Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grilled Cheese Sliders

Grilled cheese sandwiches are just about my favorite food (next to pizza...and cinnamon rolls...oh, and pie), so it's no surprise that I like to mess with them. I will eat them any which way....even with American Cheese on them (generally not my favorite food).

Not only do I love grilled cheese sandwiches, but I'm one of those people who like food in miniature. Small food, if you will. Mini pastries, tiny tarts, desserts in shot glasses, bite sized mac 'n cheese....and, of course, sliders. You probably think sliders are so two years ago. Indeed, I've seen many, many recipes for various sliders, mostly little burgers. And they are good. Very good. I got to thinking, though, that I hadn't seen any grilled cheese sliders. Wouldn't they be tasty? I even figured out how I was going to make them. Then, I googled. They've been done. The best I saw were from Panini Kathy. Sigh. Will I ever have an original thought again? Oh, well--my method is different. :)

I found a rye baguette at the store---love it!

So, these are really easy. Just buy yourself one of those really good baguettes....most grocery stores carry them.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then slice the baguette up into 1/2" slices and put them on a baking pan lined with parchment or a silpat. Now take a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (use a flavored one, if you want) and brush it on each piece of bread, then turn over every other piece so that half of the pieces have the oil on the bottom. Open up a bag of your favorite shredded cheese (or shred your own if you are so inclined--you could even chop up some brie) and put about a tablespoon on top of the halves of bread that you turned over. Don't worry if it spills over--that's why we have the silpat. Now top each cheese covered piece of bread with the other piece of bread (leave the oiled side on top). Bake the sliders for 10 minutes, turn them over, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

This time, I decided to fancy up my cheese. I mixed together 4 oz of softened cream cheese with a couple tablespoons of minced onion, a teaspoon of Italian seasoning, a dash each of garlic salt and cayenne pepper, and a cup of shredded cheese.

My cheese concoction made it a little less messy--the cheese didn't spill over the sides. The only downside was that I didn't have the crunchy cheese that gets left on the pan--love that stuff! Oh, and it didn't run down the side of the sandwich. Cheese encrusted sandwiches have a certain eye appeal, no?

I cut these slices a little too thick, but it all worked out in the end.

I don't think there is any better way to enjoy these than by floating them on some tomato soup.

What kind of cheese do you like on your grilled cheese sandwich?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Green Apple Pie with Whiskey Maple Cream

At 3:20 p.m. on Christmas Eve, my husband and I pulled in to the local grocery store to shop for our holiday dinner. Of course, I was totally oblivious to the fact that all of the the grocery stores were closing up at 4:00 p.m. Luckily, I had a partial list of what I needed with me, so I quickly went through the store, tossing things into the basket. I was pretty confident that I had it all under control. Then, as we neared the checkout, the hubby looks at me and asks "What kind of pie are you making?". EEK. Can you believe that I had totally forgotten about dessert? How unlike me. We quickly decided on an apple pie, but since I swore that I wasn't going to take on too much, I threw a package of Pillsbury pie crust in the cart along with some apples.

Generally, I use several different varieties of apple when I make a pie. This time, mainly because I wrongly assumed I still had some Honeycrisps at home, I only used two: Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. So, now I was making a Green Apple Pie. This is important, since I have to differentiate between this pie and the one I posted last month.....

.....ok, so last month I actually made a Apple-Praline Pie, but it seems that the husband doesn't like the fancy stuff on top of his pie. Silly man. I did have to spruce up my store-bought crust just a bit, though.... I spread a little melted butter and some ground walnuts mixed with cinnamon sugar over the top of the pie before it went into the oven.

Now, while the pie was baking, I was perusing the Internet and ran across a recipe on The Pioneer Woman's site for Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce. Say what? "Drop what you are doing and make this right now!" she says. Or at least that's what I heard when I saw the picture. I had to make it. But I didn't have enough cream. The PDQ had cream, though. So the husband pulled a jacket over his sweats and bought some cream for me. Yay!

Can you tell I'm experimenting with my picture editing feature on Picasa? Which style do you prefer? I suppose I shouldn't mix the different styles on the same post......

