Thursday, December 26, 2013

Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

So, life's been a little busy lately.  And by busy . . .I mean that I am ready to pull my hair out.  Which reminds me, I think I have an upcoming hair appointment that I should reschedule.  And ewwwwwwwwwwwwww ...... let's hope that you don't get any hairs in these awesome Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting!  Because these are crazy good . . .it's hard to eat just one :)

Banana Bars

1-1/2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 c. Butter or Margarine, Softened
2 Eggs
3 or 4 Ripe Bananas, Mashed
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
3/4 Teaspoon Salt

Step 1:  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 15×10-inch jelly roll pan.  Set aside.
Step 2:  In a large mixing bowl, cream (beat) the eggs, sugar and sour cream until well combined.  Step 3:  Add in the bananas, vanilla, baking soda and salt.  Mix until well combined.
Step 4:  Add in the flour, and mix just until combined.
Step 5:  Spread the batter into the jelly roll pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Insert a toothpick to test for doneness.  Cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8-ounces of Cream Cheese, Softened
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Stick of Butter (or a 1/2 Cup), Softened
2 and 1/3 Cup Powdered Sugar

Step 1:  In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth.  
Step 2:  Slowly add in the powdered sugar one cup at a time into the mixer and combining until smooth.  Then repeat with the remaining cup of powdered sugar and the last 1/3 cup.  Beat until very smooth.
Step 3:  Frost the Banana Bars

1.  You can change up the frosting easily by using different extracts.  I love to use maple.  It's divine.
2.  After the bars are cooled and frosted, you may want to cut them all and then place into a covered container.  I usually place them in a cake pan and stack them with wax paper in between.  It's easier than storing a jelly roll pan with plastic wrap or tinfoil covering it!  Of course, that is assuming your family doesn't devour them instantly.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sandwich Hot Dish - Ham and Turkey

I'm without a stove top right now and I'm not even sure when we're gonna fix it.  It's been one of those months . . .with a lot of unexpected expenses.  And then my glass-top stove top cracked and that is now the the icing on the cake.  Or the cheese sauce on the sandwich.  Which ever way you want to look at it.

And now I'm reduced to relying on the oven (which still works) and the microwave . . and let's not forget about all those electronic appliances that have accumulated over the years (that I tend to complain about all the time).   You know the ones . . .the sandwich maker, the Foreman grill, etc etc.  All of them great if you are only feeding yourself and not your family.

This hot dish though - this, this is a different story.  Ooey gooey cheesy.  Yummmmmmmmmm!

Sandwich Hot Dish - Ham and Turkey

10 Slices of Bread, torn in pieces
1 lb Ham Lunch Meat
1 lb Turkey Lunch Meat
10 Tablespoons of Butter
3/4 Cup Flour
3 and 1/2 Cups Milk
16 oz of Processed Cheese, Cubed (such as Velveeta)
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
2 Tomatoes, Sliced

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahreneheit.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

Step 2:  Place bread in the bottom of the pan, layering if needed.

Step 3.  Lay the ham lunch meat on top of the bread, distributing evenly.  Do the same with the turkey lunch meat.

Step 4:  In a pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour until smooth and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.  Gradually whisk in the milk and cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking constantly until thickened.  Add both cheeses and stir until melted and smooth.

Step 5:  Pour the cheese mixture over the turkey layer.  Place tomato slices on top.

Step 6:  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Balsamic Steak with Garlic Zucchini

This recipe is originally from Everyday Food.  As with most recipes, I customized it to my families tastes:  I added onion to the zucchini and used a different cut of steak (I subbed top round instead of using skirt steak).  I also used low-sodium Montreal Steak Seasoning in addition to the salt and pepper.  All this turned out absolutely wonderful.  The only thing I would do next time - is add sliced mushrooms to the zucchini in addition to the onion and garlic.  

Balsamic Steak with Garlic Zucchini 
(my version)


2 TB Olive Oil
5 Cloves Garlic, minced
3 Medium Zucchini, sliced thin
1 Medium Yellow Onion, sliced
1.5 pounds Steak, sliced thin
3/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Low-Sodium Montreal Steak Seasoning
Salt & Pepper

Directions:  In a large skillet, heat 1 TB of olive oil over medium-high.  Add the onion, garlic and zucchini.  Sprinkle with the steak seasoning.  Saute until the zucchini is starting brown.  Transfer to dish.
Add remaining TB of olive oil to the skillet.  Season the steak with the steak seasoning.  Add to the skillet, arranging so that each piece lays flat on the bottom of the pan.  If all the slices don't fit, you can cook the steak in batches.  Sear the steak on both sides and then transfer to a plate.  Repeat this step until all the steak is cooked.  
Once the steak is all cooked and removed from the pan, add the balsamic vinegar and a little salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until reduced by half.  Be sure to scrape up any tasty bits of steak etc from the pan.  As well, add any accumulated juices from the steak on the plate to the pan.   
To serve, drizzle the balsamic glaze over the steak and serve the veggies on the side.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Foodie Penpal Reveal Day #3

Happy Foodie Penpal Day!

