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Blackened Chicken with Roasted Garlic Alfredo

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Dennis is a huge fan of blackened meat.  And by blackened, I don’t meant burnt (that would be me that likes burnt meat), I mean meat that’s been rubbed with spicy blackening seasoning.  So when I ran across this recipe, I knew it would be perfect for Father’s Day.  It was perfectly suited for him, is impressive, but simple to prepare, which is pretty much a requirement for all the recipes I make these days.  It was incredibly delicious, and I would make it again, and again, and again.

Blackened Chicken with Roasted Garlic Alfredo

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2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
1 tablespoon blackening seasoning
1 (10 oz) container Buitoni Light Alfredo sauce
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
8 oz bowtie pasta, cooked to al dente & drained

Drizzle olive oil over chicken breasts to lightly coat. Sprinkle blackening seasoning liberally over both sides of the chicken. Heat skillet on medium-high and cook chicken 3 minutes on each side. While chicken is cooking, heat Alfredo sauce and roasted garlic. Add pasta and toss; divide between two dishes. Slice chicken and place on top of pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Veronica’s notes: In a pinch, you can sprinkle in some garlic powder to taste instead of the roasted garlic.  Also, Bertolli’s jarred light alfredo works great for this recipe if you can’t find the fresh stuff.

Recipe source: Plain Chicken

Here’s the card I made for Dennis this year.  It may be my favorite card I’ve ever made. :) He loved it!

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Chocolate Italian Love Cake


I made this for our Valentine’s Day dessert because 1) it’s “Italian” (I put that in quotations because honestly, I think the only reason it’s called “Italian” is because there is ricotta cheese in it), so I thought it would go well with our Spaghetti & Meatballs, and 2) it’s a Love Cake, therefore perfect for Valentine’s Day. :)  However, I’m sharing this with you today, a regular non-Hallmark holiday day, because it’s simply a fantastic cake that should be enjoyed and made for those you love on any old day, not just days designated for celebrating your loved ones.

This cake is every bit as good as it looks.  I don’t like ricotta because of the texture, but it really works with this cake.  It’s not a heavy cake, which is dangerous, because it’s also addictive and the “lightness” makes it easier to trick yourself into thinking that eating half the pan by yourself isn’t all that obscene.  Not that I’ve done that or anything.

Chocolate Italian Love Cake

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1 package chocolate cake mix (I recommend using Betty Crocker brand), and the ingredients needed to make the cake according to the package directions

  • OR your favorite chocolate cake recipe that makes as much batter as a cake mix

2 lbs. ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (5.9 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, defrosted

Preheat your oven to 350*F and spray a 9×13 inch pan with nonstick spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together your cake mix according to the directions on the box or prepare your favorite chocolate cake.  Spread into prepared pan and set aside. In another bowl, beat together the ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Carefully pour the ricotta mixture over the cake batter, trying to get it evenly distributed, then spread it as best you can over the cake batter with a spatula. The layers will switch during baking!

Bake the cake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, whisk the pudding mix and milk together until smooth and slightly thickened. Gently fold the whipped topping into the pudding until incorporated. Spread the pudding mixture over the top of the cooled cake. Do not spread it over the cake if it’s even slightly warm or it will melt and ruin the topping. Cover the cake and refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving. It tastes even better the next day.

Veronica’s notes: 1) I do not recommend my favorite chocolate cake for this recipe as it makes a lot more batter than a box mix and your pan would probably overflow if you tried it. 2) I have a stack of 9×13 baking dishes because I use that size more than any other. My largest one is a Pyrex dish and I highly recommend you use your largest one too – preferrably a Pyrex dish because they seem to be the largest.  I know every 9×13 dish should measure 9×13 but apparently they do not…or maybe some companies measure from the inside and some from the outside.  This recipe fills it up to the top so you really need to use a large dish.  3) If you live in an area that sells 5.1 ounce pudding mixes, that’s fine – it’s the size called for in the original recipe. You only need a cup of milk if you have a 5.1 ounce box, according to the original recipe. 4) I know ricotta can be expensive so if you have an Aldi in your area – go see if they sell ricotta there. Mine sells it for $1.68 for a pound. It’s also good quality! And get some pumpkin puree while you’re there – it’s usually $1 (or less) for a can and is very good quality. :)

