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Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chicken Tostadas

My husband said tonight that he thinks I have too many desserts and sweet things on my blog.  So today, I bring you a dinner recipe.  I have a couple of them to give you, I just haven't gotten around to it.  My dinner pictures are never very good, because I am just trying to get the food on the table quickly.  Husband and Son don't wait for food!  If we have leftovers, then I take my time after dinner to get a picture, but that doesn't always happen. 

We found this Cooking Light recipe last summer, and immediately fell in love.  It is so good!  It is great for summer too.  You can use leftover chicken, or a rotisserie chicken, and then you don't even need to cook anything!  It is a fun recipe for a party too.  You could just lay out all sorts of different toppings, and people could assemble their own.  Plus it is so colorful and pretty! 

Chicken Tostadas
Adapted from Cooking Light
Printable Recipe

Guacamole (I always make my own, but this one works well with this, so I followed it)
1 avocado, peeled
2 Tbls tomato, chopped
1 Tbls Onion, chopped
1 Tbls lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced

Pico De Gallo
1 cup tomato, chopped
2 Tbls onion, chopped
1 Tbls lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbls cilantro, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, chopped

2 chicken breasts
garlic powder
onion powder
chili powder
1 Tbls lime juice

8 (6 inch) corn tostada shells

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with all the seasonings except the lime and paprika.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

While chicken is cooking prepare the guacamole and pico de gallo. 

Guacamole - mash the avocado with a fork.  Add in all of the ingredients.  Stir until well combined.

Pico De Gallo - Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  Toss well.

Shred the chicken using 2 forks.  Sprinkle paprika over all of the chicken, and add the lime juice.  Toss together. 

To serve spread guacamole across the tostada shell.  Top with chicken and then pico de gallo.  You can add anything else you like at this point.  Enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strawberry Aqua Fresca and a Winner!!

Time to announce the winner of my Giveaway!!

I can't figure out how to get's display here. But it generated number the 44! Lindsey from Lindselicious is the winner of 2 bags of nuts/dried fruits provided by Oh! Nuts!!  Congratulations!

Back to the strawberries!  I had never made strawberries into a drink before, so I figured why not give it a try! I have been hesitant to write this post, because the picture is not a good one.  I don't know what happened, but no matter what I do, it is not as pretty as I want it to be.  But it was cool and refreshing and just yummy, so I feel like you will move beyond the picture and try this!  I am sure there are plenty of different ways to spice this up, or turn it into a cocktail, but I didn't get that far.  If you do, let me know how it turns out!

Strawberry Agua Fresca
Printable Recipe

1 lb strawberries,  hulled and sliced
2 1/2 cups cold water
4 Tbls sugar
1 lime, juiced

Puree the strawberries in a food processor. Strain them through a mesh strainer.   Pour the seedless puree into a pitcher and add the water, lime juice and sugar. Stir well.  Serve over ice, and garnish with lime slice.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

I interrupt my strawberry series to bring you Macarons.  Hopefully you will find them equally delicious!  Before I started blogging, I had never heard of a French Macaron.  Then I saw them everywhere, and everyone made them look so pretty, but they had a reputation of being so technically difficult.  I was scared to try them.  But after I made Pistachio Ice Cream, I had egg whites like crazy.  Normally I would throw away 1 or 2 if I had them, but 6 felt way too wasteful.  So I had to come up with something to do with them.  It felt like it was time to try Macarons. 

