Monday, November 24, 2014

Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Chex Mix

Sorry for the break everyone.   A friend of mine just asked me for this recipe that I made last year at my friend’s Urban Family Thanksgiving Party last spring and I had started a post and then never posted it.  So here it is.  

In case you are wondering, Urban Family Thanksgiving is basically a replay of Thanksgiving only with the family you choose and food options that are either family favorites or something untraditional.  I settled on this Chex Mix recipe as an appetizer because Bourbon and Bacon should show up to every family gathering.  Right?

Of course I didn’t totally follow the recipe (shocker, eh?) and I made 3 batches which took me 3 hours because I only had 2 pans.  (Santa are you listening?)  

Here is the original recipe from General Mills:
Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Chex Mix®
1  bag (15 oz) Chex Mix® traditional snack mix
1 cup pecan halves
½  lb bacon (6 to 8 slices), crisply cooked and crumbled
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
¾ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • Heat oven to 300°F. Line two 15x10x1-inch pans with foil. Spray foil with cooking spray. In large bowl, mix snack mix, pecans and bacon. Set aside.
  • In 2-quart saucepan, heat brown sugar, butter and corn syrup over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbly around edges. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally; remove from heat. Cool 2 minutes. Carefully stir in bourbon and chipotle chili powder. Pour over snack mixture; toss until evenly coated.
  • Spread snack mixture on pans. Bake 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, to caramelize mixture. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Break into pieces. Store covered in refrigerator.

Miko can smell the bacon

The original recipe is very good.  I had some when I did the cooking day and General Mills and fell in love with it.

I kind of changed the whole thing with my version.  The original recipe uses the bags of Chex mix and I wanted to go more from scratch.

This is what I did. I bought:
  •  Corn Chex Mix
  •   Rice Chex Mix
  •  Bacon (2 packages already cooked; cheating I know but I didn’t want my house to smell like bacon)
  • Pepitas (I thought since it was Thanksgiving I should use pumpkin seeds instead of pecans)
  •  Slivered Almonds – I had some in the cupboard so I added those as well
  • Bag of pretzels – I threw the bag around and stomped on it to break up the pretzels
I tripled the “sauce” recipe/ingredients from the original recipe.  Lots of butter and brown sugar and corn syrup!   Oh, and a touch more bourbon and plenty of cayenne - you know I can’t resist booze and spice.  

Miko won't guard the door, but she will guard the Chex Mix

Because I didn’t use the prepackaged Chex mix, I needed to turn up the heat and leave the mix in longer.  This took some time to play with but I landed on 375 for about 25 minutes. I took it out and stirred/mixed it 2-3 times in that amount of time.  You want to make sure to brown and caramelize it a little bit.  
The Mix was a Big Hit!
I would definitely make it again but I would probably use pecans instead of the pepitas because the flavor was so mild that you didn’t really taste the pepitas as much.  It definitely needs something bolder.  I would also use more bacon.  Because you can never have too much bacon, right?

Had to show a photo of the CRISPY deep-fried turkey.
Don't worry, it was still good.  And there was another one in the oven

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chicken Enchilada Dip

Every year, I attend a Super Bowl party where the hosts ask people to bring food representative of the cities of the teams playing and the host city.   Denver, Seattle, and New York were on deck this year.  I’ve heard Denver has good Mexican food (I will have to find out for myself sometime), so I went with this Enchilada Dip that I had seen online.  Of course I made plenty of tweaks to make it my own.

Original Recipe:

16 oz. regular cream cheese, softened (500 g)
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, (411 g) (not drained)
2 green onions, chopped (optional)
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed, or use a melon baller (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder (5 mL)
1 tsp cumin (5 mL)
1/2  tsp paprika (2 mL)
1/4  tsp oregano (1 mL)
1/4  tsp salt (1 mL)
1/8  tsp onion salt (0.5 mL)
2 cups cooked, diced chicken (500 mL)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided (500 mL)

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).  In large bowl, mix softened cream cheese (nuke if necessary in the microwave oven first), tomatoes, green onions or avocado (if using), garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, salt and onion salt. Stir in chicken. Stir in 1 cup (250 mL) Cheddar cheese.

Place in a pretty, large 2-quart (2 L) capacity oval dish or use a 9 x 13-inch (2 L) casserole dish.  Sprinkle with remaining Cheddar cheese.  Bake 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly.  Serve with sliced cucumbers, sliced jicama, or low-carb crackers.

