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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Layered Turtle Cheesecake

This recipe called to me from the front of a little 5 x 7 Taste of Home magazine during my wait in the check out line. I was dying to try it for Thanksgiving, but never got my chance! So I didn't let it miss out on showing up on our Christmas dinner menu. It did not disappoint anyone! We will keep this in our favorite cheesecake file. (I need to post some of our other favorites like pina colada, brownie bottom and white chocolate raspberry cheesecakes).
If you enjoy a nice rich dessert occasionally and love cheesecake then this is probably a recipe you will want to try. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Seeing the layers
Ready to tickle and delight the palette!

Layered Turtle Cheesecake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
6 Tablespoon cold butter, chopped

4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1/4 cup carmel ice cream topping
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons chopped pecans

Optional garnish: chopped pecan halves and additional caramel ice cream topping

Place a greased 9-inch springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil )about 18-inch square.) Securely wrap foil around pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and pecans; cut in butter until crumbly. Press onto the bottom of prepared pan. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in 1/4 cup flour, cram and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Remove 1 cup batter to small bowl; stir in melted chocolate until blended. Spread over crust.

Combine caramel topping and remaining flour; stir in pecans. Drop by Tablespoon over chocolate batter. Top with the remaining batter. Place springform pan in large baking pan; add 1-inch water of hot water to large pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours or until the center is just and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. (I would remove the foil at this point too. It never tells you when to do it, but it holds in moister from the water bath.) Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.

Place chips in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to boil. Pour over chips; whisk until smooth. Cool slightly, stirring occasionally. Spread over cheesecake. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. REfrigerate until set. Remove sides of pan. Garnish with pecan halves and additional caramel topping if desired.

Yield: 12 Servings

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

I got two huge eggplants in my bountiful basket order last week, the last time I got a small one it went to waste so I was determined to make something with it this time. This recipe turned out good "The New Best" cookbook has hardly ever disappointed us, but you have to just plan ahead and know it is going to take some time with all the steps each recipe has in this cookbook.
we interrupt this posting to change a diaper....get toddler a snack....and who knows what else! If you are interested in this recipe check back in a few days.

Turnover Chicken Crescent Rolls

This is a quick and simple dinner that my kids just love. I got the recipe from my mother-in-law a few years back. I don't make it very often, but my kids and husband probably wish I did. Chalk up a point for one that everyone loves, but it's not the healthiest dish there is--probably why it taste good.

Turnover Chicken Crescent Rolls

1 (3 oz) softened Cream Cheese
2 Tablespoon melted margarine
2 cups cooked cubed chicken
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoon milk
1 Tablespoon chopped green onion
2 Tablespoons pimento (optional)

Mix all ingredients together (can be made ahead of time and chilled)

1 (8 oz pkg.) crescent rolls

Roll crescent rolls flat with rolling pin. Put 1/4 cup chicken mixture on roll--fold up sides and seal. Brush top with melted margarine. Dip into bread crumbs. (I skip the butter and bread crumb part and it makes it all the more simple! My family doesn't seem to mind either.)

Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Top with chicken gravy and serve.

Chicken Gravy--
1 Can Chicken Gravy
1 can cream of Chicken Soup
Mix together and heat until hot.
Or if you want to keep it super simply I just use a can of Cream of Chicken Soup diluted. I keep it stocked in the pantry, but I don't stock gravy. My family likes it all the same.

Easy Pretzel Turtles

Pictures of my cute little elves helping with the Christmas goodies.
They are thrilled whenever I let them help in the kitchen.
Notice the little elf! He must have snitched a treat. He is looking pretty suspicious don't you thing? He L-O-V-E loves treats! He takes after his momma. (This picture makes me LOL!)
I got this recipe from www.ourbestbites.com. I was looking for a simply, fun, and taste Christmas goodie my children could help me make. These were PERFECT! Jack loved them and asked, "You are not planning on giving these away are you?" while a huge grin and a mouthful. He thought they were yummy and could have eaten them all. The kids had a ball helping and I personally loved doing something with them that was a low stress activity--sugar cookie frosting and decorating is a high stress activity for me with my kids, but we always have to give it a whirl to. I keep hoping that maybe just maybe it will be easier the next time around. So if cookie decorating is a little more than you are feeling up for try these. You won't be disappointed. We will be making these again I am certain and I don't think we will be waiting until next Christmas to do it.

