Kitchen Concoctions

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mini Halloween Pizzas



Holidays are the perfect opportunity to get in the kitchen and play with your food. These Mini Halloween Pizzas are a fun a festive twist on the childhood favorite, English Muffin Pizza, and would be an easy dinner Halloween night!


What is your favorite thing about Halloween? Pumpkin carving, haunted houses, dressing up or all the candy? Do you love it all or is Halloween just not your thing (If so, I don't know if we can be friends! Just kidding... well kind of.)?

Being big on traditions, as a child we celebrated EVERY holiday, but I will admit, some more than others. For us Halloween was celebrated way more than say, Valentine's or St. Patrick's Day, but not as much as Christmas. For Halloween, we covered the house in all sorts of orange and black décor, decorated Halloween sugar cookies, carved pumpkins and looked adorable in our costumes.


While I, of course, loved it all, dressing up was probably my favorite. The opportunity to wear makeup, put on an elaborate costume, and pretend to be someone else, even if just for a night, I think is every child’s dream!

As a child, I went from an adorable bunny, to a picture perfect ballerina, to rockin' a homemade poodle skirt. My siblings and I even dressed up one year as the crew from Wizard of Oz (I was the scarecrow)! And while many believe dressing up is just child's play, as an adult I have had fun transforming into a butterfly, flower and even Rosie the Riveter. I love that Halloween, in all it's spooky and sometimes creepy glory, encourages creativity, imagination and fun!


I think that is why I get so excited about creating and concocting “Ghoulish Grub” every year! Halloween is the perfect excuse for kids young and old to think out side the box and play with their food!

Fun Halloween food doesn't have to be loaded with candy and sugar. In fact, every year I try to come up with two or three spooky, savory eats to enjoy for dinner on Halloween night or as a snack while we carve pumpkins. These Mini Halloween Pizzas use pantry staples, like California Ripe Olives, cheese and English muffins, to create an easy Halloween meal the kids will love making! 


While I have provided a few fun examples, an owl, cat (or mouse, depending on who you ask), mummy and spider; these pizzas are really a fantastic way for kids to get in the kitchen, try new foods and use their imagination to have fun creating delicious food art. But don't stop there! Due to their rich black color, crunchy texture and salty flavor, California Ripe Olives are an ideal ingredient for all those savory Halloween dishes. Use these pizzas as inspiration and make spider deviled eggs, open faced mummy quesadillas, or eyeball meatballs!

While I have the basic directions and ingredients listed below, this really a 'no recipe required' kind of meal. Just channel your inner child and don't be afraid to have fun with your food! What was your favorite Halloween costume?


Mini Halloween Pizzas
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 8 minutes

Traditional English Muffin Pizzas with a fun Halloween twist! 

Ingredients (as needed):
Pizza Sauce
English Muffins, halved
Mozzarella Cheese, grated
California Black Ripe Olives, whole or sliced
Mini Pepperoni

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and set aside.

Using the back of a large spoon, spread desired amount of pizza sauce on top of one half of an English muffin. Top the sauce with cheese and desired toppings to create a festive and unique Halloween pizza. Suggestions: halved and sliced black olives for spiders, quartered black olives and sliced green bell peppers for Jack-o-lanterns, mini pepperoni and sliced black olives for cat faces. 

Place English muffin pizza on prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and English muffin is crisp.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Witch Snack Pack Pudding Parfaits

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SnackPackMixins #CollectiveBias 

Make the Halloween season extra fun by whipping up some easy to make desserts! These Witch Snack Pack Pudding Parfaits are super hands on and very kid friendly, making them a great after school snack or family night activity!


I've been talking a lot about traditions lately. Maybe it is the time of year or maybe I am just feeling super sentimental; but I can't help but reminiscence of days long ago, all while trying to embrace every little moment of today.

While my family had very specific traditions for every holiday growing up, one of the beautiful things about life is that as you grow older, become an adult, meet your significant other and begin your own family, new traditions are born. Because just like my family had our traditions, Eric's family had their own. Getting together meant learning about each other, accepting quarks, and becoming one. I love that we both had very specific holiday traditions from our childhood but that we have also started our own.


Not only do traditions shape who you are, how you were raised in general, of course, plays a vital role as to how you view the world as an adult. Again, these little things are the things you hold on to as an adult or change once you start your own family. For us, many of these “preferences” revolve around food.

