Creating memories in the kitchen...One meal at a time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Caramel Apple Dip

I had my book club spread all planned out. A few old favorites, a few new recipes to try. Unfortunately, one of the "new" recipes just wasn't working. With  not a lot of time to spare and running low on energy, I turned to the Internet and spotted this delicious looking dip.

A snap to put together and perfect for fall, this sweet dip couldn't be better. It could easily be served  as a dessert or appetizer. Lightly sweetened cream cheese, topped with creamy caramel and crunchy toffee bits. Served with tart granny smith apples it's a winning combination. If you were serving this for  dessert it would also be fun to add graham crackers, pretzels, teddy grahams, etc.

Caramel Apple Dip
Jane Deere

  • 16 ounces, weight Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Softened
  • ½ cups Powdered Sugar
  • 16 ounces, weight Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Dip (I Used Marzettis)
  • 1 cup Heath Bits-O-Brickle Toffee Bits
  • 4 Large Granny Smith Apples, Sliced Thick

Preparation Instructions

In a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and powdered sugar until fluffy. Spread mixture evenly onto a platter. Spread caramel apple dip on top of the cream cheese layer. Sprinkle the top generously with toffee bits. Serve with thick slices of Granny Smith apples.

Posted by: Sallie
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mexican Fiesta

My sister was in town over Labor Day and we made these recipes for dinner one night.  I had almost forgotten about them until I went over to my sister-in-law's house the other night for dinner and she made them as well (she's the one who gave me the recipes).  I was quickly reminded of how yummy each of these things are!

Homemade Salsa
from Anisa Izzolo

12 Roma Tomatoes
3 Jalapenos
3 Serrano or Anaheim Chilis

Boil tomatoes until skin just starts to peel.  Place in blender or food processor, add whole jalapenos and chilis and blend.  Cool down in fridge before serving.


Chicken Flautas
from Anisa Izzolo

1 Rotisserie Chicken, shredded
3 tbsp. (appx.) homemade salsa (recipe above)
Corn Tortillas
Oil for Frying

Heal oil for frying.  Mix shredded chicken with salsa.  Microwave tortillas two at a time in between moistened papertowels for 25 seconds.  Place 2 tbsp. chicken in corn tortilla and roll up.  Secure with toothpick.  Fry flauta until golden, remove and place on paper towel lined plate.  Sprinkle with salt and cool down before eating.

Guacamole Dip
from Anisa Izzolo


4 Large Avocados or 6 Small Avocados
1 Container Whipped Cream Cheese
1 Jar of Sliced Jalapenos

In blender or food proecssor, mix juice from jar of jalapenos (not the jalepenos) and add avocados (pitted and skinned).  Add whipped cream cheese.  Blend until smooth.

Posted By:  Julia
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Picture from Annie's Eats

Originally a Starbucks knock off (I haven't had the original so I can't compare) these little babies are fast becoming one of my favorite Fall recipes.

Moist, warmly  spiced muffins with the most delicious sweetened cream cheese filling.

Each ingredient blends perfectly so that you get a little pumpkin, a little spice, a little creamy, and a little crunch, without any of them being too overwhelming.

The struesel topping is slightly crunchy and instead of covering the entire top, it slightly bakes into the muffin creating more of a cinnamon sugar crust.  

These will be on my "must make for Fall" list every year!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Annie's Eats

*Be sure to allow time for the cream cheese filling to chill*

Yield: 24 muffins

Ingredients:For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
For the muffins:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1¼ cups vegetable oil
For the topping:
½ cup sugar
5 tbsp. flour
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.
To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.
To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (It may be hard to resist immediate consumption, but the cream cheese filling gets very hot!)

Posted by: Sallie
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gooey Chocolate Coconut Bars

Pictures From Evil Shenanigans 

Being that my sister and I live only about 2 hours apart, we are lucky enough to  spend most holidays together. Labor Day was perfect. Good food, good weather and just a fun time watching the cousins play. My brother in law loves, loves coconut and requested these coconut bars  for dessert.

Fudgy, creamy, coconutty and just downright good. These were a major winner.

