Friday, November 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Review by Lyndee:

1 package plain yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 (12 oz) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine cake mix, melted butter, peanut butter, and eggs in a large bowl using a mixer or spoon. 

Press this into a 9X13 pan reserving 1 1/2 cup of the mixture to crumble on top.

In a small pot, melt chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and butter. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Spread chocolate mixture over the mixture pressed in the pan and then crumble the 1 1/2 cups of reserved cake mixture on top evenly.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into bars or they will crumble.

I tried the cake mix batter before I put the bowl in the sink and it was amazing! I could’ve ate just that plain.  These bars are pretty dang good cooked too.  They were easy and quick to make and I had all the ingredients at home in the cupboards except for the condensed milk. I realized after I made them, my can said evaporated milk which probably which I’m hoping is the same thing as sweetened condensed but I don’t know.  Oops.  They still taste really good though. Would be great for a potluck or to share at the office like I am today. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Triple chocolate fudge peanut butter cake

Review by Lyndee:

Fareway had Betty Crocker cake mixes and frostings on sale a while back for $1 apiece.  Rachael and I each grabbed a few in a variety of flavors.  We decided to make the triple chocolate fudge cake with the matching frosting.  

For a bit of fun we melted ½ cup of peanut butter with the frosting and then topped it.  It was pretty good! Next time I would do a bit more peanut butter.  

Or you could try to drizzle a layer of caramel syrup on before putting on frosting.  Or you could put some candy or baking chips (I’m thinking peanut butter chips, Andes mints or Rolo’s) in the cake batter before you bake it.  Or spread some peanut butter or cream cheese through the cake batter pre-baking.  The possibilities are endless! What do you suggest for adding some zing to chocolate cake? 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Easy grilled garlic and two cheese sandwich

Review by Lyndee:
I had a bad headache last night and the hubby suggested that I eat some soup and go to bed.  It was cold and soup sounded good so I whipped up a can of tomato. I love grilled cheese with my soup so I decided to make one, but I wasn’t yearning for ordinary.  Instead, I decided to jack it up a notch. 

2 pieces white bread (one side buttered)
1 slice fat free american cheese
1 slice pepper jack cheese
Garlic powder

I’ve seen people make grilled cheese sandwiches a variety of ways so I will walk through the steps that I take just in case.  Set one piece of bread in the pan, buttered side down over medium heat.  Lay each piece of cheese on top.  Place second piece of bread buttered side up.  Sprinkle with garlic powder.  Flip until each side is golden brown and the inside is a gooey mess of goodness. 

This sandwich was so good I didn’t even dip it in my soup or add ketchup or pickles.  I just ate every savory bite.  The garlic and pepper jack transformed this into a really fun sandwich.  It almost tasted like cheese bread from Pizza Hut.  Cheap and so easy a child could make it. I’m not sure I’ll ever return to a normal grilled cheese again.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mint brownies

Review by Lyndee:
My sweet tooth got the best of me last night and the cold weather outside turned my mind to minty goodness and baking, so I whipped up a ridiculously easy recipe for brownies using Andes Mints.

1 box brownie mix
¼ cup egg beater
3 tbsp oil
1/3 cup oil
4 ounces Andes mints (sliced into bits)

I realized I was out of eggs after I started mixing so I used egg beaters.  It tasted just fine so I will have to keep that idea in mind to save some cholesterol in future recipes.  Mix brownie batter as directed on box and preheat oven to 350.  I sliced up my mints with a knife and later thought, hey, that would’ve been a lot quicker if I had used a cheese grater.  We live, we learn, I guess.  Mix brownie batter and stir in mint pieces.  

Bake for 30 minutes (or as directed).  Let cool and serve. Or don’t let cool and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream of frozen yogurt.  Come on, get crazy.  You know you want to. The kiddos loved these too! Mitchell actually moaned and asked if we could hide the pan just for him.  Sorry buddy, we’re going to have to share these.  

