking care to try and make sure that it is evenly distributed. You don't want to leave any poor cracker out of this step, or you'll hurt its feelings.

Bake this for 5-6 minutes and remove from oven. Sprinkle the crackers with chocolate chips. Let sit for 1 minute or so (to allow the chocolate to get soft and melty), and then, using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate over the top to evenly coat.
**Again, if you do not have an offset spatula... GET ONE! They're not expensive at all, and it will make your cooking life so much easier. I have used it for SO many things.

If you're using nuts or pretzels, now is the time to add them, while the chocolate is still warm and not hardened.

Allow to cool completely. I let it cool on the counter for a while, 30 minutes or so, and then put it in the fridge to further cool down.

Take it out, break it into pieces and enjoy!
Break it into toffee type pices, on the diagonal, etc. This last time I went to break it into pieces and they just all came apart in the squares of the cracker, which worked perfectly fine too.

Recipe Courtesy of: My Uncle's friend, unknown to me, but super awesome for having this great recipe!

Thai Chicken and Pineapple Stir Fry

     Grant and I LOVE Thai food. There's this great little place in Bakersfield called the Thai House on Ming that we were introduced to a while back courtesy of Grant's previous occupation. We love to go there and get their Tom Yum Goong soup (spicy and sour soup with shrimp, straw mushrooms, carrots, and cilantro), Grant loves their Pad Kee Mow (drunken noodles with chicken and bell peppers, extra spicy), and my favorite the Yellow Curry Fried Rice, which is chicken with rice and lots of curry powder... yum! My dream is to recreate that dish at home sometime! 

     I've been in a bit of a Thai cooking frenzy lately. Last week I think three of our dinners consisted of Thai dishes. What I love about it is that they were all Thai dishes, and yet all so distinctly different. I love the sweet, spicy, and salty combinations. I love the hint of citrus in some of the dishes. It's all just so great! 

     This dish is great. I loved the addition of pineapple, it added such a brightness to the dish. 

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp oil, divided
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp ginger
2 C bell pepper cut into 1 inch chunks (whatever color you like)
1 serrano chili pepper, chopped (if you don't want the heat, just take out the seeds and ribs)
1 can pineapple chunks, 1/4 C juice reserved
1/2 C Sweet and Spicy Chili dipping sauce *Next time I'm going to attempt to make my own Chili sauce!

Combine chicken and fish sauce in a bowl. Add the cornstarch and stir to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in skillet, add chicken and stir fry for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from skillet to a bowl or plate and cover to keep warm. 

Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in large skillet over med high. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds or so; be careful not to burn garlic. Add peppers, serrano pepper and pineapple and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes until peppers are close to the texture you want. Add the Chili dipping sauce and reserved pineapple juice; cook a few more minutes until it begins to thicken. Add chicken and toss to coat.

Serve over white rice and garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro. Then enjoy and make yummy noises!

Recipe Courtesy of: Gina's Skinny Recipes

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Parmigiana Spinach Chicken Rollatini

     Don't be thrown off by the fancy title of this dish... it's really not a complicated dish at all. When you're finished though, it will look very pretty, maybe even restaurant worthy... if you're not serving it on cheap plastic Lego dishes like I am.

5 thinly sliced breast fillets (or you can just use a breast and pound it down to make it very thin)
1/2 C Panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp Italian seasonings
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese, divided in half
5 tbsp egg whites, lightly beaten
5 oz frozen spinach, squeezed dry
4 tbsp part skim ricotta cheese
6 oz part skim mozzarella (get the fresh block instead of the grated or sliced mozzarella)
1 C marinara sauce
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450°. Spray your 9x9 baking dish with non-stick spray.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, Italian seasonings, and  half of the grated Parmesan in one bowl.
In another bowl, lightly beat 4 egg whites.

Shred 1.5 oz mozzarella cheese (slice the rest into 5 even slices and set aside) and combine with the rest of the Parmesan, spinach, 1 egg white, and ricotta cheese.

With your breast fillets lined one a cutting board, sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread 2 tbsp of the spinach cheese mixture onto each one. Roll them up and keep seam side down.

Dip each chicken breast fillet into the egg whites, then breadcrumbs, and place seam side down in your baking dish. Spray with a little olive oil spray.

Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top each with a nice hefty scoop of marinara sauce and then a slice of mozzarella cheese.

Continue to bake until the cheese is melted, another 5 minutes.

Recipe Courtesy of: Gina's Skinny Recipes

Olive Garden's Italian Sausage Soup

          This soup was great. It was really fast and really easy to make. It's a pretty simple recipe as there aren't that many ingredients, but it all adds up to a very hearty and delicious soup. And, it's pretty healthy as well. I used Jenny-O Italian Turkey sausage to cut the fat some. I don't make many soups with a beef broth base, so I wasn't sure how I'd like this one, but it was really tasty! I'm definitely going to be making this soup again!

1 lb sweet Italain sausage, ground (I used the Jenny-O Italian sausage links, and took them out of their casings)
1 C white rice
1 Cup chopped tomatoes in puree (10 3/4 oz can)
10 oz box chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
6 C beef broth
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pecorino Ramano cheese, for garnish

Brown the sausage in a soup pot and. Add the rice, broth, tomatoes, and pepper and bring to a simmer. 