Do you know what I love more than chocolate and coffee??  A FOODIE PENPAL WHO SENDS ME CHOCOLATE AND COFFEE!

This month my Foodie Penpal Package arrived from Texas. 

As you can see - there is some yummy stuff in there:

1.  Spinach & Kale Chips - This was a new experience for me . ..and I really liked them!  Excellent flavor and super crunchy.

2.  Kashi Bars - It's been a while since I had Kashi bars, so I hadn't had this flavor.  Very yum.  Not too sweet and nice kick of salt in them.

3.  Roasted Seaweed Snacks (Honey Mustard flavor) - Haven't tried these yet.  They definitely sound interesting.

4.  Peet's Coffee - good timing on this one!  We were nearly out of coffee and this was opened and brewed soon after receiving :)  I haven't seen this brand at the grocery store - but it is delicious.

5.  Barney Butter - Almond butter, what's not to love?

6.  Mexican Chocolate - I am very excited about this one.   Many, many moons ago I went on a high school trip (including a family stay) to Mexico.  They really do have the best hot chocolate.  Hoping to use this to create a fabulous mug of said liquid.

7.  Lindt Chocolate Bars - really?  Do I need to say anything else!  *I <3 Chocolate*

8.  Pink Onion Salt - not sure how I'll use this yet, but it will happen soon . . I'm sure of it.

9.  Berry Fruit Strips - Very yummy.  Not too sweet and too chewy.  Excellent.

Curious about the Foodie Penpal Program? Head over to The Lean Green Bean for more details!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Peanut-Nut Toffee Bars

These tasty treats are a family favorite.  And by family favorite, I mean that when ever my dads family would have a get-together, it was my mom's duty to bring the Peanut-Nut Toffee Bars.  What makes these so special?  Well, they are a little bit like a home made granola bar . . .but a thousand times better.  They are sweet, chewy and a little nutty and they have a wonderful toffee flavor, not a sugary-flavor like granola bars.  And they were everybody's favorite and I am not joking about this.  She knew they were everyone's favorite too and when she baked them - she even had a little smile and twinkle in the eye.   After Mom passed on, the family thought that I could automatically take over the recipe.  Or so they assumed.  Of course, I couldn't find it anywhere.  I searched for years.  Seriously:  years.  And then one day, while flipping through a cookbook I had looked through a million times before . . .two pages were stuck together.  And there was the recipe.  Not that I've brought it to any family function, but at least know where it is.  And now, without much further ado . . . 

Peanut-Nut Toffee Bars
4 Cups Oatmeal
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
1/4 Cup Melted Shortening
1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
1 Cup Brown Sugar
3 Teaspoons Vanilla
2/3 Cup Peanut Butter
2 Cups Chocolate Chips
2/3 Cup Chopped Walnuts (optional)

Step 1:  Preaheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare large cookie sheet by lining with parchment paper (I highly recommend doing this - it is very important.  The bars will likely stick otherwise).

Step 2:  Combine oatmeal, butter, shortening, syrup, brown sugar and vanilla as if for pie crust.  Pat onto cookie sheet;  bake for 10 minutes.  

Step 3:  Melt peanut butter and chocolate chips in double boiler;  add nuts.  Spread onto bars;  cut while warm.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Malt Chocolate Cake

I love to bake.  It's no secret.  And a while back my mother-in-law gave me an old calendar that had some recipes in it from the local creamery.  First it sat on the counter.  Then it made it's way to the cupboard . . .and there it sat for about a year and a half.  Until the other day that is.  I was in the cupboard to grab something and shebam, it fell out of the cupboard.  And seeing as I was in one of those cleaning moods . . .it was time to go through it and file it away appropriately.  

And this cake, OMG, it is da bomb!  Evilly delicious. And super simps.  

Malt Chocolate Cake 
(Hastings Creamery Calendar)


For the Cake:
2 Cups Flour
1 and 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/4 Cup Malt Powder
6 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
1 Egg, Beaten
2/3 Cup Oil
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Cup Hot Coffee

For the Frosting:
14 Tablespoons Butter, softened
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Teaspoons Unsweetened Cocoa
1/2 Cup Malt Powder
4 Teaspoons Milk

For the Cake . . . .
Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour a 9x13 cake pan.  Set aside.

Step 2:  Combine the flour, sugar, malt, salt, baking soda and cocoa in a large bowl.

Step 3:  Stir in the beaten egg, oils and buttermilk and mix until combined.

Step 4:  Slowly stir in the hot coffee.  Mix until the ingredients are well combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.  This will be a very thin batter.

Step 5:  Pour the batter into the cake pan.  Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes, until the top springs back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting it.

