September 6, 2017

Slow Cooker Korean Beef

It's been quite some time since I posted here. Taking a 3-week vacation, coupled with school starting means that blog posting moves lower on the to-do list. But this recipe from I Heart Eating has been our meals both last week and this week, so I wanted to share it to easily find it in the future.

Korean Beef wasn't something we'd previously eaten, but it sounded like something we'd enjoy. I searched the Asian aisle at our grocery store and found the one ingredient we didn't have on hand (Gochujang). This comes together incredibly easy and is perfect served over rice with extra vegetables. The second time I made it, I added 16 oz. of button mushrooms to increase our vegetable consumption. They worked really well, so I've included them below.

Perhaps the best part of this recipe is the leftovers, which I think taste even better than the first day.

Slow Cooker Korean Beef
3/4 cup reduced-sodium beef broth, divided
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
5 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1-2 Tbsp. Gochujang
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
3-4 pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
16 oz. button mushrooms, sliced 
1-2 Tbsp. cornstarch depending on desired sauce thickness

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup beef broth and next 9 ingredients (up to roast). Place cubed roast into a slow cooker, layering with mushrooms. Pour sauce over cubed meat.
Cover, and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup broth. Stir cornstarch mixture into the slow cooker. Cover, and cook on high heat for an additional 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.

July 6, 2017

Peanut Butter Twix Pie

Our old church in Denmark had its summer picnic every year. The goal for me and my husband was to see how many pieces of this incredible peanut butter pie we could snag in a given year. Someone made a wickedly good pie, loaded with peanut butter and chocolate.

This is not that pie. But this pie is still tasty. My topping didn't turn out nearly as pretty as shown in the pictures in the post on Crazy for Crust. I think in the future I'd make some sort of ganache as the topping for the pie instead. This is an easy recipe with pretty simple ingredients. And no bake is what I should be doing today when it's nearly 90°F instead of baking cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Twix Pie
2 cups of shortbread cookie crumbs, about 30 cookies
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
12 oz. Cool Whip

Combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press into 9-inch pie plate. Chill while you make the filling.

To make the filling, beat together cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla. Fold in 8 oz. Cool Whip. Spread filling into pie crust.

Melt chocolate in 30-second intervals in the microwave, stirring between each increment. Stir in remaining Cool Whip. Spread evenly over the pie. Chill pie at least 4 hours before serving.

Serves 8 (or more). Pie can be served chilled or frozen. Either way is delicious.

S'mores Cheesecake Pops

These cheesecake pops from Buzzfeed are tastily addictive. I'd imagine if you fully dipped them, like the pictures in the original post show, that they'd be fine stored in the refrigerator. If you halfway dip them like I did ... because it's a challenge to fully dip something for me ... then they are stored in the freezer.

These are delicious and perfect for summer. You could probably use a bit more marshmallow to add to the toasted marshmallow flavor, but these were fun to make and more fun to eat. These are worth repeating ... and maybe then I'd get a picture before we eat them all.

S'mores Cheesecake Pops
10 graham crackers
1/2 cup butter, melted
16 oz.cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups mini marshmallows
4 oz. white chocolate, melted
16 oz. dark chocolate, melted
2 tsp. coconut oil (optional)
16-30 cake pop sticks or lollipop sticks

Crush graham crackers. Combine with butter, and press into to an 8x8 baking dish lined with parchment paper. Firmly pack it down to form the crust. Freeze until the cheesecake mixture is ready.

While the crust is freezing, combine the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Spread the marshmallows a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silipat. Broil the marshmallows for about 1-2 minutes, watching closely to make sure they brown but don't burn. (I used a kitchen torch to finish toasting the ones that weren't quite toasted. Any excuse to play with that torch is worth it.)

Carefully scrape the marshmallows from the sheet into the cheesecake mixture. Mix thoroughly. Transfer the toasted marshmallow cheesecake mixture into the baking dish on top of the crust, and smooth until even. Freeze at least one to two hours until the mixture is firm enough to cut.

Remove the set cheesecake from the dish, and cut into even square shapes, depending on how big you want your pops. (Cutting into 20 makes fairly large pops, hence my dipping difficulties. Smaller pops would be easier to dip. Larger pops mean you don't eat as many in one sitting.) Dip each stick in melted white chocolate, and place into each cut square. Freeze until solid, at least 10 minutes.

Microwave the dark chocolate in 15 to 30 second increments to melt, stirring thoroughly each time. Add coconut oil if the chocolate seems too thick for dipping.Dip the set pops into the chocolate and stand upright to set or place on a cookie sheet. (A cardboard box or piece of styrofoam works best if you don’t have a stand.)

Decorate with the remaining white chocolate and crushed graham crackers if desired. Makes 16-30 pops.

Strawberry Hibiscus Jam

I fought through the droves of mosquitoes to pick our latest batch of strawberries and ended up with enough for a small batch of jam. Let me tell you, I'm not sure why the word quit is in the word mosquito because those buggers don't quit even when I'm covered in bug spray. They're horrible in our backyard this summer!

Anyways, it was worth the effort to pick the strawberries for this jam. I wanted to try something a bit different and toyed with the idea of strawberry lime jam (because I have limes not lemons in the fridge) but then remembered I had a bunch of dried hibiscus flowers. So I googled strawberry hibiscus jam and hit the jackpot with this recipe from Love & Olive Oil.

The hibiscus adds a bit of extra oomph to the jam, not enough to be easily identifiable but something to make it just a little special. Can you tell how much AJ loves homemade strawberry jam?

Below is my adaptation.

Strawberry Hibiscus Jam
2 lbs. strawberries
3 cups sugar, divided
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 package liquid pectin

Wash and hull berries. Toss with 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large bowl. Cover, and chill for at least 2 to 3 hours or up to 72 hours.

Place hibiscus flowers in a heat-proof bowl or glass measuring cup. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over flowers. Let steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain, pressing out as much liquid from the flowers as possible. (I found that squeezing out the flowers using a flour sack towel worked really well.) Discard flowers (or reserve for another use).

Prepare 4 half-pint mason jars and lids.

Pour the berries and all liquid into a large saucepan along with remaining sugar and hibiscus liquid. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and add the lemon juice. When the jam is thicker and syrupy, add the liquid pectin. Bring to a boil, and boil 3 minutes.

When jam has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat and skim off foam (if necessary). Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and threads. Screw on lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes

Makes 2 pints jam.

