Kitchen Concoctions: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giveaway: Chex Cereal and $25 Sam's Gift card

This giveaway is now closed. The winner (chosen by random.org) is comment number 48, The Griggs. Please contact me within 72 hours to claim your prize. Thank you to all who entered!

Today because it is the last day of my birthday month and because tomorrow is the first day of December and I am starting a new exhausting fun series to count down to Christmas, I have a great giveaway!

Keeping with the theme of the last giveaway (hosting a Chex snack mix party) today's giveaway has tips and tricks to host your own party as well as the chance to win a box of Chex cereal and a $25 Sam's/Walmart gift card. To enter check out the details below. BTW, the winner of the $20 Gift Card and Chex Mix Party Pack Giveaway is commenter number 37, Lauren. Lauren please email me with your contact information as soon as possible.

The details:

Searching for ways to mix up this year´s holiday bash? Then why not host a Chex® Party Mix-Change, a modern spin on the traditional cookie swap with a delicious and savory twist! With several Chex Party Mix recipes that can be made in just 15 minutes and Sam´s Club stores providing you with everything needed to host a fabulous party, there´s no excuse to not call on family and friends for a celebration.

In fact, with all of the extra prep time being saved, you´ll be able to spend more time mingling with your guests this year than working in the kitchen.

How to throw the ultimate Sam´s Club Chex Party Mix-Change:

•Set the date and spread the word. Announce your Chex Party Mix-Change using some of these festive invites

•Mix it up. Use these mouth-watering Chex recipe cards including Chex Pumpkin Pie Crunch and Hot Buttered Yum Chex Mix and this shopping list to make party prep a snap

•Share the fun. Use some of these easy tips and tricks to add some extra flare to your party and check out some of the packaging ideas so your guests don´t go home empty handed

Visit ChexPartyMixChange.com for even more party-planning tips and be sure to also check out Sam´s Club, your one stop Chex spot that has everything you need to throw a Chex Party Mix-Change!

Prize Pack Includes:

•One $25 Sam´s Club gift card
•One box of Chex cereal


You have FIVE separate ways to enter the Sam's Club $25 Gift Card and Chex Cereal Giveaway! (NOTE: Please leave a SEPARATE comment for each response below):

1. Leave a comment on this post answering the following question: Tell me which recipe (listed above)for Chex Mix you are most interested in trying.

2. Become a follower of Kitchen Concoctions through Google Friend Connect.

3. Tell someone about this giveaway, whether it be on a blog, Facebook or Twitter and leave a new comment letting me know and sharing the link.
4. For a fourth entry to this giveaway, head over to Kitchen Concoction’s Facebook page and click ”Like”. Then come back here and leave a separate comment letting me know you did.

5. And for a fifth and final entry follow Kitchen Concoctions on Twitter.

This give-away closes Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 11:00 PM CST. Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced sometime shortly after the give-away ends. Winner must contact Kitchen Concoctions within 72 hours at kitchen_concoctions at hotmail dot com to claim prize. If winner has not claimed prize within 72 hours then a new winner will be notified. Giveaway for US residents only.

NOTE: Please check back shortly after giveaway closing to see if you are a winner. As much as I would like to run all over the Internet world looking for you, I do not have the time. So you as the winner MUST contact me with your information within 72 hours (no exceptions, I have deadlines to meet people!) to claim your prize.

"Disclosure: The Sam´s Club gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by Sam´s Club, Chex Party Mix and General Mills through MyBlogSpark."

Martha Stewart Living

I have always had love/hate thing for Martha Stewart. I admire her entrepreneurial skills and the way she has somehow managed to take over the food/crafting/wedding/interior decorating/cooking/television world. I strongly dislike the fact that she honestly thinks the average person can make a three course meal on a hectic Tuesday night or creating designs out of hollowed out ostrich eggs.

But I decided to give ole' Martha a chance and feature Martha Stewart Living as November's magazine of the month. While some of the recipes, projects, and gardening (especially gardening) are out of my element (and probably yours too), there are a number of things in all of these areas in the Martha Stewart Living Magazine that are easy that I'm sure WE all can handle!
Below is the review of Martha Stewart Living:


Pictures: Yes!
Every single recipe in this magazine has a color photo to accompany it. Some even have step-by-step photos.

Prep Time, Cooking Time, and Number of Servings listed: No
All recipes have 'Active Time' and 'Total Time' as well as servings listed. While the exact cooking and prep time is not listed you can figure it out by the information provided.

