29 June 2012

It's Day Three of the Fourth of July Blog Hop Series hosted by Savannah of Hammock Tracks.  Today we are sharing appetizer recipes with you.


When I was growing up, we had a really nice pool.  Once every summer my sister and I would have all of our friends over for a big pool party.  It was so much fun.  My mom would set out a bunch of snacks on our deck, and we would stand there and eat, dripping all over the place, whenever we got hungry from all the swimming.  This dip is one of the things she always made for those parties.  It's the easiest thing in the world: only three ingredients and takes about 22 minutes start to finish.  Even less if you pop it in the microwave instead of the oven.

Chili Cheese Dip

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
2 (15 oz.) cans chili without beans
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips or Fritos

Preheat oven to 300°

Spread cream cheese evenly in the bottom of a 9x13” casserole dish.  Spread chili over cream cheese.  Top with cheddar cheese.

Warm in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until warmed through and cheese is melted.  Serve warm with tortilla chips or Fritos.

Note: This dip can also be made in the microwave or slow cooker.

This dip is so good!  The combination of flavors is just perfect.  So addicting; it's hard to walk away from!  This will be a hit at any party you take it to.  

Check out all of the other great appetizer recipes below, and come back here on Sunday for a stunning no-bake summertime dessert.

28 June 2012

It's Day Two of the Fourth of July Blog Hop Series, hosted by Savannah of Hammock Tracks.  


Today we are talking veggies.  I love finding ways to grill veggies in the summertime.  It's a great way to switch things up and make veggies more interesting to your kids.  I saw this recipe for grilled Brussels sprouts and couldn't wait to try it.  My family likes Brussels sprouts, but only if they are roasted, never steamed or boiled.  I was pretty sure that grilling them would be similar enough to roasting that they would like them.  Then adding a ginger garlic marinade to them?   Amazing.

Grilled Garlic Ginger Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. Brussels Sprouts, halved, ends trimmed, outer leaves removed
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger root
2 tsp Kosher salt

Preheat grill to medium.

Combine the oil, garlic, ginger, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside.

Cook the Brussels sprouts in the microwave for 2 minutes, to get them ready to grill. Toss
Brussels sprouts into marinade and let sit for 10 minutes, tossing a few times while they do. 

Thread Brussels sprouts onto wooden skewers.  Grill for 5-8 minutes, turning to evenly char the outsides of each sprout.

Makes 4 servings.

In the recipe above, I call for halving the sprouts.  They were still a little bit firm on the inside, so I think halving them would cook them through better.

The flavor of these Brussels sprouts is amazing!  I love ginger and garlic together, and combined with the smoky flavor of the grill, so tasty!

Check out all of the other great veggie recipes and come back tomorrow for a great no-fuss appetizer.

27 June 2012

Today is the first day of a fun Fourth of July Blog Hop series.  I was invited by the hostess, Savannah of Hammock Tracks, and signed up right away.  Each day has a theme, and all of the participating bloggers post a recipe with that theme.  Then at the bottom of each post is a collection of thumbnail links to all of the other recipes with that theme.  Today's theme is burgers, tomorrow is veggies, Friday is appetizers, Saturday is ice cream (I'm sitting out that day bc I don't have an ice cream maker), Sunday is desserts, and Monday is beverages.


For today's burger, I chose a turkey burger seasoned with something unexpected: hummus!  We LOVE hummus around here, my husband could eat a whole container in one sitting, so I knew this would be a hit.  I got the burger recipe from Fried Ice and Donut Holes, but changed it up a bit.  (Tzatziki sauce recipe is from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice.)

Hummus Turkey Burgers with Feta Tzatziki Sauce

¾ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced small
⅓ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tsp dried dill
1 lb. ground turkey
¼ cup prepared hummus, plus more for topping if desired
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
4 hamburger buns

Combine Greek yogurt or sour cream, cucumber, feta, garlic, and dill in a small bowl.  Mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to be used.

In a medium bowl, combine ground turkey, ¼ cup hummus, cilantro, and coriander.  Mix until just combined.  Divide into 4 equal portions and form into patties.

