Sunday, December 31, 2017

Countdown to 2018: Most Popular Recipes of 2017

Hooray! It's reader favorites day! I love looking back at which posts got the most attention in 2017 and there are some winning recipes here! Without further ado, here are the most popular posts of 2017 - a great mix of main dishes AND treats! Everything in moderation, right?

Seafood Lasagna

This was our New Year's special dinner in 2017. And it is worthy of a special occasion! Shrimp, scallops, crab, combined with spinach and a cheesy cream sauce with lasagna noodles - I'm practically drooling just thinking about it.

Scandinavian Almond Bars

These have been one of my favorite cookies for a long time, and I finally got around to posting about them! I love making them at Christmastime, but the truth is, they are not particularly Christmas-y, so you can make them anytime. What they are is downright delicious. And addictive.

Eggnog Donuts

These donuts are a super fun way to use eggnog! Besides drinking it of course. I love baking with eggnog, and I loved the result I got with Eggnog Cake, so I knew these donuts would be a winner. They won wave reviews at a holiday brunch. Start planning for next Christmas now!

Cherry Chicken Pasta Salad

This is my favorite deli salad from an "upscale" grocer here in my town. So I was thrilled when they published the recipe so I could make it at home. Since posting it, people have commented about how they make it their own, including adding nuts like cashews or pecans.

French Silk Brownies

Isn't fun to doctor up a mix and come up with something extraordinary? That's how I feel about this dessert. It starts with a boxed brownie mix, but you'd never know it once you top it with french silk amazingness. Take this wonderful dessert to your next party and you will be the talk of the town.

Go on over to Sarah's and see more great "countdown" posts!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Countdown to 2018: Best Crock Pot and Instant Pot Recipes of 2017

More main dishes are on the docket today as we look back on the best recipes made in a crock pot or Instant Pot. I read that the Instant Pot was one of the best selling Christmas gifts this year, and it's no wonder - I have loved everything that I've cooked in it, even if I did have to "practice" a bit to get the timings exactly right. Here are two recipes for the IP and one for the "old" workhorse, the crock pot. (And you have an IP, you can always use the slow cooker function!)

Creamy White Chicken Chili

We loved this chicken chili so much that I made it several times in the weeks following this post. I love that you can make it in the crock pot or on the stove, whatever fits your schedule best!

Sweet Chili Chicken

I love how chicken thighs turn out when cooked in the pressure cooker. And now I like them even better when they're placed under the broiler for a few minutes to really "seal in" the flavors and texture. Now I can use this "method" with all different sauce adaptations - it's a whole new world!

Pork Chops in Mushroom Gravy

As I mention in the original post, I've never been a huge fan of pork chops because it is so difficult to cook them well. Not anymore! They turn out beautifully in the Instant Pot - and they are tender enough to cut with a fork! If you don't care for mushrooms, just leave them out - this dish will still elicit tons of praise at your dinner table!

Thanks to Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for hosting the Countdown!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Countdown to 2018: Best Desserts of 2017

Ooh, how do you narrow it down? It's so hard to have a label like "best." Aren't all desserts really great? But since I am forced to, for this challenge (ahem), I chose the very best from the past year. Luckily, more desserts are included on Sunday in the "most popular" category. Phew!

Again, thanks to Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for hosting the Countdown! And without further ado, here are the best desserts:

Almond Pear Cream Cheese Tart

Oh this tart. I even ate it for breakfast one day it was that good. It DOES have fruit. AND cream cheese. So that's breakfast material, right? I loved, loved, loved the crust on this tart. The whole thing is just amazingly scrumptious.

White Chocolate Brownies

I really like finding recipes that are a little different from things I have made before. Don't get me wrong, I love the tried and true, too, but these brownies are just different enough that they will spice up your life in a new way.

S'mores Ice Cream Cake

This fun ice cream cake gave me an excuse to buy those little marshmallow bits. It was all I could do to not pour them directly in my mouth; they are so good - like miniature Lucky Charms marshmallows but just all the same shape and color! Anyway, add those to some grahams cereal, chocolate ice cream and chocolate and you have this impressive and tasty dessert!

