Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Bacon Layer Pie – Oh My!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bacon Layer Pie

Normally, I am the most organized individual when it comes to any type of hosting function, especially holidays where there is an array of food involved. This Thanksgiving is not that case. Lack of detail on where we’re physically going to be this turkey day has thrown a metaphorical wrench into my usually, quite perfect if I do say so myself, day.

So if you’re like me (this one-time-only) and haven’t the slightest clue what you’re going to make aside from the turkey, might I recommend one of the greatest desserts you’ll ever stuff into your mouth. It’s not pumpkin. It’s not pecan. But Lordy, it’s delicious and will surprise the heck out of your guests!

Bacon Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Modified from the Milwaukee State Fair winning recipe by Lora Pelzak

Ingredients
½ package of bacon (fried and chopped into bits)
1-2 Bananas – sliced
1 Pie crust (scratch or box!)

Chocolate Sauce
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 Bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp butter (softened)
1 tsp vanilla

Peanut Butter Filling
1 Package (8 oz) cream cheese (softened)
1 Cup creamy peanut butter
½ Cup sugar
1 Container of Cool-Whip

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Press your pie crust firmly against your pie pan, using a knife to frill your pie crust edges. Bake pie crust for 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Set aside to cool while you make your pie filling.

In a small saucepan, heat evaporated milk, chocolate chips and ½ cup of sugar to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from stove top and stir in your butter and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer and mix together softened cream cheese, your remaining sugar and creamy peanut butter. Stir in Cool-whip until completely combined.

Pour all but a few Tablespoons of your chocolate sauce on the bottom of your baked pie crust. Slice bananas and place them evenly over the chocolate sauce. Cover with your peanut butter filling. Drizzle the remaining chocolate sauce on top of the peanut butter filling, creating a fun design. Refrigerate until ready to serve and when ready, sprinkle bacon bits a top of your pie. Serve with MUCH milk. You’re going to need it!
Note: The original recipe calls for two layers of bacon—one on the bottom and one on the top. I personally believe your bacon becomes chewy and blah when left between the sauces like that, and since I like my bacon hot and crispy, I reserved the whole lot for the very top!

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Sinful Alert! – The Ultimate Colossal Twice Baked Potato

Twice Baked Potato

OK, so this isn’t the healthiest thing I’ve ever made, but lordy, it sure hit the spot… for everyone!

This is going to sound anti-Iowan, heck, anti-American, but Kevin and I just don’t make/eat potatoes like we used to. Generally, we eat fairly healthy, and in today’s society, consuming anything potato related has unfortunately become condemned. But being the meat and potatoes kinda folks that we are, every once in a while, you just want a damn potato! So sorry gluten-free, dairy-adverse, paleo consuming cross-fit nuts—this recipe just isn’t for you. But, if you’re a classic American that is ready to put on their elastic-band stretchy pants and devour a ton of dairy and carbs, even if it’s just for the night, please read on!

The Ultimate Colossal Twice Baked Potato 

Ingredients
4 Colossal sized Russet potatoes
2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts (cooked and chopped)
1 Cup sour cream
4 Tbsp. butter (half a stick, slightly melted)
1 Package of bacon (fried and chopped)
2 Tbsp. Chives (chopped)
1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Word of note before beginning. There are two ways to cook your potato. Mircrowave and conventional oven. Since I personally prefer the oven (One, because it tastes better and Two, because I’m not much of a microwave fan to begin with) that is the route I am taking. But, if you’re pressed for time (because these big bad boys will take time in the oven) feel free to zap them if you prefer.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Scrub your potatoes clean, free of dirt, and use a knife to poke various holes in them. Wrap each with tin foil and  place them on a baking sheet. Place your wrapped potatoes in your preheated oven and bake for a good two hours, turning them over every half hour or so. If you are using smaller potatoes, make sure to decrease your baking time.

After your time has passed, pull your potatoes out, and with oven mits on (because they will be hot!) lightly squish your potato to check for doneness. Your potato should give a bit and should feel soft. If your potato is done, unwrap them from the tinfoil and using your knife, cut a slit the length of the potato (but do not cut it in half!) Scoop out the majority of the white fluffy insides of the potato, adding it to a mixing bowl. Keep your potato shell (the skin) intact as you will be using it later. Once all of the white potato insides have been transferred to the bowl, lightly mash in your butter, sour cream and salt and pepper. Whip until you have a nice consistency. Gently spoon the contents back into the potato skin shells and place the potatoes back into the oven for ten more minutes.

After your potato has been twice baked, remove it and add atop all of your fixins! You can really use whatever you want but we were simply craving the classics! Serve hot and with stretchy pants on. Don’t feel guilty about this wonderful meal—everyone, even health nuts, deserve a splurge every once and awhile!

