Pumpkin Pie Bars

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I went to the British Virgin Islands for 10 days. We chartered a sailboat for 8 of those days with family. Thanksgiving fell while we were on that vacation. Our Thanksgiving dinner was a pub-style restaurant, and it was tropical pizza, chickpea salad, and for dessert, we had a virgin Pina colada! I definitely missed the traditional meal. One thing I missed the most was pumpkin treats. I made these pumpkin pie bars shortly after we came home from that trip. They have a delicious sweet and buttery crust, and they are filled with pumpkin and heavenly spices – then topped with some reserve crust mixture and coconut. So yummy! Since then, I’ve made these quite a few times. They are always a popular treat! Enjoy.

Recipe for Pumpkin Pie Bars

INGREDIENTS

1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup of old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup of almonds
12 ounces of very cold unsalted butter chopped into small pieces (put in freezer for about 15 minutes before using)

For the filling

  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups of canned pumpkin puree

For the filling

  • Reserved crust mixture
  • Sweetened shredded flake coconut

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9 x 9 square pan.

Put the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oats, and almonds into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse for a few seconds to incorporate. Scatter the butter pieces over the mixture. Pulse for several seconds until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour some of the crust mixture into the prepared pan. Use your hands to press down the crust evenly. You should have plenty of reserve crust mixture, but make sure you have at least 1 1/4 cups. Set aside reserved crust mixture. Place pan in oven and cook for about 15 minutes.

While crust is cooking, put the pumpkin, cream cheese, eggs, vanilla, and spices into a large bowl. Use an electric hand mixer set on medium-high speed to mix ingredients until smooth and well incorporated (about 3 – 5 minutes). Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust. Top with the reserved crust mixture and then top with coconut. Place back in the oven and cook for 25 – 30 minutes. Allow it to cool completely at room temperature, and then cover and refrigerate. Refrigerate for a couple hours before cutting and serving. Makes about 16 servings. Serve with homemade whipped cream, if desired.

Recipe Adapted from: Joy the Baker, originally from Kraft recipes

Greek Pizza with a Cornmeal Crust

Greg got me a pizza stone for Christmas one year. Before receiving the pizza stone, I always wondered why my pizza crusts would NEVER work out to my liking. Well, the answer is that I had never hadused a pizza stone. What a difference it makes! It helps to cook the pizza evenly, and it helps to extract moisture (from cheese, toppings, etc.) When I had used a baking sheet to cook pizzas, the moisture from cheese would seep into the crust and it would become a soggy mess.

The very first (and second) pizza I made with the stone was a Greek pizza. The pizza starts with a cornmeal crust, then it is spread with an olive oil & roasted garlic sauce, and it is topped with feta cheese, mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, arugula, and spices. It is absolutely amazing!

Recipe for Greek Pizza with a Cornmeal Crust

INGREDIENTS

For the crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
2/3 cup of warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Put the warm water in a liquid measuring cup. Add yeast and sugar and let sit for ten minutes until a bit bubbly. Put flour, cornmeal, and kosher salt into a food processor and pulse together. Slowly add in the olive oil. With the food processor running, slowly add in the water/yeast mixture through the feed tube. When it forms into a ball, stop and divide the dough into two even pieces. Wrap one piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for another use. Place the other piece of dough in a bowl coated with olive oil, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a  warm moist towel. Put somewhere warm  (like on top of the warm oven while the garlic is roasting). Let the dough rise for about an hour.

For the roasted garlic & olive oil sauce
2 large heads of garlic, with much of the skin peeled off
5 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
a pinch of lemon zest (optional)
1/8 tsp. oregano
salt and pepper
a pinch of red pepper flakes
6 sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped small

Line a baking sheet with foil. Pour a couple tablespoons of the olive oil on the foil. Place garlic on top of foil. Place in an oven heated to 375 degrees and cook for 45 minutes. Let the garlic cool slightly, then use your hands to squeeze the garlic out into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well, forming a bit of a paste while doing so. Set aside.

