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

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

Glaze:

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

Icing:
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

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

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

Topping:
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

Crust:

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

Streusel:

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

French Silk Brownie Dessert


I love watching the Great British Baking Show. It is amazing what those home bakers can do and the creations they present to the judges. I always end up feeling a little inadequate. I'm not particularly clever with my "bakes" and I certainly don't do any 3-D sculptures of baked goods. However, then I quickly remember that it doesn't have to be fancy to be delicious. And shortcuts are sometimes just as good as doing it the long way. That is particularly true for this recipe.

You start with a boxed brownie mix, which is fine on its own, but is truly decadent when topped with a french silk layer and additional cream. And there's garnish! Maybe there's hope for me on the Great British Baking Show after all.


Find more inspiration at Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Show and Share, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us, Foodie Friday, Weekend Potluck.

French Silk Brownie Dessert

1 box brownie mix, plus ingredients to make the brownies (usually 2 eggs, vegetable oil and water)
4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, plus more for garnish
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (low fat is fine)
16 ounces (2 – 8 ounce tubs) Cool Whip
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Prepare brownies as box directs, but transfer them to a 11x7 pan for baking. Make sure not to overbake so that the brownies stay fudgy.

For the french silk, melt chocolate in a large microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds, then stir, heat for 30 seconds again, then stir well, then heat on 10 second increments, stirring between each, until smooth. Let cool 5 minutes.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl with a hand mixer until smooth. Add chocolate and mix until combined, then mix in vanilla. Fold in half of the Cool Whip (one 8 ounce container). Spread the chocolate mixture on top of the brownies, then top with second container of Cool Whip. Use a potato peeler or a microplane grater to shave some additional baking chocolate all over the top.

Chill for at least one hour before serving to allow it to set. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Crazy for Crust

Monday, September 25, 2017

Cherry Chicken Pasta Salad


This is one of my favorite salads from the grocery deli counter. I don't buy it very often, but enjoy it at potlucks and other events when other people buy it and bring it! So I couldn't have been more thrilled when Lund's and Byerly's released the RECIPE for this salad. I knew from eating it that it wasn't complicated, but I couldn't really place the dressing. Now that I see the recipe, I feel kind of silly. It's so exceedingly simple, that dressing - just prepared poppyseed dressing and mayo!

Although late September is an odd time to be making pasta salad, the 87 degree weather makes it possible - it's just not beef stew time yet, is it? So if you need a simple lunch or dinner, or want to be the envy of everyone at the next potluck - make this salad! It's really delicious.


Find more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Busy Monday, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Full Plate, Wonderful Wednesday, Foodie Friday, Weekend Potluck, Awesome Friday.

Cherry Chicken Pasta Salad

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
12 ounces small pasta shapes (like gemelli or small shells)
3/4 cup thinly sliced celery
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1 cup dried cherries, cut in half
3/4 cups mayonnaise
3/4 cups Poppy Seed Dressing
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Spring mix or spinach, for serving

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Rinse with cold water; drain.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, pasta, celery, onion and cherries.

In a large measuring cup, combine mayonnaise, poppy seed dressing, salt and pepper.

Fold 1 cup of dressing into salad, reserving the rest. Refrigerate the salad, covered, several hours or overnight.

To serve, add remaining dressing as needed. Serve on a bed of your favorite greens.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Lunds and Byerlys

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Chocolate Brownies


After a tumultuous August, I am glad to be back in the kitchen again, trying new recipes. These brownies seemed like the perfect thing to make after several weeks of non-stop work after a crisis. A white chocolate brownie base, drizzled with chocolate - what's not to love?


I especially appreciate recipes that can be made in one bowl; no mixer required. I really liked these after being refrigerated too, maybe just because it was summer, but I liked the texture after they were chilled. Basically, I like these on a train, in the rain, in a car both near and far. I like my white chocolate brownies, Sam I Am.