Now, to be completely honest, the homemade crust is better. You know what, though? It didn't matter one bit, because thanks to The Pioneer Woman, the Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce made it all taste wonderful. Oh, and just in case you need another apple pie recipe, you can find it here:

(if you really want the Green Apple Pie, just swap out the apples, use a Pillsbury crust, and sprinkle some ground walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon on top--just be sure to top it with Whiskey Maple Cream Sauce)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Root Beer Pulled Pork on Cheesy 30 minutes

It seems like everyone I know is crunched for time, lately. The holidays, work, kids, pets....aack! But you still need to eat, right? And if you're anything like me, you like to have at least a smidgen of homemade in whatever you make. Deride Sandra Lee all you want, she is successful for a reason---what she makes is easy, fast, tasty, and semi-homemade. :)

I cook like most home cooks. Once in awhile, I take a shortcut. Or two. But when I take those shortcuts, I put my touch on them. Biscuits from a can get a cheesy, crunchy coating and one of those refrigerated pork entrees gets all shredded up and doused with a quick, homemade barbecue sauce (using up my sample of Red Gold Tomato Sauce). Take a look-see.

Quick and Easy Root Beer Barbecue Sauce

1 (8oz) can Tomato Sauce (or use 1 cup of the 15 oz can)
1/2 cup Root Beer
1/4 cup Orange Juice
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons Cider Vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger 
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized heavy saucepan; stir until combined. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat and simmer for 25-35 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced and starts to thicken.

While your sauce is simmering, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Now, combine 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese, 2 tablespoons Panko Bread Crumbs, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. Break open a can of biscuits...get the 8 ct. big, flaky kind. Lightly spray each side of the biscuits with cooking spray. Coat each biscuit in the cheese/breadcrumb mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet, sprinkling any extra over the tops of the biscuits. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until golden.

The cheese and the breadcrumbs make for a crunchy biscuit and the two kinds of pepper add a little spice. If you prefer, mix in some Italian seasoning instead of the pepper.

My husband always has to eat one hot off of the pan.

I was a little leary of these microwavable meat entrees, but it turns out they are pretty tasty. If you are going to use the barbeque sauce, be sure to get the pork au jus and not the pork in gravy.

Now just nuke your entree for about 4 minutes (follow the package directions), dispose of the "au jus" (I save it to mix in with the dogs' food), shred the meat, and mix in the barbeque sauce.

This time, I topped it with pickles, but sometimes I like coleslaw on my sandwich.

There you have it...a semi-homemade meal in less than 30 minutes....and it all starts with a can of Tomato Sauce. 

Disclaimer: I was given a sample of Red Gold Tomato products in order to give a review. All opinions, however, are my own.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eggnog Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup

Do you know that I’ve never been a fan of eggnog? Hard to believe when you see me posting not one, but two eggnog recipes in one week and (hold on to your hat), a third one is in the works. It seems that something happened when I added eggnog to my cinnamon roll recipe. I guess the flavor is just a little more subtle, but I really, really liked it. So much so, that I couldn’t wait to try it in my pancakes. That’s right. Pancakes. I had the crazy idea of just subbing out the buttermilk in my favorite pancakes. And it was a good decision. Yes, it was. Of course, just like with the Eggnog and Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls, I wasn’t the first one to think of this combination. About 5 minutes after I licked the last morsel off of my plate, one of my Facebook foodie friends was posting her version of eggnog pancakes. At least my cranberry syrup is different. But then, who knows? I didn’t google it. J

Eggnog Pancakes


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups eggnog
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for griddle


Heat griddle on medium high. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Add eggs, eggnog, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps.

It's really important not to over-mix. Those lumps should be there.

Brush a little melted butter on the griddle. Pour the pancake batter by ¼ cups onto the griddle, keeping the pools of batter 2 inches apart.  When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

They need just a little something....

Cranberry-Maple Syrup

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup real maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick

Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the berries are softened and the syrup is reduced. Add additional syrup if too thick. Serve warm.

I ended up adding more syrup to was good, but a little thick.

