Pretzels, Popcorn and Goldfish, Oh My!

What happens when you put these…

with these…

and this…

Then toss it with these?

I’ll tell you what you get! One of the easiest snack mixes ever! 🙂

Tonight is bowling night, so of course, I had to make snacks! I know, it’s a shock I’m not making a layered bar with some type of chocolate/caramel/peanut butter/chocolate. I don’t know… this recipe just called to me! The conversation went something like this..

Snack Mix: Sara?
Me: Yes?
Snack Mix: You haven’t made me in a long time. Don’t you want something new for bowling snacks?
Me: Well, I have been craving something savory.
Snack Mix: Oh! Oh! I’m perfect! MAKE ME! MAKE ME!

So I did.

I’m such a pushover.

This is a loose adaptation of a recipe from Allrecipes called Ranch Pretzels and Goldfish. I added popcorn and changed some of the seasonings. It’s easy to toss together and makes a HUGE amount! Seriously, enough to feed a small army – or perhaps a hungry bowling league. 🙂

Pretzels, Popcorn and Goldfish, Oh My!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter-flavored popcorn oil (I used Orville Redenbachers!)
1 – 1 oz package ranch dressing mix
1 tsp Lemon pepper
1 tsp Chili powder
6 cups pretzels sticks
1 – 16 oz pack goldfish crackers
1 bag of your favorite microwave popcorn
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees
2. Sitr the popcorn oil, ranch dressing mix, Lemon pepper and Chili powder together in a large bowl. It’s going to look like salad dressing. Add the pretzels and fish crackers, stir to coat evenly. Spread the mix onto two jelly roll pans.
3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once until lightly toasted. Transfer mix to a flat surface lined with waxed paper to cool.
4. Microwave the popcorn. When the popcorn is done, dump it into a big bowl and while it’s still warm, toss with the parmesan cheese!
5. Combine the cooled pretzels and crackers with the popcorn in the bowl. Toss the entire mixture, stirring gently to coat everything.

Enjoy!

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Cranberry Orange Eggnog Muffins

These muffins got rave reviews last holiday season. They are moist and delicious with a hint of eggnog, and a fantastic crumble topping! They are perfect for a lazy morning! Or even Christmas morning! I changed the original recipe a little this year. I wanted to try orange zest and this version uses Triple Sec instead of Rum. I can hear some of you already, “But WHY is the rum gone?” Haha! It’s gone, because any recipe that starts with these things, can’t be bad!

Don’t worry! I will give you both recipes and you can choose your favorite. 🙂 We will start with this years recipe!

Mixed and ready to bake!

Topped with cinnamon sugar mix, fresh from the oven!

Cranberry Orange Eggnog Muffins

FOR THE MUFFINS:
1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup Triple Sec
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups eggnog
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 TBLS pure vanilla extract
1 TBLS Orange Zest

FOR THE TOPPING:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mist a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Warm the cranberries, and triple sec in a small saucepan over medium heat, then remove from the heat and let steep 5 minutes. Drain. Whisk the flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the butter, eggnog, eggs, vanilla and orange zest in another bowl Gently fold the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. The batter will be lumpy, be careful not to over mix. Fold in the drained cranberries very gently. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Make the topping: Mix the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, salt and brown sugar in a bowl until it looks like wet sand. Sprinkle generously over the batter.
Bake until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan, then carefully remove to a rack.

THE RUM VERSION!
Use 1/2 cup Rum, instead of the Triple-Sec
Omit the Orange Zest
Follow the above directions!

THE KIDS VERSION!
Use 1/2 cup Orange Juice (with the zest) or use Apple Juice instead of the liquor

MY NOTES:
Last year I doubled the cranberries and rum because I like cranberries! The rum flavor is a bit strong though, but I like that too! Mine were done baking at nearly 20 minutes, so check carefully. The topping tends to spread all over the pan so line the bottom of your oven with foil.

Don’t they look fabulous? I think I’m hungry now!

Cranberry Sauce with Pears and Fresh Ginger!

I love cranberry sauce! Especially, fresh, homemade cranberry sauce. Do yourself a favor, ditch the can and make your own. Once you do, you’ll never go back to round discs of processed berry sauce ever again! It’s so easy. It doesn’t take a lot of time and the flavor is phenomenal! This year, I made Chef Anita Dillons Cranberry Sauce with Pears and Fresh Ginger. She was gracious enough to share this recipe at the Thanksgiving class I took at her home in October.

Here is everything you need to create your own delicious cranberry sauce:

Toss everything but the fruit into a saucepan under high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves (just a few minutes) then stir in the cranberries and pears!

See! Simple right? Reduce the heat and simmer for about five minutes. That’s right. Only FIVE MINUTES! Here is what it will look like when it’s done:

Transfer to a nonreactive bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Either serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to a week! I made mine last night and I’ve already stolen several bites from the bowl in the refrigerator! Why wait until Thanksgiving? Enjoy!

