Friday, July 2, 2021

Red, White, and Blueberry Cheese Icebox Cake

 


 Here’s another no-bake dessert that is perfect for your 4th of July celebration. It’s an ice box cake!! Have you ever had one? It’s actually nothing new, and not even really a cake. It’s just layers of sweet creamy deliciousness sandwiched between layers of graham crackers, (in this case with added strawberries and blueberries). And then as it chills, the graham crackers become soft and more like cake. So you can slice it into squares, and it sets up just like cake! Clever, huh?
 I recently made it for my niece, Terri, and her family, and it got RAVE reviews! It’s kind of one of those desserts where everyone goes back for just a little bit more. No judgement here! And it’s easy enough for the cooking novice to make. Perfect! If you’ve never tried one, you absolutely must!




8oz pkg cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups heavy cream

2 lbs strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1 lb blueberries, washed and picked over of any stems
2 sleeves graham crackers


In a mixing bowl with a wire whisk attachment, starting on a low speed, whip together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl and gradually add speed until the mixture is smooth. Turn mixer back to low speed. Add all of the cream. Slowly increase speed again all the way to high. Mix until the cream is thickened to a nice spreadable consistency.

In a glass 9x13 dish, spread a thin layer of the cream mixture across the bottom, just to give the crackers something to hold onto. Place a layer of graham crackers, breaking them as needed to fit. Do another thin layer of cream. Now do a layer of sliced strawberries, and another layer of cream.
Do the same thing again, only with blueberries this time. (crackers, cream, blueberries, cream.)
The last layer of cream should use up the remaining cream. Arrange strawberries and blueberries on top in any decorative pattern.
Cover with foil and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.


Tips:
When I say 2 sleeves of graham crackers, I just mean that usually they come 3 sleeves in a box, and I used 2 of them. Just use as many as you need to cover each layer.
Be sure to do this way in advance to give the graham crackers time to absorb the cream. That’s key to making it more like a cake texture!
 Also if you’d like to make this for July 4th, you could easily make a flag design on the top. Just put a square of blueberries in the upper left corner, and stripes of red strawberries with the white cream mixture showing between them.
Don’t like strawberries?  Use raspberries or cherries instead!
Not going for a patriotic theme? Use any kind of fruit you like! Blackberries, peaches, pineapple, any fruit will work!

 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

No Bake Banana Split Dessert

 



 I was looking for something that SCREAMED summer dessert. You know, something to bring to a BBQ, something that would feed a crowd, something that you know everyone would love.
 Then I remembered seeing something similar to this about a million years ago, and immediately knew that this was what I wanted.  “….now…if I could just remember who had that recipe… was it my sister in law Terri? hmm… I can’t remember.” Then I figured there MUST be one online somewhere, and of course there was. Actually, there are a million versions. I just picked this one (from Browneyed Baker) because it most closely resembled what I was picturing in my memory.
 It’s the perfect thing to bring to your 4th of July BBQ, or frankly any summer event. And it’s the perfect thing to make the day before. Have fun and customize it with your favorite banana split toppings! No matter how you do it, I’m sure it’ll be a hit! I mean, come on… who doesn’t love a banana split??

For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tbs sugar


For the filling:
12 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

8 oz Cool Whip


For the fruit and toppings:
3 to 4 bananas (sliced)

20 oz canned crushed pineapple, drained well

16 oz strawberries (hulled and sliced)

8 oz Cool Whip

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Chocolate syrup

Maraschino cherries

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish; set aside. 
In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter with a fork, stirring until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Dump the crumbs into the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Refrigerate while you prepare the next layer.
 In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the Cool Whip until thoroughly combined. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the graham cracker crust.
Arrange the banana slices in a single layer on top of the cream cheese filling, top with an even layer of the crushed pineapple, and then an even layer of the sliced strawberries.
 Cover with the Cool Whip, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts, then drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with maraschino cherries. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Leftovers can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.



Tips:
Instead of refrigerating my crust, I baked it at 350ºF for about 10 minutes. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be ‘no bake” right? Well, what can I say? I like a baked crust!
Also I used pineapple ice cream topping instead of crushed. A, because I had it on hand, B, because I worried that the juice from the crushed pineapple would make it too runny. Hindsight, I think I would have liked the crushed pineapple better. Turns out that the pineapple topping made everything VERY sweet, and I think the crushed pineapple would have tasted a little bit more fresh. So now we know! I’ll just be sure to really drain the pineapple very well!
Btw, I used WAY more bananas than the recipe says. I just sliced enough to make a solid layer!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip

 


 This recipe comes to us from one of my favorite youtube channels, Whippoorwill Holler. Miss Lori and Mr Brown recently posted a video of how to make this dip, and I immediately knew that this would fall into the category of “how can this not be good?”
 And I have to say the timing of their video couldn’t have been more perfect. A day or two before, I had cooked a dinner of Salisbury steaks for my niece Terri and her family, and I had LOTS of caramelized onions leftover. This would be the perfect way to use them up!
Then I was invited to my sister Cathy’s for a little outdoor hang. Now I had the perfect occasion to try it! Clearly, all the stars were lining up for me try this recipe! I even had all the other ingredients on hand. How perfect is that?
 And OMG is it good!!!!! It’s everything you want in an onion dip, only better. Keep this one in your arsenal of party foods. I guarantee you’ll come back to it again and again!
 

