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Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts: May 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I hope everyone had a great long weekend.  We got lots done around our house, our yard, and spent time with friends.  It was a good weekend, but now back to reality!  At least until Friday when we go to see family for a few days!  My Sister-in-Law will be up with her kids from Florida, so we will get to spend some much needed time with them. 

Pavlova is traditionally topped with Kiwi and is a New Zealand specialty.  We had it in March when we were on vacation there, and I fell in love.  I had it topped with passion fruit, and then I had a rolled chocolate one, that was amazing!!  Back at home we opted to make one topped with strawberries.  My husband made it for me on Mother's Day, and it was so good!  For his business dinner a couple weeks ago he wanted to make it again.  But this time we got to work together on it.  Love when he helps in the kitchen and we can do it together!

Meringue SEEMS hard, but it is really so EASY.  If you have an electric stand mixer it will do all of the work for you.  Really, it is easy!  Trust me!  You can make it and your guests will be amazed, but you can keep the secret that it was simple. 

From Alton Brown
Printable Recipe

4 ounces egg whites, room temperature
Pinch kosher salt
6 ounces sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp corn starch

Whipped Cream
Cut up Fruit

Start by heating your oven to 250 degress,  You will want a large sheet pan that is lined with parchment paper, or a silicone linear. 

In the stand mixer bowl put in your egg whites and a pinch of salt.  Using the whisk attachment on high, whisk until stiff peaks, 4 to 5 minutes. 

Reduce the speed to medium and add the sugar over 2 minutes. 

Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Increase the speed to high and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy and stiff peaks for, 6 to 7 minutes. 

 Decrease speed to low, and add the vanilla, vinegar and cornstarch.  Mix just to combine. 

Gently spoon the meringue onto the lined pan, and spread to make about a 9 inch circle forming a slight well in the center. 

Place the meringue into the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave it in the oven for 3 more hours.  Open the oven door and cool completely before removing from the oven, approximately 30 minutes. 

Just before serving make the Whipped Cream, you can find a recipe here.  Top the meringue with whipped cream, and sliced berries or fruit of your choice.  Serve immediately. 

A VERY happy boy there was leftovers from the party.  He LOVES Pavlova!

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Week in Review 5/28/11

My second week in review, and I think I am hooked!  I love the idea of sharing ideas from other sites that I have bookmarked and am excited to try.  There are SO many bloggers out there, it is great to get introduced to new ones all the time.  I am going to have to start running more with all the good ideas I see out there!  Good thing I am thinking about training for another 1/2 marathon. 

We went out to dinner last night to celebrate my son finishing Kindergarten and doing such a good job.  He got this balloon and the restaurant.  Is this not the coolest balloon EVER!  And we didn't even go to a kids restaurant!  We went to the only place in town that we could get Fish and Chips from the kids menu!

So here is what I have been up to this week! 
Salsa - A great canned tomato recipe for when fresh tomatoes aren't in season yet.
Baked Wontons - Crispy, yummy healthy wontons!
Guacamole - My standard go to recipe.
Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins - Great combination of fruit for a perfect spring muffin.
Caramel Layer Bars - Chocolate brownie with a layer of gooey caramel.
Chicken Skewers with Avocado Sauce - Grilled chicken with a cool avocado dipping sauce.

Recipes I have bookmarked, and can't wait to try!
Cinnamon Roll Muffins from The Baker Chick - these are just an amazing idea!
Soft Caramel Popcorn from In Katrina's Kitchen - this is just impressive!
Grilled Pork Tenderloin from Diethood - I love pork tenderloin, and the marinade here sounds wonderful!
Blueberry Buckle from Tracey's Culinary Adventures - my son loves blueberry muffins, this look like a great alternative!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!  Anyone have any great plans?  What are you making?  Mine are still a little up in the air - Going to a 3 year old's birthday party this afternoon though!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Chicken Skewers

It is the last day of school for my little boy today!  He is officially done with Kindergarten.  I don't know how we got here so quickly!  Only 9 short months ago he could barely read a few words, and now he is reading chapter books, he wants to walk to the bus stop alone, and just get dropped off by the door.  So bitter sweet to see him grow up and become so much more independent. 

Ok, sorry!  Proud Mom.  I will move on to the food now!

