Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tennis Ball Cupcakes

Yikes! It's been a month since I posted something here.  When several weeks pass between blog entries on my cooking blog, my dad asks me, "Does that mean your family is starving?... your husband and son are having to fend for themselves?... perhaps you are going to McDonalds?"  He's a kidder.  Of course I am cooking, but I am just not finding enough time to write about it.

We had a tennis team dinner for the boy's high school tennis team last Friday night. It's a team tradition where the families of the boys who are Seniors host team dinners in their homes.  There are five Seniors on the team this year, including my son.  Another mom and I agreed to host a team dinner together.  She offered to have it at her house and I agreed to do a bunch of the cooking. It worked out great because she had to work on Friday and I did not.  Also, our house really is not great for entertaining. 

For the team dinner, we basically made up a terrific taco/nacho bar.  Seasoned ground beef in the crock pot, black beans, refried beans, hot queso dip... crunchy tacos, soft flour tortillas, tortilla chips... and every possible topping you could imagine... guacamole, sour cream, salsa, pickled jalapenos, cheese, olives, lettuce, tomatoes, onions... you get the idea. We also made some desserts. 

Above you'll see my tennis ball cupcakes. I made Funfetti cupcakes (white cake with colorful sprinkles mixed in) and Ifound Neon Yellow Vanilla canned frosting.  I used a little white frosting and piped that on with my pastry bag to make the cupcakes look a bit like tennis balls.

I can't believe this is my son's last year on the tennis team. This photo appeared in the local newspaper a few weeks back:

I love his smile. Crazy long hair, right? 

When I was looking on the internet for the photo above, I found the photo below (also from the local paper). Look how much he's grown and changed! He'll always be my baby boy.  *sigh*


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Brutus Bites

Brutus Bites
I couldn't make treats and call them "Sandy Snacks" without making up something special for Brutus, too!
Today I tried another recipe and I am calling these "Brutus Bites". Both doggies love these.  I found the recipe HERE.  They are "Healthy Pumpkin Balls".

Healthy Pumpkin Balls
This snack is not only delicious but is also filled with fiber, vitamin A, beta-carotene, potassium, and iron.
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 4 tbsp molasses
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix pumpkin, molasses, vegetable oil, and water together in a bowl
  3. Add the whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon to the mixture and stir until dough softens
  4. Scoop out small spoonfuls of dough and roll into balls on your hands (wet hands work best)
  5. Set the balls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and flatten with a fork
  6. Bake approximately 25 minutes until dough is hardened
After making dog treats yesterday, I second guessed the oven temperature on this recipe.  I think my oven is running a little "hot".  I baked these at 300 degrees F for about 45 minutes and then turned the oven off and let them sit in the oven a bit longer with the door closed as the oven cooled.  These are still soft inside. I used my little ice cream scoop to portion these out (the same scoop I used to make human sized cookies) and they are way too big.  I will make these again sometime, only I will make them small-dog-bite-sized. 

The dogs went nuts for these treats! 
Above:  "Did you say these are called 'Brutus Bites?"
Above: Nice cake-y texture.  Mmmmm!

I love how Sandy's eyes are shut in this picture.  "Mmmmmmm, I can smell the molasses, pumpkin, and cinnamon, Mom!"

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sandy Snacks

Whole Wheat and Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
A recipe from The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten)
  • 1 1/2 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered or dry milk
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ (I left this out)
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Directions
    Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the two flours, the powdered milk, oatmeal, peanut butter and wheat germ. With the mixer on low speed, add the extra-large egg and 1 cup of water and mix just until it forms a slightly sticky ball.
    Dump the dough out on a well-floured board (I use all-purpose flour) and knead it into a ball. Roll the dough out 1/2-inch thick. Dip a cookie cutter in flour and cut out dog bone shapes. Collect the scraps, knead lightly, roll out again and cut more dog biscuits.
    Place the biscuits on the prepared sheet pan and brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle with oatmeal and bake for 1 hour, until completely hard. Cool and toss.