I quickly learned early in our relationship that Eric loves pudding. Like LOVES pudding. As simple as it is, his absolute favorite dessert is chocolate pudding pie, something his Mom always made him growing up. And if you ask him about his memory of elementary school, it's not coloring, or playing on the play ground, it is the Snack Pack pudding cups his Mom packed in his lunch or the gray-haired lunch lady put on his tray as he walked through the lunch line. And to this day, if you ask him what he wants for dessert or if he wants a treat from the grocery store, he perks right up and says pudding!
 

As we have moved through the month of October, anxiously awaiting Halloween, we have carried on our priceless traditions. Our scary movie marathon, the pumpkin patch, carving pumpkins and of course concocting some cute and sometimes gross Ghoulish Grub! This Ghoulish Grub tradition has truly become our own, planning special Halloween treats and eats to enjoy as we watch and laugh at cheesy 1980's “scary” movies.


This year when I asked Eric what he wanted to make, “something with pudding” was his immediate response! So we headed to Walmart to check out their scary movie selection, find inspiration from all their Halloween décor, and then headed right for the pudding aisle to grab every flavor Snack Pack Pudding (plus some tasty mix-ins) available!

We then came home popped in a haunting movie and with our powers combined, came up with these fun, cute and yummy Witch Snack Pack Pudding Parfaits! We had a blast making and eating these festive pudding parfaits and channeling Eric's childhood! I can't wait to add these to our ever growing collection of Ghoulish Grub recipes and continue this Halloween tradition for many years to come! 


Witch Snack Pack Pudding Parfaits
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 10 minutes Wait Time: 10 minutes

A cute Halloween pudding parfait the whole family will love making! 

Ingredients (as needed):
Chocolate chips or chocolate candy melts
Coconut or canola oil
Sugar ice cream cones
Halloween colored sprinkles
Vanilla Snack Pack Pudding cups
Green food coloring
Extra Creamy or Chocolate Reddi Wip
Oreo cookies, crushed

Supplies:
Clear plastic cups
Black permanent marker

Directions:
Place the chocolate chips/candy melts in a microwave safe bowl. Add ½-1 teaspoon oil for every 6-9 ounces of chocolate. Microwave in 15-20 second intervals, stirring each time, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip the round open top of an ice cream cone in the melted chocolate. Roll chocolate covered cone in Halloween colored sprinkles. Carefully flip ice cream cone over and dip the bottom tip into the melted chocolate. Dip chocolate covered ice cream cone tip in sprinkles. Place decorated ice cream cone, round open side down, on a wax paper lined plate. Repeat with remaining ice cream cones.

Pour Vanilla Snack Pack Pudding cups into a small bowl (you will need about 1 ½ pudding cups per clear plastic cup). Add desired amount of green food coloring to the bowl and stir to to combine. 

Using the black permanent marker, draw a witch face on one side of the clear plastic cup. Spoon the green pudding into the prepared cup. Top pudding in cup with desired amount of whipped topping. Top whipped topping with crushed Oreo cookies. Sprinkle any remaining colored sprinkles on top of cookies. Carefully place decorated ice cream cone in the center of the pudding parfait on top of cookies. Adore your cute little witch and then grab a spoon and dig in!

Find more Halloween and Fall snack creations on Pinterest

Ready to make your own spooky Snack Pack Pudding treats? Check out the Pinterest board above for a ton of adorable and tasty ideas and then head to Walmart and look for this special Snack Pack Pudding display to grab everything you need!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mega Monster Munch Popcorn {Ghoulish Grub}

This gooey, chocolaty popcorn mix filled with all kinds of Halloween goodies, is perfect for a Halloween party or scary movie night!


Traditions. We are all about them. For every holiday. For every special occasion. You might even say our weekly “routines” have become traditional in a sense.

The month of October is no exception. We get giddy with excitement as we carefully plan every outing, every decoration with much detail. We reminisce of Octobers and Halloween of years past... the festivities, the adventures, the memories.

One of our favorite traditions is our 31 Days of Scary Movies (one scary movie every night of October) marathon. Certainly this particular tradition takes a bit more dedication and time than others, but we really try hard to pull it off because all the fun is totally worth it. In fact, we even have a detailed spreadsheet of every possible scary, cheesy and totally kid-friendly Halloween/horror movie out there (you know to help keep us focused).