Being that I am not French, and I am not all that fancy of a person, I had to make these my way.  I picked a chocolate version with a peanut butter buttercream frosting.  A truly American flavor with a delicate French dessert.  I read up a lot before I made my first batch.  I consulted Annie's Eats, Tartlette's Tutorial, and of course how could I not read Mad about Macaron's? I think the main thing I learned is that it is humid in Iowa, even with the air conditioning on.  So I should have let them sit out longer before baking.  The first tray ended up in the garbage, the second tray was much better. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons
Printable Recipe

For the Macarons:
110 gm almond flour
200 gm minus 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa powder (Dutch-process preferred)
100 gm egg whites (from about 3 eggs), aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours
50 gm granulated sugar

Peanut Butter Butter Cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tbls milk

Combine almond flour, confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder until well blended (I used my food processor).  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy.  Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms.  Add the ground almond mixture to the bowl with the meringue and quickly but gently fold together using a wide rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  You want to achieve a thick batter that ribbons or flows from the spatula when lifted.

Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats.  Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip.  Pipe into small rounds on the prepared baking sheets (each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter), spaced about 1 inch apart.  Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to develop a hard shell.

Preheat the oven to 300˚F.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size.  Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before moving the cookies. 

While the cookies are cooling, make the frosting.  Stir together all the ingredients until it is the right consistency.  I always just add the milk at the end to get the texture I want.  Put into a piping bag, fitted with a plain tip. 

Once the cookies are cool, match them up so they are paired with one that is a like size.  Squeeze some frosting onto the base, and place the top on.  Gently press down.  They are best to eat the next day. 

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberry Crumb Bars

So strawberry week continues.  This week I do have a few other recipes to share with you as well.  But don't worry, I will keep bringing the strawberry recipes!  I have to don't I, the Milkshakes, Muffins, and Popsicles I posted so far have gotten me on the Top 9 on Foodbuzz.  I am thinking I should really have a strawberry summer! 

We are getting ready to go on our summer vacation.  We leave Friday afternoon to go to the mountains of Colorado!  We love hiking, and try to go out to Colorado once a year.  Very excited that this year we are trying out a new location.  Hopefully we will not be disappointed.  Don't worry though, I have a few guest posts lined up for while I am gone - so you won't miss me too much!  Stay tuned for them, I have had a peak at them, and they are good! 

I have been seeing strawberry, blueberry, raspberry crumb bars all over the place.  They sounded so good, I had to use some of my strawberries to make my own.  I combined a couple recipes to come up with this one.  I used Brown Eyed Bakers, Raspberry Steusel Bars, and Simply Scratches, Strawberry Streusel Bars with White Chocolate Drizzle. I did not end up putting a glaze on top, I debated for a long time.  I was just going to make a simple glaze with powdered sugar, vanilla and milk.  But I decided against. it.  They were just so good without it.

Strawberry Crumb Bars
Printable Recipe

2 1/3 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Butter - cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    + 2 Tbls butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Quick Cooking Oats
3/4 cup strawberry jelly
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 tsp lemon juice

Spray a 13x9 in pan with no stick spray.

In electric mixer stir together flour, sugar and salt.  With the mixer on a low speed add the 1 cup of butter, 1 piece at a time.  Continue mixing until combined  - about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Take 1 1/4 cups of this mixture and set aside. With the remaining, press this firmly into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 375 for 14 minutes.  The edges will be slightly browned.

While that is baking.  Add brown sugar, and oats to the reserved flour mixture.  Work in the remaining 2 Tbls of butter, using your fingers.  Work until it is in small clumps.  

Combine the jelly, strawberries and the lemon juice in a small bowl.  Mash with a fork to combine.  Be sure to leave some chunks of berries in there. 

Spread filling evenly over the hot crust.  Sprinkle with the streusel topping over the strawberries.  Bake for 22 to 25 minutes.  The crust will be brown, and the filling will be bubbly.  Enjoy!

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Week in Review 6/25/11

It has been a great week!  I made the Top 9 with my Strawberry Milkshakes for the first time!  Foodgawker accepted my Strawberry Muffins!  I joined Twitter!  Big week!

Yesterday we took our 6 year old to see Cars 2.  He was completely obsessed with the first one for almost 3 years.  When you are that young, 3 years is a significant part of your life.  So opening day, we went all out.  We saw it in 3D, and we got the souvenir popcorn, drink, and character silly straw.  He LOVED it!  He is easily entertained, I mean he is 6.  But recently we saw Megamind, and when that was over, he said he never wanted to watch that again.  So he does have some standards! 

