In the Cookie Jar: Christmas Thin Mints

(Originally posted Dec 8, 2015)

These cookies are so yummy! They taste just like the Thin Mints the Girl Scouts sell, so you know it’s going to be a winner.

Thin Mints.png
18 Ritz Crackers

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening, optional but recommended

3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Assorted Christmas sprinkles

************

 

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment wax paper.

In a shallow microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and shortening (the shortening helps the chocolate stay smooth when using it for dipping; it prevents that thick and gloppy, chocolate getting hard before you want it to phenomenon) and heat for 1 minute on high power to melt. Stir and heat in 10 to 15 second bursts until chocolate can be stirred very smooth.

To the melted chocolate add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract and stir. If you prefer it mintier, add another 1/4 teaspoon.

 *Note: Mint extract is much, much more potent than vanilla extract; 1 teaspoon of mint extract has an extreme amount of potency compared with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. You cannot un-do mint once added so be very, very careful to not over-do it.

Add 1 cracker to the chocolate, coat it, and remove it by lightly scooping it up from the underside with a fork, allowing excess chocolate to drain off through fork tines. Place cracker on parchment and repeat with all remaining crackers. If necessary, re-heat the chocolate in 10 to 15 second bursts if it starts getting too firm for smooth dipping. Sprinkle dipped crackers with assorted sprinkles. After all crackers have been dipped, place baking sheet in refrigerator.

Store extra Thin Mints in an airtight container in the refrigerator for many weeks. In the freezer, I estimate that these could be kept for 3 to 6 months successfully.

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On the Cake Stand: Christmas Wreath Cake

(Originally posted Dec 8, 2015)

Making this cake is Christmas tradition. I make it every year & not only is it pretty…it goes FAST!

christmas-cake

1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist white cake mix

Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box

Red and green food color

1 (12 oz) can Betty Crocker Whipped fluffy white frosting

Red, green and white candy sprinkles

Heat oven to 325°F. Generously grease 12-cup fluted tube cake pan with shortening or cooking spray. Make cake mix as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs. Pour half of the batter into medium bowl; set aside. Divide the other half of batter equally between 2 small bowls. (You will be left with 3 bowls of batter.) Add red food color to 1 of the small bowls and mix well. Add green food color to the second small bowl and mix well.

Pour half of the white batter from medium bowl into cake pan. Carefully pour red batter over white batter in pan. Carefully pour green batter over red batter. Then pour remaining white batter from medium bowl over the top. Do not mix the colors.

Bake as directed on box until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Turn pan upside down onto cooling rack placed over a cookie sheet; remove pan. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Place cake on serving plate.

Divide frosting between 2 small microwavable bowls. Microwave 1 bowl on High about 5 to 10 seconds; mix well with spoon until smooth enough to drizzle. With the spoon, drizzle white frosting back and forth around the whole cake in a striping pattern until you use all of the frosting (allow some frosting to drip down onto plate in middle of cake, if desired).

Microwave second bowl of frosting; stir in a few drops of green food color. Drizzle over cake, scattering back and forth in the same type of striping pattern. Decorate with sprinkles. Let stand until frosting is set before serving.

**When you add the batter to the cake pan, don’t mix it with a spoon. Just pour it in so the colors rest on top of each other.

Recipe Source Betty Crocker

Christmas White Trash

(Originally posted Dec 6, 2015)

white-trash

3 1/2 cups Cheerios toasted oat cereal

3 cups Rice Chex

3 cups Corn Chex

16 oz. M&M’s plain chocolate candy

2 1/2 cups salted mixed nuts

2 cups small pretzels

12 oz pecan halves

Christmas sprinkles

2 (11 ounce) packages white chocolate chips or Almond Bark

**16 oz. M&M peppermint candy & plain popcorn (optional)

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Dump the cereals, M&Ms, nuts & pretzels in a large bowl.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. Melt very slowly, stirring occasionally, being careful not to burn the chocolate.

