What's Baking: Savory Cheesecake



This month's What's Baking is hosted by Jey of The Jey of Cooking.  The theme she chose was Savory Treats.  I loved this theme because it helped me fill a gap on my blog, appetizers.  I don't know about you, but appetizers are my favorite part of holiday gatherings.  So much so that I'm generally full before the meal itself.  So I wanted to be sure to get a few appetizers on here before the holidays.

I had a couple ideas for this theme, but ended up deciding on this Savory Cheesecake because it's a concept I've been wanting to experiment with for a while now.

As I began my search for a recipe, I came across 2 that interested me.  This one from Peggy Trowbridge Filippone and this one from Giada De Laurentiis.  I ended up using ingredients from both and created my own version.

I was barely able to get this photo snapped before JR dug in as it was still piping hot.  We both really liked the flavors here, but the texture out of the oven was a little weird.  Once it cooled the texture improved, so I suggest you let this set and cool to at least warm/room temperature before serving.

Be sure to check out The Jey of Cooking for the round-up which is sure to include Savory Treats you'll want to share with family and friends this holiday season.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp pistachios, shelled
  • 3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups fat free evaporated milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 roasted red pepper halves, chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine bread crumbs, pistachios and Italian seasoning in a food processor, pulsing until pistachios are chopped and well distributed.  Drizzle in olive oil and pulse a few more seconds to combine well.  Dump crumb mixture into bottom of pie plate, cake pan or cheesecake pan and press until evenly spread over bottom of pan.  Place in oven and bake 10-15 minutes just until golden.

Using a mixer, whip cream cheese on high until smooth.  Add cheeses, milk, egg, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper.  Mix on low combine, increase speed to medium and continue mixing until smooth.  Stir in red peppers.

Pour mixture into pan with crust.  Tap pan to release air bubbles.

Bake for 45 minutes until center barely jiggles.  Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Source: Inspired by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone and Giada De Laurentiis

Cranberry Sauce (All Natural, Sweetened with Agave Nectar)


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Can you believe Thanksgiving is this week?!  I say this every year, but this year really has flown by!  I'm sure you already have your Thanksgiving menu finalized and are knee-deep in prep for the feast.  However, just in case you are still looking for one last side dish, or forgot to pick up the canned cousin, I wanted to share this Cranberry Sauce I made for our Thanksgiving dinner.

When I first started making Cranberry Sauce, I used a ton of sugar as indicated in most recipes.  After a few years I started using Splenda to save calories, and this year I challenged myself to make it all natural with agave nectar.  I did a quick search and came upon this recipe from Amy Andrews and decided to give it a try.  Not only did it use agave nectar, I was intrigued by it's use of spices.  Speaking of spices, I had no cheesecloth, so I opted to try my tea ball.  It worked.

This resulted in a less sweet, a little spicy and mighty tasty version of a classic Cranberry Sauce.  Since I'm the only one who eats it, I'm excited to dig into the leftovers mixed in my yogurt and spread on bagels with cream cheese!  If you have ideas for other ways to use up the leftovers, please leave me a comment with your suggestions.

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 12 ounce bag fresh, whole cranberries
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • grated peel of 2 clementines
  • 1/3 cup clementine juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 whole allspice
Place cranberries, agave nectar, grated peel, juice and cinnamon stick in a medium nonreactive saucepan.  Stir to combine.

Place remaining spices in cheesecloth (or a tea ball!), tie the cheesecloth and place in saucepan.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir, reduce heat to low and allow to simmer 15 minutes, or until cranberries pop and sauce becomes syrupy.

Remove from heat and remove tea ball.  Allow to cool, then remove cinnamon stick.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 2 cups.

Source: Amy Andrews: Your Guide to the Food Room

Eat to the Beat: Breakfast in Bed...Waffles with Caramelized Bananas and Pecans


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Elly from Elly Says Opa! is hosting a blog event called Eat to the Beat for her 5-year blog anniversary.  I was intrigued when I heard about this event and decided to jump in and join.

I've had Train on repeat for a while now, I'm obsessed, so it what pretty much a no-brainer when I heard "Breakfast in Bed" come on the day following her announcement.  I always eat breakfast, but JR does not.  However, every once in a while we'll have a weekend breakfast and this weekend makes the second one in a row (it has nothing to do with the fact that I pretty much forced this on him)!