Find more inspiration at Create Link Inspire, Fabulous, Show and Share, Hearth and Soul, Wow Me, Wow Us.

White Chocolate Brownies

1/2 cup butter
6 oz white chocolate (not candy melts or white chocolate chips)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with aluminium foil leaving an overhang on each side. Spray with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium sized microwave-safe bowl, melt together the butter and white chocolate in short 20 second bursts. Stir the mixture after each 20 second burst.

After both the butter and white chocolate are melted, allow to cool slightly. Then whisk in sugar, vanilla, eggs and salt. Whisk together the mixture until smooth and evenly combined, then carefully fold in the flour.

Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan and bake at 350 for 20-24 minutes, or until the top is set and the sides are starting to pull away from the pan.

Allow the brownies to cool fully in the pan. Lift the brownies out of the pan using the aluminium foil edges. Carefully peel back the sides of the foil, then cut into 12 squares.

In a small bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in short 20 second bursts, stirring between each burst. Drizzle the chocolate over each square.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Just So Tasty

Monday, July 17, 2017

Double Chocolate Raspberry Pie Bars


I've had this recipe pinned for a LONG time. I finally had the perfect reason to make these - raspberries that needed to get used up, and a family gathering that called for dessert. These bars are wonderful! A simple shortbread crust is the foundation for two layers of chocolate, with a sprinkling of raspberries. The raspberries add wonderful color and break up the chocolate flavor. These are rich, so you can cut them into small pieces. They also freeze well if you want to save them for another time.

I used espresso chips for the melted chocolate layer - they added a fabulous dimension of flavor. The original recipe calls for dark chocolate chips - I think any variety would work well, so use what you have!


Take advantage of summer's great raspberries and make this delicious dessert!

Double Chocolate Raspberry Pie Bars

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips (espresso or dark if you like)
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh raspberries, semi crushed

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy. Mix in brown sugar, flour and salt. Continue mixing until crumbly.

Press 1 3/4 cups of crumb mixture into a well greased 9x13" baking pan. Set remaining crumbs aside. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk one cup of chocolate chips. Cook at 50% power at 1-minute intervals, stirring between each session. Cook just until melted; do not overcook or the chocolate will seize.

Remove crust from oven and pour chocolate mixture over warm crust.

Sprinkle remaining crumbs evenly over chocolate layer. Spoon raspberries over crumb mixture and top with mini chocolate chips.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool before cutting into bars.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Deliciously Sprinkled

Monday, June 26, 2017

Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Sausage, and Spinach


We loved the flavors of the Creamy Tuscan Chicken so much that I adapted that recipe to use shrimp, and went searching for more recipes! Then last week, when one kiddo requested "some kind of spaghetti" for that evening's meal, I knew this would be perfect.

Chicken sausage, spinach and sun dried tomatoes swim in a creamy sauce with plenty of spaghetti mixed in. It is amazingly delicious. You could substitute regular Italian sausage for the chicken sausage but I am a huge chicken sausage fan... feel free to use more spinach than it calls for too - that's a great way to get more greens into your (and your family's) diet.


I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did, and will again soon!

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Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Sausage, and Spinach

12 oz. spaghetti
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. cooked Italian Chicken sausage links, sliced lengthwise then crosswise into half moons
3 cups (or more) baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook spaghetti according to package directions until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Cook garlic until fragrant, 1 minute. Add sausage, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes and cook until sausage is browned and spinach is cooked, 3 to 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Let thicken until sauce is creamy, then add spaghetti to skillet and toss until fully coated. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the Parmesan and serve. Makes 4-5 servings.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Delish

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

S'mores Ice Cream Cake


In my opinion, you can never have too many s'more desserts in your repertoire. This is only my third s'mores dessert, but like the other two (cookie bars and brownies), it is amazing, and it only inspires me on to make s'mores cake, cheesecake, ice cream, etc!

This is the perfect summer dessert - refreshing, delicious and impressive!

