Simple Salsa

Ingredients

6 tomatoes, seeded and cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ large red onion, cut into large chunks (separate each layer into its own piece)
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and diced
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp cumin
Leaves from about ¼ to ½ of a bunch of cilantro

Instructions

Place everything into a large food processor and process on low. Once the pieces look relatively small, stop the food processor and stir. Process again to make sure any larger pieces get chopped.

Mini Chocolate Cakes

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I had a party yesterday afternoon and needed a quick and easy dessert to make. I was already running behind schedule. I had some chocolate pound cake mix, which would be super easy to do something with. (I’m totally serious – you just add butter and water to this magical mix!)

Ingredients

1 package Tastefully Simple Classy Chocolate Pound Cake Mix
¾ cup melted butter
1 cup water
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 ¾ cups heavy cream
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup powdered sugar

If you want to use store bought whipped cream, you don’t need the powdered sugar or vanilla, and you only need 1 ¾ cups heavy cream.

Instructions

Cake

Mix the pound cake mix, melted butter, and water. Grease two 9-inch round pans. I probably would’ve used a jelly roll pan if I had one. Make sure you set your cakes up to bake flat. I have these Wilton bake even strips that go around the pan to promote even baking. A Cozy Kitchen also had a DIY method here. I totally forgot to use the strips, which is why you see some uneven layers in the photo.

Bake at 325 for about 15-18 minutes. I think I did 12 minutes, tested, and put it back for another 5. Like a regular cake, a toothpick will come out clean when it’s done. Don’t be scared if the toothpick comes out clean and the cake still looks a little jiggly in the center.

Cool cakes fully before assembling.

Filling

Beat 1 ¾ heavy cream until it thickens slightly. Add ¼ cup milk and the packet of pudding mix. Beat for 2 minutes. Cover and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Whipped Cream

Beat 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and ¼ cup powdered sugar until it’s a whipped cream consistency with stiff peaks. I could’ve beaten mine for a few more minutes. It wasn’t runny, but it wasn’t quite as stiff as I wanted. Keep it in the fridge until ready to use.

Assembly

Remove the cakes from the pans. (Caution – don’t remove until your cake is fully cooled!) Use a biscuit cutter to cut the cakes into small circular pieces. You can use whatever size cutter you want. The one I used was about 2″ and I was able to get 16 pieces (for 8 cakes). Go smaller if you don’t want people to need a fork.

Use a piping bag to pipe the filling onto each bottom piece. Stack with the top cake piece and top with whipped cream. You could also add some chocolate shavings.

Lazy Cupcakes

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My old boss is transferring to the other side of the country, and today was her last day before she moves. I moved on to a new position a few months ago, but we still work in the same building. It’s hard to explain my old job to people who don’t work where we work, but I was basically her right arm for two years. There was a party for her today, and I needed to throw together something fast that would still be delicious. This was one of those “fake it until you make it” situations because I wasn’t even able to start this until 9:00 last night. And oh by the way, I’d kind of challenged a coworker to a contest, and I’ve never lost to hm. I don’t lose, so I had to figure something out fast.

The cupcakes are from a boxed mix. Then I made some chocolate pudding to fill the cupcakes. Normally when I do cupcake filling, I do more of a mousse custard thing, but I didn’t have the right ingredients. So pudding it was. I made the cupcakes and the pudding last night. I was too tired to wait for them to cool. I filled them and iced them at 5:45 this morning. I used an apple corer to make a hole for the filling and piped pudding into each one. The icing was just a store bought thing that I stuffed in a piping bag so it would look nice. Then I tossed some glittery sprinkles on top and called it a day. Everyone loved them.

Super Fudgy Brownies

fullsizeoutput_bedThese brownies are one of my favorites, and they’re not even super homemade. If you need to throw together a baked something-or-other for a bake sale, birthday, office party, or whatever – these are very easy and fast. And everyone loves them!

Ingredients

  • 1 box brownie mix + everything the box says you need
  • 1 bag dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 box chocolate instant pudding mix

You can also use 1/2 bag of chocolate chips and 1/2 bag of M&Ms instead of the whole bag of chocolate chips.

Instructions

Combine brownie mix and pudding mix. Add the other ingredients indicated on the brownie box and mix until combined. The batter will be a lot thicker than other brownie batter you might be used to. Mix in chocolate chips. Bake according to the instructions on the box.

