Quick & Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Quick & Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Quick & Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Last post I wrote, I mentioned that we had recently gone for a two day visit to my son and daughter in law in Tennessee. Beyond the fact that they made us sleep in the worlds most uncomfortable bed and I think my body was wrecked for life because of it, there was at least the consolation of good food 😛 I did teach the boy to cook, after all. Okay, so I stink at teaching anyone to cook because I hate when anyone hovers. He learned by watching and learning to appreciate food. Yeah, that’s the ticket. 😀

One of the things he made was some refrigerator pickles. I love to can, but have never made pickles because they seem to be too much trouble, plus I’ve heard horror stories about home canning them. For some odd reason, it never occurred to me to try refrigerator pickles. But, he had made them and I tried them out of politeness. And loved them. Usually, I’m really picky when it comes to pickles; bread and butter ones are about it and then, not very often. After looking at the recipe however, these seemed so easy, so foolproof, that I wanted to give them a try.

While keeping the brine basically the same, I DID change it up enough to make it my own and the great thing about this recipe is that you can do the same. I wanted them to be a touch sweeter, plus I added some sliced onions to the jars to give them a touch more flavor. I threw some hot pepper flakes in one of the jars to give them a kick and I think those are my favorites. Sweet, vinegary, spicy, perfect for just grabbing from the jar for a quick bite. A couple of my cucumbers had gotten mushy, so I only got 3 and a half pints out of this. With the full 2 lbs of cucumbers, plan on a full four pints. These will keep for weeks in the fridge, but I promise, they won’t last that long. These would also make great hostess gifts or if you can find some decent cukes in the Winter, good Christmas gifts.
You know the drill… 🙂

I am posting this how I made them, but feel free to change up the spices, add in some sliced zucchini or whatever veggie you’d like (cauliflower, maybe?), add some hot peppers, more of a favorite spice, some dill… you get the idea. Make these YOUR pickles. Just keep the basic brine the same with respect to vinegar, water and sugar. The brine is simple to make if you need more brine.

Quick & Easy Refrigerator Pickles

  • 2 lbs firm, small cucumbers (I used a 2 lb bag of small “salad cucumbers” from WalMart), thinly sliced (do that how it makes you happy. I did chips, but you could use a mandolin to slice long ways for sandwich slices.)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 cup vinegar (I used cider- use white if you want a sharper flavor)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar (plain white sugar) (if you want a pickle that is less sweet, you can make it 1/2 a cup instead)
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spices (in the spice section of the grocery store; or with the canning supplies)
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (If you don’t want to put it in the whole batch, just sprinkle some in the jar you want spiced up after you add the brine)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  1. Get out four pint jars and scrub them thoroughly with soap and hot water. Dry them and then pack each one tightly with the cucumber slices and onion, or whatever veggies you’re using.
  2. In a medium pot, combine the rest of the ingredients (remember, hold off on the red pepper flakes if you don’t want the full batch to be spicy). Stir, then bring to a full rolling boil.
  3. Carefully pour the brine over the contents of each jar (remember, you can easily boil up some more brine if that isn’t enough), filling to near the top of the jar, trying to make sure the veggies are covered. Cap the jars with clean lids and bands, let cool, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours to let the flavors develop. I went into the fridge and gently shook mine up a few times just to make sure the top veggies were getting brined too.
  4. Eat. Enjoy. Serve plain, on burgers or sandwiches, use in potato salad, etc etc.
Quick & Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Quick & Easy Refrigerator Pickles

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Nectarine And Three Berry Crisp

Nectarine And Three Berry Crisp

Nectarine And Three Berry Crisp

The guys and I went to visit my second oldest son Cameron and his wife Tiffany last week. They live in Tennessee with a mountain view and it’s so darn pretty it will make your eyeballs bleed.  No, I’m not sure why your eyeballs would bleed. Don’t pressure me for logic here. I have a headache.

