Monday, July 26, 2010

Easy homemade croutons

Yummy note: Wondering what to do with that leftover bread? Don't want to throw it away or take a lot of time making another dish with it in there, then this is your recipe! I love these homemade croutons, as they are nice and crispy, yet tender to the fork when you try and pick them up in your salad. What's worse then trying to get that crouton on your fork and all it does it break into a bunch of tiny pieces or worse yet, like me, if you have a slight clumsy notion, you'll send it shooting across the table. :) This recipe is perfect for avoiding those issues, plus it's quick and easy to make these homemade croutons to add to your meal.

about 3 cups of bread cubes (maybe a half loaf of bread or 6 slices or so) (can use any type of bread, just as long as it is slightly dried out, or if it is a fresher bread still, throw it in the oven at 300-350 degrees for a few minutes to toast up a little before using)
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder or crushed garlic
2-3 tsp assorted flavored herbs - such as oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, or parsley
1/8 to a 1/4 cup grated
Parmesan cheese (if desired for a cheesy crouton)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bread into cubes, about 1/2 inch to 1 inch sizes. (Again, if bread still seems a bit more soft, toss it in the oven for a few minutes before to start drying it out.) In a baking pan, like a 9x13 cake pan, add melted butter, olive oil, and seasonings. Stir together. Next, in the baking pan, toss bread cubes into butter/oil mixture and lightly coat. Add any other additional seasonings (like salt and pepper) if you wish. Once cubes are evenly and lightly coated, put croutons back into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until bread is golden and crunchy. Toss cubes several times during baking to ensure even baking of croutons. In the last 5 minutes or so, add the
Parmesan cheese, if desired. Try not to add it too early on, or else it might burn on a bit. Let croutons cool and store in a plastic container or a plastic bag. They last up to about a week unrefrigerated or you can store in the refrigerator to last about 2 weeks.

Monday, July 19, 2010

peanut butter cracker treats

Yummy note:
A little bit of peanut butter, with a chocolaty coating crunch.... who couldn't want more?! These simple little cookie cracker sandwiches are super easy to make, seriously. I think I can get a batch of these little guys made in like minutes. What's even cooler, is I often have all these ingredients on hand in my pantry closet, so it's an easy and cheap fix. Also with a few variations, you can make some super cute cookie treats. Oh, and did I mention satisfying, since you have the salty, the sweet, and the crunchy treat, all in 1.

about 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 sleeve (4 ounces) round butter-flavored crackers (aka Ritz crackers work awesome)
about 8 ounces of chocolate bark or chocolate candy melts
sprinkles or any other decorative candy (or you can use a candy cookie mold tray)

Spread a small amount of peanut butter on a cracker and top with another cracker.

Melt chocolate using a double boiler or if you don't have one of them, try this instead to make your own double boiler. Fill a sauce pan with 1 to 2 inches of water and place it over low to medium heat until the water begins to simmer. Use a pyrex or a stainless steel bowl that has a diameter larger than that of your saucepan and place it on top. Make sure that your bowl does not fall into the pan or touch the simmering water. Next, place your chocolate into the glass bowl and let the steam heat the bottom of the bowl to melt the chocolate without burning. You could also melt your chocolate in the microwave heating it at a lower wattage to avoid burning your chocolate.

Next, dip the peanut butter sandwich crackers in the chocolate mixture, turning to coat thoroughly. Place on wax paper and decorate with sprinkles or candy if you wish.

If you have a candy cookie tray like the one I have shown below, you can fill those trays with the melted chocolate and then put the sandwich inside the tray to set up. For ease, I melted the chocolate in a microwave bag to be able to drizzle it with more control inside the tray. Let treats stand until coating is firm.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week or so. Makes about a dozen or so treats.

Another variation:
Instead of peanut butter, you could use Nutella or another flavored peanut butter in the middle of your crackers! Also, if you have extra melted chocolate, you can quickly make some chocolate covered Oreos!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Carrot Cake Balls

Yummy note: Let me start out with I love this basic recipe for cake balls. It really has many endless possibilities... For this specific recipe, I made a yummy carrot cake and cream cheese combo dashed with a few walnuts. Hmmm.. its like a bit-sized piece of carrot cake, tell me who doesn't love that?! I wish I could recall where I first saw cake balls, or where I even got this recipe from I really do, as I just love them! So I'll send you to one of my favorite sites here, as I'm sure I'll be trying this recipe soon... don't they look so cute?