Coconut Bundt Cake

Oftentimes, the simplest desserts can be impressive and delicious. This bundt starts with a cake mix and gets doctored up with sour cream, pudding, and plenty of coconut in the cake and in the frosting. It's enough to make you feel like you're in the tropics, even if it is 5 degrees below zero. (That's how cold it is here today, and I'm not even kidding. I guess I need to make this cake again.)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Countdown to 2018: Best Main Dishes of 2017

In today's look back at the best main dishes, TWO soups made the list! We do like soup at our house, and these two are awesome. There will be more main dishes coming up in the CrockPot/Instant Pot category (Saturday) and on the Most Popular Posts (Sunday) so stay tuned!

Butternut Squash Curry Soup with Shrimp

This soup is SUCH a winner. This is my favorite way to eat butternut squash, and we love the combination of squash and curry. I've made it with rice noodles and jasmine rice, and later in the fall I tried it with couscous. The texture of couscous is PERFECT with this soup - so if you make it, I hope you'll try it too!

Creamy Tuscan Chicken

We really enjoyed this chicken dish; and then I made it with shrimp a few weeks later and it was equally good!

Miso Meatball and Noodle Soup

I introduced my family to pho on vacation this past summer and so I was excited to find this fun recipe to try at home. This isn't pho, but it reminded them enough of it, and we loved the flavors and textures in this soup.

Thanks to Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for hosting the Countdown!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Countdown to 2018: Best Breakfasts of 2017

Continuing in the "Countdown to 2018" Series, today we look at the best breakfast foods of 2017.

Triple Chocolate Donuts

I made these donuts for our New Year's Day breakfast almost a year ago now, and they will make a repeat appearance this year, by request of several kids and adults alike. I love starting new traditions, and it looks like homemade chocolate donuts will be our New Year's Day tradition!

Swedish Pancakes {with Blackberry Sauce}

Swedish Pancakes are one of my favorite things, and I can't believe it took me nearly 10 years to post the recipe! I dressed these up a bit with a lovely black berry sauce, but these are delightful even without the fruit sauce.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins

We make a lot of muffins at our house, so a recipe has to be REALLY good to make it to this "best of" list! The cream cheese in these muffins is mixed in the batter so there won't be any cream cheese "pockets" per se, but the cream cheese helps keep the muffins tender and moist. They are a great addition to any breakfast, and are equally delicious if eaten in the car on the way to work (ahem).

Thanks to Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for hosting the Countdown!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Countdown to 2018: Best Appetizers and Snacks of 2017

Happy Boxing Day! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas celebration, and if your family is anything like mine, there are probably several more gatherings in the works for the coming days and weekends. Today starts the "Countdown to 2018" Series where we look back at my favorite recipes on this blog in different categories. This series is hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes.

I always look forward to this series because I LOVE looking back and picking out my favorites! Although I will tell you that sometimes I find it hard to leave ANY recipe out... they only make the blog if they're delicious in the first place!

Today we look back at the best appetizers and snacks from 2017.

Shrimp and Guacamole Bites

These are SO good. I've served them as appetizers at several dinner parties and they always get rave reviews. You can make your own guac or use store-bought, and the result will always be spectacular. I love how sometimes the simplest things are the best!

Chicken and Brie Flatbreads with Spinach and Raspberries

These flatbreads were "thrown together" to use up some leftovers, but let me tell you, it was a fantastic combination. Brie, spinach, raspberries, chicken...we ate it for dinner, but flatbreads can easily be an appetizer if cut into smaller pieces, so I threw it in here!

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

I made these for our Superbowl party last year and they were a Super hit. If you love chicken wings, you will love these fun meatballs.

Be sure to check back every day through New Year's for more favorites! Coming up you will see favorite breakfasts, main dishes, desserts, crock pot and instant pot recipes and the most popular recipes on the blog from the last year.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Crispy Tiger Fudge

Ooh, this fudge. I love everything about it - peanut butter and chocolate together, a creamy layer, a crispy layer... beautiful on a tray, hard to resist.

