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Monday, January 3, 2022

COWBOY BEEF DIP

 I was looking for a hot dip recipe for Christmas Eve and landed on this one....and boy, I'm glad I did!  It has a great flavor---but be forewarned, once you start you can't stop eating it.  I literally had to wrap it up and put it in the fridge because none of us could stop eating it and I was afraid we wouldn't have room for dinner.

My advice, make it for a day of "grazing", a snowy day, the superbowl, a cocktail party.  


INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef
4 Tbsp. chopped onion
2 Tbsp. chopped red pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped green pepper
4 Tbsp. sliced black olives
4 Tbsp. sliced green olives with pimento
*1 can (10 3/4 oz) nacho cheese soup, undiluted
2 Tbsp. chopped green chiles
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup salsa
2 Tbsp. sour cream
2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

*I could not find nacho cheese soup, so I substituted cheddar cheese soup

DIRECTIONS:

In a skillet cook the beef, 3 Tbsp. onion, 2 Tbsp. red pepper, and 1 Tbsp. green pepper over medium heat until the beef is browned.  Drain if necessary.  Stir in the soup, salsa, 3 Tbsp. of each of the olives, chiles, jalapeno, oregano and pepper.  Bring to a boil.   Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and parsley.  Sprinkle with the  remaining, green pepper, black olives and green olives.  Serve with tortilla chips

Enjoy!

Recipe c/o:  www.tasteofhome.com

Friday, December 31, 2021

HOLLYDAY MINT PIE

 I first tried this recipe several years ago and the family unanimously titled it "a keeper".  So, with a different mix of family at this gathering, I decided it was time for an encore. 

It comes together very quickly.  Just be sure to give yourself enough time for it to set in the fridge before serving (3 hours).

INGREDIENTS:

*16 Keebler Fudge Shop Grasshopper Cookies
1 ready made graham cracker pie crust
3 Tbsp. hot water
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
1 tub (8 oz.) non dairy whipped topping, thawed
8 drops green food coloring
Red hot cinnamon candies
Spearmint leaf candies

*I was unable to find the Keebler brand, so I substituted a bargain brand chocolate sandwich cookie with mint filling

DIRECTIONS:

Crush cookies in a small bowl, add the hot water to dissolve and spread into the bottom of the crust.

Beat cream cheese on medium speed of an electric mixer until fluffy,  add sugar, milk and extract.  Beat until thoroughly mixed,  Fold in whipped topping.

Divide mixture in half.  Add the green food coloring to half.  Spoon alternating dollops of white and green over the cookie layer crust.  

Refrigerate for three hours or until set.  Garnish.

Enjoy!



P.S.  Don't just think this is a holiday pie,  Remove the "holiday garnish" and replace with chocolate drizzle, or Andes Mint chocolates and serve it anytime!

Friday, December 24, 2021

FRENCH ONION SOUP

 I recently gifted myself a dutch oven.  After seeing so many awesome recipes that can be made in one, I decided it was time.  I had my husband do all the research on the various brands, their reviews, the price points, etc., etc., and then I made the purchase.  I knew exactly what my first recipe was going to be.....French Onion Soup.  I had saved the recipe from America's Test Kitchen and couldn't wait to give it a try!

Man, oh Man!  It did not disappoint.  I had some family over and everyone loved it.  I think I was making groaning noises as I was eating it.  It was that good.

There are several steps, but the majority of the work is done in the oven, so it really wasn't all that bad. 

Are you drooling yet?  This picture is straight out of the oven.  Look at all that melted gruyere cheese.

INGREDIENTS:

SOUP
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow onion (about 4 pounds) halved and cut pole to pole 1/4" thick pieces
table salt
2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
½ cup dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (Swanson chicken stock)
2 cups beef broth (Rachael Ray Stock-in-a-box made by Colavita)*
6 springs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
ground black pepper


CHEESE CROUTONS
1 small baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices
8 oz. shredded Gruyere cheese (about 2 ½ cups)


DIRECTIONS:

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.  Generously spray inside of (at least 7 quart) Dutch oven with non-stick spray.  Place butter in pot and add onions and 1 tsp salt.  Cook, covered 1 hour (onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume).  Remove pot from oven and stir onions, scraping bottom and sides of pot.  Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until onions are very soft and golden brown, 1.5 - 1.75 hours longer, stirring onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.  
Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium high heat.  Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently, until pot bottom is coated with dark crust, 6-8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary.  (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions).  Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6-8 minutes.  Repeat process of deglazing 2-3 more times, until onions are very dark brown.  Stir in sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes. 

Stir in broths, 2 cups water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp. salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.  Increase heat to high and bring to simmer.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.  Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

While soup simmers, arrange baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven  until bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges.  

