Caramel Pretzel Sticks

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry, Merry Christmas to each of you! I'm so thankful that you stuck around during the "lean months" and continue to visit CookingwithCarrie. As for what's been going on in the Hubbard household, its been a fun filled week with family visiting, Christmas baking, present wrapping (and unwrapping), and visiting with friends. But from tomorrow on (the Lord willing) the next week will be calm and slow. We have big plans for family time, non-stop pajama wearing, game marathons, movies, and cooking! Most importantly though, we will take time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, this video is a wonderful reminder for all of us as we strive to make this week special for our families.

The Real Meaning of Christmas ~ Linus style

Another reminder for me is this song. O Holy Night by Seven Day Jesus is my all-time favorite Christmas song! It gives me chills and fills my eyes with tears every time I hear it.

Blessings to you and your family on this day

Andrew made these Caramel Pretzel Sticks! Everyone really liked these but I still prefer chocolate dipped pretzels. These tasted like a candy bar, which explains why I wasn't a huge fan... I don't like candy bars (remember my favorite dessert is Angel Strawberry Bavarian), but every other candy bar loving person went crazy for these pretzel sticks ,-)

1 package caramels
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
2/3 cup toffee bits
Melt caramel w/milk. I melted my caramel in the microwave. It is easier to handle if the caramel is not real runny and when it started to get too firm I just put it back in the microwave for a few seconds.
Combine chips and toffee in small shallow bowl (I used a pie pan). Dip pretzels in caramel then roll in chip mixture. Place on waxed paper until set. Store in airtight container.

Snack Printables and Giveaway Winner

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm always looking for snack ideas for the boy's classes (well, Andrew doesn't need snacks now that he's in middle school but Abbott still needs snacks). A fellow blogger (Gourmet Mom On-The-Go) has the best snack ideas and she makes these cute printables to go along with them! So last month I sent Donut Seeds (aka Honey Nut Cheerios) for Abbott's class...
And yesterday I sent Ernie Elf's Tinker Toys (aka pretzel sticks and cheese cubes) for Abbott's class... They were a hit! It is such a fun way to send a snack!

Donut Seeds Ingredients
Circular Cereal (Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Fruit Loops, etc.)
Sandwich sized Ziploc Baggies
Printed Labels (click the link to open and print)

Ernie Efl's Tinker Toys Ingredients
Pretzel Sticks
Cheese Cubes
Sandwich sized Ziploc Baggies
Printed Labels (click the link to open and print)

Now for the giveaway winner!
There were 28 entries

So we had lots of writing, cutting, and folding

In to Andrew's hat they go

Andrew goes in to pick the winner

You don't have to close your eyes Andrew, lol

And the winner is
JC! I have emailed JC with the details!

Chicken Mexi-Ranch Tacos and a Giveaway

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Recently, I was contacted by MyBlogSpark to review the Old El Paso "Family Taco Night" kit and give one away! I was thrilled because we LOVE Mexican food and I LOVE hosting giveaways for my readers!

Old El Paso suggested two recipes, Double Layer Tacos and Chicken Ranch Tacos. I was immediately intrigued by the Chicken Ranch Tacos, but they use plain ole rotisserie chicken and ranch... I had to spice it up! I added some Old El Paso taco seasoning to my chicken and to my ranch and it turned out delicious! We ate the chicken mexi-ranch tacos for lunch and then ate the leftovers as a chicken mexi-ranch salad for dinner!
So, what's the giveaway? An Old El Paso “Family Taco Night” prize pack, which includes a packet of original Old El Paso Taco Seasoning, a Cactus Chip & Dip Serving dish, a set of 3 Fiesta Chili Pepper serving dishes and a $10 gift card to purchase everything for your own family taco night! To qualify for the giveaway just leave a comment with your name, telling me what recipe you would make with your Old El Paso taco seasoning! Do you have a family favorite or would you try something new? The giveaway will close at midnight on December 21st. I will draw names and announce the winner on my blog on December 22nd.

Want to start cooking now? Download this printable coupon for $0.60 off any two Old El Paso products!

