Monday, December 30, 2013

Ranch Party Mix

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Ranch Party Mix Here it is- I call it the mix. The best and easiest mix for any party or get-together. It is borderline addictive and honestly it is embarrassing how EASY it is. People always ask what’s in it. Well here it is. 4 ingredients. Toss together. No baking. I almost can’t believe how delicious it is. I blame the white cheddar popcorn. If you’re having company for New Year’s, whip this together. We had company on Christmas and couldn’t stop eating this. Enjoy!

Ranch Party Mix:

  • 1/2 bag white cheddar popcorn
  • 1/3 bag Cheez-itz
  • 1/3 bag pretzels (any kind, I like sticks)
  • 1/2 packet ranch powder
Ranch Party Mix

Monday, December 23, 2013

Maple Syrup Pecan Pie

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Maple Syrup Pecan Pie

My best pretend internet friends the Pioneer Woman & Ina Garten never fail me. I combined their approaches to pecan pie using Pioneer Woman’s recipe with the idea to add maple from Ina Garten. This pecan pie was amazing with a hint of maple added to the recipe! The perfect Holiday treat (which as you can tell I’ve been making way too many of lately. Help!). But really, I want to hang out with both of these amazingly talented ladies.

Here is the link to Ina Garten’s Maple Pecan Pie and here (as well as below) is Pioneer Woman’s Pecan Pie:

    • 1 whole Unbaked Pie Crust (I used my best homemade pie crust here)
    • 1 cup White Sugar
    • 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
    • 1 cup Corn Syrup 7/8 c. corn syrup
    • 1/8 c. maple syrup
    • 3/4 teaspoons Vanilla
    • 1/3 cup Melted Butter (salted)
    • 3 whole Eggs, Beaten
    • 1 cup (heaping) Chopped Pecans

I added the maple syrup and kept the pecans whole because Mitch loves it that way, but other than that followed the recipe! It did take a little longer to cook than she said. Just take it out once it’s mostly set (not too jiggly).

Maple Syrup Pecan PieRecipe from Pioneer Woman: First make pie crusts. Roll out into pie pan. Mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, maple syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl.

Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.

Pour syrup mixture over the top. Cover top and crust lightly/gently with foil. Bake pie at 350º for 30 minutes. Remove foil, then continue baking for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans.

NOTE: PIE SHOULD NOT BE OVERLY JIGGLY WHEN YOU REMOVE IT FROM THE OVEN. If it shakes a lot, cover with foil and bake for an additional 20 minute or until set. Required baking time seems to vary widely with this recipe. Sometimes it takes 50 minutes; sometimes it takes 75!

Allow to cool for several hours or overnight. Serve in thin slivers.Maple Syrup Pecan Pie

Saturday, December 21, 2013

6 Minute Microwave Caramels

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6 Minute Microwave Caramels

The men in my husband’s family love caramel. Caramels, caramel flavor, dulce de leche, turtles, Rolos, Riesens, basically anything with caramel and my husband is no exception. For years his aunt and grandma have made caramels for their family. When we were first married his grandma showed me how to make all her candies (including pecan roll which is amazing!) including caramels. They were of course delicious but took a lot of work, a thermometer, testing the caramel for that soft ball stage of cooking. For a couple years I made these for our family and friends but 2 years ago a friend told me about microwave caramels. And my life was quickly changed (my life isn’t that exciting ;). These caramels taste exactly like Mitch’s grandmas, have the same ingredients, but are cooked in the microwave.  SIX minutes. Six! For the past couple Christmases I’ve made these caramels instead. And we love them! Also I can make 5 batches in an hour and have enough caramels for us and friends. It is a great thing.


  • 1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
  • Cooking spray
  • Wax paper for wrapping

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Pour all ingredients in a bowl. Microwave for 6 total minutes, but remove every 2 minutes to stir. Mixture should be bubbling when you remove it. Quickly pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Let cool. Cut into rectangles and wrap in wax paper (I cut out a bunch of wax paper rectangles). Keep yourself from eating too many! *I have doubled it and cooked for 8 minutes, stirring at every 2 minutes and they turned out the same!6 Minute Microwave Caramels6 Minute Microwave Caramels

