Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Homemade Brownie Mix


Brownie mix is something that is great to keep in your pantry for last minute guests or if you need to whip up a dessert in a jiffy to take somewhere.  I like to buy brownie mixes on sale for 99 cents and keep a few on hand, but I decided recently to explore making some mixes out of ingredients I already have in my pantry. For about 50 cents a batch you can mix up this brownie mix... that's a savings of 50% off the sale price so I would say that is a pretty good deal!  Here is how to quickly put some together for your pantry...

Homemade Brownie Mix #1 (9"x 0" square pan)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder

Mix in gallon Ziploc bag with directions written on outside of bag to make brownies.

Directions:  When you are ready to make your brownies, pour the contents of the bag into a bowl and add, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Stir to combine and pour into an 8 x 9 or a 9 x 9 inch baking pan and bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, checking for doneness after 15 minutes.

Cooks Notes - Would make a cute present if dry contents were put in a mason jar and the directions tied on with a cute tag and bow! I also added 2 Tbs. of water to the brownie batter because when I mixed it, it seemed pretty thick!  Just write on the outside of the bag with a sharpie the directions for baking so you always have on hand a quick easy dessert that you can make in a Jiffy!

Homemade Brownie Mix #2 (9" x 13" pan)
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup cocoa
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Directions:  Add 3 eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 stick of butter, to contents of dry mix, and stir to combine.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 22 to 25 minutes.



Measure and mix together sugar...


Flour...


Cocoa...


Salt...


And baking powder in Zip lock bags...


Write baking directions on outside of bag with sharpie
(sorry I couldn't find my sharpie for this picture!)


When you need a batch of brownies... mix them up, bake, and enjoy!


Who doesn't like a moist delicious brownie!

I posted both recipes I found, because they were a little different.  I have only tried the first one myself, and thought they turned out great.  I usually make a larger pan of brownies when I am making them so next time I will try the 9 x 13" recipe!

Saving Money,
Sandy

Monday, April 28, 2014

Italian Pesto Burgers!



DELIZIOSO!  That is what your family will say when they take a bite out of one of these moist flavorful Italian Pesto Burgers. This is a super simple Sunday meal that my boys really enjoyed!

I had a little bit of basil pesto left from my Pesto Chicken Bake recipe that I posted about a week ago and as I was trying to think of what I wanted to use to flavor up our burgers today, I thought why not that pesto! The taste was fantastic and combined with a little left over spaghetti sauce from our pizza night and some yummy melty Munster cheese these burgers turned out great!

Italian Pesto Burgers
2.5 lbs ground chuck (or turkey)
1/4 cup basil pesto plus more for bun
1 TBS. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
Munster or mozzarella cheese
Hamburger buns
Spaghetti sauce 

Directions:  Mix your ground beef with 1/4 cup basil pesto, 1 Tbs. Italian seasoning blend, and a little salt and pepper.  Form into desired number of patties (mine made seven good size burgers). Grill until cooked through.  Place slice of cheese on top of each burger and melt.  Place on buns and serve with additional pesto and spaghetti sauce on the side!

We served these tasty burgers up with a side of homemade fries. Give them a try today and give your burgers a little taste of Italy!



Mix up your ground beef with your pesto... ground turkey would work fine too!


Add 1 Tbs. Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to meat mixture


Form into patties and throw them on your grill


I used my handy dandy indoor grill because it was raining outside!  
Cook until done


Don't forget to melt a little cheese on top!


Serve with a little spaghetti sauce and extra pesto!

These burgers were great with a side of homemade french fries, and a nice green leafy salad!  If you grill these puppy's on your deck, I guarantee you will have everyone in your neighborhood drooling from the smell!

Godere!  (enjoy in Italian)
Sandy





Friday, April 25, 2014

Honey Mustard Glazed Chops




This is a quick and easy dish that you can have on the table in 15 minutes.  We used fairly thin pork chops that cook quick, and with the deliciously tangy honey mustard glaze it is a perfect meal for a busy night!  Serve it up with some wild rice and a veggie and your family will think you spent hours in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove!

Honey Mustard Glazed Chops
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbs. mustard (I used a Dijon honey mustard)
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. onion powder
Salt and pepper
4 boneless pork chops (I used 6 thin chops)
Orange slices (optional) 

Directions:  Mix the honey, mustard, and cloves in small bowl and set aside. Season pork chops with salt, pepper, and onion powder.  Place a little olive oil in skillet, and heat over medium high heat.  Add seasoned chops and cook 3 minutes.  Turn pork, and pour glaze over meat in pan, reduce heat to medium/low and continue to cook 5 to 8 minutes longer until chops are no longer pink and are cooked through (temp should be 160 degrees). Garnish with orange slices if desired.

