"It's the company, not the cooking, that makes the meal!" ~Perilee 
(Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Banana Whoopie Cookie

These cookies are a great combination of cookie and banana cake. If you love banana breads, cakes, and treats you are going to LOVE these.

Makes 3 Dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (from 1 large ripe banana)
1/2 cup sour cream
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 ounces cream cheese, softened (I only used 8 oz)
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting (I used 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Combine banana and sour cream in another bowl.

Beat butter and sugars wit a mixer on medium-high speed, until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, beating until incorporated. Add banana mixture in 2 additions, alternating with flour mixture. (I read the instructions and got side tracked by the kids by the time I got to this part and had to add the banana mixture all at the same time and it worked fine. This is a Martha Stewart recipe! She always has a million steps and not all are necessary in my opinion.)

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with  a 1/4-inch plain tip. (Or cheat like me and use a small ice cream/cookie dough scoop). Pipe batter into 1 1/4-inch rounds on baking sheets spacing them 1 1/4-inches apart.

Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Slide parchment, with cookies, onto a wire rack. (I am to frugal to get a new sheet with each batch, so I spatula them off and reuse it until I am finished cooking the entire batch.) Let cool. {Unfilled cookies can be stored for up 1 day} (We thought that they were fine even on day three)

Beat cream cheese, confectioners sugar, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla with a mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Spoon 1 Tablespoon cream cheese mixture onto the flat sides of half the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookie. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately. (And watch them disappear! We love these cookies without the frosting too. If you do frost them and have leftovers-highly unlikely--I recommend storing them in the fridge in an airtight container so it doesn't dry out the cookies. Yes we learned that the hard way!)

Balsamic-Glazed Strip Steaks

 This was tasty. The Grilled Mushrooms and Onions were AWESOME! I think I would make them all by themselves. I even thought they would be great on top of a hamburger with a slice of swiss cheese for something to mix up the old burger.

AnyHOO on with the recipe! I got this recipe out of my "Grill it Quick!" Pampered Chef book. It takes about 15 minutes to prep it and 30 minute start to finish.

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed

1 lb mushrooms, halved (I used white button mushrooms--its on one of two options I have here at our little grocery store and the most economical of the two.)
2 Medium onions, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika (mine was good old regular)
1 teaspoon salt

2 beef strip steaks, cut 1-inch thick (just choose a tender steak cut!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 beefsteak tomatoes, thickly sliced
1/4 crumbled blue cheese (no one in my family will touch the stuff!! Including me! I hate the smell of blue cheese--my pallet still has some learning to do I guess!)

Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. For GLAZE, whisk together the ingredients in a small bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on High for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thick, syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup. (Be prepared to have your nose burn while this is going on! I was shocked that I felt it as much as I did. Mine took 6 minutes.)

For MUSHROOM MIXTURE, combine the mushrooms, onions, oil, paprika and salt; mix well. Preheat a BBQ Grill Basket on grill for 3 minutes. Grill mushroom mixture, undisturbed, 7 minutes. Shake basket then grill additional 8-9 minutes or until mushrooms are browned and onions begin to caramelize. Remove basket from grill and keep mixture warm.

Set aside 2 Tablespoons glaze for serving. Season steaks with salt and black pepper; brush remaining glaze over both sides of steaks. Grill steaks, covered, 4 minutes or until grill marks appear.  Turn with tongs and grill 4-6 minutes or until thermometer registers 140 degrees for medium-rare or 150 for medium doneness. Transfer steaks from grill to cutting board; tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes.

Slice steaks against grain and serve with tomatoes, mushroom mixture and blue cheese if you like it. Drizzle reserved glaze over steaks.

Yeilds: 4 servings

Frozen Grasshopper Squares

We love desserts at our house! From ice cream to cookies we love it all. I couldn't resist posting my cookie monster and photo assistant on this one. I placed the plate down and stepped back to get a picture and the cookie on top disappeared! So I had to get a new one to get the actual picture.

