Tuesday, May 31, 2016

sugar cookie bars

I made these sugar cookie bars for a big Memorial Day BBQ that we hosted.  I feel like after several years we finally broke in our home with this party (or at least our backyard) in a big way.  Red, white & blue, music, lots of food, friends, volleyball and kids running wild.  I love to make sugar cookies because they remind me of my Grandma who loved to make them but they take a lot of work. This recipe makes sugar cookie making a breeze.  I added lemon extract to this recipe to make them more like my Grandma's recipe and love the finished product.  I'm a believer.

sugar cookie bars (adapted from Cupcake Diaries
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups flour 

1 tub vanilla icing
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Grease a standard rimmed cookie sheet (12x17) and set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar on medium speed.  Add eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to be incorporated into the mixture.  Add vanilla; mix well.
Add salt, baking soda and flour and continue to mix well.
Press dough evenly into the greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until lightly golden.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Mix the vanilla icing with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Spread over the bars.  Cut into squares and eat.  Serves 36-40.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

fresh strawberry pie

Look what I made- my first fresh strawberry pie!  I have my kids to thank as they are the ones who picked all 9 pounds of berries this weekend.  For Oregonians, 9 pounds is a little weak but we ate those 9 pounds in two days.  We had a delicious couple of days!  I'm sure we'll go back for more.  There's nothing like a fresh berry picked from the vine or bush...or a slice of fresh strawberry pie.

fresh strawberry pie (allrecipes.com)
1 9-inch pie crust, baked
1 quart fresh strawberries
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (because you can't buy whipped cream for a homemade pie!)
2 tablespoons white sugar

Arrange half the strawberries in a baked pastry shell.  Mash remaining berries and combine with sugar in a medium saucepan.  Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water.  Gradually stir cornstarch mixture into boiling strawberry mixture.  Reduce heat and simmer mixture until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour mixture over berries in pastry shell.  Chill for several hours before serving.  In a small bowl, whip heavy cream and 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form.  Serve each slice of pie with a dollop of whipped cream.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

crock pot mexican pot roast taco meat

Tonight I am taking dinner to my friend and visiting teacher who recently had a baby.  Don't you always prepare a brand new recipe when taking someone dinner for the first time?  LOL.  I chose a 5 star recipe so I wasn't all too worried.  Besides, it's a taco.  Well, this meat turned out to be tender and flavorful.  It's going to make some great tacos.
I adapted the original recipe to suit my need to use a crock pot.

mexican pot roast taco meat (Tyer Florence of the Food Network,
2 pounds beef roast
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large onion, sliced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes 
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (I omitted because this new mama has 3 little kids who'll be eating this recipe- can I just say that 1 tablespoon is A LOT?  I'd tone it down for my family and we love spice.)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3 bay leaves

tortillas, cheese, salsa, shredded lettuce, etc.

Season all sides of the beef with a fair amount of salt and pepper.  In a large Dutch oven, heat oil.  Add the garlic and the beef to the pot, browning the meat on all sides.  Add the onion and allow to brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Transfer to a crock pot.  Add the tomatoes plus 1 cup of water, spices, season with salt and pepper.  Cover with a lid and cook on low all day until meat is tender.  Shred meat.  Fill tortillas with the works!

banana split yogurt sundae

Activity Days this week was all about fun, healthy eating.  The girls got to make some great snacks including this yogurt sundae which was a HUGE hit.  This could qualify for a healthy snack or a fun dessert!

banana split yogurt sundae (Sis. Quiner)
banana slices
strawberry slices
pineapple tidbits
vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
mini chocolate chips for sprinkling
fresh or maraschino cherries

Layer the above ingredients in the order given in a clear plastic cup.

cup o' veggies

Yesterday my girls went to Activity Days and I was asked to help out.  What a great day to help!  Tables were covered with colorful fruits and vegetables and divided into several stations so the girls could assemble healthy and fun snacks.  I made ants on a log as a child and I've seen the spiders but I always forget about the cup o' veggies when it's time to picnic or potluck in the summertime.  The girls loved assembling them.

cup o' veggies (Sis. Quiner)
veggie sticks- bell pepper, carrots, cucumber, spring peas, celery, jicama
skewer veggies- olives, cherry tomatoes
dip such as ranch, Italian or Caesar
clear, plastic cups

Prepare veggie sticks.
Make veggies skewers by putting a piece or two of the selected veggies on the end of a skewer.
Pour 1-2 tablespoons of the dressing into the bottom of a clear plastic cup.
Fill the rest of the cup with veggies and skewers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

pulled pork southwest salad

 My friend Shonda shared this recipe with me then invited me over for lunch to try it.  The pork is delicious and is great in this salad but would also be great in soft shelled tacos, hard shelled tacos, enchiladas, etc.  I love a versatile recipe!