I have plenty more strawberry recipes coming your way next week.  But I will break it up a bit - I have so much stuff I want to share!

Don't forget to enter my Giveaway!  You have a chance to win 2 pounds of nuts/dried fruit!

Here is what I was up to this week:
Five Spice Pork Lo Mein - a super flavorful, quick and easy stir fry
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie - a cream pie with layers of chocolate and peanut butter - so good!
Strawberry Milkshakes - strawberries and ice cream....enough said
Strawberry Muffins - great muffins, with a hint of cinnamon
Strawberry Popsicles - Cool, refreshing, and fruity

Here is what you were up to that caught my eye:
Milky Way Pots de Creme by Tasty Trials - these just sound amazing.  I love Milky Way
Buffalo Boneless Chicken Wings by Bake Your Day - I absolutely love Buffalo chicken, and a healthy version?!
Creamy Basil Pasta Salad by The Country Cook - this is a great idea for any summer get together
White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Blondies by More Than A Mount Full - I really need to find a reason to make these, they sound completely sinful!
Soy Lime Marinade by Kitchen Confidante - love these flavors for summer grilling!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strawberry Popsicles

Popsicles are all the rage in blog land this week.  Happy to say I made my own last weekend.  I have made popsicles before, but not with fresh fruit.  I like the buy the frozen fruit popsicles at the store, so I wanted to re-create those at home.  I almost did it.  I know what I did wrong, and will correct next time.  These are delicious, don't get me wrong - but not the total fruit flavor I was going for.  I will post the recipe with my changes for next time. 

I will leave you with this 1 last strawberry post until next week. Now I am off to go run an extra mile or two for all the stuff I have been eating.  Vacation is coming up, and I need to get in shape!

Strawberry Popsicles
Recipe Adapted from Recipes by Suite 101
Printable Recipe

1 cup fresh strawberries
¼ cup sugar

Mash  strawberries with a fork.  Stir in sugar.  Let sit for 20 minutes to get all juicy.  Pour into molds (or paper cups if you don't have molds), and Freeze!

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strawberry Muffins

I did it, I joined Twitter!  I haven't set up the link on my page yet, not exactly sure how to do that.  Hopefully this week I can figure it out.  Until then you can follow me at!/Dinnersdishes

It is no secret that we are a muffin household here.  I just counted and I currently have 7 kinds in the freezer.  That is kind of embarrassing, but what can you do!  I think I just put my foot down and said we need to get rid of some before I make more.  As sad as that is, I need to clean out my freezer!  I made these last year when we had fresh strawberries, and they were delicious!  So I knew I was going to make them again this year for sure!

Strawberry Muffins
Recipe adapted from Allrecipes
Printable Recipes

1/4 cup Canola Oil
1/2 cup Milk
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 cup Sugar
1 3/4 cup Flour
1 cup chopped Strawberries

In a small bowl combine oil, milk, and egg.  Beat lightly.  In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Toss in chopped strawberries and stir to coat with flour.  Pour in milk mixture and stir together.

Fill 12 muffin cups with batter.  Bake at 375 for 16 minutes.  Enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Strawberry Milkshakes

And let the strawberry recipes begin!  We went to our Farmer's Market on Saturday morning and saw strawberries at a few stands.  I sent my husband to ask one of the people when they were starting pick your own for the year.  He said they started it last week!  Our plans immediately changed that afternoon, and off we were to the strawberry patch.  Our 6 year old had a great time, and was on his own quest for the perfect strawberry!  He did so much better this year vs last year, the weather may have helped as well.