Clear, easy to follow directions and ease of preparation: medium
Like I said some of these recipes are a bit more difficult. On these recipes the directions seem a bit long. Like I mentioned above, the recipes that include step-by-step photos are very helpful, but are not included on all recipes, just 2 or 3 per issue.

Variety of recipes: yes
There are tons and tons of recipes in Martha Stewart Living. From your standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner to fun holiday foods!

Easily available ingredients and budget friendly: medium
Since some of the recipes are more on the 'gormet' side, some of the ingredients can be harder to find or more expensive.

Special feature:
I love that this magazine covers a variety of subject areas not just food. On the food/cooking side of things, the step-by-step photos are a great bonus, as well as the monthly detectable recipe cards (for select recipes), and the useful kitchen/cooking tips.

Cost: $4.99 per issue or $15.00-28.00 for one year subscription (12 issues)

So in case you missed them, here are the recipes I featured:





Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Traditions

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving (and most holidays for that matter. (BTW, how was your Thanksgiving?)

I like the same food (always), mainly because I don’t get to eat it any other time of year. At Thanksgivign, we must have my Great Grandmother’s cornbread stuffing, a smoked or fried turkey, classic green bean casserole (cream of what soup and all), King Hawaiian rolls, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, a green salad and a fruit salad.

Then of course desserts! For us growing up it was pies galore! My Mom was always responsible for the pies at Thanksgiving and she always made a different pie for each person (at least that’s how it always felt). Pecan pie, blueberry pie, apple pie, chocolate pudding pie, sometimes cherry pie and of course pumpkin pie!


Since we spent Thanksgiving with Eric’s family this year, we divided up the cooking. When no one volunteered to bring pumpkin pie I knew I had to be the one who made it, because really, it is just plain un-American to not have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving!

I did have to break from tradition and use a recipe (other than the one on the back of the Libby’s Pumpkin Puree). The recipe below is similar to the Libby’s classic but uses brown sugar instead of white (I think the brown sugar pairs better with the pumpkin flavor) and uses 3 whole eggs (instead of 2) for a rich pie custard. Even with just these slight changes, Eric proclaimed this the best pumpkin pie ever and he hates pumpkin pie.

So even though Thanksgiving has come and gone for this year, bookmark this recipe for Christmas or for Thanksgiving next year (or if you are my little brother your birthday in the middle of August)!


Traditional Pumpkin Pie
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Bake Time: 50-55 minutes Serves 8

1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 frozen pie crust, thawed
Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fit thawed pie dough circle into a 9-inch deep-dish pie dish, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold edges under.

Meanwhile, whisk pumpkin, sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, eggs, milk, in a large bowl.

Transfer pie dish to a rimmed baking sheet, and pour pumpkin mixture into cooled crust. Bake pie for 15 minutes. Then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking pie for another 40 to 50 minutes. (If crust browns too quickly, tent edges with a strip of foil folded in half lengthwise.) Let cool in pie dish on a wire rack. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours (preferably overnight). Serve chilled with whipped cream.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, November 2008

Monday, November 28, 2011

Snacking During the Holidays

The holidays are here and in full swing. Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas tree and lights are up and I am about half way through my Christmas shopping (yay, go me).

I love this time of year and I love that Thanksgiving (well technically my birthday) kicks off almost two months of non-stop fun and social get togethers.


And I love all the special food and treats that I only allow myself to enjoy this time of year. A Chex snack mix is one of those classic party foods and recently discovered that it would be fun to give a Chex snack mix away to friends and neighbors in lieu of a traditional cookie platter (to find out more and how you can win a Chex Party Gift Pack including a $20 gift card click here).

This Chesapeake Bay Snack Mix is savory and each bite is full of a different flavor. This would be great to serve at a holiday party, to give to friends, or keep all to your self!

One Year Ago: Cheesy Turkey and Veggie Casserole
Two Years Ago: Caramel Apple-Nut Crumb Pie

Chesapeake Bay Snack Mix
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 60 minutes Makes: approximately 6-7 cups

3 cups corn Chex cereal
3 cups rice Chex cereal
3 cups thin pretzel sticks
1 (10 ounce) package oyster crackers
1 1/2 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons hot-pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a roasting pan, combine cereal, pretzels, crackers, and peanuts. In a small bowl, mix together melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Old Bay, lemon juice, and hot-pepper sauce. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture and stir until ingredients are completely coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Transfer mixture to two rimmed baking sheets to cool completely.

adapted from Everyday Food, June 2010

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Do the holidays have you sick of cooking?