Grill burgers over medium-high heat, about 7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.  Place burgers on buns and top with lettuce, tomato, prepared tzatziki sauce, and additional hummus, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Be sure to check out all the other great burger recipes below, and come back tomorrow to see a recipe for a veggie I bet you would never have thought to put on the grill!

21 June 2012

Wow, June is flying by!  I can't believe it's time for the Improv Challenge already.  The premise of this 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 cherries and almonds.  So many possibilities!  Actually, the first thing that came to my mind when I heard "cherry almond" was that Jergens lotion that was cherry almond scented.  :)  Then when I was perusing my assigned Secret Recipe Club blog back in May, I came across a recipe for Cherry Almond Chicken.  I thought about choosing it for SRC, but then I remembered that cherries and almonds were on the schedule for Improv, so I saved it for this.  I didn't actually use the recipe I saw, but it was definitely my inspiration for what I came up with.

This is really a very simple dish.  I grilled chicken breast cutlets, then brushed on a three-ingredient cherry glaze, then topped it with toasted sliced almonds.  Makes a great meal served on a bed of brown rice with a green veggie on the side (I made Grilled Ginger Garlic Brussels Sprouts; recipe coming soon.)

Grilled Cherry Almond Chicken

6 chicken breast cutlets
½ cup cherry jam or preserves
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp fresh ginger, grated
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Season chicken on both sides with a sprinkle of salt.  When grill is preheated, place chicken on and grill until cooked through, flipping once.

Meanwhile, place jam or preserves, soy sauce, and ginger in a small saucepan.  Cook on low heat just until jam has melted and is smooth.  If there are large chunks of cherries, place mixture into a small food processor and process just until chunks are broken up.  

When chicken is almost cooked through, brush each cutlet with cherry glaze.  Remove from grill and top with toasted almonds.

Makes 6 servings.

I bought cherry preserves instead of jam and it had whole cherries in it.  I thought that was a bit much, so I pulsed it in my mini chopper a few times.  That worked out just fine.  You probably wouldn't need to do that with jam.  The soy sauce gives the cherry glaze the perfect amount of savory-ness.  

You can easily adapt this recipe for colder weather by cooking the chicken in a pan on the stovetop instead of grilling.  That's how I made my Savory Peach Chicken, which is similar to this but made with fresh peaches instead of the cherry jam.

18 June 2012

Here's a super easy side dish that will perfectly compliment your grilled meats this summer.  And it's made on the grill too, for maximum convenience and minimum clean-up!  Potatoes are tossed with flavorful spices and sealed up in foil so they cook to perfection.

Foil Pack Potatoes

2 lbs. white potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter

Place potatoes, shallot, garlic, paprika, and salt in a large bowl.  Toss to evenly coat potatoes with spices.  Transfer to an 18” square of heavy-duty foil.  Cut butter into pieces and lay on top of the potatoes.  Fold foil around potato mixture and seal tightly. 

Grill, covered, over medium heat for 15-18 minutes on each side or until potatoes are tender.  Open foil carefully to allow steam to escape.

Makes 4-6 servings.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Taste of Home, but I ended up changing it so much that it's really not the same recipe anymore.  That one called for Parmesan, chives, bacon, mozzarella cheese, and cheddar cheese.  I'm sure those potatoes are tasty, but I wanted something simpler.

We've had these potatoes twice in the last week, that's how good they are!  Another great thing about this recipe is that you can really cook these potatoes on any heat setting.  The first time we made them, the grill was on high heat, and the second time it was on medium-low heat.  They took a little longer on medium-low, obviously, but still turned out perfectly.  I found that they didn't need as much butter when they cooked on the lower heat setting.

This is definitely my go-to grilling side dish now and we will probably have it several more times this summer.

15 June 2012

It's time once again for the Eating the Alphabet Challenge.  This month we had to chose a fruit, vegetable, grain, bean, or legume that began with the letter I or J.

