Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Chocolate peanut butter Chex snack mix: perfect Autumn snack

Monkey munch, puppy chow, reindeer mix...whatever you call it, there are so many variations of this Chex mix snack.

My family loves this stuff and our favorite recipe is this one for chocolate peanut butter Chex mix. Chocolate and peanut butter is the absolute best sweet treat combination...at least it is in my house!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chex Snack Mix Recipe

9 cups Chex cereal, heaping
1 cup chocolate chips (semi sweet), heaping
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup margarine
1 to 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Empty cereal into a LARGE bowl and set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl combine chips, peanut butter and margarine. Heat for 1 minute on high, stirring after 30 seconds.

Remove after 1 minute and stir until there are no lumps. If you need to pop it back in, do so and stir until there are no lumps.

Pour mix over cereal and stir it in well. All cereal pieces should be coated with the melted mix.

Add powdered sugar over the coated cereal and mix until coated.

Store air tight in the refrigerator.

TIP: Last year for Christmas, I purchased lock and lock containers from QVC. I filled them with this mix, placed them into the matching Holiday gift bags that they came with and gave a bag to each of my neighbors as a Christmas gift :)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Anyone else dreaming of pecan pie?

I'm guessing it is the cool and rainy weather, but I have been thinking about baking for Thanksgiving all morning!
I actually sat down and composed a document that contains many of my special Holiday recipes. Yes, I am definitely a "list" type of girl. Lists are my life!

Here is a recipe for the pecan pie that I make every Thanksgiving. I actually make the chocolate version because my family can't get enough of it.
I also included a recipe for a super easy pie crust. It is the perfect time of year to start testing out new recipes for the upcoming Holidays. Let me know if you decide to give this recipe a try...

Pecan Pie

3 eggs (beaten)
1½ cups of granulated sugar
½ cup of corn syrup
2 teaspoons of vanilla
6 tablespoons of melted butter or margarine
1 cup of pecans (halves or chopped, your choice)
1 pie crust

Combine eggs, sugar, syrup, butter and vanilla. Mix together.
Pour mixture into your pie crust.
Sprinkle pecans over the top of the mixture.
Bake for 45 to 60 minutes at 350°.
Eat warm (not hot) or refrigerate.

For a chocolate pecan pie: Add 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips to the bottom of the pie crust before adding pie filling.

Pie Crust

1 Stick of margarine, cut into pieces
1 Cup of flour
4-6 tablespoons of cold water
2 teaspoons of salt

Combine all ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into a ball.
Roll out dough between 2 sheets of floured wax paper.

This will make one 8-9 inch pie crust.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Quiet places to sit, work and drink coffee...

Are you a writer looking for a quiet place to sit and write? How about a teacher looking for a quiet place to grade papers? Whatever it is that you do, so many of us are looking for a cozy and quiet place to do it! Fast food spots are often noisy and that can be extremely distracting when it comes to concentrating on work. Restaurants are usually pretty quiet, but the servers don’t appreciate us taking up residence at one of their tables for two hours. So, what are we to do when we need a quiet place to work that offers comfy seating, free wireless and coffee? Here are three options in the Raleigh area that you might enjoy!

Panera Bread
The Panera located at 8511 Colonnade Center Drive #110 is a great place to work. It is filled with natural light, due to its many windows and has a lot of cozy seating. This particular location has two floors and lots of booth seats. If you plan on working for several hours, it’s no problem! Grab a bite to eat or something to drink as you work. As a rule of thumb, it is always a good idea to make a purchase if you are going to be sitting in an establishment for a while.

Starbucks on Falls of Neuse Road (near Chipotle)
Often times, the smaller Starbucks stores do not offer many seating options. The Starbucks location at 6176 Falls of Neuse Road does offer a good amount of seating. There are comfy booths as well as counter seats. This location offers plenty of natural light as it is located on the corner of the shopping strip. This means windows all around!
Enjoy something sweet with your coffee or try the spinach and feta wrap with your tea!

Jubala Café
Jubala is located at 8450 Honeycutt Road #104 and is usually pretty full! They offer individual table seating, bar seating and shared table seating. Toward the back of the establishment are long tables with about six or eight chairs tucked beneath. You can choose to sit at any long table, but be prepared to share it with several others. There are windows across the front as well as the back which can offer decent lighting on a bright and sunny day. Jubala does offer a wide range of coffee and tea options as well as food choices.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fall baking anyone? It's cheesecake time...says the Dunkin Donut man!


Time to bake the cheesecakes! (Get it...it's a take on the "time to bake the donuts" Dunkin Donut man commercials.)



Now that the weather is cooling down, we won't mind leaving our ovens on to bake a luscious, mouth watering, award winning cheesecake, right?

Here is my "Taste of Home magazine" award winning cheesecake recipe. In addition to being published in Taste of Home magazine, this recipe has been published in several of their "Best Of" cookbooks over the years!


Mascarpone Cheesecake recipe

Crust
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
2 cartons (8 ounces each) Mascarpone cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Topping
1 small container of heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon caramel ice cream topping

Directions
Place a greased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square).
Securely wrap foil around pan.

In a bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar; stir in butter.
Press onto the bottom of prepared pan.
Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 325° for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cheeses, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth.
Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour over crust.
Place springform pan in a large baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan.
Bake at 325° for 50-60 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull.
Remove springform pan from water bath.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Carefully run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.
Refrigerate overnight.

Remove sides of pan.
Before serving, prepare topping.
Place heavy cream in a stand mixer and mix on high speed until almost stiff.
Stop mixer and add powdered sugar.
Continue mixing until ready to spread.
Garnish cheesecake with whipped topping; drizzle with caramel.
Refrigerate leftovers.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Spaghetti squash: How the heck do I cook this stuff?


OK... spaghetti squash is as hard as a rock before it is cooked. So, how in the world do you cook this stuff that everyone seems to be raving about? Of course I have an answer for you.... You use the crockpot! 



Spaghetti squash + Autumn = Crockpot cooking




Plug the slow cooker in and turn it onto high setting, dump 1 cup of water into it, poke knife holes into the squash, place it inside, cover with the lid and let it steam/cook for a few hours. It is as easy as that! 

It will be hot when it is cooked, so remove it using tongs....yes, lesson learned the hard way : )

Cut it in half, remove the seeds with a spoon and then spoon out the spaghetti squash into a large bowl. 

At this point, you can add whatever you like.

For something like the picture you see above:

1 spaghetti squash, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp. butter or olive oil
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley, to taste

Add butter/oil and mix well.
Add cheese and spices.
Mix well and serve.

How easy is that? Want to add protein? Add cooked shrimp, lemon juice from a lemon and whala...a complete meal! 







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