Friday, February 28, 2014

Old Fashioned Apple Dumplings

This is my Mom's recipe and she has been making these delicious little pie pockets for as long as I can remember.  We wised up and instead of making our own dough which is time consuming, we just used refrigerated store bought pie crust!  This would be a great recipe to try in September when the apple harvest is plentiful!

Apple Dumplings
1 box refrigerated Pillsbury pie crusts
2 to 3 extra large baking apples (like Granny Smith)
2 TBS. sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
apple dumpling syrup (recipe below)
2 TBS. butter

Apple Dumpling Syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup butter
*Place syrup ingredients in sauce pan on stove top and cook over medium heat stirring until sugar is dissolved and it begins to thicken slightly.

Directions: Get pie crust out and let set out on the counter for about 15 minutes until it gets to room temperature.  Unroll both pie crusts and cut each into 4 triangles.  Peel core and slice apples while the pie crust is coming to room temperature.  Place as many apple slices as you can fit on to the large end of the pie crust triangle.  Mix 2 Tbs. sugar, and 1 tsp. cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle apple slices with about 1 tsp. of the cinnamon sugar mixture each. Place a small pat of butter on top of apples and fold dough starting with the pointed and, to encase the apples.  Moisten the edge of dough to seal dough. Place in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour apple dumpling syrup that you have made over dumplings.  Bake in a 375 degree oven until done (about 35 minutes.)  Serve warm with a little cream drizzled over top, or vanilla ice cream.

My Dad said Apple Dumplings are his favorite, although he says that about 
everything he want's to make sure my Mom will make again!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chicken Enchiladas (Crock Pot)

My family loves Mexican food so today we decided to make chicken enchiladas.  This is a great recipe for a crowd because it makes a lot.  You can cut the recipe in half but I usually make the whole thing because enchiladas freeze well and it is great to have some meals on hand in the freezer to take to a sick friend or just to pull out on a busy day!

Chicken Enchiladas (makes 16 enchiladas)
6 chicken breast
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 can green enchilada sauce 
1 can of green chilies
1/2 cup sour cream (plus more for serving)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
16 flour tortillas
salt and pepper
red pepper
garlic powder
cilantro flakes (optional)
green onions for garnish (optional)

Directions:  Place chicken breasts in the bottom of a large crock pot that has been sprayed with non stick cooking spray.  Season breasts with salt and pepper, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and garlic powder and cilantro (optional). Cook on high 3 to 4 hours until chicken is tender (mine took about 3 hours). Remove chicken to another bowl.  There will be some juice from the chicken in the crock pot, mix 1 Tbs. cornstarch with about 1/2 cup water into liquid in pot and cover lid and let thicken. Cut/shred chicken into chunks and set aside.  In crock pot add 2 cans of cream of chicken soup 1 can of green enchilada sauce, 1 can of green chilies, and 1/2 cup sour cream and whisk to combine.  Remove 2 cups of sauce from the crock pot and set aside.  Add the cut up chicken to the remaining sauce in the crock pot and stir.  Lay out tortillas on counter and scoop out about 1/2 cup of chicken mixture onto each tortilla.  Use about 1 cup of the cheese and sprinkle on top of the chicken mixture.  Roll tortillas and place seam side down in 2 sprayed 9" x 13" pans (8 in each pan). Take remaining sauce that you removed from crock pot before adding the chicken and pour about 1 cup on top of the enchiladas in each pan. Sprinkle tops with the remaining cheese and cover with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Garnish with a little sour cream and green onions on top.

Cooks Notes - I baked one casserole and froze the other pan for another night. We served the enchiladas with re-fried beans, Spanish rice, and lettuce. You could easily half this recipe and use 4 chicken breasts and only make one 9 x 13 inch pan, but while you into it, it is just as easy to make an extra one!

Also if you are in a hurry you don't have to cook the chicken in the crock pot. Cook the chicken breast anyway you desire and just mix the "sauce" in a bowl reserving some and adding rest to cooked chicken, continue the recipe as normal.  I just like the chicken cooked in the crock pot because it makes it extra tender!

