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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lady Bug Cake

Our Sweet Little Daisy Turned Two-September 17. 
She loves bugs, so we decided to make her a lady bug cake.
She was so cute when I showed her the finished cake she yelled, "Bug!" and kissed the cake. It was one of those priceless moments you wish you could have had on video.

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

This picture does not do this dessert justice. Check out Ourbestbites.com for a professional picture. Homemade ice cream melts quickly which is what happened here. I didn't think to take a picture until after the quest had eaten and returned to their Color Code Lecture we had as part of our clinic staff party evening. (Yes, I am a blue for those of you who know about color coding. That's why you get details and sometimes their details you don't need...LOL...they are just for me and my memories of good times in life.)
The first time I made this recipe was when I got a pound of fresh cherries in my bountiful basket. I am not a huge cherry lover, but I do love this ice cream
Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream
Recipe by Our Best Bites http://www.ourbestbites.com/2010/06/cherry-chocolate-ice-cream/

1 1/2 cups 2% milk (I have used 1 % every time and been happy with the ice cream)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups cherries, pitted and halved or quartered
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 4.5-ounce dark chocolate bar (about 1 cup shavings; you can grate them in your food processor or with a cheese grater or microplane **

(I tried using chocolate chips the first time. If you have to do it too, I recommend using mini chocolate chips. Don't make the mistake I did the first time around and try to make the chocolate chips like shavings; doesn't work so well! :-) It changes the texture of the ice cream too. The second time around we made it with shavings of the candy bar and it was much nicer.)

Combine milk and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium until bubbles form around the edges.  Remove from heat.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk eggs thoroughly.  Very slowly, add 1/2 of the hot milk mixture, whisking the eggs constantly.  Return the pan with the remaining milk mixture to the stove top and then whisk the egg and milk mixture back to the saucepan, whisking constantly.  Be careful not to heat the eggs too hot too fast, or they’ll curdle.
Add the heavy cream.  Over medium-low heat and stirring constantly, continue heating the custard mixture to 160 degrees F.  It will start to thicken quickly.

Once ready, remove from heat and add the copped cherries immediately.  Add vanilla and almond extracts as well.  Let the custard cool (you can use an ice bath if you want to speed that process up) and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

Once chilled, transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions.  While the ice cream is churning, grate the chocolate.  Add the chocolate shavings into the ice cream when there’s just a few minutes left.  If you wait too long and it’s already too thick, just stir them in by hand as you transfer your ice cream into another container.  Freeze for several hours before serving.  Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

**We love to make the ice cream with chunks of brownies in it! I would omit the chocolate bar shavings and just go for big chunks of chewy chocolaty brownies. It is making my mouth water just thinking of it on the pallet.  The night of our party we made the recipe as listed and put it on top of a brownie baked in the ramekin before hand. I like it both on top of the brownie and with the brownie mixed in. 

No Bake Berry Cheesecake Parfaits

This recipe was one I got from Annies Eats (http://www.annies-eats.com/2012/07/02/berry-cheesecake-parfaits-no-bake/) via Lynnette while they were here visiting family this past August. We had such a great visit having their family stay with us for a few days. When good friends get together their is always bound to be good eats as well. We ended up serving these tasty little parfaits at the clinic staff party too. Along with Our Best Bites to die for fresh "Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream" on a brownie bottom.

Berry Cheesecake Parfaits {no bake}
Yield: 12 servings

For the strawberry topping:*
1½ cups chopped strawberries 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
2 cups low-fat greek yogurt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

For the blueberry topping:*
For the graham cracker base:
For the cheesecake layer: 