If you really want a great brownie (using this recipe or otherwise), make sure you cook them until they are just done. Over-baked brownies start to become dry, and that’s no good. I normally set the timer for 1-2 minutes short of what the box says. I test them, and if they need more time, I usually keep bumping the timer for 2 minutes and testing until they’re done. If they seem very un-done the first time I test, I add 5 minutes, then do increments of 2 minutes thereafter if needed. If they seem like they should be finished, but the knife isn’t quite clean, test another spot in case you hit a chocolate chip.

Buffalo Chicken Crescent Spirals

buffalo-chx-spiralsI needed to make dinner one night, and I’d forgotten to take anything out. Oops. Strangely, I had buffalo chicken dip left over from a party. (This was strange because my buffalo chicken dip usually gets scarfed and I end up wishing I’d made more.) Anyway, back to the dinner thing. I always keep a stockpile of crescents in my fridge. Right now I think we have three cans. I rarely use them for actual crescent rolls, but I’m always using them for other stuff. I like to lob the end off of the can with a chef’s knife like I saw some chef on Food Network do in one of those mystery basket challenges on Chopped or something like that. Too bad I can’t remember who or what show. Anyway, dinner! I used crescent rounds to make these. You could use crescent rolls, you’d just have to make the dough into a rectangle, then cut into strips.

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Ranch packet
  • Buffalo sauce 
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package crescent rounds

Instructions 

Bake the chicken breasts until fully cooked. Pull or shred the meat. (Personally I use my KitchenAid stand mixer to shred chicken. I’ll do a post on it at some point, but Google will show you for now.) Add cream cheese, ranch packet, 1 handful of cheddar cheese, and about 1/4ish maybe 1/3 cup of buffalo sauce.

So now you have a buffalo chicken dip recipe too. If you’re using it for dip, top with cheddar and bake until hot and cheese is melted. Obviously skip this step if you’re making the crescent spirals.

Roll out the strips of crescent dough. Press so they get a little wider. Spread mix down the strip and roll each strip into a spiral. Press the crescent together at the end if needed to keep it together.

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350° until golden.

Cucumber Salad

cucumber-saladThis is a super simple cucumber salad. It’s quick to make, and a good opportunity to practice knife skills.

Ingredients

6 cucumbers
2 pints grape tomatoes
Half of a medium red onion
2 packets Good Seasons Italian salad dressing & recipe mix
Red wine vinegar

Instructions

Cut cucumbers in half vertically and remove seeds. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon or melon baller and cut into slices (half moon shaped).

Thinly slice onion (almost like a julienne size).

Halve the grape tomatoes.

Combine the veggies. Add seasoning packets, stir. Add red wine vinegar to taste (start with a few shakes, and increase a few shakes at a time).

Filet Mignon

fullsizeoutput_bd0Mmmmm filet mignon. Pretty much one of my favorite foods, so it’s even better that they’re quick and reasonably easy to make.

Preheat oven to 400°. If you have a convection setting, you can use it at 375°.

Pat steaks dry and season with salt. In an oven-proof skillet, sear 4 minutes, flip, sear another 4 minutes. Transfer to oven, cook for about 5-6 minutes (for medium). Transfer to a plate, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes.

Food safety note: Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, eggs, or unpasteurized milk may increase your risk of foodborne illness. Visit foodsafety.gov for safe meat cooking temperatures.

Lazy Pizza Sauce

pizza-sauceI call this pizza sauce “lazy” because it’s super easy, plus it uses canned tomatoes and a couple of already-mixed seasoning blends. This one is great for weeknight cooking and picky eaters. One of my friends who is one of the pickiest eaters on the planet loves this sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 large can diced tomatoes (28oz)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • A few (3ish) cloves garlic, minced
  • About 1/4 to 1/3 medium onion, minced
  • 1 packet Good Seasons zesty Italian salad dressing & recipe mix
  • 1 tbsp McCormick salt free all purpose seasoning
  • Kosher Salt – start with 1tsp and add more as needed.  

Instructions
Toss everything in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste it and adjust the seasonings as needed. Transfer to a pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t skip the simmering, it makes a difference!

Blender Note: I have the Vitamix 750 and I used the “frozen” setting for about 20 seconds. Nothing was frozen, but I knew 20 seconds of that would give me what I needed. You could also use an immersion blender instead.

Troubleshooting
Too salty or garlicky? Add a little bit of sugar to rebalance it.