Kitchen Concoctions: December 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Website Review: Ziplist

Even though December has been a busy month I was still able to feature a Website of the Month. For this month it was Ziplist. Since Ziplist has become quite the popular app/resource for many bloggers these days I knew I had to check it out!

Check out my review of Ziplist and the recipes I made below:

Pictures: Yes, almost every recipe has a photo! However, the quality of the photos does vary due to the fact that recipes come from popular websites such as Food Network and Martha Stewart to bloggers. The recipes without photos are usually user submitted.

Prep Time, Cooking Time, and Number of Servings listed: Yes, on almost all recipes

Nutritional Information provided: No

Clear, easy to follow directions and ease of preparation: While you see the full ingredient list of recipes on Ziplist, you have to click over to the source of the recipe to get full directions. With almost all of the recipes on Ziplist from popular recipe websites and bloggers I would say most of the directions should be easy to follow with ease of preparation varying.

Easily available ingredients and budget friendly: Yes and No The recipes on Ziplist range from all abilities and capabilities, as well as dietary restraints and course, so the ingredients do vary.

Variety of recipes: All types of recipes! This site is huge and has over 800,000 recipes. Great resource if you are looking for any type of recipe.

Meal Planning Feature: Yes! The concept of Ziplist is to be able to “save” your favorite recipes to your recipe box from any site or blog that uses Ziplist plug in’s on their site. You can then go in and schedule your saved meals to a weekly meal plan, specifically assigning meals to a specific day. You can print a grocery list with your recipe ingredients and add additional ingredients as needed; see what is on sale at grocery stores in your area, and add your own recipe.

Source of recipes: The recipes on Ziplist are from talented bloggers; including Taste and Tell, Mel’s Kitchen Café, and Recipe Girl; just to name a few. As well as popular big name recipe websites such as Food Network, Martha Stewart, and

Cost: Free

Special feature: I am fairly new to using Ziplist but with so many of my favorite bloggers using this feature, I knew I had to check it out. I love that this is a free website with a meal planning feature that allows you to plan multiple meals weeks in advance. I also love that I can search so many of my favorite food websites and blogs to find different recipes in one central location. And it is pretty neat that if I am reading my favorite blog I can ‘save’ a recipe to my Ziplist recipe box directly while reading the blog.

In case you missed is, this is what I made:

Disclosure: Again I am not being paid to do these reviews, I just frequent these sites a lot and wanted to feature some recipes I get from these sites and sort of compare the different features these websites have to offer.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Interview w/ Chef Spike Mendelsohn & Captain Morgan Holiday Recipes

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I had great fun celebrating the holiday with my family. I am slowly getting back into things after a busy time of year and a bit of a break to relax and enjoy the holidays. I will be back in full blogging mode after the New Year but in the meantime, check out an interview I did with Chef Spike Mendelsohn and some recipes using Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum!

Awhile back I was given a huge and exciting opportunity to interview chef, restaurateur and well known TV personality and competitor Chef Spike Mendelsohn. After my last huge celebrity chef interview, I wanted to make sure and ask Spike everything I ever wanted, so I carefully planned and researched, and came up with some good things to talk about. And let me just tell you, Spike was incredibly nice and so fun to chat with that I couldn’t believe my interview was over so quickly!

Honestly, I could have probably talked on and on but I kept it to his tips for holiday entertaining (tis the season after all), his new restaurant, Béarnaise, and of course his time spent on Bravo’s Top Chef and the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef.

The holiday season means time spent with friends and family, feasting and traditions; for Chef Spike Mendelsohn the holiday season is all about Thanksgiving. He loves Thanksgiving so much that he has Thanksgiving dinner several times a year!

