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Monday, November 4, 2013

Cheezy Mexi Rice

So I know that I said my next post would be Kahlua Almonds, BUT... unfortunately I cannot find the Kahlua Coffee Liqueur anymore. I fear the horrible problem I find myself often faced with has yet again happened. It's been......DISCONTINUED! I mean its pretty bad when I can't even find it on amazon. Now on to the rice. Bear with me for now, I haven't taken any pictures yet, but I will, and update it all together into one beautiful post.

      This rice is seriously awesome. I love it and it is so dang easy to make. Today, as I was perusing Sam's club, which turned out to be a horrible trip, but that is another story, or rant whichever, I found they had a new addition to their frozen veggies. I know it wont work forever, but hey this is a quickie post anyway, but here is the link for it. http://www.samsclub.com/sams/flav-r-pac-baja-roasted-vegetables-corn-blend-4-5-lbs/prod4050148.ip?navAction=

     Yup, Baha roasted corn blend. It was fate, I had to make this dish.

     Basically, I took two cups of rice and prepared it with a tiny bit of butter.
When the rice was about halfway cooked, I added in about  1 1/2 cups of salsa. Now, I personally use the mildest salsa possible, but remember I also have four kids that I am also feeding this to. Then I mixed in one of the bags of the new Baha mix from sam's club, and finished cooking it in the microwave. No, I don't have a time that it took since my microwave is seriously awesome and has a sensor for just about everything you want to cook.

     After the rice was nice and cooked, the veggies were perfectly done at the same time, and it was all nice and steamy, I emptied it into another bowl and added some shredded cheddarjack cheese to it, and mixed it up. As usual, I didn't measure but if I had to guess, I would say I used about 1-1/2 cups.

     While serving it, I put 3/4 of a cup of the rice, then put a dollop of sour cream on top. I then added about 5 tortilla chips on the side, to eat with them, and.....PERFECTION!!! The kids loved, it, I loved it, even the baby loved his portion!
   
     As I said before though, I will come back and edit this when I actually think to take the pictures, but the recipe is simple enough, that pictures won't be necessary on this one.

GOOD LUCK ALL AND HAPPY EATING!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds


 I am well aware that this post is long overdue and I apologize for the delay. This recipe is both complicated and extremely simple at the same time. This time I am not going to simply list the ingredients you need, since there are some important details you need to know as well. Lets talk cooking pan. It needs to be short, not tall like a stock pot. Cooking this in a stockpot type of pan will result in burned hands. This is what I am using so you can get a good idea.
 It needs to be able to handle high heat as well, so your cheap little dollar store pans are probably not going to be able to handle it.

WARNING: DO NOT DOUBLE THIS RECIPE!!!
"Why can't I double the recipe" you ask? For the same basic reason you need a shallow pan like the one above, burned hands! As the almonds cook in your pan, the water is going to be boiling off, and all that steam and heat is going to hit your hands since you need to be stirring almost constantly. If you double the recipe, your hand will be in that heat and steam for twice as long!  

Ok now that I have scared you enough, here is what you are going to need:

Cinnamon
Sugar
Water
RAW Almonds
Vanilla in a spray bottle




 It may be just a dollar store spray bottle, but spraying the vanilla is so much better than just simply pouring the vanilla on the almonds. Trust me, it doesn't turn out the same.

NOW TO BEGIN!!!

First pour in your cinnamon and sugar in the pot. How much you use is up to you, some people like more cinnamon, some people like less but more sugar, etc. Generally I use 2 cups of sugar and 2 Tablespoons of cinnamon. Mix these up but not too quickly unless you want a face full of cinnamon powder. Take my word for it, I learned it the hard way.
Next mix in your water. I generally use 1 or 1 1/2 cups, and though it look thin, remember that even though it is all just going to boil off, it also going to be cooking your almonds! The rule of thumb I have found is that you have enough to barely cover the almonds.

 The next step is rather obvious if you read the step above, add in the almonds! I usually use 3-4 cups.


 Now is the heat. Medium works well for your first time, but I wouldn't go over Medium-High, because there is too much of a risk of getting burned. so mix up all your almonds, making sure they are all coated in the sugar mix.
Here comes the long arduous part of the recipe You are now going to let the almonds cook. While you don't need to stir absolutely non stop, I would not suggest letting it sit for more than a full minute. Once it starts bubbling, it is even more important that you not leave your stove. I usually have an employee, friend or my husband help out with this recipe, to be sure it gets done right. While it is possible to do it alone, it can be extremely difficult. Even if you have someone to watch the kids for 20 minutes or hand you things, I suggest getting help, especially if this is your first time!
As the almonds cook and the water boils off slowly, the sugar mixture will begin looking stringy. THIS IS A GOOD THING! DO NOT FEAR!!!

