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December 2012

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls with Bacon

My all-time favorite holiday candy is chocolate covered peanut butter balls, or Buckeyes. I've been making these homemade candies for over 20 years (yikes!) and last year I decided to amp them up a bit by adding bacon. After all, everything tastes better with bacon, right?

Not only do these chocolate covered peanut butter balls with bacon taste amazing, they are relatively easy to make. The most time consuming part is dipping the balls in melted chocolate.

One thing I have found to be incredibly helpful is to insert a toothpick into the center of each ball than freeze for at least an hour before dipping in chocolate. Also, when dipping in chocolate I work in batches of no more than 20 balls at a time since it doesn't take long for them to thaw out.

Another tip is to line baking sheets with parchment paper. This is especially helpful to keep dipped PB balls from sliding around while the chocolate is wet. Remove toothpicks right after dipping. The toothpick is a great tool for spreading chocolate over the top and covering up the hole.

Last, but not least, sprinkle bacon bits on top of balls right after dipping in chocolate. Dipping chocolate sets up fast once it hits the cold candy. If it dries too quickly the bacon bits won't stay attached. I usually dip 2 to 3 balls than sprinkle bacon bits, instead of stopping between each one. If you're making a lot of peanut butter balls it is helpful to have an assistant who can add the bacon bits.

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CHOCOLATE COVERED PEANUT BUTTER BALLS WITH BACON

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Yield: 60 (1-inch) balls
Prep Time:  1-1/2 hours
Freeze Time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound Cherrywood Bacon, cooked and finely chopped
1 cup smooth Peanut Butter
1 stick unsalted Butter, softened
2 cups Confectioner's Sugar
16 ounces milk or dark Chocolate Candy Wafers

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place bacon on sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until crisp. Turn slices halfway through. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb grease. Once cooled, chop into small bits.
3. In a mixing bowl, cream together peanut butter and butter until smooth. Gradually add confectioner's sugar and 1/2 of the bacon bits until well incorporated.
4. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small cookie scoop, roll into 1-inch balls and insert a toothpick in the center. Freeze for 1 hour.
5. Add chocolate candy wafers to a double boiler or small saucepan. Heat on low setting until wafers melt. If chocolate becomes too thick add a teaspoon of coconut oil or vegetable shortening.
6. Transfer 20 balls at a time to a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
7. Dip 2 to 3 balls in chocolate. Remove toothpick and sprinkle with a pinch of bacon bits. Repeat until all balls are coated and topped with bacon.
8. If desired, transfer peanut balls to decorative paper cups and package in colorful boxes.

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No time or desire to make homemade candies? No worries! Send handcrafted candies to loved ones every month through Clubs of America "Chocolate of the Month Club." They'll love you for it! Click the banner below to place your order.

Monthly Chocolate Club


Monthly Clubs make Great Holiday Gifts

If you've ever wondered if 'monthly clubs' are a good gift idea, I say yes they are! I've given beer of the month club subscriptions and received fruit of the month and chocolate of the month club packages. All offered unique treats I'd never seen before.

I've promoted monthly club programs for quite a few years, after getting a subscription for my husband. While these gifts aren't necessarily cheap, they are a good value and consist of exceptionally high quality goods.

Clubs of America offers 8 different 'of the month club' subscriptions including beer, wine, flower, fruit, cigar, coffee, chocolate, and pizza. Prices range from $27.95 to $64.95 per month and include free shipping, gift letter, and a monthly newsletter subscription.

 

Wine-of-the-month-clubWine of the Month Club offers 2 delightful varietals delivered monthly. Choose from all red, all white, or one of each. Click here to give wine.

Chocolate of the Month Club provides one pound of premium chocolates delivered monthly. Crafted by hand using the finest ingredients shipped fresh from specialty chocolatiers. Click here to give chocolate.

Flower of the Month Club offers one exquisitely fresh and unique flower bouquet delivered to the recipient's door each month. Exotic arrangements include large, fragrant flowers from the world's top growers. Click here to give flowers.

Coffee of the Month Club serves up 1-1/2 pounds of premium coffees in two distinctive selections each month. Choose from whole bean or ground. Click here to give coffee.

It's not too late to get your holiday order in. In fact, this is a great last minute gift because you can send recipients a gift certificate or email notice that can be delivered moments after submitting your order.

Click here to visit Clubs of America and explore all their 'of the month club' subscriptions.

 


Italian Sausage, Bacon, and White Beans Casserole

This Italian sausage, bacon, and white beans casserole is a hearty meal that will keep you warm on chilly winter nights. It's packed with amazing flavor and topped with refrigerated biscuits for a complete one-dish meal.


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ITALIAN SAUSAGE, BACON, AND WHITE BEANS CASSEROLE
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Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 20 to 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

6 slices thick Bacon, chopped
1 pound bulk Italian Sausage
1 medium Onion, chopped
3 large cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 can (15 ounces) Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium Tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon dried Basil
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon dried Parsley
1 can (12 ounces) refrigerated Buttermilk biscuits

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray.