Can we say "Plate Lickable" ?

And now on to other eggnog delights. How does an Eggnog Cheesecake sound?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fiery Tomato Chile Cheese Buns

Let's take a little break (at least 10 minutes) from all of the sugary holiday treats. Remember those cans of tomatoes I got from Red Gold Tomatoes? Of course you do. Just scroll on down and look at the Cincinnati Chili Pizza I made from the can of sauce. Well, on the same day that I made the pizza, I experimented a bit with the other half of my pizza dough. I couldn't wait to try out these spicy diced tomatoes with green chilies, so I tossed some on top of my pizza slice...they were pretty tasty (since the tomatoes are canned  fresh off the fields, I imagine they taste fresher that some of those mealy ones you find in the stores this time of year). Oh ya, where was I? The pizza dough. Sometimes, the quickest ideas are the best. Just look at what I made with the rest of my dough.

I opened this to use some on my pizza....

....and got the bright idea to make it into rolls.

Roll out the dough into a 9X12 square, just like for cinnamon rolls. Then sprinkle some olive oil and garlic powder over the dough, along with some well-drained diced tomatoes with green chilies.

Sprinkle about a cup of shredded cheese over the tomatoes, roll up the dough from the long side, and slice it into 12 slices. Put them in a buttered a 9X13 inch baking pan and let them rise for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.; bake for 25-30 minutes.

And, behold a tasty treat!

Next time, I'll try some crumbled sausage, pepperoni, or bacon in these, too. Don't you just love an easy snack? What would you roll up in these?

Disclaimer: I did receive some free product from Red Gold Tomatoes for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eggnog and Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls

I'm trying something a little different with this post. My friend Kristen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker is offering up a monthly "Improv" challenge. There are different themes each month and should we decide to participate, we simply conjure up a recipe with the two specified ingredients for that month. This month we have eggnog and cranberries. Since I've made nearly every flavor combination there is of my cinnamon rolls, I figured I might as well go ahead and add eggnog and cranberry to the mix. They were fabulous, if I do say so myself. :) Now, let's see if I remembered how I made them...

Eggnog and Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup eggnog
1/4 cup butter
1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 egg, room temperature, slightly beaten
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 cups flour (I use bread flour, but you can use all purpose)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries

Heat the eggnog and 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Let cool until temperature is about 110 degrees F (like bathwater warm).

In a large mixing bowl, combine eggnog mixture with yeast, egg, and 2 cups of the flour and the salt; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has just pulled together, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. (Alternately, just use the dough hook on your mixer and let the mixer knead the dough for about five minutes)

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a clean damp towel. Allow dough to rise until double, about 1 hour. In the mean time, in a small bowl, mix together the softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll out the dough into a 12X9 inch rectangle (I like to do this on my Silpat). Spread the dough with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Sprinkle with chopped cranberries. Roll up the dough from the long side and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal sized pieces and place into a greased 9X13 inch pan. Cover and let rise until doubled.

Bake rolls at 375 ° for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and frost with Eggnog Cream Cheese Frosting while warm.

I went a little overboard on the frosting by adding too much eggnog, so I merely added more powdered sugar to compensate. Hint: Leftover frosting is really good spread on graham crackers--it wasn't such a bad mistake.

Of course, I went a little nuts on the theme and made some eggnog pancakes, too. That recipe will be up in a few days...much plate licking went on with those...

Next month the theme will be lemons and sour cream. The brain is ticking already.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cincinnati Chili Pizza

I'm thinking you can put just about anything on pizza crust....

I'm on a canned tomato kick of sorts this week (thanks to the Red Gold peeps who sent me that six-pack of tomato goodness).

As someone who is struggling to come up with vegetarian meals, this stuff is a godsend. Not only did I throw together that Tomato, Corn, and Black Bean Soup on Sunday, but I also made a quick pizza with a can of the tomato sauce. You are probably thinking that I added some spices to make a pizza sauce (not that that's a bad idea), but if you are, you are very mistaken. You see, the Red Gold Tomato Sauce made a very quick, but lovely Cincinnati Chili Sauce that was awesome on a pizza!

I totally admit to making a shortcut version of Cincinnati Chili. It works, but this tastes even better the next day.

Just spread it on your favorite pizza dough, top with cheese (I left off the beans this time) and you are good to go!

I opened up the can of Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies to use in another recipe and used some on top of the pizza with some more cheese and some diced onions.

Cincinnati Chili Pizza
1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 clove crushed garlic
1 pound ground chuck*
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
½ cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce   
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 bay leaf
2 lbs pizza dough (make your own or buy premade)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat pizza stone in oven to 450 degrees  F.

Cook the onion, garlic, and ground chuck in a medium saucepan over medium/high heat until the beef is browned and the onion is soft. Drain the grease. Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Set aside to cool slightly.

Divide the dough in half. Spread one half of the dough into a 10-12 inch circle. Put a generous handful of cornmeal on a pizza peel and place the dough on top of the cornmeal. Spread about 1 cup of the chili on top of the dough. Sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese evenly over the top of the chili. Slide the pizza onto the pre-heated stone and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is golden.

*Sub the ground chuck for 1 (12 oz) package of veggie crumbles, if desired. If using the crumbles, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, saute the onions for 5 minutes and then add the crumbles and the garlic.

Disclaimer: I was provided with free products from Red Gold Tomatoes in order to write a review.  As always, all opinions are my own.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tomato, Corn, and Black Bean Soup

Look at what I got in the mail:

A six pack!

Of tomatoes!

Red Gold Tomatoes sent me such a cute little sampler of their tomato products to try that I wasn’t quite sure what to make with them first, but a quick glance out the window helped me to decide.

Soup! It’s downright wintery out there!  Unbeknownst to the Red Gold peeps, I actually had a can of their tasty tomatoes in my cupboard, so I’m saving the sampler pack for some other quick tomato meals. Stay tuned for those. In the mean time, let’s cook some soup.

I am not a fan of most canned soup, I’ll have you know. Frankly, I’m not quite sure of what’s in it. Usually, there’s too much salt. Sometimes, there’s stuff like corn syrup and fillers. And if your argument to me is that canned soup is convenient, then I will counter that with the fact that making your own soup is almost as easy.  Check it out—I did this on the fly, with some things I had in the cupboard (and the freezer).

Tomato, Black Bean, and Corn Soup
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ large, sweet onion, chopped
2 cups frozen corn (fire-roasted, if available)
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, chopped, with liquid
1 (15-19 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic, onions and corn. SautĂ© until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans vegetable stock, chili powder and Italian seasoning. Stir well and bring mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer soup for 20 to 25 minutes.  Serve the soup hot; garnish with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese, if desired.

I chose to use some fire-roasted frozen corn that I had in the freezer. It added just a hint of smokey flavor.

Canned tomatoes make easy work out of soup—of this I am a great fan. Good, fresh tomatoes are hard to find this time of year (not to mention, pricey), so canned tomatoes are a must. The thing is, they work in so many things. Besides soup, you can sub canned tomatoes for fresh in spaghetti sauce, on pizzas, and in casseroles. My mother-in-law likes to take a can of stewed tomatoes and use them as gravy over mashed potatoes.

So why Red Gold brand tomatoes? It really wasn't a fluke that that was the brand in my cupboard. The Red Gold company is a third generation family owned company out of Indiana. They started in 1942 and all they do are tomatoes. They know their stuff! Red Gold is located right in the middle of tomato country and I've found all of their tomato products to be of stellar quality. But, I digress. Let's get back to my soup.

This was tasty just the way it was, but I felt it needed just a little something.

How about using all of those crushed tortilla chips at the bottom of the bag? It's a shame to waste them, even if they aren't so good at scooping anymore.

Now, just add some shredded cheese and you are good to go.

See? Wasn't that easy? And now that all of my soup is gone, I've got some ideas for the rest of those cans. Next up on the menu: Cincinnati Chili Pizza. 

Is there something special you make with canned tomatoes?

Disclaimer: I received free product from Red Gold Tomatoes in order to do this review. As always, the opinions expressed are my own.