21 May 2015

It's time for this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it. 

This month's ingredients were cilantro and lime.  A little late for Cinco de Mayo, but a great combo anytime of year.  I love cilantro, and lime is a perfect partner for it.  Cilantro and lime are both common ingredients in both Mexican and Thai food.  I love both of those cuisines, but this time I decided to do a little "fusion" cooking.  

Do you ever make your own hummus?  It is really convenient to buy it premade at the grocery store, and I do that sometimes when I am feeling lazy, but I also think it's really fun to make my own hummus.  It's super easy using canned beans, and while it is really difficult (if not impossible) to get it as smooth as store-bought, the pay-off is that you can play around with ingredients and come up with some really fun variations.  Last fall I made a Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus that was amazing.  I also make Pizza Hummus, which is my kids' favorite.  So when I happened to stumble across the idea for adding cilantro and lime to hummus, I couldn't wait to try it.  My version is adapted from Vegan Family Recipes.

Cilantro Lime Hummus

1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp lime juice
⅓ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1-3 tbsp water (optional)

Place chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a food processor.  Process until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.  If desired, add water until desired consistency has been reached.

Pour into a bowl and serve with tortilla chips.

Makes about 2½ cups.

I made this as an afternoon snack for my daughters (ages 7 and almost 5), and they loved it.  I really think this would be a good alternative to guacamole for people who can't eat avocados.  I served it with tortilla chips, but you can dip anything you want in there, of course.

I'm happy to include this into my homemade hummus rotation!

Be sure to check out all the other great cilantro and lime recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with fish and avocado.  Oh wow!

06 May 2015

I made cookies last week!  I don't make cookies very often because I am lazy and it's so much easier to make bars.  But I love these cookies and they are so perfect for this time of year.  They have the perfect consistency, in my opinion.  They don't spread out and get all thin and crispy.  They keep their shape pretty well and come out chewy.  Just the way I like my cookies!  And they are studded with even chewier bits of real dried strawberries and creamy vanilla chips.  Awesome.  They are very slightly adapted from Cookies and Cups.

Strawberries and Cream Cookies

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 ¼ cups flour
1 cup dried strawberries, chopped
¾ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.  Add the egg and yolk and vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour.  Add the flour mixture to the brown sugar mixture and stir until just combined.  Add the strawberries and white chocolate chips and stir.

Roll dough into 2 tbsp sized balls and place on a baking sheet.  (I got 12 to a sheet.)  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are just barely golden.  Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 4 minutes.  Remove to parchment paper and let cool completely.

Makes 2 dozen 2” cookies.

 I buy the dried strawberries at Target.  They have a nice selection of dried fruit.  Don't get the "freeze-dried" strawberries. Those are like thin and brittle.  You want the chewy ones.

 I chop them up.  You don't want too much chew in one bite.

The original recipe called for dropping them with a teaspoon, and I tried it that way the first time, but I found that rolling them into balls makes them come out a little prettier and more uniform.  Two tablespoons of dough will get you a 2-inch cookie.  They don't spread out much, so you can easily fit 12 on a cookie sheet.

The original recipe also called for more white chocolate chips, but I thought it was too much because it made the dough so dry and crumbly I could barely keep it together.  And as you can see in the top picture, some cookies were a bit overloaded with the chips.  So next time I will cut it back to 3/4 cup.

These cookies are perfect for all of those springtime get-togethers.  I made them for my daughters' school lunch and they were a big hit.

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02 May 2015

What would you say if I told you there exists a salad with three different veggies, two different fruits, and some nuts that kids will not only eat, but like?  You would think I was crazy, right?  I would have thought so too until I made this awesomeness this week.  I cooked lunch for my daughters' school on Friday and had planned to make those little ham and cheese sliders on the Kings Hawaiian rolls. But I couldn't decide what to serve with them.  I could have been boring and just done carrot sticks or something, but I wanted to be a little more creative than that.  I did some Pinterest research and found this gem from the blog on Super Healthy Kids.  Are you familiar with that site? They have all kinds of neat ideas on there.  If you cook for kids, I encourage you to check it out.

