Quick & Easy – Creamy Chocolate Frosting

So delicious… chocolate frosting from scratch.

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Israeli Couscous

Even though it’s been rain off and on, flooding in various areas, and muddy shoes galore, we found some time to get to the store to do our weekly shopping this week.

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I’ve always wanted to try out a recipe with Israeli Couscous… and why not in a celebratory way of kicking off a hopefully scorching summer?  This was easy, quick, and full of wonderful aroma and taste, amazing if you’re in any kind of rut emotionally or sensually.

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First, find a good, economical brand of Israeli Couscous.  They typically aren’t expensive by any means, and the minute extra price is a good bargain for adding different flavors and experiences to your children’s repertoire of foods at the dinner table.  My son was wide-eyed to see the pearlescent balls of noodle-like flavor!  Eating can be exciting!

The littlest tomato came from our garden!  Ha!  We were proud :)

The littlest tomato came from our garden! Ha! We were proud 🙂  It’s flavor was more intense!

Dice about 1/2 or 3/4 of a cucumber, and about 3-4 Roma tomatoes.

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I save the extra cucumber slices for sandwiches or quick salad options, putting them a separate ziplock bag from the diced

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From our garden!!! Basil, Thyme, Oregano leaves

From our garden!!! Basil, Thyme, Oregano leaves

It was fun to stop the cooking, run outside to our garden and pick the necessary herbs, it reminded me of living in the country.  Cooking with fresh grown spices and herbs or vegetables is a different experience, the flavor of the herbs, the sheer aroma is overwhelming while your cooking.  It is incredible for the senses, and the taste is wholesome.

Cilantro from our garden... be sure to plant it in an area where it only gets partial sun.  Cilantro is tender and fragile, I've mistakenly had it scorch when it was planted in full sunlight.

Cilantro from our garden… be sure to plant it in an area where it only gets partial sun. Cilantro is tender and fragile, I’ve mistakenly had it scorch to a burnt crisp when it was planted in full sunlight.

Next, saute in Olive Oil, some chopped onions (I keep some handy in the fridge or freezer for quick need like this), add garlic, and your garden herbs to taste.  Cook on low heat, and enjoy the breathtaking aromas that fill your kitchen.

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The couscous should be done by now, add in the cooked & fluffed couscous, the diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and the torn cilantro leaves.

Bring to boil 2 cups of water, add 1 cup of Israeli couscous, turn OFF the heat, COVER the pot, and allow to sit for 10 minutes

Bring to boil 2 cups of water, add 1 cup of Israeli couscous, turn OFF the heat, COVER the pot, and allow to sit for 10 minutes

Mix it all together off the heat

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And it is incredible!  Eat hot or cold, by itself or in a lettuce leaf.  I chose for us simple pita pockets

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Chorizo, Egg, & Biscuit Breakfast Casserole

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Delicious, protein-packed, perfect for a crowd-pleaser dish… you won’t want to stop eating it!  I made this a couple of days ago for a group of women I meet with every week for Bible study.  It’s kind of like a breakfast feast every week as people bring tacos, donuts, fruits, yogurts… it’s like we lure people in with the food, honestly!

Another recipe that would have been great would have been the Breakfast Egg-Muffins, individual so that your guests wouldn’t have to bother with serving… just grab n’ go.

The base of this casserole is pre-baked biscuits cut open (6 usually work instead of the regular 8 that come in a pack)

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While the biscuits bake, you want to mix up the egg & milk mixture. 1 dozen eggs, 2 cups milk

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Next you add your spices, 1 tsp Chili powder, 2 tsp Garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 tsp Basil, and if you can find it, 2 tsp of Six Peppers spice

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Also, while the biscuits are baking, the chorizo should be cooking in a pan until it becomes the consistency of cooked ground beef

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Pre-cooked

Once biscuits are done, you’re ready!  Keep oven on at the regular 375 (for biscuits) so that it’s easy to pop the casserole in once it’s combined.  Line your casserole dish (9×13) with open biscuits (about 6)

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Spread the cooked chorizo on top, then pour the egg mixture over into the dish.  Scatter the chorizo so that some is incorporated into the egg mixture also.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until center cooked (when a fork comes out clean after inserted).  Then add cheese and pop back in for another minute or until cheese melts.

