Thursday, August 23

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

I know what you are thinking. Why am I making sugar cookies in the middle of August? Because I'm a rebel like that, that's why. Actually I was hanging out over at Daily Dish Recipes again. Nicole (being her awesome self) always inspires me. She has these cookies as part of her Christmas baking spree last year and I couldn't stop thinking about them, so I just gave in and made them. They don't exactly remind me of Christmas in the traditional sense and I can tell you right now, I will be making them year round, rebel or no rebel. They are amazing! Soft and chewy....delicious.

Nicole's recipe is surprisingly simple for a sugar cookie. A great cookie recipe that won't take you all day. It was so easy that I had enough time to eat all the cookies in the above picture. :) Then I went for a walk and came back and ate some more. 

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup cocoa

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Using low speed your mixer, add the butter. Then add the egg and mix well.

Add cocoa, mixing until dough sticks to itself (as opposed to everything else).

Using an ice cream scoop, place balls of batter on parchment lined sheet about 2 -3 inches apart. Moisten the back of a spoon and gently flatten each ball just a  little bit.

Bake 8 -10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, August 22

Simple, Delicious Crockpot Pork Chops

If you are looking for an easy to put together meal that is simply delicious, then you are in the right place. These pork chops melt in your mouth with juicy tenderness. And they make your house smell so good! I paired these with mashed potatoes, using the left over juice in the crockpot as gravy. Add a veggie or side salad if you want. 

You can use bone in or out chops, your choice. I used tenderloins this time as that is what I had on hand.

4 -6 thick cut port chops
1 can (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup
1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
pepper, to taste

Combine chicken soup, dressing mix, garlic and broth in a bowl. Set aside.

Sprinkle chops with desired amount of pepper and place in crockpot. Pour soup mixture over the top.

Cover crockpot. Cook on low for 6 - 7 hours. Mmmmm...

Tuesday, August 21

Photoblog Challenge: Black & White of Nature

I don't think my obsession with flower shots is going to end any time soon. I want to photograph every flower I see!

I linked up with Photoblog Challenges: Black & White of Nature

Friday, August 10

Cheesy Potatoes

I don't normally cook using Velveeta. My guys love it, however. These potatoes turned out to be really good and a nice switch from mashed potatoes. Quick and easy, great for a busy weeknight! I hope your family likes them too.

4 to 5 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 large onion, diced
8 oz. Velveeta, cut into small cubes
2 TBLS. butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Boil potatoes and onion until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small saucepan, combine all remaining ingredients. Cook over medium-low  heat until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Pour over potatoes and blend well. 

Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake 15-20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly.

Tuesday, August 7

Banana Walnut Bread

I have lost count on the number of banana bread recipes I have tried. I think it's one of those recipes we all have tried, right? What prompted me to give this Starbuck's version a try is still beyond me. First, I am not sure I have ever even tried anything from Starbuck's. Some of you are in disbelief, I know. I cannot stand anything coffee related, including it's "smell". I have been in a Starbuck's and have found the various coffee aromas overwhelming and far from appealing. Quite the opposite. Second, a few years ago when Starbuck's refused to send our soldiers anything, they immediately and forever went to my shit list and will never be removed. 

So yeah, why did I give this a try again? I am a sucker for good looking food and this bread looks so good when finished. This isn't the best banana bread I have had, nor is it the worst. It has great flavor and texture, yet I found it a bit too dry for my tastes. It is perfect though with a big dollop of butter on top (or in our house, margarine). 

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 1/8 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 TBLS. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 large ripe bananas (1 cup mashed)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
rolled oats for the top

Grease and flour loaf tin. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat egg, sugar and oil until pale and well combined. Add the flour mixture and mix well, adding buttermilk and mashed bananas as you go along. Add the 1/2 cup walnuts.

Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Level it out and sprinkle the 1/3 cup walnuts and desired amount of rolled oats over the top.

Bake 50 - 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack before removing loaf from tin and cutting into slices. 

