Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

It’s getting close to the holiday season and that means it’s time to get baking and I can hardly wait for all of the yummy sweet treats.  Thankfully, I have an excuse to get started!  Dixie Crystals and Imperial Sugar are hosting a Cookie Contest for a chance to win a free ticket to Mixed and a grand prize of $500!!  In response, I am offering up my Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies.  YUM!!

Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

Mixed is a cool little conference for food bloggers.  It’s very small, meaning that you actually get a chance to know some of the bloggers and presenters.  It’s also located at the lovely Mountain Lake Resort in Southwest Virginia.

It’s pretty close to where we live now, but it is even closer to Virginia Tech, where Beth and I met, fell in love, and where I eventually proposed to her.  As it happens, my grandmother also lives just a few miles away.  All in all, it’s a great trip with some gorgeous views and some great connections to my life.  I went last year and had a blast.

This year, I’m looking forward to taking Beth down to participate in all of the fun.  To help with that, I made up a batch of Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies.

The typical oatmeal cookies use darker sugars (brown sugar, molasses, etc) and cinnamon to achieve a deep, rich flavor.  I decided to clean it up a little bit, opting for white sugar and light corn syrup so that the tartness of the cranberries and the saltiness of the roasted pistachios really shines through.  Boy did it work!  The cookies have that sugary crunch, coupled with the chewiness that we all love from an oatmeal cookie.  Then you get the sweet, the tart, and the salty…all in one bite.  These are cookies that I am proud to share with you all.  Enjoy!!

Cranberry Pistachio Oatmeal Cookies-1

Oatmeal Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

Ingredients

6 oz (about 1 1/2 cups) dried cranberries
1 cup dark rum
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Dixie Crystals or Imperial Sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups rolled (or old-fashioned) oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup roasted, salted, and shelled pistachios, chopped

Directions

Combine cranberries and rum.  Set aside to soak for 10-20 minutes.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about five minutes.  Add corn syrup and beat another 2-3 minutes.  Add the egg and beat another 2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth.

Combine oats, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add the oat mixture in two stages, until fully combined.  Drain the cranberries, reserving the rum, and stir in the cranberries and pistachios by hand.  Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

To cook:  Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Form the dough into balls of 1-2 Tbs each and arrange on the baking sheets leaving approximately 3 inches between each cookie.  Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon or fork.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies are just set.  Allow to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Bonus Recipe!  Take about 2 Tbs of that reserved rum and combine with 8 oz of ginger ale for a great little treat to go with your cookies.  Enjoy!!

 

Are you itching to get baking for the holidays?  What is your favorite go to treat this time of year?

 

This post serves as my entry in the Mixed Pre-Conference Cookie Contest sponsored by Dixie Crystals.

Ben’s Beginners Contest – Lend a Vote

Ben's Beginners graphic

As you have figured out Brian loves to be in the kitchen. I am in the kitchen when Brian isn’t around  … or I can make a sweet treat. The kids though just being in the kitchen so we were excited to see the Uncle Ben’s Rice “Ben’s Beginners Contest”. Grace and Sophie both wanted to do videos. They collaborated with Brian to make recipes that are favorite dishes.

Part of the prize is $30,000 for the winner’s cafeteria. This would be a wonderful gift for their cafeteria. Grace’s suggestion is new tables because “some of the seats spin around”. That is a pretty good need in the school and she would know seeing this her third year there!

The best part of this contest is that you can vote for BOTH girls each day! You can vote every 24 hours (best we can tell it goes by the clock not the day). So please vote daily … the winner isn’t chosen by the votes but it is 20% of the score the judges are using.

Sophie’s Video …

Sophie's chicken broccoli stir fry

 

VOTE for Sophie HERE!

Don’t you love how she just keeps looking at the camera?! I do LOVE her Yummies!

Grace’s Video …

Grace's chicken enchilada bake

 

VOTE for Grace HERE!

Grace was all about doing this by herself but she wants to let you know she has daddy wrapped around her finger. All she has to do ask for his help! :)

By the way … THANK YOU!!

Taking a Minute to Give Back with Minute Rice

Thanks to Minute Rice for making this post possible.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

We are so blessed!  We have a great blog (ok, I’m biased!) and we get to review and give away amazing products all of the time.  We also work with some really wonderful companies who are willing to help us give back to our local community.

Recently, we partnered with Minute Rice to feature a recipe on the blog here.  While we were not offered any monetary compensation, we did negotiate for them to provide some product for our local food pantry in addition to the two boxes that we received for review.  We were overwhelmed when we received 18 boxes of Minute Rice’s new Multi-Grain Medley.  That’s enough to provide a family of four a starch for dinner for over a month!!

One of the best parts of these opportunities is the chance to share the experience with our kids.  On the day that I was to deliver the rice, Sophie just happened to be sick.  As such, she got to help me out!  Just take a look at some pictures of this operation.

We live in a pretty small community, but we still have plenty of people in need.  This food pantry is only open two days each week, so people make it a point to be here as soon as the doors open up.

Minute Rice Food Pantry-3

This is a pretty small organization, but they surely have their acts together!  Look at how well organized they are.  Still, every little bit helps and the Minute Rice Multi-Grain Medley was pretty well received.

Minute Rice Food Pantry-2

This gentleman was working his tail off, accepting my donation, organizing this and other donations, and putting together bags for the people who need it.

Minute Rice Food Pantry-4

My little Sophie was so happy to help out her daddy.  The gentleman above made sure to take a few extra seconds to offer her a small bag of fruit snacks.  What a giving individual!

Minute Rice Food Pantry-5

The local food pantry takes donations from local individuals, but also from local stores.  Day old bread might not be great for sales, but it’s fine for eating.  (Plus it makes great French toast!!)

Minute Rice Food Pantry-6

Fresh produce is one of the more expensive items to purchase at the grocery store.  I’m so happy to see that they have plenty to offer up to the individuals seeking assistance.

Minute Rice Food Pantry-1

The volunteers at this food pantry work so hard.  I hope that everyone appreciates how much they give of themselves.  Hopefully they have their own Minute Rice at home to help them make a quick, easy dinner!  Maybe they can try out this recipe.

Cilantro-Lime Success Rice

Minute Rice Food Pantry-7

This rice dish was fluffy and had the great tartness from the lime and freshness from the cilantro.  The flavors were clean and no one ingredient overpowered the others.  It served as an incredible side for some scrumptious coconut shrimp.  Keep an eye out for that recipe!

Ingredients

2 bags Success Boil-in-Bag Jasmine White Rice
1 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the Success Rice according to package directions.  Grate the zest and juice of the lime into the prepared rice.  Add the cilantro, salt, and pepper.  Enjoy!

 Broccoli and Success Multi-Grain Melody Rice

broccoli-multi-grain-success-rice

Ingredients

1 bag Success Boil-in-Bag Multi-Grain Rice

1 head of broccoli

1/4 cup of Olive Oil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the Success Rice according to the package directions. Saute the broccoli in the Olive Oil. Add the rice to the broccoli in the saute pan. Stir often while combining flavors and giving the rice a bit of a crisp. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

How do you give back to your local community?  Share your story with us!  Thanks!

Tomato Salad: A Fresh Taste of Summer

When we are doing our backyard summer barbecues, we usually think of the meat item first.  However, whether trying to eat healthier or just living a meatless lifestyle, more people are skipping the meat altogether.  It can be hard to put out a side dish that can not only stand on its own, but that tastes like summertime.  This simple tomato salad may be just the ticket.

Tomato Salad

It’s tough to think of a more iconic taste of summer than that of a perfectly ripe tomato.  They are juicy, acidic, and they just plain taste incredible.  I can remember buying fresh tomatoes from a roadside stand and coming home to just cut them and eat them.  I can’t even get a ripe cherry tomato at home.  The kids pull them all off and gobble them up before I can get to them.

That’s why this salad is so great!  Some salt, pepper, olive oil, and a little balsamic vinegar compliments the different flavors of these beautiful tomatoes.  The different colors, shapes,and types of tomatoes add a great variety of flavors and textures and make the dish as beautiful to look at as it is incredible to eat.  On top of that, we bought all of our tomatoes at a local farmer’s market so I know that these tomatoes are fresh, ripe, and safe for my family to eat.  Enjoy!

 

Summer Tomato Salad

Make sure that you pick up some different types and colors of tomatoes.  The beautiful, almost black, cherry tomatoes, the pear shaped ones, yellows, reds, oranges, plus any number of heirloom tomatoes.  You want to have chunks and slices of the bigger ones and just cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Ingredients

1 pound cherry tomatoes
1-2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Slice, halve, and chunk the tomatoes into various sizes.  Top with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and gently fold to combine.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour for flavors to fully combine.

 

What is your perfect summer side dish?  Could you make a meal out of sides?

Dish Washing Mommy

NOTE: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Cascade. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

This Cookin’ Dad (a.k.a., Brian) makes a lot of dirty dishes when he cooks up his yummy dinners. Our generally agreement is that he cooks and I clean up. Here is where I should I mention that I HATE DOING DISHES. I hate scrubbing dishes and drying pots and putting everything away. My general tactic is to lightly rinse of the dishes and toss them into the dishwasher. We have a dishwasher so it should clean, right? ummm, yeah. It doesn’t always clean the best. Don’t get me wrong. It is a great dishwasher and it is newer but if lunch dishes sit until after dinner I am doomed. Brian thinks we should scrub every plate, cup, fork, spoon, bowl perfect CLEAN before it goes into the dishwasher. Why bother putting it in the dishwasher?! I still don’t understand his way of thinking. Most nights I do dishes on my own so I power through the dishes with my light rinse method.

Help! Sink Full of Dirty Dishes

Ready for my second confession? If whatever it is doesn’t come off the dishes the first time through the dishwasher, I just put it back in there. I didn’t have the time to scrub it the first time around so why do I have time the second time around?

Here is where I hope that I am not alone in those confessions. I also hope that Cascade Platinum is going to help me with my dishes chore! Check out more details here and find Cascade on Facebook!

How it works: Cascade© Platinum Pacs feature an advanced triple action recipe that is specially designed to leave dishware virtually spot-free.

Since we are Cascade Platinum Ambassadors, you will keep hearing about how Cascade Platinum is helping this Dish Washing Mommy! Plus we be sharing information on the “My Platinum” Instagram contest and Cascade’s partnership with Top Chef Judge, Gail Simmons!

What is your dish washing routine? Do you think that Cascade Platinum would help you out? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Strip Steak with Hazelnut Cream Sauce #whatsyourid

I cook…a lot!  For quite some time, I have been able to make just about anything that I feel like making.  As such, it has long been pretty hard for me to say what my favorite foods or flavors are.  I actually wrote a paper about that very subject when I was in college!  Maybe that’s why I am always experimenting with different kinds of foods and flavors.  I’m looking for my newest favorite!  So my preferences tend to ebb and flow.  Lately, I have been kind of entranced with hazelnuts.  I don’t know what it is, but they just have this particular flavor that has my attention lately.  I have even taken to adding International Delight’s Hazelnut cream to my coffee with outstanding results!

As I am ever the experimenter, though, I figured, why stop there?  If coffee creamer is mostly cream, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that a flavored creamer would make an amazing cream sauce?  Well, I thought it would!  So here’s what I did:

Strip Steak with International Delight Hazelnut Cream Sauce

International Delight Hazelnut Cream Sauce over Strip Steak

This really couldn’t be simpler!  Take two strip steaks and season them with salt and pepper.  Take a heavy pan (like cast iron) and place it over medium-high heat.  Add a little butter or oil and let it heat up.  put the steaks in for 2-5 minutes per side depending on how well done you like them.  Take them off of the heat and set them aside to rest.  Add about 2 cups of creamer to the pan and toss in some peppercorns.  Let it reduce by about half.  Slice up the steak and spoon the sauce on top.  Serve with your choice of sides.  Easy, right?

Stripe Steak with Hazelnut Cream Sauce

So, obviously, my ID is Hazelnut cream.  I shared it with the world at http://whatsyourid.com.  I’m hoping to win some pretty cool prizes for that! Maybe a VISA gift card, a new mixer, or even a Magical Trip! Plus I might have an opportunity to be featured as an ID Fan of the Week.

International-Delight-Map

What’s Your ID? International Delight is looking for their most passionate flavor fans. Put your ID on the map to enter to win a Magical Trip, play games and discover more unexpected delight. Share your ID flavor at http://whatsyourid.com

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

What’s Your ID? International Delight is looking for their most passionate flavor fans. Put your ID on the map to enter to win a Magical Trip, play games and discover more unexpected delight. Share your ID flavor at http://whatsyourid.com

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

GIANT Meal Planner #cbias

During our weekly meal planning, as part of a sponsored post for Collective Bias®, we used the GIANT meal planner to help inspire us and prepare our shopping list for a trip to our local MARTIN’S Food Store.

Meal Planning with GIANT Meal Planner

If you are a regular reader of our blog, you know that we are big meal planners.  For quite a while, we even published monthly meal plans!  Planning our meals a week or more in advance is just one of the ways that we keep our family eating healthy dinners on a budget.  Seriously, if we weren’t planning ahead, who knows what these kids would be eating.

Still, it can be pretty easy to get bored with the whole process.  At some point, it just feels like you keep on going back to the same basic set of meals.  Oh sure, you changed things up by using ground turkey instead of ground beef, but we both know that that hardly counts!

That’s why I am constantly on the lookout for new inspiration for planning out our menus.  I was so happy to be informed about the GIANT meal planner from GIANT Food Stores.  It actually lays out an entire week’s worth of meals for you.  I’m not one to just copy and paste meals, but if you were, you absolutely could here.  Not only do you get the daily dinner menu and recipes, but in each recipe, you can check off the items that you need and add them to a shopping list!  How easy is that?

For me, though, life cannot be that simple.  I’m looking to be inspired by recipes and ideas and then turn them around and make them my own.  My challenge was to take beautiful, fresh ingredients from our local MARTIN’S, cook once, and make dinners for two nights!

Fresh vegetables ready to be chopped

First, I was inspired by the Steak Tacos with Guacamole and Jambalaya recipes on the GIANT Meal Planner.  I pretty much followed the Jambalaya recipe, with a couple of little tweaks, but nothing to get up in arms over.

Shrimp, Sausage, and Chicken Jambalaya

Since I was getting shrimp for the Jambalaya anyhow, I figured that it would be silly to get steak, too.  I just got some extra shrimp and peppers and made Shrimp Fajitas with the same Guacamole recipe (no hot peppers, though…kids, you know?).  This made even more sense once I found out that the shrimp was on special this week.

Shrimp Fajitas with Homemade Guacamole

Every good dinner needs a great ending, right?  The GIANT Meal Planner does include dessert with every menu.  That definitely inspired me!  Since strawberries are in season, Strawberry Shortcake seemed almost too obvious!  Big bonus…strawberries were BOGO this week!  Woo hoo!

Strawberry Shortcake

With it warming up, I decided that a simple frozen dessert would be nice.  Some store-bought juice and simple syrup later and we had this lovely berry sorbet!

Simply Berry Sorbet

Since we keep onions, garlic, chicken, rice, tortillas, etc. around the house as staples and I had some sausage left over from earlier in the week, my shopping list was actually pretty small.  You can follow along with my shopping trip in my Google+ Album.

GIANT Meal Planner shopping at MARTIN'S

Are you inspired to meal plan for even two nights? What is holding you back from meal planning? Leave us a comment and let us know how you can strive to meal plan for your family.

 

The Real Kettle Brand Chips! #TheRealKettleChips

Kettle Brand Chips

Did you know? …

  • Kettle Brand uses only real, all-natural ingredients!
  • Kettle Brand is the first potato chip to be verified by the NonGMO Project!  They started selling the market’s first Non-GMO Project Verified potato chip earlier this year, and will soon have 16 verified products with the Non-GMO label featured on front of their packages in the marketplace. They are working diligently to achieve verification on all of their products.
  • Kettly Brand has 24 delicious all-natural chip flavors!
  • What exactly does “kettle-style” mean?All we really know is we’ve been cooking up real chips made with real ingredients
    by real people in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for over 30 years.
    Kettle isn’t just a style. It’s our name.”

Check out the Kettle Brand website for more details! You can also find Kettle Brand on Twitter @KettleChips! #TheRealKettleChips

I want to share a few pairing ideas to help inspire you to add Kettle Brand Chips to your recipes this Spring and Summer.

Kettle Brand Chips - Salt & Pepper

Chicken + Kettle Brand Salt & Pepper Chips

Crush up the Kettle Brand Salt & Pepper Chips as your breading for chicken. But don’t stop there … chop up the chicken for a chicken salad based on what your family loves in chicken salad and enjoy the extra crunch!

Fish + Chips 

Chips that are paired with Fish for Fish and Chips are generally french fries. Make sure your “chips” are all natural by pairing Kettle Brand Sea Salt & Vinegar Chips with your fresh Fish this Summer!

Movie and … Chips

Forget the popcorn as you host family movie night or an at home date night but keep the salt snack with Kettle Brand Sea Salt Chips. Your all natural snack choice will still give you the sanctification of snacking during the movie and maybe even make you feel a little less guilty about that late night snacking!

Guess you can tell that the favorite flavors around here involve salt, huh? Kettle Brand Sea Salt & Vinegar Chips, Kettle Brand Sea Salt Chips, and Kettle Brand Salt & Pepper Chips … mmmm. (I will add that we had the Kettle Brand Backyard Barbeque® Chips too but they were gone before we could even snap a picture. oops!)

Remember to answer the question about why REAL ingredients matter to you and your family to be entered to win $250!

Why are real ingredients important in your recipes?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Kettle Brand. The opinions and text are all mine.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Charquican

On my recent trip to Chile, I was on the lookout for traditional dishes that I could bring back home to share with my family and with yours.  One dish that really stood out as something that my family would love to eat was a simple peasant dish called charquican.  Charquican is, traditionally, a Chilean beef stew.  It was originally made with beef jerky, or charqui.  As I understand it, most people just use stew beef.  Typically, people will mash up potatoes and winter squashes and add whatever veggies they have hanging around.  It really seems to be a “clean out the fridge” kind of dish.  That’s right up our alley!

Charquican-1

The version that I had during my trip was a little more dressed up.  With a red pearl onion pickled in a red wine sauce, drizzled in a butter sauce, and topped with a nice piece of salmon, the restaurant version of charquican was really something special.  However, the homeyness of the base really shone through for me.  Since it was served as a side dish, there was no beef.  This struck me as a great opportunity for a Meatless Monday!  As such, one of my first recipe attempts after coming back from Chile was to make this meatless version of charquican.  I hope you enjoy!

Charquican-2

Vegetarian Charquican

In order to make this side dish into a filling, and satisfying, main meal, I added mushrooms and topped the whole thing with a poached egg.  The meatiness of the mushrooms and the velvety egg yolk combine to really bring this whole thing together.  I’m a big eater and one serving was all I needed to leave the table happy.

Ingredients

5 large red potatoes, cut into half-inch cubes
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs thyme
1 tsp. paprika
1-12 oz bag frozen mixed veggies
1-15 oz can pumpkin
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp. merken (optional)
8 eggs

Directions

1.  Place the potatoes into a medium-pot, cover with water, salt well, and bring to a boil.  Boil until potatoes are tender.  Drain and set aside.

2.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook until beginning to brown, about 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, and paprika.  Cook another 2-3 minutes.

3.  Add mixed veggies and potatoes.  Stir to combine.  Season with salt, pepper, and merken, if using.  Allow to cook until the mixed veggies are warmed through.  Add pumpkin and wine.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  The mixture should have a creamy texture holding the potatoes and vegetables together.  If the mixture is too tight, add another splash of wine or water until you reach the desired consistency.  Cover and put over a low heat to stay warm.

4.  Fill a wide saucepan with water and allow to come to a simmer.  Crack eggs into individual bowls and pour into the water.  Turn off the heat and cover.  Let stand for about 4 minutes.  Remove to a paper towel to drain.

5.  Scoop the charquican onto a plate.  Top with one of the poached eggs.  Serve and enjoy!

Do you think that you could tell the difference between my dish and the one served at the restaurant?  What would you change to have this fit your family?  Would you like to see more of these dishes from Chile?  Leave us a comment and let us know!

Mushrooms for Easy Healthy Eating

March is National Nutrition Month!  The theme for 2013 is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.”  Did you know that the humble mushroom is full of  health benefits?  Not only are they very tasty, but they bring plenty of protein, fiber, and antioxidants to the table with very few calories.  Since they are available all year long, they are a perfect addition to any diet.

When we go heavy on our diet plans, mushrooms are always a big part.  We substitute nice big portobellos for steaks or even hamburgers!  We also cook up some mixed mushrooms or just plain ole white buttons and set them aside in the refrigerator for use throughout the week.  I simply pour a little olive oil into a pan, dump in the mushrooms, salt, and pepper, and start to cook them down.  At first all of the water leeches out of them, once that water starts to evaporate, though, the magic happens.  They start to brown up in the pan, just developing their flavor further.  At this point, the mushrooms can really start to accept other flavors.  Some garlic, shallots, soy sauce, butter, white wine….really, your options are wide open.

Once you’ve finished cooking them up, store them in the refrigerator and you’ve got a good 3-4 days to use them up (not that they’ll last that long).  How can you use these cooked mushrooms?  We use them with eggs for breakfast, we make cheese-steaks with them, risotto works really well, or just warm them up and have them as a side with a piece of chicken.  However you do it, the mushrooms are a great healthy filler for any meal.

If you are looking for mushroom recipes or just more information about mushrooms, in general, check out the Mushroom Channel!  The Mushroom Channel consists of a website and social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest) brought to you by the Mushroom Council, a group of mushroom producers and importers.  In fact, if you want to join in the conversation about mushrooms, make sure that you join the Twitter Party on Wednesday, March 20, from 8-9 pm EST.

Do you have mushrooms as a regular part of your diet?  How do you get the most out of them?  Anything special that you do with them?  Share with us and keep the conversation going!