1 cup sour cream
3 oz. softened cream cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
4 to 6 slices crispy bacon, chopped
1 pound sweet onions
Salt and pepper to taste


Place bacon in skillet over medium low heat. Slowly render the fat and cook bacon until it’s crisp. Remove from pan. Chop bacon to small bits. set aside.
Using the same pan, pour out all but about 2 tbs bacon fat. Add sliced onions. Sauce over medium heat until caramelized. This should take a good 20-30 minutes. Don’t rush!
While your onions are caramelizing, mix together the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Let the bacon and onions cool, then add them to the mixture. Adjust your seasonings. Chill until ready to serve with potato chips or Doritos.

Fun fact: You can make caramelized onions in your slow cooker! It’s true! Just throw a few pounds of sliced onions into your slow cooker, toss with a few tbs melted better, salt and pepper, turn it to high, and in about 5 hours, you’ll have caramelized onions! Just be sure to leave the lid slightly ajar so that the extra moisture can evaporate.

Tips:
This dip is the perfect example of how my Mom used to always say “if you like a lot, add a lot.” Do you like a lot of bacon? Do you like a lot of black pepper? Add as much as you like. I added extra bacon and a little extra splash of Worcestershire sauce. YUM.
Btw, full disclosure, since I had LOTS of caramelized onions, I basically doubled the whole thing, although my amounts may or may not have been exact. I just used what I happened to have on hand. Speaking of which, I used regular vinegar instead of white wine vinegar.
For a little extra oniony garnish, sprinkle with chopped chives or scallions for a pretty presentation.

 

 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Miss Dot's Pound Cake

 I was recently watching an episode of Home Town. If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s an HGTV show where home renovations are done in a small town in Mississippi. So, in this one particular episode, they were talking about the house being renovated, and that it used to belong to someone that everyone in the neighborhood knew simply as Miss Dot. And Miss Dot was famous for baking pound cake and bringing it to any new neighbors who happened move into the neighborhood. Well, during part of the renovation, they discovered the famous pound cake recipe and they even contacted Miss Dot to see if she’d bake a cake with them to give to the new homeowner. Awesome. Love it.
  So, of course, you know I wanted to try the recipe. I know, I know, shocker. I googled and found the recipe that the show posted on IG. I already had all the ingredients, so I made it that very day. It was SO good! delicious and buttery, and so moist you don’t need any icing at all.
 OK, so, I’m so thrilled with it, that I decided to call my sister Jeanie to tell her about it. Coincidentally, she had just baked her favorite pound cake recipe a day or two before. I said, “omg great minds, right???” And when I asked her what recipe she used, she said it’s her favorite pound cake recipe, and that it’s from Southern Living. (You know where I”m going with this, right?”)
Yup, as we compared recipes, we discovered that Jeanie’s Southern Living recipe was exactly the same recipe as Miss Dot’s! I think it’s pretty funny that Jeanie and I both decided to make the same pound cake at the same time and received the recipe from two different sources. Seriously, great minds think alike!
 OK, so, can we talk about the actual cake for a minute???? OMG it’s SOOO good! Like, seriously, you don’t need any other recipe after this one. This is THE only pound cake recipe you’ll ever need from here on out. It’s just that good. And it couldn’t be easier. You just mix up the ingredients, (which you probably already have on hand) pour them into a pan, and bake. That’s it!
And if you don’t own a bundt pan, this cake is reason enough to buy one. I think I need to bake another one because the first one’s already gone!



(all ingredients at room temperature)
3 cups flour
3 cups sugar
3 sticks butter
8oz bar of cream cheese
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Beat all ingredients well.
Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan.
Place in a cold oven.
Bake at 300ºF for an hour and a half.