    If you know me, you knew it was just a matter of time before I started to bake for my dogs!
    I made these pretty much as described in the directions above with just a few exceptions.  I noticed my biscuits were browning on the bottom really quickly.  After the biscuits had baked for just 30 minutes, I decided to turn the oven off and just let the biscuits continue to sit in the warm oven (with the oven door closed) for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  This way the oven sort of served as food dehydrator and the treats did not get too brown.  Also, when I made the dough for the dog treats, I left out the wheat germ.  That stuff is expensive! $5.00 a jar.  Also, my egg was not extra large so I added in just a tad more water.  For the peanut butter, I used reduced salt/reduced sugar Jif Brand Peanut Butter. 
    Sandy REALLY liked her biscuit. Brutus was not so sure.  Since Sandy like her treat so much, I decided to give her a second one. She ran into the dining room toward a corner, turned her back on Brutus, and sort of blocked Brutus from passing her to get any crumbs that may fall out of her mouth while she was crunching away.  Normally she doesn't mind sharing. 

    Then Sandy came back into the kitchen where she ate biscuit #1, just to see if maybe some crumbs were left on the floor.

    Sandy had a pretty rough day today.  When we went for a walk, she got a fire ant in her paw and it bit the heck out of her. It was hot and inflamed right away and I could tell it bugged her for a few hours.  Then we went to the vet since she was due for some vaccinations.  They took her temperature just to check it (I had mentioned the bug bite).  Then she got two shots.  Rough morning!

    Since it was so fun and easy to make dog treats, I decided I should try some other dog treat recipes. I have found some others that look good. I'll keep you posted.

    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

    Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins
    Happy Mother's Day!  I made myself a little treat...

    I keep buying bananas and letting them get over-ripe. Last week, I threw someway. Doh!
    Today I whipped up some muffins to use up some ripe bananas and the muffins are tasty treats!  Seems like a lot of banana bread recipes call for three bananas but this recipe only calls for two bananas, so this recipe's a good alternative in case you just have two bananas.
    I made just slight changes to the recipe.  I tossed in a big handful of chopped walnuts (a little over 1/2 cup) and some mini-chocolate chips (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup).  I tossed the chocolate chips and walnuts with a little flour before adding them to the batter. I've heard doing so keeps these ingredients from  dropping to the bottom of the muffins.  Seems like the trick worked.  The recipe also calls for dipping the baked muffins in melted butter and then cinnamon sugar but I skipped this part.  The recipe calls for baking the muffins at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  I checked my muffins at 15 minutes and they were raw inside.  I baked them for about 18 minutes and they were done inside but really brown on the outside. Next time I'll bake my muffins at 350 for about 20 minutes. 
    Breakfasts and/or snacks for the week!
    Good stuff!

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Queso-Taco Pasta Bake

    Queso-Taco Pasta Bake

    Betty Crocker and Old El Paso Brands team up in this dish:

    I have been getting emails from
    So many tempting and great looking recipes I'd like to try.

    Two recipes caught my eye this past week.  This dish, Queso-Taco Pasta Bake, was dinner for me and my husband tonight.  It will also be my work week lunches. This dish is delicious.  I am really glad I tried this recipe.  This recipe calls for a pouch of Old El Paso Roasted Tomato Mexican Cooking Sauce.  I had never noticed this product on the store shelves before. I was not sure if my store would carry it or not so I decided to try this recipe if I could find the product.  I found it a City Market (Kroger). 

    Here's the LINK for this recipe:

    I followed the recipe almost exactly. Crazy, right?.  The only change I made was that I used 8 ounces of grated extra sharp cheddar cheese in the cheese sauce instead of just 6 ounces as called for.  For the salsa, I used "medium" salsa.  The recipe is basically a fancy macaroni and cheese recipe. You start with butter and flour to make a roux and then add in chicken broth. Then you melt in some cheddar cheese and the simmering sauce.  The pasta is cooked separately.  Then ground beef, onion, cumin, and salsa are cooked separately. You combine all these ingredients and then bake it in the oven with a little more cheese on top.  This recipe calls for cumin, which is one of my all time favorite flavors.  Good stuff!


