Sunday, December 30, 2012

Macaroni & Cheese Bites

I'm going to put it all on the line here, I'm going to confess something, I could eat just appetizers for my meal.  In fact, I often do.  I  love small samplings of small foods, I love filling myself full before the main course ever even arrives, and taking THAT home in a box because I just couldn't fit another bite.  Not sure why, but I adore appetizers.

Let's see, some of my favorites are Nachos (duh!), buffalo wing bites (you know, the ones with no bones that are easy to eat?), Cheesesteak Eggrolls (yeah, they're a real thing), Spinach Artichoke dip (admittedly, my favorite is from Bertucci's because they serve it with wood fired pizza bread!)....oh, and lets not forget the fried golden balls of macaroni and cheese.  Who invented these things?  THEY are the ones who deserve the Nobel Prize.  I am not kidding.  Ooozy....goooey....cheeeesy...crunchy....warmy goodness, all in one little package.  Such a satisfying bite.  A local restaurant I go to with my friends on Girls Night Out, serves the most amazing appetizers known to man.  Oh, I'm getting all cliche here, I must stop.

Another one of my guilty pleasures has become Pinterest.  You know, that time suck site, the one where you "pin" recipes, crafts, celebrities, etc. etc. etc.   The one that sucks you in for hours while you pin like a madwoman forgoing food and normal hygiene?  Yeah, that one.  I've gotten completely, utterly and totally sucked in.  Pinning recipes to try and "Aldify" for you all.

Yesterday, one caught my attention.  It was a pin for Macaroni & Cheese balls.  We were having friends over this evening and I had planned an appetizer buffet, so I thought this would be a fun one to try.  But you all know me, right?  I can't do something or produce a recipe at face value.  I have to tweak it, add that somethin' somethin' that makes it extra special.  So, yes.  I adjusted the recipe before I even tried it.  And, I will say, it was delicious.  I'm guessing the original recipe I borrowed this from was delicious as well, but....I like mine better (not fair, I know, I haven't even tried theirs technically.....but these were REALLY good, why go back now?).

Macaroni & Cheese Bites

1 Box Cheese Club Macaroni & Cheese
1/4 Cup Country Creamery Milk (I used 2% b/c that's what we have in the house)
1/4 Cup Country Creamery Butter (I used unsalted, but salted would work fine)
1/4 Cup Friendly Farms Cream Cheese
1/4 Cup Friendly Farms Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 Egg, beaten
Bread Crumbs (I used homemade ones that I used from ends of the L'Oven Fresh Whole Wheat Bread)
Salt & Pepper

Prepare Macaroni & Cheese according to package directions, using 1/4 Cup milk & 1/4 Cup butter & cheese sauce packet in the box.  Stir in the cream cheese & shredded monterey jack cheese.  Mix well, until the cream cheese and jack cheese is melted into the mix.

Line a loaf pan with tin foil.  Press Macaroni & Cheese mixture into the pan and cover.  Freeze for about 4 hours.  You can also make this a day ahead and put in the fridge.  The Macaroni & Cheese being cold is KEY to this recipe turning out well.

After Macaroni & Cheese is solid, remove from freezer and from pan.  Peel away the tin foil.  Cut in half lengthwise, then cut into slices - I cut in half, then cut each half in half, etc.  Until I ended up with 16 rectangles.

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.

Dip all sides of the sliced Macaroni & Cheese in beaten egg, then press into bread crumbs.  Feel free to season these bread crumbs how YOU desire.  I used salt & pepper in the bread crumbs to add a touch of flavor.  You could use pre-seasoned crumbs as well, if you'd like. Note:  You may need to add more egg.  Make sure all sides are coated well with the bread crumbs.

Place breaded Macaroni & Cheese rectangles on a greased baking sheet - I spray mine with Carlini Canola Spray.  After all are on the sheet, spray again with cooking spray.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake another 10 minutes or until all sides are golden brown and toasty.

Serve with your favorite dip, sauce, marinara, what have you.   Enjoy the gooey warm goodness.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn's Hot Fudge Topping

In keeping with the theme, and after pulling out the recipes that Mary sent home with me from Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn in Ahmeek, MI....I had another craving.

One of our nights there, Mary served this dessert:

Do you see that, amazing fudge brownie, topped with delicious vanilla ice cream, homemade hot fudge and a raspberry sauce.  Well, the brownie recipe will have to wait, well, until Aldi has baker's chocolate (okay, I might buy a bar somewhere else and make them anyway!).  But this sauce, fudgy, creamy, oozy.....oh, it was heaven.  I did have to ask my children to look away as I licked the plate!

Oh, for those have checked out the connected link, and seen just how amazing Sand Hills is, you also need to know that Mary serves dessert in the parlor in the evenings.  And then entertains with piano.  Quite a warm cozy night.

Well, as is Mary's custom, she shared the recipe with me, and now, I share it with you.  It took a little adjusting as the caramels she usually uses is not sold at Aldi, mine sells Werther's Original Soft Caramels, so I adjusted to use that as my base.

Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn's Hot Fudge Topping

41 Werther's Original Soft Chewy Caramels (you will need two bags but BARELY use the 2nd bag)
8 oz Chocoer Milk Chocolate (I used 1 whole bar, and 4 squares from a 2nd bar)
1/3 cup Friendly Farms Milk
1 tsp. Baker's Corner Pure Vanilla
1 Cup Bentons All Natural Vanilla Ice Cream

In a double boiler, melt the caramels with the milk.  When it is smooth and melted, add the chocolate (I broke mine up into squares) and the vanilla.  Stir until the chocolate is melted.  Then, add the vanilla ice cream.  Stir until it is thoroughly melted/blended.

Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.  This makes approximately 24 oz.  I stored mine in 3 8 oz jelly jars.  I do recommend warming it up before using IF you're not using right away.

This evening I made this for friends coming to dinner.  I served just over vanilla ice cream, and it was received very well! :)

Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn's Whipped Cream Scones

"Leave my scones alone, you can get your own", there are so many more lines to this song, but I cannot remember them.

Ahhhh, terrific memories from our visit to Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn in Ahmeek, MI the week of Thanksgiving 2012.  How did we end up there you ask?  Well, in 1999, while pregnant with my first child, hubby and I made the 22 hour drive to stay in an actual Lighthouse. A dream come true for husband, and for me, also.  The innkeepers, Bill & Mary Frabotta, were incredibly warm and inviting.  And the lighthouse was truly a "getaway".  Quiet, lovely, relaxing.  After leaving there, my husband designed their website, and to the day, maintains their web presence.  It's a long drive, but WELL worth the trip.  It was like staying in a castle by the lake, and being treated like royalty.

For many years, Bill & Mary have BEGGED us to come visit, and this year we decided to put the dog in the kennel, pack up all three kids in our minivan, and make the trek up to the Copper Harbor region of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and visit Bill & Mary and The Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn.  From the moment we arrived, until three days later, we enjoyed laughter, peace, rest, and lots and lots of food.  Mary is an enviable cook, as his her mate Bill.  I gained AT LEAST 10 lbs in our short stay.  One of my son's favorite was the Whipped Cream Scones.  In fact, it created such a stir that Mary wrote us a song.  I hold out hope that she will record it and send it to us!  Such joy!

When planning our annual Christmas breakfast with my parents, my son said "oh, Mom, you HAVE to make the scones".  And so....I did.  Using all Aldi ingredients.  The were easier than I anticipated, and turned out very delicious!

I recommend them topped with the Berry Hill Raspberry Preserves!

In the coming weeks, I hope to recreate a few of Mary's delicious recipes ala Aldi-style.

Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn Whipped Cream Scones

2 3/4 Cups Grandma's Best Flour
6 Tbs. Grandma's Best Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Tbs Baker's Corner Baking Powder
1 tsp. Sebree Salt
1 stick Country Creamery Unsalted Butter
2 Golden Hen Eggs
1 Cup Friendly Farms Heavy Whipping Cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl.

In another bowl, beat the two eggs until frothy.  Add one cup whipping cream and beat.  Add this mixture to the flour/butter mixture and combine thoroughly with a spoon until a dough forms.

Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness on a pastry cloth and cut into desired shapes.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar (I forgot this step! so I sprinkled with powdered sugar!!!!).  Place on a parchment-line baking sheet.

Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes.

Mary's note:  If baking in a convection oven, bake at 356 degrees for 11 minutes.

We enjoyed them thoroughly, but all agreed that Mary makes them better! :)  WE MISS YOU MERRY MARY & BILL! <3

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Nutella is a favorite in our house.  My son makes what he lovingly calls a "S'more Sandwich" for lunch somedays, it's Nutella (aka Chocolate Hazlenut Spread) and Fluff on bread.  Granted, it is not my proudest parenting moment to admit that I let him do this more often than he should.  On a day when feel he needs to put more protein in it, I make him add peanut butter, too.  That balances it out, right?

WELL.....perusing the aisles at Aldi this past weekend, purchasing my annual Christmas Cookie supplies, tucked next to the peanut butter, I saw the most welcomed sight....Berry Hill Hazlenut Spread!

Not only was my son overjoyed, but I got a bee in my bonnet today about making a cookie celebrating this loved ingredient.

It was quite obvious that they were delicious.  They're gone already.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

1/2 Cup Shortening
3/4 Cup Berry Hill Hazelnut Spread
1/4 Cup Grandma's Best Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Grandma's Best Brown Sugar
1 Golden Hen Egg
2 Tbs. Friendly Farms Milk
1 tsp. Stonehill Classics Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups Grandma's Best All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baker's Corner Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Sebree Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat shortening, peanut butter in a large bowl until well blended.  Add the granulated and brown sugars.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add egg, milk and vanilla.  Beat well.

In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda and salt.  Slowly add to the shortening/peanut butter mixture.

Scoop onto a greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheet (I use a Tbs. cookie scoop, but you could also use two spoons and scoop them on).  Leave about 1 1/2" between each cookie.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until edges look crisp.

