Sunday, September 22, 2013

Perfect Crusty Bread

So I'd have to say that I consider myself somewhat of a carboholic.  I've really been trying, for quite some time now, to cut empty carbs out of my diet, and have been doing a great job!  Every so often though, I tend to fall off the bandwagon.  In my eyes, no one's perfect and I feel that as long as I don't go too far overboard, it should be ok. Lol.....

Fall is such a tease too, especially for carboholics, mostly due to the fact that it's the perfect time of year for opening windows and baking delectable goodies such as breads, pies, donuts, cakes, etc.  And of course, I naturally have a bunch of those recipes I want to try out!  I'll make them too, knowing that I'll have to be in the right mindset ahead of time in order to ensure that I will have the will power to stop myself from sampling.

I really can't believe that Fall is already here!  I'm therefore declaring that today officially commences my Fall baking.  The windows are already open, letting in fresh air, and I have a loaf of Jalapeno-Cheddar bread cooling on the counter which is spreading a delectable aroma throughout the house.  

This particular bread was so easy to make, and doesn't require any special electronic kitchen device, other than your own hand.  Another thing that I love about this recipe is the fact that I can add any ingredient to the basic crusty bread recipe that I want.  This time around I chose to add in some cheddar cheese, red pepper flakes, and fresh jalapeno peppers.  However, I can't wait to try out different options! 

This is a recipe that I definitely see myself making again and again!  In fact, my husband has already asked me to make another loaf.  Not only is it great to eat plain, but it is also perfect to make sandwiches with! 

Here's the basic recipe and feel free to add in ingredients of your choosing.....

Perfect Crusty Bread
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3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. rapid rise yeast
1 ½ cups water

In a large mixing bowl, add in and whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast (If adding additional ingredients, now would be the time to add those in.  I added in about 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 2 jalapenos - sliced and seeded, and about 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes).  Next, add the water and stir around with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough is formed.  Once ready, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (I love to use Glad Press and Seal) and let sit for 12-18 hours.  I let mine sit out overnight.

Once the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  After the oven is preheated, place a cast iron Dutch oven within and allow it to heat for 30 minutes. 
While the Dutch oven is preheating pour out the dough out onto a well-floured surface and shape into a ball. 

Place the plastic wrap back over the dough and allow it to sit for 30 minutes while the pot is heating.

After 30 minutes, remove the Dutch oven (be careful because it will be HOT) from the conventional oven and gently place the prepared dough into the pot.  Once this step is done, place the lid back on top, and put the pot back into the oven for another 30 minutes.  When the time has expired remove the lid from the Dutch oven, admire the bread, and let finish cooking, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Now, remove the bread from the pot and let cool completely on a wire rack. 

Source: Simply So Good

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies Stuffed with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Topped with Peanut Butter M&M's

Oh my goodness!!!  I'm not even sure that there's a word(s) good enough to describe these little round slices of heaven.  Sadly though, I can't take credit for creating this masterpiece, just baking it myself and passing it along.  I do find it hard to believe though, that I've never thought up this recipe before; especially seeing I've recently stumbled upon Oreo stuffed cookies, and S'mores stuffed cookies.  This whole concept of hidden treasures within cookies has been right in front of me for months now!  On a random side note, I need to attempt making those two cookies, they sound fantastic!

Anyway.....enough of the mind wandering.....let's get back to these little round slices of heaven.  I mean really, these cookies are dessert perfection!  First of all, you start with mouth-watering chocolate chip cookie dough (try not to eat too much during the baking process), then you add in a mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, top that with another layer of the same delectable chocolate chip cookie dough, and lastly, add on some delicious Peanut Butter M&M's.......My mouth is watering just thinking about it!  So grab a glass of milk, turn on your oven, and enjoy!

A little piece of advice though.......You might want to have some extra ingredients on hand, because you'll most likely to be asked if you can make another batch.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Stuffed with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Topped with Peanut Butter M&M's
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2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 TBSP. vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 (12 oz) bag milk chocolate chips
1 bag mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, frozen
2 (12 oz.) bags Peanut Butter M&M’s

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Place the bowl aside for later.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and set to a medium-high speed, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Scrap down the side of the bowl as needed.  Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat on a low-medium speed until blended.  Now, set the mixer to a low speed and slowly add in the dry ingredients.  Continue mixing until just combined and then fold in the chocolate chips. (I can be a little impatient, so I always just set my mixer on the lowest speed and dump in the chocolate chips to help speed up the process)

To assemble cookies:
Begin with about 1-2 TBSP. of rounded cookie dough and then place on top, a frozen peanut butter cup.  Add on another 1-2 TBSP. of cookie dough making sure to seal in the peanut butter cup by pressing down on the sides.  Place the, now ready, cookie onto the prepared baking sheet, and add on the peanut butter M&M’s.

