Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Cozy Recipe: Carrot Cake Balls

This recipe is so super simple!  It starts with a simple box mix, and ends up as a delicious ball of ooey gooey carrot cake goodness!  I highly encourage everyone to try these!  I should state that this recipe can actually be made with any combination of cake mix and icing that you care to use.  

Cake Balls
1 box mix (plus oil, eggs, and water as directed on box)
1 can icing (the regular, smaller size)
1 package almond bark (white or chocolate, depending on taste)

Start with a box mix.  Bake it as directed.  Let it cool completely.  Then, crumble it up into a large bowl. It should look like something you'd sprinkle on top of a coffee cake.  Add a can (the regular size) of icing.  With the carrot cake, I used cream cheese icing.  Mix it really well.  It will be mushy (and super yummy).  Roll the mixture into small 1-2 inch balls.  You can make them as big or as small as you'd like, but 1-2 inches seems to be the perfect size.  This size allows for approximately 40 balls.  As you roll them, place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.  Freeze them for a few hours.  I baked my cake one day.  Rolled them into balls the next day.  I dipped them on the third day.  When you are ready to dip them, melt a package of almond bark.  I added a few tablespoons of solid shortening to thing it out a bit.  I have found the easiest way to dip the cake balls is to put one on a fork, then roll it around in the melted chocolate.  Roll it back onto the parchment paper.  After you've dipped all the cake balls, let them sit for a bit to harden.  It doesn't take too long.  By the time you've dipped them all, the first ones should be ready to eat.  Try not to eat too many before you dip them... or while you dip them.  It really does take some serious will power ... of which I have very little.  If you have any left, these are great to take to potluck dinners or family holidays.  They can be made ahead of time and don't require reheating or refrigerating.  

Enjoy these cozy, delicious little morsels!  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Cozy Recipe: Spiced Cranberry Sauce

This year I decided to try making my own cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving.  I was so pleased with the response that I made it again for Christmas.  I originally found this recipe on the Better Homes and Gardens website.  I think it may be a new tradition for me!  This recipe uses the perfect blend of Pinot Noir, cinnamon sticks, and cranberries.  It is delicious!

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
1 cup Pinot Noir wine (or 3/4 cup grape juice and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar)
1 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
1 3-4 inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups fresh cranberries (1 bag)

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, sugar, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and salt.  Bring to boiling.  Add cranberries.  Bring to boiling again.  Reduce heat.  Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.  Cool to room temperature (about 2 hours).  Remove and discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick.  This recipe is enough to serve a large family dinner.  If needed, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to five days.  However, I suggest making this with your family in the house with you.  It smells wonderful and makes the house smell so cozy!

Menu Mondays - December 20

I'm a day late in posting this.  I don't really have a menu to post this week.  I'm out of town visiting family, so I won't be planning a full menu.  However, I will be making two recipes this week that I'll be sharing.  I'll finish up some carrot cake balls tonight and I'll be making biscotti tomorrow.  I'm thinking raspberry almond ... yummy.

As an update... last week I said that I would be posting recipes from my menu.  I'm still working on that.  I should be able to get the cranberry sauce recipe posted soon.  I made the lasagna and took pictures.  However, I want to modify the recipe before posting it.  I liked it, but I'd like to add more cheese and spices.  It needed a little extra something ...  Hopefully I'll get a chance to make it again soon and I can get it posted.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Mondays - December 13

What's your menu for the week?  I'm going to be doing some holiday baking this week (finally!).  I'm planning on trying the Almond Roca recipe from Tasty Kitchen.  I'm planning on giving batches to my principal and our secretary for Christmas.  Tomorrow night, I'll be making the classic lasagna from the Better Homes and Gardens Pink Plaid Cookbook.  Super excited!

Here's my dinner menu for the week...

Monday - Leftovers for me and the little man
Tuesday - Lasagna and Caesar Salad
Wednesday - Soup dinner at a friend's house - I'll be making Cheesy Pull Apart Bread from Mommy's Kitchen.
Thursday - Marinated chicken and green beans and cheesy rice
Friday - dinner on the run as we'll be headed out of town
Saturday - Family dinner with the in-laws - I'll be making another batch of Almond Roca and Cranberry Sauce (recipes to come)
Sunday - We'll still be out of town with family (for the next two weeks actually).  I might run and pick up the stuff for Italian Roasted Potatoes while we're there.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Cozy Recipe: Easy Deviled Eggs

So many recipes for deviled eggs have a long list of ingredients.  They're all yummy and usually not too difficult to make.  However, when feeding picky eaters, less is usually best.  I made these for a Christmas party last night.  When I told the girls what I was bringing, I heard questions such as, "Do you put onions in your eggs?" or "I don't like too much mayonnaise.  Do you put more mayonnaise or mustard?"  Deviled eggs seem to be something lots of people have an opinion about.

I don't remember where I originally found this recipe.  It's the first deviled egg recipe I tried and I still use it.  I never have any left over at the end of the night and I always receive many compliments.  It's the perfect combination of mayonnaise and mustard with no fussy ingredients.  You're sure to love them!