When entertaining for any holiday or large dinner party, Chef Spike suggests taking care of the main dish and asking guests to contribute by bringing a side dish; thus taking some of the pressure off you as the host. Spike also suggests setting up a ‘self-serve bar’ at holiday dinner parties. This can include things like punch (Port Royal Punch recipe below), which is affordable and easy to make in large batches; or can entail a variety of liquor and mixers. Spike’s tip is to set out recipe cards for specialty drinks (Black Apple Harvest Cocktail recipe below), this allows guests the option to “shake their own drink,” and frees you up to enjoy your party.

When not entertaining for the holidays, Spike is busy competing in multiple TV cooking competitions like Bravo’s Top Chef and Food Network’s Next Iron Chef. He took some time to dish about his experiences on these shows and said that they are “very intense but fun since he has a competitive spirit.” “Cooking under pressure and being judged helps you perfect your craft,” says Spike.

Chef Spike, knows a thing or two about cooking under pressure; with several popular restaurants in the Washington D.C. area; including Good Stuff Eatery, We the Pizza, and a third restaurant concept in the works. Béarnaise, his latest dining establishment, is a classic steak and frites concept, which will open sometime early next year on Capitol Hill. Wondering what a chef eats at his own restaurant? Well Spike loves the Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake at Good Stuff Eatery and the Forest Shroomin’ Pie at We the Pizza!

If that all wasn’t enough, Spike recently teamed up with Captain Morgan to create some cocktail and dinner recipes using their new Black Spiced Rum. If cooking with liquor is seems intimidating, Chef Spike says “to be adventurous and have fun testing recipes. But remember to use alcohol in moderation as you don’t want it to overpower your dish.” Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum, is a “darker, bolder spiced rum” with a depth of flavor. Spike recommends mixing it with other spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.

Below are a few of the cocktail and dinner recipes that Chef Spike created using Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum; which would be perfect for a New Year’s Eve bash!

Black Apple Harvest (Cocktail)
Printable Version
Serves: 1

¾ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 dash allspice
1 dash nutmeg
1 tablespoon crushed ginger
Juice from one lemon (save the rind)
.25 ounces apricot liquor*
1.25 ounces Captain Morgan® Black Spiced Rum
Honey, as needed

In a shaker, add ice and shake it like your momma taught you. Fill a rocks glass with ice, take a lemon rind and rim the glass. Next, take a thin slice of ginger and rim the glass and then put both garnishes in the glass. Pour cocktail through holes of the shaker. Cocktail should still have some apple sauce texture, but shouldn’t be thick. Lastly, drizzle with honey.

*Note: If you don’t have apricot liquor on-hand or don’t want to make a run to the store, feel free to try without it.

Recipe by Chef Spike Mendelsohn, recipe and photo used with permission from Captain Morgan

Port Royal Punch
Printable Version
Serves: 25

2 (46-ounce) cans of pineapple juice
3 cups mango juice
1 (750 mL) bottle of Captain Morgan® Original Spiced Rum
4.5 ounces of grenadine
3 oranges, thinly sliced and quartered
3 cans of Sprite

In a punch bowl or large serving vessel, add the above ingredients and stir. Serve over ice in a punch glass – or glass of your choosing.

Recipe by Chef Spike Mendelsohn, photo and recipe used with permission from Captain Morgan

Cream Soda Braised Ribs with Chipotle Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum BBQ Sauce
Printable Version
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 2 hours 45 minutes Serves: 6-8

Chipotle Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum BBQ Sauce:

1 (8-ounce) can of chipotle peppers
2 cups BBQ sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons Captain Morgan ® Black Spiced Rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup orange juice

Blend ingredients together until smooth.

Cream Soda Braised Ribs:

2 racks of St. Louis ribs (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons ginger powder
1 teaspoon allspice
4 shots Captain Morgan® Black Spiced Rum
1 can of cream soda

Combine paprika, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger powder and allspice to create the dry rub.

Rub dry rub all over ribs and season with salt and pepper. Place in a “hotel pan” or roasting pan. Add enough cream soda to cover. Add 4 shots of Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum. Cover with foil. Pre-heat oven to 375°F and place pan in the oven, cooking for approximately 2.5 hours, until the ribs are tender and the rib bone is showing. The meat will pull off the rib, but not easily. Finish on the grill on medium heat for about 15 minutes and baste with Chipotle Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum BBQ sauce.