For topping & assembling
3 – 4 ounces of grated mozzarella cheese
5 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
10 – 12 kalamata olives, sliced thin
3 – 4 sun dried tomatoes in oil, sliced small
A handful or two of arugula leaves
A drizzle of olive oil
Dried Oregano
Black Pepper
Crushed Red Pepper flakes

Preheat pizza stone according to manufacturer’s directions (most stones need to be at 500 for thirty minutes).

After the dough has risen, place it on an inverted baking sheet dusted generously with cornmeal. Spread out the dough to make a thinnish crust. Drizzle the dough with the roasted garlic & olive oil sauce, spreading evenly. Then top with most of the mozzarella cheese, add the feta cheese, add the olives and sun dried tomato, add a little more mozzarella, then add the arugula. Drizzle the arugula with a little olive oil and then top the pizza with a sprinkle of dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and black pepper.

Once pizza stone is ready, carefully slide the pizza onto the stone (leave stone in oven). Cook for about 6 – 7 minutes, or until crust is done and cheese is melted. Remove the pizza from the oven, let cool for a minute, slice and serve.
Greg & I enjoy our pizza with a small arugula salad topped with olives, feta, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and a touch of balsamic vinegar.

Cornmeal crust recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart

Lemon Cupcakes with a Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Who loves lemon? I love lemon, and I also love this recipe for lemon cupcakes. The cake of the cupcake uses cake flour, which is an absolute must in this recipe – so no substitutions. Cake flour makes these cupcakes light and airy. You can find cake flour in the baking section at most all grocery stores. I use the Softasilk brand of cake flour. The flour is fine, silky, smooth, and perfect for this tender cupcake. Not only is the cake good, but the frosting on these cupcakes is also pretty incredible. remember a friend who tried these cupcakes had described the frosting as “ridiculous in a ridiculously good way!” 

I think you will really enjoy these cupcakes. The cake is amazing, the lemon buttercream frosting is ridiculously good, and the candied lemons add a nice touch. The candied lemons are edible – they taste like lemon candy! Yum. 

Recipe for Lemon Cupcakes with a Lemon Buttercream Frosting

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 3 cups of cake flour (no substitutions)
  • 1 tsp. of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • Zest of 2 lemons (save lemons to juice them)
  • 4 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  •  1 cup of buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin/cupcake tins with paper cupcake liners.
Add the softened butter and sugar to a large bowl. Beat the butter and the sugar together with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until the mixture is light and very fluffy (about 5 minutes or so).
In a medium bowl, add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda). Sift the ingredients together and set aside.
Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter and sugar mixture. Make sure to beat egg into the mixture on low speed after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest. 
Now beat in the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in alternating additions to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture. First add about a third of the dry ingredients to the mixture and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Then add about half of the buttermilk to the mixture and mix on low speed. Continue alternating the dry ingredients and buttermilk into the mixture, ending with the dry ingredients. Make sure that all of the ingredients are well incorporated and that the mixture is fluffy.
Using a cookie dough scoop or small ladle, scoop the batter into each cupcake liner. Fill the liners with the batter almost to the tops, because the batter does not rise much.
Bake cupcakes for 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Once cooled, frost with the lemon buttercream frosting and garnish with the candied lemon slices, if desired. 
(Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes)

For the Lemon Buttercream Frosting

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (softened at room temperature)
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. of lemon zest
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

Put the butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer set on medium-low speed, beat together until the butter is smooth and creamy. Gradually add in the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, and mix on low until the frosting is at a good consistency for spreading. 
Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting Recipe from: Our Best Bites

For the Candied Lemons

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 lemons 

DIRECTIONS

Wash and dry the lemons. Slice the lemons very thinly, and cut into halves or quarters. Add the water and sugar to a small saucepan. Put the saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon slices to the pan in a single layer and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, then use a fork to gently flip the lemons over. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Pour the lemons and syrup into an airtight container and store until ready to use.