Cranberry Sauce with Pears and Fresh Ginger

3/4 cup water
1 cup granulated Sugar
1 TBLS grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries, picked through
2 medium firm, ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Bring water, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and salt to boil in a medium nonreactive saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir in cranberries and pears; return to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until saucy, slightly thickened, and about two-thirds of the berries have popped open, about 5 minutes. Transfer to nonreactive bowl, cool to room temperature, and serve. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 7 days; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)

Day Zero Project List

I ran across the Day Zero Project on my friend Stef’s Blog. The idea is to create a list of 101 things you want to do in 1001 days. That’s a little over two and a half years to do some pretty fun things! You can choose anything you’d like. I decided on a few simple things, a couple projects I keep putting off and things that will take some serious work on my part.

When I finished my list last night, I was surprised to find only 21 things had to do with food, but they are AWESOME! As a self-proclaimed “lover of lists” here is my 101 Things To Do In 1001 Days! I am starting today, Sunday November 20, 2011.

Wish me luck!!

SARA’S DAY ZERO PROJECT LIST!

Learn to make Creme Brulee
Enter a cooking contest
Go camping on the beach
Go camping in the mountains
Buy an iPhone
Buy a tent trailer
Clean out my bedroom closet
Get a manicure
Spend a weekend in San Diego
Get a massage
Make homemade stock
Ride every ride at Disneyland
Read the Sunday paper cover to cover
Add all contact info from my Rolodex to my computer
Read Pride and Prejudice
Get a complete physical
Eat at a Chef’s table
Sell something on eBay!
BBQ dinner all by myself
Buy two bicycles to take camping!
Save $5000 for vacation
Paint my bedroom
Answer the “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind”
Host a cookie exchange!
Host a dinner party
Play Bunco
See a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas
Learn about my family history!
Try 8 new restaurants
Start a new family tradition
Go apple picking
See Rascal Flatts or Lady Antebellum in concert!
Swim in the ocean
Make a list of the 20 places I want to see in my lifetime!
Donate all the clothes I don’t use
Sew an apron for myself
Take a photography class
Take a Yoga class
Clean out the garage
‘Unplug’ for one whole weekend – no cell phone, no Internet, no TV, no computer.
Say “yes” to something I would not normally do
Take a road trip across the United States
Spend an entire day reading by the ocean
Send a secret to PostSecret
Participate in a charity event
Dance in the rain
Go on a romantic picnic
Learn how to use all the functions on my camera
Visit Vancouver, British Columbia
See the new Muppet movie!
Start an exercise routine
Make a cookbook of family favorites
Write a blog entry every week for a year
Learn all the features of my new iPhone!
Attend a professional baseball game
Read the Alphabet Mysteries series
Build a snowman
Make chocolate covered strawberries
Go to a roller derby match
Go to a wine vineyard
Make a new friend
Have a bubble bath with candles and my favourite book
Learn to cook risotto
Reconnect with old friends
Give up ice cream for a month
Learn to make hollandaise sauce
Say “no” to something and not feel guilty about it
Eat oysters
Draw a self-portrait
Go to a botanical garden
Get professional photos done
Floss every day for a month
Bake a birthday cake for a friend
Attend a professional soccer game
Learn to cook for two
Pay off all our credit cards
Paint my toenails
Decorate the house for every season/holiday!
Only check email/Facebook/twitter once a day for a month
Get a stamp in my passport
Get information on how to go back to school to finish my degree
Go to Catalina
Lose 100 lbs
Grow an herb garden
Write a hand written letter, then mail it!
Start a skin care routine
Throw someone a birthday party!
Have a “Share Our Strength” Bake Sale!
Make a font out of my handwriting
Go to the Hollywood Bowl
Cook a new recipe once a week for one year
Buy myself flowers
Take a Sunset Cruise
Buy stock
Write a will
Make a workout playlist
Start a gratitude journal
Make photo albums for the kids
Buy myself a string of pearls
Go through my cookbooks/cooking magazines and organize my favorites, donate the rest
Become a certified scuba diver

Taste of Home Cooking School

My Mom renews my subscription to Taste of Home’s “Simple & Delicious” magazine every year. One of my favorite things about their magazine is finding Sandy’s Wand! It’s a monthly contest to find a picture of a magic wand hidden in the magazine.

Aside from a fun monthly contest and lots of great magazines, Taste of Home also has a traveling Cooking School! Their staff of Culinary Specialists go all over the country doing cooking demonstrations. I’ve checked their Cooking School schedule and they were never near my house. This summer I discovered a demo about an hour away, but it wasn’t until November. To be honest, I’d forgotten about it until just a few weeks ago. Thankfully, I hadn’t missed the date AND there were still tickets left. So Thursday night, we headed to Victorville, CA to take part in Taste of Home’s Cooking School!