June 20, 2017

Loaded Peanut Butter Brownies

This brownies from Crazy for Crust caught my eye because chocolate and peanut butter is my favorite flavor combination, far surpassing chocolate and mint in the recent years. They come together quickly in a single bowl, and the add-in options are adaptable depending on whatever you have stockpiled. (Or am I the only one who squirrels away baking supplies, cookies and such in the freezer to have handy for whatever creation I want to make?)

These were good, especially warm with vanilla ice cream. The brownie base itself wasn't my favorite, lacking a bit of depth. Perhaps dark chocolate cocoa powder would make the difference in a future version. Still, for a one-bowl brownie, these top store bought brownies any day. My family and our friends certainly didn't complain.

Below is the recipe with my adaptations based on my sugar stash.

Loaded Peanut Butter Brownies
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
5 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 1/2 cups mini peanut butter cups
1 cup peanut butter chocolate chips
1/4 cup Reese's Pieces

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in eggs and oil until completely mixed. Stir in all the add-ins except the Reese's Pieces. Spread evenly in the pan. Sprinkle with Reese's Pieces. Bake for 20-26 minutes or until brownies are set (a toothpick inserted comes out clean, except for melted chocolate and peanut butter chips). Makes 24 brownies.

June 12, 2017

Crazy (Vegan) Cucpakes

When Teddy's running buddy accepted our offer to stay at our house during her visit here, my first thought was, "I have no idea what to feed someone who is vegan!" I basically told her I'd need her help to figure out what to make for meals, but at least I had this cupcake recipe from Sweet Little Bluebird ready to try for vegan cupcakes. (And the name of the cupcakes does not imply vegans, or vegan cupcakes, are crazy. It was the popular name given to a cupcake (or cake) that had no eggs, butter or milk.)

These cupcakes were moist, delicious and a hit with everyone. I wasn't as confident in my frosting as the cupcakes themselves, but the mixture of peanut butter, coconut cream and powdered sugar turned out rather well. I think next time, I'd look to do a raspberry jam and coconut cream frosting. I think the raspberry flavor would play well with the coconut notes.

Crazy (Vegan) Cupcakes 
1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 cupcake tins with liners, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients well. Make 2 small divots and 1 larger divot in the dry ingredients. Pour the vinegar and the vanilla each into separate small divots. Pour the oil into the larger divot. Add the water, and stir together with a fork. Divide mixture evenly among cupcake liners. 

Bake 15 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 12 cupcakes. 

Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread

This recipe from Bakerella was made by my baker-in-training AJ. I think it may be his new favorite banana bread recipe because it not only contains chocolate chips, but it also contains chocolate banana bread. The best part of this banana bread, even though it was delicious, was AJ taking our picture to post on Facebook with the following caption that he dictated:

Best cooking buddies forever! :-)

Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder, divided
1/2 tsp. baking soda, divided
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1 1/2 cups ripe bananas, mashed (about 3-4 bananas)
1/2 cup butter, mostly melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper overhanging sides of pan. (I skipped the parchment paper and ended up without the bottom of my bread attached.)
For the regular banana bread: whisk together 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 1/4 tsp. salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
For the chocolate banana bread: whisk together (in a second medium bowl) the remaining 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 1/4 tsp. salt. Set aside.
In a third bowl, combine mashed bananas, melted butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla until combined. Divide mixture, and add half to each flour mixture, stirring each until combined. Add 1/2 cup of chocolate morsels to each batter, and stir until combined.
Place small spoonfuls of both batters into prepared loaf pan layering and alternating between each. Then gently make a couple of swirls in the batter with a knife without over mixing. Sprinkle loaf with remaining chocolate chips. Bake 50-55 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 1 loaf.

June 1, 2017

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

I made these bars from Brown Eyed Baker for a recent weekend up north, figuring they'd be a huge hit with the kiddos. Then I promptly ate the majority of these bars up north. I figured they might be safe from be because they weren't chocolate, but they were sweet and buttery and delicious.

These are easy to make and even easier to eat. (My mother-in-law was grossed out by the fact that the frosting layer was as thick as the cookie layer. I view that as a positive, not a negative.)

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Rainbow sprinkles, for decorating

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan or line with parchment paper, and set aside.In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar, and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla,and beat to combine, about 1 minute.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing only until barely combined. Use a rubber spatula to finish mixing, ensuring there are no pockets of flour remaining.Using a spatula, spread the dough into an even layer in the prepared pan. (The dough will be thick and sticky.) Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Reduce the speed to low, and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high. Add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

Spread the frosting over the cookie bars, and decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Cut the bars into squares and serve. The cookie bars should be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days (you can store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week). Makes 24 bars.

May 24, 2017

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

The last week involved a lot of sweets at my house, thanks to me using my birthday as an opportunity to bake my way through a handful of bookmarked recipes. These chocolate cupcakes from Brown Eyed Baker were one of two cupcakes I baked.

The cupcakes were an excellent chocolate cupcake, but my ganache center didn't really set. When I dolloped the ganache onto the cupcakes prior to baking, it settled down creating a divot. So I filled that divot with sour cherry jam. Win-win. Ganache and cherry jam and dark chocolate.

The frosting provided in her original post is good but not my favorite. It's a very soft frosting, so I'm going to include the ganache frosting I used on a different cupcake that I think would be excellent with these.

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes
Ganache Filling
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup (28 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup (177 ml) hot water
3/4 cup (117 grams) bread flour
3/4 cup (149 grams) sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla 
Ganache Frosting
12 oz. chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream

First, prepare the ganache for the frosting. Heat the heavy cream until hot, but try to avoid boiling it. Pour over the chocolate, and let stand 2 minutes. Whisk until combined. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool completely. (You want it to solidify basically.)

Next make the ganache filling. Place all ingredients in a small bowl. Microwave on high until the mixture is warm to the touch, about 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth, and refrigerate until barely chilled, about 30 minutes. (You don't want this to solidify, or it will sink to the bottom of the cupcakes while baking.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners. (I used one extra liner and ended up with 13 cupcakes.) Place chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot (essentially boiling) water over the top. Whisk until smooth, and then refrigerate 20 minutes.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Set aside. Then whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture. Once smooth, stir in the flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners. Place a dollop of ganache in the center of each cupcake, using all the ganache filling. Bake until the cupcakes are set, about 17 to 19 minutes. Cool in the cupcake pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then remove to cool completely on a wire rack.
Once cupcakes are cooled, finish the ganache frosting. Place the cooled ganache in a mixing bowl. Beat until lighter in color and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Pipe onto cupcakes. (If your cupcakes have divots from the ganache, feel free to top with a cherry or other jam before frosting.) Makes 13 cupcakes.  

