Saturday, September 29, 2012

no-bake oatmeal cookies and cookbook talk party!

As much as I love the thousands of food blogs & online recipe sights, there is nothing like cracking open a new AMAZINGLY written, published & printed cookbook! I'm a cookbook junkie! I love to read them like novels, cover to cover. I also love my local library. They have a great selection of cookbooks, almost always have the newest releases & anything on the best sellers lists. I almost always have a cookbook on hold at the library & I currently have 4 cookbooks checked out, 1 overdue.

Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito is one of my current favorites! The subtitle is "Classic American Desserts Reinvented", which is right up my alley. I LOVE Classic Desserts! What's more classic than peanut butter, chocolate & oats?
When I begin reading a new cookbook I get a piece of paper to use as a bookmark. As I read the book, I write down the recipes that I want to make. I gathered a long list from this book, which explains why it is past due.
The first recipe I made from this book is the classic No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies, page 185. I grew up on these & often came home from school to find a batch of them on the kitchen counter. My mom is THE expert on these sweet treats!

No-Bake Oatmeal Cookies
makes 48 cookies (recipe can be halved)


1/2 cup whole milk (I used 1%)
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Line counter top area with waxed paper or parchment paper.

2. Cut the softened butter into 1/2 inch cubes.
3. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir together the milk, sugar, cocoa & butter until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.

4. Bring mixture to a boil, stop stirring, and boil for a full 90 seconds. Don't overcook or cookies will be overly dry & crumbly.
 5. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter, oats & vanilla. Quickly stir until the mixture is combined.
6. Use a small scoop or a tablespoon to drop the no-bake cookies on to the waxed paper.  If you do this very quickly the cookies will spread a bit on the wax paper while the mixture is still hot, which most people prefer. I took my time, snapping a picture, so my cookies didn't spread since they set up very quickly. Allow to cool. Can be stored in tightly sealed container for 3 days.
 P.S. My mom sometimes did this & so do I: Make the exact recipe MINUS the cocoa powder for a yummy No-Bake PEANUT BUTTER cookie treat!
 Next on the list is this GORGEOUS Mississippi Mud Pie, page 156.

Monday, September 17, 2012

creamy chicken enchiladas party!

Mexican food is my very favorite. I love it ALL, authentic or Americanized. This recipe isn't authentic Mexican but for a small town Midwestern girl who's favorite treat growing up was going to the big city & eating at Taco Bell, anything made with tortillas equals Mexican food. These enchiladas are mild and delicious, creamy, cheesy comfort food with Mexican flavors and flair. They come together quickly if you have roasted chicken in the freezer like THIS recipe

At a Mexican restaurant I almost always order a ground beef taco & a cheese enchilada with rice and beans. YUM! But I could also make a meal out of chips & salsa. I want to eat Mexican food everyday! This is one of my favorite at-home Mexican meals!
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
adapted from


2 tablespoons butter
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
14.5 ounce can or 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2  4 oz. cans of chopped green chiles or you can use 1 cup of fresh roasted Anaheim peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
 12 (8 inch) corn tortillas
1/4  cup vegetable or canola oil for frying
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, or more
1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese, or more
2 cups roasted or cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 pint heavy cream


1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion for a few minutes until soft. Stir in the flour. Add the broth, chiles, garlic, salt, and cumin. Simmer about 15 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat & stir in the cream. Set aside.

 2. In a small heavy skillet, heat the oil on medium heat & lightly fry tortillas one at a time, only for 5-10 seconds per side. I only add half the oil, fry 6 tortillas then add the other half of the oil & fry the rest. That way the first ones are overly oily with no oil at the end. You just want them to soften. If they crisp you won't be able to roll the enchiladas. Place tortillas on a paper towel lined plate as you fry each one.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.) 

4.  Combine the cheeses and keep 1/2 cup aside for topping. 
5. Assemble enchiladas one at a time by dipping a tortilla in the green chili sauce (both sides). Place 2 heaping tablespoons chicken and 2 tablespoons cheese down the center of each; roll and place seam side down in a shallow dish. I prefer to use a large cookie sheet because I don't like my enchiladas to touch each other. If you put them in a 9x13 pan they seem to squish together and make more of a casserole where you can't really separate 1 enchilada from another.

6. After all the rolled tortillas are on the pan, spoon the additional green chili sauce over them. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese mixture.
7. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped green onions, black olives, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

garlic parmesan ranch dressing & homemade croutons party!

I'm super excited to be participating in the Crazy Cooking Challenge for the first time. The CRAZY COOKING CHALLENGE is a monthly themed blog hop, where a bunch of fellow bloggers all make the same type of recipe and we all post on the SAME day each month. The group is in it's second year and I'm thrilled to have been invited to join! 

The theme for this month is HOMEMADE RANCH SALAD DRESSING/DIP. You can see all of the recipes below from the CCC group.

Who doesn't love a fresh crisp salad, especially with homemade dressing. I took it one step further and also made homemade croutons. Without further adieu, I give you my version of homemade Garlic Parmesan Ranch Salad Dressing and matching Croutons!

Garlic Parmesan Ranch Salad Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk, more or less depending on desired thickness
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dill
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Whisk together all ingredients. Cover & refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. If you would like to make a thicker DIP for chips or veggies, omit mayonnaise & substitute sour cream. 

Homemade Croutons
Recipe adapted from the Food Network

For the croutons I bought a loaf of the grocery store bakery GARLIC french bread because it was CHEAP. You know the one that is cut in half with garlic butter spread on it? I never buy that stuff but I needed day old bread & that's all they had. It's good! I bought it from the "day old" shelf so it was half price, $1.25 per loaf. We immediately ate half the loaf then saved the other half for the croutons the next day. So my day-old bread was actually 2 days old.

* I separated the top from the bottom & used a butter knife to scrape the garlic butter off the bread so I could more evenly distribute it with the other seasonings. Then I stirred that excess garlic butter in to the recipe below. The croutons had a LOT of flavor & definitely a double dose of garlic. If you don't have the store bought garlic bread just make the croutons with plain french bread & the seasonings below. They will still be very delicious! The original recipe did not call for the garlic buttered french bread. 
Taste one of the croutons before you bake them & if you want more flavor, add more salt, garlic & olive oil.


1/2 a loaf of "day old" french bread or garlic bread
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

* Plus the excess garlic butter removed from the 1/2 a loaf of bread, if garlic bread is used. It's in the yellow bowl in the pic above.


1. Reheat oven to 325 degrees. 

2. Whisk together all ingredients except bread.

3. If you are using store bought GARLIC bread, scrape off the excess garlic butter & whisk it into the oil and seasoning mixture.

4. Cut bread into 3/4 inch cubes. You'll have about 4-6 cups of bread cubes.

5. Place bread cubes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle oil & seasoning mixture over bread cubes. Mix well with your hands or a spatula, tossing to evenly distribute the seasoning.

6. Bake at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until crisp and slightly browned.

6. Allow to cook & store in airtight container.

Perfect croutons for salad or soup.

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