sunset harvest

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

It is safe to say that my favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip. I was a little unsure how I would like the taste of a mint chocolate cupcake but when I saw what Mel from Mel's Kitchen Cafe added to the middle of hers, I knew I had to give these a try! I usually have no problem using a box mix to make my cupcakes but I noticed I had a nearly full box of Hersey's Cocoa powder in my cabinet that I wanted to use up, so I made these from scratch using the recipe on the back of the box.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Combine the dry ingredients, sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add in eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Mix with hand mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes and then add boiling water. The batter will be on the thin side. Pour into prepared pan. I filled mine a little over half way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack. When they are cool make the chocolate filling.
Place chocolate chips and whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl and heat for one minute, at 50 % power. Stir and repeat till smooth. Stir in peppermint extract and powder sugar and whisk till smooth. A note about the extract. I was at the store and noticed they also have "mint" extract. I was very tempted to buy this instead of the peppermint but after doing a little research I found that most people find the mint extract to taste too much like toothpaste. Definitely not the flavor I was going for, so I stuck with the peppermint. Let the chocolate hang out on the counter and come to room temperature, but keep an eye on it so it doesn't become too stiff. I found that using a Ziploc bag worked well for putting the chocolate into the cupcake. I placed the chocolate into the baggie and snipped the end off. Placed the tip down into the cupcake and squeeze the filling in. Repeat for each cupcake. For the frosting I used my go tocream cheese butter cream frosting and tinted it with the Wilton icing color in Leaf Green. I had some help in the kitchen this time from my sister so I let her take over some of the decorating. Here she is in all her glory taking the icing bag and putting it to work. Once you have iced them, place an Andes mint on top of each cupcake.

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For the cupcakes
2 cups Sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup Hersey's Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Mix above ingredients in large bowl, and add

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed.

Once all ingredients are combined, add in
1 cup boiling water

Mix till combined, the batter will be thin. Place cupcake liners in muffin tin and fill a little over half full. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from pan and let cool. Meanwhile begin making chocolate filling

1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 TBLS heaving whipping cream
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar

In a microwave safe bowl mix chocolate chips and whipping cream. Microwave for 1 minute at 50% power. Remove and stir. Repeat until smooth. Add in extract and powdered sugar and whisk till smooth. Once cooled to room temperature place in a Ziploc bag and snip the corner off. Push the tip into each cupcake and fill.

Decorate by either using a star tip or just by simply spreading frosting on top of the cupcake. Top with unwrapped Andes mint. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Snack Time Food

Finger foods are an easy weeknight meal that everyone around here loves. I have seen these pizza rolls on a few websites and realized when I had all the ingredients in my kitchen it was time to try them. These really couldn't be any easier to put together.

Pizza roll ups

1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
4 sticks of string cheese, cut in half
2 TBLS Butter, melted mixed with 1 tsp. Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll dough and separate into triangles. Place 2-3 pieces of Pepperoni on the large end of each triangle. Place cheese on top and beginning at large end, roll to the short end and place seam side down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush butter over each roll up and bake for 10-12 minutes. Serve with pizza sauce for dipping

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sloppy Joe's

Does it get any better? My husband would say, yes, of course it does, since he won't touch this meal. It of course is "too tangy". Although, to this day, I can say he has yet to try my sloppy Joe's. He went as far as having some hot dogs for dinner to avoid this meal. While I tell the kids, you need to at least try it..he is chowing on some hot dogs. Oh parenting, how I love thee. This is usually Jack's go to meal. He has been asking for it. He was having an off night, typical these days, and only had one helping. Grace however, had a second helping. She couldn't get enough of it. I have to agree with her. This meal hits home with lots of memories of growing up and great taste. This is my Noni's recipe. I am a big memory buff, or sentimental person who loves tradition, and recipes that are handed down from my mom, that came from Noni mean so much more than just a recipe. Meals cooked by Noni growing up were always so good. As I grew older I just came to realize that pretty much every meal taste better when someone else makes it!

Begin by browning a pound of ground beef. Drain, if there is any fat. Add the onion, celery, and pepper. The original recipe calls for a green pepper, but I am very partial to red, and that is what I had so that is what made it into the meat. I typically don't add the pepper, but did this time and I love the flavor. However I believe this is what turned Jack off from consuming his usual amount. Grace even tried to convince him that you can't really taste them, and "Just eat it Jack" was her final approach. Once that has cooked together for a few minutes add the remaining ingredients and simmer. Serve on a bun, or right out of a bowl as the kids preferred.

