Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Creamy Jalapeño Popper Dip





Dip is my thing. You know this. I've shared this with you in the past and I just want to restate it one last time: I heart dip. Any dip. The creamier and cheesier the better... There comes a time in every girl's life where she makes a dip that she loves almost as much as she loves her family. Okay, so maybe that was a little exaggerated, but what I'm getting at here is that this recipe for Jalapeño Popper Dip that i'm going to share with you today is one of my new favorite things in the whole wide world. And that's the truth.


The next time you're looking for a dip to make for a party, a get-together, the Oscars (coming up later this month!) I would highly recommend giving this one a try...




But only if you love things that are ooey gooey and delicious. If you don't love things that are cheesy and flavorful and filled with delicious bits of bacon then definitely look the other way and avoid this recipe completely. It's not for you. RUN!



But, if you're like me and you love bacon and cheese and jalapeño poppers, then you're going to be in heaven when you taste this dip. And you're going to want to make it again and again and again. 



And you will make it again and again and again. Your husband will also ask you to make it again and again and again. And... when you think you've had it too much and that you can't possibly eat it again, a friend will ask you to make it for your next get-together. 

Basically, I'm gifting you this delicious dip recipe today because I care about you and your well-being. I want you to be happy and I want your friends and family members to be happy, too.

So, just make the dip. The end.


Jalapeño Popper Dip:

Ingredients: 
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeños
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 7 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons sliced green onion


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine jalapeños, cream cheese, 1 cup of the cheddar cheese, jack cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and bacon (reserve about 1 tablespoon for garnish!). Make sure the mixture is well combined and there are no huge lumps of cream cheese. Spread mixture into your baking dish (a pie pan works great!) Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese over the top. 

Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until dip is bubbly and cheese is melted. 

Top with green onion and crumbled bacon, or you can add some sliced jalapeños!

Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Romantic Dinner Ideas: Italian Meatloaf Recipe with La Romanella

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



Now that I'm married, Valentine's day has become one of my favorite days of the year. Not because of the cards, the chocolates, the flowers or even the extravagant gifts often associated with this holiday, but, because of the quality time my husband and I set aside for each other on this particular day. 

Hubby and I love cooking together and Valentine's day is often a day that we celebrate by getting in the kitchen together and making a new dish that we've never made before! If you've never stepped into the kitchen to cook with your spouse, let me tell you, you're missing out. We love to crack open a bottle of wine, put on some of our favorite tunes and get cookin'. Yes, I said cookin'... If your husband doesn't know the way around the kitchen you can always just give him the job of 'Official Wine-Refiller & recipe reader." 

This year we decided to do make something that would be spin on a traditional comfort food that everyone knows and loves but, basically, we just wanted to make it a little more fancy and a little more romantic: Italian Meatloaf! 

Before we could get started on our fancy shmancy dinner, we had to head to Smart & Final first, because that's our favorite place to stock up on a few of our much-used italian staples. Plus, they carry warehouse-sized products but you don't have to pay any club fees... perfect for someone (like me!) who cooks every day.

First off, you've got your parmesan cheese. I use a lot of parmesan in my cooking, and I like to make sure my fridge is always stocked. Luckily, the La Romanella parmesan comes in a couple of different sizes, so you can decide just how much you need. It's a sad, sad day when I glance into my fridge and there is no parmesan to be found. 

We also grabbed some La Romanella basil pesto. This looked awesome and would make an excellent addition to our meatloaf!

Some cheese raviolis to serve on the side... And a couple of other things that would make this dinner complete. 

Luckily, I already had some La Romanella Italian Sausage at home, and even though it was in the casing, I knew I could make it work! The La Romanella brand is one of my favorites for my italian cooking because the price is right and the flavors are spot-on! Great quality for a great price! How great is that? 


The first thing we did for our dinner was to get our sauce cooking. Hubby took care of the sauce for me, since he makes the best italian sauces in the world... Traditional meatloaf has ketchup covering the top, so, ours was going to have a nice, sweet italian tomato sauce instead. Then, I started on the meatloaf mixture...


Italian sausage, ground beef, parmesan, pesto, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley and a little basil and italian seasoning.


I had hubby mix it all together...


Now, for the actual meatloaf you can either do a standard loaf, you can make a couple of mini-loaves, or you can shape it into a big ol' heart. And, since we're celebrating love day, I think a heart would only be appropriate, don't you think? 


