The Tooth Pick Icing Trick

I made these cupcakes a couple summers ago, but the icing trick could be used to make Halloween spider cupcakes.  All you need is a cupcake covered in icing, a tube of gel-based icing in any color(s) of your choice and a tooth pick!

The 2 designs on the left and center are created almost the same way.  Draw lines with the gel-based icing, I would space them at least 1 cm apart. Then take a clean tooth pick and drag a line intersecting the icing lines (only drag the tooth pick deep enough to move the gelled icing or else you will end up with a crumby design!).  Repeat this step until your cup cake looks like the cup cake on the left in my picture.

To get the center cupcake design, you follow the same steps from above, only when you are dragging the tooth pick to make lines, you alternate the direction you draw the line.  If you drag a line from left to right, the next line should go from right to left.  You can play around with the number of lines and directions to come up with unique designs!

The design on the right that could be used to make spider web cup cakes uses the same method, only instead of drawing lines with the gel-icing, you draw circles!

Zucchini Bread

Source: Cooks.com


So many people make zucchini bread, and claim to have the best recipe…well guess what, I do!  Any recipe that ends with you pouring melted butter over the top, should be a winner in your book.  You can also make a simple lemon juice, orange juice, and powdered sugar glaze to pour over instead, but come on, at least try the butter first!

Ingredients
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspooon vanilla
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (loosely packed)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

4 table spoons of butter… or more 😉
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 3 eggs until frothy. Gradually add 2 cups sugar. Stir in 1 cup vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat until thick and lemon colored. Stir in zucchini.

In a medium bowl, whisk together to combine 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir dry mixture into wet mixture to combine. Optional – add chopped walnuts or pecans.

Spray two bread loaf pans (approximately 8″x4″x3″) with grease and flour to prevent sticking (I’ve also lined loaf pans with parchment paper…much easier to clean). Pour batter into pans and level off with the back of a spoon.

Bake for approximately 1 hour or until done. Use the ever faithful toothpick trick.

Allow loaves to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife along the sides to loosen bread and remove from pans (unless you used parchment paper, then your loaf should just come out). Cool on wire rack. Drizzle tops of loaf with melted butter while still warm.

Krista’s BBQ / Hot Wing Pizza

 (Pardon the poor picture quality.  Will take a more appetizing picture the next time I make it!)

Ingredients
2 tubes of store bought pizza crust/dough
1 14oz jar of Pizza Sauce
1 lb boneless chicken
Salt and Pepper
Oil
5 table spoons of BBQ or hot sauce (I use the Texas Pete Fiery Sweet Wing Sauce)
1 small onion, diced
1 pack of mushrooms (optional), sliced
2 cups of mozzarella cheese
1 pack of blue cheese (optional)
1 pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon italian seasoning
 

Directions
Preheat oven to the temperature suggested on the pizza crust directions. 

Pour the jar of pizza sauce into a small bowl and add 1-2 table spoons of bbq or hot sauce, stir to mix. 

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and cook in a pan with some oil until cooked through. Then dice up the chicken while still hot and place in a bowl. Pour more of the bbq or hot sauce (about 3 table spoons) over the chicken and toss until every piece of chicken is covered in sauce.

Then open the pizza crusts and roll them out onto greased pans and press them out to the desired thickness. (If your oven can not fit both pizzas at the same time, just do one at a time). 

Spoon half the pizza sauce mixture onto one pizza and the other half on the other. Spread out with your spoon. Sprinkle some italian seasoning on top of the sauce. 
Then sprinkle a handful of mozzarella cheese over each of the pizzas. Put half the chicken on one pizza and half on the other, sprinkle onions and mushrooms over each of the pizzas, crumble blue cheese on each of the pizzas, and then another handful of mozzarella cheese on top of each pizza to finish. 
Bake according to the pizza crust directions.

Spinach and Onion Quesadillas

Nate was supposed to be off today, but had to close at the last minute.  So that leaves me to figure out something to make for dinner alone, but will also be good reheated for whenever Nate gets off.  I have trouble thinking of what to cook on a whim (he went to school for that, not me!), but today it worked out!  While in the grocery store I was craving guacamole but was suddenly inspired to make quesadillas.  I came across these guacamole seasoning mixes that were right next to the taco and fajita seasonings, and a light bulb went off.  This seasoning mix hit the spot!  With hints of lime, tomato, cilantro, and garlic… how could these quesadillas not be good?  And I got to skip the trouble of finding a ripe avocado!


Ingredients
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 16 oz of sour cream

1 bunch of spinach
1 onion, chopped

1 guacamole seasoning packet
3 table spoons olive oil
10 tortillas
2 cups shredded quesadilla cheese or any shredded cheese that melts well
salt
pepper

Directions
In a bowl, mix the cilantro, sour cream, a pinch of salt and pepper together.  Cover, and place in the fridge.

Drizzle some olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the onions.  Season them with the packet of guacamole seasoning.  After the onions start to turn translucent, add the spinach and let them wilt.  Make sure to stir the mixture so that everything is coated with the seasoning.  Remove pan from heat.

In a separate pan over medium-low heat place a tortilla flat in the pan, spread out 3 spoonfuls of the onion/spinach mixture over top of the tortilla.  Sprinkle some of the shredded cheese on top of the mix.  When the cheese on the edges of the tortilla are melted, place a second tortilla on top.  Let the quesadilla heat all the way through, the cheese is like “glue”, holding the tortillas together.  When the cheese is melted remove the quesadilla from the pan and repeat until you are out of the onion-spinach mix and cheese.