Are you completely sick of stuffing, turkey and sweet potato casserole leftovers but are still trying to recover from all that cooking (and eating) done all last week in preparation for Thanksgiving and therefore don’t feel like cooking? Or is your pocket book running low on funds until the next pay day because you feed everybody and their Mother’s brother for Thanksgiving dinner?


Well I have got the perfect recipe to solve both of those dilemmas!

These Maple-Dijon Marinated Pork Chops are quick and easy (seriously less than 30 minutes from start to finish) and use pantry staples to make a cheap but full flavor meal (yeah I’m talkin’ less than $10 bucks)! Paired with rice and broccoli and you have a complete meal for pennies!


Maple-Dijon Marinated Pork Chops
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20-25 minutes Serves 4

8 boneless pork chops, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil

Maple-Dijon Marinate:
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup*
1/2 cup Dijon mustard

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add pork chops and cook 1-2 minutes per side just to brown.

Combine marinate ingredients and pour over pork chops in skillet. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer pork chops in sauce for 20-25 minutes, or until sauce is thick and pork chops are cooked through.

*Note: 1/3 cup brown sugar maybe substituted

adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Saturday, November 26, 2011

No More Leftovers, Please

Who is still eating an entire turkey and pan of stuffing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (yes, two days after Thanksgiving)? No, just me?

Well, if you are back to cooking “regular” meals for dinner and need a *new* idea for a side (with a hidden veggie mixed in) have I got the perfect dish for you!!

This creamy risotto was made almost like the texture of mashed potatoes with the addition of a cauliflower puree. Not only did this vegetable puree stretch this side dish to feed more people, it added flavor, texture, and nutrients. How’s that for sneaking veggies into your hubby’s kid's tummy.


Cauliflower Risotto
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Serves 6-8

7 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 (16 ounce) package frozen cauliflower or 1 head of fresh cauliflower (cored and cut into florets)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon each salt and ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving
Place cauliflower in large bowl. Add ½ cup broth. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until softened. Let cooked cauliflower cool and place in blender or food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down side as needed (add more broth for a thinner consistency, if desired). Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a simmer; reduce heat and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, until onions are translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add rice and garlic. Stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and add wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is almost evaporated, 2-3 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup broth to skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat, gradually adding broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring constantly, until rice is tender but still al dente and sauce is creamy (you may not need all the broth), 20 to 25 minutes. Add cauliflower puree and thyme and stir to combine. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.

adapted from Martha Stewart

Friday, November 25, 2011

Celebrate Life and Good Living

A popular saying in Greece is “Stinygiasou!” translated “to your health”! The Greek culture has practiced this saying and “good living” for thousands of years. The idea originated with Plato and the ancient philosophers, and is popular now as ever. Combining good, fresh food and fine taste for a life filled with positive health and well-being we can all celebrate good living.*


Today, many Americans are trying to incorporate this idea fresh food, an active lifestyle and overall good health and ‘good living’.  One way we like to celebrate life, good company and good living is to hold dinner parties and good ole’ American barbeques. Even though cooler temperatures are more common this time of year, that doesn’t mean grilling has to be obsolete! Invite some friends over, break out the grill pan (or George Foreman) or heat up the outdoor grill (if you live in the south and are still enjoying some beautiful 70 degree days) and enjoy a nice evening celebrating friends and good living. To honor this Greek tradition serve up some hamburgers with a Greek twist.

These Greek Burgers are unique and will surely have dinner guests talking. They have classic Greek flavors and are topped with cucumbers and a traditional dill yogurt sauce. So let’s toast to enjoying life and ‘good living’!


Greek Burgers
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook time: 8 minutes Serves 8

Yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup nonfat Greek style yogurt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill leaves
1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper

Burgers:
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground pork
1 egg
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 ½ tablespoons Greek seasoning
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup feta cheese
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

For Serving:
8 Keiser rolls, split
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, sliced
Lettuce

For sauce combine all ingredients and store in refrigerator until ready to use.
In a food processor, pulse chickpeas until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl and add beef and pork. Add remaining burger ingredients. With your hands, mix until mixture is evenly combined and holds together when pressed into a ball. Divide into four 1-inch-thick patties and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare grill to medium heat. Cook burgers for 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through.
Serve cooked burgers on Keiser rolls topped with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and yogurt sauce.

*Disclosure: "Information obtained from fageusa.com. As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: http://www.fageusa.com/community/fage-greek-getaway"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giveaway: $20 Gift card and Chex Party Mix Prize Pack

Update (11/30/2011): This giveaway is now closed the winner (chosen by random.org) is commenter number 37, Lauren. Congrats Lauren and thank you to all of those who entered the giveaway. Lauren please email me within 72 hours with your contact information to claim your prize. Unfortunately if I do not hear from you within this time frame I will have to contact a new winner.