For the Frosting. . . .
Step 1:  Beat the softened butter in a medium bowl.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar, cocoa, malt powder and milk.  Mix until well combined.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pineapple Cucumber Salad

The other day I was going thru an old stack of magazines with all intentions of purging them.  While doing so, I came across this recipe from Everyday Food (which is now a defunct magazine . . just in case that gives you indication on how old of a stack this was).  I just so happened to have fresh-from-the-garden cucumbers on-hand and I thought this salad would be perfect with dinner.   It did not disappoint!  I adapted it slightly to what I had on hand.  Give it a try - my family loved it!

Pineapple Cucumber Salad
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 Cups Cucumber, diced and seeeded
(1) 20 oz Can Pineapple Chunks, drained
1/4 Cup Cilantro, chopped
1.5 Tablespoons Lime Juice
In a bowl, combine the above ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper.
Super simps, refreshing and yummy!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Wisconsin Style Beer Brats

I always thought that brats were always just okay.  I was never a big fan of them.  I get it.  It's a sausage that's usually served in a bun.  Not that exciting if you ask me.  Until I met my husband.  Who previously lived in Wisconsin (home of beer and brats).  Then it became a different story.  So, apparently there is a right way and a wrong way to make brats.  Here is the right way.

Wisconsin Style Beer Brats

1 package Brats, uncooked (not the precooked kind)
1 stick of Butter
1 large Onion, sliced (or two small ones)
1 large can or bottle of Beer

Step 1:  Prep your onions and roughly chop them.

Step 2:  In a pot, add the butter, onions and beer.  Then add the raw brats.

Step 3:  Bring to a boil and and cook for about a 1/2 hour (or until the brats are cooked through).  Preheat the grill.

Step 4:  Remove the brats from the liquid.  Continue to cook down the liquid until it reduces into a golden, thick liquid.  

If you cook it too long - it will begin to separate and the onion will be come sticky.  It's not necessarily bad, but can become bitter at that point (depending on the beer you used).** Place reduced sauce in serving dish.

Step 5:  Place brats on the grill.  The goal is just to "crisp up" the skin.  As well, feel free to toast or grill the buns.
Step 6:  To serve, place a brat on the bun and top with the onion/beer sauce.  I like to eat mine with mustard - my hubby says that ketchup is sacrilegious.  And I'm okay with that.

**Note:  in my photo of the finished brat, you'll notice that the onion/beer sauce did brown.  It still tastes good, but depending on the brew you use - it can become bitter.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Brownie "Dump" Bars

There are a few recipes that always seemed to be repeated every few weeks at my Mom's house when I was kid.  Scotcharoo's (sans the frosting), White Cake w/ Almond Frosting, and Brownie "Dump" Bars.  And it's the Brownies that keep reappearing at my own household.

Please Note:  this picture was taken late at night . .. and it seems that the brownies tend to disappear in the blink of an eye.  I'm lucky I was able to capture a photo before they were all gone!

The recipe comes from a community cookbook called "Recipes in Rhythm" - it was a cookbook published for a marching band fundraiser.   And when you open the book, it falls right to the page with this recipe on it.  How convenient for me :) It's a basic, reliable and no-frills brownie - made in one bowl. Everyone needs a recipe like this in their arsenal for when your craving something simple and sweet.  Or to feed all the neighborhood kids because your house is party-central.

Brownie "Dump" Bars

2 Cups Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 and 3/4 Cup Flour
1 and 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
5 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Chocolate Chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9x13 pan.  "Dump" all ingredients (except chocolate chips) into a large bowl.  Mix with spoon until all ingredients are moistened and combined.  Spread into greased pan.  If using, sprinkle with chocolate chips on top.  Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  

Please note, I did not use chocolate chips this time.  I was fresh out (as in I-ate-them-last-night).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blue Cheese-and-Pecan-Stuffed Celery

Have you ever tasted something and then you were instantly addicted?  I save that statement for a few things in life  . . .and this recipe is one of them.  I originally tasted these little devils while at a good friends party.  Blue Cheese, Dried Cranberries, Cream Cheese, Pecans . . .SWOOOOOOOON!  I ate one and became embarrassingly addicted.  I suddenly didn't care about anything else at the bbq . .. just these celery sticks.  I couldn't stop eating them.  I didn't ask for the recipe because I knew I would be in big time trouble.  

Fast forward two years:  said friends are having party again.  I I-N-S-I-S-T on them serving these "fancy ants on a log" or I refuse to attend.  They complied and I camped out next to these fancy-ants-on-a-log and then tried to convince no one else to eat them.  

And then my friend Teri pinned the recipe on Pinterest for me so I had no option other than to repin it and save it.  Turns out it is originally a Rachel Ray recipe.  I very slightly modified it by increasing the dried cranberries and stirring in the black pepper.  I just went with what worked for me.  I'm convinced that the celery is only there to make yourself feel better about eating this evilly delicious concoction.  I could totally forgo the celery and just eat a bowlful with a spoon.  It's that good.  