Monday, August 6

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast pizza? Not only could this be a way to get your kids to eat breakfast but it's a fun switch for adults too. Not quite as heavy as traditional pizza, this could fall into the breakfast, brunch or as it did for us, dinner category. 

The variety of toppings you can add to this are endless. This is my basic recipe. I am sure you can add some of your own favorite toppings to make this your own.

1 (8 oz.) crescent rolls
12 oz. breakfast sausage
1 cup frozen shredded hashbrowns, thawed
1 cup shredded cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 eggs, scrambled
2 TBLS. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Separate crescent dough into triangles. Press triangles together to form a round 12" crust on a pizza pan coated with cooking spray. Crimp outer edges of dough (with your fingers) to create a rim. 

Bake dough for 5 minutes and then set aside.

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until brown, making sure to crumble it. Drain well.

Top dough with a layer of sausage, then hashbrowns, then shredded cheese. Combine milk, salt & pepper and eggs together, whisking well.

Pour egg mixture evenly over the pizza. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 25 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

Slice like pizza and watch it disappear!

Thursday, August 2

Cajun Shrimp Pasta

I have mentioned my beautiful, talented friend, Nicole from Daily Dish Recipes before. She was truly my inspiration to start cooking real family meals. She has the best original ideas with a wide variety of ingredients that I can relate to. That I think all of us can relate to and appreciate. She's a wife, mother, author, foodie, friend, blogger and superhero. No, really, she is. 

I rarely make any changes to Nicole's creations. Down to the last pinch of salt, they are perfect. However, Nicole LOVES creamy sauces. The creamier, the better. I do not. As always, I am in the minority here. I like my pasta dry. I am not a creamy kind of girl. Does that make me crunchy then?

There is a very simple solution to the creamy part of this recipe. If you like creamy, follow the recipe below. If you do not, see my note below. The result is that the sauce sticks to the rigatoni, keeping all the flavor of the recipe but leaving out the excess creaminess.  With this one small change, this pasta is now very close to the best pasta/shrimp combination ever!

1/2 lb. shrimp
4 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 TBLS. unsalted butter
4 TBLS. butter
1 TBLS. olive oil
8 oz. Rigatoni
3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
grated Parmesan

In a bowl, toss Cajun seasoning and shrimp. Make sure the shrimp is well coated, then set aside.

Heat both butters and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Heat until the butter stops foaming and just starts to turn a brownish color. Add seasoned shrimp and heat 5 -8 minutes or until shrimp is firm. 

While the shrimp is sauteing, cook Rigatoni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

When shrimp is firm, reduce heat to medium low. Add whipping cream and heat through. Stir frequently. 

NOTE: if you are weird like me (high five!), at this point when the shrimp is heated through, drain the excess sauce, leaving just a enough to lightly coat the Rigatoni.

Pour the shrimp mixture over the Rigatoni, stirring to evenly coat. 

Taste and add extra Cajun seasoning if you like. Sprinkle with desired amount of Parmesan.


Wednesday, August 1

Chicken Bacon Tater Tot Crockpot Bake

It is not easy to take a good photo of some most crockpot recipes. I debated not putting one up at all with this recipe as I really could have worked on a better angle. Truth is, working nights all summer often leaves me with little time between dinner being ready for the boys and me heading out the door. 

My family having a good home-cooked meal is the most important part here, yet I love sharing my recipes with the rest of the world too! 

1 (32 oz) bag of tater tots
3 oz. jar of bacon bits
5 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack Pepper cheese
3/4 cups milk
salt & pepper
Lawry's seasoning salt

Lightly grease bottom and sides of crockpot. Layer 1/2 of the tater tots on the bottom. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the bacon bits. Combine both shredded cheeses and then sprinkle 1/3 over the tater tots. Top cheese with chicken breasts. Sprinkle with desired amount of salt, pepper and Lawry's.

Top with another 1/3 of shredded cheese. Sprinkle with another 1/2 of the bacon bits. Add remainder of tater tots and then top with the last of the shredded cheese.

Pour milk over the top of layers. Cook on low 3 - 4 hours.