Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last post of 2013: Too Much Chocolate Cake :)

Yes, one last super indulgent post for this year.  One last chance to pig out on this delicious cake before our conscience remembers that it's the beginning of a new year and we need to get serious about losing that stubborn weight. :)  Oh, yes, before I forget again, hubby reminded me to mention that yes, I did get new plates for Christmas, so if you're a regular reader of this blog, do not be confused. :)
Ok, too much blabbering.  Make this cake, enjoy it because it is absolutely delicious, and have a wonderful New Year!
-1 (15.25 oz) box devil's food cake mix
-1 (5.85 oz) box instant chocolate pudding mix
-1 cup sour cream
-1 cup vegetable oil
-4 eggs
-1/2 cup warm water
-2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Coat a bundt cake pan with the baking spray (the one with butter and flour in it).  Set aside.
Mix together all the ingredients, except chocolate chips.  Mix until smooth.  Gently stir in the chocolate chips.  Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let it cool in the pan for 1 hour.  Remove onto a plate and lightly dust with powdered sugar.  Let it cool completely, slice and enjoy!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Slow Cooker Pineapple Ham

Warming the holiday ham in the slow cooker and adding some extra flavor to it, is quite nice because it frees up some much needed space in the oven, it takes another worry off the list, it's super easy and it turns out delicious.  The possibilities with this are endless.  You can use any kind of ham you want and adjust the flavors to your liking.  This is just one simple way of doing it.  Enjoy!
-one ham (any kind you like)
-1 can sliced pineapple
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-1/2 tsp ground cloves
Coat slow cooker with cooking spray.  Place ham in slow cooker.
Pour juice from pineapple in small bowl.  Arrange pineapple slices on top of the ham.  Mix juice with brown sugar and cloves.  Pour on top on ham and pineapple slices.
Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.  Slice ham and enjoy!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Slow Cooker Super Easy Meatballs

This is another wonderful, delicious and easy appetizer; always a crowd pleaser.  Enjoy!
-64 oz frozen meatballs
-20 oz grape jelly
-12 oz chili sauce
Place meatballs in slow cooker.  In a separate bowl, combine the jelly and sauce.  Pour over meatballs.  Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.  Switch to warm.  It can stay like that for about 8 hours.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cranberry Feta Pinwheels

This is a super easy appetizer.  I love the flavors in it.  The slight saltiness of the feta mixed with the sweetness of the cream cheese and cranberries, followed by the sharpness of the green onions, all enveloped in the deliciousness of the spinach wraps.  Delish!  Enjoy!
-8 oz whipped cream cheese
-5 oz crumbled feta cheese (regular or low fat; both work just as well)
-5 oz dried cranberries
-4 green onions, chopped
-4-5 spinach or spinach with herbs tortillas
Mix the cream cheese, feta, cranberries and onions.  Spread onto each tortilla, then roll tightly.  Wrap each rolled tortilla in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  When ready to serve, remove plastic, then slice each tortilla.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Romanian Sweet Bread with Nut Filling (Cozonac cu Nuca)

One of the greatest achievements in the life of a Romanian woman is to make a good cozonac.  I know, it's silly.  But people really are afraid to even try making it because it takes a lot of little details to ensure the success of this bread.  It's well worth it though, as the taste is absolutely amazing!  Super aromatic, fluffy and simply delicious, this sweet bread will sure win you over. My dough didn't really rise during the time it was supposed to, even though it was well covered and it sat on a warm surface, like it's required.  I almost gave up and didn't want to make it anymore, thinking that it will fail.  It only rose a little after I put the filling in, but still not much.  Very disappointed, I put it in the oven and what do you know!  Not even 10 minutes into it and BAM, it rose like crazy!  And it continued to do so, until it became this beautiful, wonderful, fluffy yumminess.:)  Anyway, enough of this blabber.  Here's the recipe!  Enjoy!
For the dough:
-4 cups PLUS 1 Tbs flour
-1 package active dry yeast
-1 cup PLUS 1 Tbs sugar
-4 egg yolks PLUS 1 full egg
-1 cup PLUS 2 Tbs warm milk
-pinch of salt
-1 Tbs rum extract
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-3 Tbs to 1/4 cup oil
For the filling:
-2 cups finely chopped walnuts
-1 Tbs cocoa powder
-1 egg white
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 Tbs rum extract
For brushing:
-1 egg yolk
-1 Tbs milk
Preheat oven to 375 F.  You will place the dough on top of the stove, where the heated oven will provide enough heat.
Mix yeast, 1 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs flour and 2 Tbs milk.  Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
Mix all the eggs, sugar and salt.  In the mixing bowl pour the flour and make a crater out of it.  Inside the crater pour the yeast mixture, egg mixture, warm milk, rum and vanilla extracts.  With the hook (paddle works fine too) attachments, mix the dough for about 10 minutes.  Gently fold in the oil, a little at a time.  Cover the mixture well and put on top of stove (see note above).  Let sit for about 2 hours (it should double in size).
Meanwhile, mix all of the filling ingredients.
When the time is up for the dough, spray a bit of oil on your kitchen countertop.  Divide dough into two.  Spread them out into rectangles (not too thin).  One one of them pour out all the filling mixture.
Spray generously a large loaf pan with cooking spray. Gently roll both doughs (the filled one and empty one).  Then intertwine them (like a two strand braid).  Carefully, pick up the "braid" and place it in prepared pan.  Cover and let it rise for another hour.  Brush with egg mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350 F and bake for another 15-20 minutes. If the crust gets too dark, cover it loosely with aluminum foil until the cozonac is fully cooked (the toothpick should come out clean).  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Boeuf Salad (Romanian Potato Salad)