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Candy Cane Fudge

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Easy Candy Cane Fudge

Every year I make two candy recipes for Christmas—easy easy caramels and candy cane fudge. I’m getting the caramel recipe ready now to post as well. I can’t even tell you how easy this fudge is compared to most traditional recipes where you have to boil milk and mess with a candy thermometer and such. This recipe is from Kraft of all places and only gives you a time to cook the fudge rather than a temperature so you don’t need any special tools. My sister introduced me to this fudge about 7 years ago and I’ve been making it every year since! I added the crushed candy canes on top each year for Christmas and if you love peppermint you can even add a little peppermint extract to the fudge right before it cools. I love how buttery and chocolately it is. Also that it was so easy my kids helped me make it. They mixed it and poured in all the ingredients for me. It’s a perfect treat to make for neighbors or if you’re having company for Christmas, make this a day or two before. It keeps well!

Candy Cane Fudge (adapted from Kraft’s Fantasy Fudge recipe here):

  • 3 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. butter
  • 1 - 5 oz. can of evaporated milk
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (7 oz) jar of marshmallow creme
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • optional: 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract
  • 1/2 package of candy canes, crushed
  • *Note if you don’t add candy canes, it is delicious with a cup of chopped walnuts

Spray a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray. Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3-qt. saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 4 min, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate and marshmallow creme; stir until melted. Add nuts and vanilla (and/or peppermint extract); mix well. Pour into prepared pan; spread to cover bottom of pan. Immediately top with crushed candy canes before fudge starts to set. Cool completely. Cut into squares.Easy Candy Cane FudgeEasy Candy Cane Fudge

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Coconut Cream Pie


Coconut Milk Coconut Cream Pie

I love coconut and I love cream pies. Oddly a lot of coconut cream pie recipes I found only had shredded coconut in them or on top, but none in the custard. I love Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and I found this recipe on her site. And I didn’t change anything! It was amazing! There is coconut milk and coconut extract in the custard. Once I saw that I thought it would be great. I opted for he option of no coconut shreds in the custard though you can certainly do that if you’d like, I just prefer a creamy texture. But the toasted coconut on top really is delicious - toasting it makes it so sweet.

Here is the link to the recipe and it’s pasted below:

    Coconut Cream Pie:

  • 1 can coconut milk (can be found in the Asian foods section)
  • Half-and-half or heavy cream (enough to add to the coconut milk to make 3 cups)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, toasted*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 recipe graham cracker crust (below) or traditional pie crust
  • Fresh Whipped Cream, lightly sweetened

    Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 12 whole rectangular graham crackers
  • 1 stick butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 3 tablespoons sugar


  1. For the pie: In a medium saucepan, combine half and half, coconut milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Mixture will become very thick. Remove from heat, and stir in coconut extract and the vanilla extract (at this point you can also stir in 3/4 cup of the toasted coconut, although, I prefer to use it all to garnish the top of the pie). Pour the custard into the baked and cooled pie shell and chill 2-4 hours or until firm. Top with whipped cream and the toasted coconut.
  2. For the crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Finely crush graham crackers in a food processor or in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin. Pour crumbs into a bowl and add sugar, stirring to combine. Drizzle butter over the top and mix with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened.Press the crumbs evenly in the bottom and up the sides of a 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the crust is just barely beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.


*To toast coconut, spread coconut on rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake at 325 degrees, tossing often, until lightly toasted, about 12-15 minutes.

Coconut Milk Coconut Cream Pie   Coconut Milk Coconut Cream Pie

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pioneer Woman’s Chipotle Chicken Chili

