Cheese Fries

Any time I go to a restaurant, there are certain items that make me drool. Okay fine, so being a foodie means a LOT of foods make me drool, but some produce salivation that cause me to take a step back and say, “No, your belly can’t handle eating 2,000 calories before dinner. Don’t be silly. Plus, they have cheesecake for dessert.”

One of those items is Cheese Fries.

When we were in college, one of my close friends and I would frequent a restaurant that had amazing cheese fries. They were the crinkle cut (my personal favorite) smothered with melted cheddar, bacon, green onions, and served with ranch dressing. We always asked for extra ranch because it never seemed to be enough. Sometimes I wondered if half a gallon of ranch would be enough for dipping. And don’t even think about bringing us just one little cup of ranch to share. That ain’t happening. In fact, we’d usually be fighting over the fries that were smothered with the most cheese.

“Hey! That ONE fry has like a pound of cheddar on it!! Stop hoarding the cheese!”

It was usually me stealing the fries with the most cheese. God forbid she get up to go to the bathroom while the fries were in front of us. She knew better.

The only problem with those cheese fries was the lack of cheese. It also drove me crazy if all the cheese was not totally melted. Cold cheese on top of lukewarm french fries should never be considered Cheese Fries. You could get arrested for such nonsense.

When making cheese fries at home, the chef in charge makes sure that NEVER happens. She also makes sure there is at least half a gallon of ranch available for dipping.

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Cheese Fries

1 (20 oz.) bag crinkle cut frozen French fries

1 (10 ¾ oz.) can cheddar cheese soup

1/2 cup milk

3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese*

4-6 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled

Cook fries according to package directions (baking or frying). While fries are cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. In a medium sauce pan, stir together cheddar cheese soup and milk, cooking on medium heat until hot. Add cheeses; continue to whisk as cheese melts. When fries are done cooking, place in a 9×13 inch baking dish or a serving platter. Pour cheese sauce over fries and top with crumbled bacon. Serve warm.

*Freshly grated cheese has a smoother, creamier consistency and melts better than the bags of shredded cheese.

This recipe is in my first cookbook, Party Time!

If I never see another skewer again, it’ll be too soon.

A friend from culinary school asked me to help her cater an event for her company Christmas party. Well duh! Happy to help, especially when a chunk of money is involved and it has anything to do with food.

We went over the details, and I agreed to do the desserts for the event. How about some cupcakes? Easy enough.

Then I found out the number. There were two events, 100 people at each event. Had to punch that one in the calculator for it to sink in that I was going to be making over 200 cupcakes and 2 decorated casino-themed cakes. She also needed as much help as I could provide with assembling appetizers. Sounded good to me, especially since I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like.

I started making the cupcakes two days before the event to make sure I wouldn’t be running around like a chicken with my head cut off. When I got home from my job as a pastry chef (making desserts all day), the cupcake baking began. You know, because I don’t already do enough baking at work (insert sarcasm here).

Got started on the three different flavors of cupcakes. Chocolate Peanut Butter (rich chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter chips, topped with peanut butter icing and chocolate ganache), Cookies ‘n Cream (vanilla cupcakes packed with chunks of Oreo cookies, topped with buttercream icing infused with Oreo cookie crumbs and a cute little mini Oreo on top of that), and Red Velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing. By the day of the event, there were 204 cupcakes stacked on my kitchen island. “I’m really looking forward to those cupcakes leaving the house,” my husband said. He’s a neat freak, and doesn’t like to see stuff piled ANYWHERE. Best part about that is he actually cleans, and does a much better job than I do. Yes, he’s a unicorn husband.

The morning of the event, I was running around the house like a crazed maniac. Three different types of icing had to be made and piped on top of each of the 204 cupcakes. If there was a fly on the wall, it heard a lot of self-talk, a flash of a person running through the house, and maybe even some inappropriate language. The sweat was building up first thing in the morning before I even got started on all the skewered appetizers for everyone.

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It’s a really good thing I gave in to buying a minivan, because it’s very unlikely all of this would have fit into a Mustang.