Easy Pretzel Turtles

small pretzels

Rolo candies - one bag has about 55 candies

Pecan halves - or optionally peanuts, cashews, and m&m's

Optional: almond bark or white chocolate for drizzling

Get Ready for some simple holiday fun!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet. I like to use parchment paper or my silpat for easy handling, but you can also put them on foil or directly onto the cookie sheet.

Unwrap your Rolo candies and place one on top of each pretzel (a great step to keep the kids busy).

Place pan in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Any longer is probably too long. You just want the chocolate on the outside to look glossy and melty, but they should still hold their shape.

Remove pan from oven and take a pecan and gently press it right into the center of the chocolate candy.

If you want to get fancy you can give them a little drizzle of almond bark or white chocolate. Just melt some in a plastic baggie and nip the corner off to drizzle. A little goes a long way; used a half a square of almond bark or 1/4 cup white chocolate chips melted.

Spoil yourself and eat a few of these babies warm off the pan. Mmmm-YUM! Wait for the rest to cool and harden before you pack or plate them up.

Mix it Up: For parties, simply for color, or for the non-nut lover in your family do them with all M&M's on top. Kids love how colorful and fun they turn out to be. Try them with cashews and peanuts or those mini Hershey's kissables are cute too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Peppermint Bark

My friend from Connecticut--Lynnette has always been a huge inspiration for me when it comes to many things in life. But I would have to say that she was one of the big reasons I have learned to enjoy cooking and trying new recipes in the kitchen. She is an amazing cook and I know if she recommends a recipe that there is no doubt in my mind that it is going to be G-O-O-D! Last year at Christmas time she posted this peppermint bark and I really wanted to try it. So this year was my year! I tried it and it was great! It was the perfect touch for my goodie boxes for my friends and neighbors this year. As always thanks Lynnette (like she even looks at this, but it makes me feel good just to say thank you :-D)

Lynnette's Peppermint Bark see her picture and read about the inspiration behind how and why she made 25 batches of this peppermint bark to become the candy bark expert!

Peppermint Bark adapted from Bon Appetit

17 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped

6 ounces coarsely crushed candy canes

7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

6 tablespoons whipping cream

¾ teaspoon peppermint extract

Take your very best non-warped cookie sheet, turn it upside down and cover securely with foil. Using a ruler, mark a 12x9-inch rectangle directly on the foil. (I use the tip of a sharp knife.)

Very, very gently melt the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Start low, go slow, and stir frequently. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto the prepared rectangle on the foil. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly to fill the rectangle. Sprinkle with ¼ cup crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

In a clean bowl microwave the bittersweet chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract until just melted. Stir until smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm. Pour this chocolate mixture in long lines over the white chocolate rectangle. Using a clean offset spatula, spread the bittersweet chocolate in an even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Gently rewarm the remaining white chocolate and pour over the firm bittersweet chocolate layer. Spread to cover. Working quickly, sprinkle remaining crushed candy canes over the top and gently press to make sure they are embedded into the white chocolate. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Lift foil and bark off of cookie sheet. Peel away foil and discard. Place bark on a cutting board. Using a long sharp knife cut bark crosswise into 2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections, then each section diagonally into 2 triangles. Or make up your own geometry and cut into desired size and shape. If the bark seems resistant to cutting just let it sit until it comes to room temperature, then proceed.

Chill in an airtight container. Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving. Keeps about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Notes on the recipe: How many batches of this do you have to make to call yourself an expert? Does 25 count? I took 15 batches to a cookie exchange one year. I won’t be doing that again anytime soon, but I did learn some valuable tricks:

-You can use white chocolate chips instead of baking chocolate, but you won’t be able to cut the bark into shapes because the chips contain more stabilizers than baking chocolate. Instead of cutting the bark just break it into random shapes.

-I have a very strong preference for Ghiradelli chocolate in this recipe, both white and semisweet. Other brands of white chocolate don’t melt very well.

-When melting the chocolate make sure the bowls and spoons are completely dry. Moisture can cause the chocolate to seize. I avoid wooden spoons for stirring because they can hold water, especially if they were put through the dishwasher recently.

-Pay attention to the chilling times – this helps the layers adhere to each other.