Chicken Taco Ingredients
Flour tortillas
1 packet of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning
Chicken breasts
Tomatoes (I omitted)
Optional- Avocado

Mexi-Ranch Ingredients
1 packet of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning (only use 2 tablespoons of seasoning)
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 cup mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip!)
1 cup milk

Sprinkle raw chicken breasts with taco seasoning (sprinkle both sides of the chicken). Cover with foil and bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes.
Whisk together the mexi-ranch ingredients, cover, and store in fridge (it will thicken after being in the fridge for 30 minutes).
When the chicken's done, slice it up and assemble your tacos!

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I love sugar cookies! I have the most DELICIOUS Soft Sugar Cookies Recipe, but they are only good when they are circle shaped and I really wanted to put my Christmas cookie cutters to good use! So, I thought about making a sugar cookie with royal icing, "how hard could it be?" I thought... hahaha, oh, how naive I was! I'd seen those cookie decorating tutorials in magazines and on television that make it look like a toddler could decorate cookies like a pro in 5 minutes. You know which ones I’m talking about..the pictures that show all the pastry bags and squeeze bottles neatly filled with the perfect consistency of icing and the spatulas are color coordinated to the bowls and mixer. The naked cookies are all baked and lined up waiting to be frosted by smiling mothers and angelic children. You can just feel the joy that’s about to be born from this experience.

Well, I started exploring online and found the most amazing website, University of Cookie! I spent probably 4 hours reading, watching videos, and learning everything about sugar cookies and royal icing. It scared me to death! I had no idea what kind of work went into making these type of cookies! By the time the icing was made I was exhausted and my kitchen was covered in flour and royal icing! Thankfully I only had one meltdown... I started with the cookie dough recipe from the University of Cookie website and it was a failure! The recipe said "it will be crumbly so knead together" but it was like sand! I couldn't even get the dough to stick together to roll out! So I cried, threw away the dough, called my amazing cousin (who is a professional baker), and started with a new cookie dough recipe. I continued to cry and think "what did I get myself into" but thankfully that was the only bump in the road! Once the cookies were made it was all downhill. I'm actually excited to make these cookies again with new shapes and designs!

I credit my success to two tips I picked up from the University of Cookie website...purchase a few plastic squirt bottles (ketchup and mustard squirt bottles would even work) and give yourself at least 4 hours to make and decorate the cookies. I went out and bought a couple of plastic squirt bottles from Hobby Lobby (I heard Walmart had them too but I couldn't find them) and they made the process SO easy! It was time consuming... it took about 3 1/2 hours not including rest time for the cookies to cool and icing to harden but in the end it was worth it, they're beautiful cookies!

Sugar Cookie Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into chunks
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour

Royal Icing Ingredients
8 tablespoons meringue powder
1 cup cool water
2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup
Optional- a few drops of clear extract (I used almond extract but you could use peppermint, vanilla, cherry, orange, etc.)

Sugar Cookie Directions
Cream butter, powdered sugar, egg, almond extract, vanilla, and salt together using a mixer (I used the paddle attachment on my KitchenAid mixer and it worked GREAT). Add in the flour and mix until combined. Roll to 1/4 inch thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters and place on parchment paper covered cookie sheets. Bake at 350° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. This recipe yielded me 26 3-inch Christmas tree cookies.

Royal Icing Directions
Combine the meringue powder and water. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat until combined and foamy.
Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. Add in the corn syrup and extract if desired (the corn syrup helps keep the icing shiny). Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold it up and jiggle without the peak falling, however it will be very light and fluffy like meringue!

Divide the icing into bowls and stir in food coloring. Cover the tops of the bowls with plastic wrap and press the plastic wrap down onto the icing so there is no air (air is the enemy of this icing)! You can store the icing like this for a few days! I divided my icing into 4 bowls, so I had green, red, white, and brown icing.
First you want to outline the cookies. This will dam in the runny "flood icing" you'll add later. I used a Wilton #2 decorating tip to outline my cookies.
Now you'll need to thin the icing to make "flood icing". This is the runny icing that goes inside the cookie and hardens. I made red, green, and white flood icing (this is the icing you'll put into your squirt bottles). To make the "flood icing" you'll take some of your colored royal icing (I used the green leftover icing from outlining the cookies) and add water a teaspoon at a time. Add a teaspoon of water, stir, evaluate, add another teaspoon of water, stir, evaluate. I ended up adding 8 teaspoons of water to my green icing. You don't want the icing to be too runny so be careful! You'll know it's ready when you pick your spoon up, drizzle icing back into the bowl, and after 5-10 seconds the drizzled icing melts back into the rest of the icing (so you can't see where you drizzled it). It should be the consistency of glue (or corn syrup).