I was browsing through this Brunch cookbook when I came across Waffles with Caramelized Bananas.  Not only did they look delicious, use ingredients I always have on hand and they make for a special treat, just like a Breakfast in Bed should be!

Head on over to the round-up and wish Elly a Happy 5 years!  

Here is what you'll need:
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp superfine sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 large ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
Preheat waffle maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg yolks, milk and butter.  Whisk until smooth.

Using a mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold egg whites into batter.

Fill your waffle maker according to manufacturer's instructions.  Cook until browned to your liking (mine has a light that goes off when it's done, but then I let it go a little longer to brown more).

Meanwhile, in a sauce pan over medium heat, heat butter, maple syrup and pecans until butter is melted and mixture begins to turn golden brown.  Remove pan from heat and add bananas.  Stir to coat bananas well.

Spoon banana pecan syrup over waffles and enjoy!

This made 4 6-inch round waffles (16 quarters), serves 4-6.

Stuffed Pepper Soup


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Ah, Stuffed Pepper Soup.  I haven't had this in a few years, and have been craving it like crazy.  Unfortunately, the local lunch place that sold my favorite Stuffed Pepper Soup went out of business a few years ago.  While I'm still sad they are gone, I am quite happy I have a recipe to make this soup myself now!  I was especially happy to see this recipe included rice, as I remember the local lunch place would serve their version over white rice.  So delicious!

My craving happened to come at an appropriate time, as I have a ton of peppers coming out of my garden (the last of this years produce besides spinach).  I bumped up the vegetables to make each serving more filling since I wasn't serving anything along side.  Not only did this make a filling, comforting meal, it was a cinch to throw together on a weeknight.

Here is what you'll need:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 cups water
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 28 oz canned plum tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season ground beef with salt and pepper, add to pot and cook until brown.  Drain excess fat.

Add remaining ingredients to pot, stir and break up tomatoes using a wooden spoon.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until peppers are tender.  Serves 4.
    Source: Taste of Home

    What's Baking: Sweet Potato Bread


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    This month's What's Baking is hosted by Angela from The Tiny Tyrant's Kitchen.  The theme she chose was Fall Flavors.  My inspiration for Fall Flavors was Thanksgiving.

    Have you started thinking about Thanksgiving?  I have, mostly because I'm shocked I haven't received a call from my Dad to make plans.  Why am I shocked?  Because he usually call no less than 5 times to plan, what I don't know.  We eat the same.thing.every.year, and we each bring the same dishes too.  At any rate I'll report back to you how many phone calls occur to plan for Thanksgiving.

    While this will not be served at our Thanksgiving, remember we don't vary, it does includes sweet potatoes, which we will eat.  This would be a great dessert to serve at your Thanksgiving or any Fall celebration.  Generally, I would consider this a dessert too, however, Sweet Potato Bread makes a great side for the Beef Bourguignon we ate early this week.

    This wasn't my planned What's Baking post, but it served as a great alternate.  You see, my original post was supposed to be Herb and Apple Cranberry stuffing, and well, that post will have to wait for another time since the photo was ridiculously unrecognizable.  The only reason I'm mentioning this is in case you're looking for a great Thanksgiving stuffing.  My photo was horrid, but the stuffing itself was very bright and flavorful!  I'm not a stuffing lover, I actually skip in on Thanksgiving (so I can eat more pie), but I would make, and eat, this stuffing again. 

    Here is what you'll need for the Sweet Potato Bread:
    • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
    • 1/2 cup canola oil
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 1 tsp vanilla sugar (omitted, I did not have any)
    Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

    In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and powder, and salt.

    In a separate large mixing bowl, combine eggs, sweet potatoes, oil and water.

    Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined, do not overmix.

    Spoon mixture into loaf pan.  Top with vanilla sugar.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

    Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Serves 12.

    Source: Penzeys Spices November 2011 Catalog, pg 53

    Beef Bourguignon


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    I had so much fun participating in my first recipe swap that I went ahead and signed up for another one!  This time the theme was soup or stew, and I was given Beef Bourguignon submitted by Nichole at The Cookaholic Wife.  This was another great challenge for me because I don't know if I would have made it had it not been assigned to me.  I've always perceived this recipe to be extremely time consuming and complicated, however, that's just not true.