When I got to the location, my friend was already there working her butt off. I jumped in, and she put me on skewer duty.

I have never seen so many skewers in my life.

Skewers are an awesome way to serve appetizers. They’re pretty, you can assemble different items on them, and they’re easy for people to grab and eat.

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First were the salad skewers. I cut up six heads of lettuce into equal portions, “tried” to keep them somewhat stacked together for ease of assembling the skewers (and failed miserably at this). Next was slicing up the cooked bacon she prepared, then washing the little cherry tomatoes. I sat down and got to work.

After thirty minutes of assembling these little suckers, I was already mentally done… although there were at least 50 empty skewers left. Help me. “Oh my God, this is SUCH a pain in the butt. Tell boss lady that these shouldn’t be on the menu next year unless she wants to assemble them herself.” When I FINALLY finished those, she brought me the other items to go on the next skewer set. Yay.

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These skewers were colorful. Each one had:  green olive, roasted red bell pepper, mozzarella cheese cube, basil leaf, tortellini, salami, cherry tomato, and black olive. My hands smells like roasted red bell peppers after assembling 100 of these. I was okay with that.

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Once these were finally finished, it was time to put together the dessert table. The smell of sugar, peanut butter, chocolate, and cream cheese radiated through my nostrils as I was very carefully handling the precious cargo, unloading them from containers to the table.

After spending almost 6 hours of preparing these little demon skewers and all other prep to have everything together for the party, I was ready for a cocktail. Fortunately I was meeting up with some ladies from my neighborhood for a girls’ night out. After changing into something that didn’t smell like roasted red bell peppers (again that’s not a bad thing), I headed to the restaurant.

A few of them were already there waiting at the table, and I plopped down in my chair. The waiter walked up and asked, “Can I get you something to d-” and I cut him off with, “Apple Martini, please. Pronto.”

I drifted off into a deep sleep that night, dreaming of martinis and sugar. The demon skewers made their way into my dreams as well, trying to stab me with their sharp little pointers.

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In the morning, I reached for my phone and saw a text from my friend that I worked with the night before. Someone stole the poker cake. STOLE. THE. CAKE. Laughter escaped my throat as I read this message. I’ve heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but how about robbery? Clearly the cake wouldn’t have been stolen if it were ugly, right? Just agree with me here, that’s the logic I’m sticking to on this.

Have you had the pleasure of assembling skewered appetizers for a party?

 

 

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Holes

I haven’t met a single person in my life that doesn’t like doughnuts.  I’m not saying there aren’t people out there who don’t, I just haven’t met any of them.  After a visit with my in-laws and looking through my mother-in-law’s buffet of magazines that she gets (I always browse through People and Southern Living), I came across this recipe for doughnut holes.  Looking at the picture and reading the recipe clearly showed that this was pretty simple, and looked delicious.  I showed the picture to my husband, and he agreed that I should make these.  Of course he did.

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We have a small deep fryer at the house (that doesn’t get used often), but I prefer to use this when the oil needs to be a certain temperature for frying.  If the temperature isn’t right, it can throw off your recipe.  If the oil isn’t hot enough, the dough will absorb the oil and get super greasy all the way through…and if it’s too hot, the outside gets cooked before the inside does, leaving you with a crispy outside and a gooey inside.  And hey, if you want to go that route, go right ahead…just make sure you use some pasteurized eggs.  😉

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After these little guys are done cooking, let them dry completely on paper towels (if you’re not serving them right away) before rolling in powdered sugar.  These actually sat in an airtight container for a couple days at my house, with my family munching away at them.  While they’re sitting in an airtight container, the moisture will turn the powdered sugar somewhat into a glaze after time.  So if this happens to you, don’t panic!  My brother said, “Oh, they have a little bit of slimy feeling to them.”  When I explained what had happened with them, he said, “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, because I can’t stop eating them.”  Well, there you go.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Holes Recipe:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, beaten

