Caramel Sauce

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Seriously. S.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y. I really don’t want to tell you that you HAVE to make this caramel sauce, because you DON’T have to. But maybe you should. Caramel sauce has been something  I have tried and tried and tried to make. I have kinda succeeded, sorta failed, totally flopped and mostly failed my way through making caramel for a few years now. Seriously, I had given up. BUT what made me try just one. more. time (……well, two more times, more on that in a minute…….) was that fact that Aldi did not have a jar of caramel sauce. They had about 10 bijillion hot fudge sauces in the same place were there was SUPPOSED to be hot fudge AND caramel. No caramel. So I was “forced” to buy some heavy whipping cream and try again, cause I  someone “needed” caramel.  Thanks Aldi.

So here I am. Me, tho one who thinks if the weather man says it will be 70º I dress for 70º……colder or hotter, I will not change. I wanna believe he is right. The one who thinks if you tell me to boil the sugar for 5-7 minutes that it will take 5-7 minutes and it will be done. Period. The one who is blistfully ignorant to the fact that things may not always go as planned.  I guess I am gullible? Is that the right word? I try and tell my self not to be, but self just does not listen.  Anyway. Precisely 15 minutes before we were to get the kids to bed, I started. making. caramel. The girl said that in “15 minutes” you will have caramel sauce. I thought it to be true. Well……..

I heated up the sugar. 15 minutes later I was still stirring this dark brown nearly burned sugar…..thinking “those hard chunks of sugar are sure to melt away any second now.” A few minutes later my son comes to me and says it smells like burned marshmallows in the house. To which I simply said “it is the caramel I am making.” The face he gave me said it all. He had his doubts. I thought, “butter will heal this.” Cause butter is butter and it is good. Well, the butter melted. The sugar did not. It was so so hard. No caramel in sight. My pan was ruined. The pan was about to go in the garbage. But then I thought better. I filled it with water and boiled it and boiled it till the hard chunks of sugar melted off. My husband, noting that crazy boiling pot on the stove, asked if it was going to boil over. I mumbled “No, maybe, thanks, just making caramel”……..under my breath. I didn’t look at his face. We got the kids to bed and back at it I went. Cause I had to…….you know?

Round 2. I opted to add a bit of water to the sugar. I was giddy. I was pumped. Pretty sure I jumped up and down and twiddled my fingers together a time or two. BECAUSE. Before my very eyes, caramel was happening!!!! That sugar/water mixture got to a lovely caramel color, I took it off the heat and added the butter. (PS. I was able to save the butter from the above said calamity. As soon as I saw the sugar NOT melting but instead turning into a ball of rock hard, teeth ruining candy, I poured the butter off. To precious to throw away and it was fine. Just fine. Just melted.) Stirred that butter around and added the heavy cream. Well, the caramel went crazy on me at that point. BOILING like mad ~ mind you, it was OFF the heat and on the counter. Oh no, I have ruined it again. I stirred and stirred and…..there it was. Caramel. It looked good. Did it taste good? I wonder.  The vanilla and salt went in next. I did not taste yet, surprising myself with my wise choice as to not burn my tongue clear off. Oh……the suspence…….

It cooled a bit. I tasted it. It was caramel. Legit caramel. I put it in my jar and left it there on the counter. To look at a bit. Husband came into kitchen. I happily said,  “Look!!!!! Caramel.” Well, he had been the recipient of my crunchy caramel or my rock hard caramel a few to many times and the house still smelled of burnt marshmallows. So I am sure he had his doubts. He said “good” or something simple like that. Then he noticed my lovely burning fall candle, commented on the flavor (Cinnamon Vanilla). I said “thanks, that was from you.” He said “that was nice of me.” (If you know him you can appreciate this whole conversation. He is a very to the point kinda guy.)

I thought about the caramel. I actually dreamed about. Food nerds have dreams about food sometimes.  First thing in the morning I opened it up. I looked good. But was it hard? Too hard?? The spoon went right in. It was just the right caramel consistency. It worked. It was yummy.

We had the caramel a day or so later on ice cream.  I think the kids expected it to turn to candy when it hit the ice cream. It HAS happened. But noppers. It did not. Success.

Some tips about this caramel making ~

~ Have the heavy whipping cream be room temp, don’t forget this.
~ Have the butter be melted, don’t forget this.
~ Don’t leave the sugar/water mixture, just hang out by it, stirring. Laundry can wait.
~ That is all I can think of.  Just learn from my mistakes. If you burn the sugar, no worries, just add water to the nearly ruined saucepan and boil it off.

Are you thinking ~ didn’t she already share a caramel recipe?” Well, yes, thanks for asking. I did.  Right here. I have made that one a good number of times, it works half the time.  Not sure why. So this is now my new favorite one. :)

PLEASE let me know if you try this or any thoughts you may have concerning caramel or any food. 