This salad was so perfect for the school lunch.  Shredded broccoli (stems), carrots, and red cabbage with chopped apples, dried cranberries, and sliced almonds for crunch.  Poppyseed dressing is a convenient and delicious way to tie it all together.  While this salad is tasty, its beauty is a real asset to it.  I love how colorful it is: pale green from the broccoli, bright orange from the carrots, bright pops of red from the cranberries and apple skins (I highly recommend using red apples for this reason), and even the tiny little dots of the black poppyseeds are nice.  

Broccoli Apple Salad

6 cups broccoli slaw
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup poppyseed dressing
6 cups apples, cored and chopped (not peeled)
½ cup sliced almonds

Put broccoli slaw in a large bowl.  Add the cranberries and poppyseed dressing and toss to combine.  Chop the apples; add each cup to the broccoli mixture as you chop it.  Tossing them with the dressing will keep the apples from browning.  After all apples have been added, toss well, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, add the sliced almonds, and toss a final time.

Makes about 14 cups.

Can you believe how easy this is?  I had never bought the broccoli slaw before, but I had seen it and knew where to find it (in the produce section with the bagged salads).  It made this so easy and fast.  

I love how it can be prepped ahead of time.  I debated on whether or not to add the apples in the morning because I was afraid they would brown.  But I saw that the poppyseed dressing contained vinegar, so I gave it a shot.  They didn't brown one bit in the 2 or so hours until lunch, and I just checked my leftovers in the fridge and still no browning.  The salad is just as beautiful today as it was yesterday.  The reason I held off on adding the almonds is because I thought the dressing might soften them a little bit.  To make it even healthier, you can use "light" poppyseed dressing.

I will admit one thing, however: I just called this "Apple Salad" to the kids at lunch.  Since the shredded broccoli stems are so pale green, I figured the kids (at least the younger ones) wouldn't realize it was broccoli.  And if they don't know (or think) there is broccoli in it, they will be more willing to try it.  It was definitely well received. I can't say that every kid loved it, but I know lots of them ate all of what I gave them.  That's success in my book!  And the teachers and my husband loved it too.  Bonus!  

Here's a close-up.  Isn't it just gorgeous?

(The camera on my phone really rocks!)

I'm so glad I found this recipe.  This will make an awesome potluck dish.  It is gluten-free, and dairy-free, and vegan as long as the poppyseed dressing you choose is vegan.  I used Marzetti, which is not vegan because it contains egg yolk, but I saw the Ken's does not.  So perfect for all those summer get-togethers and potlucks!

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16 April 2015

There are two things I didn't realize until I went to type up this post. 1. I haven't posted since last month's Improv Challenge.  Oops! It's been a long time since I went a whole month without posting. But Lent/Holy Week/Easter is a super busy time of year for pastors' families and time just got away from me. 2. I missed my blogiversary. :(  Whoops.  March 29th was the 8th anniversary of my blog.  No fanfare this year!  Maybe I will remember next year.

So onto this month's Improv Challenge.  The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.   

This month's assigned ingredients were asparagus and egg.  Lovely spring ingredients.  I love asparagus, but I rarely experiment with it.  I have seen lots of yummy-looking asparagus recipes, but I love it so much just simply roasted with olive oil and kosher salt, that I have never strayed too much from that.  I did make a new asparagus dish for Easter, though.  The asparagus was wrapped in herbed goat cheese and prosciutto.  It was really good and kind of fancier for a special occasion.  But since it didn't involve eggs, I couldn't use it for Improv.  I did a Google image search for "asparagus and egg" and wanted to try every single dish I saw!  Oh man, there are so many yummy things you can do with asparagus and eggs.  I almost went with a dish that involved polenta, bacon, asparagus, and a poached egg on top.  I still want to make that, but decided to go with something a little simpler.  I have had this recipe from Food Network Magazine pinned for like 2 years.  I had two firsts in making it: I had never made a savory tart before (maybe not even a sweet one at that), and I had never used puff pastry before.  Even so, it seemed like an easy recipe with big "wow" factor; right up my alley!