I grew up in Romania, a beautiful Eastern European country.  One of the traditional dishes is this amazing potato salad.  It might not look like much, but it is absolutely delicious!  Traditionally, you boil the potatoes in beef broth (from boiling a large beef bone with some meat on it), then also add the meat to the salad.  However, that's more time consuming and more and more people have been dropping that step.  The name still stands though, since the French word boeuf (which has been borrowed in Romanian for this salad) means beef. You can still add meat, if you so desire, but this side dish version has become a lot more popular.  However you choose to have it, it's definitely worth the time it takes to make.  There simply isn't another potato salad like this one!  And definitely  don't count the calories.  :)  Enjoy!
-1 bag potatoes (5 lbs)
-2-3 carrots (normal size, not baby carrots)
-1 (15 oz) can sweet peas, drained
-6-8 baby dill kosher pickles, plus 3-4 more to decorate the salad
-1 Tbs yellow mustard
-black olives to decorate
-optional: sweet pickled peppers to decorate
-optional: cooked turkey or chicken breast (cut in small pieces) 
Boil all the potatoes with the peel on.  They are done when you can stick a fork through them.  Drain 
the water immediately and let them cool.  If you leave them in water they become mushy and gross.  Peel them after they are cool.  Dice them in tiny pieces mand place them in a large bowl.
Peel the carrots and boil them until fork tender.  Drain and let them cool.  Dice them in tiny pieces (like the potatoes).  Add them to potatoes.
Add the drained peas to the potato mixture.
Dice the pickles.  Drain them on paper towels- squeeze until there's no more juice coming out of them.  Then, add them to the mix.
If you decide to use meat, add it now. 
Mix everything well.  Add salt (to taste) and mix.  Add yellow mustard and 1 cup of mayo.  Mix well and taste.  Add more salt or mayo if necessary.
When it tastes good enough to you, pour the mixture on a large platter and shape it as you want.
Place 5-6 Tbs mayo on top and spread all over in a thin layer.  You can add more if you want to. 
Cut 3-4 pickles, the olives and sweet peppers in any shapes you want and decorate the way you want to.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Best Gingerbread Cookies

I love making stuff with my kids.  Of course, gingerbread cookies are just perfect for that.  I made the dough while they were at school, then let it chill in the fridge.  Then they helped me roll it and had a blast cutting it into shapes.  Of course, the best part was to eat them once they were done. :)  This recipe is very easy and produces, by far, THE best gingerbread cookies.  Super yum!  Enjoy!
-6 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1 large egg
-1/4 cup molasses
-1/4 cup honey
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 Tbs ground ginger
-1 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp ground cloves
-3 cups flour
Cream butter with the sugar and egg.  Slowly add the molasses, honey and vanilla.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix well.  Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix until doughy looking (it will look crumbly at the beginning).  
Separate the dough into halves.  Wrap each half into plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no more than 8 hours.  
About 15 minutes before you need the dough, take it out of the fridge and let it rest to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Lightly flour your working area and rolling pin.  Place the dough and roll it to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes.
Bake in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes.  It depends on how crispy you like them.  The less time they bake, the softer the cookies are.
Let them cool completely, then remove onto serving plate.
If desired, you can either dust a little powdered sugar on top or decorate with icing.  We prefer them plain.  They are simply delicious!  Enjoy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Quick, easy and delicious!  If you claim to not like Brussels Sprouts, this dish will definitely make you change your opinion.  And it's not just the bacon...  :)  The sprouts are beautifully roasted and there's still a little crispiness to them.  Super delicious!  A must try!  Enjoy!
-6 slices bacon, chopped
-2 Tbs salted butter
-1/2 onion, finely diced
-1 lb Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
-salt and pepper, to taste
Cook bacon until nice and crispy.  Remove onto a plate lined with paper towels.
Leave the bacon grease in the pan and add the butter.  Once melted, add the onion.  Saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the sprouts and give it a good stir.  Roast for 6-8 minutes until golden brown.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Add the cooked bacon and give it another stir.  Cook for 1 minute.  Remove from the stove and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Super Moist Pistachio Bundt Cake

