Friday, January 31, 2014

Ham & Swiss Dip

This has been one of my favorite dip recipes for several years! I originally received this recipe from my mom and prepared it for a Bachelor Finale viewing party that I hosted at my house. I'm pretty sure that I have made this for a Book Club meeting, Going Away Party and numerous other get togethers. When a friend invited me over to her house recently the first recipe that popped into my head was Ham & Swiss Dip!! It only takes a few ingredients and results in a yummy cheesy rich dip. 

Ham & Swiss Dip

1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup mayonnaise (use regular, not fat-free)
1 1/2 cup diced fully cooked ham (I use packaged deli thin sliced ham)
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 Tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs (or Rye crackers)
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in the ham, cheese and mustard.  Spread into an ungreased 9 inch pie plate.  Toss the cracker crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle over the cream cheese mixture. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until heated through.  Serve with crackers. 

This appetizer is best served warm and bubbly out of the oven. I love this cheesy dip spread onto a buttery cracker. It is also great with crushed Rye crackers on top of the cream cheese mixture. Mixed veggie crackers and even tortilla chips compliment this snack.  Keep this recipe in mind for the upcoming Super Bowl or any event that you need a crowd pleasing dip!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Gummy Hearts

My kids just love these bite size treats that practically melt in your mouth. They are so easy to prepare….in fact my 9 year old daughter helped me with this recipe. It only requires three ingredients and your pick of adorable silicone molds. I bought this set of small heart molds in the dollar spot section of Target. 
In a medium saucepan, whisk together 2 packages of jello, 4 envelopes of gelatin and 1 cup of water. 
Heat over a medium to low setting until the jello melts. Continue to whisk for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 minutes; then transfer to a glass container with a pouring spout. 
Each heart tray makes fourteen treats. There is no need to pre-spray the trays. The jello candy will pop right out whenever it is set and cool. Simply pour the melted jello mixture into each mold about 2/3 full (or carefully to the top of the mold). The recipe I made filled exactly 4 heart trays creating a total of 56 cherry flavored hearts!!
While we were making the cherry hearts we decided to go ahead and make a second batch with orange jello. It is just so easy to do!!!
So I used my extra molds (bear, butterfly and snowflake shapes) for the melted orange jello mixture.  It is always a great idea to double the recipe because these do not last long in my house!                                                         
Let the jello set in the molds for 10-20 minutes. Then invert the molds and gently push out each gummy candy. These do not need to be refrigerated. They are easily stored in a Valentine's ziploc bag, plastic container or any cute decorative tin! The sweet cherry flavored hearts are the perfect Valentine's Day treat….or for any day that you want an easy snack that the kids will love!

Gummy Hearts

2 (3oz.) packages of cherry jello (or any flavor you like)
4 envelopes of gelatin
1 cup of water

Combine jello, gelatin and water into a medium saucepan.  Heat on medium for about 5 minutes or until the jello crystals are dissolved….whisking occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool for 2 minutes. Pour into a glass container that has a spout. Carefully pour warm mixture into the silicone mold trays. Let cool in the molds for at least 10-20 minutes or until set. Remove gummy candy from molds and store in airtight container. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pecan Brittle

Back in October I attended a chili festival in my hometown. At this event I purchased a small plastic bag of peanut brittle. Due to my pre-holiday diet I decided to hide this bag of candy from myself high in my pantry closet. I finally broke down and opened the bag sometime after Christmas. I couldn't get enough of the yummy airy candy. My husband and I tried to ration out small portions of the peanut brittle until eventually it was all gone! That started my journey to find a similar recipe so that I could make brittle whenever I wanted!!

After searching many different recipes I came up with a delicious version. I wanted a recipe that was fast and easy but still developed the sweet airy flavor of brittle.  I knew that baking soda was a necessary ingredient to add the fluffy texture. Since I was too lazy to make a trip to the commissary I chose to use chopped pecans instead of peanuts. I've been saving this particular bag of shelled pecans that we bought on a road trip through Texas recently. I simply chopped the pecans into small pieces and measured almost 2 cups. 
I also used a large glass bowl so that it would be easy to microwave and mix together. Just be careful when you remove the glass bowl….it can get quite hot in the microwave!
Also make sure you have the baking sheet prepped before heating the brittle. I lined the cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper and then sprayed it with Pam cooking spray.  

