Tuesday, July 31

Cream Cheese Rhubarb Pie

After my success with these Cake Batter Truffles, I was asked by the same co-worker to make him a rhubarb dessert. He even supplied the rhubarb. His young daughter harvested the rhubarb a little early but that didn't seem to affect the end result. This recipe is featured on both cooks.com and Taste of Home's website as an award winning recipe. It is part pie and part cheesecake really. Whatever it may be, it is deliciously divine. 

Ingredients for pie:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup water
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
1 unbaked deep dish 9 inch pie shell

Ingredients for topping:
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
whipped cream
sliced almonds

In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add water and stir until thoroughly combined. Add rhubarb. Cook on high, stirring often, until mixture boils and thickens. (TIP: this step took about 6 minutes for me. The rhubarb will sweat, breaking it down into liquid. At first it seems like nothing is happening but give it some time and the mixture will turn out to be a little thicker than set pudding.)

Pour mixture into pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.

While the pie is in the oven, beat softened cream cheese, eggs and sugar for topping until smooth. After removing the pie from the oven, reduce heat to 325.

Pour topping mixture over warm pie from oven and return to oven. Bake for 35 minutes or until set. Cool on counter. 

After pie has cooled, chill several hours or overnight. Garnish with whipped cream and sliced almonds.

Monday, July 30

Rustic Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Mmm...mashed potatoes. My dad must have passed on to me, his love for them. There have been times in my life where I have forgone the main dish and just eaten the mashed potatoes. They always have the biggest spot on my plate reserved for them. 

I have so many recipes pinned on Pinterest that I may be 110 before I can get to them all. This is one I have pinned from Better Homes and Gardens. I am sorry to say that I was not too impressed. It is my first potato only crockpot recipe. The cook time of 6 - 8 hours is a bit ridiculous and the potatoes reminded me of the potatoes used in a stew recipe.

With that said, I am glad I at least gave them a try. If you have limited stove space or like the texture and flavor of the potatoes in stew, you will probably really like these. 

3 lbs. baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" pieces
6 garlic cloves, halved
2 (14 oz.) chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
pepper, to taste

In a crockpot, combine potatoes and garlic. Pour broth over the potatoes. 

Cover and cook on low 6 - 8 hours.

Drain potatoes over a bowl to catch the broth liquid. Return the potatoes to the crockpot. Mash.

In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter until steaming and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture and desired amount of drained broth to get your wanted consistency.

Transfer potatoes to a serving bowl and sprinkle with pepper.

Friday, July 27

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

These little bites of goodness were so much fun to make. Rich chocolate, gooey caramel and crunchy pecans in every bite. What's not to love. The extra prep time to make this is well worth the end result. They also look so good, don't they? Again, I am such a sucker for cuteness. Hence, why Spencer gets away with so much!

So if you have a little extra time, like cookies and want to show off your baking skills a little, give these a try. This recipe makes 36 but they won't last long.

1 egg
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cups sugar
2 TBLS. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
16 caramels
3 TBLS. whipping cream
1 1/4 cups finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. shortening

Separate egg; placing white and yolk in separate bowls. Cover and chill egg white until needed. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat well. Beat in egg yolk, milk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. In a small saucepan, heat and stir caramels and whipping cream low heat until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

Slightly beat reserved egg white. Shape the dough into 1" balls. Roll the balls in the egg white, then in the pecans, to coat. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each cookie.

Bake cookies for 10 minutes or until edges are firm. If the centers puff back up during baking, push back in with your thumb again. Spoon melted caramel into the indentations of the cookies. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

In another saucepan, heat and stir chocolate chips and shortening over low heat until they are melted and smooth. Let cool slightly. Drizzle chocolate over the tops of the cookies. Let stand until chocolate is set.


Thursday, July 26

Barbecue Meatloaf

Another recipe courtesy of pauladeen.com. Both meatloaf and Paula get a bad rap. I happen to find both amazing. I did alter her recipe ever so slightly. I have had some meatloaf disasters, where meatloaf soup might be a more appropriate name. Too many liquids added to a meatloaf recipe, or ingredients that water down the flavor are what I think turn most people off to the idea of meatloaf. 

The barbecue flavoring is a great idea. It doesn't take much away from the idea of traditional meatloaf, just adds some pizzazz. I made two loaves and the leftovers made great sandwiches. 

Quick and easy, moist and delicious! Thanks, Paula.

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
1 small onion, diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
3 TBLS. vinegar
3 TBLS. brown sugar
2 TBLS. Dijon mustard
2 TBLS. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup water, to thin necessary 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce. Form the mixture into a loaf and place in a shallow baking dish.

