December 18, 2017

Smokey Vanilla Bourbon Pretzels

I was in a making and baking mood this weekend, adding to the obnoxious amount of treats in my garage (aka outdoor refrigerator in Wisconsin winter). This recipe from How Sweet Eats was one of those I made. They're simple, easy and tasty. I don't find them quite as addictive as the creator of them, but they're nice enough  and easy enough to add to gift bags for people.

Smokey Vanilla Bourbon Pretzels
16 oz. mini pretzels
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup bourbon
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter, bourbon, sugar, vanilla paste, paprika, garlic and pepper flakes. Add the pretzels, and toss to coat well. 
Spread the pretzels evenly on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 15 minutes. Toss, and bake 10 more minutes. Remove, and let cool completely. Makes 16 + oz. of seasoned pretzels.

Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallows

These marshmallows are fluffy, squishy pillows of mint with a chocolate crunch. Now, mind you, cocoa nibs do not taste like chocolate if you eat them alone. But when surrounded by the overly sweetness of mint marshmallow, they are the perfect taste of chocolate with a nice textural contrast.

If you intend to make these marshmallows from A Cozy Kitchen for cocoa, I'd strongly suggest leaving out the cocoa nibs. I found that when the marshmallows melted deliciously into the cocoa, that the cocoa nibs became their bitter selves and even attempted to choke me by heading to the back of my throat with every sip of cocoa.

It would take a bit more work to prepare two pans, but you could easily do two smaller pans, one with nibs and one without. One for munching and one for cocoa. And if you think I'm crazy to much a marshmallow, then you've never had a homemade marshmallow.

Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallows
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup cold water, divided
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup 
1/2 tsp. salt
Green food coloring
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa nibs, chopped

Sift together the powdered sugar and cornstarch onto a large plate. Grease a 9x13-inch casserole dish or baking dish. Add a teaspoon of the powdered sugar mixture to the casserole dish, and shake it around until the bottom and edges are dusted. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, add 1/2 cup cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1/4 cup of water. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up to moderately high heat, and bring the mixture to a hard boil and cook until the the mixture reaches 240° F.

Turn the mixer on low, using the whisk attachment to mix. Carefully add the boiling liquid to the gelatin mixture. Turn the mixer to high, and beat for 5 minutes, until the mixture has grown in volume. Stop the mixer and add 15 to 20 drops of food coloring.

Beat again for an additional 3 minutes, until doubled in volume and until it holds stiff peaks. Add the peppermint extract and vanilla extract. Beat for an additional minute or so until the both of them are incorporated. Fold in the cocoa nibs, reserving a few as garnish.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish or baking pan, smoothing out the top until it's evenly disbursed. Sprinkle the remaining cocoa nibs on top. Lightly dust with the powdered sugar mixture, and cover lightly with plastic wrap.

Allow it to firm up on the kitchen counter for close to 8 hours. Gently loosen the marshmallow from the edges, and invert the marshmallow sheet onto a large cutting board. You may need to use your fingers to loosen the marshmallow sheet from the casserole dish and gently glide it onto the cutting board.

Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the marshmallows into 2- or 3-inch squares. (It works best if you coat the cutting utensil with cooking spray before use and when it gets sticky. Store the marshmallows in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes a whole bunch of marshmallows.

Egg Roll in a Bowl

I adapted this recipe from Peace, Love & Low-Carb with ingredients we had on hand. So I subbed some cooked pork roast for the ground pork and gochujang sauce for the siracha. It was good as is, although my husband didn't like it because of all the cabbage. My favorite was to eat it scrambled with a few eggs. I think it would be good, even without any meat, scrambled with eggs for a hearty breakfast or quick lunch. Here's how I'd make this again in the future, and this recipe is adaptable to make it paleo pretty easily.

Egg Roll in a Bowl
2 Tbsp. sesame oil 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, diced
5 green onions, sliced 
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 tsp. ground ginger 
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 Tbsp. gochujang sauce
14 oz. bag coleslaw
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds 

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic, onion and white portion of the green onions. Sauté until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the ground pork, ginger, sea salt, black pepper and gochujang. Sauté until the pork is cooked through.

Add the coleslaw mix, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Sauté until the coleslaw is tender.

Top with green onions and sesame seeds before serving. Serves 4.

December 5, 2017

Sweet Potato Fries

These fries from Run Fast, Eat Slow are delicious. The recipe calls to leave the skins on for additional nutrients, but you might want to peel them for pickier eaters. These are a perfect lunch when I'm home alone, although I cut the recipe in half since it serves 4 to 5 people as a side.

Sweet Potato Fries
2 or 3 large sweet potatoes
1 egg white, whisked
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. curry powder
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the potatoes into sticks 1/4- or 1/2-inch wide, keeping them as close to the same size as possible. Place the fries in a large mixing bowl, and toss with the egg white and oil. Sprinkle with the remaining seasonings, and toss until combined.

Spread fries into a single layer, not touching each other, on the sheets. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip fries over, and bake another 10 minutes or until fries are browned on the outside and soft on the inside. Serves 4 to 5.

