Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shrimp Alfredo: My little brother's birthday

 My brothers & I don't do birthday presents for each other any more, but I wanted to do something nice for them. Jonah lives a few hours away, so inviting him up for dinner isn't really feasible. Especially considering that, when he is up here, he is spending all his time hunting, fishing, or both. He's getting a to-be-determined treat when he comes up next week. (And, since he's giving me no ideas on what he would like, I really have no idea what I am going to make for him.) 

Kyle, however, has no qualms about telling me what he would like. Since he lives so close, he also was able to come over for dinner. (And dessert, which I already posted about.) It was quite the party, too. 

Sometimes, there is a certain little boy who isn't quite sure of his Uncle Kyle....

Anyways, for dinner he requested crab alfredo. When I told him I would be using imitation crab he changed his mind and wanted shrimp alfredo. Which I've never made before. So, I got on Google and found a copycat recipe for Red Lobster's Shrimp Alfredo. 

The recipe I decided to follow was on, and there were a lot of comments. Quite a few of the comments stated that it was too thin, so I added some cream cheese. I think it turned out great! Kyle & Gabriel did too. (Poor husband, he works second shift so he couldn't be there.)

Shrimp Alfredo

  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  • ⅔ cup clam juice (or chicken broth)
  • ⅓ cup white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ounce cream cheese, cubed
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8 ounces pasta, cooked and drained

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; reduce heat to low. Simmer until garlic is tender.
  2. Add shrimp and cook over medium-low heat until opaque. Remove, reserve liquid in pan.
  3. Add clam juice (or chicken broth) and bring to a boil. Add wine (or chicken broth); cook over medium high heat for three minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce heat to low; add cream and cream cheese, stirring constantly and continue until cheese is mostly melted. Add Parmesan, stirring until smooth. Cook until thickened.
  5. Add shrimp back into sauce. Heat thoroughly. Add remaining ingredients except pasta.
  6. Put pasta in a large bowl and pour sauce over pasta; toss gently to coat.
  7. Serve with additional grated parmesan cheese.
5-6 servings
20 minutes

Source (for original): Food

Now, I added pre-cooked shrimp (it was on sale, and honestly I can only go so far out of my box--cooking shrimp sounded intimidating), so I skipped the step of cooking the shrimp and cut down on oil.

I think that, next time, I would cut down on the shrimp (that's a lot of shrimp for each serving) and probably would add a bit more garlic. However, I have a serious love for garlic, so you should probably start with 3 cloves and go from there.

Friday, September 27, 2013

My Favorite Cookies: Chewy Chocolate! (AKA the-chocolate-cookies-with-peanut-butter-chips)

As mentioned in my last post, I am a big peanut butter-chocolate fan. So when I stumbled across a recipe for these chewy chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips, I decided it was worth a try.

Oh, was it ever worth trying.

These cookies are chocolatey with being overly rich or sweet, and sooooo soft & gooey when you take them out of the oven! My only complaint is that they don't stay that way--after a day or so, you have to microwave them for 10-15 seconds to have them be perfect again.

They quickly became a favorite with some of my family--my mama, little brother, and husband have all been known to request them. We don't actually call them Chewy Chocolate Cookies, but the-chocolate-cookies-with-peanut-butter-chips don't have as nice of a ring, and I can't come up with a better name. (Aside from My Favorite Cookies, but then what about the people who say these aren't their favorite cookies?) Ahh, the complicated life of a baker...

Well, anyway, back to the cookies. Not that I really need a reason to make cookies (aside from, you know, the fact that I wanted cookies), but these were for my little brother's birthday. Yes, his birthday was two weeks ago, but yesterday was the first time he could come over for dinner and have it be convenient for both of us. Both of us being Kyle & I---since Nate works second shift, my poor hubby missed out on this.

One of his many, many requests was these cookies. (The-chocolate-cookies-with-peanut-butter-chips being what he referred to them as. I may just have to call them that...) He also requested Reese's Cheesecake Bars, Oreo Cheesecake Cookies (or a combination of the two, but I am still not sure what he expected me to do with that), and Cheesecake Brownies. (Somehow, I didn't notice a theme until I typed that....) I laughed, and told him that since he was also requesting a fairly expensive dinner (next post), he would get the Chewy Chocolate Cookies.

I am pretty sure that he sighed and said "Well, can I at least keep the entire batch?" 

I love being a big sister. Really.