Stir together remaining tomato sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Pour sauce over the meatloaf. 

Bake 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes with pan juices.

Wednesday, July 25

Zesty Barbecue Shredded Chicken Sandwiches - Crockpot Recipe

I am tagging this under quick and easy even though the crockpot cooking time is 6 to 8 hours. The prep time is the quick and easy part and this would be great for a busy weeknight. The leftovers are great too!

We love shredded chicken and barbecue flavoring. The key to this recipe tasting amazing is making sure you take the time to really shred the chicken. I use the two fork method and love the texture it brings. 

You can make the chicken sweeter by using a brown sugar based barbecue sauce like Sweet Baby Ray's or tangier by using a smoked sauce. 

Now on to the good part!

6 boneless chicken breasts
garlic powder, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 (12 oz.) bottle BBQ sauce
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
2 TBLS. Worcestershire sauce

Season chicken with desired amount of garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place chicken in the crockpot and add 1 1/2 cups water along with the bouillon cube. Cook on low 6 to 8 hours.

Remove the chicken and drain the crockpot. Shred chicken finely using the two fork method. Add back to crockpot.

Mix BBQ sauce, Italian dressing and Worcestershire sauce in a medium bowl. Add to the crockpot, mixing a little to blend. Cook another hour on low, to blend the flavors.

Serve on buns or rolls. 

Tuesday, July 24

Roasted Parmesan Green Beans

recipe from skinnytaste.com

It is not an easy feat to get my family to eat their vegetables. A hint of green usually results in "the face". Like they have just smelled something bad. So, I have had to be creative in incorporating them into our meals. 

I am up for the challenge and have quite a few recipes coming up to share with you that have fresh veggies as a main ingredient. 

Here is a super easy side dish with a little flair that requires no utensils when eating. I may or may not have had my fair share of these before they actually went to the dinner table. Mmmmm.

12 oz. fresh green beans, trimmed and dried
2 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 TBLS. shredded Parmesan cheese 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay beans evenly on the sheet and drizzle with oil. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Toss evenly to coat and then spread the beans evenly again in the pan.

Bake 10 minutes. Shake the pan to turn and bake another 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Friday, July 20

Baked Macaroni & Cheese

This just may be the perfect macaroni & cheese recipe. It is the best I have ever had. My only complaint? I didn't make enough. Between the three of us, it was gone in minutes. I will be doubling the recipe next time and there will be a next time.

Also, a note for the grated cheese. I used 1 cup sharp cheddar and 1 cup medium cheddar. I love the extra flavor sharp cheddar adds. It can be a bit strong on it's own though. The combo of the two cheeses is the perfect blend, in my humble baking opinion. 

Let's get started.

2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
4  TBLS. margarine
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, packed
salt & pepper, to taste
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
cayenne pepper, to taste

Heat the milk in a large saucepan until steamy. Stir in the elbow macaroni. Let come to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until done. The macaroni should absorb the majority of the milk.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When the macaroni is just about done, melt the margarine in a separate saucepan, stir in the grated cheese, salt and pepper. Stir often until the cheese is melted. 

When the cheese has melted and is smooth, add the macaroni and stir until blended. Taste and add more spices if desired.

Place mixture in a baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Lightly sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Let set for 5-10 minutes after removing it from the oven before serving. 

Wednesday, July 18

English Muffin Breakfast Pizzas

I have so much fun coming up with different breakfast ideas. Jump starting your day, with a twist!

I took some ingredients I had on hand to make an English muffin pizzas. So easy and they are delicious. My picky eater loved them.

6 English muffins
4 eggs, room temperature
2 TBLS. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
12 dashes Tabasco sauce
12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
2 TBLS. green onions, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and Tabasco sauce. Pull apart the English muffins and soak each side (the inside edge) in the egg mixture. Soak the complete top well but not so much that the top becomes soggy. Place the muffins cut side up on the baking sheet. Sprinkle crumbled bacon evenly on each muffin. Add the onions and cheese, also evenly dividing them among each muffin.

Bake 15 minutes. Delish!

Tuesday, July 17

Photoblog Challenge ~ Grass

Who takes photos of grass? Hey, that would be me. I am not the only one...as Photoblog Challenges theme this week is: Grass

I took this shot next to a marsh a few miles from house. I didn't alter it as I like the slight play of water in the background with the grass stalks being the focal point. I suppose I could have pulled out some of the shadows on the water but sometimes nature knows what it's doing. ;-)

Monday, July 16

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Three of my great loves. Peanut butter, chocolate and muffins. They were so delicious that I wondered why I hadn't thought of this earlier. Beware, you can't eat just one. Breakfast, dessert or light snack. How about all three?

