Creamy Red Hot Dipping Sauce

With New Year’s Eve parties planned for this week, I thought this would be the perfect time to share my new favorite dip recipe.  I originally made this as a dipping sauce for meatballs, but we’ve tried it on just about everything.  It’s a great sandwich spread.  It makes Sauerkraut Balls even better.  I’ve even eaten it just spread on a cracker.  Besides all that, I find its orange color kind of festive.

Creamy Red Hot Dip by Crafty Staci
Creamy Red Hot Dip by Crafty Staci

Creamy Red Hot Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Creamy Red Hot Dipping Sauce Ingredients
Creamy Red Hot Dipping Sauce Ingredients

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix with a mixer or stir until completely blended.  This is even better after it sits in the fridge for a few hours.  If it’s too thick for your taste, just blend in a little milk or cream.

I called this “Red Hot” because of the pepper sauce, and it is spicy, but not in a crazy way.  I can’t wait to try this on a burger, or as dip for chicken tenders, or with french fries, or veggies…

Creamy Red Hot Dipping Sauce from Crafty Staci
Creamy Red Hot Dipping Sauce from Crafty Staci

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes

We all know pumpkin is a fall flavor.  Sure, you can buy cans of it year round, but eating pumpkin in summer is like eating a strawberry in January.  You can do it, but it just feels weird…unless you’re my daughter. 

The kids wanted cupcakes instead of layer cake for the wedding, and there’s a local cupcake shop that makes them gluten-free once a week.  For a while, Codi was a Bella Cupcake Wednesday regular.  When it came time to place the wedding order, the one flavor she was absolutely sure about was pumpkin chai.  Thankfully, Bella was accommodating and agreed, even though it wasn’t pumpkin season for them.  Out of the four flavors, it ended up being the most popular.  Well, being the experimenter that I am, I decided to attempt my own version.

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 1
Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 1

First of all, let me say I cannot compete with Bella Cupcake.  I didn’t get a chance to try one of theirs (like I said, popular) but I already know these don’t taste the same.  However, for an amateur, starting-with-boxed-mix version, these are delicious. 

I made these gluten-free, but you could certainly use a regular cake mix.  Just adjust the amount of eggs and water to reflect what’s required on the box.

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes

  • 1 box of vanilla cake mix
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup instant black tea
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 2
Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 2

Dissolve the instant tea in the water.  Mix all of the dry spices into the cake mix.  Add the butter, eggs, pumpkin and tea/water.  Continue with the mixing and baking instructions on your box for cupcakes.

I had to try this recipe three times before I had one with the flavor I was looking for.  For the first attempt I replaced some of the water with liquid chai concentrate, and they were very pumpkinish and had very little chai coming through.  It was all we could do to scarf down the whole batch.

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 3
Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 3

The second time, I referred to my Spiced Chai drink mix for the spices to add.  I went a little light because I didn’t want them to be too overpowering.  They were good, but it was still hard to taste anything but pumpkin.  When I read the drink recipe a second time, I realized the number of servings was nearly the same as my cake mix, so I went all-out and added the same measurements for the spices.  You can even see the difference in color between the two batches.

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 4
Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 4

Bingo!  These are definitely spicy, but a good dose of cream cheese frosting on top tones them down just enough.  I’m pretty sure nothing has ever said fall quite as loudly as these do.

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 5
Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes - Crafty Staci 5

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait

I find it a little difficult to find healthy snacks when I’m away from home.  It’s even worse that I often end up in the coffee shop, full of cookies and other fat-laden baked goods.  I’ve given up a lot of things for this diet, but I still budget in the occasional Starbucks drink now and then.  Recently, I discovered their yogurt parfaits in the refrigerated section.  The berry version is only 220 calories and it’s delicious.  It didn’t take long before I was wondering if it was something I could replicate at home.  Oh, yes I can.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 1
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 1

This actually doesn’t take a ton of different ingredients, and one batch can make 4 – 8 servings, so you’re set for breakfast for at least a few days. 

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 2
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 2

Start the granola first, so it can bake while you whip up the fruit compote.

Granola

  • 3/4 cup oats (gluten-free, if that’s how you roll)
  • 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Spread on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, then stir.  Bake for 15 minutes longer, stirring every 5 minutes, or until golden brown.  Pour onto wax paper to cool.  Once it has cooled, break up some of the larger pieces.  Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 3
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 3

Once the granola is in the oven, you can start the fruit compote. 