Asparagus Cheese Tart

½ - 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
Flour, for dusting
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp milk
1 cup grated smoked gouda (3 oz.)
1 cup grated comte (3 oz.)
½ tsp Fox Point Seasoning or shallot salt

Preheat oven to 400°.

Put asparagus on a baking sheet and lightly coat with olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little kosher salt.  Roast in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, sprinkle a small amount of flour on a cutting board.  Roll puff pastry into a 10x15” rectangle.  Sprinkle a little more flour on a baking sheet and carefully transfer the puff pastry to the baking sheet.  Prick several times with a fork.  When the asparagus is done, put puff pastry in the oven and bake for 12 minutes.  Remove and let cool slightly.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, milk, cheeses, and seasoning.  When puff pastry has cooled slightly, spread the cheese mixture out on to it, leaving a 1” border.  Arrange the asparagus spears on top of the cheese mixture, as many as you can fit on there.  Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until puff pastry is puffed and golden.  

Cut into pieces using a sharp pizza cutter.

Makes 8 servings.

 The puff pastry after rolling out.  I didn't do a perfect job of rolling it out, so one edge was a little "rustic".  Rolling things out is not my forte.  I used my stoneware for baking.  You can put parchment underneath the dough if you are worried about it sticking, but mine was fine with a little flour.

 After pre-baking for 12 minutes.

 These are the cheeses I used.  I had never even heard of Comte, let alone cooked with it before.  I was going to use something else instead, but then I just happened to see it at Trader Joe's when we were there over Spring Break.  It's a harder cheese like Parmesan.  I used my Microplane to grate it, while I used my box grater on the smoked gouda.  If you don't have Fox Point, you can use shallot salt, or fresh minced shallots and some salt.  I was going to use fresh shallots, but I forgot I was out.  So the Fox Point was the next best thing.  I love the little bits of green flecks it created in the finished product. 

 I looks like scrambled eggs, I know.  But it's the cheese mixture.

I forgot to get one after I laid the asparagus on there.  The original recipe called for a whole pound of it, but I only used about half.  My asparagus stalks were super skinny, so there were lots of them in that pound.  I could have squeezed some more in, but I was happy with it the way it was.  Use as much as you like.

 I thought it was very pretty coming out of the oven.  One of those "looks harder than it really is" kind of dishes.

I cut it into 8 squares.  

This is so yummy!  The cheeses blend together really well and are just perfect.  You can use different cheeses of course.  The original recipe also suggested fontina and gruyere.  

I know that the egg wasn't really prominent in this dish, but it played a very important role and I'm glad I picked this recipe for Improv this month.  I would have loved to have shared this in time for Easter, but I guess you'll have to hold on it until next Easter.  :)

Be sure to check out all the other great asparagus and egg recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with cilantro and lime.  

19 March 2015

It's Improv time again!

The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.   

This month's ingredients were chicken and noodles.  We've had a couple of warm days here in Wisconsin, but we're back to normal for this time of year and I am still in comfort food mode.  Chicken and noodles definitely feel like comfort food to me.  As I was looking through my huge backlog of food photos that I have taken, I came across a chicken and pasta recipe that I absolutely love and have made several times, but for some reason, I had never gotten around to blogging about. I am not a huge pasta person; I prefer potatoes over pasta any day.  But this is hands-down my favorite pasta recipe ever.  It is so good.  My version is adapted from Kevin and Amanda.  You cook chicken in a super flavorful mesquite marinade (I love that stuff), then shred it and toss it with your favorite short cut pasta and bacon (of course!), and hold it all together with a homemade creamy parmesan sauce.  So good!  

Smoky Garlic Chicken Bacon Pasta

3 chicken breast cutlets
½ bottle Lawry’s Mesquite Marinade
10 oz. short cut pasta
4 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 tbsp flour
1½ cups milk (I used whole)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
¾ lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled

Place chicken in slow cooker.  Pour mesquite marinade over chicken. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours, flipping chicken once if you are able, or until chicken is fork tender.  Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred with two forks.  (You should have about 2 cups.)  Set chicken aside and don’t throw out that cooking liquid yet.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until tender.  Drain. 

