Thursday, November 17, 2011

Magic Cookie Bars

A little piece of childhood has been calling out to me for some time now...therefore it was time to give-in to a bit of nostalgia that my girls had not experienced yet.  Can you believe they haven't had  Magic Cookie Bars?!

My solution to my family's pickiness...make a batch with the alternative choices holding their own position in each third of the pan. (pre-bake)  This way everyone gets to grab a bar that they love!

Magic Cookie Bars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 25-30 minutes
Yield: 18-24 bars

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cups (12 ounces) semi sweet chocolate chips or 60% cocao chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350°F (325°F for glass dish).
In a small bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs and butter.  Mix well.
Firmly press crumb mixture onto the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking pan.

Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture.
Layer evenly with remaining ingredients and press down firmly with a fork.

Bake 25-30 minutes or lightly browned.
Cool. Chill before serving if desired.
Cut into little bars.
Store covered at room temperature.

White chocolate morsels alone or combined with chocolate morsels.
Peanut butter chips or Reese's Pieces

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cheat-N-Eat Candy Cane Cookies

Every now and then we all need a little shortcut...

I love baking from scratch, but sometimes I just feel like making a quick little something for us all to enjoy on the fly. And if I don't have any pre-made dough on hand, then that's when I give in to the store bought dough. My favorite store bought brand has always been Nestlé and I make sure that I have either a sugar cookie or chocolate chip roll (or sheet) in the fridge or freezer at all times.

So, here's a quick "cheat-n-eat" that is perfect for the Christmas season. Since peppermint is the flavor of the season...and I love peppermint, but hate when it overtakes a cookie...I'm using a sugar cookie with peppermint pieces for just an accent. Super simple and almost completely mess free!

Here we go.... Preheat the oven to 325. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remember, we don't want to spend the rest of the night scrubbing candy off of a cookie sheet. Parchment paper = easy clean-up

Grab a package of your favorite brand of pre-made sugar cookie dough. Again, I choose Nestlé every time. Allow it to sit out on your counter for about 10 minutes. That will allow you to mold the dough much easier.
In the meantime, grab 2 candy canes (you can add another if needed), a plastic sandwich baggie and a mallet. (or something heavy to do some smashing with)

Place the candy canes in the plastic sandwich baggie. (poor things don't know what's about to hit them)

Now pickup your mallet, or apparatus of choice, and start whacking away.

You don't want the candy cane pieces to be like pixie dust, so don't go too crazy. Okay, a little bit of pixie dust wouldn't hurt, but try to make an array of different sized pieces. Trust me, it makes the cookies so much prettier.

Take a piece of the dough. In this case a square and roll it into a ball.

Take the ball of dough and dip it into the peppermint pieces. Now if you were my Auntie, you'd just walk away with the ball of candy covered dough and be happy. BUT we're not going for that here. These balls must be cooked!

Pop them one by one onto a cookie sheet...preferably lined with parchment paper. This way the candy pieces won't get stuck to your cookie sheet.

Now we just put them in the oven for 14-17 minutes, depending on the oven and how crispy you like your cookies. I went for 16 husband probably would have preferred them at 14 minutes. (a little bit chewier)

Place the baked cookies onto a wire cooling rack for at least 5 minutes.

Then set them out and watch them disappear!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A New Giveaway Site!

Oh how I love GIVEAWAYS!!! And I just discovered such a great (new to me) site...Give It Away. Take a look at what they are offering, a new giveaway right around the corner! A $50 Gift Card for iTunes, Victoria's Secret OR!!!

This giveaway ends Monday, Nov. 14th.  Just click the banner below!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gobble Gobble (Turkey) Casserole