Strawberry Blueberry Compote

  • 1 cup sliced strawberries (5 – 6 large)
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (frozen is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water

Combine the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium low heat until bubbly.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken, around 5 minutes.  Add the blueberries and cook just until they’re heated.  Remove from heat and cool.  Makes about 1 cup.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 4
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 4

You can also cook both berries together from the beginning, just be aware that while the flavor is there, your blueberries will not be recognizable in the final product.

To assemble the parfait, start with 2 tablespoons of the berry compote on the bottom for 8 servings, or 1/4 cup for 4 servings.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 5
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 5

Add 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt for either number of servings.  I like Zoi.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 6
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 6

Top with 1/4 cup granola for 4 servings or 2 tablespoons for 8.  You should have a little granola left over.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 7
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 7

After you’re done looking at how pretty it is, mix it all together and enjoy.  Oh, and it’s still pretty.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 8
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 8

One thing I really love about the Starbucks parfait is that the granola is in its own container so it doesn’t mix with the yogurt and get soggy.  You can just dump it in when you’re ready.  After a little brainstorming I solved that problem with my homemade version too.

Save and wash an empty applesauce container.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 9
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Crafty Staci 9

Fill it with the granola and top it with a piece of foil.  Put it upside down on top of the wide-mouth jar lid and twist on the ring.  The foil keeps it in place!  I shook this and it didn’t budge.

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Reuse applesauce container to hold the granola - Crafty Staci
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Reuse applesauce container to hold the granola - Crafty Staci

Here’s the REALLY good news.  If you make this recipe into four servings (as shown in the first photo above), each one will have 206 calories, which is 14 fewer than Starbucks’.  If you make it into eight servings, as shown in my awesome travel container here, it’s only 125 calories!

Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Reuse applesauce container to hold the granola - Crafty Staci 2
Greek Yogurt and Berries Parfait - Reuse applesauce container to hold the granola - Crafty Staci 2

Healthy on-the-go snack problem?  Solved.

Buffalo Chex Mix

I love you guys.  I asked for help yesterday to make a decision, and you jumped in to give your opinions.  I can’t begin to tell you what that means to me.  Thank you!  By the way, the winner of the one-way trip to Japan can be found on yesterday’s post.  It was very close for a while there!

Now, on to today’s recipe.  I discovered Frank’s Red Hot Sauce about a year ago.  Why had I never tried this stuff before?  I am seriously hooked. (I also just had my first taste of Sriracha a few days ago – don’t even get me started.)  Frank’s is good on everything, so I decided to give it a go as the star of this Chex mix.  Of course, then I learned Chex already had a version, but mine differs in a few areas.

Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 1
Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 1

Do you like my non-committal colors?  A little Seahawks, a little Broncos?  That’s me – Go Team!

Buffalo Chex Mix

9 cups Rice Chex cereal (one 12.8 ounce box)

2 cups Bugles

2 cups pretzels

1 cup cashews

1/2 cup butter

3 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

1 packet ranch dressing mix

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 2
Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 2

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the cereal, Bugles, pretzels and cashews.  Of course, you can use combine different flavors of Chex if you’d prefer, I just like using up one whole box. 

Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 3
Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 3

Melt the butter in the microwave.  Add the hot sauce, ranch and celery seed.  Mix well with a whisk.  This is very mild on the hotness, so feel free to add more sauce if you’d like.

Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 4
Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 4

Pour over the cereal mixture and stir until the pieces are evenly coated.  Sprinkle the parmesan over the top and gently stir.

Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 5
Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 5

Spread on two large cookie sheets. 

Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 6
Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 6

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool.

Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 7
Buffalo Chex Mix - Crafty Staci 7

If I wasn’t on what I’m affectionately calling The Mother of the Bride Diet, I’d spend Sunday with a big bowl of this waiting to find out what the Budweiser Clydesdales and that E-Trade baby have been up to.  Oh, I mean who wins the game.  Yeah, that.

Salted Caramel Drink Mix

I spent the day out shopping with my husband yesterday.  We visited a mall, Costco and, my favorite, Crafty Wonderland.  Between the three, we were able to wrap up the last of our Christmas shopping, which I’m pretty happy about.  Once that’s done, I usually move on to the next holiday task – making delicious treats.  This year I decided to try a new take on a favorite from last year and make Salted Caramel Drink Mix.  Notice the word “cocoa” does not appear there.  Nothing here but milky, caramel goodness.

Salted Caramel Drink Mix - Crafty Staci 1
Salted Caramel Drink Mix - Crafty Staci 1

Salted Caramel Drink Mix

2 cups dry milk powder

1/2 cup dry plain creamer

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/4 cup caramel-flavored dry creamer

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Salted Caramel Drink Mix - Crafty Staci 2
Salted Caramel Drink Mix - Crafty Staci 2

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Process until the salt is a fine texture.  To serve, add 1/4 cup mix to a mug full of hot water or milk.