Once the sugar mix gets stringy enough that you lift the spoon and you can see where it lands, it is almost time for the vanilla. This is the "complicated" part. If you have been following the measurements I have been using, the easiest thing to do is to measure 1/4 cup of vanilla into the spray bottle and then empty it. The heat is going to stay on, and you are going to spray the vanilla over the almonds while stirring them. (See why I get help?) This is the moment I think the almonds smell the best, but by now your house is definitely smelling really good! 

Finishing up is pretty simple. It will become very obvious when they are about done, but the trick is to take them off the heat right before they look completely dry. They will harden up on the baking sheet, but if you leave them in the pan, you will achieve cinnamon almond brittle that is most likely stuck to the pan, and you have to chip it out. When they are done, they look almost completely dry.  

Again, DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THE PAN TO COOL!!! Pour them out on paper, on a baking sheet, or whatever, but do not leave them in the pan! Personally I like to eat them only a few minutes after they are done, and still warm, but they will last a long time (up to 2 weeks) so if you want to use them as gifts you can too! 

My good friend helped me out today, and she is a great inspiration as well as a friend. Check out her blog @  http://liftingthesoul.blogspot.com/ . Of course don't forget to follow mine for more great recipes too!


CLEAN UP IS A BREEZE!! Don't you just love recipes that clean up easily? I certainly do. If you have a dishwasher, you can just stick your pan and spoon in there as long as there are no nuts left in it. The hot water dissolves the sugar, and the pan cleans off so easy. I LOVE IT!!! Ok, study up on this recipe and get used to it, because my next post will be Kahlua Almonds and the recipe is almost identical! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Seriously Good but Seriously Ugly Chip Dip

Seriously Good but Seriously Ugly Chip Dip




 Yes, you read that right. This chip dip, at least in the pot, it seriously ugly and nasty looking but is some of the best dip for tortilla chips of any kind. It gives weight to the saying "Don't knock it til ya try it." But to give it credit, this has nothing but packaged foods, and if you know my severe preference for fresh ingredients, you know this is a big deal.
 This is one of the easiest recipes you will ever use and can be put in a slow cooker to be served at a party, or tastes fine cold too, though I prefer it warm. For this recipe you will need:

1 Package of Cream Cheese
1 Bottle of Salsa
1 Can of Refried Beans
1 Can of Chili
1 Tub of Sour Cream
1 Package shredded cheese

I am serious when I say that this recipe is one of the simplest you will ever use, it is in its most basic form, to take all of the ingredients listed above and mix them all together while heating it up. Yup, that's it. I will for your sake though, provide the order I make it to make it well mixed. 

The first thing I put in the pot is the Cream cheese. Brand doesn't really matter, but as my husband has told me, I tend to be a snob about certain things, and I like Philidelphia for any recipe I use cream cheese. I use the Warm setting on my stove, but it tends to run hotter than most, so Low would be preferable. I suggest not going over Low since, if you burn the bottom of this recipe you will have to start all over, there is no fix. If you cut the cream cheese up into squares, it will melt faster.



 Next you will add the salsa. For some reason, adding the salsa to the cream cheese helps the cream cheese break up completely so you don't have any chunks of cream cheese in your dip. This is the only time I use a whisk in this recipe, but it is not necessary.
 After the cream cheese is melted and mixed in with the salsa completely, its time to add in the refried beans. Like the picture? Yeah, it seriously reminds me of a can of dog food. My secret for always getting it out in one easy piece? Stick a butter knife in and run it around the sides of the can. It makes it come out so much easier.
 The refried beans are kind of like the cream cheese. Though not as difficult, they will not mix completely into the dip until heated up. Next comes the can of Chili. Yet again, it doesn't really matter what kind you use, I have even used home made chili before, but my personal preference is Nally's Cheesy Chili, it just seems to work best. The chili is really easy to mix in, and after it is mixed in, you will want to leave it for a minute or two so the mixture can heat up. This will make the last two steps easier.

