Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best Of Everything Pumpkin Pie

For Mike's birthday every year, I make him something special. One of his very favorite foods (Pickled Pork Chops) that I don't even like to smell, let alone eat. And in turn, for my birthday each year he buys me a cheesecake (he doesn't like cheesecake... I know, weird, right?). It's just one of those simple little gestures that makes our marriage stronger each year. Also, my Pavlonian response gets stronger each year... about two weeks before my birthday I start CRAVING cheesecake. I even ate some in my dreams the other night... so this year I jumped the gun a little and made my own. (Don't worry, I'll still want one in a week too!) To top it off, I decided to make a pumpkin cheesecake. He also doesn't like anything pumpkin... I know you are all wondering how I could be married to such a person, but I've learned over the years that not liking cheesecake and pumpkin doesn't necessarily make you a bad person... in fact, it works great for me because then I don't have to share! mwahaha!
This isn't really a traditional cheesecake, nor is it a traditional pumpkin pie. It's just a little bit of both for a perfectly tasty dessert. (and breakfast, if I'm being honest, since that's what I've had the last two days in a row... what? Don't judge, I have to eat it all by myself!)

Best of Everything Pumpkin Pie

For the "pie":
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (I used fresh pumpkin, you can also use canned)
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of cloves
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
For the cream cheese layer:
1 8-oz bar of softened cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp corn starch
For the caramel layer:
1/4- 1/2 cup soft caramel topping (click here for recipe)
1/2 cup pecan or walnut pieces (optional)
For the crust: (or to save time, use a pre-made chocolate graham cracker crust)
3/4 cup chocolate chip cookie crumbs or graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup ground walnuts (optional)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp melted butter

1. For the crust, I used chocolate chip cookies that I bought at a school bake sale (they were overcooked and barely edible- but, hey I'm supporting my local school, right?). To make fine crumbs, I used the dry blender for my Vita-mix and pulsed until they were the consistency I liked. I also added the walnuts in with the crumbs to grind them up. To that, combine brown sugar and melted butter and press into a regular-sized pie plate.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, egg yolks, 1 1/2 cups sugar and spices. In a seperate bowl, whip together cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, brown sugar, egg whites and corn starch.

3. Carefully spread a layer of cream cheese mixture across the top of the crust. If there's any extra cream cheese mixture, stir it into the pumpkin mixture. Spoon caramel over the top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle with pecans or walnuts if desired. Finally, pour pumpkin mixture over the top of caramel to fill the remainder of the pie.

4. Bake at 350 F for 50-55 minutes. Do not overbake, center may be soft but it will firm up when chilled. Let pie cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Top with ice cream, whipped cream or caramel (or all!- it is best of everything, right?). Serve and enjoy!

**I have no amazing "finished pie" picture... my 2-year old found my pies (I doubled the above recipe and made one large pie and several mini pies) and dug right in while they were still cooling. I was even going to give some away but thought it might be tacky to give somebody a pie that's been spooned into. Oh well, guess I eat them all myself...

Aunt Bea's Portugese Pickled Pork Chops

Every year for Mike's birthday, I make him a special treat- it's a Portugese family tradition that he's had in his family for generations. And by treat, I mean something so amazing that I won't even eat them... That way there's more for him. Really. That's why I don't eat them... it has nothing to do with the fact that it's pickled meat... But really, I think this is a total MAN food. There's only a very few women that I've met that have liked these, but I don't think I've ever met a guy who didn't.

Aunt Bea's Portugese Pickled Pork Chops

1 galloon apple cider vinegar
2 rounded tbsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 can pickling spices
1 Tbsp minced garlic (I use one whole garlic bulb)
1 big onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup water
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
5-8 lb pork chops

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. This will fit into two gallon-sized ziploc bags (just be sure to put the bags into a bowl to save your refrigerator from any leaks). Cover and marinate for 2 days, stirring from the bottom 2-3 times a day. Grill over high heat (450 - 500 F) for about 10 minutes, flipping once.