Now's the part where you can make a joke, like I did...

I love you, Meatheart! 


After cooking for 15 minutes it's time to add your sauce!





For our side, we decided to make a garlic basil mixture to toss with our La Romanella raviolis. I love having a big bag of these in my freezer, so that when I need an easy side I can just grab them, toss in my olive oil, basil, and garlic and -- poof! -- side dish is done. Oh, but don't forget the parmesan! And the fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt... of course!


Outta the oven and lookin' pretty. 


Well, hello my cheesy little friends...


And there you have it folks... a lovely, romantic dinner for two! And guess what? We made it together! Not only did we have fun and get some of that much-needed one-on-one time, we also created something delicious together! Plus, the best part is that at the end of it all you get to sit down, across from the one you love and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Smart & Final is going to be running a contest! From 2/18 - 3/3 you can Buy any La Romanella item and you are eligible to win a trip to Hawaii! I know I will be participating for sure! Hubby and I could really use a romantic getaway just for the two of us! 

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Italian Meatloaf:
Ingredients:

Meatloaf:
  • 3 La Romanella Mild Italian Sausages, casings removed
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup La Romanella shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon La Romanella basil pesto
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil


Sauce:
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 7 ounces petite diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon fennel
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

To make the sauce, add olive oil to a small saucepan, along with garlic and onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until onion is beginning to soften. Add in diced tomato, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, sugar, basil, italian seasoning, fennel and crushed red pepper. Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place olive oil in a small skillet, along with chopped onions and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, remove from heat and set aside. 

In a medium mixing bowl, add ground beef, sausage, parmesan, breadcrumbs, pesto, egg, parsley, basil, italian seasoning and onion/garlic mixture. Mix well to incorporate all ingredients. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and shape into your desired shape (loaf, mini-loaves, heart, etc.)

Bake for 15 minutes. Then, pour sauce over the top, spread evenly, and bake additional 45 minutes, or until internal temperature is 160 degrees and meat is cooked through. 

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

Easy Garlic Basil Ravioli



Ingredients:
  • 1 pound La Romanella Medium Cheese Ravioli
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup La Romanella shredded parmesan
  • Freshly cracked black pepper & sea salt

Directions:
Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain.

In a small saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat, add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Toss pasta with oil mixture, basil and parmesan. Season with cracked black pepper and sea salt and serve.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chinese Lantern Cake Pops for Chinese New Year!

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



My little family is a family of tradition, that's for sure. We love celebrating different holidays and events throughout the year and we especially love coming up with delicious ways to make them memorable! This year, since Chinese New Year is just around the corner (February 19th!) my daughter and I decided that we should celebrate by making some adorable Chinese Lantern cake pops!



The first thing we did was head to Walmart to grab our cake pop supplies. While we were there we headed down the frozen aisle to the Family Meals section and grabbed a box of Tai Pei® Mini Vegetable Spring rolls and a box of Pork Egg Rolls. We definitely needed some traditional, authentic Chinese foods for our celebration!  We totally had an 'ah-ha!' moment and decided that even though the egg rolls and spring rolls come with their own dipping sauce, we should also whip up a couple of new dipping sauces for them (a sweet ginger sauce and a mustard sauce -- See below for recipes!) We love sauces in this house.

Once we were home we started on our cake pops...

Chinese Lantern Cake Pop Tutorial:

Materials Needed:

  • 1 baked 9"x13" yellow cake
  • 1 container vanilla frosting
  • 3 cups Red Chocolate Melting Disks
  • 3 tablespoons Yellow Chocolate Melting Disks
  • 1 roll fruity ribbon (the kind you put in your kids' lunches)
  • 16 square yellow taffy candies
  • Cake pop sticks or wooden skewers




Step 1: Take 12 of the yellow taffy candies and roll them into balls, then flatten slightly. Use a wooden skewer to poke a hole in the center. Basically, you're making a taffy doughnut. 

Step 2: Cut a 2" long piece of fruity ribbon, then cut ribbon into thirds (mine already came pre-cut into 3 equal ribbons.)

Step 3: Use a skewer to poke the ends of the fruit ribbon into the center of the taffy candy.