Place chicken breasts in sprayed crock pot and season, 

Cook on High 3 to 4 hours

Remove chicken breasts when cooked and tender and let cool slightly

Cut chicken into bite size chunks

Add about 1 Tbs. corn starch to 1/2 cup cold water and stir.
Add to liquid in crockpot after taking the cooked chicken out

Add the soup, enchilada sauce, and green chilies to liquid in crock pot

Whisk mixture together

Remove about 2 cups of the enchilada sauce mixture from crock pot 
andset aside to use later

Add cut up chicken to sauce mixture in crock pot

Lay flour tortillas on clean surface 

Scoop about 1/2 cup of chicken mixture on top of each tortilla

Sprinkle with cheese

Roll mixture inside of tortillas and lay seam side down 
in a sprayed 9 x 13 inch baking dish

Pour 1 cup of reserved sauce mixture over top of enchiladas

Don't these look fantastic!

Sprinkle with remaining cheese

Cover with foil and bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes

Remember, these freeze well too, so if you aren't feeding a crowd just pop one in your freezer for a busy night or to take to a sick friend!

Serve with sour cream if desired and sprinkle with chopped green onions

Great served with Mexican rice and re-fried beans for a Mexican fiesta feast!!! To make it even better... why not mix up a batch of margaritas!  


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pie

If you like Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies you are going to love this pie. Serve it warm with vanilla ice cream and it is a real treat!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pie
1 pie crust (homemade or store bought)
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cups brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 TBS. vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups Oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup pecans (broken into pieces)

Directions - Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare crust for pie and place in pie dish and flute edges.  Stir together butter, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla. Add eggs and stir until combined.  Stir in Oats, chocolate chips and pecans. Pour into pie shell and bake in 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until a knife inserted in center of pie comes out clean.

Cooks Notes - I always cover the edges of my pie with foil strips for the first half of the baking time to prevent over browning. 

Make a pie crust from scratch, a mix, or buy a refrigerated or frozen one.  
Pie crusts are not my strong suit so I usually buy Pillsbury refrigerated crusts but it is nice to have a mix on hand in the cupboard for last minute
 pie making adventures!

Stir together butter, corn syrup, brown sugar vanilla, mix in eggs

Stir in oats, chocolate chips and pecans

Pour into pie crust

Cut 3 strips of foil

I like to cover the edges of my pie with strips of foil to prevent over browning 
I usually remove during the last 15 minutes or so of baking

Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes until a knife 
inserted in center comes out clean

This is a great pie to make for last minute guests. It is quick and easy to put together and it is made with things you probably have in your pantry! 


Monday, February 24, 2014

Creamy Orzo with Asparagus and Parmesan

Wow!  This is a fantastic side dish and I know I will be making it again and again! This dish would complement just about anything from grilled chicken, fish or even steak!  It is super easy to make, and it tastes delicious.  I got the original recipe from Sugar and Spice by Celeste and only "tweaked" it a little by using fat free half and half instead of regular cream. You could even add cooked diced chicken or bacon to the dish to make it a complete meal!

Creamy Orzo with Asparagus and Parmesan
1 cup Orzo (about 1/2 box)
1 cup asparagus cut into 1" pieces
1 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup cream (I used fat free 1/2 and 1/2)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large sauce pan of water to a boil over medium heat. Cook the orzo until tender, about 10 minutes. After the orzo has been cooking for about 5 minutes, add the asparagus to the same pot (this will allow the orzo and asparagus to cook in the same pot and keep the clean-up to a minimum!). Once the orzo and asparagus are cooked and tender, drain and return to the same pot. Quickly add the Parmesan cheese and butter. Stir thoroughly, allowing both the cheese and butter to melt. Slowly add the cream to the mixture, while stirring. Continue to stir and add cream until you reach your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

 Bring a pan of water to boil and add Orzo and boil for about five minutes

 Wash, clean and cut asparagus into smaller pieces 

 Add the asparagus to the pot of boiling orzo and cook 
about another 5 minutes until the Orzo is cooked and 
asparagus is tender (about 10 to 12 minutes total cooking time)

 Drain Orzo and asparagus in colander 

 Melt butter in pan on stove top over medium heat

  Add the Parmesan cheese to the butter

 Return the Orzo/asparagus to the pan with the butter and mix in the cream

 Add garlic powder and stir well

Serve as a side dish or even add cooked diced chicken or 
crumbled bacon for a complete one dish meal!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Around Valentines Day there are always places offering chocolate covered strawberries and they usually come with a pretty high price tag.  They run anywhere from $5.99 to $19.99 for 6 of the little specialty delight fruit bites.  I thought these would be a fun addition to our Sweetheart Dinner on Valentines Day so I decided to make some myself. They are pretty quick and easy to make and cost a fraction of what you can buy them for at a grocery store or specialty confectionery shop.  This is how I did it...

