Thank You Muffins

It’s been ages since I last posted a recipe or a food pic here. I’ve been sharing things on my Instagram account (@AliSportShots), but sitting down to formally type out something has taken a back seat. I’ve posted *sooo* many recipes here (over 175, by last count) and I like to be able to share something totally new, if possible…. however, I realized that I’ve been mentioning “Thank You Muffins” on multiple platforms and have never written this recipe for others to use, so I’m fixing that now.

Here’s my very favorite recipe… the one that I make at least once a week… the one I use anytime I need to express my appreciation for someone… the one that I’ve made SO many times throughout the past year that it’s become a “thing” in our house. This is my recipe for Thank You Muffins.

The ingredients list is fairly simple and incredibly flexible:

  • 1 box cake mix (any flavor)
  • 1 can solid pack pumpkin
  • Add-ins (chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, seeds, etc. – a palm-full)
  • Wine (just a few splashes, to thin out the batter a touch)

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375*. Place a large piece of parchment paper (or use a silpat) on two large baking sheets
  • In a large bowl, empty the cake mix, add the pumpkin, include whatever add-ins you’d like, then splash in some wine. Mix thoroughly.
  • Using a small cookie scoop (I have all three sizes from Pampered Chef and prefer using the smallest for these muffins), place small scoops of batter on the prepared baking sheets. I’ve been able to get as many as 42 mini-muffins from a batch but it varies.
  • Bake at 375* for 12-14 minutes, until the muffins spring back if touched on the top. Remove and allow to cool on the paper (I lift the paper off the baking sheet so the bottoms of the muffins don’t continue to cook). NOTE: if you’re making these as full-size muffins, in a muffin tin, you’ll want to cook them at 400* for 15-17 minutes.
  • Once muffins are cool, you can freeze them for later use. I typically get two plates of muffins (or two weeks of muffins for my landscapers) from each batch.

I have used every flavor of cake mix for this recipe and tend to try and pair the flavor of the wine with the flavor of the cake mix. I’ve used chocolate cake mix with red wines, spice cake with red (or white) wines, yellow cake with white wine, carrot cake with rose’ (or most anything)… I’ve even used a sweet red (or a little sparkling wine) with a strawberry cake mix. Each one has come out well and has conveyed the right message…. “thank you”.

I must confess that the origin of this recipe is from about ten years ago, at a Weight Watchers meeting. It started as a two-ingredient sweet… cake mix and a can of pumpkin… no eggs, no oil, no complications… but I couldn’t leave it alone. I liked the idea of making full-size muffins from this recipe, which you can do easily, but I am a big fan of “bite-size” treats. After monkeying around with the recipe, I came up with the one you see above. My boys loved when I would make this recipe for their friends… especially since the main ingredient was solid-pack pumpkin… and I was happy to make it because I felt good about serving something relatively healthy to people.

Try this and see what you and your family think… I hope you enjoy it as much as me!

Cookie for one?

Recently, I found a recipe I had saved for a “single-serve cookie”.  Is this even a thing that people do?  I typically make a double batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, so that I’m able to whip up a batch of cookies in 15 minutes, if we’re expecting visitors or workers (roofers, plumber, electrician, the ADT guy… etc).  I’d never even considered making a single cookie, but I was intrigued.  I was also curious to see if I could make one with a little wine added… because, why not… #amIright?

SingleServeCookie

I have to confess that I was impressed with the final result.  It didn’t have quite the same consistency as I’d like for a traditional chocolate chip cookie, but it was certainly easy and tasty.  Let me know if you ever decide to try this option.  I’d like to add a little scoop of vanilla ice cream, but otherwise, this recipe was one that I’ll definitely keep in my back pocket for time when I just need one cookie.  Enjoy!

NOTE: if you don’t want to add wine, just leave it out and increase the vanilla.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1 Tablespoon white sugar

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla (2 drops)

1/4 teaspoon red wine (2 drops)

pinch salt

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup flour

2 Tablespoons mini chocolate chips (it may sound weird, but I’d actually use less)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together and spoon into a microwave-safe ramekin bowl.
  2. Microwave 60-90 seconds.
  3. Top with ice cream or eat straight out of the bowl.

Easy Peasy!  Now, you’re never more than 5 minutes from having a fresh chocolate chip cookie… and that’s not a bad thing, right?

Sausage Balls (Pork and Turkey)

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written a complete wine blog post – please forgive me.  We moved last year and life got more chaotic than usual.  If you ever want to see what I’m doing with wine, or have any questions, please follow me on this blog’s Facebook page (FromTheBottomOfAWineBottle).

