30 July 2013

Here's an easy cake recipe that is perfect for summertime.  The flavors are reminiscent of an orange creamsicle, which is a combination of orange and vanilla.  It's a poke cake, which is a cake that you poke holes in and pour hot liquid Jello onto.  It gives the cake wonderful flavor and moistness.  This cake is made with an orange cake mix, orange Jello, and a creamy vanilla topping.  It's adapted from one on Allrecipes.

Orange Creamsicle Cake

1 (18.25 oz.) package orange cake mix
Eggs, oil, and water called for on cake mix box
1 (3 oz.) package orange Jello
1 cup boiling water
1 (3.4 oz.) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 (8 oz.) container vanilla Cool Whip, thawed

Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions for a 9x13” pan. Poke holes in cake while still hot with the round handle of a wooden spoon.

In a medium bowl, stir together Jello and boiling water. Pour liquid Jello over cake while hot. Cool cake completely, then refrigerate for at least an hour.

In a medium bowl, make instant vanilla pudding with milk.  Gently fold in Cool Whip. Spread evenly over cake. Refrigerate cake for another hour before serving.

Makes about 24 servings.

This cake is so yummy!  The orange and vanilla flavors go so well together and are so perfect for summertime.  I made this cake for a church picnic and it was a big hit.  Then I made it again a week later when I had family visiting from out-of-state.

Signature Orange Supreme Cake Mix Box

It might be difficult to find the orange cake mix and vanilla Cool Whip.  The cake mix that I used is Duncan Hines.  I found it at Woodman's, for those of you in the Kenosha area.  If you can't find the orange cake mix anywhere, you can use a white cake mix.  The vanilla Cool Whip is a seasonal item, usually only out at Christmastime, but I found it at Woodman's too.  That place is so awesome.  I highly recommend buying a couple of tubs at Christmastime and keeping them in your freezer to make this cake in the summertime.

This cake has already become one of our favorite summertime desserts.  I also have a recipe for Orange Creamsicle Cookies; I'll have to share that one soon also.

25 July 2013

Are you getting tired of grilling out yet?  Nope, me neither!  I have, however, gotten my fill of burgers and brats, so I've been trying out some more creative recipes for the grill.  Angela at Joyously Domestic posted a recipe earlier this month for Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu and I thought that was a genius idea.  I would never have come up with it on my own because I would have assumed that the cheese would melt and run completely out of the chicken.  But Angela's chicken looked amazing, so I decided I had to try it.  I wanted to try it on Sunday when we had friends over for dinner, but right at dinnertime it started storming like crazy.  There was no grilling to be done that day!  So I tried it the next evening.  I didn't follow Angela's recipe exactly; she assembled and marinated her chicken breasts ahead of time, but I skipped that step.  Here's how I made mine.

Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu

4 large boneless chicken breasts
12-16 slices deli ham
6-8 slices Swiss cheese, cut in half
Seasonings of your choice

Preheat grill for indirect heat.

Slice each chicken breast horizontally through the fattest part, being careful not to cut it all the way through.  Stuff each pocket with 3-4 slices of ham and 1½ to 2 slices of cheese.  Season outside of chicken breasts however you like.

Grill chicken over indirect heat until no longer pink inside, about 20 minutes, flipping once.  Grill time will depend on how thick your chicken is.

Makes 4-8 servings.

Easy peasy!  And so yummy!  You can use any white cheese you like.  I actually used Gouda, and well, it was really good-a!  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)  Havarti would be really tasty too, I think.  The seasoning that I used on mine was a combination of Penzey's Ruth Ann's Muskego Ave and some smoked paprika.  

This chicken turned out so moist and flavorful.  The grill gave it a really lovely smoky flavor.  And the cheese didn't melt out of it.  I listed the servings as 4-8 because this will depend on how big your breasts are.  I get my chicken breasts from Sam's and they are monsters!  Often over a pound each.  It's nice in one way because you will have no problem stuffing a chicken breast that size, but it will definitely be more than one serving.  Neither my husband nor I could finish one.  So we had them for lunch the next day.  So if you're using really big ones, you could easily feed 8 with 4 breasts.

