Kitchen Concoctions: February 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Website Wednesday: Weekend Company Breakfast Casserole

I have decided that breakfast casseroles are just not my thang. I have tried them and tried them again. Some with hash browns, some with bread, others with sausage, but all with eggs and cheese. All of these things I like on their own and some combined in some form or fashion but not casserole style.

I want to try and like a nice hearty breakfast casserole but there is something about them. The flavor? Maybe? The texture? More than likely? But I just can’t put my finger on it. And I am beginning to think that I am alone in this feeling towards breakfast casseroles because everyone else I know loves them!

I had hoped that this version would save me from my breakfast casserole hating self (it did have very high ratings) but it just didn’t do it for me. It had tons of flavor and actually baked up nicely. We ate almost half of it but I don’t think I would make it again. I think I am just going to go ahead and give up on breakfast casseroles…

One Year Ago: Cuban-Spiced Chicken Strips with Rice
Two Years Ago: Grands Coffee Cakes

Weekend Company Breakfast Casserole
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 60 minutes Wait Time: 8 hours Serves: 6

1 tablespoon canola oil
½ pound sausage
½ large yellow onion, Chopped
½ large green bell pepper, chopped
½ large red bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 English muffins, torn into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
6 eggs
1 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup milk
½ teaspoon season salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat-high heat. Add sausage and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onions, bell peppers, and garlic; cook for 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

In a 3-quart baking dish, arrange English muffin pieces in a single layer. Top with sausage mixture and top with cheeses.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, milk, and seasonings. Slowly pour egg mixture over cheeses in the baking dish. Cover and chill for at least 8 hours.

In the morning, uncover casserole and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake casserole for 45-55 minutes or until casserole is set. Cover with aluminum foil to prevent over browning, if necessary. (Always check egg and cheese bakes 15 minutes before they are done and cover them to prevent over browning.) Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Mommy’s Kitchen as seen on Tasty Kitchen

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Make It Simple

Today's recipe is so simple and quick. I love it! Besides eating more homemade foods with fresh ingredients, part of my New Year's 'goal' is to eat meals that are more simple and easy and can be ready without spending hours in the kitchen or costing me big bucks.

As much as I loving creating and developing recipes (for fun and to make a living), I am just like each and everyone of you.... when 5 o'clock hits I need to get dinner on the table and I need it quick because I have hungry tummys to feed. I am also like most of you and have bills to pay and clothes I want to buy and places I want to see and can't spend every paycheck just on groceries (even though some days I wish I could!), so I need meals that won't break the bank. To solve both of these problems as well as have food that satisfies my palate I have to remember that sometimes less really is more!
This catfish recipe meets all of these expectations. It is a great Cajun dish to feature as part of Mardi Gras week but could really represent most states that make up the great South!
One Year Ago: Ham and Swiss Quiche
Two Years Ago: Chicken and Rice Soup

Southern Oven Baked Catfish/Tilapia
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves 4

2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds catfish or tilapia fillets, cut into serving pieces
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon each seasoned salt and black pepper, or more as needed

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease a 13x9 glass baking dish with the oil, and set aside.

Rinse the catfish fillets, and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal and creole seasoning. Combine the eggs and hot sauce in a another bowl. Dip the fillets in the egg mixture, dredge in the cornmeal mixture, and place in the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown. Turn once during cooking. Place catfish on a paper-towel lined plate, and serve immediately with additional hot sauce.

adapted from Food on the Table

Friday, February 24, 2012

Silly Me

So I had to laugh at myself when I sat down to type up the blog post to correspond with the recipe for yesterday. As I sat there staring at my computer debating about what Cajun recipe to feature as part of Mardi Gras week I was so confused. For some reason I couldn’t figure out why I only had four recipes when I knew I had planned five recipes for this week. Then I found my ‘missing’ recipe…. It was the recipe I was supposed to feature on Wednesday for “Website Wednesday”!