Spinach Balls

Don’t let the name of this appetizer turn you off! If they were to be named correctly, they would really be called butter, cheese,  and stuffing balls with a little spinach. My mother would often make spinach balls during the holidays when I was growing up. I would always eat them by the handful, and I actually thought that I was eating something healthy because they were green. I wondered how something so healthy could taste so good, but then when I made them for the first time several years back, I realized that the spinach balls tasted so good to me because they are made with herbed stuffing, melted butter, and Parmesan cheese. When we have guests over or I host a party, I think it is fun to serve spinach balls as a side to our meal.

If you would like a tasty appetizer or side to serve at a party or a dinner, try these spinach balls. They are easy to make and delicious. Yes, they are not a very healthy option, but since they are so small you don’t have to feel too guilty about eating a couple. Enjoy!

Recipe for Spinach Balls

INGREDIENTS

2 10-ounce packages of frozen chopped spinach
2 cups of dry herbed stuffing mix3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. of finely chopped yellow onion (or 1/4 tsp. of dried minced onion flakes)
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. of thyme
4 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 12 Tbsp.) of unsalted butter, melted
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Cook the spinach according to package directions. Then place in a colander to cool and drain very well, squeezing as much as you need to so you can get all the excess moisture out.
Put all the ingredients into a bowl. Use a fork to mix well. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for a couple hours.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Use a cookie dough scoop and your hands to shape the spinach mixture into 1-inch balls. Place on the lined baking sheet and then place in the oven for about 30 minutes, watching carefully so they do not burn. Remove from oven and serve warm. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. You can eat them cold or zap in the microwave for about 15 – 20 seconds first.

Recipe adapted from: Vineyard Seasons: More from the Heart of the Home, by Susan Branch 
Recipe makes approximately 3 – 4 dozen. 

Pasta with Red Grapes and Sausage

I found this recipe for Pasta with Red Grapes and Sausage, or as Greg likes to call it, “Grapeful Pasta” in a magazine I was flipping through years ago. I thought it sounded interesting. I had never had pasta that used grapes in the sauce, and it really is incredible how flavorful the grapes make the dish. They burst and explode. and then the pasta is coated in their juices. The red grapes make a savory sweet sauce that pairs well with all of the other ingredients – a yummy combination of sweet, spicy, and salty.
Not only does this meal taste good, it also provides some nice health benefits. Red grapes are high in antioxidants that fight inflammation – nobody likes inflammation. I have made this dish many times, and I never get sick of eating it for dinner. This meal also saves really well for leftovers. Enjoy!

Recipe for Pasta with Red Grapes and Sausage

INGREDIENTS

Aidells Chicken Sausage Links, cut in to 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
2 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 small red onion, cut in to very thin and small slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. plus 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt, divided
2 cups of seedless red grapes
1 cup of chicken broth
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes (totally based upon your heat-threshold preferences)
12-ounces of whole grain penne pasta
3 Tbsp. of grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of fresh parsley or 2 Tbsp. of dried parsley flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Put 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a very large saucepan set over medium heat. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, stirring frequently until sausage is browned (about 10 minutes). Once sausage is done cooking, remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon and put it on to a plate. Set aside. Add another 1 tbsp. of oil to the saucepan and return the heat to medium. Add the onions and the garlic to the pan with 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt and stir until the onions are soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the red grapes, broth, and red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir the mixture and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the grapes burst and the sauce thickens. While the grapes are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. Once grapes have burst and have cooked for at least 10 minutes, return the sausage to the saucepan with the grapes and stir. Turn off the stovetop.
When the water boils, add the 1 tbsp. of kosher salt to the pot. Add in the pasta and cook as directed on pasta package. When pasta is done, drain the pasta well and then add it to the saucepan. Turn the heat to high. Cook until the sausage is hot and the pasta is coated with the sauce, about one minute. Remove from heat and divide amongst serving dishes. Top each serving with parsley, Parmesan, and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!
Adapted from: Self Magazine