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the garlic and cook over medium-low heat for a minute or so until fragrant.  Add the flour and stir well.  Cook for a couple of minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a boil.  Cook until the sauce gets quite thick, then turn heat down to low and stir in the parmesan cheese.

In a large bowl, combine the bacon, chicken, drained pasta, and sauce.  Toss to evenly distribute ingredients.  Add a bit of the cooking liquid from the slow cooker to thin the sauce out to your desired consistency.  Grate a little more Parmesan over the top for garnish, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

*A note about chicken cutlets: I buy my chicken breasts from Sam's and they are humongous.  I cut them in half to create two "cutlets" from each huge breast.  They cook more quickly and you end up with more surface area for your delicious seasonings.  If your chicken breasts are small, use two of them.

I am telling you, this stuff is the bomb.  I love making the cheese sauce a little too thick because adding the mesquite cooking liquid to it gives it that much more smoky flavor.  So good!

You can use any kind of short cut pasta you like.  I can't remember what this one in the pic is called.  It wasn't really my favorite for this dish, but it worked.  I have also made it with penne and farfalle.  Shells would work too.

Like I said, I'm not a huge pasta person, but I could eat this stuff every day!  This is one of those recipes were the picture doesn't do it justice.  You really have to try it out for yourself.

Be sure to check out all the other great chicken and noodle recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with asparagus and egg.  How springy!

17 March 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Did you make corned beef and cabbage today?  A lot of people are intimidate by it; thinking that it's complicated and hard to make.  It's totally not!  I already have a recipe for Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage on my blog, but I have found a recipe I like even better.  It is adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking.  This one is better because it is simpler.  And simple is always best!  All you do is throw a hunk of corned beef in your slow cooker and slather it with a honey mustard glaze.  The glaze permeates the meat and makes it so tender and delicious.  

 Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Corned Beef and Cabbage

4 lb. corned beef brisket (point cut)
2 tbsp honey
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ large head cabbage

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Unwrap the corned beef, and remove the seasoning packet, and trim as much of the fat from the meat as you can. Rinse and pat dry.  In a small bowl, make a paste of the honey, brown sugar, and mustard. Rub this mixture on all sides of the meat. Place the meat into the slow cooker and cover. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until meat pulls apart easily with a fork. 

Halfway through cooking, chop the cabbage into chunks and place it in the slow cooker, on top of the corned beef.  Using tongs, toss the cabbage so that it gets coated in the cooking liquid.  Replace lid and continue cooking on low.

Remove corned beef to a platter and slice.  Remove cabbage with a slotted spoon and place alongside corned beef.

Makes 6 servings.

I serve this with Traditional Irish Soda Bread, of course.

I like to get the point cut for this.  It has more fat and is beautifully marbled.  You want to cut off as much of the visible fat as you can before you cook it.  I have found that kitchen shears work better than a knife for this.  You might need to remove some more of the visible fat after it has cooked. By then, it's easy to remove.  You can certainly use the flat cut for this recipe too.  It will not be quite as fall-apart tender though.

This beef comes out so amazingly tender.  It literally just falls apart.  I love that.  And the cabbage has a surprising sweetness to it.  It's all just delicious. 

For more great St. Patrick's Day food offerings, click on "St. Patrick's Day" on the category list to the right. ----------------------------->

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14 March 2015

Happy Pi(e) Day!  Did you make pie today?  I forgot to plan, but I couldn't pass up making a pie on Pi Day.  So I searched my Pinterest boards for a pie that I could make without going to the store.  (It's Saturday; I avoid the grocery store on Saturdays!)  I found this one that I had pinned from Frieda Loves Bread.  I had a basket full of apples and I had just gotten two small jars of Penzeys Apple Pie Spice for free on Thursday, so it was perfect.  The only thing that wasn't perfect was that I had no pie crust.  I don't make my own pie crust and I didn't have any Pillsbury.  But I did have a box of graham crackers, and thankfully my kids didn't eat ALL of them for breakfast, so we made a graham cracker crust instead.  It's not ideal for apple pie, but it certainly worked in a pinch.  Since it's not ideal for this pie, I won't include the directions for making the graham cracker crust.  Just use your favorite pie crust, store-bought or homemade.

