Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eat Your Veggies -- or at least trick your kids into doing it!

How many times have you wished that you could sneak a little more vegetables into your diet?  It's especially difficult when it comes to kids.  There are those blessed few of children who love any and all vegetables.  But let's face it...we all could probably eat more.  Right?

Well, the following is a chili recipe that was given to me by my babysitter some 20 years ago!  She ran an in-home daycare and her fee fed our kids hot meals EVERY day!  Not macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, mind you, but she fed them real meals.  Even 20 years ago she was concerned about feeding them good, nutrious meals.  And, she would "sneak" in veggies sometimes.  This recipe is one example!

Crockpot Veggie Chili

2 lbs lean hamburger
1 onion (chopped fine)
seasonings (Mrs. Dash (original), Salt, Pepper
1 large can/bottle V-8 Cocktail Juice (secret ingredient)
2 cans pinto beans (drained)
1 package chili seasoning (she used mild for the kids)
shredded cheese
crackers (optional)

Cook ground beef (add seasoning with the meat) with chopped onions in a skillet until done.  Drain and rinse fat off with hot water and add to crockpot.  Pour in V8 on top of meat.  Add drained pinto beans.  Sprinkle in chili seasoning.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  Serve with shredded cheese and crackers.  Since all ingredients are pre-cooked, you can also make this quickly on the stovetop instead of the crockpot.  Basically add all ingredients the same as above and cook until hot.

This really is a delicious, mild chili with no vegetable taste.  But the V8 makes an excellent tomato base for the chili and gives the nutrients that makes V8 so healthy!  We've enjoyed this recipe for 20 years or so and I know you will too!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Cake Balls/Truffles they are in all their glory! And, so far, the general concensus is that they taste great! :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bakerella Cake Balls and an Epic FAIL

My son told me the other day that the word "epic" has been talked about being removed from the dictionary because it is an overused word. What?! You can't remove a word because it's overused. Isn't that a form of flattery?

Well, the word epic describes what I did this weekend.

I made, for the first time, Bakerella's famous cake balls found here.  I'd been wanting to try them for some time. I have seen them all over the internet and blog world. So, if everyone's making them, they can't be too hard, right? Hmmm...
photo compliments of

Well, I followed directions to the letter and they "the cake balls" turned out just fine. The problem was when I got to the dipping them in chocolate/almond bark part.

This turned out to be quite messy and difficult. I don't have a double boiler so I "made" one with a bowl sitting on the edge of a small saucepan filled with boiling water. While it worked, I got multiple steam burns. Owww!

Okay...back to the epic fail part. I bought a package of vanilla candy melt. According to everyone's posted info., one package should sufficiently cover 30 cake balls. Well, I guess I rolled mine too small because I ended up with 51 cake balls!! Needless to say, I ran out of vanilla candy melt. No worries, I thought. I'll just melt some milk chocolate chips. I only had a 1/2 bag of those, so, of course, I ran out. ((sigh)) I found a couple of small bars of vanilla candy melt in my baking cabinet. When I melted it, it still didn't look like enough. creative mind thought,"hey! I have some left over glace' in the fridge from my valentine shortbread and fancy sugar cookies." I scraped up a spoonful of the red glace' and added it to the melted vanilla candy melt. Oh my. Do NOT do this. I cannot stress enough here! It was one hot mess. Whatever chemical reaction happened, ruined the candy melt. It got very dry, first, which I am sure was from the powdered sugar in the glace' and then Ms. Brilliant, here, added a dab of water. What happened? It all wadded up together, after turning a pretty shade of pink (which I liked, by the way) and separated leaving it a wad in quite a bit of watered down glace.'  I almost took a picture of it, but it was too sad!  There would be no dipping with this mess! It clumped together like wax! What was I thinking?! 
I ended up putting the last 8 naked cake balls in a ziplock and freezing them and tossing the pink mess in the trash. Lord!