I know it's silly, but I do have a weakness for bundt cakes.  I don't know if it's the shape or because it's easier than the regular cake, but I love it. :)  This cake is VERY moist, which I love.  It's very easy too.  Enjoy!
-1 (15.25 oz) box super moist/moist supreme yellow cake mix
-2 (3.4 oz each) packages instant pistachio pudding
-1 1/2 cups water
-4 eggs
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1/2 cup chopped roasted, salted and shelled pistachios
-powdered sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Coat a bundt cake pan with the baking spray (the one with butter and flour in it).  Set aside.
In your mixer's bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding, water, eggs and oil.  Beat on low for 30 seconds, then on medium for 2 minutes.  Stir in the pistachios.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Dust with some powdered sugar.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Easy Broccoli Cheese Soup

For the past few months, my ward's relief society newsletter started including recipes too.  How awesome is that!  This is one of the recipes included.  As soon as I saw it I knew it would make it on our dinner calendar.  I am so glad I made it because it's super easy, quick (less than 30 minutes!) and delicious!  I only made a few small changes to it; otherwise is just as it was in the newsletter.  :)  Enjoy!
-2 cups chicken broth
-1 small onion, finely diced
-2 cups milk
-4 Tbs salted butter
-1/3 cup flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
-1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
-3 cups frozen chopped broccoli
Simmer broth and onion in a small saucepan for 15-20 minutes, covered.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the flour and create a roux.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  Gradually, whisk in the warm milk.  Stir well and cook for about 7 minutes or until the soup starts to thicken.
Add the broth and give it a good stir.  Add the cheeses and stir until completely melted.  Stir in the frozen broccoli.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Creamy Burrito Casserole

Yes, it's super easy and yes, it tastes just like a burrito.  Actually, I think it tastes better than a burrito. :)  Enjoy!
-1 lb extra lean ground beef
-1/2 medium onion, finely diced
-1 package taco seasoning
-1 (16 oz) can refried beans
-1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
-1/2 cup sour cream
-8 (7 inch) flour tortillas
-3 cups shredded taco cheese or cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Brown the ground beef with the onion. Add the taco seasoning.  Stir well.  Add the beans and stir until well combined.  Remove from stove.
Mix the soup with the sour cream.  Spread half of that on bottom of 9x13 casserole dish.  Tear 4 tortillas and layer them on top of soup mixture.  Top that with half the meat mixture.  Sprinkle half the cheese on top.  Repeat layers: soup mix, torn tortillas, meat mix and cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

White Bean and Roasted Mushroom Soup

The weather is super cold and snowy where I live, so a nice, hot soup was in order.  This is the perfect soup.  The flavor is amazing!  Imagine the roasted mushrooms, mixed with roasted onion and garlic with yummy herbs, all combined with delicious beans and broth.  It really can't get better.  This soup is just amazing, delicious and filling.  Enjoy!
-16 oz mushrooms,washed, patted dry and quartered
-2 large onions, peeled and quartered
-3 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed
-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 tsp dried sage
-2 tsp dried thyme, divided
-6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth for a full vegetarian soup)
-3 (15 oz each) cans great northern beans, NOT drained
Preheat oven to 450 F.
On a large baking sheet, place the mushrooms, onions and garlic.  Sprinkle with the oil, some salt and pepper, the sage and 1 tsp of the thyme.  Give it a good stir, making sure that everything is evenly coated with the oil and spices.  Roast in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Toss and roast for 15 more minutes.
While the veggies are roasting, add the broth, beans, a little salt and pepper, and remaining thyme to a large stockpot.  Bring to a simmer.
When the vegetables are done roasting, place the onion and garlic in a blender.  Add two cups of beans and one of broth from the stockpot.  Blend until creamy.  Return bean and onion mixture to the stockpot.  Add the mushrooms with all the juices.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!
Slightly adapted from a recipe found here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Slow Cooker French Chicken