I guess I have been a little off this week because I have had a few appointments and meetings on different days that are not part of my *normal* schedule. And I don’t know about you but whenever my schedule is changed up I am always thrown for a loop (and the reason why this didn't get posted yesterday)!

Anyways, onto the recipe. This pasta dish was fantastic! With Cajun spices and of course the ‘Holy Trinity’ (onions, green bell pepper, and celery) this pasta is full of Creole flavor. To make this dish even more authentic replace the chicken with sausage, shrimp or crawfish and this kickin’ Cajun meal!

One Year Ago: Ham and Swiss Quiche
Two Years Ago: Chicken and Rice Soup

Cajun Chicken Pasta
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves: 6-8

3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 pound Fettuccine pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
½ large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
½ cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
2-3 green onion, chopped (optional for garnish)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain when pasta is still al dente; making sure not to overcook!

Sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning over chicken pieces. Toss around to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over high heat. Add chicken in a single layer; do not stir. Allow chicken to brown on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Flip to the other side and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean plate.

Add remaining olive oil and butter. When heated, add peppers, onions, celery and garlic. Sprinkle on remaining Cajun seasoning. Cook over very high heat for 1-2 minute, stirring gently. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 1 minute. Remove all vegetables from the pan.

With the pan over high heat, pour in the wine and chicken broth. Cook on high for 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in cream, parmesan cheese, and cornstarch, stirring/whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes, until cream starts to thicken the mixture. Taste and add freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste.

Finally, add chicken and vegetables to sauce, making sure to include all the juices that have drained onto the plate. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and hot. Add drained fettuccine and toss to combine.

Top with chopped green onion and enjoy!

adapted from The Pioneer Woman as seen on Tasty Kitchen

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Cajun Christmas.... and Thanksgiving Too!

So growing up with a “Cajun” family greatly influenced our ‘traditional American holidays’. By ‘traditional American holidays’ I mean not Mardi Gras, but Thanksgiving and Christmas. I loved these special and unique holiday traditions that none of my friends shared. Things like reading a Cajun Night Before Christmas (and a Texas Night Before Christmas, I mean after all we did live in Texas) on Christmas Eve and my Dad doing his best at his Cajun/Texan accent (he is from the North) and us kids laughing hysterically because it was so fake (wowzers that was a horrible run on sentence).

And then there was the food. For Thanksgiving we had my Grandmother’s Cornbread Dressing (which my Mom and I still make to this day), my Great-grandmother’s Glazed Carrots, Peach Pie Fruit Salad, my Mom’s Pecan Pie, and a Greenburg Smoked Turkey. Ever heard of them? Well these hickory roasted turkeys have been our family’s holiday staple for decades; way before someone (cough, cough) who’s name begins with O and ends with prah featured them as one of her favorite things back in December of ’08.

That smoked turkey is something that I look forward to every year! Another holiday tradition is having my Grandmother’s Seafood Gumbo or my Great-grandmother’s ‘Texas Hash’ (her own special ‘concoction’ of Frito Chili Pie and a Taco Salad) the day after Thanksgiving or for our annual Christmas party; which is another special family tradition that started way back with my Great-grandparents when my Mom was just a babe. You see we have a 23rd Tree (our version of a family Christmas party); which is held on December 23 and is full of awesome food, good company, and some sort of self-embarrassing family skit, game, or slide show!

So in honor of my family traditions, I made this gumbo back January after my Mom had ordered a Greenburg Smoked Turkey for our immediate family’s Christmas gathering because none of us could make it to the big Thanksgiving celebration in November. I used smoked turkey because we had tons of leftovers but chicken or traditional roasted turkey would work as well (or just double up on the sausage).

(Oh and I should also note that this is not a sponsored post, we are just uber big fans of Greenburg Smoked Turkeys, after all… it’s a fam-ily tradition!)