PS. It’s fall! High fives alllll around! WAHOO!!!!

Caramel Sauce 
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1 stick of BUTTER, melted
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream, room temp
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix together the sugar and water, bring to a boil.  Boil and stir till a caramel color. (Watch as it will go from caramel color to burned useless sugar in a few seconds flat! This is not a thing to time, as all stove tops cook differently, just watch carefully and use your best judgement. I have burned a batch or two. Sadly. Just stick by it, you will be fine.)
Take off heat, put the butter in the sugar mixture and stir till combined. Then add the heavy whipping cream, it will bubble up on you just be brave and keep stirring till all combined. Add the salt and vanilla. Do not eat right away or you will burn you tongue so very bad. When warm, serve over ice cream. Or store in fridge and heat in microwave till warm. Also very good by itself on a spoon.
ENJOY!!!

Concord Grape Jelly

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This recipe must be shared. It really must. It is really cool and really good. No pectin needed AND it uses equal parts of sugar to fruit juice. Which is still a lot of sugar, but many jams/jellies we make have MORE sugar then fruit.

Have you had concord grapes before? If not, let me tell you a bit about them. They are grapes. Tho not like the grapes we buy from the grocery store. They are purple, a deep purple. The skin is a bit thicker then regular grapes, the inside is like the inside of a regular grape, sorta. Tho these guys can be crazy tart, you might just make that pucker face. Apparently you can eat the seeds, tho my throat will not let me.  Well ~ that is my non-professional explanation of them. Oh yeah, you will most likely be able to find them at farm stands and farmers markets this time of year, perhaps into October yet.

Back to the jelly. It is like the stuff we buy from the store. But so much better. I do not buy grape jelly generally (unless those fabulous meatballs that call for it are on the menu!) ~ we just don’t really like it. But this ↓ stuff is sooooo good. IF you like pb&j (ugh…) you should try this, if you like toast you should try this, if you like to eat jelly by the spoonful you should try this…….maybe you should just try it!! :)

~Before beginning, take the grapes off the stem and wash them.
~ A FINE mesh strainer is very important for this recipe, regular noodle strainers will let too much grape skin or seeds pass through.
~ Do make your batch bigger then 4 c. juice and 4 c. sugar, if you have more than 4 c. juice ~ just make a whole separate batch.
~ The batch I made was 3 1/3 c. juice and 3 1/3 c. sugar and it yielded me about 5 1/2 pints of jelly.

Concord Grape Jelly 

8 c. concord grapes
3-4 c. sugar

Heat the grapes in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. When the 5 minutes is up, pour the grapes into a FINE mesh strainer, over a bowl! Press the juice out, leaving the skins and seeds behind in the strainer. Measure how much juice you have and add back to the sauce pan, then add an equal amount of sugar. (example ~ 3 1/3 c. juice and 3 1/3 c. sugar! easy peasy!)

Bring the juice/sugar mixture to a boil, a full boil, and boil again for a full 1 minute. Carefully pour into jelly jars, cover with top and ring. Then process for 10 minutes. Take out and let set (without moving) for 24 hours.

ENJOY!

Recipe adapted from Prized Recipes to Cook and Savor Cookbook

Zucchini Brownies and/or Cake, anyone?!

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While we are on the topic of zucchini, lets move on to zucchini bars! Oh, wait, we were NOT on that topic? Oh, well, now we are!!!  :) So let’s go back to talking about it! Zucchini is probably one of my favorite things about a garden. They grow like mad, produce these crazy big leaves and trailing stems and then there is the actual zucchini~ WHICH if you pick at the just right size, not to big and not too little, you can make this ~

Grilled Veggies

or this~

Zucchini Crisp

BUT when they grow too BIG, you know when they are hiding under a BIG leaf and you just plain miss it…….and they grow to be laughingly HUGE??  Well, those are GREAT for shredding. Why shred? For BREAD (ah! a rhyme!!!) or bars of course!  :) So. My self-given job was to find a great brownie recipe made from zucchini. Now the results!!

The first recipe was so very good, BUT more cake-like. A nice recipe to have if you want a zucchini cake (or cupcake perhaps??) recipe. Tho I was aiming for a brownie, not a cake, so I tried another recipe, this was for sure more brownie like. They both were a smashing success SO no more searching~ a brownie (+ cake) recipe my family enjoys has been found!

Wanna try them out for your family?

The first recipe is the “cake” like one. It is taller, fluffier and not at all dry.  The frosting for it is delicious, funny how chocolate chips and peanut butter make a frosting, but it does! We ate it warm (yum) and we ate it cold (yummy!)((Room temp was not fabulous in this hot humid weather)).  Or you can frost with a butter cream frosting instead, that is fabulous!

