Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pot Roast Love

I think I've mentioned in the past that Sunday dinner at my house growing up was pot roast with carrots and potatoes nearly every Sunday. It still is, actually. It's one of my mom's best meals. Somehow that pot roast magic skill didn't managed to transfer into my brain before I left home. I know, SHOCKING! I had Mom write down what she did shortly after we got married and I followed her instructions to the letter only to discover that either I was roast challenged (very possibly) or that same level of goodness could only be achieved by my mom. I satisfied myself with inviting myself to dinner every week that we lived close enough and really enjoying the weeks we made the trek after we moved. I didn't really attempt it again until several years later...largely because we couldn't afford to actually purchase anything more expensive than ground beef but that's a tale for another day.

I'm a huge fan of putting roast in the crock pot and do that most often. It's pretty hard to mess things up in a crock pot because it does all the work for you. That said sometimes I am not a good enough planner and don't get it started in time. I have this lovely red Dutch oven that I got for my birthday a couple of years ago and although it's not Le Crueset it's pretty darned good. I did the research between Lodge and Le Crueset and decided that the end result was so close to the same that I couldn't justify $250-300 on one pan. Lodge has served me well with my other Dutch ovens so that's what I got and guess makes a roast that is on a par with my mom's! Finally!

Depending on how much time I've got I like to brown the onions and carrots as well as the roast before I start them all together in the oven. It works without that step but the flavor it is a bit richer if you do it. Sometimes I cook the potatoes in the same pot but usually I do those separately on the stove. I just like the texture better with gravy. So, here's the secret so that you can have some pot roast love at your house too!

Pot Roast Love

1 large roast (we like chuck usually)
1 onion; cut into eighths or quarters
1 1/2 lbs baby carrots
Johnny's seasoned salt
black pepper
Herbs of your choice
olive oil
2 c. beef broth

Heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil in the Dutch oven over med high-high heat.

Quickly brown the onions in the olive oil and set aside. Brown the carrots until you start to see little brown marks and set them aside as well.

Season the meat with seasoning salt and pepper. Sear your roast on all sides until it's nice and brown. A good pair of tongs will help you get the sides without burning yourself. Set roast aside.

Deglaze your pan with 1 c. beef broth. Scrape the little bits off the bottom of the pan. Put the roast, carrots and onion (and potatoes if that's the way you are cooking them) back in the pan and add enough broth to cover the roast approx halfway. (you are braising the meat in case you are interested)

Add whatever herbs you like or just season well with salt and pepper. Rosemary and thyme are good as is a bay leaf or two. Cover.

Cook low and slow until the meat is falling apart. 275 degrees for 3 hours for a smaller roast (3 lbs.) add another hour for a 4-5 lb roast. You can do 350 for a little less time but it isn't as fall apart tender. It's all about time people.

Let meat rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Spice Frosting

This is the second cupcake of the cupcake palooza I had the other day. Again I started with a spice cake mix and embellished it to suit my tastes. This version I liked better than the apple one and it was beautiful to decorate. The cupcakes were all pretty and rounded so they looked as yum as they tasted.

Again, the cake is merely the tool that allows me to have copious amounts of frosting without any weird looks. This frosting was seriously good. I wasn't expecting that level of yum when I was throwing things in the bowl and hoping that it would actually thicken up without 2 lbs of powdered sugar but holy cow it was good. I licked both beaters and won't even think about the amount I ate after the cupcakes were all frosted and there was a little left in the bowl....

The fam all liked this one and it made a great birthday cupcake for my cute adopted daughter. Considering I'm a slacker on the shopping front a cupcake had to be a birthday token today. I even found a candle!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Spice Frosting
2 doz cupcakes

1 spice cake mix
4 eggs
1 c. pumpkin
1/4 c. oil
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 c. butter
4 c. powdered sugar
4 T. buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
tiny dab orange food coloring (opt)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with 24 cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix cake mix, oil, buttermilk, and pumpkin until well blended. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each. Add pumpkin pie spice and stir until blended.
  3. Fill cupcake liners with 1/4 c. batter and bake 20 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove to a sheet pan and refrigerate 10-15 minutes until cool.
  4. Beat butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar 1 c. at a  time with 1 T. buttermilk at a time until all sugar is added.
  5. Add vanilla and pumpkin pie spice and beat until fluffy. Add a bit more powdered sugar if needed. Color with orange food coloring if you choose.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

I made cupcakes today to take to work as a bribe. Who knows if it will make any impact but if I were the one being bribed I would pretty much be a slave to this frosting. The cake was ok but compared to the frosting it was just cake. I feel like that much of the time however so I had to eat a cupcake plain to decide whether or not I actually liked them. I will definitely do apple chunks next time instead of shreds but over all it was a decent apple cake and considering that it started with a spice cake mix that makes me pretty happy. I have much better luck jazzing up a mix than I do from scratch. Maybe when I grow up I will figure out consistent results from scratch.

Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
2 doz cupcakes

1 spice cake mix
1 cup applesauce
1/4 c. oil
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp apple pie spice
2 apples; chopped

3 oz cream cheese
2-3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/3 c. caramel ice cream topping
1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with 24 cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix cake mix, oil, buttermilk, and applesauce until well blended. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each. Add apples and apple pie spice and stir until blended.
  3. Fill cupcake liners with 1/4 c. batter and bake 20 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove to a sheet pan and refrigerate 10-15 minutes until cool.
  4. In large mixing bowl cream together butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and caramel until fluffy. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until incorporated, well blended and the consistency you prefer. I like mine to hold peaks so that it doesn't slide off the cupcake when it's piped on.
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    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Mac and Cheese

    We are kind of mac and cheese snobs at our house. Well....maybe the truth is I'M a mac and cheese snob. I just can't bring myself to get on board with the blue box of yellow death that is the staple of newlyweds and students everywhere. This tendency I blame squarely on my mother. I didn't ever have box mac and cheese until I was in high school...or maybe I was even any rate I don't like it and avoid it at all costs.

    I've made many variations of mac and cheese over the years and haven't ever really found the perfect recipe. They are all good and most have been made more than once but I am still always looking for the perfect combination. This could be the one. It was good creamy, straight out of the pot and also after being baked. That is huge in my book. It was even pretty good reheated when most mac and cheeses are at their leftover worst.

    This is a Pioneer Woman recipe so I wasn't consumed with tweaking it to death. I haven't made anything from her book or blog that wasn't good. This recipe falls into that category as well. Yum. Try it, you may not eat yellow death voluntarily again either!

    Mac and Cheese
    The Pioneer Woman-Food Network 

    • 4 cups dried macaroni
    • 1 whole egg
    • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
    • 2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard (more if desired)
    • 1 pound sharp Cheddar, grated (not pre-grated cheese), plus more for baking
    • Salt
    • Seasoned salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • Optional spices: cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme


    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    Cook the macaroni until still slightly firm. Drain and set aside.

    In a small bowl, beat the egg. In a large pot, melt the butter and sprinkle in the flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook for a couple of minutes, whisking constantly. Don't let it burn. Pour in the milk, add the mustard and whisk until smooth. Cook until very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.

    Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into the beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs. Whisk together until smooth. Pour the egg into the sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth. Add in the cheese and stir to melt. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt and the pepper. Add any additional spices if desired. Taste the sauce and add more salt and seasoned salt as needed! DO NOT UNDERSALT.

    Pour in the drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Serve immediately (while it's still very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese and bake until bubbly and golden on top, 20 to 25 minutes.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Raspberry Peach Jam

    I have always loved raspberry jam. Strawberry is OK, but if I have a choice I will choose raspberry without hesitation. Peach has always been eh in my book so I've never actually made a whole batch of peach jam. I like it if someone else gives it to me, like my mother in law, but I never do it on my own.

    A few weeks ago I had a few peaches that weren't really enough to do much of anything else and I was completely peached out on the treat front so I decided to do a raspberry peach jam combo. I'd talked about it with my neighbor and hers turned out so good I needed some of my own. Of course, I made this decision late at night without any prior planning or actual fresh raspberries so I had to improvise a little. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that jazz...

    I couldn't find any pectin in my pantry, I had a bag of raspberries that was a little freezer burned and a few peaches. Throw in a some sugar, a box of raspberry Jello and see what happens! It was jam magic I tell ya. Seriously. Magic. Yum. Can I eat this stuff with a spoon...wait, I did that. It is good on toast, would make fabulous syrup or ice cream topping and is good just straight. :) An added bonus is the easy. I did it again the next week and used frozen peaches given to me by a friend and it worked like a charm. I may never make straight raspberry jam again. I have a bag of strawberries that are going to be the next peach ___ combination. Maybe this week. Or the next. Or sometime in December. You know, when I have a spare minute.

