Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ulitmate S'mores

Hello again, dear readers. It's almost summertime here in Nevada. You can basically say we had our one week of Springtime weather, so it might as well be called Summer already.

We just had Memorial Day. The waterparks are open for business. People are out fishing and camping. It's time for every scout's favorite campfire treat. S'MORES!!!!

I'm sure most people are familiar with the original s'more.  If you've seen the latest Hershey TV ad, then you've seen Hershey's chocolate teamed with Jet-Puft marshmallows and Honey-Maid graham crackers. Now, those are good, BUT I can up the ante. I can IMPROVE THEM!!!

What you need is to think outside the s'more. You need to evolve the s'more, layer by delicious layer. You must know by now that is not health food. It's a devilish delicious treat.

Let's start with the cracker. You can stick to graham crackers if you like. I picked up a box of Honey Grahams at Trader Joe's, as well as some of their Speculoos.  You could experiment with chocolate chip cookies, like Keebler or Chips Ahoy. Maybe Oreo's sound good to you, which are Vegan and a bit on the small side. If you don't want to fuss with the Oreo filling, get some Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. They're similar in chocolatey goodness without the white stuff.

Now, go to the candy aisle. Grab some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, or Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups if you need Vegan options. Grab some snack-size Milky Ways. Heck, grab some Dove or Cadbury chocolate bars, even the Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars are good.

Then, what about the marshmallow layer? You need something sticky to hold it all together. I love toasted marshmallows for this.  However, maybe you'd like some Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter? Or Biscoff Cookie Butter, which is also Vegan and very yummy. Something else I've tried that's good is frosting, good old vanilla buttercream frosting. Or if you're really adventurous, toast some fruity chewy candies like Starburst. Yeah. Let's get crazy!

As for the campfire treat component, you don't have to be camping. You can toast marshmallows over your gas flame cooktop, grill, or a candle. You can even just pile stuff together and microwave it until the marshmallow puffs up, but then it's not toasty.  I suppose if you don't want the marshmallow, then this is a moot point.

We're all about live fire and marshmallows here!

The bottom line, the point I'm making is to take something and sandwich it all together. Why not mix and match? For me, it's not really a s'more unless it has toasted marshmallow.  For some of my friends, the marshmallow is optional. Make it, try it, and find what your ultimate s'more is.

My friend Barb loves chocolate chip cookie, Hershey, toasted marshmallow.  Shannon is into the speculoos cookie and cookie butter. The hubby loves graham cracker, Peanut butter cup, toasted marshmallow. My new favorite is graham cracker, Milky Way, toasted marshmallow.  What's yours?

Cracker layer: (Choose 1)  graham crackers, chocolate chip cookies, Oreo's, Speculoos cookies

Chocolate candy layer: (Choose 1)  Reese's, Milky Way, Snickers, Cadbury, Hershey, Dove, Kit Kat, 3 Musketeers

Smooshy layer: (Choose 1) Marshmallow, Starburst, Mamba, cookie butter spread, peanut butter, buttercream frosting

1. Arrange your cracker layer on a plate.

2. Add a piece of chocolate on top of the cracker layer.

3a. If using marshmallows, Starburst, or Mambas,  toast it on a long stick or fire-proof kabob skewer. Push it off onto a second cracker. It will be hot and gooey.

3b. If using a spread, apply to a second cracker.

4. Place second cracker on top of candy, smooshy side inwards.

5. Devour!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Split Pea Soup

Hello again, my friends.

I can't believe it's already May, the end of May at that!  April flew by! School will be out soon. The weather is getting quite warm. We had a few cooler, rainy days, but I think we are officially at the end of "soup weather."

We'd had a ham so I had this huge ham bone with tons of meat still stuck to it. There are so many things you can do with the ham, like scalloped potatoes and ham, or ham salad. The ham bone is perfect for flavoring beans or peas.

Split pea soup is the best when you have a whole ham bone. I've tried using little ham steaks cut up, but the flavor isn't there. You need the bone. It's the same as stock from beef or chicken. You need the bone and marrow for body and depth of flavor.

Split pea soup is really easy, not many ingredients and not much work. It's great with some bread and a salad.

1 bag dried split green peas (approx. 16 oz)
8 cups water (2 quarts)
1 white or yellow onion, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 ham bone
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse peas and remove any debris.  Add peas, onion, carrot, and water to a large stock pot.  Bring up to simmer over medium heat.  Let it simmer, covered, about 1 1/2 hours.

 2.  When the peas are fairly tender, and beginning to break down, add the ham bone. Simmer another hour.

3.  Taste test your soup. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Remove the ham bone.  If you want a super smooth soup, you can puree it now.  If you want a chunky soup, don't puree it.

4. My ham bone still had plenty of ham on it, so I cut off and diced up what I could. I got about a pound of meat off my ham bone.  The ham went back into the pot. I pureed after the ham went back in so it was not completely smooth. I used a stick blender to do this. Be careful not to splash hot soup all over.

5. Taste again and adjust seasonings as desired.  Serve hot with crusty, hearty bread and extra cracked black pepper. If you like bread bowls, a round sourdough loaf hollowed out would be perfect for this.

Enjoy!  See you again very soon!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Annie's Homegrown Lasagna Review

Hello, dear readers. I have been a busy mama and trying to make new things at home has been a challenge. You might remember that I joined Influenster a while ago. I was very surprised when I was given something totally awesome to review. Annie's Homegrown frozen lasagna!

OK, you're probably thinking "What's the big deal about frozen lasagna? It's not that great."

Well, that's what I thought too. I've had other brands of frozen lasagna that were fairly bad with thick, pasty pasta, gummy cheese, processed meat, and sometimes it was all I could do to eat it because I was that hungry.

We've eaten other products from Annie's and I'm happy with them. The kids love the bunny gummies and cheddar snack mix. They are so-so with the mac & cheese. I was definitely game to try the new frozen family size entrees.

I picked up my box from Target.  They have other flavors, Mac & Cheese, Butternut Mac & Cheese, Chicken and White Cheddar Shells, and the classic Lasagna.

Here it is right out of the box. So far, so good. Looks like real cheese on top so that's good. I popped it in the oven, let it bake and then we dug in.

The box says it serves 3.5.  Well, the four of us ate the whole thing. The boys took slightly large portions than what we girls got. The ricotta layer was salty and good.  It wasn't swimming in tomato sauce. The texture of the pasta was just right, also the noodles were not too thick. 

We loved it. My husband even said it was almost as good as my homemade lasagna. Now that says something!

I even managed to get Haley, the pickiest 5-year-old, to eat it and she absolutely lit up after she tasted it.

My conclusion was to buy this again! It only took a little over an hour to bake, so the effort was minimal.  The lasagna itself tasted great and not at all like other frozen ones we've had before. Also, knowing that Annie's using organic ingredients and wholesome, responsible sources was a bonus. 

For the sake of total transparency: Please note that I received this product complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Hey, if you like Annie's products, you might like my recipe for Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts.