12/23/11

5 Snowflake White Hot Chocolate & Puzzles


I remember the anticipation of Christmas and the excitement building up to the point where I knew I would not be able to fall asleep.  The cure?

Putting together a puzzle.  We would gather around the rickety cardboard table in front of the fireplace on Christmas eve, working mindlessly to put together a puzzle and sipping hot chocolate.  It became a yearly family tradition, keeping our fingers and minds busy, passing the time ever so quickly.


This Snowflake White Hot Chocolate uses very simple ingredients that you can change up however you want ~ top it however you want.

You can make this for a large group and keep it warm in a crock pot ~ with a topping bar

~ or ~

make a "single serve" recipe just in case you find yourself chilled and craving a cup of velvety smooth hot chocolate ... it takes less than 5 minutes to make!



Pour half & half cream into mug filled with skim milk.

If you wish to have a thicker, creamier hot chocolate, by all means, use heavy whipping cream and whole milk.  I won't tell anyone ... remember, it's YOUR very own cup of hot chocolate!


The milk is heated in the microwave and then the chocolate chips are added.

Not a fan of white chocolate?  Then add your favorite:  milk, semi-sweet, bitter-sweet or special dark.

Here, I am using Guittard's Choc-Au-Lait real vanilla chips.


The chips are stirred till they are mostly melted.  Put the mug back into the microwave for 20 seconds.

At this point, you can choose which flavoring(s) you wish to add: vanilla syrup, homemade caramel candies, or peppermint extract.  The choices are endless.

Tonight, I chose to add whipping cream and crushed peppermint candies ...


... and with every soothing sip, I felt all the memories of putting together a puzzle in front of the crackling fire.

Snowflake White Hot Chocolate
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

12/21/11

43 Quick & Easy Dessert for a Group: White Texas Sheet Cake!


In the midst of a sea of sweet treats, desserts and chocolate at a church gathering, this little yellow cake caught my attention.

"Oh, I'll just have a little bite," I said to myself as I cut myself a sliver.

Mmmmmmm ... Tender.  Vanill-y.  Oh, so moist.... and just the right amount of creamy frosting ...

I went back and got another piece.  A full sized piece and began my quest to find the creator of this elegant dessert.

I jumped for joy when I discovered that my next door neighbor made this White Texas Sheet Cake, a recipe from her "Grammy" and gave me permission to share it with you.

I grew up with the chocolate version and had NO clue this buttery vanilla version existed!

This recipe is incredibly EASY, and can be finished and ready in an hour.

In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the butter and water.  Yes, I know it sounds unorthodox, but trust me, this recipe has been around a lot longer than you and me.

Once melted, add your sugar, flour salt and baking soda.  Beat smooth with a wire whisk.

What?  No mixer?

It was not hard at all to mix this with a whisk.  In fact, I think over mixing it with a mixer would change the texture of this cake ...


When smooth, add eggs and vanilla.  Stir in just a little bit of sour cream.  I used the non-fat sour cream and this cake was still moist and tender.


Pour the cake batter into a buttered and floured 11"x17" baking sheet.


Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and make the frosting.

The butter and evaporated milk are put into a microwave bowl and melted for 3-4 minutes.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and whisk till smooth.


Pour this lovely glaze on your WARM cake and gently spread it into the corners ... it will smooth out and create a shiny sheen ...


You can add chopped pecans on top, but when serving to a crowd, you may not know who has allergies.


Grammy's White Texas Sheet Cake
(4x6 recipe download)      (full page printable recipe)

Happy Holidays!

12/19/11

6 Wonder Mill Electric Grain Mill


You may be wondering WHY I grind my own wheat/grains.  I get the highest levels of protein/nutrients from my grain if it is freshly ground.  Ground grains begin to loose their nutrients the longer they sit around. 


Freshly ground grains, like fresh fruit and veggies, simply have a better flavor.  Once you begin to grind your own wheat and grains, you will discover a whole new world!