Healthified turkey nachos

Review by Lyndee:
As I told you yesterday, we have a LOT of smoked turkey left over. My husband and the kids aren’t big on eating leftovers so I’m trying to be creative because god knows I’m not going to throw 8 pounds of turkey away.  That’s just not the way this girl was raised! I glanced around the kitchen to see what else I had to use up with it. I saw some green onions, light sour cream and a bag and a half of tortilla chips left over from the  crab rangoon dip and thought to myself, how about some nachos?!? Ok, I admit, turkey nachos are not a hot seller on any restaurant menu but I figured it was worth a shot. Maybe we could start a revolution. How different from chicken nachos could they be?   

12-14 tortilla chips (standard one serving)
¼ cup reduced fat shredded cheese
½ cup shredded turkey
1 green onion
Light or fat free sour cream
Salsa or picante sauce

I placed my chips on a single layer on the plate then topped with the turkey, onion and cheese.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Add a spoonful of sour cream and salsa and dig in.  Also, if you are more adventurous, you could add olives, tomatoes and whatever else you wanted.

These nachos were surprisingly yummy! The smoked turkey added a great flavor.  Then entire process took about 3 minutes total.  They were easy, delicious and MUCH healthier than any nachos you could get at a restaurant that are covered in processed cheese sauce to the point your chips turn into mush.  You could also try them with a baked or whole grain tortilla to save some additional calories.  I will definitely be making these again before the turkey is gone.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

No bake caramel pumpkin pie

Review by Rachael:

Pumpkin pie and Thanksgiving go hand in hand but not everyone has time to bake pies for the holidays.  I saw this on a PBS cooking show and decided to try it out.  It sounded easy enough and it looked delicious on the show.  I’m not a big fan of nuts so I didn’t do the pecans but will include them here so you have that option if you want. 

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping, divided
1 6-ounce Honey Maid graham pie crust
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Planters pecan pieces, divided
1 cup cold milk
2 packages (4-serving size each) JELL-O Vanilla flavor Instant pudding & pie filling
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 8-ounce Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed, divided

Pour ¼ cup caramel topping into crust and sprinkle with ½ cup pecans.  

Beat milk, dry pudding mixes, pumpkin, and spices with whisk until blended. Fold in 1 ½ cups whipped topping. 

Spread into crust.

Refrigerate 1 hour, and then top with remaining whipped topping and pecans.  Drizzle with caramel topping just before serving. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

This was easy to make and went over well with the family.  It tasted good and had a “light” feel to it rather than a heavy pie filling.  

Smoked Turkey

Review by Lyndee:

Knowing we were going to have a traditional turkey at other gatherings and the fact that my husband loves his smoker like a child, we decided that our turkey on Thursday would be smoked.  We researched some rubs online, mixed these together and got to work.  

We cleaned the turkey and then I had to get the rub between the meat and the skin.  If you put the rub on the skin it doesn’t smoke into the meat the same way so away I went, grossing out the kids along the way as my hand slide beneath the skin.  It tore in a few places so we used toothpicks to “sew” it back together again and help keep in the moisture.  

Online directions said to smoke half an hour per pound or until it hit 150 degrees internal temperature.  We had a 12 pound turkey so we thought it would take 5-6 hours.  Rob kept the charcoal and hickory chips fresh over the next few hours.  We also put a pan of water below the turkey for extra moisture. 

The turkey was done in about 4 hours (after cooking at around 200 degrees).  We attempted to carve said turkey and that was pretty entertaining.  I guess that is a skill that neither of us have mastered.  

But the good news is, the turkey was perfect! The smoky flavor was tongue tingling and it stayed super moist! I’m not a huge fan of turkey, especially white meat because it seems to dry and I have to eat it with ketchup but this was great!  We have a ton leftover for lunches this week too.  Smoked turkey, corn, mashed potatoes and rolls made a perfect Thanksgiving meal for the five of us.  

