Sugar Shock! Rice Krispie Treats with a Fruity Twist

December 5, 2012

This simple but dangerous recipe is a favorite at office parties!

I saw these at a department potluck at a previous employer, and had to make them when we had a holiday potluck at my current employer.

Basically, these are made the same as the familiar, basic Rice Krispie treats, but instead of using Rice Krispies, you substitute Fruity Pebbles.

I vary the recipe slightly from the one at the official source.  I about double the butter, and use 50% more marshmallows.

3/4 stick of butter
16 oz bag of marshmallows
1 box of Fruity Pebbles

When I prepare them, I lightly butter the baking pan the bars will cool in, then melt the remainder of the stick over high heat in a large pan. Once the butter has melted, I turn the heat to low and add all the marshmallows at once. I stir constantly, breaking up the lumps, until the marshmallows have melted. I quickly dump the cereal into the pan, stirring quickly to mix throughly, and then scrape the mixture into the cooling pan before the melted marshmallow begins to cool and harden.  The extra butter makes the bars less stiff and more chewy, and you can add more to

I use a sheet of wax paper to press the mixture flat int he pan, allow it to cool, then cut into bars.

Each bar probably contains 5x your recommended daily sugar intake.


A Better Mashed

November 28, 2012

I’ve been experimenting with mashed potatoes recently.  There have been some innovations on the mashed potato front (at least in my lifetime) in the form of garlic mashed, and loaded mashed potatoes.  And while I have some thoughts about other things to do to potatoes, my experiments led me to something a little more basic.

My usual recipe for mashed potatoes goes something like this:

8 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced
4 Tbs minced garlic
olive oil
stick of butter
water (start with 2 cups)

Heat the oil in a pot.

Add the garlic, stir briskly for less than a minute, then add the water, and then the potatoes.  Add additional water to bring the level up to nearly the top of the potatoes.

Boil the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and the water level has diminished, then add the whole stick of butter and mash the potatoes.

Makes some decent garlic mashed potatoes, but…

The other night I tried something a little different.  I made two changes.  The first was I diced an onion to add in with the potatoes.  But the other was genius (I think so, anyway)….

Instead of using water to boil the potatoes, I used a can of vegetable broth.  Wow!  Made it very yummy.

I may try chicken broth on another occasion…

More on my potato experiments in the coming weeks!

Finn’s Wake: By Popular Request: Drunken Black Eyed Peas

January 1, 2012

Old friend, storyteller, fellow comics enthusiast, and generally great guy Mark Finn posted this recipe that is very much in the style of Cooking Without A Net.

By Popular Request: Drunken Black Eyed Peas

My approach to black eyed peas is to treat them much like the rock in your favorite Stone Soup recipe. In order to make them work, you have to cook ’em with just about everything but a gym sock. So, this recipe is less a “follow the instructions” job, and more of a “go with whatever you have” kind of thing. Read the entire post

via Finn’s Wake: By Popular Request: Drunken Black Eyed Peas.

Thanks Mark!

I’m going to go out tomorrow and get the ingredients!

Cold Hot Dip

July 26, 2011

As I said last time, one problem with the recipe for the manicotti is that there is usually some ricotta cheese left over.  Not wanting it to go to waste, I tried a number of things.

I tried it as a sandwich spread, but I decided I didn’t like it much. Not much flavor, soft consistency, I found it added little to a sandwich.

With the goal of making a sandwich spread I could taste, I set about adding some stuff to the ricotta. After a few uninspiring results, I hit on the recipe that follows.

I use Ken’s Lite Olive Oil Vinaigrette in another recipe (which I will post later), and I like it as a dressing, so I usually have some around. I mixed it in equal proportion with the ricotta (for my test batch, it was a spoonful of each). To give it a little kick (and because I had a little left in the jar in the fridge), I added a bit of Sambal Oelek chili paste. Tasted great!

Tasted great, but it still didn’t work for me as a sandwich spread.

Ah, but as a dip

I found, though, that it works better with some crackers than with others. The light, flaky crackers like Ritz don’t go well in my opinion. This dip requires something a little more substantial, a little more dense, like a Triscuit (my personal choice), or perhaps a Wheat Thin might be substantial enough. Corn chips are certainly solid enough, but I think the wrong flavor combination, but feel free to make your own decisions on this subject, and please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Also on the consistency front, add the dressing to the ricotta (rather than the other way around).  For one thing, the mixing is easier, and for another, if you add too much dressing, the dip becomes runny.  You want enough dressing to have the flavor, but enough viscosity to keep the dip on the cracker or chip.