Once the mixture is heated up to luke warm, not boiling, add in the sour cream. If the mix is warm, the sour cream will stir in very easily.
Now that the sour cream is in, let it heat up again. This should be really quick this time, so don't go chatting on the phone. Now you add in your shredded cheese. As with everything else in this recipe, brand doesn't matter, but I like Colby Jack or Cheddar Jack the best for this. Mix it up until all of the cheese is mixed in and heat it up again. 
Once the cheese is melted completely, it is officially finished! Go on! Grab your tortilla chip and grab a big bite! Oh, worth it wasn't it? Yeah that's what my thought was too. Remember to refrigerate the leftovers. 
Clean up? Oh this is a breeze. Because of the cheese and the beans, when the dip dries to the dishes, it scrapes right off. So if you find that you haven't cleaned your dishes and it is caked on, never fear! It is yet again seriously simple to clean up! Enjoy and remember to follow the blog for more recipes!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Confetti Salad (frogeyes)

Confetti (frogeye) Salad


     This recipe is seriously simple, with a lot of steps. While it is pretty hard to mess up, it is easy to get lost in the steps of it, so as usual, read through beforehand! 
For this recipe you will need:

Acini de Pepe
Whipping cream
vanilla extract
powdered sugar
food coloring of your choice (optional)
cans of pineapple (tidbits or chunks)
can of crushed pineapple (optional)
cans of mandarin oranges
marshmallows
package of instant vanilla pudding
milk


Ok, a few notes before starting. Notice that it is called Confetti salad? No I am not trying to be clever, I have found that when making this for little kids who come over to play, they will not eat something called frog eye salad with little bits of pasta that look like frog eyes, no matter how many times you tell them they are not actually frog eyes. I remedied this by simply coloring the pasta and renaming it confetti salad. Suddenly, though it tastes exactly the same, they will eat it. Whatever works, right?

I am all for saving money but there are certain instances when it just isn't going to work. If I was making rice krispy treats, I would get the cheap store brand marshmallows. Obviously in this recipe I am not, so I get the brand name so that I know they are not going to stick together and have a chunk of marshmallow in my salad. Store brand pineapple is not cut well and has parts of the core in it, and store brand mandarin oranges are notorious for having seeds! Other than that, there really is no problem getting the cheaper versions of the other ingredients. 


MAKE YOUR OWN WHIPPED CREAM! It is possible to use that freezer gunk, but honestly the only positive that came out of that for me was I had disposable dishes to put the salad in when I was done. Whipped cream is so simple, that the freezer gunk is just not worth it. Heavy whipping cream, and a little vanilla and powdered sugar. Now whip. Yes, it is really that simple.

Since I generally make this recipe for clients, I use #10 cans of fruit also. This is why I make my own "crushed" pineapple. If you decide to use an actual can of crushed pineapple that is fine but a cheaper can and a blender works great for me.

To make your own "crushed" pineapple, just use your blender or food processor and put some of the pineapple in, with a little of the juice and use the lowest setting. All done! That was easy!

Let's start on the base. First goes the package of vanilla pudding. 

Next pour in some milk. DO NOT follow the directions on the box of pudding, we are only using the mix.

Next, pour in some of the pineapple juice. I also like to add in a little bit of the juice from the oranges, but that is optional as well. 

Mix those up really well so that it is still liquid but you can tell it is starting to set.

Next pour in your crushed pineapple and mix up. This will be the last step you need a whisk for, so go ahead and put it in the dishwasher or sink. You can use it for the whole recipe if you want, but personally I don't like shaking fruit out of my whisks and taking twice as long to finish.

I cannot tell you how long it took me to realize this. You don't need to drain the fruit from the cans like most people do. Pour it all in the colander!!! Amazing, right? Oh just wait, my favorite trick is coming up.

Add all the drained fruit in. Obviously you can add in more fruit or different fruit, but the pineapple and oranges are a must for the flavor. This is also the step where you would add in coconut. I cannot stand coconut. I hate it so much that I don't ever even use extract.


Let's talk about your pasta. You would think this would be simple, but it's kind of different for every recipe. First of all, there are different types of Acini de Pepe. Today I used the type that looks like tiny little beads. This type cooks very fast. Normally I use the type that is just a solid tiny little ball, but this takes a lot longer to cook. This is why I make the base first, since the cooking times on your pasta will vary. "NOW WAIT!" you may be saying. "How did the pasta already get pink?" This is actually very simple. Just add the food coloring into the water when you cook the pasta. This makes the pasta colored, but it doesn't bleed out into the salad and the whipped cream gets to stay white!  