Working 1-6 cookies at a time, use the squirt bottles to apply the flood icing and use a tooth pick to move the icing to all the corners. You can add dots or stripes to your icing with other flood icing colors, the dot/stripe will melt into the icing, it's really neat! Here's a slideshow of the process...
Let the flood icing dry uncovered overnight before you try to add any more detail on top of it. I used red royal icing (NOT FLOOD ICING) and my #2 Wilton tip to draw some garland on the next day. I then sprinkled on some red sugar crystals onto the icing! The sprinkles might stick to your cookies (the first time I tried shaking off the sprinkles they were stuck all over my Christmas tree)! So make sure you wipe the flood icing with a paper towel (eliminating any condensation) before piping on the garland and then use a Q-tip to wipe off any stubborn sprinkles. I am sorry I don't have any pictures of the garland process. I was quickly finishing up so I could send some cookies to work with my husband.

BBQ Baked Beans

Friday, December 10, 2010

My favorite Kansas City Barbeque is "Bates City BBQ", and these beans are my own copy cat version of their baked beans! The sauce is sweet with a spicy kick, and the green pepper flavor is infused throughout. These baked beans are STUPENDOUS! I eat these beans as a meal they are so good! But that's just me... some people consider beans the "poor man's meat" but I like to think of it as the "healthy man's meat"! So, I made these beans with some delicious macaroni salad for dinner, yummm-o!

1 green pepper, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 (16 ounce) red beans, undrained
2 (16 ounce) cans navy beans, drained

In a large bowl, stir all the ingredients together (stir the beans in last). Pour into a 2-3 quart casserole dish and bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. After an hour I stirred the beans and put them back in for another 1/2 hour (the beans will be hot and bubbly after an hour but you'll want to cook them for another 1/2 hour so the liquid reduces).

Aunt Kelly's Bread Stuffing

Monday, November 29, 2010

Next to my Grandma's Noodle Gravy, this is my favorite part of Thanksgiving! Growing up I would go to my mom's side of the family Thanksgiving (famous for the Noodle Gravy) and then my dad's side of the family Thanksgiving (famous for my Aunt Kelly's Bread Stuffing). So now when I go to Thanksgiving with Justin's family I bring my grandma's gravy and aunt's stuffing. It's like the best of both worlds! Now if I could only get my Aunt Mina's mom's pie recipes... then I may just have the best Thanksgiving dinner possible!

On Thanksgiving we went to Justin's parents' house for dinner. Before I tell you what Abbott said you should know that we've never been hunting and we've never eaten game meat. Not that we have anything against hunting, we're just too lazy to get up that early in the morning... that and no one in my family could stomach the thought of killing something ,-)
So, while we were getting ready to leave for Thanksgiving, Abbott asked "who’s bringing the turkey"
I said "Grandma"
Abbott asked "Did she hunt it?"
"No" I said
"Oh Crap! It tastes terrible when someone didn’t hunt it!" exclaims Abbott
"Well grandma bought it from someone who hunted it (meaning the store)" I say
"Oh phew! I am glad she bought it from someone. The hunted kind tastes so much better than the kind you buy at the store!" Abbott said

So... weird fact about Abbott #1,836- Abbott thinks hunted turkey tastes better than store bought turkey.
Weird fact about Abbott #1,837- Abbott's under the false impression that he's eaten a hunted turkey before.

2 loaves of sandwich bread, aired out for a few hours to get stale and crusty
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cans chicken broth
2 eggs
1/2 cup white onion, minced
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the butter, onion, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Slice up the celery stalks and add them to the pan (I stir in each celery stalk after I cut it).