These are good straight off the grill, and (as Mike puts it) even better cold- so make sure you cook up enough to last a few days.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Breaded Zucchini Bites

I actually used gray squash for this because that's what I had on hand; really this works for any Summer squash.
Breaded Zucchini Bites

2 zucchinis, washed and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
Spray olive oil (I like the spritzer-type bottle)

Spray one large cookie sheet with olive oil. Take out 4 small bowls. To the first bowl, add milk. Combine flour with seasonings in the second bowl. Crack and whip an egg into the third and the last bowl will hold your bread crumbs. Dip each zucchini slice into the milk, then coat thoroughly with flour mixture. Carefully dip into the bowl with egg until flour is covered, then coat with bread crumbs and place onto greased cookie sheet. Repeat until all zucchini is breaded. If you'd like to, spray the tops of the zucchini pieces with the olive oil for a little extra crunch. Bake at 425 F for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. These are great dipped in marinara sauce, ranch or bleu cheese dressing.

Cheesy Potato Casserole

You all know I'm Mormon, right? These are an LDS staple and to be honest, one of the best comfort foods that I've ever had. I guess that's why they're also known as "Funeral Potatoes". These potatoes are amazing. I have to be careful when I cook these to make just enough for dinner... otherwise I end up eating the leftovers all by myself!

Cheesy Potato Casserole

5 large potatoes (should be about 10 cups chopped)
3 Tbsp butter
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives (or use green onions)
3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Bread crumb topping (optional):

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese

Wash and peel potatoes (if you like the peels leave them on like I do!). Dice potatoes into about 1/2 inch cubes. In large fry pan, saute the potatoes in butter until slightly browned and softened. Add potatoes to a 13x9 in baking dish. Mix together soup, sour cream, milk, cheese and chives. Pour evenly over potatoes without mixing. In a seperate bowl, mix together bread crumbs, butter and parmesan cheese. (I usually omit the butter at this point, there's enough oil from the cheese in my opinion to still get a nice crispy topping.) Sprinkle over the top of the soup mixture. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F.

**If you're in a hurry, substitute one large package of frozen hashbrowns. If this is the case, grab a bag of Potatoes O'Brian for extra flavor (Potatoes with onions and peppers mixed in).

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Truth and Halloween Sugar Cookies

It has come to my attention that some people think that I'm some kind of super-mom when it comes to cooking. I have to be honest with you: I'm not. I love to cook and yes, I do it often. But I'm also a mother of four, room mom for my kindergartner's class and Volunteer site coordinator for a produce Co-op. Add that to church callings, family drama, laundry, dishes, potty training, dance practice, and a huge garden... well, let's just say I don't always get a "proper" dinner to the table. In fact, to lower the bar even further... I may as well admit to you that yes, I have on rare occasions fed my children cookies, goldfish and a vitamin supplement for dinner. And my family can verify that on days like that, well... you just don't question it. Actually it's best to avoid confrontation at all. Eat your cookies and GO TO BED!

That said, hopefully I can redeem myself just a tiny bit by sharing a delicious cookie recipe with you. And no, we didn't have this for dinner last night! Remember I made some chocolate fudge frosting for Mike's cake that I didn't end up using? Well, I thought it would be criminal to let it go to waste so I dyed it black and made Halloween cookies. YUM. I also made some pink frosting for Breast Cancer Awareness month. I won't tell you what shape those cookies were.... (haha just kidding, they were just circles- can you tell I'm in a "mood" today? maybe we'll be having cookies for dinner tonight...)

No-Fuss Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter (can substitute shortening or do 50/50)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp almond (or vanilla) extract
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, soda, almond and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add flour one cup at a time, stirring to combine.

