Sunday, June 21, 2009

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
When I was a kid, if someone offered to bring a salad to a church potluck or family dinner, it usually involved a packet of jello or lots of mayonnaise. My grandmother would often bring a yellow jello salad that did contain grated carrots, but other than that, no vegetables were involved. These 'salads' ranged from basic macaroni salad and potato salad to more elaborate watergate salad and strawberry pretzel salad. They were all delicious in a totally non-salad kind of way.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad is my favorite of all the 'salads' that I enjoyed at church potlucks and family dinners. It is also one of the most unique. It is the perfect blend of salty and sweet flavors and, because it is chilled and served straight from the refrigerator, it is a nice contrast to hot foods. Yes, you read that right, Strawberry Pretzel Salad is a side dish not a dessert. Although it includes a large pack of strawberry jello and an entire tub of cool-whip, it sits right next to ham, chicken, and macaroni-and-cheese on the buffet line. Oh, you could totally serve it for dessert, but you won't catch me doing that. No, in honor of my mom, my mother-in-law, and the ladies that passed this recipe on to them, I serve it as a side dish, just like they did.

One of my copies of this recipe (I have 3 in my recipe box) was handwritten by my mom and at the bottom says "From the Kitchen of Bev Jopp". This is another reason why it is such a great idea to share our recipes with family and friends. Mrs. Jopp recently passed away but here is her recipe for Strawberry Pretzel Salad in my recipe box. It is very sad that she is gone but part of her legacy is a recipe that can be passed on and enjoyed for generations.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

3 cups crushed pretzel (crush first and then measure)
1 stick butter, softened
4 Tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1-8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup 10x sugar
1 small container Cool-Whip
1 quart strawberries, washed and sliced
1 large packet of strawberry jello
2 cups water

  1. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 pan with butter or cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place pretzels in a large zip-lock bag. Crush with a rolling pin. Mix crushed pretzels, softened butter, and brown sugar. Pat pretzel mixture into pan.
  3. Bake pretzel crush for 15-18 minutes. Cool crust completely.
  4. Mix softened cream cheese, 10x sugar, and small container of cool-whip (I use an electric hand mixer to do this). Blend well. Spread cream cheese mixture onto cooled pretzel crust. Seal edges to side of pan.
  5. Place sliced strawberries in an even layer on top of cream cheese mixture, pressing gently. Chill.
  6. Boil 2 cups of water. Dissolve one large pack of strawberry jello in boiling water. Chill jello in refrigerator until slightly cooled but not thickened (about 45 minutes). Pour jello over strawberry layer.
  7. Chill Strawberry Pretzel Salad for several hours or overnight.
  8. Cut into squares. Serve. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day Menu

Father's Day can be one of the most difficult days of the year for a mother, especially when a posse of children is involved. The expectation is that the wife will allow the father to sleep late, take a nap, and relax in his easy chair while 'the children' prepare breakfast in bed, a manly lunch, and a wonderful dessert for their dad. This means that the mother has to add a few things to her already full plate. She has to maintain a peaceful atmosphere, exhibit an encouraging attitude, and clean the kitchen all while being nice to her husband. As if all that isn't enough, she also has to acknowledge her own dear father in some way (sorry Dad, a card is all I could muster this year).

My solution to this Father's Day conundrum is to use as many short-cuts as possible for breakfast (frozen biscuits which my husband loves with sausage patties, and a good cup of coffee) and then do a make-ahead lunch (menu follows). The plan is that I will involve only one child (or maybe two) at a time in the kitchen and then keep smiling. I also bought myself fresh flowers for the kitchen table because that always makes me happy. Hope all you moms have a great Father's Day and, yes, I realize that Mother's Day is even tougher on the guys.

Father's Day Menu

Sweet Tea

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Crock Pot Barbecue Beef Recipe

Crock Pot Barbecue Can a Maryland girl who just recently relocated to Texas make barbecued beef? Yes!  Yes she can, if she utilizes her crock pot and a great recipe. In fact, that certain new Texan might have already known how to create this luscious meat dish long before she'd ever set foot in the Lone Star State.

