Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Best Spaghetti Sauce


I've got a question for you. A question to take seriously. Are you ready? Who doesn't like spaghetti? Honestly. Have you ever heard the words "I just don't care for spaghetti" come out of anyone's mouth? Of course not. It's universal appeal and absolute yumminess (is that a word?) makes it the perfect meal for almost any occasion. From the Saturday night dinner party with friends to the throw-together Monday night meal for the family, spaghetti is always there for you to enjoy. Luckily for you, my dear, sweet friends, I have the perfect spaghetti recipe that is not only easy to put together, but it will impress the socks off of anyone who is privileged enough to enjoy it. And, isn't that what we're going for, people? Socks off?


Now, I'm not going to act like this is my first rodeo. I've spent many o' night writing the metaphorical spaghetti bull only to get bucked off one second too early. So, learn from my trial and error... A good spaghetti sauce recipe is all about the details. It's all about the little flavors that marry together to create one big -WOW!- So, heed my warning, friends, and don't skip a step. Have I ever steered you wrong in the past? 


The Best Spaghetti Sauce:

Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 4-5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground italian sausage
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (5 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dry italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dry basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon (salted) butter
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese + 1/2 cup (for serving)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • **1 pound spaghetti noodles
Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add garlic and cook for additional 1 minute. Add sausage, ground beef and sugar, cooking and crumbling until brown and done. Reduce heat to simmer and add in crushed tomato, tomato sauce, tomato paste, italian seasoning, basil and fennel. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour. This really depends on personal preference. The sauce is ready after 30 minutes, but flavors deepen and improve over time. 

Meanwhile, heat your pasta water and cook your spaghetti to al dente. 

Turn off heat and stir in butter and parmesan cheese until well incorporated. 

Plate pasta, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Scoop sauce over and top with additional shredded parmesan and chopped parsley.



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chinese Pork Dumplings


Once upon a time there was a woman who loved her husband so much that she decided she wanted to make him his all-time favorite soup to make him feel better. The soup was called "Wor Wonton" and in it were these perfectly packaged little pork parcels that were loaded with sweet, ginger flavor. She thought about purchasing the already-made frozen variety found at the local grocery store, but her heart kept telling her "no, no, you must make them from scratch!" So she listened... And it was the best decision she ever made.


Don't you just love a good inspirational story? I know I do. Okay, so that one was a little cheesy... but, I thought you guys could use some motivation!


Are you all ready to make pork dumplings now? It's really easy, actually! It's pretty much just a delicious pork mixture wrapped in a wonton and sealed with a little water! They're pretty fun to make.


Plus, how cute are they? I love them so much!


You can use them for so much more than just Wor Wonton soup, you know. They can also double as potstickers or be thrown into a vegetable stir fry. Just let your imagination run wild! Once you taste them, you'll pretty much want to throw them in every dish you make!



Chinese Pork Dumplings:

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onion
  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 30-34 square wonton wrappers

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except wonton wrappers) in a medium bowl. Make sure mixture is well-combined. 

Take 1 heaping teaspoon of the meat mixture and place it in the center of a wonton wrapper. Dip your index finger in a small bowl of water and use it to dampen the edges of the wonton wrapper.

Pull all sides of the wrapper around the meat mixture and slightly twist to seal. It should create a pouch. You could also fold in each corner to the center to create a square shaped pouch, which works well for potstickers. Repeat with remaining meat and wonton wrappers. 

These dumplings freeze well if you want to make a big batch ahead of time! 

When you're ready to use them in your soup, just pop them in at the end for about 4-6 minutes or until pork is cooked through. 

If you're using them for potstickers you can place them in your frying pan over medium heat with about a tablespoon of oil, allow them to cook for about a minute or two, then add in 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. If there is still water in the pan you can take off the lid and crank up the heat until the water dissipates.

Makes 30-34 dumplings.



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ham & Cheese Pretzel Pockets

This is a sponsored post from Fleischmann's and all opinions are 100% my own.