However, if I am being honest, this year has been more difficult than others to pull off this tradition. Call it a side affect of getting older, being more busy, having more responsibility, having to wake up super early, or whatever; it is so much harder to stay awake during a movie these days. Nonetheless, every night around 9 pm, you can find me curled up on the couch, in my favorite pajamas (don't worry, I have lots and lots of favorite pajamas) eager to watch our next scary (and sometimes silly) Halloween movie.


And does anyone want to take any guesses of how many Halloween/horror movies I have actually watched from beginning to end so far during these 21 days of October? I think a whopping 6 maybe 7 (and those are on days when I had to stay up late to work)!

Oh well at least I am enthusiastic and give it a good ole college try (oh, speaking of college, I was notorious for falling asleep at the actual movie theater in college... I guess with all that studying I did, and having to juggle a part time job, that was the only time I could get some shut eye!)!

As an incentive to stay awake past 10 pm a few nights ago, Eric decided we needed to whip up a good Halloween treat to enjoy during our movie. We came up with this Mega Monster Munch Popcorn (an adaption from this Bunny Bait I shared a few years ago for Easter); a popcorn loaded with all sorts of our favorite Halloween goodies!

This popcorn was so fun to make together (kids will totally love it and can help make it)! We each picked some of our favorite treats to add (although I was hesitant at first, Eric was instant about the candy corn, which actually was a delicious and festive addition!) and then went to town mixing, drizzling and eating our monster of a concoction!

Go on, grab your favorite spooky movie, whip up a batch of Monster Much Popcorn and make memories!

PS: All this week I will be continuing another Halloween tradition... Ghoulish Grub week on Kitchen Concoctions! Stay tuned as every day this week (through Saturday) I will be sharing some sort or cute, festive, ghoulish treat!

What is your favorite Halloween/scary movie? 

One Year Ago: Graveyard Pudding Pie
Two Years Ago: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
Three Years Ago: Eyeball Cookies and Ghost Cookies 
Four Years Ago: Espresso Brownies
Five Years Ago: Sesame Crackers


Mega Monster Munch Popcorn 
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 10 minutes Wait Time: 15-20 minutes Serves: 6-8

A gooey popcorn mix filled with all kinds of Halloween treats! 

Ingredients:
5 cups popped popcorn (plain or light butter)
10-12 Halloween Oreo cookies, quartered
½ cup Halloween/Fall M&M's or Reese's Pieces candies
½ cup candy corn
½ cup peanuts (unsalted, lightly salted or honey roasted)
½ cup pretzel twists, broken in half
8 ounces vanilla almond bark or white candy melts

For decorating (optional):
1/3 cup orange candy melts
1/3 cup yellow candy melts
1/3 cup chocolate chips or candy melts
1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil, divided

Directions:
Line a baking sheet with wax paper.

In a large bowl, toss together popped popcorn (any unpopped kernels removed), Oreo cookies, chocolate candy, candy corn, peanuts and pretzels. Set aside.

Place the vanilla almond bark in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 15-20 second intervals, stirring after each time, until almond bark is melted and smooth. Drizzle the melted almond bark over the popcorn mixture and stir to combine, making sure everything is evenly coated.

Spread coated popcorn mixture in an even layer on wax paper lined baking sheet and let cool, about 15-20 minutes. Break into pieces and serve.

Optional (for additional decoration): Before breaking coated popcorn into pieces; place orange, yellow and chocolate candy melts in three separate microwave safe bowls. Add 1-2 teaspoons coconut oil to each bowl. Microwave each bowl of candy melts in 15-20 second intervals, stirring after each time, until candy melts are melted and smooth. Drizzle melted candy melts over popcorn mixture on baking sheet. Allow mixture to cool, break into pieces and serve.

Adapted from this Bunny Bait recipe and this Monster Munch/Halloween Snack Mix via Lauren's Latest


Other Halloween recipes you might enjoy:
Mummy Nutter Butter Cookies and Pumpkin Oreo Cookies
Monster Munch Cookies 
Casper the Friendly Ghost Smoothie (a.k.a Very Vanilla Smoothie) 
Graveyard Pudding Pie
Mini Graveyard Cakes

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles with Creamy Sausage Gravy

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hillshire Brands™ and Safeway for the Mom It Forward Network. All thoughts and opinions are my own. #BringHillshireHome #ad 

Biscuits and gravy are the ultimate southern comfort food! They have long competed with waffles and pancakes for the breakfast spotlight, but not anymore! This recipe for Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles with Creamy Sausage Gravy, takes a simple buttermilk biscuit recipe and transforms it into crispy waffles topped with that comforting, creamy sausage gravy. 