Our choices were pretty limited with the letters I and J!  I decided to go with jicama. I have seen jicama a lot on other blogs and have heard lots about it, so I figured it was time to try it out.  Most recipes I have seen that call for jicama use it raw.  I guess it's really good in slaws and other raw veggie salads.  I wanted to do something a little different, so I made baked jicama fries.  I didn't use a specific recipe; I perused through a few (mostly from paleo recipe websites), and then just kind of did my own thing.  Here's how I made mine.

Baked Jicama Fries

1 jicama, peeled
olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 425°
.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

Slice jicama into french fry-sized pieces.  Lay the jicama on paper towels and blot to remove any excess moisture.  Place fries on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss to coat.  Sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika and toss again to evenly distribute seasonings.  Make sure fries are in a single layer so they all get contact with the baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, turning fries halfway through.  Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

They turned out pretty well.  I might have overbaked them a tiny bit, as some of the ends got a little done.  Didn't help that I had trouble cutting them into uniformly-sized pieces.  I used my crinkle cutter and need more practice with it!

While my kids weren't crazy about them, my husband and I really liked these fries.  The jicama stays more firm than potatoes do, and it had a subtle, but pleasant sweetness to it.  

I'm really glad that I got the chance to try a new veggie!

14 June 2012

I suddenly realized that the last four recipes I have shared with you have all been sweets.  I think it's time for some savory!  Here is a great meal idea for you, especially if you have kids.  It's not so much a recipe as a method.  Think sloppy joe, but instead of ground beef and a slightly sweet tomato sauce, think Italian sausage and pizza sauce.  If you think you can get away with it, sneak some common pizza veggies in there too: onion, mushroom, peppers, etc.  Then top it off with melty mozzarella cheese and it's a pizza on a bun!

Sausage Pizza Joes

Olive oil
½ large onion, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, chopped
Any other pizza veggies you like
1 lb. ground Italian sausage
14 oz. jar pizza sauce
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Hamburger buns

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté onions, mushrooms, and any other veggies you like on your pizza.  When soft, add sausage and break up with a spoon.  Cook until sausage is completely cooked through.  Drain off grease.  Pour in pizza sauce and stir to combine.  

Place sausage mixture on buns and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.  Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Couldn't be easier.  It has all the convenience of a sloppy joe meal, but with a super fun twist.  This was a huge hit with my family.  My two-year-old asked for thirds and ended up eating more of it than I did!  She ate one and a half sandwiches.  I served them with Baked Zucchini Fries, which were also a huge hit.  My kids couldn't shove them in fast enough, and I have photographic proof!  That recipe coming soon.

12 June 2012

Today is National Peanut Butter Cookie Day.  I just so happened to have a peanut butter cookie recipe to share with you!  I don't make cookies very often, because, quite frankly, I find them to be a pain in the butt to make.  I usually opt for cookie-like bars, which taste like cookies but are much easier to make.  Yes, I am lazy!  But when it was my turn to take snacks to Lena's preschool last month, I decided to go with cookies.  I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies on Allrecipes and tried it out.  I added one thing to it; here's my version.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

½ cup shortening
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1½ cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup quick-cooking oats
¾ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, cream together shortening, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the oats and white chocolate chips until just combined. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until just light brown. Don't over-bake. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Makes 4 dozen.

I love peanut butter cookies.  The white chocolate chips were my addition.  I made a yummy peanut butter blondie that has white chocolate chips, so I thought they'd be good in these cookies too.  

I usually like my cookies soft and chewy, but I still really liked these even though they are kind of flat.  The oatmeal gives them just a hint of chewiness, which was enough for me.  I might try adding a little bit more oats next time I make these and see what that does to them.  But they are pretty good as they are.

I hope you are able to celebrate the "holiday" by making some peanut butter cookies of your own!