Blue Cheese and Pecan Stuffed Celery
aka:  Fancy Ants on a Log


1/2 Cup Blue Cheese
4 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans, toasted
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
Black Pepper

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and blue cheese.  Mix together until well blended.  Add the pecans and cranberries and stir until combined.  Add black pepper to taste.  Spread on Celery.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Turkey Cous Cous Skillet

Have you ever tried couscous?  If you haven't - you are missing out.  It's a tiny pasta and is delicious.  You can learn about it here.  My family loves it. 

The other night we grilled up some turkey burgers but did not eat all of them.  So, I decided to chop up the leftover burgers along with some veggies and toss them with some couscous.  Easy and delish!

Turkey CousCous Skillet
1 Cup CousCous
1 and 1/2 Cups Water
1/2 Cube Chicken & Tomato Bouillon Cube (Knorr) OR Chicken Bouillon (enough bouillon to flavor the water)
1 Pound Ground Turkey
6 Green Onions or Scallions
1 (large) Tomato
4 oz Feta Cheese
1 Teaspoon Oregano
1 Teaspoon Lemon Pepper
Salt & Pepper
Tzatziki Sauce (optional)

Step 1:  Prepare the couscous.  In a pot, add the water and the bouillon.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, add the couscous.  Cover and remove from heat, set aside and let stand for 10 minutes.

Step 2:  Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray.  Add the ground turkey (season with the salt and pepper) and the cook over med-high heat until browned, crumbled and cooked through. 

Step 3:  While the meat is cooking, prepare your vegetables.  Clean and dice the tomato.  Clean and slice the green onion.  Add to the meat during the last few minutes of cooking along with the oregano and lemon pepper.  You just want to heat up the tomatoes and onions, not really cook them.

Step 4:  Once the meat is cooked and the veggies are combined with it, stir in the cooked couscous and the feta cheese.

For additional flavor, serve with a dollop of Tzatsiki sauce.  Viola!  Easy and delicious :)  Serves 4-6 people.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fruit Crisp

It seems that I have an excess amount of fruit around the house this week.  Totally my fault.  I bought too much. Oh, what a bummer (sarcasm).  And by too much . .. I really mean that I bought more than what my toddler and I can eat.  It makes me really note that it's the teenager who eats most of the fruit around the house.  And she's not here this week.  So, I've opted to make a crisp or crumble out of my surplus of fruit.  

Fruit Crisp

For the Fruity Part:
6 Cups Fruit (cut into small, bite size pieces) - I used cherries, blueberries, rhubarb and apples
1 Tablespoon Corn Starch
1 Tablespoon Flour
1 Tablespoon Red Wine 
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon Salt

For the Crisp (Topping) Part:
3/4 Cup Oatmeal
3/4 Cup Cups Flour
3/4 Cup Cups Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Butter, chilled
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon

Step 1:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  You will also need a 8x8 pan with tall sides OR an extra-deep (deep) dish pie pan.

Step 2:  Combine the fruit, flour, corn starch, red wine, salt and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Toss together until all fruit is coated.  Set aside.

Isn't all this fruit gorgeous?  This photo was taken before mixing the dry ingredients with it.

Step 3:  Cut the butter into small pieces.  I usually cut it into tablespoon pats, and then quarter each square.

Step 4:  In a bowl, combine the small butter pieces, oatmeal, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Step 5:  Stir the fruit again and then pour into the baking dish and level it out.  Then pour on the "topping".  Be sure to spread out the topping all the way to the edges.  Yuuuuuuuum!

Step 6:  Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes, or until fruit is soft and top is lightly browned.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cherry Almond Pound Cake

So, my intent was to make a Cherry Rum Cake.  After all, it is cherry season.  And it's always rum season.  However, Ol' Mother Hubbard here got to my cupboard and I was out of rum . . . and rum extract.  Phooey.  And a trip to the store was not going to happen today, unlike this cake - which did happen today.  Without rum, I was left to my devices (the cherry-pitter) and (slightly against my will) I used almond extract instead of rum.  Not that it isn't delicious .. . .it's quite wonderful.  Give it a whirl.

Cherry Almond Pound Cake

1/2 Cup Butter
1 and 1/2 Cups Cup Sugar
1 and 1/2 Cups Flour + 2 TB
3 Eggs, room temp.
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1/8 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/8 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 Teaspoon Almond Extract
1 and 1/2 Cups Cherries (washed, pitted and quartered)

Please Note:  This recipe makes 1 standard loaf of pound cake.

Step 1:  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour 1 loaf pan.  Set aside.

Step 2:  You will want your butter slightly cold for this recipe - so take it out of the fridge and let sit for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, wash, pit and quarter the cherries.  Place them into a bowl along with the 2 Tablespoons of flour.  Gently mix with a spoon until all the cherries are coated.  This will prevent your cherries from sinking to the bottom of the cake while baking.  Set aside.

Step 3:  Grease and flour your favorite loaf pan.  As well, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4:  In the bowl of  a mixer, add the butter and sugar and beat until well creamed.  Add the eggs, one at a time and mix until well blended.