To serve:  Adjust oven rack six inches brom broiler element and heat broiler.  Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups of soup.  Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyere.  Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, 3-5 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes.  

*I was unable to find the recommended beef stock, I used the Swanson brand.

Notes:
-Sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, will make this recipe overly sweet
- Be patient when caramelizing the onions in step 2; the entire process takes 45-60 minutes
-If you don't have broiler safe crocks, sprinkle the toasted bread slices with Gruyere and return them to the broiler until the cheese melts and float them on top of the soup
-For the best flavor, make the soup a day or two in advance.  Alternatively, the onions can be prepared through step one, cooled in the pot, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before proceeding with the recipe
 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

ROASTED VEGGIES

I'm so pleased that I finally landed on an approach to veggies that is super easy, as well as yummy.  I literally roast a big batch of veggies once a week and then work on the leftovers at least one other day.  I'm going to share my approach, but I don't have any measurements on this one.  You can start with my preferences and then modify until you learn what you like best. 

The other great thing about roasting veggies, is you can mix it up.  I've yet to taste a roasted veggie that I didn't like.  The picture above has broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and yukon gold potatoes. I love fresh green beans too!

The most important thing is considering the cook times of the different veggies, so the entire dish is perfectly done.  So, referring back to to this combination, I put the potatoes down the center of the foil wrapped cookie sheet (leaving room on both sides) and put them in a 425 degree oven for about 40 minutes.  Then, I take them out and add the cauliflower and broccoli and cook for 20 more minutes. 

INGREDIENTS:

Your choice of veggie combinations, or veggie and potatoes. 
1 large plastic freezer bag
canola oil
pepper
kosher salt
rosemary
tarragon
paprika
onion salt


DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees 

1.  Prepare veggies and/or potatoes cutting them up into similar sizes so they cook consistently.  I usually shoot for bite size.  If you go too small they'll definitely overcook.
2.  Add the vegetables that need longer to cook (carrots, potatoes) to a large freezer bag.  Pour oil into the bag (approximately 2 Tbsp.)  and shake to ensure they are coated well with oil, add more if necessary.
3.  Shake the spices into the bag ( I usually mix them up in a small dish and then pour them into the bag all at once).  For a baking sheet this size, I'm probably using about ½ tsp. of each.  
4.  Empty the bag onto the pan and bake.


Notes:  
  • Potatoes or carrots need a total of 60 minutes, so I put them in 40 minutes ahead of other veggies.
  • Most other veggies take about 20 minutes.  I'll use the same freezer bag to oil and season them.
  • Using these timeframes, there will be a bit of char on everything....which I love!  You can always learn your preferences on the spice level and cooking times after a couple of attempts.
My husband has become a sweet potatoe fan now that he's had them this way.  He used to detest them since the only way he ever had them was in the traditional sweet potatoe casserole smothered in butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. 

Enjoy!

Saturday, November 27, 2021

SPA SIGN

 As a Christmas present for my daughter and her fiance', I created a "spa sign".  They had recently purchased a hot tub and wanted a place indoors to hang their towels.  She wanted a sign that would hang above the hooks themselves.  So,  I took the idea and ran with it.  

I did share some of my "design concept" with them to ensure I was on the right track, but after I got that approval, the color scheme and additional artwork were a surprise.  I ran several fonts by them, as well as several "names".  They chose the Martin Resort & Spa.

 There were several steps to accomplish the finished product, so I literally had to write down all the steps to make sure it turned out as I had planned.  

The picture to the right is how it all began.  The printout has the four prototypes on it.  I then started sketching the design on the printout and then listed the steps I needed to take.  

I also had some kraft paper that I cut into the finished size of the board and then started placing bits and pieces of the design, (that I printed from my Silhouette machine) to ensure the size of the wording was the right proportions.  

I failed miserably at taking pictures along the way, but here are the steps I (my husband is the expert sander and spray painter, so he just took my directions and painted as I needed) took:

1. Sand and prep the board
2.  Paint the back and sides of the board tan
3.  Print and cut all of the vinyl lettering from the Silhouette machine 
4.  Paint the board Espresso
5. Transfer the "Martin Resort & Spa" to the board
6.  Place the "soak", "relax" , and "unwind" onto the board leaving room to decoupage the palm leaves
7.  Paint the board tan
8.  Remove the "Martin Resort & Spa" lettering
9.  Tape off the top 2/3 of the board and paint the bottom 1/3 white
10.  Remove the vinyl lettering to reveal the tan (soak, relax, and unwind)
11.  Print the palm tree clip art and cut around most of the palm leaves
12.  Secure the palm tree cut outs to the board with Mod Podge (back side only) 
13.  Add additional colors of green paint to the palm leaves to enhance 
14.  Add a piece of gold washi tape over the dividing line of tan and white paint
15.  Mod Podge the entire board (matte) 

I just gifted it to them over the Thanksgiving holiday, and they loved it!  They had just purchased the hooks and will be able to get it up in the designated area and start using it now versus having to wait until Christmas.  As it turns out, the palm leaf theme is something they've already started incorporating in the hot tub area, so my final design fits in perfectly.  How's that for some telepathy?


