White Chocolate Peppermint Cake Mix Cookies

Just because it has become a routine, starting last year, so a fairly new routine, I am making the white chocolate peppermint cake mix cookies again. A long title, I know, but if you’re interested to know how to make them, visit the post, White Chocolate Peppermint Cake Mix Cookies

There, you will find the recipe, and the reason for the long title, on how to bake this holiday favorite. I’m quite proud of them, not only because they’re beautiful AND taste delicious, but because it’s MY very own, personally written recipe!

Merry Christmas, and don’t forget to leave some of these beauties out for Santa this year!

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Baked Broccoli and Baked Red Hot Cauliflower

I’m a big vegetable eater. I’ve loved vegetables since I was a kid and have always been pretty open to retrying things that I didn’t like years ago. For instance, I’ve never liked cauliflower. Didn’t like it steamed, didn’t like it raw with ranch dip, didn’t like it with cheese sauce. Just didn’t like it. But I have always been a broccoli fan, my favorite as a child being with cheese sauce. What kid doesn’t like cheese sauce?

But now that I’m an adult, some of my favorite vegetables are broccoli and cauliflower and asparagus prepared in the way I’m about to show you. Though I didn’t cook asparagus this time, the recipe is the same as the broccoli which is MINUS the Red Hot hot sauce. I’ll give you full details on it so you can mix and match the vegetables you want to cook to go with your next main course dish. Let me be the first to say, the cauliflower with Red Hot hot sauce… It’s the BOMB!

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower broken into florets

1 head of broccoli broken into florets

4 tbsp olive oil

Red Hot hot sauce

Salt

Pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

We’re going to take our head of cauliflower and our head of broccoli and wash them first before we break them up into florets. Some florets come off way bigger than the others so I usually break them off the head first, then cut them all to be similar, bite sizes and put them in two separate bowls; broccoli in one bowl, cauliflower in the other.

Next, we’re going to dry them off by patting them dry with some paper towels. This just helps the sauce stick to them, otherwise the oil will just run off.

IMG_1437In the bowl of cauliflower we’re going to drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil over the florets. If you don’t think you’ve coated them enough, don’t hesitate to use a little more olive oil. Next, we’re going to do several shakes/squirts of Red Hot hot sauce into the cauliflower. I do just enough that all the cauliflower is tinged pinkish-orange. Unless you’re REALLY into spicy things, don’t over do it, just flavor it to your tastes. And, if you’re worried about kids eating it, just 4-5 shakes is perfect. My 11 year old loves it and it’s not too spicy!

Add salt and pepper to taste and toss the cauliflower in its bowl until it’s all well coated. Now we’re going to take a baking sheet and cover it in tin foil just to keep the sheet from getting messy and help with clean up. You don’t HAVE to do this but I recommend it as the cauliflower, when cooking, can stick a little. Spread your cauliflower on the baking sheet in a single layer and set it aside. Now on to the broccoli!

IMG_1433.jpgTo the broccoli, we drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil over it, or more if you’re not confident its coated well enough, and then we just season it with salt and pepper. On a second baking sheet, cover the sheet with tin foil and spread your broccoli out on it in a single layer.

If you’re doing asparagus, you’re going to wash your asparagus, cut off the white stems then dry the asparagus using some paper towels. Next, spread your asparagus in a single layer on a tin foil covered baking sheet. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. That’s it! Simple preparation!

IMG_1444Slide your baking sheets into the oven and we’re going to bake them 20-25 minutes or until the tips of the florets start to turn brown or the tips of the asparagus start to turn brown. My family likes them a little more brown than others, so some of the tips look a little crispy, because I think it’s -delicious-! But, that doesn’t mean you have to cook them as long as I do. Once your 20-25 minutes are up, the broccoli/cauliflower/asparagus will be browned slightly and firm, yet easily pierced with a fork.IMG_1438.jpg

Remove from the oven and serve with your favorite main dish. I served these with some fried chuck steaks. Also, if I have left over veggies, which is rare, I just heat them up in the microwave and they’re still SUPER tasty!

 


Creamy Spinach Risotto

I watch a lot of cooking shows and I always see them eating risotto; spinach risotto, pumpkin risotto, lobster risotto, mushroom risotto… the list goes on! For those of you who know me, I love rice, and I love anything that combines rice with a creamy element and I’m hooked. So I watched all the seasons of Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey (again) and I’m like, “Hey! I’ve never eaten risotto, let alone cooked it, so I’m going to make some.”