    I was a little apprehensive when I got half way cooking and opened the bottle of red wine.  This was a bottle that was gifted to me, and I had no idea what varietal it was since the label is in Russian.  It smelled and tasted a bit sweet, which made me panic, but not for long because I began pouring it in and hoped for the best.  Then I drank a glass of wine.

    The good news is, it worked!  Or maybe I just assume it worked because I don't know how the stew is supposed to taste!?  Anyhow, JR commented that it was really good so I'll take that as another sign it worked.

    If you've been putting off making this because it seems a little intimidating or time consuming, put those thoughts out of your mind and go ahead and try it.  My only advice would be to save it for a weekend when you have more time.  And be sure to head over to A Taste of Home Cooking for the Recipe Swap Round-up of Soups.

    Here is what you'll need:
    • 6 slices thick bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces 
    • 2 lbs beef cubes/stew meat, cut into 1 inch chunks
    • salt and pepper
    • 4 carrots, peeled and coined
    • 2 onions, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
    • 1/2 bottle red wine
    • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 cups beef broth
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 6-8 pearl onions
    • 8 oz mushrooms, roughly chopped
    • 3 Tbsp all purpose flour 
    Preheat oven to 250F.

    In a Dutch oven preheated over medium-high heat, add bacon and cook until browned.  Remove from pot and set aside.

    Season beef and add a portion to the bacon fat.  Sear meat on all sides, then remove from pot and set aside.  Repeat in batches with remaining meat.

    Add carrots and onions to the pot, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.  Add garlic to vegetables, stir and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

    Add beef, bacon, wine, tomato paste, beef broth and thyme to the pot.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  Cover pot and place it on the middle rack in the oven.  Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

    15 minutes before the pot is ready to come out of the oven, heat butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add onions and mushrooms and cook until tender, 10-15 minutes.

    Remove pot from oven and place on the stove over medium heat.  Add onion and mushrooms to pot and bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

    In a small bowl, combine flour with a large scoop of liquid from the stew.  Whisk until thickened and well combined.  Add another scoop of liquid to the bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add to the pot of stew and stir until well combined.  Allow the stew to cook another 10-15 minutes until thickened.  Serves 6.
      Source: Ina Garten as seen on The Cookaholic Wife

      Choux Pastry


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      I'm pretty proud of these little pastries!  When I was given the profiterole recipe for the recipe swap I was initially overwhelmed, but I knew I needed to take on the challenge.  I didn't know where to find the pastry nearby, so I went ahead and took on the challenge to make them as well.
      It really wasn't much of a challenge, I followed the directions exactly and had no issues at all.  These have minimal ingredients, so I'm going out on a limb here and pretending I saved myself a bunch of money by making them myself.  You know the fancy name adds a few dollars to the price! 

      I want to caution you, as with any recipe, read the instructions all the way through before starting!  I should know better, but still I did not do this and as a result missed a complete step near the end. 

      Here is what you'll need:
      • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
      • 1/4 teaspoon granulated white sugar
      • 1/8 teaspoon salt
      • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
      • 1/4 cup water
      • 1 large eggs, lightly beaten
      • 1 large egg  
      • 1/8 teaspoon salt
      Preheat oven to 400F, and make sure rack is in the middle.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

      In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar and salt.  Set aside.   

      In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add butter and water.  Bring to a boil.  Remove pan from heat and add dry ingredients.  Using a wooden spoon, stir quickly until dough forms a ball.

      Place dough in stand mixer and beat on low until it cools to warm (I watched for the steam to dissappear).  Add 1 egg and continue to mix until combined.  The dough will now be sticky.

      Using 2 spoons, scoop out dough and drop 6 mounds onto the baking sheet leaving plenty of space between each one.  

      In a small bowl, beat remaining egg and salt until combined.  Using a pastry brush, brush egg mixture over each scoop of dough.  

      Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 30-40 minutes (I took mine out at 35 minutes) or until golden brown on the outside and dry inside when split in half.  Turn the oven off, prop the door open and leave tray in oven another 10-15 minutes (I completely skipped this step because I didn't read all the way through, and they were fine!).