Gooey Chocolate Coconut Bars    
Evil Shenanigans

Serves 8

For the base:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

For the topping:
4 ounces (1/2 block) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Heat the oven to 350 F and spray an 8″x8″ square pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the sides, and spray the paper with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar until evenly combined.  Add the butter, egg, vanilla, and almond extract and mix until the mixture forms a stiff dough.
Carefully press the dough evenly into the prepared pan.  Set aside.
For the topping, cream together the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add egg and mix well, then add the cocoa powder and vanilla and mix until well blended.  Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until smooth then fold int he coconut.
Spread the topping evenly over the base then bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the edges are just set and the center is a little wobbly.  Cool for 40 minutes in the pan before lifting out and slicing.

"The best advice I can give you for these bars is this: do not over-bake them.  They need to be set at the sides but jiggly in the center.  Trust me, things will firm up after cooling.  If you wait for the center to firm up in the oven the edges will become hard as a rock."

Posted by: Sallie & Julia
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Pictures from See Jane in the Kitchen

Mac and cheese is another sure fire, everyone will eat it meal in our house. The only downside being my kids are perfectly content with a box of Kraft while my husband and I want something a little more sophisticated. Having had success with this, I decided to try another version.

Enter Alton Brown's amazing mac and cheese. Seriously, this meal was so good! The sauce was smooth, cheesy and creamy. All the ingredients went together perfectly and were topped off with a delicious buttery, panko bread crumb topping. An all around winner with my husband asking for seconds and commenting on how good it was and rave reviews from the kiddos as well. I followed the adaptations of this blog (basically added more noodles) and I'm glad I did because it was perfect. 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
from See Jane in the Kitchen and Alton Brown

1 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg (add a little of the hot mixture to it before mixing it in, if you add the egg cold right into it, it will scramble so very slowly add enough hot mixture to bring the temperature up).
Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Posted by: Sallie
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Friday, September 2, 2011

Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Picture from Two Peas and their Pod (She takes GREAT pictures.)
Maybe it's because I'm on the miniature side myself (we're talking pushing  5'1) or maybe it's because I can trick my kids into thinking they're eating two cookies when they're actually only getting one, but when it comes to bite sized treats, I'm a sucker.

These cute little chippers are fast becoming a household favorite. Not only do they come out looking practically perfect, they taste great, bake up quickly, and freeze beautifully. (See bottom of recipe for freezing instructions.)

Perfect for lunches, wrapping up for a quick gift, or just changing up the classic chocolate chip cookie to something a little more fun, these mini cookies are sure to become a household staple.

Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two Peas and their Pod

Yield: Makes 3 dozen mini cookies
Cook Time: 8 minutes


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.
2. In medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until creamy and smooth. Add in the egg and vanilla extract.
4. Slowly mix in the flour, until combined. Stir in mini chocolate chips.
5. Roll dough into tiny balls, about 2 teaspoons of dough. Place on baking sheet and slightly flatten with the palm of your hand. Bake for 8 minutes or until cookies are golden brown and set. Remove from the oven and let cool on baking sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Freezing Instructions: To freeze before baking, roll cookie dough into desired size balls. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Freeze for 15-20 minutes or until firm. Once they are firm enough to retain their shape and not stick together, place in freezer bag.

When ready to bake, I like to place the frozen dough on cookie sheets and let come to room temperature before baking. Then just bake according to directions. I've had better results that way.

Posted by: Sallie

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cookie Dough Truffles

One bite desserts are another of my  favorites for casual get togethers and taking to friends and neighbors. Just reading the name I knew they'd be good. Cookie dough. Yum. Truffles.Delish .Mix em together and wow!

A creamy cookie dough like center, studded with mini chocolate chips and crunchy pecans then wrapped in a heavenly coating of chocolate. Let me tell ya, these babies didn't last long!!

Cookie Dough Truffles
Paula Deen


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 pounds chocolate bark candy coating, melted


In a large bowl cream butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add vanilla. Gradually beat in flour and add milk. Add chocolate morsels and pecans, mixing well. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place on waxed paper; chill 2 hours.

*Cook's Note: Since the dough is sticky, roll your fingers into flour. This will make it easier to roll.