Steph looks at me and says it’s hard to make a good risotto and it must be, otherwise Gordon Ramsey wouldn’t constantly scream at his chefs about making bad risotto! But I like a challenge and, like I said, creamy rice dishes, so I was willing to try. Mind you, when I started on this adventure I didn’t have the special Arborio rice. I eat a bunch of Basmati rice which is typically paired with Indian food and a long grain rice. Arborio is a short grain rice. In fact, 99% of the time, Basmati rice is what I cook. I don’t use instant rice at all. I just pop my rice and water in my rice cooker and away it goes! When I did this recipe, I had left over, already cooked Basmati rice and some leftover spinach greens I had bought for a salad, hence the reason I didn’t have much spinach in my rice, so this is how I’ll present this recipe to you with just a few little tweaks! And before you go assuming the rice would be overcooked, I will say that Basmati rice holds up really well and did not get squishy/overcooked at all! Amazing!

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cups cooked Basmati rice

4-5 cups hot chicken stock (hot as in heated up on the stove top)

*You can substitute chicken stock with vegetable stock if you want
a vegetarian dish*

1tbsp minced garlic

1/2 C chopped onion

2/3 C dry white wine

1 lb spinach leaves stemmed and sliced thinly

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1/4 C Parmesan cheese

1/4 C heavy cream

 

First things first and that’s to get your chicken stock into a sauce pan and heat it up. I keep mine on medium/medium low, once it’s hot, because we don’t want to add cold stock to risotto.

Next, we’re going to snap the stems off our spinach leaves. Then I just gathered the leaves in a clump and sliced them into thin little strips. Also, cut up your onion and have it ready to go.IMG_1493-2

In a nonstick skillet, heat up your olive oil on medium/medium high and cook it gently, about five minutes until it’s just tender.IMG_1494-2.jpg

Once the onions are cooked, add your 2 cups of cooked Basmati rice.  Stir the rice in until it is coated with oil. If you’re using Arborio, first remove the onions and set them aside then add 2 cups of that uncooked Arborio. You’re going to cook the Arborio in the oil until the rice is almost completely clear with a little white dot in the middle and then add your onions when the rice is ready.

Add in the 2/3 C of white wine to deglaze the pan and burn off the alcohol. Deglazing means basically removing any of the brown residue in the skillet for the dish you’re making. Let this cook until the wine is no longer visible among the rice.

IMG_1511-2.jpgWe’re now going to add our garlic and then add the hot chicken stock a cup at a time. I kept a ladle in my stock pan and just added as I went along. So, one ladle/cup of stock, let the rice absorb it, then add another, let the rice absorb it, and continue with these steps until you’re left with half the amount of chicken stock that you started with. Between each ladle of stock, if you’re not sure when to add the next, we’re basically adding the next when the stock is no longer readily visible in the rice.

An important tip to mention is that you have to constantly stir your risotto or it will start to stick and burn, so be diligent and not leave it on its own. This is our baby!

Reduce the heat if necessary, just to keep our risotto simmering, and then continue adding the stock one ladle/cup at a time until there’s about 2 ladle fulls left. If you’re using uncooked Arborio rice, your risotto is ‘done’, when the rice is tender and still holding a firmness like al dente pasta. If it’s crunchy, it’s not done, and you need to continue to add chicken stock until it’s cooked. If it’s mushy, you went a little too far and it’s overcooked. It’s a little bit of a science to master! If everything has gone well, your rice should be nice and creamy by now so we’re going to finish it up.

Add the cheese, the spinach, and the vinegar and mix it all in well. If you don’t have the white wine vinegar, don’t use apple cider or plain white vinegar but instead use some lemon juice. I’ve done this recipe without the vinegar and it’s just not quite the same. The vinegar gives it a wonderful tang that makes this risotto AWESOME.IMG_1512-2.jpg

We’re going to add the last 2 cups of chicken stock, one ladle/cup at a time, and let the rice absorb it and the spinach wilt. Once the stock is absorbed and you’re left with your creamy risotto, turn the heat off under your skillet and add the cream, mixing it into the risotto until it’s all brought together and warm. This should take no more than 1-2 minutes.

Now our risotto is ready to be served. Risotto is always a dish you want to serve immediately because it will be slightly loose when its fresh and hot, like a good risotto should be. Once it’s cooled off (or put in the fridge as leftovers), it will firm up and even microwaving it won’t loosen it up again, but it still tastes fantastic!