Caramel Apple Crumb Pie

Pie crust for 9” pie
½ cup sugar
3 tbsp + ½ cup flour, divided
1 tsp + ½ tsp apple pie spice, divided
⅛ tsp salt
6 cups thinly sliced peeled apples (about 4 large apples)
¼ cup caramel bits
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup cold butter
Caramel ice cream topping, optional

Preheat oven to 375°.

If using a regular pie crust, pre-bake for 8-10 minutes. If using a graham cracker crust, don’t pre-bake.

In a large bowl, stir the sugar, 3 tbsp flour, apple pie spice, and salt. Add apple slices and gently toss until they are coated well. Pile mixture into pie crust.  Sprinkle caramel bits on top.

For the crumb topping, stir together brown sugar, remaining ½ cup flour, remaining ½ tsp apple pie spice, and oats. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until topping resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle over apple mixture in pie and press down. To prevent over-browning, cover edge of pie with foil. Put pie on baking sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting and serving.  To serve, drizzle each piece with caramel ice cream topping.  Top with whipped cream or serve with vanilla ice cream.

Makes 8 servings.

The caramel bits were my addition.  I bought them for something and didn't end up making it, so I thought I would throw some in there to see how it worked.  Worked perfectly!  Added awesome caramel goodness.

My daughters helped me make this pie.  Eva (4) put the graham crackers into the food processor and they took turns pushing the button.  They both also helped toss the apples in the sugar/flour/seasoning mixture.  They got pretty bored while I was peeling and chopping the apples, though.  Lena (7) kept eating the peels and then took some seeds and went outside to plant them.  I had to call them in to watch me make the crumble topping.  

Of course, they were at the ready when it was time to try it after dinner.  We had it ala mode, and they both loved it.  I forgot to drizzle it with the caramel syrup, but it was awesome anyway.

What's your favorite pie to eat on Pi(e) Day?

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01 March 2015

It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before. 

This month I was assigned to Not Enough Cinnamon, written by Marie.  Marie was born and raised in Paris, but now lives in Sydney, Australia.  Cool!  She has some really fabulous recipes on her blog.  I found two ground beef recipes that I can't wait to try, her Zucchini, Lemon, and Rosemary Beef Skillet and her Asian Beef Noodles.  Speaking of Asian, I was also intrigued by her Thai Chicken Patties with Sweet Chili Sauce.  Yum.  As good as her beef dishes looked, I have been trying to slightly alter my family's eating by increasing the number of seafood dinners we have each week.  In the past I have always done one seafood recipe a week, either white fish (usually cod), salmon, canned tuna, or ahi tuna steaks.  I have decided to try doing two seafood dishes a week.  That, combined with our one meatless meal each week, means we have really cut down on our meat consumption.  It also means that I am always on the lookout for new and interesting seafood recipes.  I was delighted to find that Marie had a lovely looking white fish recipe that I had never tried before: Pesto Panko Crusted Fish.  White fish fillets slathered with fresh basil pesto and topped with crispy toasted panko.  Sounded right up my alley!

Pesto Crusted Cod

1 large fresh basil bunch
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup + ½ tbsp olive oil, divided
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup Panko breadcrumbs
4 cod fillets

Preheat oven to 425°.  Line a baking sheet with foil, coat lightly with cooking spray, and set aside.

Place the basil, garlic, parmesan, and ¼ cup olive oil in a food processor.  Pulse until smooth.  Set aside.

Place the panko and the remaining ½ tbsp olive oil in a small skillet.  Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until breadcrumbs begin to turn golden.  Remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the fish.