But…while we were there, Cam made a yummy dinner one night of a smoked brisket and some homemade refrigerator pickles (recipe coming soon, since I swiped it from him). For dessert that night, we had a Smores Pie my daughter in law made (also recipe coming soon. it was SO good!) and I also whipped up a three berry and nectarine crisp. I made one similar to this last Summer, but this one was much better, I have to say. It wasn’t as sweet, I’ve perfected my streusel since then (If I do say so myself) and I omitted the lime cream I served with that one and we had it with ice cream. So, so delicious and seasonal. This also doesn’t use as many nectarines, but instead I upped the berries.

If you don’t like nectarines, go ahead and use peaches. I prefer nectarines myself because they aren’t fuzzy, making it unnecessary to peel the fruit (thus saving time and also adding a bit of fiber to the crisp), plus they tend to be sweeter and juicier. But you do you.

You know the drill…. at least you SHOULD know it after five years of hearing me say it. Get to cooking! 😀

Nectarine And Three Berry Crisp

 

  • Streusel-
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, refrigerator cold and sliced thin
  • Fruit filling-
  • 3 ripe nectarines, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 6 ounce carton fresh blackberries
  • 1 6 ounce carton fresh raspberries
  • 1 dry pint fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup – 2/3 cup sugar (if the fruit is nice and sweet, go for the lower amount)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 3 quart baking dish; preferably a glass one, as metal pans can react with the fruits and leave the filling with a grayish tinge, plus metal with fruit can have an off flavor.
  2. Make your filling- In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients except the vanilla. Stir thoroughly but gentle so as to not mash the berries. Sprinkle the vanilla over the top and carefully stir it in. Pour the filling into the prepared pan and make the streusel
  3. In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the streusel. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Get it barely cut in, then it’s easier if you use your fingers to finish. Just grab the streusel and kind of rub it between your fingers and thumb to help combine the ingredients. You want to end up with pieces ranging from pea sized to quarter sized.
  4. Note- do NOT use warm butter. The butter has to be cold for streusel to work. Otherwise, it all melts when baked rather than ending up as nice crunchy chunks.
  5. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the crisp. If you don’t want to use it all (but why not?), just freeze what you don’t use.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees until the top is golden brown and the fruit filling is thickened and bubbly, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  7. Serve warm, preferably with a big old scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!

Nectarine And Three Berry Crisp 1

 

 

Mile High Lemon Milano No Bake Cheesecake

Mile High Lemon Milano No Bake Cheesecake

Mile High Lemon Milano No Bake Cheesecake


No more rain!!!! I have now 8 children and 72 cats lost in the grass that we can’t cut because it’s too wet! And I don’t HAVE that many kids or cats here at any other time. The grass is starting to look like something out of a Stephen King novel. At night, I see eerie glowing eyes out there and I’m pretty sure I heard a satanic voice calling to me. Of course, I hear that same voice telling me to eat entire pints of ice cream, so that may have been my imagination. Plus, it’s Summer vacation now and my seven year old is home and it’s difficult to tell him to go out and play if 1) I’m afraid of him joining the eerie crowd, and 2) what can he do outside other than get wet and covered in ticks. The ticks are LOVING this weather. We can’t cut down their hiding places and every time the boys go out, we have to do a tick check when they come back in.

On topic, I have long had a steamy love affair with Milano cookies. Don’t leave me in the same state room with the chocolate orange ones them or I’ll finish them off before Cookie Monster can say “back away from the cookies!” I saw a recipe for cookies and cream cheesecake. It was the typical Oreo cookie type, which is of course wonderful, but I wanted something more Summery, more refreshing and bright. What better for that then lemon, right? So I grabbed some Lemon Milanos (gosh, I love those things!) and using that recipe as my inspiration, came up with this one. I used a store bought graham cracker crust because lazy is my hobby, but feel free to make a homemade one. This cheesecake is simple as can be, slightly tart and refreshing and has a mild crunch from the cookie pieces in it and on top. It’s nice and creamy but not overwhelmingly rich and man, does it fill a pie crust! On a side note,  I would imagine you could use any flavor of Milanos you want in this; just omit the lemon zest if it doesn’t go with the flavors.