In Maryland when somebody mentions barbecue the first thought is usually that some friends or relatives will get together, drink sweet tea, and cook some hotdogs on the grill. In Texas, however, when the word barbecue is mentioned it means a huge hunk of beef that has been cooked for days in some type of outdoor oven and then carefully sliced and served with sauce on the side. It's delicious! I loved it the moment I sampled it, but it's a complicated process that I prefer to leave up to the local fire fighters or to the men at church. Instead, if I want to prepare barbecued beef at home, I place a chuck roast in my crock pot, mix a delicious combination of spices and condiments, and then let it cook (low and slow) all day. The aroma is magnificent, the preparaion is minimal, and the results are amazing.

The inspiration for my recipe is from either The Fly Lady or her friend The Dinner Diva, I can't remember. I handwrote the original on a yellow legal pad without noting where it came from (shame, shame). I didn't realize when I copied it that it would become one of my family's most requested dinners. In addition to being delicious, I like this recipe because it's easy to adapt. Once I went to make Crock Pot Barbecued Beef and realized that I was all out of honey so I substituted few tablespoons of honey mustard. Another time I didn't have any balsamic vinegar in cupboard, so I used balsamic vinegarette instead. It's always been great. I serve it on buns with cole slaw (either on the side or on top) and a pickle.

Crock Pot Barbecued Beef Recipe

2 pound chuck boneless chuck roast
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1 cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons honey
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup bottled barbecue sauce
2 Tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Lightly spray the crock pot with cooking spray.
  2. Trim the chuck roast of any large pieces of fat.
  3. Rub salt and pepper on all sides of chuck roast.
  4. Whisk together the ketchup, honey, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, barbecue sauce, worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder until well blended. Pour over roast.
  5. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  6. 1 hour prior to serving remove roast from crock pot and shred it with 2 forks removing any pieces of fat.
  7. Pour sauce into a gravy separator and allow any fat to rise to the top. (If you don't have a gravy seperator, skim fat from top of sauce with a spoon.) Pour sauce back into crock pot.
  8. Add shredded meat back to the crock pot, stir well, and cook for 1 more hour.

    *Serve on buns with cole slaw and a pickle.
Tuesday Night Supper Club

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Cole Slaw Recipe

    Cole SlawIt was settled. . . crock pot beef barbecue sandwiches for our main dish. It was definite. . . cole slaw for our side dish (or the on-top-of-the-sandwich dish if you're from the South or have a friend who's from the South who likes to show you how it's really done). Dinner was under control. . . until. . . it was undecided store bought or homemade cole slaw? The conflict began. . .

    Totally-Embracing-the-Abundance-of-her-Full-Plate Heidi wanted to grate cabbage, julienne carrots, and emulsify dressing. A-Bit-Overwhelmed-with-her-Full-Plate Heidi wanted to proceed through the drive-through of the local Chick Filet and buy a nice quart of premade cole slaw. Desires-To-Put-a-Quick-and-Delicious-Dinner-on-her-Full-Plate Heidi solved the conflict. She purchased a fresh bag of shredded slaw mix at the grocery store and made luscious slaw dressing at home. Don't you love it when sanity rules?

    I didn't regret Desires-To-Put-a-Quick-and-Delicious-Dinner-on-her-Full-Plate Heidi's decision to make cole slaw dressing from scratch and then mix it together with pre-shredded cabbage mixture at all. It only took a quick search through my recipe file and what I had in mind was revealed. The recipe was handwritten (my favorite kind) and from my aunt in Betterton, Maryland. Although I knew her recipe was delicious, I did alter it a bit based on the ingredients I had in my refrigerator (I didn't have any green onion) and my family's preferences (my husband hates celery). It only took me about 15 minutes to mix up the dressing, add it to the cabbage, and clean up the mess.

    The moral of this cole slaw recipe saga is. . . take shortcuts in the kitchen when necessary, but, if at all possible, make somethings homemade. And, by all means, listen to the voice of sanity even when it comes to cole slaw.

    Cole Slaw

    1-16 ounce bag cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage, carrots, and red cabbage)

    1/2 cup mayonaise

    1/2 cup sour cream

    3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

    1 Tablespoon dijon mustard

    3 Tablespoons sugar

    1 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon pepper

    pinch of Old Bay or Paprika for garnish

    1. Whisk together mayonaise, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Taste mixture and adjust seasoning to your preference.
    2. Dump shredded slaw mix into a large bowl.
    3. Pour slaw dressing mixture over cabbage and stir until coated.
    4. Chill for a few hours or overnight.
    5. Stir. Sprinkle with Old Bay or Paprika. Serve.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Old Bay Deviled Eggs Recipe

    Many times when someone asks me to bring a dish to share at their barbecue, picnic, or Easter dinner, I offer to bring deviled eggs. The host of the gathering is usually very grateful and responds by saying something like, "Oh, that would be great! I never make deviled eggs!" or "Perfect! I love deviled eggs but just don't make them myself." After this happened to me a few times, I realized that although most people like to eat deviled eggs, very few of them actually like to prepare them. I am here, as one who thoroughly enjoys making and eating deviled eggs, to demystify their preparation and to share a few of my secrets.

