Thursday, January 3, 2019

Easy Cheeseball

Happy New Year!  A few days late.  We had this for our NYE party, just our little fam here at the house.  I'm not sure if the kids appreciate a good cheeseball like the adults do.  Still, a lot of this got eaten.  I made half the recipe (2 blocks of cream cheese), making one bigger cheeseball.  It was so good with all kinds of crackers.  Feel free to add your own spices and seasonings to this. 

Easy Cheeseball
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
this is a half-recipe

2 (8 ounces each) packages cream cheese, softened (can use Neufchatel)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoons dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper (I use coarsely ground pepper)
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped for rolling

1.  Place finely chopped pecans in a shallow dish and set aside. In a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), mix the cream cheese until smooth. Add the cheddar cheese and mix until just combined. Lightly sprinkle all the seasonings and sauces over the cheese mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.

2.  With lightly greased hands, portion the cheese mixture into two pieces (or one, if you want a larger cheeseball) and roll each section into a round ball. Coat in pecans. One easy way to do this is to hold the cheeseball in one hand and scoop up the pecans and press them onto the cheeseball with the other, turning the cheeseball as you go and letting the excess pecans fall back into the dish (this also helps the pecans to go a little further).

3.  Cover each cheeseball in saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Sour Cream Pound Cake

I love pound cake. I first made this back in May with fresh wonderful strawberries, as the base of a strawberry shortcake.  We ate that up so fast there were no pics (unfortunately, it would have made nice pics!!).  I made it again for a simple Christmas Eve dessert.  Although on Christmas Eve, we were so full we didn't end up eating this.  We had it the next day, on Christmas, with whipped cream and good caramel syrup my sister sent from the States.  It was very good. 
Sour Cream Pound Cake
adapted from The Food Network

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the sour cream and mix until incorporated. Sift the baking soda and flour together. Add to the creamed mixture alternating with eggs, beating in each egg 1 at a time. Add vanilla. Pour the mixture into a greased and floured loaf pan. (I use my smaller one.)  Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

White Chocolate Buckeyes

These candies are controversial Buckeyes, I think.  Comments on the original recipe (which doesn't even use white chocolate) seemed mad that cream cheese and graham crackers crumbs were included in the sacred Buckeyes recipe.  But guess what? The cream cheese and graham crackers are wonderful in this; cutting the sweetness and adding something interesting.  So I'm proud to put these on here; they taste super amazing, still melt in your mouth, and aren't that hard to make, either.  I wanted to try white chocolate this time, and I loved that.....I realized it makes it even worse to Buckeye purists, but oh well.  I got two bars of Italian cooking white chocolate... it worked beautifully when melted in a double boiler with some coconut oil.  It was real white chocolate with cocoa butter and no hydrogenated oils.  I meant to post these before Christmas but I didn't get around to it, so here they are now.  (Regular buckeye recipe from the Joy the Baker is here.)

White Chocolate Buckeyes
adapted from the Kitchn

1 pound powdered sugar (about 3 and 3/4 cups)
1 (16.3-ounce) jar creamy peanut butter (not natural), such as Skippy (about 2 cups)
10 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (can use Neufchatel)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 8 graham crackers)
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
12-16 ounces chopped good-quality white chocolate (not chocolate chips)
1 tablespoon refined coconut oil

1.  Place the powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, cream cheese, graham cracker crumbs, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.)

2.  Beat on low speed until just combined, then increase speed to medium and beat, stopping often to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, until the mixture is smooth and holds together when squeezed in the palm of your hand, 2 to 3 minutes. (If using a stand mixer- pay attention to the bottom of the bowl.  There may be dry crumbs down there.  Use a rubber spatula to make sure everything is combined.)

3.  Form into balls- line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls (you should get about 72 (1/2-ounce) balls) and place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least 2 hours.

4.  Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil in a double boiler, stirring until smooth.  Let cool 5 minutes. (I didn't let it cool.... and it was fine.  Use your judgment.)