Here are a few pics of the process:

Cutting out a little pocket for the ham and cheese.  I guess it's really more of a flap, because the chicken doesn't have to completely cover the ham and cheese.

Ham and cheese.  Thin-sliced ham works best.

Insert ham and cheese.  I did two pieces of ham and one piece of cheese (folded in half) to begin, and then after I took this pic I decided it needed more, so I added another two pieces of ham and another half piece of cheese.

Fold flap over.  It's ok if the ham and cheese stick out a bit.

Fully seasoned and ready for the grill!

I served these with my Honey Mustard Potato Slices and some lovely sauteed yellow squash.  It was a lovely summer meal.  So if you are stuck in a burgers and brats rut, give this chicken a try!

22 July 2013

I have a really awesome recipe for you today.  First of all, it's a slow cooker recipe, so it's not going to heat up your house during these hot summer days.  And it's a long-cooking slow cooker recipe.  It actually cooks all day.  Second, it only takes three ingredients.  That's including the big hunk o' meat.  And third, it is so good! This pork just melts in your mouth.  This is a recipe I created myself.

Slow Cooker Savory Apricot Pork

5 lb. boneless pork loin roast
⅓ cup apricot preserves
1 tbsp Italian dressing mix

Place the pork loin in a 6 qt. slow cooker.  Combine apricot preserves and Italian dressing mix in a small bowl.  Pour the apricot mixture over the top of the pork, spreading it out to cover the top and sides.  Cover slow cooker and turn to low.  Cook for about 8 hours, or until pork is browned on the sides and fork tender.

Makes 6-8 servings.

*This recipe is gluten-free, provided that the dressing mix you use is gluten-free.

Now you might be thinking that this sounds really weird.  Apricot preserves and Italian dressing mix?  How can that taste good together?  But trust me, it really works.  The apricot preserves lend just a hint of sweetness to the pork while the dressing mix provides salt and all kinds of other yummy seasonings (garlic, onion, pepper), all in a convenient pouch.  The pork comes out fall-apart tender, incredibly moist, and with a lovely brown crust all around the outside.  

I made this when we had some friends over for dinner earlier this month and they raved about it.  They really couldn't believe that it was made with only three ingredients.  Then when I told them what the ingredients were, they couldn't believe apricot preserves and Italian dressing mix could combine to form such an amazing flavor for pork.  They were blown away, and left saying that they really need to start using their slow cooker more often!

I used a boneless pork loin, not to be confused with tenderloin.  You can use this with any kind of pork, but you will need to adjust the cooking time.  Tenderloin is more lean than regular loin, and therefore will probably dry out being in there for 8 hours.  This would be good on chops too, but obviously they would need much less time as well.

I served this with a new potato dish that turned out amazing as well.  I'll post that one soon.  And I used my other (smaller) slow cooker to easily make some baby carrots.  It was a really fuss-free meal!

So when it's too hot to turn on the oven, throw these three ingredients into your slow cooker and treat your family to an amazing meal.

18 July 2013

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 assigned ingredients were peaches and herbs.  I thought about it for a while, and then somehow decided I wanted to do a pizza.  I hadn't made pizza for a while, so I guess I thought it was time.  And I had been wanting to try making pizza on the grill for a long time, so I finally took a leap of faith and gave it a go.  The recipe I made is an adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe.  She used prepared pizza crusts in her recipe, but I wanted to make it from scratch, so I used my go-to pizza dough recipe and then for the grilling method, I consulted my "barbecue bible" How to Grill by Steven Raichlen.  So three sources came together to create this masterpiece!  It's a grilled pizza with creamy Brie, bright sweet peaches, salty prosciutto, and fresh basil.

Grilled Peach Prosciutto Pizza

Balsamic vinegar
4 peaches
1 lb. pizza dough
4 wedges spreadable Brie
4 oz. prosciutto, torn into large pieces
Fresh basil, torn

Set up your grill so there is a hot side and a cool side.  Pour some balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until reduced by half.  Set aside.