    Sunday, April 20, 2014

    Crock Pot Three Bean Turkey Chili (AKA: Gringo's Lament)

    So I went for a walk with the puppies, Sandy and Brutus. My friend Tracy brought her pug named Belle and her Boston Terrier named Leila. We bumped into another dog walking buddy named Ron and his dog Tango. We are quite a crew and every gets along well. Knowing that Tracy doesn't like to eat pork or lots of red meat, I decided to tell her and Ron about my new chili recipe which includes ground turkey (instead of beef or pork). I told her and Ron about the recipe and the ingredients(I don't think the dogs were listening) and they both agreed it sounded pretty good. Tracy asked me what I was calling the recipe...?

    "Ummmm, Crock Pot Three Bean Chili with Turkey?" I said rather unimaginitively.

    Ron chuckled and said,"You ought to call it 'Gringo's Lament'?" Ron has a Masters Degree in Library Science. He's smart. I think he was making a witty, clever remark, but it kind of flew over my head. Does this mean a white person may regret eating this chili? If so, maybe I should NOT call my chili recipe Gringo's Lament.  I need to get out my dictionary.

    Whatever the case may be, this chili is really good. It just has a bit of heat, kind of at the end. This is just like the Crock Pot Three Bean Chili with Pork recipe I posted a few weeks back only I used cooked, ground turkey instead. I think I might like it better with the ground turkey. This week my husband suggested I use the ground turkey and he asked for a double batch. Since my Crock Pot could not hold a double batch, I cooked one batch in the Crock Pot and one batch on the stove top in my Dutch Oven (with the lid on). The stove top version cooks for a shorter period (simmer for about an hour) and turns out thicker since more liquid is able to evaporate on the stove top. We decided we prefer this recipe in the Crock Pot a bit better.



    1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey, cooked/crumbled/drained
    1 1/2 cups beer (12 ounces) - I used Coors Lite
    1 can fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounce)
    1 can Rotel Original diced tomatoes with green chiles (10 ounce)
    1 diced yellow onion
    1 diced red bell pepper
    1 can pinto beans, rinsed/drained (15 ounce)
    1 can black beans, rinsed/drained (15 ounce)
    1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed/drained (15 ounce)
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1 teaspoon each ground coriander, garlic powder, and dried oregano
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
    ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Throw all ingredients in crock pot (slow cooker). Give it a good stir. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.  If desired, garnish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese or your favorite  chili toppings. Enjoy!

    Tuesday, April 8, 2014

    Make Ahead Pizza Casserole

    Make Ahead Pizza Casserole

    I don't make a lot of make-ahead casserole dishes but this one looked good. I am so glad I tried it.  It was so simple to throw together on Saturday and so nice to have dinner nearly on the table when I got home from work on Sunday.  I just asked my husband to preheat the oven, stir the casserole, and pop it in the oven about an hour before I got home from work.  This dish is VERY similar to the Skillet Lasagna I've made dozens of times, but of course the casserole is baked in the oven.  As we had this for dinner, I was thinking of ways this might be made a little more healthful.  Whole grain pasta and turkey Italian sausage perhaps.  One could also add diced bell peppers when cooking up the sausage.  Just like pizza, you can add or subtract ingredients based upon our preferences.  I would have loved olives in this casserole but family doesn't like them.  Bummer.

    I found this recipe on the Better Crocker Website:


    1 lb mild Italian pork sausage (I used 1.25 lb. Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage)
    2 cups water (I added an extra 1/8 cup water since my pizza sauce jar was only 14 ounces)
    1 can (15 oz) pizza sauce (I used Di Napoli Classico Traditional Pizza Sauce, 14 oz.)
    1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with sweet onion, undrained (I used fire roasted diced tomatoes)
    4 cups uncooked rotini pasta (10 oz)
    1 can (2 1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained (I left this out but it would be great in this dish!)
    1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella or pizza cheese blend (6 oz)
    (I added a bit of garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and dried Italian herbs, too!)

    1. In 10-inch skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until no longer pink; drain.

    2. In ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish, mix water, pizza sauce and tomatoes. Stir in cooked sausage, uncooked pasta and olives (pasta should be completely covered with sauce). Cover tightly with foil; refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

    3. When ready to bake, heat oven to 350°F. Stir casserole; cover with foil and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until bubbly.

    4. Uncover baking dish; stir mixture. Sprinkle with cheese; bake uncovered 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

    Makes 6 servings (1 1/3 cups each)

    This sauce was a good choice.  Good stuff!

    Leftovers for work.  Love that!