Mighty Marinade

This marinade from Run Fast, Eat Slow works well for any type of meat or vegetables. We used it for steaks the other night, and it gave them really great flavor.

Mighty Marinade
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2-inch knob fresh ginger, grated, or 1 tsp. ground
2 Tbsp. honey

In a gallon-size bag, combine all ingredients. Add meat or vegetables, seal the bag and shake to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight for meat, 30 minutes for fish or several hours for vegetables. Grill to desired doneness. This recipe makes enough marinade for 2 lbs. of meat or vegetables.

Pepita Cherry Chocolate Bark

I'm attempting (and mostly succeeding) at eating a mostly paleo diet modeled after Whole 30 with a few exceptions and a handful of days where I eat whatever I want (and then feel miserable). This recipe from Runners' World is nearly identical to my previous post about Chocolate-Dipped Bananas. This feels much more like a treat but still has lots of things that are good for you.

Pepita Cherry Chocolate Bark

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup pepitas
1/2 cup dried tart cherries

Line an 8-inch baking dish with parchment paper coming slightly up the sides. Melt coconut oil in the microwave, and stir in cocoa powder and maple syrup. Pour into the baking dish, and tap to evenly spread the mixture. Sprinkle with pepitas and cherries. Freeze until solid, and store in freezer because it melts at room temperature. You can break into pieces or snack from the sheet in the freezer.

Note: This is supposed to be made with unsweetened cherries. I only had sweetened ones on hand, but the original recipe would be healthier and truly paleo.

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Bananas

I've always like frozen bananas, long before they were popular or people made them into fake ice cream. I would peel them, wrap them in wax paper to keep them from getting weird and freeze them. And then eat them like a popsicle.

So this recipe from Run Fast, Eat Slow was one that I promptly made. Seriously, chocolate without chocolate? This chocolate doesn't harden to a crunch, it's almost the slightest bit chewy. But it tastes like chocolate and is sweetened with only maple syrup.

Then I promptly ate 2 entire bananas dipped in chocolate in one afternoon. Whoops.

Dark Chocolate-Dipped Bananas
3 ripe bananas, peeled and cut in half widthwise
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder

Skewer each banana half with a popsicle stick or skewer. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight for easier dipping. Or, if you're impatient like me, go ahead and dip with the risk of the bananas falling off the sticks.

Microwave the coconut oil until melted, and stir in the maple syrup and cocoa powder until smooth. Dip each banana half to completely cover it. Sprinkle with additional toppings like nuts or coconut if you want. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and repeat the process.

Freeze until chocolate sets, and then transfer to a storage bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Makes 6 banana pops.

December 2, 2017

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Since I had the bottle of Bailey's Pumpkin Spice Liquor, I discovered a recipe for Chai Tea Lattes on the back of the bottle. That immediately became the morning beverage for our annual cookie baking day. This was quite delicious and worth repeating.

As my friend said, if Starbucks served this, perhaps she'd visit there more often. I think the maple whipped cream I used really added to the latte, so I'd recommend whipping some heavy cream with a splash of maple syrup to sweeten it if you have the opportunity.

This is delicious. Especially with copious amounts of whipped cream.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte
4 oz. milk
1 chai tea bag
2 oz. Bailey's Pumpkin Spice Liquor
Whipped cream

Heat milk to near boiling. Steep tea bag in milk for 5 minutes. Froth milk in the blender if desired. (I used my Blendtec, and it really worked swell to froth the milk. Wow. I just said swell.) Pour milk into mug with liquor, and top with whipped cream. Makes 1 delicious latte.

November 25, 2017

Pumpkin Spiced Baileys Trifle

Mmmmm. This is something I could eat every single day for a long time.

I'm not a big fan of pumpkin pie. I'll eat it, but it's really just an excuse to eat a mound of cool whip. So this year I decided to make my own spin that I'd actually enjoy, and this recipe I adapted from How Sweet Eats is one to repeat every Thanksgiving (and fall holiday get together ... want to get together now?).

I might have made this again a week later just to eat photograph it.

I wasn't sure if this recipe sounded amazing just because I was doing Whole 30, so most everything sounded good. But it was good. My version is a bit boozy because I swapped the original coffee (to make tiramisu) with Bailey's Pumpkin Spice. I'm glad I don't like coffee because I loved this. It can be put together the night before and still have some crunch to the gingersnaps the next day for lunch. By dinner, though, the snap was gone, but the flavors remained.

Pumpkin Spiced Baileys Trifle
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
6 Tbsp. maple syrup
16 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. Baileys Pumpkin Spice Liquor
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
10 oz. Baileys Pumpkin Spice Liquor
16 oz. gingersnap cookies
Chopped dark chocolate, for garnish
Place the cold cream and 2 Tbsp. maple syrup in the bowl of your stand mixer, and beat until peaks form to make whipped cream. Scoop it into a bowl, and chill until you need it.