    I started making deviled eggs as a teenager because my mom is one of those people who enjoys deviled eggs, but often avoids fixing them herself. I started with the basic recipe from my mom's "Betty Crocker's Cookbook" and then, over the years, added my own special touches. I've read articles about making deviled eggs, harrassed other rare deviled-egg-makers, and made thousands of these delicious yellow and white

    If you are one of those people who never makes deviled eggs, I challenge you to give my recipe a try. If you are one of those rare cooks who is comfortable making deviled egg, I encourage you to share your tips and tricks because I know you have them.

    Heidi's 'Eggcelent' Deviled Egg Tips:

    • Use older eggs. Fresh eggs are very difficult to peel. If I know I will be making tons of deviled eggs for an upcoming event (like Easter dinner) I try to buy my eggs two weeks in advance.
    • Let the eggs come to room temperature prior to boiling.
    • To peel the eggs, tap one end on the counter then roll the egg on the counter to create more cracks. Peal the egg under cold running water.
    • For a finer filling, mash the hard-boiled yolks with a pastry blender.
    • Have your husband or best friend taste your yolk mixture and add seasoning as needed prior to filling the whites. You need to find someone that will be brutally honest with you to get the best tasting deviled eggs.
    • Place the finished yolk egg mixture into a large zip-lock bag. Snip off a small corner of the zip-lock bag then fill the hard-boiled egg whites using the zip-lock to squeeze the perfect amount of filling in each. Don't get stressed with egg filling process, rustic is good.
    • Make sure you have my secret ingredients on hand: dill pickles, Old Bay Seasoning, Frank's Red Hot pepper sauce.

    Old Bay Deviled Eggs Recipe

    (makes 24 deviled eggs)

    12 eggs
    1/4 - 1/2 cup mayonnaise

    1 Tablespoon mustard

    2-3 Tablespoons pickle juice

    1/4 teaspoon or a few good shakes Frank's Red Hot Pepper Sauce

    1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

    1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    1. Place room temperature eggs in a saucepan; add enough cold water to come at least 1 inch above the eggs. Heat water and eggs to rapidly boiling. Turn off heat. Cover saucepan and let stand for 20 minutes. Immediately cool eggs in cold water to prevent further cooking.
    2. Peel eggs. Tap egg to crack shell. Roll egg on counter to loosen shell, then peel. Hold egg under running cold water to help ease off shell (add your egg shells to your garden or compost pile).
    3. Cut peeled eggs lengthwise into halves with a sharp knife wiping egg yolk off knife blade as needed. Slip yolks into a bowl. Mash yolks with a fork or a pastry blender. Use a fork to mix in mayonnaise (start with 1/4 cup), mustard, pickle juice (start with 2 Tablespoons), Old Bay Seasoning, pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Taste mixture for flavor and texture and adjust mayonaise and seasonings to your preference.
    4. Place yolk mixture into a large zip-lock bag. Snip a small part of one bottom corner off of the filled zip-lock.
    5. Arrange egg whites on a large platter or deviled egg plate. Squeeze yolk mixture into each egg white. Sprinkle the top of each egg with a tiny bit of Paprika or Old Bay Seasoning.
    6. Cover and chill eggs for at least one hour. Can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Strawberry Pie Recipe

    Jello Strawberry Pie Last week when I talked to my mom on the phone she told me that she had just made a "Strawberry Pie" for my dad. Hearing my mom mention her strawberry pie caused me to yearn for a piece of this amazing summer treat and to yearn for home. Being 1,400 miles away from her Country kitchen, her fresh local berries, and her homemade pie, however, forced me to embrace the reality that I needed to make my own "Strawberry Pie".

    My copy of this recipe is written on a 3 x 5 index card by my mom. Handwritten recipes are the best! Someone actually took the time to find a pen, track down a piece of paper, and write down their recipe just for me. What a gift! In fact, one reason I started this blog is so that I can record my favorite handwritten recipes in cyber-space and then create a scrapbook with the original copies. My dream is to include pictures of the dishes and of the people who originally made them (more information on my recipe scrapbook to come).