Crab Rangoon Dip

Review by Lyndee:
If you like crab rangoons, and really, what sane person doesn’t?  This is a great dip to make. It was easy and tasted delicious!

2 six ounce cans crab meat
2 eight ounce cream cheese (softened)
½ cup sour cream
4 green onions chopped
1 ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp powdered sugar
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp lemon juice

Mix all the ingredients and spread in a baking dish.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

You can serve this with baked won ton strips but I used tortilla chips and club crackers.  The crowd was torn on which one they liked better.  All I know is that this dip was devoured well before the turkey hit the table.  I will definitely keep this on the list for future get togethers!! Thanks everyone who voted for me to make this.   

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Swiss Steak -- A "Make the House Smell Good" Meal

This is one of my favorite meals I remember as a kid.  My mom would make Swiss Steak using Cream of Mushroom soup -- dang, it was good.  Add some mashed potatoes, or some egg noodles with that entree, and I was in pure nirvana!  Also, this meal is one of my hubby's favorites, so he's been having a stressful week, and I decided to try this one out.  Lastly, I have to add that it is a little customary for our Swiss Steak meal to be a bit sentimental since John and I served this as one of our entrees at our wedding....can I get a collective "AWWWWW"???  

Here's what you'll need:
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of round steak (cut each steak in half)
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt and pepper for flavor
  • mushrooms
  • onion
  • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
In a baggie, combine the flour, salt and pepper.  Then, coat each round steak with the flour mixture, and place it a greased pan.  

Fry each steak until slightly browned around the edges.  Then, place all into a slow cooker.  
Slice up your onion and add however much onion you like (it is optional), but us Germans, we like ONION!!  Then, add some fresh mushrooms -- I do not suggest using mushrooms from the can -- yuck! Just sprinkle the onions and mushrooms over top of the steaks.
Lastly, add two cans of Cream of Mushroom soup (I use one regular (for taste), and one light version (to help cut calories).
Cook it all in the slow cooker on HIGH for three to four hours.  Or, LOW for no more than eight hours.  Do not lift that lid, no matter how tempting.

Serve this with some mashed potatoes over egg noodles.  You'll have a nice mushroom gravy to accompany it all.  

*** TT123 TIP *** 
Deer hunting season in Iowa is coming up, and sometimes people do not like the gamey taste of venison, but this would be a great way to make up any venison steaks.  I would recommend tenderizing the venison steak first with a mallet.  Venison would need to be tenderized first in order to gain the consistency of a round steak.  The Cream of Mushroom is always good for taking the gamey taste out of the meat.  


"Trick-the-Kids" Chocolate Milkshake

Thanks to my husband and I, our kids were definitely born with a keen sweet tooth gene.  The kids LOVE ice cream, and they love milkshakes when I make them up in our blender.  But as a mom, I want to have a fun treat for the kids on a Saturday night, but I want them to get a little good stuff out of that treat, too.  So, I came up with this one all on my own, and it turned out to be pretty darn tasty!  Even the hubby enjoyed it, and he is a stickler for "faux" anything -- he's all about genuinity (is that a word?)  Anyways....

Here's what you'll need:
  • 2 cups Soy Milk (or regular skim/lowfat milk). 
  • 3 cups Ice.
  • 1/2 cup Nesquick chocolate powder (or two packets of Swiss Miss (or the like) hot cocoa mixes).
  • And, a blender, of course!

Place all those ingredients in the blender, and blend until all the ice chunks are disinigrated into a fine chocolate creamigoodness (okay, yes, I'm just making up words now).

Pour into two serving glasses.  Pop a straw into each glass.  Hide all evidence of health, and promptly serve the kids their Chocolate Milkshake.  They'll never know that it doesn't contain any ice cream, but if they ask, you can say...yes, it has ice and cream! *wink*

TT123 needs your help!!