Without further ado, the-chocolate-cookies-with-peanut-butter-chips:

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

  • 1 ¼ cup butter flavored Crisco
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 2 cup flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces peanut butter chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Cream Crisco & sugar in large mixing bowl. Add eggs & vanilla; blend well. 
  3. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, & salt; gradually blend into creamed mixture. Stir in peanut butter chips. 
  4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. (Alternatively, roll into balls and place on cookie sheet.) 
  5. Bake for 8-9 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet until set, remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Yields: 4 ½ dozen
Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 9 minutes

Nutrition Facts
for 51 cookies, 126 calories each

Source (for original): unknown

 I always roll these, and many other cookies, into balls before baking. I just like the way it looks better than plopping some dough down on the cookie sheet. As you can see from the picture, it doesn't completely flatten out, but I think they look cute. And yummy. Always yummy.....

Be careful with cook time--I have noticed that, in my oven, cooking them the full 9 minutes makes them hard faster. 

So.... any suggestions on a name for these cookies?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Best No Bake Cookies

I'm sure everyone's heard of no bake cookies. Most people instantly envision those little cookies with chocolate, peanut butter, and oatmeal. (Sometimes butterscotch, but I don't like to think about those--it just seems sacrilegious to take something that could be made in chocolate and NOT make it that way.) I don't know anyone that has never heard of them--and even for those who don't cook, I see these things at gas stations all the time.

Unfortunately, while most people are aware of no bake cookies, most recipes are the same; which means that most are fairly dry and contain wayyyy too much oatmeal. (Unlike chocolate chip cookies, where there is an infinite amount of variations.) This recipe, however, has some slight variations that make a huge difference. (More peanut butter, less oatmeal.)

I have never had any no bakes that were as good as my mama's....without following the same recipe she does. (And I am not just saying that to flatter her; she doesn't read my blog.) She has made them this way for as long as I can remember; and I much prefer them this way! (I usually get compliments from peopl
e who've never had them like this before, too.)

Remember, comments are loved! What's your favorite type of no-bake cookie?

Printable Recipe
No Bake Cookies

  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons cocoa
  • ¼ Cup margarine
  • ½ Cup Milk
  • ¾ Cup peanut butter (can use crunchy for extra texture)
  • 2 to 2 ½ cups oatmeal
  1. Mix cocoa and sugar, set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan; add milk. Add sugar mixture, stir well. Bring to a rolling boil. 
  3. Boil for one minute, then remove from heat.
  4. Quickly add oatmeal and peanut butter, stirring well. Spoon onto wax paper to cool.
Approx 2 ½ dozen
20 minutes

Nutrition Facts *I calculate nutrition facts for reference only, this is not done scientifically
134 cal each (for 28 cookies)

Source (for original): my mama. (I have NO idea where she originally got the recipe from.)

When I have compared this recipe to others that I have seen (even doing a quick Google search), most call for decreased amounts of peanut butter (usually 1/2 cup) and increased amounts of oatmeal (3 cups). It's really all down to personal preference, but if you've never had them this way, I would recommend you at least try it! These are much creamier and more smooth than many I've seen.

However, a little bit of advice: 

In the years I have been making these, I have learned that the recipe is actually quite particular. For example, Skippy peanut butter does not work with this. I don't know why it happened, but the one time I tried to use that, it ruined a batch. (Think instant hardening.) The batch may have been salvagable, but I seriously needed some chocolate at the time and I was so mad I just threw it all away and started over with Jiff. Jiff, or the Meijer/Spartan brands of Jiff work just fine. (Like I noted in the ingredient list, you can use crunchy peanut butter. It gives it extra texture and a fun change. I personally am not fond of doing it that way, but my in-law's like it.)

Also, using odd brands of butter/margarine don't seem to give it the same texture/consistency. I've tried a few, but at this point I just stick with Country Crock or Imperial margarine. 

The amount of oatmeal changes with personal preference. I add just over 2 cups (one cup, then one heaping cup); that seems to be the preference for my family.


That was my breakfast the morning I made these last.

Go on, admit it. You're jealous.

(Just please don't tell my mother that I am still cleaning out the bowl and eating no bake cookies by the spoonful for breakfast when I make them, even as an adult... )

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Garlic Cheese Rolls (Product of my Environment)

I was blessed to be raised by an excellent cook. Not only that, but I grew up next to my grandparents, who are both excellent cooks. (Grandpa's more the fried turtle kinda cook, but still.)

That being said, I grew up thinking that good cooks could just throw things in pans without measuring and *VOILA* yummy food magically appears! I am so thankful to have a patient and encouraging husband, because it doesn't always work like that with me. (You cannot convince me that it doesn't always work like that with Mama & Grandma. Maybe by the time I am a Grandma I will have that down...) 

So, with that background, and being a product of my environment, when I saw a blog post about making Garlic Cheese Rolls with no real instructions, my response was to shrug and go "eh, I can make it work." 

