Monthly Archives: February 2014

Country Ham & Jalapeño Puffs

Last week when I shared Pizza Puffs , I professed my love for all foods bite sized and dippable. I wasn’t kidding. I couldn’t get those little suckers out of my head! But in true food lover fashion, I had to make them, just make them different.

Country Ham & Jalapeño Puffs

I used that recipe as inspiration to make something a bit spicier and a little heartier. I used a mixture of cornmeal and flour which gives it an awesome texture. Throw in some chopped jalapeño for a bit of crunch, salty country ham for a kick, and sharp cheddar cheese takes it over the top. Now what about that doesn’t sound like a winner?

Country Ham & Jalapeño Puffs

I made these on Sunday so we had a quick breakfast option for the week. That worked out perfectly, a couple warm Puffs with a couple scrambled eggs and your day is off to an excellent start. They were also great paired with Chili, and as an added bonus you can dip them!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour (I used gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4-1 cup diced country ham (this was one 6 ounce package of biscuit slices for me)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Dice country ham, place it in a small baking pan and put in your oven while it is preheating.
  3. In a mixing bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and pepper. Give it a good stir until everything seems mixed well.
  4. Add cheddar, eggs, buttermilk, and the diced jalapeños
  5. Now, take the country ham out of your oven. Drain off any liquid, and add the ham to your batter. Mix well.
  6. Grab two greased muffin tins, put a heaping spoonful in each cup.
  7. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown.

Alternatives:

  • The batter will fill up one muffin tin if you want big muffins, if you want to keep them small, which is what I prefer, use two pans.
  • Do spicy things scare you? They shouldn’t! But if they do you can sub the jalapeños for bell pepper or leave it out all together.

 

 As always, I made this dish using gluten free ingredients. I use Glutino Gluten Free Pantry All Purpose flour or Gluten Free Bisquick in place of flour. 

Chili

As I turned on the television yesterday these are the first words I hear “An arctic blast is moving across the country.”

Oh my goshhhh…..really?

Last Friday I shared Blueberry Bars and spoke of my new approach for Spring. Cook like it, eat like it, dress like it and surely it will come. This actually proved to work pretty well over the weekend, our windows were wide open and we grilled burgers. If that isn’t the first sign of Spring, I don’t know what is.

Chili

Chili

Turns out Mother Nature is a tease.

As the weather returns to unfortunate temperatures I am choosing to use this as an opportunity to have one last go of our favorite winter recipes. Chili is at the top of that list. There are a ton of different versions of chili recipes, some with ingredient lists as long as your arm that take hours to prepare, but I really believe simple is best. Meat, beans, tomatoes, chili powder, simmer.

Done and Done.

Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
  • 1 can light red kidney beans
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can red beans
  • 1 can rotel
  • 1 can crushed or stewed tomatoes
  • 1 46 ounce can of tomato juice
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

In a large pan brown meat, drain well. Add rinsed beans, undrained can of rotel and tomatoes, tomato juice and spices. Simmer for about 30 minutes uncovered. Chili is ready to go when you can tell the tomato juice has reduced a bit (when you have less liquid than when you started) garnish and enjoy!

Alternatively, you can throw this in the slow cooker  on low all day and have a warm meal ready to go when you get home.

Part II: How Not to Tile Your Backsplash

Just in case you missed it, part one of my home improvement journey can be found here. 

Please excuse my grainy cell phone pictures, I didn’t know I would be sharing this with my imaginary internet friends. :)

 

So there I was, ready to go. I tore open everything I had just purchased and laid it out on the counter top. My thinking was if everything is already open and I can’t return it, I won’t chicken out. Good thing I did because about fifteen minutes later I was ready to throw in the towel.

I ripped into the Smart Mat, measured a piece, then stuck it to the wall. I peeled the plastic off the other side which exposed the super sticky section. I grabbed a sheet of tile and slowly placed it on the wall. I used the floater to press the tile into the mat so it would firmly hold.