Dump melted chocolate over the rest of the ingredients and fold over and over until you have well-coated hunks and chunks.

Spread the whole mess out on parchment paper and set in a cool place until it sets up, then break it into pieces.

Store in zip-top bags or air-tight containers.

A Successful Thanksgiving

(Originally posted Nov 28, 2015)

Now that we’ve made it through another incredible Thanksgiving, I thought I would tell you the secret to a successful (and stress-free) cooking experience. The key is preparation. Cooking for Thanksgiving is a marathon, not a sprint & the more you can complete before the actual day, the better off you’ll be!

Now, Nonnie and I normally split the cooking duties, so I’m typically responsible for…
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Casserole
Creamed Corn
Deviled Eggs
In previous years I’ve also thrown in…
Rolls/Crescents
A Dessert
So for example, if I were making mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, creamed corn and deviled eggs, my timeline may look something like this.
Sunday before Thanksgiving
  • Go shopping. This will ensure you get all the groceries you need and can avoid some of the holiday rush.
  • Also, if you’re making deviled eggs, buy them now (or even before.) Fresh eggs will not peel, so do yourself a huge favor & buy your eggs early.
Tuesday before Thanksgiving
  • Peel your potatoes. Chop them, place them in a pot of water & stick them in the fridge. This probably goes without saying, but keep the Russet potatoes & sweet potatoes separated.
Day before Thanksgiving
  • This is a BIG DAY for Thanksgiving preparation. Take your potatoes out of the fridge. Drain the water and follow the recipes from there.
  • Once your mashed potatoes are complete, put them in the fridge.
  • For the sweet potato casserole, follow the recipe, but stop at the point where you add the topping and bake. (We’ll do that tomorrow.) Cover the casserole dish with foil and refrigerate.
  • Complete the creamed corn recipe, cover in foil and refrigerate.
  • Complete the deviled eggs, cover and refrigerate.
THE BIG DAY – Thanksgiving
  • We normally eat lunch at noon, so in that case, I would put the casserole dishes in the oven about an hour and a half before you need to leave. I throw them in there while it preheats and when it reaches 350 degrees I pull the sweet potatoes, add the topping and then bake per the recipe. (I know the baking temps vary between the corn and sweet pots, but I just put it on 350 degrees and check the corn until it’s warmed through.
  • While the oven is preheating, remove the prepared russet potatoes from the fridge and transfer them to a buttered crockpot on the “low” setting. Set the timer for about an hour & a half. Continue stirring, checking the temperature and finally adjusting the seasoning. You may need to add additional butter, salt & pepper once everything heats up.
  • Make a checklist before you leave the house & make sure you have all your sides and anything else you to serve them.

Traditional Deviled Eggs

(Originally posted Nov 25, 2015)

deviled-eggs

1 dozen eggs

½ cup mayo

2 teaspoon yellow mustard

3 teaspoons chopped pickles

1 teaspoon pickle juice

1 ½ teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Salt and black pepper

Paprika, for sprinkling

 

Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the eggs, then bring to a boil. Using a slotted spoon gently lower the eggs into the boiling water. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the heat and run under cold water until completely cooled.

Peel the eggs, cut in half and scoop out the yolks into a medium bowl. Add the mayo, mustard, pickles, pickle juice, sugar, vinegar, hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste, and mix with a fork until well combined.

Using a small spoon, fill each egg white half with a generous teaspoon of filling. (I use a melon baller.) Lightly sprinkle with paprika to garnish.

Sweet Potato Casserole

(Originally posted Nov 25, 2015)


Note – I double this recipe for Thanksgiving

sweet-potato-casserole

Potatoes:

2 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 cup half-and-half

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

Cooking spray

Topping:

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 – 1 cup chopped pecans (I use Fisher Chef’s Naturals Pecan Cookie Pieces)

Preheat oven to 375°

To prepare potatoes, place potatoes in a large pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until very tender. Drain; cool slightly.

Place potatoes in a large bowl. Add half-and-half, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

*This is when you taste and adjust the seasoning. You won’t be able to taste it after you’ve added the raw eggs.

