Cinnamon Bun Popcorn

From Our Best Bites

12 C popped popcorn (about 1/2 C kernels)*
1 C roughly chopped pecans
1 C brown sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 C Karo syrup (or honey makes a good substitution)
1 stick real butter (1/2 C)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3 squares almond bark
*You can use air popped or microwave popcorn. If using microwave, anything works, but I prefer a “natural” flavor that’s low in butter and salt.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Place popcorn and chopped pecans in a very large bowl and set aside.
Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a big, microwave-safe bowl. Like a 2-quart bowl or Pyrex measuring bowl. Use a bowl larger than you think you need.
Chop butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup (or honey) over the top of everything.Microwave on high for 30 seconds (just to soften the butter a bit) and then stir to combine.Return to microwave and heat for 2 minutes. Remove and stir and then microwave for 2 minutes more.
Remove from the microwave and add in vanilla and baking soda. When combined, pour over popcorn and stir until it's coated. Spread popcorn mixture onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.**(See baking note at end of post)
After 30 minutes, take a piece out and let it cool. "Sample." If it's not crunchy enough, bake for another 5 minutes. When it's done, give it a final stir and let it cool off for a bit while you melt your almond bark (just nuke it in the microwave according to the package directions) If you want, you can spread out your caramel corn on a clean piece of parchment, waxed paper, or foil. I always do this because sometimes it sticks to the hot foil if I leave it on the original pan. Use a fork and drizzle the melted almond bark over the popcorn mixture.
When it's hardened (pop it in the fridge to speed that process along) break into chunks and enjoy!

Carrot Cake

From Our Best Bites

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. grated carrot
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
2/3 c. coconut
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted (optional)
Buttermilk Glaze (below)
Cream Cheese Frosting (below)


Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease cake pans (see notes above) and, if desired, line the prepared pans with wax or parchment paper and then lightly grease and flour the paper. Set aside.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla on high speed until smooth.  Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. Fold in the carrots. Fold in the pineapple, coconut, and pecans. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
While the cakes are baking, prepare the buttermilk glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the warm cakes and then cool the cakes completely on a wire rack. When the cakes are cool, tear four thin strips of parchment or wax paper or aluminum foil and make a square on the serving plate. Place one layer on top of the square. Prepare the cream cheese frosting and spread some frosting on the bottom layer of the cake. Place another layer on top of the frosted layer (repeat if using a third layer). Frost the entire cake with cream cheese frosting and decorate with coconut and chopped pecans if desired. For best presentation, refrigerate overnight and then allow to come to room temperature before serving.
Buttermilk Glaze:
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. butter
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Combine ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes or until the syrup is light golden.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
11 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. real butter, softened
3/4-1 lb. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (1/2 tsp. can be replaced with almond extract if desired)
Combine butter, cream cheese, and extracts and beat until combined and fluffy. Add 3/4 lb. powdered sugar and beat on high speed until fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to taste.

Thai Peanut Noodles

From Our Best Bites

1/2 cup chicken broth
3 T. creamy peanut butter
1 t. Sriracha chili sauce
1 1/2 T. honey
3 T. soy sauce
1 1/2 T. fresh minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, presssed
8 oz. linguine noodles
1 bunch chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 limes cut into quarters
1/4 chopped peanuts

Optional: grilled chicken

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, wash and chop the ginger, garlic, green onions, cilantro, lime, and nuts. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.
While the noodles are cooking, combine the broth, peanut butter, Sriracha, honey, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until the peanut butter melts and the ingredients are combined. 
When the noodles are done, drain and place in a large bowl. Add the peanut butter sauce and toss to combine. Divide the noodles evenly among individual serving bowls then top with meat (if desired), chopped green onions, cilantro, lime wedges, and peanuts. Squeeze lime wedges over noodles and, if desired, add an additional squeeze or two of Sriracha sauce. Serve immediately.

French Bread, Hoagies, and Buns

From Our Best Bites:

1 T. yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 T. sugar
1 t. salt
4 - 5 1/2 cups flour
1 egg separated
2 T. cold water

Combine yeast, water, and sugar in large mixing bowl and allow to stand 10 minutes or until bubbly. Add salt, vegetable oil, and egg yolk (set white aside for later) and combine. Add 3 c. flour and mix well until combined. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough that barely sticks to your finger. Knead, either by hand or in mixer (my personal and very lazy choice) for another 2-3 minutes. Cover and allow to rise 1 hour 30 minutes.
Punch down dough. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. For a loaf of bread, shape into loaf and place on greased cookie sheet. For buns or hoagies, divide equally into 8-10 (or even 12, if you want smaller buns when you’re done, and let’s face it, who doesn’t want smaller buns??) pieces and shape as desired. Use a scale if you have one to get equal-sized buns.
 