2. Drop by tablespoon into a bowl of granulated sugar, roll until covered then place onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 8-9 minutes for soft cookies. They may look slightly uncooked, but trust me, they will firm up as they cool. If you cook them longer, they will end up being crunchy. Which is fine... if you like that sort of thing.

**If you are planning on frosting your cookies (which, lets all be honest, is the only reason to even eat a sugar cookie...) then skip step 2. Allow to cool completely then frost with your favorite icing or frosting.

***If you want to cut shapes, cover dough tightly and refrigerate for a couple hours before rolling it out. But, since I'm in a mood I'll tell you right now that's the main reason I don't normally make sugar cookies. It's just one more step to fuss with and in my opinion, not necessary. Too bad the kiddos don't agree, right?

The spider is two cookies together with black frosting. I mashed together three mini marshmallows for each of the eyes and dotted them with black frosting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mike's Ice-Cream Cake

For Mike's birthday, he likes to have ice-cream cake. But not just any ice-cream cake... He likes Gold Medal Ribbon ice-cream cake from Baskin Robbins. Only problem with that? We're looking at FORTY dollars for one silly cake! Really? For a cake?! So this year, to save some money, I decided to make it myself...with the condition that if it didn't turn out just as good as Baskin Robbins we'd go buy one for him anyway. Needless to say, I was under a lot of pressure!

First- the ice cream. Gold Medal Ribbon is a delicious blend of chocolate and vanilla ice-cream swirled with a band of gooey caramel and it's an exclusive Baskin Robbins flavor. But buying a gallon of ice-cream from Baskin Robbins was out of the question. So I decided to make my own version of the good stuff. I bought a gallon of chocolate ice-cream and a gallon of vanilla then made my own caramel.

Second - Assembling the "cake". First off, Mike was very specific in his request that his "cake" not have any actual cake in it. He's not a big cake person and that's probably why the Baskin Robbins cake is so appealing. They don't add cake! (At least not to the kind we've bought in years past.) So after making the caramel and while it was still warm, I took out the ice cream buckets that I'd purchased. I also took out a couple other buckets to assemble the cake into. One large for a big cake, and a smaller one for a smaller cake. Into each bucket I layered vanilla ice-cream, caramel, chocolate ice-cream, caramel and so on until both buckets were filled. I then put the lid onto each and put them into the freezer to freeze solid.

Third - Frosting the "cake". Baskin Robbins frosts their cake with a chocolate fudge frosting. Mike says it's more hot fudge than frosting, though. I actually thought of a few different frosting ideas to get this just right. My first idea was a frosting/Cool-Whip mixture to make frosting the cake super quick and easy. I don't know if you've ever actually frosted ice-cream, but I have. And in my experience, Cool-Whip frosting is by far the easiest to work with. Mike voted that down quick (quickly enough that I didn't even waste my ingredients to try it!) Next (and this one I actually did make) I tried a chocolate fudge frosting. It turned out SO good! But while it was "fudgey" tasting it just wasn't fudge. Ultimately... I just made fudge! And while, I must admit, the cake didn't look exactly gorgeous after it had been "frosted" it was definitely the right choice.

To frost the cake, I removed the bucket from the freezer, ran water along the outside and slid the ice cream out onto a platter. I then poured the still-warm fudge over the top, letting it drizzle down the sides of the cake. Then back to the freezer to let it freeze solid again.

The finished cake - Turned out delicious. And I have the official 'OK' to serve the big cake for his Birthday get-together on Saturday instead of an authentic Baskin Robbins cake. Wahoo! Oh and the total spent? For both the big & the little cake it cost me about $8 to put together. Yup. That's a savings of... $32!

Delicious No-Fail Fudge

Do exactly as I tell you and this recipe turns out perfectly every time! And just so you know, for years I've tried to perfect my fudge recipe and it was always delicious. Every time I'd take my fudge to any kind of gathering, I'd get bombarded with recipe requests... but every year my mom would send us fudge for Christmas... and every year hers was even better than mine! So, needless to say, this is HER recipe. I promise you, you'll love it! It is smooth and creamy and the taste is out of sight!

