6/30/15

Food for the Fourth

Whether you're entertaining at home or visiting family and friends for the weekend holiday, you probably will be preparing food of some kind. Cookouts are always a great way to spend time with guests during the summer, and grilled hamburgers or hot dogs are easy and popular. I've also put together a collection of some other mouth-watering foods that are simple to make for guests or potlucks.





Deviled Eggs -- Boil the eggs a couple of days ahead, and they'll be ready to prepare when you need them -- and be sure to make lots of them. 





Red White and Blue Sweet Summer Salad -- A pretty salad made with strawberries, blueberries, and Feta cheese to get all the patriotic colors in one bowl.





Southern Baked Beans -- A great staple at any barbecue, and these can be made in the crock pot.








JalapeƱo Potato Salad -- I love, love this potato salad. Some of the ingredients are similar to other potato salads, but the cumin and jalapeƱos set this one apart.






Baby Back Ribs -- My brother-in-law's recipe, and he knows what he's doing with ribs. The dry rub can be applied the night before, then popped in the oven for a slow cook the next day. These have never failed me.






Margarita Pie -- I like a cool dessert for summer. This pie can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed, and it makes a perfect ending to a spicy meal.


Now display some flags, stack the paper plates, and remember to ice down the drinks, the Fourth is almost here.





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6/24/15

Soft Sugar Cookies

I remember when my Grandmother Clark (I called her Mommy) baked big, soft sugar cookies. A trip to her house almost always meant a treat from her cookie jar. Sometimes she made oatmeal cookies, but often her cookie jar was filled with soft, delicious sugar cookies. She lived in a time of few conveniences, but she still managed to find time to keep that cookie jar filled.

I don't get cookies like Mommy's too often any more, but this recipe reminds me so much of hers. She made hers plain with no icing, but I have added icing and sprinkles on these for my Grandson. There are many cookies he is unable to eat because of his nut allergy. I omitted the almond extract in these to make them suitable for him. He thought they were wonderful. Like me, he's a fan of soft cookies, and I hope some day he'll have good memories of Grams and her sugar cookies.








Soft Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt
2 1/3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking pan by lining with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter (can use mixer). Add vanilla extract, almond extract, egg, and yogurt. Whisk flour and baking soda together, then add to creamed mixture, mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared pan. Can be flattened slightly with glass dipped in sugar for plain cookies or baked plain if using icing. Bake for 9 - 11 minutes.  Cool on pan for 5 minutes, then remove to wire rack to continue cooling. Let cool completely before icing.





I think the most important thing when baking sugar cookies is not to over bake. During those last few minutes of baking time be sure to watch them carefully. Sugar cookies are not supposed to be browned when they come out of the oven.


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6/21/15

Peanut Butter Cookies

Years ago I was not a big fan of peanut butter cookies, but that changed when I started using crunchy peanut butter in my recipe. Since then I have probably baked thousands of these Peanut Butter Cookies. I baked these often when my children were in the cookie eating stage (some of us never outgrow that stage). Every mom needs a few classic cookie recipes in her repertoire. If you don't have a favorite Peanut Butter Cookie recipe, you might want to add this one to your recipe box.







Print Recipe

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together butter and both sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract, then blend in peanut butter. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Press with back of floured fork to make crisscross design. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 3 - 4 minutes, then remove from baking sheet to wire rack.




Use a floured fork to a make crisscross design in each cookie.



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6/20/15

Beer Braised Beef Roast

Some people never get enough jewelry. They love their diamonds. Others have a closet full of shoes, somewhat resembling a mini shoe store. I love my diamonds and shoes, but what I really love is to be turned loose in a kitchen store with a credit card. I love to browse among the dishes, flatware, and cookware. When I take a trip, my souvenir will likely be some new item for my kitchen. When I was working on how to prepare this recipe, though, I realized I needed yet another item for my kitchen. A braiser would be perfect for a cut of meat like this chuck roast. I made do with an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, but I'm bumping the braiser to the top of my wish list.







Print Recipe

Beer Braised Beef Roast

1 (2 - 2 1/2 pound) beef chuck roast
Salt
Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, quartered
1/2 pound baby carrots
3/4 pound small red potatoes
2 - 3 celery stalks, cut in pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 (12 ounce) can beer

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Prepare a braiser by lightly spraying with cooking spray, set aside.
Sprinkle roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet, sear roast on both sides. Place onion, carrots, potatoes, celery, and garlic in bottom of prepared braiser. Add Worcestershire sauce and beer. Place seared roast over vegetables. Cover and cook for about 2 1/2 hours or until roast is tender. Place roast on a serving platter, use a slotted spoon to scoop out vegetables.




Assemble vegetables in the bottom of the braiser, then add the liquid ingredients.



Place the browned roast over the vegetables. Cover and cook for about 2 1/2 hours.


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6/17/15

Tangy Chilled Bean Salad

This Tangy Chilled Bean Salad will not only add color to a summer meal, it will also add flavor, flavor, and flavor. Peppery arugula with spinach, radishes, lemon juice, and two kinds of beans pack a taste punch. Make it ahead and let it refrigerate overnight for a maximum blend of the all the zestiness.







Print Recipe

Tangy Chilled Bean Salad

5 cups arugula and spinach mix, washed and drained
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
2 - 3 radishes, sliced
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, toss arugula and spinach, onion, celery, and radishes. Add garbanzo and kidney beans.
Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper; pour over vegetable mixture and toss lightly. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Toss again before serving.






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6/14/15

Cherry Pie (Almost) Like Mother Made

Mother didn't keep many written recipes. Most everything she cooked or baked was by memory, and a number of things she made were passed down to her from her own mother. I watched Mother cook all my life, but I didn't make enough notes. It's been a year now since Mother passed away, and I'm still trying to duplicate some of her recipes. One of those recipes is her cherry pie.

