Saturday, July 23, 2016

Cinnamon Carmels

Cinnamon Carmels

If you want to avoid using red food coloring, you can leave it out - the food coloring doesn't make it taste any more or less cinnamony. I use the Wilton no-taste red food coloring gel. About the cinnamon flavor, I used this extract that I bought (has great reviews) on Amazon since I couldn't find it at my small local grocery store. Using the amount in the recipe, the caramels are pleasantly cinnamony without being spicy or hot. Add more cinnamon extract if you want to amp up the cinnamon flavor. Also, if you are using cinnamon oil instead of cinnamon extract, add with care - it's much, much more potent than cinnamon extract.
FYI: My preferred brand of chocolate is Ghirardelli.
  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided (meaning, you'll add half at the beginning and half later)
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon extract 
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring gel (see note above)
1.                             Butter an 8X8-inch pan and set aside.
2.                             In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, salt, corn syrup, sugar and 1 cup of the cream. Over low heat, warm the ingredients until the butter is melted. Gently stirring during this part is ok to help combine the ingredients - just take care not to stir too vigorously and splash the liquid high up on the sides of the pan; also, take care to use low heat for this step. Too high of heat can cause the ingredients to melt unevenly and cause the butter to separate.
3.                             Once the ingredients are warmed and melted, increase the heat to medium-low (I keep my stovetop dial between a 3 and 4 the entire time; each stove is different so just keep an eye on the heat). Because these are no-stir caramels, too high of heat will burn the ingredients on the bottom. Moderate the heat of your stove so that the mixture maintains a simmer without burning. If you turn down the heat and the caramel stops simmering, simply increase the heat little by little until a good simmer is reached and then leave it there. You'll be good to go.
4.                             Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 236 degrees F. Pour in the remaining 1 cup cream. Gently swirl the caramel once or twice with a wooden spoon or spatula to incorporate.
5.                             Again, bring the mixture to a simmer (don't adjust the heat to sharply - I keep mine set the same as before) and cook until the thermometer registers 245 degrees F.
6.                             Off the heat, carefully stir in the cinnamon and red food coloring.
7.                             Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared pan - don't scrape the sides, just tip the pan until no more drizzles out. Let the pan of caramels cool completely at room temperature before cutting into pieces.
8.                             To dip into chocolate, melt milk, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate in the microwave on 50% power for 1-minute increments or in a double boiler on the stove. Simply drop a caramel into the chocolate, lift out once full covered with a fork, tap on the side of the bowl to let the excess chocolate drip off and then carefully slide onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Once the chocolate has set, you can drizzle additional chocolate over the top for a nice pattern.

Recipe Source: adapted from my favorite foolproof, no-stir caramel recipe after my friend Lisa C. gave me the fabulous idea

Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hearty Penne Beef Recipe


  • 1-3/4 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) beef broth
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Drain. Stir in the tomato puree, broth, Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add spinach; cook for 1-2 minutes or until wilted.
  3. Drain pasta; stir into beef mixture. Sprinkle with cheese; cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melted. 
    Freeze option: Freeze cooled pasta mixture in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little broth or water if necessary.
     Yield: 5-6 servings.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hawaiian Chicken Bake

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 6-12 Tbsp barbecue sauce
  • 1 can pineapple slices, drained
  • 6 -8 slices provolone cheese

  1. Lay the chicken breast flat in a baking dish.
  2. Spread 1-2 Tbsp of BBQ sauce on each chicken breast.
  3. Place 2 pineapple rings on each chicken breast.
  4. Layer 2 slices of cheese on top of the pineapple on each chicken breast.
  5. Place in an oven preheated to 375˚F for 20 minutes, lightly covered with foil. Then remove the foil and continue to bake for 15-25 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear.
  6. Serve with rice, greens, or potatoes and ENJOY!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 to 18 large marshmallows
  • ICING:
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pecan halves


  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; beat into creamed mixture.
  2. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, cut marshmallows in half. Press a marshmallow half, cut side down, onto each cookie. Return to the oven for 2 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. For icing, in a small saucepan, combine butter, cocoa and milk. Bring to a boil; boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Cool slightly; transfer to a small bowl. Beat in confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Spread over the cooled cookies. Top each with a pecan half. Yield: about 3 dozen.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Momofuku Corn Cookies - Do yourself a favor and make these!


