CREAMY CHEESY POTATOES » Get Off Your Butt and BAKE!

CREAMY CHEESY POTATOES » Get Off Your Butt and BAKE!.

Trying this recipe tomorrow.  Love the name of her blog.  Cheese?  Good.  Potatoes?  Good.  Half & half?  Good.  As a side dish for homemade steak strips?  Oh yeah.

Saturdays and Deep Freezes

I love Saturdays.  As you can probably tell from the reduced frequency of postings, I have gone back to work and into survival mode during the week.  I will readily admit that simply making sure everyone is fed and clothed, especially during weeks like this one where I put on over 1,200 miles and was fighting a cold, is challenging given my motivation level when I finally get home.  On Saturdays, however, (in between approximately 127 loads of laundry) I finally have a little freedom to experiment in the kitchen and enjoy feeding the family.

This Saturday, I started with a little something for me after seeing this on Pinterest.  I didn’t waste any time giving this one a shot, and it is definitely a keeper.  One of the main appeals was that I had all these things in my pantry, which is fairly important when you are 20 miles from the nearest grocery store and the roads are lousy.  You will never see me post or pin a recipe that requires 17 gourmet imported ingredients, half of which you will never use again and they will rot in your pantry.

I took the ease of this recipe one step further by using some Hershey’s caramel sauce which I happened to have on hand thanks to my awesome and beautiful sister-in-law (thanks Rach!), and I just used regular coffee.  It was EXCELLENT, and unlike my usual cup of coffee which sits on the counter until it is lukewarm, the entire thing was gone in one sitting.  It was probably better than the Starbucks version as I am not a huge fan of their coffee (I am a coffee wuss, which is probably why I like these recipes that are one part coffee and three parts sugar and fat – the Starbucks coffee is a little on the bitter side in my opinion).  The sea salt really makes this and I highly recommend giving this recipe a try.  I am also going to have to try her Salted Caramel cupcakes, but in the interest of not gaining 10 more pounds we’ll hold off on that one until someone else is here to help us eat them.  And yes, those are fresh-baked cookies in the background.  Like I said, Saturdays are awesome.

Homemade Salted Caramel Mocha

Homemade Salted Caramel Mocha

I also had to share Roy’s skill in packing a deep freeze, which seemed to be a fitting topic for a Saturday where it is also four degrees below zero outside (get it – deep freezes?).  We just got our beef back from Golva so we are re-stocked for another year.  Seriously, how nice is it to be able to go to the freezer in my house and choose from literally dozens of different cuts of the best-quality, homegrown beef?  I don’t know exactly how much time this saves me at the grocery store, but on a monthly basis I am sure it would be counted in hours, not minutes.  Not having to visit the meat counter on my one weekly grocery trip (sometimes it’s even less often than that) results in substantial savings to my time, sanity, and our wallets.  It takes a big freezer for us, since we are feeding six people plus several branding/weaning/working cows crews throughout the year, so most people probably would not need a freezer this size.  A typical family could probably get by with any small to medium size chest or upright freezer available at your local hardware or furniture store that would fit easily in your basement or garage.  We can haul two whole processed beefs boxed up in the back of a suburban, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot for one quarter or half – it would probably even fit in the refrigerator-freezers of two well-organized fridges (c’mon, we all know there is some extra room in the freezer of that old fridge you keep in the basement to keep your beer cold).

A Well-Stocked Freezer

A Well-Stocked Freezer

Off to continue the Saturday festivities – homemade chili is on the agenda for dinner, made with (of course) homegrown ground beef and canned tomatoes from this summer’s garden.  Out of all the cuts of beef that you will enjoy most out of your freezer from a local rancher, the quality and taste of your ground beef will make you a believer.  The texture, the lean versus fat content, and the flavor of our ground beef literally makes most retail ground beef seem nearly inedible.  Form this stuff into a patty, add some coarse salt and fresh ground pepper and throw it on a hot grill for five minutes, and you have a gourmet hamburger with no need for a bunch of extras to mask the flavor.  You will learn to love the REAL flavor of beef!

Sledding and Homemade Marshmallows

Good friends, good food, crock pot hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows – what a great way to ring in the new year! I also made a (gasp) chicken in the crock pot using the winter BBQ recipe from my new Southern Cooking recipe book, another Christmas gift I love (my kids think it’s weird that I sit in the living room and read a cookbook). For me, butchering a whole chicken is like Riley’s theory of tomatoes and ketchup – it’s like revenge on chickens. It was a local farm-raised bird, and I will admit it wasn’t bad slathered in spices and sauce. Unlike good beef, which of course has an excellent flavor all on its own.

The highlight of the day were the homemade marshmallows, a recipe I finally got brave enough to try this year. It is actually quite simple and is one I will definitely make again.  I used the one from Taste of Home (big fan).  It did not take me 15 minutes for them to whip up; it took about 7-8 with the KitchenAid mixer.  This is a lot like making White Mountain frosting; you’r just using gelatin instead of egg whites.  Like the meat thermometer for a good prime rib, the candy thermometer is not optional unless you enjoy throwing away large batches of ingredients.  These were so much fun to decorate – there is really no limit to the many coatings and toppings you can use.  I just filled several small dishes with sprinkles, colored sugars, cocoa, and crushed candies and let the kids decorate to their heart’s content.  The ones covered in crushed candy cane were a big hit.  I also had some blue tinted white chocolate candy coating left over from a cake pops project that we drizzled on a few and then topped with sprinkles.

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These were very tasty floating in a hot cup of crock pot hot cocoa – pour a can of sweetened condensed milk (heaven in a can) into a 3 quart slow cooker, add 7 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup of dry baking cocoa, and 1 1/2 tsps good vanilla, stir, and set on low for 4 hours or until a bunch of short people covered in snow rush your front door. For the big people, a nice snort of peppermint schnapps is the perfect finishing touch.

Wishing you lots of hot cocoa and gooey marshmallows in 2013!

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