Four ingredients thrown together in the crockpot so that you can have a delicious meal at the end of the day.  It can't get better than this!  I had some leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and used it in this recipe.  But regular, whole berry, canned cranberry sauce works just fine.  Make sure to serve it on top of some rice.  Super easy and absolutely delicious!  Enjoy!
-4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
-1 cup canned whole berry cranberry sauce or 1 cup homemade cranberry sauce
-8 oz French style dressing
-1 packet Onion soup and dip mix
Coat your slow cooker with cooking spray.  Layer the chicken on the bottom.
Combine remaining ingredients into a small bowl.  Pour over chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.  Serve over hot rice.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Polar Express Hot Chocolate

If you're looking for the chocolatiest, richest, most decadent hot chocolate ever, look no more.  This is it!  You have to try this.  It's insanely good!  Of course, you can top it off with a dollop of whipped topping to make it even richer, if that's possible. :)  Enjoy!
-1 1/2 cups heavy cream
-1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
-2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
-6 cups milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix everything in a large pot over medium heat.  Cook until simmering and chocolate is melted.  Pour hot into mugs.  Top with a dollop of whipped topping, if desired.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Easy Baked Churros

Before I talk about this recipe, I want to remind everyone of St. Nick coming tonight!  So make sure you and your little ones have cleaned your shoes/boots and placed them by the door.  If you've been good, he'll leave you goodies; if not, a stick!  I love this Romanian tradition and my kids are looking forward to it every year.  It's fun!
Now on to the recipe.  It is beyond simple and quick.  You use puff pastry already made.  That shaves off a lot of the time.  Besides being quick, it's also delicious.  It really tastes like churros, but with 1/3 of the work!  Win-win!  Enjoy!
-1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
-1/4 cup unsalted butter
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 450 F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Carefully unfold the thawed pastry sheet and lay it out on cutting board.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough along the visible folding line.  Then cut each section into 1 inch wide strips.  Arrange strips on prepared cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
While they're baking, melt the butter.  Pour it into a shallow bowl.
In another shallow bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon.
As soon as the pastry strips are done baking, quickly dip them (do not soak!) in the butter, then roll into cinnamon sugar.
Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Slow Cooker Saucy Ribs

I know I said it so many times, but I really love my slow cooker.  Life is busy toting 5 little kids around all day long, so it's nice to just throw things in my crockpot and have a nice meal waiting for us at the end of the day.  The sauce is super, extra good in this recipe.  Finger-licking good! And it had a tiny little kick to it. :)  Enjoy!
-3 lbs boneless pork ribs
-2 cups ketchup
-1 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup chopped onion or a handful dehydrated chopped onion
-4-6 dashes of Tabasco sauce
-2 Tbs yellow mustard
-2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
Coat a large skillet with cooking spray.  Quickly brown the ribs (you might have to do this in batches).  Remove and place them in the slow cooker.
Combine all remaining ingredients and pour over browned ribs.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Super Simple Fruit Salad

This is not really a recipe.  It's more a way to make that fruit salad even better than before!  There's a little secret and it's called: vanilla pudding mix! Of course, you can use any fresh fruit you have on hand.  This is what I had.  :) Enjoy!
-1 pineapple
-1 cantaloupe
-4 kiwis
-2 bananas
-2 cups grapes, halved
-2 Tbs instant vanilla pudding mix
Peel and cut the fruit into bite size chunks.  Give it a good stir.  Sprinkle the pudding all over and mix very well.  Try to avoid any clumps.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Filipino Leche Flan

This dessert is super easy to put together and out of this world delicious!  I did use my blender to mix the custard ingredients, which made everything much easier.  When you are ready to serve the flan, you have to turn it upside down.  That's when you see all that caramel oozing, ready to pop out and inundate the dish with its deliciousness.  The flan is creamy, sweet, and it melts in your mouth.  This is a must try dish!  Enjoy!
-1 cup light brown sugar
-1/4 cup water
-10 large egg yolks
-1 tbs vanilla extract
-1 (14 oz) can condensed milk
-1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place sugar and water in a small pot and heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbly.  Pour into a pie plate and let it sit for 5-6 minutes.
Meanwhile, place yolks, vanilla, condensed milk and evaporated milk into your blender.  Process until smooth.  Pour egg mixture on top of slightly hardened caramel in the pie plate.
Place pie plate onto a roasting pan.  Add hot water to the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate (this will nicely steam the flan).
Carefully, place the whole thing in the preheated oven.  Bake for 40-50 minutes or until set (jiggly, but not liquidy).
Remove from the oven.  Transfer the pie plate to the wire rack and let it cool for 1 hour.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Run a knife around the pie plate.  Cover with a big plate and turn upside down.  The caramel mixture should be flowing over the top of the flan.  Cut into serving portions and enjoy!


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