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

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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