Memorial Day weekend is here!  It is practically the grilling holiday of the country.  So after you take a second to remember what Memorial Day is all about, and all the people who have fought so we can grill to our hearts content on this day, consider something other than a burger.  Oh don't get me wrong, I love a good burger!  But I do like to change it up as well.  These chicken skewers are a great alternative.  1.  They are healthy  2.  They have an avocado dipping sauce (did you read that right?  AVOCADO!)  3.  They are super quick and easy.  We had these the other night, and they were a hit all around.  My son doesn't like avocado (I know, I really need to do something about him), so he dipped his in ranch. 

Chicken Skewers with Cool Avocado Sauce
Printable Recipe
Adapted from Taste of Home Healthy Cooking

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup lime juice
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
2 tsp minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1/2 tsp salt

1 avocado
1-2 Tbls sour cream
1 Tbls minced cilantro
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp lime zest
1/4 tsp salt

Pound chicken to about 1/4 in thick, and cute into 1 inch strips.  Combine the lime juice, vinegar, chipotle and salt in a ziploc bag.  Add chicken, and squish it around to coat.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

To make the sauce halve the avocado and remove the pit.  Using a fork mash the avocado.  Stir in the sour cream and cilantro.  Once well combined add the zest, salt, and squeeze in the juice from half a lime.   Refrigerate until serving.

Thread the chicken onto skewers.  If you are using wooden skewers, make sure they are soaked first.  This prevents them from burning, and from splinters getting into your meat.  Discard the marinade.  Grill covered over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side until no longer pink. 

Serve with the sauce.  Enjoy!

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Caramel Layer Bars

Jana this is for you!  These caramel brownies are one of my favorites.  My mom made them when I was growing up, and they are just gooey and delicious.  We didn’t get them often, because my Dad preferred a plain chocolate brownie, but he is just weird!  It happens to be one of the very few chocolate desserts my husband actually likes (I know he is weird too).  So when I was trying to come up with what to make for his business dinner, and he suggested these, I was thrilled.  There was going to be leftovers!!  
The base is a box cake mix, and you just have to be ok with that.  It makes it easy, and oh so yummy! I am sure you could use a regular brownie recipe, and just prep in the same way, but I have never tried it.  Why mess with success, right? These would make for a perfect Memorial Day weekend dessert!

Caramel Layer Bars
14 oz caramels
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix
¾ cup melted butter
1/3 cup evaporated milk
6 oz chocolate chips

Melt caramel and 2/3 cup evaporated milk – cool slightly

Combine Cake mix, ¾ cup butter, and 1/3 cup milk.  Mix well.  Put half of mixture into a 13x9 pan.  Bake at 350 for 6 minutes.  

Sprinkle 6 oz of chocolate chips. 

Spread caramel mixture of the chocolate chips. 

Crumble the remaining dough over the caramel. 

Bake for 25 more minutes.

Allow to cool before cutting, if you can resist.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Guess what?!?!?!  I am now a Featured Publisher with Foodbuzz (check it out on the right)!!  Super excited to start this journey, and see where it leads.

Now to the muffins....
In case you missed it, rhubarb season arrived a couple weeks ago, and everyone in the food blogging world has been posting recipes like crazy.  I am kind of late in the game here, but this is my requisite rhubarb recipe.  I did make it a week ago, but am just getting around to writing it.  I have very limited rhubarb experience, and am not sure how much I actually like it. I know, gasp!  I had a strawberry rhubarb pie years ago, but that had ice cream or whip cream and lots of strawberries, so not sure that is fair.  And I also made strawberry rhubarb jelly a few years ago, but that had tons of sugar and I think there was even jello in it.  So these muffins, that were really full of rhubarb, I am not sure what to think.  Very tart.  I did give them to someone who likes rhubarb, and she said they were great - so makes me wonder about my taste for rhubarb. 

I don't know where this recipe came from.  I printed it a LONG time ago, but it doesn't have a site, or name on it. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins
Printable Recipe

1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup minced rhubarb
1/2 cup sliced strawberries

3 Tbls brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine egg, milk, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Add flour, sugar, baking powder.  Mix.


Fold in the strawberry and rhubarb.  Fill greased or lined muffin tins.

Sprinkle the topping over each muffin.  Ok - you will see that I have a strawberry on top of each muffin.  The recipe called for this - leave it off!  I repeat - LEAVE IT OFF!!!  It looks pretty, but it is just a soggy mess.  You could put one on after they bake for serving, but baking a whole strawberry just leaves is mushy and kind of gross. 