Thursday, November 11, 2021

GOLD LEAF

While I've seen a number of really cool projects using gold leaf, I've never actually used it myself.  However, since I'm lending my creative hand to some upcoming family wedding projects, gold foil was now in my line of sight!  Yay!  I love trying/learning new things.

This is a very intimate family wedding coming up early next year, with a beautiful meal to follow, so place cards were definitely on the project list.  

The first part of the project was working in my Silhouette program.  I played around with card sizes, and fonts until I landed on something I thought might work. Then I sent them to my printer.  Obviously, the beauty of the machine is it will do the cutting for me; including the perforation line.  Sweet!

Name cards (or escort cards) are generally about the size of a business card, but I chose to make mine a little bigger.....I just thought they were too pretty to be that little.  

I realize now, that I probably should have taken a few more pictures along the way, but it truly was hard to stop to do that once I got started.  I did a lot of reading on what medium to use to adhere the foil and there were lots of opinions, but bottom line since you just need something that is going to dry clear, I chose what I always have on hand and that's ModPodge.  It worked like a charm!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
I found I needed to work fairly quickly.  First I "painted" a glue line where I wanted the foil to go.  I chose to do one line at a time.  So, paint the bottom line, place the foil down, then set it aside and do the same thing on the next card, and so on.  After I had finished 3-4, I went back to my first card and brushed the excess foil away and then "painted" the top glue line and pressed the foil in place.  

The foil sheets are super thin, which makes them a little tricky to work with.  It took me a good 4-5 of the thirteen I was creating to truly start to get the hang of it.   You can see in the picture below a bit of how I was staging the cards during that process. 

I wanted them to be a little abstract, with no two being exactly alike which actually was really easy to do.  Frankly, I'm not certain I could have made them all the same if I wanted to.....the foil kind of has a mind of its own. 

I really do love how they turned out!  I put them on a black backdrop since the linens will be black with china that is white with a gold rim and gold flatware.  Lots of candles and beautiful flowers.....it's going to be lovely!                                

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

THE OUTER BANKS

 I'm choosing to share my recent Mother/Daughter trip to the Outer Banks, in the event that my experiences and recommendations may be able to help someone who may be considering this for a vacation.

First, as with most of us who had to re-schedule our 2020 vacation plans, this was not the first, and actually not the second choice.....but given the ongoing issues due to the pandemic, the original Europe trip just didn't seem very feasible.    

When I looked at destinations in the U.S., North Carolina was on my list, actually both Carolinas were.  But, once I started to put together an 8 day trip, it was just too much to try to take them both in.  Then, as I continued to do further research on North Carolina, I realized it's huge and has lots to offer all across the state.....so, I decided to focus on just one area.  The OBX weather in October would still be in the 60's/70's and there was history, plenty to see and some outdoor activities too.

                    
I chose to rent a vacation condo in Kill Devil Hills, which is pretty much in the middle.  I felt that would allow for some easy day trips to see all the other cities from the Northern tip to the Southern tip and it did just that.  It was a great location!    We literally saw all the towns from Currituck to Hatteras and everywhere in between.  It was so much fun.  

Something to be prepared for is there is no real easy way to get there.  From Denver I could fly into Raleigh/Durham and drive 3+ hours, or I could fly into Virginia and have a 2+ hour drive.  I chose Raleigh even though it was more time driving through rural North Carolina.    The flight options were more favorable in/out of that airport.               
                                 
                                                                              Some "must do's" in my opinion is a four wheel drive tour in Corolla to see the wild horses.   It was so much fun driving on the beach and we were able to see about 20 of the horses.    Another one, is a kayak trip.....there are lots, so just pick one that sounds interesting.  You've got to take in a sunset or two....they're absolutely free and spectactular.  One of our favorite spots for viewing was Jockey's Ridge.    Manteo has a ton of history.  The lost colony, among other things, so check it out!  The Wright Brothers Museum in Kitty Hawk has to be a stop.  It's very well done and loaded with a great series of displays both inside and outside.      
                                                                                                                                          I always look up regional foods when we travel, so we enjoyed lots of seafood (obviously)....but, also "apple uglies", Duck donuts, and some fun cocktails.     Be prepared for many things to be closed on Sundays and you'll never have a good hair day in the OBX, so I gave up on that about the third day.  

It really was a special trip.  There's a whole other NC trip that's now on my list.  That includes Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway and mountain area.  But first.......I am so hoping that our Europe trip can happen in 2022!