You know the drill…. 😛

Mile High Lemon Milano No Bake Cheesecake

  • 1 9 inch graham cracker or cookie crust
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temp
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (cut this down to 1 1/2 if you’re using a different flavor of Milanos)
  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely crushed Lemon Milano cookies, plus more for garnish (buy two bags. You’ll have some left over. Hoard those for yourself 🙂 )
  1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the sugar, vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  2. In another bowl (preferably with the bowl sitting in the kitchen sink, unless you like being splattered to death with cream), on low speed with a hand mixer, beat the cream until slightly thickened, then turn the speed up to high and continue beating until firm peaks form.
  3. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, then gently fold in the cookie
  4. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the pie crust and smooth the top. yes, it is very tall and yes, that’s a lot of filling. 😀
  5. Cover the pie lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to over night.
  6. When ready to serve, garnish with more crumbled cookies. Cut this into small slices. It IS a tall pie, so you’re getting a lot in a small slice. You should be able to get 12 servings out of this easily.

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Lemony White Chocolate Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Lemony Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Lemony Blueberry Streusel Muffins

We just got back from church a while ago and I figured I needed to get this written since at this point the muffins are long gone and the photos sitting on my desktop were constantly calling to me saying, “edit me! Edit me!”

Am I the only one who sits in church and while 99% of the mind is listening, the other 1% is totally off on a tangent? Mind you, in my defense, my tangents are pretty much always related to something church-ish (yes, that is now a word because I said so). Today, the gentleman in front of us was singing along and he had a sweet, if somewhat off key voice. The thought popped into my head that when we get to Heaven and our voices are raised praising God, I imagine it will be rather like in church. There won’t be a bunch of people with perfect voices sitting in perfect rows with perfect manners. It will be a mass of voices; the off key, the sweet soprano, the deep bass, the whispering alto and the childish murmurs of the young. I imagine we won’t be sitting on hard benches with politely folded hands; we’ll be shouting and waving our hands in praise as we listen to The Lord speak or shout in awe at the voices of an angelic choir. We’ll be on our feet or on our knees, but we sure won’t be silent. We certainly won’t be boring and worried about Sunday Manners.

I look forward to that in a way I never did when I was going to the quiet Lutheran church I went to as a child. The church we attend now took some getting used to for a lady who was used to quiet services, printed hymns sung in polite unison and above all else, manners, always manners. While I will probably (at least not in this life) never be a person who stands and waves my hands, who sings at the top of my lungs or shouts out “Praise God!”, I take a quiet joy in watching the tiny older lady who sits a few pews in front of us do so. I get choked up when I see the one man who always has his hands raised and a smile on his face that speaks of a elated communion with God. I find it hard to sing without tears as I hear all of these voices raised together in worshipful community and I see the worship leaders looking as though they feel that on that stage, in that moment, is where they want to be above all else. It’s not the songs I grew up with and I admit to being thrilled when we all sang “It Is Well With My Soul” a couple of weeks ago, but nonetheless, I think I have found my place, my home for this lifetime, the people I will watch grow and change over time. I look forward to that too.

Moving onto muffins, if you like the blueberry lemon citrus combo, this should be right up your alley.  Plus, they have streusel! What else does one need in life, right? I need to come up with a recipe for streusel topped streusel to satisfy my streusel addiction. In the meantime, I need to make more of these muffins. They are loaded with fresh blueberries, sweet white chocolate and lemon zest, then topped with buttery, crunchy streusel. These are perfect for breakfast, an afternoon snack or even dessert.

You know the drill…. 🙂

Lemony White Chocolate Blueberry Streusel Muffins

  • Streusel-
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and sliced thin
  • Muffins-
  • 1 cup buttermilk mixed with 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup good quality white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 15 muffins cups or line with foil or paper liners.
  2. Make your streusel- In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until you have pieces that are about pea sized. Set aside
  3. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk mixture and the oats. Let sit for about ten minutes to soften the oats.
  4. In another small bowl (you have someone to wash the dishes, right?), whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. In a large bowl (last bowl, I promise), stir together the melted butter, brown sugar and lemon zest. Dump the oats mixture into that and stir well.  Pour all of the flour mixture in at once and stir JUST until combined.
  6. Gently fold in the blueberries and white chocolate chips.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup to near the top. Top each with a heaping tablespoon or so of streusel and gently press down (you’ll have streusel left over. Just put it in a tightly covered container or ziploc bag and freeze it for another time) Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Gently remove from the muffin cups and let cool on a rack.