I will post a pic of the cake balls tomorrow. They actually turned out alright. Not as pretty as Bakerella's but, hey, she's done it longer than I have! I had visions of pretty, smooth cake balls. That did not happen. My candy melt ones look like little tiny scoops of ice cream. Not too bad, but not what I was going for. Not quite sure why they were lumpy. I stirred the stuff repeatedly. I have steam burns on my fingers to prove it! The kids said they tasted great. I tried one. Not my cup of tea. I am not a raw dough kinda person. I know these aren't raw dough but they reminded me of it, texture wise, and I just couldn't eat them.

Have you ever tried to make these? Any words of advice on the dipping part? What worked for you?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dill Salad - Recipe Linky Party!!

 My all time favorite salad in all the world is one that I discovered on Land O' Lakes website.  It is called Dilled Garden Salad.  I discovered the recipe a couple of years ago while looking for something to fix for a summer get-together with friends.  I LOVE mozzarella cheese and I LOVE kalamata olives and look for any way possible to use them!

Photo courtesy of Land O' Lakes

My fellow blogger friend, Brooke, at All Things Thrifty is doing a fun "all things delicious" linky party.  I thought I'd share this delicious recipe for a salad with everyone!

The Recipe:

2 medium tomatoes, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 small onion, cut in half, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
4 ounces Mozzarella Cheese, cubed 1/2 inch


1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill weed* (or use 1 tsp dried dill - which I do because fresh is expensive and I won't use it up and it'll go bad)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper


Place all salad ingredients except cheese cubes in large serving bowl; toss lightly.

Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients in small bowl. Pour over salad; toss well. Refrigerate at least 4 hours to blend flavors. Stir in cheese just before serving.

I have made this the night before, leaving the cheese out until right before serving and that works great too.  The flavors in this salad with that vinaigrette are amazing!

Let me know if you try it and what you think!  I think you will love it as much as I do!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentines Baking Craz!!

I've been in a baking mood!  This is really nothing new for me.  I love to cook and I love to bake!  My family aren't huge on sweets, so baking means fixing something decadent and taking it to work so my co-workers can indulge!

Valentines is tomorrow, and though it is not really a holiday my husband and I celebrate (we show our love all year long), I do love to decorate for it and bake for it!

Yesterday, I spent a gruelling, but well worth it, afternoon preparing a new sugar cookie dough recipe I saw recently on  Her recipe was pretty simple but it managed to burn out my hand mixer in the process! LOL

I think this is the 2nd time I've burned out a mixer on sugar cookie dough.  Is there a trend here?

Her recipe was delicious!  I am not a fan of sugar cookies that are tasteless or that have lemon flavoring to them.  Her recipe used almond flavoring, not only in the dough but in the glace' icing! Yummy!!

It was a long, tedious process of mixing, cutting out, and then icing and letting the icing dry to add additional decorations but it was well worth it!

I think they're pretty when they are packaged up to give out at the office... what do you think?

I also made a new recipe from Land O'Lakes.  It was originally called White Chocolate Chip Shortbread.  I realized that I forgot to pick up white chocolate chips when I got groceries, so instead, I used regular mini-chocolate chips.  This recipe was pretty easy and fun to make.  I used some of my pretty rose colored glace' left over from yesterday's cookies to drizzle over the top.

What have you been baking for tomorrow's holiday of love?! :)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Shower Curtain Love

Call me weird but I am starting to have some serious love for my bathroom!  We bought our house about 3 years ago, and, while our master bathroom has some wonderful features (his and her closets, big garden tub, big vanity...) there are some features I really hated. 

For one...we had this awful, cheap shower enclosure blocking that big, gorgeous garden tub.  The doors on it weren't glass...they were textured plastic.  Ugh.  I hated them from the day we moved in.  After harping on my husband for about 3 months now...I finally nagged motivated him to remove them!  He had been dreading it for those 3 months, but turns out he dreaded for nothing.  Removing those shower doors proved to take approximately 15 minutes, from start to finish!  Ha!!  They left behind 6 holes in the wall of the shower enclosure but those were easily patched up with little plastic covers from Home Depot for under $2!  Using a little caulk remover (wonderful stuff) and a plastic putty knife, all the old, moldy silicone came right off and we had a nice, clean white tub.