Recipe source: adapted from Chew Nibble Nosh

Really Great Spaghetti & Meatballs


Growing up, I practically lived on spaghetti.  It was the one “junk” food my Mom allowed us to eat (junk because it wasn’t whole wheat spaghetti).  Therefore it’s what I ate most of (because I hated health food)!  Spaghetti with Ragù sauce – I loved it.  But the best was when I made meatballs to go with it, which was a special treat because we didn’t do a lot of meat in our house.  I remember one time I was cooking my famous spaghetti & meatballs dinner for the family when I was about twelve and they all left me at home to cook while they went to the health food store.  I didn’t really love the health food store, but I still cried into my meatballs because I didn’t want to be left out.  Meanie old Davis family! haha

Anyway, this recipe is a lot different from the one I made growing up, but my recipe was little more than ground beef mixed with tons and tons of garlic powder, salt and pepper, rolled up and cooked in a skillet before being added to a pot of pasta with Ragù sauce on it.  I will always love meatballs made that way because that’s how I ate them growing up and have a fondness for it, but honestly these are better, the best I’ve had, actually, and I love the cooking method.  You don’t have to cook them separately, you just plunk them into the sauce and let it simmer away!  So simple.  It also makes the meatballs more tender and moist to cook them this way, and the flavor of the sauce and the meatballs both benefit from cooking slowly together.

The sauce is a very simple recipe and so, so good.  The amount of black pepper gives it a bit of a spicy kick so I’d cut it by half if you don’t like heat.  This is now my go-to spaghetti sauce (I’ve made it twice in the last week) and I hope you’ll give it a try!

Really Great Spaghetti & Meatballs

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Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Meatballs
1 egg
1 lb lean ground beef
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1 (1 lb) package spaghetti

Remove ground beef from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature while the sauce cooks.

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan to coat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes. Lower the heat if they begin to burn. The more color that develops on the onion and garlic, the more flavor they’ll add to the finished sauce.

Once the onions and garlic are tender and caramel in color, add the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Add the remaining sauce ingredients (oregano through pepper), stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pot, and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the bottom does not burn.

Make the meatballs: Lightly beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Break apart the beef as best you can into the bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Use your hands to mix together until well incorporated, trying not to overmix, which could render your meatballs more tough. Shape the meat mixture into 12 balls (I always get 13), each about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Drop them into the sauce, stir gently so that they’re all covered in sauce. It might look like there’s only enough sauce for the meatballs and there won’t be enough for pasta, especially if you’re like me and love your sauce, but trust me, there’s enough. Let them cook, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Once the meatballs are done, cook your spaghetti to al dente according to the package directions, drain, pile some onto plates, and top with sauce and meatballs.

Veronica’s Notes: your tomatoes matter. I bought very cheap tomato puree (and tomato paste, for that matter) from Aldi that was excellent but found that Walmart’s brand, which is higher in price, was horrible by comparison. Buy good tomatoes or you won’t have good sauce. Also, the original recipe used mint in the meatballs instead of parsley and I just wanted to mention that in case you’d like to try it.

Recipe source: Can You Stay for Dinner

Tiger Butter


If you need an idea for last-minute Valentine’s Day treats for your loved ones, I gotcha covered!  I’ve made four batches of this Tiger Butter fudge since Christmas and everyone has been so impressed with it, I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of how easy it is to make!  Three ingredients, melt, stir, and swirl, and you’re done.

And if you’re wondering about the taste, it is oh so good.  The peanut butter layer is incredibly creamy and of course the chocolate is the perfect complement.  Need I say more?

Tiger Butter

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1 (24 oz) package vanilla almond bark candy coating
1 (1 lb 2 oz) jar creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil; set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the chocolate chips for one minute and stir well. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring well in between, until completely melted. This takes 2 intervals for my microwave. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate and stir well after each interval, allowing the residual heat to melt the chips before microwaving again. If you overheat them, they will get too thick and you won’t be able to use the melted chocolate for swirling. Once melted, set aside.

