October 29, 2014

Apple Cider Cocktail


Looking for a seasonal cocktail to enjoy or serve?  Try these Apple Cider Mojito's I whipped up, they're kind-of delicious!

Serve these for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or any time in between!

If mint is not your thing (it's not really mine) leave it out, they are just as good!

My recipe is over on Jo-Lynne Shane's site. Apple Cider Mojito's


Cheers!!!


October 27, 2014

Tips & Tricks #Bacon & A Giveaway



As promised last week when I shared these Chicken & Bacon Meatballs with you, here is one of my favorite kitchen tips AND an awesome giveaway:

Are you ready?

Buy slab bacon in hunks to use anytime you want to include bacon  (BACON!!) in a dish.



Yeah I know...she's not the prettiest gal at the prom but boy does it sure taste good!


Years ago, when I had first heard of pork belly (via Top Chef) I was dying to get my hands on some. I mean it always looked so darn delicious and the judges usually raved about it...what was a poor hungry girl who loves to cook to do but look high and low for it.  Alas...no belly was to be found!

I was however able to order it in appetizer form at an amazing local restaurant in New Hope PA called Marsha Brown's and it was even better that I imagined it to be....My mouth still waters at the very thought of that appetizer and my first brush with pork belly

One day, while waiting for my number to be called at the meat section of my local farmers market (before said deliciously glorious encounter with the belly)...an idea struck me while I watched one of the Amish women carry HUGE slabs of bacon over to the cutting machine to cut both the center cut and slab bacon cuts they sold.

I thought....I bet I can buy a hunk of THAT, grill it up and it will be delicious, just like pork belly!


Except I was wrong....THAT didn't turn out so well, blech!

BUT what did happen is this....Before I decided to grill that hunk up, I took a little here and there from it to use in a couple of things I made that week and it was then I thought "WHY have I never done this before??"  "This is genius!"  I mean a 1 pound hunk costs me about $7.30 which is way less than pancetta and I can use it in SO many things AND its always waiting for me in my fridge!


I now keep a hunk in my fridge at all times for whenever the urge, need or whatever you want to call it strikes, I cut some off...fry it up and ta-da bacon for a salad made super-fast and easy....bacon topping for an appetizer, the glorious addition of bacon to asparagus, kale, potatoes or whatever I decide to add it to...all I have to do is cut some off of my hunk and I have what I need (and I get to keep the bacon fat for other delicious uses).

My Amish friends at first thought I was a little cuckoo when I asked for it, now they are used to it and they like to remind me that I am the only one who asks for it that way, it amuses them I think.   I have been telling them for a year or so, that I should write a post about it and maybe then they will be inundated with bacon hunk requests, lol!  They are used to me and some of my unusual requests, I think they kinda like it!  I have made some friends there and I enjoy asking questions about their culture(s) and they do the same with me.

Here are a few ways I use my secret-stash-hunk-o-bacon:

Cobb Salad with Bacon, Asparagus & Sriracha Ranch Dressing
Crispy Avocado Bacon & Tomato Salad
Kale & Bacon Stuffed Flank Steak
Cheddar Bacon & Spinach Pie
Sauteed Kale with Bacon
Jalapeno Popper & Bacon Dip
Mashed Potato Pie
Grilled Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon

Ok, I'll stop now (but you know I can keeeeeep going!  BACON!!)!


You can't cut a big 'ole hunk of bacon without a great knife... Right?

So today I have for you this beauty up for grabs!


A Cutco 7-5/8" Petite Chef's Knife!

I have the same one and I really like it, its so sharp, the handle is so comfortable and its gorgeous too!
It's American made, and is the perfect companion when you are chopping, dicing, mincing or slicing and the wide blade is great for (carefully) scooping up ingredients and transferring them to your pan or bowl.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good Luck!

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored giveaway, the prize is coming from me. Winner has 48 hours to respond.  Open to residents of US and Canada.  Must be 18 or over to enter.


October 24, 2014

Chicken & Bacon Meatballs


There are two foods that I can never say withoiut extreme excitement...two foods that I would choose to take to the moon or a deserted island (if I could only choose 5) to eat for the rest of my life!

They are BACON!! & SHRIMP!!

This post includes the first one...BACON!!

I adore making meatballs for a couple of reasons; they are easy, economical, fun and the variations are endless!  Plus you ALWAYS get a couple of meals out of them!

I started playing around with ground chicken as a base for meatballs a few years back and I really enjoy them!  My daughter doesn't eat any form of red meat or pork (allergy).  She wants to...boy does she want to BUT this is the hand she is dealt for now so we work around it.

I have decided that, for me, the perfect way to make chicken meatballs is a combination of both white and dark meat.  I use 50% dark meat to the white meat, so for a white meat lover like me...I still fell like that is what I am eating, however the dark meat portion lends extra juiciness to my balls...my ballz..my meatballs....no matter how I type that it makes me giggle!



