Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

Fresh cucumbers are finally here! They are exceptionally delicious this year as well! This salad is something I started throwing together years ago. I needed something for a ladies lunch at church and I came up with this and a fruit salad with a key lime dressing at the same time. It’s cool, creamy and delicious! It’s just what you’re looking for on a warm summer day!

What You’ll Need:
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup of fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup of chives, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6-8 cups of sliced cucumbers

In a small bowl mix sour cream, dill, chives, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir until incorporated. Pour mixture over sliced cucumbers and toss to coat. Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.

Simple, easy and delicious!

Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole reminds me again of childhood and this is my take on my Mom’s classic. It’s another one of those ultimate comfort foods! It’s also very versatile. Throw in what you like, bake and about 40 minutes later you’ve got a hearty meal! How comforting is that?

What You’ll Need For The Topping:
2 cups of cornmeal
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 – 2 cups of buttermilk (You may need more or less depending on humidity. You are looking for batter consistency.)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Mix all ingredients and put into a baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Let cook and then break into crumbles and set aside.

Chicken Casserole

What You’ll Need For the Chicken Casserole:
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 a large onion, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cups of crumbled corn bread (See recipe above)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of rosemary
1 teaspoon of sage
1/2-1 cup of chicken broth (Notes: You are using this to moisten the topping. See the notes below in the recipe itself.)
2-3 cups of cooked chicken breast, chopped (Notes: Use 2 if you use extra mushrooms, 3 if you choose not to)
2 cups of mushrooms sliced
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup of fat free half and half

Saute celery and onion until just tender. In a large bowl mix cornbread, celery, onion, broth, a pinch of sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, thyme, rosemary and sage until mixture is moist. Use more or less broth depending on consistency. (Note: You are looking for the constancy of stuffing or dressing.) Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spray a 13 X 9 inch dish with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together chicken, mushrooms, cream of chicken soup, half and half, a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once mixed spread mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with stuffing mixture and spread out to cover the chicken mixture entirely.

Bake for 30-45 minute, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes: I sometimes add sage and/or thyme into the topping for a bit of a twist.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice cream and cookies…What’s not to like? You could easily do this recipe with bake off cookies and store bought ice cream, but why not make it a very special treat and go all out? Any kind of cookie you like would work, as well as any kind of ice cream. It’s the ultimate do it yourself dessert!

What You’ll Need For The Cowboy Cookies:
1 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of natural brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 cups of rolled oats
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 package of chocolate chips
1 cup of pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Cream together sugars and butter until smooth. Add eggs and mix until incorporated. Mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Slowly add dry mixture to sugar/egg mixture until smooth. Stir in oatmeal, chocolate chips and nuts. Chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonful onto a baking sheet that is lined with a silicone baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minute until slightly browned.

What You’ll Need For The Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:
1/2 a quart of half and half
1 small carton of heavy cream
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
2 vanilla beans, cut and scraped, pods reserved
1-3 teaspoons of vanilla (More if you like it really vanilla, less if you don’t)

Mix ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan, along with the actual vanilla bean pods, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors meld. Remove from heat and strain to remove pods and any large chunks that might have separated from the pod. The easiest way to do this is by straining the mixture. Let mixture cool to room temperature. Once cooled pour mixture into ice cream freezer and freeze according to your model’s directions. For harder ice cream, like you will need for the ice cream sandwiches, put the softly frozen ice cream in an air tight container and store in the freezer until completely firm.

Note: This recipe is designed to fill this ice cream maker, but you could easily double or triple it to fill a larger model.

Dilly Onion Spread

Dill Onion Spread

I originally got this idea from a cream cheese spread that Whole Foods mixes up with three types of onion, but I decided it needed some dill and one less onion! This spread is great on bagels and it makes a heavenly cucumber sandwich! Just spread some onto a slice of bread and top with cucumbers for a scrumptious sandwich treat!

What You’ll Need:
2 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup of dill chopped
1/3 cup of chives chopped
2 scallions, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place your cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until incorporated. Store mixture in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before use so it will spread easily.