Pecan Brittle

2 cups pecan halves, chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp butter (1 small slice)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda

Mix pecans, sugar, syrup and salt in a large glass bowl.  Microwave on HIGH 4 minutes; stir with a large spoon. Microwave on HIGH 3 minutes. Stir in butter and vanilla; microwave on HIGH 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and add baking soda; stir quickly. Pour out onto a greased baking sheet. Let set until cool and then break into pieces. Store in a airtight container. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Crockpot Pesto Chicken

You gotta love a recipe that has only a few ingredients and is super easy to throw together!!! This crockpot recipe has been floating around the internet for awhile now. I've always enjoyed anything with pesto sauce so I knew that pesto flavored chicken would be delicious! I decided to step away from my normal use of chicken breasts and try this recipe with chicken thighs.  One package of chicken thighs is relatively inexpensive and I doubled the meat so that we would have leftovers for the next day.  

Crockpot Pesto Chicken

2 packages chicken thighs
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 package Ranch dressing mix
1 (7 oz.) container Pesto with Basil

Place chicken into the crockpot. Spread the pesto sauce over the top of the chicken. Sprinkle the ranch dressing mix. Pour in the chicken broth and gently stir the sauce.  Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Serve the pesto chicken along side mashed potatoes or cooked penne pasta. This flavorful chicken would also be great if you shredded it and then placed it on a hoagie roll with a slice of mozzarella cheese! Yum!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Crockpot Tortellini & Sausage Soup

Now that we are settling back into a schedule after the craziness of December, I'm back to meal planning again. I always include an easy crockpot recipe for the busiest weeknight. It just so happens that this evening each of my 3 kids had an activity…at 3 different locations of course. 

 This recipe only takes a few steps and creates the yummiest Italian dinner that is ready whenever you get home!!! The ingredients are inexpensive and easily serves 6-8 people. I prepared the soup around 1pm and the first shift of my family ate at 5:30pm.  (The next shift at 6:30pm…and then 7pm) It was perfectly cooked and simmered nicely until everyone had time to sit down. 

Crockpot Tortellini & Sausage Soup

1 lb. mild Italian sausage, cooked & crumbled
2 cans diced tomatoes, (Basil, Garlic & Oregano)
2 cans chicken broth
1 package (19 oz.) frozen cheese tortellini
1 bag spinach (I used 2/3 of a large bag)
1 (8oz.) package cream cheese, cubed

Brown the Italian sausage in a skillet until cooked and crumbled; drain.  Add the sausage and remaining ingredients to the crockpot. Stir to combine and then cook on LOW for 5 hours. 

Such a delicious rich broth with the spice of Italian sausage and cheesy noodles… good!!! My kids finished their bowls quickly and my husband declared this soup to be "AWESOME"! We served the bowls of soup with a few shakes of Parmesan cheese, a slice of baguette bread and a side of fruit.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cheesy Cauliflower & Ham Soup

There is a bitter cold sweeping across most of the states right now. My first impulse is to whip up a big batch of hot soup!!! Of course I love soup so much that I truly don't need the excuse of "cold weather".  I was so thrilled to find this new recipe... which is basically a cheesy chicken broth soup with the use of cauliflower instead of potatoes. I adapted the recipe by also adding diced ham to make my meat craving husband happy. Overall my entire family loved the cheesy blended flavors and practically licked their bowls clean!!!

Cheesy Cauliflower & Ham Soup
adapted from Taste of Home

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium carrot, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
8 ounces diced ham
2 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons chicken granules (instant bouillon)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk (I used skim)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot sauce, (optional)

In a large soup pot, combine the cauliflower, carrot, celery, ham, water and chicken bouillon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender (do not drain). In a different saucepan, melt butter. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper until smooth.  Gradually add milk.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 5 minutes or until thickened.  Reduce heat. Stir in the cheese until melted. Add hot sauce if desired.  Pour the cheese mixture into the large soup pot with the cauliflower mixture.  Stir to combine and then serve in bowls with a dash of parsley. 

This soup made the perfect amount for our family of five for dinner. Although I was pretty disappointed when I realized that there weren't any leftovers for lunch the next day. I plan on doubling the recipe next time!!! This delicious soup consists of basic ingredients that I keep readily available at home. I only had to buy some fresh cauliflower and ham at the grocery store.  It is such an easy belly-warming comfort food!!!