Margarita Cupcakes

Oddly enough, I've never made margarita cupcakes despite the fact that my husband is well-known for his margaritas. We're a tequila kind of family. Margaritas, tequila sunrises and the occasional shot for special occasions (like pretending we're still college-aged kids).

That changed when I came across these margarita cupcakes from Brown Eyed Baker. They were delicious. The only change I'd make for future versions (that I'm not taking to work) would be to more liberally brush the cupcakes with tequila. One of my friends, who has eaten the vast majority of cupcakes I've made, deemed these one of her favorites ... if not her favorite.

Margarita Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups (213 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (198 grams) sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 limes, zested and juiced
2 Tbsp. tequila
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
To Brush the Cupcakes
1 to 2 Tbsp. tequila
Tequila-Lime Frosting
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups (312 grams) powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. tequila
Pinch of coarse salt
Flaked sea salt if desired

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a cupcake tin with 12 liners. (I ended up using one silicone liner and had 13 cupcakes.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed, and beat in eggs one at a time. Add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla and tequila. Mix until combined. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only until combined. 

Divide batter evenly, and bake until cupcakes are light golden brown and done, about 25 minutes. Remove, and cool in the tin for about 5 minutes. Remove from the tin, brush with tequila and then cool cupcakes completely on a wire rack.  

To make the frosting, whip the butter for 5 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add the lime juice, tequila and salt, and beat until fluffy. If the frosting is too soft, add additional sugar slowly until desired consistency is reached. Frost cupcakes, and garnish with flaked sea salt immediately prior to serving. Makes 13 cupcakes. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

This creation from Smitten Kitchen was my birthday treat for myself, passing up offers on a raspberry cheesecake from my husband and chocolate ice cream cake from my mom. (In my defense, I had already settled on this cheesecake and purchased all the supplies. Basically, it was already baked in my mind.) I did request rainchecks from both of them ... so can I redeem those right now to eat those things while I write about this cheesecake?

This was good. This was really rich. But it wasn't my favorite. I liked the Irish Carbomb Cheesecake better. The cheesecake itself was a bit more tangy than I'd expect from a peanut butter cheesecake. I'm not sure what beyond that justifies my explanation, but that's all I've got.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
9 oz. (255 grams) chocolate wafers
6 oz. (170 grams) bitter- or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or 1 cup chips
1/2 cup (95 grams) packed dark brown sugar
7 Tbsp. (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted and still hot
Fudge Layer
1 cup (235 ml) heavy or whipping cream
13 oz. (370 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 grams) smooth peanut butter (optional)
Cheesecake Layer
16 oz. (455 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (320 grams) smooth peanut butter
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3/4 cup (180 grams) sour cream
3 large eggs
2 tsp. (10 ml) vanilla
Ganache Topping
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy or whipping cream
4 1/2 oz. (130 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. (15 grams) smooth peanut butter (optional)

Wrap a 9-inch springform pan with 3-inch high sides with aluminum foil. In a food processor, blend cookies, chopped chocolate and brown sugar together until finely ground. (If you use chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, you will need less butter.) Drizzle in melted butter, and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down the bowl if needed. Transfer crumbs to prepared pan. Wrap fingers with plastic wrap, and press crumb mixture up sides to within 1/2 inch of top, then evenly over bottom of pan. Chill crust until next step.

To make the fudge layer, bring cream to simmer in large saucepan. Remove from heat, and whisk in chocolate and peanut butter, if using, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into bottom of chilled crust, and spread in an even layer. Freeze until fudge layer is firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 325°F.Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar in large bowl until well-blended and fluffy. Beat in sour cream and then eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour over fudge layer that has set in the freezer.

Place foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan large enough to hold it. Fill roasting pan with enough hot water to come 1 inch up the sides of the springform, and carefully transfer to middle oven rack. Bake cake until slightly firm to the touch and the top appears dry, about  75 to 90 minutes.The center two inches should only move slightly when pan is gently shaken. Transfer cheesecake to rack to cool to room temperature, and then chill in the fridge until fully cool, at least three hours.

For the ganache topping, heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Off the heat, whisk in choocolate and peanut butter, if using. Pour onto chilled cheesecake and spread to the edges. Return cheesecake to the fridge until the ganache sets, about 30 minutes.

To serve, remove cheesecake from springform pan (after running a knife around the edges.) Serves 16 easily. 

May 16, 2017

Taco Seasoning

This recipe from Brown Eyed Baker ends my search for homemade taco seasoning. I removed the cornstarch because I'm still working on eating mostly Whole 30-style foods (with the addition of bacon because well ... it's bacon). This is not too spicy for my kiddos, but it's flavorful enough for the adults. It tastes like a taco seasoning packet, which is the goal with tacos in our house.

Taco Seasoning
1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
1 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 34 tsp. onion powder
1 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients together well. To make tacos, use 2 Tbsp. of the taco seasoning per each pound of browned meat, along with about 1/4 cup of water. Simmer until water is mostly gone, and then you're good to go.

April 24, 2017

Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake

I have yet to have an Irish Car Bomb, the actual drink that combines Guiness, whiskey and Baileys. Quite frankly, I have no interest in drinking one. I'd much rather eat all the Irish Carbomb desserts. I've made Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, including an ice cream version.

I made Irish Car Bomb cake milkshakes this weekend, using leftover ingredients from those cupcakes. Those were delicious as well, but I loved this cheesecake from Yes to Yolks. I'm not sure if I was just in the mood for cheesecake, but this was phenomenal in my opinion. My only change would be to use a larger springform pan, which I've indicated in the recipe below.

Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake  
1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate sandwich cookies
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup stout beer
24 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2 Tbsp. flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Pinch of fine salt
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. Irish whiskey 
1 1/2 Tbsp. Irish cream liqueur
4 oz. dark chocolate, for grating over top

Arrange your oven racks so that one is in the middle of the oven and one is below that. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch springform pan with butter and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet.