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I am crazy for coconut, and I am also super crazy about these coconut cupcakes. They are by far the best cupcakes I have ever had, and if you love coconut, they will probably be the best you have ever had too. Usually I am a frosting-type of person when it comes to cupcakes, but I even love the cake on these cupcakes. The coconut in the cake makes them so perfectly sweet and moist, and the cake doesn’t dry out, even after several days. But the cake doesn’t necessarily win here, because the frosting is incredible – maybe we can call the cake and frosting on the cupcake a win-win!
My mother is an amazing baker, and she is the one who first introduced me to these coconut cupcakes. It was always such a special treat when she made them for the family. When I was making cupcakes for a large event, I asked my mom for the coconut cupcake recipe .She told me that the recipe came from the Barefoot Contessa. No wonder they were so good! I chose to make the recipe with some minor changes (such as cutting down on the amount of frosting, because otherwise the cupcakes have a frosting tower), and they always turn out so tasty.
Coconut is also one of Greg’s favorite things, so I try to remember to make these for his birthday to celebrate. If you love coconut and you love cupcakes, you will for sure loves these coconut cupcakes! Enjoy

Recipe for Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS

3 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 cups of granulated sugar
5 jumbo-sized eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. of almond extract
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. of baking powder
1/2 tsp. of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 cup of buttermilk
1 14-ounce bag of sweetened shredded flaked coconut

Frosting

1 1/2 packages of 8-ounce cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/4 tsp. of vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. of almond extract
1 pound of powdered sugar, sifted (1 pound is usually 1 regular-sized bag of powdered sugar)

DIRECTIONS

Line cupcake or muffin pans with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on high speed until fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and add in the eggs, one at a time. Add in the vanilla extract and almond extract. Mix well.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt together in a medium mixing bowl and sift together. Incorporate the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in to the batter. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until everything is just combined. Mix in half of the bag of coconut in to the batter.

Fill each cupcake liner to the top with the batter. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, watching them closely so that tops do not burn. Remove from oven when they are done and allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a baking rack to cool completely.

When cupcakes are fully cooled, make the frosting. Put the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a bowl and use a hand mixer on low speed to cream everything together. Add the powdered sugar in and continue to mix on low until the frosting is smooth.

Frost cupcakes and sprinkle the rest of the coconut on the tops. YUM!
*Makes about 18 – 20 delicious cupcakes*

Adapted from: Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999

Overnight French Toast Casserole

One night I received a text message from a friend across the  street asking to borrow vanilla extract. I asked her what she was making, and she told me a french toast casserole to eat the next morning for breakfast. When I got the vanilla back, I asked her how it was, and she said it was pretty amazing. After she sent me the recipe, I decided to make it for a staff breakfast. It was so easy to make and so very delicious. Since then, I’ve made this for several staff potluck breakfasts and for my family. It is always something that people enjoy. Try it with strawberries and fresh whipped cream on the side too for an extra special treat. I love how simple this is to make and how it tastes oh so good. I think you will really like it too!

Recipe for Overnight French Toast Casserole

INGREDIENTS

One loaf sourdough bread (I used a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse sourdough – discarded the heels, though)
7 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 TBSP pure vanilla extract
Topping
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
8 TBSP. of unsalted butter, well chilled and then cut into 1/2 TBSP pieces
Pure maple syrup, for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Grease a 9 X 13 baking pan well with butter. Cut bread into roughly 1-inch squares and layer evenly in pan. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, cream, sugars, and vanilla until well mixed. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan and put into the fridge overnight.

In a smallish bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add in the chilled butter pieces and cut with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles fine pebbles. Put into an airtight container and put into the fridge overnight.

When ready to make the french toast casserole the next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the baking pan and the sugar mixture from the fridge. Once the oven is heated, place the baking pan with the bread and egg mixture in oven for 7 minutes, then remove. Sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the top. Place back into oven and cook for another 40 – 45 minutes. Remove from oven, place on cooling rack and let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Cut into servings and drizzle each serving with pure maple syrup.