Hi my name is Heather and I am a coupon addict.

There I said it and yes, it is true! On most Sunday afternoons you will find me carefully sorting, clipping and organizing coupons into a nifty little coupon book.

Each week I can't wait to grab that thick, dull newspaper and flip through to the colorful, shiny weekly ads and coupons. I love seeing what deals are awaiting and carefully matching up each coupon with the weekly sale.

Yes, I'll admit coupon clipping can be time consuming and tedious. And truth be told, the last few months have been crazy around here and my coupon clipping has slacked and therefor my wallet and inventory has suffered. But I am trying to get back into the coupon clipping habit.


Despite my coupon addiction love, by no means am I an extreme couponer. In fact, where I live that is hard to do; with many local stores having strict coupon policies. But coupons do save me a lot of money (even with the tight coupon laws, I can usually save about 30-40 percent on my bill) and help me stock my pantry with not only staples, but pricey toiletries at rock bottom prices.

Even though I love grabbing a good deal, there are many myths about couponing and stereotypes those of us who coupon (this might be one reason why I was afraid to admit my little coupon clipping “problem”, but we are all friends, right?). No, I don't have a basement, room or closet filled with coupon freebies, but I do believe in being prepared for a natural disaster, job loss, etc. and having an inventory of supplies and food storage to help you get by when needed. Plus, with how crazy expensive things are these days, I'll take any savings I can! My motto... coupons are just like dolla bills, y'all!


Another myth is that you can't get coupons for things like fresh produce, meat and dairy products. But there are lots of coupons available for so many things (believe me, I know... like I said I use coupons -just like cash- for everything.... groceries, toiletries, clothes, dinner out...). In fact, right now, with the J4U coupon program, via Safeway (where you can download valuable coupons online right to your store card), you can grab several coupons for Hillshire Brands™ products (like Jimmy Dean Sausage) giving you the opportunity to add protein, at affordable prices, to every meal!

Not only am I super conscious about saving money by shopping sales and using coupons, I try and make sure every meal we cook at home is affordable and budget friendly. Brinner (breakfast for dinner) is a weekly occurrence. Eggs, a sweet or savory baked good, fresh fruit and sausage or bacon can easily serve a family of four to six, for less than ten bucks! Today's recipe is my most recent brinner concoction! Fluffy and flaky buttermilk biscuits, transformed into crispy, savory waffles topped with a creamy sausage gravy; all ready in 30 minutes or less! Come on! With a meal like this, who doesn't love breakfast any time of day!


Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles with Creamy Sausage Gravy
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version 
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4-6

Crispy, flaky buttermilk biscuit waffles with a thick and creamy sausage gravy. 

Ingredients:

Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles:
2 ¼ cups self-rising flour
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 egg, whisked

Creamy Sausage Gravy:
1 pound Jimmy Dean All-Natural Fresh Pork Sausage
6 tablespoons butter 
1 small onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups beef broth
1 ½ cups milk
1/8 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper, or to taste

Directions:

For Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles:

Preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt and black pepper. Using a pastry cutter, fork or your fingers; cut cold butter into flour until coarse, sand-like crumbs are formed. Slowly stir in buttermilk and whisked egg, mixing just until moist, making sure not to over mix (mixture should be thinner than biscuit dough and thicker than waffle batter).

Spoon biscuit mixture onto preheated waffle iron, close and bake according to manufacture's instructions; cooking to desired crispness. Remove waffles and repeat with remaining batter.* Separate cooked waffles into sections and serve immediately topped with prepared Creamy Sausage Gravy.

Creamy Sausage Gravy:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl, leaving some of the rendered fat in the skillet.

Add one tablespoon butter to skillet. Add onions and cook until they begin to caramelize slightly, approximately 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add remaining butter to skillet and melt. Slowly whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until a roux forms and turns a golden brown color, about 2 minutes. Continue whisking and slowly pour in the beef broth. Whisk constantly until there are no longer any lumps. Slowly whisk in milk. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in cooked sausage. Season gravy with allspice, salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Allow gravy to simmer until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately over prepared Buttermilk Biscuit Waffles.

*Kitchen Tip: To keep waffles warm while cooking additional batches of waffles or while making sausage gravy, place cooked waffles on a baking sheet in a preheated 225 degree oven until ready to serve.