Snowman Soup (simple gift)

Last week we had quiet the snowstorm on our area. I was feeling a little cooped up. The baby had gone down for a nap and my 3 year old wanted to help me shovel snow. So we bundled up and headed outside. We shoveled a little and played a lot. We created a snowman family to resemble our family. It was wonderful to take a break from the mundane day to day house work and do something with my little guy. So I thought I would post the snowman soup we have all seen surface at Christmas time as a fun and simple gift.


1 package hot chocolate mix

3 Hershey Kisses

10 mini-marshmallows

1 candy cane

Place in a small ziplock bag or in a new mug.
Attach this poem:

"Was told you've been real good this year
Always glad to hear it
With freezing weather drawing near
You'll need to warm the spirit
So here's a little Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick
Just add hot water, sip it slow
It's sure to do the trick!"

Chocolate Orange Logs

This recipe comes from my Lion House Christmas Cookbook. I thought they looked fun and simple fancy. It was a simple dough (Though not sweet enough for my taste. I think I will add a little more powdered sugar next time.) and very delicate. My love for orange and chocolate together runs deep in my blood. My grandma Bartholomew loved orange chocolates and has passed it on to my mom and all of her kids. Can't eat an orange chocolate flavored anything and not think of what an amazing woman my grandmother was to so many people.

These were fun to make with my boys for our Christmas goodie boxes this year. The chocolate and nuts are an absolute must! The cookie just doesn't taste good with out it.

Chocolate Orange Logs (Lion House Christmas)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter in a large bowl, gradually adding sugar and beating until light and fluffy. Stir in orange zest and orange extract. Gradually add flour. Shape dough into a long roll 3/4-inches wide; cut roll into 2-inch pieces. Place on greased cookie sheet. Flatten one end of cookie lengthwise with a fork. Bake 10 minutes, or until light brown. Cool cookies on a wire rack. Melt chocolate chips in microwave oven or in top of a double boiler over simmering water. Dip unflattened ends of cookies in chocolate, then roll in chopped nuts. Store in covered container.

Makes 4 dozen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sweet Cafe Rio Pork

There are several recipes I have seen for the Cafe Rio meats. Having only eaten there a few times on my visits to Utah I don't really know if they taste like the restaurants meats or not, but we enjoy them anyway. Sorry I don't recall taking a picture of this meal. It makes a lot of food so prepare it when you have company coming or plan to freeze it.

Sweet Pork
1 (3 lb.) Pork loin roast, thawed if previously frozen
1 (16 oz/ 2 cups) jar of Salsa
1 can green chilies
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 can black beans, undrained


In the bottom of a large crock pot mix salsa, green chilies, brown sugar, and black beans. Add the pork roast and cook on high for 4 hours. Take the meat out of the crock pot and shred with a fork. Return meat to crock pot and cook one hour more.

Serve on tortillas with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes or your other favorite taco toppings.

Yeilds 8 servings (We actually served 4 adults for two meals, plus had enough leftovers for our family of 5 to have an additional dinner.) The recommended 8 servings must be HUGE because I felt like each time we served it everyone ate nice size helpings.

**We served it in both hard and soft shell tacos and both were great.
Make it meal and serve it with Cafe Rio Lime Rice, Cafe Rio Pico de Gallo, and Tomatillo Cream Cafe Rio Dressing (Awesome dressing!) if making it into a salad instead of a taco, but we also like the dressing drizzled on our tacos.

Cafe Rio Chicken (2 different recipes here)

My good friend Sharla served this at a surprise birthday lunch she hosted in my behalf. Everyone loved the recipe so of course I had to ask her a copy. And of course I had know idea about the surprise, so there is no picture. Doesn't a soft shell taco all wrapped up look the same anyway? It isn't hard to imagine it is it. YUM!

Cafe Rio Pork or Chicken (Sharla P. family recipe)
4 lbs. Pork Roast or Chicken
2 cups brown sugar
1 (12-14 oz) jar Salsa
2 cans Coke (24 oz or 2 1/2 cups)

Place roast in crock pot, fill half way with water and cook for 6-8 hours on low. Disgard water. Shred meat with forks and return to crock pot. Combine sugar, salsa, and coke in a separate bowl. Add to crock pot. Cook about 3 hours more on low. Stir Occasionally

Simply add chicken to crock pot. Combine sugar, salsa, and coke in a separate bowl; add to crock pot. Cook 5-6 hours on low (or until chicken is done I have several crock pots and they all cook at different rates). Stir occasionally.