    Now I'm sure this recipe could be adapted to include homemade graham cracker crust, freshly whipped cream, and carefully bloomed gelatin, but then it wouldn't remind me of home. My only request is that you use the best local berries that you can find out of respect for my Mom. I don't think she's ever bought a pint of berries from the grocery store in her life (although I often do). This time I've chosen to make my strawberry pie just like Mom did with a store-bought crust, a small packet of jello, and (gasp) Cool-Whip.

    Strawberry Pie Recipe

    (this recipe makes enough for 2 regular-sized pies or 1 regular-sized pie and 6 individual pies which are perfect to give away to friends and neighbors)

    2 pints fresh strawberries (picked locally if possible)
    2 graham cracker pie crusts (store-bought or homemade)
    or 1 large graham cracker crust and 6 individual graham cracker crusts
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    3 Tablespoons cornstarch
    1 small packet of strawberry jello (3 ounces)
    1. Wash, hull, and slice strawberries. Allow to air dry.
    2. Whisk water, sugar, and cornstarch together in a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle boil and whisk until liquid is clear and slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
    3. Add the packet of jello and whisk until all the jello powder has dissolved. Cool.
    4. Place the strawberries in the bottom of the graham cracker crusts (carefully arranged or haphazard, the choice is yours).
    5. Pour cooled liquid mixture over berries. Refrigerate pies for a few hours or until set.
    6. Serve with a big dollop of Cool-Whip (or, if you must, freshly whipped cream).

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Black Bottom Cupcake Recipe

    Black Bottom Cupcakes
    I've often heard that a cupcake is just a vehicle for icing and I agree, but one of my favorites, "The Black Bottom Cupcake", doesn't have icing at all. It is a moist chocolate cupcake with a cream cheese center that is delicious when served warm or cold. Because of its lack of frosting, it is portable and picnic-friendly.

    Two of my children prefer "Black Bottom Cupcakes" fresh from the oven when the cake is still warm and the chips are melted, but the other two kiddos like them best when they've spent the night in the fridge (the cupcakes spent the night in the refrigerator not the kids although I did shut my cat in the fridge once. . . by accident. . . he was fine). The cold temperature turns the cream cheese filling into tiny bites of cheesecake which compliments the soft cake very well. Just pop the cooled cupcakes into a zip lock baggie or other air tight container (no icing to worry about) and keep them in the refrigerator for a few days. I've also heard they freeze well, but I can't speak first hand about that because a batch of "Black Bottom Cupcakes" is lucky to last 24 hours at the most in my house.

    Because "Black Bottom Cupcakes" are easy to pack and transport and because they taste just as great the day after baking, they are my 'go-to' dessert for teacher's luncheons, potlucks, or holiday parties. In fact, my daughter arrived home from school one day and pointed out, "Mom, you never make "Black Bottom Cupcakes" for our family and you always make them for everybody else" (add tweenager whine to get full effect). Despite her annoying delivery, she was correct and I started to add "Black Bottom Cupcakes" to my home-baking repertoire. Now I make these individual delicacies to serve to my family as after school snacks, weekend desserts, and treats at the pool.

    My recipe for "Black Bottom Cupcakes" comes from my own tattered copy of Mary Washington's Cookbook which I purchased in 1987 during my freshman year of college at Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. Yes, I know, most college freshman visit the campus bookstore and buy comfy hooded sweatshirts (to cover up their freshman 15), or large plastic cups (to carry their favorite beverage from dorm to dorm on Friday night), but I bought the college cookbook (to make new delicious recipes for my family and friends). And I'm glad I did!

    Black Bottom Cupcake Recipe

    (adapted from Mary Washington's Cookbook pages 246-247)

    8 ounces cream cheese, softened
    1 egg
    1 1/3 cups sugar
    6 ounces mini semi- sweet chocolate chips (regular-sized works fine too)
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup cocoa
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 cup water
    1/3 cup cooking oil
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 Tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar will work)
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners (to total 24).
    2. In a small mixing bowl combine softened cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar, and pinch of salt. Beat well. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.
    3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
    4. In a glass measuring cup or another bowl, combine water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Then add to dry ingredients. Mix well.
    5. Fill paper-lined muffin tins 1/3 full with chocolate batter (I use an medium ice cream scoop to do this) then top with a heaping spoonful of cream cheese mixture (I use a small ice cream scoop to do this).
    6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
    7. When fully cooled, store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for around 3 months.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009

    Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

    Every family seems to have their own method for creating macaroni and cheese. Some people make it from a box, a few microwave it in a cup (including my 7 year old son), and many cook it from scratch. My mom was a "make-it-from-scratch" kinda gal. Although she never used a specific recipe for her delicious macaroni and cheese, I assisted her enough times as a child that I was able to learn the techniques and now am able to create my own version.

