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Monday, December 27, 2010

Rio Rancho Taco Meat

One of the freezer meals I prepared was taco meat. I love tacos and this meat was soooo good. I'll never make plain old beef with taco seasoning again. That's the basis of this dish but so much more. I got this recipe out of the book Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer by Susie Martinez.

Rio Rancho Taco Meat

4 to 6 servings

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1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 cup mild salsa
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 1/2 t. brown sugar
1-4 oz can diced green chile's
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup water

Cooking Day Instructions

Brown onion and ground beef until no longer pink. Drain any excess grease. Add salsa, taco seasoning, brown sugar, green chile's, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir until well mixed. Add the water and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes until it has thickened. If it gets to thick add more water and adjust seasonings. Cool and freeze in meal size portions, using freezer bags.

Serving Day Instructions

Thaw meat in the fridge overnight or defrost in the microwave. I heated my in a skillet on the stove but you could probably microwave it. Serve with soft or hard tortilla shells and your favorite fixings. I love cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream. Salsa is good too.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Freezer Meals

Now I'm not talking about the freezer meals you get in the freezer section of your grocery store. I'm talking about homemade freezer meals. Lately I haven't been the best about cooking. I would rather bake and eat out. I decided I needed to do better and thought having meals ready to go would be ideal. To help me prepare for this I checked out some freezer meal cookbooks from the library. The one I liked the most was Once-a-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg. I found some really yummy looking recipes in this book. I also used Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, and Bonnie Garcia. One I didn't use initially and found later was The Everything Freezer Meals Cookbook by Candace Anderson. I will be using recipes out of this book in the future. I also used the Internet. These books are really nice because they all talk about how to get prepared, the different methods of freezing food, and they have really good recipes.

To prepare I picked out about 17 recipes and made a list of ingredients I would need. I then looked in my pantry and my spice cabinet to see what I had and what I needed. I was pleasantly surprised to find I had a lot of what I needed. The next time I do this I will look at the weekly ads to see what is for sale. Since I decided to do this kind of at the last minute I just went to Sam's Club, Aldi, and Walmart. Sam's Club is good for buying in bulk for a good price, Aldis has great prices, and Walmart is Walmart.

I had a weekend off a few weeks ago and decided to do it then. I went shopping on Friday and decided to do my cooking on Saturday. Some of the recipes I choose didn't need to be cooked before freezing. Like the Italian Beef, Beef Goulash, and Beef Stroganoff. I just had to put the meat in freezer bags with the ingredients that went with it and put them in the freezer. I did all that on Friday night. On Saturday I got up and started my cooking marathon. It took from 9am to 9pm but I made over 20 some meals up to freeze. They came in handy when I went to AZ and left my hubby at home to fend for himself.

I have only made a few of the meals and as I make them I will blog about them. I will by making more freezer meals in the future. It takes a whole day of cooking but having several meals already made and ready to heat up after a long day of work is priceless. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Whoopie Pies

My husband's birthday was a week ago today and when I asked him what kind of cake he wanted he said a giant Oreo cake. A few weeks before I had made homemade Oreos and he wanted me to make one big Oreo. I wasn't sure how to tackle that at the time and I told him about these whoopie pies I had seen on a food blog I read. I made him two huge pies and then the rest were smaller. He declared he liked them but that he prefers the Oreos. I myself favor these pies.

Whoopie Pies
as seen on Love and Olive Oil
makes two big pies and about 2 dozen small ones

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For the Batter:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used skim with great results)


1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/3 cups Marshmallow Fluff (I get the marshmallow fluff from Aldis and use the whole container)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet with butter spray. I like to use a silicone baking mat because my light color baking sheets burn everything. The baking mat prevents that and the cookies slide right off.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla until smooth. Add the egg, beat well. Add the cocoa and stir until combined.

3. Add the flour to the batter alternately with the milk, beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides and beat again briefly to combine the scraping to the batter.

4. Drop the batter onto the baking sheet using a 1/4 measuring cup or by a large cookie scoop. Leave plenty of room between each because they do spread.

5. Bake between 10-15 minutes until they are set and firm to the touch. Cool slightly remove from pan to wire rack or plate. Cool completely before frosting.

6. While the cookies bake make the frosting. In a mixing bowl beat together the butter, shortening, sugar, and marshmallow until well blended. Add vanilla and beat until smooth.

7. Try and put same size cookies together. Flip over half of the cookies. Spread or pipe frosting onto the flipped over cookies. Top each frosted cookie with an unfrosted cookie to make a sandwich. Place cookies in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Headed to Arizona and Cheesecake

Tomorrow I am headed to Arizona to visit my best friend Jessica and meet her two month old son Noah. I am really excited and really worried since we were hit by a blizzard in the past two days. I'm flying out of Midway and flights were coming and going so I am hopeful. I don't even mind a delay as long as I can leave tomorrow. The weather there has been in the 70's. Yesterday during our blizzard it was 85. Heat wave here I come.