Melt chocolate bark candy coating in a double boiler. Using 2 forks, dip cookie balls into candy coating to cover. Place on waxed paper and chill to set. Store in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Posted by: Sallie
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Creamy Chicken Lasagna

Picture from Cassie Craves

When I asked my husband what he wanted for his birthday meal this week he said "Oh, I don't know, you just choose something."First I was shocked.Then I got excited. Planning meals for me is so much fun.  Anyway, it was the perfect opportunity for me to try out this new recipe I spotted on Cassie Craves. I've already raved about the Rosemary Ranch Chicken from her blog , and this was just as big of a hit.

As the name implies is super creamy and cheesy. With moist nuggets of sauteed chicken, tender pasta noodles and just the right amount of Italian flavors, my whole family gobbled this up. Yep, you read that right. I ACTUALLY MADE A MEAL THAT EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY LIKES!  I served mine with a green salad and rolls. It was the perfect dinner for my perfect guy!

Creamy Chicken Lasagna
Cassie Craves

1 pound chicken breast, cubed into small pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves minced garlic
2 cans cream chicken soup
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 cups sour cream
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
4 cups shredded Colby-jack or cheddar-jack cheese blend

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large frying pan, cook chicken in olive oil and butter until the chicken is no longer pink. Remove chicken and keep warm.

3. Add garlic to pan; cook and stir for 30 seconds. Add cream soup, cream cheese, sour cream, milk, and chicken broth to the pan. Stir until ingredients melt and thicken slightly. Season with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken and continue to stir. Turn heat down and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes.

4. Spread a thin layer of sauce in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Layer noodles (I used about 4 per layer), then cream sauce with chicken, then cheese (about 1 cup per layer). Continue to repeat until your pan is full, ending with cheese on top. Bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Posted by: Sallie
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Ultimate Beef Stroganoff

Most beef stroganoff dishes that I've had called for ground beef.  This recipe actually used stew meat (or a chuck roast), cubed.  It's prepared in the slow cooker, which makes the meat nice and tender.  It was very delicious and a hit with my toddler.  Bonus!

The Ultimate Beef Stroganoff


2-3 pounds stew meat (or a 3-pound chuck roast, cubed)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, diced
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ cups beef broth or stock
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/3 cup flour
6-7 tablespoons apple juice or water
4-8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup light or regular sour cream

Place the stew meat, salt, pepper and onion in the slow cooker. Stir to distribute the seasonings and onion. In a small bowl, combine the garlic salt, Worcestershrie sauce, beef broth and ketchup. Pour over the meat. Cook for 7-9 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high. About 30 minutes before serving, combine the flour and apple juice in a small bowl, whisking vigorously to combine well. The roux should be thick but still pourable so add a tablespoon of apple juice or water at a time to thin, if needed. Pour the flour mixture into the slow cooker, whisking quickly to mix in the roux with the stew meat and juices and to avoid lumps. Add the mushrooms and stir. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Stir in ½ cup sour cream right before serving. Serve over pasta, rice or baked potatoes.

*Freezable Meal: The leftovers of the stroganoff can be frozen. I store the leftovers in a freezer-safe container and then thaw in the refrigerator (usually takes about a day) and reheat over medium-low heat in a saucepan on the stove.

Posted by:  Julia
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Monday, August 15, 2011

BBQ Chicken Kebabs

I can't believe it. School is actually starting today! I have the same mixed feelings every year. Sadness that the lazy, fun and sometimes crazy  days of summer are over but also joy that I can reclaim my house, get the kids to bed at a decent hour and have my precious routine back! Right now with only my kindergartner and a really quiet house I'm really leaning toward the latter.

Even though summer vacation is over it's still hot here. Really hot. That translates into let's grill something and not heat up the house.

These bbq chicken kebabs are unlike any I've made before. The chicken is mixed with a bacon puree. Yes, pureed bacon. This not only contributes a fabulous element of flavor, but also keeps the chicken extra moist. They're also flavored with a rub of both sweet and spicy paprika (translation, yummy smoky flavor) and a delicious and easy bbq sauce.

These were a hit with the whole family.  The leftovers are perfect for dicing up and using on pizza, sandwiches, or quesadillas. 

