Delicious 5-Minute Ranch Dip/Dressing

ranch dip_Fotor

Confession… I am not a veggie lover, especially cooked veggies.  I have PTSD from my parents making me sit at the dinner table until all of my veggies were eaten.  I would gag several times while trying to swallow them and would eventually have to wash them down with milk.  As an adult, I have learned to eat them, but have never really enjoyed them much. That being said – I LOVE raw veggies dipped in Ranch! Not just any ranch… It has to be the ranch dip in the little packets mixed with sour cream.  I can eat raw broccoli all day long as long as it’s dipped in ranch.  Our youngest son unfortunately has not yet acquired a taste for veggies either, so I always have a baggie of fresh, cut up veggies in the fridge.  I make him take at least one bite of whatever vegetable we are having with dinner and if he doesn’t like it, he is allowed to grab a handful of raw veggies out of the fridge to eat them.  And he does.  He really likes them raw, dipped in ranch, just like me. And as long as he is getting the vitamins, I really am not too concerned with him gagging down the ones I have prepared for dinner.

So, after years of paying the “Hidden Valley” prices ($2-3/pack), I stumbled upon this recipe from http://www.thedailyblarg.com/2013/01/simple-homemade-ranch-dip-recipe.html  and now I make my own!  This recipe is even better than the little ranch packets and probably costs less than $.25 to make.  I always have all of these spices on hand, so, as long as I have some sour cream, I’m in business! I use the low-fat sour cream too so I can feel better about eating an entire tub of dip :).

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayo (I leave this out and add 1/2 cup extra sour cream and it is still wonderful, your choice)

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dill weed (Some of you may not have this in your pantry.  Get some because you are going to be making this a lot! And it’s wonderful on fish too!!!)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1 tsp salt (I find that 1/2 tsp is plenty salty  so start off with 1/2 tsp and add more if needed)

Directions:

ingredients

If you have time to let the dip rest in the fridge for an hour or more, you can just combine all of the ingredients and you’re done.

Herbswet herbs

If you are wanting to have it right away, mix the dill, salt and parsley with two teaspoons of hot water.  This will allow the flavors of those herbs to bloom.

mix with sour creamdipping cucumber

Let stand for one minute and then mix with the rest of the spices and sour cream (and mayo of you prefer it).    That’s it! Way too easy, right? Enjoy with your favorite fresh veggies!

Creamy Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

Your friends and family will be dazzled by this wonderfully creamy, garlicky, Alfredo with a hint of Parmesan.   I have several friends who request this meal every time they come to visit for dinner and it ranks up in my husband top 5 favorite meals.  Even the most amateur cook can perfect this dish with these few helpful hints.

Ingredients:

2-3 chicken breasts

1-2 tsp olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Kosher salt

1 box Fettuccine noodles – I know, don’t laugh at my picture… I forgot to get fettuccine at the store so spaghetti was the next best thing :) You probably didn’t even notice until I voluntarily ratted myself out.

Alfredo Sauce:

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups milk or half and half (or a mixture of the two depending on how creamy you are wanting your Alfredo)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp garlic salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

salt to taste

Directions:

Heat large pot of water on high heat.

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Trim fat off of chicken breasts.  Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.  Butterfly breasts in half lengthwise. Season  with a small pinch of kosher salt on each side as well as some freshly ground  pepper.

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Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pan.    When pan is good and hot, arrange chicken in pan.  Make sure you don’t add so much to the pan that it drastically cools down.  This will cook the juices right out of the chicken and you will be looking at rubbery boiled chicken. Once you see that the breast is cooked about half way through, flip the chicken, ensuring that there is a good golden crust on the bottom. Cook until the chicken feels firm in the thickest area of the breast (start by feeling the thinnest area of the breast.  You will feel how firm it is when it is cooked.  Make sure the thickest part feels that firm too).  Or if you aren’t comfortable with that, cook it to 160 degrees F.  Remove chicken from pan and cover.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes.  This allows all of the juices that rush to the center while cooking to redistribute throughout the chicken again. 

While meat is “resting, ” add noodles to water.  Be sure to stir every few minutes.

