Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse Moon Pies

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

For over the past year, we’ve been reporting on the Great American Solar Eclipse. Yes, you read that correctly—YEAR! So it’s hard to believe the moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here.

You all know I love themes, so naturally the eclipse is the perfect chance for me to break out my favorite celestial treats. The number one item on that list is moon pies! A moon pie consists of two graham cracker cookies with marshmallow filling dunked in chocolate. They’re most common in the south seeing as they’re made in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

There are quite a few recipes for homemade versions online, but I didn’t like any of them because they seemed much too complex. I’m very particular about what I put on my blog. I only like to share recipes that I know I would want to make again and again. If I’m already bored while reading the ingredient, that’s a problem.

So I tested a recipe out, and then changed it, and then changed it again and again, and finally it was exactly what I wanted. The cookie is very similar to the shortbread cookie recipe I shared in 2016, but I replaced some of the flour with graham cracker crumbs.

Since there aren't many ingredients in the cookie, it's important that each ingredient is good quality. That's why I only use Challenge butter. Challenge butter is made with fresh milk and cream and is in the dairy case just 24 hours after leaving the farm.

Also, just recently, Challenge made the switch so all of their butter is wrapped in foil. This best preserves the taste of the butter, and it's less likely to pick up unwanted refrigerator odors.

As you can see in this picture, I added a few other items to my eclipse segment to make it more complete. I used a cookie cutter on Cosmic Brownies to make brownie stars. I also bought Sunkist, Sun Chips, Milky Way candy, and Eclipse gum.

Solar Eclipse Moon Pies
  • 1 cup Challenge salted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 12 ounces marshmallow creme
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons all-vegetable shortening
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Cream the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract together until light and fluffy
  3. Slowly add in the flour and graham cracker crumbs and mix until just combined
  4. Scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes; allow to cool
  5. Spread 1 Tablespoon of marshmallow creme on cookie and sandwich with a second cookie
  6. Freeze cookie sandwiches for 10 minutes
  7. Melt chocolate chips and all-vegetable shortening in microwave in 30-second intervals until smooth
  8. Dip each cookie sandwich into chocolate until coated; place on wax paper and allow chocolate to set

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lemon Meringue Skillet Dip

Lemon meringue pie was always my grandfather’s favorite pie, but the only version I ever remember having was from Marie Calendar. Very few people make homemade lemon meringue pie anymore, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it seems like such a daunting task.

So in honor of my grandpa and Lemon Meringue Pie Day, I came up with a recipe that you can whip together in no time at all. There are just two easy steps to this Lemon Meringue Skillet Dip, and the ingredients are minimal.

The first thing I want to address are the eggs. With this recipe, and with most all meringue pie recipes, you will need to separate the egg yolks and the egg whites. Eggs separate most easily when they are cold, but egg whites whip best for the meringue when they are room temperature. So before you do anything else, I recommend first separating the egg yolks and whites so the whites can sit out at room temperature while you prepare everything else.

As you can see in the ingredient list below, there are very few ingredients in the filling. And it comes together just with a whisk. Which is good because you’ll need to save your muscles for the meringue.

So the way the meringue comes together is basically magic. Well, technically it’s science. You see, egg whites are 90% water and 10% protein. When you beat them together, air bubbles are distributed and the proteins cluster together causing it to foam. But the meringue is very delicate and at risk of deflating. So an acid like cream of tartar steps in to help stabilize the meringue by keeping the air bubbles in place. Even though you add just a small amount of cream of tartar, it’s very important for the structure of the meringue.

I’ve said this before (just a few sentences ago, in fact) and I’ll say this again — the meringue is very delicate! When it’s time to add the sugar, it’s important to only add it one tablespoon at a time so you don't knock the air out of the meringue. The meringue is done when you lift the beaters and the tip stands straight up. This is called a stiff peak.

For my last meringue tip, I want to talk about giving the meringue texture. Rarely do you see meringue spread smoothly on a pie. One of the things that makes it so beautiful is the texture, or curled peaks. You can create the curled peaks by using the bottom of a spoon to create an indent in the pie and then lift up. The meringue should lift up with the back of the spoon and curl up.

My intention for this recipe was that it would be eaten like a dip, but after trying it I realized it’s with something as delicious as this, there’s no shame in grabbing a spoon and digging in.