BBQ Chicken Kebabs
Cooks Illustrated

*The recipe calls for either chicken thighs or breast. if you use both, make sure to put them on separate skewers as they will cook at different rates.


  • Sauce
  • 1/2cup ketchup
  • 1/4cup light or mild molasses
  • 2tablespoons grated onion (see note)
  • 2tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1tablespoon light brown sugar
  • Kebabs
  • 2pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 2teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 4teaspoons sugar
  • 2teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2slices bacon , cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 412-inch metal skewers


  1. 1. FOR THE SAUCE: Bring all ingredients to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce reaches ketchup-like consistency and is reduced to about 1 cup, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer 1/2 cup sauce to small bowl and set aside remaining sauce to serve with cooked chicken.
  2. 2. FOR THE KEBABS: Toss chicken and salt in large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  3. 3. Turn all burners to high, close lid, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape cooking grate clean with grill brush. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
  4. 4. While grill heats, pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine sweet paprika, sugar, and smoked paprika in small bowl. Process bacon in food processor until smooth paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds, scraping down bowl twice during processing. Add bacon paste and spice mixture to chicken; mix with hands or rubber spatula until ingredients are thoroughly blended and chicken is completely coated. Thread meat onto skewers, rolling or folding meat as necessary to maintain 1-inch cubes.
  5. 5. Place kebabs over primary burner and grill, covered, turning one-quarter turn every 2 to 2 1/2 minutes until well browned and slightly charred, 8 minutes for breasts or 10 minutes for thighs. (If flare-ups occur, slide kebabs to cool side of grill until fire dies down.) Brush top surface of kebabs with ¼ cup sauce; flip and cook until sauce is brown in spots, about 1 minute. Brush second side with remaining ¼ cup sauce; flip and continue to cook until brown in spots and instant-read thermometer inserted in center of meat registers 160 degrees for breasts and 175 degrees for thighs, about 1 minute longer. Remove kebabs from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve, passing reserved barbecue sauce separately.

    Posted by: Sallie
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bean Dip

We took a trip down to southern California last year to visit our friends Rob & Crystal.  They had made this delicious bean dip that we snacked on while we were there.  I brought home the recipe with me, but stuffed it in my recipe binder and completely forgot about it until the other day when I was looking for a recipe and came across this one.  It is super easy to make with simple ingredients, but is so delicious.  It's worth a try!

Bean Dip

1 can great northern beans drained & rinsed
1 can red beans (not kidney) drained & rinsed
1 can black beans drained & rinsed
1 can pinto beans drained & rinsed
1/2 red onion, diced
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
chopped fresh cilantro
salt & pepper to taste

Mix together the beans, onion, olive oil and apple cider vinegar in a bowl.  Add salt and pepper.  Top with cilantro.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Posted by:  Julia

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Mexican Lasagna

If you like lasagna, you've got to try this amazing Mexican version.

On the recommendation of my friend Jen, I added this to my menu when we went to visit my Mom. It was such a hit that we made it again when my sister and I vacationed together in California.

A deliciously different version of your typical Italian lasagna, this version is full of  tender noodles, black beans, corn, a mexican spiced (but not spicy)  tomato sauce, ground beef or turkey and olives. Besides all these great ingredients there are mozzarella and cheddar cheese, sour cream and the best----little tender nuggets of cream cheese.

A new family favorite, this is great with corn bread and a green salad.

Mexican Lasagna
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Note: this lasagna isn’t super heavy on the sauce, just enough to plump up the pasta noodles perfectly and help everything hold their shape (not dry…just not overly saucy). I split all the ingredients (sauce, cheese, noodles) into three layers but feel free to simplify and just halve everything and do two layers only. Less noodles, more sauce. It’s up to you. Also, the ingredient list looks long, but it comes together quickly, especially with the no-boil lasagna noodles.