Roux - butter and oil Roux Add Flour Roux Add milk Parmesan Thickened sauce

Melt butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat.  Add flour to make a roux.  Once your roux starts turning a golden color, slowly add the milk/half-and-half, stirring constantly.  Continue to stir until the sauce is hot and is thickening.  Add Parmesan.  Stir and continue to heat until it reaches the desired thickness.  Add garlic salt and pepper.  Taste the sauce to determine the amount of salt you want to add.  I add at least a couple of pinches of salt but you might not prefer yours as salty.

Slice chicken and serve over pasta with your Alfredo.  Top with Parmesan if desired.

This sauce is also awesome as an appetizer for dipping. Serve with your favorite crusty french bread.

Coconut Macaroons – Heaven’s Cookie

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Seriously! If there are cookies served in Heaven (how could there not be, right?) – these will be them.  Not only do they come close to being the best thing I’ve ever eaten but they have no butter or oil and only use egg whites so besides a little sugar, they are probably one of the healthier cookies out there.  I only recently became acquainted with coconut macaroons on a summer trip to Denver.  I loved them so much and could not stay away from the little stash my sister-in-law had.  When I returned home, I immediately went on a search for the perfect coconut macaroon.  It only took one shot and I found it.  These are incredibly easy to make and will leave you oooing and awwing with every single bite.  They are slightly crispy on the bottoms and around the very outer layer and just seriously pure chewy heaven on the inside.   I now ensure that I buy coconut every single time I go to the store (in the bulk section)  because these have become a permanent fixture in my cookie jar.   There is one major problem with this recipe, it only makes 12-14 cookies.  Feel free to octuple it :) Enough said.

Of course I always give credit where credit is due… However, my printer was out of ink when I discovered this wonderful recipe, so I had to hand-write it, and now I cannot find it online again for the life of me. I apologize to the macaroon genius who created this beautiful masterpiece.

Ingredients:

3 egg whites

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp almond extract

2 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup flour

Directions:

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In a double boiler, mix egg whites, sugar and salt.  If you do not own a double boiler like me, use a bowl that will fit into a small sauce pan without touching the bottom.  Add about 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of the pan.  The bowl should not touch the water.

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Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly until it is  thoroughly heated and sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Stir in almond extract.  Add coconut and flour.  Stir until incorporated.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour (or if you are like me and can not stop shoving the dough in your mouth and are afraid it won’t last an hour, just stick it in the freezer until it is cool (15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally.

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Heat oven to 325. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.  I know this is an item that not everyone has in your kitchen.  Don’t substitute wax paper.  Wax paper is not meant for being heated so the wax will melt off and burn and smoke.  If you don’t have parchment and don’t see a trip to the grocery store in your near future, line your baking sheet with foil and grease the foil.  It may change the outcome of your cookie slightly but at least you won’t be scraping chunks of cookie stuck onto your baking sheet. Drop dough by 2 heaping Tablespoons or use your medium-sized cookie scoop for the perfect size and shape.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Cool 5 minutes or at least long enough to not singe your tongue because 5 minutes will seem like an eternity.

Serve in a cardboard box shoved way to the back of your pantry where no one else can find it ;) OR you could double the batch and at least let one other person in on your secret stash.

Fall Spice Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake with Text

I am so excited to be blogging right now.  I have missed it so much.  As you may have noticed, it has been almost a full year since the last time I posted a new recipe.  Life gets busy for all of us and unfortunately, my blog had to be put on the back burner BUT both of my sweet rowdy boys are in school FULL TIME now! So, blogging is now attainable once again.

I can’t think of a better way to kick off fall and a new year of blogging than a recipe for the best carrot cake on the planet! My hubby and I both love carrot cake but a good carrot cake is hard to come by. This cake is the perfect combination of dense, fluffy, moist, sweet and spicy and is topped with a delicate, creamy cream cheese frosting.  AND it doesn’t have any chunks (pineapple, coconut or nuts), which is the only way I like it .  Obviously, this is not an opinion shared by all, since many restaurants and bakeries DO add the “chunks”.  If you prefer those ingredients, please by all means, add them to this recipe.  It is a great canvas for whatever your carrot cake loving heart desires.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1 lb (6-7 medium) carrots, peeled and shredded

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups vegetable (I know, took me a few minutes to comprehend that amount of oil :). I have never tried it with this recipe because it is so amazing as is, but you can substitute an equal amount applesauce or at least part applesauce for a healthier version… If you do, please please comment and let me know how it turned out)

Frosting - I doubled the recipe below in order to fill and frost the double layer cake.  If you are just baking the cake in a 9×13, the recipe below should suffice.