Hugh caught in the mischief!
This is a quick and simple dessert. We love mint ice cream and Oreo's together. Breyers use to make a mint Oreo ice cream that was irritable. So needless to say this was a hit at our house. The only thing I will change the next time is I with turn in Oreo chunks into the softened ice cream layer before I spread it in the pan.

28 Oreo cookies, divided
1 (1 1/2 quart size) container of mint-chocolate chip ice cream, softened
1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip (I love Cool Whip Free), thawed
1 square Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate, grated

Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Crush 20 cookies, sprinkle crumbs on the bottom of prepared pan.
Spread ice cream evenly over crumbs in pan; top with cool whip and grated chocolate.
Freeze 3 hours. Remove from freezer 15 minute before serving. Let stand at room temperature to soften slightly. Lift dessert from pan with foil handles; cut into 16 squares. Cut remaining cookies in half place 1 on each square. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole-Crock Pot

This recipe turned out great! Once again I loved the minimal time I spent in the kitchen on a great summer day--leaving me more time to be with my kids. I doubled the recipe and put it in my 5 quart crock-pot and cooked it on high for 3 1/2 hours. A single recipe would have easily have served my little family, but had we family join us for the evening. My kids, my nieces, and nephew all gobbled it down, but most of them LOVE rice! This recipe comes via www.disneyfamily.com and I was once again pleasantly surprised. Enjoy!!

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes

Ready In: Low 3 to 4 hours

Yield: 4-6 servings


2 slices bacon, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil 1 1⁄2 pounds chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin (I used skinless boneless thighs)
1⁄2 cup diced onion
1⁄2 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon dried sage
1 cup converted long-grain white rice
1 package (4 ounces) wild rice
6 ounces brown mushrooms,* wiped clean and quartered (I used white button mushrooms)
3 cups hot chicken broth, or enough to cover chicken
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish


Microwave bacon on high (100% power) 1 minute. Transfer to 4 1⁄2-quart CROCK-POT® slow cooker. Add olive oil and spread evenly on bottom. Place chicken in CROCK-POT® slow cooker, skin side down. Add remaining ingredients in order given, except parsley. Cover; cook on LOW 3 to 4 hours, or until rice is tender.

Uncover and let stand 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Remove skin before serving, if desired. Garnish with chopped parsley.

*Ingredient Tip Use "baby bellas" or crimini mushrooms. Or, you may substitute white button mushrooms. 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Chicken Marsala-Crock pot

So I have learned not to have my expectations of crock pot recipes set to high. That way if they are not that appetizing I am not disappointed. My sister-in-law says she has bad luck with trying new crock-pot recipes. I have had pretty good luck (knock on the wooden cutting board). I always enjoy Chicken Marsala when we got out to an Italian restaurant, so I was excited to give this one a try. It was a good dish. My kids with the exception of Hugh ate it really well. The thing I love most about it is that it comes together quickly and doesn't take all-day to cook. I also love that I usually have most of the ingredients in my pantry all the time. If you like Chicken Marsala and don't want to slave away in the kitchen on a hot summer day give the duty to the pot and take the afternoon off.

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 (10 oz) package white mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Marsala cooking wine (chicken broth or apple juice)
2 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast, fat trimmed, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a medium skillet, over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the mushrooms and salt and saute until the mushrooms are browned, approximately 5 minutes. Drain off any liquid and set mushrooms aside.
Grease the slow cooker with the butter (leave excess in the crock). In the crock, stir together the Marsala and tapioca. Add the chicken pieces and the pepper, and top with the cooked mushrooms.
Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours, stirring once during cooking. Before serving, mix in chives and heavy cream, stirring to combine.

Serve with pasta of choice--we think Angel hair pasta is the perfect partner; and a side salad.

Indoor S'mores

This is a RICH chocolaty recipe that you definitely have to make indoors. If you attempted to take them on a camp out you would have a major mess. So when you are looking for something fun to treat your family and friends with this summer and can't go camping give theses a whirl.

8 cups Golden Grahams cereal
5 cups miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup light corn syrup
5 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup miniature marshmallows, if desired

In large bowl, measure cereal. Butter 13 x 9-inch pan (I personally think that this is so rich that I spread mine out on a cookie sheet and spread the love a little thinner! More to go around right.). In a large sauce pan melt the marshmallows, chocolate chips, corn syrup an butter. Stir in vanilla.