It’s okay if they touch (or will touch after having risen). Cover and allow to rise another 1 1/4 hours or until doubled. Keep an eye on things–if they seem like they’re getting so big that they might collapse, hurry and get them into the oven.
 
Preheat oven to 375. Mix egg white with water and brush over dough. Bake for 10 minutes and repeat brushing the dough with the egg wash.
Bake an additional 8-10 minutes or until bread is golden brown and your house smells like heaven.

Breadsticks

From Our Best Bites

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 T. sugar
1 T. yeast
1/2 t. salt
3-4 1/2 cups flour


In a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer, if you have one), combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.
Add salt and stir. Add 1 1/2 c. flour and mix well. Gradually add more flour (usually between 3-4 cups, depending on your elevation and your humidity) until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger.
Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl.
Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Remove from bowl and place on a lightly-floured surface. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Roll into a rectangle and cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter.
Roll out each piece of dough into a snake and then drape over your forefinger and twist the dough. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining 11 pieces of dough. Try to space them evenly, but it’s okay if they’re close; pulling apart hot bread is one of life’s greatest pleasures!
Cover pan and allow dough to rise for another 30 minutes.
When there’s about 15 minutes to go, preheat your oven to 425. When done rising, bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Rub some butter on top of the breadsticks (just put a ziploc bag on your hand, grab some softened butter, and have at it) and sprinkle with garlic bread seasoning or the powdery Parmesan cheese in a can and garlic salt.



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Sweet and Sour Appetizer Meatballs

From Our Best Bites

1 (12 oz.) jar chili sauce
1 (16 oz.) jar grape jelly
2 pounds frozen meatballs

Combine jelly and chili sauce in a slow cooker and stir until smooth. Heat the mixture if needed to combine. Add meatballs and set temperature  to low. Cook for 2-5 hours on low. Serve with toothpicks.

Candied Coconut Sweet Potatoes

From Our Best Bites

4 C mashed Sweet potatoes (about 4 med sweet potatoes or two 29 ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
  1. 6 Tbs Sugar
  1. 6 Tbs butter (no margarine), softened or melted
  1. 2 eggs, beaten
  1. 1/2 of a 14 ounce can Sweetened Condensed Milk (about 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  1. 1 t vanilla
  1. Topping:
  1. 1 C brown sugar
  1. 1 1/2 C sweetened coconut flakes
  1. 6 Tbs melted butter
  1. (Double if desired)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  1. Add sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla to a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until creamy. Spread in a 9x13 pan.
  1. Mix topping ingredients together until everything is incorporated and sprinkle over sweet potatoes.
  1. Bake for 40-50 minutes until topping is golden brown.

Coconut Curry

2 lb. chicken breasts, in small chunks
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. curry powder
1 1/2 t. paprika or cayenne for spice
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (1/2 inch)
1 cup carrots (1/2 inch)
Cut green beans (1 inch pieces)
1/2 red and green bell pepper, in small slices
1 14 oz. can coconut milk. No added ingredients.
14.5 can stewed tomatoes
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
3 T. raw sugar or honey/little less

Season chicken pieces wtih salt and pepper. Cook chicken with onions, peppers, garlic and seasoning in 1 T. coconut oil until no longer pink and onions are clear. Do not let the spices burn. Add the remaining ingredients and stir till combined. Let the mixture get warm, not boiling then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Stir occasionaly for about 30-40 minutes until sauce thickens and veggies are tender. Serve piping hot over rice. Basmati rice, wild rice or quinoa have all been good.

Glazed Pineapple Coconut Cake

Cake:
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1-20 oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cups pecans, chopped

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and baking soda. In a seperate bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, and can of pineapple. Mix well and add to dry ingredients. Stir until well combined. Pour batter into 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the top with pecans. Bake at 350 for 32-35 minutes.

Topping:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 heaping cup shredded sweetened coconut

Start making the topping once you pull out the cake from the oven. In a saucepan over medium heat melt butter. Add sugar and evaporated milk. Once combined, cook for 6 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and coconut. Poke some holes in the cake, spreading around where necessary to cover everything. Serve warm or cold.

Enchiladas

3-4 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
4 cups cheese
1 28 oz. can green enchilada sauce
1 19 oz. can green enchilada sauce
12-15 corn tortillas
2 4.5 oz. cans chopped green chilis
Cilantro
Lime wedges

Mix chicken, cheese and green chilis. Heat up enchilada sauce to a boil. Remove from heat. Dip each tortilla in enchilda sauce for a few minutes. Put 1/3 cup chicken mixture in center of tortilla. Using a baggie with the corner cut off, squirt sour cream in a line next to chicken. Roll up and line in baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Top with cilantro and lime wedges.

Sunday Roast, Potatoes, and Carrots

Beef or pork roast
Baby carrots
Small potatoes, cut up
Onion dip seasoning packet
Ranch seasoning packet
Italian dressing seasoning packet
1/2 cup water

Score, salt and pepper meat and set in the middle of 9x13" dish. Fill surrounding area with carrots and potatoes.  Mix seasoning packets and water and pour over meat and vegetables.  Cover with aluminum foil. Bake on 350 degrees for 4 hours. 