Mom's Fudge (AKA the best fudge ever!)

3 cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1/4 cup butter
2 (12 oz) packages semi-sweet chocolate chips
 or 4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

4 cups mini marshmallows
2 tsp vanilla

Optional Mix-ins

1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Measure out chocolate chips and mini-marshmallows into a large mixing bowl. Make sure it's not a cheap plastic bowl as you'll be pouring boiling hot sugar into it! Also get your electric beaters plugged in and ready and your vanilla ready to pour. Grease a 9x13 in. pan or several tins.
2. Stir together sugar, milk and butter on medium heat until it reaches a full-rolling boil. Boil exactly 5 minutes and remove from heat. Pour into bowl with chocolate and marshmallows.

3. Use an electric mixer to immediately mix sugar/milk mixture with the chocolate and marshmallows. Mix until both chocolate and marshmallows have completely melted and chocolate is smooth.
4. Add vanilla and mix until it is completely incorporated. Stir in optional mix-ins. My mom always adds more marshmallows and some walnuts, which in my opinion, is the best way to go. Also try adding: marshmallows and chunks of graham cracker; peanut butter chips; chopped almonds; or candy cane pieces.

5. Pour into prepared pan/tins. Allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and wrap individually in clear plastic wrap or place into an airtight container. Also, this freezes great so make some now to give away for Christmas goodies!

Easy Multi-use Caramel

I use this caramel recipe to pour over ice cream, mix with popcorn, stir into brownies, and even shape into Christmas goodies. This week I made it to mix into Mike's ice-cream cake. (It turned out delicious, by the way!)


1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla

Combine butter, sugar and syrup in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Add sweetened condensed milk and return to a rolling boil. Continue to boil and stir for the following times depending upon the purpose for the caramel:

For ice-cream topping- Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. The caramel will have just a small pull from the edge of the pan. You can cook it longer, but the caramel will end up hardening once you pour it over your cold ice cream. Remove from heat and add vanilla. This caramel is also great baked into cookies, cakes and brownies. (like the "good" brownies)
 This is what the caramel looks like after it's been removed from heat. See how it just slightly pulls away from the sides as the spoon passes through it?
For Caramel corn- Cook and about 7 minutes. The caramel should be pulling away from the edges of the pan as you stir. Unlike the ice-cream topping, it will be noticeable even after the spoon has passed. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour over 6-7 quarts of popped corn. (This makes a yummy-sticky-gooey popcorn. If you like your caramel popcorn hard, cook the caramel longer like the 10-15 minutes recommended below.)

For caramel candy - Cook and stir to softball stage. This will take10-15 minutes. The caramel will not only pull from the sides of the pan, but will "ball up" as you stir. The longer you cook it, the harder your candy. My family likes soft, chewy caramel so I usually cook mine closer to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. To shape into candies, allow caramel to cool slightly then pour into molds. You may also pour into a 9x13 in. ungreased pan and cut into squares when caramel has completely cooled. Wrap individually in plastic wrap.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cream Cheese Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Everybody who knows my family knows what we're eating on Sunday night. Roast. Potatoes. Gravy... In fact, I think I can count on one hand how many times we've had something other than that since Mike and I have been married! Don't get me wrong, it's good... but for somebody who barely eats meat at all, a roast every Sunday is a bit extreme. So for me, Sunday Dinner is ALL about the sides.  These mashed potatoes are delicious and I do love potatoes. Gravy is totally optional here as the potatoes themselves have plenty of flavor on their own.

