Cooking In A Winter Wonderland

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I know I still haven’t finished re-capping from France, but I felt like doing some up-to-date stuff, plus now that I finally get to cook I wanted to share some of the nomnoms I’m making with you!

BrekkieThis one isn’t very exciting, but it was the first meal I made myself after coming home. There you see a bagel with with spicy hummus on one side, and an egg with cheese on the other, with a random siding of Mexican corn and Chinese lo-mien.

CRACKThis masterpiece, is what I like to call “crack”. Here’s the recipe I used; I totally encourage everyone to make this. Not only is it super easy, but it is absolutely delicious! Usually you use saltine crackers, but I wanted to use what I had in my pantry, so Ritz Buttery Crackers were the winners.
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Chocolate Saltine Toffee
30 to 40 saltine crackers
1 c butter (2 sticks)
1 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 to 2 c chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 9 x 11 pan or similar with aluminum foil and spray it very well with cooking spray.  (Do not try to make this without using foil; you will hate yourself).  Place saltine crackers in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

In a saucepan on the stovetop, combine butter and sugar and bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Once a boil is reached, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened some.  Take care not that your simmer is not too fast/too high because it will be prone to bubbling over or scorching.  Stir mixture frequently while it simmers to avoid bubbling over or scorching.

After mixture has thickened a bit, remove it from the heat, wait 30 seconds, add the vanilla extract and stir.

Pour mixture over the prepared pan with the saltine crackers.  Bake this in the preheated 350F oven for 5- 7 minutes, or until toffee/liquid becomes bubbly.

After removing the pan from the oven, let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and wait for 3-5 minutes, letting them soften and melt a bit, and then spread and smooth them into an even layer with a spatula.

Optional:  After smoothing the chocolate, add nuts, seeds, graham cracker crumbs, toffee bits, dried fruit, candy bits, or swirl in some peanut butter or other nut butter.

Optional: Use other types of chips, such as butterscotch, white, peanut butter, etc. either in addition to or in a half-and-half  combination with the dark chocolate chips for your top layer.

Let cool very well and if desired for expediting purposes, refrigerate or freeze until hardened.  Break into pieces the size of your choice.

Store in an airtight container on the counter-top.  Or, for longer term storage, freeze it.
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Mexican Hot ChocolateThis beauty, although it doesn’t look too dangerous, packs a punch. It’s called Mexican Hot Chocolate and I made way too much of it, but oh well. Here‘s where the recipe came from, and all the directions are below.
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Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: About 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder (or the cocoa powder of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch (optional thickener)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder or chili powder
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of cayenne
  • optional toppings: whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, and/or chocolate shavings

Method

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until simmering, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and serve with optional toppings.
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Bagel IssuesJust another bagel invention, this time with bacon, egg, provolone and American cheese, tomatoes, salsa and onions. Yumm.

Baked ZitiThis bad boy I made today when the storm starting brewing, it’s called Skillet Baked Ziti With Sausage and had a little bit of a bite to it, which I enjoyed.
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Skillet Baked Ziti with Sausage

1 (28-oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 lb Italian sausage (hot or sweet), casings removed
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
12 oz ziti
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 chopped fresh parsley
4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:
Preheat oven to 475 F.

Add the tomatoes to the bowl of your food processor and pulse until there aren’t any large pieces left, about 12 pulses.

Set a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, using a wooden spoon to break the sausage up and stir occasionally. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and the salt (if you’re not using a nonstick pan, now is a good time to scrape the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits). Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes don’t taste raw anymore.

Add the water and pasta to the pan (the pan will probably be quite full, just stir gently to prevent overflow). Cover the pan and turn the heat up to medium to medium-high (adjust as necessary to maintain a vigorous simmer). Cook, stirring frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan, for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. The pasta will not have absorbed all the liquid in the pan.

Add the heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and parsley to the pan. Stir to incorporate, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Top the pasta with the mozzarella cheese then transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and browned.
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Well, that’s all the fun things I’ve made so far. It looks like I’m stuck at home tonight due to the snow, so I’ll probably have more to share with y’all tomorrow. Enjoy this lovely white fluff!

Ho ho ho

Fly hat and glasses

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About azuremarie

Bonjour, I'm Azure; a healthy dose of eccentricity best taken with a grain of salt. Most people describe me as sassy, and I like that. I love words, and think that anyone who can twist them in their mouth and make something beautiful come out is sexy and someone with whom I want to spend my time. I read a lot (bordering on too much), and am baller at boggle. I happen to be addicted to concerts/live music, and will listen to anything that can carry a beat, and even those that don't. I believe that being normal is boring, and love bright colors. I have a soft spot for animals, particularly dogs and horses, but I am beginning to be a cat person as well. Sometimes, I will admit that I like some animals better than some people - they're great listeners and don't judge. J'adore voyager. Someday I want to be able to look at a map of the world and say "I have been there, there, and there... and there", and have a memory attached to them all. I've recently begun to work at an organic juice bar, and diet/holistic health is starting to become a main passion of mine. I want to be able to experience our world, as well as help save it. Oh, and unicorns exist.

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