    Raspberry Peach Jam
    3 pints

    5 c. white sugar
    4 c. peaches; peeled and sliced
    1 10 oz pkg raspberries (fresh would also work)
    1 small box raspberry Jello

    Combine peaches and berries in food processor and pulse until chopped. (I like it fairly smooth but if you wanted chunks you could just put them in your pot and mash them with a potato masher while you cooked it.)

    In a large heavy pot combine fruit and sugar. Bring mixture to a steady boil. Stir constantly to avoid scorching and cook for 25 minutes until mixture is medium thick. Remove pan from heat and add Jello. Stir well until Jello dissolves. Pour into pint jars. Cover with parafin or process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    What I've been doing....

    I've been crazy busy at work and haven't seemed to find the time to cook anything blog worthy for weeks. You have to be able to give cooking longer than 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there for it to turn out. So...I've been crafting instead. I've made some infant hats that are pretty darned cute and finished this wreath for my office door this afternoon. It's a terrible picture but in real life it makes me happy. :)

    Maybe next week will be a better cooking week!

    I didn't take pictures of the process but here are the super easy instructions:

    8" Foam wreath form
    3 spools of tulle from the wedding or floral department (I think they were 25' each)
    Flowers or whatever decorations you decide to use
    Hot glue gun
    Ultra fine glitter
    Elmer's glue
    Spray glitter (I used glitter hairspray because it was cheaper)

    Cut lengths of tulle 18" long. I cut everything and stacked it by color. I used 2 black spools and 1 purple but you can obviously do whatever color combination your heart desires.

    Visually divide your wreath into quarters. Take 2 lengths of tulle and stack them together. Tie them to your wreath form at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions. Depending on how you like the knots tie either a square knot (right over left, left over right) or 2 half squares (right over left, right over left). I tried both ways and ended up doing a square knot. Tie them tightly, so that the tulle doesn't slide all over.

    Now just start filling in the spaces with ties. I'm kind of OCD and counted how many ties I was doing in each section but you can slide them around if you just tie without counting. I did all the black and then added the purple at the end.

    Once you have all the ties tied, fluff it out and see if it's even. You can trim it up at this point pretty easily.

    Lay out your decorations and arrange them on your wreath. Once you have everything where you like it pull out your handy, dandy, glue gun and start gluing. For glue gun novices I would recommend looking for a low temp version, it will save your fingers from being permaburned. Not that I have experienced that or anything.

    If you can find pre glittered flowers you can skip this step but I couldn't find any so I carefully edged the petals with Elmer's and sprinkled ultra fine glitter over the glue. If you goof and it looks scary you can pull the flower off and wash the glue off under running water and start over. Or glitter before you glue it to the wreath. I wasn't sure how much I actually wanted so I did it after it was all glued.

    Fill in with feathers. Spray with glitter spray. Hang with a chunk of ribbon!


    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Mock KFC Potato Bowls

    I'm a big fan of replicating restaurant and fast food dishes at home for less money. This dinner is one of those kinds of recipes and it's waaay cheaper than if you were to buy them at KFC and honestly tastes very, very close to the same.  There's nothing super gourmet about this one, you probably have all the ingredients hanging out in your freezer and food storage. The kids love it and even the big kid likes it to eat as lunch the next day. If you wanted to be all super, Holly Homemaker you could absolutely make your mashed potatoes from scratch but to really duplicate the KFC experience you need to use instant. I admit that growing up in Idaho I had no idea that such a thing existed. Instant potatoes...what will they think of next?!? 

    This is seriously easy dinner. I can't even call it a recipe. Add the elements you like to your bowl and if you are B leave the corn out. Start with everything warm and just microwave for 20 seconds just before eating and you will be thinking you just left the KFC drive thru. An added bonus is your wallet won't be in sticker shock! Woo!

    Mock KFC Potato Bowls

    Popcorn chicken (we cook the whole bag)
    Enough mashed potatoes to feed your family
    Brown gravy; Cambell's tastes really close to KFC's but the kind in the packet works well too. 