Grandma Robin's Meatloaf

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3 slices of bread torn into small pieces (or 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs or 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats)
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup ketchup, chili, or barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients except sauce.  Spread mixture in ungreased loaf pan. Spoon sauce over top.  Bake uncovred for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Remove from pan.

Annual Easter Bunny Cake



Bake a box mix cake in two 8" round pans. Cool and freeze completely. Cut one pan of cake into ears and bow tie.  Frost and decorate!

Easter Pistachio Pudding Salad

1 (3.4 oz)  package instant pistachio pudding
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 (15 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip
1 cup miniature marshmallows

In large bowl, combine dry pistachio pudding mix and the can of crushed pineapple with juice. Stir until pudding mix is dissolved. Let sit a few minutes (pudding will begin to thicken). Add the mandarin orange and coconut, and stir gently to combine. Fold in Cool Whip and marshmallows.  Chill for a few hours (or a quick chill in the freezer) or overnight. 

Grandma Robin's Peach Pie

Premade pie crust

1 small jello
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Stir together everthing but jello. Add 2 cups cold water. Bring to a rapid boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly while it thickens. Pour in the jello powder and turn off the heat while you stir it in. Once it is mixed set the pan aside, or in the fridge to cool down.

Peel and dice peaches. When jello mixture has cooled to room temperature, mix in the fresh peaches. Pour pie filling into crust and spread peaches around to evenly disperse. Let set in fridge.

Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!

Grandma Monson's Orange Rolls

2 tablespoons quick rise yeast (bread machine yeast)
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup nonfat dry milk
5-6 cups flour 
1/3 cup melted butter
1 egg, beaten
2 cups hot water

Stir yeast, sugar, salt, dry milk, and 3 cups flour together.  Add butter and egg.  Add hot water to mixture and stir until smooth.  Add remaining 3 cups of flour and kneed for about 6 minutes.  Dough will be soft and a little sticky.  Cover and allow to rise until double in size (about 30 minutes).  The dough is really sticky so use cooking spray or oil to cover your hands and a flat rolling out surface.  (Cooking spray or oil are much less messy to use than flour and make clean-up a snap.)  Roll out dough into a large rectangle.  

Spread about 3 TBSP melted butter over rolled out dough.  Then sprinkle generously with about 1 cup sugar and rind of 2 oranges.  Roll up and cut using thread or floss.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and cover with a towel.  Allow to rise again until double in size.   Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. 

Frosting:
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons milk or cream
2 teaspoons zest

Mix ingredients.  Frost rolls.

Pi'i Cocco's Lemon Bars

Crust:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling:
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4-6 lemons worth)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar until light.  Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Put down on well-floured surface and roll into a bowl.  Press into 9x13 dish, building up a 1/2-inch edge on al sides.  Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned.  Cool on wire rack

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.  Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set.  Let cool to room temperature.

Cut and dust with powdered sugar.

Pi'i Cocco's Pumpkin Spice Bread

2 cups canned pumpkin
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoons ground cloves

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil and eggs. Beat until well mixed.

Measure the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and ground cloves into separate bowl, then stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth.

Grease two 9x5" loaf pans and dust them with flour.  Evenly divide the batter between the two pans.  Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 to 15 minutes.  Then remove from pans and by inverting them onto a rack and tapping the  bottoms.  Slice and enjoy!

Emily Plicka's Peppermint Ganache Brownies

Brownies:
2 boxes brownie mix and all ingredients for brownies (cake-like style with extra eggs)

Peppermint Frosting:
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 drop green food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2 tablespoons water

Chocolate Ganache:
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup butter
1 or 2 teaspoons peppermint extract

To make the brownies: Follow the recipe for cake-like brownies.  Or if there isn't one, add 3 more eggs total. Pour into a large, greased cookie/jelly roll sheet, bake and let cool completely.

To make the mint frosting: Combine powdered sugar, butter, water, peppermint extract and food coloring. Mix. Spread over cooled brownies and refrigerate until hard on top.

To make chocolate ganache: Microwave chocolate chips and butter for 2 minutes. Stir until all chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Add 2 tsp. peppermint extract. As soon as this mixture thickens and is no longer hot, spread over mint topping on brownies.  Put back into the refrigerator until hard.

Emily Plicka's Thanksgiving Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Crust:
2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

Mix and press on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. Cool.

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
8 oz. crushed pineapple
8 oz. cool whip

Mix together and spread on cooled crust.

Top Layer:
1 large package of strawberry jello
2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup cold water
1 16 oz. pkg frozen, chopped strawberries

Mix together, making sure the jello granules are dissolved. Pour over the filling and chill until set.