    The "Macaroni and Cheese" that I have developed gives respect to my mom's recipe but also pleases my children. There is nothing worse than making a big batch of homemade macaroni and cheese only to have the kids whine for the kind from the box.

    My recipe includes two special ingredients that I discovered out of necessity, Cheese Whiz and Ritz Crackers (judge me if you must). My mom always used a chunk of Velveeta cheese in her sauce, but I never seemed to have any around and, until I moved to Texas, I could never find it in the grocery store (Texans love their Velveeta for a dip called queso so it is prominantly displayed in the markets down here). My fridge, however, always does seem to have a half-filled jar of Cheese Whiz which my husband enjoys on his toast for breakfast. It turns out that Cheese Whiz adds the perfect creaminess to the sauce and balances the flavor of the cheddar nicely. Another thing my mom did was sprinkle bread crumbs on the top of her macaroni and cheese casserole, but once when I was out of bread crumbs I crushed up Ritz, mixed the crumbs with a little melted butter, and sprinkled that on top. The kids went wild.

    Now, I must admit, my family occasionally does eat macaroni and cheese from a box, but they love my homemade "Macaroni and Cheese" just as well if not more. In fact, today I said "I love you" to my son and he countered with, "I love your mac & cheese, Mom!" Nice!

    Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

    12 ounces elbow macaroni (sometimes I go a little crazy and use shells or bow ties)
    1/2 teaspoon salt (plus 1 Tablespoon salt for boiling water)
    1/2 cup butter (use 1/4 cup for cheese sauce, and 1/4 cup for cracker crumb topping)
    1/3 cup flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
    2 1/2 cups milk (whole milk is great but 1% works fine too)
    12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
    1/2 cup Cheese Whiz
    24 Ritz crackers, crushed
    1/4 teaspoon paprika
    1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
    2. Lightly butter or spray a 9 x 13 pan or your favorite large casserole.
    3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 Tablespoon of salt and macaroni. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain macaroni well.
    4. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large heavy bottomed pot. Add flour, salt, pepper, and dry mustard powder. Whisk together for about a minute. Slowly add milk while whisking. Cook over medium-heat until sauce is slightly thickened (about 5 minutes). Remove white sauce from heat and add cheddar cheese and Cheese Whiz. Gently stir until all cheese is melted.
    5. Add boiled macaroni to cheese sauce and stir to combine.
    6. Place mixture into casserole dish.
    7. Crush Ritz crackers in a zip-lock bag. Add 1/4 cup melted butter to zip-lock back and gently shake until all Ritz crumbs are coated with butter.
    8. Cover top of macaroni and cheese mixture with buttery Ritz crumbs. Sprinkle with paprika.
    9. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is slightly browned and edges are bubbly.
    Mommy’s Kitchen

      Saturday, June 6, 2009

      Cars Birthday Cake Steps/Buttercream Frosting Recipe

      Cars Homemade Birthday Cake
      Recently I shared about my decision to make and decorate cakes for my children's birthdays despite the fact that I have absolutely no training in cake decorating. I deemed these creations Kitchen Cakes. Here is the saga of one of my Kitchen Cakes, the Cars birthday race track. . .

      I was 3 hours into the Cars cake baking process when I fully realized why parents purchase sorta cute but tasteless cakes for large sums of money at grocery stores. Dirty mixing bowls, spatulas, and icing tips were flung all around my counter, the kitchen floor was sticky, and my attempt at sprinkling cookie crumbs for a race track was failing.

      It was at this point that sane Heidi said, "Just go to the Kroger and buy a dangblam car cake." But slightly crazy Heidi countered, "You can do this! DECORATE!" I covered the flawed bits of cookie track with a brilliant shade of blue buttercream, added the McQueen and Mator toppers, and piped "Happy Birthday!" with . . . (gasp!) a pre-packaged tube of red icing that was left over from Christmas. Two hours later the kitchen was spotless,the birthday boy was thrilled, the party guests were amazed, and Kitchen Cakes prevailed.