    1. Bake the chicken according to the package directions
    2. Prepare the mashed potatoes according to the package directions.
    3. Layer potatoes, gravy, chicken, corn, gravy and cheese.
    4. Zap the bowl in the microwave to melt the cheese a little bit before serving.

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Game Day Chili

    Football season is upon us and I'm starting to feel like cooking for fall, even though the temperature outside is still hanging out in the upper 80's this week. Once fall hits I like to make lots of soups and chili's. I love the convenience of dumping stuff in my crock pot in the morning and coming home to a hot dish of whatever after work. This is good the first day but superb on the second day so I try to cook it on a day that I'm home and able to fix something else for dinner so that I can eat this the next day. Serve it with warm bread or cornbread and some Fritos. 

    You can mix up the bean to meat ratio to fit your family and I usually just use whatever I can dig out of the pantry. Don't feel locked into the chili beans if that isn't what you normally buy, it's fairly spicy even without the seasoned beans.  The ingredient list is kind of lengthy but everything is probably something that you already have in your kitchen. Don't be's worth it! I promise. :)

    Game Day Chili
    Serves 12

    2 lbs lean ground beef
    1 lb Italian sausage
    3 cans chili beans; drained
    1 can spicy chili beans
    2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
    1/3 c. ketchup
    1 large yellow onion; chopped
    3 stalks celery; chopped
    1 green bell pepper; chopped
    1 red bell pepper; chopped
    2 jalapeno peppers; chopped (seed them if you don't want the heat)
    1 T. bacon bits
    4 t. beef bouillon
    1/2 c. water
    1/4 c. chili powder
    1 T. Worcestershire sauce
    1 T. minced garlic
    1 T. dried oregano
    2 t. cumin
    2 t. Tabasco
    1 t. dried basil
    1 t. salt
    1 t. group black pepper
    1 t. cayenne pepper
    1 t. sugar

    1. Brown meat in a large skillet and drain off fat.
    2. Mix all ingredients in a large (6 qt) crock pot.
    3. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 12 hours. (If you are around to stir you can do so but you don't need to watch it like carefully. Walk away people and enjoy your day. Or work. Bleh.)
    4. To serve ladle into bowls and top with grated cheese and sour cream. Serve chips on the side.

    Entered in The Texas Star Chili Cook Off 2011 Check it out!!

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Blackberry Peach Cobbler Bars

    I love the end of summer when the peaches and berries are all juicy and ripe. I used to pick raspberries to earn money for school clothes and there were lots of mornings that my sisters and I were guilty of standing in the patch and eating as many berries as we put into our buckets. I didn't have raspberries this morning but I did have some blackberries and thanks to my awesome neighbor I also had fresh peaches. I've eaten most of the peaches she brought over just by themselves so I thought it might be nice to make something that I could share out of some of them. These bars fit the bill perfectly. 

    The base was similar to shortbread and next time I am going to add some oatmeal to give it a little more texture but the flavor was awesome. The peaches and blackberries complemented each other perfectly and didn't make the crust too soggy. By the end of the day it was pretty soft but it still tasted good. I think this recipe is a definite keeper. I want to try it with raspberries next time and I would imagine that you could use frozen fruit as well and it would still be fine.

    Hurry and make this one before all the peaches are gone!!

    Blackberry Peach Cobbler Bars
    24 bars

    3 c. flour
    1 c. sugar
    1 t. baking powder
    1/2 t. cinnamon
    1/2 t. nutmeg
    1/4 t. ginger
    1/4 t. salt
    1 c. cold butter
    1 large egg
    2 t. pure vanilla extract
    3 peaches; pitted and thinly sliced
    2 c. blackberries
    Coarse sugar

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.
    2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and spices. Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture. You can use a couple of knives, a pastry blender thingy, your food processor or just your hands. Mix together until you have pea sized chunks of dough.
    3. Add the egg and vanilla. Stir to combine.
    4. Press 3/4 of the dough into the baking dish and set the remaining dough aside.
    5. Add the sliced peaches over the dough (if you are a little bit OCD line them up all nice and straight...cause I would never be so crazy). Sprinkle 2/3 of the berries over the top of the peaches.
    6. Mash the remaining berries in a bowl and drizzle evenly over the baking dish.
    7. Crumble the remaining dough over the top. Sprinkle top with coarse sugar.
    8. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top and sides are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.

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