Carrot Cake Balls
1 (16-ounce) can prepared cream cheese frosting
1 (18.25-ounce) box of carrot cake mix (plus ingredients called for on box)
1 package of Almond Bark Coating, Confectionery Wafer Coating, or Chocolate Chips
small package of chopped walnuts

Bake the cake according to package instructions. While the cake is still a little warm, crumble the cake into a bowl. Crumble it into fairly fine crumbs and mix in the frosting. Note: You can use about 3/4 to a full can of frosting until mixture is a nice, not too moist, not too dry consistency. Next, chill the cake/frosting mixture for atleast 2 hours. Using a small cookie scooper or your hands, form the mixture into 1 to 1 ½ -inch balls.
Place the balls on wax paper or parchment paper and freeze for several hours before dipping them. This step allows you to handle the cake balls so that they don't fall apart or get too crumbly. Next, when the balls have chilled and are ready, melt some Almond Bark Coating (or whatever chocolate coating you choose), according to the package directions. Next remove cake balls from freezer and dip the cake balls into the coating. To dip the balls, use either a fork or even toothpicks can work well, too. Next, remove the cake ball from the coating and place on the wax or parchment paper. At this point, when I made my carrot cake balls, I sprinkled walnuts on top before the coating had set up. You may decorate as you wish, such as using sprinkles, chocolate chips, coconut, etc. Store in refrigerator/freezer when finished. Makes about 30 or so cake balls.
So speaking of endless possibilities for this recipe, here's just a few I've either tried or want to try!
• Devil's food cake or a brownie mix with fudge icing with a chocolate coating • White cake with white frosting mixed with sprinkles inside and topped with a white sprinkled coating • German chocolate cake with coconut-pecan icing and then topped with milk chocolate coating • a spice cake with cream-cheese frosting and a vanilla coating • Lemon cake with lemon frosting and vanilla coating • Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and mint-flavored coating • Red velvet cake mix with cream cheese frosting dipped in white chocolate coating

Friday, July 2, 2010

Blueberry Apple Crisp

Yummy note: At a recent get together, I thought what would be perfect near this holiday week would be something festive including the red, white, or blue colors. I know, who color coordinates their food with the holidays, haha.. well I'm one of those nuts out there. It makes things more fun and lively! Not to mention, something fun to talk about! So I decided to go the all-American way, and first thought of making a nice apple pie to celebrate the Fourth of July season, but instead I opted for the crisp as I had no time to make a pie crust or to run to the store at that moment in time. I really love the "crisp" part, sometimes when I make my apple pies, I make only a bottom pie shell and add more crisp on top. I like how it is almost like having an oatmeal cookie on top. hmm.. ok, so back to the dessert, I decided to toss in some fresh blueberries into my apple crisp to liven the color up, not to mention it added some great flavor.

Blueberry Apple Crisp


Fruit mixture:
4-5 medium tart cooking apples, sliced
1 cup of fresh blueberries
(optional, may toss your apples with a little lemon juice - maybe a teaspoon or so, if you'd like)

For the Topping:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour (can use all-purpose flour or self-rising flour)
1/2 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oatmeal (sometimes in a pinch I will use the instant brown sugar/maple packets of oatmeal if I don't have enough on hand)
1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch or 9-inch square pan. Spread the apples and blueberries out in the pan. Sprinkle a little cinnamon and sugar over the apples with the lemon juice, if desired. Next, stir remaining ingredients until well mixed and crumble over the fruit mixture. Sometimes, I make an additional half-batch of the topping mixture to add on top of the fruit, as I really like my crumb topping. This doesn't really affect the baking time a lot, maybe add an additional minute or two. Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and the juice starts oozing and bubbling through a bit. Plus the apples should be tender when pierced with a fork. I really enjoying serving it warm, with some ice cream or whipped cream on top, or else I know others that love it cold. So serve as you wish and enjoy!