Salted Caramel Drink Mix - Crafty Staci 3
Salted Caramel Drink Mix - Crafty Staci 3

If you want a chocolate version (or spiced chai) you can find those here.  Put any of these in a decorated jar and it would make a tasty gift for someone you really like a lot.  I mean, a lot.

Vanilla Brown Sugar Coffee Syrup

I live about 7 miles from the nearest store.  Not that far, I know, but when I only need one thing it’s impossible to motivate myself to make the half-hour round trip drive.  I’d rather spend that thirty minutes in the kitchen trying to make an acceptable substitute for whatever it was I thought I needed.  This time, it was coffee syrup.

I try to confine myself to two cups of coffee in the morning.  Most days I stick to it, but sometimes I cheat my own system.  Rather than having a third cup of hot coffee, I switch to iced instant espresso.  I know, it’s really no different, but I feel a little less like I’ve fallen off the wagon because it’s in a different cup. 

Last week, on a particularly tiring day, I was headed for that third cup of denial when I realized we were out of both caramel and vanilla coffee syrup.  How does that happen and I don’t notice?  Anyway, I did a quick search for a caramel syrup recipe, but every one I found listed caramel sauce as an ingredient.  Huh?

I decided to aim for a caramel flavor on my own, so I whipped up this syrup.  And I wouldn’t really say it tastes like caramel, but it is oh-so delicious.

To make this, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine the water, brown sugar and salt in a saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently but gently, until the mixture just starts to come to a boil and all of the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Cool, then pour into a bottle.  Add a tag or label and this would make a great gift.

Vanilla Brown Sugar Coffee Syrup - Crafty Staci 5
Vanilla Brown Sugar Coffee Syrup - Crafty Staci 5

This would also be tasty with some other spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  I think I would try brewing them in the water  (the way the Chai Tea Concentrate is made), then using that water to make the syrup.

In case you’re wondering, the way I make my iced espresso is I fill the 20 ounce glass half full of water, add about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered espresso, fill to about 3/4 with coconut almond milk, sweeten to taste with the syrup, then finish filling the glass with ice.  Zero drive time.

Vanilla Brown Sugar Coffee Syrup - Crafty Staci 6
Vanilla Brown Sugar Coffee Syrup - Crafty Staci 6

Speaking of my glass, these are in my Zibbet shop now, along with that stainless steel straw, which I completely love and is available straight or with that little bend at the top.  Also, that coaster?  It’s made from leather and a mason jar ring and you’ll find those in my shop as well.  I haven’t listed the wraps yet, but if you’re interested just let me know.  It’s been a busy couple of weeks around here!

Espresso Brownies

When I was a kid I loved chocolate, and pretty much any chocolate would do.  I even loved the cheapo stuff that was mostly brown wax and left that awful coating on the inside of my mouth.  These days I’m a little more picky.  Ok, maybe a lot.  I’m willing to hold out for good, dark chocolate and it often comes in the form of a brownie.

Espresso Brownies single - Crafty Staci
Espresso Brownies single - Crafty Staci

This recipe was a result of my effort to make a brownie that was a little lower in calories.  I like the No Pudge Cappuccino mix, but I didn’t have any on hand and when you need a brownie, you need a brownie.  This is the nutrition info if these are made exactly according to this recipe:

Nutrition info for Espresso Brownies
Nutrition info for Espresso Brownies

Espresso Brownies

· 1 cup all-purpose flour

· 1/2 cup cocoa powder

· 1 (1.4 oz) package chocolate fudge sugar-free pudding mix

· 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder

· 1 teaspoon baking powder

· 1/2 cup granulated sugar

· 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar

· 2 egg whites (or 1/3 cup egg whites from carton)

· 1 egg

· 3 tablespoons butter - melted

· 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

· 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Espresso Brownies Ingredients - Crafty Staci
Espresso Brownies Ingredients - Crafty Staci

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 by 8 inch baking pan.

Stir together flour, cocoa powder, pudding mix, espresso powder and baking powder in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine sugars, egg whites, egg, butter, yogurt and vanilla. Mix well.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. Don't over stir.

Espresso Brownies batter - Crafty Staci
Espresso Brownies batter - Crafty Staci

The batter is very thick, and will need to be spread, rather than poured, into the prepared baking pan. Bake 20 - 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. These are at their best as soon as they're cool enough to eat.  Makes 16 brownies.