Recipe by Chef Spike Mendelsohn, photo and recipe used with permission from Captain Morgan

*All recipes and photos provided by Captain Morgan and used with permission.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dinner n' a Movie: "Elf" and Buddy's Maple Syrup Spaghetti

Boy do I have a fun recipe for you today that I am so excited to share!

Awhile back I shared that I loved the Disney movie Ratatouille and included a recipe for Ratatouille Pasta. I commented that it would be fun to cook up that pasta dish for dinner and watch the movie while eating, similar to the “Read It, Eat It” feature I have.

Well I have another dinner and a movie combo for you (which, like the “Read it, Eat It” I think will become a regular feature). For today’s “Dinner n’ a Movie” I a featuring a holiday favorite, the movie Elf!

This is one of my favorite Christmas movies! I watch it every holiday season (some years more than once) and still laugh out loud!

This “Dinner n’ a Movie” would make for a fun family night or even date night (as we had). I made a whole event of it (all inspired by the movie)! We of course watched the movie Elf, made gingerbread houses, made homemade ornaments and paper snowflakes, ate a wonderful dinner complete with Christmas cookies for dessert!

For the dinner, I made a meal inspired by Buddy’s, the Elf, favorite food: spaghetti with maple syrup!

No, my version isn’t quite like Buddy’s. I didn’t pour maple syrup right over my pasta, but instead made a homemade sweet marinara sauce, sweetened with (yup you guessed it) the maple syrup!


This sauce is chunky and is beautifully layered with flavors. The maple syrup adds just enough sweetness to cut through the acidic tones of the tomatoes, yet there is still long lasting flavor. I absolutely love this sauce! It is my favorite sauce to date and I was shocked when Eric (who has complained that homemade sauce I made in the past was not as good as good as jarred) declared this was the only marinara sauce he ever wanted again!

Served up with some meatballs, a side salad and some Coke, this meal and date night was one of the best eva!


As Buddy the Elf says, "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup."

One Year Ago: Eggnog Martini
Two Years Ago: Rise and Shine Coffee Cake
Three Years Ago: Almond Macaroon Brownie Bars

Buddy's Maple Syrup Spaghetti (a.k.a. Sweet Marinara Sauce)
By Heather H of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20-25 minutes Makes about 2 ½ cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (28 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes*
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3-5 tablespoons pure maple syrup or brown sugar (add to desired sweetness)
Spaghetti, cooked according to package directions, for serving

Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve hot sauce over prepared pasta.

*Note: For a less chunky sauce, replace diced tomatoes with an additional can of tomato sauce.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Website Wednesday: Pumpkin Cornbread

It seems weird to be posting a *normal* recipe today. And by *normal,* I mean something that is not centered around the holidays or contains 5 pounds of butter and 3 cups of sugar.

*Normal*as in “real food” - for dinner (because despite what you think sugar cookies and fudge, aren’t suitable for dinner!).

As in Pumpkin Cornbread.

Ok, I know you can’t eat cornbread for dinner alone, but it does make a good side dish for soup, chili, and BBQ chicken.

Or just slathered with butter and drizzled with honey!

We enjoyed this pumpkin version of cornbread both ways as a snack with honey and butter and as a side to some hearty fall chili (full of sweet potatoes, pumpkin and other fresh fall flavors)! I loved the touch of spices, hint of sweetness and lovely pumpkin flavor this cornbread had! Perfect for eating any way you like!

One Year Ago: Eggnog Martini
Two Years Ago: Eggnog Latte
Three Years Ago: Almond Macaroon Brownie Bars

Pumpkin Cornbread
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Makes: 1 (9x9-inch pan)

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup cornmeal
1/3 – 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed*
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin puree (canned or freshly cooked and processed)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon molasses

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 10-inch glass pie pan or 9-inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl stir together flours, baking powder, salt, spices, cornmeal and brown sugar. Stir until fully incorporated and no clumps, breaking up brown sugar as needed.

