Thursday, January 27, 2011

"S" is for Strawberry Streusel Bars

I've been thinking about "S" week for quite awhile, actually.  I had someone in mind to be our recipient but just hadn't mentioned it to her yet.  I even had the chance to say something to her about it earlier in the week when I saw her, but something in me just wanted to wait.  I just wasn't sure. 

I browsed once again through our church directory and a different name seemed to leap off one of the pages to me.  A sweet homeschooling mom of seven kids (oldest of which is nearly as old as me, youngest is nine), precious, quiet, humble lady.  I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of her before.  I called her and explained what we were doing and asked if we could bring her a treat to church last night.  I could hear her delight in her voice.  She almost sounded like she was going to cry at one point.  Tears of happiness.  

Annika and I got right to work making these bars.  They're very easy.  The base is just a lovely sugar cookie dough...baked in a bar form.  I loved the texture of it....and might sometime just make it by itself!  Lots easier than rolling out sugar cookies.  I loved the strawberry layer, simple and fruity.  The topping, I don't know.  Mine did not turn out like Sweet Kat's did....that's for sure.  Her's looked crumbly and beautiful....mine stayed flat and refused to get browned at all until I turned on the broiler for a couple of minutes and nearly burnt it.  
I think I would prefer a streusel topping with oats and brown sugar, a little flour and softened butter.  But maybe that's just me.  Anyways, these did turn out yummy and so simple to make.

When we delivered them to our friend, she said that she had been having a rough day and hearing from me just turned it all around for her.  She was so blessed.  Not to mention glad that her name starts with "S".  

It felt really good to make someone so happy by such a small gesture.....never underestimate the power of giving!

Recipe: (from Sweet Kat's Kitchen)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 (10 oz) jar strawberry preserves (or desired flavor)

1 cup flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350°.
With an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add egg and mix well. Gradually stir in flour until well combined.  
Press the mixture into a buttered 13 x 9" pan.  I found it helped to put a bit of flour on my fingers to press it in; the dough is very sticky.
Put the preserves into a microwave-safe bowl and heat until nearly melted.  Spread over base.
For topping, combine ingredients until crumbly using a pastry blender or two forks.  Sprinkle evenly over preserves.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 24 bars.  

Conversation with a 3-year Old

Annika:  "Mom, I wish I were a grown-up just like you.  And I wish I was your mom!"

Me: "Well, God made me to be your mom....but someday you'll have children of your own, the Lord willing."

Annika:  "And I"m going to name her Flowy, if my husband agrees."

Monday, January 24, 2011

"R" is for Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies

We're finally back to our Alphabet Service Projects.  If you've been following along, you may notice that we skipped "Q".  Well, I taught the letter "Q", and we actually do know a little girl from church who's name begins with Q, but I struggled to come up with a recipe that started with "Q" (other than Quiche, but that sounds like a C or a K, which makes it just too confusing for a 3-year old).  Plus I was feeling lazy.  Shame on me.  Maybe we'll come back to it.

Back to the letter R.  We decided to have some friends over for dinner who's last name begins with R, and I made Baked Rotini, Romaine salad with Ranch, Buttered Corn, French Bread Rolls, and these fabulous Raspberry Cheesecake Bars.  Let me just say, the dinner was great, but this dessert was phenomenal.

The slightly tangy raspberries complement the creamy cheesecake and dense chocolaty brownies perfectly.  They're rich, but not so much that you don't want another one.  Like right away.  For my raspberry chocolate loving husband, these were bound to be a new favorite, and they met and exceeded all his expectations.

Update June 2013: Blackberries are equally good in this recipe - I made that version for Father's Day 2013 and Grant couldn't have been happier.  I bet even blueberries would be delicious!

Recipe: (adapted from Cooking for Seven)

1 stick +5 T. (7 oz)  butter, softened
2 cups sugar, divided (I used very scant cups)
5 eggs, room temperature, divided use
7 oz dark chocolate, chopped (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1 cup flour, sifted (I used white whole wheat)
1/4 t. salt
2 t. vanilla extract, divided use
2 (8 oz pkgs) cream cheese, room temperature
5 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen

For the brownie batter:
1) Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 13” x 9” glass baking dish.
2) Beat the softened butter with 1 cup of sugar until slightly fluffy. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3) Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Let cool slightly. Stir into the butter and sugar mixture. Add the sifted flour, salt, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract and carefully fold it in.
For the cheesecake batter:
4) Put the cream cheese in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the 2 remaining eggs, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Beat until it’s a smooth, creamy mixture.
Putting it all together:
5) Spread 2/3 of the chocolate mix on the bottom of your baking tray. Pour the cream cheese on top and spread it out evenly. Now drop little pieces of chocolate mix on top of the cream cheese. Lightly work it in with a fork—like you’re marbling a cake. Push the raspberries into the cream cheese.
6) Bake at 350°F (175C) for 40 to 45 minutes or until the cake feels set when gently touched in the center. Let the brownies cool off completely, then refrigerate several hours,  preferably overnight, before cutting them in squares.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Work in Progress

