Posted in appetizers/snacks, Desserts, Food, Kids in the Kitchen

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

As the temperatures rise and children return to outdoor play, this simple recipe provides a healthy dose of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and dietary fiber. Adding a few tablespoons of local honey makes for a sweet and nutritious summertime treat.

If your family is anything like mine, these fruity popsicles won’t last long in the freezer!

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced (frozen bananas work best)

12 strawberries, cleaned, trimmed, and halved

1/2 cup pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons honey

Combine fruit and honey in the food processor. Purée until smooth and creamy. Fill and cap popsicle molds. Freeze for four hours. Loosen popsicle molds by briefly running under warm water. Serve immediately.

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Posted in Baking, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Food

Puff Pastry Cups with Cherry Crumble

Cleaning out my freezer proved to be a positive experience this morning. In the far left corner of my freezer compartment, I found a box of puff pastry cups that I had purchased several weeks ago and completely forgot about them (as they slowly made their way to the back of the freezer). I’m sure many can relate to this. As we pack our freezers and pantries with new items, other items are slowly shuffled “out of sight, out of mind”. I’m thrilled that I was able to quickly assemble this easy recipe for a Sunday dessert. Use any fruit flavored filling for this delicious treat.

Puff Pastry Shells with Cherry Crumble

1 package (6) Puff Pastry Cups, prepared according to package directions

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling or your favorite flavor

Puff Pastry Cups with Cherry Crumble

Cool pastry shells on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove center tops. Do not turn off oven. Keep temperature at 400 degrees. In a small bowl, stir the flour, sugar, cinnamon and butter until crumbs form. Sprinkle evenly over pie filling within each pastry. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the crumb mixture is golden brown and filling begins to bubble. Remove from oven and let the pastries cool for 10 minutes. Return tops to the pastry. Sprinkle with powder sugar when completely cooled, if desired.

Posted in Food, Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

This past week we took the opportunity to leave the bitter cold of the Midwest to fly down to our favorite vacation spot. As Disney Vacation Club Members, we frequently visit the land of Mickey and Minnie to enjoy the warm southern breezes and bright Orlando sunshine. Our visit is most relaxing as we love to grab a cold drink and visit the pool, hang out on the deck while reading the latest novel, use the boat system to travel to various hotels and marvel as we view the beautiful flowers and unique shrubbery. We try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. “Been there, done that…” is my motto. As our children were growing up, we always made a few trips to the parks. These days, I’d much rather sit back and relax.

The DVC homes are spacious and bright. They have all of the amenities of home. Most nights, I cook in our beautiful villa, other nights we take a short ride to a neighboring hotel to enjoy a meal or dinner show. This year we enjoyed the Ohana dinner show at the Polynesian Hotel. Another evening was spent sharing a meal at Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. One of the appetizers served during the “storybook” dinner at Artist Point was a mini vessel of winter squash bisque. The garnish; a “lollipop” marshmallow stick. What a delightful treat. We had a fun night celebrating with Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and the Wicked Queen.

Arriving home, the Chicago winds were incredibly cold and the icy rain was pouring from the heavens. Running from the courtesy bus to our car in the economy parking lot, The rain had soaked through my clothing and I was, once again, freezing. I really wanted to turn around and jump back on the flight to return to the warmth of Orlando. I decided then and there that I would make a trip to the grocery store and purchase ingredients to make a big pot of Spicy Butternut Squash Soup to warm our bones and remind us of our last evening in Disney World.

This recipe is certainly not the same as Disney’s version, but it is a favorite. I add lots of ground black pepper to balance the sweetness of the maple syrup and brown sugar. Garnish with pine nuts, walnuts, maple syrup, or pumpkin seeds.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

2 large butternut squash (seeded and roasted)

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup chopped shallot (about 2 medium shallot bulbs)

1 tablespoon salt

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¾ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Lots of ground black pepper, to taste

4- 5 cups chicken broth (or water mixed with chicken base)

½ – ¾ cups half & half

In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until. Add the chopped shallot; stir and cook until the shallot has softened and begins to turn golden in color. Add garlic; stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add butternut squash, maple syrup, brown sugar, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cool slightly before using an immersion blender to cream the soup. Stir in half & half and serve immediately.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, Brunch, Cake, Desserts, Food

Peanut Butter Blondies

Everyone in our house loves peanut butter so this recipe is definitely a family favorite. A few simple ingredients come together to make a delicious bar great for lunch time or snack time. If you’re a peanut butter lover… pour a giant glass of cold milk, grab a serving-sized blonde, find a quite spot to sit and enjoy a little slice of heaven.