You probably have all of these ingredients on hand, so you can whip some up yet this week! (Am I the only one who still has A LOT of baking to do this year???)

Find more holiday cheer at Inspiration Monday, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me2, Show and Share.

Crispy Tiger Fudge

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 (11 ounce) package white chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup crispy rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)
1/2 cup peanut butter

Place semisweet chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl; heat in microwave at 50% power for 30-45 second intervals until melted, stirring between each interval. Stir chocolate until smooth.

Combine white chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in a separate microwave-safe bowl; heat in microwave at 50% power for 30-45 second intervals until melted, stirring between each interval. Stir mixture until smooth.

Stir cereal and peanut butter into white chocolate-butterscotch mixture; pour into a 9x13 baking dish lined with foil or parchment paper.

Spoon semisweet chocolate in lines across the peanut butter mixture. Run a knife in the opposite direction of the chocolate lines to achieve a swirled, tiger-stripe pattern. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 10 minutes. Cut into small squares.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Chocolate Peppermint Bundt Cake

I have said it before and I'll say it again. I love Christmas cookies, but sometimes you just need CAKE. I have a few fun Christmas cakes here on the blog to choose from, including Egg Nog Cake , Peppermint Poke Cake and Candy Cane Bundt Cake, and now I am happy to share this great recipe with you, too.

This chocolate cake starts with a mix, and then gets doctored up with extra ingredients like pudding, sour cream and peppermint extract. It's topped with a cream cheese frosting and then sprinkled with crushed candy canes. It is beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. It will look great on a Christmas buffet and be a great addition to the ubiquitous cookie tray!

Find more holiday cheer at Inspiration Monday, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Show and Share, Wow Me, Wow Us, Whisk It, Hearth and Soul, Wonderful Wednesday, Full Plate, Foodie Friday, Weekend Potluck, Awesome Friday.

Chocolate Peppermint Bundt Cake

1 box devils food cake mix
1 3.9 oz pkg. instant chocolate pudding
1 cup sour cream (low fat is ok)
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup oil
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips

For the frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 candy canes, crushed

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding, sour cream, eggs, water, oil and peppermint extract. Mix with an electric mixer until well blended. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into a well-greased bundt cake pan. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Allow to cool in the pan for 15-20 mins. Carefully invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely. If you aren't frosting and serving immediately, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate it.

To make the frosting, in a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla. Gradually stir in the powdered sugar. Spread or pipe onto the cake. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Serves 12-16

Recipe Source: Tastes Better From Scratch

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mocha Peppermint Cookies

Coffee and peppermint together in a cookie. And also, chocolate. This was a brilliant idea. Not only that, but they're dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed candy canes. Beautiful, festive, delicious. These would be perfect for a cookie exchange, for giving as gifts, or for eating all to yourself. You choose. Really.

Quick note: the dough here needs ample time to chill, preferably overnight. So whip up the dough one evening, and you can bake the cookies the next day. Chilling the dough helps prevent the cookies from getting too flat in the oven. If you have a convection oven, you may want to use that setting, too. (I made these before I had the convection option, but I'll be making them again soon as an "experiment." Cookies are the best to experiment with, don't you agree?)

Find more great holiday ideas at Inspiration Monday, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Show and Share, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us, Whisk It, Home Matters, Full Plate, Foodie Friday, Weekend Potluck, Awesome Friday.

Mocha Peppermint Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large candy canes, crushed

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in egg, vanilla and peppermint extracts on high speed.

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, instant coffee, and salt together until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.

Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes or until the dough is easy to scoop and roll.

Scoop and roll balls of dough, about 1.5 Tablespoons of dough each, into balls and place on parchment or silicon mat-lined baking sheets.

Bake the cookies at 350 for 8-9 minutes. The baked cookies will look extremely soft in the centers when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. They will slightly deflate as you let them cool. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Melt the chopped white chocolate in a glass bowl at 50% power in the microwave. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each increment until completely melted and smooth. Dip each completely cooled cookie halfway into the white chocolate and place onto a parchment or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top of the chocolate. Repeat with the rest of the cooled cookies. Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator to help the chocolate set.