Dear Faithful Readers,

If you can't tell, I'm working on re-designing and updating my blog's look.  Since I have no experience with such things and don't have much of a clue what I'm doing, it may take awhile (cause I do have other obligations, like four children and a husband, ya know!) and things could possibly will be a bit messy.  Please bear with me and hopefully things will be much cleaner and user-friendly when I'm done! 

Thank you for your understanding!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Giveaway Results!

I had so much fun reading through your responses!  Sounds like KitchenAid has some very loyal followers out there, myself included!  I literally can't imagine my kitchen without my mixer.

So without further ado, let's get down to business and announce the winner of the awesome cookie scoop.

Marissa (5) was very excited to help me pick a winner today.  I wrote all the names on paper and put them in a plastic cup (and shook them quite vigorously). She proudly reached in without looking and pulled out the name....

Congratulations, SnoWhite!  I hope you enjoy the scoop as much as I do!  

Email me with your address and I'll get it to you ASAP!

Thanks to everyone who played along!  And I won't wait another 400 posts before doing another giveaway, I promise!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Time for a Giveaway!!!

See this?  It's an Oxo Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop.  I got one for Christmas and I love it!  I've actually only used it for cookies so far, but I plan on using it for meatballs and mini-ice cream scoops for cute desserts and filling mini muffin tins and all sorts of things.

In honor of my 400th post today, I have decided to give one away.

If you would like to win this wonderful kitchen gadget, leave a comment on this post telling me what one of your favorite kitchen tools/gadgets is!  Only one comment per person, please!

Deadline for entry is Saturday @ noon.  Eastern time.

Winner will be picked at random and announced hopefully by Saturday evening!

Good Luck!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Zannie's Black-Eyed Pea Dip

Trying desperately to stay a smidgen true to my southern roots and eat black-eyed peas for New Year's Day, I bought a can of them and intended to serve them plain (or drizzled with ketchup, which believe it or not, is really good).  Then I saw this recipe on the Pioneer Woman Cooks and realized that I had all the necessary ingredients and by golly, it sounded a lot tastier than plain black-eyed peas. 

Oh, it was.  Grant was a bit skeptical, I think, but he and I really enjoyed this dip.  So did my sister and her boyfriend, who got to help eat the leftovers a few days later. 

I had lots of bean dips, but never one with black-eyed peas.  While I'm sure that this one would be tasty with pinto beans or black beans, I thought the flavor of the black-eyed peas was really unique and delicious. 


1 (14-15 oz) can black-eyed peas
1/4 of an onion, chopped fine
1/4 c. sour cream
8 slices jarred jalepenos
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 T. salsa
Hot sauce, to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°.
Drain black-eyed peas and partially mash, leaving some whole.
Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine.
Spread into a 1-1/2 qt. baking dish (I used a 9" square pan) and bake for 20-30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: If you have them available, you can use canned black-eyed peas with jalepenos.  Then you can omit the extra jalepenos.  I've never seen them here. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

Oh Yum yum yum.  This is a great cheesecake bar, let me tell you.  And the caramel sauce.....just divine. 

I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of this luscious dessert.  It's got it all....buttery crust, creamy cheesecake, chewy sweet crumb topping, and, like I said before, the caramel sauce just takes it over the top.  (If you have any leftovers, it's delicious on ice cream!)

I tried to make it a wee bit lighter in fat by reducing the butter by a few Tablespoons here and there....I'm sure it didn't affect the taste at all, and every little effort to be healthier counts, right?  Right?

I think it would be incredible with a graham cracker crust as well, maybe one spiked with cinnamons and some finely chopped pecans.  That would reduce the fat even further, because graham cracker crusts don't use as much butter as this shortbread did.  So maybe I'll try that out sometime.

Recipe:  from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick + 5 T. butter,
softened  (Original recipe calls for 2 sticks)
Cream Cheese Layer:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Streusel Topping:
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup quick cooking oats

6 T butter, softened (Original recipe calls for 1 stick or 1/2 cup)
1 cup caramel sauce (homemade recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, two tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine all the streusel topping ingredients and mix until crumbly. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture is crumbly but combined. Press evenly into a 9X13-inch baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
While the crust is baking, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla. Mix well. Pour over the warm crust.
Spoon the apple mixture evenly over the cheesecake layer. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples. Bake for 30 minutes until the filling is set.
Cool the bars to room temperature. Drizzle with the caramel topping (or plate individual slices and drizzle with topping one by one).
Caramel Sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cups half-and-half or cream
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix butter, brown sugar, half-and-half or cream, and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thickened slightly. Add the vanilla and cook another minute to thicken further. Turn off the heat and pour the sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until cold. If the caramel sauce has cooled in the fridge long enough to harden, warm slightly before drizzling on bars.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chocolate Pretzels

Say "Hello" to one of the easiest treats ever.  And delicious to boot!