One Year Ago: Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
Two Years Ago: Boursin Cheese, Spinach and Pecan-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Smoked Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 55 minutes Serves: 8

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup flour
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 pound sausage, sliced
3 cups chopped smoked turkey
1 bay leaf
5 cups turkey stock
½ tablespoon gumbo filé powder
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped green onion tops
2 cups hot cooked rice

Heat large non-stick pot over medium-high heat. Add sliced sausage and cook for 7-8 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to paper towels. Pour off fat from pot.

In same pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour, to form a roux, and continue to stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until roux turns a deep, brown color, about 10-15 minutes.

Once roux has reached desired shade, stir in onions, bell pepper and celery and continue to stir about 1 – 2 minutes until the vegetables release their steam. Add salt, cayenne, sausage, turkey and continue to cook about 5 minutes.

Add bay leaf and stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface.

Adjust seasonings and thin out with more stock if necessary. Just before serving, stir in filé powder..

To serve, place mound of rice in bottom of bowl, ladle gumbo over and top with chopped parsley and green onions.

Adapted from Greenburg Smoked Turkey

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Food Group All In It's Own!

Growing up in the south and having my Mom and her familyfrom Louisiana, I have eaten my fair share of classic Cajun foods (which is a food 'group' I love!). There are so many of these classic Cajun/Southern foods I could have featured this week as part of my Mardi Gras week. But one of my absolute favorites is good ole' Red Beans and Rice. I don't know anyone who doesn't love red beans and rice! It is so simple yet packed with flavor and an inexpensive meal to boot!

This meal is very versatile. Mine has sausage, however you could leave it out and use vegetable broth to make this a hearty vegetarian meal. Also my original recipe uses dried beans, because I love the taste and how inexpensive dried beans are. Since I am using dried beans I cooked this in my crock-pot, which I have always had great luck using to cook dried beans. But I know some people don't have the time or patience to let dried beans soak and cook this meal in the crock-pot, so I have also included directions to use can beans and cook this on the stove top. Either way you have a great recipe for a classic Cajun meal!

One Year Ago: Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
Two Years Ago: Boursin Cheese, Spinach and Pecan-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Classic Red Beans and Rice
by Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Wait Time: 1 hour 30 minutes Cook Time: 5-6 hours Serves 6 to 8

1 pound dried red kidney beans**
6 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
11/2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon creole seasoning
2 garlic gloves, minced
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
½ large onion, diced
3 cups cooked rice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Rinse and pick through beans discarding any broken or discolored beans. Place beans in a large pot and cover with two inches of water. Heat beans to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Cover, turn off heat and let beans soak for 1 ½ hours.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large stock pot over medium heat. Add sliced sausage and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until done. Set aside.

After soaking, drain and rinse beans. Place soaked beans in large stock pot and add beef broth. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Carefully transfer bean mixture to crock-pot and add bay leaf, hot sauce, creole seasoning, garlic, bell peppers, onions, celery, and cooked sausage. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Once beans are cooked, add hot cooked rice, season with salt and pepper and serve.

**Chef Note: Three (15 ounce) cans of red kidney beans can be substituted for the dried beans. Simply drain and rinse the beans. Combine the beans with the remaining ingredients (including precooked sausage) as directed in a large pot. Cook bean mixture over medium heat for 15 minutes. Once beans are cooked stir in rice and serve.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras Traditions and Cajun Cookin’

So guess what? We have another theme week this week! With Mardi Gras tomorrow I thought it would be fun to celebrate the holiday and honor my family's "Cajun" traditions and have a week's worth of Cajun recipes. Like I mentioned last week, I had planned to have this theme week last week to get you excited about Mardi Gars, but I was not that organized. So here we are with all those recipes this week! Hey better this week than waiting till next year!

First up an article I wrote for meal planning/recipe site Food on the Table all about the Mardi Gars traditions and some popular Cajuin dishes.

Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, falls the day before Ash Wednesday, or the first day of Lent. Lent is a period where many Christians traditionally give-up a food or bad habit. Fat Tuesday is the last day to indulge before this period of abstinence. While many countries all over the world celebrate Mardi Gras, sometimes calling it Carnival, New Orleans, Louisiana is most famous for their Mardi Gras celebrations, parade and of course food.

Most popular Cajun dishes are derived from original New Orleans French and Spanish settlers. Below are a few of these traditional Cajun foods and the history behind them.

King Cake, is a sweetened yeast bread baked into the shape of a ring and frosted with gold, green and purple icing, the colors of Mardi Gras. Traditionally the baker of the King Cake hides a treasure inside the cake, usually a small plastic baby doll. When the cake is cut and shared, the person who finds the doll is crowned ‘king’ and said to enjoy good luck during the upcoming year.

Jambalaya is Cajun comfort food and is similar to Spanish paella. Jambalaya originated from Spaniards who first settled the French Quarter and created the dish using local ingredients. This popular one-pot dish usually consists of rice, stock, tomatoes, onions, celery, green bell peppers, and various meats, shellfish and poultry.

Beignets are the New Orleans version of a French fritter. These fried doughnuts, are square pieces of sweeten yeast dough that have risen and then are deep fried and served topped with powdered sugar. Café du Monde, a New Orleans coffee shop and bakery established in 1862, have helped make beignets a world famous New Orleans staple.

Gumbo, is one of the most famous dishes in Cajun cooking. It has sometimes been described as Louisiana’s version of chili, as the ingredients can vary from recipe to recipe. Gumbo usually starts with a roux to create a thick sauce, but may also be thickened with the addition okra or filé powder. Other common gumbo ingredients include sausage, seafood, chicken, onions, celery, green bell peppers, and creole seasonings.

Celebrate Mardi Gras on February 21, by enjoying some of these classic Cajun dishes and sharing in the Mardi Gras traditions!

Cajun Popcorn (Kitchen Concoctions)
King Cake (The Sister's Cafe)
Basic Cornbread (Kitchen Concoctions)
Shrimp Creole (Skinny Taste)
Bananas Foster with Spiced Ice Cream (Kitchen Concoctions)
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya (Mel's Kitchen Cafe)
French Beignets (Taste and Tell)
Smoked Turkey and Sausage Gumbo (Kitchen Concoctions)
Bourbon Pralines (The Vintage Mixer)
Classic Red Beans and Rice (Kitchen Concoctions)
Southern Oven Baked Catfish (Kitchen Concoctions)
Cajun Chicken Pasta (Kitchen Concoctions)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sleepin' In

Several mornings ago I was struggling very badly to wake up and get outta bed. I have been extremely busy lately and quite frankly I am exhausted!

As I lay there in bed with my eyes still tightly closed and my mind still in a foggy dreamlike state, all I could think about was those wonderful days as a child and adolescent when you were ‘allowed’ to sleep in late (of course only on the weekends, holidays, and summer vacation, but still way more days than I ever get now!). And what woke you on these restful days was the satisfying smell of breakfast wafting upstairs as Mom or Dad cooked away in the kitchen just for you!

Ahhhh, those where the days…..

For me a homemade breakfast is a huge way to show someone you love them. I guess because in my eyes if someone immediately wakes up and starts making breakfast for you first thing in the morning, before anything else they do that day, they are showing that you matter most and they woke up thinking of you!

And while Valentine’s Day has come and gone for this year that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to show your loved ones you care! This weekend take some time to show your spouse, kids, parents, or whomever you love them by making them breakfast!

Be sure to include these Sweetheart Scones as they are cute and festive because of the red dried cranberries and strawberry glaze and are made even more special by cutting them into a heart shape using a cookie cutter. These scones themselves are not overly sweet (like scones I have had in the past) so the strawberry glaze is the perfect, necessary topping.