Hello! Remember me? I've been away for so long that I'm not even sure if I know how to do this whole "blogging" thing anymore, but, I'll give it my best shot. I'll start by telling you where i've been lately... 'cause it's a doozy. These past couple of months have been the craziest months of our lives. First off, we moved into a new house! Hooray! We love it. We're happy. It's awesome. 4 days after we moved in, hubby & I got to go on a trip to Vegas for the Rock In Rio concert featuring a bunch of amazing bands... My sister-in-law took the kids for us and we had 3 amazing days in Vegas, just the two of us. It was much-needed and even though it wasn't a relaxing trip, it was filled with a ton of fun, late nights, delicious food and tasty drinks. The day after we returned back from Vegas, we had a family trip to Disneyland planned... so it was back in the car and on the road for us! So much driving. So much walking. But, so much Fun! We had an amazing trip, the kids rode a ton of rides and we were completely exhausted by the time we got back.
Fast forward a day and here we are. In the last couple of weeks we have spent a total of 5 days in our new house and very little unpacking has been done. My kitchen is coming along slowly, but most of my pots, pans and dishes are still waiting to be unpacked. This is why I'm so grateful to have a Mother-in-Law that lets me use her kitchen whenever I need it. Oh, and did I mention her internet as well? We've had 3 technicians come out to the house already to try to get the internet set up at our new casa and none of them have been successful. Who knew it was so hard to install?
The recipe I'm sharing with you today was meant to be a Mother's Day recipe, but since we didn't really get to celebrate Mother's day this year, we're going to call it a belated Mother's Day recipe. Got it?

I had my little helpers in the kitchen with me to kick out an awesome pretzel-y treat.

First off, let me just say... I have always wanted to make pretzels but I've been a little scared. I thought it was going to be a very long, painful process, but I was lucky enough to get to test out Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Pretzel kit and it really proved me wrong. My daughter and I hit the kitchen together (with my son watching) with some of the awesome kitchen tools (and hat!) Fleischmann's sent over and we became pretzel-making-machines.
One of the best parts of this recipe is that kids can make it all by themselves! My daughter was able to whip up the dough, smash it out into a circle, fill it with the cheese and meat and roll it into a ball. She loves easy recipes that she can do all by herself!

Once the ham & cheese pretzel balls are brushed with a water/baking soda mixture and sprinkled with salt they go right into the oven!



You know they're done when they look nice and brown and pretzel-like! Aren't they cute?


Dust on a little powdered sugar...


And smear on some blackberry preserves! Ta-da! Basically, what I was trying to do here was make something that reminded me of Disneyland's Monte Cristo Sandwich *droooool*. I did it. You will thank me and all the mothers of the world will thank you for making them...

Make sure to check out the Fleischmann's website for more delicious ideas!

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Ham & Cheese Pretzel Pockets:

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Pretzel Creations Mix
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 pound honey ham, sliced thinly
  • 4 slices Monterey jack cheese, cut into quarters
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  • optional Seedless blackberry preserves


Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine pretzel mix, yeast, water and oil (according to package directions.) Cover bowl and allow dough to rise for 25 minutes.

Cut dough in half and roll each half into a long, log (about 1 foot.) Cut each log into 8 pieces. Take each piece, roll into a flat disk and place 1 cheese square and one slice of ham in the center. Pull all sides of the dough around the cheese and ham and form into a ball. Make sure to seal all the seams. Repeat with remaining dough.

Place pretzel balls on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Combine 2 tablespoons of baking soda (from the kit) and 1 cup of very warm water and brush over the tops of the pretzels. Sprinkle the pretzel salt (from the kit) over the top and place into oven.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until pretzel balls are golden brown and no longer doughy.