I have another giveaway for you today! And this one is perfect for the holiday season!

Who doesn't love all the fun varieties of cookies around the holidays, especially making those holiday treats to giveaway! But have you ever thought of making different varieties of Chex Mix to package and share with friends and neighbors? No, me neither! I love this idea! And today's giveaway is going to help you make that happen!
Here are the details:

Are you ready for a great new way to prepare for the holidays? Chex® Party Mix is mixing it up with a fresh idea that puts a whole new spin on the classic cookie exchange. Ditch the hours of baking and make 15 minute Chex Party Mix recipes instead - all you need is a microwave and some friends to stir up the fun.

The concept is simple - invite some friends over for a party and ask everyone to make enough of their favorite Chex Party Mix recipe to exchange with party guests. Taste, mix, swap, and share the recipes, putting the treats in easy DIY packages for everyone to take home.

From decadent to savory your guests are sure to love with these delicious favorites that can be made in the microwave in 15 minutes or less. These five Chex Party Mix recipes are just some of the fabulous 15 minute recipes that can be found at ChexPartyMix.com.

•Original Chex Party Mix - A tried and true classic of many holiday gatherings.

•Chex PB and Chocolate Blast - Is there really a better combination than peanut butter and chocolate? Yes, when Chex cereal is added!

•Chex Pumpkin Pie Crunch - Mix things up and try this mouthwatering alternative to the beloved holiday pie.

•Hot Buttered Yum Chex Mix - A combination of cinnamon, brown sugar, honey and marshmallows blend effortlessly together in a crazy-delicious, gluten free crunchy mix.

•Chex Caramel Chocolate Drizzles - Melted chocolate, chewy caramel and a delightful crunch carry this gluten-free party mix recipe from microwave to table in 15 minutes.

Prize Pack Includes:

•2 boxes of Chex cereal to create Chex Party Mix recipes
•5 featured Chex Party Mix recipes
•10 takeout containers so your guests can take their Chex Party Mix to-go
•$20 gift card to purchase recipe ingredients and decorating supplies


You have FIVE separate ways to enter the Chex $20 Gift Card and Chex Mix Party Pack Giveaway! (NOTE: Please leave a SEPARATE comment for each response below):

1. Leave a comment on this post answering the following question: Tell me which recipe (listed above)for Chex Mix you are most interested in trying.

2. Become a follower of Kitchen Concoctions through Google Friend Connect.

3. Tell someone about this giveaway, whether it be on a blog, Facebook or Twitter and leave a new comment letting me know and sharing the link.

4. For a fourth entry to this giveaway, head over to Kitchen Concoction’s Facebook page and click ”Like”. Then come back here and leave a separate comment letting me know you did.

5. And for a fifth and final entry follow Kitchen Concoctions on Twitter.

This give-away closes Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 11:00 PM CST. Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced sometime shortly after the give-away ends. Winner must contact Kitchen Concoctions within 72 hours at kitchen_concoctions at hotmail dot com to claim prize. If winner has not claimed prize within 72 hours then a new winner will be notified. Giveaway for US residents only.

NOTE: Please check back shortly after giveaway closing to see if you are a winner. As much as I would like to run all over the Internet world looking for you, I do not have the time. So you as the winner MUST contact me with your information.

"Disclosure: The Chex Party Mix-Change product, information, and giveaway have been provided by Chex through MyBlogSpark."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week of: Cake

The winner of the Kroger giftcard is Jessica T. Congrats Jessica please contact me within 72 hours with your contact inforamtion!


I'm still celebrating my birthday (2 days later) and still eating cake! If you are looking for a good dessert to bring to Thanksgiving dinner or need a cake for a special birthday check out the tasty recipes below!

Cappuccino Cupcakes: Extremely rich but easy to make using a doctored cake mix, these cupcakes are made super cute by serving them in coffee cups!

German Chocolate Cake: This cake is totally worth all the blood sweat and tears I poured into it! It was a huge hit at the wedding I served it at (it was a groom's cake) and will totally be one I will be making again, it was that damn good!

Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes: Nothing goes better together than peanut butter and chocolate, and this cupcake is a beautiful marriage between these two flavors!


Pilgrim Hat Cupcakes and One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes for Two: These Pilgrim Hat Cupcakes are the most festive things you could serve at your Thanksgiving feast, besides the turkey that is. Oh, and if for some reason you only need two cupcakes well then here is the recipe for you!