One Year Ago: Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken and Tips for Getting Dinner on the Table in a Pinch
Two Years Ago:
Yellow Corn-Crusted Tilapia with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

Sweetheart Scones
Printable Version
Prep Time: 25-30 minutes Cook Time: 7-9 minutes Makes 8-10 scones

2 ¾ cups flour, plus more as needed
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup dried cranberries
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk, plus more as needed

Strawberry glaze:
3 tablespoons strawberry jam
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine first four scone ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter cubes until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the zest and cranberries.
In a separate bowl whisk together the milk and eggs.

Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir until blended. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4-5 times. After kneading press dough into 1-inch thick piece.

Using heart shaped cookie cutter, cut dough into scones. Place prepared scones onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 7-9 minutes.
While scones are baking microwave the jam for 20-30 seconds. Whisk in remaining glaze ingredients. When scones are done baking let cool slightly and then top with strawberry glaze. Serve immediately.

adapted from Cook Learn Grows

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Website Wednesday: Sausage and Pepper Hoagies

So I actually had planned to do a theme week this week of all Cajun recipes to get you all amped and ready to go for Mardi Gars next week. But even though I have all the recipes made and photographed, I have not had time to sit down and type up the recipes or go through the 386 pictures I have of them (really that’s an exact number of photos I have taken for one week of blog posts).

So I will get all that ready this week and we can celebrate Mardi Gras next week together! In the meantime, here is today’s Website Wednesday recipe, Sausage and Pepper Hoagies.

It’s no wonder that I was attracted to today’s recipe, I love the sweet yet crunchy taste of caramelized onions and peppers. In fact, this Sausage and Pepper Arrabbiata is one of our most beloved recipes to date and a meal that I turn to often when I need a quick meal and only have a few bucks! These hoagies are a much more causal version of my go to pasta dish. This would be perfect for a spring or summer BBQ as you could totally just grill the veggies and sausage. But don’t wait until the warmer temps are here, cook these up on the stove top tonight (unless you live anywhere, oh say south of Oklahoma, where it has been “Spring” since October)!

One Year Ago: Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken and Kitchen Tips to get Dinner on the Table Quick
Two Years Ago: Yellow Corn-Crusted Tilapia with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

Sausage and Pepper Hoagies
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes Serves: 6

6 whole Italian chicken/turkey sausage links
1 whole green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 3/4 inch strips
1 whole red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 3/4 inch strips
1 large onions, sliced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons cooking oil
6 hoagie rolls
6 tablespoons spicy mustard
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot, add sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, or until cooked through. Remove sausage and set aside.
Add remaining oil to pan. And peppers and onions into a saucepan, sprinkle in the oregano, parsley, salt and black pepper. Stir the mixture every few minutes and continue cooking until the peppers and onions start to soften and caramelize slightly– about 10 minutes.

Spread mustard on each side of the hoagie roll. Place one sausage link in the hoagie roll, then top with the peppers, onions and feta cheese.

adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Week of: Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is Tuesday and do you know how you are celebrating with your loved ones? A romantic night in with the honey? Or braving the restaurant madness? A cute and cheezy heart shaped dinner with the kids?

As for me, since Eric has to work late that night we will be having 'date night' this week on Wednesday with dinner at home (or maybe out? Always nice to have a break from cooking) and a movie out (any you recommend?).

Anyways if you are still looking for a few last minute Valentine's Day ideas check out all the posts this past week as part of Valentine's week:

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chocolate and Valentine's Day go Hand n' Hand

We can’t have a Valentine’s week without chocolate! Chocolate truffles are so easy to make, although (and don’t say I didn’t warn you) a bit messy. Not only are they fun, you can easily customize the flavors you want based on your desired coatings and flavor extracts.

These truffles also make a great activity to do with kids, since they literally require hands on work! Remember, it IS ok for kids to get a little messy every once in a while (wink. wink), and they will treasure any moment they are allowed to!

So skip the expensive, overpriced (and honestly sometimes unpleasant) boxed chocolates and make up a batch of homemade chocolate truffles for your loved one this year!