2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook chopped bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to a small bowl lined with a paper towel to absorb grease.

3. Add Italian sausage to skillet and cook until no longer pink inside; about 8 minutes.

4. Add onions and garlic and cook until translucent; about 2-3 minutes.

5. Stir in beans, tomatoes, and herbs. Heat to boiling over high heat; about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to casserole dish.

6. Separate refrigerated biscuits and arrange over casserole.

7. Bake 20-25 minutes or until casserole is thoroughly heated and biscuits are golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes and transfer to serving plates.

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Potato Chip Cookies | Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

This is the first year I've participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and I must say it was a lot of fun. Not only did I receive three dozen yummy homemade cookies, I also met four new food bloggers.

While it was challenging to choose one cookie to exchange with my newfound foodie friends, I decided upon Potato Chip Cookies. Reason being, they are one of my all-time favorites and since they contain greasy potato chips they stay fresh for quite some time.

Before revealing the recipe for Potato Chip Cookies, I wanted to share these photos and introduce you to the cookie swap partners.

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The first batch of cookies I received were Boozy Salted Fennel Pollen Shortbreads sent from Culinary Adventures with Camilla. Pictured above on the top right, these square shortbreads were packaged in adorable green and red polka dot containers. Very festive! They had a really unique licorice-honey flavor from the fennel pollen and the slightest hint of Ouzo. Tasty!

The second batch of cookies was Peppermint Tea Shortbread dipped in White Chocolate and dusted with Christmas sprinkles sent from Amber at Bluebonnets and Brownies. They are pictured above on the bottom right. It's easy to spot them by the colorful sprinkles! These cookies were crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, and had a delightful undertone of peppermint. I found them to be perfect for dunking in a cup of tea. I was going to try them with hot cocoa, but by the time I got around to it they were gone!

The third batch of cookies was good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies from Amishi at NaiveCookCooks.com. I was very happy to receive these cookies because they are definitely one of my favorites. Amishi packaged her cookies in a super cute red box covered in snowflakes. It was such a great touch and very much appreciated. Not only was the packaging great, the cookies were amazing!

My cookie exchange partners included Camilla from Culinary Adventures, and Amber of Blue Bonnets and Brownies, along with Kimberly from Eat the Evidence.

What's great about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is it is helping raise funds for my favorite organization, Cookies for Kids' Cancer. You might recall that this past October, The Cheap Gourmet hosted Team Logan Bake Sale in honor of my friend Sherry's son Logan and to raise money for this non-profit organization.

Cookies for Kids' Cancer is doing great things to advance pediatric cancer research and is one of the most honest and ethical charities I've ever had the pleasure of working with. I hope you will support them by hosting your very own bake sale, cookie swap, or donating funds.

Since I had some packaging supplies and marketing materials left over from the bake sale, I decided to package my cookies with CFKC stickers. Since the potato chip cookies are somewhat fragile I hoped the packaging would provide extra cushion during shipping.

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The ladies who organized the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap provided an array of stickers and labels, so I prepared gift tags and printed an ingredients list which included their logo.

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Here is a box of Potato Chip Cookies ready to go to Kimberly.

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One of the reasons I chose Potato Chip Cookies is they are sweet and salty. Normally, when I prepare these cookies I drizzle them with melted chocolate chips. Since I was shipping cookies across the country I elected to leave off the chocolate for fear it would make a mess.

POTATO CHIP COOKIES RECIPE

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Yield: 4 dozen
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 20-22 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted Butter, softened
1 cup granulated Sugar
3-1/4 cups all purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups Potato Chips, coarsely crushed (I use crinkle cut chips because they are thicker than regular chips)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit

2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Slowly add flour and vanilla extract until well blended.

3. Stir in crushed potato chips and mix well.

4. Using a cookie scoop, drop one scoop of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet. Use a fork to slightly flatten each cookie in a criss-cross pattern. (Flattened cookies on left and center rows and non-flattened cookies on right)

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5. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until light golden brown around edges. Let cookies stand for 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack until completely cooled.

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6. If desired, sprinkle cooled cookies with confectioners' sugar or drizzle with melted chocolate. To make melted chocolate, place 1/2-cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening in a small bowl and heat in microwave for 45-60 seconds.


Chocolate Chip Cookies with Orange Zest and Vanilla Bean

Want to add a twist to traditional chocolate chip cookies? If so, you'll love the following Chocolate Chip Cookies with Orange Zest and Vanilla Bean! The addition of these two basic ingredients creates an amazing flavor profile that will leave everyone asking for more.