Dust with powdered sugar and serve with blackberry preserves.
Makes 16 pretzel balls.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Italian Salsa


So, this past week i've been sick and I've come to realize one thing: it stinks. Drippy nose, sore throat, congestion that makes you feel like your face is going to pop -- you know, all the fun stuff. I remember being a kid and thinking that being sick was kind of awesome. No school, sick bed on the couch, tv all to yourself -- could life get any sweeter? Now that i'm all grown up, I realize that being sick as an adult has absolutely no perks whatsoever. When you have kids who need to go to school, be fed and bathed and all that jazz, you have no real down-time... Fathers on the other hand... Well, let's just say when my husband is sick, he gets a full-time waiter, pillow-fluffer and masseuse. Which is why I feel that someone should really put a few rules into play for sick mothers:

Rule #1 When a mother is sick she is in no way required to wait on un-sick family members. 

This rule only applies to those family members who are not also sick, because, of course, if another family member in the home is sick, they will always take priority.

Rule #2 The only time a sick mother should have to get out if bed is when she chooses to.

There should never be a point where you absolutely have to get out of bed while sick. No responsibilities, no work, nothing.

Rule #3 Sick mothers should always receive gifts of chocolate and other sweets.

If there was ever a time when I wish I had an endless stash of chocolate, it's when I feel helpless and my body is under attack.

For now, those are the 3 most important rules and I won't continue on to the other 873. I'll save them for another time. 


Okay, so, now that i've gotten that all off my chest, I think I can focus on the important issue at hand: a new recipe! Last week I was trying to think of something fun and different for all you fine people and it just kind of hit me... an Italian Salsa recipe! I'm not sure if it's been done before (i'm sure it has, because everything has) but when I imagined it in my mind, it was tangy, a little sweet, and packed full of yummy italian flavors. 


After I chopped up all my ingredients and after I let them sit in the fridge and get to know each other on a personal level, I couldn't have been happier with the finished product! It reminded me almost of a pasta salad... minus the pasta, of course. Next time I make it, I'll be serving it up on some toasted baguettes -- bruschetta style. It would look so pretty and taste oh, so good!


It's a great spring recipe that would be wonderful to take to a potluck or a party. Give it a try and let me know what you think! 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Italian Salsa:

Ingredients:


  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 5 large pepperoncini, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped 
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoons white wine vinegar 
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dry oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme 
Directions:

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 8 hours to get the best flavor. Serve with crackers, flatbread or toasty bread.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Game Day Snacks and Sides with #DelimexFiesta

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DelimexFiesta #CollectiveBias


My love of snacking that has existed since I was a little girl has carried on into my grown-up-hood. I love to plan snacks, make snacks and eat snacks and I especially like to make them while my family and I watch any kind of sporting event. There's just something about sports games that just screams "snack time!" and I love it. I think that's probably why so many people are searching for snack ideas during game season. Ahhhh, it all makes sense to me now...


So, in our house we have a lot of sandwiches for lunch. We like sandwiches a lot. But, sometimes when we want something different and something quick, I will grab my favorite snack, make a dipping sauce or a side dish to go along with it and have them for lunch while we watch "the big game" (whatever the big game is at that time!) This time, I decided to make a yummy Chipotle Cheese dipping sauce to go along with our Delimex Taquitos and a fresh corn salad that I had picked up at Walmart earlier in the week. You know how I love my cheese sauces, don't you? I'm a cheese sauce queen.


While I was scanning the frozen snack aisle in Walmart I also spotted some Delimex Beef Tamales! They also make great quick lunches and snacks! Yummm. One of my hubby's favorites, so I've gotta have them on hand. 


Plus, right now there's a coupon you can print where you can save $1 off two Delimex products (It's valid from March 9th, 2015 through April 7th, 2015 -- expires on May 4th).


In my opinion, any good recipe starts off with a medley of beautiful vegetables, (like the one above!) Unfortunately, there are no stands selling fresh corn right now, so I did have to use canned corn. But, as soon as the fresh corn is out... it's on. 