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Delish and ready for breakfast!

Simple, Warm, Delicious Refried Beans

 

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Refried beans are the simplest dish to cook if you’re wanting an incredible, homemade taste of Mexican-American style beans.  My oldest son (4), is crazy about the warm bean & cheese breakfast tacos we eat here (at any time of day) in Texas… and it’s great to be able to whip up a big easy batch of refried beans to sate his cravings 🙂

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I found a great recipe here, at slate.com, follow the directions to create this dish.

You can use dry or canned beans – only use dry if you have 4-5 hours to spare while they cook in the crock pot, canned is fine and is faster overall.  Make sure to add enough salt and pepper to taste – with their warm, gentle flavor, these beans just hit the spot!

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Delicious Eclairs Homemade!

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Best Homemade Pastry Ever!

Our family loves to eat… and cook, but I’ve honestly never been strong at baking anything, I don’t know why, but baking has always seemed more of a mystery to me.  When we were at the bookstore about a month ago, I saw this cookbook cover and was immediately taken in by the eclairs.  They are hands-down my favorite pastry, and I couldn’t resist looking at the recipe to see how exactly they are made from scratch.  Pretty easy… I thought.

 

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The recipe was done by a woman who had worked in a professional French bakery… she clearly knew her way around pastries.  I thought I’d let you readers in on our adventure through making éclairs… it took longer than I imagined it would, but it wasn’t really hard at all!  They make for an impressive dessert for a party, and you can always make them into Cream Puffs if you’d rather serve them that way (it is the same recipe).

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The Cook

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The Ingredient List (You can print it!)

So… you make the eclairs in the order that is on this page: the Pate a Choux (crisp breading), the Cream Filling (the St. Tropez cream was her own version of the perfect pastry cream… I absolutely LOVED it… much lighter than the traditional version), and then the Chocolate Ganache (which is much much tastier than just melted chocolate… it is only 2 ingredients, but you’d be surprised how hard it is not to eat before using on the pastries).

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To make the dough, you first have to cook it on the stove and then bake it – so it’s really cooked twice… which creates the hollowed out inside, and crispy texture of the pastry – perfect for easy filling.  Below is how it should progress: add flour & salt to the melted down butter, mix until it pulls away from pan and forms dough, and the 3rd step is mixing in the eggs one at a time until the dough is nice and shiny:

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Then you pipe the dough into a bag with the tip cut off (or pastry bag), and make the eclairs a little bigger than a hot-dog size onto a greased or foil-covered pan

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Bake at 425’F for 10 minutes then lower it to 350’F for another 25 to 30 minutes until the pastries are dry inside and not still wet (they should visibly turn light golden).  You then leave them in the oven (with it turned off of course) with the door propped open so that they can dry out longer

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You can use a knife to gently poke a hole into the tip, or like the chef in the cookbook did, slice through the éclair completely to make almost like a sandwich.  Since some of mine came out not as wide, it was easier to slice them through.

The St. Tropez cream really is unique, it is basically traditional vanilla pastry cream mixed with a whipped cream.  We had a lot left over – which was great!  We used it over our coffee for the next few mornings – it was quite a lot!  (Use the directions in the video attached if you want to know exactly how to make it – it is not hard, but it is easier to watch)

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You have to cook the Vanilla Cream first & also chill it in the freezer, Vanilla Extract works just as well as Vanilla Bean

 

 

After the vanilla cream is chilled for at least 30 minutes, you can literally just whip up heavy cream in a bowl to create a beautiful, light, fluffy whipped cream that you then add into the thicker and heavier vanilla cream – once mixed it is a divine combination!

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Chocolate ganache can be quickly made by microwaving your chocolate chunks or chips, then adding the heavy cream and mixing with a fork.  Dip the filled eclairs and allow to dry thoroughly on a cool table or counter.

Enjoy your heavenly homemade Eclairs!

Video used in making our pastries (perfect instructions… and she makes the St. Tropez cream):