Treats from Chihuahua

A little table talk today about something my friend Olga brought back from her family visit to Chihuahua. I really am the small town girl I claim to be and unfortunately that means I’ve never left the country, even though I’m only about 5 hours away from the border of Mexico. I’ve heard all types of stories about the culture and the food and, best yet, the fresh fruit they sell in open air markets.

While I didn’t get fruit, Olga did bring me back a coffee mug, which is great because I love coffee, as well as a package of Galleta Ranchera Integral, which (since my Spanish is not great), roughly translates to Wholegrain or Wholemeal Biscuits. She was told they’re made by local Indians though I don’t have any more information than that. If anyone is from that area or knows more, I’d be interested to hear about it!

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The biscuits were semi-soft, bready, with that grainy whole meal texture as you chew great with coffee or hot tea. Just a hint of sweetness and a simple, enjoyable taste like whole wheat bread with a touch of honey in it. I actually put honey on a second one and it was even better.mexicanbiscuitandhoney2

I figure imagination can take you far when it comes to combining flavors, but alone, these little cookie/biscuits were an interesting and nice little surprise.

Ingredients are wholemeal flour, sugar, vegetable oil, baking soda, salt, eggs and milk.


New Years Tamales

Usually around here, we make tamales before Christmas, but this time, it got put off until New Years eve and then it didn’t make it here until now. But, I’m a firm believer if you’re willing to put in the work for tamales, they’re good any time! I will make a whole bunch of them then freeze them for later or give them away to family and friends though, I will admit, I hoard most of them for myself!

Ingredients for Filling

Bone-in Pork Butt (Mine was around 6-7 pounds)
Chili Powder
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder or Fresh Minced Garlic
Onion Powder
1 10 oz bag Red Chili Pods (I use mild, but you can use a mix of mild and medium or mild and hot depending on your level of heat you want)

 

Tools and Extras You Need

1 package of corn husks
Large tamale pot with steaming tray in bottom
Tongs
Cookie Sheet
Spoon or masa spreader

 

What I do is put my pork roast in the crock pot the day before I want to make tamales so that the meat is cooked and cooled by the time I’m ready to roll it up.

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Cooked Pork

So I take my pork roast and I make a rub with the chili powder, salt and pepper and I rub it into the meat generously. In order for your rub to stick, make sure that you dab the roast dry with paper towels before putting your rub on. After that, I put it in the crock pot, on low and I cook it for 6-8 hours or until the roast is peeling away from the bone.

 

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Shredded Pork

If you are ready to make your tamales, you’re going to need to soak your corn husks to soften them up. I have a large tupperware container I lay the husks in and fill it with water. Let them soak for about an hour, so make sure that you schedule all your steps in accordance. We’ll leave them in the water until we actually ready to fill the husks.

Once the pork roast is cooked, I let it cool and then I go in and shred it, making sure to get all the bones. You would think that big bones are all you’ll find, but in fact, I did find a couple smaller pieces which might have broken off or been shaved off when the butcher cut it, so just be thorough and careful.

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Soaked Corn Husks

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Red Chili Pods

In a medium sized pot, combine 5 cups of water (or until pods are just covered) and then add 3/4 of the bag chili pods of your choosing (be they all mild or a mixture of mild and hot to get that extra spice.) I use mild because my stomach can’t handle spicy food even if I crave it! We’re going to bring the water to a low boil and we’re going to cook the chili pods until they’re nice and soft. I find that my cooking time varies depending on the chili’s. Once they start boiling, I would say it takes about 20-25 minutes respectfully and I stir my pods and turn them over just to make sure they’re cooking evenly.

 

 

I would like to make mention that there are so many ways to make tamales that you will see variations all over the place. If you don’t want to use powdered garlic and powdered onion, simply add 2 tbsp of minced garlic to your water and one whole onion, cut up, to cook with your chili’s.

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Chili Stems Removed

Once your chili’s are cooked, we’re going to remove them from the heat and fish them out to put on a plate to cool some. The reason for this is because I then pull the stems off the chili’s. Some people just blend it all up but I don’t. And if you try to pull the stems off when they’re fresh out of the water, you’re going to burn your fingers.