Years ago, I would grind my wheat on my grandfather's old electric stone wheat grinder, located in my mom's basement.  It would take over 30 minutes to grind an ice cream bucket-full of wheat and it sounded like a 747 gearing up for take-off!   Cleaning and vacuuming it was a pain.

Purchasing a grain mill is an investment, much like a Kitchen Aid or other stand mixer.  That's why you want to have the best, high quality, longest lasting grain mill.  I love this electric WonderMill Grain Mill ~ it grinds grains quickly, is so easy to use and easy to clean.  It is worth. Every. Penny.

Want to know how easy it is?  Here's how:

First, *snap* the separator cup onto the lid.  There are handy dandy red arrow stickers to show you how to line up the cup.  The gray arrow is the flat side of the cup, which should line up with the tab on the lid in case you do not have the red arrow stickers.


Next, *snap* the separator lid onto the canister.  If it is not on securely, you will have flour spewing out from underneath the lid!


Rotate the curved flour tube 180° to the left.  Do not tug or pull, or you will risk breaking it off; it is permanently attached to the lid.


Set the mill and flour separator side by side.  You will need to grasp the flour tube with one hand and use your other hand to guide the mill to securely attach the flour tube.


Next, choose your setting.  There are some electric mills that only have one setting.  With this mill, you have infinite settings between Pastry and Coarse.  I love the superfine texture of wheat flour that I get from the Pastry setting.  Today, I am grinding popcorn into cornmeal, so I will choose the coarse setting. 

Plug the mill in and turn the machine on. This is the quietest mill on the market; it will sound as loud as your vacuum, but not as loud as a 747!


Fill the hopper with your grain.  This half cup of popcorn is ground in seconds ....


You will notice a higher change in pitch when the mill is finished grinding.  Let the machine continue for 5 seconds to self-clean and make sure all the grain is emptied from the mill.

Turn off the machine and wait a few seconds for the sound to die down.
Carefully wiggle the flour tube from the mill and tap the lid several times.  Doing this lets any flour accumulated on the inside lid to fall into the canister.  You don't want a "flour shower" when you open the lid!  Return the flour tube to its original position.


Open the canister and viola!  Take a *whiff * That's the smell of freshly ground corn, baby!


To clean, I simply wipe out the cup, lid and container with a clean paper towel.  Done!


Easy, right?

Okay, you know that this mill can grind wheat and popcorn.  What else?
Check out WillitGrind.com for a complete list.
  • Oat groats (no rolled oats, you will void the warranty)
  • Rice (white and brown)
  • Triticale
  • Dried Pinto Beans
  • Dried Green Beans
  • Popcorn (unpopped)
  • Dried Field Corn
  • Split Peas
  • Buckwheat
  • Spelt
  • Kamut
  • Rye
  • Millet
  • Sorghum (Milo)
  • Dried Mung Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Chick Peas
Do not attempt to grind any high moisture or oily grains, nuts or seeds. 

This mill has a powerful 1250 watt patented motor with stainless steel mill heads that will grind 12 cups of fine flour in 5 minutes.  Woot!

This WonderMill has a great limited lifetime warranty: milling heads are warrantied for the lifetime of original owner, and all other parts are warrantied for six years.

I no longer grind a bunch of wheat and store it in my freezer.  I grind exactly what I need and use it immediately for the freshest results!

For more info, check out the WonderMill website.
To purchase this mill, you will find a list of authorized dealers [HERE].

Happy Baking!








I was provided a product for honest review purposes.  No other compensation was given for this review.  All opinions expressed are 100% mine.  Just like 100% freshly ground whole wheat.

12/16/11

3 Veggies: Pressure Cooker Style


We had our church Christmas party last week.  There was only one sign up for the food:  baked potatoes.

Church members were encouraged to bring a side dish: salads or veggies.

No desserts.

No rolls.

These things, plus the main dish were to be provided.