As fas as the dressing, I’ve also tried making this with Ken’s Balsamic & Basil Vinaigrette, which was ok, though I didn’t like it quite as much, and with HEB Light Balsamic Vinaigrette, which was pretty good. I suspect that a vinaigrette with citrus or raspberry might do well, though I haven’t tried yet.

The chili paste is, I think, an essential ingredient for the dip.  The dressing provides a lot of the flavor, but the chili paste has its own flavor in addition to the heat it brings.

It is easy to make this in small test batches to see just what proportions work for you, to validate the flavor and consistency is acceptable to you.  Experiment with what you have around the house to get other flavor combinations and tell me what you discover! (I recommend NOT using creamy dressings, like Ranch, Thousand Island, and so on.)

Anyway, here is my guide for making Cold Hot Dip:

  1. Mix roughly equal portions of ricotta cheese and a vinaigrette dressing of your choice
  2. Add a generous helping of a chili paste (I do like the Sambal Oelek)
  3. Serve cold in a bowl with something to dip with.

A very easy and tasty way to dispose of the extra portion of ricotta cheese after making manicotti.

As always, products are mentioned without compensation (unless otherwise specified), and are mentioned only because they are what I actually use.  See the Policy page on my main blog for more information.


February 21, 2011

This started as a family recipe, but circumstances (and a lack of respect for traditions and a need to cut corners) conspired to force me to go off-script.

Here is the original recipe:

12 manicotti pasta shells
3/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp chopped parsley
1 egg white
2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil

Mash ricotta with milk and parsley, add other cheeses, mix. Beat egg white fork until frothy, add to cheese mixture.

Combine tomato juice, tomato paste and spices, cover and cook over low heat for several minutes.

Cook shells in boiling water and drain.

Spoon layer of tomato sauce over bottom of baking dish. Stuff cheese mixture into the shells arrange shells side by side. Top with the remainder of the tomato sauce. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

So much for the instructions. Here is where we meet reality.

The recipe calls for 12 shells, but there are 14 shells in a box. Oops.

So I have to make some adjustments.

Also, timing is important, so here is the workflow:

First, I start the water going. Then I do the tomato sauce.

I hate measuring, in part because it means dirtying yet another dish. I don’t measure the tomato paste, I just use a 12 oz can of tomato paste. I don’t measure the tomato juice, either. I dump the tomato paste into the pan, then slowly pour the thinner tomato juice into the pan, mixing as I go. It is easier (MUCH easier) to thin a thick paste than it is to add a thick paste to a thin juice and try to mix. I pour the juice in until I get a sauce of the consistency that I want. (As an aside, when you heat the sauce, the thicker sauce has a greater likelihood of a big splatter than a thinner sauce.) Then I add the spices, a bit more generously than the recipe describes (partly because I am making more sauce). Also, I use chopped garlic (and quite a bit of it) instead of garlic powder. Then it is time to simmer the sauce.

At some point, the water is boiling and I add the shells.

Once the sauce is simmering, I start on the cheese filling. I don’t know whether the shells I am filling are bigger than the ones used in the original recipe, but even doubling the recipe still leaves an empty shell or two, so I have to go over doubling the filling, so it is more guesswork than measuring. Second, I don’t buy parsley. I don’t use enough of it ever to want to spend the money. So I use oregano. Yes, that is a completely different spice, but it works for us.

The tough part for me is keeping the shells intact when draining. Last night’s dinner only had two intact shells out of the 14. Worst showing ever. Still tastes as good, but still… Anyone with tips on getting them out intact?

The rest is following the instructions – baking dish, sauce, line up the shells, cover with more sauce, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Then eat!

Even with more than doubling the recipe, the large container that the ricotta cheese comes in still has more cheese left in it, so what to do? I have another recipe coming soon!


December 2, 2009

For Thanksgiving this year, I got assigned the making of the cornbread.

For me, cornbread is a particularly thorny problem.  Most cornbread I eat is just too darn sweet.  So I did some research beforehand (and decided I wasn’t a fan of flour in my cornbread), and ran a test batch a couple of days before Thanksgiving.

The most helpful resource I found on the subject of sweet vs non-sweet cornbread was this thread on Chowhound.  The version I went with was posted by amyzan (about halfway down the thread).