Espresso Brownies full pan - Crafty Staci
Espresso Brownies full pan - Crafty Staci

There are lots of ways you can play around with this recipe:

  • use pureed prunes or applesauce in place of half or all of the butter
  • replace the egg with chia seeds or egg substitute
  • if you avoid artificial sugar, use regular pudding mix, or leave it out entirely
  • use some wheat flour instead of all white
  • sour cream works as well as Greek yogurt
  • add chocolate or other flavor chips
  • for regular brownies, just leave out the espresso powder
  • you can even make blondies – just leave out the cocoa and espresso powders and use vanilla pudding mix
  • make your own mix by combining all the dry ingredients and store until you’re ready to add the wet ingredients

I think it’s time for another batch!

Chai Tea Concentrate

I printed this recipe for chai tea concentrate from Tasty Kitchen well over two years ago.  I’ll get to why it took me so long to try it in a minute, but first I’ll address why I needed it.  My kids LOVE iced chai, and I’ve been buying the cartons of Oregon Chai concentrate from Costco.  It’s delicious, but kind of expensive and they can go through it in no time.  When I found this recipe, I realized not only might I be ahead financially making it myself, but I’d know exactly what went into it. Chai Tea Concentrate - Crafty Staci 1

The first reason I didn’t try it right away was the fact that some of the ingredients weren’t things I keep on hand.  I thought they would be difficult to find.  Reason number two is that I didn’t like the thought of having to try to strain it after it was done brewing.  I’ve never had good luck with that.

Turns out, the ingredients weren’t difficult to find and weren’t particularly expensive.  I made it home with everything I needed except the nutmeg, which I found but forgot to pick up.  I ended up using ground instead.  There was still that straining issue though.

Chai Tea Concentrate - Crafty Staci 2

I decided I would put all the ingredients into a coffee filter and tie the top closed, but I was concerned about throwing it into the pot and some of the spices, especially the ones that were ground, finding their way out.  To solve that issue, I left the string long, wrapped it around a wooden spoon and laid the spoon over the top of the pot.  That way I could control how far it dipped into the water.

Chai Tea Concentrate - Crafty Staci 3

When it finished brewing, I fished the tea bags out with a slotted spoon and used a second spoon to press out the excess liquid.  The coffee filter spice bag worked beautifully, and made this a really easy recipe.  It makes about a quart of concentrate, which you combine equally with milk to drink.  If you have trouble finding the whole spices, I think this would still be delicious if you used all ground.

Chai Tea Concentrate - Crafty Staci 4

This recipe passed the true test in my house – my kids said it tasted better than store-bought.  That makes it a keeper.

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Crisp

My daughter’s fiancé has Celiac disease, which means absolutely no gluten for him. In support, and so she doesn’t accidentally make him sick, my daughter has gone gluten-free as well. That’s how I know it’s love, because this is a girl who would live on sourdough bread if she could. The rest of us haven’t sworn off gluten completely, but we are making an effort when either of them are around. Clearly my husband likes this guy, because our daughter’s sourdough gene came from him.

I’ve never cooked with rhubarb before, but it caught my eye in the grocery store last week. I only remember having it a couple of times as a kid, and couldn’t really remember whether I liked it. I decided to give it a shot anyway.  It disappeared quickly, so this one is a keeper.

Gluten Free Rhubarb Crisp - Crafty Staci 1
Gluten Free Rhubarb Crisp - Crafty Staci 1

Gluten-Free Rhubarb Crisp

  • 6 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 package strawberry gelatin mix
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cold butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Mix granulated sugar, gelatin and cornstarch in a large bowl.  Add rhubarb and stir until combined.  Spread in baking dish.

Mix the brown sugar, oats and flour.  Cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly but still somewhat powdery. Spread evenly over the rhubarb.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until fruit is bubbly and top is lightly browned.

Gluten Free Rhubarb Crisp - Crafty Staci 2
Gluten Free Rhubarb Crisp - Crafty Staci 2

We tried this hot, right out of the oven, and cold the next day.  It was good both ways, but I thought it was the best after it sat overnight.  A little whipped cream on top and it’s even better.  See? Who needs gluten?

Zucchini Bread

My kids weren’t very picky eaters when they were little. They’d try just about anything, and had a preference for produce. My husband is also a laid-back kind of guy and if he doesn’t like it (which he’ll almost never say out loud), he just peppers the heck out of it. Yes, I do realize just how lucky I am. Because they aren’t overly picky, no one in my family asks for specific foods very often. They just eat whatever I make. Since they’re so flexible, I take it seriously when one of them makes a special request. When my daughter was home a week ago, she asked if we could make zucchini bread. Life got in the way so it didn’t happen, but it’s been bugging me all week. She was here again this last weekend, so while she was at work, I whipped up four loaves. The fact that I just got two new Fiesta loaf pans may have played into my decision a little too.

