Monday, June 18, 2018

Jam Swirled Cheesecake Squares


  Just as I do every year, I was looking for a red white and blue something to make for July 4th. This year's contribution is an easy and perfect time saver because you can do it way ahead!
 I was trying to think of something that would work with my home made strawberry and blueberry jams, and this is what I found! It's a slightly tweaked version of a Nestle recipe and it's just exactly what I was looking for. Just a quick basic crust, basic cheese filling, and then a swirl of jam! Perfect, right? Seriously, its beauty is in its simplicity. It's the perfect starting point recipe for any cheesecake squares, and then you can vary it up however you like.
 I just happened to have some strawberry pineapple jam, and a brand new batch of fresh blueberry rhubarb jam on hand, so that's what I used, but I will DEFINITELY try other flavors the next time I make this. Ooo maybe fresh blackberry jam next! Or maybe fresh pineapple, one of my all time favorites! I promise, your friends and family will absolutely devour these little gems at your July 4th BBQ long before it's time for fireworks! Have fun, be safe, and enjoy!




First line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper with an inch or two of overhang on each side.

For the crust:
one entire box of shortbread cookies or vanilla wafers
2 tbs sugar
4 tbs melted butter

Place all ingredients in a food processor and give it a good blitz until it becomes fine crumbs that are evenly coated with butter. Press evenly into prepared pan. Bake crust for 15 minutes at 325ºF.

Remove from oven. Let it cool. Meanwhile make the filling.

For the filling:

3 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Use a paper towel to wipe out the food procesor of crumbs. No need to completely wash.
Place all filling ingredients in the now crumb free food processor. Process until completely smooth.
Pour filling over baked crust.

For the topping:
Place teaspoonfuls of your favorite jam all over the top. I would say about 1/4 -1/3 cup of jam, total. Yes, it will probably sink in, but that's ok. Use a tooth pick to swirl, making sure not to disturb the underlying crust.
Bake at 325ºF for 40 minutes or until set. Cool completely then refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Cut into squares and serve!



Tips:
For the crust, I used Lorna Doone cookies. Why? Because I LOVE 'em! But use anything you like. Vanilla wafers or graham crackers would be my second choice. You could even do golden or regular Oreos. No need to add the butter and sugar, just process until crumbs and then proceed as directed!
 Don't have a food processor? just crush the cookies in a ziploc bag. And use an electric mixer to mix up the filling! The only reason I used a food processor for the filling was because I didn't feel like washing another dish! heehee
 I used strawberry pineapple and blueberry rhubarb jam. I wanted the red white and blue, but feel free to add just one. Or as many as you like! Don't have any jam? Use teaspoonfuls of pie filling instead!
Definitely be sure to chill the pan for several hours. It makes cutting into squares so much easier!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef



 Several years ago, I went to dinner at P.F. Chang's (which is a Chinese food restaurant chain). OMG it's SO delicious. I had the Mongolian Beef, and it quickly because one of my all time faves. I order it literally every time I go back, which is not often enough, btw. (Anyone wanna go?)
 Ever since then, I've been on the lookout for any recipes or restaurants that could even come close. The tender beef, the sweet/salty sauce, no one else's seemed to compare. Well, until NOW!
OK ok, well maybe it's not EXACTLY as good, but so far this one comes closest to the mark. It's from a blog called The Recipe Critic and I tweaked it ever so slightly. It's super easy too, especially since you make it in the crock pot! So, if you want the BEST Mongolian Beef EVER, then you need to go to P.F. Chang's, but in the meantime this one will definitely satisfy your craving. Now all I need to do is get the recipe for their Orange Peel Chicken...  mmmm.



1 1/2 pounds flank steak
1/4 cups cornstarch
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger root
3/4 cups soy sauce
3/4 cups water
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup grated carrots
sliced green onions, for garnish



 Cut steak into thin strips. In a ziploc bag add steak pieces and cornstarch. Shake to coat.
Add olive oil, minced garlic, soy sauce, water, brown sugar and carrots to slow cooker.
Stir ingredients. Add coated and steak and stir again until coated in the sauce.
Cook for high 2-3 hours or on low 4-5 hours until cooked throughout and tender.
Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.



Tips:
I wasn't able to find flank steak, so I used a Top Round (London Broil) steak.
I was also just shy of 3/4 cup of soy sauce, so I added a little Worcestershire Sauce to make up the difference. Worked perfectly well!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Cheesy Barbecue Casserole




Lately I've been in a sort of casserole-ish mood. I know we usually save casseroles for Fall and colder weather, but I just figured what about a summer casserole? So then I got to thinking about different versions of mac n cheese and I remembered doing a crock pot cheeseburger mac that was absolutely delicious. So I held onto that idea for a bit, did some browsing of the interwebs, and this is what I found! It's from Betty Crocker. Well, the original is from Betty Crocker. This one is my tweaked version. Tbh, I didn't really change anything except for the amounts. The original called for 11oz of pasta. Who cooks just 11 oz? So I did the whole pound. I was also a lot more generous with the cheese and the barbecue sauce, but it's still basically the same recipe.
 Yes, yes, I know one or two of you may be saying "barbecue sauce on pasta?" TRUST ME! It's barbecue cheesy goodness and it's the perfect thing for you summer BBQ, especially if you're feeding a crowd. This is definitely the cheeseburger mac vibe I was looking for. I'm pretty sure you were looking for it too. You just didn't know it yet! You're welcome.