Eager to make this twist on the classic biscuits and gravy for brunch today or brinner tonight?!?! Sign up for the J4U coupon program, via Safeway, and save $.55 on one roll of Jimmy Dean Refrigerated Sausage. Also, be sure and grab other Hillshire Brands™ coupons and make one of these fabulous recipes for dinner this week:


Pretzel Wrapped Lit'l Smokies (Making the World Cuter)
Kielbasa with Apples, Potatoes and Peppers (Meatloaf and Melodrama)
Hot Dog Kebabs (Busy Mommy Media)
Pesto Alfredo Tortellini with Smoked Sausage (Belle of the Kitchen)
Spicy Smoked Sausage Wrap (Strawberry Mommycakes)
Ditalini & Sausage Soup (Kleinworth & Co.)
Fried Rice (My Pinterventures)
Smoked Sausage Penne Pasta (Sincerely, Jamie)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Steak and Potato Burgers {Plus Tips for the Perfect Burger}

A classic burger and fries is All-American comfort food! Equally as comforting is a steakhouse dinner, with a perfectly cooked steak, creamy mashed potatoes all topped with a hearty mushroom gravy. This recipe takes all the favorite flavors of a fancy steakhouse dinner and transforms them into a knife and fork kinda burger!

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Stubb's.)

I love the fall! While most people tend to cook out on the grill during the warmer days of summer, the fall months (before the bitter cold of winter sets in) is absolutely perfect for firing up the grill! Nothing excites me more than cooler fall days, colorful leaves, backyard cookouts and watching football with friends! Gathering on the back porch, a cold drink in one hand, surrounded by good company and a grill sizzling with tasty food, is simply picturesque.

My favorite food to cook on the grill, happens to be America's favorite, burgers. Nothing beats a juicy, all-beef patty grilled to perfection, topped with a thick slice of melted cheddar cheese, plump tomatoes, crisp lettuce, tangy mustard, all sandwiched between a toasted bun.


Taking that first, mouthwatering bite of burger, instantly takes me back to so many happy memories. I am quickly transported to my childhood and my first exhilarating, yet terrifying, summer camp away from home. To college tailgating, cheering on the school's football team, all while making new friends. And of course to many 4th of July celebrations spent on the lake celebrating life, family and freedom!

While burgers are quintessential to a cookouts, mastering the perfect burger, requires a little knowledge and know how.

Below are a few of my favorite tips to make sure your next burger is flawless!

Tips for the Perfect Burger: 

The meat: I like to use equal parts ground sirloin and ground chuck. The ground chuck, with 20 percent fat, helps yield a juicy flavorful burger. While leaner, ground sirloin adds an extra layer of beefy flavor and helps prevent the meat from shrinking too much. Ground turkey, chicken, fish, pork and lamb can also be used to make fantastic burgers.

Seasonings: Some burger traditionalist believe in simply seasoning burgers with only salt and black pepper. However, fresh onion or garlic, fresh or dried herbs and spices, cheese, pickled condiments, like jalapenos, and even prepared sauces, such as Stubb's Texas Steakhouse Marinade; can all be added to the burger mixture to for an extra pop of flavor. While these seasonings and sauces can be mixed directly into the burger mixture, salt and pepper should only be added to the patties right before cooking, as salt dissolves muscle proteins, which can create a tough, dry burger. Before forming the burger patties, pinch off a piece of your burger mixture and cook it to check the seasoning amounts.


Forming the patty: Chill the meat for 20-30 minutes before shaping burgers. Wet hands with cold water and divide meat into equal portions. Shape beef into ¾-inch thick patties. Using your thumb, press a small dimple into the center of the formed burger. Be careful not to overwork the meat as it will yield a tough burger.

Cooking: Whether grilling or pan searing your burgers, make sure your grill or pan is extremely hot before adding the burgers. Never, ever, press down on the burger patties as they cook. This releases all the natural juice and will result in a dry burger. Also, avoid closing the lid on the grill and over-flipping the burger. Flipping the burger only once during the cooking process will help prevent the burger from falling apart as it cooks. Since ground beef contains harmful bacteria, which is spread throughout all the meat, burgers should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. 

While the “All-American” burger I described earlier is classic, since I love burgers so much, I love experimenting with new flavor combinations. This Steak and Potato Burger combines all my favorite flavors of a fancy steakhouse dinner: a juicy, seasoned burger topped with creamy homemade mashed potatoes and a robust mushroom gravy! Go on, grab your knife and fork and dig in!


