Hot Eats and Cool Reads: December 2011

Dec 29, 2011

Book Review: From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender

Description from Goodreads:
Alexis is the last girl you'd expect to sell her soul for beauty and popularity. After all, she already has everything she needs--an adorable boyfriend, the perfect best friend, and a family that finally seems to be healing after her sister Kasey's unfortunate possession by an evil spirit.
But then Kasey tells Alexis about the mysterious new club she has joined, and the oath she has taken to someone named Aralt. Worried that Kasey's gotten in over her head again, Alexis and her best friend Megan decide to investigate by joining the Sunshine Club, too. At first, their connection with Aralt seems harmless. Alexis tries a new -- normal-- look, and finds herself reveling in her elegance and success.
Still, despite the Sunshine Club's outward perfection, the group is crumbling from within, and soon Alexis finds herself battling her own personal demons. She can hardly even remember why she joined in the first place. Surely it wasn't to destroy Aralt...why would she hurt someone who has given her so much, and asked for so little in return?

Book Trailer:

My Thoughts:
After reading the first book in this series, Bad Girls Don't Die, I knew I would have to continue on, once this one was released. This series is mainly about 2 sisters, who have issues with being possessed. These are definitely books that I would've read in my teenage years. I love the whole ghost/ possession theme. 

Alexis is a great main character and I loved the idea of the sunshine club and Aralt and how certain characters and situations were all tied in together at the end. The author did a really great job with this one. Some series get worse as more books are released, but this was definitely better than the first one. I will be waiting for the next book As Dead As It Gets, which should be released in May 2012. 

I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars

Dec 28, 2011

Super Saucy Lasagna Recipe

If you've been looking through my recipes, or following me for awhile, then you know, pasta is my favorite! I've already shared a few of my pasta recipes such as: Capellini al Fresco, Stuffed Shells and Italian Spaghetti and this is another favorite to add to that list. I love my lasagna saucy, and by cooking the noodles ahead of baking, it helps keeps the noodles from absorbing all the sauce. This recipe is very similar to the one my Mom made growing up, so it is also a great comfort food for me. Hope you enjoy!

What you need:
12 lasagna noodles
3/4 pound hamburger
1/4 pound italian sausage
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp italian seasoning
1- 8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
1/3 c. fresh basil, chopped
2- 15 oz can tomato sauce
1- 11.5 oz can tomato juice
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sugar
4 c. mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large saute pan, brown ground beef, italian sausage, onion, garlic, italian seasoning, salt and pepper. In the last few minutes of browning add mushrooms and fresh basil. Then add tomato sauce, juice and sugar. Simmer over medium low heat. Meanwhile, in a large stock, pot boil noodles for about 10 minutes or until almost cooked. 

Cover the bottom of a 9x13 pan with a small amount of sauce. Layer 3 noodles on the bottom first, more sauce and cheese on top of that. Continue until noodles are gone. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top!

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Dec 26, 2011

Mini Pizza Meatloaves Reinvented Recipe

Awhile back when I first started blogging, I posted the recipe for Mini Pizza Meatloaves. This one is a different variation from the original. I added Italian sausage to the ground beef since I had some extra on hand. I love this version just as much as the original so I thought I'd post this as well. This would be great as a main dish, or an appetizer!

What you need:
1 pound ground beef
1 Italian sausage link, casing removed
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1/3 c. pizza sauce plus additional for serving
1/2 c. onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. green olives, sliced
5 white mushrooms, diced
2 c. mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

In a bowl, add all ingredients except cheese. Combine ingredients until mixed well. Divide ground beef mixture evenly into a 12 cup muffin pan. Add a small scoop of sauce to the top of each meatloaf and cover completely with the shredded mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. To serve: Cover the bottom of a plate with a couple spoonfuls of pizza sauce and serve mini meatloafs on top! Enjoy!!