Cream Cheese Garlic Mashed Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, washed and UNpeeled
1 tsp sea salt
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup milk
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbsp dry parsley
2 Tbsp chopped chives (you can use green onions if you don't have chives)
1 tsp black pepper

Chop potatoes into small chunks and add to a large pot. Fill pot with water just until potatoes are barely covered. Sprinkle salt into pot and cook on high until water is boiling. Reduce heat to maintain a low boil for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove potatoes from water and place in a large mixing bowl. (Save water for gravy if you are planning to make some.)
To potatoes add cream cheese, milk and seasonings. Mash potatoes with a potatoe masher or with an electric beater on low. Add more milk (by the tablespoon) if you like a thinner consistency. You can also add more salt at this point, but taste it first. I find that it usually doesn't need it with all the other yummy flavors!

Oven Pot Roast

Oven Pot Roast

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp oregano

ground black pepper to taste (I use about 1 tsp)

3 1/2 pounds rump, tip or crossrib roast

1/4 cup butter

1/2 envelope (2 Tbsp) dry onion soup mix (it's easy to make your own! click here for the recipe)

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine


You can also add carrots, onions, celery & potatoes. Even if we don't end up eating them with our roast, I like to throw them into the pot for some extra flavor. Later I use them along with the leftover roast to make a super quick stew. Here's what I used:

1 lb peeled carrots chopped into large chunks

10 pearl onions
1 lb new red potatoes (from the garden)
2 stalks celery washed and chopped into large chunks


1.Preheat oven to 285 degrees F
2.In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and seasonings. Add black pepper to taste. Dredge the rump roast in the flour and cover evenly. Shake off excess.

3.In a large pot over medium/high heat, melt the butter and brown the roast on all sides. Place in a 4 quart casserole dish with lid. I use a 5 qt. Dutch Oven- this way I can use the same pot for browning, roasting and later making the gravy.

4.In a small bowl, combine the soup mix, water and wine; pour over roast.

5.Cover and bake in preheated oven for 4 hours or until desired doneness. 

To make the gravy:

Brown Gravy

2 cups potato-cooking water (If you didn't boil potatoes, just use 2 cups salted water)

about 2 cups roast drippings; I like to use the same pot that I've cooked the roast in- that way I'm sure to get all the drippings for the best flavor! (You may also use 2 cups beef broth + 1-2 Tbsp Montreal Seasoning)

¼ cup cornstarch or ½ cup flour

½ cup water

Heat potato water and drippings to a gentle boil. Combine cornstarch and water to achieve a smooth paste. Slowly pour, while stirring, cornstarch mixture into boiling liquid until desired consistency. Don’t pour too much all at once or you’ll get lumps! Also, if gravy is satisfactorily thickened before you’ve poured all your cornstarch into it, then stop!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chili Rellenos Casserole

 I've been harvesting the last of my garden peppers this week and the other day I brought in an entire grocery bag full of yummy chile peppers! Not wanting to can anymore, I've been dropping them into my Garden-Style Red Chili, into my Vita-mix tomato juice and into just about all my homemade sauces. I also turned more than a dozen into this:

Chili Rellenos Casserole

10 roasted large green chili peppers*
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, sliced
8 ounces Cheddar/Jack cheese, shredded
3 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons flour (I used whole wheat)
1 cup milk
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 cup enchilada sauce


Prep: To roast chili peppers, wash thoroughly and lay in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Broil on high for 8-10 minutes until skin is slightly browned and blistered. Turn peppers and broil an additional 8 minutes. Or you can roast peppers on an outdoor grill at about 400 F laying peppers in a single layer across grill and reducing time by 1-2 minutes per side. Allow to cool until skin pulls away from meat easily. Use rubber gloves to peel and remove seeds. Cut peppers along sides so peppers lay flat.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Lay half of the chilies evenly in bottom of baking dish.

Lay the sliced Jack cheese over the chilies, and cover with remaining chilies.
In a bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, flour, and seasonings and pour over the top of the chilies. Mixture will be runny- don't worry, it will firm as it cooks.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, pour enchilada sauce evenly over the top, sprinkle with remaining Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and continue baking another 15 minutes. Serve with Spanish rice and refried beans.