Pat cod fillets dry and season with salt on both sides.  Place the fillets on the prepared baking sheet and spread the pesto evenly over each of the fillets.  Top with the toasted breadcrumbs and press down lightly.  

Place baking sheet in preheated oven and bake 15 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Makes 4 servings.

I used my tried-and-true method for toasting the panko.  I'm sure Marie's way is just as good, but I kind of went on auto-pilot the day I made this and realized halfway through toasting them that she did them in the oven.  Oops!  Either way is good!

I served this fish with some one-pot creamy garlic noodles and green beans.  It was a lovely meal.  The pesto wasn't as flavorful as it could have been, due to the fact that I made this in February, when it was below zero with a foot of snow on the ground, and had to buy my basil from the grocery store.  It was ok, but I think it would be absolutely amazing with fresh garden basil in the summertime.  I seriously can't wait to try it again this summer.

Thanks so much for a great recipe, Marie!

19 February 2015

It's Improv time again!

The premise of the Improv Challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.  

This month's ingredients are coffee and cream.  Two ingredients that I enjoy every day!  I thought it would be fun to be super creative and use coffee and cream in some kind of savory dish.  And I'm sure it would have been, but February got too busy and I went with something more obvious. And simple.  But you know, it's just so perfect for this time of year.  I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but here in Wisconsin, it is frigid!  It is -1 right now as I type this (Wednesday night) and today have a high of 1.  1 degree for a high!  And living on Lake Michigan, the windchills are brutal. Supposed to be between -20 and -30 tomorrow.  So you can understand why a hot coffee drink was appealing to me!

This one is awesome because it not only contains hot coffee, but also alcohol!  I often get so cold in the evenings that I just can't warm up no matter how many layers I wear or how many blankets I pile on.  Whenever that happens I have to get warm from the inside out.  A glass of wine does the trick every time.  So combining coffee and alcohol in one drink is doubly effective!  Are you familiar with a hot toddy?  A traditional hot toddy is hot water or tea mixed with rum, brandy, or whiskey and sweetened with honey or sugar.  This variation uses coffee, a caramel creme liqueur, butterscotch liqueur, and is topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce.  Mmm.  I got the recipe from Delightful E Made.

Caramel Creme Coffee Toddy

1 shot caramel creme liqeuer
1 shot Buttershots 
8 oz. hot brewed coffee
Whipped cream
Caramel ice cream topping


Pour caramel creme and Buttershots in a mug.  Pour in hot coffee.  Top with whipped cream and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Makes 1 drink.

It's so easy, it's almost not even a recipe, but it's too good not to share.  Bailey's has a salted caramel variety, but I found a Bailey's knock-off brand at Aldi that came in caramel cream variety.  It was really good and less than half the price of Bailey's.  Love Aldi!

Since my husband and I enjoy this drink in the evening, we use decaf coffee.  But of course it works with any kind of coffee.

I don't actually recommend serving this in the kind of glass I used in the pic above.  It's best served in your favorite coffee mug.  But I chose a clear glass for the pic so you could see what it looked like.  Otherwise it would have just been a mug with some whipped cream on top.

So if you are experiencing the same cold snap I am, go make yourself one of these!  If not, and you are someplace warm, I don't want to hear about it! ;)

Check out all the other great coffee and cream recipes below and come back next month to see what I make with chicken and noodles.

13 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!  I made a yummy Valentine's Day treat that I had to share with you.  I am also sharing the Valentines I made for my girls' school exchange, so don't forget to scroll down and take a look at those.

These brownies are amazing.  Brownie base topped with raspberry cheesecake and swirled with more chocolate and topped with fresh raspberries.  Yum!  Chocolate and raspberry is my favorite food combo at Valentine's Day.  It's just perfect.  I saw these brownies at Sally's Baking Addiction and had to try them.

Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies

1 box brownie mix
Eggs, oil, and water
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup sugar
⅓ cup seedless raspberry jam
1 egg yolk
Red food coloring, optional
12 fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat an 11x7” baking dish with baking spray.

