Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chocolate Dipped Everything (And Some Peanut Butter, Too)

I know Valentine's Day isn't fun for everyone, (believe me, I really, really, do know this), but darn it all, the chocolate part is awesome. Who doesn't love chocolate dipped everything? These couple "recipes" are so easy to do you'll wonder why you ever paid for anything covered in chocolate and why you didn't just do it for yourself. This goes for the chocolate peanut butter candy, too.

I sent these off to Disney a long time ago, and I'm repeating them here because they're just too worthy of being shared. My youngest (who is now 11) loves helping make anything sweet. I suspect this is simply because she loves to consume anything sweet, but at this point in the parenting game, I'll take anything.

Once you've made up a batch of Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, you'll be armed an ready to face your true love and they won't care if you don't have a diamond for them this year ... sorta.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Makes 20


20 or so large clean, dry strawberries with leaves intact
1/2 lb semi-sweet chocolate, chopped


1. Place chocolate in the top of a double-boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir chocolate until melted, about 5 minutes.
2. Line a cookie sheet or tray with waxed paper or parchment paper.
3. Dip strawberries, one at a time, into the melted chocolate. These can also be dipped into nuts or sprinkles once they are coated in chocolate. Set on paper lined tray and chill for 20 minutes until set. Longer than an hour in the refrigerator will cause condensation on the strawberries, so be careful not to overdo it.
4. Place strawberries into a lined box or pretty mini-cupcake liners if you're giving as a gift.

Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods
Makes 24


1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips
24 pretzel rods
sprinkles and nuts, (optional)


1. Pour the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at half power for one minute. Stir with a silicone spatula. Continue to microwave at intervals of 15-60 seconds until chocolate is completely melted. Stir until smooth.
2. Dip half of the pretzel stick into the chocolate. (If it starts to get thick, warm in the microwave for 8-10 seconds.)
3. Dip the coated end of the pretzel into sprinkles, nuts, tinted shredded coconut, or anything for extra color. Stand up in a glass or lay on a cookie sheet (prepared with cooking spray or lined with waxed paper) until set.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
Makes one 8 x 8 pan


6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup chocolate chips


1. Melt together peanut butter and butter and blend until smooth.
2. Add in graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar. Mix well and press evenly into an 8x8 baking pan that has been fitted with parchment or waxed paper.
3. Melt chocolate chips until smooth and pour over peanut butter mixture. Smooth over the top and refrigerate half an hour until firm.
4. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before cutting into bars.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mardi Gras

I love that we have a two-fer in February as far as holidays go, and they are two of my favorite. These recipes will help you celebrate a most delicious Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) on February 13, this year. Try to save some room for the day after, which is a requisite chocolate consumption day - Valentine's Day.

I say "try" because I know how delicious each of these recipes is and I'd have a hard time saving room, too. I originally sent these to Disney for Family.com, which is now defunct, and for a short while they were part of the web site for The Princess and the Frog before moving on to Spoonful.com. The web changes so quickly, though, and the recipes are no longer there. Through the magic of Archive.org, here is a link to where they were housed on Spoonful: Archive.org - Spoonful.com Great Mardi Gras Recipes.

I have already shared several of them here and you can find links to those at the end of the post. Here are the final three, Red Beans and Rice, Shrimp Jambalaya, and Beignets - Enjoy!

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

This thick and hearty stew-like dish is Cajun cooking at its finest. Red beans and the Cajun 'Holy Trinity' of celery, onion and green pepper combine with smoked sausage to make one fine meal. Add more Cayenne or hot sauce as you see fit, there's no way to get that part wrong.

Red Beans and Rice

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Serves: 4

1/2 pound cooked red kidney beans
1/2 pound smoked sausage or kielbasa cut up bite size
1 medium onion-diced
1 green pepper-diced
2 stalks celery-diced
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic-minced
4 cups water
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tablespoon hot sauce
2 cups already cooked long grain white rice - kept warm for serving


1. Combine beans, sausage, onion, pepper, celery, parsley, bay leaf, Cayenne, garlic and
water in a large Dutch oven.
2. Heat to boiling and reduce heat to a low simmer. Lid tightly and cook for 2 hours.
3. Remove bay leaf and add butter, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Stir well and
serve over cooked white rice.