One Year Ago: Light Strawberry Trifle for Two
Two Years Ago: Lentil Bean Soup

Chocolate Truffles
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Wait Time: 3-4 hours Makes: 20-25 truffles

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Desired coatings (sprinkles, chopped nuts, cocoa, powdered sugar, coconut, etc.)

In a small saucepan, heat cream to a simmer. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and
vanilla. Let sit for 5 minutes and then stir chocolate mixture until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill until firm, approximately 3-4 hours.
Using a small spoon, scoop out heaping spoonfuls of the firm chocolate mixture. Working quickly, to keep from chocolate from melting, roll it between the palms of your hands to form balls.

Place desired coatings in separate bowls. Roll truffle in coating of your choice and refrigerate until ready to serve.

adapted from Cook, Learn, Grows

Friday, February 10, 2012

How To: Valentine's Day Candy Cards

It never fails, whenever I have plans to to a theme week something comes up and I can't blog on one of the days of the week. The blog post I am sharing today I had planned to share yesterday but due to technical difficulties it didn't go up. Since I am such a busy gal I usually type up my blog posts on my phone when I am waiting for appointments, etc., which I did yesterday. But I recently got a new phone and easily typed up my post but couldn't figure out how to upload it or copy and paste it or even email it to myself. After my loooong day yesterday I was way too tired to continue to deal with it. So the whole point to my story is that I am a day behind in sharing my Valentine's recipes so be sure and check in tomorrow for the last love fest recipe!

One of my favorite blog post that I have done in the past is my post about a candy card Valentine heart that, if you remember, I shared for last Valentine's Day. I shared with you my candy card heart poster and also shared how this candy heart has become quite the tradition. Every year that Eric and I have been together I have made him a candy heart poster for his Valentine's Day gift, not fancy and expensive but a fun tradition that we both look forward to every year (me because it gets my creative juices going and him because he gets to eat all that candy! Wining!) But I have come to find out not only is this our favorite tradition it is a top favorite blog post (and post that gets the most views according to Google) of you, the Kitchen Concoctions readers!

So I thought for this special Valentine's themed week, I would take that tradition and change it up a bit. Instead of making one big heart shaped poster with candy sayings I created individual candy Valentine cards (perfect for classmates, neighbors, co-workers, etc). I used some of my favorite sayings from the past but also created a few new ones. I even created some printable versions to make it easy for you!

You can either print the cards on cardstock and cut around the heart and then use double sided tape to adhere it directly to the chosen candy.

Or cut out the hearts, with or without the red border and using the double sided tape or use a glue stick and adhere the cards to heart shaped doilies (you can find a pack of 25-30 dollies for about a buck at craft stores and even the dollar store). Then depending on the size of your dollies adhere the candy to the front or back of the dollie card.

And you can even cut out the heart cards and adhere them to colorful cardstock, scrapbook paper, or construction paper and cut them out allowing some of the colored paper to show.

Here is the link to the printable versions. I even created one for all the Valentine haters out there and have a candy card that says "Valentine's Day Sucks!" to use with a lollipop or sucker as the candy of choice.

Here are the candy sayings I have included in the printables (and for more sayings check out last years candy card post):

You "Rock" my world! (Rock Candy, Pop Rocks)
Best Buds "Now and Later"! (Now and Later)
We were "Mint" to be together! (Peppermints, Gum with "Mint" in the name, Mintos, Junior Mints, Breath Mints, Peppermint Patties)
Valentine's Day "Sucks"! (Lollipops or Suckers)
You're "Extra" special! (Extra Gum)
You're one "Hot Tamale"! (Hot Tamales)
You stole a "Piece" of my heart! (Reese's Pieces)
Thanks for being such a "Sweet Heart"! (Sweet Tarts, Conversation Hearts, Heart Shaped Chocolates)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Website Wednesday: Red Velvet Hot Chocolate with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

Nothing screams Valentine’s Day like red velvet, so I couldn’t have a week of Valentine’s fun without at least one red velvet recipe!