For the past few months I have been in a baking mood. Baking for me is a form of therapy. It makes me happy and I like to share my creations with others. If I didn't I would weigh much more than I do now. I didn't have to work yesterday due to our blizzard so I baked all day. I made three different cookies and peanut butter fudge. The recipes will be coming shortly, I just have to upload my pictures from the camera. A job for my husband. Instead I'll talk about cheesecake.

What's not to love about cheesecake? With plain you can dress it up with so many incredible toppings. But I'm not picky when it comes to cheesecake I love all variations. I adapted the cheesecake recipe below from Bakerella. I love her. She will not steer you wrong.

Mini Cheesecakes (made your way)
adapted from Bakerella
makes about 12 mini cheesecakes

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1 sleeve cinnamon graham crackers, processed in a food processor to make crumbs or place in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush them
1 stick butter, melted

1. In a bowl mix together graham cracker crumbs and butter until moist.
2. Line a 9X13 pan with parchment paper making sure to have excess paper to lift the cheesecake out of the pan.
3. Press crumb mixture into pan.


3, 8 oz packages of softened cream cheese, light works good if you are trying to cut back on calories and fat
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream together cream cheese, sugar, and flour until light and fluffy.
3. On low add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg.
4. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until just combines.
5. Pour over graham cracker crust and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
6. Remove from oven and cool.
7. Once cool lift cheesecake from pan using the parchment paper.
8. Using a medium size round cookie cutter or basic shape cut out mini cheesecakes and place each on a cupcake liner. Save the scraps to eat or eat as you cut. I won't tell.

For toppings anything goes: I used cherry pie filling, Hershey caramel kisses, and caramel ice cream topping. I left a few plain.

For my co-workers birthday I used three different sized round cookie cutters to create this three layer mini cherry cheesecake. To help hold the top layer to the middle layer I stuck a decorative toothpick in it. I think it turned out pretty cute.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Balls

I have wanted to make cake balls for a long time and I'm not sure why I waited so long. They were very simple and tasted great. I had a family Christmas Lantern/Treat program at the library on Wednesday and I made these tasty morsels to serve while they made their treat jars. I want to try strawberry cake dipped in chocolate next.

Red Velvet Cake Balls
makes about 4 dozen

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1 box red velvet cake mix, (I'm sure if you wanted to make your cake from scratch that would be good too)
1 can cream cheese frosting
1 bag milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
wax paper

1. Prepare your cake according to the instructions on the box for a 9X13 pan. Once baked cool completely.

2. In a large bowl crumble the cake and mix in the can of frosting until incorporated. Use your hands if you dare.

3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls. I used my small cookie scoop and left the bottoms flat instead of rolling.

4. Put in the freezer to freeze. A half hour is
sufficient but I found that freezing overnight made dipping even easier.

5. In a microwave safe bowl melt the chocolate chips and oil in 30 second intervals until smooth.

6. Working in small batches dip one cake ball at a time and place on wax paper. Once all are dipped place back in freezer to harden the chocolate.

7. After a half hour check to make sure the chocolate is hard and then store in a container in the

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Caramel Chocolate Cookies

I love these cookies so I figured I would start with them. I am a huge fan of caramel and chocolate chip cookie dough. One of my favorite treats is to get a concrete mixer from Culver's with caramel and chocolate chip cookie dough mixed in. I knew I wanted to make something like that and starting with Hershey's chocolate chip cookie recipe I made some additions and subtractions to make this yummy cookie.

The first time I made this recipe I omitted one stick of butter for the caramel and didn't add any more flour than what the recipe called for. After baking them 8 minutes I discovered that they had spread out paper thin. While still tasty that was not what I was going for. So I added more flour to the dough and that stopped the cookies from spreading so much. I have also made these cookies with chocolate covered cookie dough bites that you can buy in the store. I then omitted some of the chocolate chips. They ended up being really good.

I favor milk chocolate chips in this recipe but I have made these cookies using white, dark, and semi-sweet chocolate chips, and all work well. The secret ingredient is caramel ice cream topping. To make these cookies over the top add a Hershey caramel kiss to each right when they come out of the oven. My husband, Will, calls them addictive and a co-worker of mine said they were sinful. She said it wasn't a compliment, but I totally take it as one. Sinful is good in my book when it comes to sweet treats. Now on to the recipe.

Caramel Chocolate Cookies

adapted from the recipe on the back of the Hershey's chocolate chip bag

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1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (any flavor is good)
Hershey caramel kisses, optional

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a mixing bowl cream together the butter, caramel, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs, beat well. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture until fully incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoons or by cookie scoop unto a ungreased baking pan.

3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. If using caramel kisses place one on top of each cookie. Cool slightly and remove from pan to a cookie rack or plate. If using teaspoon makes about 5 dozen. If using cookie scoop makes a little over 2 dozen.

Enjoy, and try not to eat all of them in one sitting.