Sloppy Joe's

1 lb. ground beef
1.2 c. onion, diced
1/2 c. green (or red) pepper, diced
1/2 c. celery, diced
Brown meat and add onion, pepper, and celery.
1 can tomato soup
1/2 cup ketchup
1 TBLS vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. worchesire sauce

Continue to simmer till heated through

This recipe is linked up to Weekend Pot Luck #22 at Life as a Lofthouse

Bourbon Chicken

Another round of Chinese food in our house. This is an easy weeknight meal, and don't let all the ingredients in the picture intimidate you! You will notice there is no actual Bourbon in the recipe, I tried to find a little background, and seems there is debate over how this popular dish earned its name. Whether it was after the legendary street in New Orleans or maybe after Cajun ancestry, or some other origin, it didn't really matter because the taste is delicious! (And after all, that IS what me anyway)

Bourbon Chicken
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

3-4 boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
2-3 TBLS oil
1 cup Cornstarch

Begin by warming the oil in a skillet. When ready, dust the chicken in the cornstarch and begin to fry the chicken till light brown, don't worry about cooking it all the way through, it will finish cooking in the sauce. Do this in batches careful not to over crowd the pan.

Mix together the following in a bowl

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 TBLS ketchup
1 TBLS apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce

When you have cooked and removed all the chicken from the pan, place the sauce in the same pan and bring to a boil. Add back in the chicken to the pan and reduce the heat, allowing chicken to simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over hot rice

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

I was sitting around trying to think of something to make today. I then remembered a suggestion from a dear friend that Doug works with. You may think a 5 year old would request a treat like this, however that was not the case :) I have seen these before but never attempted to make my own. I used a box mix to save a few steps. I had my mix all ready to go and fill up the cones when I thought, I HAVE to do something to make these even better.
With no hesitation I took out the simple ingredients to make some edible cookie dough. Now, I realize all cookie dough is "edible" but this variation is safe for those of you that have the fear or hesitation of eating a raw egg.
I mixed up the ingredients for the cookie dough and rolled them in small balls, and put them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Place them in the freezer for about 5 minutes to firm up. Once they are firm fill the bottom of the cone with cake batter, then drop in a cookie dough ball. Now that I have done this, I would probably stick 2 cookie dough balls in each cone. Fill the rest of the cone with batter. I filled the cone almost to the top, right to the top rim of the cone. When I baked these a few of them kind of bubbled out of the top, no fear, they all were done and I ended up slicing the dome off the cupcakes to make it easier to frost the top. Once they were cool, I used the cream cheese frosting from Glorious Treats.
Look at that center! The cookie dough adds a nice surprise in the cone, and like I said, I would add another ball next time I make these! I was surprised that the cone was not as crunchy when eating it as I would expect it to be. With the moisture from the cake I guess that's what happens. They weren't soggy, but just didn't have the typical crunch an ice cream cone would have.
I could already see the doubt in Doug's eyes, "How am I supposed to carry these to work?" I had already been thinking of an easy transport. I took a cardboard shirt box and cut an "x" on one side of the box. Pushed in the folds and stuck the cone down into it. They aren't going anywhere!

Cookie Dough Cupcake Ice Cream Cones

1 box cake mix, I used Duncan Hines, Vanilla. Prepare according to package directions
Flat bottom ice cream cones

Mix together the following for the cookie dough
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 TBLS milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips, I used the mini chips

Roll into balls and place on wax lined baking sheet and place in freezer to firm up.

Begin to assemble cones. Pour some batter in bottom of cone, then place 1-2 balls of cookie dough in. Fill cone with batter, I left about a half inch at the top. Place in a baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until tooth pick stuck in the center comes out clean. Ice and decorate!

*** icing was wasted in the making of this dessert***

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Easy Meatballs

I found this recipe on one of the very first food blogs I started following a few years ago, Krista's Kitchen. At the time I thought there is no way I could ever do a food blog, but look at me know, started one and actually keeping up with it. The best part of this meal, other than the delicious taste, is that it makes enough so you can freeze enough meatballs for another meal!
Starts off easy enough! Mix all the ingredients up and shape into a ball, a heaping tablespoon. Mine might actually be even a little bigger, anything will work! Line them all up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 16-18 minutes at 400 degrees.
I took some help tonight and used a jar of spaghetti sauce, Doug noticed right away, but what he doesn't know and of course, will that I added about 2 oz. of cream cheese to the sauce. Another trick I learned from Krista! It makes the sauce take on a creamy texture that is delicious. It was worth it, even if not everyone in the house agreed. Again, Doug thinks that jar spaghetti sauce makes him sick. Well sometimes I like a shortcut!
And after they cool, I will put these in the freezer and pull out in a few weeks, probably grab a jar of sauce and make some meatball subs, either way, they are nice to have handy for an upcoming meal!