pulled pork southwest salad (Shonda B.)
1 boneless pork loin tip roast (Shonda likes the small ones at Costco)
Place roast in crock pot with 1" water on the bottom.  Cook on low 5-6 hours.  Drain off water and shred with a fork.
Then add:
1 can salsa verde
1 package fajita seasoning (or sometimes just appropriate amount of taco seasoning)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup water
Continue slow cooking a half hour more.

salad ingredients
romaine lettuce
frozen corn
shredded cheese
sliced olives
black beans
red onions

Toss salad and top with serving of pulled pork.  Dress with a southwest of chipotle ranch dressing.  Add a hearty bread/roll to the side and enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2016

tyler's slow cooker pork tacos

I caught a glimpse of this recipe and knew I would like it so I asked my friend Shonda for the recipe.  It's super simple to make and really flavorful.  It was nice to try a new hot sauce I've never cooked with before.  My fridge is always full of a variety of hot sauces and salsa- I think we have more of that than anything else in the fridge.  We love our Mexican food.

tyler's pork tacos
4-5 pounds pork loin
garlic salt
onion powder
2 tablespoons Cholula hot sauce
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup Cholula hot sauce
at least 1 clove garlic, minced
tortillas (we toast ours), shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and whatever else you like

Spray your crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.  Place the pork loin in the crock pot.  Add water to the crock pot so it covers half the pork (I used about a cup of water).  Sprinkle pork generously with garlic salt, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Add 2 tablespoons Cholula.
Cook approximately 6 hours on high.
When done, remove pork from slow cooker and shred.  Empty excess liquid from the crock pot and reserve.
Put the shredded pork back into the slow cooker.  Add the tomato sauce, 1/4 cup Cholula sauce and garlic. Combine well.  Taste.  Add more garlic salt, onion powder, salt and pepper until it tastes well seasoned.  If you'd like more moisture in your meat add the reserved liquid- it's very flavorful too!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

skillet chicken in tomato chipotle sauce

Super delicious!  What tickled me is that my son who has been pretty picky this last year ate 3 helpings.  Three!  I love sauce- what's better than sauce with a sauce on top?!  Give this one a try.

skillet chicken in tomato chipotle sauce (skinnytaste)
portions reflect what I need for my family
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, filleted
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
black pepper
olive oil spray
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
 juice of 1/2 lime
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

avocado sauce
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
1 avocado
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, seeds and membrane removed
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon water or more as needed to blend smoothly

Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Spray with olive oil spray, add chicken breasts and brown each side, 2 minutes each.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside on a plate.
Reduce heat to medium, add oil and onions and saute, scraping brown bits with a wooden spoon, about 3 minutes or until onions are tender.  Add garlic and saute 30 seconds more.  Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cumin, chipotle pepper and adobo sauce.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low, return chicken to pan, cover and cook 8-10 minutes more or until chicken is cooked through.  Add lime juice and cilantro.
Meanwhile, make avocado sauce by combining all sauce ingredients in a small blender and process until smooth and uniform in color.
To serve, top each chicken breast half with tomato sauce mixture, avocado sauce and garnish with cilantro.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

korean bulgogi

Dinner tonight is going to be GOOD!  I know this because I sampled this Korean bulgogi at my daughter's second grade international feast.  Right now it's marinating in the fridge.  I love when there's something great to look forward to at dinnertime.
After dinner update:  Hall of Fame!  Everyone loved it.

korean bulgogi (a boy from my daughter's 2nd grade class)
1 1/2 pounds beef sirloin , 1/8-1/4" thick
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds 
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 green onions, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional

Combine all the ingredients except the beef in a large bowl.  Mix well.
Add the beef to the bowl.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Put the meat on a hot grill or in a broiler pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Cook until the meat is browned.
Bulgogi can be served with lettuce leaves and rice on the side so that diners can wrap the meat in the lettuce leaves with a bit of rice.  I'm serving mine with some steamed rice and kim chee.

Monday, May 9, 2016

makaelynne's mexican salsa

My daughter's friend Makaelynne made this Mexican salsa for their second grade class's international feast.  Fortunate for my daughter the two of them sit side-by-side in class so my daughter didn't only sample this salsa but I'm pretty sure she made a meal out of it!  She showed me the class recipe book this morning so I picked up the ingredients so we can enjoy it for dinner tonight.  I love that the recipe is so easy a second grader can make it!  If we weren't so busy this afternoon I'd have her make it herself.

makaelynne's mexican salsa (Makaelynne)
1 can black-eyed peas, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can of corn, drained
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, diced
1 red onion, diced
1 bunch of cilantro (about 1/2 cup diced)
1 small bottle of fat free kraft Italian dressing (we're using the kraft zesty Italian dressing)

Mix in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note:If you want spicy, add a diced jalapeno pepper or Makaelynne's family adds Sriracha sauce.