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 TBLS. butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line standard muffin tin with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. 

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, peanut butter, eggs and milk until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Batter will be thick.

Divide batter evenly among liners. Each should be filled right to the top. Mmmm....muffin tops!

Bake 17-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Thursday, July 12

Jalapeno Ranch Dip

A cool, refreshing summer dip that will help you get in your servings of vegetables also. Packed full of flavor and smooth despite the addition of jalapeno. The seeds of a jalapeno are really what make it hot, so make sure to seed yours well. 

Mix up and add your favorite veggies. Great for a crowd!

1 packet dry ranch dressing
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
2 tomatillos
1 jalapeno, seeded
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1 TBLS. lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced

In a medium sized bowl, combine ranch packet, mayo, sour cream and milk until well blended and smooth.

In a blender, combine tomatillos, jalapeno, cilantro, lime juice and garlic. Pulse in short spurts until veggies are finely distributed. 

Add two mixtures together, blending them well. Chill for a couple of hours before serving with your favorite vegetables.

Wednesday, July 11

South of the Border Egg Rolls

I have no idea why I am calling these South of the Border. It sounds kind of catchy, so I am sticking with it. They aren't your typical egg rolls. They are more of a hybrid. They are also baked and fun to make up!

These can be a fun snack or appetizer. You could also pair them with rice and call it a meal. 

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 oz) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups shredded Mexican or taco cheese blend
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles, drained
4 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 pkg. egg roll wrappers
1 lightly beaten egg

In a large bowl, combine everything but the egg roll wrappers. Lay out the egg roll wrappers so one of the corners is pointing towards you. Place 1/4 cup of the filling in the center. Fold the tip closest to you over the filling, roll a bit, then take the point pointing outward and fold it toward the center. Continue rolling into an egg roll shape until just a small tip is still showing. 

Dip a finger in the beaten egg and lightly brush the edges of the free corner. Finish rolling and press to seal. Repeat for each egg roll until either all filling or egg wrappers are used.

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly spray a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray. Place egg rolls seam side down and spray tops with more cooking spray.

Bake about 15 minutes or until lightly brown, turning rolls once halfway through baking.

Serve with salsa, if desired.

Tuesday, July 10

Bacon Cheddar Potato Salad

I think trying out new side dishes is just as fun as trying out new main dishes. I am not a huge fan of traditional potato salad. I could really take it or leave it. This potato salad, however, I could take the whole bowl! Ok, maybe not the whole thing, as it is quite filling and would be great to bring to any summer get together. Can be made ahead of time and served chilled or room temperature. Did I mention it has bacon?

8 medium potatoes
1 tsp. seasoning salt
12 pieces bacon, crumbled
2 cups medium cheddar cheese, shredded
16 oz. sour cream
1 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. garlic salt
2 tsp. prepared mustard

Peel and cube potatoes. Boil until fork tender. Drain and allow to cool down to warm temperature.

Place potatoes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with seasoning salt and gently mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, pepper, mayo, garlic salt and mustard. 

Add bacon and cheese to the potatoes, stirring gently. Add sour cream mixture to the potatoes and again, gently combine. 

Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours before serving.

Friday, July 6

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream

I totally swiped this recipe from Amy at fearlesshomemaker.com. Dark chocolate? Coconut? Oh yeah, I'm in. I did very little altering as she knows what she is doing. 

These are absolutely amazing. Moist dark chocolate paired with creamy coconut frosting. The combination of textures and flavors, you can't get that from a box. Plus, these are cupcakes, and I have never been one who could pass up a cupcake. Like ever.

Make sure you give yourself some time to make these. Your life will be changed for the better.

Ingredients for cupcakes:
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Directions for cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with liners.

Combine butter, chocolate and cocoa in a heat proof  bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water. Heat until combined and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in a small bowl. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl. Add sugar, vanilla and salt to eggs and stir well. Add cooled chocolate and whisk until combined.

Sift about a 1/3 of the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add sour cream, then remaining flour mixture. Whisk until thick. Add coconut, mixing well. 

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 12 - 14 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Ingredients for coconut buttercream:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Directions for buttercream:
Beat butter with a mixer on medium-high until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time beating well after each addition, about 5 minutes.

Add coconut extract and beat until buttercream is smooth. Add coconut and blend until well combined. 

Frost cooled cupcakes.

