Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hot Artichoke Dip

This was another of my appetizers for my Valentine's Day feast this year. Artichoke dip is one of Paul's favorite things, and this recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman's cookbook, so I just knew it would be a hit. :) It's nice, simple, and flavorful.

I served it with blue tortilla chips and some tiny bread slices (I think it's called cocktail size or something...I can't remember). I preferred the bread, and Paul preferred the chips. ;)

Hot Artichoke Dip
from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

2 cans (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 c. mayonnaise
2 green onions, chopped (the whole thing)
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
dash of salt
cayenne pepper, to taste
black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place one can of artichoke hearts, cream cheese, mayonnaise, green onions, and cayenne pepper in a food processor (batches in a blender will also work). Pulse mixture 6 or 7 times until well combined but not liquefied. Mix in the Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Roughly chop the second can of artichokes into bite sized pieces. Stir chopped artichokes into the dip gently. Spread mixture into an oven safe dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly.

Fruit Dip

This recipe goes way back to Valentine's Day. :) I wanted to have a fruit plate with dip as one of our appetizers (for some reason I thought the two of us needed three appetizers...who knows what I was thinking!). I did a quick search on, and found literally hundreds of options. I knew Paul wouldn't like anything that had marshmallow fluff in it, so that narrowed things down quite a bit.

I finally settled on this recipe. It was very easy, very quick, and very yummy! I just tried to find the original recipe on allrecipes so that I could link to it, but I couldn't find it. Sorry!

Fruit Dip
1 box instant vanilla pudding mix (smaller size, 3.4 oz)
1 container (8 oz) frozen whipped topping (like Cool Whip), thawed
1 package cream cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. whole milk

Whip all ingredients together with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Chill until ready to serve.

I thought this dip was especially good with grapes and tart apples. It's not exactly good for you--ha ha--but it is definitely fun! :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cheesecake Bars

I made these for my Oscar party this year, and they are GOOD. Simple and tasty! You can garnish them however you want, and if you aren't in as big a hurry as I was, you can make them much prettier. ;) At first, slicing them didn't go very well, but then I ran the knife under warm water between cuts, and it worked magic!

Yet again, this recipe comes from the ever reliable My Kitchen Cafe! :)

Cheesecake Bars

2 c. graham cracker crumbs
8 T. butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 T. brown sugar
3 T. flour
1/8 t. salt

2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c. sour cream
2 t. lemon juice
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with foil (allowing edges to hang over the sides), and grease the foil.

Combine all ingredients for the crust. (I like to do this in a big ziploc bag and moosh everything together with my hands, but you can also do it in a bowl.) Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and press down evenly. Bake for 12-18 minutes, until it is beginning to brown. Cool crust on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy and smooth. Gradually add sugar, and beat for about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until completely combined. Beat in sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Pour filling over crust and bake 35-40 minutes, until sides are set and center is slightly jiggly.

Cool completely, uncovered, on a wire rack for 2 hours. Then, cover with foil and chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours (can refrigerate overnight). Before serving, remove bars from pan using the foil on the sides, and slice into squares. Like I mentioned, running your knife until warm water between cuts can work miracles.

Enjoy plain or garnish as desired! :)

Here's a link to the original recipe: Cheesecake Bars.

Chicken Spaghetti

This recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman's cookbook. When I first looked through the cookbook, I knew I had to try this recipe because the pictures of it just made my mouth water for some reason. Then, I read through the ingredients, saw that it asked for a cut up fryer chicken, and got scared away for a couple months. I just kept coming back to it for some reason, though, so I finally bit the bullet one day and did it. And boy am I glad I did! It was so yummy!

Working with the fryer chicken was a little yucky (so much of it isn't edible!!), but I figured I'd give it a try. The result is very tasty since it's not just white meat.

Chicken Spaghetti
from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
1 cut up fryer chicken
1 lb. spaghetti, broken into 2 inch pieces
1 jar (4 oz) diced pimientos, drained
1 small onion
1/4 c. finely diced green bell pepper
2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
2 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 t. seasoned salt (Lawry's)
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place fryer chicken into a stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for about 25 minutes. Remove chicken from the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon, keeping the water in the pot. Set chicken aside to cool.

Remove 2 cups of the water (now broth) and set aside. Bring the rest of the water back to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain spaghetti and discard remaining water.

Remove chicken from the bones and shred or cut into bite sized pieces. I found this easiest to do with my fingers.

