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The weather outside is never frightful when it comes to youth hockey season in the Midwest, especially when one of our teams has a two-week lull in their game schedule. And luckily for these guys (and their little sisters), their parents are as passionate about hockey and having fun as they are. So the First Annual Lake Campbell Winter Classic was established this January. And don’t be surprised if, after these kids are off to college, you’ll find us parents keeping the icy tradition alive. (Yes Ann, I just invited us to your house every January for the rest of our lives.)

Lake Campbell Lake Hockey 2015

First Annual Lake Campbell Winter Classic 2015 Photo courtesy of Ann Park

What does hockey have to do with chili? (Because I know you aren’t asking yourself what this has to do with beer.) Ann, our hostess, shared a scrumptious pot of chili at the party and even though I had to eat and run my daughter to hockey in Watertown, I kept thinking about how good it was to have a steamy bowl of chili topped with cheese, sour cream, and crunchy chips. So when I made a batch of Once a Month Beer Chili Spaghetti the next week, I eyed that meat mixture with beans and corn chips on my mind.

beer chili

 

Sure, I could have made my old staple, Make-it-your-way Rainy Day Chili but there’s just something about this addicting meat sauce.

Beer Chili

Recipe for beer chili spaghetti and/or beer chili meat mixture (makes approximately 4 cups):

2 pounds ground sirloin or lean ground beef

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1½ teaspoons salt

1¾ teaspoons paprika

1¼ teaspoons cayenne pepper

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1 tablespoon onion powder

1½ teaspoons garlic powder

¼ cup chili powder

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 12-ounce beer

If you are making a meal of beer chili spaghetti and a few meals of beer chili, make 12 ounces of spaghetti noodles and add some of the hot pasta water to the meat mixture and then use some of the leftover meat sauce to make chili. If you are making this meat sauce to make all chili, you’ll need to at least double the beans and tomato juice below. You only need to add pasta water to the portion you are using for spaghetti. 

To make the chili (very imprecise directions):

Take a cup or two of the beer chili meat mixture and add:

1 or 2 (15-ounce) cans red beans (drained)

1 or 2 (15-ounce) cans chili beans in chili sauce

Chili powder to taste

Cumin to taste

Tomato juice – I used part of a 46-ounce bottle. It depends on how much meat sauce you are using and how thick or juicy you like your chili.

Chili Toppings:

Sour cream

Corn chips

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Heat together the meat mixture, beans, and tomato juice. Add the additional chili powder and cumin if desired. When hot, serve with sour cream, corn chips, and shredded cheese. Store leftover chili in airtight container in the refrigerator.

If you are more in the mood for BBQs, make  BeerBQ Joes and put corn chips on top.

Icy & spicy wishes,

Staci

Popcorn is a healthy snack option; not the way movie theaters douse it with hot, greasy golden liquid mimicking butter, but remove the blanket of grease and it’s a guilt-free food to mindlessly munch while watching the latest Hollywood flick. Of course every savory snack should be balanced with a sweet snack so why not pair it with caramel popcorn?

red hots smiley

If you’re watching from your couch, not a germy reclining theater chair, skip the seeds and hulls by making your own sticky sweet and salty mix using puff corn cereal. And toss in hot tamales or cinnamon Red Hots® candies.

caramel cashew corn pops

If you go out for movie night, this brings up a moral question. Is it OK to bring a bag of homemade caramel cashew corn puffs into the movie theater if you buy an extortionate $12 box of hot tamales or Red Hots from concessions?

Caramel Cashew Corn Puffs

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

7 cups corn puff cereal (I use Corn Pops®)

2 cups salted cashews

1-2 cups red hots candies or hot tamales candies (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 225°.
  2. Mix cereal and cashews in a large bowl.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup; boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Drop in baking soda and stir well.
  5. Pour caramel mixture into cereal and cashew mixture. Stir to coat thoroughly.
  6. Spread cereal mixture onto two baking sheets lined with foil or parchment paper.
  7. Bake at 225° for one hour, stirring around every 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and cool the caramel corn on sheets of wax paper.
  9. Stir in hot tamales or cinnamon Red Hots candies. Store in airtight container for one week.

Sticky blockbuster wishes,

Staci

Leftover baked potatoes can come back the next day as baked potatoes. But when there’s a fried solution to getting them back on your plate, let’s take the road to crispy town.

loaded fried baked potatoes

The recipe isn’t precise and other than the butter, olive oil, and the potatoes you can modify these smashed vegetables to taste.

Melt the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic powder and onion salt OR the chopped onion and garlic. Place the potatoes in pan. Using a potato masher or thick wooden spoon press down on the potato, flattening to approximately ½ an inch. Dust with salt and pepper.

smashed baked potatoes

Fry, covered, on medium heat until crispy and then flip potatoes to crisp the other side and add a pinch more salt and pepper.

fried baked potatoes

Remove from pan and cover with grated cheese, bacon, and a dollop of sour cream.

