Monday, January 31, 2011

M&M Cookies

When I was little, it was always a treat to go to the mall with my mom.  If I was good, I got to pick out a cookie from the Mrs. Fields cookie shop.  Of course, I always chose the M&M one.  I was a kid and M&M's always win when you are a kid.  Now I choose the chocolate chip.  But that's beside the point.    Anyways, I loved the buttery chewiness of the M&M cookie and savored every bite.  A few months ago, I found myself dreaming about these cookies and set out to find the recipe.  But to my dismay, this recipe is impossible to find.  Mrs. Fields has done an excellent job of keeping it under wraps.  So, I made up my own version.  It's not exactly the same, but close enough.  Enough to make me nostalgic as I reminisce about the early days of shopping with my mother and eating M&M cookies.

M&M Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar.  Adds eggs and vanilla.  Add rest of ingredients and mix until combined.  Roll dough into golf ball size balls.  Press down with hand to flatten slightly.  Push 5 or 6 M&Ms into dough.  Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.  Do not over bake or they will be very crunchy.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ranch Taco Soup

When my kids get their copy of "The Friend" magazine in the mail, they get excited for the games and stories.  I get excited to see what recipe they're going to feature that month.
It's always something family-friendly and easy to make.
This soup was in the January issue and we gave it a try this week.
A nice spin on the traditional taco soup that we usually make.
Which, coincidentally, also came out of "The Friend."
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbs. taco seasoning
2 Tbs. Ranch seasoning and salad dressing mix
1 can chicken broth
1 can water
2 cans kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn, drained (I used frozen white corn)
1 can green beans, drained (I used frozen green beans)

*Brown beef and onion.  Add in seasonings and mix well.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Turn down to low and cook for 30 minutes, covered.  Serve with tortilla chips, grated cheese, sour cream, and other desired toppings.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I made these fries for a cooking class I used to teach for a group of women at our church. They really are so tasty and better for you than fried. You can peel the potatoes if you want, but I never do.

5 large russet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Finely chopped fresh parsley (or you may use dried)

Preheat oven to 400. Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch slices lengthwise, then cut again into 1/2 inch thick fries. Place in a pot and cover with water. Add 1 T. salt, bring to a boil and simmer until a paring knife goes in easily--cooked about 3/4 of the way. Drain potatoes and place in a bowl. Add olive oil, 1 T. salt and 1/2 t. freshly ground pepper and the parsley. Toss well, being careful not to break the fries.Place in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake until light brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake until browned and crispy and cheese is melted about another 6-7 minutes. Cool for about 2 min. before serving.

Ryan's Salsa

The other day, my husband decided it was time for him to start making salsa again.  Like I've said before, Albany is not exactly the city for Mexican food.  There are several Italian restaurants and pizza is on every corner.  But when it comes to Mexican food, good luck!  So Ry took matters into his own hands and made us some salsa.  I love his salsa because it is full of flavor but not spicy in the least bit.  And it's quite easy to whip up.  I think I could get used to this salsa making!


2 cans diced tomatoes
1/3 onion, chopped
1/3 bunch of cilantro
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 can diced green chilies
couple shakes of garlic salt, onion salt, and pepper

Put all ingredients into a blender.  Give it a couple of pulses until well blended.  Store in refrigerator for up to a week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Valentine Brownies

I was getting an oil-change in my super-cool minivan last week when I found this recipe in a Good Housekeeping magazine.
A lady had written in to the magazine looking for a brownie recipe that would be similar to a brownie she had tasted at a resort somewhere.
She described the brownie and this is the recipe they published for her.
Here's my take on these brownies:
They were really good and really chocolatey.  I will probably add chocolate chips next time because I always like to find chocolate chips in my brownies.  They were more cakey than chewy.  I wanted them to be the most amazing brownies I had ever tasted, but they really weren't that much better than all the other brownies that I've tasted.
Try them out and see what you think.
3/4 cup butter, cut up
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
6 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt

*Melt butter and both chocolates over low heat.  Set aside.  Beat eggs until blended and add sugars.  Beat for 10 minutes (yes, I said 10 minutes) on a low-med speed.  Add chocolate mixture, vanilla and dry ingredients.  Pour into a greased 9X13 and bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lemon Bars

The Best Lemon Bars Recipe

1 c. butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 c. flour
dash of salt

press into greased pan bake at 350 for 15 min. Add filling.