5.  Dip the balls- line a second rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer 12 of the chilled peanut butter balls onto it. (Keep the rest in the refrigerator to keep them chilled and firm.) Insert a toothpick into the center of one of the peanut butter balls (don’t let it poke all the way through) and dip it into the chocolate, leaving a small opening (about 1-inch across) at the top of the buckeye.

6.  Shake off the excess chocolate- lift the buckeye out of the chocolate and turn the toothpick horizontally so that you are holding it at a 90° angle to the bowl. Gently shake your hand up and down so that any excess chocolate drips off the buckeye and back into the bowl. (You want to remove as much excess chocolate as possible so that it doesn’t pool around the bottoms of the buckeyes.) When the dripping has stopped, twirl the toothpick so that that very last drip wraps around the buckeye and blends in with the rest of the chocolate. (I was tired and didn't dip them quite this well... but if you have a lot of patience this would be a good idea.  Lol.)

7.  Remove the toothpick- turn the buckeye upright and place back onto the baking sheet. Use your finger or a second toothpick to gently push the buckeye off the toothpick (you’ll cover up the hole it leaves later). Repeat dipping with the remaining buckeyes.  If, at any point, the peanut butter balls begin twirling around on the toothpick as you dip, making it difficult to control, return to the refrigerator until chilled.

8.  Smooth over the toothpick holes (optional... lol) -use your thumb and forefinger to gently pinch the peanut butter filling where the toothpick has left a hole, then use your finger to smooth it out. (You want to wait until the chocolate is set up enough to do this so the buckeye doesn’t slide around.)  Refrigerate until the chocolate is set. Refrigerate until the chocolate is hardened, at least 10 minutes.
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Monday, December 17, 2018

Gnocchi in Creamy Tomato Sauce

I loved this quick and easy gnocchi dish.  I have access to such good fresh gnocchi here, I don't think I'll make my own again for a while.  Lol! You cook everything on the stovetop here.  I used my biggest cast-iron skillet and doubled the recipe.  No need to pre-cook the gnocchi here; it cooks right in the sauce.  Love it!

Gnocchi in Creamy Tomato Sauce
adapted from Salt and Lavender
(easily halved- just pick one can of tomato products)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion chopped finely
1/2 cup dry white wine, red wine, or chicken broth
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
3-4 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (about 14 oz) can diced tomatoes with juices
1 (about 14) can tomato sauce
1 cup (can use less) heavy/whipping cream
2 pound uncooked fresh potato gnocchi
1 small handful fresh basil torn or chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional) to taste

1.  Add the olive oil to a large skillet on medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for about 5 minutes (ok if it's lightly browned). Add the white wine, Dijon mustard, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Stir until you've got a smooth mixture and let it cook for about a minute (wine will evaporate).

2.  Add the diced tomatoes, sauce, cream, and gnocchi (do not pre-cook gnocchi). Wait until it starts to lightly bubble again, then reduce the heat to medium and cover for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (so it doesn't stick to bottom).  

3.  Give it a good stir, and add the basil and season with salt & pepper. Let it cook for another couple minutes to ensure the gnocchi is fully cooked and the starch thickens the sauce up a bit more.  Stir in parmesan (optional) or sprinkle it on top. Serve immediately.
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Friday, December 14, 2018

Peppermint White Chocolate Cookies

These cookies are a twist on the classic White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies.  They're made with white chocolate and crushed peppermint candy (or candy canes) and don't contain any nuts.  The candy melts into the cookies and turns delicious.  Because the candy IS actually melting, it's important to use parchment paper with these cookies.  If you don't, the cookies will stick terribly and be almost impossible to remove from the cookie sheets.
I was lucky to have this bag of crushed candy canes left over in my pantry from last year.  They were still good, not stale or stuck together.  I LOVE these things.  No more unwrapping and crushing individual candy canes.  The color is not as brilliant red, but the convenience is worth it. 