Prepare brownie mix as directed on box, adding eggs, oil, and water.  Pour brownie batter into the prepared baking dish, leaving 2 tbsp or so of brownie mix in the bowl.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, raspberry jam, and egg yolk.  Mix until there are no cream cheese lumps (it helps to have the jam and egg at room temperature before mixing).  If desired, add a couple of drops of red food coloring.

Pour cream cheese mixture over the brownie batter in the baking dish.  Add a tiny bit of water to the remaining brownie batter in the bowl to make it a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle the batter on top of the cheesecake mixture in horizontal stripes.  Run a knife through it vertically one way, then the other way in between to create the swirl pattern.  Place raspberries so that one will be in the center of each piece when cut into 12 pieces.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Cover pan with foil and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until middle is slightly loose but not jiggly.  Remove from oven, uncover, and let cool completely.  Cut into squares, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 12 brownies.

These are really pretty easy to make. The original recipe called for making the brownie part from scratch.  I'm sure it's really good, probably better than the mix, but I am too lazy for that.  They are awesome with the mix.  I used a Ghiradelli mix that has chocolate chunks in it.  Yum.  If you are inspired to make the brownie part from scratch, click over to get Sally's recipe.  

I could not achieve the beautiful light pink color that Sally got.  The first time I made them I forgot the part about covering them with foil.  They came out tasting good, but they were hardly pink at all.  The egg yolk in the cheesecake part will make them brown if you leave them uncovered.  They are a bit prettier if you cover them.

Here are a few pics of the assembly process:

 I assume you have all seen brownie batter in a pan, so I skipped that pic. :) Here is the cheesecake layer spread out over the brownie batter.  I was too lazy to get out my hand mixer, so I mixed it up by hand.  I had the cream cheese nice and soft and creamy, but when I added the cold raspberry jam and egg yolk, it created lumps.  If you think about it, get the jam and egg out early so they are room temp before mixing with the cream cheese.  If you don't think about (like I didn't), don't worry about it. The white lumps will not be noticeable in the finished product.

 Thin out a little bit of brownie batter and drizzle it horizontally only on the cheesecake layer.

 Drag a knife through the other way, three times in the same direction.

 Then drag the knife the opposite direction in between to make the pretty swirls.

 Place the raspberries on.  You can do more raspberries if you like.  I think they look pretty with one in the center of each piece.

Out of the oven.  These are not the kind of brownies you eat warm from the oven.  They are best served chilled, because of the cheesecake layer.  I do recommend cutting them before refrigerating though, because it's difficult to cut through cold brownies, especially if they have chocolate chunks in them like mine did.  I powered through, though!

Now I have to show you the Valentines I made for my daughters' to exchange at school.  I am not very crafty at all, so every year I scour Pinterest for something cute, but not too difficult or involved.  

The Fishbowl for Eva.  All you need to make this is on Backless Shirt.  It was super duper easy.  One disclaimer though, that wasn't mentioned on Backless Shirt: The goldfish will leave greasy marks on the cardstock.  I didn't realize this until I had them all done and ready to go the next morning. It was too late to do anything about it, so I gave them out that way. I would suggest either laminating the cardstock, or using Swedish fish instead.

For Lena I did the Love Bug.  The instructions are found at The NY Melrose Family.  These were a little bit more involved, but still pretty easy.  One thing I will warn you about: Do not think you are smarter than the instructions and try to use any other glue besides hot glue for this.  First I got some glue at the dollar store.  Bad idea.  Then I thought super glue would do the trick. I tried two different kinds, spent an hour trying to get the googly eyes and noses to stick, glued my fingers together several times, and could not even get one good one.  I gave up on the super glue and broke out the glue gun.  Instant success.  Don't worry; the hot glue will not melt the fruit cup.

They were a big hit at school.  

I'm planning a fun Valentine's Day breakfast and lunch for my little sweeties.  Red velvet pancake muffins, and heart-shaped sunny-side-up eggs for breakfast, and heart-shaped lunchables and fruit kabobs for lunch.  Dinner will be with my in-laws because my sweetie is taking me to see Alton Brown Live! tomorrow night!  Can't wait!

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