Cooks Notes - I loved the idea of the orange slices but I did not have oranges so I put the segments of 3 clementines right in the skillet just before the pork chops were almost done, letting them get a little warm and soft.  Of course this step was my creative addition, and is totally optional... but it sure looked and tasty mighty fine!



Season chops with salt, pepper and onion powder and cook on 
medium/high heat in olive oil


Mix mustard (I used honey Dijon), and honey in a small bowl


add ground cloves


Turn pork chops over after about 3 minutes and pour honey
 mustard glaze over meat in pan and continue to cook 5 to 8 minutes
 until chops are no longer pink and are cooked through


I added clementine segments the last few minutes of cooking instead of orange slices because that is what I had and they where delicious with the pork and glaze


What a pretty presentation for a simple quick weeknight dinner!


Served up with some fresh veggies and some wild rice blend 
and it was a great dinner!

The honey mustard glaze on these pork chops was really tasty and it made a simple weeknight meal a little more special!  

Happy Friday!
Sandy


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter Dinner 2014....


John would say that I am in my "wheel house" when I am getting ready for a holiday.  I love to decorate, plan, and prepare.  I like trying new recipes and making special touches to make everything nice. This year I tried a few new recipes and used some tried and true. 

Easter peeps/jelly beans arrangement

When my kids were younger we usually went to my Mom's for Easter and she always had an Easter egg hunt for the grand kids. She would fill eggs with money and candy and hide them in her yard, weather permitting, and inside the house if the weather was bad.  She was really smart about it, she would give each of the kids a empty basket and assign them a color egg for the hunt and told them the number of eggs to hunt for so they would know when they found all their eggs... it kept everything even with the grand kids, everyone got the same number of eggs and money!

Madeleine with her bunny ears

Since my Mom got older we started having more holidays at my house.  She still helps out a lot bringing all the family favorite dishes everyone loves. Unfortunately this year my Mom got sick and did not want to pass her cold to everyone, so she stayed home this year... that meant I had to do a little more planning to get everything done!  

One thing I did to free up my oven is I used my crock pot to heat the spiral sliced ham which actually turned out great and it helped with getting the other things done on time in the oven!

Bunny napkins

Below is my menu for Easter dinner, including some old family favorites, and some new recipes that I decided to try!

My calorie free chocolate bunny arrangement :)

Easter Dinner 2014

Carrot shaped cheese ball/crackers

Village Salad w/ homemade dressing
Spiral sliced ham
Cheesy hash brown potatoes (kicked up a notch)
Sweet Potato Souffle
Fresh asparagus
Carrots
Fruit salad

Cheesecake Factory copycat carrot cake cheesecake
Coconut Bars
Bunny chocolate dipped pretzels 

Dinner turned out great, we missed my Mom and took her a pretty Easter tulip and some leftovers. I will be posting some of these yummy recipes on my blog in the weeks ahead.

Chocolate bunny pretzels

Carrot shaped ham/onion cheese ball

My bunny collection

Peeps and jelly bean arrangement 

Uncle John holding Madeleine up to see her ears in the mirror

Say cheese!

Dad, niece, and brother Jim


If you are a believer, Easter is a wonderful day to celebrate the death and Resurrection of Christ and what is means to us personally. We had a beautifully sunny spring day this Easter and after the long winter we experienced it was a wonderful reminder of the new life we have in Christ. Like I always say, it is a blessing to be able to gather your friends and family around your table and celebrate the holidays together. And my prayer for everyone is that the blessings of Easter fill your heart with the limitless love that God has for each of us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 
 ~ John 3:16

Easter Blessings,
Sandy 





Monday, April 21, 2014

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

This casserole looked wonderful when I saw a picture of it on Pinterest.  We served it up with some noodles and asparagus and it was a delicious simple version of what is usually a more complicated and time consuming dish.  It blends all the flavors of Chicken Cordon Blue into one simple dish... give it a try today!


Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

4 chicken breast cooked, diced
1/2 lb. thin sliced deli style ham
1/4 lb. baby swiss cheese
3 1/4 cup milk

Sauce
4 Tbs. Butter
4 Tbs. flour
3 1/4 cup milk
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Topping
6 Tbs. butter 
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3/4 tsp seasoning salt
1 1/2 tsp. parsley

Directions:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and spray 9 x 13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray place diced cooked chicken in bottom of the baking dish. Scatter chopped ham on top of the chicken.  Lay the Swiss cheese on top of the ham.  Make sauce on stove by melting butter over medium heat.  When the butter is melted, quickly stir in the flour to form a smooth roux, do not brown!  Once the roux is smooth and bubbly, slowly pour in the cold milk while stirring briskly to make a smooth sauce.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.  Stir in the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt, smoked paprika and white pepper.  Bring sauce just back to a low boil and turn off heat.  Pour sauce evenly over the casserole.  Mix the topping, melt the butter in microwave, once melted stir in the bread crumbs, seasoning salt, and parsley.  Sprinkle on top of the casserole.  Bake the casserole uncovered for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly throughout and topping has turned a light golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving.

