Homemade BBQ Sauce

I recently realized that I have never dedicated a post to my homemade BBQ sauce.  I've squeezed it in on a few other recipes, but this sauce really deserves more recognition than that.  With that in mind and BBQ season here I thought I better get to it and share this yummy sauce.  This glorious sauce that is so cheap & easy to make.  This sauce that I eat spoonfuls of before drowning some variety of delicious meat in.  This sauce that has converted me from any form of store bought bottled BBQ sauce.  This sauce that make chicken (or pork, or beef, or elk) taste better than ever.  You too need to experience "the sauce".  Make a double batch and have some in the freezer for dipping or a last minute BBQ chicken dinner.  Here's the skinny...
1 onion diced
3 Tablespoons butter
2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup molasses
1 teaspoon mustard
2 tsp brown sugar
1 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup whiskey
Melt butter in  medium saucepan.  Add diced onion & cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients & allow to simmer stirring often for 20 minutes.  Taste it & add more salt or sugar as desired.  If you like things a little spicy add some chili powder.  So good you could eat it by the spoonful, but I suggest using it as a topping.  Makes about 2 1/4 cups.  Enjoy!

Cheesy Chicken, Artichoke, & Spinach Bake

This is the perfect flavorful dish for a warm Spring day.  It is a cinch to make and takes no time at all.  I like to make it early in the day & refrigerate it until dinner time.  Then all I've got to do is pop it in the oven, slice up some bread, get some yummy tomatoes and fresh fruit and dinner is good to go.  This dish is delicious and cheesy, but is also packed with protein and vitamins from the chicken, spinach, and artichokes.  Make it with whole wheat pasta for an even healthier dish.  Here's the DL...
14 ounces penne pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half & half
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
10 ounces package of frozen spinach (thawed, squeeze out extra moisture), or 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 can artichoke hearts (13.5 ounces), roughly chopped
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Cook pasta to al dente.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.
While pasta is cooking, over medium heat melt butter in medium size pan.  Add onion and cook for 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes.  Add cream cheese and stir until it is melted in and incorporated.  Reduce heat to low, and add sour cream, half & half, Parmesan cheese,  3/4 cup of the mozzarella, spinach, salt, and pepper.  Stir until everything is incorporated and a thick sauce forms.
In a large bowl combine the artichoke hearts and the chicken.  Pour the sauce over top and gently stir until everything is coated.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly and brown on top.  Enjoy!

Angel Chicken

I love rich and delicious dishes, and this one fits the bill.  I discovered Angel Chicken a while back and quickly fell in love with it.  The mushroom sauce is so creamy and deep.  My favorite part is that it cooks all day in the crock pot.  So the chicken is tender and drenched in flavor.  Plus, come dinner time, all I have to do is steam some rice and make some steamed veggies or salad.  You've got to try this chicken!  Here's the skinny...
1 1/2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
2 cups baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
3 chicken breast cut in half
1/4 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup half & half
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/8 cup chopped chives (plus extra for garnish)
Combine mushrooms in slow cooker, spread out evenly.  Place chicken breast on top in single layer.
In medium saucepan melt butter.  Add onions and cook for 4 minutes.  Add cream cheese and stir until it has melted through.  Stir in half & half, white wine, milk, parsley, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and chives.  Whisk until sauce begins to thicken.  Pour sauce over chicken and mushrooms.
Cover and cook on low heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.
Serve over steamed rice (I like to use a mixture of brown and white rice, it looks pretty) and sprinkle with chives.  Makes 4-6 servings.  Enjoy!
*to speed things up you can use a packet of Italian dry salad dressing mix instead of all the herbs, salt, & pepper.

Easy Easter Appetizer

Here's  a great last minute Easter dish.  This appetizer has to be one of the easiest things to pull off.  Yet it is so fun and festive that everyone will appreciate it, especially the little ones.  This dish is also very versatile.
For the spinach dip I used the good ol' Knorr recipe (below), but you could use any dip you like.  And for dipping choose your favorite veggies, crackers, etc.  Here's how I pulled this amazing culinary masterpiece off...
For the bunny's body I got a shepherd loaf from the bakery.  I carefully cut out a circle from the top of the shepherd loaf for the bunny's head.  Then I cut the opening bigger so that dipping was accessible.  Using my hands I hollowed out the rest of the shepherd loaf so that it could hold the spinach dip.  Save the chunks of bread that you pull out for chowing down on with your dip.  Next I cut the two ends off of a baguette and situated them as the bunny's ears.
For the face I used black olives cut in half as the eyes.  I quarter a half of a black olive to make the nose.  The whiskers are thin strips of celery, and the mouth is  a cross section piece of celery.  I put a little dip on the back of each of the facial features to keep it adhered to the bread.  Lastly I put carrots, slices of cucumber, and chunks of bread around the bunny (I used half of a loaf of french bread for dipping as well).  Then I served it up!  Easy, yummy, and cute.  You can't beat that with a stick.

