Archive | June, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake Tart

30 Jun
Good Wednesday, friends! Well, Canada Day and 4th of July festivities are going to be upon us very soon and I thought about making something that was red and white to celebrate. I wanted something that would be easy and fast to whip up for all those parties we all will be attending. I took inspiration from my strawberry cheesecake cookies. I made a few changes and additions and voila! A fancy looking dessert that is inexpensive and so simple! It tastes pretty darn good too. Cold strawberries transport me instantly to summer, no matter what their application is.
AND, here’s an interesting fact: I used to HATE strawberries growing up! I remember going with my family to strawberry farms to pick our own fruit, but would never eat the jam or the desserts that my mom made from them. It was only after I had my baby that I started craving strawberries (probably because I’d have a colic-ie baby on my hands if I ate chocolate and certain other foods I used to indulge in therefore, I was very limited in my food choices). I’m strange like that.
Anyways, my family gobbled this up in no time. I tested it Monday and I had the last piece for breakfast today! It’s delicious stuff and probably took me less than 20 minutes to put together. You could serve it right after you assemble it, but I would recommend refrigerating it at least an hour so the crust can harden up a bit to make slicing easier. Also, feel free to switch the fruit up on top. If you want to do red, white and blue, add in some blackberries and/or blueberries. If you live in a place that grows lots of fruit (like Oregon) you can pick up some fresh peaches, nectarines and/or cherries. Now that would be tasty!
I used a 10-inch tart pan, but a pie plate would work just fine. I was going to post this on Friday, but I’ll be posting a special recipe from Perry’s Plate that you’re going to want to see! Happy Canada Day to all my friends and family in the motherland! And, Happy 4th of July to all my American friends too!
Strawberry Cheesecake Tart
yield: 1-10 inch tart/6 servings
Ingredients:
for the crust-
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
for the filling-
1-8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon milk (give or take)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
top with-
1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
Directions:
For the crust, mix all ingredients together until moist. Press into a 10-inch tart pan or a pie plate. Set aside.
For the filling, whip cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Stir in milk and vanilla. Spread carefully over crust.
Top with prepared strawberries or any other fruits you desire.
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Peppermint Fudge Brownies

28 Jun

Ok, friends! I have to tell you about this debate I’ve been having in my head for the last 2 hours or so. After examining two recipes and their corresponding photos, I couldn’t decide which one to share with you today. Do I pick the recipe I liked second best because I have better photos or do I pick the better recipe with the not so good photos? Well, despite my valiant efforts and lacking camera skills, I’ve decided to go with door number two: the better recipe with the not so great photos. And by not so great photos, I mean out of focus and awful. So, no photos today. Sorry. I’m a bad blogger in that sense BUT I am supplying you with an amazing,”let me eat half the pan”treat. So, you’re welcome!


Let me just say that these are incredible! I love peppermint and chocolate together and the texture of this fudgy brownie with the smooth and cool frosting is SO GOOD!


Now, let me preface this recipe by telling you that this is not a new and ground breaking discovery. Duh. Obviously. Peppermint brownies have been done before…..a few times over. This idea for me making these started yesterday when I made some brownies for a movie night. I wanted a sweet treat and I had just run a bazillion miles that morning, so I needed the calories (PS-can you believe that? NEEDING calories? It’s the one great thing about running!) So, after having 3 or maybe……cough cough…..7 pieces of brownie, I wanted more. I wanted to bring these brownies over the top to pure decadence land. Enter peppermint frosting. I don’t know what to say. They were good. Really good. Maybe I hadn’t had the peppermint-chocolate mix in a while hence the HUGE party in my mouth OR maybe it was all that chocolate luring me into the depths of a (rather delightful) sugar coma that made me lose the very little will power I had to begin with. Whatever it was, I got to the point where I had to get them out of the house. I end up doing this a lot. Perhaps my addiction to food is to blame? Anyways, we gave them away to some friends that are moving away to Utah. My precious brownies, now being enjoyed by others. I suppose it’s the way it’s supposed to be.


Now, on to more practical stuff. My brownie recipe is made completely in one pot with very common ingredients. It’s a simple recipe and turns out beautifully every time as long as you use good quality ingredients and don’t over bake. Easy enough, right? Also, making recipes from scratch saves you money and gives you peace of mind because you know (and can pronounce) all the ingredients you use. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of recipes on here using a boxed cake mix because they are so darn fast and convenient, however, I like to balance that out with great 100% scratch recipes like this one. So, are you craving something chocolate? You should be after this long post! So, do yourself a favor and whip these up for a fun family night! And maybe drop some off at the neighbors house too! You’ll be glad you did! Happy eating!