Smashed and fried baked potatoes

Olive oil

Butter

OR butter with olive oil

Garlic powder

Onion salt

OR chopped onion and garlic

Baked potatoes

Salt

Pepper

Shredded cheese

Sour cream

Crumbled bacon

  1. Melt the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic powder and onion salt OR the chopped onion and garlic.
  2. Place the potatoes in pan. Using a potato masher or thick wooden spoon press down on the potato, flattening to approximately ½ an inch. Dust with salt and pepper.
  3. Fry, covered, on medium heat until crispy and then flip potatoes to crisp the other side and add a pinch more salt and pepper.
  4. Remove from pan and cover with grated cheese, bacon, and a dollop of sour cream.

Add eggs, toast, and a slice of ham or last night’s leftover steak and you have a hearty man-breakfast.

Crispy, starchy wishes

Staci

Another year leaves us with a trail of flour dust and kitchen memories. We’ve read enough “Top 10 recipes of 2014” articles to set our Pinterest boards on fire. Maybe you want to know my most popular recipes for the past 12 months but for now, let’s have fun with the 24 most curious and amusing search terms that brought people to Random Sweetness Baking in 2014.

The searches that made me laugh. 

I’m guessing the following searches brought people to my second most popular recipe in 2014, I was a better than sex cake virgin:

  1. “How long does better than sex cake last in fridge?” In my house, a day if we’re all home. At the office, within minutes of an instant message announcing its arrival. But I suppose it could last a couple of days in the fridge before it would get soggy.
  2. “Better than whatever cake” Clearly, this person already knew there are multiple names for better than sex cake.
  3. “Is there a recipe for virgin cake or is there a virgin cake recipe like the better than sex cake?” I’m so confused.
  4. “Virgin first time sex” I hope this guy’s wife doesn’t look at his Internet search history. Maybe he should spend more time in the kitchen baking cake.

Better than sex cake

The next one made me laugh AND tell my sisters:

5. “Why do old people like bran muffins?”

6. “Bran muffins for elderly”

Bran muffins aren’t just for old people and raisins ruin everything probably didn’t answer their questions because I didn’t talk about the benefits of fiber.

bran muffins | Random Sweetness Baking

My third most popular recipe in 2014 drew in a lot of people from searches for buffalo chicken dip with ranch, chilled buffalo chicken ranch dip, chicken wing dip with ranch, buffalo chicken dip for 16 people, buffalo chicken dip without blue cheese, and many others like:

7. “Can you make buffalo chicken dip with dark meat?” Yes, of course you can!

8. “Blue cheese dressing without blue cheese in it” Since I don’t eat blue cheese dressing, my suggestion is to just make the dressing but don’t add the crumbled cheese. Or seriously, don’t eat it at all.

9. “I want to make buffalo chicken dip but I don’t have any ranch dressing” Oh bummer! Then you can’t make my version but here’s a recipe from Food Network for buffalo chicken dip with blue cheese and no ranch.

Buffalo ranch chicken dip | Random Sweetness Baking

10. “Make celery sweeter” I’m not a dietician but celery is a vegetable. Maybe add peanut butter and chocolate chips if you want it sweeter? But here’s how I use celery in my simple tuna salad sandwich, my kids’ favorite homemade chicken noodle soup with healing powers, and crunchy ex-in-law broccoli ranch salad.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

11. “Random shit you can bake” Ha ha! I’m picturing a sprightly redhead sitting at the nail salon waiting for the paint to dry on her toes, passing time on her phone and suddenly deciding to bake something when she gets home.

12. “I want to bake something sweet” Me too, me too! I’m glad you found me and I’m hoping you found some random sweets you can bake! How about making the #1 recipe on Random Sweetness Baking, Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies?

Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies

13. “Can kids have tequila lime chicken?” I won’t laugh because I’m sure there’s a concerned parent out there who didn’t know that alcohol burns off in the cooking process.

14.  “How do Mexicans make chicken street tacos?” I don’t know but this is how Minnesotans make chicken street tacos with cilantro and red onion.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

The searches that hopefully led to answers.

15. “Hershey’s Kisses won’t melt turned hard” It sounds like you passed that crucial melting point where the Kiss got hard and then there’s no turning back. Read about it in my recipe for mint pretzel Kisses.

mint pretzel Kisses

16. “If you bake a Hershey’s Kiss in a cupcake does it turn hard after cooling?” I’ve never baked a Kiss in a cupcake but I’m certain it would turn hard when it cools.

17. “Can you make cream cheese deli meat wrap a day in advance?” You certainly can. And in my recipe for crunchy deli wraps, I suggest that you can store the wraps in the refrigerator or a cooler for up to 12 hours. That’s why they are terrific for camping or picnics.

veggie and deli meat wraps

18. “Can I put baking dish from fridge into oven?” It depends on the pan. Never put a glass dish from the refrigerator directly to the oven or you risk the potential for the glass to shatter. But I think metal or stone would be ok. For example, if you prepare smoky ham and cheddar hash brown casserole ahead of time, you could put it in the oven from the refrigerator if it’s in a metal or stone pan.