Easy Deviled Eggs
12 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup mustard 
paprika to sprinkle

Hard boil the eggs and then let cool long enough to be able to handle them.  Peel the eggs.  Cut in half lengthwise and scoop the yolks into a bowl.  I like to rinse the whites after I scoop everything out.  If you do this, make sure there is no excess water left in them before you add the yolk mixture.  Use a fork to mash the yolks until they will be able to be easily mixed.  Add the mayonnaise and mustard.  I like to add a little paprika into this part as well.  It adds a little color and texture.  Scoop the mixture into a pastry bag.  Use any tip that you like, just make sure the opening is wide enough to allow any chunks to fit through.  Fill each white using whatever method or pattern that you like.  Sometimes I try a spiral pattern.  Sometimes I fill them like a mountain, leaving a peak at the top.  This particular mixture is not as thick as some, so it may not stand up in a design without running together.  Once filled, sprinkle a little paprika on the top of each one.  I pour some into my hand and then use my fingers to sprinkle.  It helps to keep it off the whites and the plate.


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A Cozy Novel: Mistletoe Murder

Lucy Stone is a typical mom.  But when she discovers Sam Miller dead in his car in the parking lot at Country Cousins, she takes on the new role of detective.  Mistletoe Murder introduces a delightful cast of characters in a delightful cozy series.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  For some reason, I've been putting it off for quite some time.  Our book club decided to read it this month and I'm so glad we did!  

Lucy Stone and the entire Stone family are just fabulous.  I love that I can really relate to the main character.  She's a working mom, but still manages to fit in time to bake cookies and clean house.  Her husband Bill is a great father.  I particularly loved the comment about having "lots" of quality time with the children and both parents being ready to have a drink together.  As a mom, I've had that exact feeling more than once.  Lucy was scared at the right times and bold at the right times.  She seemed very real to me.

My only criticism of the story is that I found the ending to be slightly anticlimactic.  I won't give away any spoilers, but it was so carefully thought out, that it was almost boring.  There was no danger, no fight, no suspense.  The ending was cozy, just like the rest of the novel.  While this is not a complaint for 95% of the book, the ending could have packed a little more punch.

This series is full of holiday themes.  It would take years for me to read all of them if I waited until the corresponding holiday.  The next book is Tippy Toe Murder and I plan to read it as soon as possible!  I think I have found a new series!

Mistletoe Murder
by Leslie Meier
Rating: 4/5 stars

A Cozy Recipe: Sopapilla Cheesecake

Yummy!  My hands smelled like cinnamon after baking this.  Garrett and I recently attended a HOOT OWLS dinner, a monthly dinner playdate for moms and their children.  Our friend Mariana hosted and chose a Mexican theme.  She made green chicken chili enchiladas and they were delicious!  I wanted to take something that I could make the night before and not worry about having to heat up the next day.  This delicious sopapilla cheesecake was the perfect choice!

Sopapilla Cheesecake

2 cans crescent dough (use the 8 count size)
3 blocks cream cheese (8oz. each)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter
additional 1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Spread one can of crescent dough on bottom of a 9x13 pan. Leave the triangles attached to form one long rectangle. You can either microwave or heat the cream cheese on the stove to soften. I prefer the stove. Melt it just enough to stir easily. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well and then spread over dough in pan. Add second can of crescent dough on top of the filling. Melt the butter. Spread butter over dough. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of sugar. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Let cool and then chill in refrigerator overnight. Enjoy!

A Cozy Cookbook: The Pink Plaid Cookbook

No collection of cookbooks is complete without the classic Better Homes and Gardens Red Plaid Cookbook.  My mother gave this to me as a wedding present and I have used it numerous times since then. She gave me the pink version, which includes a special "Eating for Life" section.  Filled with classic recipes, you are sure to find what you need in this book!  And that plaid cover ... doesn't it just look homey?

Recommended Recipes
Chicken and Dumplings

A Cozy Recipe: Puppy Chow

Puppy Chow has become a holiday staple in my family.  My aunt has been making it for several years.  She would give a bowl of it to each family at Christmas.  Now, it's one of the things I use for food gifts.  However, be forewarned.  It is incredibly easy to eat an entire bowl by yourself!  You'll grab a handful each time you walk by and, before you know it, the entire bowl is gone!  It is addicting.  

Puppy Chow
1 box rice Chex cereal
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or almond extract)
1/4 cup butter
1-2 cups powdered sugar (just eyeball it)

In a saucepan, melt peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butter.  You can also use the microwave, but I've found the stove melts it through a little better.  After it's melted and mixed (completely smooth), add the vanilla.  Pour the cereal into a large trashbag (kitchen trashcan size).  Pour the chocolate mixture into the bag.  Hold the top of the bag closed and shake until all of the cereal is completely coated.  I shook it but then also flipped the bag sideways (still closed tightly) and used my hand on the outside of the bag to move the cereal around.  After the cereal is coated, dump in the powdered sugar and shake it again.  Once you think everything is coated enough, dump it into a bowl and start eating!  

This recipe is plenty to take to a large gathering (10-12 people or so) or to make several gifts.  I suggest pairing it with a homemade hot chocolate mix and chocolate-dipped spoons.


Welcome to my cozy home!  Put on your softest, coziest jammies.  Find your fuzzy slippers.  Pour a cup of hot tea and stay awhile!

Stay cozy!
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