Makes approximately 12 servings. 
Recipe source: The Pioneer Woman

Banana Oatmeal Cookies – No Flour, Butter, Sugar, or Egg!

Tonight Greg asked me if I was going to be adding more recipes from my old blog to the new blog. He said there are so many other recipes that he loves that I need to post, including this banana oatmeal cookie recipe! I assured him that I was not even close to having all the favorite recipes posted. My mom also said that she was looking for a recipe today and named a couple recipes that she loves from the old blog, which are not even ones that I had considered posting. So, who knows, maybe I will just post them all!

This banana cookie post came about from a food blog that I followed on Facebook who had asked her followers if they had tried the two ingredient cookies with banana and rolled oats. Many commented that they had and that the cookies were delicious. So, I googled the two-ingredient cookies, and I found this video. When I tried out the recipe for the first time, I had pretty good results. I thought it was so cool that the banana, rolled oats, and the walnuts that I used became a cookie after baking for 20 minutes in the oven. Who would have known? When I tried them the second time, I added shredded coconut and a small amount of dark chocolate chips to the mixture. They turned out amazing. I did dip them in Nutella for fun, but it is definitely not needed. I used to really love me some Nutella, but have not had it in the house since we found out my daughter has a severe allergy to every nut under the sun when she was 16 months old!

Lots of people have said this is a great recipe that they use over and over again. Easy to make, healthier than most cookies, and yummy! Enjoy.

Recipe for Banana Oatmeal Cookies – no flour, butter, sugar, or egg

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large ripe to very ripe banana
  • 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats (such as Quaker Oats)
  • 2 Tbsp. of flaked sweetened coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. of mini semisweet chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a cookie sheet with baking spray or olive oil (I used olive oil). 
Put the banana, rolled oats, coconut, and chocolate chips into a medium sized bowl. Use your hands to mush all of the ingredients together until everything is very well incorporated. Scoop up some of the mixture into your hands, flatten into a circle, and then drop it onto the prepared baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the batter. You should be able to make at least 7 cookies with the batter, but some of you may be able to make more! Place in the oven. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes. Once you remove cookies from oven, immediately transfer them to a cooling rack or plate. Use a metal spatula to easily get cookies off of the baking sheet. Eat cookies plain, or try them with Nutella or peanut butter. Yum! 
Each cookie has approximately 75 calories (based on the recipe making 7 cookies). 
*Make cookies vegan by substituting raisins in place of the chocolate chips*
Recipe Adapted from: Blogilates

Easy Chocolate Truffles Made with Cocoa Powder

As many of my friends know, I love truffles. When I am craving truffles and want to make them quickly, I go for this recipe because it requires very little hands-on time. These truffles do not require the step of dipping in chocolate, because they are rolled and dusted in cocoa powder. You can also coat them in powdered sugar, nuts, coconut, or anything else that sounds good to you! Some of my favorites to coat in are cacao nibs and toasted coconut. I hope you will love these easy chocolate truffles. Enjoy!

Recipe for Easy Chocolate Truffles (made with cocoa powder)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tbsp. of vanilla
  • Cocoa powder or powdered sugar for rolling
  • Add-ons for rolling (toasted coconut, cacao nibs, nuts) – optional

DIRECTIONS

Put the butter in a small saucepan set over low heat. Allow the butter to melt completely. Once the butter has melted, stir in the cocoa powder. Stir until the mixture is completely smooth. Increase the heat to medium and immediately add in the sweetened condensed milk. Stir the mixture constantly for about 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and then add in the vanilla. Carefully pour the mixture into a heat safe container and cover it tightly. Place in the fridge for a few hours or more.