Easy Bacon Deviled Eggs Recipe

This post contains affiliate links. HECR may earn a small commission for purchases made through these links. Thanks for the support!

Look no further for your new favorite game day, party or holiday appetizer! This easy recipe is full of delicious bacon, basil, garlic and more!

Easy Bacon Deviled Eggs Recipe! Look no further for your new favorite game day, party or holiday appetizer! This easy recipe is full of delicious bacon, basil, garlic and more!

Game day parties are some of my favorite gatherings.

I'm not much of a sports person, but I sure love all the amazing food! So many different dips, salsas, sandwiches and sweet treats! Love them all.

I first made these delicious deviled eggs for Christmas, then for a game and drink night with the ladies. 

Warm Bacon and Cheese Dip recipe

I was super excited to try some new appetizer recipes yesterday for Christmas! I brought this bacon and cheese dip with to my Dad and Stepmom's house and I just love the way it turned out. The flavors were great, and it is so easy to get ready, bake and serve! We set out pretzels to go with it, but crackers, chips or fresh veggies would be great as well! Great addition to any holiday gathering or party!!

What you need:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups sour cream 
1/2 cup bacon, fried and finely chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped green onion

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Place the mixture in a baking dish. Cover and heat the dip for 30 minutes or until hot. Garnish with extra bacon, cheese and green onions!

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Dec 24, 2011

Book Review: Silent Night by Mary Higgins Clark

Description from Goodreads:
In New York for treatment of his father's leukemia, seven-year-old Brian Dornan sees his mother's wallet being lifted. Desperate to retrieve the St. Christopher medal tucked inside--which he believes to be protecting his father--Brian follows the thief into the subway, and into the most dangerous adventure of his young life.

My thoughts:
I've never read a book by Mary Higgins Clark before, so I decided to try this one since it had a Christmas theme and I wanted a holiday book. It was a fast and easy read and although it was based at Christmas time, the actual storyline didn't have much to do with Christmas itself. Overall though, it was a decent read, it kept me interested and I liked the somewhat predictable ending. 

I rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars


Dec 23, 2011

Moscato D'asti with Grapefruit Recipe

Moscato D'asti is my one of my true loves. I have just a few different Moscato recipes posted so far on this blog, but the variations are endless, and believe me, there are so many more to come!! This one, with grapefruit added in, is so crisp and refreshing, that when you drink it, you almost feel like it is summertime in the middle of December in Minnesota! The bites of grapefruit are delish. You will love it!

What you need:
 1- 750 mil bottle Moscato D'asti
1 grapefruit

Invest in a grapefruit spoon if you don't have one already, these are the handiest kitchen things ever! Back to the recipe, cut the grapefruit in half, and scoop out each segment. Put them in a bowl and squeeze the juice from the remaining grapefruit into the bowl with the segments. Add a couple of spoonfuls of sugar, taste and if not sweet enough add more. (do this about a half an hour before you are ready to drink)

Spoon a few scoopfuls of grapefruit and juice mixture into a wine glass. Pour Moscato D'asti over the top and serve!!

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Chicken, Rice and Black Bean Bake Recipe

I love meals where you can just throw everything together and stick it in the oven! A few weeks back, I got a case of Hunt's tomato sauce, so I went to their website to get some inspiration for some new recipe ideas. They have a really good recipe selection and I will be using quite a few more recipes from there!! Mexican themed foods are some of my favorites, so this chicken and rice dish hit the spot for a great meal!

What you need:
1 1/2 c. basmati rice
1/2 green pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. green onions, sliced
1- 15 oz can tomato sauce
1- 14.5 oz can mexican style diced tomatoes
1- 15oz can black beans, rinsed
2 1/2 c. chicken broth
4-6 bone in, skin on chicken thighs or legs
2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
olive oil
salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil. Combine rice, diced pepper, garlic, green onions, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, broth, salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder in the baking dish. stir together. Rub the chicken with additional cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and place in baking dish on top of rice. Bake for 1 hour, stirring rice once or twice while cooking to combine flavors. Enjoy!!