As I don’t have a cast iron skillet, I went with glass pie pans and some muffin pans. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pour 1/3 c. boiling water over 1/3 c. yellow cornmeal (not too fine, stoneground is good) and beat with a whisk until most of the lumps are gone. Put a heaping tablespoon of bacon drippings or 4 tsp. butter or oil in a 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet and set in preheated oven. Mix together 2/3 c. yellow cornmeal, 2 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside. When the mush is cool enough to touch (doesn’t have to be room temperature,) whisk in 3/4 c. buttermilk and one egg. Pour the wet into the dry and whisk just to combine. (A few small lumps are fine.) Remove the hot pan from the oven and pour in the batter, and return to the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes and serve hot in wedges.

A single batch made a pie-pan of cornbread, a quintuple batch made two pie pans and 2 dozen muffins.

I found that a little more boiling water was needed in making the “cornmeal mush”, and a little more buttermilk was needed as well.  I also used more bacon drippings than she called for.  My biggest problem was the baking powder I was using was a little lumpy, and it was darned hard to get the lumps to break up, which left little white pockets in the finished cornbread.

In my test batch, I tried it without any sugar at all.  Even I, who does not like sweet cornbread, decided that the sugar in the recipe was needed.  After making the real thing with the sugar, I think my next batch will include a little more sugar than is called for.

The other thing I did with the cornbread was two variations – the muffins were plain cornbread, but the pie pans were different.  One had three green onions chopped very fine, and the other had a green onion and a jalapeno pepper.  The jalapeno cornbread was the first to disappear, much to my surprise (I thought I would be the only one eating it!).  I think it would have been just as good with half a pepper (and I like hot stuff).  I loved the green onion cornbread, especially right out of the oven.

One of the other suggested variations was adding whole corn to the batter.  I’m not a fan of canned creamed corn, but I can see how it might work in cornbread, especially to add just a little more sweetness to the cornbread.  My guess is that a whole can of corn would be the right amount for a quintuple batch, but since the next time I make it will probably not be for that many people, and I don’t like to waste food and won’t eat the creamed corn by itself, if I ever do decide to make that variation I’ll probably use a part of a regular can of corn, and use the rest as a side for another meal.

Mall Teriyaki

July 29, 2009

My wife loves the shrimp teriyaki dish that she used to be able to get at the mall food court.  But the place closed and I had to learn how to simulate Mall Teriyaki.

You can do this with either shrimp or chicken.

You’ll need:

Shrimp or chicken
An onion
Two carrots
Teriyaki sauce/marinade
A little oil and a little soy sauce

You’ll want to marinate the shrimp or chicken in advance.  There are a variety of teriyaki marinades and sauces out there, but none stand out particularly as better than another to me.

As with other recipes, for the chicken version I use frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts, partially thawed and sliced into thin chunks. 

Start with the rice, as that takes the longest to cook.

Slice the onion radially (cut from the center along the radius) into narrow strips.  Preparation goes faster if you buy the package of shredded cabbage, but you can shread your own cabbage if you wish.  Slice the carrots into thin strips as well.  My secret?  I use the peeler I use to peel the carrots to then peel thin strips from the carrot right into the pan.

A little oil in the pan and stir fry the veggies.  Early on add a little soy sauce, and about midway through add some of the teriyaki sauce.  I think the veggies are better crisp, but you can cook them until they are tender as is your preference.

You can cook the shrimp or chicken how you wish – broil, grill, or stir fry.  What I do is dump the veggies into a covered bowl and use the same pan to stir-fry the meat.

Once the meat is cooked, spoon the rice onto a plate, add a layer of veggies, and top with the meat.  With the shrimp, I find the taste is better if I drain the liquid before adding it to the plate.

Add a dash (or two, or three, to your taste) of teriyaki sauce and you are ready to eat.

Apple Pancakes! Yum!

June 18, 2009

Its breakfast for dinner, and dessert for breakfast!  The closest I can come to describing these is something akin to apple pies.

This is adapted from a family recipe.  It’s pretty labor intensive, and the proportions on the batter have to be pretty close, so this is another one that is going to look a lot like a traditional recipe.

As cook for a family of four that includes two children, I have to make four of these every time I cook them, even though the kids never finish theirs (leftovers!), because they do usually eat more than half a pancake each.

For a family of four, you will need:

Four pie pans
1 stick of butter
cinnamon (ground)
8 T + 11 T sugar
4-6 apples (pared and sliced)
11 T flour
1/2 t baking powder
8+ eggs(separated)
11 T milk

First of all, you’ll need to prep the apples.  When you are just about done, you’ll want to preheat the oven to 400.  Divide the butter between the pans, and stick them in the oven while it is preheating so the butter can melt.  Once the apples are prepped, take the pans out and make sure the melted butter coats the bottom, then spread 2 T sugar over the bottoms of each.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the sugar (the original recipe calls for a half teaspoon per pancake, but we like ours flavored a little stronger).  Line the pans with a layer of the apple slices, and return to the oven for 5 minutes or so while you get the batter ready.

