Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brownie Pops and a Giveway!


I decided that it was time for me to jump on the cake pop bandwagon.  Cake pops are all the rage now and if Starbucks is getting $2.50 a piece for these little gems, they must me something wonderful, right?    I did some research to learn how to make these lollipop shaped snacks and my brother even volunteered to buy a cake pop and eat it while we skyped so I could see what was inside.

Duncan Hines sent me some coupons as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program.  This was the perfect excuse to try my hand at cake pops.  I decided on brownie pops instead of cake pops for no particular reason - they just sounded good.  
I ended up using a collaboration of recipes that I found on the internet to come up with a process for making my brownie pops.  I will walk you through the steps that I took to make them but keep in mind that it was my first attempt.

I started by baking the Duncan Hines brownie mix according to the directions on the back of the box.  (I followed the instructions for cake like brownies and used 3 eggs instead of 2.)

The brownies smelled so good when they came out of the oven.  Once they were cool, I crumbled them up with my fingers.

I added a half of a can of Duncan Hines chocolate frosting to the brownie crumbles and stirred it together with a spoon.  (I guessed at the amount of frosting but you need enough frosting to stick your brownie crumbs together.)

It was starting to look promising at this point.  I scooped the mix with my small cookie scoop and rolled it into balls.

My daughter wanted to help.  (I think it was the smell of brownies that lured her into the kitchen.)  It was really a perfect opportunity for her to help because we are taking these brownie pops to school to celebrate her birthday this week. 
We placed them on a waxed paper lined baking sheet and put them in the freezer for an hour.

Before I pulled them out of the freezer, I got my lollipop sticks ready and I melted some white chocolate.  

I pulled the tray of brownie balls out of the freezer and one at a time, I inserted a stick and then dipped it into the melted chocolate.

I bought a small block of Styrofoam to hold my brownie pops and I inserted each one into the block once it had been dipped.

I did have some trouble with the chocolate dripping from the bottom of the pops so I had to wipe the excess chocolate as it dripped.  (I haven't quite figured out how to solve this problem yet.  If you have any tips - let me know. )

Once they were all dipped, we cleaned up while letting the chocolate dry slightly.  (Cleaning up may have been even more fun than the baking.)

Once the chocolate had set, I melted some semisweet chocolate in the microwave and put it into a plastic bag for decorating.  I cut the tip off of one corner of the bag and drizzled chocolate over the pops.

I also tried to sprinkle some peppermint crunch on top but I had a hard time getting it to stick.  You can see from my picture that I only tried it once.  

The brownie pops were really fun to make and they were really good.  The chocolaty brownie centers are sure to be a big hit with the kids at the birthday celebration.

Thanks again to the generous people at Duncan Hines for providing me with the delicious brownie mix and frosting for my brownie pops.  Duncan Hines is also making it easier for you to try this recipe by giving away 6 free Duncan Hines coupons to my blog readers.  The first 6 people to leave a comment on my blog will receive a coupon good for a free Duncan Hines product.  (It must be a comment on my blog and not on my facebook page.)  I will announce the winners on tomorrow's blog so make sure you check back. Good Luck.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A vegetarian casserole (or not)

This recipe for black bean casserole was passed down to me from my mom.  I think that the original recipe was intended to be made without meat.  It was my mom's idea to add some ground beef to the recipe to boost the protein content of the dish.  I have also made it with ground turkey and it's just as delicious.

Black Bean Casserole
½ cup chopped green pepper                12 – 6” tortillas
½ cup chopped green onion                  2 c. Monterey Jack cheese
28 ounces crushed tomatoes                 shredded lettuce
¼ cup salsa                                                sour cream
2 teaspoons cumin                                   olives
15 ounces black beans, drained             tomato
1 pound ground beef                                2 cloves garlic

Brown beef in skillet.  Drain and return to skillet.

Add onion, pepper, tomatoes, salsa, garlic and cumin.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add beans.

Spoon 1/3 of the sauce in bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  (I divided my casserole up into 3 smaller containers.)

Layer ½ of the tortillas on top.

Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese.  Repeat layers. 

Bake 30 minutes at 350.

You can serve this casserole with lettuce, sour cream, olives and tomatoes.  We were in a bit of a hurry last night so we ate it without the toppings. 

I packed two of the casseroles up to take to my father in-law this afternoon.  These casseroles freeze really well so make an extra one to keep in your freezer.

Recipe disclaimer - I rarely measure out exact portions when I'm cooking.  (I save the exact measuring for my baking.)  Sometimes I double or even triple the recipes.  I also use different containers than listed in the recipe quite often because we eat most of the food that is blogged and I portion it to fit the needs of my family.   For these reasons, my pictures may not always reflect the recipe exactly.  