Greek Honey Cake: This is a traditional Greek cake often served to to fill lovers' hearts with sweetness. Aww, how's that for a little fun fact!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A birthday filled with 'good living'!

I have to start this post my apologizing for my obnoxious, immature, sarcastic complaining all this week. Every day I just wrote about me, me, me and how my birthday was not going to be good. But it WAS good (with lots of birthday wishes) despite attending my cousin’s wedding on my birthday.

I don’t think I have ever been with my entire family (extended family included) on my birthday and that was a special treat!


And even though my birthday is technically over it is still November so I still plan on celebrating my birthday for a few more days; like dinner out with Eric and treating myself to a few more birthday surprises!

Of course, I couldn’t celebrate my birthday without cake (birthdays and cake go hand and hand)! My last recipe as part of my cake week is my version of a traditional Greek Honey Cake. These honey cakes are a tradition in Greece and have been made for centuries. These cakes date back to the Ancient Greeks, who made little honey cakes from flour, honey and oil, sometimes baked with fresh flowers inside them, as gifts to their gods. They considered honey to be an important food as well as a healing medicine. Greek mythology also views honey as an aphrodisiac causing the lovers heart to fill with sweetness.

What a perfect cake to celebrate another year of life many more years of good living, which is also a Greek tradition/philosophy! (Want to learn more about the Greece? Be sure and check the disclosure below)


Don’t be fooled the cake it’s self is only slightly sweet with a nice hint of lemon flavor, but with the honey sauce this cake has just the right amount of sweetness, and reminds me of a pancake with syrup.


Greek Honey Cake
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 25 minutes Serves 6-8
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
Honey Syrup:
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lemon, juiced and zested
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 inch cake pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Combine the milk, vanilla, yogurt and lemon juice and zest.

Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then slice. Pour honey syrup over the cake, right before serving.

For the Honey Syrup: In a saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla, lemon juice and zest, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.
Disclosure: "As part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher program, I have been entered for the chance to win a trip to Greece courtesy of FAGE. You too can enter to win one of three trips to Greece by entering the FAGE Plain Extraordinary Greek Getaway here: http://www.fageusa.com/community/fage-greek-getaway"

Friday, November 18, 2011

How Thanksgiving Is Ruining My Birthday

Monday I shared how my birthday this year was being carelessly overlooked by my cousins wedding. Unfortunately, this year is not the first year my birthday has been cast to the side like bad chocolate.


My birthday has always been close to Thanksgiving. Usually growing up it fell on the week of or weekend before thanksgiving (like this year). Which as a kid posed a huge problem. For most of my childhood we were lucky enough to get the whole week of Thanksgiving off. That meant no school but also meant no special treatment at school for being the birthday kid. It also meant no birthday parties around my actual birthday. Being Thanksgiving vacation meant most of my friends were out of town. And then with the hustle and bustle of the holidays (not to mention expense) I never had my birthday party in the month of November or December. Usually my birthday party was combined with my younger sister’s birthday party in January (when her birthday is). Having a combined birthday can be fun, at times, but sometimes you just want a party of your own.


So even though thanksgiving has sometimes ruined my birthday celebrations over the years these cute pilgrim cupcakes were way to cute to pass up!

Your basic white cupcake topped with classic buttercream (conveniently reduced to just two servings because someone (cough, cough, me) has had way too much cupcakes lately) and then decorated with a cute yet simple, and edible pilgrim hat! What a cute and kid friendly dessert for the second most important day in November!


Note: I tinted my frosting yellow but you could also use fall colored sprinkles and decorate the top of your cupcakes before topping with the 'hat'. You could also 'cheat' and buy store bought fall decorated cupcakes and just top with the hats for extra cuteness. Oh, one more thing. You could easily turn these Pilgrim hats into Abe Lincoln hats with the addition of an extra peanut butter cup. Heeelllllooooo, your child would totally ace that civil war book report if they brought in Abe Lincoln cupcakes!


Pilgrim Hat Cupcakes
Printable Version

Prepared white cupcakes (recipe follows or use your favorite!)
Buttercream frosting (recipe follows or use your favorite!)
Fudge Stripe Cookies
Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Yellow tubed decorator’s frosting

Put a dot of frosting on the top of the peanut butter cups. Adhere the cup to the bottom side of the fudge cookie.

Frost each of the cupcakes with buttercream frosting.

Using yellow tubed decorator’s frosting, pipe on the buckle and the base of the hat. Put one cookie on each cupcake.

adapted from Taste and Tell Blog

One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes for Two
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 12 minutes Serves 2

1 egg white
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup flour
1/4 heaping teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Buttercream frosting, for decorating (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 2 liners.