Drain the pimientos, finely dice the onion and the bell pepper. Place the spaghetti, cream of mushroom soup, and 2 cups of the cheese in a large bowl. Add the pimientos, onion, and bell pepper. Then, add the seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Last, add the chicken and the reserved broth. Stir together well and adjust spices if needed.

Pour into a large baking pan (it completely filled a 9x13 dish), and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 c. cheese. Bake 35 to 45 minutes, until bubbly.

This really is a flavorful casserole. It's quite different from any others I have tried. I think next time I will experiment and use chicken breasts and then chicken broth instead of reserved water. It may not be as yummy, but it will be less hassle and probably cheaper (I was surprised at how much a cut up fryer chicken cost!). I'll let you know. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Banana Bars with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

There are so many wonderful desserts over at My Kitchen Cafe! I have tried several of them, and have yet to be disappointed. This is another winner! Who doesn't need another idea for what to do with those overripe bananas? And the frosting? It's so light and fluffy (far from healthy, of course ;) ), I may keep using it on all sorts of things in the future!

(Sorry for the dark picture! It was a stormy day, and I had trouble finding a good place to take a picture.)

Banana Bars
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. mashed, ripe bananas (about three bananas worth)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a jelly roll pan (you can also use a 9x13 pan with an additional 8x8 pan).

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla and sour cream. Stir in baking soda and salt. Stir in flour. Last, mix in the mashed bananas.

Spread evenly into prepared pan(s), and bake for 20-25 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

*Note: If you want something less sweet or complicated, I think these bars would be delicious on their own with a light dusting of powdered sugar. :)

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar (granulated and powdered both work, though powdered dissolves better)
1/8 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until smooth.

Oh man, I could go for a big one of these right now (okay maybe two or three ;))! They are so very tasty! Here's a link to the original recipe (with a much better picture!): Banana Bars with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting.

Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

This salad is so yummy! It makes a nice, light weekday meal. Both Paul and I found it hearty enough to stand alone as a meal, but it would also make a nice side dish for a bigger meal.

I love the flavor of the fresh basil and the shallot. And James really gets a kick out of the tortellini. :)

Tortellini Salad with Asparagus and Fresh Basil Vinaigrette
from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

6 T. olive oil
1/2 c. fresh basil, finely chopped
3 T. lemon juice
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
1 lb. asparagus, tough ends broken off and sliced on the bias (about 3/4 to 1 inch pieces)
2 packages (9 oz each) fresh cheese tortellini*
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 c.)
1/4 c. pine nuts**, toasted (optional)

*You can find fresh cheese tortellini with the fresh pastas in the same aisle as the cheese. It can be pricey, but since there is no meat in this dish, the cost is still comparable to other meals.

**OK, pine nuts are extremely expensive! Who knew? I have left these out both times we've had this salad, and it's still been delicious. I'm sure the pine nuts would add a nice texture and flavor to the dish, though, so if you're in the mood to splurge, go for it!

Bring a large pot of water to boil and season with 1 T. salt.

In a large bowl (big enough for the whole salad), whisk together the olive oil, chopped basil, lemon juice, minced shallot, minced garlic, 1/2 t. salt, and 1/2 t. pepper.

When water is boiling, add asparagus and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Scoop out asparagus with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander, do not discard the water. Return the pot of water to the stove and return to a boil. Rinse asparagus under cold water until cool. Toss asparagus in the bowl with the salad dressing.

When water returns to a boil, cook tortellini according to directions on the package. When pasta is tender, drain and toss with the asparagus and dressing while still hot. Refrigerate salad until chilled (at least 30 minutes).

Just before serving, toss salad with halved tomatoes and Parmesan cheese (and toasted pine nuts, if using). Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Enjoy! :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spicy Mac and Cheese

This recipe is one of my favorites that I've tried recently. I've made it twice now, and I liked it even more the second time. It comes from one of my favorite food blogs: Annie's Eats.

I'm a big fan of homemade mac and cheese, but Paul tends to find it a little bland for his tastes. He likes this recipe because it is packed with flavor. Definitely not bland at all! It's not too spicy, but it has a nice kick and a wonderful flavor. The combination of the different types of cheese and the spices and vegetables is just really yummy. :)

If you love cheese, you should definitely give it a try!