Notes: You could add a little garlic if you like, but I wouldn’t add too much as the chives and green onion already give it a little kick. Some red onion might also be nice, but again just a bit, don’t go overboard.

Dianne’s BBQ Sauce

Dianne's Barbeque Sauce

Nothing compares to homemade barbecue sauce! A lot of the commercial brands are full of high fructose syrup and/or nasty preservatives and really who wants that? This sauce is delicious and better than anything you buy in bottle! Jamison even liked it! Try it and see.

What You’ll Need:
1 – 24 ounce bottle of Organic Ketchup
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
1/2 cup of natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of honey
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt with parsley
A dash of soy sauce

Mix all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for at least 1 hour.

Notes: The longer you cook it the more depth of flavor it will have. The flavors meld as it cooks. The sauce also thickens a bit. Use can use this sauce as you would any barbecue sauce. It’s great for cooking, dipping, you name it!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I love spinach artichoke dip so it’s no surprise that I came up with my own. This dip has evolved over time and the latest rendition has goat cheese (surprise, surprise! ;o)), but every time I serve it it gets raves and I’ve even had people who thought they didn’t like spinach try it and like it. It’s one of my most requested dishes. It goes great with cut veggies, chips or other dip type scoopy foods.

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of light sour cream
1/2 cup of mayo
1 – 8 ounce package of light cream cheese
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 – 5 ounce package of goat cheese, crumbled
A pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced or 1 teaspoon of garlic salt with parsley (If you use the garlic salt, adjust sea salt accordingly)
1 jar of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 boxes of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (Note: I don’t remember the exact ounce of the package here, but I used Cascadian Farms boxed frozen spinach if you want to compare it to other brands.)

In a medium sized pot melt cream cheese, Parmesan and goat cheese with sour cream and mayo until smooth. Stir in seasonings, artichokes and spinach until blended and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately or let cool and store in the fridge until ready to use.

To serve from fridge remove from fridge and place in an oven preheat to 350 F for 20-25 minutes or until warmed through or place in a microwave safe container and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes or until heated through.

Notes: This was the first time I had made my dip with goat cheese and it definitely was a wonderful addition. It gave the dip a hidden depth that wasn’t there before. You could leave out the goat cheese if you wanted, but I will be adding it from now on.

Mixed Berry “Shortcake”

Mixed Berry "Shortcake"

This is a short cut to “shortcake” that is simple and delicious. My mom used to make this quite a bit during the summer months growing up. Just bake up a pie shell, crumble, throw in some berries and top with whipped cream. You’ll have dessert in no time!

What You’ll Need Per Person:
1/2 cup of sliced strawberries
1/2 cup of blueberries
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
1 cup of pie crust, baked and crumbled
Whipped Cream

Slice strawberries and add blueberries and sugar. Let sit for 30 minutes to one hour in the fridge or until syrup forms.

Bake pie crust and crumble.

In a single serving bowl top crumbled pie crust with berry/sugar mixture and whipped cream. Repeat for each person. Serve immediately. How simple is that?

Notes: I don’t care for raspberries, but you could easily add those in with or instead of the blueberries and strawberries. Blackberries would also be good, as would peaches. Mix it up. You can serve the pie crust warm or at room temperature. Either way is delicious.

How Sleeping Beauty and Han Solo Became a Couple…Otherwise Known As Cake Plan B

The Cake

The cake turned out nothing as I had envisioned, but they rarely do. I had to scrap the fondant plan and go with regular icing (I add in a teaspoon of almond flavoring too), because even though I thought I could figure it out, when push came to shove I didn’t have enough time to actually make it work.

For the creatures I decided to use gum paste instead and quickly found out that they were too heavy. The dragon ended up staying in gum paste, but as you can see his head sort of collapsed over onto the fire he was breathing:

Fire Breathing Dragon

I thought he was cute none the less, so I kept him.

The prince and the princess were just too heavy for gum paste and started toppling over. First thing Saturday morning Jamison’s mom, Alexis and I set off to Target to get a prince and princess. Alexis chose Sleeping Beauty as the princess, but they don’t make a prince doll, so we made due with Han Solo…(It was either him or Captain Jack Sparrow and I decided Han looked more princely! Don’t tell Princess Leia though, she might not be too happy about the match up! 😉 )

Sleeping Beauty

Han Solo To The Resue!