4 beaten eggs
1/4 c. flour
2 c. sugar
6 T. lemon juice

Pour into crust and bake for more 25 min.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

 The other day I had a craving for something pumpkin.  No, I'm not pregnant.  Just cold and trying to deal with this frigid, winter weather.  And pumpkin always sounds good when you are cold!  I still have a few cans of pumpkin left over from all of my holiday baking, so I decided to try out these muffins.  They fulfilled my craving and are a pretty healthy snack.  My husband took some to work and everyone loved them.  I got the recipe here.  Love this website!  

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

4 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 c brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 ½ c milk
¼ c canola oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix until just combined. Bake in well greased muffin tins for 15 minutes or 10 minutes for mini-muffins. Makes about 2 ½ dozen regular sized muffins or lots of mini muffins.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baked Hawaiian Chicken

If you like sweet and sour chicken, you will like this.
My kids all removed the pineapple and peppers off the top, but ate the chicken and rice with smiles.
You take what you can get, right?
1/2 cup flour
6 chicken breast halves (I used about 12 tenders)
3 Tbs. oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 can pineapple slices
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 green pepper
Cooked rice

*In a large ziploc bag, combine flour with some salt and pepper.  Add the chicken and shake to coat.  In a skillet, brown the chicken in oil.  Transfer to a greased 9X13.  In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, bouillon and ginger.  Drain pineapple juice from can into a 2-cup measuring cup.  Set the pineapple slices aside.  Add enough cold water to juice to make 1 1/4 cups.  Stir in vinegar and soy sauce and add to sugar mixture.  Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes until thickened.  Pour sauce over chicken and top with sliced green pepper and pineapple.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350.  Serve over rice.

*Recipe out of a cooking magazine.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jo Lene's Fried Rice

When my husband and I got married, he brought with him 3 of his mom's recipes:  cheesecake, taco salad and fried rice.  And they are all delicious!  This fried rice is easy and makes a lot so it's perfect for leftovers.  Unless your husband eats 3/4 of it the night you make it.  Then you might want to make more!  Sometimes I just can't keep that man full.  I made teriyaki  chicken to go along with the rice and it was a fabulous meal!

Fried Rice

6 to 8 slices of bacon
6 eggs
2 green onions, chopped (just the green part)
1/4 cup Low-sodium soy sauce 

Make rice according to package.  I made 6 servings of rice.  Chop bacon then cook in saucepan over medium heat until crisp and done.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Drain bacon grease.  Add  eggs to pan and scramble until done.  Add bacon to eggs.  Sprinkle in green onions then add rice.  Stir to combine.  Pour soy sauce over rice and stir.  Add as much or as little as you like.  Serve.

*I added peas to our rice at the end.  You can adjust all ingredients according to taste or how much you want to make.  Add more bacon, eggs, rice, etc.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Grilled Ham and Brie

I have always loved a hot sandwich.
Toasted bread and melted cheese...sign me up.
This one is so simple and so tasty at the same time.
Bread of your choice (I used cracked wheat)
butter, softened
apricot fruit spread
deli sliced ham
Brie cheese, sliced

*Spread apricot jam (I love Simply Fruit by Smucker's) on two slices of bread.  Top with ham and Brie.  Put sandwich together and butter the outsides.  Grill on the stove on low heat until toasty.  Serve with tomato soup or whatever suits your fancy.