Steak and Potato Burgers 
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 25-30 minutes Wait Time: 20-30 minutes Cook Time: 35-40 minutes Serves: 6

A burger that combines all the favorite flavors of a fancy steakhouse dinner! 

Ingredients:

Burgers:
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin
1 ½ tablespoons Stubb's Steak Spice Rub
4 tablespoons Stubb's Texas Steakhouse Marinade
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper 

Mashed Potatoes:
4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2/3-1 cup milk
4-5 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper 

Mushroom Gravy:
¼ cup butter
1 small onion, diced
1 (8-ounce) container sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 cups beef stock
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon Stubb's Steak Spice Rub
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

For serving:
6 large hamburger buns, toasted right before serving

Directions:

Burgers:
In a large bowl, gently mix together ground chuck, ground sirloin, Stubb's Steak Spice Rub and Stubb's Texas Steakhouse Marinade. Refrigerate ground beef mixture for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat grill to high heat. Once ground meat is well chilled, wet hands with cold water and divide into six equal portions. Be careful not to over work the meat, and shape beef into ¾-inch thick patties. Using your thumb, press a small dimple in the center of the formed burger. Season prepared burgers with salt and black pepper. Transfer burgers to preheated grill. Cook burgers for 4-5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.

Mashed Potatoes:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully add peeled and diced potatoes to boiling water. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Drain water and return cooked potatoes to the pot. 

Add milk and butter to pot with potatoes. Using a potato masher or electric mixer, mash the potatoes until desired consistency is reach. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Mushroom Gravy:
Melt butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes or until onions start to caramelize. Stir in mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 to 60 seconds.

Sprinkle flour over cooked vegetables, and stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup of beef stock, stirring constantly until fully incorporated. Stir in remaining stock and milk. Season gravy, to taste, with Stubb's Steak Spice Rub, salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes, stirring often.

To assemble:
Place cooked burger on the bottom toasted bun. Top burgers with approximately 1/3 cup mashed potatoes. Top mashed potatoes with 2-3 tablespoons prepared gravy. Top gravy covered potatoes with remaining bun. Serve immediately.


Disclosure: I am in a working relationship with Stubb's Sauces and Marinades. This recipe was developed by me for Stubb's. This blog post was written by me on behalf of Stubb's. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Because of sponsors like Stubb's I am able to continue to bring you all the content I feature here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Baked Garlic Parmesan Fries

French fries and hamburgers go together like peanut butter and jelly, pumpkin and lattes and milk and cereal! But these crispy oven baked fries with nutty Parmesan cheese and toasted garlic are sure to steal the show on your next burger night!


I used to not be a big TV watcher. Growing up we didn't have cable (and I still don't) and since there were four of us kids, sometimes it was easier to just get lost in a good book than fight over the TV. Yeah, sure, there were a few shows that I loved (like every child growing up in the 80's and 90's TGIF was a weekly routine and so was Saturday morning cartoons) but 'binge watching' didn't exist back then.

In high school, to keep up in conversations with friends, I got into a few shows. You know, like Friends and Dawson's Creek, and towards the end CSI and Gilmore Girls. But still, this was the time before DVRs and if you missed the show, and I often did, you just missed the show. Then in college I lived with roommates for a few years and getting to watch your show was also non-existent. Basically I only got hooked on popular shows like The O.C. and One Tree Hill, purely because of roommates and friends. Once I got my own place the TV was all mine, but honestly, even then I never watched it! I was busy with school, work and living life! I never got to see how those shows ended, after all that investment.

Fast forward to today. Now with things like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, I can catch up on all these shows and more. For years I have waited patiently for Gilmore Girls to be added so that I can finally see the end and to say I was giddy when I discovered that in fact Netflix now has all seven seasons is an understatement (it's the little things in life).


It is in not in my nature to sit and truly 'binge watch' TV. If I am watching TV I am always doing something; like laundry, doing paper work, clipping coupons or working. Since most of these activities can take a little bit of time, it is easy to watch several episodes back to back. It is also easy to get distracted. Like now, as I sit and type this, The Good Wife is playing and I can't think of anything else good to write about... except TV and how I can't believe one of the main characters just... well I won't spoil it (FYI: I am half way through season five).