1 lb ziti or other shaped cut pasta
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce, plus more
8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese
8 oz shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Heat oven to 350°F.
Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. In a large mixing bowl, stir together pasta, beef mixture and all remaining ingredients. Spoon mixture into casserole dish. Sprinkle with more Cheddar cheese, if desired. Bake uncovered 30 to 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with a little more parsley and drizzle with a little more barbecue sauce.



Tips:
I was very heavy handed with  the barbecue sauce. Like I always say More is more!!! But just taste it and see how much YOU like!
You could go in MANY directions with this. Instead of ground beef, how about shredded chicken? instead of mozzarella and cheddar, add whatwever kind of gooey melty cheese you like!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Pineapple Raspberry Crumble


 One of my all time favorite desserts is any kind of baked fruit with a crumbly topping, topped with vanilla ice cream. Crisps, brown betties, pan dowdies, slumps, grunts, buckles, I love them all. (yes, they are all names of fruit desserts lol)
But here's the thing... I've always thought of crisps and crumbles to be the same thing, depending on what side of the pond you live. In America we say Apple Crisp, but say, in England, they would call it an Apple Crumble. But then I found this recipe on a blog called Pretty Plain Janes. It's a crumble, but it's not a crisp, so I stand corrected! It appears that all crisps are crumbles, but not all crumbles are crisps! Usually when I make a crisp, I add cinnamon, and oats, and brown sugar, but this crumble topping is just flour, butter, and sugar. And OMG it's freaking AMAZING. Why have I never thought to do this before? Game changer! I've already decided that this will be the topping for every crumb topped fruit pie in my future. FABULOUS.
 Oh, btw, I didn't do it exactly as it was listed in the original. (c'mon, you know me by now, right?) First of all, I used raspberries instead of strawberries. Why? Because I was cooking for my friend AJ who told me that he likes raspberries! It's all about playing to your crowd, people! Also, I didn't make it in an 8x8 pan (as you can see), and I may or may not have had a slightly heavy hand when measuring the crumble ingredients. More is more!
 So, give this one a try and let me know how you like it. It's perfect for your summer cookouts or BBQs. I promise you your friends and family will devour it! Oh! and don't forget the vanilla ice cream! It's a must!



4 cups chopped fresh pineapple
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup plus 2 tbs flour
1 cup plus 1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter


 Preheat oven 375ºF. Grease an 8" square pan. Toss pineapple and berries in a bowl with 2 tbs flour and 1 tbs sugar. Pour into prepared dish.
Combine remaining flour, sugar, and salt in separate bowl. Add butter and combine with hands until a crumbly texture forms. Spread evenly on top of fruit. Place in oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is golden and your home smells like tropical cake. Let set 10 minutes before serving.




Tips:
For the crumble topping, the original stressed that you have to use your hands to combine the flour mixture with the butter. in order to get it just right. Being the rebel that I am (lol),  I just threw everything into a food processor and buzzed it until for about 20 seconds until it came together. It came out perfectly!
It seems to me that this would work perfectly with pretty much any fruit or fruit combination. Blueberries, peaches, mangoes, and yes definitely strawberries. Mix and matchn'em up however you like, and as always go for whichever fruit looks the freshest!
If you're feeding a crowd, just double the whole recipe and bake it in a 9x13 pan.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Country Ham and Corn Casserole



    When I first saw this recipe (from Pillsbury, I believe), it reminded me of my favorite corn casserole that is now a staple side dish at Thanksgiving dinner. But then after I gave it a closer look, I thought mmm... maybe this would be a great something to have for lunch or brunch, kind of in the same way you'd have a quiche! And do you know what? I was right! All you need is a simple side salad to go with it along with a nice tall glass of ice cold sweet tea, and you have the perfect little lunch that just hits the spot. And honestly, it couldn't be easier to make. You basically just mix everything together and bake it! Easy, right? Now that's my idea of an easy recipe! Try it!


Ok wait... UPDATE....
 The following recipe is my tweaked version of the original. What can I say? I can never leave well enough alone. After I posted the original, I thought, "wait, this can be better." So I made it again! The first time I made it, the amount of butter was just way too much to the point where it looked like an oil slick while it was baking. So I literally cut the amount of butter by half. Also, instead of adding a can of Mexicorn as the original recipe required, I decided to use a can of whole kernel corn and some chopped roasted roasted red peppers. I finished it off with a little black pepper. I think this is a MUCH better version! Still not too heavy, still very delicious with a simple side salad, still perfect for a brunch. And just fyi, the fresh green onion on top as a garnish really makes it!



2 c. cooked ham, cubed
1/2 c. green onions, chopped (plus more)
1/4 c butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 (15oz) can cream style corn
1 (15oz) can whole kernel corn
1/4 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers
1 pkg corn muffin mix
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 c shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 2 qt casserole dish.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the cheese. Pour into casserole dish.
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown and set. Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with more chopped green onions.


Tip:
So now that I've tweaked it a little, the only thing I would change or vary might be to add a little heat, possibly with some chopped jalapeno peppers. The corn really lends itself to Southwestern flavors, so if that's your thing, go for it!