*Recipe from a magazine.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Caesar Salad

I've been trying to focus on salad ever since I overdosed on all things sweet in December.
When your birthday is the first day of December, it just goes downhill from there.  In a good way.
I don't usually order Caesar salads at restaurants because if they are authentic, they have anchovy paste in the dressing and that is just too much for me to stomach.
This dressing recipe is a Pampered Chef recipe and contains no anchovy paste or anything even remotely related to anchovy paste.
Romaine lettuce, washed and torn
grape tomatoes, halved
Parmesan or romano cheese, shredded
Caesar style crutons

3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. black pepper

*Mix dressing really well and drizzle over salad just before serving.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Todd Shake

Our bro-in-law, Dave, introduced us to this delicious shake last summer.  His family makes it every time they get together.  I was very apprehensive when he told me what was in it - a Skor bar and Junior Mints.  They just didn't seem to go together to me.  But I ate my words once I tasted the shake!  The crunch of the toffee and hint of mint make for a surprisingly perfect combination!

The Todd Shake

6 - 8 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 Skor candy bar, crushed
small handful of Junior Mints

Put ice cream, candy bar, mints and a little bit of milk in blender.  Mix until smooth.  Add milk as needed.

*Heath Bar and York Peppermint Patties work well too.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lemon Cream Pie

I found this recipe a few years ago out of one of my favorite cook books. I loved it. I love lemon meringue pie but I don't like the meringue part so this sounded so good to me. My father in law TT had it on Christmas with us and he said it was the best pie he has ever had.

1 1/4 c. sugar
6 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. water
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
6 Tbsp. lemon juice (fresh)
1 Tbsp. butter
1 c. heavy cream, whipped and sweetened
Baked 9 inch. pie shell

Combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a saucepan; blend well. Place over Medium heat and add water, stirring constantly until thick and smooth. Bring to a full boil to thoroughly cook the cornstarch. Remove from heat and add a little of the hot pudding to egg yolks while stirring rapidly. Return egg mixture to hot pudding and reheat, stirring constantly, just until smooth. Remove from heat and add lemon juice, rind, and butter.

Cream cheese filling:

3 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 pt. whipping cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Whip cream; set aside. Mix cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice, then add whipped cream. Spread cream cheese filling over pie shell. Pour lemon filling on top of cream cheese filling. Chill. Serve pie topped with whipped cream.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

Last night we went to Ryan and Jen's house to celebrate Hallie's birthday with some pizza and dessert.
While we were there, Jen's friend, Nikki, stopped by to help her fix some knobs on her piano.
She also had in her hand a plate of chicken fajitas.
They looked and smelled so good that I had to try a bite and then I had to ask for the recipe.  They were really, really good.
You're going to love these.
green bell pepper, sliced thin
yellow onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 chicken breasts, diced
1 packet Grillmates mesquite seasoning (secret ingredient)
small flour tortillas
lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese, salsa

*Saute as much green pepper and onion as you like in a little oil.  Add garlic cloves.  Set aside.  Cook diced chicken in a separate pan and when it's almost done, add the seasoning packet.  Cook until chicken is done and then add the onion/pepper mixture.  Serve on tortillas with the toppings you like.  Nikki also puts Spanish rice on them, which was really yummy.  She uses the Knorr spanish rice mix.

*Nikki has a design blog called Grand Design.  She does amazing things on a budget and you will love looking at some of her projects.

Confetti Cake

What do you do when your 7 year old birthday boy asks for a confetti cake and you don't have a confetti cake mix and it's Sunday???
You take out a regular yellow cake mix and while mixing up the batter, you throw in about a half a cup of sprinkles.
Voila...confetti cake!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mexican Rice

Last night, I made the beloved pork enchiladas for dinner.  They have become a favorite in our household.  And I always serve them with some sort of rice.  I was flipping through a ward cookbook, and found this recipe.  I made a few subtle changes for our own liking, and we really liked the finished product.  It was easy and I had all of the ingredients on hand.  Double score!

Mexican Rice

1 1/2 cups rice
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced

Brown rice in oil.  Add onion and garlic.  Saute on medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Then add:
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 Tbs. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 8oz. can tomato sauce

Bring all ingredients to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, covered.  Cook until rice is soft and liquid is absorbed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Salsa Cheeseball

My mom made this cheeseball on Christmas Day, which was actually the 28th for my side of the family.
It's different than any cheeseball I have had and I really liked it.
She got the recipe from a friend of hers.
2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese
1/3 cup salsa
2 or 3 green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped ham

*Mix first four ingredients really well and roll in pecans.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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