In separate bowl, beat eggs lightly. Whisk in pumpkin, oil and molasses. Stir pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients mixing just until blended, using caution not to over-mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cornbread is lightly browned and tester inserted in center comes out clean.

*Note: Add sugar based on desired sweetness.

Adapted from Recipe Girl as seen on Ziplist

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Falafel and An Edible Mosaic Cookbook Review

Today I have a lot to share with you. But it is all very fun and exciting so I hope you will read through!

I recently teamed up with five other bloggers, Kitchen-Play, and fellow blogger and cookbook author, Faith Gorsky, Author of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair; to bring you some great blog posts, recipes, and other fun events to share with you Faith’s new cookbook.
To start here is a review of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair:

Pictures: Yes, this cookbook is filled with beautiful photos; from completed recipes to specialty ingredients and spices.
Prep Time, Cooking Time, and Number of Servings listed: Yes, this information is listed on all recipes.
Nutritional Information provided: No
Clear, easy to follow directions and ease of preparation: The directions in this cookbook are very detailed, direct and easy to follow. The ease of preparation varies depending on the recipe. Some recipes require ‘thinking in advance,’ with marinating, soaking, and prolonged cooking; while others could be prepared and cooked in under an hour.

Easily available ingredients and budget friendly: This is cookbook shares authentic Middle Eastern cuisine and culture. While some of the ingredients may not be “standard” ingredients on your shopping list, most should be available at large grocery stores. One of the features that I love about this cookbook is that Faith has a whole section dedicated to explaining specific Middle Eastern ingredients; this is very helpful if you will be purchasing these ingredients for the first time. There is also a section with recipes for common Middle Eastern sauces and spice blends.
Variety of recipes: This cookbook has a variety of classic Middle Eastern recipes, from condiments to breads, to sides and main dishes, to desserts and drinks.
Special feature: This is a beautiful cookbook that I fell in love with the moment I opened it! It is evident that Faith poured her heart and soul into this book. There is detailed information about Middle Eastern cooking and food. Each recipe contains an explanation of the recipe with most including a personal story or antidote from Faith.

For additional An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair cookbook reviews plus recipes from the book, be sure and check out the following blogs:
Because I have wanted to make Falafel at home for quite some time that is the recipe I chose to make. I really don’t know why it has taken me so long to make Falafel. While, it required some advance prep, using dried beans does require soaking overnight and 1-2 hours of cooking; the recipe itself came together easily and cooks up in minutes. We really enjoyed this dish and will be making Falafel more often. We ate ours drizzled with a Sesame Sauce (recipe in the cookbook) stuffed in pitas with lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes; perfect for a filling and vegetarian meal!
For the Falafel recipe (courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky) as well as Faith’s commentary about Falafel continue reading below!

In the Middle East, falafel is quite commonly served as a vegetarian meal. Stopping at a local falafel shop on your way home from work, you might pick up a plateful of steaming hot falafel and enjoy it at home with a spread of hummus, olives, a Middle Eastern chopped salad, and flatbread. Or you could order a falafel sandwich, which is what I usually opt for in Damascus.
My favorite falafel shop makes their sandwiches on crepe-thin bread. They include all manner of fresh veggies, like tomato, cucumber, onion, shredded cabbage, and herbs (mint being the most important one). They also load it up with all kinds of pickled veggies, such as turnips, peppers, and cucumbers. And of course there are a couple secrets to the sauce: they always include tahini sauce and pomegranate molasses. Strange as it may sound, the combination of flavors is addictive.
My falafel recipe is a tribute to the best falafel I’ve had in Damascus – crisp outside, pillow-y inside, and of course full of flavor. If you don’t have a falafel mold, don’t worry if this is your first time shaping it; before long you’ll have perfect little fritters, and even if you don’t, they will still taste fantastic." – Faith Gorsky, Author of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair

Preparation Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, plus 12 to 24 hours to soak the chickpeas Cooking Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes Serves:4 to 6
1 cup (½ lb/250 g) dried chickpeas
1 onion, finely diced
3-4 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
¼ bunch fresh parsley leaves, minced
½ teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Oil, for frying
Sesame Sauce (optional, for serving)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves (optional, for serving)
1. Soak the chickpeas in cold water for 12 to 24 hours; drain. After soaking, add them to a medium pot with fresh water; bring up to a boil, then turn the heat down slightly and cook until they’re easy to mash with your fingers, about 1 to 2 hours; adding more water as necessary so that they’re always immersed; drain. Pick through the beans to remove any skins you find.
2. Add the chickpeas, onion, garlic, salt, cumin, and red pepper flakes to a food processor and pulse until it forms a chunky paste (do not purée it; alternatively, this can be done by hand using a large mortar and pestle). Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the parsley. Sprinkle in the baking powder and gradually add enough flour to form a dough, being careful not to over-mix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 1 hour.
3. Add about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of oil to a medium saucepan; heat the oil to between 350 to 375°F (175 to 190°C). As the oil heats, shape the fritters with a Falafel mold or with 2 spoons, gently scraping them against each other to form oblong shaped falafels.
4. Fry the Falafel in batches so the pan doesn’t get overcrowded. Fry each batch until golden brown outside and fully cooked inside, about 4 to 6 minutes, and then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil. Repeat this process until all the batter is fried.
5. Serve immediately, with a drizzle of Sesame Sauce and a sprinkle of parsley on top, if using.
Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair for review and was compensated for my time and effort by Kitchen Play. But as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Day of Rememberance

Today a large number of us bloggers are taking a moment of silence to honor those sweet innocent victims of Connecticut who lost their lives on Friday. Today we are thinking and praying for these precious angels and their families. Today we are spending extra time with our loved ones; holding them tight and whispering ‘I love you’ in their ear over and over again. Today we take a moment to remember all those who are hurting this time of year because they have lost someone near and dear to their heart. Today we stop to think, pray and love.

“Dear Blog Friends,

I am one of the many craft, cooking, lifestyle and DIY bloggers who had posts to share with you today, but the events of Friday’s shooting in Connecticut have left us heartbroken. Like you, we cried as news reports poured in and wondered out loud about how something so cruel could hurt the most innocent and tender. We not only grieved for the lives lost and wounded, but for that part of the magic and wonder of this holiday season that was taken from us all.

We know that no words, no gifts, no acts of service will ever take away the pain, but we, as bloggers and parents collectively, want those affected by this to know how close to our hearts they are:

We love you. We pray for you. We’re so heartbroken for your loss.

To honor the memory of lives cut short, we choose to step away from our blogs and computers today to celebrate the gift of life and those we love most: our children, families, good friends and community. We’re holding our kids a little closer, reaching out to neighbors and giving thanks for the moments we have together.

Thank you for stopping by today. We hope you’ll join us in remembering, praying, and gathering close. We wish you and your families a safe and blessed holiday.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12 Days of Homemade Christmas Gifts (plus 36 other homemade gifts)

If you have stuck with me so far this month then I am so grateful for you and your support! If you got sick of me at about day 5 of the 12 Days of Homemade Christmas Gifts then that’s ok too, because here is a review of what I made plus 36 more recipes/ideas that would make fantastic gifts this holiday season!
With Christmas a week away, use this holiday guide to whip up some last minute, yet thoughtful homemade holiday gifts!
12. Muffins/Quick Bread:

11. Snack Mix:

10. Cupcakes:

9: Pancake Mix and/or Syrup:
8. Kid Crafts:

7: Candy
6. Pie:
5. Hot Cocoa Mix:
4. Homemade Dog Bones:

3. Homemade Spice Blend
2. Brownies/Bars:

1. Granola:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 12: Two Ingredient Banana Bread

I have very fond memories of my Mom making homemade goodies for friends, neighbors and school teachers when I was a child. She usually made one of three things, homemade banana bread, jam, or chocolate chip cookies.