Spicy Mac and Cheese
4 c. pasta shapes (this time I used mini bowties, and it was fun)
1/3 c. onion, finely chopped
1/3 c. roasted red peppers*, finely chopped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (If you want it to be spicier, you could leave in some seeds...I prefer the flavor of the jalapeno without the overwhelming spiciness, so I scrape the seeds and membranes all out with a spoon.)
6 1/2 T. butter, divided
2 1/2 c. milk, plus additional to thin out sauce if needed
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
8 oz. colby jack cheese, shredded
4 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. baguette or crusty Italian bread (or about 1 1/2 c. bread crumbs)

*Roasted red peppers are sold in jars in the same aisle as the pickles and olives. They are a little on the expensive side, but one jar can make this recipe twice. You can also roast your own if you are talented that way. I am not. ;)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to directions on package. When the pasta is done, drain and return to pot. While waiting for water to boil, saute the onion, red peppers, and jalapenos in 1/2 T. butter for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Set aside until needed.

Then, while pasta cooks, melt 4 T. butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in flour and stir continuously for about two minutes. Be careful not to burn the mixture. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook until mixture boils and thickens, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low. Whisk in spices, and then whisk in the cheeses until well incorporated. If the sauce seems too thick, add some milk to thin it out a bit. (I added 1/2 c. this time, and it was still thick and creamy, but not overly so.)

Combine pasta, vegetables, and cheese sauce. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan (or 2 quart casserole dish).

Cut baguette into chunks and pulse in a food processor until coarse crumbs are formed. Melt the last 2 T. butter in the microwave and pour over bread crumbs. Pulse a few times to distribute the melted butter. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over the pasta and cheese. Bake for 25 minutes (or until mixture is bubbly and topping is golden brown). Allow to sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

Here's a link to the original recipe: Spicy Mac and Cheese.

This is definitely one that will be making repeat appearances in our household. :)

Apple Cider Pudding Cake

Alright folks, today starts a massive effort for me in catching up with posting my recipes. I have tried so many wonderful new recipes in the past couple months! I really would like to post them all here! I'm calling it my version of nesting (I'm not prone to the real kind, unfortunately. ;) )

What better way to start than with a glorious dessert from the ever-reliable My Kitchen Cafe! (By the way, check out her newly redesigned site. It's pretty slick!)

I made this on Valentine's Day as the finale to my lavish and over-the-top dinner that I prepared for Paul. I overdid things that night, that's for sure. Two people do NOT need three appetizers, FYI. ;)

This dessert was delicious, though! I know the season for apple desserts is pretty much over now, but if you ask my husband, he would say apple desserts are wonderful all year long! So, here it is.

Apple Cider Pudding Cake

(Please forgive the messy counter. Like I said, I did a LOT of cooking that night. And by the time I was dishing this out and taking pictures, I was SO ready to crawl into bed and go to sleep!)


1 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 egg
1 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. milk
2 T. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla
2 c. Granny Smith apples, chopped

Boiling mixture:
1 c. apple cider (apple juice works too, that's what I used)
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. butter (cold)

Grease 8x8 pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare cake batter by whisking together the egg, brown sugar, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg) until just combined. You can combine the dry ingredients separately first like the original recipe calls for, but I rarely do. Gently fold in chopped apples, and spread into your prepared pan.

In a small saucepan, bring the apple cider, cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar to a boil. Carefully pour boiling mixture over cake batter in prepared pan, and bake for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare streusel topping by combining the flour, brown sugar, and cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You can do this using a pastry cutter, two forks, two butter knives, a food processor, or--my preferred method--your hands. After the cake has baked for 35 minutes, sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the cake and bake for 8-10 more minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the top cake layer comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream! :)

The pudding layer gets somewhat absorbed into the cake layer as it cools, so this dessert is much better immediately after being cooked. Paul and I, of course, couldn't finish the whole thing by ourselves, so we had leftovers. It was still tasty, just not quite as good as the first day.

Here's a link to the original recipe: Apple Cider Pudding Cake.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Menu: April 1 - April 7

My good streak continues! I haven't been posting my menus every week, but I have been planning and using them. :)

Here's this week:

Thursday (Today): BBQ Chicken Pizza (from Pioneer Woman)
Friday: Chinese Haystacks (using a new recipe for the gravy that doesn't use condensed soup from Mel's Kitchen Cafe)
Saturday: Creamy One Pot Pasta (from Paula :) Thanks!)
Sunday: Easter Dinner with friends! Chicken Cordon Bleu (MKC) and Cauliflower Bake (MKC) are my contributions, plus this Banana Cream dessert. :)
Monday: Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli (from a website on frugality that I've been reading: Frugal Wife=Wealthy Life)
Tuesday: Crockpot Beef Stroganoff (also FW=WL)
Wednesday: leftovers!

Also on the docket for this week: Banana Bars with Whipped Cream Cream Cheese Frosting from MKC for Paul's work get together, and Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls for Saturday morning General Conference. :)