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Lemony Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Lemony Blueberry Streusel Muffins

 

Uncommon Goods Fathers Day Goodies!

About a month ago, a gentleman named Tom from the company Uncommon Goods got in contact with me and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their Fathers Day products or something from the section of their website geared towards what I jokingly call “Manly Gifts”. 😛 I had heard of Uncommon Goods before and had gone to the site to drool more than once. Drooling over cool products makes me happy. Plus, I found out that Uncommon Goods is so much more than just your average everyday shopping site. One of the things I love? They have another website called Uncommon Knowledge that has just what the name implies; all sorts of short pieces that delve into interesting and sometimes humorous subjects like “Is there a mom in your computer” or “What is the gold standard for sushi?”. This is a company that has been awarded the Bizrate award for outstanding customer service every year since 2007, so it’s not like they HAVE to go that extra mile to make another site. They do it just because they can, and want to. PLUS, as if that’s not enough, this is a company with a conscience. With every purchase you make, they donate a dollar to the non profit charity of your choice. Cool, right?!
Back to the gifts however! If you visit Uncommon Goods you can see some of the neat gifts for the men in your life that they have. We’re talking everything from grilling supplies to a whiskey making kit to garden tools to these really cool Himalayan salt tequila glasses. And I didn’t manage to touch on what all they have. You can check out the ideas for men right here. I was given the option of choosing from that section or from their Fathers Days section which you can find right about here. I so love the make your own hot sauce kit over in that area!
It took me a while but I finally decided on this Artisanal Bamboo Salt Chest. I have been trying forever to teach the guys in my life that salt can be soooo much more than the harsh stuff you get out of the cardboard containers form the grocery store, so I knew this would be something that my husband would enjoy as well as me. I just hadn’t realized how cool my KIDS would find it, too! I think we all raised our blood pressure about 50 points the first day by trying all the different salts, hehe.Artisan Salts Uncommon Goods They have a few smoked salts in there that are amazing! I find myself reaching for them to sprinkle over anything that would do well with a smoky touch; meats of course, but also veggies, eggs, even pasta.
Moral of the story? 😛 If you’re looking for some great Fathers Day gifts or maybe hubbie or son has a birthday coming up, hie thyself on over to Uncommon Goods and check out the gifts they have there. Make sure you check out one of my favorite areas over here if you have any geeky guys in your life; I’m totally crushing on these planet lollipops! I know for certain they have won MY loyalty with great products. I am already planning how to refill the various salts in the case!

Disclosure- I was given product to review in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions in this post are my own and are 100% honest.

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

 

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

I like meatballs. My family likes meatballs. I don’t however, make meatballs very often because it’s one of those foods I have a weird mental block with, thinking they are far harder than they really are. When I DO make them, I realize that I was wrong, but in between times, it’s like, “Ooo, I want meatballs. Wait… no, I don’t. They’re a pain in the tushie.”

But I was in the grocery store the other day and they yet again had ground turkey in the reduced section. They ALWAYS have ground turkey there. Someone in the ordering department needs to get with the program and stop buying so much ground turkey, then they could possibly sell it at normal price. But I digress. They had some, so I bought some on a whim. I do many things on whims. I like to think it makes me interesting. It probably really just makes me extremely confusing and annoying, but humor me. I normally don’t even use ground turkey, finding it too dry and flavorless, but man, did I manage to shake that stereotype with these meatballs!

These turned out really, really good. Like worlds best meatball type of good. You of course, after trying them, might not agree, but hey, I’m the one naming them, so worlds best it is. 😀 These are tender and moist with a LOT of flavor and a mild bite of spicy red pepper to them. They aren’t difficult at all. These delicious bites are perfect with pasta, which is what I used them for this time, but I can easily imagine them in a small loaf of crusty bread, covered in red sauce and a ton of melted cheese.