Step 5:  Measure out the flour, soda and salt.  Stir to combine.  Add to the butter/egg/sugar mixture and stir until just blended.  

Step 6:  Add the fresh cherries, the Vanilla and the Almond extract to the batter and fold until barely combined.

Step 7:  Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes.  Let fully cool before removing from pan.

Serving Suggestions:  Serve slices of pound cake with any of the following:
- cherry sauce
- whipped cream
- sprinkling of powdered sugar
- spread a slice with butter
- vanilla glaze

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chocolate & Salted Caramel Cake

So, last week was my birthday.  And you know what that means:  

B I R T H D A Y   C A K E ! ! ! 

I did my research and decided on this sweet and salty number.  It was pretty amazing.   And very rich.  I suggest either a strong cup of coffee to enjoy with it or a glass of milk.  The cake is very moist, rich, dark and chocolaty.  And then you spread caramel on top of each layer.  And then slather salted caramel chocolate frosting on top of each layer as well as frost the cake altogether.  Definitely make it a day ahead of time and keep refrigerated.  You will not be disappointed.

Chocolate & Salted Caramel Cake

 Cake Ingredients:
3/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 and 1/4 Cup Hot Water
2/3 Cup Sour Cream
2 and 2/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Cup Butter (unsalted), softened
1/2 Cup Shortening
1 and 1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs, room temp
1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Step 1:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans.  I use silpats in the bottom of mine - but you can grease and flour the pans instead.

Step 2:  In a bowl, combine the sour cream and cocoa powder.  Slowly stir in the hot water.  Stir together until well blended.  Set aside until needed later.

Step 3:  In large mixing bowl, add the butter and shortening - beat until smooth and well combined.  Then add the white sugar and brown sugar and beat again until smooth and fully incorporated.
Step 4:  In a seperate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Step 5:  This is where you will combine the flour mixture and cocoa mixture with the creamed mixture.  To being, add 1/2 the flour and incorporate until well blended.  Add 1/2 the cocoa mixture and mix well.  Add remaining flour mixture and mix well.  Add remaining cocoa mixture and mix well.  Be sure to always scrape down the bowl between additions.

Step 6:  Divide the batter among the baking pans and bake for 25-35 minutes.  Ovens may vary, so be sure to test for doneness.  Once baked, remove from oven and cool completely.

Caramel Ingredients:

1 Can of Dulce de Leche (I buy mine at our local grocery store in the Hispanic section)

If you cannot find this product, you will want to use a very thick yet soft caramel.

Chocolate & Salted Caramel Ingredients:

1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 LB Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 and 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
2 Cups Butter (slightly softened, but yet cool and cut into tablespoon chunks)

Step 1:  Add the chocolate chips to a large mixing bowl as well as 1/2 the can of dulce de leche.

Step 2:  Heat the cream in a small saucepan until boiling.  Add the salt and stir to combine.

Step 3:  Carefully pour the cream over the chocolate chips and caramel.  Cover the bowl and let stand for 5 minutes.
Step 4:  Uncover the bowl and stir the mixture with a large spatula/rubber scraper.  Stir until combined, but don't fret about getting it fully incorporated.  Just stir it enough to get it mixed up - then beat it with the electric mixer until smooth.  Start on low and slowly increase the speed to medium and beat for roughly 5 minutes, until it is fully cohesive and incorporated.  Next, while the mixer is still on medium speed - add one tablespoon of butter and beat until well combined.  Continue to add the butter, 1 piece at a time and incorporated, until all the butter has been added.  Continue to beat for approximately 5 minutes until fluffy and smooth. Refrigerate until ready for cake assembly.

To Assemble the Cake:

Step 1:  Chill the cake layers for at least a few hours.  This will really help you with the assembly.

Step 2:  Carefully slice each layer in half to make 4 rounds.  I should have take pictures, but I didn't (bad blogger!).  To do so, take a ruler and mark 1/2 up the side of the cake and insert a toothpick.  Do this four times around the cake (spaced as if there were a north, south, east and west).  Carefully, with a sharp serrated knife, score the cake by "connecting the toothpicks" with the knife. Once you've made that score, carefully slice through the cake.  You will know have two pieces.  Repeat this process with the other cake.

Step 3:  Place one cake on a large plate or cardboard round.  Carefully spread 1/3 of the caramel (dulce de leche) across the top of the cake.  To make it easy spread, you can heat it up a little bit in the microwave or a saucepan.  Next, spread about 1 cup of the frosting on top of the caramel.  Do not spread to the edges - only go about 1/2 from the edge.  The frost will disperse itself when you add the next layer of cake.

Step 4: Place the next cake round on top of the first frosted round.  Repeat the above steps by spreading on the caramel and then the cake.  You will do this again with the next layer.  Once you have three layers of cake topped with the caramel and frosting, add the last cake layer.

Step 5:  Frost the sides of the cake sparingly (crumb coat).  I recommend using an offset spatula if you have one.  Then, frost the top the cake sparingly.  Once it looks smooth, frost the cake again with the remaining frosting - starting with the sides and finishing with the top of the cake.

