Monday, March 30, 2015

Sheep Cheese Balls

Sometimes when I imagine something, turning it into reality can be harder than expected and the results are just not what I had pictured. These sheep, on the other hand, were super easy to turn into reality and looked exactly like I had imagined.
Super-de-duper adorable, right?
Eeeeeeeeeeeee! **Insert excited hand clapping here**
I wanted to make something for Easter that would have everyone talking. These little cutie-patooties worked like a charm. And.....guess what.... you can make them too!
I would not lie to you about something as cute as these guys, 
They are not that hard (all you need is some patience) and there is no specialized tools involved (unless you count a plastic bendy straw as a specialized tool.)
Plus... our cheese ball recipe is easy peasy and delicious!

Sheep Cheese Balls

Cheese Ball
1 pkg (8 oz) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temp
1 can flaked ham
1 cup aged cheddar cheese, shredded
1/8 cup finely diced onion
generous dash of Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper

white cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
whole, pitted olives
black food coloring (or *see note)
crackers (I used Wheat Thins Spinach & Roasted Garlic)

In a large bowl, mix together Philly cream cheese, ham, cheddar cheese, onion, Worcestershire, and salt & pepper until well combined.

Using a small cookie scoop, or pinch off golf ball sized amounts, and roll into a ball.
Continue until the entire mixture has been formed into balls. 
Finely shred the white cheese until you have about 1 cup. (Please note - it needs to be very finely shredded!)

Roll each ball into the shredded cheese to coat well. (You may need to shred a little bit more white cheese - it will depend on the size of your balls.)
To make the sheep head and ears - cut an olive in half lengthwise. Place, cut side down, on a cutting surface. Cut the corners off of one half (these are the ears). The other half will be the head. (See photo below for clarification.) You can discard, or eat, the large center piece from the cut half. 

For the legs of the sheep - cut an olive in half lengthwise. Slice each half into thin slices horizontally. 
For the eyes of the sheep - Cut a 1/8 inch thick (or thinner, if desired) piece of white cheese. Use a plastic straw to press into the cheese. Squish the straw to extrude the cheese. This will be the outer part of the eyes. Dip the flat end of a toothpick into black food coloring (NOTE - if you do not have black, mix 1 drop of red + 1 drop of blue + 1 drop of green to get black.) Gently press the dipped end of the toothpick onto the center of the small cheese circles for pupils. 
Assemble your sheep - (Step 1) Place 4 slices of olive on a cracker for legs.
(Step 2) Place a cheese ball firmly on top of the cracker, making sure to cover half of the legs.
(Step 3) Firmly - but without squishing the ball - press on the sheep's head and 2 ears.
(Step 4) Very carefully place the eyes on the sheep's head. (You may find it helpful to dip a toothpick in a teeny bit of cream cheese and place it on the back of the eye to get it to stick to the olive.) 
(See photo below for clarification.)

Chill until ready to serve.

They each have their own personality.

On a serving platter they make a pretty cute appetizer.

If you find you are getting frustrated putting the eyes on then I just wanted to show you that they work without eyes too...

They just lose a smidge of their cuteness factor.
Yes..... they are a little fidgety BUT are sooooo worth the effort. Make them with a helper and the time will be cut in half. I believe I got a total of 24 or so balls out of this recipe using a small cookie scoop. I only made a dozen sheep and then just stacked the rest of the cheese balls in the center of the plate because I didn't have a helper and was beginning to run out of patience. :)
P.S. - these also work for celebrating the Year of The Sheep (Ram/Goat) on the Chinese Zodiac. 

Be sure to visit these fun and fabulous linky parties - Kitchen Fun With My 3 SonsCarole's Chatter, My Turn (for us), Wondermom Wannabe, Cookin' and Craftin',

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Light Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Sue and I shared our Garlic Chicken Caesar Salad recipe a while ago (recipe HERE). It is one of my absolute favorite meals but, unfortunately, it is a little high in calories when I am trying to keep track. I wanted all of the flavor but lightened up so I created this recipe with a little inspiration from Diethood (click HERE) and our very own Garlic Chicken Caesar Salad. 
You get to have a monster serving size for 260 calories, 20 carbs, 5 fat, 36 protein, and 4 fiber (according to Myfitnesspal). 
FYI - this entire recipe makes 4 servings.

Light Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Light Caesar Dressing
1/2 cup 0 fat, plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp prepared mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
pinch black pepper
pinch salt
1 tsp dried parsley
approx 1 Tbsp water (to thin)

1 heaping cup Fusilli, dry (I used Catelli Smart pasta)
8 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
4 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into pieces

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Prepare dressing - In a small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, mustard, garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper.

Stir until well combined. Stir in the tablespoon of water until thinned slightly. (If you prefer it thinner then add another tablespoon of water.)

Prepare salad - Cook the pasta as per package directions. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Toss the pasta with about 3 Tbsp of the dressing so it is well coated.