Peppermint Fudge Brownies
yield: 24 servings (or in my case 2)


Ingredients:
for the brownies-

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
4 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

for the frosting-
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1-2 drops green food coloring (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9 x 13 pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper leaving a 2 inch overhang (for easy removal later). In large pot, melt butter completely. Generously grease foil or parchment paper using about 1-2 tablespoons of the melted butter and a pastry brush. Set pan aside.
With pot of melted butter still on the burner, add in chocolate chips and cocoa until fully melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and eggs, 1 at a time, stirring vigorously before the next addition. Add in the remaining ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top and bake 30-35 minutes. Cool at least 15 minutes before removing brownies from pan (here’s where the extra overhang of parchment paper comes in handy!). 

To make frosting, whip butter, sugar, milk, peppermint extract and food coloring together until smooth and creamy. Spread over cooled brownies and cut into 24.


Recipe TIPS:
I forgot to post this tip with everything else! Sorry! But, these tasted a million times better once I refrigerated them! So, pop yours in the fridge! It’ll make a world of difference. 

If you liked this recipe, then you probably are going to like these ones:

Mom’s Potato Rolls

25 Jun
I love carbs. Especially warm out of the oven. If you’ve been following along with this blog, then you know that I am addicted to food, specifically any form of bread product. These rolls are no exception. I lovelovelovelove them. I like regular rolls fine, but there’s something about the potato addition to this recipe that makes me weak at the knees and immediately ravenously hungry. This last time I made these rolls was to have some extra bread lying around because the tortillas, 9-grain load and french baguette just weren’t enough. Also, these little rolls make the best snacking sandwiches! I love them. 
This recipe I have from my Mom is at least 25 years old and been made hundreds of times. I’ve made these more than enough times to switch a few things in the recipe around to makes them turn out the very best. Also, here are a few tips that are just as important, so read very closely! You’ll be glad you did.
1. Use glass baking dishes. You do not want hard dark brown bottoms like you would get with the non stick metal kind. And make sure you grease your glass bakeware with plenty of butter! It makes a small, yet noticeable difference.
2. When you think they’re done rising, wait another 30 minutes. If after an hour or so your rolls haven’t risen as much as you’d like, leave them alone until they have! Letting them sit and rise is another very important step to getting a soft, chewy and pillowy texture. The potato sometimes tends to weight the dough down, so give the rolls time. 
3. DO NOT over bake! This may take a little trial and error because everyone’s oven is different, but check them 5 minutes before you think you should. Better to be safe than sorry!
Another thing that I quickly wanted to mention too was that your leftover mashed potatoes can go right into this dough! I love using leftovers! Potatoes are inexpensive as is, but when you have some cold mashed potatoes that you don’t know what to do with and you’re sick of making hashbrowns, then these rolls turn into a wonderful alternative! Making your own bread is not only economical but also healthier for your family! In turn, it just takes a little extra time out of your day. In my opinion, these little bad boys worth it! So try them out and tell me what you think!
Mom’s Potato Rolls
yield: 24 rolls
Ingredients:
1/2 cup warm water
2-0.25 oz. packets quick rise yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
2/3 cup butter, melted (& cooled slightly)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed potatoes, warmed
2 eggs
4 1/2-5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Directions:
In large bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar onto warm water. Let stand until yeast bubbles form, about 5 minutes. Stir in butter, sugar, warm milk and salt. Add in mashed potatoes, eggs and 3 cups flour. Stir until dough becomes thick and hard to mix. Knead dough adding in more flour as needed until dough is slightly sticky but won’t stick to your hands (for me, its between 4 1/2-5 cups). Grease large bowl with a little oil or melted butter, place dough into bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1-1 1/2 hours until doubled in size. Punch down dough and divide into 24 equal pieces. Roll into small balls and place into greased glass baking dishes. Cover rolls with plastic wrap and let rise another 1-1 1/2 hours until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake rolls 15 minutes (except, check them after 10!) Rolls are best served warm, but are still great at room temperature. Store in air tight containers.