So now that I have bored you long enough, with distracted ramblings nothing to do with this recipe; I am turning off the TV to head somewhere (like my patio or a coffee shop) so that I can concentrate and really focus on writing.

Oh wait, before I go... the recipe. We love baked French fries. It is my go-to side dish for so many things and while we normally love them seasoned like this French fry recipe, I also like to change them up! Toasting some garlic and adding a fresh sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is a simple and fancy way to dress up your basic baked fry!

One Year Ago: Pumpkin Granola Bars
Two Years Ago: Owl S’mores
Three Years Ago: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread
Four Years Ago: Breakfast Stuffing
Five Years Ago: Jerk Chicken


Baked Garlic Parmesan Fries
by Heather H. of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 8-10 minutes Cook Time: 25-30 minutes Serves: 4

Crispy oven baked fries with nutty Parmesan cheese and toasted garlic. 

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 large Russet potatoes, thinly sliced
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Heat oil in a small sauce pan over low heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

Place sliced potatoes in a large bowl. Pour garlic infused oil over fries. Add Parmesan cheese, salt and black pepper; toss to coat.

Arrange fries in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until fries are crispy and tender.

Serve immediately topped with additional freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serving Suggestions: These fries would be the perfect accompaniment to these Parmesan Pesto Chicken Burgers or Seared Sirloin Steak with Sweet Balsamic Wine Sauce for a tasty twist on steak and pommes frites.

Other recipes you might enjoy:
Seasoned Shoestring Fries with Creamy Mesquite Fry Sauce
Carrot Fries
Barbecue Fries 
Spicy Sweet Potato Fries
Pie Fries

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dog Halloween Treats {Plus Dog "Howl-oween" Printables}

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TrickOrTreatEm #CollectiveBias

Celebrate Howl-oween with your favorite pup! Our adorable pets deserve to enjoy some fun and treats this Howl-oween! In honor of my beloved “four legged child,” Mo, I created some cute Halloween Treats and put a fun twist on the popular and mysterious “BOOed” activity for all my friends and family with “fur babies” too!


Growing up we had so many holiday traditions. From chopping down a real tree every year for Christmas to dyeing Easter eggs and making decorated sugar cookies for every single holiday; we knew how to celebrate! Halloween was no exception. From visiting the local farmers market to get the biggest pumpkin around, to dressing up and Trick-or-Treating or attending every fall festival possible... it was a fun and festive time of year! One tradition, I remember vividly started when I was in middle school. That was the year that we got “BOOed”. You know, the fun holiday twist on the popular game ding-dong-ditch. That year some sneaky friend or neighbor rang our doorbell, ran off, leaving a bag full of Halloween treats on our door, with a cute note instructing us to spread the holiday cheer.


After that first year of being “BOOed” my family would eagerly wait for October to roll around so that we could be the first ones to “BOO” someone else! This fun game continued for years, but since I moved away from home, it is one holiday tradition that I almost forgot.

That is until this year!


This year we have tired to soak up every moment and appreciate the small things in life. As the end of September grew close, Eric and I started eagerly planning the upcoming holiday season. Since the holidays are kinda our thing, we knew we wanted to celebrate with our usual festivities, like our annual 31 Days of Halloween Movies and hosting a pumpkin carving party for friends, but we also wanted to add a few new traditions.


I remembered the excitement of getting “BOOed” and wanted to bring this fun to some of our friends and family. But since we don't have any kiddos to take Trick-or-Treating (just yet), I thought I would pamper my sweet pup and get him already for Howl-oween! Since I have several friends with “four legged children,” as well, I thought they would appreciate if I remembered their doggies too!


To get started I created some fun printables (that you can download and print too!) and headed to Kroger to grab some pet treats and dog costumes. Not only did Kroger have a variety of dog treats (including MilkBone, Milo's Kitchen, Pup-peroni and Canine Carry Outs) if you go to http://krogertrickortreatem.com you can take a quiz to find out your pet's Halloween personality, create a custom digital Halloween pet photo frame and score valuable dog treat coupons!


I then created, printed and cut out the special dog treat printables, including a special dog version of the “BOO” poem and instructions. You could simply share some dog treats or create a fun dog themed gift pack, filling a dog bowl with treats, a Halloween bandanna or pet costume and dog toys! I seriously can't contain all my excitement for all the Halloween... err should I say Howl-oween, fun!


How to you pamper your pet? Do they participate in the Halloween festivities?

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