*Serves 6-8

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
dash of ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cup frozen corn kernels, white or yellow
1 (6 ounce) can olives, chopped
9-12 no-boil lasagna noodles (I love the Barilla brand), or boil and drain regular lasagna noodles
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream, light or regular
8 ounces cream cheese, light or regular
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch pan and set aside.
In a large 12-inch skillet, brown the ground beef or turkey and onion over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink. Drain the grease. Add the minced garlic and tomato paste. Stir to combine well and cook for about a minute. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, oregano and salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Add the black beans, corn and olives. Mix well and heat through, about 5 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of the prepared pan. Layer three (or four, depending on the brand of noodles you use) noodles over the sauce. Spread 1/3 of the sauce over the noodles. Dollop 1/3 of the sour cream and 1/3 of the cream cheese (just pinch off chunks and toss them on top) across the sauce. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheeses. Repeat the layers two more times until all the ingredients are used.
Cover the lasagna with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake 10-15 minutes more, until the lasagna is hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into and serving.

Posted by: Sallie
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Congo Bars

I love cookies. I love brownies. Naturally I loved these Congo Bars and I think you will too.

Start with a layer of chewy chocolate chip cookie dough, add a moist, chocolately brownie layer and top it all off with a nice little drizzle of chocolate ganache.

Perfect with a tall glass of cold milk or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Simple enough to serve to the family, yet fancy enough to wow your friends, these Congo bars are a sure to become a new family favorite.

Congo Bars
Flo Braker Baking for All Occasions

*Makes about 18-24 bars, depending on what size you cut them

Congo Layer:

1 1/3 cups (6¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ounces (¾ stick) butter, melted and cooled
1¼ cups firmly packed (8 ounces) light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white (save the egg yolk for the brownie layer!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts

Brownie Layer:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (¾ ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Ganache Drizzle:
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9X13-inch pan with foil and lightly grease and flour (or use a combination spray like Baker's Joy.)
For the congo layer: in a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, stir together the butter, brown sugar, egg, egg white, and vanilla just until blended. Stir in the flour mixture just until the batter is smooth.
Scoop the thick, sticky batter onto 8 or 9 different areas on the bottom of the prepared pan. With an offset spatula or rubber spatula, spread the batter to cover the pan as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the walnuts evenly on top and gently press them into the batter.
Partially bake the layer until it is no longer shiny on top and is beginning to come away from the sides of the pan, about 12-15 minutes (it will continue baking with the brownie layer). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool while you prepare the brownie layer.
For the brownie layer: in a small or medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over very low heat, stirring with a silicone spatula until smooth. Or, combine in a medium microwave-safe bowl and melt in a microwave oven at 50 percent power (medium) for 30-second bursts, stirring after each burst, until melted, 1 to 1½ minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool for 5 minutes.
Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture until incorporated. Add the eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture just until the batter is smooth. Scoop the thick, sticky batter onto 8 or 9 different areas of the still-warm congo layer. With the offset spatula, spread the batter as evenly as possible.
Bake the brownie until the top is no longer shiny; appears set; feels firm, rather than soft; and a round wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist chocolate crumbs attached, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. The top layer will set up as it cools.
To make the ganache drizzle: place the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil over medium heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it stand for 30 seconds. Whisk together until smooth and creamy. Set the mixture aside at room temperature just until it cools a bit and begins to thicken slightly.
Pour the warm glaze into a small ziploc bag. Snip a small opening at one of the corners to allow a thin flow of glaze. Squeezing lightly, pipe thin lines of chocolate in a zigzag pattern over the cooled surface of the brownie. Set aside at room temperature until the glaze is set, 1 to 1½ hours.

Posted by: Sallie

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Our love affair with Mexican Food continues. Really similar to this, it was an instant hit. A perfect light summer dish with classic flavors.Toasted corn, black beans, avocado, and tomatoes dressed with a light citrusy dressing that packs a little punch from the chipotle chilies .(If you'd like less spice, just cut down on the amount of chipotle chilies.)

This dish is so versatile. It goes perfectly with any grilled meat and if you've got a bag of tortilla chips it can also be a quick lunch, dinner or appetizer.

Southwestern Black Bean Salad
Cook's Country

  • 4 scallion, sliced thin
  • 1 TB minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ¼ cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 5 cobs of corn
  • 2 (16 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted, skinned, and chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • heaping ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1) Make dressing: combine scallions, chipotle, honey, lime juice, ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Slowly whisk in in 2 TB oil. (Dressing can be refrigerated, covered, for one day.)
  • 2) Toast corn: Scrape corn off cobs. Heat some olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook corn until spotty brown, ~5 minutes.
  • 3) Toss salad: Put beans, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, and toasted corn to large serving bowl. Mix in dressing to taste. Season with salt and pepper in necessary. Serve.