What?

No rolls? 

I racked my brain to figure out what I could make ... in less than an hour.

It was cold outside and I didn't feel like running out to the store to buy anything, so I opened up the fridge to see what I had on hand.

In the bottom veggie drawer was a bag of carrots.

Immediately, my electric pressure cooker came to mind.  Cooking veggies in a pressure cooker is QUICK and easy peasy.

Let me show you how.

Peel, wash, and cut your carrots.

Dump them into the pressure cooker.

Add 1/4 c. water (the book says to add 1/2 cup, but I've found that 1/4 c. works better).


Close the lid, set the pressure on HIGH, and the timer for 3 minutes.

I love my electric pressure cooker.  I can truly "set it and forget it."  In using my pressure cooker, I have come to appreciate its safety features:  too much liquid, it will shut off.  Too little water, it will shut off.  You can't open it until the safety valve has gone down.

*BEEP*  It's done!  Use some tongs to release the steam and it is ready ~ almost.

A little butter, brown sugar and salt is all it needs to be the perfect side dish.


All done in under 15 minutes!

Cool, huh?

Pssssst....I've seen this pressure cooker at Costco for $69....(cheaper in the warehouse) which is a great price!  How about putting it on your Christmas list?

12/14/11

2 Sherrie's Quiche Lorraine


In my last neighborhood, Sherrie would make a quiche for all the neighbors as her Christmas gift.  It came baked, wrapped in foil, ready to warm up and eat for Christmas morning.

Sherrie made this quiche simple, to appeal to all tastes in any family. It has cheddar, Swiss, bacon and onion powder for the finicky onion eaters.  You can change it up to add mushrooms, spinach and any other ingredients that would sound good.  She suggests using Gryure and Emmentaler cheeses, although cheddar and Swiss are good substitutes. 

I have a new favorite pie crust, from Cook's Illustrated, and yes, it includes vodka.  It is odorless, tasteless, and the folks from ATK say it evaporates when baked, leaving a flaky pie crust behind.


You can use a store-bought pie crust, I won't tell, so go ahead!

The pie crust is blind baked for 8 minutes to prevent a soggy crust.  The cheeses are shredded and tossed with 1 T. of all purpose flour.  This keeps the cheeses separated, allowing for an even distribution throughout the quiche.


I like to cut the bacon with my kitchen scissors, then fry them in a skillet.  Drain, toss with the floured cheese, and put into your parbaked crust. 


Heavy cream (whipping) is whisked together with milk, eggs, salt, white pepper, and a touch of cayenne.


This mixture is poured over the bacon/cheese mix and baked for 35-40 minutes or till puffy and golden brown ...


A slice of this reheats well in the microwave and still retains a crispy crust. 

What a fantastic dish to wake up to Christmas morning!



Quiche Lorraine
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

12/12/11

2 Easy Cheese-y Popcorn!


You know those canisters of popcorn that you can get around this time of year?  The ones that have three kinds of popcorn: buttered, caramel, and cheese?

I have noticed that those cans are getting smaller.

Yes, smaller!

After making my Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn recipe, I thought, "Why not try to make cheese popcorn?"

I searched to find a recipe, but many of them called for shredded cheese.  I wanted the finger-licking powdered cheese recipe and even hunted online for "powdered cheese."

Then it occurred to me....

Why not use the powdered cheese from a box of Mac N Cheese?


I popped 9 cups of popcorn in my Cuisinart Easy Pop and promptly opened up a generic box of Mac N Cheese.  You know, the cheap kind that you can get three for a dollar?

The powder was a little lumpy, so I put some of it in a sieve and starting sprinkling it on the popcorn.

I noticed that the powder was NOT sticking to the popcorn, so I melted some butter.

Poured a little bit of butter onto the popcorn, sprinkled some cheese powder, more butter, then more powder, and kept going till it was just right.

