Sunday, November 3, 2013

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

I'd forgotten how good it feels to make a recipe for no good reason but to enjoy it and relax. I had all the ingredients for this one so instead of going out and spending money (my original plan was to browse at the new Trader Joe's in Shoreview) I stayed home to make this many-step recipe and then a nice dinner.



These bars started with a cookie crust that needed to bake for 15 minutes. While that baked I whipped up the streusel topping, the apple mixture, and then the cream cheese filling. All of these layers went on top of the warm cookie crust and then baked for another 30 minutes.


And then I made the caramel sauce, which was a trial. The first sauce attempt was too pale. The second sauce attempt burned. The third was a charm. It is muy gooey and almost candy-like. I had to re-melt it a bit to spoon it on top of the finished bars.

It's just plain cruel torture to let something cool completely. And then I finally decided that I should refrigerate the bars because of the cheesecake layer. So just a little while ago I cut into the bars. Yum. My dear husband said it tastes like apple pie but better because of the caramel and the cookie bottom.

So my taste tester gives this a thumbs up. I'm glad because we have a lot of bars to eat up! Or share :)

Click here for the stolen recipe for Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars.


Monday, September 9, 2013

UPDATE: 9/9/13 Pesto & Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Update- Pesto Chicken Salad sandwiches: I think my proportions have been all wrong. I now use 1 full cup of pesto to 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt, and the rest of the recipe as usual. (The recipe link is way on the bottom of this post.)

And this pesto is a bit different. I think the recipe is the same BUT the garlic AND the pine nuts are both toasted. Yum.


6/5/10Last summer was the Summer of Pesto. I discovered pesto and then tried growing my own basil. Ithink I did pretty well! I started supplementing my meager harvests with cheap bundles of basil from farmer's markets. I couldn't keep up my demand though :) I had a few 1/2 cup bags frozen for a bit but I did use it up quickly.

This first pesto picture is from last summer. It's a very good basic pesto recipe. No fuss.

Click here for the stolen recipe for last summer's Pesto.

I made this next pesto yesterday with a new recipe. I already mentioned it but here is the recipe again. I can't say if this will be my new recipe yet but it was just as simple. It's a neat shade of green! Very fresh looking.

Click here for the stolen recipe for this Pesto.

And ooooh here's my picture of the Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches from last summer. We've usually served them in pita bread with some fresh greens. I follow the recipe kinda but I use about 1/2 cup of my pesto and about 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt with all of the other ingredients. It's a wonderful sandwich!

Click here for the stolen recipe for Pesto Chicken Salad Sandwiches.

I can't say that I'll be making a lot of pesto this summer. Pine nut prices are a bit much. I think I heard a mention of a shortage? Bummer.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

S'mores Fudge Bars

This was probably the fastest turnaround time from Pinterest to kitchen.


When I find a recipe online I always read the comments. I read a few comments that said the marshmallow and graham layers were too thick. I should have adjusted for that. I totally agree that this is too much marshmallow, as good as it was.


The bars lifted right out of the pan, thanks to foil. And a few minutes under the broiler and they were nicely toasted!


The slicing was not so easy due to the stickiness of the marshmallow.


Transporting them was going to be sticky too so I decided to put them in cupcake liners. And then the partygoers won't have to touch them either. Best eaten with a fork!


So they are very good! Just so messy. It would be ideal to pour it all in cupcake liners, when assembling, but the layers really were so sticky pouring out. I don't think it would be any neater. I had to work fast especially with the marshmallow mixture.

Click here for the stolen recipe for S'mores Fudge Bars.


Repeat- Pork Medallions in Mustard Tarragon Sauce

I made a few improvements since the last time I made this.


My searing technique was much improved- the pork had a lovely brown sear and stayed very moist.

I whisked the heavy cream with the mustard so that it was thickened slightly when I added it to the leeks, wine, and broth. The sauce was much smoother and thicker than last time.

I used fresh tarragon instead of dried.

And this was served over mashed potatoes instead of roasted potatoes on the side.

"Better than a restaurant," said the hubby.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vanilla Latte Cupcakes


It is one of my work bestie's birthday this weekend and we are celebrating tomorrow! She is a coffee lover too so I'm hoping these Vanilla Latte cupcakes will go over well! It is a surprise!

The recipe is from Annie's Eats, so it was sure to be a good one. The cake has espresso powder AND brewed coffee in the mix (I skipped the Kahlua, since it was for WORK. BOO!) and the frosting is a Swiss Meringue frosting. Half of the frosting got a concentrated espresso powder boost and it was piped prettily in a swirl. The vanilla bean flecks are just lovely! I just LOVE fresh vanilla.


The cake was moist and fluffy, with just a subtle coffee flavor. I expected it to be a heavy flavor and I was very glad it was not. The frosting is one of my favorite kinds- the Swiss Meringue has to be cooked in a double boiler, and then ultra whipped by my KitchenAid mixer for a good eight minutes into stiff peaks and to cool down. It is a silky, lovely, not-too-sweet frosting. YUM.

Thumbs up!

Click here for the stolen recipe for Vanilla Latte Cupcakes.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Pork Medallions with Tarragon Mustard Sauce

This dish was inspired by a dinner I had in Paris. That meal was divine.

