February 25, 2013

Bean Dip

My husband introduced me to bean dip the other day.  It was simple, I had the ingredients on hand, and it was the perfect food to eat while watching a movie.  What's not to love?

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Bean Dip

1 large can refried beans
1 cup salsa
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp lime juice

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine all ingredients.  Warm over medium heat until the cheese melts.
2. Grab some tortilla chips and a good movie.  Enjoy!

February 19, 2013

Cream Cheese Frosting

For those of you who were wondering, the red velvet cake was a total success!  I found this recipe for cream cheese frosting on allrecipes.com and used some of the ideas from the reviews.  It was amazing.  My husband loved it so much that when we ran out of cake and had extra frosting, he said I should make another cake and not let the extra frosting go to waste.  This isn't one of those fluffy, sugary, just a hint of cream cheese kinds of frosting.  It's cream cheese goodness to the core.

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Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from this recipe)

8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup butter (not margarine)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Let the cream cheese and butter sit on the counter until they are soft and room temperature.  Skipping this step is no bueno.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter.  Add the vanilla, and slowly mix in the powdered sugar.  Beat for 2-3 minutes or until it's deliciously creamy.
3. Frost your cake, brownies, pumpkin cookies...and enjoy!  Store whatever you frosted and any leftovers in the fridge.

February 12, 2013

How to Rock Your Valentine's World With a Cake Mix...and Some Kitchen Magic

Cake mixes are easy.  I love them.  Sometimes you want something just a bit fancier than a plain old cake mix, but you don't have time to make something amazing from scratch--because you're spending all day making an awesome lasagna for your Valentine's Day dinner...or because your child is sick and wants you to read Little Blue Truck to him all day long.  In any case, there are a couple of ways you can spice up a cake mix to make it taste divine without putting in hardly any extra time or effort.

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  • Use applesauce instead of oil to make the cake more moist.  Make sure your applesauce isn't chunky though.  In some cake flavors, there might be a slight apple taste, but for the most part it works great.
  • Add a bit of extract to the cake batter--vanilla, almond, mint, etc.  Just a touch should do it.
  • Give it some texture by mixing in nuts, marshmallows, chocolate chips, dried fruit, or fresh fruit pieces.  Just keep in mind that if you're using fresh fruit, the moisture content can affect the cake batter.  If it seems too runny, just add a bit of flour to even things out.
  • Do something cool for icing, rather than just plain icing.  Press nuts into the frosting along the sides of the cake.  Use stabilized whipped cream or cream cheese icing.  Lay down a layer or lace or a paper doily and shake powdered sugar over it, then remove the doily and admire powdered sugar "lace."  You can also do the same thing with a paper stencil and icing to make words, as shown here.  Or top it with chocolate or white chocolate shavings.  Who can resist that?
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Or you can do my personal favorite.  Throw out the directions on the cake mix box entirely and add:
    • 4 eggs
    • 2/3 cup oil
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 large (5 oz) box instant pudding mix.  
    • 2/3 cup sugar (definitely optional, but if you're going all out, why not?)
Bake the cake in a bundt or tube pan for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  This one is particularly fun because you can change up the flavors of pudding, depending on what cake flavor you have.  Some tasty combos are:
    • Chocolate pudding with yellow or red velvet cake
    • Butterscotch pudding with Devil's Food cake
    • Vanilla pudding with carrot cake
I'm making a red velvet cake with chocolate pudding and cream cheese icing for Valentine's Day.  That's two whole days away.  I don't know if I can make it...

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February 7, 2013

Thai Peanut Noodles

There's this awesome Thai place we like to go to every once in while--one of those hole in the wall types that you never hear about unless your husband's boss used to live in Thailand and loves to scope out Thai restaurants and happens to tell you about it.  It's called Tea Rose Diner (doesn't really look or sound Thai, but it is), and as far as I can tell, the food is authentic and delicious.  While I'd love to go there all the time, I can't.  Sometimes you've got to make it yourself to keep your budget happy.  Thai recipes often have long lists of ingredients that I have never heard of before.  So when a friend made this recipe for me and I saw that it only calls for normal-ish ingredients, I knew it was going in the recipe box.  We're having it for dinner tonight, actually (and probably for three more nights afterward).  This is a make-ahead kind of recipe, so I made it this morning, and I've definitely snacked on it already.  Mmm... Is it dinner time yet?

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Thai Peanut Noodles
(adapted from this recipe and this recipe)

16 oz whole wheat linguine
1/4 cup sesame oil
1.5 - 2 tsp crushed red pepper (You can use more or less, depending on how spicy you want it to be.  If you're used to the ratings in Thai restaurants, 1.5 tsp would be about a level 1, while 1 Tbsp would be about a level 3.  If you're making this for the first time, start out with less--that way you can add more the next time and don't end up with a whole pile of noodles that are too spicy to enjoy.)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 carrots, peeled and shredded (the carrots neutralize the spiciness a bit, so if you made it too spicy, just pile on the carrots)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
3/4 cup peanuts, roughly chopped

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse in cool water.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the sesame oil and crushed red pepper.  Warm the oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  It doesn't need to boil or anything, just get a little warm.  You'll smell it when it starts to work.
3. Strain out the crushed red pepper using a fine mesh sieve, and reserve the sesame oil in a large mixing bowl.  You can toss out the red pepper now.  It's done its job already.  Mix the honey and soy sauce into the oil, and stir to until combined.  Throw in the noodles, and mix well.  Cover the bowl, and refrigerate it overnight or until it's cold (which can actually take quite a while, so make sure you start early).
4. To serve, simply toss with green onions, carrots, cilantro, and peanuts.  You're in business!  

Also, here's a fun fact about spicy food: Did you know that eating spicy food causes your body to release endorphins?  So you will feel happier after eating a really spicy meal?  True story.

February 5, 2013

Tip Tuesday #14 {Use Ice Cubes to Get Crusty Bread}

Did you know that steam is actually what causes bread to have deliciously crusty crusts?  You can do it a few ways, but one of the best ways I've heard of is to stick a metal pan or rimmed cookie sheet into the oven as the oven is preheating.  Then when you stick the dough in to cook, throw a few ice cubes onto the hot pan and shut the door quickly.  The ice will melt and steam in the oven, leaving you with delicious, crusty bread.  Also, this way, you don't have to worry about burned with hot water or shattering glass bowls or any such dangerous nonsense.  Nice, eh?

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This lovely tip was brought to me (and, consequently, to you) in this post by the lovely Becky Pitcher, whose blog has lately become one of my favorites.

February 1, 2013

Fluffernutter Apple Dip

Well folks, it's been a while.  My keyboard was broken there for about three months, but I've got a keyboard now, and all 26 letters work!  And the space bar--the glorious space bar!  So we're back in business.  Thanks for sticking with me.

You know how you hardly have any memories of when you were a little kid?  Well let me tell you, this fluffernutter dip is one of my few memories. When I was maybe three, my parents signed us up for sign language classes.  At the end of every lesson, we'd get apples and fluffernutter dip.  Now, two decades later, do I remember any signs?  Maybe banana and umbrella...  But I remember this dip!  If that doesn't tell you how life-changing it is, I don't know what will.  It's best with apples, but I bet it would be killer with celery too.  Give it a try!

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Fluffernutter Apple Dip

1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup peanut butter
Sliced Apples (or celery)

1. Combine marshmallow fluff and peanut butter.  Mix until smooth.
2. Grab apple.  Dip.  Fluffy nutty glory!  

Alright, alright.  This may be the shortest recipe in the history of this blog, but sometimes the simple things are  the best, you know?  
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