Combine the flour, baking powder, egg yolks and milk in a bowl and beat until smooth.  I usually go with 10 eggs rather than eight, I like the results better.  Beat the egg whites and sugar until firm (this has been difficult for me, I still haven’t quite figured out the trick), and fold it onto the batter.  Pour that into the pans over the apple slices, and stick back in the oven to cook for 10 minutes (or maybe just a little bit longer).

The fun part is getting the pancakes out of the pans.  I run a table knife around the edge to separate the pancake from the pan.  Take a plate, turn it upside down over the pan and cover it, then flip the covered pan over so the plate is on the bottom.  If you have loosened it well, it will drop right onto the plate.

And there you have it,  a plate-sized pancake that tastes like apple pie!

If  the cook is feeling generous, they might scrape the remaining sugar from the bottom of the pan (some always sticks) back onto the pancakes before serving them, or if they have a real sweet tooth, they can reserve the scrapings for their own pancake as a reward for the labor.  Not that I would ever do that

Italian Roast Chicken with Potatoes

May 28, 2009

So the other night I accidentally burned my hand on the oven rack while making this meal for my family, so I’m bloging the recipe to get even.  Or something.

Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning
Lemon Juice

So as usual, we use the boneless, skinless frozen chicken breasts, but you can feel free to use whatever chicken pieces you want to.

While I defrost them in the microwave, I’m cutting the potatoes, one to two per person, depending on appetites.  You can cut them into thick chunks, but I prefer smaller chunks (an average potato gets cut into about 40 pieces).  Smaller chunks cook faster and have more surface area to absorb (and carry into your mouth) the flavors of the spices.  I dump them into a 9×14 pan, drizzle some olive oil over them, garlic (I use minced garlic from a jar for speed and consistency, but you can use chopped garlic in a jar or – gasp – chop it up yourself) – about two forkfuls, then mix thoroughly.  Sprinkle on the three spices (Italian seasoning, oregano and basil, in our case bought in bulk) very liberally, mix again and stick in the oven that you pre-heated to about 425.  (You did remember to preheat the oven, didn’t you?  Heh, neither did I…)

Ok, while the spuds are starting to cook, I start working on the chicken.  Take the defrosted chicken (or, if yours wasn’t frozen to begin with, take the chicken out of the refrigerator) and coat with olive oil and lemon juice.  Basically, I use a dinner plate, create a small shallow lake of lemon juice and olive oil in just about equal proportions, and coat the meat with it by rolling the chicken in the mixture.  Then I take another forkful of the minced garlic and smear it all over the chicken breasts.  Minced garlic from the jar is about the right consistency for this.  If you aren’t using that, you could pierce the chicken and stuff garlic bits into the meat, or tuck it under the skin if you aren’t using skinless chicken.

Pull the pan of potatoes out of the oven after its been in about 10 minutes or so (being careful not to burn yourself on the oven rack, unlike myself), and put the chicken pieces on top of the potatoes.  Pour the remaining olive oil/lemon juice mixture over the chicken (as long as you don’t drown the potatoes) and sprinkle the three seasonings heavily on the chicken.

Put it back into the oven until the chicken has cooked thoroughly.  Half an hour or so, depending on the thickness of the chicken pieces.  Be sure to cut the chicken to check it is done through before serving.


Mother Medora’s Magical Toffee (“Watch how fast it disappears”)

May 19, 2009

So my first recipe seems to be a success, despite the fact that I invented the dish whole cloth and had to guess at the right proportions to actually present it to you as a recipe you can use.

This is an actual recipie I got from a comic book called Castle Waiting.  I’ve made a few modifications, but its perfection is otherwise not to be messed with….

Stick and a half butter
Half cup brown sugar
Boil for seven minutes

9×9 pan, lined with foil
Butter the foil
A cup and a half of nuts (recipe calls for walnuts, I use cashews, we like them better)
Dump nuts in the pan

Pour melted brown sugar onto the nuts
Sprinkle (or in my case, pour) semi-sweet chocolate chips over the nuts and warm sugar/butter mixture
Cover with another layer of foil, press down

Let it cool.  Break into pieces, watch it disappear!

In reality, I use a 9×14 pan and double up the recipe, more or less.  Make sure the sugar/butter mixture boils briskly, or the toffee comes out a little soft and sticky, if I remember correctly.