This was truly a forehead slap moment ...  the recipe is simply 9 cups popcorn, 4 T. melted butter and yes, one package of cheese powder from a box.

Now I want to try this flavor ...

What do YOU think??

Easy Cheese-y Popcorn
(4x6 recipe download)    (full page printable recipe)

12/9/11

0 Augason Farms Scone Mix

What do you think when you hear the word, SCONES?

Is it the buttery, flaky cookie that you can nosh on for breakfast or a snack?

Or is it the golden, pillowy pieces of fried bread, drizzled with butter, honey or your favorite jam?

I'm from Utah and if you say, "Scone," it usually means the deep fried bread variety. 

Augason Farms is a Utah company and sent me some Western Scone Mix to try.  I loved their Chocolate Morning Moo mix, so I thought, "Why not?"  And I'm glad I did.

It's quick.  It's easy.  And it's good!

All you need are three things:  the mix, yeast, and water.

Mix and knead it till it is smooth and elastic.  I found the dough to be wet and sticky, so I added about 1/2 cup bread flour, till I got it to a workable consistency.  When the humidity is high, you may need to add more flour....

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and wait 20 minutes.  That's it ... very easy and quick!

In the meantime, get a skillet with oil ready to a temp of 375°F.  Any higher, and your bread insides will be dough-y.  Any lower, and your bread will absorb the oil .... yuck.

Divide the dough into 8 portions, and roll each onto a floured surface, into a circle about 8"- 9".

Carefully put the rolled dough into the hot oil AWAY from you, to keep any oil that may splash on you...


Fry each side about 1.5 minutes, or till brown and golden.  Put the fried bread onto a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.



Know what hubby is gonna do with this?  Turn this into a Navajo Taco.

He put cooked ground beef with homemade Easy Taco Seasoning, shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, avocados, tomatoes and sour cream.  You can drizzle hot sauce or top with your favorite salsa.


Me?

I made scones and drizzled them with honey ...


Thank you, Augason Farms, for letting me try this ~ it was easy, quick, and I was able to make dinner AND a dessert!





I was given a sample of Scone Mix to try.  No other compensation was given to write this post.  All opinions expressed are 100% completely mine. 

12/7/11

4 Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn


I have a long standing relationship with peanut butter and chocolate.

Reese's Peanut Butter cups and I go waaaaaaaay back.

Now I can have this amazing flavor combo with popcorn!

This crispy, chock full of peanut butter flavor popcorn, drizzled with chocolate, will soon become one of your favorites ...

Here's how:


First, pop your popcorn.  You can do it on the stove, in the microwave, or a popcorn popper.  You pick.  All you need is 8-9 cups of popped corn.  Put the popcorn into a large mixing bowl.




Put corn syrup, sugar, and unsalted butter in a 3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. 


Stir well and bring it to a rolling boil.  Clip a candy thermometer to your pot, making sure the bulb does not touch the bottom of the pan.  Cook this mixture to 270°F.

Remember to test your candy thermometer and make adjustments to your recipe.  At my altitude, I need to cook this to 267°F.  Note to self:  put a digital candy thermometer on your Christmas list!


Remove the pan from heat and carefully stir in peanut butter ...


Pour this mixture over your popped corn and gently stir, moving quickly to coat all the popcorn.

Pour the popcorn onto a greased foil lined baking sheet or use a Silpat if you have one.  Spread into an even layer.


Bake the popcorn for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.  The first time I made caramel corn, I burned it in the oven, so watch it carefully!

Out of the oven and while it is cooling in the pan, melt your chocolate chips in the microwave and put into a Ziploc baggie.

Tip:  put the baggie in a small cup, fold the top over the edge of the cup and fill. 


 Close the baggie top, snip off a small corner and drizzle over the popcorn.


Let the popcorn set (I took it into the garage, where it was cold) and break into a serving bowl.

Next time, I am going to let the chocolate set a little bit and then stir it to coat as much of the popcorn as I can....

Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

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