      Remove from oven and finish cooling on a rack.  Serves 6.

      Source: Joy of Baking 

        Pumpkin Profiteroles


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        A cooking message board that I participate in does a recipe swap every few weeks.  The theme this round is Pumpkin / Apple.  I decided to join the swap this round to expand my horizons a bit and hopefully challenge myself by exposing myself to recipes I may not normally make due to my preference or skill level.

        I'm actually a bit embarrassed, because when I received my swap recipe from Coleen I didn't know exactly what a profiterole was.  I knew it was a dessert, but I had no clue what it really was.  That was until I did a quick Google search, and then I got really excited because of course I've seen these before and drooled over them in the baker's case!

        I have no idea where to purchase the pastry shells, so I decided to go ahead and make them myself.  Of course when I saw this Joy of Baking recipe, I knew I'd have to include the chocolate ganache too.  Seriously, I couldn't wait to take a bite of the finished product.

        While this recipe looks like a lot of work, it's fairly uncomplicated and I'm so glad that I made the pastry vs. trying to hunt it down.  I should point out that there is quite a bit of inactive cooking time for the components, so be sure you give yourself enough time if you plan to make these.

        One last note, I didn't realize that I was out of brown sugar, so I went ahead and substituted Splenda Brown Sugar Blend and it seemed to work out fine.  These tasted very decadent, and were so good I ate one for breakfast! :)  Enjoy!

        Be sure to head over to A Taste of Home Cooking for the Apple / Pumpkin Roundup.

        Here is what you'll need:

        For the Filling:
        • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
        • 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
        • 1 large eggs
        • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
        • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
        • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
        • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
        • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
        • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
        • 1/8 tsp salt
        • 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
        For the Ganache:

        • 2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
        • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
        • 1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter
        • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract 
        Preheat oven to 350F.

        To Make Filling: 

        Using a stand mixer, mix pumpkin and sugar until well combined and smooth.  Add egg, lemon juice and spices, and continue mixing until well combined.  Add mascarpone and mix until mixture is well combined and smooth.

        Pour filling into loaf pan.  Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes.

        Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Once cool, scoop out of pan and place in a pastry bag.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

        To Make Ganache:

        Just before serving, chop chocolate and place in mixing bowl.

        In a small saucepan, heat butter and cream over medium heat.  Once the mixture barely comes to a boil, remove from heat and pour liquid over chocolate.  Whisk chocolate until well combined.

        To Assemble:  

        Slice pastry shells in half.  Pipe filling into pastry shells.  Drizzle with ganache.  Serves 6.

        Sources: Does Not Cook Well With Others (filling) and Joy of Baking (pastry and ganache)

        Italian Beef Stew


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        Generally, I make stew in the crockpot.  However, recently I've heard a lot of debate about the crockpot leaving food tasteless.  So I decided to test it out for myself by making this in a Dutch oven.  I'm here to report that this stew was WAY better made on the stovetop, and my husband agreed (he said this was a 10!).  Not only was the flavor sharp, the vegetables were tender, but still intact with nice texture.  

        This stew was a great end to a busy, cool weekend.  We paired it with croissants, and an MLB playoff game.  We are both excited that there was plenty leftover for lunch during the week. 

        Here is what you'll need:
        • 6 Tbsp olive oil
        • 1 1/4 b beef stew meat cut into 1 in. chunks
        • 1/4 cup flour
        • salt and pepper
        • 1 large onion, diced
        • 1/2 leek, diced
        • 1 small stack celery, sliced
        • 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
        • 1 small parsnip, peeled and sliced
        • 1 small purple top turnip, peeled and diced
        • 4 red potatoes, diced 
        • 2 cloves garlic, minced
        • 1 1/2 cup beef broth
        • 2 beef bouillon cubes
        • 28 oz. canned plum tomatoes, including juice
        • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
        • 1 tsp oregano
        • 1 bay leaf
        Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  In a small bowl combine flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Add 1/2 stew meat to the bowl, coating the meat with flour.  Add to Dutch oven, cook until browned on all sides, stirring with a wooden spoon as needed.  Remove meat to a plate and set aside.  Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to Dutch oven, repeat coating and cooking remaining meat.  Remove meat and set aside.

        Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil to Dutch oven.  Add onion, leek and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and slightly browned.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add carrots, parsnip, turnip, potatoes and garlic, stir and cook until garlic is fragrant.

        Add beef broth, bouillon, tomatoes and spices. Stir, break up tomatoes with the spoon and scrape bottom of Dutch oven to release the brown bits.  Add beef, stir, and cover.  Reduce temp to low and cook 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and sauce has thickened.  Serves 6.

        Source: Adventures in My Kitchen

        Pennsylvania Dutch Brownies


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        How is it that today is the last day of September?  This year is just flying by and it's making me a little sad.  Sad because that means my nephew's next birthday is just around the corner.  I know I should be happy, but he is growing up too quickly!  It's been amazing to watch him grow, and I so look forward to each time I see him.

        A week or so ago JR and I went to visit him and his parents for the day.  We brought Italian Drip Beef for lunch and wanted to take along dessert as well.  Generally, cookies or brownies go well with this family.  However, as I may have mentioned before, I do not like making cookies.  I tend to go for bar recipes because they don't require too much babysitting, nor do they require multiple batches.

        I initially picked a peanut butter blondie recipe from an old magazine, but then I realized it made 2-13x9 pans.  Cutting down the recipe wasn't gong to be easy since it called for 3 eggs.  So I abandoned this idea and started searching through cookbooks.

        I came across this interesting brownie recipe.  Not only did I find the ingredients interesting, the directions were a bit different too, and easy.  You cook these on the stovetop, no mixer is required.  Do you see a pattern here?  I know, I was being lazy, but in the end I was so glad I decided on this recipe.

        The result was a really unique, spicy, slightly chocolatey brownie. They are delicious.  So if you are looking for something new to take to your next gathering, go ahead and make these.  You won't be dissapointed.

        Here is what you'll need:
        • 4 Tbsp butter
        • 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
        • 1/4 cup molasses
        • 2 large eggs
        • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
        • 1 tsp ground ginger
        • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
        • 1/2 tsp baking soda
        • 1/2 tsp salt
        • 1 cup plus 2 tsp sugar
        • 1 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
        Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease 13 x 9 pan, set aside.

        Melt butter and chocolate in a 4-qt saucepan over low heat.  

        Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in molasses.  Then whisk in eggs, whisking constantly and quickly so they don't scramble.

        Stir in flour, ginger, cloves, baking soda, salt, 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon with a wooden spoon until just combined.

        Spread batter evenly in pan, place in oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

        Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside.

        When you remove the pan from the oven, immediately sprinkle with sugar cinnamon blend.

        Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.  Serves 24 (more or less depending on how big or small you slice).

        What's Baking: For the Gods Carrot Cake


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        Dani from Cloud 8½ is the host of this month's What's Baking, and chose the theme A Family Favorite.  This immediately sent me to my Grange cookbook (circa 1975) which was a cookbook used by both sides of my family growing up.  Even though my handed-down copy is falling apart, and although I don't picture myself ever making roast pigeons or squirrel pot pie, I still treasure this cookbook and make several recipes from it.

        It was hard for me to choose just one recipe, but I decided on For the Gods Carrot Cake since that was the first recipe I remember helping make from it and it was a childhood favorite of mine.  As you'll see from the ingredients, this is in no way healthy, but it's definitely the most moist cake I've ever eaten.

        Here is what you'll need:
        • 3/4 vegetable oil
        • 2 eggs
        • 1 cup sugar
        • 1 cup all purpose flour
        • 1 tsp baking soda
        • 1 tsp cinnamon
        • 1/4 tsp salt
        • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
        • 1/2 raisins
        • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
        • Confectioners' sugar
        Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease bundt pan and set aside.

        Beat oil, eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together for 5 minutes.  Add carrot, raisins and nuts, and mix well.

        Pour into bundt pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

        Cool in pan before turning out onto serving plate.  Dust with confectioners' sugar.  Serves 8-10.