Okay, first step, not so bad. Actually, not bad at all! I stepped back and admired my work. Hey, I am pretty good at this! I repeated the steps again, second sheet up! I was on fire! I grabbed the third sheet and just when I held it up I realized I hit my first obstacle.

Electrical outlet.

Tile

I had not thought this far ahead. Okay, no big deal. This is one of those measure twice, cut once kind of situations. Except my math skills leave a lot to be desired, so this could be a problem. This happens to be one of the reasons I keep Mr. Maebell around.

After a lot of measuring, guessing, praying, and one unfortunate flashback to 6th grade Math, I cut a section out of the sheet of tile. This was actually pretty easy, I just pretended the tile was grid paper and counted my blocks off and cut it out with a box cuter. Once I had the sheet on the wall, I placed an outlet cover over it to be sure I measured right. Yep, looked good.

Tile

In no time at all I was at the end of the wall, and almost out of tile. Remember, I bought 10 square feet of tile while planning to tile 40 square feet of wall. I had a decision, I could go get more supplies or try to pull this off as some sort of accent wall and be done with it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of a way to convince Mr. Maebell that I meant to only do a fourth of our kitchen and not that I had started a project I wasn’t going to finish, so off to Lowes I went.

Five hours later, the kitchen walls were covered, I had downed two Iced Caramel Machiatos, and there was only grout standing between me and a big fat “I told you so.” I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I grabbed the bag of grout, a bucket and a paint sick and started stirring. This seemed like it took forever to get the right consistency, my little arms (that can rarely open a pickle jar on their own) were ready to fall off. All of this before I even started grouting!

Eventually, I had the mixture correct and started grouting the tile, which is SO much harder than it looks. I shoved it in every teeny little crevice, and then wiped the wall down with clean water. I repeated this process over and over and over until my arms were numb and my back was aching. Then I stepped back, finally, my first real glimpse of the finished product.

Tile

My kitchen looked good. My kitchen looked really really good. No, my kitchen actually looked freaking amazing!

Even though the tile was up and the grout was on the wall I knew I was running out of time. Right about then I knew Mr. Maebell would be headed home from work any minute. I pushed on and made my sore, tired arms keep wiping the haze off the tile. There is no way I was going to come this far and not have it look amazing when he came in! My adrenaline was pumping!

Before I knew it, I heard Mr. Maebell drive up. Yes! I was so excited I couldn’t stand it. I flung the front door open, “What happened to you?!” he asked. Come to think of it, I was looking pretty rough, crazy hair, grout all over my face, and arms, not to mention the fact my bangs were completely plastered to the side of my head. My clothes were covered with powder from mixing the grout. I was, by all accounts, a hot mess. “Look!” I pointed to the kitchen. His mouth dropped open, “What did you…” there was really no reason to ask the question, it was clear what I had done. Then he turned and looked at me and smiled.

And there it was, that little smile that started this whole stupid thing.

Except this time, the smile wasn’t a challenge. Suddenly, I realized it had never been a challenge in the first place. He didn’t smile when I said I could do the tile because he doubted me, he smiled because he knew all along I was stubborn enough to actually make it happen.

And there we were, standing in a filthy, messy kitchen with a brand new backsplash. The smell of grout heavy in the air.

I had been busy competing with him, trying to prove him wrong all day and he had absolutely no idea.

Finished Backsplash

Today, our kitchen is back in order. The grout is dry, the counter tops are clean and installing the backsplash is a funny story I get to tell. I never got my “I told you so” and he never said “I was wrong.” And you know what? I am okay with that, because, as it turns out, he believed in me all along. But I proved I could do it to the one person I needed to.
Me.

Blueberry Bars

I am so sick of winter.
So very sick and tired of winter, are you?

Normally, I try very hard to appreciate all of the seasons without wishing them away. Not this year, I am over it. There has been a little bubble around my home. We have received zero (ZERO) snow! Instead it has been muddy, and rainy, and dark and gross. The number of muddy paw prints I have cleaned up this winter is up in the millions, I feel sure.