My Mom makes each of these things really well, and over the years I have run into many of these friends, each of them making comments on how they remember these tasty homemade gifts.

I have vivid memories of my Mom baking up her banana bread in aluminum foil pans wrapping them in plastic wrap and topping them with a gift tag and bow. So this is how I chose to package this banana bread.

But this is SO not my Mother’s banana bread!

Her bread was completely made from scratch (I'll have to share her famous recipe one day!) and this version I am sharing today, well it only has two ingredients.

Yes you read right, two!

This banana bread is inspired by some famous two ingredient pumpkin muffins made simply from spiced cake mix and pumpkin puree. Yes just those two things.

So that got me thinking and awhile back I thought if pumpkin puree and cake mix combined could become muffins; then why couldn’t mashed bananas and a cake mix become bread?

And much to my delight, it worked!

This banana bread is full of that banana flavor and is moist in texture. It is actually so moist that it sticks to your fingers. No dry and flavorless banana bread here! And the best part, is made and baked in under 30 minutes!

Oh and did I mention.... only two ingredients?

Two Ingredient Banana Bread
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Bake Time: 25-35 minutes Makes: 3 (5 3/4 x 3 x 2) inch mini-loafs

1 (15.25 ounce) package butter pecan cake mix
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (approximately 4 bananas)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 3 (5 3/4 x 3 x 2) inch mini loaf pans with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and mashed bananas mixing until thoroughly mixed together. Pour batter evenly into prepared loaf pans.

 Place loaf pans onto baking sheets and bake for 25-35 minutes or until tester inserted into center comes out clean.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 11: Loaded Baked Potato Chex Mix

I am sure about now you are ready for a break from all the sweets….!?!

Like something salty….?

I will be the first to admit that I have a major sweet tooth, but as much as I like to eat my sweets I need something to balance out all that sweetness.

Usually milk or something salty.

Something like Chex Mix.

So to balance out all that holiday baking you are doing and all the pounds of butter and sugar consumed, I bring you a salty treat (that you can even box up and gift to others; others you that could use a sugar break too!).

And Loaded Baked Potato Chex Mix at that!

I am always amazed at all the different, sweet and savory, Chex Mix recipes that are out there (there are sure some creative people) and this recipe is no exception!

Whoever came up with this Loaded Baked Potato Chex Mix is genius! This salty and addictive snack that has baked potato overtones, was just the thing I needed to push me to make and eat more holiday sweets! : )

One Year Ago: Cranberry Mimosa
Two Years Ago: BBQ Turkey Meatloaf
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Chex Mix

Loaded Baked Potato Chex Mix
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Makes: approximately 14 cups

6 cups Corn Chex cereal
5 cups potato sticks
3 cups cheese crackers
1/3 cup real bacon bits
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons ranch dressing and seasoning mix
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine cereal, potato sticks, crackers and bacon bits in large microwavable bowl.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High for about 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in cheese and ranch dressing mix. Pour butter and seasoning mixture over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.

Microwave cereal mixture uncovered on High 3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container.

Adapted from Chex as seen on Ziplist

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 10: Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Chocolate Sauce Drizzle

A few weeks ago “we” talked about catering to people with special diets. I mentioned that I felt that people with special diet needs should help contribute to a dinner party by bringing a dish that they can eat and not expect the hostess to go out of their way to make something just for them.

With that said, it brings me great joy (after much frustration of cooking out of my element) when I present my friends with special diet needs a special treat just for them. The fact that I went out of my way to buy the special ingredients, do some research, and create a treat they can eat means a lot to them.

And that is the whole reason behind this 12 Days of Homemade Christmas Gifts! Homemade gifts, whatever they are, always mean more than anything store bought could ever mean. They show you put time, effort, and thought into creating that special gift; especially if you present a gift to your friend or loved one that is personalized and IS just for them.