          Source: National Grange Bicentennial Year Cookbook

          Crockpot Italian Drip Beef


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          I'm sure by now you've heard of Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.  I don't know much about her story, other than she's married to a cowboy, but she's made quite a name for herself.  Recently she premiered in her new cooking show which I haven't seen yet.  Have you?  What did you think of it?

          I've only tried one of her recipes, her Italian Drip Beef.  Both times I adapted it for the crockpot and it's worked out beautifully.

          We ate this as sandwiches twice and still had leftovers.  I didn't want the leftovers to go to waste but I wasn't interested in having another sandwich or freezing it this time either (we are terrible about eating meals we've frozen).  I ended up sauteing an onion, added the leftover beef with peppers, and then added a packet of brown gravy with 1 cup of water.  I let it come to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes and served it over white rice. 

          Here is what you'll need:
          • 3-4 lb beef top round roast 
          • 1 can beef broth
          • 4 Tbsp Italian seasoning
          • 1 teaspoon sea salt
          • 8 oz. jar of pepperoncini peppers, including juice
          • sandwich rolls
          • toppings of your choice (we use cheese and/or arugula)
          Place all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low 10 hours.  

          Remove roast and shred meat.  Add meat back to liquid and combine well.

          Serve on rolls with your favorite toppings.  Serves 8-12+ depending on the size of your roast and size of your sandwiches. 

          Source: The Pioneer Woman

            Foil Packet Summer Squash


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            If I had to choose a favorite vegetable it would probably be summer squash.  I find it incredibly versatile; there are so many options to prepare it and it goes well with just about everything.  I don't think I could ever tire of it.

            You may still be getting summer squash or zucchini from your garden, and you're probably still grilling, so I thought I'd share my favorite way to prepare it with you.  This is just as easy to make for 8 people as it is for 1.  Actually when I first started making this I was living on my own, and I ate this more than I'd like to admit.

            Here is what you need for each packet (1 serving):
            • 1 medium summer squash or zucchini, chopped
            • 1 small-medium green or red pepper, chopped
            • 1 small onion, chopped
            • salt and pepper
            • juice of 1/2 lemon 
            • 1 1/2 tsp butter
            • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
            • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
            Take 2 pieces of foil and layer them crosswise.  Place chopped vegetables on tin foil.  Salt and pepper to taste.

            In a coffee cup, place lemon juice, butter, red pepper flakes.  Melt in microwave 40 seconds.  Add olive oil and stir to combine.  Pour over vegetables.  Wrap foil to make a completely enclosed packet. 

            Place foil packet on hot grill.  Cook 8 minutes, flip and cook another 8 minutes or until squash is cooked to your desired tenderness.

            Source: Adventures In My Kitchen original

            Zucchini Corn Fritters


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            Are you still getting zucchini from your garden?  Do you still have access to local corn?  Are you looking for new ways to prep both?  Does this sound familiar?  I thought so, because this happens to me too, every year.  Enter this Zucchini Corn Fritter recipe.


            I found this recipe when I was looking for a new way to use up zucchini.  Although I didn't get many zucchini from my garden this year, I wanted to try a new recipe, preferably something savory that was not a bread or muffin.  I made a savory zucchini muffin last year that ended up in the freezer and disguised as stuffing (trust me, they were not good!).

            These fritters on the other hand did not end up in the freezer, there were none left, nor did they require a disguise.  Served with a fresh garden tomato salad, these made a great light summer meal.

            Here is what you'll need:
            • 2 medium zucchini
            • sea salt
            • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
            • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
            • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
            • 2 ears corn, kernels cut off 
            • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
            • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
            • 1/4 tsp baking soda
            • Freshly ground pepper
            • 3/4 cup buttermilk
            • 1 large egg
            • Canola oil, for frying
            • salt 
            Shred zucchini on grater.  Set in strainer, salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes.  Squeeze remaining liquid from zucchini.

            Meanwhile in a small fry pan over medium-high heat, melt butter and saute onion and garlic until softened, stirring occasionally.  Add corn and saute about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

            In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda and pepper.

            In a separate large bowl, beat buttermilk and egg together.  Add corn mixture and zucchini and mix well.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix.

            Coat bottom of fry pan with canola oil and heat to medium-high heat.  Using 2 soup spoons, scoop batter and place in hot fry pan.  Cook 3-4 minutes until brown, flip and brown other side another 3 minutes.  Remove from fry pan and place on paper towel.  Salt immediately and allow to cool slightly before serving.