You know the drill… 🙂

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (this is one of those times it’s fine to use the inexpensive powdery stuff. It helps bind the meatballs)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons minced garlic, depending on your love for garlic. I used a lot.
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil for the pan (more for each batch)
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients up through the salt.
  2. Use your hands to mix well.
  3. Shape the meat mixture into 30 meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Obviously, if you want smaller, go smaller, or bigger, same thing.
  4. Pour the olive oil into a large deep pan. Heat for about a minute, until the oil is getting shimmery, then places meatballs in a single layer. Cook over medium heat until nicely browned, about 3 minutes, then flip them and brown the other side. If you’re planning to add them to pasta sauce and cook further, stop there so as to not end up with overcooked, tough meatballs. Otherwise, cook until no longer pink inside (an internal temp of 165)
  5. Clean the pan out between batches and use a bit more oil each time or you end up with burned bits on the bottom that cling to the meatballs.
  6. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, letting the excess grease drain and serve with pasta, on sandwiches, as an appetizer, plain… whatever trips your trigger.
Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs 2

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs 2

Honey Bun Cake

 

Honey Bun Cake

Honey Bun Cake

When my three older kids were little (they range from 30 to 26 now), we were stone broke. I’m talking momma eats the tail of the chicken and says that is enough for her so that there was enough for an extra meal for the kids kind of broke. Needless to say, store bought treats were a rare…well, treat for them. One of the things they loved was when I would spend 75 cents (yes, I’m old enough that that was how much they were) on a box of Little Debbie Honey Buns for them. My son Cameron, now 28, especially loved those and I’d have to hide them from him. Personally, I never liked them. Too sweet, too goopy, too relatively flavorless. Even back then, while I couldn’t afford it, I was an ice cream sort of a gal.

All that said, when I was at the library recently, I took out the book “Blue Ribbon Baking From A Red Neck Kitchen”. I mean, I live in rural Kentucky. How could I resist anything with that title, right? While I didn’t find a million recipes in it that interested me, I just had to tab the one for Honey Bun Cake. Just the name made me think of my kids when they were little, so it was a moral imperative that I make it. 🙂

This is quite a bit better than the Little Debbie ones. It is still really sweet, but it’s a sweet with flavor due to the cinnamon and brown sugar, not just a generic sweetness that overwhelms and gives you a toothache or 9. The cake is moist with a crispy edge and is perfect for the kiddos. It’s also really nice with a cup of coffee. It goes together in like 5 minutes max and that’s if you’re slow. So make this for a nice last day of school snack or a family dessert or maybe even a sweet treat to start the day. I promise; you’ll like it. 😀

You know the drill….

Honey Bun Cake

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Filling-
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I didn’t use those)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (truthfully, I didn’t measure; just sprinkled it over the brown sugar straight from the jar)
  • Glaze-
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk (she called for 1/2 cup but it was REALLY thin with that amount, so it needs cut down a bit)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 13X9 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together on medium speed the cake mix, eggs, melted butter and sour cream. Beat for about two minutes, until the batter is thick and creamy looking.
  3. Pour about 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Carefully dollop and spread the rest of the batter over the top. Do your best to get to the corners, but life will go on if you don’t have every inch covered. it will spread as it bakes.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze, which is simply a matter of whisking together the glaze ingredients. Not hard at all 😛
  6. While the cake is still hot, poke holes all over the top. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, spreading to try to get it down into the holes also.
  7. Let it finish cooling in the pan, then slice and serve.

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Honey Bun Cake

Honey Bun Cake

 

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

I mentioned eons ago that I have a set of cookbooks called Time-Life Foods Of The World. They were published in the late ’60’s and early 70’s and are anything but just recipe books. They are more food culture of various parts of the world with recipes thrown in. These books are some of my most treasured possessions and I reread them whenever I am in the need of some reading comfort. I was reading, for the umpteenth time, the one in the series that talks about the region of the states where Creole and Cajun cooking are the norm. I swear, each time I read that one, I want to get in the car and make my way to New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana, just to eat. 😛

Well, after I finished reading it, I couldn’t get out of my mind one of the dishes mentioned. The author called it Chicken Piquante. It was described as chicken in a spicy tomato based sauce that had plentiful amounts of onion, garlic, etc etc. It wouldn’t leave my head and all I could think of was that I wanted to make something like that.