In a bowl, add egg white and sugar and whisk until combined. Add in vanilla, almond extract and melted butter and stir until mixed. Add flour, baking powder and salt and stir until smooth. Stir in milk. Divide batter equally between the 2 cupcake liners.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until cake is set. Let cool completely, then frost as desired.

adapted from How Sweet It Is and Hungry Housewife

Classic Buttercream Frosting for Two Cupcakes
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Prep Time: 10 minutes Makes approximately 1 cup frosting

3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Cream the butter and vanilla extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar one cup at a time alternating with the milk, mixing until desired consistency is reached.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chocolate's BFF


Continuing with our week of luscious cakes and cupcakes to (celebrate my birthday, of course); I have my favorite sweet pairing, chocolate and peanut butter! I don’t know anything that tastes better than chocolate and peanut butter!


These cupcakes take this sinful combination to a whole new level. These Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes are rich and chocolaty and full of peanut butter. Slightly salty, from the creamy peanut butter, extremely rich and sweet from the double dose of chocolate, these cupcakes should only be enjoyed devoured a few times a year, like a special day, say a birthday!


Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 25-30 minutes Makes: about 2 dozen

Brownies:
1 (19.5 ounce) box brownie mix; plus oil, eggs and water called for on box

Peanut Butter Filling:
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup confectioners sugar
½ cup peanut butter
1/8 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
½ cup butter
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons milk
½ cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Mix brownie batter according to package directions. Spoon brownie batter into prepared cupcake tins, filling only halfway.

In a separate bowl, cream together peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt for the peanut butter filling. Mix in the confectioners sugar. Drop peanut butter filling mixture, by tablespoons into the middle of each cupcake filled with brownie batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until brownie is baked through. Peanut butter filling may still seem under cooked, which is ok.

Let cupcakes cool completely.

For frosting, cream together butter, vanilla, milk, and cocoa powder. Slowly mix in confectioners sugar and mix until smooth. Top brownies cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting and serve.

PS: I am linking this cupcakes up to Life as a Mom Thanksgiving dessert round up and the recipe exchange at Good Life Eats (info here): “Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and Good Life Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Chicago Metallic.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Giveaway: $25 Kroger Giftcard

This giveaway is now closed. The winner is comment 15 Jessica T. Congrats to Jessica! Please contact me within 72 hours at kitchen_concoctions at hotmail dot com to claim your prize.
Who could use some extra mola for Thanksgiving shopping? Me! Me! And I know you could too! That is why I am so happy to have a giveaway today for a $25 Kroger Giftcard. But hurry this is a quick one and you will only have a few days to enter!

Here is the giveaway info:

Want to save even more when shopping at Kroger? Purchase any four participating General Mills products* that your family knows and loves and Kroger will reward you for your purchases. It´s that simple! Head to your local Kroger to take advantage of this great offer:
•From November 13th through November 26th, with the purchase of any four participating General Mills products, you will either receive free milk (up to $3; limit of 2) or to receive $3 off your shopping order.**

•Look for some of your favorite participating General Mills products like Cheerios, Pillsbury Ready to Bake Cookies, Nature Valley Bars and Fiber One Bars.

•Promotion varies in different locations. Please be sure to check your local Kroger Co. Family of Stores for specific deals and offers which include Kroger, Ralphs, King Scoopers, City Market, Dillons, Smith´s, Fry´s, QFC, Baker´s, Owen´s, Jay C Food Stores, Hilander, Gerbes, Food4Less, Fred Meyer, Pay Less Supermarkets and Scott´s Food and Pharmacy.

What´s better than being rewarded for buying your favorite products from your favorite store? Visit Kroger.com for more information and great ways to save and be sure to check out the Kroger Facebook page to join the conversation and share which General Mills products you´d like to stock up on during the promotion.

Want to win a $25 Kroger giftcard (good at all Kroger Co. Family of Stores)? Well you have 5 chances to enter!

You have FIVE separate ways to enter the Kroger $25 Gift Card Giveaway! (NOTE: Please leave a SEPARATE comment for each response below):

1. Leave a comment on this post answering the following question: Tell me which participating General Mills products you (mentioned above) plan to stock up on during the promotion at Kroger? (Leave your response in the comments section below).

2. Become a follower of Kitchen Concoctions through Google Friend Connect.

3. Tell someone about this giveaway, whether it be on a blog, Facebook or Twitter and leave a new comment letting me know and sharing the link.