      Cars Birthday Cake Steps
      (inspired by lots of Cars cake posted on Flickr)

      1. Prepare chocolate cake. Use your favorite scratch recipe or a Devil's Food box mix. Bake in two 9 inch cake pans. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely.
      2. Cover a large piece of sturdy cardboard with foil.
      3. Cut off about 2 inches from one edge of each circle. Place cakes with cut sides touching on foil covered cardboard.
      4. Prepare a double batch of Buttercream Frosting. Frost entire cake with white. Divide remaining frosting. Tint half blue and half green. If desired, print about 1/2 cup red for piping the birthday message.
      5. Pipe a thick blue line around the bottom and top edges of the cake. Lightly trace a circle in the center of each cake with a skewer or toothpick to create the track. Pipe over line with blue frosting.
      6. Using a star tip, pipe green icing in the center of each circle.
      7. Finely crush about 2 dozen oreos. Gently sprinkle the crushed oreos into the center of each track. With a skewer or popsicle stick, spread the cookie crumbs to cover the track.
      8. Pipe the Happy Birthday message onto the foil covered cardboard.
      9. Top cake with Cars cake toppers or clean matchbox cars.

      Printable Buttercream Frosting Recipe

      Buttercream Frosting
      (from The Cake Doctor by Anne Byrn)

      8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
      3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar (also called powdered or 10x sugar)
      3 to 4 Tablespoons milk
      2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

      1. Place the softened butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners' sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more.
      2. Blend in 1 or more tablespoon more milk if frosting seems too stiff. You want a spreadable/pipable consistency.
      3. Divide and color icing as needed for specific cake.
      4. Use to decorate the cake of your choice. This is enough to cover one 9 x 13 cake or a 2 layer cake. Double the recipe if you want extra icing to embellish and decorate the cake.

      Thursday, June 4, 2009

      Fruit Smoothie Recipe

      Homemade Fruit Smoothie Summer for my 4 children and I has officially begun. We made "Fruit Smoothies" for breakfast to celebrate. We've also had our summer haircuts, cleaned our bedrooms, and gotten our pool tags. Our next project is for each child to search through our kid's cookbook collection and decide what they want to make this summer. I am able to add "kids-in-the-kitchen" time to my already full plate because during the summer my plate is no longer weighed down with packing lunches, giving Spelling practice tests, and waking people by 7 am. Instead my plate has room for "kids-in-the-kitchen", long afternoons at the pool, and trips to our local library.

      A few summers back my daughter chose "Fruit Smoothies" as her summer recipe and now it's a family favorite. This recipe is really just a jumping off point for endless smoothie possibilities. You could substitute other frozen fruits, you could use another juice in place of orange, and you could leave the honey out if you'd like. During the summer I like to make a double or triple batch of "Fruit Smoothie". I package the extra smoothie mixture in small screw top plastic containers. I fill the containers about 2/3's full and then pop them in the freezer for a cool snack that the kids eat with a spoon. When I pack them in a picnic lunch they help keep our food cool and also melt slightly to a sorbet -like texture. Yummy!

      Fruit Smoothie Recipe

      1 cup orange juice
      1 banana (room temperature or frozen)*
      1 Tablespoon honey
      1 cup frozen strawberries

      1. Pour orange juice, banana, and honey into a blender and blend at medium speed for 1 minute or until all chunks of banana are gone.
      2. Add frozen strawberries and blend until smooth.
      3. Serve immediately or pour into plastic screw-top containers and store in the freezer for an icy treat.

        *Slightly brown bananas can be peeled, cut into large chunks, placed in a zip-lock baggie, and then stored in the freezer to use for smoothies. Frozen bananas give the smoothie a thicker and frostier texture.

      Tuesday, June 2, 2009

      Cracker Candy Recipe

      Cracker Candy

      As a Kindergarten teacher in the 90's, I received many amazing gifts ranging from half-filled bottles of perfume to collectible Longaberger baskets. I loved them all, really I did! Some of my favorite gifts were of the edible persuasion. . . loaves of pumpkin bread, plates of sugar cookies, and tins of chocolates. Now that I'm no longer the teacher, but the parent of the students who love the teacher, I often choose to give food gifts. It is our family's hope that all the teachers will feel the love when they nibble this year's end-of-school gift, "Cracker Candy".