So I did.

And man, was it a hit! This turned out so darn good! The chicken was tender and moist and the sauce, which I served over brown rice as well as the chicken itself, was spicy, filled with tender/crisp veggies and tomatoes, with a VERY slight sweetness to it. This is one dish that I know I’ll be making again, and again… and again. And other than the time taken chopping the vegetables, this is barely any work at all. Plus, you can use your own favorite chicken parts in this. I used breasts and thighs, but you use what your family enjoys

You know the drill! 🙂

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

  • 4 to 5 lbs chicken parts (the equivalent of one normal sized chicken. I used a combo of thighs and bone in, skin on breasts)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or some other neutral oil) plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red pepper
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, diced (omit this if you want the dish less spicy)
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used the kind with peppers and celery in it)
  • 2 15 ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup (yes; ketchup. It adds a richness and subtle sweetness)
  • 2 tablespoons Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (you may need more if your Cajun seasoning is salt free. I used McCormicks, which has salt in it)
  1. Pour the 2 tablespoons oil into a large pan (I used my 7 quart dutch oven just to leave room for splattering grease). Add in the chicken pieces, skin side down, doing it in two batches if they don’t fit comfortably in the pan. Cook the first side of the chicken for about five minutes. Don’t try to pull it up if it doesn’t come up easily. When meat has browned enough, it will flip without leaving half the skin in the pan. Flip each piece and let it cook for about another five minutes, then transfer the meat to a plate.
  2. Drain the grease in the pan and add in the 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup flour. Over medium heat, stirring frequently if not constantly, cook them together until the mixture is a medium brown color. You’re making a roux here and it will add a delicious flavor to the finished dish as well as help thicken the sauce up a bit.
  3. Once the roux is a medium brown, add in the various chopped veggies. Stir them around to coat and let them cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Snuggle the chicken pieces down into the vegetable mixture. It’s ok if they are kind of propped up on each other; they will still cook fine once covered in the sauce
  5. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and then pour it all over the chicken pieces. Stir a little to get the sauce down in there, then cover the pot. Let this cook, stirring occasionally just to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick, for about 45 minutes (this is going on thighs and large breasts. If using other parts of the chicken, watch your time accordingly), uncovering for the last 15 minutes or so to give the sauce a chance to cook down a bit. Taste your sauce once during cooking to see if you think it needs anything; more spiciness, more salt, a touch more sugar, etc
  6. Garnish with green onions and sliced jalapenos if desired and serve with rice or noodles to sop up the amazing sauce.

Copyright Notice: From Cupcakes To Caviar images and original content are copyright protected. Please do not publish these materials anywhere without prior permission.

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

Streusel Topped Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Streusel Topped Chocolate Chip Banana Bread 3

I would apologize for having been gone so long, but you’ve all heard it before. I’ve become like that straying spouse that says for the 12th time, “I promise; it won’t happen again! Trust me!” and then they step out on you again 😛 I do what I can post wise lately and I know that those of you who have been around for pretty much my full five years (Yes! We passed the five year mark early this month. D’you believe it!?) love me anyway.

Are you all as totally sick as me of all the political crap on facebook anymore? I love my friends, but I swear, I can’t scroll half an inch there without being bombarded with “Democrats are evil; no, Republicans are evil!” posts. It is enough to make one want to go live on a deserted island in the south pacific with only a banana tree for food and a macaw for company.  Wait; I wanted to do that anyway. I mean, really, think about it. Bananas are a perfectly good food to live off of (though if I wanted protein, I imagine my buddy the macaw would start looking tasty hehe) and you can’t beat a nice sunny tropical island. Just send me with a few crates of books and a way to play music and it’s all good.