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Zucchini Cake

1 c. soft butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. shredded zucchini

Frosting~
2/3 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
(or frost with chocolate butter cream frosting instead)

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time ~ beating well after each addition. Beat in the yogurt and the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture. Fold in the zucchini. Spread in a greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake @ 350º for 30-40 minutes.

Melt the peanut butter and chocolate chips in a double boiler, stirring till smooth and melted. Spread over warm brownies.

ENJOY!
Recipe from Prized Recipes to Cook and Savor, Vol. 2.

The second recipe is a bit denser, a bit flatter and not at all dry. More like a brownie!

Here is the brownie recipe ~ (I skip the nuts.) Enjoy!

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Pardon the pictures, the brownies are cold in the shots. I will never be a food photographer……… taking pictures of my family is much more my style! ;)

(Other good ways to use up that really BIG zucchini!)~

Herb Stuffed Zucchini

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Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

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Want some more uses for small zucchini???

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (pardon the picture, I need to take a new one!)

Zucchini Fries

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ZUCCHINI RECIPE OR WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE  WAY TO USE ZUCCHINI??

Cucumber Salsa

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Garden time is here!  Or should I say, gardens FULL of yummy produce have finally sprouted!! I, myself, have a brown thumb ~ as brown as soil. BUT there are a few people that I love, who have wonderful green thumbs and share fresh garden produce with me! Or a quick trip to the farm stand, even the grocery store has farm fresh produce right now! So it is right at  our fingertips!! Let’s enjoy it!!!

Cucumber, plain sliced cucumber, make my noise flare. You know, when you eat something you really are not keen of, your nose flares, right? Well, for me that is cucumber. Unless it is sliced and in a lovely vinegar sugar mixture, now that IS good. Or made into a pickle.  Or if it is in a salad and surrounded by other things, you don’t notice as much when your fork is full of lettuce and tomato and such.  Dipping it is ranch is good too, tho I will still forever reach for the carrots or cherry tomatoes on a veggie platter (taking a cuke or two, simply cause it is probably real good for me being a veggie and all ;)).

Anyways, when your garden is brimming with cucumber or you find that you have a lonely cucumber in your fridge needed to be used up, try this recipe! I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does. It does get watery after a day or two in the fridge, so don’t make tooo much at once. My family  eats nearly this whole batch and dinner, the leftovers can be a bit watery (from the cucumber draining) the next day, but still good.

~ Cut the cucumber up nice and small, then let set a few minutes to drain any excess liquid, pat dry with a paper towel. It also helps to scoop out the seeds, just using the outer shell.

~ Technically this is ment to be eaten with chips, which we do, but is also good “as is” ~ grab a fork and eat it like a salad!

~ Plum tomatoes work best for this recipe, as they are not quite as liquidy as other tomatoes, if you no not have plum (or Roma is good too) ~ then just take the seeds out of the tomatoes, then cut.

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Crisp Cucumber Salsa

2 c. peeled,  chopped cucumber (remove seeds 1st)
1/2 c. chopped plum tomatoes
2 TB. fresh minced parsley (can also use dry, about 1/2 – 1 TB.)
1/4 c. chopped red onion
1 jalapeno, remove seeds and chop
1/2 c. minced cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c. sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
1/4 tsp. seasoned salt

In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, onion, jalapeno and garlic. Set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and seasoned salt. Pour over cucumber mixture and stir to coat. Chill at least 4 hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

ENJOY!!!

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream” that you really should try!

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Hello :)

Thanks to those who have said they missed posts :) that really REALLY means a lot to me!!!  Well……..I missed it too! It was a fun hobby for me and I am ready to come back to it, tho I may not post very often and it may take me a few weeks to get a post out ~ a sentence here and a sentence there!!! ;)

My “about” page USED to say mom of 4 boys. That has changed now to a mom of 5 boys and I couldn’t be more giddy about that! Ever seen this video?? Good to know other brothers act like my boys sometimes! I really get a kick out of it, smiles and tears at the same time. Boys. Wild indians 94.6% of the time. Tho they are gentle  as lambs 99.8% ;) of the time when they are around their new baby brother.

I feel real blessed to have these guys, good thing I enjoying baking! :) They enjoy eating it, and “helping”. “Helping” means bowl licking, but hey!, that is why I do it too!!! ;)

On to a tasty treat!!

Anyone else really REALLY enjoy ice cream??? Double hand raising over here!!! This here is my favorite food right now. Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”. You HAVE to enjoy the taste of banana or you will not enjoy this, cause it does have an underlying banana taste ~ not overpowering because of the peanut butter, chocolate and chocolate chips!! :) Some of my boys like it, some really do not (the ones who don’t like bananas do not like it).

