THINKING OUTSIDE THE MAC&CHEESE BOX

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Williams Sonoma Goodies

Well... I pretty much got everything I wanted for Christmas, but in case some of you didn't get all the cooking items you'd like, you should check out my link on the right side of my blog for Williams Sonoma!  The store is awesome, with everything a budding foodie could possibly want!

A new favorite that we discovered this Christmas is Vanilla Bean Paste.  It is so perfect in my VanillaBella Fudge and we used it in all of our cookie recipies.  You substitute it for the vanilla extract called for in any recipe, and it is just pure, yummy vanilla flavor like no other!  It even has the little vanilla bean specks, so you can see them in whatever you make.  I can't wait to use it in a homemade ice cream or maybe even creme brulee!


You can try some of your own.  Just click on the Williams Sonoma ad to the right of my blog and then click on any item & that will take you into the catalogue. From there you can search for it, and also browse around for any other goodies that Santa forgot to leave in your stocking. 

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

A Special Christmas Package for Bellabits from my favorite Auntie!

Merry Christmas from Bellabits! I got all I wanted this Christmas,  and hope you did too. For dinner, my mother made us a beautiful prime rib with rolls and fresh french-cut green beans and smashed potatoes.  I helped a little, too.  YUM!




Modeling our aprons we got from Auntie this Christmas

WOW!  It's a COTTON CANDY MAKER!!  Reviews to come!!

Our Christmas Main Course

ME--French cutting the green beans

Delicious Christmas Dinner 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

San Francisco!!


First of all, I am a city girl. I LOVE San Francisco so when we went to California to visit family over the last week for Christmas,  mom took me to the City by the Bay. 

It was a cold, rainy day perfect for a nice Starbucks cocoa and for dinner, of course, CRAB!  



Right now, they are having an amazing dungeoness crab season! We decided to dine at one of the City's finest seafood establishments--Aliotos.  I ordered the marinated crab. It is served cold, after being  marinated in a garlicy italian style seasoning. My brother didn't like it at the time because he somehow managed to get crab juice into his own eyeball. But I think if you ask him truly about the taste, he will admit that it was just delicious!  I completely recommend that the next time you go to San Francisco, go to Fishermans Wharf and straight ahead , you'll see the glowing sign of Allioto's shining high above the others. it's near the signs of the Sabella and Latorre resturaunt (which is cool because my name is Isabella.)



   But instead of walking there, this time, I encourage you to get there by cable car. Yep that's right. This was our first time riding the world famous San Francisco Cable Car!!   It was so amazing! Especially the beautiful view from the top of the highest hill.  We drove to Union Square first to see all the Christmas shoppers (and there were a LOT), and the festive lights and decorations.  Then we took the cable car from Powell and Market Streets over the hill to Fisherman's Wharf.  It was so cool, because the cable car is connected to a cable under the street, and the cars are on tracks.  The cable car drivers use a bunch of hand brakes to control the car.  Traveling along the tracks over the rolling SF hills was kind of like riding a slow- moving roller coaster.  Only with much better views!!  Visiting San Francisco--what a great way to celebrate the holidays!



Sunday, December 19, 2010

Abuelos

 Welcome to one of me and my family's FAVE restaurants---Abuelos!


 I Love The Kids Tamales
My brother loves the Bean and Cheese Burritos!

My Mom loves the Enchiladas de Cozumel (there are crepe-like enchiladas stuffed with a creamy avocado filling under all that sauce).



If you have an Abuelos Restaurant nearby, you MUST give it a try!

MOM's NOTE Abuelos is a great Mexican place for the whole family.  Meals are reasonably priced, and my favorite part is this: 

Here are the Kid's Menu Items:

CHEESE ENCHILADA
CRISPY BEEF TACO
BEEF & BEAN BURRITO
SOFT BEEF TACO
CHEESE NACHOS
TAMALE
CHEESE QUESADILLA
CHICKEN NUGGETS
 
Notice that although the menu items are still kid-friendly, you have moe choices than the usual kids pizza, hot dogs, mac & cheese, and chicken nuggets.  Okay, they have the nuggets, but they also actually have some Mexican food for kids to select.  Isabella actually loves the tamales.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gluten Free Fudge

Remember the fudge I told you about yesterday?  Well, it was a hit with my teacher, so I thought I would share how I made it:

The finished product--it's not as glossy and creamy looking as regular fudge, but tastes great!

All The Key Ingredients

Stir Stir Stir

Smoothed into a pan and ready to chill


Gluten Free 2 Minute Fudge


Adapted From  GlutenFreeGirl's online recipe

Prep Time: 5 mins Total Time: 1 1/4 hr Serves: 36, Yield: 36 squares About This Recipe

Ingredients:

4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk, minus 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter

Directions:

In a 1-1/2-quart casserole, stir together sugar, cocoa, salt, milk, and vanilla until partially blended.

Put butter or margarine over top in center of dish.

Microwave on HIGH power 2 minutes.

Stir well until smooth.

Pour into a greased 8-inch square dish. Chill about 1 hour. (I chilled overnight)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Gift of Goodies


Well, tomorrow is the last day before beak, and my mom and I, and even my brother were busy little bakers, making lots of cookies and fudge for our teachers and friends. Tonight, out kitchen countertops were filled with goodies.


We decided to make Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip Heath Cookies, VanillaBella Fudge, and Creamy Chcolate Fudge. Also, because one of my teachers is allergic to gluten, we found a recipe for gluten -free fudge...Hope everyone enjoys!





