Friday, January 29, 2016

5 Ways to Jazz Up Hot Cocoa Mix

Image result for hot cocoaWho doesn't love a mug of hot cocoa during the cold winter months? Of course, the same old cocoa can get a bit boring after a while. The good news is there are so many easy ways to boost the flavor.

1.      Candy bars – All you need to do for this flavor boost is to chop your favorite candy bar and place it in the bottom of your mug before pouring the hot cocoa. Then just stir so the candy melts and enjoy.
2.      Candy canes – Still have candy canes in the house? Put them to good use. Add a candy cane to your cup of hot cocoa and stir so that the candy cane slowly melts into the liquid.
3.      Cinnamon imperials – Valentine's Day is just around the corner and you can find little cinnamon hearts in most stores. These can be added to your hot cocoa to add a nice spicy, sweet flavor.
4.      Real cinnamon and cayenne – If you love things sweet and spicy, add freshly ground cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper to your hot cocoa.

5.      Sea salt and caramel – If you want to get really decadent, add a spoonful of caramel sauce and a couple grinds of sea salt to your hot chocolate. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sweet Blast from the Past

Recently, I recalled my mom baking Snsckin'Cake back in the 70's, when I was a kid. They were cakes that she mixed up and baked in a disposable pan. Yesterday, I found Duncan Hines Petfect Size cake mix. Just like the Snackin' Cakes of my youth, they bake in a disposable pan. Even better than Snsckin'Cake, frosting is included!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Simple Improvement to Cakes Made with Mixes

While NOTHING beats a homemade cake, we don't always have time to make a cake from scratch. That doesn't mean you have to settle for the weird texture of a boxed cake mix. An easy trick you can use is to add a small package of instant pudding mix to the mix to make the cake denser. Just follow these easy steps:

The first step is to decide what kind of cake you want to make. The reason this is an important step is that you will need to purchase an instant pudding mix that matches the flavor of your cake mix. You can find a pudding to match almost any flavor. For example, there are instant puddings available in lemon for lemon cake mixes. Some flavors require a bit of thinking. If you're unsure of what to pair with your cake mix remember that vanilla works with almost any flavor. It even adds a creamy background flavor to many varieties, such as strawberry or orange.​

For a cake mix that makes a 9x13 inch cake or two 8 inches round cakes, you will need:
one 4 serving package of instant pudding, 
4 eggs 
1 ¼ cups of water
2 tablespoons of oil. 

I was originally instructed to use 1 tablespoon of oil, but found that the final product was too dry. You may want to play around with the amount of oil you use to get the texture and moisture you're looking for.​

I suggest combining the cake mix and pudding before adding the wet ingredients to ensure that the pudding is evenly distributed. You can then add your wet ingredients and stir the ingredients together
as normal. As for baking, some people recommend reducing the temperature to 250 degrees and baking the cake for one hour. Personally, I follow the package directions, but again, this is something you may want to play with. One note I will make is to ensure your pans are thoroughly greased. This batter is heavier and I found that mine stuck the first time after only a gentle spray of cooking spray.​

Once the cake is done remove it from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Once the cake is completely cool, you can frost as normal or you can choose to shape your cake for more extravagant decorating.​

Wrappers and Wrappers and Wrappers #vegan

I bought a package of egg roll wrappers last week, and I need to use them up before they go bad, like the won ton wrappers I bought last month.

First, I made egg rolls duh. I didn't take a picture of them, alas, and they were really pretty and REALLY GOOD. I had bought a bag of salad mix that was green cabbage, red cabbage, Romaine, kale, carrots, and green onions. Okay, yeah, it was a Dole Salad Kit, the kind that made people sick. But we had already eaten 2/3 of the bag before the recall, so....

So I took the remaining third of the salad and cooked it in a skillet along with some Meatless Crumbles, stirred in some Five Spice Powder and some chopped onions and bell peppers, wrapped it in egg roll wrappers, and fried them toasty.

But that only used five wrappers.

The next night, I got a taste for pot-stickers.

All the salad was gone, so I chopped some cabbage. I sprinkled in some onion powder, some oregano, and added about 1/4 tsp of garlic-flavored olive oil, then microwaved it for 30 seconds.

I cut circles out of six egg roll wrappers, saving the trimmings. I put a little of the cabbage in each circle, wet the circle rims, pressed and pinched them together, and put them on an oiled baking sheet, brushing the tops with water. I baked them at 450F for about 25 minutes until they were browned.

While they were cooking, I broke up some snow peas and chopped some onion and sliced some mushrooms. I had a little rice left over from the egg roll dinner, so I tossed that into the skillet, too. I loves me some Meatless Griller Strips fake chicken, so I put some of that in, along with a little sesame oil. When it was just about ready, I mixed a little miso paste with a couple tablespoons of water and tossed that in, hot-cooking it until the water evaporated.

Today, Charlie made some of his good vegetable soup, so I got out those egg roll wrapper scraps and sliced them up. I put a film of olive oil in a skillet and heated it, and put the strips in a few at a time, turning them once. By the time the soup was ready, I had this crunchy pile draining on paper towels.

I think peanut oil would have been better, but they were plenty good as they were. WE ATE ALL OF THEM. ALL.

I was kind of hoping there would be some left to have with a vegetarian egg-drop soup I have in mind, but there will be more scraps, or at least there are more wrappers.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Pudding Bar

Image result for puddingLooking for a fun and easy way to serve dessert to your family without spending a lot of money? This fun and easy dessert idea is not only inexpensive, but is a great way to use up little bits of ingredients hanging out in your cabinets.

