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!

peppermint cookies 2


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!