So, instead of just wishing winter would go away I am changing my approach. Maybe if I cook springtime food, and wear spring clothes it will just come. You know, a “if you build it they will come” mentality.

Blueberry Bars

In the spirit of bending seasons to our will I have Blueberry Bars for you today. This is a light, flavorful, slightly sweet snack cake. The addition of oats gives it a great texture, and balances the soft berries nicely. I cut these into bars for easy, healthy snacking this week and it worked out great. I thought they were perfect with a cup of coffee for a quick breakfast.

Blueberry Bars

So just in case your battling the winter blues like me, whip up a batch and wish for sunshine. Spring is bound to show up eventually!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour + 1 tablespoon (I used Gluten Free Pantry AP flour)
  • 1/2 cup oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill GF oats)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar + 1 tablespoon
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine first five ingredients (your dry ingredients) leaving out the extra tablespoon of flour and sugar.
  3. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine your milk, egg, and vanilla extract.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
  5. In a small bowl mix the blueberries with the extra tablespoon of flour and sugar. This will help the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of your batter.
  6. Add blueberries to batter and stir lightly.
  7. Pour mixture into a greased 8×8 baking pan or round cake pan.
  8. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bars are set and a toothpick comes out clean.

Pizza Puffs

I am a sucker for snack food. There is just something about cute little bite size appetizers that is so much more appealing than a plate full of normal size food. This is why I jump at any opportunity to make appetizers for dinner, that is how these Pizza Puffs were created. I was craving pizza, but really didn’t want to put forth the amount of effort it requires to make a good pizza dough. Lazy girl, I know.

Pizza Puffs

So I thought, why not throw together the components of pizza together in a muffin tin and see what we get. Originally, I made these as little mini muffins by filling a mini muffin tin and filling them 3/4 of the way full. That was good, we liked it, but it wasn’t great. Eventually I found that you get the perfect crisp crust and soft, fluffy inside by using a regular size muffin pan with only a spoonful of batter. Yes, a heaping spoonful, just barely cover the bottom of the pan. They puff up nicely, I promise.

Pizza Puffs

Dunk these babies in some warm marinara sauce, and there you have it. You will score points with your family with no crazy ingredients, weird cooking methods, or a full load of dirty dishes, just a quick simple dinner idea.

Extra points because it’s dippable. Extra extra points because it is cute and bite sized.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Bisquick (I used gluten free Bisquick)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pepperoni
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Grab a medium size mixing bowl, combine first 6 ingredients until blended thoroughly
  3. Add in milk and beaten egg, mix well.
  4. Add mixture to a greased muffin tin, one heaping spoonful at a time
  5. Bake for 20 minutes
  6. Serve with warm marinara, enjoy!

How Not to Tile Your Backsplash

I have to preface this post with a very clear message:
I have a wonderful husband. I mean he is truly, on so many levels, so much more than I will ever deserve. He takes wonderful care of me, but I have this issue. It is a complex of sorts, I hate, I really mean hate being told I can’t do something.
Even if it is true!
I think to myself, “how do you know I can’t do that?”
“You clearly don’t understand what I am capable of!”

That is how this whole journey of tiling our backsplash began. It all started with a little off handed comment, I said “I bet I could do that!” While looking at a completely perfect, unachievable master tiling job in a gorgeous kitchen that probably belonged in a mansion. He looked at the photo, then looked at me, and with a little smile said, “yeah honey..sure”.

That was all it took, it lit a fire within me that I can’t explain. What was that smile about anyway? I could do that! It is just tile….on a wall. I mean people do this on HGTV all the time, right? Keep in mind I have never, ever tiled anything in my whole life. Or watched anyone tile anything. I had no idea how you even got tile to stick to the floor…or wall…or whatever you were doing!

Before

He was right to smile, I was clueless.

