New look and a giveaway

Do you like my new header?! I LOVE it! My new friend, Kenzie from The Chic Shoppe Designs made it for me! She's amazing! Thanks again! She is also holding a giveaway for a free blog makeover, go to her blog {http://aboutkenzie.blogspot.com/2010/08/blog-design-giveaway.html} to enter to win!


Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

{mmm... alfredo-y}
I've recently noticed how versatile cream cheese is. You can do so many things with it! So, if you've got extra cream cheese just sitting around, here is a great way to use it up!
1 (8 oz.) package light cream cheese
2 cups of milk
2 cups cooked chicken breast, cubed
1/4 cup butter
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups Broccoli, cut up and seamed
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash of Nutmeg
dash of Oregano

In a medium pot, melt butter on medium to low heat. Once it's melted, add your cream cheese. Mix to combine, until smooth and cream cheese is melted completely. Add milk a little bit at a time, keep whisking to keep it smooth. Add your cheeses in between milk. Once all your milk is incorporated, add your seasonings, chicken, and broccoli. Pour over your favorite pasta. If too thin, let it cook longer, if too thick, add more milk. Garnish with Parmesan, if you wish!


Tex Mex Mac and Cheese

{kid [and husband] friendly}
I've seen lots of variations on how to spice up Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and some of the things people come up with are truly out of this world- and some, not all that appealing. I have heard lots of people rave about Tex Mex style though, so I 'Googled it on the Google machine' ($20 if you can name that movie reference) and thought to myself "hmm, that looks good, and easy, and cheap! 'By golly, I think I've got it'" (another $20 if you can name that movie reference). So I tried it, and of course adapted it to my own tastes- it's a hit with my husband, he seriously pulled a Napoleon Dynamite "yes!" with-fists-coming-down movement when I suggested this for dinner. 
1/2 lb. of lean ground beef
1 box Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (and the ingredients to make it)
1 cup salsa
1/2 packet of Taco Seasoning (you can use the full packet if you want to add more hamburger)
Sour Cream to garnish
Grated Cheddar cheese, to garnish

Prepare Macaroni and per the instructions on the box. While it's you're doing that (because you're supposed to be able to do two things at once, duh...) brown your ground beef in a medium pan. Once it's brown and cooked through, add taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water to the pan, stir and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Then add 1/2 of the salsa to your taco meat, continue simmering for 3-5 minutes or until it's thickened up a bit. Then add your taco meat to your macaroni and cheese, mix well. Use the remaining salsa to top on top along with sour cream and grated cheese. Ole!


Chocolate Caramel Shortbread

{aka, Tressa O'Brien's home made Twix bars}
I could just eat these all day- but I wont. I must refrain. The force is strong with this one. You like my Star Wars reference there? 
1/2 cup butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
7 oz (200 g) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
14 oz (400 g) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350F, grease the bottom of a 9 inch square cake pan. Place the butter, flour and sugar in a medium bowl and mix with a fork until the mixture starts to combine. Press into pan and level the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
For the caramel, place the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and condensed milk in a heavy bottom pan. Heat gently until the sugar melts. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and let simmer for 6-8 minutes, stirring constantly (I learned the hard way) until very thick and the color has darkened. Pour over the shortbread and let chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until firm.
Melt the chocolate chips (I used the microwave) and spread over the caramel. Let chill again for another two hours (or to speed it up, stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes). Makes 12.
recipe from my new cookbook:


Saskatoon Muffins with Crumb Topping

{Oh, Canada. You have really good berries}
I went berry picking the other day, Saskatoon (pronounced, sass-ca-toon) berry picking. I had never heard of a Saskatoon berry, I always thought that Saskatoon was a funny named city in Saskatchewan (pronounced, sa-satch-a-won)... I've learned so much, including how to say these funny names. This was my first time making muffins from scratch, I read lots online about how to do it- I first began my search by looking up recipes for blueberry muffins, since Saskatoon's are close to blueberries. And I landed on one, properly named "To Die For Blueberry Muffins" with over 300 positive reviews on allrecipes.com. I'll take it! Of course, I altered it a tad, and added lemon to my second batch.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fresh Saskatoon's or blueberries (you can add more)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400F, and line or spray muffin pans. Add flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Measure out veggie oil but don't pour it in the mixture, add the egg to the oil, and then add enough milk to fill the cup (a little more, I found was better, but not much). Mix into flour mixture until well blended, don't over mix! Fold in berries and vanilla. For the lemony ones, just add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon lemon zest when you mix in the berries. 
This batter will be like glue, so your berries wont sink to the bottom! Genius! Fill each muffin tin to the top. In a seperate bowl, add all the ingredients for the topping and mix with a fork, until crumbly. Sprinkle on top of each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. 