      "Cracker Candy" is my 'go-to' food gift because it is both addicting and unique. I first experienced this recipe when one of my co-workers sat a little bag of it on my desk right before our holiday break. I was grateful, but not until I ate my first nibble, then second hunk, then entire bag, did I fully appreciate its simple yumminess. The mysterious salty/sweet combination of flavors along with the slight crunch kept me guessing at the ingredients. After much pleading and begging my fellow early childhood educator told me that the secret ingredient was saltine crackers and that the entire recipe only had four ingredients. I knew I had to have it. She graciously shared it with me. I have been making it and giving it away ever since.

      Warning: This recipe is quite simple, but 'recipe skimmers' beware. . . you must read all the steps through ahead of time and then follow directions! I'm resisting the urge to use my cyber 'teacher voice' by interjecting lots of CAPITAL LETTERS, bold type, and exclamation points! Hold on though because at the end of the recipe when it's time to break the cracker candy into pieces, please throw all your OCD tendencies aside and be free. Cracker Candy is not meant to be in perfect squares. Shards and bits are much more tasty in this case.

      Cracker Candy

      1 cup butter (2 sticks)
      1 cup sugar
      saltine crackers (about 1 1/2 sleeves)
      12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

      1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
      2. Cover a sheet pan (cookie sheet with shallow sides also know as a 1/2 sheet pan) with tin foil or if you're lucky enough to own a silpat liner use that on your sheet pan.
      3. Lay saltines in a single layer to completely cover the sheet pan, break a few in half to fit along the edge.
      4. Melt the butter and sugar over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Boil the melted butter and sugar mixture for 2 minutes while continuing to stir.
      5. Pour butter and sugar mixture over the saltines and spread to completely cover them (an offset spatula works great for this).
      6. Bake for 7 minutes.
      7. Turn oven off.
      8. Sprinkle chocolate chips over sheet pan.
      9. Return sheet pan to oven (which is now turned off) for 10 minutes.
      10. Remove from oven and spread chocolate chips. Cool (place entire pan in the refrigerator if you have room).
      11. When cracker candy is totally cool, break it into pieces.

      Monday, June 1, 2009

      Hummus Recipe

      Alton Brown Hummus A few years back my husband got on a hummus kick. He created batches and batches of this chick-pea spread (in our blender that we got as a wedding present in 1991) and then used me as his taste tester. He would hover over me and drill me with questions as I sampled his latest creation: "How's the texture? Too chunky? Too smooth? How about the salt? Can you taste the lemon? More garlic?" This went on for years but I have to confess that I was 'just not that into' hummus.

      My indifference, however, didn't stop my husband and he continued on his quest for the perfect hummus for years. He bought a food processor, watched Alton Brown, and finally, my darling husband, perfected his recipe. He then moved on from hummus and ceased to make it ever again. At approximately the same time that he fell out of love with hummus. . . yes, you guessed it. . . I became obsessed with it. I ordered it in restaurants, bought it from the grocery store, and even begged my husband to make it (but he was busy brining turkeys).

      Now I realize that true happiness comes from within and I am fully capable of making my own hummus. I've made friends with my food processor, consulted with my husband, and even adapted my own recipe. I prefer my hummus to have a smooth texture, plenty of kosher salt, and a hint of fresh lemon. I like to sprinkle it with paprika and drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil before serving. I eat it with fresh veggies, soft pita, and crunchy pita chips. Any extra hummus gets packaged into small plastic containers for a healthy grab-and-go snack.


      3 cloves of garlic
      1 large can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
      3 Tablespoons tahini
      1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
      2 Tablespoons lemon juice
      1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
      1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
      1/4 teaspoon paprika

      1. Drain the garbanzo beans and reserve the liquid.
      2. Roughly chop the garlic then add it to the food processor and pulse a few times.
      3. Add all the garbanzo beans to the food processor along with 3/4 cup of the reserved liquid. Process to desired consistency.
      4. Add tahini, lemon zest, lemon juice, pepper, and salt to the food processor.
      5. Process until it forms a paste.
      6. Drizzle olive oil into the feeder tube while the food processor is running.
      7. Taste the hummus and add more lemon juice, salt, or reserved garbanzo bean liquid until it tastes just right for you.
      8. Refrigerate for a few hours.
      9. Before serving sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with more olive oil.
      10. Serve with sliced peppers, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, carrots, celery, pita, or pita chips or whatever else you prefer.
      *inspired by Alton Brown's turbo hummus