Here's the spinach dip recipe.  I didn't change a thing, except pulling out what peas I can from the veggie soup mix.  This is a great dip for any occasion.  I'm pretty much addicted to it.
Spinach Dip 
MAKES 4 cups dip      PREP TIME: 10 Minute(s)     CHILL TIME: 2 Hour(s)

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 container (16 oz.) sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 package Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
1 can (8 oz.) water chestnuts, drained and chopped 

Combine all ingredients and chill for about 2 hours.

Easter Chick Cupcakes

This is a quick and easy treat to whip up for the holiday weekend.  Although super cute, these cupcakes are a cinch to make and are a great way to get the kiddos involved.
We made some with brown eyes and some with blue eyes.
All my children from ages 2 to 6 helped and had a blast.  Bonus, these cupcakes are a good old fashion Betty Crocker recipe, so they taste great.  Here's the skinny...
For cake:
(makes 12 cupcakes)
1 1/4 cups flour {or 1 1/2 cups cake flour}
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 drops yellow food coloring

For decoration:
1 container white frosting {I used Betty Crocker's Whipped Cream Cheese frosting, or you can make your own, you'll need about 1 cup}
1 1/2 cups coconut
1 package mini M & Ms
1 package peach rings
yellow food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tin with festive paper cupcake liners.
Measure all ingredients for the cake into a bowl.  With electric mixer blend on low speed for about 30 seconds scraping bowl constantly.  Beat on high for 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.
Fill cupcake liners about half way with batter.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until middle is set and toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

In small bowl combine coconut and bout 4 drops of yellow food coloring.  Stir until all the coconut is coated and yellow all over.
Using scissors, cut peach rings into small triangles for the beaks.
Sort M&Ms so that you have only the brown and blue ones.
Frost the top of each cupcake.
Turn upside down and gently press into the coconut.
If you need to add a little more coconut once you turn it over, gently pressing the coconut into the frosting so that it will stay put.
Gently press in the eyes and beak.
And that's it.  Your ready to gobble them up, or just look at them for a while because they're so stinkin' cute! Enjoy!

*This cake recipe is perfect for a small 8x8 or 9x9 inch cake as well.  You can withhold the yellow food coloring to keep it a basic white cake.

Goat Cheese and Garlic Potato Swirls

I know everyone is planning their Easter dinner menu.  So I thought I'd throw this recipe at you.  I came across it a while back and loved how it looked.  I'm also a big fan of goat cheese so I pretty much was hooked at the title.  These potatoes look so fancy, but take very little effort.  In fact, you pretty much do what you would do with regular mashed potatoes until the very end.  If you didn't want to take the time to make cute individual servings you could also throw these in a baking dish & serve them up the old fashion way.  These potatoes are perfect for an Easter table.  They have a wonderful orange color and with the sprig of rosemary they look so festive.  Here's the DL...
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
6 medium russet potatoes, peeled & cut into 2 inch pieces
6 ounces goat cheese
2-3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup half and half
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 bunch fresh rosemary or parsley for garnish (optional)
In large pot combine potatoes and garlic and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes oar until potatoes are tender.  Drain and return to the pot.

Add goat cheese, salt, butter, half & half, and paprika.  Mash with potato masher until fairly smooth.  Add Parmesan and beat potatoes with electric mixer until smooth and fluffy (but do not beat too long).  If potatoes seem too thick to pipe into swirls add more half and half until desired consistency.  (If you are not swirling the potatoes you can serve them now.)

Chill potatoes for about 20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
These potatoes swirls were made using the cookie sheet method.
Grease a cookie sheet or about 14 small dishes.  Using a spoon fill up a piping bag attached with a large star tip with the potatoes.  Pipe potatoes in a swirl fashion like an ice cream cone.  If doing this on a cookie sheet place potato swirls about 2 inches apart.  It is better to go tall and skinny with your swirls because they will settle as they cook.  Drizzle the tops of each swirl with melted butter.  Bake for about 10-20 minutes or until golden brown, the time will depend greatly on the size of your swirls.  Remove from oven and add a small sprig of rosemary or parsley and serve immediately.  Enjoy!