A few of my friends eat Paleo diets. When one of them celebrated a birthday a few months ago I wanted to create a special treat just for them on their special. After much research (online and calling his wife like a million times), I came up with these cupcakes. My friend and his wife devoured these cupcakes in one day and told me they wished they had more (WOW! That’s quite the feedback)!

Since these cupcakes are Paleo friendly they are Gluten and Lactose free too! So make a batch of these cupcakes this holiday season and gift them to someone in your life who has a special diet; you will show just how much you care!

One Year Ago: Frosty Bagel
Two Years Ago: BBQ Turkey Meatloaf
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Chex Mix

Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Sauce Drizzle
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 20-25 minutes Makes approximately 12 cupcakes


1/2 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup of honey (or ¼ cup agave nectar)
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup coconut milk

Chocolate Sauce Drizzle:

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 tablespoons honey (or ½-1 tablespoons agave nectar)
3-4 tablespoons coconut milk

For Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.

In a large bowl mix together the coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, stir together eggs, honey, applesauce and milk. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until moistened and combined.

Spoon prepared cupcake batter into prepared muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool slightly and top with a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Chocolate Sauce:

Combine all chocolate sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes or until mixture is smooth and sauce like in consistency. Add desired amount of sweetener and milk based on consistency and sweetness preference.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 9: Cinnamon Pancake Mix and Vanilla Buttermilk Syrup

In the past years of doing this 12 Days of Christmas feature I always did breakfast recipes because growing up (and even today!) I looked forward to the big breakfast on Christmas morning.

As kids we woke early (Mom had a rule that we couldn’t go downstairs before 6am and we had to all go together), opened presents, and then started playing with our new toys while my Mom created a big Christmas morning breakfast.

She had everything fresh fruit, eggs, bacon and/or sausage, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, banana bread, milk and orange juice. It was the perfect breakfast feast!

Because of these memories, is the reason I wanted to share special breakfast recipes over the years as part of my countdown to Christmas.

And it just so happens that the joys of Christmas morning breakfast can be shared with your friends and neighbors. Homemade pancake mix is great to keep around for whipping up a hot breakfast during the week or on a lazy Saturday and makes a great gift for others.

This version shouts Christmas joy and wonderment with sugar and spice and everything nice! Oh and don’t forget to drown these babies in the Vanilla Buttermilk Syrup because what’s better than a Cinnamon Spiced Pancake soaked in sweet, sweet vanilla syrup!

Packaging Suggestion: Store pancake mix in a decorative jar and tie with a bow. Syrup can be stored in Mason jar or syrup dispenser. Place syrup and pancake mix in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon, measuring cups and spoons. Don’t forget to include preparation directions for your gift recipient!

One Year Ago: Continental Breakfast/Breakfast Buffet
Two Years Ago: Homemade BBQ Seasoning and BBQ Sauce
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Chex Mix

Cinnamon Pancake Mix
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 10-15 minutes Yield: pancake recipe makes 6 pancakes, pancake mix makes enough for 3 batches

For pancake mix:

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

For pancakes:

¾ cup milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup pancake mix

To make the pancake mix:

In a large bowl stir together all ingredients for pancake mix. Stir until combined. Store prepared pancake mix in an air tight container for up to 3 months.

To make pancakes:

Preheat a griddle or large sauté pan over medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and butter. Stir in pancake mix and stir just until combined.

When the griddle is hot, spray with non-stick spray and spoon approximately ¼ cup pancake batter onto hot griddle. When bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pancake, gently flip. Cook another 1-2 minutes or until the pancake is set.

Serve immediately.

Vanilla Buttermilk Syrup
By Heather of Kitchen Concoctions:
Printable Version
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes Yield: approximately 1 cup

6 tablespoons butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Combine butter, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Simmer on low for 2-3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda.

Store leftovers in refrigerator for about one to two weeks.

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