It didn’t matter though…because I had already made up my mind.
He didn’t think I could do it, I will show him.
Challenge Accepted.

Tile

A couple weeks later I woke up on a Saturday morning alone. Mr. Maebell had to work the entire weekend, so I got up and piddled around a bit then headed off to Lowes. I didn’t go with any particular project in mind, I just went because I didn’t have anything else to do. I wandered around until I got to the tile section and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I HAD to do it. I had to do it, right then. So I grabbed a buggy and combed through the stacks of tile until I found what I wanted. I didn’t know how much I needed because I hadn’t even measured my backsplash (are you noticing a theme here.) I put 10 square feet of beautiful mosaic tile in my cart and left. While stacking the tile in my car I was beaming with pride. “Can’t do this! What is he thinking! That wasn’t hard at all!” Then I realized that wasn’t anything….that was just purchasing a product, I hadn’t even bought whatever you need to secure it to the wall itself…or the grout, isn’t that right, grout Is the right word? I wasn’t entirely sure, but I thought I had heard the term before. So, since I just marched out of Lowe’s with such confidence I couldn’t bare to go back in and let on that I had no freaking clue what I was doing. Instead, I went to Home Depot. I purchased the Simple Mat to secure the tile, biscuit colored grout, a flouter, bucket, tile spacers….all because I googled “tiling for dummies.”

Before

I headed home, cleared the counter tops off and was ready to get down to business. I had the supplies, a venti Iced Caramel Machiato and season 6 of Private Practice on Netflix, it was noon and my husband would be home in 8 hours.
Game on.

To be Continued.

Coconut Mocha Snack Mix

I am a complete and total coffee addict.

Really, I am. It is so significant that when Mr. Maebell and I go on trips we seriously question whether or not we should pack our Keurig. Our coffee is on a scheduled delivery system from Amazon, which we buy in bulk. And just in case I haven’t driven the point home enough, we have a broken coffee cup we absolutely cannot part with because the it is the perfect size, and you can measure the perfect coffee to creamer ratio in it.

Coconut Mocha Snack Mix

Caffeine intake is absolutely nothing to kid around with in this house.

While I can be held responsible for getting Mr. Maebell hooked on the stuff, there is one drink that did me in and turned me to the dark side.

Starbucks’ Coconut Mocha Frappuccino.

I was just a kid the first time I had this, probably thirteen or so (Um why was a thirteen year old drinking  coffee? I have no idea.) I was completely in love with the dark chocolate, the bitter coffee, the strong taste of coconut all mixed together and topped with a ginormous serving of creamy whipped cream. It is summertime in a cup. The flavor combo has stuck with me ever since. So, while looking at the back of a box of Chocolate Chex I saw one recipe for a Mocha Chex mix, and another for a Coconut Macaroon Chex mix. Obviously, I had to mix the two. The end product is awfully close to my beloved Coconut Mocha Frap flavor. It is packed with Chocolate Chex, pecans, coconut toasted almonds, chocolate, coffee, and of course, coconut. This is a great snack to give you a quick pick me up.

Coconut Mocha Snack Mix

Ingredients:

  •  6 cups Chocolate Chex
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free)
  • 1 tablespoon of instant coffee powder*
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup coconut toasted almonds (regular almonds would work too)
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips, melted for drizzling

Directions:

Place cereal in a large mixing bowl and set aside

In another bowl add the butter, honey, and condensed milk and microwave 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until it is smooth. Add in cocoa powder, and instant coffee. Microwave again if needed until mixture is smooth.

Pour chocolate coffee mixture over cereal and lightly stir, add in almonds and pecans and continue to stir until mixture is coated.

Spread mixture onto a large sheet of wax paper

Sprinkle snack mix with coconut, and drizzle with melted chocolate chip. (I just microwave the chocolate chips 15-20 seconds at a time until melted, stir until smooth)

Let mixture sit until it has cooled and store in an air tight container.

*For a milder coffee flavor you can half this amount.

Adapted from Chex.com