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Chipotle Chicken Chili
You guys. Wow wow wow. I have never made a red chili with chicken before. It’s always white chili with chicken or red chili with ground beef. But honestly. I cannot stop thinking about this chili! Please add it to your winter meal menu. It’s healthy, it’s spicy, the chicken is so flavorful and the chipotles in adobo sauce? Unreal. Can’t believe I’ve never used them before. I’ve started using them in lots of recipes to spice things up.
Here is the original recipe link- Pioneer Woman Chipotle Chicken Recipe (with my notes italicized):
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 whole Onion, Diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 pounds Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut Into A Large Dice
  • 1 bottle (12 Ounce Bottle) Good Beer  I used chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 Ounce Can) Diced Tomatoes
  • 3 whole Chipotle Peppers In Adobo Sauce, Minced (use Less If Desired-Use all 3! These add so much flavor)
  • 1 can (14 Ounce Can) Pinto Beans, Drained And Rinsed
  • 1 can (14 Ounce Can) Black Beans, Drained And Rinsed
  • 1 can (14-ounce Can) Kidney Beans, Drained And Rinsed We don’t love kidney beans and I didn’t have any black beans so I substituted 2 cans of chili beans. They are smaller and have lots of spicy chili flavoring.
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Salt, More To Taste
  • 1/4 cup Masa Harina
  • 1 Lime, Juiced
  • Sour Cream, For Serving
  • Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese, For Serving
  • Cilantro, For Serving
  • Lime Wedges For Serving
  • I served with crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, lettuce, and cilantro. Just use any toppings you’d like!
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat then add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until onions soften. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Add 3/4 of the beer, reserving the rest, then cook for a couple of minutes to reduce.
Add the tomatoes, chipotles, beans, chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir to combine, then cover the pot and cook for 1 hour. I simmered in the crock-pot.
Combine the masa harina with the rest of the broth and stir to make a paste. Add this into the chili, along with the lime juice. Stir and cook for 10 more minutes or until thick. Chipotle Chicken ChiliChipotle Chicken ChiliChipotle Chicken Chili    

Friday, December 13, 2013

Breakfast Tostadas

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Breakfast Tostada
Whenever I need an easy meal that doesn’t seem too bleh like sandwiches or worse chicken nuggets, I make up some breakfast for dinner. Breakfast meals always seem like so much less work than dinners. When we lived in Utah we loved the breakfast burritos from Beto’s … this is our rendition of that delicious meal.
  • 1 large potato (any kind) or two small potatoes, cleaned and diced into thin hash strips
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • bacon, as much as you’d like, cooked in the oven as I talk about here
  • Oil for cooking
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Corn tortillas
  • Garnish with: shredded cheese, hot sauce, salsa
Before you cook the potatoes, bacon and eggs, shred your cheese and get your salsa and/or hot sauce out. The in a skillet warm 2 tbsp. of oil with the diced peppers and onions. Cook until soft. Once soft add 2-3 tsp. of hot sauce. Stir and set aside, covered. If you haven’t cooked the bacon yet you can start it now. It takes about 15 minutes.
Throw diced potatoes on a non-stick skillet coated with a little oil, over medium high heat. Don’t flip until the bottoms are golden brown. You don’t want to flip or mess with them too much. Also I think the non-stick pan is essential for these. When we were first married I tried it with a stainless steel pan and it was a starchy, sticky mess. I always use my non-stick griddle for cooking potatoes now. Once one side is brown flip over, breaking up clumps. Add salt and pepper while cooking. Once cooked turn heat off and let them stay warm on pan.
Whisk eggs with a small amount of water to make them fluffy. Pour them into a pan coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Cook until scrambled.
Assemble tostada with corn tortilla (we like to use 2!) potatoes, eggs, bacon, onion/pepper mixture, cheese, and then more salsa or hot sauce. It is so good with hot sauce! Or if you prefer a little less sizzle salsa tastes great too. Really fresh. Enjoy! Breakfast Tostada Breakfast Tostada

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Homemade French Bread

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The Best Homemade French Bread
I’ve tried a lot of french bread recipes but I’ve never found one that I LOVED until this one. This one had the perfect crusty exterior but the bread inside was actually soft. Try this next time you need some bread with a meal. It makes 2 large loaves and the leftovers are perfect for making some toasted sandwiches the next night for dinner.
Recipe from A Bountiful Kitchen:
  • 2 Tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (yes tablespoon) salt
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 cups flour, divided
  • 1 egg, beaten- for glazing bread
  • Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. In a separate large bowl combine hot water, sugar, salt, oil and 3 cups of the flour. Stir well. Add the yeast mixture to the hot water-flour mixture. Mix together with large wooden spoon or paddle attachment. Add the remaining 3 cups of flour a cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. After all of the flour is added, let sit for 10 minutes, Stir. Repeat 5 times.
    Divide the dough in half. Roll in a 9x12 rectangle on a floured surface. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll (long way). Place the dough on a greased baking pan (jelly roll pan), with the seam side down. Both loaves fit on one pan. Score the bread across the top 3 or 4 times, and brush with beaten egg. Let rise for 30 minutes in warm place. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes in lower half of oven, until golden brown.
    Yield 2 large loaves french bread.
    This was a little different process than most breads I’d made. I actually used the paddle attachment on my KitchenAid which I’d never done for bread. Instead of using that 5 times I just kneaded by hand 5 times, and then let it rise again. This give it that airy french bread texture.