Step 4: Place all finished taffy rounds on a plate or parchment paper so the side facing down will become flat.

Step 5: Cut the remaining 4 taffy candies into thirds, roll into balls and flatten slightly.

Step 6: Place half of the baked cake into a mixing bowl and add 4 tablespoons of vanilla frosting. Mix well until all frosting is incorporated.


Step 7: Divide cake mixture and roll into 1" balls. Dip the end of your cake pop stick or skewer into your melted yellow chocolate and push into the center of each ball. Place in freezer for about 10 minutes, or until balls are slightly firm.

Step 8: Place red melting disks into a microwave-safe mug and melt, stirring every 30 seconds. 

Step 9: Dip each chilled cake ball into the melted chocolate.

Step 10: Poke the bottom of each stick into a block of styrofoam or in a cake pop stand to harden.

Step 11: Place remaining red chocolate into a ziptop bag and pipe lines around the pop going from the top of the cake pop all the way down to the stick.

Step 12: Place a squirt of chocolate on the top of the cake pop and add your small round piece of taffy. Place a small amount of chocolate at the base of the cake pop and slide the larger taffy piece (with ribbons dangling down) up to adhere to the base of the cake pop. 

Makes 12 Chinese Lantern Cake Pops


Now, sit back and admire your adorable Chinese Lantern Cake Pops! 

While we were making our cake pops we talked about the traditions of Chinese New Year and learned a few new things...

This year is the year of the sheep! 

Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) is a holiday centered around wishing 'good fortune' to all. Many give 'red envelope' gifts (money) to friends and loved ones.

Did you know that Chinese Lantern Festivals are held around the world to mark the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations?  In Hong Kong it's pretty much the equivalent to Valentine's Day!

Also, a lot of the lanterns, nowadays, are much more intricate than they used to be. They have lanterns shaped like animals! You should definitely look online for some pictures and videos as they are super awesome to see!


The next step in our celebration was to heat up our Tai Pei® egg rolls and spring rolls!


Onto the baking sheet you go!


While our snacks were cooking away we whipped up our mustard dipping sauce and our sweet ginger sauce!


It's great being able to have authentic, restaurant-quality egg rolls at home and they really added that special touch to our Chinese New Year celebration!

My hubby loved the mustard dipping sauce and I was head-over-heels for the sweet ginger sauce! Yum.


After we ate our egg rolls we went outside and released our "Chinese lanterns." 


And by 'released' I obviously meant 'ate.' We ate them.


For a little extra fun you can use your phone to scan the QR Code on the side of your Tai Pei® snacks and get your very own fortune! Chinese New Year is all about good fortune (luck) so this was a great little surprise!

The Chinese New Year app on Facebook includes a Red Envelope Tab that features coupons for their delicious products (until they run out!) So, make sure to download yours!

You can visit Tai Pei® on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more delicious Chinese New Year inspiration!

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Mustard Dipping Sauce:

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix until sugar has melted. You can serve warm or place in the refrigerator and chill until ready to serve.



Sweet Ginger Sauce:

Ingredients: 
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar 
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon soy
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flake
  • 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch


Directions:

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium until thickened. Allow mixture to cool slightly. Serve warm.



Monday, January 26, 2015

Mini SNICKERS Football Eclairs #BigGameTreats

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


Football season has become an extremely fun time of the year for our family. We love tuning in the games (especially the big game) and cheering on our favorite team while enjoying some yummy finger foods! Okay, so It's true that I do love any excuse to make a bunch of snacks and will jump at the chance, but, I have really embraced my love of Football and have been enjoying watching the games with my family! You will find me jumping up and down, yelling at the TV and screeching when my team scores a touchdown. I am very invested.



You definitely won't find me in the kitchen for very long during the Big Game... which is why I like to make sure all my food is prepared ahead of time and completely ready to serve once it starts. I usually start planning my menu about a month in advance and I try to make sure to cover all the basic Football food groups: Cheesy, Crispy, Gooey and my favorite group of all... satisfyingly sweet.


This year, I'm going to be making these adorable Mini SNICKERS® Football Eclairs to cover the "satisfyingly sweet" group. Eclairs have always been one of my favorite, scratch that... They've always been my favorite dessert since I was a little girl. My family and I would often travel the central coast and there was one special bakery where I would always, always, always get a chocolate eclair. I didn't eat any other chocolate eclairs throughout the year... just that one. But, i've decided, now that i'm older, wiser and able to create delicious food on my own, I'm going to tackle the eclair and make it my own (did you get that football reference?!) 