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

powdered sugar

Pour oil to depth of 1 1/2 inches into a 12 inch iron cast skillet, heat to 350 degrees.  Whisk together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Make a well in center of mixture, stir in egg and next 2 ingredients until well blended (batter will be dry).  Drop batter by level tablespoonfuls, 6 to 8 at a time, into hot oil.  Fry in batches, turning occasionally, 2 minutes on each side or until browned.  Drain on paper towel-lined plate, serve warm.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Mini Crescent Roll Corn Dogs

Corn dogs have always been a classic favorite, and for good reason.  They may not be healthy, but good grief, they’re delicious.  As I was on my way to the grocery store today, different ideas of appetizers were flowing through my brain.  The Crescent Roll Mozzarella Sticks have been a HUGE hit every time I make them, along with the Apple Dumplings.  The great thing about all of these recipes is the fact that we’re using the refrigerated crescent roll dough.  That is some versatile stuff, lemme tell ya!  Whether you’re rolling them up with fillings (like the Cinnamon Crescent Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze) or flattening and layering them with other deliciousness (like the Sopapilla Cheesecake Pie), it’s easy and incredibly yummy.

Well, hot dogs were flowing through my brain, because my little pumpkin loves hot dogs.  Then, I started thinking about rolling those in crescent rolls.  Oh…yeah, I’m going to try that today  I thought as I pulled into the parking lot.  So, in I went, and came out with my needed ingredients.  I couldn’t wait to get home and try them out.  These are also a larger alternative to Pigs In A Blanket, but they’re even more filling.

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First, you unroll your crescent roll dough onto a flat surface.  I usually use a cutting board.  Cut a hot dog in half, place at base of crescent roll, and roll up.  Make sure to seal the edges so the entire wienie is covered up.

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This is what they’ll look like rolled up, so you can only see the actual crescent roll.  No exposed wienie.  😉

Now, here’s the part where YOU decide how to want to cook them.  You have two options…bake or fry them.  Obviously, baking is much healthier than frying, so the choice is yours.  Baking is also a lower maintenance, and you can pop them all in the oven at once and walk away.  When these are fried, they have a crispy, flaky crust.

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And here they are!  These particular ones were fried.  The great thing about these is the fact that you can make as many or as little as you want!  These would be great as an appetizer or even an entrée.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Mini Crescent Roll Corn Dogs (makes 16):

1 pack of hot dogs (your favorite flavor/brand)

2 cans refrigerated crescent roll dough

Olive Oil (if you’re baking them)

Canola Oil (if you’re frying them)

If you’re going to bake them, go ahead and roll out your doggies.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish, and place them seam side down in the dish.  Brush the tops with a little bit of olive oil, this will give them a little bit of crisp on top.  You can bake up to 16 at a time in the 9×13 inch dish.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops become a light golden brown.

If you’re going to fry them, heat your oil to about 370 degrees.  Fry in the oil for 3-4 minutes, turning them to make sure they’re evenly cooked on all sides.  When finished cooking, place on paper towels for the excess oil to come off.

Crescent Roll Mozzarella Sticks

When it comes to carbs and cheese, I’m in heaven.  Seriously.  I was just telling my aunt and cousin over the weekend that I can walk by desserts and avoid eating them (if I’ve already eaten some), but put some pasta, breads, taters and any type of cheese or cream sauce with it?  I become a vulture.  I love these little guys though, because they’re so easy to make, and super yummy.  When I made these for my family, they came through the door and I pointed them in that direction.  Next thing I knew, all of those suckers were gone.

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First, unroll refrigerated crescent roll dough.  Then, cut a piece of string mozzarella cheese in half, and place it at the base of the dough.  Roll it up, pinching the sides to seal.

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Place in a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Here, I only made one batch, but you can easily squeeze two batches of these in the dish together.  Brush with olive oil and Italian seasoning.

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After they’ve baked, microwave some pizza or marinara sauce for dipping.

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Enjoy every little (or big) bite.  We certainly did.  And the great thing about these is that they could be served as an appetizer, or even as a meal.  They’re very filling!