 

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Red Chili Sauce

Now, if you have a blender that you can put hot liquids into, we’re going to put our cooked chili pods into the blender and then pour about 3 cups of the chili water into the blender. Some people just pour out the chili water, but its got great flavor and I hate to waste it. If you’re not comfortable with working with hot liquid, just wait until it’s cool, and if your blender isn’t going to hold all the water and the chili’s, please don’t overfill it or it WILL spew out of the lid and you’ll be burned or covered in red chili sauce. Simply do it in batches.

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Pork and Chili Sauce

We’re going to puree it until it’s all nice and smooth, or as smooth as it’s going to get. Set half a cup of the red chili puree aside for your masa then pour the rest of the red chili sauce into the shredded pork meat and then mix it in together until well incorporated. Now it’s ready to be used for our tamale stuffing so it’s time to prepare our masa Dough.

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for Masa Dough

2 pounds lard
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
5 pounds masa flour
2-3 cups chicken broth

 

If you have a stand mixer, I encourage you to use it, but if you don’t, just mix it by hand, which is what I do, even though I have a stand mixer. Weird, I know! But I like the handy work that goes in to making tamales.

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Snow Cap Lard

Add 1 pound of lard to your mixer and mix it until it’s soft and fluffy. If you’re working by hand, just get a little down and dirty with a good heavy spoon and work your lard with it.

 

Next, add 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp of salt to your lard and mix them together.

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Masa Flour

Add 2.5 pounds of masa (half the bag)and mix it well with your lard. If doing it by hand, just do it like you would a bread dough, though let me warn you, our masa is going to be STICKY so you’ll have it all between your fingers.

Add 1 cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of the red chili sauce to the masa mix. If it’s dry and not the consistency of peanut butter, add a little more chicken broth (up to 1/2 a cup), until its the consistency we want.

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Mixing Masa Dough

So now we have our masa dough and our filling ready, and our corn husks have soaked, it’s time to take some husks out and rinse them off, pulling off the little corn silk bits that might be left. We’ll then get some of the extra water off by letting them drain in a colander.

 

Now we’re going to lay out our work station with our masa, our filling, our corn husks, and a cookie sheet to lay our our finished tamales.

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Spread Masa on Corn Husk

You’ll notice your corn husks are triangular in shape. Take a husk and place the wide end of it on the palm of your hand as that’s where the masa will go. Spread a couple tablespoonfuls of masa over the middle of the corn husk in your palm, but don’t take the masa all the way to the bottom of the husk or the edges as it’ll make a mess. Once your masa is spread, leaving a thin layer (just how I like to spread my peanut butter on toast), we’re going to take a

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Pork on Masa

couple tablespoons of our filling and put it down the center of our masa layer. We then fold both sides of the husk towards the middle, then bring the pointed end up against the seam. Voila! You have your first tamale. Now just repeat these steps until you’re done!

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Center Fold

I lay my tamales on the cookie sheet, folded side down to hold it shut until I’m ready to load my tamale steamer.

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Folding End to the Seam

So we’re going to fill our steamer with water to the fill line which is where it’s just below the steaming rack. Also, as a nice little trick, put a penny in the water so that when your water is getting low, the sound of the penny bouncing around will let you know that you need to add more water. To add water, I usually pour it down the side wall of the pot, as long as the water isn’t going directly into a tamale. Basically, you just find a gap to add water so we don’t burn our pot dry while cooking.

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Tamale Pot Steamer

Next, we’re going to place our tamales in, folded side down, with our seams against the side of the pot. As you load in more tamales, put your seams against the other tamales already in the pot which will keep them from unfolding.

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Tamales in the Pot

Once your pot is loaded, cover it with the lid and bring the water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn it down to a simmer and let steam for 2.5 – 3 hours. To test if the tamales are done, take one out with your tongs and lay it on a plate. Peel off the corn husk (carefully since its hot), and if it peels away clean from your masa, they’re done! If not, let them steam a little longer.

As you might have noticed in our featured picture, the tamales are actually tied shut with a little bit of corn husk. I did this because my other half can’t eat chili’s so I tied them shut to mark them as just being shredded pork and cheese.

*I just wanted to mention that the masa recipe we used is enough for two batches as there isn’t an exact science as to how much dough you’ll need or how much pork will be left over. You can mix both batches instead of just one masa batch, put the leftover masa in an airtight freezer bag and freeze it to use later.


Irresistable Pecan Pie

That’s right! We’re going DOUBLE pecan pie since I believe that pecan pie should actually have a fair amount of pecans in it and not just a bunch of custard jelly topped with a few little slivers.