Recipe Source: Sally's Baking Addiction

Monday, November 27, 2017

Eggnog Donuts

It's time to start baking! And planning holiday menus! And adding elastic to all your clothes! Seriously, though, this is such a fun time of the year to try new things and show love for family and friends by baking delicious treats. And these eggnog donuts are just the thing.

And really, donuts aren't so bad if they're BAKED, am I right? These have eggnog in both the batter and the glaze, and they are a delicious thing to wake up to, or to have mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee with, or for a bedtime snack with a big glass of milk. The possibilities are nearly endless!

These are wonderful as an addition to brunch. I served them with an egg bake and they were both a big hit. But nothing beats homemade donuts. If you don't have a donut tin, I'm sure you could find one easily and have it delivered to your house within the week. I'm just sayin'. No excuses. Make these donuts.

Find more holiday inspiration at Inspiration Monday, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Fabulous, Show and Share, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us, Whisk It, Wonderful Wednesday, Full Plate.

Eggnog Donuts

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup Eggnog


1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup Eggnog
Nutmeg for sprinkling

For the donuts, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream sugar and butter until smooth. Add egg and eggnog and mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Pour batter into greased donut tins, filling each mold about 2/3 full. Bake at 325 for 12-13 minutes. Transfer donuts to a cooling rack and cool completely.

For the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and eggnog until no lumps remain. Dip donuts into glaze and return, right side up, to rack. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top, or sprinkle dried nutmeg on top. Makes 12 donuts.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Scandinavian Almond Bars

I am not exaggerating when I say these are one of my favorite cookies of all time. They are SO good. And SO addictive. And also, so attractive. Thin, crispy but also chewy, topped with an almond-extract laced icing, you will not be able to eat just one.

I also love that they are a different shape from other cookies. They look great on a cookie tray, and even though they're not "technically" a Christmas cookie, I tend to make them around Christmas because of that reason. They're also not fussy at all; so in a season when you want a great cookie that's not a lot of work, you can turn to these beauties!

If you're planning your Christmas cookie baking fiesta, be sure to add these lovely and delicious Scandinavian Almond Bars to the list!

For more great ideas, visit Inspire Me, Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me 2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Show and Share.

Scandinavian Almond Bars

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. milk

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup milk

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and almond extract; mix until fluffy. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt; mix well.

Divide dough into 4 pieces, and roll each one into a log about 12 inches long. Place 2 logs per cookie sheet 4 to 5 inches apart. Flatten each roll by hand until it is about 3 inches wide. Brush flattened roll with milk and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake at 325 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are slightly browned.

Meanwhile, prepare icing: in a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract, and milk until smooth.

While the cookies are still warm, cut them crosswise at a diagonal, into slices about 1 inch wide. Cool slices on a wire rack. When cool, drizzle with almond icing.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sweet Chili Chicken {Instant Pot}

When I served this last week, a teenager at my house said "this is my favorite experience eating chicken." That's a pretty ringing endorsement. And it was deserved - this is a great way to cook chicken - swimming in sauce in the instant pot, then finished off under the broiler to brown and crisp it up. I can imagine all kinds of other sauce options that would work well with this same method. Chicken thighs cook beautifully in the Instant Pot, and the few minutes under the broiler really makes all the difference, texture-wise.

If you want to make this more mild, leave out the crushed red pepper flakes. But even with them in, this was about the right amount of spice for my family - some of whom think ketchup is spicy. Ha!

There are many more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us, Whisk It, Foodie Friday, Weekend Potluck, Awesome Friday.

Sweet Chili Chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup of chicken broth
3/4 cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Lightly rub each piece of chicken with the Cajun seasoning. In a measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic and red pepper flakes.

Add the oil to the Instant Pot and set it for Saute. When it's hot, add the chicken a few pieces at a time and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side to lightly sear. Remove chicken to a plate.

Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pot so the excess brown Cajun seasoning blends in with the broth. Stir in the sweet chili mixture. Stir and bring to a boil. Cancel the saute setting.