This wasn’t originally going to be a post, but it was too tasty to keep to myself. It’s nothing earth shaking. I was making my original banana bread and I noticed that I had a partial bag of chocolate chips I needed to use up. Then, when I glanced in the freezer for something else, I saw my stored bag of streusel. The two brain cells I have left decided to use both of these things in the bread. I have to say, it’s really quite good. I added a layer of streusel to the middle of each loaf along with a small handful of chocolate chips, then topped each loaf with more of the same. Simple, yet delicious. I sent some in with Joshie for his teacher today and she texted me saying it was fantastic. I soooo love when people enjoy what I’ve made. 🙂

This is a perfect after school snack, great with coffee for a quick and somewhat decadent breakfast (but it has bananas! It must be good for you, right?!), a nice late night treat; just an all around nice baked good to have around. And, as as in the case for most quick breads, this is easy to throw together and get in the oven.

You know the drill…. 🙂

Streusel Topped Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup solid shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups of mashed bananas (this is about 5 to 6 medium bananas)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon banana flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring (optional, but it adds a nice flavor)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (toast in a single layer in a 350 oven until they are a light golden brown)
  • 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips or chunks
  • Streusel-
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional; with me, nuts in streusel depends on my mood)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Grease 6 mini disposable foil loaf pans and set aside. Alternately, you can do this in a 9 inch loaf pan, but you’ll have extra that you’ll need to make muffins with.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. In a large bowl, on low speed, cream together the shortening and the sugar until well combined. Add in the mashed bananas, vanilla, banana and butter flavorings and eggs. Beat well.
  4. Dump in the flour mixture and using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine JUST until mixed. It’s fine if there are a few lumps or white streaks. I have said before and will say again, you do NOT want to over beat quick breads and/or muffins. You end up with tough rubbery final products doing that. Resist that urge.
  5. Fold in the toasted walnuts. Again; don’t over mix.
  6. Fill each mini loaf pan about half full. Sprinkle with about 2 heaping tablespoons of the streusel and then about a tablespoon of the chocolate chips. Divide the rest of the batter evenly over each loaf, carefully smoothing the top to get it over the streusel. Top each loaf with another 2 tablespoons of streusel and some chocolate chips. If you have streusel left over, it freezes wonderfully.
  7. Bake at 350 for 35 to 45 minutes minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean  If this starts to brown too much, just lay a piece of foil over the top as it bakes.
  8. Let it sit in the pan for ten minutes, then gently squeeze the bottom of the pan to loosen the loaf and turn it out carefully to a rack to finish cooling.

Copyright Notice: From Cupcakes To Caviar images and original content are copyright protected. Please do not publish these materials anywhere without prior permission.

Streusel Topped Chocolate Chip Banana Bread 5

 

My favorite Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies & A Hamilton Beach Giveaway!

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip & Toffee Cookies

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip & Toffee Cookies

It’s time for me to get to enjoy being a Hamilton Beach Ambassador one more time! I always love when I get the chance to share my thoughts on one of their products with you, and I especially love getting to give away whatever that product is to one of you! So, what do we have to talk about today? The most recent thing the lovely people at Hamilton Beach sent to me is their Easy Reach 4 Slice Toaster Oven .

4 Slice Easy Reach™ Toaster Oven with Roll-Top Door

4 Slice Easy Reach™ Toaster Oven with Roll-Top Door

This toaster oven is so darn cute! Yes, I just called a toaster oven cute. But really, it is.31334 Other women will understand it, while men will just shake their heads and assume I’m insane; rather like my husband does when I say that those teeny tiny mini sized bottles of ketchup are cute. Inside, this oven is only a wee bit smaller seeming than the typical toaster oven. What makes it seems tinier is it’s lack of bulk. You have a glass door on the front that rolls up rather than opens downward. This has a pro and a con. It makes it easier to get into the oven without worrying about the door getting in your way as you pull things out. BUT… and this is again something most women will “get”; it also means that you can’t set any sort of knick knacks or decorations on top of this oven. On my old one, I kept the cup that held all the keys, my ceramic cow named Herman (don’t ask) and a knick knack that once belonged to my mother in law. With this one, I can’t do that due to the roll top door.
But it makes up for it in other ways. The Hamilton Beach 4 Slice goes from 200 degrees all the way up to 450 degrees. Beyond toasting, you have the already mentioned bake function, plus a broil one. I can see THAT one working great for melting the cheese on top of something or crisping up a food; making burgers.