2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. (6 oz) Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken
1 cup water
2 eggs
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix ingredients and shape mixture into balls, a heaping tablespoon. Place on baking sheets lined with aluminum foil and cooking spray. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until done. Use what you want for dinner and save the rest in the freezer for the next time you need a quick meal!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Meatloaf for All

Meatloaf is another word that gets an eye roll our grunt in our house. However, this is a recipe my mother gave me and I love. I however, love meatloaf. Doug of course thinks meatloaf is too "tangy". I swear, it's always something! This is a meal that Doug will eat though, the kids eat up and I enjoy. Hopefully if Doug actually looks at this he will not see the one ingredient that perhaps will stop him from eating this ever again. Bread crumbs, egg, minced onion, ground beef, and there it is...tomato juice. Only uses a 1/2 cup, but still I am surprised Doug doesn't complain about the taste. But now that the secret is out, time will tell if I can still put this on the dinner table.
Starts out with the same method as traditional meatloaf would. Throw all those ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your hands and then shape into hamburger patties.
Place in a skillet. Brown the hamburger patty on both sides. About 3-5 minutes on each side. Mix together 1 cup of water with a package of brown gravy mix.
Pour gravy and water mixture over the hamburger patties, simmer and cover for 10 minutes. The gravy will thicken and the hamburgers will finish cooking.
The meat also soaks up some of the gravy adding some more flavor into the meat. I place the patty on a plate and top with a little of the gravy and dinner is served!

Hamburger Meatloaf Patties

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 TBLS minced onion
1/2 cup tomato juice

Mix ingredients and form into patties. Brown in skillet.

Mix together a package of brown gravy and 1 cup water and pour over patties, bring to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lasagna Rolls

A few weeks ago I made up some sauce for lasagna, but things got busy, and before I knew it, I was putting the sauce in the freezer for a later date. So it was very convenient when it came time for dinner a few weeks later. My sauce was made, and for this easy recipe I just needed to mix up the cheese part and boil the noodles. I started by warming up the sauce I made a few weeks ago, if you want to make it even easier, the store bought spaghetti sauce would work as well. I would add some ground beef or turkey into the sauce. For the cheese part I mixed together shredded mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley flakes, one beaten egg, and cottage cheese. Now, my husband will eat lasagna but I feel like when he eats it he gags when he gets to the cottage cheese, I use this in place of ricotta cheese, which same story, he is not a fan. For his, I omitted the cottage cheese and just added a little milk to make it a little creamier. Put this aside while your noodles finish boiling.
Once your noodles are cooked lay them out on a cookie sheet with wax paper, not allowing them to touch. Pour some of the sauce down in a greased casserole dish. Spread the cheese mixture over each noodle. Starting at one end roll up and place seam side down in dish. Repeat with remaining noodles and finish by pouring the rest of the sauce over the rolled up noodles. Bake for 30 minutes and the last 15 minutes top with shredded cheese.
My end photo here looks a little messy, I never seem to be able to pull the first serving out neatly. Didn't matter, it still tasted great, and didn't feel as heavy as eating lasagna!

Lasagna Rolls
adapted from Life as a Lofthouse

Spaghetti Sauce (homemade) or one 24 oz. Jar
8-9 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions

Mix together the following;
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Warm up spaghetti sauce and begin cooking noodles. When noodles are finished cooking, drain and lay on wax paper. Pour sauce into baking dish, just enough to lightly cover the bottom of the dish.
Spread cheese mixture on each noodle and roll up, place in dish, repeat till finished and top with remaining spaghetti sauce.
Bake for 15 minutes, top with additional shredded mozzarella cheese and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Creative Cupcakes

I only wish I had some creative talent to pull something like this off on my own. These cupcakes caught my eye from Glorious Treats. I couldn't wait to try them and I am still waiting to hear how they went over with my critics...the faithful coworkers of Doug. I took help from the store with some Duncan Hines, Double Chocolate Fudge cake mix. I made a double batch because I wanted to have enough to give a few away too, pending the outcome that is. I stuck with the frosting I have been making for a few months now, a simple American Butter cream. I figure with the store bought box mix it would be nice to add something homemade, however store bought frosting would work if you really want to save some time!
Here are all the cupcakes lined up and ready for "Reconstruction". I like that the chocolate is a good contrast with the frosting color, so I would stick to the chocolate, however vanilla or any other flavor would also work! After they cool it is time to get the assembly line started.
When the cupcakes are cooled use a serrated knife to cut the tops off, using the muffin liner as a guide. When I was making the cupcakes, I filled the batter almost all the way to the top, leaving about a half inch, you want a dome on these cupcakes.
After you have the cupcake split, using a small heart cookie cutter, cut out the center of the cupcake top and remove the heart.
After cutting the tops off, I sprinkled them with powdered sugar. Then spread icing over the base of the cupcake. Finally, replace the top and press together gently.
These are adorable and for the most part, easy. I will say a few of my tops broke, but overall, I think they turned out pretty well! Now what do do with all those heart cut outs???
I had some left over icing, and trust me these are nothing pretty, but they are bite size and perfect for the kids to eat, rather than an entire cupcake.....Also, I didn't feel as bad washing out all the left over icing in the bowl, since I used most of it to fill between the hearts.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sweet and Sour Chicken