In a food processor, process the chocolate cookies until fine crumbs form. Add in the sugar, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly stream in the butter, and process until the mixture resembles wet sand. Pour the mixture into the prepared spring form pan and press down evenly to form a compact layer. (I smushed some up the sides, and used the bottom of a glass to press the crust into place. Set aside.

In a pot over medium high heat, add the chopped chocolate and the beer. Stir until melted, and then remove from heat. Allow to cool to close to room temperature. Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer. Turn on the mixer, and blend until the cream cheese is fluffy. With the machine running, crack in the eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth and incorporated. Beat in the vanilla bean paste. Pour in the cooled chocolate-beer mixture, and beat until well combined.

Whisk together the cocoa powder, flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Gradually add to the cream cheese mixture, a little at a time, and mix on low speed until just combined.

Pour the batter into the pan with the prepared crust. Place the baking sheet with the springform pan into the preheated oven on the middle rack. Place a baking dish on the lower rack of the oven and carefully fill that dish with warm water.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the center of the cheesecake is set. Remove from the oven, and set aside while you make the topping.

Add the topping ingredients to a bowl, and whisk until well combined. Top the cheesecake with the sour cream topping, and return to the oven for 8 minutes. Remove cheesecake from the oven, allow to cool to room temperature, and then transfer the whole pan to the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours (longer is even better!). Before serving, grate the dark chocolate over top and slice. Makes one large cheesecake that serves 12 reasonably, less if you want larger portions.

April 18, 2017

Smokey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This recipe from Meals Made Simple is my new favorite way to eat sweet potatoes. It involves no added sugar and makes sweet potatoes, which are usually not my favorite, one of my favorite lunches. Here's the adapted version I make for one large serving or two normal side servings.

Smoky Roasted  Sweet Potatoes
1 large sweet potato
1 piece of bacon
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, tossing to coat. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Toss ingredients together to coat potatoes with bacon grease. Continue baking an additional 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are crisp.

Note: I find it works well if the bacon is still slightly frozen. Otherwise, the bacon tends to get a bit too crispy before the sweet potatoes.

April 13, 2017

Banana Bread Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Muffins

These muffins from Bakers Royale are incredibly delicious, probably made more so by depriving myself of sugar with mostly Whole 30 eating. The author modified a recipe from Simply Recipes to create these muffins rather than a loaf.

I thought my 5-year-old son would absolutely love these because baking banana bread is his thing, with his secret ingredient of chocolate chips. He enjoyed these but wasn't head over heels the way I was. The best part, obviously, is the peanut butter cup hidden inside.

Banana Bread Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Muffins
2 to 3 very ripe bananas, peeled
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp. baking soda 
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
12 mini peanut butter cups

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash bananas, and mix with butter. Mix in the remaining ingredients, in the order listed, except the peanut butter cups. Line a muffin pan with 12 liners. Fill muffin liners about 1/3 of the way with batter, and then top with a peanut butter cup. Divide the remaining batter evenly among the liners, covering the peanut butter cup.

Bake about 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes, and then remove from pan to cool completely. Makes 12 muffins.

April 4, 2017


Barba-what? It's some sort of delicious meat, loaded with Mexican flavors. (Or at least what I think of as Mexican flavors.) It has a bit too much spice for our children, but I could still enjoy it even without sour cream to cool the heat. My husband loved it ... granted, he probably thought it was really flavorful but had no heat. We're completely different on our spice preferences.

This will be a repeat for tacos, burritos, burrito bowls and the likes. Gimme Some Oven did well with this recipe, and it's extremely easy thanks to the slow cooker doing the work.

3 lbs. chuck roast (fat trimmed), cut into 2-inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chiles
1 small white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 cup beef broth or water

Combine all ingredients together in a slow cooker. Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours until the beef is so tender that it easily shreds with a fork. Shred the beef, and let it stand in the juices for at least 10 minutes to absorb them. Serve with desired toppings. (Leftovers freeze well for later use.)

Asian Burgers

So I think this is my second-favorite Whole 30 entree, ranking right up there by the beloved Prosciutto Chicken. (For Whole 30, I omit the cheese, and it's still insanely delicious. I modified this recipe from Bev Cooks, and we're already planning to eat it a second night this week. It's plenty fast for a weeknight meal, cooking in about 20 minutes with about 20 minutes of prep earlier in the day.

I struggle with the idea of a traditional burger while eating Whole 30 because that means no bun, which is meh because wrapping lettuce around a burger is not the same. I've come as far as accepting no bun, but I really can't accept no cheese, bacon and BBQ sauce because then, seriously, what's the point? So I've looked for alternatives to burgers that are different enough to trick my mind into being satisfied. The taco sliders I've made are a solid choice, but these are phenomenal.

There's so much flavor in the burger itself, and the mushroom saute compliments it perfectly. My husband does not know what he's missing out on without the sauce, which is as close to the icing on the cake as I'll get during Whole 30.

Asian Burgers
1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. freshly minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. coconut aminos (or 1 Tbsp. soy sauce)
1 Tbsp. freshly minced cilantro
1 scallion, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pinch freshly ground pepper
Mushroom Saute 
5 oz sliced mushrooms, chopped (I used Oyster)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. minced cilantro
2 tsp. coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
1 Tbsp. olive oil (I'd omit this next time)
4 tsp. sesame oil
1 pinch salt and pepper
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
1 Tbsp. freshly minced cilantro

Everything can be prepped ahead of time, so your flavors can develop all day while you eat truffles and relax ... or chase children if you're me.

Combine all burger ingredients together, and stir with your hands to combine. Cover, and chill until ready to grill.

Combine all mushroom ingredients together, and chill until ready to saute.

Combine all sauce ingredients together, and chill until ready to slather on delicious burgers.

Grill burgers (or cook using desired method). While burgers are cooking, saute mushroom mixture over medium heat until mushrooms are slightly golden. (I sauteed the entire time the burgers were cooking, adjusting the heat as needed.) Serve burgers topped with mushroom mixture and sauce. (And buns unless you're avoiding carbs.) Makes 4 burgers.

March 30, 2017

Meatloaf Meatballs

I tried another recipe from Meals Made Simple to give us some variety on our Whole 30 journey. I followed the recipe mostly as it was written, including the honey in the sauce. I considered omitting it since this is the first sweetener I've used, so it's technically not Whole 30. I thought it was more important that I figure out whether the recipe worked for my family than potentially turn us off it because I didn't include the honey.