For my zesty corn salad, I minced up my veggies into small little chunks. No one  (in my family) wants to get a giant mouthful of jalapeño peppers. I made sure to really scrape out the inside of the jalapeño so it wouldn't be too spicy. The children in this family are pretty sensitive to heat.  


How beautiful is that? I love the bright colors! It's a big bowl of springy goodness. Plus, my bowl matches perfectly. Look at that! 


Now, onto the cheese sauce! It doesn't look too pretty at first... But, trust me... After this gloopy bowl of goo is all melted down and hot, it will be perfect.


See? Perfection in a bowl. I topped mine with a little crumbled queso fresco because I just really, really wanted to. Don't ask me why... it was just calling my name. It ended up being a pretty little topper and it gave the cheese sauce a little texture, which I liked!

My husband found that the cheese sauce and corn salsa both made delicious toppings to the Delimex Taquitos. He smothered them in both and it looked really delicious! Of course you're welcome to eat the corn salsa on the side. I won't judge you and neither will he... I promise. So, next time you're looking for something yummy to make while you're watching the next big game, I hope you'll remember these yummy little ideas.

What do you like to eat while you're watching your favorite sporting event?

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Zesty Corn Salad:

Ingredients:
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans whole kernel yellow corn
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, halved, deseeded & minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • Salt & pepper to taste



Directions:

Place all ingredients into a medium bowl and combine. Season with salt and pepper until desired taste is achieved. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 


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Chipotle Cheese Dipping Sauce:

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup half & half
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • *Optional queso fresco to top
Directions:



Place all ingredients in a double boiler over medium-high heat. Use a spatula to stir until cheese has melted completely, about 10-12 minutes. Serve immediately. 

You can reheat the sauce by adding in a little half and half and microwaving at 30-second intervals, stirring in-between.







Friday, March 27, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshakes & the new Bounty with Dawn

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Bounty.


Let's talk messy kitchens for a moment, shall we? It's a subject that I don't normally spend too much time talking about here on the blog, but one that I spend most of my life complaining about. Funny how that works... Being a food blogger has it's perks, for sure. Like, 99.9% of it is awesome. But that other .01% is the cleaning that comes along with it. Most of the time I feel like my kitchen spends aboooout 10 minutes being completely clean in any given day. Some days 0 minutes. For every meal I make, for every snack I put together, for every drink I pour... there is a spill. And it's usually something that requires more than just a simple wipe down -- you know, the kind of spill that leaves your counter feeling sticky even after you've wiped it 10 times. The kind of spill that requires soap.


Well, today i'm here to tell you about a little thing I like to call Bounty with Dawn. Everyone say hello to Bounty with Dawn!"Hi bounty with Dawn! "So, this is more than just a simple paper towel. It's a paper towel that's packed with Dawn, which means: A. It smells amazing annnd B. It's like using a sponge filled with soap, only afterwards you can simply throw it in the trash!

Okay, so... I kind of love it. We have become good friends this week. We've cleaned up our fair share of spilled juice, peanut butter, coffee grounds and lots of other fun little messes together. We've had fun. I'm here to express my love for Bounty with Dawn publicly. I'm also here to give you an easy peasy recipe for a Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake... And when I say easy, I mean EASY! So, let's carry on...


Step 1: Grab some chocolate ice cream, peanut butter (crunchy or smooth -- your choice), milk and chocolate syrup.


Step 2: Put them in a blender!


Step 3: Put the milkshake into your glass and drizzle on some chocolate syrup!


Step 4: Grab your Bounty with Dawn, run it under a little water and wipe away any messes! 

So... That's it. Now you have yourself a Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake AND you have yourself a new cleaning buddy for the kitchen! Give it a try! The recipe and the cleaning buddy! I promise you will say "ooooh" and "ahhh" as you easily wipe away your messes, toss it in the trash and never look back again. 


Connect with Bounty on their Website & Facebook & Twitter

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshakes (Thanks to #BountyAtWalmart!)