1  To make the strawberry topping, combine the strawberries and sugar in a small bowl and toss with a fork to combine.  Let stand at least 1 hour, stirring once or twice, until the berries have released their juices.  Mash the berries a bit with the fork.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
2  To make the blueberry topping, combine the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  In a small pinch bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.  Stir the berries occasionally when they begin to release their juices.  Once the juices are bubbling, stir in the cornstarch mixture.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles and thickens.  Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice.  Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
3  Set out 12 mini mason jars (small glasses will also work).  In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter.  Stir with a fork until evenly combined.  Scoop about 1½ tablespoons of the mixture into the bottom of each jar and tamp down gently with the bottom of a small glass.
4  To make the cheesecake mixture, combine the cream cheese and greek yogurt in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl.  Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes.  Blend in the vanilla and heavy cream on low speed, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes more.  Divide the mixture between the serving jars.  Spoon the blueberry topping over 6 of the servings.  Spoon the strawberry topping over the remaining servings, partially draining of the excess juices before using.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
5  *The quantities of ingredients listed for the blueberry and strawberry toppings will make just the right amount for this recipe.  If you prefer to make only one type of topping, you will need to make a double batch.

** I used the same instructions for the strawberry topping using raspberries.

Slow Cooker Tuscan-Style Chicken Sandwiches

One afternoon I needed to find some good crockpot recipes to help me get through the meal times during soccer season when practice made it hard to have a meal on the table, homework completed, and kids in bed on a school schedule not a summer schedule. So I printed several to try. This was one of the first ones we put to the test. It did not disappoint us! We served it at a clinic staff party we held at our house. It received rave reviews then too. It is a 5 star recipe for me and many others. I give it stars for simplicity, flavor, and a time saving!

I can't readily find Foccia bread so I used Torta bread rolls from Costco and loved it! I have also roasted my own peppers from the garden. Both tasted well. I will say that the banana peppers vs red bell the major difference for me was by using the red it added a splash of color to the dish.
Slow Cooker Tuscan-Style Chicken Sandwiches

1 1/4 lb. (about 6) boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 gloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup roasted red bell pepper (from a jar), cut into bite-size strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons pesto (See Homemade recipe below)
Foccia (Italian flat bread) or Torta bread
Tomato Slices

1. Place chicken thighs in 3 1/2 or 4-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with garlic, roasted pepper strips and salt.
2. Cover; cook on Low setting for 6 to 7 hours.
3. Just before serving, remove chicken from slow cooker; place on large plate. Shred chicken with 2 forks; return to slow cooker and mix well.
4. In small bowl, combine mayonnaise and pesto; blend well. Cut focaccia into 6 wedges; split each in half. Spread cut sides with mayonnaise mixture. With slotted spoon, place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture onto bottom half of each focaccia wedge. Top each with tomato slice and top half of focaccia.
Makes 6 sandwiches

Make the Most of This Recipe With Tips From The Betty Crocker® Kitchens
Ingredient Info
Focaccia is a flat, round Italian bread with a dense texture that slices perfectly for sandwiches. Look for focaccia in the grocery store's bakery or deli, or stop by an Italian bakery.
Kitchen Tip
Freeze any remaining pesto to use on pasta or crostini, or to add a flavor-boost to sauce, soups, eggs and rice. Drop pesto in 1- to 2-tablespoon portions onto a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet; freeze until firm. Transfer the frozen pesto portions to a food storage freezer bag. Remove only what you need, then return the resealed bag to the freezer.

Nutrition Information:

1 Serving (1 Sandwich)Calories 460(Calories from Fat 225),Total Fat 25g(Saturated Fat 5g,),Cholesterol 65mg;Sodium 920mg;Total Carbohydrate 33g(Dietary Fiber 1g,Sugars 2g),Protein 26g;Percent Daily Value*:Exchanges:2 Starch;3 Lean Meat;3 Fat;Carbohydrate Choices:2 ;*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.


1/2 cup pinenuts*
2.5 oz Fresh Basil
1 clove garlic
5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Place in a food processor and processes all ingredients until texture is smooth and creamy.

*I have also used almonds, but the texture never turns smooth and creamy. It has bits of nuts in it, but still has a nice flavor. I have read that you can also make pesto with peanuts as well. I personally love the pinenut texture best.