Cooks Notes - This would have been a great recipe to use a Rotisserie chicken cut up, but instead I just browned mine in a little olive oil and salt and pepper on the stove top for a little added flavor, but of course you can cook your chicken anyway you choose!


 Cook Chicken, or use a rotisserie chicken cut up


 While chicken is cooking make white sauce on stove top in medium size pan


Place cooked chicken in a sprayed 9 x 13 inch baking dish


 Coarsely cut up deli ham into pieces


 Place ham on top of chicken in dish and lay slices of Swiss cheese 
on top of the ham


 Make the season buttered bread crumbs and sprinkle over the 
entire casserole (sorry for the blurry picture)


Bake in 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes until bubbly and browned

This casserole blends tender bites of chicken with the smoky sweetness of the ham along with the yummy creaminess of the cheese and sauce and topped off with a buttery crunch on top... I say you can't go wrong with this one! I know my hubby really liked it, because when he was eating it, he said... "you can make this again" :)!  Although I am a pretty lucky girl, John is really not a very picky eater and if you ask him what his favorite meal is he will always say the one he is about to eat, so I really don't have to worry much about what I am going to make!  

Feeding my family,
Sandy

Friday, April 18, 2014

Preacher (Rabbi) Cake :)!

Preacher Cake

Last night we spent the evening up the street at our good friends and neighbors Nadya and Ken's home for a spaghetti dinner.  Nadya loves to entertain and is always game for opening her home to friends and family.  I offered to bring something to help out and she asked me to bring a dessert.  At first she asked me to bring the pistachio cake that I posted for St. Patty's day, she saw it and thought it looked yummy.  But a few days ago I saw this recipe online for a "preacher cake" and told her that I had been wanting to try it out, and she told me to go for it. It sounded delicious, with pecans, coconut, and pineapple and it was a pretty simple recipe even though it doesn't start with a cake mix, hahaha! 

 Nadya and Teri, two wonderful neighbors

Evidently it is called a preacher cake, because back in the day, a housewife would whip this cake up when she had last minute guests coming for dinner (like the preacher). It was easy to make and she usually had all the ingredients in her pantry!  Since my friends our Jewish, my husband said to call it a Rabbi cake instead :).  It doesn't matter what name you give it, one thing is true of this cake... it was yummy!  

Cheers John!

Nadya told me there were around 12 people coming for dinner, so this cake was perfect.  It said to bake it in a 9" x 13" pan, but it made so much batter, I baked it in my larger 11" x 15" baker and it was still a thick cake. And the larger pan will make 16 nice size servings instead of 12 and wanted to make sure I had plenty! I think it would have been way too much batter for the 9 x 13 inch pan anyway.

Yum-O!

Preacher Cake (Rabbi Cake)
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups sugar
3 eggs 
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans or walnuts (divided)
1 cup flaked coconut (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese softened to room temp.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Cake Directions:  Sift together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon) and set aside.  In mixer, combine, sugar, eggs, oil vanilla and mix on medium speed until creamy.  Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Add pineapple, juice and all and mix, then add coconut and 1 cup pecans and continue mixing until fully combined. Pour cake batter into a 9 x 13 inch pan and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until done, about 45-50 minutes.  Let cool, and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cooks Notes:  I suggest using a bigger pan like a 11 x 15", or using a 9 x 13 and pour some into a smaller pan too... it made a ton of batter!

Frosting Directions:  Cream together with mixer the softened cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar and blend until light and fluffy.  Frost top of cake and sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped pecans


 In mixer combine sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla until creamy


 Add dry ingredients and mix again


 Add pineapple with juice


 Chop pecans and add to batter


 Mix gently to fold in


 Pour in prepared baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes


 Gather ingredients for cream cheese frosting


 Let cake cool


 While cake is cooling make frosting... 
blend the softened butter and cream cheese together


Add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until smooth and creamy


Frost the top of cake and sprinkle with remaining pecans!

Nadya always sets a beautiful table!

Nadya and Ken are great hosts, and we always have a wonderful time at their home.  They had a fun group of people, and we had fun catching up with some neighbors we hadn't seen in a while, and meeting some new ones too!  She always sets a lovely table too... I have to admit, I covet her purple crystal water goblets a bit! Thanks friend, for another fun dinner party!

XOXOXO,
Sandy