*I used Anaheim chilies from my garden. You can use any kind of chile you'd like. I even roasted one bell pepper for my girls and used that for their servings (they don't like ANY spice). You can also substitute whole canned chilies.

Enchilada Sauce

Whenever I go out for Mexican food I always order the same thing: Cheese Enchiladas. Sure, I like other things on the menu. But I love enchiladas so it's a safe bet that I won't be disappointed when my food arrives. But really what it comes down to is that I'm in love with red enchilada sauce. It's good on eggs, it's good on tortillas, it's good mixed with beans and rice. So it's only natural for me to have my own recipe for the good stuff at home, right? You can use canned/bottled tomato sauce for the following recipe to speed things up a bit, but I haven't used any canned tomatoes in my house for at least a month. It's been awesome! (Thank you garden!)

Enchilada Sauce

10 large tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1/2 medium onion
1 green chili pepper
1 carrot (optional- it helps sweeten things up a bit without adding any sugar)
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp red chili powder
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sea salt

1.  Wash and remove stems from tomatoes and peppers. Peel onion. Place produce into the wet container of your Vita-mix in the following order: tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrot, garlic. Turn machine on Variable speed 2 and gradually increase speed until all the vegetables have been pulled into the blades. Use your tamping stick if necessary to push produce down. Turn speed up to high and process for 2-3 minutes. Pour into a 5-qt saucepan or Dutch oven.
2.  Cook on medium-high until boiling. Reduce heat to medium and maintain a low boil until mixture is thickened (about 20 minutes).
3.  Add spices, stir to combine. Continue to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until desired consistency. Makes 2-3 cups sauce.

*To make this sauce using canned tomato sauce, skip the first two steps. Use three 8oz. cans of tomato sauce.

**You can bottle this recipe if you'd like using a pressure canner. Process pints 35 minutes, at 15 pounds pressure in a steam-pressure canner. If you quadruple this recipe it will make about 6 pints sauce.

***As always, if you don't have a Vita-mix, just dice your vegetables (carrots, onion and peppers) and saute them in about 2 Tbsp olive oil until soft before adding to a traditional blender to puree.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Garden-Style Red Chili

Have I mentioned lately that I have a Vita-mix? Yeah I thought so. I guess I'm a little obsessed with it right now, but who can blame me? It makes dinners (and lunches... and breakfasts... and snacks) so easy. On Saturday I was working in the yard all day long. It wasn't a bad day, but it did get pretty chilly by the time I was done. When I finally made it back into the house all I could think about was a nice warm bowl of hearty chili. Only problem was that it was already almost dinner time and I usually simmer my traditional chili for hours to blend the flavors. But with the Vita-mix my problem was solved! I just pre-blended all my flavors in my tomato sauce. Also this is a great way to use some tomatoes that need to be used before they go bad (not to mention all you're other garden produce- just in case you're burnt out when it comes to canning!)

This really went together pretty quickly; especially since I keep pre-cooked meat mix in the freezer at all times.

Garden-Style Red Chili

8-10 large tomatoes
2 large carrots
4 red or green bell peppers
2 large Anaheim chilis
1 large onion, divided
4 cloves garlic
5 cups pre-cooked ground meat mix
1/2 Tbsp red chili powder
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp oregano
1/2 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp sea salt
2 cans chili beans
2 cans kidney beans

1:Wash all your vegetables. Remove stems from tomatoes and peppers and remove seeds from half the peppers (2 bells, 2 chilis). Peel onion and cut into quarters.

2:  Cut tomatoes in half and fill Vita-mix wet container about halfway full. Fill the remainder of the container with 1 red bell pepper, 1 chili pepper (both with seeds if desired), 1 carrot, 2 cloves garlic and 1/4 of the onion. Turn machine on Variable speed 2 and gradually increase speed until all the vegetables have been pulled into the blades. Use your tamping stick if necessary to push produce down. Turn speed up to high and process for 2-3 minutes. Pour into a large stockpot or two 5-qt sauce pans.