I know lots of cooks use pre-made filling for cherry pies, but Mother always made hers with canned tart cherries. I know what ingredients she used in her cherry pie, I'm just not sure of her exact measurements. After some trial and error of adjusting measurements, I believe this cherry pie version is close to the one Mother made.






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Cherry Pie (Almost) Like Mother Made

3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 (15 ounce) cans red tart cherries, drained with 2/3 cup juice reserved
A few drops red food coloring
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon butter
Unbaked double pie crust (I used my Mother's pie crust recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in cherry juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in food coloring, cherries, almond extract, and butter. Pour filling into unbaked pie crust. Cover with second crust, sealing and venting, or may use lattice crust. Bake for 35 minutes until crust is brown. During the last 10 minutes of baking time cover edges of crust with aluminum foil. Cool on wire rack.








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6/9/15

Roasted Red Cabbage

Practically all roasted vegetables are favorites of mine, and Roasted Red Cabbage is no exception. I made this colorful, tasty side dish for dinner tonight, and if it were any easier to make I believe it just might cook itself.

There's no accounting for the way my mind works because this dinner made me think of Cabbage Patch Dolls. They were an extremely sought after item when my daughters were small. In fact, I've heard that sometimes people got into scuffles over them as soon as the store shelves were stocked. Can you still buy a Cabbage Patch Doll? I remember they were very cute, and each one had a distinct look. When I was a child, I loved my Barbie. I think Barbie might just outlive us all. The last time I asked a young girl about dolls, I was told the preference now is American Girl dolls, or am I already behind with the latest fad?




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Roasted Red Cabbage

1 red cabbage
Olive oil
Salt
Black pepper
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with aluminum foil, then lightly coat the foil with cooking spray. Cut the cabbage into wedges and place on the prepared pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn wedges over and roast an additional 10 minutes, or until edges of cabbage begin to brown.






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6/7/15

Death by Chocolate Cake

Although "Death by Chocolate" may mean something different depending on who you ask for a definition, I believe all will agree it is an extraordinary dessert filled with many types of chocolate. This Death by Chocolate cake is a no-bake refrigerator version with various layers of decadence. The richness makes this a special occasion kind of dessert. You'll get a unanimous thumbs up when you serve this delightful treat.





Death by Chocolate Cake

1 (14.4 ounce) box chocolate graham crackers
1 (11.75 ounce) jar chocolate sauce
Mini chocolate chips (for sprinkling over top)

Chocolate Mousse
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 (8 ounce) container whipped topping (like Cool Whip)

Chocolate Ganache
1 (11.5 ounce) bag milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Whipped Cream
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa


1. Chocolate Mousse -- In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, and milk. Beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in cocoa until all is combined. Fold whipped topping into the mixture. Set aside.

2. Chocolate Ganache -- Place chocolate chips into a metal bowl. In a separate microwaveable bowl, place the whipping cream in a microwave oven and heat on HIGH just until the cream starts to boil. Immediately pour hot cream over chocolate chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap for 5 - 7 minutes. Remove cover, add vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

3. Chocolate Whipped Cream -- Using a chilled bowl and beaters, beat cream until it begins to  thicken. Add powdered sugar and cocoa. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

4. To assemble cake -- In a 9 x 13-inch dish, place a single layer of graham crackers. Add 1/2 of the Chocolate Mousse over graham crackers, spread evenly. Top with 1/2 of the Chocolate Ganache, spreading evenly. 
Repeat these layers again - chocolate graham crackers, remaining Chocolate Mousse, remaining Chocolate Ganache.
Add another layer of graham crackers, then top with Chocolate Whipped Cream, spreading evenly.
Pour chocolate sauce over whipped cream layer, then sprinkle with mini chips. Keep refrigerated.









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6/5/15

Strawberry Muffins

Fresh strawberries are an appealing fruit with numerous health benefits. Strawberries are in season and abundant right now, so they are a great choice for eating fresh or for using in recipes. This muffin recipe is rich with buttermilk, but not too sweet, allowing the strawberries to take center stage. I baked these for breakfast, but I predict I will be having another one for a snack later today.






Print Recipe

Strawberry Muffins

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a muffin pan with cooking spray or use paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, stir together buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Add strawberries, stirring into the mixture gently. Divide batter among prepared baking cups. Bake for 17 minutes, or until muffins test done using a toothpick. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.







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6/2/15

Fudge Brownie Bars

Ever had one of those days when no matter how much you do you can't seem to get ahead? I know I have. Those days are hard, and it can help if I stop for a cup of tea and a bit of indulgence like a cookie or a brownie to unfrazzle my nerves. Sometimes, though, not even a brownie is quite a match for the workload and stresses we face. Some days call for more, like a batch of these three layer Fudge Brownie Bars. One of these little delights can take you on a mini-vacation away from whatever you want to leave behind, just close your eyes and take a bite.






Print Recipe

Fudge Brownie Bars

First layer
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Second layer
1 package fudge brownie mix (9 x 13-inch pan size)
1 egg
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Frosting
1 (11.5 ounce) package milk chocolate chips, melted
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan by greasing.
First layer: In a large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Add flour and stir until combined. Press dough evenly into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes or until golden brown.
Second layer: In a large bowl, combine brownie mix, egg, water, and oil. Stir until combined. Spread this mixture over the hot first layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
Third layer: Melt chocolate chips in a microwave oven. Stir until smooth. Spread chocolate over cooled second layer. Sprinkle with nuts, if desired. Cool, then cut into bars.





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