In a clean bowl of your stand mixer, beat the mascarpone cheese until it’s creamy. Beat in the pumpkin puree, powdered sugar, 4 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons Baileys liqueur, vanilla , cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Beat until combined and smooth. Take 1/3 of the maple whipped cream, and gently fold it into the pumpkin mascarpone mixture until combined and smooth.

Pour remaining 10 oz. Baileys into a small bowl, and place a handful of gingersnap cookies in the liquor. Soak briefly, and layer in a trifle dish. Repeat the process to soak all the cookies for the trifle as you create the layers. Layer gingersnap cookies with pumpkin mascarpone, and repeat the layers until cookies and mascarpone are gone, ending with mascarpone. (Reserve a few gingersnaps, without soaking them in Baileys, to crush for garnish.)

 Top the entire trifle with the remaining maple whipped cream. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours before serving. Before serving, crumble remaining gingersnap cookies on top, and top with chopped chocolate. Serves 10 or more.

November 14, 2017

Whole 30 Meatloaf

Meatloaf is somewhat of a comfort food for me. It ranks nowhere near as high as my mom's lasagna or corn bread, but it was something I remember eating as a child. That's why I decided to give this recipe from Paleo Running Momma a shot.

I loved it! My sons both ate it, as did my husband, but I could tell I enjoyed it more than the rest of the family. Still, this will be a repeat recipe for me when I'm on Whole 30. One prep for at least two meals ... even when I ate 3 pieces in one sitting.

Whole 30 Meatloaf
1/3 cup medjool dates, pitted, soaked in hot water to soften, and drained (use 1/4 cup if you want it less sweet)
6 oz. tomato paste
3 Tbsp. water (in addition to soaking the dates)
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt Meatloaf
2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 eggs
1/3 cup almond flour
3 Tbsp. ketchup
1 small onion or half medium one, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. ghee for cooking onion and garlic
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4-1/3 cups ketchup

In a food processor, combine all ingredients on high speed until pureed, scraping the sides to incorporate all ingredients evenly. Store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftovers can be refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a medium skillet, saute the onion and garlic in the ghee until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the beef, eggs, almond flour, 3 Tbsp. ketchup, salt, mustard, Italian seasoning and black pepper. Stir in cooked onion and garlic mixture. Mix gently to avoid toughening the loaf.

Gently pat loaf into a greased 9 x 5 pan. Bake 20 minutes. Remove, and spread with remaining 1/4-1/3 cup of ketchup. Return to the oven and make 40-45 minutes until thoroughly cooked. Remove from oven, and let cool 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Makes about 6 servings.

November 1, 2017

Peanut Butter & Jelly Empanadas

When the Today show featured different takes on peanut butter and jelly, I took note. PB & J is one of my nostalgic favorites from childhood, so delicious to me to this day that when I pack it for my lunch at work, it's often gone as breakfast. AJ and Teddy both feel the same about PB & J, so I thought these empanadas would be perfect lunches for the school week. AJ thinks they're pretty awesome, and I'm not sure he's shared any with Teddy yet.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Empanadas
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. water
Flour for dusting
1 package refrigerated pie crust, about 14 oz.
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup strawberry jam
Turbinado sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with a Silipat or parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water. Set aside.

Roll pie crust on a lightly floured surface, rolling each crust to about an 18-inch diameter. Cut out rounds using a 4-inch round cookie cutter, rerolling scraps as needed. Place dollops of peanut butter and then jelly onto the center of each dough round. Working with one dough round at a time, moisten the edges with the egg wash, fold the dough over to close and use a fork to crimp the edges.

Place on prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the rest of the dough and filling. Brush the tops of the empanadas with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature. Makes 18-20 mini empanadas.

October 31, 2017

Homemade Italian Sausage

I wanted to make Zuppa Toscana but needed to make my own Italian sausage for it to be Whole 30 compliant. This recipe from Taste of Lizzy fit the bill perfectly, using a portion of the ground pork we have stockpiled in the freezer as a bonus. Here's the recipe with my adaptations.

Homemade Italian Sausage
2 tsp. parsley
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. salt
2 lb. ground pork
Combine all ingredients together, and mix well. Use in recipes for ground Italian sausage or shape into patties to cook as patties. Makes 2 lb. of sausage.

Roasted Pecan Halves

I have no excuses for not posting since we returned from vacation except life. It happens. I'm back on the Whole 30 bandwagon because I wanted to feel better and feel better about myself. I'm about halfway through, and I made these pecans from Just a Pinch to take to a Halloween party, so I had a treat I could eat. Normally nuts aren't a treat unless they are coated in sugar like these delicious ones, but these were good enough they felt like one (at least on Whole 30).

Roasted Pecan Halves
1 lb. pecan halves
4 Tbsp. clarified butter
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread pecan halves evenly on a baking sheet. Break butter into small pieces and place on pecan halves. Sprinkle evenly with salt.

Bake 10 minutes, then gently stir. Cook another 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from the oven, and cool. Makes 1 lb. of nuts.

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.