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
24 large fresh strawberries, washed and patted dry with a paper towel
1/2 bag of Wilton chocolate melts
1/4 bag of Wilton white chocolate melts

Directions:  Wash the strawberries and pat them dry with a paper towel to get the moisture off.  Melt chocolate in the microwave in a small bowl according to the package directions. Dip each berry 3/4 way up into the melted chocolate and place on a wax paper or foil lined pan to harden.  Place the pan in fridge for a few minutes to get them to harden faster if you would like. Melt the white chocolate wafers in a pastry bag setting in a bowl in the microwave and mush around until melted.  Snip the tip of the bag so you have a tiny hole in the end and drizzle the melted white chocolate over the chocolate dipped strawberries!

Cooks Notes - Candy melting wafers can be found in Meijers, Michael's, or cake decorating stores in the craft/baking isle.  You can also use melted chocolate chips (see the package or internet for instructions).

Wash and pat dry strawberries and get chocolate ready

Foil line a large pan or cookie sheet

Melt chocolate wafers in microwave according to package directions

Dip strawberries in melted chocolate about 3/4 of the way up

Lay them on foil lined pan to harden.  To speed it up you can 
put the pan in the fridge for a few minutes, but my strawberries 
were a little cool so the chocolate hardened pretty fast

If you are wanting to garnish with white chocolate 
then the easiest way is to melt the wafers right in a plastic pastry bag. 
 I lay the bag with the wafers in a glass bowl and microwave for 30 sec. intervals, mushing the chocolate around in the bag until melted.  
Snip off the end and drizzle the white chocolate onto the dipped strawberries. 

They are so pretty and they look just like something out of a 
specialty chocolate shop at the Mall!

These make a wonderful gift or treat for someone special.  For Jessy's birthday one year when she was away at college, John and I sent her flowers, a balloon and some chocolate dipped strawberries from Shari's Berries that I found a Groupon for. They are a little pricey but since we were mailing them and they are perishable this was a better route.  But if you have a friends birthday coming up and want to make them a special treat, these would be adorable wrapped up in a cute little birthday tin or bag! 

Happy Dipping!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cherry Bars

What is a Valentines Day dinner with out some sweet treats to finish off the meal? This dessert is a combinations between cherry pie and sugar cookies and makes a huge pan full of bars so you can really serve a crowd with this recipe! Cherry and almond is a delicious flavor combo, and since it is a beautiful red and white dessert I thought it would be a perfect choice for our Valentine's Day Sweetheart Dinner

Cherry Bars (prep time 20 min./ cook time 30 min)
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cans (21 oz.) cherry pie filling

1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond
2 to 3 TBS. milk

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in flavor extracts and gradually add flour, blend well.  Spread 3 cups of the batter into a well greased or sprayed 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan. Spread with pie filling.  Drop remaining batter by teaspoonfuls over filling.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown (it actually took about 45 minutes in the baking dish I used.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.  In small bowl combine confectioners sugar, vanilla, and almond flavorings with 2 to 3 Tbs. milk (until desired consistency).  Drizzle glazed over bars and let glaze dry before cutting into bars.  Sit back and let the compliments roll in ;)!

Cream butter, sugar, and salt until light and fluffy

Add eggs one at a time until well blended

Add almond flavoring

Add vanilla flavoring

Gradually mix in flour

Mix until you have a soft sugar cookie like dough

Add 3 cups of the dough mixture to a sprayed 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan 
(I used a deeper one)

Spread mixture smooth

Spread 2 cans cherry pie filling on top of dough

Drop spoonfuls of the rest of the dough on top of the cherry pie filling

Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown for about 45 minutes

When cool mix powdered sugar, milk and flavoring to make icing

Stir until smooth

Drizzle on top of of cherry bars