Place 1/4 of the lettuce on a serving plate. Top with 1/4 of the cooked chicken and 1/4 of the cooked pasta.
Drizzle with 1/4 of the remaining dressing and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Serve immediately.
FYI - if you want to eat it the next day then keep the lettuce, chicken, pasta, dressing, and Parmesan in separate containers then combine just before ready to eat. You can combine them and store in the fridge but if it sits for a long period the lettuce gets wilty. 
Only 260 calories. Nice, right?
The dressing is nice and tangy and the salad is very filling. 
Be sure to stop by Carole's Chatter for some fun links to more great recipes!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baked Zucchini Bread Oatmeal and Baked Chocolate Zucchini Bread Oatmeal

It's been a while since I was experimenting with new oatmeal flavors so I thought I better get back at it.
Baked oatmeal is a fantabulous way to eat oatmeal. It's not at all mushy like the stove top version can be. This version just happens to taste like zucchini bread. Moist, chewy, streusel topped zucchini bread. Then I went ahead and made a chocolate version because..... well..... chocolate.
I'm not sure which one is my favorite. They are both soooooooo yummy.
Even better -- they only take about 5 minutes to whip up and then 30 minutes to bake. 
Warm, delicious, hearty, even a little bit healthy -- what more could you ask for in a breakfast?

First up.... Baked Zucchini Bread Oatmeal.

Baked Zucchini Bread Oatmeal

1/3 cup large flake oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 pkg Stevia
2 pecan halves, finely diced
1/3 cup zucchini, shredded
1/3 cup 1% milk
1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp butter
1 pecan half, finely diced
1/2 tsp brown sugar

Preheat over to 350. Lightly spray a ramekin or single serving oven safe dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together oats, cinnamon, baking powder, Stevia, pecans, and zucchini. In a separate small bowl, stir together the milk, and vanilla. 
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well mixed. Scrape into prepared ramekin.
Prepare topping - stir together the butter, pecan, and brown sugar. Crumble on top of the oatmeal into the ramekin.

Bake at 350 for 20 - 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

And now.... on to the chocolate version.

Baked Chocolate Zucchini Bread Oatmeal

1/3 cup large flake oats
pinch cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 pkg Stevia
2 pecan halves, finely diced
1/2 Tbsp baking cocoa
1/2 Tbsp mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup zucchini, shredded
1/3 cup 1% milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp coffee, prepared

1 tsp butter
1 pecan half, finely diced
1/2 tsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a ramekin or single serving oven safe dish with cooking spray. Set aside. 
In a small bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon, baking powder, Stevia, pecans, cocoa, mini chocolate chips, and zucchini. In a separate small bowl, stir together the milk, vanilla, and coffee.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined. Scrape into prepared ramekin.
Prepare topping - stir together the butter, pecan, and brown sugar. Crumble on top of the oatmeal into the ramekin.

Bake at 350 for 20 - 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. 

Now you can have zucchini bread for breakfast. And it's even a little bit healthy. 
The regular version is 238 calories, 30 carbs, 10 fat, 7 protein, 4 fibre.
The chocolate version is 283 calories, 37 carbs, 12 fat, 8 protein, 6 fibre.  

Can't decide which one to try? 
Make both. 
Make both.

We're sharing at these fab linky parties - Dizzy Busy & Hungry, Adventures of Mel, Carole's Chatter

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Irish Soda Bread (Gluten Free)

St. Patrick's Day is a perfect time to make traditional Irish Soda Bread but, unfortunately, not everyone can eat traditional Irish Soda Bread because of the flour (gluten). 
I searched out the internet for a gluten free version but almost all the ones I could find involved all sorts of ingredients that I don't usually have and are too expensive to buy just to experiment with. Therefore, I came up with this version.
Nothing too strange involved at all and it only takes a few minutes to whip up. Plus, it looks almost exactly the same as the traditional version. Maybe not as poofy after it has risen but still... pretty close!
Aaaaaaand....most importantly, yes, it is delicious. 

Irish Soda Bread (Gluten Free)

1 1/4 cup almond flour
3 Tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 pkg Stevia (about 1/8 tsp)
1/4 cup currants
1 Tbsp vinegar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp 0 fat Greek yogurt, plain - (use coconut milk for a dairy free version!)

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly spray an 8 inch, oven safe frying pan (I used cast iron) with cooking spray, set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and Stevia. When well mixed, stir in currants. 
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add into the well the vinegar, eggs, and Greek yogurt. Mix well with a spatula. 
Place the dough into the center of the prepared frying pan. Pat it down so it is approx 7 inches across.

Score an "X" across the top with a knife. Bake at 375 for around 20 - 28 minutes. Top should be golden brown and toothpick inserted near center should come out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool in pan for about 5 minutes.

Using a spatula, carefully remove from the pan to a wire rack and let cool at least 20 minutes before breaking the bread or slicing with a serrated knife. 

I let this sit out for several hours, uncovered, and then covered it and served it the next day. It was perfect. Not dry and not sticky. 

Isn't it pretty?
I love looking at pretty food. 
It makes me almost as happy as eating it.
We're sharing at these fun linky parties, be sure to check them out! - Lou Lou Girls, Simple Life of a Fire Wife, Memories By The Mile, New Mrs Adventures

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Welsh Cakes

Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best.
Take Welsh Cakes, for example. It just doesn't get much more basic and simple than Welsh Cakes, yet they are pretty much one of the tastiest things on the planet. 
I remember taking a cooking course when I was in elementary school (way WAY back when) and the lady teaching it made these. I was instantly hooked. 
I recently saw some pins on Pinterest and was reminded of these fabulous little morsels. The recipes I could find online were all in metric/by weight so I did a little conversion math and came up with the measurements in this version. I, by no means, claim to have "come up with" this recipe. It has been around since the dawn of time (pretty sure) but the conversions here are mine. Hopefully they work as well for you as they did for us. 
Definitely give them a try. You probably have all you need in your kitchen right now!

Welsh Cakes

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt
1/2 cup butter, cold
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup currants (dried)
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk

1 - 2 Tbsp sugar, for sprinkling

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut in the cold butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. 
Stir in the sugar and currants.

Make a well in the center and add in egg and milk.
Using a fork, mix in the ingredients until dough comes together. 

Flour a work surface and then roll dough out to approximately the thickness of your baby finger. 

Cut out with a round cookie cutter. (Apparently, traditionally the edges should also be fluted!)
Reroll the trimmings and cut out more rounds. 
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease with either cooking spray or a little butter. 
Place as many rounds as will fit on the skillet without touching.

Cook approx 3 -4 minutes on the first side. Carefully flip over.

Cook for another 3 or so minutes. (If bottoms are going too dark, too fast then turn down your heat!)
Remove from pan to a wire rack. 

Sprinkle immediately with a little sugar.
Continue cooking remaining cakes.

These are amazing served warm with a little butter OR room temp with some jam.
Like scones but different. 
Little fluffy and crispy bites of heaven. 
P.S. - This recipe makes 12 cakes using a 2.5 inch cookie cutter. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Guinness Burger Sliders on Guinness Buns

I have come up with a genius solution to those of you who don't want to eat corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day dinner but still want to do something with an Irish twist to celebrate. 
Guinness Sliders on soft and chewy Guinness bread. 
This takes a little prep ahead of time but is sooooo worth the effort. If you are one of those people that doesn't make yeast bread  - cooooooome oooooon, tryyyyyyy it! (Or, just use regular slider buns but you are totally missing out. Just sayin')
You can of course make these into regular sized burgers and buns but, really, do you want to miss out on the cuteness factor here? 
I don't think so.
Besides, it makes 24 sliders so would be perfect to bring to a St. Patty's Day potluck. 
FYI - also great for tail gating parties and game nights. 

Guinness Burger Sliders

1 lb lean ground beef
2/3 cup Guinness Draught
1/2 onion, finely diced
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup aged cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
salt & pepper to taste

NIGHT BEFORE - place the ground beef into a shallow dish and pour the Guinness over it. Using your hands, massage the beer into the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (At least 12 hours)
When ready to form burgers - Drain off any excess Guinness in a strainer.
Using your hands, mix in the onion, bacon, flour, oats, cheese, and spices, until well combined. 
Using a cookie cutter - or by pinching off golf ball sized portions, form into 24 slider patties. Place onto a cookie sheet or platter. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

Now you can whip up the bread!

Guinness Buns

1 cup buttermilk
1 cup Guinness Draught
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 - 6 cups flour
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine milk, beer, butter, sugar and salt. Heat until steaming. Remove from heat and let cool to 120 - 130 degrees.

Pour into a mixing bowl. 
Stir together 2 cups of flour, the yeast, and the green onions. Stir this into the wet ingredients until well mixed. 
Gradually add in more flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until dough has come together without being too sticky. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 2 - 3 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elasticy. 
Place into an oiled bowl.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for an hour. (Until doubled in size)

When risen, punch down and place dough onto a floured work surface.
Cut dough into 24 equal pieces. (You can use a scale if you want them exactly even. I just go by sight.) Roll into balls.
Place about an inch or so apart onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Cover with a clean tea towel and place in a warm place to rise for an hour. 
After an hour, preheat oven to 375.

Place the risen buns into the oven and bake for approx 30 minutes. 
Remove from oven and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
Return to oven to bake another 5 - 8 minutes - until tops are golden brown.

Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before breaking apart and letting cool completely on wire rack. (You can use a serrated knife to separate them if you are worried about ripping the buns.)

Prepare your burger - Remove burger slider patties from the fridge and let sit on the counter while you heat a large frying pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium heat.
Place as many of the patties as will fit into the pan. Cook about 4 - 5 minutes on the one side then gently flip over and cook until burgers are done.
If you want to add more cheese then place a slice on about 1 minute before you remove the burgers from the pan.

Now you can prep your bun with whatever condiments and toppings you like, place a burger on top, and you are good to go.
Especially if you have another Guinness to enjoy with the burgers....

Of course you have to have some crispy fries to accompany your tasty burger.
So cute.

Let me just say - these are some of the juiciest, most flavorful sliders I've had in a very long time.

The hint of Guinness elevates these from "regular old burger" good to "St. Patrick's Day celebration" good. 

And they are cute to boot.
It's win win really.

We're sharing at Carol's Chatter! Be sure to pop by.