8 oz softened cream cheese (I used the 30% less fat [Neuchâtel] cream cheese this last time and it turned out really good, just made a bit thinner frosting than that made with regular cream cheese)

5 T unsalted butter (or salted if you don’t have unsalted on hand), softened

1 T sour cream (I used the low-fat sour cream but if you want the creamier frosting, use regular)

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Carrot Cake

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, set aside.

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In a mixer bowl, beat sugar, brown sugar and eggs together until frothy.  With machine running, add oil in a steady stream and mix until light in color.

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At low-speed, or by hand, stir in carrots and then dry ingredients until no streaks of flour remain.

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Prepare parchment paper for the bottom of pans. I always spray the bottom of the pan with non-stick spray first then lay the cut parchment paper into the pan then spray again for extra non-stick insurance.

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Pour batter into either two 8″ round pans or one 9×13 pan.  I like to use my finger or a knife to measure the amount of batter in each pan so I don’t get one over-filled.

Carrot Cake

Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.  I start with the lowest recommended amount of time or even a few minutes before.  Once the top of the cake no longer looks wet and it doesn’t appear to do any jiggling when I move the pan, I will very lightly touch the center of the cake.  If my fingerprint remains, I add 2-3 more minutes until I can touch it and it bounces back and no indention remains.  Cool on wire rack for a few minutes before removing from the pan.  Cool completely before frosting.

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For frosting, beat softened cream cheese and softened butter together until smooth. Add vanilla and sour cream.  Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

carrot cake carrot cake carrot cake

*Frosting Tips- Place your first cake layer top-side down onto a cake plate.  Place about 1/3 of the frosting into the center of the first layer of cake.  Spread evenly.  Stack the next layer on top of the filling with the flat part (the bottom of the cake) facing toward the top.  This will give you a nicely squared top.  Add the remainder of your frosting to the top of the cake and slowly distribute it, always pushing from the center.  Never lift yourspatula straight up off of the icing.  This will cause the icing to stick to the spatula and pull all of those pesky crumbs off of the cake and into your frosting.  So, work from the middle to the outside and glide back inside again as you take pressure off the spatula then turn the cake plate and again push from the inside to the outside.  Work all of the excess toward the edges of the top of the cake and once you feel you have enough at the edges, then work it down onto the sides, again being careful not to lift the spatula straight up.  Always keep frosting pushing ahead of your spatula. Don’t ever let your spatula touch the cake without a good buffer of frosting in between. Once you get your entire cake covered with frosting, you can smooth it out and make it pretty.

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Pancakes

Maybe I should have called this Pumpkin Month since it seems like it is going to take me a whole month to get around to blogging a weeks worth of recipes.  Thanks everyone for always being so loyal in following my blog even though my life gets busy and I have to put it on the back burner sometimes.  I love blogging so much and wish I had more hours in my day so I could have a daily recipe for you.  Oh well, we do what we can I guess.

It has been so hard deciding which pumpkin recipes to make for this series.  There are so many good ones!  One thing I knew for sure was that I had to blog pumpkin pancakes.  Nothing says fall like pumpkin pancakes on a crisp Sunday morning.  These are super fast to make and are always a huge hit! The beauty of pancake mix is that you can play around with so many different ingredients.  For example, instead of adding pumpkin and spices you can add mashed ripe bananas, cooked oatmeal and cinnamon OR applesauce, oatmeal and cinnamon.  Just always reserve some of the liquid recommended on the package recipe until the very end so you can be sure to accommodate for the extra moisture from the added ingredients.  Pancake mixes are very forgiving so if you find it’s too thick, add more liquid, if it’s too thin, add a bit more mix.

Ingredients:

3 cups Bisquick (or your favorite pancake mix, *see below for tips*)

3 eggs

1 and 1/2 cups milk

***** these are the Bisquick package directions, you will add the following ingredients below to the mix of your choice along with any other ingredients called for on the package directions)

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Mix all dry ingredients.  Add eggs, milk, pumpkin and vanilla, reserving some of the milk (or water) until the end so you can get the consistency you desire.  I prefer my pancakes thick and fluffy, you may prefer to add a bit more liquid for a thinner pancake.