Lyndee has a dilemma and needs your help!! I'm trying to decide what to take to the Hageman Thanksgiving.  When I asked my mom what type of food I should bring (dip, salad, dessert, etc.) she said whatever. I know! Really narrows it down, right?  The problem is, we have so many great upcoming experiments on our Pinterest Page that I can't decide what to take! I have narrowed it down to FIVE different things: three cheese macaroni bake, chocolate crack bars, crab rangoon dip, taco rollups or deviled egg dip.

Please go ahead and vote on the poll in the right sidebar and let me know what you think I should take.  Whatever receives the most votes, wins!

Cereal bars with Cheerios

Review by Rachael:

Cheerios were on sale awhile back & I stocked up. Unfortunately they aren’t getting eaten as fast as I thought they might. So I had to find another way to use them up!  I searched for a scotcharoo recipe online & switched out the rice crispies for cheerios.

6 cups of cereal
½ cup of chocolate chips
½ cup of butterscotch chips
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of Karo Syrup
1 ½ cups Peanut butter

Mix the sugar, peanut butter & syrup in a large pan over medium heat. Stir until peanut butter is melted. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Stir in cereal immediately.
Press mixture into a well greased (buttered) cake pan. 

In another sauce pan melt the chocolate & butterscotch chips over low heat. Stirring until fully melted. Once melted pour over bars as a frosting.
Mine did not cover the bars as I had hoped, so I did another ½ cup of each chip and melted. This time it was much better.
It took awhile for the “frosting” to set up but it tastes wonderful! I think you could make these with any plain cereal. Everyone in the house loved them!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cake batter frozen greek yogurt

Review by Lyndee:
Last night I was finally unpacking all my stuff from the weekend in Cresco with my sister.  I found the bag of cake mixes and frosting I had picked up at Fareway.  10 for $10 so I couldn’t resist.  Anyway, there was still part of a vanilla cake mix leftover from making my cake batter truffles so I set it on the counter and stared at it for a while until inspiration struck.   What if I could make a frozen yogurt that was cake batter flavored?  Now, anyone besides me probably would’ve researched some recipes online or came up with a concrete game plan.  Not this girl!

I dumped the remaining cup of cake mix in a bowl and added a small container of greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 2 teaspoons of sugar.  I added 1 teaspoon of sprinkles for fun, mixed it up and it tasted pretty dang good! I threw it in the freezer and went for a walk. I was anxious to try it when I returned.

The initial bite of frozen yogurt was great BUT there was that bitter greek yogurt after taste.  Ugh! I finally went online to see if I could find some pointers and the few that I found said to make sure you  make it almost crazy sweet because once it sets in the freezer, the greek yogurt flavor will become prominent. It wasn’t bad by any means and I will definitely eat it.  It just wasn’t the sweet, smooth , creaminess I had dreamed it would be.  Next time I will try to up the vanilla and sugar or try a vanilla or honey flavored greek yogurt instead of plain.  If you’re going to try this, here’s what I would suggest:

8 oz container greek yogurt (vanilla or honey)
1 cup cake mix (I used vanilla)
3 tsps vanilla extract
3 tsps sugar
1 tsp sprinkles

Mix well and freeze for two hours.  

Biggest Loser inspired sweet potato fries

Review by Lyndee:
For those of you that don’t know, I spent the month of April at the Biggest Loser Resort in Malibu, CA. I was one of 10 lucky “Year of You” winners that got to go.  While there I learned a lot of things and brought home many recipes.  I also fell in love with some foods I had denied myself before.  I loved the sweet potato fries at the resort and here is my recipe. I love to pair these with fish or a chicken breast for a great meal. 

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and peel one sweet potato.  Dice into strips.  Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray or olive oil.  Sprinkle the potatoes with pepper, onion powder, garlic, thyme and paprika.  (I often add Cajun seasoning for an extra kick).

  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges begin turning dark.  