Pour over cereal; quickly toss until completely coated. Stir in 1 cup marshmallows

Press mixture evenly into pan, using buttered back of spoon. Let stand uncovered at least 1 hour, or refrigerate if you prefer a firmer bar. For squares, cut into 6 rows by  4 rows. Store loosely covered at room temperature up to 2 days.

Katsudon--Japanese Style Cutlets

We made this recipe months ago (From my Cuisine at Home magazine) and I thought I had blogged it already. My kids LOVED IT! This Japanese cuisine is wonderful and delightful for the taste buds. Katsudon I learned is part of the "donburi" family which means "rice bowls". So this is Japanese style "fast food". Cooking ethnic dishes almost always requires a few ingredients that most cooks don't have on hand. There are two in this recipe that may require you to make a trip down the Asian section of your grocery store or to your Asian market. If you don't have Mirin and panko on hand you can replace them with dry sherry cooking wine and regular bread crumbs. It will still taste great, but you must promise me you will try to use the authentic ingredients sometimes just to taste the real deal!

1/2 lb. pork loin cutlets, or Chicken breast or Turkey tenderloin
1 1/2 cups raw medium-grain rice
2 cups yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar
4 slice fresh ginger
Bread Cutlets in:
6 eggs, lightly beaten (I thought this was over kill--use 4 if you need more then crack them.)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Heavy pinch black pepper
2-3 cups panko crumbs
Fry in:
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Serve cutlets with prepared rice and chopped scallions

Prepare pork for cutlets. Cook rice as directed on package and keep warm until serving.
Simmer onion, broth, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, and ginger in a large saute pan over med-low heat until onion is soft, 15 minutes.

Before breading the cutlets, beat the eggs in a shallow dish (like a pie plate), mix flour, salt, and pepper in a second dish, and place the panko in a third dish.

Bread cutlets by first dredging both sides in flour mixture then dipping into the egg, and following with the panko. Then "double bread," dipping into the egg, then panko again. Transfer to a rack or plate until ready to fry. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a second saute pan.

Fry cutlets in batches, browning on both sides until cooked through, 6-8 minutes total. Transfer cutlets to a cooling rack set over paper towels to drain.

To serve, place 2 cutlets in the simmering broth; cook 1 minute to warm through. Remove and slice cutlets, place on top of some rice, ladle with broth, and sprinkle with scallions.

I like to serve this with a simple mix of green lettuces and julienned carrots with an Ginger Asian Dressing (Like you would have in a Japanese restaurant.)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies

If you love peanut butter and chocolate these are a must try brownie for you. Warning they are very naughty--You just want to keep snitching; they call to you "EAT ME!".  It is like a chewy Reese's Cup! YUMMO!! I want to believe that if you are generous enough to share and send plates of these goodies home with your company that they have little if any calories in them! ;-)
If you try these little gems you won't be disappointed. Take them to your next potluck party and watch them disappear!

Brownie Base
1 box (1lb 6.5 oz) Betty Crocker Original Supreme brownie mix, water, vegetable oil ad eggs called for on the brownie box. (I used whatever Box Brownie I had on hand that was for a 9 x 13 pan)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter (I used about 2 Tablespoons and I think it worked fine. Got to try to cut out some of the fat so I don't feel SO GUILTY (he he haha) right?!

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of 13 X 9-inch pan with cooking spray or shortening. For easier cutting, line pan with foil, then grease foil on bottom only of pan.

In a medium bowl, sir brownie mix, pouch of chocolate syrup, water, oil, and eggs until well blended. (I just made my box of brownies as it instructed!) Spread in pan. Bake 28 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from the side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely about 1 hour.

In a medium bowl, beat filling ingredients with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over brownie base.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave topping ingredients uncovered on High 30 to 60 seconds; stir until smooth. Cool 10 minutes; spread over filling. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until set. For Brownies cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator (If you are lucky enough to have any left over to store call us we will be right over!)