Sweet & Sour Meatballs

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This is a dish of the most awesome meatballs in the world.

Not even kidding!

My family gets together at my sister's house every Christmas Eve 
and this dish is always requested. 
I've made it every year for 13 years, and even though I double the recipe, 
it is always the first thing to disappear.

Love the chunky bits of celery and pineapple. 
So so good. 
Trust me...once you try them, they'll be your "go to" recipe.

Linked with Weekend Potluck and Foodie Friday.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

1 pound ground beef chuck
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 5oz can water chestnuts, finely sliced
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 medium green onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup celery, 1/2 inch pieces
1 small can pineapple tidbits with juice

Combine beef, salt, pepper, chestnuts and milk. Combine and form into small balls; roll in flour and fry in butter over med. heat until brown and well done.

Combine remaining ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Pour over meat balls and serve.


Ding Dong Cake

Love love love this cake.

It's one of the most requested cakes in my household.
My son likes it so much he wants to learn how to make it. 
He loves to cook and I love that he does. He's pretty good at it too.

There are a few steps to this recipe (none of them hard) and it takes a little time, 
but it ever worth it.

I've had this recipe for some time now and have no idea exactly where it came from, but I do know there are several of them out there by various names.

So so good. I think everyone needs to try it.

Linked with Foodie Friday and Weekend Potluck.

Ding Dong Cake 

For the Cake
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup hot coffee, or 1 cup boiling water and 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Salted Caramel Ganache
9 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used a 72% venezuela orgine)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 big pinches sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Vanilla Bean Filling
2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Sea salt for finishing

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Butter and line 2, 9-inch baking pans with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix until well combined. Add in the buttermilk, hot coffee, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until well combined. About 1 to 2 minutes.

Divide batter among cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out almost clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. I start checking at 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pans about 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool on a cooling rack until completely cooled.

For the Salted Caramel Ganache
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl.
In a medium heavy bottomed pot, combine the sugar and water, and stir to combine. Heat the mixture over medium high heat, without stirring, but swirling occasionally if the sugar is coloring unevenly. Heat until the sugar turns amber in color. Remove from heat immediately and slowly add the heavy cream while whisking. If there are any clumps of sugar, return the pot to low heat and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and sea salt. Pour the caramel over the chocolate. Allow the mixture to sit for about 5 minutes, then gently stir until the ganache is well combined. Set aside to thicken, about 1 to 2 hours. *If the ganache becomes to thick, warm it over a double boiler until more workable or in the microwave for 10 second intervals.

For the Vanilla Bean Filling
Add the cold water to a small bowl, then sprinkle the gelatin over it. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until it has set.
In a small skillet, add about 1/2-inch of water, and heat over medium-high heat. Place the small bowl with the gelatin directly inside the skillet. Stir the gelatin until it is melted, about 2 minutes. Remove the bowl from the skillet.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla bean seeds, and beat on high speed until soft peaks have formed. Slowly add in the melted gelatin mixture and continue to beat until stiff peaks have formed.

Take the first cake layer and place it on a cake board or cardboard round slightly smaller than the cake layers. Spread a layer of ganache (a spreadable consistency) over the cake, about 1 cup. Top with the vanilla bean whipped cream. Top with the second cake layer. Refrigerate the cake for about 2 hours until the filling has set.
Heat the remaining ganache over a double boiler until it is a pourable consistency.
Set a cooling rack over a clean baking sheet. Remove the cake from the fridge and set it on top of the cooling rack. Pour the ganache over the cake so that it covers the tops and sides of the cake. Pour any ganache that has gone onto the baking sheet back into the bowl. If you have enough ganache, give the cake a second coating. Sprinkle the top of the cake with additional coarse sea salt. Refrigerate cake.

Remove cake 1 hour prior to serving. Because the vanilla bean filling is a stabilized whipped cream, it will be stable at room temperature. This cake will keep for up to 3 days well covered.


Pina Colada Cookies

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This is the most delicious cookie in the entire world....imho.

These wonderful cookies are full of coconut, macadamia nuts, 
white chocolate and pineapple.

They are absolutely my FAVORITE cookie.

Wait until you see what I served them with. 

Oh yeah! The reveal is coming soon.

Linked with Weekend Potluck & Foodie Friday.

UPDATE:  Wanted to share with you guys what I served these cookies with. Ready??

Was a match made in heaven!!