I did make sure to write down everything I did--if it works out, it's no fun if you can't make it again! I will admit to being slightly surprised that it worked out as well as it did.... maybe I am actually on my way to being as amazing as Mama & Grandma.

Garlic Cheese Rolls

  • 2 ¾ - 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour       
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast  
  • ¼ teaspoon salt   
  • 1 cup warm water (120°-130°)   
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons garlic 
  • Additional herbs/seasonings, optional
  • 2 cups cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, or colby jack)  (I did mozzarella on the inside, with cheddar on top; ran of of mozz.)
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ¼ cups flour, yeast, and salt; add water and oil. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds; then scrape bowl. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Knead in another 1 ½ cups flour; adding up to 2 cups if needed. Knead for 6-8 minutes, to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Cover, let rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, beat together butter and garlic, adding additional seasonings as desired.
  3. Roll dough out into large rectangle (approximately 24”x12”). Spread garlic butter to within 1” of edge. (Distribute as evenly as possible.) Sprinkle with 1 ½ cups desired cheese. Roll up jelly-roll style.
  4. Slice into 12-14 rolls, then place in greased 9”x13” pan (or 2 8” cake pans). Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°.
  6. Place pan(s) on center rack, bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool.
12-14 rolls
1 ½ hours

Nutrition Facts
294 calories (12 roll batch)

Before you go mimicking this recipe line for line, remember that this is the first time I made this, and I was basically making things up as I go. (Aside from the dough; I got that from Better Homes & Garden Cookbook.) There are most definitely changes to be made for next time.

As you can see by the picture, I made mine in 2 8" cake pans. I recommend against that; I think it would work better in a 9"x13" pan.They would probably be prettier, and easier to get out.

I added WAY too much butter as first. (As in, drain some off partway through baking. Yeah, it's gross.)  Start with 3/4 cup. For the sake of your arteries. Although, when you have that much butter, I don't know if another 1/4 cup is really going to make a difference... 

To make the garlic butter spread evenly, it may even be easier to have the butter actually melted. I am debating on if I am going to do that next time....

I also have a serious love affair with garlic. Well, I say affair, but my husband is aware and is encouraging it; does that count as an affair? However, if you aren't as much as a garlic fan as I, then you may want to decrease to 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons.
Speaking of love affairs.... I love cheese slightly less than I love my husband. (Most days.) Take that into consideration when I suggest adding another half to one cup cheese.

I got the (rough) idea for this from Raptor Toe.

 If you try these, please please please leave a comment! I would LOVE to hear your input/variation!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Green Chili Enchilada Bake... and my secret confession

I have a confession.

I am afraid of enchilada sauce.

There, I said it. Go ahead, laugh. Get it out of your system.


Done? Good.

Now, to explain: I was always a picky eater growing up. If you've met my parents/grandparents, you'll realize that it's almost impressive that I managed to stay a picky eater. I have been working to rectify that & broaden my horizons, but some things I just can't get over.

Like enchilada sauce, beans, & salsa. All three of which are in this recipe.

(It's not like I don't like enchiladas. I love enchiladas. It just happens that my recipe for enchiladas does not require enchilada sauce....which is pure coincidence.)

Salsa I can explain: I don't like to just eat tomatoes.  Have them in something? Sure, as long as it's not the dominant flavor. Just have salsa & chips? Blech. I don't even like to watch Nate eat it. (But being the good wife I am, I still buy salsa & chips for him. See? Don't I get good wife points? ) 

Beans actually make sense. I have yet to find a type of beans that I like the texture of. (I am, of course, not referring to green/yellow beans. Those things are delicious, especially fresh and raw.)

Enchilada sauce isn't so easily explainable. Before I bought it for this, I couldn't even tell you what's in the stuff; I just knew that it's not something I would like. (Then I read the side of the can today, and decided maybe I was better off NOT eating the stuff...) However, if I am going to broaden my horizons, expand my cooking skills, blah blah blah, I need to try it.


So, I made this recipe.... cut in half. (Which is actually a very good tip: if you have serious doubts about liking the dish, cut the recipe down the first time you make it. That way, if you have to pitch most of the pan, it's not a large pan.)

Green Chili Enchilada Bake

  • 1 cup mild green enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • ¾ cup salsa verde, mild
  • 12 white corn tortillas broken into 1” pieces
  • 2 cups cooked chicken or turkey breast
  • 15 ounces black beans, drained
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips (optional)
  • Extra salsa (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9”x13” baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Place enchilada sauce, sour cream and salsa into prepared baking sheet. Stir until well combined.
  3. Stir in broken tortillas, chicken or turkey and black beans. Stir to combine and top evenly with cheese.
  4. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until cheese is hot and melted. Serve with chips and salsa if desired.