So, of course, the first thing I had to do was head to Walmart and grab all my delicious supplies! I stopped in on the candy aisle to grab my 6-pack of SNICKERS. 4 for the recipe and 2 for... eating! To give me energy to make the recipe, of course. I also grabbed a bag of Skittles®... you'll see why in a bit :)




First off, let's start by making an adorable "Game On" Football Bunting to display over your eclairs. Shall we?

“Game On” Football Bunting Tutorial

Supplies: 
1 12"x12" sheet green paper, a few scrap pieces of brown paper and white paper, white ribbon, 2 wooden skewers, glue, scissors

Step 1: Take a piece of 12”x12” scrapbook paper and cut off two 1-1’/4 strips from it. Fold strips in half and then in half again, to form 4 equal pieces. Repeat with other strip so you end up with 8 pieces.

Step 2: Cut off corners (as demonstrated above) to resemble a trapezoid. 

Step 3: Print out the letters to make the words “GAME ON.” Cut out letters and paste onto one side of your trapezoid. Use brown paper to cut out two football shapes and use small pieces of white paper or a white pen to create laces. Paste onto remaining 2 pieces.

Step 4: Lay out your letters and the footballs on each side of the letters, cover the inside of the green paper with glue. 

Step 5: Place in your ribbon, close and seal tightly.

Step 6: Tie the ends of your ribbon onto 2 wooden skewers.

And you're done!! :)



Now it's time to make the dessert! Gotta unwrap that chocolate...


Chop, chop, chop...


Mixing it into the pastry cream before adding it back to the pot to melt...


Mixing up the dough for the eclairs.


The piping was fun and easy thanks to my hubby... he got me this cake decorating tool for Christmas (like 2 years ago) and I somehow completely forgot about it until today!


Straight outta the oven. Nice and puffy!



Filled and dipped in dark chocolate... Now we're cookin'!



I served these tasty little footballs up on a platter with Skittles to give it some color! You could also divide the Skittles into your team's colors and only use those! That would be super cute. But, I liked all the color they brought to the final product... Plus... wait until you see the bunting!


Isn't it so cute?? My hubby's small glasses filled with colorful Skittles made the perfect weight for the bunting! I couldn't love it more. Really, I couldn't.

Everything looks good enough to eat, don't you think?



So, when you're trying to think of that perfect dessert to serve up at this year's Big Game... whip up a batch of these tasty and adorable mini SNICKERS football eclairs and wow your guests! I promise they'll say "wow." How could they not?

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

Mini SNICKERS Football Eclairs: 

Ingredients:

Cream Puff Dough:
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 stick salted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
Pastry cream:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 SNICKERS bars
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup  white chocolate chips

Directions:

Chop SNICKERS bars into very small pieces, or you can use a food processor.

Place milk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan and whisk. Turn on meat to medium and whisk until mixture thickens to the consistency of a thick salad dressing. Stir in chopped snickers and whisk until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and butter. Place in bowl, cover with saran wrap and place in fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bring milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil. Dump in the flour and stir continuously until dough becomes a ball. Transfer dough to a mixer and add in eggs, one at a time (make sure egg is incorporated before adding the next egg!) Your dough should be sticky and somewhat stiff. Place dough in a piping bag or a fun little cake decorating tool fitted with a round tip. Pipe “football shaped” (thin on the ends, thicker in the middle) lines about 2 inches long. You should be able to get between 32-36. 

Place into oven for 16-18 minutes, or until they are beginning to turn golden brown. Prop oven open slightly and bake for additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and baking sheet to cool.

Cut each shell open on one side. Place pastry cream into pastry bag or tiptop bag and pipe into cooled shells. Place in the fridge until chilled, about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, heat oil and dark chocolate, stirring every 30 seconds, until chocolate is completely melted.

Dip chilled eclairs into chocolate and set on parchment paper or foil to harden. Once chocolate has hardened, melt the white chocolate chips and place into ziptop bag. Pipe laces onto the top of the eclairs to complete your football. Place in fridge and chill until ready to serve!



Makes about 32 mini chocolate footballs





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