When we get home with our 13 pounds of strawberries, I immediately started prepping for all the recipes I want to make.  My husband, on the other hand went straight to the computer in search of his own recipe.  He deemed Strawberry Milkshakes to be the winner.  It was the first thing finished, so it was our first yummy treat!  Aside from the many berries we ate along the way :)  And this is great for the homemade vanilla ice cream we had in the freezer (that recipe will come someday as well).

Strawberry Milkshakes
Recipe by Emeril Lagasse
Printable Recipe

1/2 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 heaping tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup milk

In a mixing bowl combine the sliced strawberries, sugar and vanilla extract and stir to combine well. Set aside for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.
In blender (or food processor if you don't have a blender)  place the strawberries, ice cream, and milk. Blend until smooth.
Pour into glass and top with whip cream to serve.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Ok, I know I promised you strawberry recipes, and TRUST me they are coming!  Boy are the coming.  I have made: strawberry shortcake, strawberry milkshakes, pancakes with strawberry sauce, strawberry raspberry jam, a strawberry drink, strawberry sorbet, and strawberry popsicles!!  So I think I have you set for the next month!  I still have about a pound I need to make something with.  I was thinking some kind of a crumb bar, any suggestions? 

In honor of Father's Day weekend, and of my very supportive husband, I am giving you his favorite dessert.  This was based off the Peanut Cup Pie you can find at Perkins and Baker's Square.  I think we originally found this recipe at Kraft Foods, and then modified it some. 

Peanut Butter Cream Pie
Printable Recipe

1 Graham Cracker Crust (recipe below)
1/2 cup hot fudge
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cup cold milk
2 packages vanilla flavor instant pudding
1/2 tub Cool Whip, thawed
1/2 cup mini reese's peanut butter cups, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbls powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Graham Cracker Crust
1 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

Mix sugar with crushed crackers.  Stir in melted butter.  Pour into pie plate.  Press firmly against sides and bottom.  Bake at 375 for 8 minutes.  Cool.

For the pie - Spoon the hot fudge into the bottom of the crust.  Freeze for 10 minutes. 

Beat peanut butter and milk with whisk until well blended.  Add the pudding mixes.  Beat for 2 minutes, the mixture will be thick. 

Gently stir in the cool whip, and the peanut butter cups. 

Spoon over the chocolate layer. Put in the fridge to set.

While that is in the fridge, make whipped cream.  Beat the heavy cream on high for a couple minutes.  Until it looks like it is starting to come together.  Add the sugar, and vanilla, and whip until you have soft peaks.  Spread this on top of the peanut butter layer.

Sprinkle with peanut butter cups.  Refrigerate for 3 hours or until set. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Five Spice Pork Lo Mein

Hope everyone had a great weekend, and a great Father's Day!  On Saturday we went to pick strawberries.  It was a great time, and we came home with almost 13 pounds of them.  Stay tuned later in the week for lots of strawberry recipes!  I am still trying to come up with something else to make to use up the last pound.  
In the mean time, I have a great quick dinner for you. We love stir-fry here.  This is a super easy, but really good one.  We found this one years ago, and it is still in our rotation! It is super flavorful, and makes great leftovers as well!

5-spice Pork Lo Mein
Adapted from Cooking Light
Printable Recipe

1 package uncooked Chinese-style noodles 
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger 
1 1/2 Tbls  five-spice powder 
1 (approx 1 lb)pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into thin strips 
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided 
2 tablespoons canola oil 
1/2 cup water 
1/2 cup hoisin sauce 
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place in a large bowl. Snip noodles several times with kitchen scissors.  Our local grocery store sells a package called Chinese-Style noodle - it looks kind of like Ramen.  Last week I was at the Asian market, so I picked up a different shaped noodle, and it was just as good!

Combine ginger, five-spice powder, and pork in a medium bowl; add 1/4 teaspoon salt, tossing to coat. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add pork mixture; sauté 2 minutes or until browned. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, water, and hoisin sauce; cook 2 minutes or until pork is done. Add pork mixture and green onions to noodles; toss well to combine.