My version:

Shredded pork instead of chicken.  I had a pork shoulder that I put in the crock pot with all kinds of seasonings to make tacos with and had a ton left over so I decided to use it in this dip instead of chicken.  It was a good call.
The pork was kind of long and I thought it would be difficult to maneuver with chips
so I cut it up with my kitchen sheers.    

Avocado added last (after baking).   Cooking the avocado in the dip sounded strange to me, so I added it on top after I took it out of the oven.   There was also sour cream nearby as a chili topping so I dolloped that on top (yes, dolloped is a word).   I think next time, I would put a bowl of guacamole, sour cream, and fresh jalapeno slices out as topping options.

Serve with Tortilla Chips (or Fritos).  The recipe above was mentioning that is “slow-carb” (hence the suggested cucumber and low-carb crackers for dipping).   Well, if you are going to have an enchilada dip, then you might as well go all out with the tortilla chips.   I served mine with tortilla chips but I was wishing I had grabbed a bag of Fritos as well as I think that would’ve been really good too.  

Pepper Jack Cheese instead.  I used pepper jack cheese instead of cheddar.  I like both cheeses.  Heck, I love all cheese.   But as Tara at the party mentioned “I’m not afraid of a little spice.”  (As an FYI - Most Minnesotans tend to think black pepper is too spicy.)  I also love Monterrey Jack cheese in Mexican food, so there you have it.   I was happy with my choice.  I mixed most of it in the dip and then piled a layer on top too. Cuz you can never have too much cheese.

Spices.  I didn’t have all of the spices so I just threw in what I had.  Okay, I had all of the spices except onion salt; and I had oregano but I didn’t think that sounded very “Mexican” so I left it out.   And I wasn’t paying attention because while most spice jars have small holes in them, the cumin did not and I accidentally dumped the whole bottle in.  (Lesson learned:  pay attention!).   It wasn’t a full jar, and I like Cumin, so I just stirred it in really well and went on my merry way.

Fresh Tomato.  I had a fresh tomato sitting on my counter so I chopped that and threw it in along with the can of diced tomatoes. 

You’ve probably noticed by now that I am the Queen of only using recipes as a guide, I rarely follow a recipe exactly.  (Except in baking, that is one area that you really have to pay attention to the correct measurements and ingredients or you end up with a limp cake or something.)   I hope you are learning that recipes are meant for tweaking; you can add things, and take away things, at your leisure.   Play away! 

I would definitely make this again.  


Thursday, January 23, 2014

21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes

I'm not sure if you've seen these yet.  They've been circulating on Facebook but I thought I would share them here too.   Both the recipes and the photos are truly upsetting (in an unappetizing kind of way).

21 Truly Upsetting Vintage Recipes:

While, I'm going to say that the banana candle is the most "interesting" photo (no further comment.)    I'm not sure which one is the most unappetizing.   

Tuna and jello pie? 

Steak Pudding? 

Liver Sausage Pineapple?  

Monterey Souffle Salad?   

Mystery #21?

It is hard to pick just one....  Which one do you think is the one you'd least like to eat?

I will have to say, this reminds me of how far we've come in recipe development and food photography.   Cheers to that!  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake

Let me introduce you to your Thanksgiving dessert.  You should definitely skip the pumpkin pie this year and make this cake instead.  It is delicious.  

* See my notes below for a couple time savers before you get started (and before you buy the ingredients). 

Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake
Serves 8 to 12; by Jeanne Kelley from Fine Cooking Magazine

For the purée
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin cut in half from stem to bottom and seeded

For the cake
6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
For the topping
1-1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans
1/2 cup unsalted, raw, hulled pepitas
2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. table salt
1-1/2 Tbs. chopped crystallized ginger

For the frosting
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 oz. (1-1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar

Make the pumpkin purée
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. 
  2. Brush a 9x13-inch baking dish with the oil. Put the pumpkin halves in the dish cut side down and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.  
  3. Let cool.  
  4. Peel the pumpkin and purée the flesh in a food processor until smooth. You’ll need 1-1/2 cups of the purée for the cake. 
  5. Refrigerate or freeze any remaining purée for another use.

Make the cake
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. 
  2. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans with removable bottoms (or butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment, and flour the pans). 
  3. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. 
  4. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. 
  5. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until cool but not set, about 15 minutes. 
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves. 
  7. In a large bowl, whisk 1 ½ cups of the pumpkin purée with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until very well blended.  
  8. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  
  9. Gently whisk in the brown butter until completely incorporated. 
  10. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. 
  11. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. 
  12. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. 
  13. Turn the cakes out onto racks, remove the pan bottoms or parchment, and cool completely.