Heat pan or skillet over medium heat for several minutes to evenly heat the pan.  If you start your pan too hot, your pancakes will brown too quickly and result in a gooey center.  Flip when undersides are golden brown and repeat on other side.  Serve with a slab of butter, a dusting of powdered sugar and some real maple syrup…. MMM.. MMM.. MMM! Breakfast is served!

These also freeze well so if you have extras, throw them in a freezer bag and then pop in the microwave for a quick, yummy breakfast.

How exciting! This recipe has been featured on some awesome websites.  Stop by and check them out!

topdreamer.com/irresistibly-delicious-pancake-recipes/

canopi.com/content/2013/9/25/15-mouth-watering-pumpkin-recipes/

bust.com/10-quick-and-easy-meals-to-make-with-pumpkin-bigpumpkin.html

diycandy.com/2013/09/20-delicious-pumpkin-recipes-fall/?pid=302

http://homeandheartdiy.com/pumpkin-pancakes/

Pumpkin Pillows with Salted Caramel Frosting

I have made several variations of this cookie over the years but I think this is my favorite. Before tasting salted caramel, I was not crazy about the idea, but after I did, I understood what this whole Salted Caramel craze was about.  This cookies are so light and “pillowy” (for a lack of a better word).  The frosting is rich and buttery and those little granules of salt on top break the sweetness slightly and just make the taste peak with perfection.   This is a family favorite of ours and will soon be a favorite in  your family I’m sure.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 can canned pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh puree)

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Caramel Frosting

3 Tbsp margarine or butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp kosher or course sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  In large bowl, beat sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup butter until light and fluffy.  Add pumpkin, vanilla and egg; blend well.

Add flour baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; mix well.  Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto un-greased cookie sheets.  (I prefer my medium sized-cookie scoop).

Bake at 350 F. for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown around edges. I usually touch the top off one of the cookies very lightly to be sure it is firm enough not to leave an indentation. Immediately remove from cookie sheets.  Cool completely.

While cookies are baking, prepare frosting.  In medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons margarine then add 1/2 cup brown sugar.  Bring to a boil.   Cook over medium heat 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly.

Cool 10 minutes.  At this point, it will appear like brown sugar with butter melted into it, only a little darker.  It will not be smooth.  Add milk; beat until smooth (It takes a few minutes to get the brown sugar lumps out).  Beat in enough powdered sugar for a good spreading consistency.

Frost cooled cookies then sprinkle very lightly with kosher or sea salt.  Let stand until frosting is set.

Pumpkin Week! Pumpkin Bread Perfection

Your search for the perfect pumpkin bread recipe is over! This is the epitome of sweet bread perfection.  It is really moist and dense and has a delicious crusty cinnamon-sugar topping….mmmm. I can never wait until fall for my first batch of pumpkin bread.  I usually make some for the neighbors too because it’s just too good not to make a loaf for everyone.

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour (or substitute with whole wheat)

2 cups white sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups pumpkin puree

2/3 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

Topping

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Mix all dry ingredients together.  I recommend either sifting them or using a whisk to mix them, there are so many spices and additions to the flour that it is a good idea to get it mixed really well.

Add pumpkin, vanilla, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Mix until no streaks of flour are visible. Confession time… I got completely distracted while making this batch (doesn’t take much) and l forgot to put the oil in!  Seriously, who does that? It’s the oil! The bread STILL came out fabulous! It was not quite as moist as usual but I was shocked at how little difference the oil actually made in this recipe.  As a result, your batter will appear a bit thinner than mine in the above pic, unless of course you decide to leave it out too. :)

Pour into two greased bread pans (8″).  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar topping over each loaf. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until the top no longer appears wet and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cool on for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Cool on wire rack until you just can’t stand it anymore and you have to bust into one.

This recipe has been featured on the following awesome blogs.  Stop by and check them out!

justimagine-ddoc.com/food-and-drink/fall-inspiration-pumpkin-recipes/gallery/image/pumpkin-bread-perfection/

http://ladyslittleloves.com/2013/09/pumpkin-streusel-bread-muffins.html