The Best Homemade French Bread   
The Best Homemade French BreadThe Best Homemade French Bread

Friday, December 6, 2013

Simple Caprese Tossed Salad with Balsamic Reduction

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Simple Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

This is one of our favorite salads. It’s just your basic caprese salad but I think making a sweetened balsamic glaze for the top really makes the favors better. It’s a little bit sweet with that kick from the vinegar at the end. Next time you make any kind of caprese dish try this balsamic reduction! I also use it for my caprese pasta salad.


  • 1 large bag of spinach, washed
  • 1 lb. of fresh mozzarella, diced
  • 2 c. fresh cherry tomatoes, diced in halves
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh basil, chopped thin
  • 1 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 c. white sugar

First I like to make the glaze and then let it have time to cool before making the salad. You should probably make the glaze an hour or so before you serve the salad so it’s room temperature for serving. In a bowl combine 1 c. balsamic vinegar and 1/2 c. sugar. Whisk together. Microwave on high for approximately 2-3 minutes keeping an eye on it the whole time. It will bubble up high so you don’t want it to overflow. Once it’s bubbled for 30 seconds it should be incorporated. Remove to make sure there are no sugar granules remaining. Set aside to cool.Simple Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction If you don’t have a microwave you can make this on the stove, but you have to be very careful not to burn the sugar! When we didn’t have a microwave I did it all the time, but you must keep stirring it! Pour mixture into a saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk constantly while it’s warming, wait for it to boil for 1 minute, and then remove from stove.

Mix all other ingredients to assemble salad. Wait to pour the glaze on until right before eating. Toss and serve!Simple Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Steak Carnitas Tacos

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Slow Cooker Steak Carnitas Tacos

I love having steak with mexican food but it’s hard to have on a day when you need to prep dinner in the morning or afternoon to be ready in the evening. Most steaks require pan searing right before dinertime and usually that’s the craziest time of my day! I love throwing some meat, veggies, and spices in the crock pot in the morning, smelling their delicious aroma all day, and having dinner ready right at 5:30. Not all days go that well but the best ones do!

I found a recipe online for steak carnitas meat in the slow cooker and altered it slightly. I cooked it the way the recipe called for but it just wasn’t spicy enough—probably because I didn’t have a jalapeno on hand so I use a green anaheim chile which has less kick. It had a great aroma but needed something more. I love spicy and I love lots of Mexican seasonings, so I added some extra (as noted below). Then I served with a homemade pico, some shredded cabbage drenched in lime juice, and corn tortillas. It was simple and delicious!

Steak Carnitas, Original Recipe from Bless this Mess Please - my notes or changes in italics:

  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 lbs flank steak
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • jalapeno, seeded and chopped (I didn’t have this so added 2 tsp of hot sauce instead of the jalapeno)
  • 2 c. water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • garlic salt (the recipe didn’t call for more but it still needed more salt to me so I added about 2 tsp. more, to taste)Slow Cooker Steak Carnitas Tacos

Homemade Pico de Gallo

  • 3-4 tomatoes on the vine or very ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion diced very thin
  • cilantro to taste
  • chili powder to taste
  • garlic salt to taste
  • Lime Shredded Cabbage

  • 1/2 head of green (or red) cabbage, diced into very thin strands
  • Juice of 2-3 limes
  • Place all ingredients in the top section, for carnitas, in slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 5-7 hours. I think the low setting is important so the meat isn’t tough. This made my meat so tender and it shredded right apart. I also added some water to the bottom of the crock pot to keep the steak from getting dry. Once done and shredded it ended up being the perfect consistency for shredded taco meat with a flavorful sauce. Once cooked shred and leave on warm setting.

    For the pico, dice all ingredients very small. Mix together and chill before serving. For cabbage chop and throw into bowl. Squeeze lime juice over and mix together. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving. The lime flavor with the sweet and spicy steak is so good!

    Warm corn tortillas either in a skillet or in the microwave, then serve with meat, shredded cabbage, and homemade pico. The flavor of the corn tortillas is so good with all the other simple ingredients. 

    Slow Cooker Steak Carnitas Tacos