Add the chicken back to the pot. Secure the lid and set the pressure cooker for 10 minutes. Preheat the broiler on your oven, and then quick release the pressure when it is completed.

Transfer the chicken onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce and the honey. Generously glaze each piece with the sauce. Sprinkle sesame seeds over each piece of chicken.

Broil the chicken for about 3-5 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and baste with any additional sauce. Serves 4-6.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Pressure Luck Cooking

Monday, November 6, 2017

Miso Meatball and Noodle Soup

It's definitely soup weather. More often than not in this transitional season, I want to eat soup. It's just so comforting, not to mention, it's warm. So I love finding new ways to prepare soup. This summer, I introduced my family to pho on a family vacation and it was a big hit. So I knew I had some room to add soup that was a little more ethnically diverse into the dinner rotation.

This is not truly pho, but it's pretty similar. You start with a great garlic and ginger base, add miso, and wonderful meatballs that are both spicy and sweet. Throw in some soba noodles and you've got a super delicious meal that's just a little different, but not "too" different, if you know what I mean.

You can make this more spicy by throwing in the jalapeno pepper earlier in the process. My family prefers things a little more tame, so those that wanted to used the pepper as a garnish.

You should be able to easily find both miso and sambal oelek in the Asian section of your grocery. I find that sometimes Target doesn't carry miso, but two other large grocery chains in my region do. It comes in a rather large package, but it lasts a while and can be frozen, too. (Need another recipe that calls for miso paste? Try these awesome Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps!)

With soups like this in my arsenal, I'm not scared of the cold weather. Bring it on! (Ok, well, don't bring it on too strong.)

Find more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us, Full Plate, Wonderful Wednesday, Foodie Friday, Weekend Potluck, Awesome Friday.

Miso Meatball and Noodle Soup

1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 cup diagonally sliced green onions, divided
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 (1-in.) pieces ginger, thinly sliced
9 cups chicken stock
6 ounces uncooked soba noodles
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 pound lean ground pork
2 Tbsp. white miso paste
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 red jalapeno chile, sliced

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup green onions, garlic, and ginger; sauté 6 minutes. Add stock; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook noodles separately according to package directions; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.

Combine honey, sambal oelek, soy sauce and ground pork in a small bowl. Shape pork mixture into small meatballs.

Remove ginger slices from stock mixture; discard. Stir miso into stock mixture and whisk well. Add meatballs to stock; cook 6 minutes or until done. Add noodles. Ladle soup into bowls (I needed to use a fork to get the noodles!) and sprinkle with remaining green onions, mung bean sprouts, and jalapeno chile.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

Monday, October 30, 2017

Almond Pear Cream Cheese Tart

Well, it has already snowed here in Minnesota. But that won't stop me from posting another fall dessert. I'm back with another creation using pears, the unsung hero of fall fruit. I loved this tart SO MUCH. Frankly, the crust was my favorite part, but the whole thing together was just irresistible.

A sugar cookie crust, topped with cream cheese, pears and crunchy almonds - what is not to love? I even ate this for breakfast one morning as I admitted on Instagram. I didn't even bother to peel the pears for the recipe, although the original did call for peeling. But pear peels are so thin, that it doesn't really make a difference; just adds a lot more work. I'd rather save my energy for other pursuits - like making more pear desserts.

I'm sure pears are still readily available no matter where you live, so keep celebrating fall and make this dessert!

Find more great stuff at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us.

Almond Pear Cream Cheese Tart

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 cups sliced pears (about 4 medium pears)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

For the crust, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the flour, and mix well. Spread onto the bottom and about an inch up the sides of a greased 9-inch round springform pan.

For the filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar until blended. (You can use the same bowl from the crust, no problem!) Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well. Spread evenly over the crust.

For the topping, toss pears with the sugar and cinnamon then arrange the pears on top of the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle with almonds.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack. Loosen the sides from the pan. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. Makes 12 servings.

Recipe Source: Bake or Break

Monday, October 23, 2017

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

If you're trying to eat less meat, this is a great dish to help you accomplish that. And even if you're not, this is a great dish. It's hearty and filling and packed full of vegetables. And it's tasty. The marinade from the artichoke hearts gives this pasta a great depth of flavor. Salty Parmesan and the traditional garlic and onions add to the mix for a delicious combination.