Makes 13-15 large cookies

2 cubes butter at room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup corn flour
2/3 cup freeze-dried corn powder ( I just bought freeze dried corn and put it in a food processor)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


(1) Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.
(2) Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, corn flour, corn powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(3) Using a 2 ¾-ounce ice cream scoop (or a ⅓-cup measure), portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Pat the tops of the cookie dough domes flat. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature—they will not bake properly.
(4) Heat the oven to 350° F.
(5) Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle, and spread. After 18 [12-13 for me] minutes, they should be faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center; give them an extra minute if not.
(6) Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or to an airtight container for storage. At room temp, the cookies will keep fresh for 5 days; in the freezer, they will keep for 1 month.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Chicken Broccoli Shells


  • 16 oz Alfredo sauce
  • 2 cups blanced chopped broccoli
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 21 jumbo pasta shells, cooked and drained


  1. In a large bowl, combine the Alfredo sauce, broccoli, chicken and cheeses. Spoon into pasta shells. Place in a greased 13x9-in. baking dish.
  2. Cover and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.
    Freeze option: Cover and freeze unbaked casserole. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake casserole as directed, increasing time as necessary to heat through and for a thermometer inserted in center to read 165°.
     Yield: 7 servings.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lemon Cream Pie

1 1//4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 T cornstarch
1/ 1/2 cups boiling water
3 eggs, slightly beaten
6 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp grated lemon rind
2 T butter
1 cup heavy cram, whipped and sweetened
Baked 9 inch pie shell

Combine sugar, salt, and cornstarch in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan.  Blend well.  Place over medium heat and add boiling water, stirring rapidly until smooth and thick.  Bring to a full boil to thoroughly cook the cornstarch.  Remove from heat.  Add a little of the hot pudding to the eggs while stirring rapidly.  Return egg mixture to hot pudding and reheat, stirring constantly, just until smooth.

Remove from heat and add lemon juice and rind and butter.  Pour filling into baked pie shell.  Chill.  Serve topped with whipped cream.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Yum Yum Sauce


1-1/4 cupMayonnaise
1/4 cupwater
1 teaspoontomato paste
1 tablespoonmelted butter
1/2 teaspoongarlic powder
1 teaspoonsugar
1/4 teaspoonpaprika
dashcayenne pepper


Using a fork or a whisk, blend all ingredients together thoroughly until well mixed and the sauce is smooth. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend. Bring to room temperature before serving.

The sauce will NOT taste right if you don't let it sit overnight.

Loaded Pulled Pork Cups


  • 1 package (20 ounces) refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large egg whites, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 carton (16 ounces) refrigerated fully cooked barbecued shredded pork
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • Minced chives


  1. Preheat oven to 450°. In a large bowl, mix hash browns, Parmesan cheese, egg whites and seasonings until blended. Divide potatoes among 18 well-greased muffin cups; press onto bottoms and up sides to form cups.
  2. Bake 22-25 minutes or until edges are dark golden brown. Carefully run a knife around sides of each cup. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pans to a serving platter. Meanwhile, heat pulled pork according to package directions.
  3. Sprinkle cheese into cups. Top with pork, sour cream and bacon; sprinkle with chives. Serve warm. Yield: 1-1/2 dozen.
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 40 min. Bake: 25 min.
MAKES: 18 servings

Chicken Tetrazzini

8 oz. dry linguine
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced & seasoned with lemon pepper & Smokehouse maple seasoning
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
16 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
2 cup diced carrots
2 cup julienned green bell peppers
1/2 cup diced onion
2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups half and half
1 cup chicken broth
6 oz. grated Parmesan (1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 Tbsp. dry sherry
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
Minced lemon zest

Preheat oven to 375°.  Coat a 11/2-qt. baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside. Cook pasta in boiling unsalted water until it’s nearly al dente, about 6 minutes; drain. Sauté chicken in 2 Tbsp. oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, 5 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add mushrooms; sauté until liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to pan; sauté carrots, bell peppers, onion, and garlic until carrots soften, 4 minutes. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute. Add milk and chicken broth, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir Parmesan, pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper into sauce until Parmesan melts. Stir in sherry, chicken, pasta, and 4 Tbsp. parsley; transfer to prepared dish. Bake tetrazzini until bubbly, 15 minutes; let cool 5 minutes. Garnish tetrazzini with remaining 4 Tbsp. parsley and zest.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Meat & Potato Casserole with Cheddar Sauce


1 lb ground sirloin
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1.5 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup sliced scallion whites
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
1 1/2 tsp. each dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt,
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups no-salt-added crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar
1/4 cup bias-sliced scallion greens
1/2 cup diced Roma tomato

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Brown ground sirloin in oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, breaking up chunks, about 5 minutes.