Add eggs; beat well. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

To prepare topping, sprinkle miniature marshmallows over top of casserole and then the pecan pieces. You want to make sure everyone gets a bit of marshmallow & pecan in each bite. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in chilled butter with a hand beater or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle over potato/marshmallows/pecans. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

3 Forks Creamed Corn

Originally posted Nov 25th, 2015

This recipe is to die for. Every time I have it, I forget how good it is & wonder why I don’t make it more 🙂

creamed-corn

10 ears fresh corn, shucked, cooked and off cob

1 cup heavy cream (or whipping cream)

1 cup milk

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon Accent seasoning

1 teaspoon granulated garlic (used garlic powder)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (used 1/2 tsp of ground thyme)

4 ounces unsalted butter (1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons flour

*Corn peeler utensil – This will be a time/life saver!

creamed-corn-2

In a large saucepan, combine the first 10 ingredients. Slowly bring it to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for three minutes. In a separate pan, melt the butter until it begins to pop, then stir the flour into the butter. Add the butter and flour mixture to the simmering corn. Stirring occasionally, allow to simmer for three more minutes. Keep warm until served.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

(Originally posted Nov 25, 2015)

mashed-potatoes

5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes

3/4 cups Butter

1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened

1/2 cup (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half

1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

1/2 teaspoon (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Darst Family Cornbread Dressing

(Originally posted Nov 7, 2015)

Oh Cornbread Dressing… How I love you.
I’ll admit, one of the reasons I wanted to create this blog was to document the many wonderful Thanksgiving recipes I’ve accumulated over the years. These are time-tested, full-proof, knock your socks off recipes. Just thinking about them makes me hungry! Now, this is my Mom’s recipe, so it has all kinds of interesting details – some are very helpful & some are flat out comical. Let’s roll!

Aunt Jemima’s Yellow Corn Meal
*Mix & cook according to the directions, but OMIT the sugar. Double the recipe.

While still warm, butter (generously) top of cornbread with Country Crock and then allow to cool.

 

Chicken Bouillon cubes – 3 cubes
Swanson Chicken Broth – 2 cans
Country Crock margarine
Salt & pepper to taste
1 medium white onion – chopped
1 1/2 cups celery – chopped
5 eggs – boiled & chopped
3/4 to 1 cup parsley (not packed down) – pinch stems off

 

Crumble cornbread in a bowl.

 

 

In a large Pyrex cup, pour 1 can of chicken broth and bouillon cubes and heat in microwave until the cubes are dissolved. Let cool then add to the cornbread. Add chopped celery, parsley, onion and egg. Mix together – if too dry add remaining broth.

 

 

Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then uncover and brown under the broiler. Leave oven door slightly open & watch carefully, so it doesn’t burn.

Kiss Kiss’s Taco Pasta Soup

Every single meal prepared by Kiss Kiss is delicious and this recipe is no exception.

taco-pasta-soup

1 lb ground meat

1 can Bush’s pinto beans (not drained)

1/2 can of rotel

1 can 14.5 oz diced tomatoes (She uses Mexican style tomatoes)

2 oz chopped green chilies (which is about 1/2 the small can you buy in the Mexican food section)

1 can medium enchilada sauce

2 tsp chili powder (I start with 1 tsp and taste-test for heat)

1/2 tsp cumin

2 TBSP garlic powder

1 onion

2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked small elbow macaroni

shredded cheese, avocado, Santa Fe tortilla strips for topping

Brown meat and onion together. Cook pasta, drain and set aside. Add all ingredients, let simmer for 30-45 minutes. Add cooked pasta at the end. Serve with grated cheese, avocado and tortilla chips or strips.

The secret – Don’t overcook the pasta. Remember, you’re going to put the cooked pasta in the hot soup and you don’t want it to become mushy. Once you’ve added the noodles to the soup, remove it from the heat. This will help keep your pasta noodles from overcooking quickly.