Lemon Meringue Skillet Dip
For the filling
  • 28 ounces sweetened condensed milk 
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
For the meringue
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 8 Tablespoons of sugar
For the filling
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Mix together sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, egg yolks, and lemon zest; set aside
For the meringue
  1. Combine egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until soft peaks form
  3. Switch mixer to high speed and add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time
  4. Continue beating until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form
  1. Spread filling into bottom of 10-inch prepared cast iron skillet
  2. Spread meringue on top of filling; use back of spoon to form peaks
  3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the meringue peaks start to turn brown
  4. Serve immediately with graham crackers 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

I only just recently discovered the benefits of including zucchini in recipes. I always thought people just added it in because they either couldn't get their kids to eat anything green or they had too much of it. But as it turns out, there are real benefits to adding zucchini to recipes, especially recipes with chocolate.

You see, cocoa powder can significantly dry out a recipe, far more than flour. So it's important to try to add as much moisture as possible. And that's where zucchini comes in. 

Zucchini is basically flavorless moisture. You really can't taste it at all. There are two ways to add it to baked goods: you can either shred it or puree it.

To shred a zucchini, all you do is cut off the ends and rub it against a grater. You'll get small, stringy pieces of zucchini and green flecks will still be visible. In most cases, this method is best for anyone who isn't bothered by the fact that there's a vegetable in their dessert. But that may cause some people to freak out.

So personally, I recommend pureeing your zucchini when adding it to a baked good, as you'll see in the recipe below. In fact, while you're at it, you can just blend all of the wet ingredients in a food processor so you don't have to worry about using a mixer.

Before you make these brownies, let me forewarn you, these babies are rich! You'll need to grab a glass of milk before diving in. And one of the things I love most about them is they get more moist as time goes on.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
Yield: Makes about 16 brownies
For the brownies
  • 8 ounces zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (155 grams)
  • 3 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (56 grams)
  • 1/2 cup flour (60 grams)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
For the frosting
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 3 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
For the brownies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare 9x9 pan with nonstick cooking spray and / or parchment paper.
  2. Add zucchini, brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract to food processor and puree until no zucchini chunks remain
  3. In medium mixing bowl, combine cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt. Add wet ingredients to bowl and stir until just combined.
  4. For the frosting
  5. Gently stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Pour batter into baking pan and bake for 22 to 26 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let brownies cool for at least a half hour.
For the frosting
  1. Combine chocolate chips and milk in small bowl; heat for 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
  2. Pour frosting over brownies and let set in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Store in airtight container for up to 5 days.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur  Flour Company

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Chili Dog Bake

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

My first experience with cooking hot dogs began when I was a babysitter in middle school for a family with four children. It can be hard to get young kids to all agree on one thing to eat for dinner, but fortunately, all these kids ever wanted was hot dogs and sauerkraut (yes indeed, they were German).

But as you can imagine, plain hot dogs get a little boring after a while, so I had to spice things up. Sometimes I made “octopus” hot dogs. I just cut the bottom of the hot dog into eight parts so  it looked like tentacles.

Then the kids started requesting all kind of animals, like “giraffe” hot dogs and “zebra” hot dogs, but those were a little too complicated. So that’s when my famous hot dog casserole was born!

What’s that you ask? You bake hot dogs in a dish with sauerkraut and cheese. Sound disgusting? That’s because it probably was (I never tried it). But the kids loved it!

I was thinking about that hot dog casserole recently when it occurred to me I could use the same concept to make chili dogs for a crowd.

One of my favorite tricks, especially when you’re cooking for a group of people, is to transform your favorite dish into a casserole because it’s easier to serve multiple people at once. Remember that chicken and waffles casserole I made a few weeks ago? So much easier than making individual servings of chicken and waffles!

I decided not to use regular hot dog buns because I was afraid they would get soggy. Instead I cut a piece of puff pastry into eight strips and I wrapped each hot dog in the puff pastry strip. I chose puff pastry over crescent roll dough because it doesn’t expand as much, and I hate it when you take a bite and get a little meat with a lot of bread.

I baked the hot dogs for about 15 minutes in order to cook the dough before I covered everything in chili, onions, and cheese and baked it again. You’ll notice that I combined Challenge cream cheese with the chili. I did this because I wanted to make the chili a little thicker and creamier so it wouldn’t slide off the hot dogs completely. And I always use Challenge cream cheese because it’s hormone free and they use real cream. You can really tell the difference between Challenge and other generic brands.

As far as the chili goes, you can use store-bought chili, canned chili, or your favorite homemade chili! I’m going to share my favorite, easy chili recipe below. If you like planning ahead, you could make a big batch of the chili ahead of time and freeze it so it’s always available.