Oven baked parmesan-crusted Tilapia

Review by Lyndee:
I eat a lot of fish.  Well, at least when I’m practicing eating healthy.  The majority of the time I just sprinkle my tilapia with lemon juice, Cajun seasoning and dill.  This can get boring on repeat so I tried an oven baked parmesan crusted tilapia. 

1 pound tilapia
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

I was only making 8 ounces of fish so I halved all the ingredients.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Wash and dry tilapia, if fresh.  I use frozen so I just took it out of its individually sealed packages that are 4 ounces each.  Mix parmesan, paprika, parsley, salt and pepper in a shallow pan. 

Brush both sides of tilapia with olive oil and then dredge in the seasoning mixture.  Pat the coating on so it sticks.  Place on baking sheet.  Pat remaining mixture on top of fish.  Bake for 12 minutes or until flaky. 

This recipe was easy to make and a nice switch from my normal fish.  Next time I will probably add a teaspoon of cayenne or Cajun for a little more kick, because that’s how I roll.  Unless your filets are gargantuan, I would maybe cut back the parmesan to ¾ of a cup per pound because I had a lot of excess mixture, even after patting extra on.  You could use reduced fat parmesan to save some fat and calories but even done this way, it’s still not bad for you.  I will definitely keep this recipe in my arsenal for future fish adventures.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sparkly Headboard with Tulle Bedskirt

My little princess has been in need of a headboard for her bed.  The butterflies trying to camoflouge the missing headboard just didn't seem to be cutting it any longer.  

I've seen lots of ideas online, but also knew that out in the back lawnmower garage, was an old, brown, dingy headboard that the hubby had purchased at an auction years ago.  I finally decided to use this for Emma's headboard, as opposed to the mice using it in the back garage.  So, I cleaned it up, and primed it (two coats of primer to cover that old brown color).  
Little Emma's room is butterfly-themed.  A year ago I made her some shimmery-looking curtains in lavendar, so I decided to paint the headboard in that color as well (a light lavendar).  
Then, most little girls I know (including my own) loves anything SPARKLY!!  I tried to find paint that had sparkles in it, and I did find it online for more than $40 per gallon.  I'm not spending that kind of money on headboard paint!!!  So, here's what I did:

  • Purchase some sparkles from any craft aisle at any department store (I purchased white-colored sparkles).
  • After a second coat of your paint, pour some of those sparkles into your hand.
  • About 6-12 inches from your paint job, blow those sparkles from your hand and onto the paint.  
  • Continue doing this until you've covered the entire area.
  • Let dry for twenty-four hours.
  • Spray a coat of CLEAR spray paint over top of the sparkled paint to add a layer of protectant over the sparkles.  

Next, my TT123 partner-in-crime, Lyndee, and Godmama to my little princess told me about a wonderful idea to add even more princess pizzazz to the bed -- a tutu bedskirt -- awesome!!!  Here's what you'll need:
  • One fitted bed sheet (size depending on your bed).
  • Tulle (I prefer the rolls pictured below for ease in cutting your strips).  
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape.
For a queen-size bed, we used 240 feet of tulle.  And, we could have used more.  If I did this project again. I would double the amount of tulle we had, so that the tulle bedskirt would appear fuller.  Instead of using one sheet of tulle per hole, I would use at LEAST two, to give it a fuller look.  

Here's how we did it:
  • Cut two slits around the top of the fitted sheet about an inch apart horizontally parallel to one another (like an equals sign).  Space each "equals sign" about two-three fingers length around the perimeter of the bed (sans the head of the bed). 
  • Then, loop each strand of tulle (I would suggest two strands of tulle for a fuller look) through the "equals sign and tie (just a simple cross tie -- like you do on the first step of tying your shoe).  

And, here is Emma's new "Princess Bed", and it didn't cost nearly what it would have cost if we had purchased the sparkly paint, and a professionally made tulle bed skirt.
DIY, Baby!!!!