Homemade Crunch n’ Munch

23 Jun
You all know what crunch n’ munch is, right? Well, I asked my husband and he had no clue! So, if you are like him, let me explain–crunch n’ munch is a store bought caramel corn with peanuts. Its pretty tasty stuff, but it gets much tastier if you make it yourself….and add in some pretzels. One of my all time favorite combinations in snacks or desserts is sweet and salty–I just can’t get enough….which is probably why I ate the ENTIRE recipe over the course of 3 days. I did give my little one a few pieces here and there, so I guess technically I didn’t eat the whole thing…..but it was close. 
This snack tasted the crunchiest and the freshest during the first two days, so make sure to crunch n’ munch away! Haha…..get it?! Crunch…..n’munch?! I’m so lame…..
Anyways, overall, this makes a pretty good amount of snacking food and it’s relatively inexpensive too. Peanuts are some of the cheapest nuts you can buy and popcorn along with pretzels really don’t break the bank either. You could even just make caramel corn too without all the mix in’s and call it a day. It’s good any way you make it. And, done in twenty minutes or so. Another reason to cook up some crunch n’ munch today!

*Side note: Check out my food blogging friends in the side bar! My newest addition, Natalie Perry from Perrysplate.com is now one of my FAVORITES! I love her site, so go check it out…..but only after you finish up here!*

Homemade Crunch n’ Munch
yield: 4-6 snacking portions

Ingredients:
1 microwave bag of kettle corn
1 cup pretzel sticks, broken up
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts

for the caramel:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
dash of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease baking sheet and set aside. Pop popcorn and pour into large bowl, being sure to sort out any unpopped kernels. Add in pretzels and peanuts. In large measuring cup, stir together butter, sugars, corn syrup and salt. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes until everything has melted together and bubbled. Make sure you stop and stir every 30 seconds or so! (You’ll have to watch it carefully so it doesn’t bubble over the top!) Once all the sugar crystals have melted and everything is uniform in color, stir in vanilla extract and baking soda well-at this point the baking soda will make the sugar mixture double in volume and almost become similar to a melted marshmallow. At this point, pour sugar mixture over popcorn, peanuts and preztels and stir well. Pour coated mixture onto prepared baking sheet and spread out evenly. Bake 10 minutes and remove from oven. Stir with spatula to break larger pieces apart and let cool completely. Scrape crunch n’ munch off baking sheet and break any large pieces into smaller ones. Store in air tight containers.

Recipe TIPS:
For a more caramely flavor, use 1/2 cup of brown sugar and no granulated sugar. (I ran out of brown sugar, so I had to use some white)
Don’t let this recipe limit you! Add in whatever you want to this recipe, like cereal, other kinds of nuts, coconut, or even raisins! Yum!

Easy BBQ Pulled Pork

21 Jun
Over the weekend, I experimented with some pork and made delicious BBQ pulled pork. I always knew the general way to make it, but had never attempted it before. Well, pork shoulders went on sale, so I bought one and made some of the most tender and flavorful meat! And it was SO simple too! Crock pots are awesome inventions, let me tell you. I heard on tv that crock pots are super efficient and use only $0.04 per hour! Another reason to own a slow cooker! Hello money saver.
So, for this recipe, I used very basic ingredients that usually everyone has on hand: BBQ sauce, onions, garlic, brown sugar, water, mustard, salt and pepper. Use a really good BBQ sauce that you love! If you’re going to love this meat, then you need to use the stuff that you and your family likes. Now, a quick word about my garlic addition-I was surprised how delicious the garlic made this meat! It’s tender and very flavorful to begin with, but the garlic really takes it over the top into knock your socks off territory. My husband LOVED it. He loves typically any kind of meat, but this was a huge hit. We invited some people over for dinner when we were having this and after one bite, my husband said “can we un invite them? I don’t want to share this”. Haha! He really liked it.
The only thing that you need for this is time–and lots of it! Probably 10-12 hours. I put my meat in partially frozen and it was done after 12 hours, so that should be the max amount of time it should take to cook. Of course you can make this in advance and keep it warm until you’re ready to serve. The beauty of a crock pot–it’s so versatile! Makes my life easy. Great for a party, too!
When pork shoulders (also called pork butts) go on sale, pick up one or two and make this easy meal for your family. They’ll love it!
Easy BBQ Pulled Pork
yield: 6 servings
Ingredients:
3 lb. pork shoulder
1 cup water
1/2 bottle BBQ sauce
salt & pepper
1/2 onion diced
————————
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bottle BBQ sauce
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
salt & pepper
Directions:
In a crock pot, place pork, water, bbq sauce, salt, pepper and onion. Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 hours until very tender. Remove all meat from crock pot. Spoon off fat from remaining liquid in crock pot and discard about half the liquid as well (you want it to be moist but not too watery–mine was a little on the watery side, so remove more then you think and you can always add more back in). Shred pork removing all excess fat. Return to crock pot and stir in garlic, bbq sauce, brown sugar, mustard and more salt and pepper. Cook another hour or so until all flavors blend and the garlic taste mellows out a little. Serve with fresh rolls and coleslaw.