Let cool for 1 or 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheet to a rack to cool.  Completely cool before storing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

Keeping with the theme, and using up some more of the Raspberry Preserves from yesterday's thumbprints, I thought I'd make my friend Betsy's nearly world famous Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars.  Betsy and I have been good for many years.  When she first gave me this recipe, I had to convert it to a gluten-free recipe .  They were very good, even gluten-free.

I was sitting at the table tonight, after about my 13th cookie, wondering what I was going to do with all the rest of the preserves.  I love peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, but one can only eat so many in a week.  You could also make these Raspberry Breakfast Treats.

So, for your eating enjoyment, here's another recipe that will use up the preserves, and make your tummy happy!

I had many friends over today, and they all agreed, they were very tasty.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars

1/2 Cup Grandma's Best Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Baker's Corner Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Baker's Corner Shortening
1/2 Cup Berry Hill Peanut Butter
1 Golden Hen Egg
1 1/4 Cup Grandma's Best Flour
3/4 Tsp Baker's Corner Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Baker's Corner Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Berry Hill Raspberry Preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together granulated sugar, brown sugar, shortening, peanut butter and large egg.

In a separate bowl mix flour, baking soda and baking powder.

Mix dry ingredients with sugar/shortening mixture until coarse crumbs.  Set aside 1 cup.

Press the rest into a greased 13" X 9" baking pan.  Spread 1/2 Cup of the Raspberry Preserves over this layer.  Crumble reserved crust mixture on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cool completely on a rack before trying to cut.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Easy Raspberry Thumbprints

Have you ever had a crazy holiday week, where you have parties, get togethers, gatherings, and gifts!  And your rushing all over the place, then you child looks at you and says "Mom, you're supposed to bring cookies".  The temptation to buy them from the grocery store is very great, but then, they all know you love to bake, so they're expecting something homemade, special and delicious.  These cookies combine the best of both worlds, it's quick and easy, but it also gives the air of homemade and the impression that you slaved for hours.

Quick, easy, special.

Bakehouse Creations Prepared Sugar Cookie Dough (in the refrigerated aisle)
Berryhill Red Raspberry Preserves
2 Tbs. Baker's Corner Vanilla Frosting

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Open cookie dough and cut apart into 24 squares.  Roll each square into a ball.

Place balls about 1 1/2" apart on a greased cookie sheet (or a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, which is my preferred method) Using a 1/4 Tsp measure (or your thumb if your nails aren't too long!), press a well into the center of each ball.  Spoon in about 1/4 tsp of the preserves into the well.

Bake 14-18 minutes until cookies are spread and flattened and preserves are bubbly.  I know this seems long, but trust me, it takes that long at the lowered temperature.

Allow to cool for about 1 minute before trying to remove from the tray.  I also recommend letting them cool on a rack completely before trying to consume, the jelly will be very hot.  Let's just say I learned the hard way.

Melt frosting in the microwave for about 10-20 seconds.  Using a fork, drizzle over cooled cookies.

**another substitution idea....use Peanut Butter Cookie dough instead of Sugar Cookie dough and make PB&J cookies!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas is coming, Hannukah is here....

It's that time of year again.  Is it Christmas?  Hannukah?  Kwanzaa?  Or Holidays?  In our house, it's Christmas.  In yours it could be something else.  So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa.  My most favorite thing about this season is that there are traditions.  Each and every family has a unique and special way to celebrate their respective holidays.  And it usually includes food.  Aldi, this time of year, is decked out in everything you need for cookie baking, party going, party hosting, and whatnot (yes, I said whatnot - BABAM!).

My oldest and I have just been on a baking prep binge preparing 4 different cookie doughs to be baked at a later date.  And on the horizon are the rest of our goodies.  BE WATCHFUL, or you'll miss them.

Tomorrow, I'll be doing a new recipe, Jam Thumbprints, which will be perfect for the last minute cookie to give or take to a party.  Easy, breezy, Aldi-riffic!!!

While you wait, however, don't forget to check out Benton's Candy Cane Creme Sandwich cookies, and Benton's Peppermint Ice Cream.  Absolutely perfect ways to get your mint craving satisfied!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cherry Almond Crunch Bars

No funny story to go with this one, sorry folks!  I was craving almonds and cherries together, and we had a Christmas party to go to, so I HAD to make something I was craving, that was easy to make.  I spent the day at the mall, waiting in a 2 1/2 hour line to meet the Barefoot Contessa herself!  YAY! :)  So I was TIRED!


Cherry Almond Crunch Bars

1/2 Cup Country Creamery Unsalted Butter
1 Pkg. Baker's Corner Yellow Cake Mix
1 Can Baker's Corner Cherry Pie Filling
1/2 Cup chopped Almonds (or walnuts or pecans) * this is seasonal, you might have to buy whole and chop them up yourself!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cut butter into the cake mix.  Set aside about 1 cup.  Pat remaining crumbs into a 13X9 pan.  Press onto the bottom and up about 1" of the sides.  Spread pie filling over the bottom crust.  Add almonds to the reserved cake mix/butter mixture and mix well.  Crumble over the top of the pie filling.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until browned and bubbly.

Tastes great warm with whipped cream, or ice cream!   Also great chilled and served "bar" style.