I was introduced to these by my neighbor Jenny, who invited us over for our kids to make these together a few days before Christmas.  The kids LOVED making them and eating when my sister was visiting, she asked if we could make a batch ourselves.  So we did.  The hardest part about it is unwrapping all those hugs and kisses.  I take that back....the hardest part is keeping the kids from eating all of the hugs and kisses before they even make it onto the pretzels.  

Definitely fun and festive and a wonderful way to put those little hands in your house to work in the kitchen.  


Bag of small pretzels - I like Snyder's Snaps (Note:  not all will be used)
Bag of Hershey's Hugs or Kisses, unwrapped
Bag of M&Ms (not all will be used)

Preheat oven to 275°.
On an ungreased baking sheet, lay pretzels out.  They can be very close together.
Top each pretzel with an unwrapped chocolate kiss/hug.
Put in oven for 3-4 minutes, or until chocolate is softened but not completely melted.
Place an M&M on top of each chocolate piece, pressing lightly.
Refrigerate until firm if desired, or just let them sit at room temperature (which will take longer).

They don't need to be refrigerated.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Funnies from a 5-year old

We're installing some new shelves for better organization in the master closet this weekend.

I was putting together one of the shelves by myself when Marissa (5) came strolling into the room.

"Well, look at that!" she quipped in amazement.  "Mom is actually learning how to work."

Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

Thanks a lot, kid.

Another quick one.....

A few days ago while we were just hanging out, Marissa randomly breaks the silence with, "Eating a sandwich is a lot easier than cleaning a room."

We were neither eating nor cleaning, so I have no idea why she said that.  It just made me laugh.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Turkey in 2.5 hours

If you can believe it, this is the first full-sized turkey I've ever made on my own.  We're usually with family for holidays and either my mom or mother-in-law has turkey duty.  But since we were home last Christmas with no family visiting, it was my opportunity to give it a shot solo.  

I decided to go with this recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, because it sounded easy and delicious, not to mention quick!  

It is a little unconventional in the cooking method; after cooking the turkey at a high temperature (500°!!) for a little while, you pull it out and put a grease tent over it.  You can use a regular brown paper grocery bag, or if you're concerned about the health hazards that have been reported, you can do as I did (following the suggestion of one of the commenter's from Mel's recipe) and staple two cut lunch bags together.  Basically you cut off the bottom of the bag(s), butter both sides of the paper and create a tent over the turkey that is open on both ends.  Like so. 

Then you lower the oven temp to 400° and cook for 2 hours.  My turkey was just under 15 lbs and I think I could have taken it out about 15 minutes earlier, but it ended up just fine.  Delicious, actually.  

I loved the flavor, the juiciness, the smells, everything about it.  Just wonderful!  

My only issue was not being able to make gravy from the drippings because they were a burnt mess on the bottom of my pan....but that happens every time we use this pan for a turkey, so I think it must be an issue with my pan.  Any ideas, veteran turkey makers? 

I can hardly wait for an occasion to make this one again.  

Recipe: (from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)
Printable Version

1 14-22 pound turkey
carrots, celery (cut into large chunks), onion (peeled and cut into large chunks), garlic cloves (peeled and smashed)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

brown paper bag or 2 lunch bags cut and stapled together

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and let it heat for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, remove giblets and neck and wash the turkey. Fill the cavity of the turkey with carrots, celery, garlic and onion. Combine the lemon juice, salt, pepper and poultry seasoning in a small bowl. With your hands, rub the entire turkey with the lemon juice mixture.