Make the topping
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. 
  2. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook until the pecans brown slightly and the pepitas begin to pop, about 2 minutes. 
  3. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the nuts are glazed, about 2 minutes. 
  4. Stir in the ginger. 
  5. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.

Make the frosting
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-duty 1-quart saucepan over medium heat. 
  2. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the butter turns a nutty golden-brown, about 4 minutes. 
  3. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until the solids settle at the bottom of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Carefully transfer the bowl to the freezer and chill until just firm, about 18 minutes. 
  4. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter from bowl, leaving the browned solids at the bottom; discard the solids. 
  5. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light in color and the brown sugar has dissolved, 2 minutes. 
  6. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Assemble the cake
  1. Put one cake layer on a cake plate. 
  2. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting on the layer. 
  3. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nut mixture over the frosting and top with the second layer. 
  4. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. 
  5. Arrange the remaining topping in a ring 1-1/2 inches in from the edge of the cake and serve.

Make Ahead Tips
You can make the purée up to 2 days ahead.  The assembled, frosted cake can be covered with a cake
dome and refrigerated for up to 2 days.  Serve at room temperature.

My Notes
  • I did not make my own pumpkin puree, I used one can of Libby’s pumpkin puree (not pie filling).
  • I bought pre-made “Whipped” cream cheese frosting instead of making the frosting from scratch.
  • I did not make the nut topping.  (I generally don’t like nuts in or on my baked goods.)
  • I did not have crystalized ginger, so I just used ground ginger instead.
  • I drizzled the whole cake with salted caramel (store bought) because why wouldn't you?  And because caramel makes everything taste better.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pop It, Top It

What is Pop It, Top It you ask?  Well, it is exactly what it sounds like.  You pop the popcorn and top it with yummy goodness.  This is one of those ideas that I wish I would’ve thought of. 

I was lucky enough to receive a sample of Pop It, Top It; Candy-coated, Sninkerdoodle-flavored popcorn.  It is an easy and unique snack. You basically pop the popcorn in the microwave; put the candy coating in the microwave to melt it; drizzle it over the top of the popcorn; stir it together; and top with the “S” topping, which is basically a cinnamon mix.   

The first time I made this was with some girlfriends and we missed the last step of pouring it onto wax paper and letting it cool completely (I blame the vino).  We dove right in!   It was warm, gooey, very sweet, and very cinnamony.   (Maybe too cinnamon; and we didn’t even use all of the “S” seasoning.) 
My friend, Michelle, enjoying the warm Pop It, Top It
The second time I made it, I followed the instructions all the way until the end and allowed it to cool completely.  It was also really good.  I kind of liked it both ways equally.  The warm way was good and and gooey; and the cooled off version reminded me a little bit of caramel popcorn with an entirely different flavor.  Both versions were hard to stop eating; I had to step away from the bowl slowly and leave it alone.

I love this idea and I hope they come out with some new flavors.  I think a turtle version would be awesome with chocolate, caramel, and cashews.   Or a savory version, like a parmesan and herb concoction or something.  

Definitely kudos to these two local best friends, Mary and Maggie, for coming up with such a unique item that would make the perfect hostess gift for the holidays. 

You can buy it online for $7.00 here: or you can try to get your local retailer to carry it by going here: .  I always like to support local business owners.  I want everyone to be successful, especially when they are doing something they are passionate about.  And if the store decides to carry it, they will send you a dozen of their products free.   Win, win.  


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cooking with Cereal

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to top my day yesterday, but I am sure that I will never look at cereal the same way again.  Yesterday, I had the pleasure of spending the day at General Mills playing with cereal.  

The day started out with a tour of the photo studios; where they photograph all of the recipes, products, and cookbooks.  I found myself dreaming of being a food stylist, and having serious envy over the prop room.  Yep, there are whole rooms dedicated to props for the photos.  What color and size of plate would you like?  Take your pick.  How about napkins?  Well there are about 50 shades of orange.  How fun to have all of these accessories at your fingertips.  General Mills proved to be quite the playground (and I haven’t even talked about the test kitchens yet). 

After the photo studio, we ventured to the archive room.  They have everything possible documented in there.  It was really cool to see all of the history preserved and so well organized.   And it was interesting to see some of the crazy products they had back in the day. Warm beef beverage anyone? 