Place in a warm tortilla on a plate. Top with Rice, Black beans, pork/chicken, lettuce, and top with plenty of Creamy Tomatillo Cilantro Dressing.

Cafe Rio Chicken (www.365daysofcrockpot.com)

5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thawed
1 small bottle Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
1 Tablespoon Chili powder
1 Tablespoon Cumin
3 Cloves Garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients except the chicken in a bowl. Place chicken on bottom of a greased crock pot.

Pour mixture in a bowl over the top of Chicken. Cook on high 5-7 hours. Shred chicken with a fork and reserve juice to pour over chicken when serving.

Cafe Rio Lime Rice

This rice is a nice savory flavored compliment to off set the sweetness of the Cafe Rio pork/chicken.

Cafe Rio Lime Rice
2 Tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
6 2/3 cup water
7-8 bullion cubes
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups long grain rice

Saute butter, onions, and garlic. Boil everything else excepted rice in a large pot. Add onion and garlic--then rice. Cover and simmer.

Tomatillo Creamy Cilantro Dressing (Cafe Rio)

Simply stated, this dressing is awesome. I love homemade dressings that beat anything that you can purchase in the stores.

Tomatillo Creamy Cilantro Dressing

1 pkg. Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch Dressing mix
1 cup Buttermilk
1 cup Mayo
2 Tomatillos (peel outer skin)
1 clove minced garlic or 1 tsp. minced jarred garlic
1/2-1/3 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1 small jalapeno (seeds removed)

Put all ingredients into a blender. Add extra mayo if dressing is too thin. Refrigerate.

Cilantro Lime Rice

I got this rice from Jamie Cook's it Up blog. It is a sweet rice. We enjoyed this recipe but I wouldn't serve it with the sweet chicken or pork recipe.

Cilantro Lime Rice

2 cups uncooked rice
1 Tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic minced
4 chicken bullion cubes
1 teaspoon lime zest
4 cups water
2 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon sugar
3 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large skillet combine rice, butter, garlic, lime zest, bullion cubes, and water. Bring to a boil and stir well. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. In a small bowl combine lime juice, sugar, and cilantro. Pour over the top of the hot cooked rice, and stir to incorporate. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chocolate Banana Cream Trifle

I was looking through my cook books and noticed I made this back in April 2009 and I hadn't posted it yet. So I thought that I would post it just for the sake of posting something. I haven't had anything that I have wanted to blog about lately. Haven't been in the "oh lets try something new mode" lately it has been more of a "survival mode" and doing the quick easy family favorites a.k.a comfort foods that I know my kids will gobble down. My picture doesn't look even close to the cookbook photo--I think my trifle dish was too big, making all the layers seem more like one. But regardless of how it looks it's a dessert so we had enjoyed eating it anyway!

Chocolate Banana Cream Trifle
18 whole graham crackers, divided
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (12 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
1 pkg. (3.4 oz) banana cream instant pudding and pie filling (I used my Family's Banana Cream Pie recipe)
1 cup milk
1 lemon
4 large bananas

Finely chop half of a graham crackers; set aside. Coarsely crumble remaining crackers into a 2-qt. mixing bowl.
For ganache, place chocolate morsels and 1 1/2 cups of the whipped topping into a small bowl. Microwave on high 45-60 seconds or until melted smooth, stirring every 15 seconds. Combine the pudding mix and the milk; whisk until mixture begins to thicken. Fold in remaining whipped topping ; set aside.
Juice lemon to measure 2 Tablespoons juice. Peel bananas and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Slice banana sections with egg slicer if desired. Add lemon juice and toss gently. Set aside 12 slices for garnish.
To assemble trifle, place half of the crumbled graham crackers over the bottom of trifle bowl. Place half of the bananas over the crackers, arranging some of the bananas against sides of the bowl, and top with one-third of the ganache. Spread half of the banana filling over ganache spreading to edges. Repeat layers one time. Decorate with remaining ganache. Sprinkle top of trifle with chopped graham cracker. Arrange reserved banana slices around edges of trifle.

Yeilds 16 servings (Recipe taken from Pampered Chef Spring/Summer 2009 Seasons Best booklet)

** The chocolate was a little dark for my taste. Next time I will try it with a milk chocolate.