Step 6:  Decorate the cake at one's own will. It would be beautiful with some chocolate shavings.  We decided to pipe out some words on it :)

Keep this cake in the fridge!  The frosting is very delicate.  Let it come to room temp to serve.  Enjoy.
And  .. . Happy Birthday to Me :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

I have this love of oatmeal that is in-explainable.  I am at a loss of words for how I feel about it.  It makes me who I am today.  It completes me.  

Although, I must admit . . .I don't like prepared oatmeal aka a bowl of mush.  Yuck.  Can't stand it (it's a texture thing).   I do enjoy oatmeal in all other forms though:  granola, pancakes, cookies, breads, muffins, etc etc etc.  

And thus, I was searching for a new breakfast option.  The protein bars I so love are a little bit spendy.  So, I thought I would try to find something else to have for breakfast.  I'm not a health nut by any means.  But, I do love oatmeal and I like something sweet in the mornings.  As well, it must keep me full until lunch time.  These seem to fit the ticket for me.  I tweaked this recipe.  Next time, I may try to sub some applesauce in place of the oil.

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

4 Cups Oatmeal
1.5 Cups Flour
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
4 Eggs
3/4 Cup Canola Oil
3/4 Cup Raisins
3/4 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
3/4 Cup Coconut Flakes (unsweetened)

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.  Measure out the dry ingredients into a large bowl (oatmeal, flour, both sugars, salt and cinnamon).  Stir together to combine.

Step 2:  Add the eggs and oil to the dry ingredients.  It may be a little tough to mix together using a spoon - I  ended up using my hands to mix it all together.

Step 3:  Add in the raisins, chocolate chips and coconut.  Mix well.  Holy Moly . .. does this look good already or what?!?!?!?!

Step 4:  Spray a 9x13 cake pan and press mixture into the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes - until it is slightly puffy and the edges are starting to turn golden.

I cut the pan into 24 bars.  1 bar = 240 calories, 2 grams fiber and 5 grams of protein.  And they are delicious!!!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Deviled Eggs

Every once in while you might crave a little super-simps savory treat.  This fits that ticket:  Deviled Eggs. No occasion needed.  

Deviled Eggs

6 or 7 Hard Boiled Eggs, Peeled and Silced in Half
4 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 Teaspoon (generous) Yellow Mustard 
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Step 1:  Place mustard and mayonnaise in a small bowl.  

Step 2:  Remove the yolks from the eggs and add to the bowl with the mayo/mustard.  Mash together until smooth.  Add pepper and mix thoroughly.

Step 3:  Carefully divide the mixture among the egg whites.  I like to use my little scooper.  It makes it go quickly and cleanly and seems to measure out the perfect amount!  If you don't have a scoop, you can use a spoon.  

Viola!  Deviled Eggs:

Optional Step 4:  Garnish!  I typically sprinkle the deviled eggs with paprika.  But why stop there?  You can garnish with almost anything.  The sky is the limit!  In the below photo I garnished each with paprika and two of each with the following:  bacon bits, black sesame seeds, green onion, capers, parsley, broccoli and salami.  Now, that's what I call a sampler!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Avocado Salad

Another beautiful day, another reason to enjoy a great salad.  This recipe is slightly adapted from Cook's Country Guacamole Salad.  I slightly modified it to make it work for my family's tastes.  This goes great with a nice juicy steak or along side grilled chicken.  

Avocado Salad

2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
4 Green Onions, sliced
1 Teaspoon Chopped Garlic
1/4 Cup Lime Juice
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Poblano Chili, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
2 or 3 Avacados, pitted, skinned and cubed
1 Tablespoon Dried Cilantro or 1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon White Pepper 

Step 1:  Make the Dressing.  Combine the garlic, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Let stand for 5 minutes and then whisk in the oil until well blended.

Step 2:  Toss the Salad.  Add chiles, avocados, tomatoes and green onion to the bowl.  Toss gently to combine.  Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sugar Cookie Bars

Oh my, my . . .these bars are simply divine.  And cute.  And easy.  I found the recipe via Pinterest . . it was the first recipe I had ever tried from Pinterest. . . .and I've since made it multiple times.  They are that good.  The recipe was via a blog called A Little Bit Crunchy  A Little Bit Rock and Roll. When I had done a quick Pinterest search, a bazillion hits came up with these sugar cookie bars . . .and not all from the same source.  So, I looked at a quite a few - and they were all the same.  Usually, it was just the frosting recipe that varied.  Could all these people be wrong?  

Be sure to bust out your fat pants - because these are (in the words of the dearly departed Robert Palmer) SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE!  

Sugar Cookie Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. 

2. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. 

3. Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. 

4. Add the vanilla to the creamed mixture and then slowly add the dry ingredients.

5. Press into a greased 13 x 18 inch pan (jelly roll pan) and bake at 375F for 10-15 minutes.


6. Cool and frost (see directions below).

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar
5 tablespoons of milk
food coloring (optional)
sprinkles (optional)

1. In a mixing bowl, beat the shortening and butter until creamy. 

2. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar. 