Royally, The Cutest Halloween Cookies Ever

Halloween Sugar Cookies

My entire life I’ve been in love with the way Royal icing makes a cookie look. A Royal Iced cookie looks like something straight out of a Martha Stewart Living or BHG magazine. I’ve yearned to perfect this look, telling myself that one day, someday, I’ll be of the Royal Iced caliber. Most bakers in the making settle for the basic cream cheese and buttercream recipes—the kind your mom teaches you to make right before you lick the spoon. Sorry mom, but as wonderful as your buttercream recipes are, I was meant for more. I was meant to be Royal!

I’ll be honest, Royal Icing isn’t the easiest method of icing cookies. In fact, it’s a Royal pain in the butt. But even though my mother raised me on buttercream and spoon licks, she also raised me not to be a quitter. I will perfect my icing recipe. I will pipe the perfect pipe. I will flood the perfect flood. So help me God, I will create the perfect cookie!

To achieve the ghost and candy-corn cookies you see in the above photos, you will need five things:

A Candy-Corn Cookie Cutter
A Tulip Cookie Cutter (you heard me right!)
Black Gel for Ghost Face
Red and Yellow food coloring (for the candy-corn’s yellow and orange stripes)
A Sugar Cookie Recipe and its ingredients (Here is one I recommend if you do not have your own)
A Royal Icing Recipe and its ingredients  (Here is one I recommend if you do not have your own)

Follow the suggested recipes as instructed and viola—the cutest (and happiest) Halloween cookies you’ve ever made!

Delicious Cheez-It Crusted Chicken

Cheez-It Chicken

We make a lot of chicken at our house. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. So I’m always attempting new recipes I find and trying my hand at creating something new. This recipe was inspired by the tail-end of a box of Cheez-Its. Instead of licking my fingers to dab out the leftover crumbs from the bottom of the box, I decided to keep my dignity and turn the cheddar bits into a delicious breading. So I licked my last handful of addictive cracker dust and headed for the kitchen:

Cheez-It Chicken

Ingredients

2 Cup crushed cheddar cracker crumbs (I used Cheez-Its, crushed in a food processor)
4-5 Skinless chicken breasts
1 Cup milk
1 egg
Cooking Oil
1 zip lock bag (shake and bake, baby!)

Begin by heating your cooking oil (either in a fryer or deep frying pan) on medium heat.

In a shallow dish, mix your egg and your milk. Coat chicken breasts until moist as this will help the Cheez-It mixture to stick to the chicken. Add your Cheez-It crumbs to the zip-lock bag and, one breast at a time, shake until the breast is evenly coated in cracker crumbs. Transfer chicken, carefully, to your pre-heated frying pan. Fry for 6-7 minutes, flip and cook for another 6-7 minutes on the other side. Your chicken breasts will need to reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees.)

Remove fried chicken to a paper-towel covered plate to remove excess oil. Serve and enjoy!

*Helpful Hint: If you feel the outside of your chicken is cooking to fast, refrain from burning your breading and move chicken breasts to an oven dish and cook chicken the remainder of the way through in your oven on 375.

Savory & Simple Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

My crock-pot is my handy little friend that I sometimes forget I even have. There she sits, tucked away in the pantry, waiting for me to pull her out and let her do the hard work for me. What’s even better, she actually wants to do the work for me. I just need to remember to get her out every now and again!

When I know in advance I have a long work day coming up, maybe it’s a late scheduled meeting or I’m traveling towards the end of the day, I do try to plan ahead and use this handy little cooking device. It’s so much better to come home to an already prepared and cooked meal opposed to start my cooking process so late in the evening.

Anything egg noodle is my favorite item to put in the crock-pot. Soups. Casseroles. Bakes. I love egg noodles. So when I found myself with a bunch of brown beech mushrooms from my organic delivery box, a bag of egg noodles and a 5pm downtown meeting on the books, I knew I had the perfect trifecta for beef stroganoff. You also need wine and beef—but when don’t I have those?!

Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients
2 Tbsp cooking oil (I use olive)
1 carton of sliced mushrooms (I used brown beech mushrooms to try something fun!)
1 yellow onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1-2 lb sirloin, cut into fine strips
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 small jar tomato paste
¼ cup plain greek yogurt (sour cream works too!)
½ cup fresh parsley

1 bag egg noodles, cooked

On medium heat, warm your olive oil in a skillet. Add mushrooms, onions and the garlic and cook until onions are translucent and mushrooms start to brown. Stir in 1 Tbsp of the flour, coating the vegetables. Stir in your cup of wine and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half. While your wine is simmering, coat your sliced sirloin in the other 1 Tbsp of flour and toss to coat, adding it to your crock-pot. When your wine has reduced to about half (4-5 minutes) move those contents to the crock-pot as well. Stir in your beef stock and tomato paste, mixing well. Cook for 5-6 hours on low. When ready to eat, add in your yogurt and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked egg noodles. Enjoy.