Ingredients:

6 scoops chocolate ice cream
4 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
Chocolate syrup

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except the chocolate syrup in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into glass and top with chocolate syrup.

Enjoy!

Makes 2 (8 ounce) milkshakes


Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tres Leches Cake with #McCafeMyWay

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #McCafeMyWay #CollectiveBias


I'm a mom. If you're also a mom, I should simply be able to say those words and immediately you should understand what i'm trying to say. Your head should be flooded with images of children drawing on walls, jumping on couches, riding the dog, picking out delicious treats from the garbage can and basically just doing any other exhausting thing that children do. When I wake up in the morning, I require something that's going to help me survive my day, because let's face it, when you have children, you're in survival mode at all times. I love starting my mornings with a nice, hot cup of coffee (especially the new McCafé!) and spending a few minutes thinking about something happy and nice. I love sharing this time with my hubby and being able to start the day off with him. Sometimes the busy weeks don't allow for that, but we always try to make it happen on the weekends.


If you haven't heard (or seen) already, McCafé coffee is now available in stores! I found it at my local Walmart and grabbed a bag for my hubby and I. They have 8 flavors to choose from, but my hubby loves dark roasts, so I went with the french roast this time. Yum!


I had also had a really delicious idea brewing in my head for the last couple of weeks, and thought this would be the perfect time to put it into effect. I have been wanting to make a Chocolate Tres Leches cake for a while now, and I knew a little of this McCafé would really bring out the flavor of the chocolate in the cake batter. I always, always, always add in a little coffee to my chocolate desserts. It really gives the chocolate a little extra something special! 


Coffee from the morning goes right into the batter... Yummy!


For this recipe you get to use your mixer to whip up some egg whites! I really love whipping egg whites! It gives me a sense of power and makes me feel really good about myself.


Nice, fluffy batter... 


While the cake is baking, I whipped up some super special salted caramel to go over the cake. Yes, you read that right... salted caramel. The two most powerful words in the english language when combined. Makes most people go weak at the knees. Yeah, this is the deliciousness that's going to be soaking into your cake. 


But, before you can pour it over you have to make holes in the top of your cake. Lots and lots of holes. Holes that will soon be filled with gooey delicious salted caramel-y goodness. 


See what I mean?


A little homemade whipped cream, some bits of crushed dark chocolate and a little more salted caramel to drizzle on top... Now, that's a cake. A super moist, milky, delicious cake.

Do you have any recipes you incorporate coffee into??



Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tres Leches Cake:

Ingredients:

For the cake:
1 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon *strong* McCafé coffee
2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted


For the three milks:
1 (12 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
12 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream

For the topping:
Whipped cream
Dark chocolate pieces (chopped up chocolate chips, chunks, whatever you have!)
Salted Caramel (2 tablespoons reserved)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 9"x13" baking pan and set aside.

Place your flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and mix. Set aside.

Separate the eggs. Put the egg whites into a bowl and set aside. Put egg yolks into stand mixer and beat along with 3/4 cup sugar for about 2 minutes. Then, add in your milk and vanilla and beat for an additional minute. Mix in melted chocolate, remove your mixture from the mixing bowl and place into a clean bowl. 

Rinse your mixing bowl and beater well, dry, and add in egg whites. Beat egg whites on high for about 2 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Add in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat an additional minute. 

Carefully fold half of the dry mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then fold half of the egg whites in and repeat.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish and place in preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and poke holes over the entire surface of the cake with a wooden skewer.

While the cake is baking, place butter and brown sugar into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt, then add in your condensed milk. Cook, stirring often, for about 18-20 minutes, or until it has become dark golden brown and very thick. Remove 2 tablespoons and set them aside (for topping!) Stir in your evaporated milk and whipping cream and whisk and cook until no caramel lumps remain.

Pour hot mixture over the cake, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Longer is better! 

Once cake is set, cover the top with fresh whipped cream, chocolate pieces and reserved caramel.

Cut into small pieces and serve. 



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