Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Four Can (or is it five?) Hotdish

Growing up in Minnesota we ate 'hotdish' often. When there were church functions, everyone brought a hotdish. The wonderful and quite odd thing about 'hotdish' is that it could really be anything. Myself, I try to differentiate between hotdish and casseroles by how they are cooked. Hotdishes are made on the stove top, casseroles are baked in the oven.
Now, this might not always hold true but a hotdish consists of some form of pasta with ground beef. From that point on everything changes. This recipe is one that my mom makes and was sweet enough to send along some pictures and the recipe. Mikey is not a fan of 'hotdish' so I don't make it here even though I really really want to.
1 pound ground beef
1 1/2 pound Macaroni uncooked
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup (This is the fifth can and can be omitted if you're like me and don't like mushrooms.)
1 can vegetable beef with beef stock soup
1 can chicken gumbo soup
1 can milk

Brown ground beef.

Add soups and milk, mix well.

Simmer while cooking macaroni.

Mix both together. Enjoy. Homemade bread or fried bread goes fantastic with this!

NOTE from Mom* I don't add salt as it seems to have enough from the soups, but I do add pepper. Also this make a lot. It is a great dish to make for potlucks, church functions. It is one of my family's favorite  meals.  It's great left over .

Friday, November 26, 2010

Chocolate Mint Bars

I love trying out new recipes. Sometimes it works for me sometimes it doesn’t. This is one that is a hit! I was worried that the mint would be to strong but it was mild and not at all overpowering. The bottom is a chewy brownie (that I’m going to play with some more in other recipes) and the top is a not quite hard dark chocolate. I suppose if you don’t care much for dark chocolate you could substitute milk chocolate.
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) plus 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2-2/3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 drops green food color
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Print Recipe
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13×9×2-inch baking pan.
Place 1 cup (2 sticks) butter in large microwave-safe bowl; cover. Microwave 1 minute or until melted.

Stir in granulated sugar and vanilla.

Add eggs; beat well.

Add flour, cocoa and baking powder; beat until well blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. I rushed the process by sticking the pan in the freezer. It was cooled enough by the time I finished the filling to continue.
Prepare mint cream center by combining powdered sugar, 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, water, mint extract and food color in large bowl. Beat until smooth.

Spread evenly on brownies. Cover; refrigerate until cold.

Prepare chocolate glaze by placing remaining 6 tablespoons butter and chocolate chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 1 minute or until mixture is smooth when stirred. Cool slightly; pour over chilled dessert.

Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Cover; refrigerate leftover dessert.

Please let me know if you try them and what you think. I would really love to hear from you.

Chocolate Silk Pie

I discovered this recipe several Thanksgivings ago. I don’t make it often but revived it for this years Thanksgiving dinner. It was just as delicious and chocolatey as I remember.  The hardest thing about making this pie is waiting for it to chill.

1  chocolate pie crust
1 1/4  cups  heavy cream
8  ounces  bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2  cups  miniature marshmallows
3  tablespoons  sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
Print Recipe

Chop the bittersweet chocolate.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, stir 1/4 cup cream, chocolate and marshmallows until smooth, 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.
Whip 1 cup cream until soft peaks form.
Add cocoa; beat until stiff peaks form.

Stir a third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture; gently fold chocolate mixture into whipped cream.

Spoon mixture into pie shell.

Chill until set, about 2 hours.

Garnish with whipped cream and if you want to be really creative shave some bittersweet chocolate on the pie before it sets.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hot Cocoa With a Kick

I love hot cocoa all year long. I am positive it has to do with the chocolate content. With winter coming I thought it would be nice to have a cup of hot cocoa that keeps warming me up even after I drink it.
Let me say I do NOT like spicy hot food! I run from it, I don't like the burn or the heat involved. Then there is the cayenne pepper. In just small amounts it adds such wonderful flavor and just a bit of heat. Sometimes I have gotten carried away and added just a bit too much but it has never been too awful.
Let me also add that cayenne pepper is super healthy. I could list the benefits but there are too many. So I'm thinking cayenne and chocolate together has to be a 'good for you' food. I've heard of places that do this but I've never tried it myself. So here goes...

1/4 cup sugar
dash salt
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of cayenne pepper-ok, a pinch may be too much, try using a smidgen instead

Printable Recipe
Stir together sugar, cocoa, cayenne pepper and salt in medium saucepan;

Stir in water.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil and stir 2 minutes.
Add milk; stirring constantly until hot.