4. For a fourth entry to this giveaway, head over to Kitchen Concoction’s Facebook page and click ”Like”. Then come back here and leave a separate comment letting me know you did.

5. And for a fifth and final entry follow Kitchen Concoctions on Twitter.

This give-away closes Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 11:00 PM CST. Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced sometime shortly after the give-away ends. Winner must contact Kitchen Concoctions within 72 hours at kitchen_concoctions at hotmail dot com to claim prize. If winner has not claimed prize within 72 hours then a new winner will be notified. Giveaway for US residents only.

NOTE: Please check back shortly after giveaway closing to see if you are a winner. As much as I would like to run all over the Internet world looking for you, I do not have the time. So you as the winner MUST contact me with your information.

"Disclosure: The Kroger gift card, information, and giveaway have been provided by Kroger and General Mills through MyBlogSpark."

Let's Talk Wedding Cakes

Speaking of weddings, let's talk wedding cakes. I have had the horror honor of making two wedding cakes and three groom's cakes in the recent years. As much as I love baking (and everyone loves my baked goods! Shhh! Can you hear that horn tooting!); I do not have the patience to creatively decorate said baked goods.

So when I came to making these wedding cakes let’s just say I was not the nicest person. In fact I might have said some choice words in a mean voice to certain loved ones (mainly Eric) when I was responsible for these wedding cakes.

Just putting the word "wedding" in front of cake totally took all enjoyment out of the cake baking/decorating process for me. And actually made me hate it. It made my stomach churn, made me sweat profusely, lose sleep, and probably half a head’s worth of hair.

But I guess the look on my friends and sisters’ face is priceless when they see the cake especially knowing how much it helped all of them with their tight wedding budget. All that blood sweet and tears that went into those damn cakes was worth it.

This German Chocolate Cake was made for the groom’s cake for my friend’s C and V (this same friend). She was having a whimsical candy themed wedding and so I made a triple tier cake and then cupcakes. I actually thought it turned out wonderful despite the coconut frosting dripping down the side in the hot and humid Texas heat (and the bride and groom and guests actually thought that was a cool decorating trick I pulled off, HA! I fooled them!). Mini Snickers and Milky Way bars, as well as pecans, were the perfect toppings for a candy themed wedding cake!

And here is another little secret. This cake was a doctored cake mix and no one even knew! I had planned on making the whole cake from scratch but after one tier made from scratch collapsed I felt I didn't have time to continue that made from scratch BS and went the semi-homemade route (did I mention I was also IN the wedding).


Anyways, this cake was amazing and one I will make again in another less stressful situation. Oh and sorry for the bad pics. I was under stress and forgot to take any pics until we got to the venue. I guess I could have taken pictures in the car but I was too worried about breathing on the cake and Eric’s erratic driving. But trust me this cake is killer (you know with all that blood, sweat, and tears)!


German Chocolate Cake
Printable Version
Prep Time: 40 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes Serves: 15-20

1 (18.25 ounce) package German Chocolate Cake mix
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Coconut Pecan Frosting (recipe below)
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)
Mini candy bars, for topping
Whole pecans, for topping

Heat oven to 350°F.

Spray 2 (9-inch) baking pans with flour no-stick cooking spray.

Combine cake mix, milk, 3 eggs, oil and sweetened condensed milk in large bowl. Beat on low speed of electric mixer until moistened, then beat on high speed 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool completely. Remove cooled cake from baking pans. Level off cakes.
Spread half of prepared coconut pecan frosting on one layer of cake. Top with remaining layer of cake.
Frost sides of cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Top cake with remaining coconut pecan frosting.

Decorate frosted cake with pecans and mini candy bars.

For cupcakes: Bake for 18 minutes. Cool completely and 'inject' coconut frosting into center of cupcake using pastry bag with large open tip. Top with piped buttercream frosting and pecan or chocolate candy.

Coconut Pecan Frosting
Makes approximately 2 ½ cups frosting

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 ½ cup chopped pecans

Stir together sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and butter in medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, coconut and pecans. Cool to room temperature.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Makes approximately 2 cups frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
5 tablespoons milk
½ cup cocoa powder
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cream the butter, vanilla and almond extract. Slowly add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar one cup at a time alternating with the milk, mixing until desired consistency is reached.

German Chocolate Cake recipe adapted from Eagle Brand
Coconut Pecan Frosting adapted from Hershey
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's my party and I'll cry if I want too.

Saturday (November 19) is my birthday. It is also the day my cousin chose to get married on. I’m only slightly bitter that my birthday (the same day for the last 28 years) is being over shadowed by my cousin’s once in a lifetime moment to walk down the aisle.