Shrimp Jambalaya

The French word for ham is 'jambon' which is where the term 'jambalaya' comes from. Any jambalaya just isn't right to me if it doesn't contain the smoked meat. This shrimp version is quick and flavorful with just the right kick.

Shrimp Jambalaya

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 35 minutes
Serves: 6


2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/3 cup each diced green, yellow and red peppers
1 cup diced lean ham
2 cloves minced garlic
16 ounces diced tomato
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long grain white rice
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 pound shelled and deveined shrimp


1. Heat a large and deep skillet over medium-high and add oil.
2. Toss in onion, peppers, celery and garlic. Stir and cook for 5 minutes, or until 
3. Add ham, tomato and chicken broth and heat for 2 minutes.
4. Stir in rice and seasonings and turn the heat very low. Lid tightly and let cook for 
20 minutes.
5. After 20 minutes, check to see that the rice is tender and add the shrimp. Lid again 
and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until shrimp is pink. Serve hot.


A morning in New Orleans wouldn't be the same without beignets and cafe au lait made with chicory (see Cafe du Monde). NOLA's answer to doughnuts, the beignet is a light and airy fritter sprinkled with mounds of powdered sugar and served in threes -- the only way to enjoy them to their fullest.


Hands-On Time: 30min
Cook Time: 4h 30min
Ready In: 5h
Yield: 2 dozen


1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, 110 to 115 degrees
1 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
oil for frying, enough for 2 inches of oil in the pan


1. Stir together yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes until bubbly.
2. Add in evaporated milk, sugar, salt, oil and egg and stir until well blended.
3. Add the flour one cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
5. Punch dough down and roll into a rectangle 12 by 8 inches. Cut into 2-inch squares and let stand for several minutes.
6. While dough is standing, heat frying oil to 360 degrees. Make sure oil is at least 2 inches deep.
7. Fry dough squares, a few at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Remove to paper toweling to drain well.
8. Shake powdered sugar over beignets and serve warm with cafe au lait!

DO NOT miss the rest of these recipes - linked here:


Corn Maque Choux

King Cake

Sweet Potato Pie with Praline Sauce

Monday, January 08, 2018

Pork with White Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

Pantry staples are a must in a large family. Weekly shopping is tedious enough for us without having to resort to trips throughout the week to stock up. This is especially true in the winter when much fresh produce just isn't the same quality or affordability that it is in warmer months.

Turning to your pantry for more than half of your meals isn't a bad thing, it's a decidedly good thing, especially with quality canned goods. ShopRite has standards that many other brands don't, and it's evident in the beans and tomatoes used for this recipe. The imported cherry tomatoes are like little orbs of sunshine in a can. The flavor is bright and blends well with tiny little white beans. If you can't find fresh cherry tomatoes at any time of year, the imported babies from ShopRite are a very fine substitute.

This can be made with pork or chicken, the cooking time is just about the same for both. The leek adds a dimension of flavor that we really love here, but if you aren't mad about leeks, shallots or even spring onions will do well. About a cup of chopped green onion or 2 small shallots should do the trick.

Pork with White Beans and Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4


2 Tablespoons ShopRite Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large leek
1 pound 1/2 - inch thick boneless pork chops
1 can (14.5 ounces) ShopRite Fat Free Chicken broth with 50% less sodium
1 can (15 ounces) ShopRite Small White Beans
1 can (14 ounces) ShopRite Imported Whole Cherry Tomatoes in juice
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cut the dark green portion from the leek and discard. Cut leek in half lengthwise and rinse well to remove any sand or grit. Slice thinly.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add leeks. Cook briefly until leeks begin to wilt. Push aside and add pork.
3. Sear pork on both sides, 3 minutes per side and add chicken broth to pan.
4. Cook over low heat until broth is reduced slightly and pork is cooked through - about 5 minutes.
5. Add beans, thyme and drained tomatoes. Heat through for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.