My one son loves meatballs, and he enjoyed these. I cooked them in the slow cooker, and they were extremely moist but were falling apart. I'm going to try baking them in the oven tonight and see if they hold up slightly better.

The taste resembles a meatloaf, and the recipe made a huge batch, so we have another meal or two in the freezer yet. I really liked the sauce, so I'm glad I went with the addition of the honey.

Meatloaf Meatballs
2 cups tomato puree
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut aminos
1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 large Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano
3 lbs. ground beef

Whisk together all the sauce ingredients. Reserve 3/4 cup of sauce, and place the rest in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then simmer uncovered on medium-low heat to thicken.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the onion, carrot and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped (or finely if you need to make sure your kids will eat the onion). Add remaining ingredients except the meat, including the reserved 3/4 cup sauce. Pulse to combine. Stir into the meat, and mix with your hands.

Shape meatballs into a golf ball size. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, turning halfway through. Serve warm with thickened sauce.

Note: These can be cooked in the slow cooker with the sauce on top. Cook on high for 2 hours, and then reduce to low for 4 hours. (My guess is you could get by without this long of a cooking time in the slow cooker.)

Note: This makes a lot of meatballs. For convenience, place extras on a lined baking sheet, and freeze. Then place in a storage bag in the freezer. Place in the refrigerator to thaw the day before baking. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before baking or adjust baking times slightly.

March 23, 2017

Spinach Pesto Shrimp

I got my most recent Cooking Light magazine and found a recipe for Spinach Pesto Pasta. Since my mom loves shrimp, I figured I'd use the pound of shrimp I had in the freezer to adapt this recipe to fit my Whole 30.

I'm excited to use the rest of the pesto, and I enjoyed this recipe more than I expected. I like shrimp, but I'm not completely confident in my ability to prepare it myself.

Spinach Pesto Shrimp
2 cups packed fresh baby spinach
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Dash of cayenne

To prepare pesto, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add spinach and basil. Cook 20 seconds, remove and place immediately in an ice water bath. Let stand 30 second to cool, and then remove. Pat dry with toweling. Combine all pesto ingredients together in a blender, and process until well combined.

To prepare shrimp, heat olive oil and butter together over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add shrimp, and season immediately with black pepper, salt and cayenne. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Add in about 1/4 of the pesto, reserving the rest for other recipes. Toss to coat with halved cherry tomatoes to serve. Serves 2 (at least if you're like my mom and I who easily can eat a half pound of shrimp).

Sheet Pan Steak & Veggies

I've never done a sheet pan meal before this week, but apparently they're a thing where you cook your entire meal on a single sheet pan. Wait, do nachos count?

The idea is you have a quick meal without a lot of dishes. I tried this version from Damn Delicious, adding in a handful of asparagus I had and an onion.

The verdict? Tasty and fast, especially if you prep all the veggies ahead of time. Here's my adaptation.

Sheet Pan Steak & Veggies
2 pounds baby red potatoes
16 ounces broccoli florets
8 oz. asparagus
1 red onion
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds (1-inch-thick) steak, patted dry

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large pot of water, cook potatoes until parboiled, about 12-15 minutes. Drain well, and cut into quarters.

Place all the vegetables on a large baking sheet, and toss with olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are close to done.

Season steaks with additional salt and pepper. Add to baking sheet.

Turn oven to broil, and broil steaks for 4 minutes on each side or until desired doneness. (You might need to remove some veggies a bit early or cook some steaks a bit longer depending on personal preferences. Serves 4.

March 15, 2017

Breakfast Sausage

Last weekend I made breakfast sausage from scratch. Well, I didn't raise a hog, butcher it and use my own meat. But I bought the ground meat at the store and seasoned it myself. That's about the easiest way to find breakfast sausage that fits the bill for Whole 30.

I used this recipe from Wellness Mama as my starting point and made a few adaptations in my version. The mixture of pork and chicken turned out perfectly for me without pools of grease or any dryness. The end result was really tasty ... not as good as Smith Brothers in Colby, WI or Maplewood Meats outside of Green Bay, but it's really hard to compete with those.

Breakfast Sausage
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground chicken
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried ground sage
1/4 tsp. dried fennel, crushed
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powde
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. teaspoon dried thyme
A dash of cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients together, and mix well. Shape into patties of desired size (mixture will be sticky) and pan fry until done, flipping once.

Note: To freeze, place shaped patties on parchment paper, and freeze until solid. Then you can transfer individual patties into a storage bag. Thaw, and cook.

This made approximately 18-20 patties.

February 21, 2017

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake

My husband picked this cake from Brown Eyed Baker for his birthday cake. The cakes are moist and full of chocolate flavor. The frosting is amazing and delicious. This is a mighty tasty cake. Well chosen, David, well chosen.

All told, this is less than 2 hours of time to create. I baked the cakes in advance and froze them for easy frosting that I did in about 30 minutes. I tossed the cake in the fridge while we went out to meet Dave at work for a quick lunch and then made the ganache when we got home. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake
2 1/2 cups + 1 Tbsp. flour
3 cups sugar
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
Peanut Butter Frosting
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter
10 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup heavy cream 
Chocolate Ganache
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
30 mini peanut butter cups

To bake the cakes, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the insides of the pans and tap out excess. Set aside.

In the bowl of a large electric mixer, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, water, oil and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix for an additional 20 seconds. (Let me just say ... this was the biggest mess I think I've ever created. My standard mixing bowl was not large enough for this recipe.)

Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes, and rotate the pans in the oven. Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool the cakes (in the pans) on wire racks for 20 minutes, and then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the heavy cream, and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

If your cakes baked up uneven or have domed on top, level the cakes. Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Cover with 1 cup of the peanut butter frosting, and sprinkle 10 of the chopped peanut butter cups over the frosting. Top with a second cake layer, and cover with another 1 cup of the peanut butter frosting, and top with another 10 chopped peanut butter cups. Place the final cake layer on top face-down. Frost the cake with the remaining peanut butter frosting, finishing it as smoothly as possible. Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour, until the frosting is set.

While the cake chills, make the chocolate ganache. Place the chocolate in a 4-cup measuring cup; set aside. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, and warm until it just comes to a boil. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate, and let sit for 2 minutes. Begin whisking the mixture in the center, gradually working your way outward until the ganache is completely smooth. Set aside to cool, whisking occasionally, until it has thickened slightly, yet still a pourable consistency.