Last year I had visions of sugar plum fairies and all sorts of red velvet goodness slathered with tangy cream cheese madness. I thought red velvet was the perfect food mascot for Valentine’s Day and had dreamt of doing a theme week of all red velvet recipes to celebrate Valentine’s Day. But Deborah beat me to it and I decided that despite my obsession with red velvet if I did a whole week of red velvet recipes I might actually turn a slight shade of red!

But of all the red velvet treats I have bookmarked, pinned, and hastily written down on a scrap piece of paper, I decided on this hot chocolate recipe to share this week. One, because of all the red velvet recipes I have seen around the web the past few weeks I have yet to see a hot chocolate recipe and B, after making a White Hot Chocolate in December, I wanted to try another fun spin of this cozy winter treat!

And boy this red velvet hot chocolate is rich and comforting, just like red velvet should be! Making it perfect for a cold romantic day!
Two Years Ago: Stir-Fried Chicken with Aromatic Jasmine Rice

Red Velvet Hot Chocolate with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Serves 2

2 cups milk
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
4-5 drops red food coloring
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoon cream cheese

In a medium mixing bowl or a stand-up mixer, pour in heavy whipping cream, sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Whip on medium with the whisk attachment for 2-3 minutes. Just before it peaks, add the cream cheese and whisk for another 2 minutes being careful not to over-whip. Taste the whipped cream and add more cream cheese to taste.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat. Add the chocolate chips, constantly stirring gently. When almost melted, add the red food coloring to desired deep red color and stir some more. When the chocolate chips are all melted, pour the hot chocolate in two mugs and top with the whipped cream.

adapted from A Cozy Kitchen as seen on Tasty Kitchen

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Love Shack

It's Valentine's week here on the KC and like I said yesterday some of the things I will be sharing this week won't necessarily be recipes but some fun and cute love themed ideas. Today is one of those no recipe days but a fun and uber cute Valentine's craft that actually involves food! => A Love Shack, or Valentine's gingerbread house.

Eric and I started a tradition of doing gingerbread houses together at Christmas the first year we were together. We have used preassembled kits, kits with the house walls made but we have to assemble, and we have even made our own gingerbread houses from scratch (those were hilarious!). But the last two years in a row we have been so darn busy during the holidays we could barley breathe let alone see straight enough to make a gingerbread house.

And since I am a girl who thrives on traditions this was quite upsetting to me! Then last year I saw Peabody post a gingerbread house decorated for Valentine's Day and I knew that my poor little lost Christmas gingerbread house tradition could be saved!

A 'Love Shack' was the answer! So AFTER Christmas I snatched up a clearance gingerbread house kit for about a buck and carefully saved it for Valentine's Day.

Last week Eric and I peacefully sat down and decorated our Love Shack with lots of red, pink, and white candy. And we had fun. And our house turned out pretty darn cheezy and cute. I LOVE IT!
This activity was pretty cheap because the gingerbread house kit was on clearance and came with a few bags of candy in green, red, and white colors, so we used the red and white pieces. We then used specific Valentine's candy like conversation hearts and pink M&Ms. Besides specific Valentine's candy there are a few other candies that already come in Valentine's colors. Here are a few of my candy/decoration suggestions for a Gingerbread Love Shack:


Vanilla Wafers
Frosted Mini Wheats
Pink and White Frosted Animal Crackers
Square Cereal (ie: Life, Chex, etc.)
White Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Other Valentine's Decorations:

Conversation Hearts
Valentine's M&Ms
Pink and Purple Nerds
Strawberry/Cherry Twizzlers or Twizzler Pieces
Big Red Gum
Red Gum Drops
Good and Plenty
Hot Tamales
Cherry/Strawberry Jolly Ranchers
Valentine's Candy Corn
Heart Shaped Gummy Candies
Red Hots (cinnamon candies)
Peppermints/Peppermint sticks
Cherry Lifesavers

Have I forgotten anything? What are your favorite red or pink colored candies?

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