Melt the almond bark according to package directions. Usually that would be to place them in a microwave safe bowl, microwave for 1-1 1/2 minutes, stir well, and microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. Once melted, stir in the peanut butter until creamy and smooth. Spread into prepared baking sheet.

If the melted milk chocolate has become too firm with standing, microwave for ten seconds, stir, then pour it over the peanut butter mixture in long horizontal lines. Drag a spatula through the lines in a vertical pattern, going up on one line, then down on the next, repeating until the pan is swirled. Allow to set for several hours or overnight before cutting. You may refrigerate the fudge to set it up quickly.

Stores great at room temperature, and you don’t even have to cover it. Great shelf life. I’ve left some uncovered for up to two weeks with no spoiling.

Veronica’s notes: although I haven’t tried it, you should be able to substitute 1 1/2 lbs white baking chips for the candy coating if you can’t find it in your area, or even real white chocolate if you don’t mind the big price tag. I like to use milk chocolate with peanut butter, but semisweet chocolate is perfectly fine and would create a more dramatic stripe effect.

Recipe source: adapted from The Better Baker

Traditional Turkish Delight {gluten-free & vegan}


Turkish Delight is perhaps the recipe I’ve been wanting to make longer than any other, for  over twenty years!  I’ve wanted to try it ever since I was in elementary school and read about the Turkish Delight which the witch seduced Edward with in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  It just sounded so delicious!  Dennis also told me years ago that he also has wanted to try Turkish Delight ever since reading the book.  So this year I decided to make it for him for Valentine’s Day, and to send it to my matches for The Sweetest Swap as well.

I decided to go with the traditional recipe, which doesn’t include gelatin and takes quite a long time to make.  But the texture is worth the effort!  I took my recipe and method from Titli’s video, and I tell you this woman is mad, but I love her.  You have to watch a few of her videos to start jiving with her craziness.  Anyway, we discovered that we quite liked Turkish Delight, especially the nice soft, chewy texture.  It’s similar to a jelly candy but really so much softer that it’s not really jelly-like at all, it’s just the closest thing I can compare it to. And so smooth!  The flavor is very nice, bright from the lemon juice, and mysterious & romantic from the rose water.  While the rose water is nice, I think I would like this a lot better using lemon extract and would suggest it if you don’t have the rose water, but cutting the amount down to maybe a teaspoon (or to taste) since it’s much stronger than rose water.

The downside is that they tend to weep.  You should store them packed in the extra powdered sugar, but even so, after only a day mine were pretty much a mess.  I wish I’d taken photos right away because right after cutting and dredging in powdered sugar, they were so pretty with such smooth surfaces.  Instead I took my photos two days later when the bowl had turned into  the nastiness above. :( I had to cut off the worst of the edges and then roll them in fresh powdered sugar for my photos, but believe me they are so much prettier the first day!  I asked Titli if this was normal and she said it was likely our damp weather to blame, but even so, hers start weeping after four days.  Her cure for the weeping?  “Eat them quickly!” lol

This is what my poor swappees received (along with a dozen oatmeal candies–thank goodness I sent enough of those to make up for the Turkish Delight mess!)–photo courtesy of Shesten M.

If I haven’t scared you off with my cautionary photos, here’s the recipe!  Just be sure to make this when you’re enjoying a spell of dry weather and perhaps when you have enough company to polish them off within a few days.

Turkish Delight

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Note: I followed the gram measurements for this recipe, using my kitchen scale.