Zucchini Bread - Crafty Staci 1
Zucchini Bread - Crafty Staci 1

I made the first two using my tried-and-true Betty Crocker recipe, but winged it a little more on the second two. I actually like mine better. Sorry Betty.

Zucchini Bread

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla turbinado sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottoms of two loaf pans.

Combine the zucchini, coconut oil, white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs.  Stir well.  Mix in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves. Divide evenly between the two loaf pans. Sprinkle the top of each loaf with one tablespoon of the vanilla turbinado sugar. Bake 45 – 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Makes two loaves.

Zucchini Bread - Crafty Staci 2
Zucchini Bread - Crafty Staci 2

This is the first time I’ve actually baked with coconut oil, and I’d definitely do it again.  There was no change in texture and no coconut flavor. If it’s between oil just for the sake of oil, or oil with some health benefits, I’ll make the easy choice.

I grated the zucchini with a large hole grater, rather than the small.  I like to be able to tell it’s there.  Also, I meant to use 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour, but there was a good song on my iPod so I got distracted an used all white.  Next time.

If you haven’t tried making vanilla turbinado sugar, I highly recommend it. All I do is split a couple of vanilla beans, throw them into a container with turbinado sugar and let it sit for a couple of weeks. I shake it around once in a while when I open the cupboard. It provides a nice crunch on the top of this bread.

Zucchini Bread - Crafty Staci 3
Zucchini Bread - Crafty Staci 3

A loaf was sent off with the girl back to school.  I can’t imagine what I will possibly do with the other three.

Zucchini Bread - Crafty Staci 4
Zucchini Bread - Crafty Staci 4

My Experimental Dinner

If we’re having guests for dinner, I’ll usually make something I’ve been successful with before.  It’s always seemed like a bad idea to use friends as test subjects.  However, for some reason I decided last week to not add just one completely new item to Sunday’s menu for a couple of our good friends, but to fill it with things I’d never attempted.  I was lucky enough to come out of it with only one fail, and even that turned out okay in the end.  Oh, so lucky.

We started off with these Caprese Bites from Budget Savvy Diva.  Simple, pretty and delicious.

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Melinda and I are not huge drinkers, but when we get together we usually find a new cocktail to try.  I recently discovered that DiSaronno, an amaretto liqueur, is pretty tasty, so I wanted something that used it as an ingredient.  I ended up finding a recipe on Top Secret Recipes for the DiSaronno itself.  If you give it a try, be sure to use real almond extract and dark, rather than light, brown sugar.  I also used vanilla vodka instead of regular, because it’s what I happened to have in the house.  We mixed it with some Chai tea concentrate and cream.  Yum.

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I’ve had mixed results making bread from scratch in the past, but it’s never stopped me from trying.  I decided on this Rosemary Peasant Bread from Baking Whole Grains, and it was a winner.  I even made a mistake and used more wheat flour than white instead of the other way around as the recipe instructed.  I would do that intentionally last time.  My husband said he loved the texture.

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For our main dish, you might think I chose something with an Italian feel to coordinate with the other things I’d made.  Nope.  And I’m not even a little bit sorry.  This Cheesy Jalapeño Popper Baked Stuffed Chicken from Skinnytaste was delicious and will go into our regular dinner rotation.

Cheesy-jalapeno-popper-stuffed-chicken-breast

Now for the fail.  My daughter was going to bring her fiancé over for dessert so he could meet our friends.  John has celiac disease, so that meant I needed to make sure it was something gluten-free.  I found several great options, but decided to go with some fudgy cookies.  Ordinarily, this is where I would link to the recipe for you, but in the four days since I was there the website shut down.  I know, weird.  Anyway, they had lots of chocolate chips and egg whites.  This is what they were supposed to look like:

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The batter looked perfect.  The cookies had been in the oven for about 4 or 5 minutes before I turned the light on to take a peek.  Then I exclaimed “Oh goodness, what happened to my beautiful cookies?”  At least, that’s what it sounded like in my head.  I think what my husband heard was something more like “Ack!  Wha, wha, NO!  Grrrr!”  This is what came out:

001

The photo doesn’t even do justice to their complete and utter flatness.  When I tried to remove them from the pan, they were just goo.  Until they cooled, and then they were hard.  I threw the second batch into a square pan and cooked it like a brownie.  You still had to eat them with a spoon, but they tasted good.  I ended up saving dessert by turning a gluten-free shortbread cookie mix into lemon bars.  Whew.

Everything turned out, but I think next time I will mix one or two new recipes with something tried-and-true.  I have enough grey hair as it is.