Then slice the quesadilla however you prefer.  I use a pizza slicer to cut mine into fourths. Top with sour cream / cilantro mix, more cheese, salsa, green onions, etc.

The Perfect Gag Gift / Stocking Stuffer

A good friend of mine introduced me to this product as a joke, but as it turns out… it really works!  Ever heard of Poo-Pourri?  Anyone who uses a shared bathroom at the office or has to go #2 at a date’s house could benefit.  You will never be bashful about using the bathroom ever again!  You simply spray the Poo-Pourri 4-6 times in the toilet before using and wah-la!  The only evidence of you ever being there is a pleasant scent of flowers.  If you go to their website there are plenty of scents and other gifts to choose from.  These would be great for newly weds, small gifts for people at the office, stocking-stuffers, or just to keep in your purse!

I don’t know about you, but my sh*t really does smell like flowers 😉

Our Favorite Chili

 I’ve tried a lot of different chili recipes, and had never made one to brag about.  Most chili’s, to me, all taste the same.  They may have a variation in the beans used or no beans for that matter, but all in all, not much of a difference in taste.  So by combining a few of my favorite chili ingredients, I have come up with a flavorful chili recipe of my own.  It is also simple to make since you just dump all of the ingredients into a crock pot! So it is idiot-proof 🙂 

Ingredients
1 pound ground turkey
1 small/medium onion, chopped

1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons season salt
1 can tomato sauce
1 10 oz can diced tomatoes with chiles (I use Ro-Tel)
½ cup salsa
2 table spoons chili seasoning mix (1 packet)
1 (15 ounce) can light red kidney beans (or beans of choice)


Side Notes
You can use 1 lb of beef or 1 lb of sausage instead of turkey
You may choose to use more of less of the tomato sauce and/or salsa, depending on the consistency you prefer for your chili.


Directions
1.Saute the onion and brown the turkey in a skillet (season with a little salt and pepper), should take about 10 minutes, and then drain the grease.
2.Add turkey/onion mixture and all of the other ingredients to the crock pot, stir together, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.


Toppings
Onions, sour cream, cheese, green onions, cilantro, tortilla chips, etc… I usually mix the sour cream and cilantro together in a dish to dollop on the chili.

Marissa’s Baby Shower

My sister-in-law, Marissa, is preggers with a little boy.  HE is due December 4th and will be their first child.  This past weekend some ladies from Marissa’s church she grew up in and myself threw her a small baby shower! It was a lot of fun putting together all of the decorations and menu items.  We had a hard time finding any blue decorations, so we decided just to go with the some seasonal decorations.  Good decision because WE FOUND THE BEST PUMPKINS EVER!  We cut the top off of one and did a flower arrangement for the center piece.  Everyone had a great time, especially Marissa.  We are so excited for her and can not wait for the little guy to be here!

Baked Cheesy Chicken Penne

Source: Real Mom Kitchen 




Sometimes you want to eat a home-cooked meal, but you don’t want to go through the trouble of actually cooking and then the dreaded clean up at the end.  Sometimes you want to eat a home-cooked meal, and you do feel like cooking that day and you don’t mind the cleaning afterwards.  That’s when it dawned on me, when I am in the mood to cook, might as well cook 2 meals to “cover” me on the days I don’t feel like cooking!  That way, we can eat a home-cooked meal on the spot!  This recipe is PERFECT for this type of situation because it makes 2 batches (1 for now and 1 for later) and it freezes well.
 

Ingredients: 
6 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dishes
kosher salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate 

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces each), halved horizontally 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
6 garlic cloves, finely minced (I just get out my micro-plane and grate the garlic…watch the tip of your fingers!)
6 cups whole milk
10 ounces white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced 1 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone (6 ounces) 

1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 6 ounces)

My changes:
-Instead of using white or cremini mushrooms, I just buy which ever mushrooms look good that day.  Usually baby bello’s!
-Instead of provolone (I don’t understand provolone!  That is a whole separate post in itself!), I use gruyere or swiss.  Next time, I would like to try a nice gouda cheese.
-1 table spoon of italian seasoning or whatever dry herbs you like to the sauce and a sprinkle on top of the dish
-If I am not using dry herbs, I use fresh parsley
-Instead of cooking the chicken, and THEN cutting or shredding.  I either cube the raw chicken, season, and cook it because this reduces the cooking time OR I just buy a rotisserie chicken to shred or cube.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Butter two shallow 2-quart baking dishes. If you’re going to freeze one, use a disposable foil pan.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes short of al dente; drain pasta and set aside.
While pasta is boiling, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Halve each piece lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise.  While chicken pan is still hot, toss the mushrooms in and saute until golden brown (3-4 minutes).  Use a little extra olive oil if needed.

In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot , melt butter over medium. Add flour and garlic; cook, whisking, 1 minute. While whisking constantly, gradually add milk; bring to a simmer.  Keep whisking frequently as sauce thickens, about 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and tomatoes; cook 1 minute. Take the pan off the heat and and gradually stir in provolone and 1/2 cup Parmesan.
Add chicken and pasta to pot; season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide pasta mixture between baking dishes.  If freezing, place remaining parmesan cheese in a zip-top baggie.  If cooking, sprinkle on top.
Bake, uncovered, until top is golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Freezer instructions:
To freeze, prepare through step 4 and then let pasta cool.  Cover pan well with plastic wrap.  Place extra cheese in baggie on top and then cover entire pan well with foil.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  To bake, preheat oven to 400.  Remove foil and plastic from pan and set cheese baggie aside.  Place foil back on pan and bake for about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove foil, stir pasta, and top with cheese.  Return pan to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly throughout.