Tips:
The most important thing s to make sure you let everything sit out until room temperature. Otherwise everything just doesn’t mix as well.
Even though the recipe includes a 1/2 tsp salt, I used salted butter. Full disclosure, I use salted butter for everything. I just think it tastes better.
And my best tip for a moist cake… double the amount of vanilla extract, and don’t over bake. You want to take it out of the oven as soon as it tests done with an inserted tooth pick.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Peas and Pasta Salad

 

 I was recently making a giant VAT of BBQ sauce, you know, just to have on hand for all of my favorite summer BBQ dishes, and I was trying to think of side dishes to go with them. In my world, that usually means potato salad, cole slaw, or macaroni salad. MMM macaroni salad… now there’s something I haven’t had for a while… maybe lets try to find a new variation? Want to?
 So I did some searching, and here’s where I landed! It’s a Food Network recipe from Sunny Anderson, and I figured, why not?
 So.. here’s the thing.. full disclosure.. I made the recipe exactly as written.. and I already decided to change a few things. Usually I would save all the tips and variations for after the recipe, but I think this one needs to be said first.
 Well, first, as I was making it, even before tasting it, I wanted more color.. so I added some red bell pepper.. chopped down to a fine confetti. Looks great! OK now to taste it…
whoa… it’s very sweet. Like, VERY sweet. I mean, it does make sense, sweet side salads are a very Southern thing, so that tracks. But it was just a little too sweet for me. The Miracle Whip is very sweet, the peas are sweet, and she even adds sugar. Then I went and added the red bell pepper, which is also sweet.
 My brother Denny was here while I was making it, and we decided that the bacon, onion, and cheddar cheese go a long way to balancing that sweetness, as well as a good hit of salt and pepper.
 So there we have it! A new macaroni salad recipe to try! How sweet do YOU like it? Give it a try and let me know!



1 pound cavatappi pasta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 (15-ounce) jar salad dressing (recommended: Miracle Whip)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
10 ounces frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled


Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as directed on box for al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and place the cooked pasta in a large bowl filled with ice water to stop the pasta from over cooking. Stir until the pasta is cool, then drain in a colander shaking to release as much water as possible.
To make the dressing: In a large bowl mix the red onion, salad dressing, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Taste and then season with a pinch of salt and grind or two of pepper. Add the pasta and completely coat with the dressing. Add in the peas, cheese, and bacon. Cook's Note: If making ahead, cover and refrigerate the salad until ready to serve, then add the bacon right before serving.



Tips:
As I said, it was just a little too sweet for me. I think I’d prefer to get the natural sweetness from the veggies, rather than adding sugar and Miracle Whip. So I would just use regular mayonnaise, (and by that I mean Hellman’s) and then just omit the sugar completely. Also, I liked it better after it had a chance to sit for a while, so, if you can make it a little ahead of time, do it!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Cioppino Linguini

 


 Have you ever heard of a dish called Cioppino? It’s seafood stew from San Francisco that was originally meant to use up the extra sea critters that were accidentally caught in fishermens’ nets. From what I understand, it was originally served as a stew, but I’ve also seen it served as a soup along with some hearty crusty bread. Well, I thought, what if we make it into a thicker sauce and pour it over linguini??? That’s gotta be nothing but fabulous, right?? Now all I needed was an occasion to cook up all this wonderful seafood.
  AHA! I know.. I’l cook it for my gang of friends! Since we’re now all safe and healthy, and we can FINALLY have group get togethers, and since most of them have not seen my new house, this was the perfect time to try out my Cioppino idea. I made it an entire seafood night!  
Mini salmon cakes (which were a HUGE hit) and crab dip were my appetizers, and this linguini was the main course. I used a Tasty recipe as a base, and then just tweaked it ever so slightly…Served with a nice salad, and then followed up with carrot cupcakes and lemon trifle for dessert. I’m pretty sure no one was hungry by the time they left! And everyone LOVED the pasta.
 So whether you serve it as a stew, a soup, or poured over linguini, this is the dish you need to serve to the seafood lovers in your life. Definitely good enough for your next celebration meal!




2 large carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery
1 bulb fennel
1 large leek, rinsed well
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
6 or 7 cloves garlic
1 tbs EACH dried oregano, basil, thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 bottle clam juice
3 cups white wine, divided
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes (with water to rinse out cans)
A couple big pinches of salt
1-2 tsp (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
A dozen little neck clams
1/2 lb mussels
1/2 lb shrimp
1/2 lb large scallops
1 lb cod fillet