Did I mention that the door was removable? Can we say “easy cleanup”?! Unlike ones where you end up with a door so splattered and icky that you can’t see through it, with this one, after each use, just take the door off, wash it up, dry it and put it back on. No mess! 31334-04 This comes with a removable rack that can be used in two different positions and a crumb tray that isn’t attached inside, so you can pull it out easily and clean it off.
My old toaster oven? I was afraid to actually COOK anything in it. I used it for toast and frozen pizzas and that was about it. But I knew if I was going to be able to accurately review this for you, I needed to branch out a little. I thought about homemade pizza, then realized that was still hedging my bets; pizza is pizza when it comes to baking. So I finally decided to make one of my family’s favorite cookies; my Brown Butter Chocolate Chip & Toffee Cookies. This cookie isn’t cheap to make generally, so I was counting on this oven to do it correctly and not end up burning the tops or the bottoms like other ones have done. So I took a deep breath and dived in.
IT WORKED!! The cookies came out looking just like they should, though they seemed to finish baking about a minute and a half quicker. Obviously, you can’t fit a full sized tray of cookies in there, but the oven comes with a tray and that tray fits four cookies just fine. If made smaller, you could fit six, but I like generously sized cookies 😀 My sons got a hold of the cookies (I only got ONE cookie! Darn kids!) before I got a photo (I had only made a half batch) so the photo I am using here is my old one, but trust me, there was no difference in the cookies.
As for the cookies themselves, if you haven’t tried these before, now’s your chance! These cookies are awesome, if I do say so myself, hehe. They are ooey gooey, with a slight nutty flavor from the browned butter, but no actual pesky nuts. They have that wonderful soft middle with the crispy edge. You could make a half batch like I did and have enough for the here and now, or make the full batch of dough, freeze half in cookie sized balls, then bake in the toaster oven anytime you get a craving. You can bake straight from frozen; just add a couple of minutes time on.

                         Browned Butter Chocolate Chip & Toffee Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned to a golden brown color & cooled
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 ounce bag semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 bag Heath Bar toffee chips (or 4 Heath bars, crushed)

 

  1. To brown the butter, in a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Let cook,stirring frequently, until it turns a golden brown color. This can take anywhere from five to ten minutes. It will sputter, spit and foam a lot at first then that will stop. Do NOT walk away from this as it can go from yellowish butter to burnt garbage very quickly.
  2. Pour the browned butter into a large bowl, leaving behind all the solid bits at the bottom of the pot (though if you get some in there it’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.). Let cool.
  3. When cool, pour both kinds of sugar into the bowl with the butter. Beat until well mixed.
  4. Add in the egg and egg yolk, then pour in the vanilla and the cream. Beat on low speed until well mixed.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.
  6. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and at slow speed (unless you want to be covered in flying flour), mix until you have a cohesive cookie dough.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips and the toffee bits.
  8. Now you can chill for about an hour if you want. The original recipe says to but I didn’t bother and they were fine.
  9. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. If you don’t have a silicone mat, please go buy one. They aren’t cheap but oh my, they’re worth it. Trust me on this. The first time you use it, you’ll totally understand. Spray the cookie sheet with baking spray.
  10. Scoop the cookies up and place about 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheet.
  11. Bake at 350 until golden brown on the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes. Do NOT over bake or they will lose that delicious softness and gooeyness (yes, that is now a word). They should be firm on top if you press one lightly but not hard.
  12. Let cool for a minute on the sheet then transfer over to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Copyright Notice: From Cupcakes To Caviar images and original content are copyright protected. Please do not publish these materials anywhere without prior permission.

Now for the fun part; the giveaway! Enter below for your chance (chances) to win one of these Hamilton Beach 4 Slice Toaster Ovens for yourself!

Click here to view this promotion.

Disclosure-The lovely people at Hamilton Beach provided me with a 4 Slice Easy Reach Toaster Oven With Roll Top Door to review, but all opinions are 100% my own and completely honest.