Cut peaches into ½” slices.  Place peach slices on hot side of grill and flip them as soon as they develop grill marks.  As soon as they have grill marks on both sides, remove them from the grill and set aside.

Split your dough ball in half.  Place one half of the dough on an oiled baking sheet and gently stretch the dough to form a rough rectangle about 9x13”.  Gently lift the dough by one end and flop it on to the hot part of the grill.  Keep a close eye on it.  Once it’s firm enough to move, slide it the cooler part of the grill.  When the bottom is browned and blistered (3 to 5 minutes), turn it over and cook the other side.  

Once crust is cooked, spread half of the Brie over the top of it.  Top with half of the peaches and half the prosciutto.  Remove from the grill and sprinkle with the torn basil and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.

Repeat with the other half of the dough and topping ingredients.

Makes 2 pizzas, about 4 servings.

 Isn't it gorgeous?  Not only a super combination of flavors, but an amazing combination of colors too!

 This is the Brie that I used.  It's a lot like Laughing Cow.

 My mise en place while heating up the grill.  I ran out of time and didn't do the balsamic reduction; I just used it straight out of the bottle, but it was too thin.  Next time I will take the time to do the reduction.

 Dough getting all grilled and yummy.  Since this was my first time grilling pizza dough, it wasn't perfect.  There were some white places (as you can see above) and some black places (not shown).  But it really wasn't too bad for my first time.  You really need to keep an eye on it.  And I was kind of rushing because I had somewhere to be that night.  

 Isn't it pretty?  It really does give the pizza an incredible flavor that you don't get in the oven.  I can't wait to try it with all kinds of different toppings.

 I didn't leave the pizza on very long after I put the toppings on.  I pretty much put them on and then immediately took the pizza off the grill.  The Brie will melt right away since the dough is hot and the peaches already have grilled flavor to them, so it's not necessary to leave it on.  You don't want the basil to cook.

I was very pleased with the outcome.  A friend from church was mowing the grass outside our fence while I was making this, so my husband ran a piece out to him when he stopped for a break.  He loved it.

If you haven't tried grilling pizza yet, I encourage you to do so.  It was really fun.

Check out all of the other peaches and herb recipes below, and come back next month to see what I make with vanilla and chocolate!

13 July 2013

It's the second month of my newest blog challenge, The Salad Bar.  

This month's theme lent itself to many different possibilities.  This month we were supposed to make any kind of picnic or potluck salad.  Pasta salad, potato salad, cole slaw, etc.  Anything you would make for a summertime get-together.  I perused my Pinterest boards for something that fit this category and found one that I had been wanting to try.  It's a potato salad with all the yummy flavors of a loaded baked potato: sour cream, bacon, cheddar cheese, green onions, and I even threw in a little ranch dressing for good measure!  It's adapted from Dishing with Leslie.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup ranch dressing
2½ lbs. potatoes
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus a little more for topping
¼ cup fresh chives or green onions, chopped, divided
8 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, and ranch dressing. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Meanwhile, peel and cube your potatoes in to ¾” pieces. Put potato cubes in a large pot of cold water.  If using Russet potatoes, swirl potato cubes around in the pot until the water gets cloudy.  Drain off the water and fill pot with fresh cold water.  Repeat this process, swirling the potatoes in the pot and draining off the starchy water until the water runs clear.  Cover the potatoes with cold water a final time, add some salt, cover, and bring to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, remove lid and continue boiling until potatoes are just barely fork tender.  Start checking them after just a few minutes, because if they over cook, you will end up with loaded mashed potatoes instead of potato salad.  When they are just barely fork tender, remove the pot from the heat, drain the potatoes, and rinse with cold water. 

Put potatoes in a large bowl  and dump in the ½ cup of cheese, most of the crumbled bacon (reserving a little for topping), and most of the chopped chives or green onions (again reserving some for topping).  Pour in the mayo/sour cream/ranch dressing mixture and toss gently to combine everything.  Top with reserved cheddar cheese, bacon, and green onions.  

Makes 4-6 servings.