Now...this brought me to the path I wanted to be on since we moved in... picking out a shower curtain.  Finally!!  At first, just to get by, we went with a plain, white vinyl shower curtain.  This was just until I made up my mind what I wanted to put up in there permanently. two little kittens and two adult cats decided that vinyl curtain made for great fun and, in about 3 weeks, had it shredded completely!

The walls were painted a custom red color (we picked) to match our bedroom.  The trim is white.  So, I went with a red fabric curtain with a clear vinyl liner behind it.  Really, really like it!  The cats, believe it or not, don't even bother the clear liner now that there is a cloth one over it! Go figure!

For some time, I've been wanting a shower curtain with monograming.  I saw these two shower curtains at Ballards Design:

But...I was NOT in love with the price tag!  Plus...they weren't available in red.  I decided, why not MAKE my own monogramed shower curtain??  It could be done.  Right?

I own a lovely Cricut Expression.  I do not use this machine near enough to justify what we paid for it!  Nothing would make my husband (who bought it for me as a gift for Christmas) happier than to see me use it, right?

I have read on other blogs that you can now get flocked heat transfer vinyl.  Since my new shower curtain is cotton, this will work well on it.  It runs for only 6.99 for a 12" x 24" sheet @  I have ordered regular vinyl for my Cricut from them before.  If you consider doing this, remember that the heat transfer vinyls do NOT work on nylon or vinyl.  So if your shower curtain is vinyl or nylon, you'll need to just use regular stick on vinyl.

I plan to use my Cricut to cut out a monogram letter for our last name and iron this onto the center of my shower curtain.  I would like to either border the letter with a large circle cut out or a box cut out (similar to the 2nd Ballard pic).   I plan to use white flocked heat transfer against the red, which will match our trim. 

This bathroom has morphed into a theme, too.  My husband bought a wonderful, matted photo print from 911.  He and a friend visited NY a few years ago and bought it from a street vendor.  I'll have to post a picture of it because my description does not do it justice.  It is basically an 11 x 16 collage of the heroic efforts made to find people missing in the rubble.  In the background is a ghostly image of a close up of the statue of liberty and the flag.  It is just amazing!  I framed this myself and we hung it in the bathroom.  There are lots of shades of red in the photo.  I'd like to add some more artwork from 911 and/or patriotic prints in the future. 

These subtle changes to a room that had its pros and cons has now turned into a more favorite room in my house!

Do you have any rooms that you have re-done to help accentuate the positives?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In time for Valentines Day... Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

We were having some company over and I decided to make up my own version of Thumbprint Cookies.  I love anything cherry flavored.  Those decadent marachino cherries lure me to eat them right out of a jar!  I started thinking about Valentines Day and cherries and decided to make a version of cookie that reminds me of my favorite Christmas candy... chocolate covered cherries!

drizzled with chocolate
In the oven baking

Two of the ingredients

The Recipe:

1 tube of ready-made sugar cookie dough
Cherry preserves (I used Smuckers)
Milk Chocolate Chips

I pinched off pieces of the sugar cookie dough, rolled them in a ball and put them on a cookie sheet.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  After I had all the cookies in rolled balls, I took my thumb and made a shallow indention.  In a bowl, I mixed up about a 1/2 cup of cherry preserves and poured in about 2 teaspoons of chilled Amaretto.  Mix up and then put a dollop in the indention of each cookie.  Bake for the recommended time on the sugar cookie package.  When the cookies come out, allow to cool while you mix about 1/2 bag of milk chocolate chips in a bowl and microwave until melted.  Spoon into a ziplock bag and seal, cut the corner of the bag just a little and squeeze the warm chocolatey goodness over the cookies.  Mmmm... were they good!! 

A nice variation of this is to use strawberry jam and make a confectioners sugar glaze to go over the top.  Or... use apple pie filling and mix a little cinnamon and sugar with each of cookie balls and glaze with confectioners sugar. 

But...for Valentines had to be cherries....