Crescent Roll Mozzarella Sticks

1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough

4 string cheese mozzarella sticks, cut in half

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Warm pizza or marinara sauce, for dipping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out crescent roll into individual triangles.  Place string cheese at base of dough, roll up, pinching sides so the dough completely covers the cheese.  Place in greased 9×13 inch baking dish.  Combine olive oil and seasoning, stir together.  Using a basting brush, distribute over each crescent roll.  Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until tops are a light golden brown.  Serve with warm dipping sauce.

Want to add some pepperoni?  No problem!  Just add a couple slices of pepperoni under the mozzarella and roll up.

Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken with Buttered White Rice

Last night in our house, we had a Hawaiian themed dinner.  The only thing that was missing was everyone getting lei’d walking in the door…  No comment.  My husband and I went to Hawaii on our honeymoon, and we both loved it.  The beautiful scenery, perfect weather, laid back atmosphere…and amazing food.  Just from researching different types of Hawaiian recipes, it seems like the style of food there is a mix between Asian and a lot of citrus fruits.  When I told my brother that we were having a Hawaiian style dinner, he said, “Oh, so it’ll have pineapples all over it?”  Nope.  He’s actually not a big fan of whole pineapples, but like the juice and flavors from it…and he loved every bit of dinner…including beverage and dessert.

hawaiian chicken with buttered rice

In all honesty, I was terrified that the chicken was just going to come out tasting okay.  As it was cooking in the crock pot, I kept smelling it, thinking that it wasn’t going to be anything special.  Then again, I am getting over a sinus infection and my sinuses are still not back to normal, so maybe that could have contributed to being a little weary over how dinner would turn out.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, it was delicious!!  One of the things I remember about Hawaiian food was how deliciously moist and buttery the rice was…so I wanted to recreate that in my kitchen as well.  This rice was SO moist…and SO buttery.  I’m really not a big fan of plain white rice, but could have easily eaten this by itself.  My husband isn’t a big eater, and very rarely goes back for seconds…well, ladies and gentlemen…he went back for seconds!  I stared at my brother in shock and told him we should write down the date.  Even my picky brother went back for seconds and suggested that we have this again.  Needless to say, this went over well.

Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken Recipe:

1 cup pineapple juice

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup teriyaki sauce

1 tablespoon worchestire

2 pounds chicken breast, cut into cubes

Whisk together ingredients until sugar is blended.  Stir together with chicken in bowl to coat completely, transfer to crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.  Serve by itself, or over white rice.

White Rice Recipe:

1/2 stick butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup long grain rice, uncooked

2 cups chicken broth

Melt butter in saucepan at medium heat, add salt and pepper.  Add rice, cook for a few minutes until rice is lightly browned.  Add chicken broth, stir, and cover.  Lower heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, until rice is fluffy.

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

My dad is a HUGE fan of pretty much anything cherry, but especially cherry cheesecake.  So when his birthday party came around this past year and I was deciding on menu items, this made the top of the dessert list.  Well, along with his birthday cake, too.  I don’t know what it is about bite size cheesecakes…maybe it’s because you feel like “Oh, these are so little, they’re not going to be that bad, I won’t feel guilty for eating one…”  And the next thing you know, you’ve eaten six of them, and trying to reason with yourself that you only ate six of them, they’re so little.  They don’t have THAT many calories, do they?!

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These little guys are SO cute…but not too cute to eat!  They were gobbled down before, during, and after the party.  When I made these, a couple of utensils made the process much easier than usual.  A wood tart tamper is perfect for pressing the crust in the bottom of the pan, and the mini scoop worked out wonderfully when distributing the cheesecake batter as well.  If you don’t like cherries as a topping, feel free to use whipped topping, chocolate, caramel, nuts, etc.  In fact, do them with different toppings to give your guests options to choose from!

Mini Cherry Cheesecake Recipe:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup white sugar

4 tablespoons butter, melted

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can cherry pie filling (or other topping of your choice)

Combine first three ingredients, and drop 1 teaspoon of crumb mixture into lined mini muffin pan (this batch makes 48).  Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with electric mixer until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients, beat until smooth.  Using mini ice cream scoop, distribute batter evenly between liners in pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes.  Cool completely, top with pie filling, store in refrigerator.