This potato salad is so yummy!  The little bit of ranch really makes it, I think.  It's creamy and flavorful.  You can use any kind of potato you like.  If you are using a waxier potato, like Yukon Golds or a small red potato, you can skip the step where you rinse the starch off.  But that helps tremendously if you are using Russet potatoes.  They are much less likely to get mushy around the edges with the starch removed.  I use that little trick when making mashed potatoes too.  Makes them not so gluey.

I peeled my potatoes, but you could certainly leave the skin on if you prefer.  That would actually be kind of neat with the whole baked potato theme.  I would definitely leave the skin on if using yellow or red potatoes.

This potato salad is a nice little change from the traditional mustard potato salad.  It would definitely be a hit at your next summer party.

Check out all of the other great summertime salads below and come back next month to see what kind of salad I make with avocado!

10 July 2013

This is, hands down, the best way to make ribs.  They are flavorful, juicy on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside, and so tender that they literally fall of the bone.  With this method they turn out perfectly every time.  I learned this method from a fellow foodie and awesome cook in Michigan.

Fall Off the Bone Ribs

Pork spare ribs
Your favorite bbq rub (or try mine)
Barbecue sauce, optional

Preheat oven to 250°.  Lay each rack of ribs on a large square of heavy-duty foil.  Season ribs on both sides with desired amount of barbecue rub.  Wrap ribs up in the foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake ribs for 2½ to 3 hours. 

Meanwhile, start up outdoor grill for high heat.  When ribs are done baking, unwrap them and place them on the grill.  You can slather them with barbecue sauce if you like.  Grill them just a few minutes on each side, or until the edges get crispy.


Makes as many servings as you like.

The ribs with their bbq rub.  For these ribs I used Penzey's BBQ 3000 rub, but I don't like it as much as my homemade Smoky Barbecue Rub.

 Then wrap those babies up in foil.  You definitely want to use a baking sheet with a rim on it, as the ribs will release quite a bit of liquid.  I heard someone say once that they always add liquid when they bake ribs, but there is absolutely no need. 

 Aren't they gorgeous?  I actually don't use barbecue sauce on mine; I love them just with the dry rub.  We grill them without sauce, then my husband puts a little bit on his at the table.  

I made these ribs for my daughter's birthday party last month and they were a big hit.  I didn't put quantities in the recipe because you can use this method no matter how many ribs you need.  At my daughter's party, I made enough for 6 adults and 6 kids.  Earlier this week, I did just enough for the 4 of us.  

So stock up on ribs when you see them on sale this summer.  They would still be good without the grilling at the end, so you can throw some in the freezer for a little taste of summer on a cold winter's day.

Have you ever made your own barbecue rub?  It's really easy.  And the nice thing about it is that you can customize it to suit your personal preferences.  Last month, I was lazy and when I needed a bunch of barbecue rub to make ribs for my daughter's birthday party, I hit up Penzey's and bought a big bag of their BBQ 3000 rub.  Sorry Penzey's, but I wasn't crazy about it.  It has nutmeg in it, which I find kind of odd.  I don't care for the flavor that gives it.  And it doesn't have as much heat as I like in my barbecue rub.  It did the job, but it was lacking that "wow" factor for me.  I should have put in the effort to make a big batch of the barbecue rub I "perfected" last summer.  It is adapted from one in Steven Raichlen's book How to Grill.

Smoky Barbecue Rub

2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground celery seed
½ tsp ground chipotle powder

Mix all ingredients together, making sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar.  Use 2-3 tsp per pound of meat.  Store rub in an airtight jar away from heat or light.  It will keep for at least 6 months.

Makes about ½ cup.

I changed a few things from Raichlen's original recipe.  He used sweet paprika, while I am totally obsessed with smoked paprika.  And since it's for barbecue, the smoked flavor is perfect.  (In his defense, he calls for hickory-smoked salt instead of regular kosher, but I think it's easier to switch out the paprika than to buy a special fancy salt that I won't use for anything else.)  I also decreased the black pepper and used chipotle instead of cayenne.  That adds more smoky flavor too.  It does have a bit of heat to it, so if you are sensitive to that, you might want to cut the chipotle in half.