    Posted by: Sallie

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crepes with Cream Cheese Mousse


This summer has been full of good times but I think the best event so far was the week my sister and I spent at a beach house with our families. Family, fun and food. It really doesn't get better than that.

My sister had a birthday while we were there so of course a special breakfast was in order. We decided to do crepes. I was a little nervous this being my first attempt but they were so easy and everyone loved them. This recipe is great because it doesn't require any special pans or equipment. If you've got a stove and a skillet, you're set! I also liked being able to cook the batter right away. (Lots of crepe recipes require you to let the batter rest for an hour.)

We filled ours with a deliciously creamy cheesecake like mousse filling and topped them with berries, bananas and powdered sugar. Even my husband who has never liked crepes was converted and loved them!


Crepes with Cream Cheese Mousse

Cooks Illustrated

Serves 4 (2 crepes each)

Crêpes will give off steam as they cook, but if at any point the skillet begins to smoke, remove it from the heat immediately and turn down the heat. Stacking the crêpes on a wire rack allows excess steam to escape so they won’t stick together. To allow for practice, the recipe yields 10 crêpes; only eight are
needed for the filling.



  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted and cooled
  •  Cheesecake filling
  •   bananas , cut into slices, assorted berries (we used blueberries and strawberries)


  1. 1. Place oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet and heat over low heat for at least 10 minutes.
  2. 2. While skillet is heating, whisk together flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt in medium bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Add half of milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add butter and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in remaining milk mixture until smooth.
  3. 3. Using paper towel, wipe out skillet, leaving thin film of oil on bottom and sides. Increase heat to medium and let skillet heat for 1 minute. After 1 minute, test heat of skillet by placing 1 teaspoon batter in center and cook for 20 seconds. If mini crêpe is golden brown on bottom, skillet is properly heated; if it is too light or too dark, adjust heat accordingly and retest.
  4. 4. Pour ¼ cup batter into far side of pan and tilt and shake gently until batter evenly covers bottom of pan. Cook crêpe without moving it until top surface is dry and crêpe starts to brown at edges, loosening crêpe from side of pan with rubber spatula, about 25 seconds. Gently slide spatula underneath edge of crêpe, grasp edge with fingertips, and flip crêpe. Cook until second side is lightly spotted, about 20 seconds. Transfer cooked crêpe to wire rack, inverting so spotted side is facing up. Return pan to heat and heat for 10 seconds before repeating with remaining batter. As crêpes are done, stack on wire rack.
  5. 5. Transfer stack of crêpes to large microwave-safe plate and invert second plate over crêpes. Microwave on high power until crêpes are warm, 30 to 45 seconds (45 to 60 seconds if crêpes have cooled completely). Remove top plate and wipe dry with paper towel.  Fill with cheesecake Filling and top with desired toppings. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
Cream Cheese Mousse
Your Home Based Mom (originally from Tish Boyle)

1 1/2 C heavy cream, divided
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks
3/4 C sugar, divided
1/3 C sour cream or Greek yogurt ( I used sour cream)
1 tsp vanilla

In a small pan heat together 1/2 cup of cream, cream cheese, and 1/2 C sugar over medium heat. Stir frequently until the cream cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.
Put into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
In your mixer, beat the 1 cup cream with the sour cream or yogurt, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla until medium peaks form. Fold the two mixtures together, 1/3 at a time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. (I refrigerated mine overnight).

Posted by : Sallie
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rosemary Ranch Chicken

I don't know about you, but I'm constantly on the look out for new grilled chicken recipes. With climates reaching over 100 degrees, I will do  almost anything to avoid turning on the oven.

I came across this recipe while my sister and I were making our vacation menu. Once I saw Ranch in the title I was sold. I had truthfully forgotten all about it until I saw my sister and she reminded me how good it was. We had it again for dinner last night and I was seriously amazed at how good it was. It might just be my favorite, all time grilled chicken. Although you can marinate the meat for as long as overnight, it only needs to marinate for 30 minutes (I marinated mine for 45 minutes and it was fabulous). It turns out moist and juicy and the flavor is out of this world. It's the perfect dinner for those lazy summer  nights.