Dec 20, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels Recipe

This is another great pretzel recipe for DIY gift bag goodies or just snacking! Just about as simple as the pretzels in the Spiced Honey Pretzels post. They turned out so good! Everyone will love these!

What you need:
3/4 of a 16 oz bag pretzel twists
1 stick butter, melted
½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pour pretzels into a roasting pan. In a medium sized bowl mix together melted butter, cinnamon and sugar. Pour over pretzels and stir to coat. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, removing twice to stir.

 Makes about 6 gift/goodie bags.

Spiced Honey Pretzels Recipe

So here I am, a few days before Christmas, and just now starting to make some homemade gifts! I am so last minute this year. There is no snow in Minnesota, and it just doesn't feel like Christmas without a beautiful coating of fresh, white snow! These Spiced Honey Pretzels are a great snack, or as I'm doing, a quick DIY gift! These are super easy to make and Ella had so much fun getting them all made and put together!

What you need:
4 c. thin pretzel sticks
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder

Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with foil; coat the foil with cooking spray. Place pretzels in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the honey, butter, onion powder and chili powder. Pour over pretzels; toss to coat evenly. Spread into prepared pan. 

Bake at 350° for 8 minutes, stirring once. Cool on a wire rack, stirring gently several times to separate. 

 Makes about 3-4 goodie bags. 

Source: Taste of Home (slightly adapted) 

This recipe was shared at:
Manic Monday at Bobbi's Kozy Kitchen
Recipe Round Up at Gooseberry Patch

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Dec 19, 2011

Book Review: The Saddest Girl in the World by Cathy Glass

Description from Goodreads:
The bestselling author of Damaged tells the true story of Donna, who came into foster care aged ten, having been abused, victimised and rejected by her family. Donna had been in foster care with her two young brothers for three weeks when she is abruptly moved to Cathy's. When Donna arrives she is silent, withdrawn and walks with her shoulders hunched forward and her head down. Donna is clearly a very haunted child and refuses to interact with Cathy's children Adrian and Paula. After patience and encouragement from Cathy, Donna slowly starts to talk and tells Cathy that she blames herself for her and her brothers being placed in care. The social services were aware that Donna and her brothers had been neglected by their alcoholic mother, but no one realised the extent of the abuse they were forced to suffer. The truth of the physical torment she was put through slowly emerges, and as Donna grows to trust Cathy she tells her how her mother used to make her wash herself with wire wool so that she could get rid of her skin colour as her mother was so ashamed that Donna was mixed race. The psychological wounds caused by the bullying she received also start to resurface when Donna starts reenacting the ways she was treated at home by hitting and bullying Paula, so much so that Cathy can't let Donna out of her sight. As the pressure begins to mount on Cathy to help this child, things start to get worse and Donna begins behaving in erratic ways, trashing her bedroom and being regularly abusive towards Cathy's children. Cathy begins to wonder if she can find a way to help this child or if Donna's scars run too deep.

My Thoughts:
Cathy Glass is one of those authors, who's books, I always look forward to reading. She is one of those special people who has an incredible heart and it makes you wish everyone in the world could be touched by her. The Saddest Girl in the World is another great book she has written. She is caring for a little girl named Donna. Once again, Cathy's patience and love as a foster carer help Donna through her issues from the horrible abuse she suffered from her Mother and siblings. Cathy's books are hard to read, some of the things these children go through are horrific but what she does for them is so worth the read!
I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars!

Dec 18, 2011

Rum Balls Recipe

These little rum balls sure have a little bit of a kick! I contemplated putting them in the adult beverage category! I'm sure if you ate enough of them, you could catch a little buzz. They are rich and so chocolaty. I really like the flavor they have and they are super fast to make! They would be a great addition to any holiday gathering!