Peppermint White Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Closet Cooking

1/2 cup butter room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup peppermint crushed candy cane

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Mix the butter and sugars in a bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet until they are just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate and the peppermint candy cane.

2.  Chill the dough in the fridge for 30-60 minutes before placing it onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet one tablespoon at a time rolled up into balls, using a cookie scoop.

3.  Bake in preheated oven until just lightly golden brown around the edges, about 8-10 minutes.
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Monday, December 10, 2018

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

I have a tried-and-true recipe for mashed potatoes in the slow cooker, but those are actually made on the stove and then just kept warm in the slow cooker.  These new ones are made start to finish in the slow cooker.  When you make these for the first time, get them going about an hour before you think you should.  They can be mashed and kept in the slow cooker for awhile.  The first time I made them, I didn't start them soon enough and we had to wait a little to eat dinner.  Lol.  I did not try them for the first time on Thanksgiving- I made these about a week later.  In the future I might make these for Thanksgiving though.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

4-5 pounds russet or Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I didn't peel)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse, kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth (I use low-sodium)

1/3 cup milk, if needed
2-3 tablespoons butter
2 ounces cream cheese, softened OR 1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Grease the insert of a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Add the potatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, milk, and broth. Stir to combine. (Potatoes may not be totally covered by liquid; it's fine.) Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours until the potatoes are very tender.

2.  Uncover the slow cooker, take out the garlic cloves (I left them in), and add the additional 1/3 cup milk (if needed – if the potatoes already look plenty soft/liquidy, don’t add this or add it gradually), butter, and cream cheese or sour cream. Mash until creamy, using a hand-held potato masher.  Add additional salt and pepper to taste. 

3.  Cover the slow cooker and turn the heat to low or warm until ready to serve (up to an hour).
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Friday, December 7, 2018

Creamy Chicken & Bean Chili (Crockpot)

The whole family really really loved this chili.  It's actually supposed to be a variation of white chicken chili, but mine turned out more colorful for some reason, which I loved.  I loved everything about this.  You can make this in either the Instant Pot or Crockpot.  I have an Instant Pot, but I'm still scared of it, so I chose the crockpot.  I used chicken tenders from my freezer (thawed in fridge overnight first).  I loved how tender the chicken turned out. (Check out original recipe for Instant pot directions.)

I think the fam loved this not only for the delish taste, but for all of the toppings.  We had cilantro, sour cream, cheese, avocados, tortilla chips, and lime juice.  They said it was like tacos in soup form.  Try this recipe; it's so good, easy, and best of all, delicious.

PS: I think this recipe is a more from-scratch version of the chili recipes using dry Ranch dressing mix.  That's the reason for the dry milk and herbs in the recipe.  It's really good- don't be scared.
Creamy Chicken & Bean Chili (Crockpot)
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
15 ounce can diced tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes
4.5 ounce can green chiles
15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
15 ounce can Great Northern/white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders (about 2 large or 3 medium)
8 ounce package cream cheese, light or regular, cut into 6-8 pieces
1 to 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
Toppings of choice (fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, diced avocado, sour cream, fresh limes, tortilla chips)

1.  Slow Cooker Directions: To the insert of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker, add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, green chiles, black beans, white beans, dry milk, chili powder, salt, parsley, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, dill, and black pepper. Stir or whisk well to combine.

2.  Nestle the chicken and cream cheese cubes into the chili (it's ok if it isn't fully submerged). Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

3..Remove the chicken to a cutting board or plate and shred or cut into small pieces, OR shred with two forks right in the crock pot. Stir the chili to incorporate the softened, melty cream cheese. (It might look curdled but will be ok.  Whisk it well and it will even out when you add the corn.)

4.  Add the corn and shredded chicken (if you removed it) back into the slow cooker; stir to combine and let sit on low or high temp to heat through. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Serve the chili with toppings of choice!
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