Look Closely.... I'm not sure what the question is but I'm sure the answer is cake.  Answer Cake = Brilliant!

Then came a tour of the test kitchens….   Can you believe that some employees actually have their own kitchen as their office space?   Sure beats a traditional cubical (by far). 
Test Kitchens
Next up = lunch.  We were able to sample some great “cereal” dishes created by chefs.  They were very creative and tasty.  

My favorite dishes were:
Golden Grahams Fried Chicken with Hot Honey Drizzle
Cocoa Puffs Carbonara
Cinnamon Toast Crunch French Toast
Corn Chex Chilaquiles
Find the recipes for the above items here:

After lunch, we (myself and 5 other food bloggers) were let loose to play in the test kitchens and create our own cereal creations.
How amazing is this view? 
I had debated banana bread with peanut butter, chocolate chips and Reese’s Puffs, and then I debated a coffee cake or apple crisp using the Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the crumble on top.  But when I saw the plethora of ingredients at our disposal, I decided to go the savory route with Asian meatballs.
Amazing Selection of Ingredients to Choose from

These are the ingredients I selected for the meatballs:  Ground pork, beef, and veal; Shitake Mushrooms (chopped and sautéed); Garlic (minced and sautéed); Yellow Pepper (diced); Onion (diced); Cilantro (chopped); Ginger (minced); 1 egg; and Rice Chex (put into food processor).

I mixed all of that together and then formed the meatballs and sautéed them in a pan with olive oil, drizzled a little honey on top of each one, and finished them in the oven.

Action Shot  (photo by General Mills)
Action Shot from Above (photo by General Mills)
I had planned to make a Hoisin sauce but it turned out that Hoisin is the one ingredient they didn’t have. Therefore, I made a random sauce with every other ingredient I could find.  I added soy sauce, BBQ sauce, Ketchup, peanut butter, honey, garlic, Siracha, pepper and then reduced it.  It ended up being really salty from the soy sauce, so I had to add a cup of water and reduce it some more.  I wasn’t 100% pleased with it but ran out of time and decided it was “good enough.”  I drizzled the sauce over the finished meatballs, and topped them with my crunchy mix.
Crunchy Mix
I put peanuts and Wheaties in the food processor, pulsed those down, and sautéed them in butter to toast them.  I sprinkled the mix on top of the sauced meatballs.
Me and My Meatballs (photo by General Mills)
I’ll have to say, I was kind of impressed with myself.  I thought the meatballs turned out really well and I would definitely make them again either as meatballs or as a meatloaf. The Rice Chex worked really well as a binding agent (and made the meatballs gluten free).  I felt like the time flew by and I really wanted more time (as in a couple of days) to play.   There were so many ingredients and cereals that I wanted to experiment with.   I love playing and experimenting.  I'm envious that people get to do that all day as a real job.  

Being ambitious, I also ended up grabbing the sweet potato gnocchi and whipping up a quick dish with that.  (It had been calling to me and no one else grabbed it.)  I cooked the gnocchi in water and then browned some butter, threw in some sage, added the gnocchi, topped with fresh grated parmesan and Wheaties (for added crunch).  It was a very pretty and fall-like dish. And I like the crunch that the Wheaties provided.

The only things missing in my test kitchen experience were a glass of wine and music (two of my cooking staples).  But what made up for that was the fact that we didn't have to clean up after ourselves, which was good because we made quite a mess.
No pan left untouched
It was fun to see, and try, what everyone came up with.  We were a creative bunch.   In addition to trying each other’s dishes, we were hit with a round of dessert cereal treats. One of my favorite was the Kentucky Bourbon Bacon Chex Mix.   YUM!   Oh, and don’t let me forget the Lucky Charms martinis.

Seriously, I had such a great time; I felt really lucky to be there and to have had such a great experience.  I won’t deny that I’m daydreaming about how to get my own “office kitchen.” 

Until this experience, my “cooking with cereal” experiences had been limited to Rice Krispie treats, Special K bars, and Bran muffins.  I really enjoyed exploring the savory side of cereal.  There are so many great cereal flavors that can be used in place of breadcrumbs and crackers.  I am going to start using cereal to encrust fish, chicken, and crab cakes.  The possibilities are endless.  I love the idea of “thinking outside of the box” with cereal.  It’s time to get rid of the milk, bowl, and spoon and branch out.  

For inspiration, check out:

What is your favorite cereal?  


UPDATE - You can view additional photos here: