Monday, October 31, 2011

Last Chance Snack Mix

I'm sorry, but I need to share my pain for a minute. Near Halloween I get a certain little song stuck in my brain for days and days on end and I think it might be making me crazy. It starts softly around the 15th of October until it's blaring in my head by today.

For you, I’m guessing all I have to do is say a few little words and you’ll be yelling at me. So here I go. “This is Halloween. This is Halloween. Halloween Halloween Halloween Halloween.” Is it stuck in your head now too? If not I'm happy to help out with that. Simply watch the video below, dance along and in 12 hours start pulling your hair out.

I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? No? How about if I share a super fast snack mix idea?

If you’re like me and the last thing you want to do today is cook, clean or bake this might help. It's a crazy lazy mix to take along to a party or to crunch and munch at home while waiting for all those big and small trick-or-treaters to show.

After all, it might be your last chance this year to pick up a bag of candy corn mix.

Last Chance Snack Mix
To make this even easier, use a large bag of Cracker Jacks or pick up a big bag of your favorite caramel corn. Print Version.

1 microwave bag caramel corn, popped
1 cup mini pretzels
1 cup Autumn Candy Corn mix
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

Shake out caramel corn into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to combine.

By Laura Flowers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Monster Mouths

Clara’s 4th grade class is in the middle of their Halloween party right now. The first one where we parents aren’t needed to stick around. The kids had it all under control and it was even their idea to throw a healthy party.

When I dropped off this platter I spotted a giant fruit salad and other healthy goodies. I’m pretty proud of them. How often are kids willing to skip the sugar?

Maybe the 4th graders are teaching us something. Maybe we don’t need those sugary snacks for a fun party, just a reason to celebrate and some healthy treats.

Oh course, I’m pretty sure they won’t be turning down any trick-or-treat candy Monday evening. But I’m still proud of them.

Monster Mouths
I love these! They were so easy too. Print Recipe.

Granny Smith apples
Juice of 1 lemon
Peanut butter
Yogurt covered raisins

1. Add lemon juice to a large bowl and fill with cold water.

2. Slice apples into wedges. Soak in the lemon water for about 10 minutes. Strain and pat dry.

3. Spread or pipe peanut butter on one side of apple slices. Place a few raisins on half the apples. Gently sandwich together.

By Laura Flowers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats

4 out of 5 children will not eat these treats. In fact, those same 4 out of 5 children will sit about whining loudly that they are absolutely starving to death while these cereal bars sit on festive plates directly in front of them, forcing you to make two big bowls of popcorn so these same 4 out of 5 children won’t keel over from extreme after school hunger.

The fifth child will actually eat these bars and not complain. As for the adults, they'll enjoy the fall themed flavor variety of these classic cereal bars and grab a second one.

Not the 4 out of 5 children however. When asking the 4 out of 5 children why they detest these blameless bars they’ll tell you “because they’re different”, and a couple of them will even be too scared to try a taste.

Change is difficult. I’ll give them a few years.

Pumpkin Spice Crispy Treats
Candy corns are cute, but definitely optional. Print Version.

1/4 cup butter
10 ounce bag Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows
6 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup caramel or plain candy corn

Line 13x9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan; lightly grease foil.

Microwave butter in large microwaveable bowl on high 45 seconds, or until melted. Add marshmallows; toss to coat. Microwave 1 1/2 minutes, or until marshmallows are completely melted, stirring after 45 seconds. Add cereal, mix well. Press cereal mixture firmly onto bottom of prepared pan and press candy corns lightly into top of cereal bars.

Remove cereal mixture from pan, using foil handles. Cut into squares.

Recipe from back of Kraft Jet-Puffed package. Pictures by Laura Flowers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

There are many ways to make chicken noodle soup, but I tend to prefer this method. Maybe because I like my soup vegetables the same texture as the noodles, but more honestly it’s probably because I’m lazy and this is a less fussy process.

The vegetables and chicken make the broth and soup at the same time, keeping the cooking effort to a minimum. Which is nice.

What you’ll need here is time to let everything simmer. About 2 1/2 hours of it. So this is something I like to make when I’m futzing around the house working on other projects.

Chicken Noodle Soup
This is probably one of our family's favorite recipes. Print Recipe.

1 pound carrots cut into 1/2” thick rounds
1/2 pound celery, cut into 1/2” thick pieces
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 pound chicken, cut up
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
14.5 ounce can chicken broth
8 cups water
12-ounce package frozen egg noodles

1. Stir the carrots, celery, onion, chicken bouillon granules, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, bay leaves and chicken broth together in a large pot or Dutch oven; top with chicken skin side up. Pour the water over chicken.

2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Scoop out chicken and set aside.

3. Return soup to a simmer. Add noodles, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, discard skin and pull meat off of the bones. Shred into bite sized pieces. When noodles are done, return chicken to soup; discard skin and bones. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

By Laura Flowers.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Drunk Blood Punch

It wouldn’t be right to celebrate Halloween without some kind of festive vat of red punch. Even Bones, our creepy skeleton night watch seems to approve.

For a family friendly Halloween fruit punch just leave the spirits out. Or for a mixed crowd, add 1-ounce of clear rum or vodka to individual 1-cup servings.

Drunk Blood Punch
Michaels sells Halloween shades of drink food coloring by Wilton that will make your punch more blood red than normal food dye. Print Recipe.

4 cups apple juice
46-fluid ounce can fruit punch
6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
6-ounce can frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
2-liter bottle lemon lime soda
1 1/2 cups vodka or clear rum
Red food coloring, to preference

Combine everything together in a very large punch bowl or two. Stir to combine and chill until ready to use.

Makes about seventeen 8-ounce servings.

By Laura Flowers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Slow Cooker Pork Chops in Dijon Paprika Sauce

This slow cooker recipe reminds me a little bit of a past trip to Budapest, or what I remember of Budapest, which is the food of course.

Most of the dishes I consumed were meat and potatoes with various sauces, many with paprika and mustard. Always with lots of red wine, which gave me nasty hangovers and cravings for more rich and saucy meat and potato dishes.

Slow Cooker Pork Chops in Dijon Paprika Sauce
Print Recipe.
Jesse liked this meal so well he ate his portion and the extra one too.

1 1/2 pounds mixed baby red, purple and white potatoes

1 (10 3/4 ounce) can Campbell's Healthy Choice Cream of Chicken Soup 

1/4 cup cooking sherry

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
4 pork chops, any type

1. Grease the slow cooker with light colored oil. Scrub the potatoes and place them snuggled together in a large oval slow cooker.

2. In a bowl, mix together soup, sherry, Dijon, garlic, thyme, paprika and pepper. Pour mixture over potatoes.

3. In a large skillet, melt the butter until the foam subsides over high heat. Gently add the pork chops and season with salt and pepper. Sear both sides.

4. Place pork chops on top of the potatoes. Scrape pan drippings into the slow cooker.

5. Cover and cook on low heat for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 1/2. Plate and spoon sauce over potatoes and pork chops. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

By Laura Flowers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ghostly Pretzel Sticks

Salty, sweet, fast, cute and fun. This is my favorite kind of Halloween treat!

Ghostly Pretzel Sticks
Candy melts and Wilton Icing are from Michaels. Print Recipe.

About 2-3 dozen pretzel rods
1 package white candy melts
1 squeeze bottle Wilton Black Icing

1. Set out a long sheet of wax paper near your working area. Melt candy melts in microwave according to package directions in a small, deep bowl.

2. Dip about 2 1/2-inches of pretzel into candy melts. Shake off excess. Place on wax paper to dry. Repeat.

3. Once dry, warm black icing in the microwave with the lid off for about 20 seconds. Screw lid back on and pipe on ghost eyes and mouths. Set on wax paper until dry.

By Laura Flowers.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wicked Witch Cupcakes

For this fun Halloween project, McCormick and Kitchen Play sent over food coloring and vanilla extract to spark my imagination into proper holiday gear. I think it worked, or I hope it did anyway.

With a bit of adult help, even small kids can make these spooky cupcakes. The cone hats are fragile, so I recommend adults make those first since they’ll need time to dry anyway.

The rest of the decorating, and maybe even the cupcake preparation with some supervision can be handed off to the younger set.

Wicked Witch Cupcakes

It looks like there’s a lot of frosting here and there is, but you’re going to need all of it. Print Recipe

1 package (18 1/4 ounces) chocolate cake mix
1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
24 chocolate wafer cookies
24 ice cream sugar cones
5 (4.25 ounce) tubes black decorating icing
McCormick® Assorted Food Colors
2 containers vanilla frosting
3 (3.75 ounce) packages Rips Whips colored licorice
24 Sour Patch Sour Apple Candies (Found in bulk bin.)
48 brown Sixlets chocolate coated candies (You’ll have to fish them out of a normal package.)
Small round tip & piping bag for eyes, optional
24 plastic spiders, optional
24 Halloween cupcake liners (Michaels is a great place to find them.)