11 June 2012

So you all probably know by now that I'm not a baker by nature, but I have been trying to increase my experience in that realm.  I have made several different kinds of muffins, and usually stick to those when it is my turn to make treats for our fellowship time at church.  But this time I just wasn't feeling the muffins.  Got bored with them, I guess.  I wanted to try my hand at coffee cake.  I had never made a coffee cake before, so I wasn't sure what to even look for when I was searching recipes.  One of my searches brought up an orange coffee cake recipe.  It was kind of weird though; it called for a yellow cake mix and instant pudding mix.  Not really what I had in mind.  So I looked for and found a recipe for a more traditional coffee cake recipe that included orange, on a blog called Macheesmo.  The only problem was that it made a 9x9 cake and I wanted to make a 9x13.  It's quite difficult to find a coffee cake recipe for a 9x13 pan.  Most of them are bundt pans.  I read somewhere that a 9x9 contains 8 cups and a 9x13 contains 15 cups, so I just doubled it.  I think my cake turned out a bit taller than the original, but that's okay.  I changed a couple tiny things about the recipe; here's my version.

Orange Spice Coffee Cake

2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
⅔ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp orange zest (about 2 oranges’ worth)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
⅔ cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup orange juice
1 tsp orange extract

2 cups brown sugar 
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup pecan chips

Preheat oven to 375°.  Coat a 9x13” baking dish with nonstick baking spray.

For the batter: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, orange zest, and pumpkin pie spice.  Add oil, eggs, milk, juice, and extract. Stir until just combined.

For the topping/filling: In another bowl, combine the brown sugar, cold butter, flour, pumpkin pie spice, and orange zest.  Use a pastry blender to cut up the butter.  Combine until you have pea-sized crumbs.  Stir in the pecan chips. 

Pour about half of the batter into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with about half of the topping/filling.  Drop the rest of the batter on top of the filling by spoonfuls.  Try to distribute it as evenly as you can.  Sprinkle with remaining topping.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly from the center.

Let it cool for at least 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

If you want to make this ahead of time, let cool completely, cover, then refrigerate.  The next day, take it out of the fridge and place in a 170° oven for about an hour.

I have to say that this is everything a coffee cake should be.  Tender, fluffy cake with sweet and crunchy streusel topping.  The orange flavor is really nice too.  It's not an in-your-face kind of orange flavor.  It's very subtle but noticeable.  The orange and the pumpkin pie spices go really well together.  And I love how there is a layer of the topping that creates a filling inside the cake.  Because, let's be honest, the topping is the best part of the coffee cake, so why not have more of it?

For church, I made one of these cakes, and a pan of Blackberry Apricot Crumble Bars.  I wanted something nut and cinnamon free because we have some members with allergies.  But I wish I had made another one of these coffee cakes anyway.  It went really fast!  In fact, not everyone was able to try it. :(  I guess that means I will have to make it again the next time I bring treats!

Chaya from Bizzy Bakes chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in July 2012.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

07 June 2012

It's time once again for the Crazy Cooking Challenge!  In this challenge, all the participants make and blog about the same dish each month.  Each blogger is to scour other blogs for a unique version of whatever that month's dish is.  The goal is to highlight and promote personal food blogs. This month's assigned dish was smoothies.  So we were to find a unique smoothie recipe, make it, and blog about it.


I have to be honest, I wasn't too excited when I found out this month's challenge was about smoothies.  I'm not a big smoothie drinker.  They just don't really do much for me.  In general I don't really care for slushy icy drinks, as I get those head freezy things really bad, which is why I prefer my margaritas on the rocks. :)  Anyway, I didn't have any smoothie recipes bookmarked, so I had to go searching for one.  Somewhere I was reminded of that dessert, Peach Melba, and I got to wondering if there was a peach melba smoothie recipe out there.  There is!  On the blog, Cooking with the Camp Twins.   Linda posted this smoothie recipe back in 2010 and talked about how she enjoyed the real deal Peach Melba dessert when visiting France years ago.  She mentioned that she had intentions of posting the dessert recipe as well in the near future.  I clicked on the blog's home page to see if she and her sister were still blogging, and they are. And guess what recipe had just been posted a day prior?  The Peach Melba dessert recipe!  I'm kind of going off on a tangent here, but I thought that was quite a coincidence, and took it as a sign that this was the smoothie for me!