Chili Dog Bake
Yield: Serves 8 people
For the chili
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 ounces Challenge cream cheese

For the hot dogs
  • 1 package puff pastry dough
  • 8 hot dogs
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Directions
For the chili
  1. Heat large sauce pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil and ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula. Cook until it’s no longer pink or about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain beef and return to pan.
  3. Stir in onion, garlic, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened.
  4. Stir in cream cheese.
For the hot dogs
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Cut the puff pastry sheet into 8 equal strips and wrap each hot dog in a strip.
  3. Place the hot dogs in a prepared baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven.
  5. Pour chili over hot dogs and add cheese on top (Optional: you can add more onions between the chili and cheese layer)
  6. Stick baking pan back in oven and cook for an additional 10 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Celebrate the Brickyard 400 with these semi-homemade ideas

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

As you all know, Speedway, Indiana is considered to be the racing capital of the world, and lots of Hoosiers are dedicated racing fans. With the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, I want to share some ideas for celebrating the big race that don't require a lot of work. All of these ideas would also work really well if you're throwing a race car birthday party for a child.

Chocolate "Tire" Cake

I love using stencils and powdered sugar to make designs on cakes. I've done this in the past with the IU sign and the pi sign for "Pi Day." So I thought it would be fun to use the same concept to make a tire out of chocolate cake. I just googled "hubcap," printed off an image, and cut it out. I placed the stencil on the finished cake, and shook powdered sugar on top. One of the trickiest parts is to carefully lift the stencil off the cake. You have to be very careful because because you don't want the excess powdered sugar on top of the stencil to mess up your design.

  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup Challenge butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 chocolate box cake mix
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare cake pan with nonstick spray
  2. Mix milk, butter, and eggs; slowly add cake mix and stir until combine
  3. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Once toothpick comes out clean, remove from oven, wait 10 minutes, and invert onto plate.
  5. After cake has cooled, place stencil on top and use sifter to even distribute powdered sugar over stencil.
  6. Carefully lift stencil off cake and admire design

Traffic Light Brownies

Boxed brownie mixes are one of my favorite semi-homemade desserts because I love the convenience of it. But I never follow the ingredients on the back of the box. I consider oil and water to be flavorless ingredients. Instead I always swap them for an equal amount of melted butter and milk. So if the back of the box calls for 1/4 cup water and 1/3 cup oil, you should use 1/4 cup milk and 1/3 cup melted butter. I think it makes the brownies richer. I always use Challenge butter because it's free of additives and hormones, so you'll get the nest flavor.

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare 8 x 8 pan with nonstick spray
  2. Mix milk, butter, and eggs; slowly add brownie mix and stir until combine
  3. Pour batter into pan and bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Once toothpick comes out clean, remove from oven
  5. Once cool, cut into rectangles
  6. Use icing to make three small dots on brownie
  7. Place a red, yellow, and green candy on top of dots and let sit until icing hardens

Chocolate Covered Pretzel "Oil Dipsticks"

Everyone loves chocolate covered pretzels and I thought they looked close enough to oil dipsticks. Important tip: Before dipping pretzels melt you chocolate in tall jar instead of bowl. It will be easier to get more chocolate on the pretzel.

  • Pretzel rods
  • 2 cups milk chocolate or dark chocolate morsels
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable shortening (recommended but not necessary)
  1. Microwave morsels and shortening in microwave-safe jar on medium-high power for 1 minute and stir
  2. If morsels are not melted, continue to heat and stir in 15-second intervals until you reach desired consistency
  3. Dip pretzel rods into morsels, tilting the jar to get more chocolate on the pretzels
  4. Place pretzels on wax paper when done
  5. Once chocolate sets, dip them a second time and return to wax paper
  6. Store pretzels in airtight container until ready to serve

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Campfire Fries

Anyone else go on a lot of camping trips as a kid? Every summer, my family would go camping in Mackinaw City, Michigan for a week. It was awesome! We would cook on a campfire and brush our teeth in the woods. But unfortunately, one night we got hit by some pretty bad storms, and our tent flooded and everything was ruined. So we went to a hotel, and I’ve actually never been camping since.

One of my favorite things about camping was cooking over a fire. We cooked a lot of hot dogs and s’mores. Then we discovered these cooking irons, and we made a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. But one of the biggest problems is there just wasn’t a whole lot of variety. So I came up with a new creation that is sure to register Oooos and Ahhhs among your fellow campers.

Introducing… campfire fries! But not just any fries. Buffalo Chicken Campfire Fries!

I love french fries, and I love buffalo chicken dip. So I thought to myself, “Why the heck aren’t these co-existing already?”

The goal of this recipe was to make it as easy as possible because there’s not a whole lot to work with when you’re camping.

Before you start pigging out on the ultimate camping indulgence food, I just want to address a few things. The chicken I used in this recipe came from a can because like I said, the goal here is easy. But if you’re choosing to make this at home or if meat in a can is weird to you, use whatever chicken your heart desires.

Also, just to be clear, don’t cook this directly over the fire. Cook it on a flat surface of hot coals. Cooking times may vary but the good thing is nothing is raw here so you don’t have to worry about getting sick. You just want everything to be heated through so it tastes delicious.

P.S. If sleeping outdoors makes you want to run far away in the other direction, you can cook this on the grill or in the oven.

Buffalo Chicken Campfire Fries
Yield: Comfortably serves 4 people
  • 1 pound frozen french fires
  • 1 cup chicken, diced
  • 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  1. Lay out two large sheets of aluminum foil and spray top layer with nonstick spray.
  2. Dump frozen french fries onto aluminum foil and fold into a packet. The top can be open.
  3. Cook over hot coals for about 15 minutes.
  4. While fries are heating, combine chicken and buffalo sauce.
  5. Carefully remove fries from coals and add 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, buffalo chicken mixture, the remaining cheddar cheese, and the blue cheese.
  6. Return packet of french fries to hot coals and heat until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Chicken and Waffles Casserole

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

Does anyone else ever think about how scary it is that we're all so dependent on technology? I've been thinking about it a lot this week as I deal with a broken laptop. Actually "broken" is a generous adjective for the condition my laptop is in -- it's dead.

I wasted hours of time on vacation time trying to fix it. Did you catch that? I wasted VACATION TIME because of a broken laptop. And I'm sure many of you would do the same thing. The unknown of whether it would work or not gave me extreme anxiety. 

I use my laptop to sort through emails, to study and read my textbook, to blog, to edit photos... It's my link to the outside world. Except, somewhere along the way I must have forgotten that I'm actually living in the "outside world," and I don't need a "link" to it because I'm in it!

I realize a lot of our dependence to technology is just a result of the direction the world is moving. And most people have obligations that require the use of technology. So my suggestion to you is that the next time you experience a laptop or computer problem, try to embrace it instead of becoming upset or anxious. Use it as an opportunity to disconnect and channel your energy toward more simple things in life. Learn from my mistakes!

Okay, now someone lend me a hand so I can get down from my soapbox.

I first learned about the "chicken and waffles" combination just a few years ago. Savory, sweet, and an incredible combination of textures. This is definitely a recipe I'd be interested in sharing with friends. But then I think about how I would be stuck in the kitchen serving up waffles while everyone else eats. No thank you. I am already the world's slowest eater. so you don't want me eating last.

That's why I like breakfast casseroles. Make them the night before, pop the whole thing in the oven, and everyone gets to eat at the same time! But wait, chicken and waffles can be turned into a casserole too! And that's exactly what I did.

Let's first talk about the waffles. I made cornbread maple waffles -- great texture and the perfect amount of sweetness. You could absolutely use freezer waffles if you prefer, but I feel like nothing compares to a homemade waffle.

For the fried chicken, I bought popcorn chicken from the freezer section of the grocery store. I chose the popcorn variety because it's already in bite-size pieces. But you can make you own fried chicken, oven fry your chicken, or buy it from your favorite restaurant.

I layered the waffles and the chicken in an 8 x 8 pan with cheese because why not cheese. And then I added a mixture of eggs, milk, maple syrup and spices to hold it together.

It was actually better than I imagined, and the pieces came out of the pan really well!

Chicken and Waffles Casserole
Yield: Serves about 8 people
For the waffles
  • 2 (8.5 ounce) boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons Challenge butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
For the egg mixture
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 pounds fried popcorn chicken
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
For the waffles
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix Jiffy mix, eggs, butter, milk, maple syrup, and brown sugar until there are no lumps.
  3. Use batter to make waffles; cube waffles and set aside.
For the egg mixture
  1. Combine eggs, milk, maple syrup, chili powder, garlic powder, and dry mustard; set aside
  1. Spray 8 x 8-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray
  2. Add 1/2 of cubed waffles to bottom of pan; layer with 1 pound of popcorn chicken and 1/2 of cup cheese.
  3. Repeat adding the rest of the waffles, chicken, and cheese
  4. Pour egg mixture on top.
  5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Serve with more maple syrup if desired.

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