3. Gradually add the 5 tablespoons of milk until you reach your desired constancy.

4. Frost the bars and decorate at own will.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Truffles

The son of a friend of ours recently graduated high school.  And guess where he is going to college . . . .to my Alma mater!  I'll give you a hint . . . 

"Hail the Bison, Hail the Bison .. . ."

Still no clue?  Well, it's North Dakota State University.  And I'm pretty excited that he is going there.  Well, I'm excited when anyone I know decides to go to school there - not just him.

To celebrate, I made some truffles in school colors:  Green and Gold.  

How could I resist?  

I've made thousands of truffles . . .I've been rolling them now for almost 20 years.  I certainly have my favorite recipes.  however, whenever it comes to summertime - I get a little nervous about the weather:  specifically the heat and the humidity.  

And then I had a thought.  I love this blog - Hungry Happenings - this lady is my hero.  She makes such cool stuff .. .and is so incredibly creative!  I've had my eye on this recipe for a while.  I was intrigued by using the dulce de leche . . .and wondered if it could double as a filling for a truffle.  And so I tried it.  And it was wonderful.  

And don't be intimidated by these tasty morsels - they are very easy to make!  

Dulce de Leche Chocolate Truffles
Yield:  approx. 40 truffles using a 1-inch scoop

Ingredients for the Truffle Centers:
1 (13.4 oz) can of Dulce de Leche (I found it in the Hispanic section of our grocery store)
14 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Ingredients for Coating:
1 lb and 4 oz of Vanilla Candy Coating
Optional:  Colored Candy Coating for decorating

To make the truffle centers:  
Step 1:  In a double-boiler, melt the the chocolate chips.  
Step 2:  Once the chocolate is melted and smooth, add in the Dulce de Leche.  Keep stirring until it is completely blended.  This may take a little work, but it will come together. Cover and let rest for about a 1/2 hour.
Step 3:  Line two baking sheets with wax paper.
Step 4:  Pinch off small pieces of the chocolate dough or use a small scoop.  Roll it into a ball.  Experiment with a variety of sizes to decide what size you like best.  I have a small, 1-inch scoop that I've used for years.   With your hands, roll the dough into a smooth ball and the place on the wax paper.  Repeat until all dough is rolled into balls.

To Dip:
Step 1:  In a double-boiler, melt the vanilla candy coating until smooth.  Let it cool down until you can easily touch it without it being too hot.   You want it to be fluid and warm, not hot.  

Step 2:  Dip each chocolate ball into the white coating (one at a time).  I like to do so by tipping the bowl slightly side-ways, tossing the ball in it, retrieving it with a fork and then tapping the fork to remove any excess coating.  Place on wax paper to set.  Repeat until are truffle centers are coated.

Step 3:  Decorate at own will :)  I melted a little green candy coating and also gold candy coating to drizzle atop the candies.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Brownie Sundaes in a Mug

BEWARE:  Addictive Recipe Below . . .And Not-Very-Good Photos!  EVIL and ADDICTING!

Okay.  That's my PSA for the week.

We've all seen them:  recipes in a mug / single serve recipes / cooked in the microwave.  Yeah yeah yeah.  So, I finally gave in and tried one out.   I always thought that I never would.  I have a family.  Why would I need a single-serve ANYTHING??  Especially a brownie!  The fam would kill me if I didn't make a whole pan for them to devour.

And then opportunity knocked.  Or perhaps just shut the door.  As in, the teenager was gone for a few days and the little was already asleep for the night.  And hubby wanted something sweet to eat.


I warned you.  But if you still want to move forward . . .here is the recipe with very little tweeks.  All credit really goes to the blog above.  I didn't really change much.

Brownie Sundae in a Mug

4 Tablespoons Flour
2 Tablespoons Sugar
Pinch Of Salt
1/8 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
1 Tablespoon Melted Butter
1.5 Tablespoons Oil (such as vegetable, canola or coconut)
1 Tablespoon Water
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Tablespoon Chocolate Chips

Melt the butter in your favorite mug via the microwave (took mine about 20 seconds).  Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.  

Scrap the sides down and press firmly into the mug.  Microwave for about 1 minute.  Then check for your desired done-ness.  I nuked mine in-total for 90 seconds.  Please note, it will be very hot!!!  Let cool for 5 minutes.   Not too pretty .. . but I warned you!

To serve, top with HUGE scoop of ice cream.  Eat slowly . . .it's delicous.  So delicious, we had them not just one night . . .but two nights in a row.  SHHHHHHHHHHHHhh . . .don't tell the kids!!!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Glaze

Now that (I think) summer has finally arrived, I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes:  Caprese Salad with Balsamic Glaze.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.  

It's a great summer salad:  cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and a sweet/tart balsamic glaze.  Very simple, very elegant and always delicious.  It makes a great side salad or a meatless meal.