If you have read my other posts with pasta in the recipe, you know that I NEVER leave hot pasta in the colander. This makes the pasta keep cooking! This is especially dangerous for this recipe, as the frog eyes will clump together in big clumps and then it literally ruins then entire salad! But unlike other recipes, this will not be using hot pasta. We are going to shock it. Whoa! Don't get your tasers out just yet! This is my favorite part to do with the kids! They think it is magical. The first step is draining your hot pasta in the colander.

Now fill your pot about half way with ice!


Pour the hot pasta back into the pot with ice, and start stirring. This will make sure the frog eyes don't stick together while cooling it down at the same time. Yes I am aware your mother probably taught you to just rinse it all off with running cold water. First of all, what a waste! Secondly, it doesn't cool these off fast enough and you could still end up with yucky clumps. Finally, if you rinse it with cold water, you will miss the kids magic trick. 

You may be asking yourself, "Well great. They are cooled down, but I would really rather not reach in there and pick out all the ice cubes that didn't melt." Well hold on cause here comes the magic trick!

Put your pot in the sink and start slowly running HOT water into the pot. Yes I said hot, no I did not say enough that it will overflow or start cooking the pasta again. This may be a "DUH" moment to you but you would be surprised the people that don't understand this concept. Stir your pasta one or two times while the HOT water is running in. Seeing the magic yet?

You guessed it! All that ice has now floated to the surface and you can now just scoop it out with either your hand or a slotted spoon.

This leaves just the water and the pasta! Now go ahead and drain it in the colander. You may want to shake it around a little to get as much of the water as humanly possible out of it.

Add your pasta, or confetti, into the base.

Stir it up really well, using a rubber spatula so it doesn't crush any of the pasta, and doesn't get stuck in the whisk. Again, unless you like that kind of thing.

Now you will stir in your marshmallows. How many you use is a personal preference, but remember the more you use, the more juice they will suck up and the salad could get kind of dry and look old if you use too much.



Now you add in your whipped cream or whipped topping gunk from the freezer, obviously not frozen. This is why we add the marshmallows first, if you add the marshmallows last like some recipes do, it is difficult to tell where they are and how well you have mixed it.

I prefer to serve this as soon as possible after making it, but it will keep ok for a week or so. 

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cashew Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Cashew Chicken Salad Sandwiches


Here it is folks, the dish that literally launched My Tasty Little Secret from a hobby to an actual business. Beware, it is addicting. The kind of food that, even though your brain is telling you "THERE IS NO MORE ROOM!!!" your taste buds are telling you "please just a little more!" This recipe is ridiculously easy, but first you will need to make balsamic chicken, which is on the post prior to this. You don't want to make this while the chicken is hot out of the oven, but it is best to make about 10-15 minutes after you take it out of the oven, and still a little warm. Here is what you will need:

Balsamic Chicken
Cashews (bits and pieces)
Red onion
Celery
Red grapes
Mayonnaise

First cut up the chicken into pieces. I did 1/2 inch cubes and pieces and used 6 chicken breasts. The main point is to focus on who will be eating it. I usually like pieces just a little bigger, but for tonight this was dinner for my kids, so I made the pieces smaller.

See that? Those are the drippings in the pan from making the balsamic chicken. You won't need much. I use a spoonful for each chicken breast.

Drizzle the drippings over the cut up chicken and stir.

Here comes the Mayo! Honestly, it doesn't really matter which you use, depends on your taste and if you are using this as a low fat food. I use good old Miracle Whip. One you may not want to use is the olive oil mayo though, as the drippings are mainly olive oil. Now stir that up.

The last few steps don't really matter as in order of what you add, but I like to add in order from hardest to softest so none of the ingredients get smashed. So here, I added the cashews.

Here I added the celery. I used two stalks, split them down the middle and cut them up into bits. This is also where you add the red onion bits, if you want, but if you put the onions on as rings at the end, it works as well.

Ah the red grapes. I love adding these into the recipe, but it also means it doesn't keep in the fridge for more than a day or two. For this recipe I take the grapes and cut them in half, this helps the sandwich stay together better and you don't have grapes popping out of the sandwich and taking some poor unsuspecting person's eye out! As usual, mix it up!

As for the bread. It really doesn't matter. Today I used french steak rolls, but when I serve these to customers, I generally use croissants and cut them in half. Remember, croissants are seriously fatty, so if you are trying to keep this healthy, don't do it.