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.

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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, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Cake

Banana Crunch Cake

This semi-homemade recipe is a true winner. A few simple ingredients are combined with a basic cake mix for a light and lovely dessert. Oats, brown sugar, and walnuts are combined to make a tasty crumble. While, eggs, sour cream, bananas, and a few extracts are combined with a basic cake mix to form a simple batter. I stock overly ripe bananas in my freezer for just such an occasion. All of these ingredients are layered into a tube pan to make a beautifully textured cake.

Banana Crunch Cake

½ cup flour

1 cup rolled oats

¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup margarine or butter

1 ½ cups (2 large) very ripe bananas, mashed

½ cup sour cream

4 eggs

1 teaspoon butter extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 yellow or white cake mix

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10″ tube pan. In medium bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, brown sugar and pecans; mix well. With fork or pastry blender, cut in margarine until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine bananas, sour cream, extracts and eggs; beat at low speed until smooth. Add cake mix; beat until fully combined. Spread 1/3 of batter in prepared pan; sprinkle with 1/3 of brown sugar crumble mixture. Repeat layers 2 more times using remaining batter and brown sugar mixture, ending with brown sugar mixture.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool upright in pan 15 minutes. Remove cake from pan; place on serving plate, crumble side up. Cool completely before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

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 appetizers/snacks, Canning, Crock pot, Gifts, holiday, slow cooking, Toppings

Slow-Cooker Bacon and Onion Jam

Every year, I try to identify a unique recipe to give to friends and relatives for the gift-giving season. I’m always looking for a recipe that highlights the deep rich flavor of our own homemade maple syrup. This year was no different… I found a great, sweet and savory recipe that sautés delicious ingredients that are eventually added to the slow-cooker, then left to reduce for several hours. Mix this delicious jam with a bit of cream cheese and spread on hearty crackers. Or, warm the jam to top a protein like a chicken breast or a beef burger for an extra boost of flavor. The bacon, grilled onions, maple syrup, and coffee combined together in the slow-cooker add a depth of delicious flavor. This is so good!

You can find this exceptional recipe here:

https://www.marthastewart.com/326881/slow-cooker-bacon-jam

Slow Cooker Bacon and Onion Jam

Adapted from the above recipe…

1 ½ pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

2 medium yellow onions, diced small

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 heaping tablespoon pure maple syrup

3/4 cup brewed coffee

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.

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 Beef, Bread, Crock pot, Instant Pot

Instant Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches

I recently bought an Instant Pot as I had been hearing so many wonderful things about its quick cooking ability. I am a huge fan of the slow cooker so it’s taken me a while to accept this new appliance. I had a chuck roast in the freezer and felt trying my Italian Beef recipe using this new method. I usually cook the roast in the crock pot for several hours. The Instant Pot would allow me to have a meal on the table within 1 1/2 hours. I especially liked that I could sear the outside of the roast before adding the remaining ingredients to the same pot. This brings added flavor to the dish and is a step that can’t be accomplished in the slow cooker.

The sandwiches tasted great! I’ll be using this pressure cooker much more as I continue to experiment and discover new recipes.

Instant Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches

1 chuck roast (approximately 3 lb.)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup beef broth

8 oz. sliced pepperoncini peppers with juice

6 sandwich rolls

Slices provolone cheese

Season roast with salt and pepper. Drizzle one tablespoon canola oil in the Instant Pot. On sauté setting, sear roast on all sides. Remove roast, add beef broth. With a wooden spatula, scrape bits of beef from the bottom of the pot. Return beef roast to pot and top with pepperoncini peppers with juice.

Place lid on Instant Pot, turn vent to SEALING position, and hit PRESSURE COOK for 70 minutes. Pot will take a few minutes to come to pressure, then cook for 70 minutes; listening for final beep. Allow 10 to 15 minutes natural release, then do quick release to release remaining pressure

When pin drops, open lid, and shred or slice beef. Return meat to pot to soak up more juice, or spoon over sandwiches. Top beef with provolone cheese and mild Italian giardiniera mix.

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.