What you need:
2 1/2 c. crushed vanilla wafers, about 75 wafers
1 c. ground pecans
1 c. confectioners sugar
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cocoa powder
1/4 c. rum
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. water
additional confectioners sugar

In a large bowl, combine wafer crumbs, pecans, confectioners sugar and cocoa. 
Combine the rum, honey and water. Stir into crumb mixture.
Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in confectioners sugar (you could also add some Christmas sprinkles), Store in an airtight container.
Makes 3 1/2 dozen

Recipe Source: Taste of Home

Dec 17, 2011

Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

I am a cook. But a baker? Not so much! I need alot of practice in that area! Last night my sister Shantel and I were baking fools, making last minute cookies for a cookie exchange this weekend! We made 6 1/2 dozen of these babies! They turned out good though, I love the crunch they have from the crushed candy canes when you bite into them. It's a great cookie for the holidays!

What you need:
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup butter, at room temp
1 c. packed light brown sugar
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temp
3/4 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. crushed candy canes

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Using a mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla on medium speed just until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated, then stir in the flour mixture followed by the chocolate and peppermint chips. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour before baking.

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets midway through baking, until the cookies are very lightly browned in the centers, about 10 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to handle, then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack. Enjoy!!

Makes appx 4 dozen, depending on how big you make the cookies! 

Dec 14, 2011

Salt and Vinegar Broiled Fingerling Potatoes Recipe

Tonight, I fell in love. The whole house smelling like vinegar was totally worth it! I am a sucker for anything with vinegar or anything pickled. Sauerkraut, pickled veggies, turkey gizzards or anything like it, is so delish in my book. (I'm sure many of you don't agree with pickled turkey gizzards, but, don't hate til you try them haha!) This recipe is quite amazing. It is at the top of my list for snacky type foods and it will be made often around here. Ella even loved them... bonus!!

What you need:
1 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced lengthwise about 1/4" thickness
2 c. white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar, or some of each)
olive oil
sea salt

1. In a small pot, combine the potato slices and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until fork-tender, about 8 minutes. Let cool in liquid for 30 minutes. Then drain well and pat potatoes dry with paper towels.
2. Preheat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches below the heat source. Dump the potato slices onto a sheet pan, sprinkle very generously with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Arrange the potato slices in a single layer. Broil until lightly browned on top, about 7 minutes. Then flip the slices and broil until the underside is lightly browned, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm.

Dec 13, 2011

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana at Home Recipe

This soup, right here, is the only reason I ever went to Olive Garden. The flavors are amazing. With this recipe, you can make it at home, and save a few bucks on eating out. Serve it alone, or with a salad and breadsticks, you have a great meal either way!! My Mom started making this soup a few years ago. I've adapted it slightly since then, but it turns out so much better than Olive Garden's! My four year old daughter even loves it! I had to use oriental kale because my grocery store was out of regular, but it still turned out just as delish!

What you need:
1 pound ground pork sausage
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 large white onion, diced
8 c. chicken broth
4 large skin-on russet potatoes, diced
2 c. heavy whipping cream
5 c. kale, cut in bite size pieces
2-3 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1 tbsp. bacon grease
shredded parmesan cheese

Scrub the russet potatoes, dice and set aside. In a large soup pot, heat the bacon grease. Add the pork sausage, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook until sausage is no longer pink. 

Add the broth and diced potatoes. If you like it more on the spicy side, feel free to add more red pepper flakes. Boil over medium heat until the potatoes are almost cooked through. Add the cream and kale and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes or until kale is tender. Add more salt and pepper as needed. Top with parmesan cheese when serving. Enjoy!

Dec 10, 2011

Tomato Tortellini Soup Recipe

One of my good friends is vegetarian, and I was planning a birthday meal for her, so it was a great time to try this yummy soup recipe! It's quick and easy to put together and is a great twist on a classic tomato soup. We will definitely make this one again!