This has to be one of my all time favorite meals. I thought I may have made enough for some leftovers, but not when Jack decided to have four helpings of chicken. I had no complaints at dinner and absolutely love this meal!
I start off by cutting 3 chicken breast into bite size pieces. It may take a little longer but I think it is worth it. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place corn starch in a bowl and then beat the eggs in a bowl. Warm up the oil in a pan and when ready coat the chicken in the corn starch, followed by the egg then fry till browned on all sides, not cooking all the way through. Place chicken in a greased 9x13 pan.
While the chicken is frying make the sauce. The amounts listed below makes enough to pour sauce over the chicken as well as heat some up on the stove to serve along side the chicken. I love to dip each piece into the sauce for even more flavor!
Mix up the ingredients, sugar, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic powder and pour over the chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Serve with some fried rice and ENJOY!

Sweet and Sour Chicken

3-4 boneless/skinless chicken breast
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup cornstarch
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup cooking oil

Heat oil in pan. Cut chicken into pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place corn starch in bowl. In a second bowl, place the eggs. Dip chicken into cornstarch, then egg and place in pan, frying till lightly browned. Place in greased 9x13 pan and continue with rest of the chicken.

1 1/2 cup sugar
8 TBLS ketchup
1 cup vinegar
2 TBLS soy sauce
2 tsp garlic powder

Mix sauce ingredients and pour half over the chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, turning chicken every 15 minutes. Bring reserved sauce to a boil and then remove from heat to thicken just a little. Serve with chicken.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Peanut Butter and Chocolate

I first saw these on Picky Palate, while I was over at my parents. Lucky for me, my mom made these one evening. They were delicious and that was months ago, so it was definitely time to make them up again. I love peanut butter cups and so for me, these hit the spot. They just take a little time, but this is an easy snack to pull off. I sent most of them with Doug to work otherwise I would eat all of them.
Take some graham crackers and split them in half carefully. Set aside and melt 3 cups of milk chocolate and 4 TBLS of shortening in a double boiler. Pay no attention to my set up, but it works if you don't have an official double broiler. :)
Stir the chocolate as it melts to smooth and begin dipping the graham crackers in to coat. I split some of the crackers into fourths, as this in my opinion is very rich. (I know, Aunt Kathy, you would need like a whole graham cracker and still not consider it to be too rich) Place on a wax lined baking sheet and stick in the freezer for a few minutes to set.
This is where I decided my helpers could join in. Right before bed time, who wouldn't let them work with chocolate?! So, Grace took her time and tried to make it all just right spreading the peanut butter over the chocolate.
Then I look over and see this guy, who really had no true interest in helping but did more licking and tasting. Look at that sly face, GUILTY!
After you have smoothed peanut butter over the chocolate it's time to put them back in the freezer, this time letting them harden for a little longer, about 10 minutes.
Once they are firm stir your chocolate and then begin spooning the chocolate over the peanut butter and sides. Use a knife or whatever works to smooth around the sides. I should have smoothed my peanut butter more when applying it to the chocolate, would have been easier to spoon the chocolate over it, but it still worked and tasted delicious!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwiches

3 cups milk chocolate
4 TBLS shortening
12-14 Halved graham crackers
Peanut Butter

Melt chocolate and shortening over double broiler, stir as you go to melt and smooth. Dip graham crackers in and place on wax paper lined baking sheet. Place in freezer for a few minutes to firm up. Turn heat off and occasionally stir remaining chocolate to keep smooth. When ready, remove the chocolate covered graham crackers and smooth peanut butter over the top. Place back in freezer for 1o-12 minutes. Stir the chocolate and begin spooning the chocolate over the peanut butter, smooth around the sides using a spatula or knife. Keep chilled and enjoy! They melt fast, so keeping them chilled will help keep little fingers a little cleaner!