Slowly pour the chocolate ganache into the center of the cake, letting it push itself outward and flow over the sides of the cake. Top with the remaining 10 chopped peanut butter cups. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes, giving the ganache a chance to set up. Keep the cake refrigerated, removing it from the refrigerator about 20 minutes prior to serving.

February 20, 2017

Crab Rangoon Dip

Every year my brother and his girlfriend host a Dip Off party for the SuperBowl. It's advanced to the point where there are sweet and savory categories with the winner earning bragging rights and everyone earning stuffed stomachs.

I had a couple dip recipes bookmarked that I never found an excuse to use since my husband doesn't eat dip. (No dips. Seriously, he's weird. At least I dated him forever before I agreed to marry him, so this wasn't a surprise.) Anyways, this recipe from Spend with Pennies was hanging out on my to-do list for a long time given that my husband won't eat dips and my good friend is allergic to shellfish, so that ruled out making it for my friends.

This is a recipe worth trying. The wonton chips were surprisingly addictive.

Crab Rangoon Dip
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
12 oz. crab meat, drained
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. fresh chives
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp. pepper 
Wonton Chips
1 package wonton wrappers
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare wonton chips first. Cut wontons in diagonally. Spray with cooking spray, (or brush with olive oil) and spread chips on a pan. Bake 7-8 minutes or until brown and crispy. Set aside.

Combine all dip ingredients in a casserole dish reserving 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese for topping.Top with remaining cheese. Bake 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with chives if desired and serve with wonton chips. Serves 8-12.

Pizza Popcorn

I had bookmarked this pizza popcorn from Tastes of Lizzy while doing Whole 30, and I tried out the recipe during the SuperBowl weekend. The flavors are spot on, but I think I'd reduce the popcorn a bit to give the popcorn a stronger flavor.

Worth repeating as a fun snack food for a party, especially if you have a million cans of tomato paste to use ... my husband bought me a year's supply.

Pizza Popcorn
1 1/4 cups unpopped popcorn
3 Tbsp. coconut oil
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. basil
3/4 tsp. parsley
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 cup finely grated mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 250°F, and line 2 or 3 large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Pop the popcorn with the coconut oil, either using a stir popper or on the stove.

In a small bowl, combine tomato paste, melted butter, oregano, basil, parsley, garlic powder, crushed red pepper and salt. Mix to combine. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Pour the popcorn in a very large bowl, followed by the pizza sauce mixture. With clean hands, mix to distribute the mixture into the popcorn kernels. Spread the popcorn kernels between the parchment-lined cookie sheets, and bake until mostly dry, about 8-15 minutes (depending on your oven), tossing every couple of minutes to help spread the pizza goodness.

A couple minutes before removing from the oven, sprinkle cheese evenly over the popcorn. Continue baking to melt.

Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely. Makes a plethora of popcorn!

Slow Cooker Deep Dish Pizza

If you're looking to impress your family, friends, significant other or even yourself, you have to try this recipe from Spicy Perspective. Be sure to check out her blog post for helpful pictures to understand the process, but this is so simple for such an impressive end result.

I would have preferred to cook this on low, but lack of time required me to cook it on high. I ended up with mine slightly overdone, but that just meant a crunchier crust.

Slow Cooker Deep Dish Pizza
1 lb. pizza dough, risen 
2 Tbsp. cornmeal
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese
1/2 pound Italian pork sausage, cooked
30 slices pepperoni
This recipe works best in a large oval 6-8 quart slow cooker. Roll the pizza dough out onto a large piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. Make sure to roll and stretch to dough into an oval 2 inches longer and 2 inches wider than the crock of the slow cooker. Sprinkle he top with cornmeal, and press into the crust. Then use the edges of the paper to lower the crust into the crock. Pull up the edges of the crust, so they stand about 2 inches up the sides of the slow cooker.
Place the butter and onions in a pan. Saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, sugar and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes, and then remove from heat.
Spread the cheese over the bottom of the pizza crust. Lift and stretch the sides of the dough, so they stand up past the cheese. Sprinkle the crumbled sausage and pepperoni over the cheese. Lift and stretch the sides of the crust again, so it is above the edge of sauce. Then spread the tomato sauce over the toppings. (Be careful to not spill any sauce on the outside of the crust. That will burn.) Lift and stretch the sides of the crust again, so it is above the edge of the sauce.
Cover the slow cooker with a long piece of paper towel. Then place the lid over the paper towel, and pull it tight. This helps catch excess moisture.
Cook the pizza for 2-4 hours on high or 4-6 hours on low. When ready to serve, carefully lift the pizza out of the crock pot using the parchment paper. Cool 5-10 minutes before cutting. Makes 4 giant pieces of pizza.

Cheese-Stuffed Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

This weekend, we made deep dish pizza. Not that we needed anything to accompany it, but I found it hard to resist these cheese knots from Cookies & Cups.

I cheated and used store-bought pizza crust, so I'm going to show that version. This was a hit and worth repeating.

As a side note: my son ripped one of the keys off the computer keyboard, so I have to avoid using that key. Any guesses as to which one?

(I'm copying/pasting the recipe ... otherwise, it's not something I can do.)

Cheese Stuffed Garlic Pull-Apart Bread
1 thawed pizza dough, proofed
8 oz. mozzarella
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the cheese into 32 pieces or cubes. Cut the dough into 32 pieces. Wrap each piece of dough around a piece of cheese.

Combine butter, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and Italian seasoning in a small bowl. Dip each dough ball into the melted butter mixture. Place in 10-inch Bundt pan. Pour any remaining butter over rolls, and cover with towel. Let the dough rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes in pan, and then invert on serving plate. Serve warm. Makes 32 pieces.

February 17, 2017

Monster Cookie Bars

Monster cookies are a delicious combination of chocolate (in the form of M&Ms and chocolate chips) and peanut butter. They even have the the addition oats, which completely justifies them as breakfast food, right?

For Dave's birthday, I made a couple treats that are riffs off monster cookies. One was these delicious bars from Brown Eyed Baker. The original recipe, which I'm sharing below, calls for a 8 x 8 pan. I doubled the recipe and used a 9 x 13 pan, and I ended up with wonderfully thick bars. The edges got a bit crisp, the fudge was fudgy throughout, and they're quite tasty.

Monster Cookie Bars
1 1/3 cups flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup M&Ms
Fudge Ripple Filling
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom, and sides of an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats and baking soda. Using a mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla one after the other, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Do not overmix.