Linked to:  "Get Grillin’ with Family Fresh Cooking and Cookin’ Canuck, sponsored by Ile de France CheeseRösleEmile HenryRouxbe and ManPans.”


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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Week in Review 6/18/11

Happy Father's Day!!  Does anyone have any great Father's Day plans this weekend?  I am not sure the weather is going to cooperate here for anything outdoors, we will have to see.  I do know that we will be making my Barbeque Ribs on Sunday, along with some Coleslaw.  We are going to have a family movie day, and eat some popcorn as well.  The rest we will have to see what the weather will do.  It has been a busy week, as I was overly ambitious with my Father's Day present, or I procrastinated....however you want to look at it.  But I had a great idea come Wednesday, and probably should have had that idea about a week ago. Oh well, all is good!  I hope all the Dad's out there have a wonderful Father's Day!

Here is a not flattering picture of me - But I am with my Dad and my husband - my 2 favorite Dad's.  This was my Dad's first hike to the top of a mountain!

This is what I was up to this week:
Honey Oat Bread - a bread that involved no kneading, but is light and delicious
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Bars - Chocolate Chip Cookies meet Cheesecake - yum!
Kids Lunch Ideas - A Mom's Guide to happy kids all summer
Homemade Milky Way - Great candy, you can make at home!
Pistachio Ice Cream - Best ice cream ever!  And my first GIVEAWAY

This is what has caught my eye this week:
Indian Spiced Grilled Chicken by A Spicy Perspective - this looks like a great blend of spices for grilled chicken!
S'mores Blondies by Vittles and Bits - S'mores and blondies...enough said!
Whole Wheat Pasta with Pistachio Pesto by Jul's Kitchen - Pistachio's are my husbands favorite!
Lingerie Cookies by Cherry Tea Cakes - these are just too cute!  Wish I had a reason to attempt them.
Strawberry Banana Puff Pastry Donuts by Cooking with Chrissy - puff pastry turned into a donut - love it!

Hope you have a great weekend!  Enjoy your day Dads!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pistachio Ice Cream and My First GIVEAWAY!!!

A couple weeks ago I was contacted by someone at Oh!Nuts to see if I would like to sample a few kinds of nuts and write about the recipes I came up with.  I was shocked and amazed!  I had read about people who were sent products, but never really thought I would get that lucky.  So I immediately responded with the kinds I would like (Pistachio’s, Hazelnuts, Almond Flour), and they arrived just a couple days later. Stay tuned for recipes involving the rest later.  

I picked Pistachio’s because they are my husband’s absolute favorite nut.  He was eating a couple and said he thought they might be his favorite single ingredient food!  So I had to make something that was really going to highlight the pistachio.  We decided on ice cream, and I am so glad we did.  My husband is too.  He said this might be the all time best ice cream he has ever had (and he has tried quite a few).    I had a hard time finding a recipe, there aren’t that many out there.  After reading a bunch of reviews I finally decided on this one.  

Pistachio Ice Cream
Adapted from BrownEyed Baker

1 ¼ cup shelled pistachio nuts
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
½ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Grind the 1 ¼ cup pistachios in a food processor.  They should be finely ground, but not a paste. 

In a large saucepan heat the milk, sugar, and 1 cup of the cream.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Stir in the ground nuts.  Cover, remove from heat, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.  

Strain the warm nuts mixture, pressing the nuts to remove as much liquid as possible. Throw away the nuts.   Put the liquid back in the saucepan.   In a separate bowl pour the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream.  Cover this bowl with a strainer.  Set this aside for later.   In another bowl whisk together the egg yolds.  Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly.  Then pour back into the saucepan. 

Stir constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.  You will want to make sure you scrape the bottom when you are stirring.  Pour the custard through the strainer and into the cream.  Add the vanilla and almond extract.  Stir to combine.  

Refrigerate until cold.  Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the directions.  One finished churning, fold in the ½ cup pistachios.  Store in air tight container in freezer. 