Add potatoes, onion, scallion whites, garlic, oregano, chili powder, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Cover skillet, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are fork-tender, 15 minutes.

Stir in crushed tomatoes and simmer to reduce juices, 3 minutes.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour and cook 1 minute.

Whisk in milk; bring to a boil and cook until thick. Off heat, stir in Cheddar.

Transfer sirloin mixture to prepared dish; top with cheese sauce.

Bake casserole until golden and bubbly, 30 minutes; let rest 5–10 minutes.

Garnish casserole with scallion greens and Roma tomato.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Martha’s Breakfast Casserole

  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilis
  • 1 large bag of shredded hashbrowns ( I use just shy of 32 oz bag), thawed enough to stir
  • 1 Tablespoon dried onion
  • 1 medium container (16 ounces) cottage cheese
  • 2 cups grated chedder cheese
  • 2 cups cubed ham or cooked sausage (pick you favorite, we like sausage)
  • 12 eggs

  1. Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine everything but the eggs in a large bowl and pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan.
  2. Beat eggs and pour over the mixture. Bake at 350 uncovered for 1 hour or until set and slightly brown on top. It can be refrigerated overnight before cooking in the morning. Serves 16.
  3. *This can also be made ahead and frozen (raw) and brought out for guests. When frozen cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 1st hour covered 2nd hour uncovered.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Barbecue Chicken Bake

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4-6 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 large yellow onion sliced
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a single layer across the bottom of a glass baking dish sprayed with non stick spray.
  2. Spread barbecue sauce on the top of each chicken breast.
  3. Sprinkle the onions evenly over the top of the chicken breasts then top with cheese.
  4. Bake in an oven preheated to 350?F for 40-50 minutes or until the juices run clear and the center is no longer pink.
  5. Serve hot over rice or greens.

Crumb Coated Ranch Chicken


  • 2/3 cup ranch salad dressing
  • 2 cups coarsely crushed cornflakes
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Place salad dressing in a shallow bowl. In a separate shallow bowl, mix cornflakes, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Dip chicken in dressing, then in cornflake mixture, patting to help coating adhere.
  2. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a thermometer reads 165°. Yield: 4 servings.

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
2-½ lb. flank steak
¼ Cup cornstarch
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. garlic, minced
1 tbs. ginger, grated
¼ tsp. chili flake
¾ Cup soy sauce
¾ Cup water
¾ Cup brown sugar, packed
1 Cup carrot, grated
green onions for garnish
Cut flank steak into thin strips, cutting across the grain. Put steak into a ziploc bag with the cornstarch and shake to coat.
Add the olive oil, garlic, ginger, chili flake, soy sauce, water, and brown sugar to the slow cooker. Stir to combine, add the flank steak. Stir again until completely coated with sauce.
Cover with lid and cook on high for 2-3 hours, on low 4-5 hours, or until meat is cooked through and tender. About 30 minutes before done stir in the grated carrots. Can serve over rice, garnished with sesame seeds and green onions.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Chocolate Oreo Cake

Chocolate Cake 
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Oreo Icing
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups shortening
8-9 cups powdered sugar
3 cups Oreo crumbs (about 30 Oreos)
1 tsp vanilla extract
6-7 tbsp water
5 Oreos, chopped, optional

NOTE: You'll need at least one full package of Oreos. If you plan to decorate the outside of the cake with more Oreos and crumbs, as shown, you might need a second package.
1. Prepare three 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom, and grease the sides.
2. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk together.
3. Add eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Add vanilla to boiling water and add to mixture. Mix well.
5. Pour into three 9 inch cakes pans and bake at 300 degrees for about 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
6. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.
7. Make icing while cakes cool. Beat together butter and shortening until smooth.
8. Slowly add 4 cups of powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
9. Add vanilla and Oreo crumbs and mix until smooth.
10. Add another 4-5 cups of powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add water or milk until you get a smooth consistency.
11. Set aside about 3 1/2 cups of icing for the filling inside the cake and add chopped Oreos, if using.
12. Once cakes are cool, remove cake domes from top with a large serrated knife.
13. Place first layer of cake on cake plate. Spread 1/2 of the icing with the chopped Oreos on top in an even layer.
14. Add second layer of cake and add the rest of the of icing with chopped Oreos on top in an even layer.
15. Add final layer of cake on top and ice the outside of the cake with remaining icing.

16. Finish cake off with chopped Oreos and crumbs, if desired.