My dish was great! I really liked the whole grain mustard texture. It was tangy, and savory, and the tenderloin was melt in your mouth!


To make it kid friendly I added simple roasted potatoes and steamed green beans. My James loves his beans! (He even saved one bean, asking if we can plant it for a magic beanstalk!)

This was my Paris plate. The inspiration.


My sauce ended up a bit thinner but just as flavorful. A pretty good attempt!


I feel like Pioneer Woman with the next few action shots! The pork tenderloin searing in butter and oil...


The leeks and garlic getting happy in wine and broth...


The meal was so successful that my husband cleaned his plate!


I found the recipe online, after a simple google search of "French mustard seed pork". I love google! I think the recipe was pretty darn close. I think I would tweak it to make the sauce a bit creamier, but really it was good as is.

It was French night for sure, I even bought a bottle of Cotes du Rhone wine, but it sure didn't cost me 3 euros!


Click here for the stolen recipe for Pork Medallions with Tarragon Mustard Sauce.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pad Thai

It was my first time making this! And because we love all things Thai I definitely want a good recipe in my repertoire!


This was a very easy dish to make. So easy that I got a little frazzled in the kitchen, keeping up with the few quick and easy steps and then trying to figure out our other parts of dinner time (James' sides, setting the table, calling the boys to dinner, etc.) I should have done all that other stuff and then started the cooking. Lesson learned! This comes together pretty quickly.

I made one substitution (as suggested by the blogger), using lime juice instead of the tamarind paste. I just could not find it in my local Cub or Target stores. Darn. The sauce was still spicy sweet and flavorful. I'd be curious to find the tamarind paste and see if it improves it. Hmmm.

I do like to stay true to good recipes but I think next time I would add vegetables. Or maybe serve a vegetable on the side?

Dear Jim's verdict was that it was "very good". He said it twice so he meant it! He also said that it reminded him of sweet and sour. We are keeping this recipe and adding it our rotation. Yay!

Click here for the stolen recipe for Pad Thai.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Copycat Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits, and Chili

I saw the recipe for these biscuits on Pinterest, but they are taste tested by my favorite blogger (Brown Eyed Baker) so I knew they would be good!

The verdict? Duh! My husband and even my small child loved them! They are quick and easy, and will definitely be made again and again. I just hope they don't replace my beloved cornbread when it's chili making time..

This is my instagram picture, titled: Life is good. Chili in my Chococat bowl, Sweet Child of Vine Fulton beer, and a copycat Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit.


Drop biscuits. Good and easy!


Click here for the stolen recipe for Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

And because I've never really posted my chili recipe, here it goes from memory... It is a South Beach recipe from long ago. I want to say that I got it from a message board, which is why I haven't been able to find it online anywhere now. It might not be the most authentic, true chili but it is darn good and healthy.



  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, chopped (I usually do a green and a yellow/red)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb ground beef (these days we substitute lean ground turkey)
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 can tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 can black beans (I use Bush's reduced sodium), drained and rinsed
  • 1 can light or dark kidney beans (I use Bush's reduced sodium), drained and rinsed
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the bell peppers, onion, and garlic and cook until softened. Add the ground meat and cook until there is no pink left.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add dollops of sour cream, shredded cheddar, and any other toppings that you enjoy!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nectarine Beso


We were having Mexican food (enchiladas) for dinner so I thought some tequila would be welcome! This drink is inspired from the recipe link below but I made a few significant changes. I even changed the name!

Here is the basic recipe:

Nectarine Beso

  • 4 oz lime juice
  • 2 ripe nectarines, cut into chunks
  • 1.5 oz tequila
  • 1 oz Triple Sec

Blend the nectarines and the lime juice until it is a smooth puree.

In a shaker, add 1 oz. of the nectarine puree to the remaining ingredients with ice. Shake. Strain the drink into a chilled glass and garnish with a nectarine slice.

Isn't it lovely when you have all of the ingredients on hand? I can't keep enough nectarines in this house for my little guy. And thanks to my sis and bro-in-law I have good tequila (yeah, still from Christmas. I am a slow drinker.)

This tastes like a nectarine margarita. Can't beat that!

Click here for the stolen (inspiring) recipe for Nectarine Kiss.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vanilla Ice Cream

I had to look back on all of the ice creams I've made (really, not too many) to see if I've ever made plain old vanilla ice cream. I hadn't! I thought this was a perfect time to get my feet wet with ice cream this season and soon enough I'll make the "fancier" kinds. I have my eye on a Tiramisu recipe...

This ice cream definitely does not disappoint. Look at those vanilla bean specks!




I always make the ice cream custard a few hours (or the night) before I want to churn the ice cream. It needs to be CHILLED before you attempt to churn it. It is just ideal. So I made the vanilla mixture last night and left the vanilla bean pod in the mixture. It got nice and happy overnight!


The flavor is amazing! I just snuck this small bowl of ice cream as a pick me up :) I have plans for the ice cream for tonight's dessert. I bought some rhubarb at the grocery store and it's just DYING to be made into Rhubarb Ginger Crumble, and then topped with this ice cream?? My husband is going to kiss me... twice!