1. One at a time, with the black decorating icing, frost the top of a wafer cookie and the outside of an ice-cream cone. Carefully place the cone on the cookie to make a hat. Set aside to dry for 4 or more hours. Repeat with the rest of the cones and cookies. Keep any remaining black frosting for spider attachment.

2. Meanwhile, prepare cake mix as directed on package for cupcakes, adding vanilla. Bake as directed on package for cupcakes. Cool cupcakes on wire rack.

3. Tint frosting green with 2 parts green food color and 1 part yellow food color until desired color is reached. Frost cupcakes.

4. Using scissors cut the licorice in half. Take 1 of each color and place them around the cupcake for hair. Trim any ends that are too long. Frost the bottom of hats and place them on the cupcakes with enough room to place on faces.

5. Place a small amount of black decorating icing on the bottom of plastic spiders and attach them to hats.

6. Gently set Sixlets eyes and sour candy apple mouths on cupcakes. Place a couple tablespoons of green frosting in a piping bag and dot on eyes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Set time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 20 minutes

McCormick is also sponsoring a wonderful giveaway at Kitchen PLAY. Simply recreate any one recipe from this month’s SideCar Series, post about the experience on your blog and provide a link to your post on Kitchen PLAY to enter. All qualifying bloggers in each course will be entered to win $50 (10 prizes total). The deadline is October 31, 2011. Please review the complete contest rules before entering. Good luck!

Recipe inspired by McCormick’s Wicked Witch Cupcakes. Photography by Laura Flowers.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Garlic Chicken Tacos with Lemon Avocado Sauce

Happy National Taco Day!

Yes, it’s really National Taco Day. I don’t know how you get to be important enough to get on the list for your own holiday, but tacos probably do deserve their own celebration. Especially garlic chicken tacos.

Utilizing a rotisserie chicken, this is a fairly speedy weeknight meal.

Garlic Chicken Tacos with Lemon Avocado Sauce
If your serving this to kids (or the heat impaired) you can leave out the jalapeno in the chicken and reduce the sauce’s cayenne pepper to just a pinch. Print Recipe

Lemon Avocado Sauce

1/2 peeled ripe avocado
2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Puree the ingredients together in a small food processor. Set aside.

Garlic Chicken Tacos
1 package stand ‘n stuff corn taco shells
1 rotisserie chicken
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
Shredded iceberg lettuce for garnish
1 tomato, diced

1. Heat up taco shells according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, remove the skin from chicken and discard. Remove meat and shred it into bite size pieces using your hands. Set aside.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, garlic and jalapeno and cook until chicken is warmed through, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Stuff tacos with chicken and garnish with lettuce, tomato and a drizzle of lemon avocado sauce.

Recipe inspired by a tostada in Cooking Light Magazine, September 2011. Picture and recipe by Laura Flowers.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Qdoba Copycat Queso & Ghoulish Goodies Giveaway

Halloween being my favorite holiday, I thought I’d kick off October with a giveaway. A winner for the totally adorable and doable monster filled cookbook Ghoulish Goodies will be drawn on October 13th.

For your part, leave a comment with your favorite Halloween food or recipe.

This queso sauce/dip won’t be in there though, but it’s an idea I’ve been meaning to tackle for awhile. My family really likes Qdoba’s queso and I wanted to create a copycat. After a few variations I feel this one is pretty close to the real one, but please let me know what you think.

The spooky chips are "Frights Bites Tortilla Chips" from the local grocery store.

Qdoba Copycat Queso
You should be able to find Philadelphia Cooking Creme in the refrigerator section near the cream cheese. Print Recipe

2 poblano peppers
10-ounce container Philadelphia Cooking Creme
8-ounce package Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese
2 medium tomatoes, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 cup water
Cayenne pepper, to taste

1. Place peppers on a hot grill or under a broiler. Blacken the skins on all sides. Place them in a paper bag and roll top down to seal. Set aside until cool to touch, about 30 minutes. Peel off skins and discard seeds and stems. Chop peppers very fine.

2. Add chopped peppers, cooking creme, cheese, tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and paprika to a medium size pot and stir over low heat until cheese is melted.

3. Add the cilantro, water and cayenne pepper and stir for another minute or so until it thickens to preference.

4. Turn off heat and serve immediately as a dip or sauce.

Recipe & photograph by Laura Flowers.

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