3 ½ cups water, divided
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cups (800 g) sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup (120 g) cornstarch
1 tablespoon rosewater
Few drops of red food coloring (I used icing gel coloring)

For dusting
1 cup (160 g) powdered sugar
¼ cup (30 g) cornstarch

Oil an 8” square pan, then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Oil the parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1 ½ cups of the water, the lemon juice, and sugar. Bring to a boil while stirring and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 115C (soft ball stage). Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining 2 cups water, the cream of tartar, and the cornstarch. Bring to a boil, using an electric mixer to beat it on low speed the entire time. It will get thick quite quickly. It will be very milky and opaque in the beginning, but will get more clearish. Once it is a thick gluey paste and turns more and more clear, add in a little of the sugar syrup and beat with the mixer until blended. Scrape down the sides of the pan, and add a bit more at a time, beating well after each addition until smooth. When all the syrup is added, it will be thick but fluid. Turn on the heat again and bring to a gentle boil. Turn heat to low and simmer very, very gently for about an hour, stirring frequently (I stirred every 1-3 minutes). It will turn a light golden brown color. Add in the rosewater and food coloring if desired, and mix well.

Pour into prepared pan and shake the pan to make sure the mixture reaches all the corners. Allow to sit at room temperature until set, about 3-5 hours, or overnight.

Combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch for dusting and sift them together into a large bowl. Sift some on top of the pan of Turkish Delight. Sift some over a surface, then turn the Turkish Delight upside down onto prepared surface. Carefully remove the paper and sift some sugar over the top. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the Turkish Delight into small squares. Put the squares into the bowl of sugar and toss them around every so often. Once all are added, toss them around really well to make sure they are well coated with the sugar/cornstarch mixture.

To store, place Turkish Delight in a container with an airtight lid, and pour the sugar/cornstarch mixture over the top to keep them from weeping or sticking together.

Recipe source: Titli’s Busy Kitchen

Sweetest Swap Recap

The swap went very smoothly and I was lucky enough to get 6 packages in the mail!  They disappeared all too quickly…

Oreo & Biscoff Truffles from Shania, Lemon Muddy Buddies and Pretzel Caramel Bark from Lynn.  Dennis ate all the Oreo Truffles by the time I got home, so I’m glad I got one before I left for work! I enjoyed the Biscoff Truffles all to myself, which was fine by me because I liked them even better.  Lynn wasn’t a match of mine, but she was kind enough to send me two packages! One stuffed with the Lemon Muddy Buddies (YUM!) and another with the Pretzel Caramel Bark (love salty and sweet!).  Thank you ladies!

Snickers Bars from Laurie.  Wow!  Talk about impressive.  These were every bit as good as they look and I had trouble saving any for Haus.  I had to beg him to hurry up and eat some before I ate the whole package. LOL!

Vanilla Sea Salt Caramels from Shesten (that’s Hawaiian Black Lava Sea Salt on them). Oh so incredible.  These I ate one after another until they were all gone, in just a matter of minutes.  Poor Haus.  Poor me! I need a refill, Shesten. ;)

In total, 1,275 candies were exchanged through our swap, and because swapper Marcia L. registered us with Cookies for Kids Cancer, Barmioli Rocco matched $1 for each and we raised another $1,275 for pediatric cancer research just by doing what we love to do.  And I’m also very glad to report that we had zero flakes for this swap!  Every single person sent out their candies.  These swaps just keep getting better.  Thank you to all who participated, I had a ball.

 

Announcing: The Sweetest Swap!

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Sweetest Swap Header

By popular demand, announcing The Postcard Project‘s Sweetest Swap!  Can you guess what you’ll be exchanging if you join this February swap?  If you guessed corn, then you’d be wrong, dead wrong.  What is wrong with you, anyway?  But if you guessed candy, then you’re right on the money.

The Sweetest Swap will work exactly like the cookie swap.  You sign up, you get three matches, you mail each match 12 pieces of your best homemade candy, and you receive a dozen pieces of delicious homemade candy from your matches in return.  Super sweet, right?  Candy is a given for February, but homemade is a special treat.  If that sounds good to you, why not join the fun and let’s get swappin’!

Sweetest Swap logo

Important Dates
Signup deadline: Saturday, January 26th at midnight (sorry, I closed it early)
Receive matches: Monday, January 28th
Shipping deadline: Monday, February 11th

Important note: as with the cookie swap, please do not sign up if you are not 100% certain you will be able to make and mail your candy by the deadline.  Flakes will be removed from the contact list and blocked from future swaps.

For tips on shipping, check out this post, and keep in mind that most candy will fit easily into a small priority flat rate box, which are free at the post office.