It is easy to layer up in a loaf pan,


and I loved all the textures at play - crunchy cereal, soft ice cream, squishy marshmallows, velvety chocolate pieces, and then a new discovery - marshmallow bits! They are so fun! (And they're easy to find - right by the marshmallows at my grocery.)


You'll be everyone's biggest fan when you make this ice cream cake this summer!


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S'mores Ice Cream Cake

4 cups Honey Graham cereal, crushed
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 - 48 oz. container chocolate ice cream, softened
1 - 6 ounce milk chocolate bar, chopped into small chunks
1 - 8 ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
3/4 cup marshmallow bits

Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap so that there is overhang for lifting out the cake later. Spray the plastic wrap with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the crushed cereal and melted butter until well combined. Press 1-1/2 cups of the cereal mixture into the bottom of the prepared loaf pan.

Spread half the softened chocolate ice cream over the cereal layer. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the chopped chocolate chunks.

In a large bowl, stir together the mini marshmallows and thawed whipped topping. Spread half over the top of the chocolate chunks layer. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup marshmallow bits.

Repeat the layers with 1-1/2 cups cereal, remaining chocolate ice cream, half of the remaining chocolate chunks and remaining marshmallow whipped topping mixture. Reserve the remaining marshmallow bits for the very top of the cake.

Sprinkle the remaining cereal over the marshmallow whipped topping layer. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chunks over the cereal and then the remaining marshmallow bits over the chocolate chunks.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place cake in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, lift cake from the pan using the sides of the plastic wrap. Cut into slices with a large sharp knife and serve. Store leftover cake in the freezer. Serves 12.

Recipe Source: Adapted from The Baker Mama

Monday, May 22, 2017

Creamy Tuscan Chicken


Short on time but want a restaurant-quality meal on the table tonight? Then I've got you covered. This Creamy Tuscan Chicken is SO easy and SO delicious, and it's ready in a flash! You better put the pasta water on to boil before you start the chicken, otherwise you'll be waiting for the pasta!

Chicken breasts are sauteed and then covered in a creamy sauce dotted with spinach and sun dried tomatoes. The flavor is out of this world. I promise it will win rave reviews from your family, or whomever is lucky enough to eat it. I served it over egg noodles with sauteed green beans, and everyone scarfed it up. Plus, it's a beautiful presentation so would be perfect for guests.

I used some larger chicken breasts for this and then cut them in half lengthwise to get thinner portions that cook more evenly. I have also substituted a pound of large shrimp for the chicken, adding them just at the end (no earlier saute like with chicken) and it is wonderful.

So, chicken or shrimp - noodles or rice (or quinoa!)- whatever your choice, you will love this dish. In fact, I'm making it again tomorrow night. That's the sign of a winner - a weekly repeat.


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Creamy Tuscan Chicken

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 cups spinach, chopped
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

In a large skillet add I Tbsp. olive oil and cook the chicken on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until brown on each side and until no longer pink in center. Remove chicken and set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet and saute and onions and garlic over medium high heat until onions are soft. Add the half and half, chicken broth, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and Oarmesan cheese. Whisk over medium high heat until it starts to thicken. Add the spinach and sundried tomatoes and let it simmer until the spinach starts to wilt. Add the chicken back to the pan and heat through for 1-2 minutes. Serve over rice or pasta, if you like.

Recipe Source: Adapted from The Recipe Critic

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gluten Free Mini Cheesecakes


Don't scroll past this post too quickly - even if you don't eat gluten free, you'll want to know about this wonderful dessert! I don't eat gluten free regularly, but I do regularly have dinner guests, and sometimes those guests are gluten free. It's great to have a few things in your "dessert arsenal" as options when you have guests with special dietary requirements, and it's even better if, like with this recipe, everyone will love it because it's so delicious - gluten free and gluten full both!