The recipe is from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. Most of the ice cream recipes I make are from this book. I love it. You just can't go wrong. I hope I run into DL in Paris. That'd be sweet!

Click here for the link to David Lebovitz's website and link for Vanilla Ice Cream.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Best(ie) Banana Bread



This is my go-to banana bread recipe, probably because it is the easiest, one-bowl recipe. A friend gave this recipe to me. I don't have her permission to post the recipe (though I doubt it was her own) but we don't talk anymore and that's a shame.

As I was making this recipe it occurred to me that I've been baking a long time. I always say that I REALLY started cooking and baking when I moved in with Jim. I thought of cooking as MY responsibility or something I could contribute to the household. As I thought about it, while making this recipe, I really started baking in the late 90's for Ally McBeal.

Every Monday I would go over to this Bestie's house for the weekly TV show. She and her boyfriend/fiancee would provide a small group of us with a great dinner and I would bring the dessert. Cheesecakes, cakes, tarts. It was a small challenge every week to bake something in my quirky little apartment kitchen. (I miss that 60's fluorescent floral wallpaper!)

Well, that was a great little trip down memory lane. It just makes me sad now. Besties move on, I guess!

Best(ie) Banana Bread

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)- room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

In a mixing bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Combine well. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. (I've found that it needs more time.)


Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Tonight's dinner: Omelette with sharp cheddar, canadian bacon, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and Sriracha sauce.


No recipe. Just plain cooking!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad

I must have a million pins on Pinterest, most of them cupcakes and delicious desserts though. I was really stumped the other day when I was planning my week's menu and what I can make that actually excited me.

I never really venture on to my "Salads" Pinterest board but summer is all about healthy vegetables and eating right, right? So I saw this salad recipe and it didn't look too bad!

My husband's verdict? "I'd make this again. I mean, I'd have YOU make this again."


I love all of these ingredients. I used canned corn (called for by the recipe) but only because sweet corn isn't too in season yet AND because I have a brand of corn that I really truly like. Delmonte's Summer Crisp. It is not like the others!


I didn't even mind this green leafy stuff. It gets covered in the creamy chipotle dressing and you can barely taste the healthy parts. :)


The best way I've found to make the precooked chicken is to wrap the breasts in a foil packet, baking at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes. I lightly salt and pepper it and it always comes out smelling divine. I made the chicken this morning and it made for easy assembly later.

I didn't even use all of the dressing and it was plenty. It was smoky and spicy, just a nice kick. The recipe is originally from Cooking Light and it says that it tastes just as great the next day. I have some fresh, dry lettuce leftover in case it's a wilted mess but I don't think we'll mind!

I didn't have taco bowls so I just spread a few tortilla chips on the bottom of each plate.

Click here for the stolen recipe for Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


I have two parties tomorrow that require treats. Okay, require is a strong word. I signed up to bring treats! That's a lot of baking so I thought I would make cookies. Cookies aren't that hard. Combine dry ingredients, cream butter and sugar(s), fold in other ingredients, bake. They are also fun to make.

The hard part is baking a dozen at a time, many times if you double a recipe like I did. But checking the oven every 10 or so minutes is fine by me.

And if you know me, you know that I adore coconut. This recipe has shredded coconut AND coconut oil. AND oatmeal. And double chocolate (cocoa powder and chips). YUM. I do admit that I'm not getting the full flavor effect... due to my glass of red wine that I've been sipping on... :)


So they don't look like my normal fancy cupcakes, but I'm hoping they are an unusual flavor combination and my "fans" won't be disappointed. There was a high expectation of "moist cupcakes" for one of the gatherings. That particular group of people are getting used to disappointment. Sad face.

Click here for the stolen recipe for Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Blackberry Pie Bars

I'm hoping that the treat recipient will love blackberries.


My friend Ann raved about this recipe and really we have so much in common that I knew that I would love this recipe too!

The top and bottom of the bars are a shortbread buttery goodness. There is a custard like filling full of fresh blackberries (and a few raspberries for added color and well, because I didn't have quite enough blackberries!)

I waited the minimum 60 minutes before digging into a piece. It was still warm and very moist. I think the filling will firm up even more and taste better chilled.

New recipes make me happy and this one didn't disappoint! I hope these are well received tomorrow :)

Click here for the stolen recipe for Blackberry Pie Bars.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Mess Cake

My Mom would always make this cake for us when we were young, for birthdays. We loved it. The devil's food/chocolate cake would chill just right with the bananas, pudding, and cool whip. It was a chilly gooey mess on your plate.

I fancied it up by putting it in a trifle bowl and using the best chocolate cake recipe I know, instead of a box mix. James really loves cake but he prefers his "plain". He wasn't sure what to think of the Mess Cake even though he loves each component individually. Silly kid.


You must serve this kind of cake in a bowl. You'll never get a perfect slice on a plate. Just put it in a bowl and swirl it all around so you get chocolate, banana, and cake goodness on each spoonful.


My baby sis Kiki makes a version with oreos. She's such a rebel.

Click here for the BEST basic chocolate cake recipe.