It really is a funny story when you stop and think about it. My cousin had no idea November 19 was my birthday, her fiancé had no idea Saturday was also his sister’s birthday. That is they had no idea until after the deposits were put down. I guess it is alright. At least I get to attend a big “party” on my birthday… even if it’s not for me.

To help me cope with my feelings of being overlooked on my one special day of the year, I have personally taken it upon myself to celebrate my birthday all week long.

I am treating myself to a mani and pedi, haircut, shopping excursion, and maybe a few extra treats all this week!

To celebrate my birthday with all of you, I will be sharing some insanely good cake and cupcake recipes every day this week. I mean really, birthdays are not birthdays without cake! So if any of you want to make these cupcakes and mail them to me for my birthday pity party I would be your BFF forever!

First up some crazy, rich Cappuccino Cupcakes. These cupcakes really do taste like a cup of coffee. I originally made them for my good friend’s bridal shower, which was a coffee theme, since besides my grandma, I have never meet a person who loves and drinks as much coffee as V.
I baked the cupcakes, without cupcake liners, in a sprayed cupcake tin and then placed the baked cupcakes in the coffee cups. Topped with frosting these cupcakes served in a coffee cup were the perfect ending to our fun shower! Plus the coffee cups made these cupcakes perfect for guests who had to grab one to-go!


Cappuccino Cupcakes
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time 18-20 minutes Makes 18-24 cupcakes

1 (18.25 ounce) box devil’s food cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup vanilla yogurt
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee or espresso
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Vanilla Buttercream (recipe below)
Cinnamon (for serving)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mix, yogurt, eggs, oil, coffee and vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared muffin tin.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Frost with vanilla buttercream and dust with cinnamon right before serving.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions: www.kitchen-concoctions.com
Prep Time: 10 minutes Makes approximately 2 cups frosting

1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 tablespoons half-and-half cream
6 cups powdered sugar

Cream the butter, vanilla and almond extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar one cup at a time alternating with the half-and-half, mixing until desired consistency is reached.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week of: Thanksgiving (Plus My Thanksgiving Menu)

Can you believe Thanksgiving will be here in 11 days! Nope! I can't either. I hope you enjoyed my tips, tricks, and recipes for helping get Thanksgiving dinner on the table (and more importantly in the bellies of hungry guests).


Below are all the recipes I featured this week and check out the bottom of this post for a sample Thanksgiving menu!


Easy Sausage Stuffing: This stuffing was so flavorful that you would never know it used a boxed stuffing mix. Plus check out this post for tips on hosting Thanksgiving on a budget.


No-Bake Cheesecake: Easy. Simple. Classic. And without a doubt a great dessert that will be devoured at any Thanksgiving feast!


Sweet and Savory Smashed Potatoes: Not a fan of the uber sweet, traditional sweet potato casserole, loaded with marshmallows and sugar? Well make this version. Loaded with bacon, a few onions and a hint of maple syrup! A blissful change to the traditional sweet potato casserole. Oh and if you ever wanted to know anything and everything about sweet potatoes check out this post.


Poultry Seasoning: This spice is used it a ton of recipes this time of year but don't waste your money on a bottled mix and make your own!


Hearty Italian Tortellini Soup with Turkey: If you really want to impress your holiday guests don't even bother with the main meal just make this soup. You'll thank me later. I'll put money on it! (I might also ramble on a bit about turkey cooking safety in this post too)

And here is how we do Thanksgiving here at Kitchen Concoctions:

Main Dish:
Aunt Marilyn’s Incredible Turkey
Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Ham

Side Dish: (ok mAAAybe not all of these sides but a good combonation of them all! And maybe another green veg??)
Brown Sugar Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Streusel
Asparagus with Garlic Vinaigrette
Eric’s Famous Mashed Potatoes
Easy Sausage Stuffing
Peach Pie Fruit Salad (this is a Thanksgiving family tradition for my fam)
Festive Fall Salad
Mom's Potato Casserole

Rolls:
Pumpkin Cloverleaf Rolls
Parker House Rolls (Two Hour Roll Recipe)
Dessert:
Chocolate Ribbon Pie (another popular Thanksgiving dish)
'Perfectly' Peppermint Brownies
Pumpkin Cake Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Extreme Peanut Butter Cookies

Leftover Turkey Recipes:
Turkey Cranberry Sandwiches
Leftover Turkey (or chicken) Creamy Enchiladas
White Turkey (or Chicken) Chili
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