 {When "sauce" comes out of Vita-mix, it will look a bit pink and frothy, but the air bubbles will dissipate as your sauce cooks, giving you a nice red color.}

3:  Repeat Step 2. You should have 1-2 tomatoes, 1/2 onion, and 2 bell peppers remaining.

4:  Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat until mixture is at a gentle boil or high simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 20-30 minutes or until sauce reaches desired consistency.

5:  Dice remaining vegetables and add to tomato sauce base. Also add ground meat mix, beans and seasonings. Stir well. Continue to simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

6:  Serve with freshly grated cheese and saltine crackers. And for my Wyoming friends: This is GREAT with cinnamon rolls!

**To freeze: Prepare through step 5. Place 2-4 cups in quart-sized freezer bags. Allow to cool completely before putting into your freezer. Keeps at least three months in the freezer.
To serve from freezer: move to refrigerator the day before serving. Heat on stove-top; serve. OR run hot water over the bag of frozen chili to loosen. Break it up and add chunks to an appropriate sized slow-cooker (Remember, you want your ingredients to fill your slow-cooker at least halfway for best results). Cook on Low 6 hours or High 3 hours until heated through.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Birthday Cakes!

From September 21 until October 19 we have three birthdays in this house (and then mine is 2 weeks later, but who's counting...). I look forward to my oldest girl's birthday all year long because she always comes up with the most interesting requests for her birthday cake. It started off simple when she turned 3: I want a pink cake with chocolate frosting. Easy enough.. then it evolved into a blue Dora and Diego cake with purple frosting. And this year? She wanted a white cake with strawberry swirls, banana frosting and flowers that you can eat. And make it a My Little Pony cake, thanks. With these kind of requests, I don't think I could have bought the cake if I'd wanted to!

This cake was for my 2-year old. She has inherited her big sisters' love for princesses and loves anything pink and pretty. Last year we didn't get to have cake for her birthday because our entire family was fighting the stomach flu. It was very sad... Honestly, I don't think she knew the difference, but I really wanted her to have her very own FIRST birthday cake. So to make up for it this year, I made an extra satellite cake to her princess cake. The funny thing is... she wouldn't even taste it! She kept pushing it away saying, "Don't want it! I want cake!" ... She just wanted a slice of the big cake that everybody else was having! Sigh...

Let me just say... I am not a cake decorator. But I like to pretend! It's fun and I hope to be able to make prettier cakes in the years ahead for my family. In the meantime, my kids are young and think this sloppy mess looks "beautiful!".

Strawberry Swirl Cake

2 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites
1 cup strawberry preserves

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl except the egg whites and strawberry preserves. Beat on low for 30 seconds, scraping the bowl. Beat on high for 2 minutes until smooth. Add egg whites and beat on high for 2 additional minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally. Pour into 1 greased and floured pan. Drop preserves by tablespoonfull all over the top of the unbaked cake. Swirl with the tip of a knife, first one way and then another to get a nice swirled effect. Bake at 350 F for 40-45 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Banana Frosting
(Thanks to my friend for helping me solve the banana frosting dilemma- she gave me the great idea to use pudding for the flavor!)

1 small box banana pudding
1 cup powdered sugar
8 oz thawed cool whip

Mix the above ingredients on low with an electric beater until frosting is smooth. Spread over cooled cake or cupcakes.

For the princess cake, I used the cakes that I had in my freezer from my "teenage son helping me bake" fiasco. (I knew they'd come in handy eventually!) It was super simple and with the exception of my failed frosting recipe, it turned out great! The frosting by the way should have been a stiff buttercream frosting, but I'm really not a big fan of buttercream so I instead used my sour cream frosting recipe that is delicious! Only problem is that the frosting melted on the way to the in-laws for the little gal's party. Whoops!