We really enjoyed this, kids and adults alike. I hope you will, too!

Find more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us.

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

12 ounces small pasta shapes
2 tsp. olive oil
1 - 8 oz. package sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
4 cups baby spinach
1 jar quartered marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. parsley

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the broth and cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low.

Drain the pasta, then add it to the pot along with the artichokes and half and half. Add in the spinach and sauté until it wilts, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese and the parsley until the cheese is melted. Serves 4.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Caramel Pear Streusel Bars

I really like pears. I think they play second fiddle to apples far too often. I love eating them, but I also like baking with them. They bake up deliciously and other textures and flavors really complement them well.

In these bars, we have a shortbread crust, topped with pears, caramel sauce and then a crunchy streusel. It's the perfect fall dessert!

Find more fall ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2.

Caramel Pear Streusel Bars


6 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flour

Pear Filling:

4 medium pears, cored and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping


3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
3 Tbsp. butter, cold and cubed

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang on all sides. Lightly coat the foil with non-stick baking spray. Set aside.

For the crust: Stir the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake at 300 for 15 minutes.

For the filling: Combine the sliced pears, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all of the slices are evenly coated.

For the streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two forks (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Remove the crust from the oven, and turn the oven up to 350°F. Evenly layer the pears on top of the warm crust and press them down to fit. Pour the caramel sauce evenly over the pears. Sprinkle with streusel and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or overnight). Lift the foil or parchment out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. Makes 16 bars.

Recipe Source: Inspired by Sally's Baking Addiction

Monday, October 9, 2017

Pork Chops in Mushroom Gravy {Instant Pot!}

My favorite thing about the Instant Pot? It can deliver delicious meals of things that you haven't had a lot of success with otherwise. Case in point, pork chops. (Second case in point - POACHED EGGS! Coming soon...)

Pork chops are really hard to cook well, in my opinion. They dry out easily and no amount of barbecue sauce can make you want to chew forever on them. (Ahem.) But in the Instant Pot? Pork chops come out beautifully tender - you don't even need a knife! - and maintain good moisture. No dry meat here! I particularly love this mushroom gravy - but if you aren't a fan of mushrooms, just leave them out. Mashed potatoes are a must here, too. They soak up all the delicious gravy. This is the perfect autumn comfort food. And this is the way I'll be making pork chops from now on!

I've heard that if you have a "tall trivet" you can even make potatoes in the IP WHILE YOU COOK THE MEAT. Get out! That sounds fantastic. I do love my IP for mashed potatoes (no more potato water all over the stove!), but at the same time? I will have to investigate one of these tall trivets and I will report back. Even if you have to make the potatoes on the stove like I did, still make this. These pork chops will knock your socks off. I can't wait to try different pork chop variations now...

Pork Chops in Mushroom Gravy

4 boneless Pork Chops, thin/medium cut
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. seasoned salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
3 Tbsp. cornstarch, divided
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Season both sides of pork chops well with seasoned salt. Turn InstantPot to Sauté and allow to heat. Add the oil to the cooking pot and when hot, sear both sides of pork chops, one at a time, for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate. Add onions and sauté for one minute. Add garlic and sauté for one more minute.

Add about 1/4 cup of the chicken broth to the pot and scrape up any brown bits that were stuck to the bottom. Add the rest of the broth to the cooking pot. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, 1 Tbsp. of cornstarch, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine.

Pour in the gravy mixture, add the butter, and stir until butter is melted. Add in the mushrooms and pork chops, along with any juice that accumulated on the plate. Lock the lid and close the pressure valve to sealing. Cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. When finished, allow a 10 minute natural release.
Remove the chops to a serving plate.

Reset the pot and press the Sauté button. Remove 1/2 cup of liquid from the cooking pot and add 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch and whisk really well. Pour into cooking pot and stir to thicken gravy.

Serve pork chops and gravy over potatoes or rice.

Recipe Source: This Old Gal
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