            I was able to get 11 fritters using this method.

            Source: Food Network Magazine via Food Network

            Berry Iced Tea


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            This Summer was HOT!  I shouldn't complain, because I know the South is experienced (is still experiencing) a brutal heat.  I'm sure they would appreciate sipping on this refreshing Berry Iced Tea.

            I love iced tea and I tend to drink it quite often, especially during Summer.  Usually I buy those little packets that you just mix with water.  You know the ones that are made of mostly chemicals?  Yeah, those.  It's really a matter of convenience for me, because I don't like to consume sugar in my beverages.  So I buy the sugar-free stuff and call it a day.


            It's really a shame that I don't take more time to make brewed iced tea more often, because it's very good and so much better for you than the chemical packets.  I didn't follow a recipe for this, you really don't need one, this is just a starting point and you can adjust to your preference for strength and flavor.

            If you're fortunate enough to freeze berries when they are at their peak, you can make this all year round.  Or, you can buy frozen berries at the store and keep them on hand for when the urge strikes.

            Here is what you'll need:

            • 2 quarts water
            • 8 oz. frozen mixed berries 
            • 5 black tea bags 
            • 3 raspberry herbal tea bags
            • 1/3 cup agave syrup (or more to taste)
            Combine water, mixed berries and tea bags in stock pot.  Heat over medium heat until liquid comes to a simmer.  Turn off heat and allow to set for 5 minutes.  

            Pour mixture through fine mesh strainer into juice container.  Press berries to extract all their juice.

            Add agave to liquid and stir.  Chill before serving.  Serve over ice with a sprig of mint.  Serves 8.

            Source: Adventures In My Kitchen original

            What's Baking: Tomato Ricotta Tart


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            This month's What's Baking is hosted by Jade of The Mess Pot with the theme being Celebrate Summer.  Although I love Fall, Summer comes close to being my favorite season mostly due the beach.  I love the beach and am very fortunate to live close enough to make weekly or semi-weekly trips on the weekends.

            I had so many ideas incorporating a beach-y feel, but as it turned out I decided to highlight the abundance of tomatoes coming out of my garden.  Tomatoes are the garden I look forward to all Summer.  I've heard so many stories around the nation of lost gardens due to extreme heat or bugs, we were lucky to escape both of these hardships this year.

            Every Summer I search for new ways to use tomatoes, usually opting for recipes that highlight their bright flavor.  This Tomato Ricotta Tart from Martha Stewart was no exception.  Not only does it highlight the tomatoes, pairing it with a side salad makes for a great light dinner on an especially hot Summer day.

            My springform pan is 10 inches, so the measurements here represent what I used for that size pan.  Here is what you'll need:
            • 2 1/2 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs
            • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
            • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
            • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
            • 2 large eggs
            • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
            • Sea salt and pepper
            • 3 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
            Preheat oven to 450F degrees.

            In a large mixing bowl, add breadcrumbs and olive oil, combine well.  Pour crumbs into bottom of springform pan and gently press to make a crust.

            In the mixing bowl, add ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, basil, salt and pepper.  Whip together until well combined.  Pour over crust in pan and gently spread to cover entire crust.

            Layer tomato slices over cheese mixture forming a circular pattern.  Use larger slices around the outside, and use smaller slices in the middle.  Spring salt and pepper over the tomatoes, and drizzle with olive oil.

            Bake for 35-45 minutes, until tomatoes appear dry.  Allow to cool before removing side from pan.  Serves 6.

            Coconut Ginger Lime Oatmeal Muffins


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            I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, however, it seems that Summer is starting to wind down (at least in my area).  I know that there is still time for it to come back strong, but while it's cooler I'm taking advantage of this opportunity to bake.  I miss baking.  Call me a wimp, but I just cannot handle baking in the heat of Summer.  I hope to make up for it now.  This is the third baked good I made in the past 2 weeks.  Unfortunately my first two won't be posted here, at least not until I can figure out what went wrong.