Now the Giveaway!!
Oh! Nuts agreed to give 1 lucky reader 2 bags of their own nuts/dried fruit. 
What do you need to do?
Go to Oh! Nuts.  Have a look around, they have lots of great stuff.  Come back here and leave a comment telling me what 2 products you would like to have shipped to you, if you win. 

Additional entries:  (leave a separate comment for each)
1.        Follow my blog (Google Friend Connect, or email)
2.        Like my Facebook Page
3.        Re-post this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, wherever!  Spread the word, tell your friends.    Everytime you repost or retweet, let me know!

The drawing will close on June 28 at midnight (central time). will pick a winner.  Please make sure your email address is correct, so I can contact you if you win.  I will then need to know your street address, so the nuts can be shipped.  Opened to U.S Residents only, sorry!

So excited to have my first giveaway!  Good luck!

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Homemade Milky Ways

Milky Way’s are one of my all time favorite candy bars.  Since I have started blogging I have seen people making all sorts of candy and crackers and other stuff I never would have thought you could do at home.  So when I was trying to come up with something to give my son’s teacher at the end of the year, I figured I would give these a shot!  I had already made Peanut Butter Cups, why couldn’t I tackle these!

They were really pretty easy, aside from the dipping part.  Dipping is easy, just very tedious, and never looks as good as I want it to.  But these did taste very good.  You do have to be careful when melting the caramel.  If you go for a few seconds too long you get very chewy caramel.  I would know, that is exactly what I did.  Sorry Mrs. E!!!  I would have started over, but I was out of caramels, and didn’t have time to go to the store to get more.  They still tasted really good, just chewy! 

Milky Way

1 bag milk chocolate chips
3 Tbls Evaporated Milk
1 container Marshmallow Fluff
1 (14 oz) bag of caramels, unwrapped
3 Tbls Evaporated Milk
Milk Chocolate for Dipping (about a pound)

Place the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for about 45 seconds.  Stir to completely melt all the chocolate.  If you need to microwave further, do for very short periods – you do not want the chocolate the burn.  Stir in the marshmallow fluff and the evaporated milk.  

Pour this into an 8x8 pan that is lined with foil, and sprayed with non-stick spray.   Place this in the fridge to harden while you work on the next step.  

Put the caramels and the rest of the milk in a bowl, and microwave until they are melted.  Start with 45 seconds, and then stir.  If needed heat for longer, checking every 15 seconds.  Once nice and smooth, pour over the chocolate mixture.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  

Once firm, remove from the pan and cut into desired size.  Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, and get to dipping!  I set it on a baking sheet, and then placed it in the fridge to harden.  

My son had one when the chocolate was still a little melty, and he said they were one of the best things ever!  My husband took the leftovers to work, and they got rave reviews as well.  I will be making these again for sure, but next time I will keep a better eye on my caramel melting!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Reader Request: Kids Lunch Ideas

I received an email from a reader last week asking to do a post on ideas for kids lunches.  My first thought was, really?  I am not the person to ask. I struggle with this every day!  But that being said, I figure there are a lot of Mom's out there with this dilemma right now.  Summer break, kids home, needing to come up with lunch ideas.  So why not create a post, and let you the readers help me!  I have 1 boy who is 6 years old and very picky.  So our lunches are very basic! I have a few good ideas, and I have done some research to help.  But who better than other Mom's to throw out their great ideas!

A few staples to get you through lunch
   -  Yogurt (squeeze, containers, etc.)
   -  Cheese (shredded, string, cubes, etc.)
   -  Tortillas
   -  Lunch Meat
   -  Fruit (Banana's, strawberries, apples, grapes etc.)
   -  Peanut Butter (assuming no nut allergies)
   -  Bread (sliced bread, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, tortilla's)

Pizza!  What kid doesn't love pizza.  Here are a few quick, easy, healthy ways to do pizza for lunch
   -   English Muffin Crust
   -   Tortilla Crust
   -   Pillsbury Biscuit Crust
 Just top with sauce, cheese and your favorite toppings.  Bake to melt the cheese and crisp the crust!