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CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES WITH ORANGE ZEST AND VANILLA BEAN

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Yield: (30) 2-inch cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 8-10 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
2 vanilla beans, pulp only
2-1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chip morsels

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Using a grater, scrape orange zest into small bowl.

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3. Scrape pulp from vanilla beans and add to orange zest.

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4. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
5. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, granulated and brown sugars until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add egg and mix well.
6. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until well-incorporated.
7. Stir in orange zest, vanilla bean pulp, and chocolate chips.
8. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto ungreased baking sheets.

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9. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks until completely cooled.

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Click here to learn more about the "Be a Good Cookie" spatula.


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Incredibly Flavorful Slow Cooked Chicken Tortilla Soup

Years ago, I had the most scrumptious chicken tortilla soup on the planet. It was made by a sous chef at a private country club where I worked as a line cook/prep chef. This soup had a rich broth that erupted into a smoky-sweet heat at the back of the throat from the jalapeno and poblano peppers.

Chef Grady's chicken tortilla soup had a flavor unmatched by any other. He never relinquished the recipe and I spent years trying to recreate it. Nearly a decade later, I believe I've finally mastered the flavor profile.

Although there are quite a few ingredients this soup is pretty easy to make. It takes about 30 minutes to put together and can be cooked in a slow cooker or on the stovetop. I like to add homemade tortilla strips, but this soup can also be served with tortilla chips, rolls, bread and butter, or bread and dipping oil. It's also amazing all by itself!

I'm excited to share this chicken tortilla soup recipe with you and hope that you and your family and friends enjoy it as much as we do. From my house to yours!

Chicken-tortilla-soup
SLOW COOKED CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP RECIPE

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Servings: (4) 8-ounce bowls
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 to 4 hours

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound boneless skinless Chicken Breasts, cooked and diced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small Red Onion, diced
2 medium Jalapeno peppers, diced, seeds removed
1 large Poblano pepper, roasted and diced with seeds
3 large cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon ground Cumin
2 teaspoons Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
8 cups homemade Chicken Broth, or store bought organic broth
2 (15 ounce) cans Black Beans, drained and rinsed
3 large Tomatoes, diced
2 Limes, juice only
4 ounces shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 (10-inch) Flour Tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips

DIRECTIONS:

1. Set stove burner to medium heat and add oil to skillet. Sauté chicken until meat is thoroughly cooked; about 6 to 8 minutes. 

2. While chicken is cooking, roast Poblano pepper either on a gas stovetop burner or under the broiler. The pepper skin needs to be charred until it's very dark and almost blackened. Place cooked pepper on a plate and let cool, then dice.

3. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside. Add onion and jalapeno to skillet and cook until soft; about 5 minutes.

4. Place chicken, peppers, and onion into slow cooker. Add chili powder, cumin, and salt and mix well.

5. Pour in chicken stock and add black beans, tomatoes, and lime juice. Mix ingredients together. Cook on high setting for one hour, than reduce to low setting for 3-4 hours.

6. Prepare tortilla strips about 15 minutes prior to serving. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place tortillas on top of one another and slice in half. Cut crosswise into ½-inch strips and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Spread in a single layer and bake until light golden brown; turning halfway through. Total bake time is 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

7. Ladle soup into bowls and top with 1 ounce shredded Cheddar cheese, a sprinkling of fresh Cilantro, and baked tortilla strips.

 


Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies | Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies

Sometimes the best holiday cookie recipes are the ones found on the side of a packaged cake mix box. A good example is these Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies from Duncan Hines. Those of you who have followed The Cheap Gourmet for awhile know that I can't resist deviating from original recipes. However, I only modified this one a little bit.

What I like about these Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookies is they are super easy to make and ideal for shipping. They are also great for holiday cookie exchange parties. It's hard to find sturdy cookies that won't crumble after being tossed around in a postal truck. It's also hard to find cookies that won't lose their moistness while enroute to family and friends. Not only are these cookies durable AND moist, they taste amazing!

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RED VELVET CRINKLE COOKIES

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Yield: 36 (2-inch) cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 9-11 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

6 Tablespoons unsalted Butter
1 cup Confectioners Sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon Cornstarch
1 box Red Velvet Cake Mix
2 large Eggs
2 Vanilla Beans, pulp only
2 teaspoon fresh Orange zest

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave; set aside to cool.

3. Place confectioners sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Mix with a fork to blend. Set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, add cake mix, cooled butter, eggs, vanilla pulp, and orange zest. Mix by hand until well blended and a dough ball forms.

5. Use a cookie scoop and roll dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in confectioners sugar and shake off excess.

NOTE: I found it easiest to roll out all the balls first,  then dip in powdered sugar.

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6. Place cookie balls about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

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7. Bake one sheet at a time, in center of oven until set. Cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. 

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8. Store in airtight container and separate cookies by placing sheets of wax or parchment paper between layers.

Click here for the original Duncan Hines Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies recipe.