What you need:
1- 19 oz bag of frozen tortellini, cooked
2- 10 3/4 oz cans tomato soup
2 c. vegetable broth
2 c. milk
2 c. half and half
1/4 c. oil packed sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese


Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Meanwhile in a stock pot, combine soup, broth, milk, half and half, tomatoes, and seasonings. Heat through, stirring frequently. Drain tortellini and add to the soup. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top! Enjoy!

Source: Taste of Home (slightly adapted)

This recipe was shared at:

Dec 8, 2011

Fried Egg Sandwich with Avocado Recipe

Who doesn't love a great fried egg sandwich for breakfast?? (Or even dinner as we always do!) This twist on the classic egg sandwich, is amazing with the sliced avocado. But for me, avocado makes everything better!! try this recipe, trust me, you just can't go wrong!!

What you need:
3 eggs
6 slices bread
3 slices sharp cheddar cheese
6 slices of bacon, fried
1 avocado, sliced
salt and pepper

Fry the bacon until crispy. In the same pan using the bacon grease, fry the eggs, over hard. (season with salt and pepper) Meanwhile, toast your bread. Layer the cheese, egg, 2 slices of bacon and avocado. One avocado should be enough for 3 sandwiches! Enjoy!!

This recipe was shared at:

Dec 7, 2011

Slow Cooker Snow Flake Hot Cocoa Recipe

The perfect winter time treat, especially during the holidays! Rich, creamy and a great alternative to traditional hot cocoa! 

The perfect winter time treat, especially during the holidays! Rich, creamy and a great alternative to traditional hot cocoa! Slow Cooker Snow Flake Hot Cocoa Recipe from Hot Eats and Cool Reads

There really is no way to explain how good this hot cocoa is.

To me, it almost has a custard flavor. I like it way better than traditional hot chocolate.

I can see making this recipe a lot through the winter, and just cutting the recipe in half, so it will be the perfect amount for my daughter and I. 

Book Review: A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard

Description from Goodreads:

In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen. 
For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse. 
For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation. 
On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived. 
A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.

My Thoughts:
Phillip Garrido is a monster. What is wrong with people?? The things he put Jaycee Dugard through are unimaginable to any normal, sane person. It makes you want to never let your children out of sight. Jaycee is a survivor, and she is one of the few who actually got lucky and got to go home, even if it was 18 years later. This is not a easy book to read as far as how heart breaking it is. Me being the sappy Mom I am, shed tears a couple times, thinking how horrible it was for her Mom and Jaycee. 

Jaycee explains life before and after the kidnapping, as well as her life in between. She not only came out as a survivor, but a mother of two girls. This is a must read for anyone!

I rate this 4 out of 5 stars! 

Dec 5, 2011

Easy Oven Pancake aka Hootenanny Recipe

This simple to make and unique breakfast recipe uses basic fridge and pantry staples and is super tasty! Top it with maple syrup, powdered sugar or fresh fruit to make it sweet!

Easy Oven Pancake

This simple to make and unique breakfast recipe uses basic fridge and pantry staples like flour, eggs, butter and milk and is super tasty! Top it with maple syrup, powdered sugar or fresh fruit to make it sweet! Serve with your breakfast favorites for a complete meal that will feed the whole family!

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Dec 4, 2011

Blushing Mimosas Recipe

I'm loving all these great drink recipes I have been making lately, especially ones with Moscato d'asti or champagne. This is another excellent one with a slight twist on the regular Mimosa. Very tasty and light, and it goes down great!

What you need:
3 c. orange pineapple juice
2 tbsp grenadine
1- 750 milliliter bottle champagne or Moscato d'asti, chilled 

Stir together the first 3 ingredients in a pitcher. Then add the champagne or wine and lightly stir. Pour into champagne flutes or glasses. (2- 12oz cans of ginger ale or lemon lime soda can be substituted for the champagne)


Source: My recipes (slightly adapted)

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