Friday, October 24, 2014

Homemade Cracker Jack® Caramel Corn

Before I talk about this addictive Caramel Corn (which is easier to make than I thought it would be), I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have prayed for me, and wished me well in my surgery #5 on my knee. The great news is that this one was successful. My brilliant surgeon was able to remove enough scar tissue so that my knee is actually bending! I almost cried, the first time I could actually sit in chair, with both feet on the floor, to eat my hospital lunch.  I'm on medical leave for a few weeks, so that I can be a model patient, by doing my physical therapy several times a day. I can finally appreciate the benefit of having a total knee replacement, and there are no regrets. Amen.

As a kid, I loved Cracker Jack®.  I would load up my hand with a heaping mound of candy coated popcorn, peanuts and a prize... (remember that jingle?) Oh, and back then, the prizes could be as fun as a real plastic whistle.  Nowadays, the prizes are less choke hazards made of paper, and just not the same.  Still, I admit that I've been known to toss in a bag of Cracker Jack® into my grocery cart, during a weak moment, that I see them clipped onto a grocery store shelf.

Craig and I enjoy sharing a big bowl of popcorn, while we watch a movie at home-- Kettle Corn being our favorite.  For years, I've toyed with making caramel corn but I never got around to it. 

Recently, I decided to buy a Whirley Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper.  The first time I used this, I was smitten.  The popcorn tastes like real theater popcorn!  Tastewise, I prefer using coconut oil, vs. vegetable oil.  But either one is fine. Not only was it easy to use, it was fun and a lot easier than shaking a pot back and forth. In 3 minutes, we enjoyed a big bowl of popcorn. All I have to do is wipe the pot with a paper towel (no soap and water) and I wash the lid with the popcorn stirrer with soap and water. Easy peasy!

I looked at a lot of recipes on the internet, for Homemade Cracker Jack®.  The common theme was, the ratio of molasses vs. corn syrup.  Using the Whirley Pop, 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels made just over 15 cups of popcorn in three minutes!  Craig was on the sidelines, happily eating the extra popcorn that was exceeded 15 cups.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

I have seen dozens of recipes for Loaded Baked Potato Soup, so I know that my recipe isn't an entirely "original". However, this recipe is my own take on this hearty and creamy soup-- and it really does taste like a baked potato. Just ask my husband. 

Most of October has brought our traditional Indian Summer hot weather.  One day, we were blessed with brief rain showers (which we are in dire need of), and it seemed like just the right time to make soup.  I plugged in my pressure cooker, to steam diced Russet potatoes in 5 minutes, while preparing the soup base of butter, flour, milk, and chicken broth.  If you don't own a pressure cooker, you can cook the diced potatoes on the stove in about 15-20 minutes.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Coffee Cake

I have to say that I'm always surprised (and maybe a bit disappointed) when someone tells me they don't like pumpkin. This does not compute, in my mind. Then again, I don't like watermelon. For most people, that doesn't compute.  To each his/her own, they say. For me, pumpkin will remain at the top of my list of "food loves.

With Fall officially being here, I know that I'll be making recipes with pumpkin, and fortunately, my family loves it as much as I do. 

I love a good coffee cake, and when sour cream is part of the equation-- I just can't resist.  But, adding a layer of pumpkin in between, with a pecan topping... I was on a mission to make this cake.  I saw the recipe on Bunny's Warm Oven (who got it from, but decided to make a couple of minor tweaks.  Oh, and if you have a sweet tooth, and love baking-- Bunny is your gal.  She can bake some crazy delicious looking treats!

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

5-Minute Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes and a Panko Herb crust (Pressure Cooker Style)

Before I talk about this creamy, dreamy homemade Macaroni and Cheese that I made last night, I want to say that I am deeply touched, and encouraged, by all the supportive comments I received on my "Spaghetti Pie" post, and on my Facebook Fan Page. Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I shared some health issues I've been dealing with, and that I'm going to be a bit scarce. I'm still struggling with fatigue, but I'm starting to feel better.  Your encouragement really lifted my spirits and I'm starting to think a lot more about getting back into the kitchen.
So, with a slow resurgence of energy, I am wanting to make easy (but delicious) dinners for my wonderful husband, who is always appreciative of whatever I make. I do enjoy sharing a meal together, and talking about our day at work.

A while ago, I had bookmarked this recipe from one of my most used books on pressure cooking: "Pressure Cooking Perfection".  When my son was a little boy, he'd beg me to bring home those "Blue Boxes" of mac 'n cheese.  Now that he's all grown, he doesn't eat those any longer (thank goodness).  So, I don't make Mac 'N Cheese often. But this recipe got my attention because it looked so easy, and it sounded really good. I liked their variation of adding tomatoes, so I set my mind to making this for dinner.
NOTE: If you don't own a pressure cooker, please know you can still make this recipe on a stove top. It'll just take a bit more time, but it's worth it.  

I've written several recipe posts on pressure cooking, and I hope that I can convince more folks that there is nothing to fear about pressure cookers.  I wish I could hold your hand, and show you how easy it is to plug in an electric pressure cooker.  This macaroni and cheese recipe is the perfect "starter" way to personally learn how fool-proof pressure cooking is.

The first thing you do is measure out 8 ounces (two cups) of macaroni, and 2 cups of water.  There's no pot of salted water to bring to a cooked pasta to drain. No-siree!

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