Simmer for 12- 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in chopped spinach and let simmer a few more minutes.

Serve the soup with a healthy amount freshly grated cheese on top.

That's it! Couldn't be easier or tastier! 

Recipe Courtesy of: Olive Garden

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cheesy Ground Beef Enchiladas

     I lost my camera before I was able to upload them here for this recipe. Really sorry. But, you can check out the pictures over at The Pioneer Woman. Sorry about that. I HATE cooking something when I don't have a visual to look at. It makes me not want to cook the meal. I love to see what the finished product should look like, so I know if I did something wrong. Plus, the picture is what makes me decide if I want to cook the meal or not. Sometimes the ingredients are questionable, but if it looks really yummy in the picture, I'll give it a shot. So, ultimately, sorry for the mishap. But really, we should all be more sorry about the fact that I lost my camera... sad day. Let's all take a moment of silence for my poor camera, out there in the world, thinking that it's owner has abandoned it. I can't talk about this any more...

     I was in the mood for a little something different, so I chose to use flour tortillas instead of corn this time. Definitely different than corn enchiladas, but they were still really good, kinda chewy and very soft, which we liked.

1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 7oz can chopped green chiles
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp coriander
20 medium flour tortillas
8oz freshly grated cheddar cheese
8oz freshly grated monterey jack cheese

1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp flour
1 28oz can of your favorite enchilada sauce
2 C chicken broth
salt and pepper

For the sauce: In a saucepan over medium, heat the oil and flour for 1 minute (not 2), and whisk together continuously so as not to burn it... like I might have done one, two, maybe three times. Add the enchilada sauce, broth and salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or so.

Brown the ground beef and onions and drain. Add the green chiles and all of the seasonings. Mix well and sautee for several minutes to let the goodness seep into the meat and make it all flavorful. This step is important, and made a big difference in the outcome of my enchiladas, as compared with previous efforts.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shred the cheese and mix together (Freshly grated cheese is super important here people... I am now a firm believer, I have been converted to block cheese, it's pretty much all I use now!)

Spread some sauce on the bottom of a pan (I used a baking sheet, like you would use for cookies. It's a Paula Dean, and I think it's a little bit bigger than a typical cookie sheet and the sides are a teensy bit higher, and it works perfectly for enchiladas).

Make your enchiladas: Hold your tortilla in one hand, and pour 2 -3 tbsp of the meat into the center, making a line. Sprinkle 2 tbsp cheese over the top. Pour 2 tbsp sauce over the top and roll tightly. Place in the pan and continue to make the rest of the enchiladas. Pour sauce over the top and bake for 15 minutes.

Take the enchiladas out and* sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and continue to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.

*Next time I would pour a small amount more of sauce over the top of the enchiladas because they looked a little dry. They weren't dry, they just looked it, probably because I didn't dip them in oil before I assembled the enchilada. But it was okay, they didn't taste dry at all, they were super cheesy, super soft and chewy.

Recipe Adapted from: The Pioneer Woman

Mongolian Beef

     .....or as my husband called it Candied Beef.

     This was probably one of the first Asian dishes that I cooked that I felt like I was eating at an actual restaurant. One can make good Asian dishes at home, but there is usually something missing, like that finish on the chicken or beef that makes it crispy. Well, this dish was not missing that special something. I felt like I was eating at PF Chang's (since it's supposedly their recipe and all).

     We really liked this recipe... but watch out, because as my husband observed, it's pretty sweet! It's definitely not a dull version of Mongolian Beef. I really liked it.

2 tbsp Vegetable oil
1 tsp ginger
2 tbsp garlic
1/2 C soy sauce
1 C brown sugar (if you don't want it as sweet, you might use 1/2 to 2/3 C instead)
1/2 C Vegetable oil
1 lb flank steak or sirloin sliced thinly (I used top sirloin, and this is a big key I think. You want to make sure you get good quality beef, since it's the star of the show, you'll really notice if it's tough and chewy).
1/4 C cornstarch
3 green onions, sliced 1-2 inches in length, on a bias

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds, and add soy sauce. You want to work quickly so that garlic doesn't burn. Slowly add the sugar and stir, allowing it to dissolve. Allow the sauce to come to a boil and let simmer for 2-3 minutes to thicken. Remove and set aside.

Cut steak into thin strips and put in a bag with cornstarch and shake to coat. Let meat sit for 10 minutes, so the cornstarch will stick to the meat.

Put 1/2 C vegetable oil in a wok or skillet and heat to medium high. Add the meat and brown for 3-4 minutes. **Watch carefully, this is another step where your meat can become tough if cooked too long. DO NOT wait for your meat to be fully cooked, otherwise it will dry out completely. We are going to continue cooking the meat in a minute. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels.

Clean the pan out and return the meat and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the sauce and cook another minute. Add the green onions and cook another minute.

Serve over white sticky rice.

Recipe Courtesy of: Confessions of a Homeschooler

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


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