This is a really great rub.  It's good on anything you like to grill: chicken breasts, whole chickens, pork chops, and best of all, ribs.  Check out my recipe for "Fall-Off-the-Bone Ribs".  And hey, if you're vegetarian or vegan, it would even be good on your favorite vegetable!

07 July 2013

It's my favorite Monday of the month: reveal day for the 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 the awesome blog, Food Babbles.  This is a blog I am familiar with.  It is written by Kate, a mom of three who loves to bake.  I knew Kate's blog already, not just from SRC, but also because Kate participates in the other monthly blog challenge that I love, the Improv Challenge.  So I was super excited to get a good excuse to really comb through her recipes and make something fun.  

Since most of the recipes on my blog are my family's dinner, I always look first at the "main dish" category on a blog's recipe index.  Kate has a few savory recipes on Food Babbles, like her Broccoli Cheese Muffins and her Fresh Tomato and Smoked Gouda Pie.  That pie looks so amazing, and I'm definitely going to try it soon, but I thought I might as well go for something sweet this time around since Kate's blog is filled with such delectable desserts.  I was leaning towards her "I Can't Believe It's Not Toffee" Bars or her Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Tart.  But then I stumbled upon her really fun summery beverages and I realized it had been a while since I did a drink recipe.  Her Rosemary-Infused Watermelon Lemonade looked so delicious and seemed so perfect for summer that I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to try it.  In her post, Kate mentions that it would be really good with mint instead of the rosemary.  As I'm not a fan of rosemary, I decided to try it that way.  The results were incredible.

Mint-Infused Watermelon Lemonade

1 cup water
½ cup sugar
6 leaves fresh mint
10 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
1 cup fresh lemon juice
8 oz. Sprite
Lemon slices, for garnish.

Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil and add the mint leaves.  Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for 30 minutes.  Strain out the mint leaves and let syrup cool.

Put half of the watermelon, half the lemon juice, and half the mint syrup in a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Strain out the pulp and place the liquid in a pitcher.  Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients.

Chill the lemonade until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, stir in the Sprite and garnish with lemon slices.

Makes about 2 quarts.

 It's amazing what magic you can make with these three simple ingredients!  I chose to use all lemon juice instead of half lemon and half lime like Kate did. I'm sure it's great either way.  The other thing I changed was to use Sprite instead of seltzer water.  Since the Sprite adds sugar, I decreased the amount of sugar in the simple syrup.  It turned out perfectly.

I cannot even tell you how fantastic this drink is.  I don't very often make too much of an effort when it comes to drinks, but I definitely should because it was out of this world.  My husband and two kids couldn't get enough.  My daughters called it "that watermelon juice", and really, it kind of is!  You can't beat the beautiful pink color, either.

I may or may not have tried some of this with coconut rum in it, and it may or may not have been the tastiest drink I've ever had.

I am so glad that I was assigned Kate's blog this month and I'm so glad I found this fantastic recipe.  I will definitely be making it again before the summer's over.  Thanks for a great recipe, Kate!

04 July 2013

Happy 4th of July everyone!  I hope you all have fun celebrating today.  Here's a great little treat that would be super fun to make today.  It's nothing complicated; just a little twist on an old classic.  Make an ice cream float with blue soda, white ice cream, and red strawberry syrup.

Red, White, and Blue Floats

Vanilla ice cream
Mountain Dew Voltage soda (the blue one)
Strawberry or raspberry ice cream topping

Put ice cream in glass.  Fill up glass with blue Mountain Dew.  Drizzle strawberry syrup on top.  Serve immediately.

Makes as much as you want.

Not really a recipe, but I thought it was a cute idea for the Fourth, or any other patriotic holiday.  The blue color didn't show up as much as I was expecting, and I think it's because the ice cream was soft.  It kind of mixed together with the soda when I poured it in.  So make sure your ice cream is frozen really hard for this. It was still yummy though!

Special thanks to my dad who suggested using his vintage bicentennial glass for this festive float! "200 years of people feelin' free" Gotta love it!

Enjoy the holiday!