19. “Only like the Chex cereal in the mix how to just use the cereal” Then by all means, substitute Chex cereal for all the mixed nuts and pretzels in Chex mix.

Staci's version of Chex mix

20. “Cookies chocolate island” If you found a chocolate island that serves cookies, I want to GO! All I can do is give you chocolate island mint bars.

Chocolate Island Mint Bars

21. “Hershey’s skillet cookie for 1″ How about something even better – bake this giant chocolate chip skillet cookie, slice into triangles, eat a few, and freeze the rest.

skillet chocolate chip cookie

22. “Chocolate stringy brownie cookie” What exactly is a stringy brownie cookie?

23. “Casserole for boys” The most requested casserole from the boys in my family is hot dog casserole.

24. “Cook slice hot dogs with chips on the side” See #23.

And that’s a wrap on 2014! It’s been a fun and fast year of sharing what’s going on in my kitchen. Thank you for reading and sharing with me. There’s nothing better than getting an email from you asking about a recipe or seeing you in the grocery store and you telling me you have ingredients on your list to make something from my blog. Or when you stop me at a hockey game and tell me that what I wrote made you laugh. It’s just you and me kid.

Hoping to see you around Random Sweetness Baking on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Cheers to a new year!

Sweet & bubbly wishes,

Staci

Decorating the tree and tucking presents snuggly under the branches brings joy to those of us who celebrate Christmas. I know I’m excited to open the box that was delivered from Tiffany & Co. this week. But as I’m prancing around the kitchen this morning, I’m thinking about what gifts I really want to give and receive.

Santa and baby Jesus

1. If I could give my children and loved ones the gift of seeing themselves as others do, I’d never buy wrapping paper again.

ornament from 1973

2. True inner peace and happiness for my children and family members. The kind of peace that comes from having faith in God.

kids in 2004

3. That my loved ones are here this same time next year.

in memory of Maui ornament

4. Hope for the future. Each year I put my hope ornament at the top of our tree – a reminder of the year I bought it with some of the last dollars in my pocket.

hope ornament

What are some Christmas gifts that you want now that you are older?

Sweet Christmas wishes,

Staci

It’s not that people in other states don’t enjoy Snickers apple salad, but according to a New York Times article of unusually popular recipes Googled on Thanksgiving in every state, people in South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska searched for Snickers salad more than in any other state. And although we Minnesotans searched mostly for wild rice casserole (which I’ve never made), Snicker salad and apple Snicker salad were two of the top five most searched recipes in the land of 10,000 lakes.

Snickers apple salad

Check out the map in the Times article. If you live in Utah, you searched mostly for funeral potatoes (my favorite) and you are surrounded by frog eye salad lovers. Your only way out is with a handful of turkey enchiladas through Arizona. It’s hard to imagine placing a bowl full of pasta, eggs, and fruit stirred together on my Thanksgiving table. I’d rather buzz up to North Dakota and eat your cookie salad, a kissing cousin to the Midwest’s coveted Snickers salad.

Maine and New Hampshire, you are making a lot of whoopie up there with one of my favorite ingredients. Hawaii, while you were busy searching for cranberry relish, Illinois was looking for ways to make Hawaiian salad. Maybe next year Butterfinger Apple Coconut Salad will make the list?

Butterfinger apple coconut salad

I’m making Snickers apple salad for our casual Christmas lunch, along with my kids’ favorite magic chicken noodle soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup | Random Sweetness Baking

Snickers Apple Salad

1-½ cups cold 2% or whole milk

1 package (3.4 ounce) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 tub (8 ounce) frozen whipped topping, thawed

2 Granny Smith apples (approximately 2 cups)

2 Honeycrisp apples (approximately 2 cups)

Snickers candy bars (bag of fun-size bars or 4 (2.07 ounce) bars, chopped into bite size pieces

In a large bowl, whisk milk with pudding mix. Let it rest for 3 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Gently fold in chopped apples and candy bars.

Cover and refrigerate until serving. Best if eaten within 24 hours. Makes approximately 12 servings.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Even if you’re ordering pizza delivery while your mother-in-law stirs a pot of oyster stew, may delicious food grace your table this holiday season. And may you not have to eat frog eye salad unless you want to.

Sweet food traditions,

Staci

 

You’re shopping there anyway — buying books, can openers, and iPhone cases — so you may as well use it to donate cash to your favorite charity. I’ve been using AmazonSmile since spring when I learned that one of my favorite organizations, East Central CASA, is enrolled in the program.

book tree

And now that my beloved youth hockey association is using AmazonSmile to earn cash, it reminded me to spread the word so you can use it to give money to the non-profit(s) of your choice.

Click here to get started. AmazonSmile donates .5% of eligible purchases to charitable organizations that register. Learn how your organization can start receiving donations here.

Sweet smiles,

Staci

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