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes (oven temperatures may vary, so keep an eye out as the timer starts to expire).  It’s important NOT to over bake.  Now, remove the pan from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.  Once they’re slightly cooled, remove the cookies from the pan and let them finish cooling on the rack.
Source: No. 2 Pencil Cook, Bake, and Create

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Meat-Lover's White Pizza Casserole

I originally thought up this recipe back in July, when I was heading to Michigan for a couple of weeks to visit with family and friends.  Jeff was staying here, in North Carolina, all by himself for a few days, and I wanted to make sure that he didn't go hungry.  Now I know that my husband is completely capable of fending for himself, but chips and cheese for every meal doesn't count. Once again I'm just joking.....Jeff can honestly cook, and follow a recipe quite well, but we both know that his meals are pretty basic compared to mine, and that I'm the more creative one at, least in the kitchen. 

However, his particular recipe was inspired by Jeff's liking of different types of meat on his pizza.  I've made it a few times since then, and haven't altered a thing.

Meat-Lover’s White Pizza Casserole
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13 oz. bowtie pasta (cooked according to package directions)
1 ½ - 2 lbs. chicken breast, cubed
1 cup ham, cubed (I cut up thick Canadian bacon slices)
¼ cup (or more) pepperoni, cut into 4 triangles
1 (3 oz.) package bacon bits
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, chopped
20 oz. Alfredo sauce (I used Classico Light Creamy Alfredo)
1-2 TBSP. ranch dressing
12 oz. Italian blend cheese
Dash of red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray; set aside

In a large skillet, lightly sprayed with PAM, or another non-stick cooking spray, (and set over a medium heat) place the chicken and cook until no longer pink and the juices run clear.  When the chicken is halfway through cooking, add in the garlic and chopped onion.

Once ready, add the cubed ham and pepperoni to the skillet and stir around for around 1 minute, or just long enough to warm up the meat.  Next, add in the Alfredo sauce, ranch dressing, 2 oz. of the cheese and the dash of red pepper flakes.  Stir everything around until the meat is well coated and allow the mixture to simmer until the sauce is heated through and the cheese is melted.

Place the bowtie pasta in the skillet with the meat and sauce and toss to combine.  Once everything is well coated, pour into the prepared 9x13” baking dish and evenly top with the remaining cheese.  Evenly sprinkle the bacon bits over the cheese and place into the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese reaches its’ desired consistency.  Remove the dish from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. 

If desired, garnish with more Parmesan cheese or red pepper flakes.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Can You Take the Heat (Ghost Pepper) Chili? (Adaptable, so it's not too intense)

Right about now, you may be asking yourself, "Is one of the ingredients in this chili really a Ghost Pepper?!?!?!"  Allow me the chance to explain.....

Changing the subject for just a minute, I have to say that I love Labor Day weekend!  It means Fall is quickly approaching and chili is always a comforting dish for any dinner or gathering; especially with the start of football season.  A great thing about this particular chili too, is that it can be made in a slow cooker, or on any stove top!  I've actually prepared it both ways and you honestly wouldn't know the difference.

Ok.....back to the topic of the ghost pepper.  Please don't freak out and be turned off by this recipe because of it.  Yes, it is one of the ingredients in this chili, and yes, I'm very aware that they're beyond extremely hot, (especially when the package says handle with latex gloves) but you can always choose to leave it out.  In fact, you can leave out any of the peppers that are called for and the chili would still be delicious.  I've prepared this dish both with peppers (for the heat) and without the peppers, and it's just as good either way you decide to make it.  However, the motto around our home, at least for Jeff, always seems to be, "The hotter, the better".  Unlike Jeff though, I can handle some heat, but I really struggle to find any joy in burning my mouth off while I'm eating.  Keeping that in mind, I did sample a few bites of this chili (not a whole bowl) and lived.

Tasty Suggestion:

This time, I decided to dish the chili out onto a cornbread waffle. will definitely be doing this again in the future!  Not only was it incredibly easy (just toss the cornbread batter onto a waffle iron and let cook) but it took the idea of serving just a bowl of chili to a wonderfully delicious new level!  I highly recommend trying it out.

Can You Take the Heat Chili?
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2 ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 habanero pepper, very finely chopped
1 ghost pepper, whole
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup chili powder
2 TBSP. cumin
1 TBSP. paprika
¼ - ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
2 (15 oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can Kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can Black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can Chili beans, with juice (I buy the hot version)
Salt and pepper to taste

Add some water to a skillet and cook the chicken until the juices run clear and it’s easy to shred.

Coat a slow cooker with a non-stick cooking spray and add in all the ingredients, including the shredded chicken.  Stir around and cook on high for 3-5 hours.

Alternative Cooking Method– Combine all the ingredients together in a large skillet, cover, and let simmer on the stove top for 1 hour.

Source: Inspired by Debbi Does Dinner