We arrived well before the scheduled opening, which gave us plenty of time to chat with the other women in line. This was not their first demo with Taste of Home! We learned about door prizes and the vendors inside too! From the website I learned the seating was first-come, first-serve, hence the reason we were early – I like to be up front! When the doors opened, we went inside, got our goodies bags and claimed our chairs right behind the VIP section! Inside our goodie bags were tons of coupons and recipe books, two magazines – including a special Cooking School edition that had all the recipes (and more!) we’d see that night, a bottle of mustard, a scraper, a wooden spoon, a refrigerator magnet, a free one year subscription to Taste of Home as well as an entry form for the door prizes. Those things alone were more than the price of admission! I was already impressed! Since we were early we had plenty of time to browse the vendors. Princess House, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Edible Arrangements, a local day spa, a local clothing store, a bakery and the local newspaper were there. Each vendor had a door prize and the grand prize was a big recliner from a local appliance store. We wondered briefly how we’d get that home if we won. (We didn’t win it, but it was fun to imagine!)

When the demo started, we were introduced to Chef Eric Villegas.
Eric has an engaging, bubbly personality, plus plenty of ways to explain what he was doing! I learned some great new tips from him. We laughed the whole night! He is an excellent spokesperson for both Taste of Home and their National Sponsors!

Chef Eric made ten different dishes, each from a different National Sponsor. The sponsors were The National Pork Board, Birds Eye Voila!, Gallo Family Vineyards, Success Rice, Kitchen Basics Stocks, C&H Organic Agave Nectar, Egglands Best Eggs, West Bend Electronics, Chex Cereal and King Arthur Flour! After every recipe, he gave away a prize from each sponsor. There was a lot of cool stuff! I sure wish I’d won the West Bend Countertop Convection Oven. That’s right! They gave away an OVEN! How cool is that? We had a break mid-way through the demo and during the break there were more door prizes from the vendors and other give-aways! It was a lot of fun! I learned a lot from Chef Eric and even more about the National Sponsors. I was most impressed with Gallo Family wineries who are doing “Corks for a Cause.” Right now, through Dec 31st, every cork you send back to them, they are donating $5 to Meals on Wheels. FIVE DOLLARS a cork! That’s pretty cool!

Stater Bros. grocery store was one of the local sponsors and they gave away bags of groceries! The VIP folks all got goodie bags from Stater Bros too. At the end of the night, Chef Eric gave away each of the dishes he’d prepared. They were all plated on gorgeous platters and in pretty soup bowls.

The night was great fun and I’d encourage everyone to check out Taste of Home’s cooking schedule to see if they are coming to a town near you. It was worth the drive!

Sweet Heaven Bars

Ohhh Sweet Heavens!
I’m beginning to wonder if this layered bar thing is an obsession? This week, I made Sweet Heaven Bars. They are filled with chocolate chips, toffee bits, and caramel perfection, all in one!

I started with a few things gathered from the fridge and the pantry…a few things, with the exception of the caramels. According to three of my local grocery stores, Classic Caramels (the square ones wrapped in cellophane) are “seasonal” items. They are only available in September and October. What?? Get serious! Sadly, they were serious. Caramels were supposed to be part of our bowling snacks! Plus, I have a killer recipe for Caramel Apple Pie for Christmas! Neither of these things can happen if Caramels are “seasonal.”

Thankfully, the youngest foodie was at Target and I asked him to look for caramel while he was there. SCORE! Thank you Market Pantry for having caramels! They were not finished in time to bring bowling, but my co-workers were happy to sample their caramelly goodness!

Here is what I used to assemble these delicious beauties!

Mix the eggs, oil, and cake mix together and gently fold in chocolate chips and toffee chips.

Spread HALF the batter in a 9×13 pan, lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. It will look like this:

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Create the caramel layer while the crust is baking. Unwrap the caramels…

Add a stick of butter and the sweetened condensed milk…

Melt in microwave and pour over the warm crust…

Sprinkle the remaining cake mix over the caramel…

Just for fun, add more chocolate chips…

Return to the oven and bake for an extra 25-30 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown.

Let cool for an hour, until the bars are at room temperature. Refrigerate until set-at least another two hours. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Sweet Heaven Bars

1 box yellow cake mix (18.25 oz)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 (12 oz) bag chocolate chips
2 cups crushed Heath Bars (or 1 bag Heath Toffee Baking Bits)
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
32 caramels, unwrapped
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Pour cake mix, oil and eggs in a large bowl. Beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips and Heath Bars. Press HALF the mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes. The mix is thick, so you can use a piece of wax paper sprayed with non-stick cooking spray to help spread the crust on the bottom of the pan.

While the crust is baking, melt the butter, caramels and milk in a double boiler, stirring constantly until smooth. Pour the mix over the baked crust and then top with the remaining cake/chip mixture. Just crumble it across the top, as it bakes it will puff and spread!

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is set and a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for about an hour until it comes to room temperature. Refrigerate until set, about another hour or more. (I let mine sit in the fridge for three hours) Peel foil away from the sides and bottom and cut into bars.

These are one of our favorites so far this season! I do have to say, my pictures are all starting to look alike with these layered bars so I may give them up for a while. The best part of doing all these though, has been learning what to layer between different things. Brownies, cookie dough, cake mixes can all take chocolate, cookies, caramel and a host of other things in the center and then be topped off with more decadent layers of brownies, cookie dough or cake mixes! What a wonderful world!!