I got this recipe years ago from Allrecipes and it’s written by IHART44, So thanks, IHART44, for sharing this wonderful recipe and converting a pecan pie hater into a pecan pie lover.

Ingredients

1 prepared pie shell, unbaked and thawed

3 eggs beaten

3/4 C light corn syrup

2 tbsp dark corn syrup

3/4 C light brown sugar

3 tbsp melted butter

1 pinch salt

1/2 C finely crushed pecans

1 C quartered pecans

1 C pecan halves

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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Mixing Together Filling Ingredients

In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, light and dark corn syrups, brown sugar, butter, salt and finely crushed pecans. It’s pretty simple, really. I just stirred them all together with my trusty blue spatula!

 

If you’re using a frozen pie shell, make certain that you let it defrost. I poked a few holes in the bottom with a fork just to keep it from blowing up like a balloon.

Spread quartered pecans over bottom of defrosted/room temperature pie crust. I bought a big ole bag of pecan halves and just broke them into a couple pieces because we want some big chunks, not like the crushed ones we added into our corn syrup mix so don’t go poking through the store looking for pecan quarters. Just buy the halves and make them work!

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Pecan Quarters on Bottom of Pie Shell

 

Pour syrup mixture over top of pecans, then arrange pecan halves on top of pie.

 

Bake in a preheated 350 oven for one hour or until firm; let cool at least an hour before serving. Since I have a convection oven, I did mine on convect bake at 325 for about an hour and 10 minutes.

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Pecan Pie Halves On Top of Filling

You don’t want to overcook since your pecans on top will burn if you’re not careful, but you don’t want to under cook, otherwise you’ll have a jelly mess. Letting the pie cool is essential as it will set up during the cooling process. Once it has had time to cool off, slice it up and serve it. (I served mine with some butter pecan ice cream! Yum!)

 

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Our Finished Pie


Spiced Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

My dad is a true lover of oatmeal cookies and some time ago I had found a recipe for them. (I think it was off the oats container). Not to say that they weren’t pretty tasty, but I like cookie shaped, soft and chewy cookies and the ones I made, while they tasted good, weren’t the texture that I desired. So, I got a little itch of creativity and decided to fiddle around and come up with something I thought better fit my idea of what I want and these are the ones I came up with.

Ingredients

1 C butter softened
1 1/4 C packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp Watkins All Natural Pure Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 C rolled oats
1 C Sun Maid Golden Raisins
2 C boiling water

 

Please note, before you begin these cookies, I wanted to tell you that this specific batch DID NOT have raisins and you do not have to add the raisins. The reason I didn’t add them is because I made this batch for my father who was in the hospital and he just doesn’t like raisins. But I do, and I find that the golden raisins are just tastier, both in flavor and texture, then regular raisins, but you can use either!

Preheat your oven to 325.

Boil your 2 cups of water. I use my Pyrex measuring cup that holds 4 cups, put it in the microwave a couple of minutes and I’m set. You’re going to add your raisins to the water to re hydrate them so they’re nice and plump and soft. Let the raisins sit in the water while you prep your dough.

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Mixing Wet Ingredients

First, take your
Cream together your butter and your brown sugar. Add your eggs and vanilla and mix them in well until you have a nice, fluffy mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine your flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda. You can sift these together to make sure you get some of that spice in it all and to ensure that your cloves break up, since for some reason my ground cloves have a few unground lumps in them.

Now we’re going to slowly add our dry ingredients to our wet, mixing them in until incorporated. Man, it smells so good with all that butter and spices!

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Mixing Dry Ingredients

Now we’re going to add in our oats, stirring enough to make sure that there are oats in all the dough.

Lastly, we’re going to add the raisins. Over the sink and a colander or strainer, pour your raisins out to drain off all the water. Then we’re going to add them to our cookie dough, stirring them in just as we did the oats. We don’t want to completely smash them up so be gentle to keep your raisins intact.

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Cookie Dough on Parchment

Alright! Our dough is ready to be baked. Drop by spoonfuls, or by cookie scoop fulls onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. These will spread out so give them the space they need to grow!

Now we’re going to bake on 325 for about 15-18 minutes. I always say ‘about’, because everyone uses a different oven and things change. You want them to be golden around the bottom edges and just turning on the top. When you take them out of the oven they will be squishy, so let them set up on the cookie sheet otherwise they’re just going to end up falling completely apart and making a delicious mess rather than a delicious cookie!

 

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Finished Cookies