12 servings
30 minutes

Nutrition Facts
194 per serving

Source (for original): Picky Palate

 I, of course, did not add the beans. Maybe I will be more adventurous next time.


No, seriously. Beans are gross. Maybe if I know I am not going to have to eat the dish, I will add some for Nate.

Aside from cutting it in half (and baking in an 8"x8" pan), that was the only change I made. We all liked this well enough, and I will probably make it again. It does have a strong enchilada sauce/salsa flavor, but I think I can get over that. I surprisingly liked it better reheated. (Odd.)

I am going to try making my own enchilada sauce--really, have you read the ingredient list on the cans of that stuff?? I found a recipe on one of the blogs that I follow, but anyone else have recommendations?

As always, comment & let me know if you try this! (Or even if you just feel like commenting!)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No-Knead Bread

The boys & I love bread. Love bread as in eat-an-entire-loaf-of-homemade-bread-in-one-day love bread. That being said, I tend to go through cycles with my homemade bread making. I'll use about 1/4 jar yeast, then stop for a couple of months, then go through another 1/4 jar... then I have to pitch the remainder of the jar, because it's been wayyyy too long since I opened that jar and I am sure the yeast is dead. (Although, I did just discover there is a way to test  yeast, aside from well-that-loaf-is-ruined. Definitely trying that next time...)

However, around the first of the year, I made a goal: No more wasted yeast! I would use my jars of yeast within the recommended 3 months. So far, I have been doing pretty good! That means, of course, I have been making a LOT of bread. (Which keeps my husband happy!) I've been trying quite a few new bread recipes, and making many loaves of my favorite breads. With my Kitchen Aid and the dough attachment, I haven't even been shy about making breads requiring kneading! (I hate kneading. 10 minutes working out all my anger on the dough? Nope, bored after 5.) 

That being said, I was intrigued when I stumbled across Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, specifically their basic loaf Really? Yummy bread that created 4 loaves, I can make it over the course of 2 weeks (which means it's usually gone in one week, but whatever), and it doesn't require kneading? Yeah, I had to try that.

And boy, was Nate happy when I did!

No-Knead Artisan Bread

  • 3 to 3 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated yeast
  • 1 tablespoons Salt
  • 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  1. Pour 3 cups water into a large bowl with lid; add yeast and salt. Add in flour; stir until incorporated into the dough. Dough will be very wet; if it appears dry add up to ½ cup water.
  2. Place the lid lightly onto the container-do not close completely! Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours to rise.
  3. After 2 hour rise, dough can be used right away but is best to use refrigerated. May be kept for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
  4. When ready to use the dough, dust hands with flour. Pull out a one-pound piece of dough and form into a ball. Let dough rest for 40-90 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450° with a cast iron pan (or baking stone) on the center rack, with a metal pan on the bottom.
  6. Cut ¼” slices into the loaf. Place loaf on parchment paper, then slide onto cast iron pan. Add hot water to the metal pan. Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then remove the parchment paper. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until deep brown color.
  7. Place loaf on cooling rack; do not cut until it reaches room temp.
4 loaves
5 ½ hours


Now, the recipe above is obtained from the source listed, HOWEVER: I re-typed this to put in my recipe book, which means I made it easy for ME to follow, with my own comments and preferences. I would definitely recommend checking out the original site; they have some great tips. I don't include all the tips in my recipes because they either 1) are not something I care about (amount of salt, for example) or 2) are common sense to me (using an oven thermometer). 
(And, shockingly, I just had to type this to put in my recipe book. I know that I just made that book, but I couldn't believe that I hadn't put this in. Oops!)  

One difference between my format/recipe and theirs that is worth pointing out: amount of water. I almost always use slightly more water than the recipe calls for, thus the 3 1/2 cups vs 3. My guess would be because I measure my flour vs weigh it, which is less exact; but really I can't say for sure.  

This recipe does make 4 loaves, but the longer it sits in the fridge the more sourdough taste it has. (I've made a couple loaves right at the end of the 2 weeks, and it definitely tastes more like sourdough than the first loaves.)   

Also, this bread does NOT last long uneaten--and I mean that in 2 ways! One, if it's sitting on the counter, it will very likely be eaten right away. Two, if for some reason it doesn't, it gets stale FAST. Fair warning. 

This is also bread that can -hypothetically- be made in the crock pot. However, when I tried, it did NOT work. My guess, judging from others' comments, is that my crock pot doesn't get hot enough. That's not a surprise, since I have a not-so-great crock pot, but I was still disappointed. If you have a nice crock pot, you should definitely give it a try! (Basically, put the prepped loaf in the crock pot on high for one hour, then broil for 5 minutes.)

Happy baking! Leave a comment letting me know if you try this!