The addition of bacon (BACON!!) gives these chicken meatballs added flavor!  These babies (can't say balls again) are delicious on their own and even better as a sandwich!

I serve these in a simple tomato sauce that my 10 year old daughter is usually in charge of making...she does the sauce, I do the balls OR she does both.  Meatball & sauce making is one of our favorite things to do in the kitchen together, here is how she makes it...you should hear our half Italian half New Yorker accents...when we "maa-ka da bawwwlllzzz annna maa-kka da sawse" its quite the show, or so my husband says lol!

What is your favorite meatball??  I am always on the hunt for a new type to try!

I have a number of varieties Pinned on a my Meatballs! Pinterest Board - Check them out! So much goodness going on there!!

OH and pop back on Monday when I will share my best (BACON!!) secret with you!  You want to know this one!! 

Plus...Another awesome giveaway that I think you will enjoy!  See you Monday!


Chicken & Bacon Meatballs
6 slices of uncooked bacon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup minced raw onion
1 pound ground chicken (white meat)
1/2 pound ground chicken (dark meat)
1/4 cup milk
1 large/extra large egg
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1-2 TBS Italian herbs (see notes)
1 cup bread crumbs

Cook your bacon pieces in a pan for a few minutes, add in the bacon and the garlic and saute until the bacon begins to crisp, remove bacon, onion and garlic with a slotted spoon and place them in a work bowl.  Add in your ground chicken and work it through, add in your egg, milk, salt, pepper herbs and breadcrumbs and gently mix until it comes together. Form into balls and place on your lightly greased baking sheet (grease sheet with some of the bacon fat left over from cooking your bacon pieces) and bake meatballs for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Place meatballs in a pot of your favorite tomato sauce, simmer for 15 minutes on low and serve.  OR serve without sauce, your call.  I just realized i have never shared my daughter Samantha's 10 minute pasta sauce, I can't believe that, lol!  Just added that to my to-do-blog-list!

Colleen's Notes: Depending on the type of bacon you use for this, it will lend more or less saltiness to your meatballs, so remember that when seasoning.
For herbs, you can choose to use fresh (1 TBS each of Basil, Oregano & Parsley), dried (less than half of that or one of the things ALWAYS in our fridge Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs (2 TBS).
Enjoy!!
If you are into peppers you can dice some up (red would be nice) and saute them with the bacon, onions & garlic

October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Roll Cookies


You guys!!

Yooouuuu Guuuiiiieeeessss!

I mad these RIDICULOUS Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Roll Cookies!

Bite after bite they just scream of Fall!

And they have zero calories....well...THAT part's not true (shuffles feet).

BUT they ARE delicious!!

Head on over to Babble to get the recipe & enjoy!!

xo

October 16, 2014

Mini Cheesecakes Topped With Mini Caramel Apples


How fun are these Mini Cheesecakes topped with Caramel Dipped Apples???  


With the holidays just around the corner...I say go big or go home when it comes to desserts!

I gathered a bunch of local fellow bloggers together for a fun post about the flavors of Fall. AND, squeak, we are giving away a GORGEOUS Kitchen Aid 5QT Professional Mixer!

17 Fabulous Fall foods AND  a fabulous giveaway that I wish I could enter!! Woot!!  

Get ready for some serious deliciousness coming your way!  Things like DIY Maple & Apple Breakfast Sausage, a colorful Layered Potato Gratin, hearty Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup, delicious Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese, super-fun & seasonal Apple Cider Jello Shots and even Mini Cheesecakes with Mini Caramel Apple Pops!  We have it all!  Join us for #Food4Fall and who knows YOU may be the proud new owner of an apple-red Kitchen Aid!  Good Luck!


Check out all of the fabulous Fall food ideas below:

Breakfast


Soups
Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup from Giggles Gobbles & Gulps
Farm Fresh Broccoli & Cheese Soup from How Does Your Garden Grow
Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup from O’ Boy Organic
Squash Soup in Pumpkin Bowls from A Day In Our Shoes


Entrees
Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese from The Good Mama
Vegan Portobello Pizzas from Busy Bee Kate


Sides
Layered Potato Gratin from Girl Gone Mom


Desserts
Cinnamon Swirl Cake from A Grande Life


Cocktails
Caramel Haze Martini from The Fabulous Fairy
Apple Cider Gelatin Shots from Can’t Google Everything
Salted Caramel Appletini from How I Pinch A Penny



Now for the Giveaway!! Enter to win this gorgeous Kitchen Aid Mixer!!





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Impress your guests with these mini cheesecakes that are over-the-top!! The addition of a fun mini candied caramel apple makes this a dessert that will be talked about!! How fun would these be served at a Fall dinner party, holiday party, baby/wedding shower or wedding??

Mini Cheesecakes Topped With A Mini Caramel Apple

For this you can use your favorite cheesecake recipe.  You can choose to use a crust or go crustless...Your call.  I swear by my adaptation below (or the original) of Jim Fobels Cheesecake Recipe!