Bon Appetit!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Let us serve you

My family had the privilege of serving Thanksgiving dinner to some very well deserving families on Saturday at our church.   It was a humbling and rewarding experience all at the same time.  It made me realize just how often I take for granted the fact that my cupboards are nearly full.  I am blessed to be able to feed my children nutritious meals everyday and I don't often pause to think about the families who struggle to provide food.  It was such a blessing for us to be able to provide these families with a meal and a few surprises.

We even dressed the part of servers.  (Could these two look any more alike?) 

The setting was elegant - black tablecloths, fresh flowers, candles, the works.  There were baskets of fresh fruit in the center of each table.  The guests were invited to eat the fruit and then the baskets were refilled and sent home with the guests. 

Once everyone arrived, we served up a meal fit for a king.  (or queen)  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, cranberries and rolls.  For dessert - pumpkin and pecan pie delighted the guests. 

After the meal, the families were invited outside where we filled their hands with all sorts of "goodies" to take home.   Each child that attended the feast was presented with a shoebox full of toys and gifts.

I have participated in Operation Shoebox for many years but I have never witnessed a child receiving their gifts.  It was a remarkable experience.  Even the smallest gift brought so much joy and happiness to their faces.  I humbly stood and watched as these beautiful children received their gifts.  I stood nearby and watched as one particularly sweet boy opened his box which contained a small football.  It was a nerf football, the kind you commonly find at a dollar store, but to him - it was a priceless treasure.  This boy could not have been happier about his present.  He ran and played with that ball until it was time for him to leave - and even then he refused to put it back in the box - he wanted to carry it home.  It didn't take an expensive or extravagant gift to make this child happy - a dollar store toy filled his heart with joy. 

My heart overflowed with joy as I stood watching these children receive their gifts with such happiness.  It was a good reminder for me, especially this time of year, to stop and reflect on the blessings that I have been given.  The things in my life that I cherish the most are not expensive or extravagant and yet I often take those things for granted.  I think that I was far more blessed by the gift giving than the children who received the presents. 

I'm sure that you are not up for preparing another Thanksgiving meal already but Saturday's dinner had me thinking about turkey and dressing again.  I wanted to share this recipe with you just in case you have leftover turkey and you're getting tired of turkey sandwiches.  

Turkey and Dressing Casserole
4 cups cubed cooked turkey                    8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces sausage, cooked                        ½ cup milk
½ cup onion, chopped                             1 pkg cornbread stuffing mix
½ cup  celery, chopped                            ¼ cup butter, melted
½ teaspoon pepper                                   ¼ cup chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup                    1 ½ cup cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon sage

The key to putting together a casserole is to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready.

Combine turkey, sausage, sage, ¼ c. onion, ¼ c. celery and ¼ t. pepper.

Combine soup, sour cream and milk.

Stir into turkey mixture.  Spoon into a 9x13 dish.

Combine stuffing mix, butter, chicken broth, onion, celery and pepper.  Stir in cheese.

Spoon over turkey mixture.

Bake 45-50 minutes at 350 or cover it and refrigerate it up to 24 hours. 

If you prefer to freeze it, wrap the casserole in foil, label it and write cooking instruction on the foil.  Put it in the freezer for up to 3 months.

I don't have a picture of the cooked casserole because I put it together and put it in my freezer.  I think my family is getting a little tired of turkey and the beauty of casseroles is that they're freezable.   My family is not super thrilled about most casseroles but they have always liked this one.  It's easy to put together and it's delicious. 

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Big Game

In honor of my home state of Ohio AND the big Ohio State vs. Michigan football game this weekend - I made a batch of buckeyes. 

My husband and my son are huge Ohio State fans.  They love watching the Buckeyes play football and the biggest game of the year is Ohio State vs. Michigan.  That game was yesterday afternoon and we couldn't be  home to watch it so my husband recorded the game and watched it later that afternoon.

2 cups peanut butter                    1 pound powdered sugar
½ cup butter                                 melting chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter, peanut butter and vanilla.

Stir in powdered sugar.  

Form into 1” balls.   I used a cookie scoop to portion out the dough evenly.


Place the balls on a waxed paper lined baking sheet.

Place the peanut butter balls in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate in microwave.
(I like Wilton candy melts.)

Insert a toothpick into the peanut butter ball and dip into melted chocolate.

Wipe excess chocolate from the bottom of the buckeye and place back on waxed paper lined baking sheet. 

I like to smooth out the little toothpick hole in the top with my finger when I am finished dipping.

If you've never had a buckeye - you need to try one.  They are fun to make and really delicious.  (Better than a Reeses peanut butter cup if you ask me.)  Even though the outcome of the game was not favorable for Ohio State, snacking on these tasty treats made the loss a little easier to swallow.  

Bon Appetit!