Bake at 400 degrees for about 16 minutes.  Enjoy!

This recipe is linked to Taking Time for Mommy

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I have loved guacamole as long as I can remember.  We always had Mexican food on Sunday when I was growing up, and guacamole was usually on the menu.  So when I met my husband and he said he didn’t like it, I was shocked.  We made him try it, and he liked it!!  Turns out, I think he had only ever had the stuff in restaurants, which in my experience is notoriously BAD!  Over the years, he has grown to love it as much as I do, I think.  Now if we could only get our son on board. 

This is the recipe I grew up with, and I still make.  Lately if I have lime on hand I have been squirting some in, but that is a very new addition.  I have tried with cilantro and jalapeno’s and all sorts of other recipes, but I always come back to this.  And really, I get rave reviews on this one – so why change! 


2 Avocados
3 Tbls onion, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Lime juice (optional)

Halve the avocados, and remove the pits.  Using a fork mash the avocado.  

I have never measured anything with this recipe, so it is all estimates.  Play around with it how you like it.  Start small, and add more.  This is what is looks like once I put my seasonings on before I mix it all together.  

I squeeze the lime on at the end, if I put it on.  It is supposed to help it not turn brown. I just read in a magazine though that you are supposed to run your avocado (after it is cut in half, I believe), under super cold water, and that works too.  The article said there was no real reason why this worked, it just worked. 

If you want to get fancy you can put it in a bowl, and serve with chips.  Or you can just eat off the plate!  Whatever works for you.  

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Baked Wontons and a Bonus!

I mentioned before that I got a few cookbooks for Mother’s Day.  On like page 2, I saw a recipe for crispy baked wontons.  It was a must!  They looked great, and they were healthy.   This was the first on my long list of must try’s from this Taste of Home, Healthy Cooking cookbook. 

Once I had all the ingredients, I set to work.  These are a little labor intensive.  Any time you have mini filled things, you know it is going to take awhile.  But I was prepared, after all, they were wontons!  I am pretty sure this is a very Americanized version, but we enjoyed them.  They made the coveted, Will Make Again list.  They would work well as party appetizers, but we weren’t going  to wait for a party to try them.  And they were perfect.  You could easily freeze some instead of baking them all right away.  And when you have leftover Wonton wrappers, be sure to try Dessert Wontons

Crispy Baked Wontons

½ lb ground pork
½ lb pound ground turkey
1 small onion chopped
1 can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
¼ cup egg substitute
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
1 pkg wonton wrappers

In a large skillet cook the pork, turkey, and onion until the meat is cooked through.  Drain.  In a large bowl mix together the meat, water chestnuts, soy sauce, egg substitute and ginger.  Now if you don’t have egg substitute you could just use 1 regular egg.  Or even leave it out.  I am not sure it did much.  I ended up with a soup at the bottom of my meat,.  So next time, I am going to put the soy sauce in with the meat during the last few minutes of cooking, and just leave the egg out. 

Then comes the wrapping.   It is kind of hard to explain, so check out the pictures for the examples.  Lay one wrapper down at an angle.  Put in about 2 tsp of filling.  You have to play around with the amount to make it work for you.  Too much, and they don’t fold up well.   Moisten all the edges with water.  

Fold over the 2 sides.  

Starting at the bottom roll up to seal.  This isn’t how the book described, so you can mess around and see what works for you. 

 Place all the wontons on a lined baking sheet.  Spray them with cooking spray and bake at 400 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.  I turned on the broiler the last minute to get them more brown and crispy.  

Serve with Sweet and Sour Sauce for dipping.  My super picky 6 year old even ate a couple (he dipped his in ranch)!  Huge success!

What to do with the other ½ pound of turkey and pork – turn into a burger! 
I just mixed the pork and turkey with about 2 Tbls of Onion Soup Mix and 1 Tbls Ranch Dressing mix (great combo for beef burgers as well). 

 Form into patties.  

Grill for about 7 minutes per side, and top as you would a normal beef hamburger – they were very juicy and yummy!

Have a great week! 

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Sunday, May 22, 2011


My husband and I LOVE Salsa!  For years we have grown tomatoes and peppers, so we could make fresh from the garden salsa.  It has kind of become our "thing" when we go to group get togethers.  We always bring the salsa.  We have quite a few different ones me like, and I am sure they will make an appearance on here as the summer moves on.  But in Iowa tomatoes are not fresh yet.  So what are you do to when you want fresh salsa, but have no fresh tomatoes.  Use canned!