Today, I’m sharing this recipe from my childhood.  My mom found this recipe in our church cookbook and she used to make these sausage balls all the time.  They call for three main ingredients and are easy to bake/freeze for a quick breakfast, an after school snack, or even a light dinner.  I’ve added a little white wine, simply to make the finished product slightly less dense, but you can certainly leave the wine out if you prefer.

SausageBalls

Ingredients:

1 pound bulk pork sausage (I used pork sausage, but you can easily substitute ground turkey sausage, if you can find it)

3 cups Bisquik or Jiffy baking mix (I prefer Jiffy mix since we used to live in Chelsea, MI, where the Jiffy company is located)

10 oz shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)

White Wine (I used a white wine from Boordy Vineyard, called Rockfish, but you can use your favorite dry white wine)

Fresh Rosemary (This is one of my favorite flavors with sausage – feel free to omit if you’re not a fan)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375*.  Cover two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Blend sausage, baking mix, and cheese until it comes together thoroughly.  I use a mixer, but this can be made in the same way you would mix up a meatloaf.
  3. Using a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop, form balls of the mixture and place them on the prepared baking sheets.  They won’t spread out as they bake, but I like to spread them out on the baking sheets so air can circulate for cooking.
  4. Bake sausage balls for 15 minutes, until lightly browned.
  5. Serve warm or allow to cool and put into bags in the freezer.  These make an excellent snack or light dinner and simply need to be warmed up in the microwave.

FOR TURKEY SAUSAGE BALLS:  If you prefer to use ground turkey instead of ground pork, here are a few photos from that option.  I also adjusted them to a smaller size, using a 1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) scoop.  Here’s a photo of them, in all their cheesy goodness:

TurkeySausageBalls

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  As an alternative, I like to make this recipe into even smaller balls for appetizers.  You can turn up the heat by using a hot sausage or you can make it even more savory by adding other herbs.  It’s a great basic recipe to have on hand to share with friends.  Have fun with it!

SIMPLI’ – handcrafted soaps with wine

This Christmas, I really want to support small businesses as much as I can and the idea of being able to purchase items directly from an individual is extremely appealing.  If you’re looking for a wonderful stocking item, present for a neighbor, or a hostess gift, this is a company you should consider supporting:  www.simpliartisan.com

Simpli’ is a Gaelic word for simple and straightforward.  My dear friend, J, is the artist who is handcrafting small batch soaps and body products.  She comes up with her own recipes, selects incredible “good for you” skin products, and works diligently to use high-quality ingredients to make her soaps, beard products, and body butters.  The scents alone are wonderful but the fact that her items are made with such pure ingredients is even better… until she started making soaps with WINE!SIMPLI.jpg

How cool would it be to use a soap made with wine?  Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Pinot Gris all have their own place in Simpli’ soaps.  Each has a wonderful scent, cleansing lather, and is handcrafted in Northern Virginia.  These are a wonderful example of an artisan combining two of her passions… wine and crafting soaps.

I recently visited with J at her home and had the privilege to watch as she created a cooked soap and it was a really fun experience.  Watching the ingredients come together to thicken and become a soap, ready to cool in a handmade loaf pan, was fascinating… and the smell was intoxicating!

If you live in the Northern Virginia/DC area, you should consider finding this company at one of the local craft shows that are coming up this holiday season.  At the very least, you should consider looking through the Simpli’ shop for soaps, body butters, bug balm, salves, and deodorant.

J has been very generous and is offering a special coupon code to anyone who subscribes to this blog!  Sign onto her website, www.simpliartisan.com and use the coupon code BOTWINE17 to receive 10% off everything in her shop… but don’t delay because this coupon expires on 12/31/17.

Summer Watermelon Salad

It’s summer!  The time of fresh fruit and lazy days… the time when you want to be able to go outside and enjoy your friends and family… the time for easy or starter recipes…  This is when I like to have a few recipes on hand that make my life a little easier, especially on those days when the temperature is high and my energy is not.  For those days, I give you the Summer Watermelon Salad!

PicMonkey Image

This recipe couldn’t be easier… four ingredients and easy to adjust for the number of people you’re feeding!  This is actually one of my favorite lunches… light and simple, it just screams “SUMMER” to me.

Ingredients:

  • Watermelon – cut into bite-size pieces.  Use as much or as little as you like, but this is your *main* ingredient.  I typically use about 3 cups.
  • Feta cheese – I like to use crumbled *light* feta, but you can use whatever type makes you happy.   I dump in some from the container – about 1/2 cup.
  • Basil – if I have fresh, I take a small handful and cut into a chiffonade (little ribbons).  If not, I take a generous pinch of dried.  I’ve done both and fresh is definitely better in this – it’s a wonderful flavor!
  • White wine – I use what I have in my fridge, about 1/8-1/4 cup total.  I’ve used dry (Chardonnay and Pinot Gris/Grigio) and I’ve used semi-sweet/off-dry (Vidal Blanc and Viogner)… use what you like!