When ready to shape the truffles, take out a baking sheet and cover it with parchment paper. Make sure to have your cocoa powder, powdered sugar, or add-on ingredients ready. (I placed about 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and 2 Tbsp. of cacao nibs in a bowl for the cacao nib truffles, and I placed the  toasted coconut in the baking pan for the coconut truffles.)

Use a cookie dough scoop to scoop up some of the truffle mixture. Slightly shape, and then generously dust and roll the truffle in the powder mixture or add-on mixture. Roll with your hands into desired shape. Place the shaped truffle on the parchment paper, and repeat dusting, rolling, and shaping truffles with the remaining mixture until it is gone.

Put the truffles in the fridge to allow them to harden a bit. Once hardened, place the truffles in an airtight container. Store the truffles in the fridge until ready to eat. Makes about 2 dozen delicious truffles. 
Recipe Source: Hershey’s

To toast the coconut, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place desired amount of sweetened flaked coconut in a baking pan and spread it evenly over the pan. Place the pan in oven & cook for  about 15 minutes, or until coconut is lightly browned. 

Easy Chicken Risotto with Caramelized Onions

One weekend back in the day my husband very graciously volunteered me to make a meal for one of our old neighbors. These two neighbors were like our second Home Depot since when we began our never ending home renovations. If Greg needed anything, he went over to Don’s house, because Don had almost everything! We were very lucky to have such awesome neighbors. I ended up making this risotto dish for them because it makes a lot, it is comforting, and it is delicious. They told me it was one of the best things they have ever had! I’ve made this risotto many times before. You can cook up some chicken or make it super easy and get a cooked Rotisserie Chicken from the store. This risotto is fairly easy to make and it is absolutely amazing. It one of my favorite winter time meals. If you have never made risotto at home but have always wanted to, I suggest you try this recipe. Enjoy!

Recipe for Easy Chicken Risotto with Caramelized Onions

INGREDIENTS

  • For the caramelized onions:
  • 2 1/2 tsp. of olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp. of granulated sugar
  • For the risotto:
    One fully cooked rotisserie chicken (make it easy – purchase at your grocery store)
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
    4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, divided
    2 cloves of garlic, minced
    2 cups of Arborio rice
    1 cup of dry white wine (I used cooking wine)
    3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
    2 tsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
    2 Tbsp. of chopped parsley
    Freshly ground black pepper
Comfort food!

DIRECTIONS

Make the caramelized onions first. Put the olive oil into a large skillet and set over medium heat. Add in the onions and sugar to the skillet and toss to coat. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown in color. It takes about 12 -15 minutes for the onions to caramelize. Transfer the onions to a bowl or plate and set aside.

Put the chicken broth into a fairly large saucepan and set over medium high heat. Allow it to come to a simmer while you start the risotto. Put the 2 Tbsp. of butter into a Dutch oven and set over medium heat. When the butter melts, add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Then add the Arborio rice to the pot and stir to coat with the butter. Cook and stir until the grains are translucent around the edges, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Add in the wine to the pot and stir. Cook, stirring the entire time, until the wine is fully absorbed – about 2 minutes. Stir 5 cups of the simmering broth into the rice (save the remaining broth for later and keep it over medium low heat so it stays hot or turn off heat and then bring it to a simmer just before the risotto is finished cooking). Reduce the heat  on the rice to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Stir two times during the cooking. The risotto is done when almost all the liquid has been absorbed.

Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth to the risotto and gently stir until the risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes. Add in the Parmesan cheese and stir. Remove the Dutch oven from heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.

While the risotto is resting, shred the chicken into small pieces. If you had the chicken in the fridge, zap the shredded chicken on low in the microwave until it is warm. Then stir the chicken and the caramelized onions into the risotto. Set the pot back over low heat. Add in the rest of the butter, the lemon juice, and the parsley and stir well. Grind some freshly ground black pepper over the risotto, if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe Adapted from: Annie’s Eats
*Recipe makes about 8 servings – the risotto is also great leftover (just zap for about a minute in the microwave). Store in an airtight container in the fridge. 

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