Monday, December 13, 2010

All Aboard the Gingerbread Train!!

These gingerbread kits come with everything you need, including candy and frosting!

Choo Choo! Everyone loves the old fashioned gingerbread house but wait! How does Mr. Gingerbread Man get to work everyday? The Gingerbread train is to the rescue.  So many ways to decorate and uber duber fun to put together! Just be careful when breaking the pieces in half though. When I tried, two of them broke the wrong way. Then I learned this trick: grip the gingerbread tightly and snap it quickly. JUST LIKE A TWIG!!! I know it may seem like a good idea to cut the gingerbread in pieces with a knife but trust me... 
it's not. If your set seems like there's just not enough decorating candy, do what i did and bring extra. Spice drops, twizzlers, M&M's, Smarties. So many different choices. Even mini gumballs would do the trick. So be sure Mr. Gingerbread Man gets to work on time tomorrow and get to work making your train tonight!


My brother LOVEs building things, so he was up to the Gingerbread Train Challenge


This tray makes it SOOO EASY to assemble


It takes some time to break apart the gingerbread pieces


Be careful, so you don't break any, like I did...nothing a little icing can't fix, though!


Extra Candy Decorations


My Finished Train


Nick's Finished Train


All Aboard !!



Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Grilled Peanut Butter & Jelly on Raisin Bread


So, how about a PB&J for dinner?  Yep, I said it.  Only this time it's grilled. A perfect winter snack. Warm and cozy just like your favorite blanket. Only this is ooey-gooey sweet and buttery. Slam on some raisin bread and your hip, set and ready to eat!

Mom's Note:  Busy school nights call for quick go-to's like this.  I had never had one until a couple of years ago, and boy was I missing out!  It's just as it sounds, make a PB&J, spread butter on the outer sides of the sandwich, and brown both sides of the sandwich in a pan (or in a panini maker) until the bread is golden and the insides are warm and gooey.  I like to make it with raisin bread, but you can use wheat or white, and substitute bananas, preserves or honey for the jelly.  This is the ultimate kids' comfort food--just add a glass of milk!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Help Feed the Hungry

Have you ever wanted to find a way to help the less fortunate, even though you don't have any money to give? Well you might have noticed that there is a new banner on my blog that allows you to do just that! It will take you to a site called Free Rice.This site allows you to donate rice to the hungry in Cambodia, Uganda, Nepal, Bhutan, and more places. Just by playing a game! It's also for free!

When you go to the site, you play a vocabulary game.  It asks multiple choice questions for definitions of words. For every question you answer right, they donate 10 grains of rice to the hungry--for FREE!!! The questions go quickly and your rice donation can get pretty large as you continue to play.  It starts off easy, then gets harder as you level up. This is an amazingly simple way to help people without spending any money. It's also a great way for kids and their parents to build their vocabulary.  I do it all the time and I hope you will too. : )

Fight World Hunger

Saturday, December 4, 2010

When you can't make pumpkin pie, make Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake!


So we're sittin' around yesterday, thinking of something to have for dessert,  and my brother says and I quote, " Let's make pumpkin pie!" My mother didn't feel like making pie crust, but rembered a recipe she came across by Paula Deen, Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake. They're right about the butter for sure; it has so much of it! This cake is so delicious that you will want to eat it all in one bite. (PLEASE DONT!) It has buttery-sweet crust and pumpkin-spicy filling and 2 STICKS OF BUTTER. So enjoy it. (but don't eat too much!) 








Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes

Recipe Adapted from  Paula Deen
Prep Time:30 minInactive Prep Time:--Cook Time:50 min
Serves: 6 to 8 servings. 

Cake:
•1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
•1 egg
•8 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:
•1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
•1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
•3 eggs
•1 teaspoon vanilla
•8 tablespoons butter, melted
•1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar  (we used 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, so it wasn't as sweet)
•1 teaspoon cinnamon
•1 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.
Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Souper Duper

Sizzling Baby Bella Mushrooms!
 Happy December people!!! Since it's getting cold outside, Mama decided to make some soup for dinner tonight.   I have to say that mushrooms are NOT my cup of tea but it's her favorite so we went with it.  Hope you enjoy Mom's Creamy Baby Bella Soup.



Most good recipes start with butter!

When sliced mushrooms are golden, set aside

Now brown the diced onions and mushrooms.

The rest of our ingredients

Adding half and half after turning down the burner

Creamy goodness


Mom's Fave!

So, this is my favorite soup, and I make it often during the Winter months.  It's pretty simple, and quite tasty.  Enjoy! --Bellabits Mom
                                                    
                                                 Creamy Baby Bella Soup
4 Tablespoons butter, divided use
8 ounces mushrooms (preferably baby bellas, but you can use buttons)
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 cup flour
2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) chicken broth
1 cup half and half

Clean mushrooms with a mushroom brush or damp paper towel. Cut half of the mushrooms into slices. Dice the other half of the mushrooms

Melt half of the butter in a large saucepan and saute sliced mushrooms until golden. Remove and reserve sliced mushrooms. Add remaining butter to the same pan, next add the chopped mushrooms diced onions and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft and mushroom bits are golden.
Return sliced mushrooms to the pan. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly about 2 minutes, until smooth. Slowly add chicken broth while stirring. Simmer, stirring often, (I use a whisk) until thickened.
Turn heat to low and add half and half and bring to a simmer. (Do not boil.) just for a minute or two.  The soup should be smooth and creamy.  Serve it up...soup's on!

Makes 2 hearty servings or 4 petite servings.
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