Lunchables! Make your Own!  My son loves the idea of lunchables everytime he is at the store, but he never eats them.  Why?  They are kind of gross!
   -  Sliced Cheese - Buy the big chunks of it, and cut slices
   -  Meat (You can get the deli to cut it thicker for you)
   -  Crackers
  Put it all on a plate, and let me create what they want with it!

Quesadilla's!  My son just likes cheese in his, but you can add whatever veggies or meat your kids like. I use my sandwich press to get it crispy, but a saute pan will work just as well.

Sandwiches!  This is obvious, but it can be boring!
   -  Use hot dog buns.  My son thinks it is just like Subway when we do that
   -  Nutella is a great sub for peanut butter (and they think they are getting a huge treat).
   -  Use Cream cheese and strawberries
   -  Pita's can be more fun that just bread!
   -  Make it into a wrap using a tortilla
   -  Toast a Waffle - great alternative to regular bread.

Hot Dogs! It is summer afterall!
   -  Wrap Pillsbury Cresent Rolls around a hot dog and bake
   -  If you have time check out this recipe for Pretzel Dogs- AWESOME!!! 
   -  Make your own Corn Dogs at home
   -  Slice up hot dogs and put it in Mac n' Cheese

   -  I make extra mini burgers, slightly under cook them, and then freeze them.  They are great to pull from the freezer, and reheat for a quick lunch

One thing to remember - it doesn't have to be a put together formal meal.  Peanut butter and apple slices, a slice of cheese, and yogurt is a great lunch.  You have all the key elements to keep your child full - protein, fiber, fruit, calcium, etc. 

Disney's Family Fun site has some really fun ideas for lunches and snacks

Please, let me know what you feed your kids for lunch!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Bars

The other night we went to a birthday party for a 3 year old.  I was asked to bring my guacamole to the party, and was more than happy to help.  I obviously love cooking, so I asked if I could bring anything else.  She thought she had it covered, but then heard what I was thinking of making.  She immediately took me up on my offer!  And boy am I glad I did.  It was a HUGE hit!  Everyone raved about them, and wanted the recipe!  The birthday boy loves baseball, and had a wonderful cake that looked just like a giant baseball, but these bars were a great treat as well. 

I don’t usually like Cheesecake, never really have.  But recently I am turning a corner, and have tasted a couple I like.  One was a layered cheesecake, with a chocolate cookie crust and then 3 layers (chocolate, almond, brown sugar) of cheesecake.  That was good!  I have been seeing a few different ideas on this bar floating around.  Some have a graham cracker crust, some don’t.  So I wanted to make my own version.  And boy these bars were good, I will happily make them again!   I guess this might prove that if you put enough sugar in cream cheese, I will eat it! 

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cookie Bars

Cookie Layer:
½ cup butter
½ cup shortening
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 bag chocolate chips

Cheesecake Layer:
1 (8oz) package cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

The cookie layer is just my normal chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Cream together the butter, shortening and sugar.  Add in eggs, and vanilla.   Mix in flour, salt, and baking soda.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Transfer this to another bowl.  

In mixer beat cream cheese until smooth  - about 2-3 minutes on medium speed.  Add sugar, egg and vanilla.  Mix until just combined. 

Using a 13x9 pan, spread ½ the cookie dough over the bottom of the pan.   Pour the cream cheese mixture over the dough.  With the remaining dough, drop chunks of it over the cream cheese.  

Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.  The top will be lightly browned, and if you insert a toothpick it will come out clean.  This was my first time making anything related to Cheesecake, so I wasn’t sure how to tell when it was done.   But it was perfect!  

Allow to cool before slicing.  Store in the fridge.  

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