Recipes for DAD!

17 Jun
Happy early Father’s Day to everyone celebrating the different Dad’s in your lives! As many of you know, I post my recipes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Well, its Thursday and here’s a new post for you! I decided to do this blog post early because I wanted to give all of you ample time to plan out a special food filled day. 
So, without further ado, here are some of our male-friendly favorite meals that all Dad’s are sure to love! 

Do you do the breakfast in bed thing? Well, if you do, then these are sure to please! Clockwise from the top: Southwest Steak and Egg Breakfast Burritos (one of Go’s favorites!), Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes for the healthier eater, Blueberry Lemon Rolls, Cheesy Mini Puffs to go along your eggs and bacon, or Healthy Whole Wheat Waffles with Oats.

Do you celebrate around Dinner time, too?! We do! Clockwise from the top: Delicious and easy Pan seared Steak, one of my Husband’s all time favorite dinners White Chicken Chili, the fabulous and light Sesame Noodle Salad,  Blue Cheese Bacon Burgers (to die for!!), and Garlic and Herb Encrusted Pork Roast with Pregravied Potatoes (a family favorite at my house).

Of course there has to be dessert! My husband is a chocolate lover so all these desserts contain chocolate! In my opinion, chocolate is one of those things that everyone should eat on a daily basis! Haha! It’s not the most healthy advice, but its good for your psyche! Clockwise from the top: Chocolate MONSTER Cakes (so easy and SO delicious!),  Mini S’more Pies–one of my first food blog posts, Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes–eat them hot with vanilla ice cream while they are still ooey gooey, Minty Squares-one of my Mom’s go to desserts,  Heart Shaped Candy Coated Brownies (or skip the candy part and just make a pan of the soft chewy brownies), Chocolate Cream Cheese Peppermint Bars–so easy and so good. 
Hope that helps! Happy Cooking! New recipes to come on Monday!

Minestrone Soup

16 Jun
 

Hello, friends! Is it finally summer where you are? We got a glimpse of it over the weekend, but now we’re back to temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s. I think the crazy temperature changes is what is making me feel awful– stuffy nose and a cough. Yuck. So I made some soup to make me feel better. It’s not really the time of year for soup, but sometimes you just have make it.
Minestrone is one of those great soups that is delicious, vegetarian and packed full of nutrition. I personally love the stuff and could eat the entire pot. Its warm, satisfying and one bowl will fill you up! I put dark kidney beans, garbanzo beans and whole wheat pasta for added protein and onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage for vitamins and minerals. Overall, its a pretty healthy meal! If you don’t like certain vegetables in here, then you can omit them or substitute them for other ones. For example, if you don’t like cabbage then substitute it for zucchini. Zucchini is a pretty traditional ingredient for Minestrone–I didn’t have any on hand but feel free to add it in. Like lots of other dishes, the longer it cooks the better it tastes. I’d recommend lightly simmering this soup for as long as you can and then 10 minutes before serving, put in the pasta to cook OR just cook it separately and serve it along side. Top the whole dish with some parmesan cheese and crusty bread and thats dinner!

Minestrone Soup
yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, washed and chopped
4 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes (I use Knorr)
1-15 oz. can Dark Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
1-15 oz. can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
1-15 oz. can tomato sauce
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano or marjoram
lots of salt and pepper
1/2 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 lb. whole wheat pasta
parmesan cheese
1 loaf crusty good quality bread

Directions:
In large pot, sauté onions, carrots and celery in butter and oil over medium heat for 7-10 minutes. Stir in water, bouillon, beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, spices and cabbage. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer at least 20 minutes. 10 minutes before serving, pour in pasta to cook or boil it separately. Serve with parmesan cheese and good quality crusty bread.