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature*
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature*
4 large eggs, room temperature*
2 cups sour cream, room temperature*
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice 

*Make sure everything truly is at room temp...it makes a difference in the creaminess.

Grease or spray the insides of 6-8 (depends on the size used) 3 or 4 inch mini springform pans. and place them on a baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl (use your Kitchen Aid if you have one), beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy, get the lumps out.  Add in your eggs one at a time then add in your sour cream and mix until smooth and well blended. 

Add the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and lemon juice continue beating for another 2 minutes.

Pour your cheesecake mixture into your prepared pans (3/4 full), place them (keeping them on the baking sheet).  Bake for 25-30 minutes on the center rack or until the center of your cheesecakes are just set but not yet browned.

Allow your cheesecakes to cool for 2 hours, run a very sharp knife around the edges to loosen any attached parts, close the rings back up, cover and chill 6 hours or overnight.

Top with caramel drizzle, caramel mini apples and serve when ready.

While cheesecake is chilling make your caramel by either using caramel candies and cream or by making your own...either works well.  Place lollipop sticks into each mini apple, dip and coat in the caramel (a couple layers), place dipped apples on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate immediately to help the caramel firm up a bit.  Once it has, melt some chocolate or chocolate chips if you so choose and drizzle apples with some chocolate as well.  You could also add nuts, candies or whatever you wish.

To make the caramel from wrapped (Kraft) Caramels.

25 individually wrapped Kraft caramels
3 1/2 TBS heavy cream

In a small pot or saucepan, combine the caramels and the cream and heat over medium heat, stiffing often until caramels have melted and cream is incorporated.  Scrape caramel into a small deep bowl, and begin dipping apples (with the lollipop sticks already placed in them), placing them on a parchment paper lined tray as you finish each one.  Double dipping is a good thing.  Quickly place in the fridge to allow the caramel to firm up, decorate with additional chocolate or whatever you choose. Store in the fridge until you are ready to top your mini cheesecakes with them.

I hope you enjoy this fun recipe!


October 15, 2014

Eyeballs You Can Eat for Halloween


 

My oldest, my baby, my Connor is almost 13 years old, sniff!  In less than 10 days I will have a teenager on my hands...How did THIS happen?

This kid is my heart!  I jokingly tell my husband "See I don't need you anymore...I have him!"  I am not sure if my hubs actually thinks that is funny or not but I do! Lol!

About 10 years ago, for Connors' 3rd Birthday party, I came up with these fun Edible Eyeballs.
I have always LOVED to surprise and delight my kids through food! That coupled with the food allergies my children have kept me my creative juices flowing in the kitchen! So when I came up with these, we were all excited!


Every year...every single year since then I have made hundreds of these babies for Booing, for Connors' birthday parties and for the school Halloween parties...I have literally made thousands by now.  The kids have been helping me as well, when they were 3, the places the pretzles on tthe baking sheets, then as they became more confident in the kitche, they began, placing the chocolate & decorating them.  Everyone knows who makes them and my kids are a particularly proud when THEY make them :)


I didn't invent putting chocolate disks on pretzels and popping them into the oven for a fun treat (thank you whomever did...SO smart), but I did come up with the first "eyeballs" made in that way. Connor always tells his friends that they are "famous"!  So cute!  I know this is a memory he will carry with him forever, and that makes me smile!

These were one of the first things I ever posted on my site 


these two images are all over Pinterest.  My "baby" is so young here...

I always joke with my kids and say  things like "if our baking sheets could talk!"  Think about it, how many times you grab a baking sheet to make everything from the simple to the spectacular and they always come through for you! Sometimes we just use them to catch drips...they are always there for us. The could tell tales of our triumphs and our disasters!  I love baking sheets both new and weathered...they are defiantly one of the hardest working items in my kitchen! For me its Calphalon all the way!  Just like their pots and pans, Calphalons' bakeware does just what it says it will and you know what...its pretty too! 


Disclosure:  This is not a paid post, I love Calphalon and am a long time user of their products. I wrote this post for their Halloween series and received a few new pieces of bakewear to use.

Edible Halloween Eyeballs

Round, oval or square pretzels
White chocolate disks (like Wilton, found at a craft store)
Chocolate chips
Red jimmies (that's what I call them you may call them sprinkles)

On your baking sheet, place pretzels in a single layer. Put one white chocolate disk in the center of each pretzel. Place in a 350 degree preheated oven for approx 2 1/2-3 minutes  or until chocolate is shiny but not melted, (or else it may fall through the pretzel). 

Remove your baking sheet from the oven and sprinkle with red jimmies. Invert one chocolate chip in the center of each "eye".  Cool in your fridge or cold garage for 20 minutes and they will remain hard until ready to eat. 
These keep well for a week in a sealed container.

Colleen's Notes:  After experimenting over the years, I now always use Wilton chocolate disks, other brands  may require an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute or so more of melt time (and often stick together and become impossible to seperate...not a fan).