Peanut Butter Blondies

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 cups brown sugar, packed

4 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13X9” baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat peanut butter and butter together with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually mix in brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Add flour and mix until well combined. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread evenly in the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Optional: Microwave until spreadable, 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter. Spread over warm bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Cool before slicing into bars.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Chicken, Dinner, Food

Spicy Chicken Roll

On Sunday afternoons, I often set up my crock pot to cook several pounds of chicken to be used for various meals during the work week. I load up my slow cooker to let the chicken simmer away for 8 hours and then chop or shred the poultry for chicken salad, chicken lasagna, spicy buffalo chicken sandwiches, or to be used as a green salad ingredient. This is a complete time saver when trying to juggle a full work day and a lengthy commute, while working to get a decent meal on the table in a timely manner.

I usually serve this Spicy Chicken Roll with a fresh green salad. My children will often take a slice for their lunch bag, to be eaten cold or heated. The mild spicy flavor is a family favorite.

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 cups chicken breast, shredded

1/2 cup hot sauce. (I use Franks brand)

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cans crescent rolls

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In small saucepan, mix cream cheese, hot sauce, chicken and shredded cheese. Heat on medium-low until combined and cheese has melted. Cool.

Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. On cookie sheet, arrange triangles in ring so short sides of triangles form a circle in center. Use a small oven- safe bowl to guide and maintain a circle. Dough will overlap. Dough ring should look like a sun.

Spoon cream cheese mixture on the half of each triangle closest to center of ring. Bring each dough triangle up over filling, tucking dough under bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around ring until entire filling is enclosed.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before slicing into serving sized pieces.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, Brunch, eggs, Food

Farmhouse Breakfast Squares

During the Christmas holiday, I assembled quite a few casseroles to feed the army of family members that were home for the holidays. Many of these recipes had their fair share of carbohydrates nestled throughout. I, on the other hand, try to watch my carb intake as I always seem to have severe migraines when I consume refined sugar and loads of carbs. This recipe is quite simple to assemble and chocked with flavor. A bit of Frank’s hot sauce added to the egg mixture is a welcome addition to the recipe. A few teaspoons add a hint of flavor. If you like a spicy egg dish, feel free to kick up the heat by doubling or tripling the sauce. One other trick, try to seed and core the tomatoes before dicing them. This helps eliminate a soupy casserole.

The serving sized squares are compact and great as leftovers. Super for breakfast lunch or dinner. Serve along side a cup of yogurt with granola, a field greens salad, or a few hash browned potatoes.

Farm House Breakfast Squares

1 pound breakfast sausage

12 large eggs

½ cup heavy cream or half & half

1 ½ cups cheddar cheese

2 teaspoons hot sauce

1 medium green pepper, diced

½ cup onion, chopped finely

1 medium tomato, seeded and cored

In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the breakfast sausage for about 10 minutes, breaking apart with a spatula, until fully browned. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13×9” baking dish, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, and hot sauce. Add the pepper, onion, tomato, and cheese; whisk thoroughly. If desired, set aside a few veggies and a bit of cheese for garnish.

Pour the egg mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle cooked sausage evenly over egg mixture distributing all ingredients. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until center is set. Cool slightly and cut into serving sized squares.

Optional: Garnish with a bit of cheese and leftover chopped veggies. Salt/pepper to taste.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, cookies, Desserts, Food, holiday, holidays

Easy Snickerdoodles

This is a crazy easy short-cut, if you’re looking for a last minute Christmas cookie recipe. A semi-homemade treat that combines a pouch of cookie mix with a little cinnamon and sugar makes these cookies taste honey bun yummy! I use turbinado sugar for a crunchier exterior, while the interior stays moist and flavorful.

Easy Snickerdoodles

1 pouch sugar cookie mix

2 tablespoons flour

1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 egg

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, flour, butter and egg until dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. In small bowl, mix turbinado sugar and cinnamon. Roll balls in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets; slightly flatten. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes. Cool slightly and remove to cooling racks.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Canning, Food, Home Food Preservation

Garlic & Dill Refrigerator Pickles

This is one of our absolute favorite pickle recipes. I make them year round, using pickling cucumbers during the growing season and English cucumbers during the winter months. Recently, I started adding a mild spicy pepper to the jar for an added kick. When making pub burgers, potato salad, or a vegetable tray, these pickles are always a great accompaniment to the dish.

Garlic & Dill Refrigerator Pickles

Note: The ingredient amounts listed in this recipe are for a single one quart jar. Make as many quarts as you like by doubling or tripling ingredient amounts to fit your need.

3-5 pickling cucumbers or 1-2 English cucumbers per jar

1 mild flavored pepper, sliced

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup vinegar

1/4 teaspoon mustard seed

1/4 teaspoon whole allspice

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 teaspoon dill seed

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon whole pepper corns

2 crushed fresh garlic cloves

Several small sprigs of fresh dill – to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Prepare jars by washing in warm soapy water. Also, wash rings and bands; let air dry.