Press two-thirds of the dough evenly into the prepared baking pan. Stir the M&Ms into the remaining dough. Set aside while you make the fudge ripple filling.

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the sweetened condensed milk, butter and chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla. Pour the fudge over the bottom layer of dough.

Mold the remaining dough containing the M&Ms into flat pieces and layer on top of the fudge filling. You won’t have enough dough to make one single layer, so some of the filling will be exposed. (Mine completely covered the fudge when I doubled the recipe.)

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool completely. Lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides, and cut into bars. Makes 16 bars.

Note: If doubling the recipe, expect a longer bake time. I think mine baked around 40 minutes.

Monster Cookie Cupcakes

This theme for my husband's birthday treats was the deliciousness of chocolate and peanut butter in the form of cupcakes. One of his two treats was Monster Cookie Cupcakes from Wishes and Dishes.

These cupcakes are moist and apparently delicious frozen without frosting. I had baked the cupcakes ahead of time and froze them until I was ready to frost them. (I pre-bake, so I can make bars, cupcakes and cake all in the span of a few days.) My 3-year-old son opened the pan, pulled out a cupcake and licked it. That sealed the deal that he now had a cupcake to eat. I was going to let it thaw, but he proceeded to chomp into it. He only ate one bite with the wrapper before I got it unwrapped. Extra fiber.

This cute thief is who I had to contend with while photographing the cupcake ...

Monster Cookie Cupcakes
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips 
Cookie Dough Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. oats
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup mini M&Ms
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Use a mixer to combine all of the cupcake ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Then, stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Line a tin with 12 cupcake liners. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full of batter. (You might need extra liners because the cupcakes will overflow if filled too full. I think I ended up with close to 30 cupcakes when I doubled the recipe.)

Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth.
Mix in the brown sugar, flour, vanilla and oats. Mix in the powdered sugar slowly, adding more if needed for desired consistency. Stir in the M&Ms and chocolate chips to combine.

Use a large spoon to spread the frosting on the cupcakes. Makes 12-16 cupcakes.

Note: I doubled the recipe for cupcakes but only made a single batch of frosting. I still had ample frosting for each cupcake.

February 2, 2017

Salted Caramel Brownies

Homemade caramel is one of those things I simply need to keep practicing. Sometimes I burn the sugar, sometimes I have endless lumps that won't disappear, sometimes it's too runny and you get the picture. But sometimes, I nail it. And then I have the elixir of the metaphorical gods.

When my dad asked for salted caramel brownies, I pulled together the caramel using this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction and the brownies from Smitten Kitchen. Fortunately for me, unfortunately for my healthy eating habits, I nailed the caramel sauce. As I was licking it off my fingers, all my willpower vanished, and I made a second half batch of brownies to devour instead of eating the batch I made my dad. And then I made another half batch a day or two later to use the last of the caramel sauce.

Salted Caramel Brownies
Salted Caramel
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, room temperature and cut into 6 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. sea salt
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla 
1/8 tsp. salt
2/3 cup flour 

Make the caramel in advance and chill, so you can dollop it throughout the brownie batter. Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. 
Remove from heat and stir in 1 tsp. of sea salt. Allow to cool down before using.
To make the brownies, preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt chocolate and butter together in a heat-proof bowl on medium heat in the microwave, stirring every minute. Stir in the sugar, and then stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and salt, and stir to combine. Gently fold in the flour. Pour 2/3 of the batter into a 9 x 9 pan lined with parchment paper. Spread evenly and dollop with caramel sauce throughout the batter. Cover with remaining batter. (It's OK if caramel is showing.) Bake 30 minutes or until brownies are done. Cool before cutting and eating ... unless you want to risk burning your tongue. (I'm a risk taker.) Makes 12 brownies.

February 1, 2017

Cinnamon Baked Raspberry French Toast

The overnight french toast bake I made at Christmas wasn't a huge hit with my family, so I tried this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, which they adapted from the Pioneer Woman. I changed it up slightly with the addition of jam, so here's the version that was a hit with my co-workers.

Cinnamon Baked Raspberry French Toast
1 loaf French Bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup raspberry jam
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla 
Streusel Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place half the bread pieces evenly place in the pan. Spread or dollop jam evenly over bread. (It won't completely coat everything, but you want jam throughout the dish.) Cover with remaining bread.

In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Pour evenly over bread. Cover pan, and store in the refrigerator overnight.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add butter pieces, and cut into the dry mixture using a fork or your hands. Combine until the mixture resembles sand with a few pea-sized chunks. Cover, and store mixture in the refrigerator.

When you’re ready to bake the French toast, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove French toast from refrigerator, and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the French toast is set and golden brown. Serve warm. Serves 16.

January 25, 2017

Wraps (Whole 30 Style)

As we continue trying to incorporate aspects of Whole 30 into our meals, we can only eat so many taco salads. So I gave this recipe from Meals Made Simple a shot. As I was cooking these wraps, I felt they really were more like crepes and would be good with almond butter and bananas. (They were. I tried that for breakfast today.)

They may not hold together perfectly for messy taco dishes with lots of sauce, but then again, neither do tortillas always. These make a large enough batch to last for a bit, so we'll play around with using them for different meals. I see a breakfast burrito being a really good option with these.

Wraps (Whole 30 Style)
6 large eggs, beaten
1 cup almond milk
6 Tbsp. coconut flour, sifted after measuring
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
2 Tbsp. melted ghee
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Ghee or palm shortening for greasing

Whisk together all ingredients. Heat a griddle to medium-high heat while letting the batter rest 10 minutes. Whisk batter again, and then grease griddle.

Ladle 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot pan, immediately spreading batter using the ladle into a larger circle, aiming for about 8 inches in diameter. Cook 45 seconds or until the edges begin to lift. Carefully flip, and cook another 30 seconds. Place on a plate, and repeat the process until all batter is used.

Makes 12 wraps that can be stored in the refrigerator 5 days or in the freezer for 6 months. If freezing, separate wraps with wax paper before sealing in a bag.

Whole 30 Cocoa Energy Bites

This Cooking Light recipe fits the bill for Whole 30, which is pretty rare to find when not specifically looking for Paleo recipes. (For pure Whole 30, omit the vanilla or replace it with vanilla bean seeds or powder.) I made these, and they're hard to resist. They taste like chocolate, which alone makes them worth eating when doing Whole 30. Now, my caveat is that if you're not trying to eat more healthy, natural foods, these aren't going to compete with a truly delicious truffle. If you're aiming for a more healthy snack that still feels like a treat, then give these a try. Here's how I adapted the recipe for these tasty bites.