Peach Melba Smoothies

12 oz. fresh raspberries
2 tbsp sugar
16 oz. frozen peaches
¼ - ½ cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups milk

In a blender, puree the raspberries until well blended. Set a sieve on top of a medium bowl and drain the puree into the bowl. You will need to press the juice through the sieve.  Stir the sugar into the puree. Set aside.

Rinse out the blender and add the frozen peaches, sugar, almond extract, and milk. Process until well blended.

Using two large stemmed wine glasses or parfait glasses fill ⅓ full with peach smoothie. Drizzle with two tablespoons of the raspberry puree. Repeat with a second layering and then a final layer of peach smoothie.

Swirl slightly with a knife. Add a straw and serve.

Makes 2 large smoothies.

I think it is the prettiest smoothie I have ever had.  I love the contrast of colors.  After I took pictures, I gave some to my kids and my husband and we all stirred them up completely.  I liked it that way because I found the peach part to be kind of bland.  I think if I were to make this again (and I might because I have extra peaches and we didn't use all the raspberry puree), I might sub orange juice for some of the milk in the peach part.  I think orange juice will give a punch of flavor that the milk can't do.  Also, I used vanilla soymilk, so that added even more sweetness, so a little hint of tartness would compliment it well.

I'm glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and made something I wouldn't normally make.  After seeing how much my girls enjoyed these smoothies, I will have to make them more often.  They can be picky about their fruit (I have a bag of apricots in the fridge that they rejected for being too sour), so smoothies would be a good way to get around that.

Nicole from Daily Dish Recipes, and fellow CCCer, chose to make this recipe when she was assigned my blog for the Secret Recipe Club in August 2012.  Click on the button below to check out her post!

Secret Recipe Club

05 June 2012

My baby girl, Eva, turned two last weekend.  How time flies!  We had a small family party for her.  I decided to do cupcakes instead of a regular cake.  I had a summery cook-out type menu planned (pulled pork, pasta salad, grilled veggie salad), so I decided to make pink lemonade cupcakes.  I found several recipes for "from scratch" pink lemonade cupcakes, but they all contained some kind of dairy, and Eva is allergic to dairy.  When it comes to cakes and frostings, store bought is actually best for dairy allergies.  Boxed cake mixes and canned frostings rarely contain dairy, while you are hard pressed to find a frosting recipe that doesn't start with either butter or cream cheese.  So while it seems like I took the easy way out with store bought, it really was best for the birthday girl (not that I'm opposed to using them anyway).

I found a site that suggested using pink lemonade drink mix as the flavoring for these cupcakes.  They added it to their homemade cake recipe, but I just added it to my store bought mix.  Perfect.

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
Water, oil, and eggs called for on cake mix box
¼ cup + 2 tbsp powdered pink lemonade drink mix, divided
Red food coloring
1 can white frosting

Preheat oven to temperature indicated on cake mix box.  Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake papers.

Prepare cake mix according to box directions.  Add ¼ cup pink lemonade drink mix and stir well.  Depending on the brand of drink mix, you might need to add a drop or two of red food coloring to achieve the desired shade of pink.  Mix well.  Fill muffin cups and bake as directed on package.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, pour frosting out into a medium bowl.  Add remaining 2 tbsp pink lemonade drink mix and stir well.  Depending on the brand of drink mix, you might need to add a drop or two of red food coloring to achieve the desired shade of pink.  Mix well.  Frost cupcakes when they have completely cooled.

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

You will have to adjust the amount of drink mix to your preference.  I think I used a little bit less than what was called for on the site I saw it on, but I thought they turned out perfectly.  The lemon flavor was definitely prominent, but not overpowering or pucker-inducing.

And instead of ice cream, I served them with pink lemonade sorbet from TCBY.

Now I have to include a few pics of the birthday girl.

Of course, she had to eat all the frosting off first.

Then she tackled the cupcake itself.

And I have to include this video.  Not the greatest quality, but I think you can still see what is happening.  She had trouble blowing out the second candle on her cupcake, so she went to Plan B.  So resourceful!

My sweet little 2 year old!

Happy Birthday, Eva!