Once all the celery is cut, add 1 can of chicken broth and turn the heat to medium low. Cook for 8-10 minutes until celery is just soft. Then remove from heat so it can cool.

While the celery is cooking cut the 2 loaves of bread into cubes (or if you prefer you can cut the bread earlier in the day, I'm lucky because while I'm cutting and cooking celery Justin cuts up the bread).

Whisk 1 can of broth and 2 eggs together. Slowly pour the egg broth over the bread, stopping to toss the bread (with your hands) in-between drizzles. You don't want to soak the bread, just spread the egg broth around evenly.

Now, hopefully your seasoned celery broth is cooled to just being warm (you don't want to scramble your egg with boiling broth). Using a spoon (or in my case a measuring cup), ladle on the celery and broth.

Toss the bread after every couple ladles, (so the bread doesn't get too runny) you want to evenly distribute the celery and seasoned broth.

Spoon on more celery and broth and toss. Repeat until you're out of seasoned celery broth.

Put the stuffing in a baking dish and smash it down. I prefer a deeper dish to keep the stuffing really moist (I used a 2.5 quart cast iron pot), but a 9x13 works fine... it's just a little more dry.

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover for 15 minutes or so until nice and browned on top.

Grandma's Noodle Gravy

Friday, November 26, 2010

This is my grandma's recipe for her famous noodle gravy! We have it for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone lathers it on their turkey and mashed potatoes and it's the best part of the holiday dinner! After Thanksgiving 2003 I called my grandma (while the Thanksgiving preparation of noodle gravy was fresh in her head) to get detailed directions for her noodle gravy. I've made it a few times since then and it's spot on every time! Since we have multiple families to visit I don't always get to go to my grandma's, so I bring this gravy to whatever dinner we're going to! The best part is that this gravy can be prepared without a turkey! Just cook up a couple chicken legs or thighs to get a little drippings, then use a couple cans of chicken broth!

De-greased turkey or chicken pan drippings, supplement canned chicken broth if you don’t have enough drippings (you need around 6 cups total. I used 1 cup of drippings and 4 cans of chicken broth)
1/2 cup diced turkey or chicken meat
1 can cream of chicken soup
3-4 tablespoons of flour
2 diced hard boiled eggs, minced
Homemade egg noodles
2 cups flour
3 egg yokes
1 egg (yoke and white)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt

The day before, bake some chicken legs and/or thighs for dinner. Save the chicken drippings and the meat of one leg/thigh. Keep the drippings and meat in your fridge over night so you can scrape the fat off in the morning (throw away the fat that gathers at the top).
The day of, warm the drippings, meat and canned chicken broth in a large pot over medium low heat. You'll want around 6 cups of liquid total.
While the liquid warms on the stove, prepare the noodles. Put flour and salt in a mixing bowl, make a well in your flour and add the 3 egg yokes and 1 egg.
Drizzle in the 1/2 cup of cool water. Start stirring with a spoon but once the dry ingredients are sufficiently moistened I press it by hand.
Keep pressing the dough until you can get it to hold in a ball (you may need to drizzle in an additional 1/4 cup water).
Once you have the dough formed into a ball you will cut it into quarters. Sprinkle flour on your counter (or a cutting board) and roll a quarter of the dough out with a rolling pin. As you flip and roll the dough sprinkle more flour on it. You don’t ever want sticky dough; it needs to be dry and dusted with flour. When it is thin, use a pizza cutter to cut small noodles.
When all the noodles are cut and ready, add them to the chicken broth and chicken bits. Turn the heat up to medium and let the noodles cook for 15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. After 15 minutes spoon out around 1 cup of broth and whisk in 3-4 tablespoons of flour, then pour the broth/flour mixture back into the pot (this will help thicken the gravy). Add the cream of chicken soup and minced hard boiled eggs to the gravy. Let the gravy cook another 5-10 minutes and it's done! You can serve immediately OR you can hold the gravy for a couple hours by pouring the gravy into a crock-pot and keeping the crock-pot on the warm setting (this is what I do since I take the gravy to our family dinners.