Whole 30 Cocoa Energy Bites
1/2 cup hazelnuts
12 whole Medjool dates
2/3 cup almond butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake nuts 10 minutes, stirring once. Cool 10 minutes. Rub off as much of the skins as possible. Blend the nuts until they are coarse crumbs. Reserve some for rolling the balls, and leave the rest in the blender. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender, and process until smooth. Roll the sticky mixture into small balls, and roll in reserved nuts. (It's OK if you don't have enough nuts to coat all your balls.) Chill until firm, about 30 minutes, and store in the refrigerator. Makes 20-30 balls, depending upon the size.

Chipotle Barbocoa

When I want easy meals for a few nights, I'll make a batch of chicken either like this or this in the slow cooker. Then we can eat tacos or burrito bowls or taco salads, and I don't have to worry about a lot of meal prep after work ... or after entertaining my children all day on my days off, which is far more exhausting than work.This recipe from Meals Made Simple caught my eye because it followed the same concept of easy slow cooker meal with Mexican flair.

This beef is delicious, albeit a bit too spicy for my kiddos to enjoy. It's really flavorful, and perfect for a few meals.

Chipotle Barbocoa
3-lb. beef roast (pork could be used as well)
1-2 chipotle peppers with 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce
1 small onion, quartered
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
3/4 cup beef, vegetable or chicken stock
3 bay leaves

Place roast in a slow cooker. Combine all remaining ingredients, except stock and bay leaves, in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Pour the blended mixture on top of the roast. Add the stock and bay leaves to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours. Remove beef, and shred, removing any pieces of fat. Return the meat to the slow cooker, and cook another 1-2 hours until very tender. Serve with your favorite toppings as a salad, rice bowl or tacos. Serves 6.

January 15, 2017

Whole 30 Chocolate Caramels

So, despite eating 5 delicious cookies today, we're still mostly doing Whole 30 for a while. Had you told me the first day of November that this recipe for "caramels" would be delicious, I would have wrinkled my nose at you. After a full series of Whole 30 and then another 10 days on it in January, these were delicious. They're like Larabars, except this version has chocolate. For truly Whole 30, you'd need to omit the vanilla paste or extract. Here's the adaptation I did from Heart Beet Kitchen's version.

Whole 30 Chocolate Caramels
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. pecans
1 cup lightly packed pitted dates (about 184 grams)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 Tbsp. unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 tsp. melted coconut oil
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a food processor, puree pecans for 1 minute, until they are broken down and start to release their oils. Then add dates and coconut. Puree for another minute, scraping down halfway in between, until the mixture is relatively smooth. Then add remaining ingredients, and puree until mostly smooth and sticky.

Pat into parchment lined small pan. Smooth down and press firmly, with additional parchment paper on top, so your hands don't stick. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour. Remove, and lift parchment out of pan, loosing edges with knife if needed, and cut into small squares. Makes 16 squares.

January 8, 2017

Mexican Sliders

Given how much better I felt about myself ... and how I felt ... with Whole 30, we're attempting to mostly follow that eating routine for a while. Although it might seem odd, I do really well with an all or nothing approach to things like sugar. I'm the person who, if I eat a cookie (or two or three) for breakfast then figures that ice cream might as well be on the docket for lunch. As much as I love sweets like ice cream and cupcakes and all the crazy delicious things I bake, I know that my body functions better without all that sugar. And I know eliminating as much sugar and processed crap as realistically possible is all the better for us, especially in the long view of our health.

That being said, I know this likely won't last forever, and there will still be plenty of sweets to grace my kitchen. Perhaps, though, I won't eat all of every batch and will remember that my mother taught me to share.

In the meantime, this recipe I adapted from Meals Made Simple will now be part of our regular rotation. These are easy to throw together for a quick meal and full of flavor. The original recipe called for making full-size burgers. I still struggle with eating a burger without a bun, so I opted for sliders wrapped in lettuce. It's different enough that it doesn't feel weird. It feels rather delicious with a big dollop of guacamole.

Mexican Sliders
2 lbs. ground beef
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. granulated garlic
2 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Combine all the seasonings together. Mix into the ground beef. Form into sliders (approximately 16-18). Grill (or pan fry), flipping at least once, until cooked. Serve in lettuce leaves with all desired toppings.

Notes: I plan to make a larger batch of the seasonings to have on hand, so it will take next to no time to mix things together after work. My 5-year-old ate these without complaints ... with ketchup, of course, and no lettuce.

January 4, 2017

Connecting Christmas Lights

I saw the post from Semi-Sweet Designs about these connecting Christmas lights when I was in Chicago the night before flying to the Virgin Islands for vacation. Even though I only had one week between me and Christmas after my blissful vacation, I knew I wanted to attempt these cookies. They were too simple and too cute not to try.

I imagine these would be easier with a square cutter, but I did my best to measure and cut straight(ish) squares. I had some issues with my yellow and blue icing not setting, but I'm glad I made these little guys. I definitely want to repeat these for next year because they were fun, relatively easy and look fairly impressive.

Check out the tutorial I linked to above to see Mike's expert advice on how to make these cuties.

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole

This recipe from Brown Eyed Baker was a tremendous hit with my family this past Christmas. It was the right mix of sausage, eggs and hashbrowns for a new favorite savory breakfast casserole. The best part? It cooks in a slow cooker overnight and is ready to be devoured first thing in the morning!

This will be a repeat for my family. Super easy and delicious!

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
32 oz. frozen shredded hashbrowns
16 oz. breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled
6 green onions, finely chopped
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
12 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Additional salt and pepper to season the hash brown layers
Grease the insert of a 6-quart slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Layer 1/3 of the hashbrowns on the bottom, then season with salt and pepper. Top with 1/3 of the cooked sausage, then 1/3 each of the green onions and cheddar cheese. Repeat the layers two more times, ending with the cheese.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the top of the hash brown, sausage and cheese layers in the slow cooker. (My slow cooker looked full before I added the eggs, but they seeped into the other ingredients, and everything fit perfectly.)

Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours (the edges will brown). Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, if there are any. Serves 8ish.