Do Not Boil.

Remove from heat; add vanilla.
Serve with whipped cream or marshmallows.

Let me know how spicy you make yours.

Four Cheese Manicotti

I believe I would starve to death if I was forced to eat a 'fancy' food. You know the kind? A tiny piece of meat on a plate decorated with some partially cooked vegetable with some unknown sauce drizzled over the top to make it look pretty.

I don't have to have my plate heaping with food like a starving lumberjack, far from it. But whatever is on my plate I would like to be both tasty and filling so I'm not fantasizing about raiding the fridge 20 minutes after dinner.

Manicotti is not only easy and substantial, it's pretty! When it is all done and the sauce is poured on top and it's sitting on our plates I feel like a culinary genius! Then when I tasted it I decided I like it better than lasagna and I LOVE lasagna. Please try this recipe!

If you're cooking for only 2-3 people this is also a very economical meal. The recipe tonight is for 3 people. 2 manicotti each for the girls and 3 for the guy.


1/2 box Manicotti (7 pieces cooked according to package directions)

2 cans tomato sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon sweet basil
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
(or a large can of spaghetti sauce if you want to make it really easy)

1 - 15 ounce container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Mozzarella cheese
Print Recipe

After the manicotti has cooked, rinse it under cold water and lay on waxed paper so they don't stick.

While the manicotti is cooking you can make your sauce:
Brown the ground beef and onion in small saucepan.

Add the remaining ingredients and let simmer while you are preparing everything else.

For the filling, just mix everything together in a small bowl. (See how easy this is?)

Spread a small amount of the sauce on the bottom of a small oblong baking dish (8"x11".)

I cheated on this part and used a large decorating tip and disposable decorator bag to fill the manicotti. If you don't have cake decorating supplies just cut the corner (about 3/4") off from a zipper type bag. Fill the bag with the filling. (Don't tell the cake decorating industry how easy it is to cheat.)

Gently pick up a piece of manicotti and squeeze the filling in. Turn and fill other side if it didn't fill on it's own. Place on top of the sauce. Repeat until all manicotti is filled and placed in baking dish.
Pour the remaining sauce over the manicotti. Cover with foil. Depending on when you want to eat the manicotti you can now freeze it, place it in the fridge or bake it at 350F for 35 minutes.

After it has baked for 35 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top. (Use as much or as little as you prefer.) Return to oven and bake 10 more minutes until cheese has melted and begins to brown. (Note from Mikey : "There is no such thing as too much cheese")

If you choose to freeze the manicotti cover with plastic wrap first, then foil. When you're ready to cook it carefully remove foil. Take plastic wrap off and replace foil. Bake at 350F for 2 hours.
For refrigerated manicotti bake 10-15 minutes longer. Use within 24 hours or freeze up to two months.

I had plenty of sauce and used all of it to cover the manicotti. This caused the manicotti to flatten and if you prefer a fuller manicotti don't use as much sauce.

You could easily add mushrooms or peppers to the sauce. I just wanted to keep it simple and basic. Let me know if you try it and if you do anything different.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pumpkin Bars

I found hundreds of recipes with so many variations for pumpkin bars. None of them seemed to be what I was looking for. I wanted a heavy moist bar that was not at all cake like. The recipes I looked at all had egg in them which will make them more cake like.

Years ago my mother made some carrot bars from a recipe given to her from a church lady in 1976. They were wonderful. Moist and heavy. I decided to modify that recipe into what I wanted for my pumpkin bars. I also didn't want a heavy thick frosting for the bars so I made half as much cream cheese frosting.

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Whisk together oil, vanilla and pumpkin.

Whisk in sugar.

Mix in salt, spice and baking soda.

Add flour all at once. Mix well.

Blend in pecans.

Spread mixture into greased 9x13 pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Cool. Then frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces softened cream cheese
4 tablespoons softened margarine
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Cream cheese and butter together. Add vanilla.

Mix in powdered sugar until well blended.

Carefully spin the majority of the frosting of the beaters, remove beaters and lick. This is to make sure that the frosting tastes good.

Spread on cooled bars.

Final verdict: These turned out almost like I had hoped. I think I would like more pumpkin and will increase it to 1 cup next time. All in all they were scrumptious!