Maple-Pecan Snack Mix

I was looking for a replacement for the Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix I usually make for Christmas gifts to include in my in-laws gift basket. My father-in-law is allergic to cinnamon and nutmeg and basically anything you would put in a pumpkin pie. Although I could have simply warned him not to eat it, I just thought that wasn't right and I should find something he would like and swap it out. I looked through my cookbooks and found this recipe in my Taste of Home 2011 Annual Recipes book in the section titled "Quick Fixes". I made a few substitutions but the end result was very tasty!
The Ingredients
5 cups Honey Nut Chex
1 cup granola (without raisins)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I used some glazed pecans I had leftover from another recipe)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup syrup
1 package (3 1/2 oz) dried blueberries (I left these out)
3/4 cup semisweet morsels (I used some Special Dark Pieces I had laying around)

In a large microwavable bowl, combine cereal, granola and pecans. *I left the pecans out of mine because they were already glazed. I didn't want them to get too sweet.

In a small microwavable bowl, combine syrup, brown sugar and butter. Microwave 2 minutes, stirring once.

Pour over cereal mixture and turn to coat. Microwave mix for 4 minutes, stirring after each minute.

Spread out onto waxed paper to cool. *I added my pecans now.

When cool, add the berries (if using) and the chocolate. Break into chunks and enjoy!


Mashed Potato Casserole

A couple years ago at Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law made this for our potato dish. I loved it so much I asked her for the recipe and she told me it was a Betty Crocker dish called "Crunchy Onion Potato Bake". We just call it Mashed Potato Casserole.

The Ingredients
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup butter
1 box Betty Crocker Mashed Potatoes (I use the Creamy Butter flavor)
1 can corn
1 cup shredded cheese
1 can (2.8 oz) fried onions (I could only find a large can at the store)

In a large saucepan, bring milk, water and butter to a boil.

Add both puches of potatoes and stir until moistened. Let stand one minute, then stir smooth with a fork. Add the (drained) can of corn.

Spoon half the mixture into a well greased 9 x 13 dish. Sprinkle with half the cheese and half the onions.

Repeat layers and place into a preheated 350 degree oven.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and onions are golden. I didn't get a picture until *someone* had taken a few servings out!

We had this with our steaks for Christmas dinner last night. Very yummy and oh so good leftover too :)


Dried Beef Gravy

For Christmas this year, my parents got me the 5 quart covered saute pan that matches my Paula Deen cookware set. I am so excited! I have been wanting this forever!! Anyhow, I thought a perfect thing to cook in it for the first time would be something that starts out "Take a whole stick of butter..."
The Ingredients
2 small jars dried beef
8 Tbsp (1 stick) of butter
8 Tbsp flour
4 cups milk

Take a whole stick of butter and melt it over medium heat in a saucepan or large skillet.

When butter has melted, begin adding the flour, whisking to prevent lumps. I use a seasoned flour. If you were using regular flour you would want to also add some Worchestershire sauce and some pepper.

When all the four has been added, allow the roux to cook for a minute or two. Then begin adding milk gradually, whisking it in. The mixture will thicken quickly and if you don't add the liquid in, you will have a lumpy mess.

Once the milk has all been added, cook over medium heat and allow to thicken to gravy consistency. Chop up the beef.

Add the beef once the gravy is as thick as you like it.

When I was a kid, my mom served this on bread with fries. Once I married and made it for my hubby, I happened upon the addition of biscuits in place of bread. It has become our standard form of eating it ever since.


Christmas Gift Trays 2010

This year's Christmas trays have a couple new items in them. I have made posts for each thing and I will link them out for you. I call them trays, but none of them actually are on a tray. Originally they were though and the name has stuck. In any case, this year they had a mix of the following items (unless I knew someone in the family did not like a certain thing or if I wasn't sure they liked it).
Cranberry Orange Mini-Loaf
Dipped Pretzel Chips and Candy Canes
Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix
Mocha Cappuccino Mix
Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Here's a picture of my parents' bag-o-goodies. You can see the little ornament I put on some of them. I wrote the names and the year on the front, and our names on the back. I wanted to do this for everyone but it got a little too expensive for the Holiday coffers!

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

I found this recipe in a local grocery store's weekly flyer. With so many sweet puppies on our holiday list, I thought it would be a fun and easy way to make something just for them. I was right!
The Ingredients
1 cup flour (recipe called for whole wheat but I used all-purpose)
1 cup oats
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp molasses

In a large bowl, mix together flour oats and baking powder.

In a medium bowl, mix the peanut butter, milk and molasses.

Combine two mixtures.

Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut a bone shape out of the dough.

Place "cookie" on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until browned.
My boys were a lot happier than they look, I promise. Something about the camera makes them look like they are being beaten, but they seemed to like the treats very much!

Cranberry Orange Mini-Loaves

For the past few years I have included these in our Christmas gift trays. It's so easy and very tasty. The little loaves are just right to serve along with breakfast one morning too! Prepackaged muffin mix makes this one a no-brainer. The recipe is on the package (the muffins are good too).
The Ingredients
2 packages Martha White Cranberry Orange muffin mix
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sour cream

Mix together ingredients until moistened.