Traditional Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed cabbage Rolls

Now that Kevin and I are on a health kick (and by health kick I mean we’ve successfully gone two full days without an abundance of dairy and carbs) I’ve been searching for good-for-you yet appealing dinner recipes. Now, if I were cooking just for me, that wouldn’t be a problem but if Kevin so much as even assumes the recipe isn’t heavily loaded with “Me a man, me need meat” protein, he won’t even consider it.

So here I am. I need healthy dish and one that’s full of meat. I’ve done stuffed peppers. I’ve done wraps. I look in the fridge and there it is. An organic head of cabbage staring me in the face. Viola. Stuffed cabbage rolls.

I looked through a few recipes, and for this most part, the ingredients and  for this polish dish (Gołąbki or Galumpkis) were very similar. I did see you can make this in a slow cooker as well. Here is the recipe I whipped together, adapted from Whole Eats and Whole Treats, using her great aunt’s cookbook.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

IngredientsStuffed Cabbage Rolls
1 Head cabbage
1 pound ground beef (I used ground turkey, health kick remember?!)
1 chopped onion
½ cup uncooked brown rice (or quinoa)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (2 tsp dried)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 egg
1 can plain tomato sauce
1 cup canned tomato chunks
1/2 cup grated Colby cheese, optional

Boil one large pot of water (the pot will need to be big enough to fit your head of cabbage.) Once boiling, add your head of cabbage and continue boiling for about 25 minutes. Carefully remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes so you are able to handle.

While you are working the cabbage, brown the beef and onion. In a bowl, mix the rice, salt, pepper, parsley and egg.

When your mixture is ready and your cabbage has cooled, carefully remove 10-15 leaves. Using a knife, cut out the thickest stalk part of the center rib from each leaf, about 1 to 2 inches. It will look as though you cut out a “V” from each leaf. Divide the meat mixture between the leaves and roll up, tucking in the ends so the filling stays put. Place the rolls in a greased casserole dish.

Pour the tomato sauce and tomato chunks over the rolls. Cover with either a lid or tin foil and bake at 350 for about an hour and a half. If adding cheese, remove foil and sprinkle on top and place back in the oven for an additional five minutes. Let set a few minutes before serving.

I’m not sure what they drink in Poland, but pair this with your favorite red and you’ll be all set. Enjoy!

Dish Up Fall – Butternut Squash Stuffed Pasta Shells with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Stuffed Pasta Shells

I love fall. I mean seriously, love fall. It’s one of the biggest things I miss about the Midwest. Living in California, the closest I come to experiencing a real Autumn is putting on a pair of cognac riding boots and ordering a pumpkin Spice latte from Starbucks. Around here, you have to make your own fall, so riding boots on and PSL in hand, I did exactly that. I made fall.

I have been craving a butternut squash something (anything!) so went ahead and purchased a big ol squash on my weekly run to Trader Joe’s. After a few days of the vegetable just sitting there, staring at me in the kitchen, I knew I had to put its sweet, buttery insides to use. But what to make?

I really wanted ravioli. I used to work at Biaggi’s Italian Restaurant back in the day and was completely craving their recipe. But let’s be honest. Ravioli? I mean, homemade ravioli? Yeah right. What am I, Barefoot Contessa? I needed a simpler recipe. So I did what I do best and always do—I improvised.

Butternut Squash Shellsbutternut shells2

½ box large pasta shells – cooked
1 large butternut squash
¼ cup cream (milk will work too)
Dash of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut your squash in half (the long way) and remove all seeds and, technically speaking, the stringy gunk stuff. Brush the flesh side of the squash halves with coconut oil (or olive oil) and place face down on a greased baking tray for 1 hour or until squash is tender.

When your squash is ready, remove it from oven and transfer the inside of the squash to a mixing bowl—careful, the squash will be hot! Discard the squash skin. In the mixing box, add in the nutmeg, salt and pepper and cream. Mash the ingredients together until you have a mashed potato like consistency. Spoon the mashed squash into your cooked pasta shells.

Brown Butter Sage Sauce

One note I must add before you plan to make this amazing sauce, you may have trouble finding fresh (or even dried) sage leaves. I live in San Diego, and even I had trouble. Just use dried sage if you can’t find fresh leaves—I did. Also, my recipe calls for walnuts but if you look at my picture, I obviously used pecans. Use walnuts if you have them—I just didn’t feel like making another trip to the store!

8 Tbsp butter
10 fresh sage leaves (cough… 1 Tbsp dried sage)
½ cup of walnuts

With your stove top on love, melt your butter in a saucepan. Once melted, add in your sage and walnuts, stirring occasionally, until your butter starts to give off a nice brown color. Pour over your butternut squash shells and serve. Your autumn craving guests, Midwesterners and Californians alike, will be sure to ask for seconds. Bon appetite!