Rosemary Ranch Chicken
Cassie Craves

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing (I use the homemade Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon white sugar, or to taste (optional)
Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves or tenders (about 1 1/2 - 2 lbs.)

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, lemon juice, white vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes. Place chicken in the bowl, and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I marinated it overnight).

2. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill chicken until no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.

Posted by: Sallie & Julia
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Friday, July 1, 2011

Classic Fresh Fruit Tart

As summer progresses and the temperatures keep rising, we're naturally gravitating towards lighter meals and that carries over into dessert. While I'm a huge fan of rich desserts, I also love a lot of the lighter tasting summer desserts, especially those made with lemon or fruit.

Take this Classic Fruit Tart for example. A slightly sweet, buttery crust is filled with a divine vanilla pastry creamed and topped off with a variety of beautiful fruits.  It has a little bit of everything. Buttery, sweet, tart, crunchy, creamy, fruity. Not only is it delicious, it looks impressive.

While it does take longer than your average dessert, it can be broken down into steps and even made over the course of a few days to simplify the process.

Classic Fresh Fruit Tart
                                                                                                Cook's Illustrated

Printable Version



  • Pastry Cream
  • 2cups half-and-half
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar
  • pinch table salt
  • 5large egg yolks , chalazae removed (see note at bottom)
  • 3tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 1/2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Tart Pastry (Pâte Sucrée)
  • 1large egg yolk
  • 1tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6 1/4 ounces)
  • 2/3cup confectioners' sugar (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/4teaspoon table salt
  • 8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), very cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Fruit and Glaze
  • Fruit , unwashed
  • 1/2cup red currant jelly or apple jelly


  1. 1. For the Pastry Cream: Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
  2. 2. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
  3. 3. When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk simmering half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula; return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Transfer mixture to medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.
  4. 4. For the Tart Pastry: While pastry cream is chilling, whisk together yolk, cream, and vanilla in small bowl; set aside. Pulse to combine flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With machine running, add egg mixture and process until dough just comes together, about 25 seconds. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and press into 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
  5. 5. Remove dough from refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable). Unwrap and roll out between lightly floured large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to 13-inch round. (If dough is soft and sticky, slip onto baking sheet and refrigerate until workable, 20 to 30 minutes.) Transfer dough to tart pan by rolling dough loosely around rolling pin and unrolling over 9- to 9 1/2-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Working around circumference of pan, ease dough into pan corners by gently lifting dough with one hand while pressing dough into corners with other hand. Press dough into fluted sides of pan. (If some edges are too thin, reinforce sides by folding excess dough back on itself.) Run rolling pin over top of tart pan to remove excess dough. Set dough-lined tart pan on large plate and freeze 30 minutes (can be sealed in gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag and frozen up to 1 month).
  6. 6. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Set dough-lined tart pan on baking sheet, press 12-inch square of foil inside frozen tart shell and over edges and fill with metal or ceramic pie weights. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Remove from oven and carefully remove foil and weights by gathering edges of foil and pulling up and out. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Set baking sheet with tart shell on wire rack to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  7. 7. To Assemble and Glaze the Tart: When tart shell is completely cool, spread cold pastry cream over bottom, using offset spatula or large spoon. (Can press plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream and refrigerate up to 30 minutes.) Arrange fruit on top of pastry cream starting with sliced kiwis, then raspberries, and finally blueberries.
  8. 8. Bring jelly to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to smooth out lumps. When boiling and completely melted, apply by dabbing and flicking onto fruit with pastry brush; add 1 teaspoon water and return jelly to boil if it becomes too thick to drizzle. (Tart can be refrigerated, uncovered, up to 30 minutes.) Remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between bottom of crust and tart pan bottom to release, then slip tart onto cardboard round or serving platter; serve.
*Note: Chalazae are cordlike strands of egg white protein that are attached to the yolks—removing them with your fingers is easy and eliminates the need to strain the pastry cream after cooking.*

Posted by: Sallie
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