In a medium saucepan combine water, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Heat on high, stirring until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Turn off heat; cool completely.

To prepare cucumbers; wash, trim ends, and slice to desired size. Crush garlic and add to jars with dried spices and fresh dill. Firmly pack cucumbers and pepper slices into jars, leaving about an inch of headspace.

Add cooled liquid to jars until the spaces surrounding the cucumbers are filled, leaving 1 inch head space. Place the jars in the refrigerator and let sit for 5 to 7 days; each day giving the jars a light shake to redistribute the spices. After 7 days, enjoy the crispy crunch of these delicious pickles. These will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Posted in Chicken, Crock pot, Food, Instant Pot, One Pot Meal, slow cooking, Soup

Seven Can Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

When planning an informal work lunch this week, I reached out to several catering companies to provide the meal. This became tricky because the luncheon was being held off-site, roughly three hours from my home, and my budget was tight. When I quickly added up costs related to preparing and delivering food for the group, I realized that ordering from a local caterer was going to be a far too expensive option. As I searched my mind for an alternative, I was reminded of this recipe for a hearty soup that would hit the spot as the weather forecast predicted rain and 45 degree temperatures for the day. Adding a few other lunch items to the menu would round out the meal.

I ended up ordering a 4-ft. long sub sandwich from the deli department of the area grocery store. I picked up a large vegetable tray and a case of bottled water. Finally, I headed to the store bakery and purchased a box of freshly made oatmeal cookies for the group. I paired this soup with all of the other items that I had purchased and covered the tables with seasonal table clothes. Returning to our meeting room, I quickly popped all of my purchased items in the fridge and plugged in my trusty, 6-quart crockpot. I opened all seven cans and popped them into the slow cooker. Lunch would be served in three hours, so I had plenty of time to warm the soup and meld the flavors. Last, but not least, I crumbled up a bag of Frito’s Corn Chips and opened a package of sharp cheddar cheese to sprinkle over the top of the individual bowls of soup. This step is the game changer; bringing this ridiculously simple soup over the top. The warm hearty soup, paired with a topping of slightly melted cheese and crunchy corn chips really makes for a mighty good, super quick and easy lunch idea.

Seven Can Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

1 can black beans, drained and well rinsed(15.5 oz)

1 can pinto beans, drained and well rinsed (15.25 oz)

1 can whole kernel corn, drained (15 oz)

1 can diced tomatoes, do not drain (15 oz)

1 can mild enchilada sauce (10 oz)

1 can chicken broth (15 oz)

1 can chicken breast, drained and flaked with a fork (12.5oz)

1 package low sodium taco seasoning mix

2 teaspoons garlic powder

Directions

Combine all ingredients and cook using preferred method below:

Crockpot – Cook on medium temperature for 3-5 hours

Stockpot – Cook on medium-high heat for 25-35 minutes

Instant Pot – Cook on “Manual” for 4 minutes with quick venting method

Serve topped with crushed Frito or Dorito Corn Chips and shredded cheese.

Note: Can sizes listed above are approximate; this is a very forgiving soup recipe. Add water or extra broth, if needed. Also, use lower sodium versions of the canned products, if your concerned about salt. If you’d prefer to use fresh chicken breasts for this recipe, use about 1 1/2 cups of cooked, diced chicken.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, Food

Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf

This week, I scheduled a community meeting that was to take place at a local library. After rechecking my calendar invite, I realized that I had arrived a bit early, so I took this opportunity to stroll through a selection of cookbooks that had been carefully selected for a main aisle display. My eyes immediately fixed on an older book showcasing recipes from quaint country inns and bed & breakfast establishments. Thumbing through the pages, so many of the recipes seems quick, easy, and scrumptious. Knowing that my meeting would be starting soon, I grabbed my library card and borrowed the book entitled Best Recipes from American Country Inns and Bed & Breakfasts by Kitty and Lucian Maynard.

Returning home, later that day, I realized that I wanted to make so many of the recipes, I simply had to purchase the book. I typed the title of the cookbook into the Amazon search bar… low and behold, they had several used copies for purchase (priced very low). I bought the first and second editions and I am waiting on their arrival.

This recipe comes from the page pictured below. The only change that I made was to add a handful of chopped walnuts to the already simplistic ingredients. I am always looking for recipes that will help to use up the stash of overly ripe bananas that I have tucked in my freezer. This one fit the bill. Lots of flavor with very little fuss…

This is a great loaf to freeze or slice and package. My daughter was heading back to Chicago on the train, so I sliced her a few pieces to nibble on throughout the week.