This salsa comes together super fast, and tastes wonderful.  Even though you are using canned tomatoes you do not get that "jar" flavor.  I use jarred salsa for things when cooking, but to just eat - I can't do it.  I used to, but then about 12 years ago my husband introduced me to the world of fresh salsa, and I haven't turned back since. 

Printable Recipe

1 large can whole tomatoes
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 - 2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 jalapeno, minced

Put everything into the food processor.  I like the mince the jalapeno ahead of time.  Just helps to make sure you don't have big chunks.  Process until smooth.  Done!  I told you it was super easy! 

Make sure you taste for seasoning.  If you like it hot, add more jalapeno.  These amounts are estimates, because we usually just dump - so adjust to your liking.  Store in an air tight container in the fridge, lasts for 1-2 weeks.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Week in Review

I have seen these week in review type posts on a few blogs, and I like the idea.  So I am going to give it a try! 

The highlight of my week - this picture got accepted to Tastespotting!

It has been a busy week here.  My husband had a business dinner here one night (lots of recipes to come next week).  This week is the last week of school, not sure I am ready for summer break.  I will love having my son home with me, but I will have to come up with lots of stuff to keep us busy! 

What I have been up to this week:

Dessert Wontons  - Leftover Wonton wrappers filled with chocolate chips and strawberries.

Chicken Vindaloo - One of my first attempts at Indian food from scratch - success!

Naan Bread - A super easy Indian Flat bread.

Herb Grilled Pork Tenderloin - Juicy, flavorful pork - perfect for summer.

Zucchini Fritters - A crunchy way to get your kids to eat veggies.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies - An Oreo inside another cookie!  Enough said!

Things I have seen on other Blogs that I have bookmarked to make:

General Tso's Chicken from Taste and Tell - this is one of my new favorite blogs!

Rosemary and Potato Chip Chicken Tenders from Happy When Not Hungry - My son is going to love making these with me!

Brownie S'mores Whoppie Pies from Kate at - Kate always had the most amazing looking desserts, and this is no exception!

Mushroom Barley Risotto from Brown Eyed Baker - This looks just amazing!

Hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have ever wondered if there was a way to add more calories and make a more delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie - I have the answer for you.  It is a resounding YES!!  Thanks to everyone in the blogosphere who have published cookies like this on their site, I couldn't resist.  You take an Oreo, and surround it with cookie dough, bake, and then you have the most delicious cookie! 

My son came home from school, and I let him have one for his snack.  He wanted to know what it was inside there.  I wouldn't tell him, I wanted to see his face when he figured it out.  It was pure joy on a 6 year olds face.  WHAT?!?!  An Oreo is in here?!  He was so excited, he had chocolate practically from ear to ear (these cookies are HUGE).  He took one in his lunch the next day to school, and all the kids were amazed by his cookie.  He said he got a lot of "How did your Mom DO that?!"  So without further ado....the recipe.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup crisco shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 bag chocolate chips

This is a pretty standard chocolate chip cookie recipe.  The one main difference is most cookies call for 2 sticks of butter, instead of the shortening.  I grew up with these cookies, it was always how my mom made them.  It wasn't until I met my husband that he questioned why I put shortening in a cookie.  I had never looked at another recipe to know that I did it differently.  I think this makes a much softer, chewier cookie.  I think they stay moist longer, and I just like it better.  So if you are feeling daring, go out on a limb and try your next batch of chocolate chip cookies this way - you will not be disappointed!  Sorry, got side tracked.

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add in the eggs and vanilla.  Mix in the flour and baking soda and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Then comes the magic.  Take a ball of cookie dough and place it on a cookie sheet.  Top with an Oreo.  Then take another ball of dough and place that on stop of the Oreo. 

Then squish the dough all around the Oreo - so it looks like a big glob of cookie dough.

Bake at 350 for about 14 minutes.  It will take a little longer than it normally would to bake a chocolate chip cookie.  When it comes out of the oven, oh my word is it good.  I was thinking I would let it cool a little before I tried it, not sure what the Oreo would do in the baking process.  But I couldn't wait, and it was delicious.  Now if you want to go all out - use a Double Stuffed Oreo!!! 

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