Pour into prepared loaf pans; either one standard pan or three minis.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 - 55 minutes for big loaf or 30-40 minutes for minis. To check for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the bread. If it comes out clean, they are ready!


Dipped Treats

This year I am trying to make easy treats for our Christmas trays. With increasingly short time on my hands I decided to redo one of the hits from last year, chocolate dipped pretzels. I changed it up a little but I am pretty happy with the results.
The Ingredients
1 box of Ritz Munchables Pretzel Thins--Buttery flavor
1 box miniature candy canes
1 (12 oz) bag vanilla candy discs
1 (12 oz) bag chocolate candy discs
1 (12 oz) bag dark chocolate candy discs

Melt the discs (however you like) according to package instructions. When it's melted, grab a pretzel thin.

Dip it into the chocolate/vanilla to coat on both sides.

Place onto wax paper to set.

Repeat for candy canes.

Keep going with the other types of discs until you are done.

I am bagging up a few of each type with a little tag and including them in the trays we are giving for gifts to some of our family and friends. I hope they like them as much as we do.


Peppermint Bath Salts

I hesitate to put this here on the food blog because it isn't food...I guess if I call my blog a recipe blog it fits because there is a recipe. In any case, I came across this recipe in a weekly ad flyer for a local supermarket. It sounded easy and I thought it would fit nicely for a few people on my Christmas gift list.
The Ingredients
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp mint extract
3 drops food coloring
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup baking soda
1 Tbsp salt

In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, extract and food coloring.

In another bowl combine cornstarch, salt and baking soda.

Mix contents of both bowls until well blended.

Pour mixture into ice cube trays and let harden overnight.

To use, place one cube in warm bath water and relax your worries away!!

These did not quite set up for me overnight. They were mostly set but had a layer of liquidy stuff on top. I poured off the liquid and set the tray in a sunny window for a few hours. Then they were solid enough to pop out of the tray for the most part. The ones that crumbled or broke I put into a container to keep for myself. I figure I can put an old tablespoon measure in there and just dole out a scoop or two when I want to soak. In h9indsight, this would be a good way to give this out as well. Just let it dry out in the mixing bowl and put a scoop or tow into a pretty little jar of some sort. Lesson learned for next time!

Mocha Cappuccino Mix

I was so supremely happy to run across this recipe on StrawberryCake's blog! It is just the thing I was looking for to add to our treat trays this Christmas and I think it would be a nice gift for the boys' teachers too!
The Ingredients
1 cup Coffeemate powder
1 cup Nesquick powder
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended. That's it!!
Add 3 Tbsp mix to 8 oz hot water. Stir Enjoy!

I put about 1 1/2 cups of the mix into a ziploc baggie and I made a tag that says what it is and how to mix yourself a cup. I was able to make 1 1/2 recipes with the jar of instant coffee I had purchased which yielded 5 packages of mix. I still have Coffeemate and Nesquick left so I am running back to the store for more coffee. This is so quick and easy, how can you not?
Fast forward to the present (middle of stinkinhot summer 2011) day and I was really jonesing for a caffeine fix. I had nothing! Well, I had my Keurig but I didn't want hot coffee. I dug this out of the cupboard and fixed it with cold milk over ice. DEELISH! So good that I just rounded up ingredients to make a fresh batch :)


Menu 12/10 - 12/16--2010

Well, another week is crossed off the calendar and we are creeping ever closer to Christmas!! I have been so busy lately and it won't really end anytime soon. This is the new normal in Chaosville I reckon. Here is the week's menu:
Friday--We ordered the new Cheesy Bites pizza from Pizza Hut. In a word: disappointing
Saturday--Clones and I ate corn dogs (I know, I know!)
Sunday--Hoping to redeem myself with Raley Goulash
Monday--Chicken Strips and pasta salad
Tuesday--Tilapia and noodles
Wednesday--Chicken Enchiladas
Thursday--Hoppin John


Salisbury Steak

When I was a kid, we used to eat TV dinners on TV trays in our living room every once in a while. My brother and I loved those nights! I believe Mike was probably in college before he stopped saying that TV dinners were his favorite meal. While he preferred the fried chicken version, I was always a sucker for the Salisbury Steak with mashed potatoes. I have never tried to make it myself, but I came across this recipe in my new Taste of Home Almost Homemade cookbook and it looked easy enough. I had to try it out!
The Ingredients:
**I made a double recipe. All ingredients listed are for a single recipe version.
1/2 cup milk
14 saltines, crushed
2 Tbsp dried minced onion
2 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 pound lean ground beef
1 jar beef gravy
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp pepper

In a large bowl, combine milk, saltines, onion and parsley.
Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Use the mixers God gave you!!
Shape into patties and place in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. A single recipe will yield 4 patties. My double recipe yielded 8.
In another bowl (or rinse out the first one and use it again like I did), mix the gravy, ketchup, Worcestershire and pepper.
Pour over patties.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until done through.
Pattie ate this up! The boys and I liked it too. I have to admit, I wasn't too excited about the canned gravy. This isn't something I'll make a lot but it's a nice switch from meatloaf and it was pretty tasty.