 Finely mince first 8 ingredients. (It's easiest to pulse everything in a food professor until almost pureed). Add a few tbs olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Place minced aromatics in pot. Stir well. Let them cook for a good 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until they begin to soften.
Add oregano, basil, thyme, bay leaves, and tomato paste.
Continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
Add clam juice, 2 cups white wine, and the canned tomatoes. Swirl each can about half full with water, add to the pot.
Add a big pinch salt and a tsp or two crushed red pepper flakes.
Bring the sauce up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. After it simmers for about a half hour, it's ready for the seafood, but you can let it go longer. (I let mine go for at least an hour). You can even go up to this point a day in advance. While your sauce is simmering, prepare your seafood.
Remove shells and devein shrimp. Keep cold. Set aside.
Scrub mussels and clams. Discard the ones with broken shells. If you see one that is open, give it a little tap tap with your finger. If it doesn't close, discard it.
If the mussels have a beard, just pull it off. Now soak the clams and mussels in a bowl of ice cold salty water. Let sit for 15 minutes. Do this two more times.
Keep ice cold.
Cut the cod into bite size pieces.
Now it's time to add the seafood to the sauce.
Shrimp and pieces of cod can be added directly to the sauce.
In a large skillet, place a little olive oil over high heat. Place scallops in hot pan. Sear on each side. Set aside. Add a little butter to the pan. Add the clams and mussels and a cup of white wine. Cover. Let stem for a good 10 minutes. Remove cover and dump the clams and mussels along with wine and butter into sauce. Fish out the bay leaves. Stir it all together. Let it simmer until all the seafood is cooked in the sauce. Taste to adjust seasoning.
Boil linguini to desired doneness.
Place in giant pasta bowl, pour sauce over all. Top with a little chopped parsley, if desired. Serve with lots of hearty crusty bread.


Tips:
I chose these kinds of seafood because they’re the ones I like best. Choose which ones you like! I’ve seen recipes where people add salmon, even squid. You do you! I bet a big ol’ crab leg or two would be heavenly. If you want to add more seafood than the amounts I've listed, go for it!
I found that adding about 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes brings just the right burn to the dish… but if you want  it to be really spicy, feel free to add more.
I you’d rather have it as a soup or stew, just use an immersion blender to blend the sauce smooth before adding the seafood, and then skip the linguini. Frankly, I love all the chunky bits in the sauce, so I just left it as it was!




Monday, May 10, 2021

Smothered Pork Chops

 


  Many years ago, when I was first learning how to cook, my Mom used to have a big dinner every Sunday night. On one occasion, I asked her how she decides which foods to cook. I said “how do you know what foods to make?: She responded “You need to have all the parts.” In other words, you have your main component such as a protein, and then you have your sides, such as your starch and your veggies. She also told me that we eat with our eyes first. I’d have a plate of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans.. and she’d say “you need something red or orange on that plate.” Carrots or cranberries would do the trick, and now I’d have “all the parts.” Makes sense, right?
 Ever since then, that’s how I plan my dinners.
 So when I started to make THIS recipe.. I thought.. “uh oh.. everything on the plate is looking very BEIGE… pork chops, gravy, mashed potatoes, apple sauce… they all taste great, but I need a little color on the plate.. so I added some grilled vegetables… MUCH better. Even though I was only cooking for myself, I still needed to eat with my eyes first.
 Ok, so lets talk about this recipe, shall we? SMOTHERED PORK CHOPS! Serious yummy Sunday Dinner factor going on here. I first saw it on one of my favorite Youtube channels, Whippoorwill Holler. Miss Lori was making some Smothered Chicken, and she mentioned that she likes to do pork chops the same way. I thought, oooo YES, I need to do this. They turned out exactly as perfectly as I imagined they would. Simple, delicious home cookin’, and no experience needed!
 So, add this to your Sunday Dinner rotation. Your family will love you for it! And don’t forget to include all the parts!


6-8 pork chops (with or without the bone)
1-2 cups seasoned flour*
1/3 cup oil
1 large sliced onion
minced garlic to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk


*Use any kind of seasonings you like. Miss Lori used salt, pepper, celery seed, onion powder, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. I used salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic powder.


Heat oil in a large wide shallow pan over medium heat. Dredge the pork chops in the flour, then shake off excess. Brown the pork chops on both sides. We’re not cooking them all the way through, just browning on both sides. Remove the chops to a side plate.
Add sliced onions and minced garlic to the pan. Add a little more oil, if necessary. Sauté for 5-10 minutes until they soften a little bit. Take a few heaping tablespoons of the leftover seasoned flour, and add them to the pan. Stir well to coat the onions and garlic. Let it cook for a minute or two. Now add the chicken broth. Use a wooden spoon the scrape up any browned bits in the pan. After a few minutes, add the milk. Continue to cook just a few more minutes until everything is well blended, and the gravy is slightly thickened. Now add the pork chops back to the pan, (along with any accumulated juices) and be sure to smother them with the gravy. Cover the pan, and turn the heat down to medium low. Let it simmer for about 25-30 minutes.
Serve with mashed potatoes, grilled veggies, and applesauce!


Tips:
If you’re using this recipe with bone-in chicken, it will probably take 35-45 minutes.
Instead of cooking on the stove top, you can use an oven proof pan, and place the whole thing in a 350º oven. I think I might do that next time!