1 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. coconut extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. white chocolate chips
1/2 c. macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. coconut
1/2 c. dried pineapple, chopped

Heat oven to 375*

Cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time incorporating well, then extracts. In a separate bowl mix together flour, soda and salt with a whisk. Add to butter mixture stirring just until blended. Fold in chips, nuts, coconut and pineapple.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overcook.

Cool on wire racks. 


Fabulous French Bread

I'm always looking for fast and easy homemade bread recipes.

I came across this one on Life in the Lofthouse's site (which I slightly adapted) and figured 
if it truly was as easy to make as it sounded, and tasted good, it would be perfect.

And it was!

No kneading or long rising time. 
In fact it's all said and done in about an hour. 
Awesome stuff!

Fabulous French Bread

1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup warm water
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1 cup cold water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg

Preheat oven to 170 degrees F.

Fill a glass measuring cup with 1 cup of water and microwave for 3 minutes, or until water is boiling.

In another glass measuring cup sprinkle the yeast over the 1/3 cup of warm water with 1 tsp of the called for sugar. Stir in and let sit for 5 minutes or until it starts to foam.

Pour the remaining sugar, salt and butter into the bowl of your stand mixer. Using a fork, mash these ingredients together. Pour the 1 cup of boiling water over the butter mixture. Add the 1 cup of cold water into the mixer. Then pour in the yeast/water mixture.

Add 3 cups of flour and using the dough hook, turn mixer on low speed. With the mixer still on, slowly add in the remaining 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Once all 6 cups are in, turn speed to medium-low and let the dough mix for 6-8 minutes. The dough should be nice and elastic. Be careful not to over-flour. I used all 6 cups, but would not use any more than that.

Once the dough is mixed, let it rest in the bowl for 5 minutes.

Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray or use a silpat. After the dough has rested in the bowl, dump it onto the greased cookie sheet.

Take a sharp knife, spray it with non-stick spray, and cut dough into 3 equal pieces. Then let it rest again for 5 minutes. (These resting periods for the dough is important so definitely follow these steps.)

To shape the dough before baking: Take one section of dough and press it out into a rectangle. Just use your hands, you don’t need a rolling pin. Fold one long side up over half of dough, then fold the other side over the first. Then tuck the ends under the loaf. Use your fingers to tuck seams down underneath the loaf and shape it. Repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough. Once all 3 sections of dough are shaped cut 3 angled 1/2 inch slits onto the tops of dough.

Crack the egg into a bowl and whisk with a fork until frothy. Spread the egg over the tops of each loaf, making sure to get inside the slits.

Place the loaves into the oven and let them rise for about 15 minutes (while the oven is on 170 degrees F.) Then turn oven up to 400 degrees F (while the loaves are still inside) and bake for 12-17 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and crisp. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the baking sheet and allow them to cool a bit before slicing them.

Orange Brownies

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These are my hubby's favorite brownies.

I've been making them for years. The recipe is from Paula Dean.

They're super easy to make with a burst of fresh orange.

Believe me....they won't be around for long.

Orange Brownies

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange extract
2 teaspoons orange zest, divided
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice, fresh

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 13 x 9 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, and salt. Add butter, eggs, extract, and 1 teaspoon zest, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until light golden brown and set. Remove from oven, and pierce cake all over with a fork.

In a small bowl, combine confectioners sugar, orange juice, and remaining 1 teaspoon zest until smooth. Pour over warm cake. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.


Pasta & Sausage in Boozy Creamy Tomato Sauce

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Love the deep rich flavor of this tomato sauce.

The key to the flavor is not only the vodka, but the time spent baking in the oven.

Of course the  cream (or half & half) doesn't hurt either.

Super easy and a huge crowd pleaser!

Linked with Weekend Potluck and Foodie Friday.

Pasta & Sausage in Boozy Creamy Tomato Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil, plus
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
14 oz pkg of smoked sausage (I use turkey)
3/4 pound penne pasta
2 tbsp fresh parsley 
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream or half & half
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium heat, add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.

Drain the tomatoes through a sieve(discard liquid). Carefully crush tomatoes with your hands into the skillet. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

Heat a drizzle or so of olive oil in a skillet. Cut sausage lengthwise and brown on both sides. Remove and cut into bite size pieces; reserve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.

Place the tomato mixture in a blender or use an immersion blender and puree/blend until desired consistency. Return to the pan.

Reheat the sauce, add cooked sausage, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley and enough cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. 

Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh parsley on each plate.