Thursday, July 5

Mexican Casserole

The other day, I was reading some tips on how to have a successful food blog. One of the first suggestions was to find a certain type of cuisine and focus solely on it. While that might work for some, maybe even many foodies, that does not appeal to me at all. Why on earth would I want to limit myself so? One of the best things about cooking from scratch is the possibilities! They are endless and interesting and fun. 

I guess my goal would then be to have a wide variety of dishes as I have a wide variety of food interests. I hope anyone stopping by can find something that appeals to them. From quick and easy to challenging and creative. 

So without further ado, here is a somewhat quick and easy recipe that can easily be adapted to your family's tastes.

Mexican Casserole:
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 pkg. taco seasoning
1 (15 oz) can refried beans
2 cups colby jack cheese, shredded
1 cup salsa
1 tomato, chopped
3 cups corn chips, crushed

Brown beef and onion in a large skillet until beef is no longer pink. Drain. Add taco seasoning and cook according to package directions (adding the amount of water suggested). Set aside.

Heat refried beans in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warmed through. Stir in 1 cup of the shredded cheese and all of the salsa. Stir until well combined.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place 2 cups of the crushed corn chips on the bottom of an 8" x 8" casserole dish. Pour the bean mixture over the chips. Add the taco meat, then the remaining cup if corn chips over that. Sprinkle with remaining cup of shredded cheese. 

Bake until cheese on top has melted. Remove from oven and top with chopped tomatoes.

Serve with sour cream on top or more salsa.

Tuesday, July 3

American Flag Cheesecake Bars

recipe from myrecipes.com

Happy Independence Day to my American friends! Hope you all have a wonderful and safe day and remember to thank those who have helped keep us safe while putting their lives on the line. Past and present.

To celebrate the occasion, I made these delicious (and cute) cheesecake bars. Definitely patriotic!

As usual, my decorating skills are lacking.  I used seedless raspberry jelly but still have squiggly, bulging flag lines. Hey, it's not really bothering me much...they still look good, right? Next time I will use an even finer decorating tip and hope for the best.

Ingredients for Crust:
1/2 cup whole almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 TBLS. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Ingredients for Filling:
3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 TBLS. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
80 fresh ripe blueberries (about 1 cup)
1 cup seedless raspberry jelly

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang on the 2 long sides. Spray with non stick cooking spray.

Crust: Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely chopped. Add flour, brown sugar and salt. Process until well combined. Add butter and pulse just until mixture comes together. Should be somewhat crumbly yet and not able to be formed into a ball. Press mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes or until set. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Filling: With an electric mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Scrape sides of the bowl. Add eggs one at a time on medium- low, mixing until just combined. Beat in lemon juice, vanilla and salt.

Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over the cooled crust. Tap the pan on the counter 3-4 times to remove any air bubbles. Place pan in a large roasting pan and transfer to oven. Pour hot tap water in the roasting pan until the baking pan bottom is covered up to about an inch. 

Bake for 40 minutes or until filling is set. Cool completely on a wire rack and then cover with foil and chill a minimum of 6 hours. Overnight is even better.

Using the overhanging foil on the 2 sides, remove the cheesecake from the baking pan. Heat a large sharp knife under hot water, then dry the knife. Trim off the edges of the cheesecake. Cut into 16 bars, heating and drying the knife after each cut. (This keeps your bars cut with an even edge)

Decorate each bar with 5 blueberries for the star in the upper left hand corner to resemble stars. Place jelly in a ziploc bag and snip off about 1/6 of a bottom corner. Pipe jelly in thin lines to resemble a stripes on a flag. 

Monday, July 2

Pretzel S'mores

 recipe slightly adapted from lovefromtheoven.com

When I was a kid, we spent at least a month of our summer camping. I have so many good memories from those summers. Of course some of them involve the food. Something about the open fire that made every meal delicious no matter what it was. 

S'mores were and still are an all time favorite.While this version of s'mores is a bit more advanced, the concept is there. You make this in your kitchen instead of over an open fire and they are fantastic the next day too.

jumbo marshmallows (I used vanilla/caramel)
chocolate bars
melting chocolate
chocolate sprinkles

Cut jumbo marshmallows into 3 equal portions. Sit them on top of a pretzel, then set some chocolate bar pieces on top of the marshmallow. Microwave for a few seconds. Take them out and put a second pretzel on top. Let set, putting them in the freezer while you melt some melting chocolate.

After melting the chocolate, remove pretzel stacks from the freezer and dip them in the melting chocolate, completely coating them on all sides. 

Place on wax paper and sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles, if desired. Let set completely.

Store in an airtight container in or out if the refrigerator. I kept mine overnight on the counter. Simply delicious!