Of course, cream cheese is naturally gluten free, so it was just the crust here that needed addressing. Almond flour makes a great crust, and provides some nice texture too. Next time, I may even add a few sliced almonds on top of the crust for additional crunch. (I keep my almond flour in the freezer since I use it infrequently and it stays fresh for a long time.)


I served these cheesecakes two different ways on two occasions; once with a berry sauce and once with fresh berries. And both with whipped cream, of course! (Another great thing about this recipe is that it can easily be halved if you only need 6 desserts...)

So, whether you're gluten free or not, you will enjoy these cheesecakes. I promise!

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Gluten Free Mini Cheesecakes

Crust:
1 1/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

Cheesecake:
2 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese (low fat is fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 eggs

For the crust, in a medium mixing bowl, stir together the almond flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest, then stir in the butter and mix until thoroughly combined.

Divide the mixture between 12 paper- or silicone-lined muffin cups and lightly press down with the back of a spoon or your clean fingers.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until very lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes while preparing the filling.

For the filling, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until light and creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until combined. Beat in the eggs on low, one at a time, and just until well incorporated.

Fill each liner about 2/3 full with the batter and bake for 10 minutes or until the centers of the cheesecakes don't jiggle when the pan is tapped. Open the oven door (at least 1 foot wide) and let the cheesecakes cool to room temperature, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the paper liners now, then chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Serve with fresh berries or a berry sauce and whipped cream.

Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Makes 12 servings.

Recipe Source: Texaserin Baking

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sweet Chili-Orange Chicken Thighs {Crock Pot or Instant Pot}


I really like cooking chicken thighs, especially in the crock pot or Instant Pot. They don't dry out as easily as chicken breasts, and they pair really well with Asian flavors. I developed this recipe after seeing something similar in a cookbook. This chicken was a huge hit with my family, and it's SO FAST if you have a pressure cooker. If you don't, just use your crock pot, and while it takes longer, dinner will be ready when you are.


If you want to be extra fancy, you can brown the chicken before placing in the crock pot. In the Instant Pot, you would do this right in the pot on the saute setting, before adding the sauce. This will help the pot come to pressure more quickly. Personally, I can't be bothered! But some people prefer browned meat, so that's totally up to you.

We loved this alongside rice and steamed snow peas. Go easy on yourself with this simple and delicious week night dinner!

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Sweet Chili-Orange Chicken Thighs {Crock Pot or Instant Pot}

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Place chicken in the crock pot or Instant Pot.

In a 1-or 2-cup glass measuring cup, combine the Thai sweet chili sauce, marmalade, orange juice, soy sauce, and pepper flakes. Pour over chicken.

For Crock Pot, cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until chicken is tender.

For Instant Pot, set to manual pressure for 7 minutes. When time is up, do a quick pressure release. (Note: time may vary depending on the size of your chicken pieces. Always check to be sure the meat is done before serving! For this recipe, I've done as little as 6 minutes and as many as 10.)

Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with rice.

Recipe Source: Inspired by a similar recipe in a Taste of Home Cookbook

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins


I make a lot of muffins at our house, and these have recently been a huge hit. There's no cream cheese center here, but cream cheese is incorporated into the batter to make these the fluffiest muffins you'll eat. I've made these with fresh blueberries and I've also used the frozen 3-berry blend from Costco with great results, and with much acclaim.


Don't be shocked by the relative "lack" of flour here - 2 cups is all you need for two dozen muffins. Make any day of the week special with these delicious muffins! And you can freeze them for easy breakfasts later, too!


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Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups blueberries

Using an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk, and mix again until well-combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the muffin batter and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula once or twice. There will be a lot of dry steaks remaining. Add the blueberries. Mix until just combined; the batter will be lumpy.

Divide the batter evenly among 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 350 for 14-17 minutes until the tops spring back lightly to the touch.

Remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a covered container at room temp or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also freeze these muffins in a large zip top freezer bag, and then thaw in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.

Makes 24 muffins.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
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