I ended up going with the old school chocolate cupcakes (Thanks again Garrett!) I mentioned the other day for the actual cupcakes and the middle layer of the cake. (Note: There were going to be two chocolate layers, but one of them committed suicide by jumping into a sink full of dirty dishes/water. What can you do?) The top and bottom layer of the cake are yellow cake.

Up Close

Cupcakes

All in all we had a lovely party. Alexis loved her cake and that’s all that mattered in the end and she ended up with a princess and “handsome prince” to play with afterwards. There was food, balloons, bling and Alexis and her friends had fun making merry. What more can you ask for?

Disasembled

Banana Punch

Banana Punch

When I was growing up this was the go to punch for baby showers, bridal showers and parties. It’s simple to make and it’s delicious. It always gets raves! Try it at your next party and see!

What You’ll Need:
5 crushed bananas
The juice of one lemon
4 cups of organic cane sugar
1 – 46 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 – 46 oz unsweetened orange juice
1 – 46 oz unsweetened apple juice
Ginger ale

Squeeze lemon juice over the crushed bananas. Mix together everything but the ginger ale in a very, very large bowl or in batches and freeze until solid. Take out of freezer about 1 hour before needed. Pour ginger ale over mixture in a large punch bowl and mix in a large punch bowl just before serving. As you use the punch you can keep adding more ginger ale and more frozen punch. Quick, easy and delicious!

Notes: If you can’t get juices in the exact sizes don’t sweat it, it will still taste delicious! As long as you have some amount near the above recommendations of each juice you’re fine. You can’t mess this one up…it’s foolproof! Also don’t sweat it if you can’t find unsweetened juice. Just take out some or all of the sugar depnding on how sweet you like things.

Birthday Time!

It’s hard to believe, but my little girl is turning four on the 24th of this month. Time just goes by so quickly! Most days anyway! 😉

This weekend we are celebrating by throwing her her annual birthday bash! We normally do her party the week before her birthday so this weekend is the big day!

For Alexis’ first birthday I simply ordered a cake. I was in my last semester of undergrad and had a project due that week so I didn’t have time. I was true to form, very disappointed with the cake. The theme for her first birthday was a faerie theme and I ordered a cake with perhaps the most famous faerie of all in the form of Tinkerbelle. The cake itself was ok and the decoration was ok too, but it felt somewhat unbirthday like to me because I bought it and it wasn’t stellar. To me birthday’s should be stellar and homemade doesn’t hurt either!

By the time her second birthday rolled around I was done with undergrad and I had a lot more time on my hands. The theme for her second birthday was ladybugs, so there was no question that she would get a ladybug cake!

Alexis Birthday #2 Lady Bug Cake

A bit dorky looking, but cute none the less. I made the small ladybug for her using an oven safe Pyrex bowl and we served cupcakes for the rest of the crowd.

Last year the theme was a tea party theme and I made her her own little teapot!

Alexis Birthday #3 Tea Pot Cake

I was much happier with how it turned out. I again used oven proof Pyrex bowls, but in this case I used two and put them together to make the round teapot shape. There were also cupcakes for the crowd.

This year the theme as chosen by Alexis is a princess theme. The cake this year will be a castle. I emailed Garrett over at Vanilla Garlic to ask if he had a chocolate cupcake recipe he could recommend since he is after all the cupcake expert and he graciously suggested this recipe. I baked up a test round as a sheet cake and it turned out fabulously! Alexis loved it and so did Jamison and I.

To make the castle I’m going to use layers of the chocolate cake linked above and the angel food recipe that I used last year. The cake will be covered with this marshmallow fondant recipe that I found, which I might add is to die for! The cake will have turrets, a princess, a prince, a moat, a dragon and such and who knows what else I’ll dream up or Alexis will ask for between now and then! I’m also going to make a batch of cupcakes.

Needless to say this week is going to be sort of busy. If you don’t see me around the blog you’ll know why! 😉