Directions:

  • Cut watermelon into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with feta cheese and basil.  Toss lightly and adjust amounts as needed.
  • Thumb 1/8-1/4 cup of white wine over the salad and allow time to marinate before serving.
  • I typically drain a bit of the liquid off before serving.  This ends up being a mixture of wine and watermelon juice that isn’t really necessary.
  • Enjoy!

This is a great example of how I use “The Force” when cooking… so many variations to make this salad and it’s always delicious.  Hope you’ll try it and come up with your own favorite way to make this salad!

Sweet Potato Casserole

I got the basics of this casserole from my friend Jacqui, during our first duty station.  She called her recipe “Sweet Potato Pie with Cornflakes” but I’ve evolved it into something a bit different over the years.  My guys really love the topping and I adore the sweet potato itself, so it’s a great side dish for our holiday turkey menu.  I hope you feel the same!

sweetpotatocasserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cans sweet potatoes (or yams), drained
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2-3T white wine (semi dry or dry wine)
  • cinnamon to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups cornflakes
  • 2-3 cups mini marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Mix drained sweet potatoes with pineapple and season with wine, cinnamon, and salt to taste.
  2. Spoon into 9×13 casserole pan and flatten with back of spoon.
  3. In a bowl, melt butter and mix with brown sugar.  Add cornflakes and mini marshmallows, mixing well to coat everything with the butter/sugar mixture.
  4. Spoon topping over sweet potato mixture.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until marshmallows are toasty and bubbly.

This is a great side dish for those people who don’t really want a vegetable for holidays.  We have learned that the topping doesn’t reheat very well, so feel free to suggest that people eat the sweet topping before putting the leftover sweet potatoes in the fridge.

As for the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?  Here’s a link to figure out which tuber you might be using!

 

Easy Red Beef Stew

I was headed out to do some holiday shopping recently and decided that I wanted to make a simple crockpot dinner so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to rush home and make something that evening.  I had a nice piece of beef in the fridge and had picked up a package of baby potatoes at the store, so this was a really easy dinner to create.redbeefstew

Ingredients:

  • Beef – I don’t know much about cuts of beef, but I knew enough to get a “chuck roast”.  The one I chose was on sale, so I grabbed one that was on the smaller side so we wouldn’t have much waste.
  • Flour – I tossed some into a plastic bag to coat the beef before putting it into my crockpot.  Don’t honestly know how much… just enough to coat the meat.
  • 1+ onion – I cut this into thick chunks and used one whole vidalia onion and one half a red onion that I had in the fridge
  • 1 packet country gravy
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 1 package (or similar amount) of baby potatoes (see photo of what I found at the store… this one included a few cloves of garlic and two sprigs of rosemary)
  • Red wine – the original recipe simply called for water, but that won’t cut it in my house.  WHY USE WATER WHEN YOU CAN USE WINE??
  • Frozen peas – I didn’t measure, but you could use whatever vegetable you like best here.  NOTE: If you’re planning to use carrots, I would allow them to cook with the beef instead of popping them in at the end.

Directions:

  1. Slice onion into chunks and put in the bottom of a large crockpot.
  2. Toss the meat in a plastic bag with some flour and then shake to cover.  Place meat on top of onions to cook.
  3. Open package of potatoes (or chop up large potatoes to fit around roast) and lay them around the meat in the crockpot.
  4. In a separate bowl, open the packets of gravy and onion soup and mix together with red wine.  I did not measure the amount of red wine used – I simply poured the wine and mixed it with the dry ingredients until it looked like enough.  I have a habit of adding too much liquid to my crockpot recipes, so I went a little lighter than I might have otherwise, which ended up working out well.
  5. Pour liquid over the roast.
  6. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
  7. During the last half hour (or 15 minutes before serving), stir the roast a bit and add your frozen peas.  These won’t take long to cook and you don’t want them to disintegrate into the gravy.
  8. Serve with some crusty bread to soak up the gravy… it’s delicious!

This was one of the most simple of meals but such a crowd pleaser.  If your family is picky about onions, feel free to slice them a bit smaller, but I liked the chunks of onion with the bites of meat and potato.  Feel free to experiment with other vegetables or seasonings… it’s your meal for your family, so use what you like!

Enjoy!