Place the turkey breast down (this is opposite of how a turkey is normally cooked - so just flip the turkey upside down) in a large roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the hot oven for as many minutes as the turkey weighs (ie. 19 lb. turkey = 19 minutes). Bake for the allotted time.
Meanwhile, grease a large brown paper bag with butter on both sides. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and carefully (because the turkey and roasting pan are HOT) make a tent out of the paper bag and drape it over the turkey, taking care to tuck the sides of the bag into the roasting pan (otherwise, the butter will drip off the bag, leap onto the oven burner and possibly create a large fire.) Turn the oven down to 400 degrees and cook the turkey for two hours.
Remove the roasting pan and turkey from the oven and let turkey sit for 20 minutes. Remove turkey from the roasting pan and pour the drippings into a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Make a slurry from flour and water (to the consistency of thick, heavy cream) and add to the drippings until desired consistency is reached.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chicken Enchilada Roll-Ups

I've been MIA for the past week due to a lovely visit from my younger sister and her boyfriend.  I haven't seen her in a year (and this is our first time meeting him) so blogging hasn't exactly been on my top priority list.  Today is their last day here....but I thought I'd jump on and share this delightful recipe that I tried out over the holidays.  (I'll be sharing a few photos of their visit soon.)

Chicken Enchilada Roll-ups are a great party food, no doubt about it.  They're perfect for making the day before, since they're supposed to be served chilled.  Can I just say that when I'm entertaining, it makes life SO much easier if I can make several things the day(s) before?  Those recipes that have to be completed at the last minute so stress me out.   

These are also just plain delicious.  Not too spicy, but definitely have lots of flavor and a little kick.  I enjoyed the leftovers as snacks or lunch for a couple of days.

Recipe: (from Annie's Eats)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Mexican blend, pepper jack, etc.)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
Handful of cilantro,
3 green onions, chopped
10 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained well
6-8 soft taco sized tortillas
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Cook in a skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned and cooked through.  Transfer to a plate and let cool.
In the meantime, combine all of the remaining ingredients except tortillas in a large mixing bowl.  Mix until well blended.  Once the chicken is cool, transfer to a cutting board and chop or shred into small pieces.  Add the chicken to the filling mixture and stir well to incorporate.
Spread a thin layer of the filling mixture over a tortilla, leaving a small border clear around the edge.  Roll the tortilla up tightly into a spiral.  Place the rolled up tortilla on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into 1- to 1½-inch thick segments.  Transfer to a serving platter and serve chilled or at room temperature.

This post is linked to Picnic Recipes: a 4-Moms Link up

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Raspberry Chocolate Cake

This is simply a remarkable cake.  An exquisite cake.  A cake Grant labeled as "Quite possibly the best chocolate cake I've ever had".  I should have garnished it with fresh raspberries, but it was Christmas....not many quality fresh raspberries in Virginia.
The raspberry complements the chocolate perfectly....not too strong, not too weak....and the filling is just wonderful.  I had my doubts about it....I had never made a milk-flour based frosting and just had no idea what it would be like.  I was so delighted with the end product.  Just trust me, it's fabulous.  And the frosting is too. 

I didn't use red food coloring in the filling because I try to avoid food coloring unless I'm making birthday cakes....but you're welcome to use it to make it "look" more raspberry-ish. 

I had to send Grant to a liqueur store to get the raspberry liqueur - I couldn't find it at the grocery store.  I don't know if raspberry extract would be a suitable substitute or not....but I couldn't find any of that either.   

Recipe (from Taste of Home Feb/Mar 2009)

3 cups sugar
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup baking cocoa
2 t. baking soda
1-1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. baking powder
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup canola oil 
1 T. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1-1/2 cups strong brewed coffee, room temperature

3 T. all-purpose flour
6 T. milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 T. raspberry liqueur
1/4 t. salt
2 drops red food coloring (optional - I did not use)
4 T. seedless raspberry jam, melted

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter, softened
½ c. baking cocoa
1 T. raspberry liqueur
4 cups powdered sugar

Line three greased 9-inch round baking pans with waxed paper and grease paper; set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients.  Combine the buttermilk, oil and vanilla; add to the dry ingredients.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat for 2 minutes.  Gradually add coffee (batter will be thin).

Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely; discard waxed paper.

Level tops of cakes if necessary.  Place one layer on a serving plate; spread with about 2 T. jam.  Place remaining layers on waxed paper; spread one of the remaining layers with remaining jam.  Let stand for 30 minutes.

For filling, in a small saucepan, whisk together flour and milk until smooth.  Cook over medium heat for 2-4 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and let stand until cool.  In a large bowl, cream butter.  Gradually add powdered sugar; mix well.  Gradually add cooled milk mixture; beat for 4 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Beat in liqueur, salt and food coloring if desired.

Spread ½ of filling over cake on the plate to within ¼ inch of edges. Top with jam covered cake, then spread with remaining filling.  Top with remaining cake layer. 

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add cocoa and liqueur; mix well.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar until light and fluffy.  Frost top and sides of cake.  Store in refrigerator. 

Note: Cake cuts best when cold, but tastes best when it has been out for at least 30 minutes.
Note 2: I made the cakes a day ahead and then made the filling and frosting and assembled it the next day.  Worked great. 

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