Caprese Salad

1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
1 fresh ball Mozzarella
5 large Basil leaves
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Water

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, and balsamic vinegar.  Stir together and heat over low until in comes to a boil.  Let boil for 30 seconds and remove from heat.  Let cool.  This will make enough glaze for 3 or 4 salads.

Wash and  prep the tomatoes by cutting each cherry tomato in half.  Place in a medium-sized bowl.  Next, prep your mozzarella by cutting the ball into small bite-size pieces.  Add to the bowl with the tomatoes.  Now, shred the basil and add to the tomatoes and mozzarella.  Use your discretion on the basil - you can always add more if you like.

Once balsamic glaze is cool to touch, drizzle over the salad and toss to combine.  A little of the glaze goes a long way.  Sprinkle with black cracked pepper before serving.  Delicious!

To save the extra glaze - place in sealed container (like an old small jar) and it should keep for 3-4 weeks on the shelf.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Next Best Thing Since Robert Redford

Robert Redford . . . . I'm too young to really know who this guy is.  American actor, native Californian, heart throb to many (just not me).  You can read about him here.   He sure was popular though . . .and to have a dessert named after you . . .well, we can all hope for that someday!!

If you like desserts that are cool and decadent - this one is for you!  This is an old favorite from my mom's recipe box.  It has a crust, a cheesecake-y layer, a chocolate pudding layer, and whip cream layer.  How can you not love all that?? Oh, and by the way - it makes an 9x13 pan.  I cut the recipe in half when I made it this afternoon. 

I believe it may go by many other names . . .but it will always be Robert Redford for me :)

Robert Redford Dessert

Next Best Thing to Robert Redford Dessert

1st Layer
1 cup flour
2 tsp sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Combine all above ingredients as you would for a pie crust.  Press into a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Cool Completely.

2nd Layer
2-8oz pkgs cream cheese
1 and 1/3 cup powdered sugar
8 oz whipped cream
Combine all ingredients together in mixer bowl.  Beat slowly until all is soft and thoroughly incorporated.  Spread on top of cooled crust.

3rd Layer
3 small pkgs instant chocolate pudding
4 cups milk

In a clean bowl, combine pudding powder and milk.  Beat together for 2 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes and then pour over the 2nd layer.  Top with 8 oz whipped cream.  Suggested garnishes:  dust with cocoa powder or sprinkle with chocolate shavings or chopped nuts.
Keep refrigerated.
Please note:  the picture below is a 1/2 recipe, not a full recipe.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Frittata with Spinach, Bacon and Onion

Here's a quick meal for you - Frittata with Spinach, Bacon and Onion.  
God Bless the Incredible Edible Egg :) 

I can bring home the bacon.  And fry it up in a pan. . . . .(name that line!!)  Typically, I'm a big ambassador of baking bacon, but sometimes you want to fry it . . like in this wonderful, 1-pan meal.  And please ignore my stove that really needs to be scrubbed.  I vow to never buy another stove with a white glass-top.  EVER.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm  . . .couldn't resist another bacon shot.  If only this was a smello-blog.

While the bacon is cooking and teasing your taste-buds with their aromatic wonderfulness, beat two eggs in your favorite mug.  This is not my favorite mug.  But it was the only clean mug.  Rest are in the dishwasher.

Once the bacon is cooked to your fancy, remove it from the pan and drain it on a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Do not remove the grease from the frying pan.

Now, add a large handful of fresh spinach to the hot pan.   Meanwhile, chop up your bacon.  As well, dice up some red onion.  Saute the spinach until wilted.


  Now add your beaten egg.

And thin sprinkle on your bacon and red onion.  I just love the sweetness of red onion in this dish.

Now, I'm not a master of flipping eggs in the pan.  My hubby is, I am not.  And I don't like runny eggs.  I like my eggs nice and firm.  Hence, I like to put a lid on pan to steam the eggs through.  That way, the top gets cooked too . . .and no runny eggs.

However, you can try to flip it.  After all, you'll never get it right unless you try.  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself ;)

And then plate this baby up and garnish with some sour cream and fresh cracked black pepper.  Ooo-lah-lah . . .fancy eggs!

Frittata with Spinach, Bacon and Onion

2 Eggs
2-3 Strips of Bacon
1 Cup Fresh Spinach Leaves
1/4 Cup Red Onion, diced
Sour Cream (optional)

Step 1:  Cook the bacon in a frying pan.  Remove the bacon from the pan once it is cooked through.  Drain on paper towels.  Do not discard the grease.

Step 2:  Add the Spinach to the pan and saute until wilted.  Meanwhile, chop the bacon and dice up the onion.

Step 3:  Beat two eggs and pour them into the fry pan (and over the wilted spinach).  Then, sprinkle the bacon and onion over the top of the egg.

Step 4:  Let the egg cook until firm all the way through.  

Step 5:  Remove from the pan and garnish with sour cream.  Enjoy!