I'm sure that I am not the only woman who tries to find other ways to enjoy the leftovers of a Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey. Nah, I can't possibly be. So I put my "little grey cells" to work, as my favorite detective Hercule Poirot would say, and then it hit me! Not a turkey, I've had plenty of that through the years, it's to be expected...instead it occurred to me that a casserole was the way to go. So here we go! 6222a
Here we have the main players of this production. Go ahead and preheat the oven to 350°F. 6208a
While the oven is getting warmed up, grab a medium saucepan and fill it with 3 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
Since a watched pot never boils, start tearing, cutting or shredding 2 cups of turkey meat. White meat, dark meat or's your choice. Mine? White meat everytime. Place the turkey meat into a 9x13 baking dish.
It's time to grab your knife! I like to buy pre-sliced mushrooms, it's so convenient, so all that's necessary now is to slice them into halves. If there are a few peices that are too big when halved, then go ahead...get crazy and cut them into quarters! Place the mushrooms into a medium sized bowl.
Now grab your carrots. (I always grab more than needed starting off) Again, take a little bit of the work out of your day...when you hit the store, grab the bag of peeled carrots. Let's slice these beauties into 1/4" thick disks. Perfectly bite-sized. Add the carrots to the mushroom bowl. And set aside. Let's check in on our water...
It's ready for action!
Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt to the water. This is the only chance there is to flavor the pasta itself. 6211a
Pour in 1 1/2 cups of mini pasta. I used mini wheels. (my kiddles love the mini wheels) Cover and let cook for 5 minutes on medium heat.
Be sure to set your timer...we don't want the pasta to cook completely. 5 minutes is all that's needed to reach al dente. This timer annoys me more than the one on my stove so it really gets my attention. 6215a
Back to our casserole a medium bowl mix 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup... 6216a
Add 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning,
1/2 teaspoon sea salt,
1/4 teaspoon black pepper,
 1/8 teaspoon paprika.
Stir until it's creamy and everything is well mixed.
Time to add our milk! Add little by little, stirring carefully so things don't slop all over you. (this is a problem that I battle all the time)
Oh! Time to get our pasta off of the stove! Have your strainer ready and place it in the sink. Step back as you pour the pasta into the strainer...unless you are in need of serious facial. Give the pasta a little cold stop the cooking process. It will finish cooking in the oven.
Okay, back to the casserole dish. Here we have our turkey...looking a little lonely.
Perhaps a little pasta will help...looking better, but not there yet. 6227a
Let's add the carrots and mushrooms....getting there. 6228a
Time to mix the turkey, pasta, carrots and mushrooms with your hands to insure that everything is well distributed. (plus it's just another excuse to get your hands in there) 6229a
Ah, yes. Much better. Now we're getting somewhere. 6230a
Pour the soup mixture over the turkey, carrots and mushrooms... 6231a
mix well and spread the mixture evening in the casserole dish. 6232a
Oh it looks so good already!
Check out this creamy's just screaming to be eaten! And we could stop here...but why do that?
Time to mix our toppings! Here is our next cast of characters. 6235a
Pour out 1 cup of French's French Fried Onions onto the cutting board. Here is it.... a chance to get some agression out...perhaps pent up from those pesky laundry stains you just can't seem to get out. Perhaps not. Regardless, these french fried onions are in need of a good beating. Don't many times does that mallet actually get to come out and have some fun? 6236a
Once the onions have been pummeled into crumbs, pour then into a small mixing bowl. Then grab 1 cup of Italian bread crumbs and pour them in aswell. As you could see before, I keep quite a bit onhand. Oh how I love bulk bin shopping.
Pour our toppings over the casserole mixture.
Carefully smooth the toppings evenly, trying not to uproot any goodies along the way. 6239a
Since a little more of a crunch is always nice, drizzle 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on top of the toppings.
Now it's time to use a bit of a gently touch. Just mix the oil in enough to get some of the bread and onion crumbs mixed in. As you can see, I've chosen to use a table knife rather than a spoon...I do not want to accidently start scooping things up to the top. And mixing it all into the casserole is definately not what the goal is here.
Okay. Ready to hope on into the oven. All that's needed is a little covering of aluminum foil first. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Then uncover the casserole and bake an additional 25-30 minutes (depending on your oven) so the bread topping can get a little crunchy. 6243a
It's time! Pull that badboy out of the oven and let it set for 10 minutes. This is the point when my Charming came over looked at it with a questionable expression on his face (as he knew that I was experimenting with a new recipe) and said, "Well, is this it? Can I try it? It smells good." (pick me up off the floor!) This dish is now a very welcomed addition to our menu. Enjoy!

Gobble Gobble (Turkey) Casserole
2 Cups Turkey, dark and/or light meat pulled or shredded into bite size peices
2 Cups Sliced Mushrooms, halved
1-1/2 Cup Sliced Carrots, 1/4" thick
1 Cup Dry Pasta of your choice (mini pastas work best)
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt, Separated
3 Cups Water
2 - 10oz. Cans of Cream Of Mushroom Soup
1 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/8 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Cup Whole Milk
1 Cup French's French Fried Onions
1 Cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

In a medium sauce pan bring 3 cups of water to a boil over high heat. When water comes to a boil, add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and pasta. Cook for 5 minutes until al dente. (pasta will finish cooking in the oven) When pasta is ready, strain pasta & rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside to finish draining excess water.

While pasta is cooking, tear, cut or shred 2 cups of turkey meat. Set aside in a 9x13 casserole dish.
Slice peeled carrots into 1/4" rounds. Set aside in a medium bowl. Slice mushrooms into halves. (quarters for large sections) If your mushrooms are not pre-sliced, then start by slicing them into 1/4" slices, then halve or quarter accordingly. Place in the bowl with carrots.

In a seperate medium bowl combine soup, poultry seasoning, black pepper, paprika and milk.
Pour pasta into casserole dish. Mix with turkey pieces. Add carrots & mushrooms and mix again, distributing ingredients evenly. Add soup mixture to casserole dish. Mix ingredients well and spread evenly.

With a mallet, crush the French's Fried Onions until they become crumbs. Pour into a small bowl and mix with the bread crumbs. Drizzle olive oil over the breading mixture and mix gently. Pour breading mixture evenly over the top of the casserole. (if prefered, pour dry breading over casserole and lightly coat with olive oil cooking spray)

Cover casserole with aluminum foil and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Cook for another 25-30 minutes (depending on the oven) uncovered to allow breading to toast. Remove and let casserole with for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings.