Soft Homemade Caramels

Homemade soft caramels should never be made when you are home alone.  These may possibly be the most dangerous thing that has ever been cooked in my kitchen.

Not because it will hurt, although it could if you aren’t careful playing with molten lava temperature melted sugar, but because you need to get them wrapped and out of the house as quickly as possible.

Do not send more than a few of these at a time to friends, as these will also be dangerous at their house.  Do bring them to work for brownie points! Should be worth at least a few of those.

You and everyone else who eats these will not be able to stop eating them until either your teeth hurt, your stomach hurts, or you have eaten all of them.  Once they are all eaten, you will be thinking of them for days to come.

After reading several caramel recipes, I settled on starting with this one from Land O’Lakes and tweaking it ever so slightly.

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Asian Inspired Noodles

Asian inspired noodles are simply my take on Pancit and Japchae. Yes, I know they are from different countries. Yes I know this recipe is nowhere near authentic. Yes I know they are separate dishes, but I can hardly tell the difference. Since I cannot determine which one this is more like, I just call them Asian Inspired Noodles. Makes my life easier, and everyone knows I am all about simple.

Like my other Asian inspired dishes, this is another way I like to get extra veggies into our diets.  I know, salads are good for that, but if you know me, you already know salad generally miss my plate somehow.

I also have a non-authentic recipe for Lo Mein that I will feature at a later date. When you see that one, you will think it is just combination of chow mein and Asian noodles.

I prefer this recipe with cellophane noodles or glass noodles. But my store doesn’t always have them available. There are several Asian markets in my area, but they are clean across town and I do not want to fight the traffic between here and there only to learn they are like all the other stores in town – out of stock or don’t carry them.

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Favorite Chili

Andy loves chili.  I love chicken noodle soup.  So, I make them at the same time because they both freeze and reheat well.  Keeps up both happy, he doesn’t have to eat “too chickeny” soup and I can avoid the heartburn from eating chili.andys-favorite-chili-body-800

I have used many different recipes in my life, but this is the one that gets requested the most and the one you are likely to find in my freezer all winter long.  This one is similar to the many Wendy’s copycat recipes readily available online.  I usually at least double this recipe.  Admittedly, I have even tripled it so I had enough for guests and freezing.

I make this in large batches since it provides me with a few quick painless dinners over the winter, and it is a favorite of impromptu visitors to our house.  We have a few neighbors that also love this chili.   This recipe can also be easily reduced, math isn’t my strong suit, so I leave those division problems for you to work out.

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Molasses Cookies

Molasses cookies are the one cookie that embodies all the warm spices of the holidays; cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.  The flavor kind of reminds me of gingerbread men.  If you are only going to bake one cookie this holiday season, you should make it this one.

This cookie is soft and chewy.  Since it is rolled into sugar prior to baking, it sparkles too.  The flavors are strong enough that it holds up well under a light coating of almond bark or chocolate coating.  If you really want to dress this one up, add some holiday sprinkles.

This recipe can be halved, but since it requires at least an hour in the refrigerator prior to baking, I make the whole batch at once.  Yes, it does make a lot of cookies, but if I had to guess, I would guess these are made mostly around the holidays and holidays mean sharing right?  So go ahead and make them all and spread some holiday cheer.

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Simple Turkey Dressing

For me, homemade stuffing/dressing is required at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  The stuff from the box just doesn’t get it for me.  Although, that is what I was raised on, my mother used it. Yuck.  I had an aunt once declare that this dressing tastes just like her mom’s, but I don’t recall anything besides the boxed stuff at her house either.  In her defense, holiday meals normally meant cooking for 25 to 35 people.  We never had real mashed potatoes either.

I have been known to use a bag pre-seasoned hard cubes, and those can be prepared in a way that it is almost as good as homemade.  And 2 bags of those cubes can be used as a substitute for the loaf of rustic crusty bread used in this recipe.  It will require much more liquid than the crusty bread allowed to dry out will.

People put all kinds of stuff in their stuffing, maybe that’s why it’s called stuffing, it’s stuffed with stuff.  I have never stuffed a bird with dressing, I think it might end up being too greasy and not hot enough to kill whatever bacteria might be hiding inside that turkey.

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Beef Vegetable Soup

I call this cheater beef vegetable soup since I use mostly canned vegetables and frozen for this recipe.  Feel free to replace with fresh vegetables if you like.  I use canned because the potatoes hold up way better during the slow simmer.

If you opt to use fresh vegetables for this recipe, I recommend par cooking your potatoes and carrots prior to peeling and dicing.  They will hold their shape a bit better like the canned vegetables would.  I have done this with decent results, but it is time consuming.  As long-time readers of the blog already know, I am lazy sometimes and prefer to skip steps that I don’t find necessary for producing great tasting food.

Canned vegetables are readily available these days with reduced sodium and even some with no salt or sugar added.  These are great shortcuts for this beef vegetable soup for those on controlled sodium and sugar diets.

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New Orleans Style Bread Pudding

New Orleans Style Bread Pudding is my kind of bread pudding.  This bread pudding does not have large pieces of bread hanging out.  This is creamier than other bread puddings, but not too egg-y.

It can be made with any kind of leftover bread that you have laying around.  One day I would like to try this with stale cinnamon rolls. But, that would mean there were leftovers………..

I prefer making this with some dried out quick yeast rolls.  I’m able to crumble them pretty quickly and these rolls absorb the liquid pretty easily.  As you are mixing up this bread pudding, the consistency will look like really wet oatmeal.  No worries, this will bake up and set just fine.  If it needs a little extra baking time, that’s OK too.  It just means crispier edges, which in my opinion is the best part.

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Beef Salad

Beef Salad is perfect for elegant cocktail parties and casual get-togethers.  It’s all in the presentation with this one.

It is easy enough that even beginners should be able to pull off beef salad so long as they own a food processor or blender.  I might be possible to mince the meat with a knife, but I have never done it.  I am too lazy for all of that, and patience is NOT by strong suit.

This recipe can be scaled down to use leftover roast beef.  I used to make it this way until I discovered that so many people liked it that I actually needed to make a full roast just for beef salad.  This is another one of those dishes that I carry to others’ parties as an appetizer.

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Caramel Corn

Caramel corn just tastes better when it is homemade.  Why do you think it tastes better at the fair than it does pre-packaged?  Because it is fresh and way closer to homemade!  This recipe makes a large batch and you might want to have a sharing plan before you make it, otherwise it might just get in your belly.

It will be buttery, sweet, crispy and irresistible.  You can add cinnamon, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, or just about any kind of spice you want.  We have even added peanuts before and it they turned out fine.

Before you go to thinking that it is hard to make, it really isn’t hard.  It is a little time consuming, so you won’t be eating it nearly as quick as you would something out of a box.  It’s worth the wait though, I promise!

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Witch’s Stew

Witch’s Stew is just a Halloween party variation of Frog Eye Soup.

Frog Eye Soup is just a variation of chicken and pasta that had been started as a soup recipe and turned into more of a pasta dish.  But the name has stuck in our family for about 20 years.

Frog Eye Soup got its name from the pasta shape that I had on hand for a Frog Eye Salad.  For those of you who have never heard of Frog Eye Salad, it is kind of a sweet dish in which ambrosia and pasta salad got mixed up in the same bowl.  It was very popular in the 60’s and 70’s.

I’ll try to make some in time for the spring holidays.  Right now, my house is in full fall and winter holiday prep.  For the blog anyway, you won’t find any carved pumpkins, graveyard scenes, or Christmas trees in the house just yet.  But give it another month and you might.

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