**Sign up for participating in The Sweetest Swap is now closed.  If you would like to be contacted for next year’s candy exchange, you can click here to add your name to the list.**

Steak au Poivre

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Secret Recipe Club

It’s been a while since I participated in the Secret Recipe Club, since I opted out for the busy month of December and the club was closed for renovations during January, so I was so eager to finally participate again!  I absolutely love the anticipation of waiting to find out who my blog assignment is, then stealthily stalking their blog and picking the perfect recipe to make and share for reveal day.  That’s my favorite part, but it’s also a lot of fun to hunt down who was assigned to me after the big reveal and see what recipe they chose.  Fun, fun, fun! :)

This month I was assigned to Cupcake Muffin, which is the most expansive blog I’ve been assigned to so far.  There are so many delicious recipes in every category that it took quite a while to mark all the ones I liked and finally decide on “the one.”

I’m sure you are shocked that I didn’t pick a sweet treat, right?  So am I! :)  I figured since it’s getting close to Valentine’s Day, and I already have plenty of chocolatey recipes for you to choose from for dessert, I’d offer this fancy steak up as a consideration for your main course if you plan to have a romantic meal at home.   Also, I have ZERO steak recipes on my blog so I guess it’s about time I bit the bullet and added one.  Plus, the husband loves steak and usually if he wants it, I force him to make it himself (I’m sort of anti-steak), but I knew he would appreciate one that wasn’t rubbery and overcooked (his specialty) so I decided to be nice to every one and give you what you want. Aren’t I such a trooper? ;)

The steak is rich and so flavorful–peppery, but not overly so, despite the stunning amount of it in the recipe, and the cream sauce just brings it together so very nicely.  Despite my personal distaste for steak, I thought this was delicious and the best steak I’ve ever had in my life.

I usually covertly watch my husband while he eats, trying to see his reaction and judge whether I made a winner or a loser in his estimation.  Well, he had no reaction to this steak, except to shovel it into his mouth steadily without pausing to look up.  He knows how important it is to me to know if he likes what I’ve made, so I was a little uncertain, despite the proof of his enjoyment staring me in the face, until he was almost finished and finally remembered to look up and give his verdict.  He said it was the best steak he’s ever had!!  Coming from such a carnivore as he, this is a great compliment and a testament to the wonderful recipe.  Thank you, Sara, for sharing it–my husband is eternally grateful! This will be my go-to recipe for when I need to butter him up. :)

*Side note: Steak “au poivre” is French and translates to pepper steak. It is pronounced steak “oh pwav” or steak “oh pwavrah,” depending on which French chef you listen to.  (You can hear it pronounced from a French chef the first way on this video if you skip to :16, and the second way on this video if you skip to :42.)  I looked this up just so I wouldn’t sound a fool when I told Dennis what I was serving, and I thought I’d share for those who know as little French as I do.  I prefer to say steak oh pwav because it’s easier. :)

Steak au Poivre

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2 boneless beef strip steaks (about 1 pound total)
Kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black peppercorns
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup brandy (or cognac if you’re feeling extra-fancy)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Remove the steaks from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.  (A cold steak will contract when it hits the heat, causing the meat to become tough during cooking.)  Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season both sides lightly with salt. Coat both sides with the peppercorns, pressing so they adhere. Heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the steaks and cook to your desired doneness (2 to 3 minutes per side for medium rare), turning the heat down to medium after both sides are seared if you wish to cook it beyond medium rare. Transfer the steaks to a plate and tent them with foil. Pour off and discard any fat left in the pan, but not the brown bits.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the skillet. When the butter is melted, add the shallots and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully add the brandy*. Return the skillet to medium heat and cook, whisking, until the brandy reduces to a glaze, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream and simmer until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt. Transfer the steaks to dinner plates and top with the sauce.

Serves 2

*Note: Sara cautions to be careful when adding the alcohol if you have a gas stove because the alcohol will most likely ignite, as it did on hers (mine is electric and did not). Be sure to stand back and keep your hair out of the way just in case!

Recipe source: Cupcake Muffin



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