~ A blender will not work well for this, unless you have a CRAZY powerful one.
~ Serve it right away. Or freeze a few hours for “soft serve”. Or freeze overnight and it will be harder to scoop out but still very delicious.
~ Freeze your  ripe bananas in chunks, for easier processing. I usually do 3-4 (depending on the size) at a time, so I add bananas (as they over-ripen) to a Ziplock bag in freezer ~ then when I have 4ish ~”ice cream” time!!!!

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Chunky Monkey “Ice Cream”

2-3 frozen bananas (freeze in chunks)
peanut butter
chocolate sauce or hot fudge (I use this)
mini chocolate chips
(can also add some vanilla extract, just a touch~
peanuts, optional as well!)

Put the frozen banana pieces into your food processor. Pulse a few times to break up, then process till smooth. (Now, it is NOT that easy, you will need to stop a few times and shift those stubborn bananas around a bit and scrape down the bowl, they like to clump together ~ even forming a ball at times.) The processing usually takes 2-3 minutes till all of a sudden you see the smooth “ice cream” appear. About half way through I add a nice big ol’ scoop of peanut butter, process, then add a nice big scoop ol’ chocolate sauce/hot fudge, process again. Add a few of the chocolate chips, process a bit. Then stir in MORE mini chocolate chips (of course!).  Eat and enjoy or freeze!!

Enjoy!

I saw this recipe first on Kats’ Kitchen.

PLEASE remember that I like to hear from you guys!!! :)  It is fun!! Let me know about any fun foods you have made or want to make or will be making or dream about making! Food talk is up there with my favorite things. 

 

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

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Yummy sweets. A little something sweet is a must after a meal, in my opinion! This bar is a combo of my favorite things, peanut butter and chocolate. Spoonful of peanut butter topped with chocolate chips anyone?

Enjoy this bar!!!! (I hid mine in the back of my fridge…….Sorta like sneaking snacks in the pantry when no one is looking, I know. I am sure you have done it too!)

I am going to also add here that this will be my last post for a while. For a number of reasons I am going to be done for a while. Not saying I will never come back to it…….ya never know.  So, thank you all for reading and commenting and having as much fun with this as I have. Thank you.

food 1116Get the recipe here for these yummy bars!

Chicken Tortilla Bake

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Sometimes creativity at dinner can be hard, sometimes we run into a rut.

I have run into a dinner rut, perhaps because we are very near grilling season, burgers and shish-ka-bobs sound really good about now…….perhaps it is because I feel like I always make the same things or similar versions of the same things. Ever have dinner ruts?? What gets you out of them? Do you try new things or stick with the same ol’ favorites??

Chicken Tortilla Bake or Enchilada Casseroles, etc. ~ they are really nothing new…….not for us and probably not for you either BUT this one was a quick throw together and an easy bake AND  really good!!!

Sometimes we just need to have a few easy dinner meals that we can count out to come together quickly and to be enjoyed by the family! Dinners that require simple staples that most of us have in our house. This dinner helped me get out of a rut, perhaps it will help you someday if you are ever in a rut!!

Recipe Notes:
~ I used Homemade Cream “of” Soup. I added about 1/4 c. chopped onion to the butter melting part of the soup making. It gave nice flavor to the sauce.
~ You can make this Tortilla Bake earlier in the day, when things are perhaps a little quieter and you have more time. Just pop it in the fridge and take it out when you are ready to bake it. (May  need to add some time to the baking, if it is totally cold through.)
~ Last time I made this I used 1/2 can of leftover Rotel tomatoes and added enough salsa to make it equal 1 c.  I would do that again.
~ Rotel tomatoes give this dish a bit more of a kick then salsa, unless you use hot salsa ~ so choose your salsa spice depended on your families preference!

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Chicken Tortilla Bake

1 can cream of chicken soup (or 1 batch of this)
1 can Rotel tomatoes (drained) OR 1 c. salsa
(or a combo of both equalling 1 c.)
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. milk
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (equalling about 2-3 c.)
12 corn tortillas
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Mix together the soup, tomato product of choice, sour cream and milk.

Cut tortillas up, into strips. Layer 1/3 of the tortilla strips in a greased casserole dish (I use my oval Corelle casserole dish ~ it is a but smaller than a 9″x13″ pan, but deeper. So a 9″ x 13″ pan could work too, I would think. However it might bake quicker, so keep that in mind.) Then top with 1/2 of the cooked chicken and half of the sauce. Repeat (tortilla strips, chicken, sauce). End with the last layer of tortillas, then cheese.

Cover and bake @ 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes to brown the cheese just a bit.

Delicious topped with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, etc.

Serve with a chopped salad and ENJOY!!

Recipe adapted from thrityhandmadedays.com. (By the way, her pictures look MUCH more appealing than my “leftovers”! Sorry about that!) ((Pardon the green plate shadow in the corner, someone was being silly.))