 From my berry picking:

Caribbean Coconut Cake

{coconuty and pineapply}
Two things I love together, coconut and pineapple, I also love them by themselves. Not that any of this matters, point of this paragraph is tell you how yummy this cake is and how much you wish you had some right now!

1 1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup self rising flour (cake and pastry flour worked well for me)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2/3 cup dry unsweetened coconut
5 tablespoons coconut cream (ahem, I could not find coconut cream, apparently Canada has something against this item, so I substituted sweetened condensed milk with a few drops of coconut extract, also, milk would have worked well, too.)
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
5 tablespoons pineapple jelly (also could not find this, so I used a small amount of crushed pineapple)
dry unsweetened coconut, toasted to garnish

Preheat oven to 350F, grease the bottoms of two 8 inch round cake pans. Place 3/4 cup of the butter in a bowl with the sugar and eggs, and sift in the flour, baking powder, and nutmeg. Beat together until smooth, then stir in the coconut and 2 tablespoons of coconut cream.
Divide the mixture between the cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire wrack.
Once the cakes are completely cool, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and add the remaining butter and coconut cream. Beat together until smooth, spread the pineapple jelly on one of the cakes and stop with just under half of the frosting. Place the other cake on top. Spread the remaining frosting on top of the cake ans scatter with toasted coconut. 
*Disclaimer, my cakes sank in the center. I have no idea why, or what I did to make this happen, this is why my cake looks funny. Also, if you use the sweetened condensed milk instead of the coconut cream, take it easy in the frosting- it makes it extremely sweet, unless that's your thing. 


Just a big fat thank you!

I just wanted to say thanks to all my friends, and newly found readers for all your great support and comments! It truly makes a huge difference and puts a big ol' smile on my face! I've been having so much fun with this blog- it of course, doesn't come without stress and failures, but I am having a great time in the kitchen and I am enjoying learning about the great culinary arts! Thanks you guys!

While I've got you... I want to know what people want to see more of on here... I am running out of ideas for things to make/do, and it's making it hard to stay motivated- So give me some input! You guys rock!


Four Layer Devil's Food Cake

{chocolate; possibly the number one love of my life}
This is my first time making a layer cake. This is also my first time making cake batter (and chocolate frosting) from scratch. Also, my first time using baking cocoa. Seriously, I'd never used it before. I think for my first time, I did pretty dang good! I was amazed at my self! I'll admit that buying a cake mix from a box is a million times easier and faster, but the satisfaction I got from making it from scratch is incomparable.
5 oz. (140 g) semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 oz. (140 g) semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoons corn syrup
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons water
1 3/4 cup powdered (icing) sugar

Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease two 8 inch round cake pans. Break up the chocolate (I used chocolate chips) and place with the milk and cocoa in a heat proof bowl set over a pot of gently boiling water, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat. (Check out my little invention for this... haha!)
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, then the sour cream and melted chocolate mixture. Sift in the flour and baking soda, fold in evenly. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff enough to hold firm peaks. Fold into the mixture lightly and evenly.
Divide the mixture between the cake pans, smooth the surface, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until risen and firm to the touch. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
For the frosting, place the chocolate, cocoa, sour cream, corn syrup, butter, and water in pot and heat gently without boiling, until melted. Remove from the heat and add the powdered sugar, stirring until smooth. Cool, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken and holds its shape. Split the cakes in  half horizontally with a sharp knife to make four layers. Sandwich the cakes together with about a third of the frosting. Spread the remainder over the top and sides of the cakes, swirling with a metal spatula.

 Original recipe taken from my new cookbook:

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