The first step is to prepare your pudding. Instant pudding works great, but if you have time, you can also make homemade pudding in the morning and allow it to chill throughout the day.

The next step is to see what you have on hand for toppings. It might be small candies, crushed cookies, nuts, sprinkles, miniature marshmallows, dried fruit, or chopped candy bars. Whipped cream is also a nice addition.

Fill each bowl with a serving of pudding and then allow everyone to add the ingredients they want.

You could also do this with pudding cups if you have those on hand.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Cool way to Warm Up

The winter/spring session for my church's Sunday Night Children's Ministry will kick off in late-February. I am planning a winter-themed party, complete with a cocoa bar. All it takes is some good cocoa mix, hot water and a variety of toppings. Some suggested topping are: marshmallows, crushed peppermints, red hots, whipped cream, chocolate syrup and caramel. What other topping should I include?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuna Melt #Pescatarian

I have been all about the fish this week. We had orange roughy, tilapia, salmon, and tuna melt here at home, and I had fish and chips at a restaurant. If I don't stop it, we'll be growing fins and gills.

Here is our tuna melt.

First you make the tuna salad:

Tuna Salad
  • Can of tuna, drained, juice given to the cat
  • celery, sliced
  • water chestnuts, slivered
  • onion powder
  • salt
  • mayonnaise
Other people put other things in tuna salad. Make yourself happy.

Toast bread (we used rye). Put the bread on a broiler pan. Top with tuna. Top tuna with sliced cheese (we used Swiss). Broil until cheese bubbles and browns.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, January 15, 2016

Crock Pot Chicken and Stuffing


  • 1(10.5) ounce can of cream of chicken soup (or use cream of mushroom soup, it’s less salty)
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 (6 oz.) box Stove Top stuffing mix*
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 (16 oz.) bag frozen green beans
  • 3-4 large chicken breasts, salted and peppered if desired.

  1. Place the chicken on the bottom of the crock pot.
  2. Mix together the soup, sour cream, stuffing, half of the water, and place over the chicken.
  3. Place the string beans either on one side of the crock pot or over the stuffing. You'll want to mix the stuffing periodically if possible- I don't mind mixing the string beans in with the stuffing but if you'd prefer that they remain separate, place the string beans more to the side.
  4. Add the remaining water during the cooking process as needed. I always use all of the water but crock pots cook slightly differently, so adding as needed is safer. If you're leaving for the day, add the remaining water when you return if you feel you need it.
  5. Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-7.
  6. *No need to cook the stuffing mix prior to adding to crock pot
I like to try to mix the stuffing periodically if I can, just to keep it blended and to mix the moisture around. If the stuffing seems too moist for your liking, leave the lid off the crock pot for the last 30-40 minutes of cooking, or until your desired consistency is achieved.

I love adding diced sausage, onions, and celery to my stuffing- even dried cranberries are delicious! You can also add onion tops toward the end of the cooking process- (YUM.)

This meal is delicious with some whipped potatoes prepared on the stovetop!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mushroom Roughy on Cornbread Stuffing

We had some leftover cornbread stuffing (yeah, not vegetarian -- sue me), and we had mushrooms and orange roughy was on sale, so we had this.
I sliced some mushrooms and put them in a skillet along with some fresh chopped sage leaves and some vegan margarine. Cooked them until they were done. Took them out.

Put some more butter in the pan and cooked the fish just above medium for about 5 minutes a side.

I heated the stuffing and divided it between two plates. I put the fish on top, then put the mushrooms back in the fish pan, turned up the heat, added some white wine and cooked it until the liquid was almost absorbed, then divided that on top of the two plates of stuffing-and-fish.

Oh, MY, it was good! WELL worth falling off the turnip wagon for.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Averting An Insurance Claim with A Stand Mixer

True story...A friend of mine used to work as an insurance agent. He told me that once, a lady filed a claim for a lost diamond ring. How was it lost? Well, she lost it making sausage balls. I love sausage balls; and I love my diamond ring. Thanks to my stand mixer, I do not have to choose between sausage balls and diamonds. Instead of sticking my hands in the messy meat, baking mix and cheese mixture; I let my stand mixer do the work. Here's my recipe: 1 lb pork breakfast sausage 3 cups baking mix 4 cups shredded cheddar *Combine all ingredients. Shape into walnut-sized balls. Bake on ungreased baking sheets for 18-20 minutes. Makes 40-45 sausage balls. *If you use your hands to combine, remove rings first!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Cabbage FAIL, Cabbage WIN Part 1, Not #Vegan But Could Be

So Charlie and I went to the grocery a few days before New Year, and there was cabbage stacked to the ceiling in two stacks. Due to a mutual miscommunication, neither one of us picked up any cabbage!

I don't know about where you live, but around here we eat cabbage, pork, and black-eyed peas on New Year Day.

So I went back to the store on New Year Eve -- and ALL the cabbage was gone! The produce manager was apologetic and said he'd had an earful from people who had missed their chance. Me, I commiserated with him and bought a package of slaw mix and a purple cabbage.

Here's what I made with the slaw mix. Tomorrow on my blog, I'll post what I did with the purple cabbage.
We had some locally sourced sausage, which I chopped up and browned. Then I threw in a bunch of the slaw mix and some vegan margarine. Vegan "sausage" would also work.

Charlie was like, "Mmm! It has carrots in it, too!"

We had black-eyed peas on the side: slow-cooked some chopped onions in some olive oil until the onions are tender and translucent. Drain the peas and put them in the pan. Salt to taste and heat, mashing slightly. Heaven!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Friday, January 1, 2016