            These muffins came about because I started straying from eating a good breakfast.  This is a problem; I need good fuel for brain power throughout the morning.  So early one morning I searched for a muffin recipe.  After realizing all the recipes I was finding called for milk, which I was out of, I almost lost hope.  However, I thought I must have a can of coconut milk in the pantry.  That would work, right?  The reviews of this basic oatmeal muffin recipe lead me to believe that indeed it should adapt well.

            Now I had to think about how to flavor them.  What compliments coconut?  I had fresh strawberries and peaches, frozen blueberries, black raspberries and bananas, but none of these sounded right.  I wanted something a bit more tropical.  Lime would work, but that didn't seem like enough, so I took a chance on adding ginger.

            The aroma while these baked was heavenly!  The flavors complimented each other really well.  These were a great breakfast option for me, full of good-for-you ingredients.  I will caution you that these are not sweet, but I hope that doesn't stop you from giving them a try.

            I made several changes to the recipe which are included here:
            • 1 cup coconut milk
            • 1 cup quick cooking oats
            • 1 egg
            • 1/4 cup canola oil
            • 1/4 cup agave
            • zest of 1 lime
            • 1 cup all-purpose flour
            • 2 teaspoons baking powder
            • 1/2 teaspoon salt
            • 1/4 cup dried shredded coconut 
            • 1 tsp ginger
            Preheat oven to 425F degrees.

            In a large measuring cup, measure coconut milk.  Add oatmeal and allow to soak 15 minutes.

            In a small mixing bowl, combine egg, oil, agave and lime zest.  Add oatmeal mixture and combine.

            In a large mixing bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Add coconut and ginger.  Add wet mixture and stir until just combined.  Do not overmix.

            Divide batter evenly among a 12 cup muffin tin.

            Bake 20-25 minutes (mine came out at 20 minutes) until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Makes 12 muffins.

            Summer Corn and Tomato Salad


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            I'm always looking for new ways to utilize these star vegetables of summer.  This salad is inspired by this corn soup recipe I started making 2 summers ago (I hope to make and blog this soon).  Since I had both a leftover ear of corn and fresh tomatoes on hand, and I knew they went well together I decided to make a light salad to accompany our Shrimp Burgers.

            The corn and scallions tied in nicely with the burgers.  I just used a bit of vinegar to give it some flavor, but still keep the flavor mild which I appreciated for balancing out the tartness of the burger's tartar sauce.

            Here is what you'll need:
            • corn kernels, cut from 2 fresh cobs of corn
            • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
            • 2 Tbsp chopped scallions
            • 1 Tbsp olive oil
            • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
            • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
            Place all ingredients in a small bowl and combine well.  Let sit for a 20 minutes before serving.   Serves 2 as a side.

            Shrimp Burgers


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            If I ask JR what he wants for dinner, at least 50% of the time he will respond, "bacon cheeseburgers".  While I'll occasionally eat a cheeseburger, it's rarely something I want for dinner.  Make it a turkey burger and I'm on board, but then JR isn't interested.  It's complicated.  I need to expand our burger horizon and that's exactly what I did with these Shrimp Burgers I saw on Pink Parsley.

            These were delicious, but messy!  I adapted the recipe slightly, mainly leaving out most of the cayenne and hot sauce since JR cannot tolerate heat.  See I have issues here, no turkey burgers, no heat...and the list goes on.  Even with less heat (really no heat since it's only used to boil the shrimp then rinsed off) these were packed with flavor!  JR agreed that a burger doesn't have to be made of beef to taste great!

            I had some trouble keeping these from falling apart, but since there was tartar sauce to cover them up you probably couldn't tell.  I thought maybe it was because I didn't finely grind the breadcrumbs.  It was hot and I was being lazy, so I just broke the bread up into small pieces.  However, Josie mentioned she had the same problem and she thought it was due to the chopped vs. ground shrimp.  

            While the burgers were great, let's talk about this tartar sauce.  YUM!  I've never experimented with tartar sauce beyond mixing relish and mayonnaise, and I never realized what I was missing!  This tartar sauce will no doubt be my go-to from now on.  So even if shrimp is not your thing, make this tartar sauce to accompany fish sticks!

            The changes I made are listed here:

            For the Burgers:
            • 2 quarts water
            • 1 Tbsp peppercorns
            • 1 Tbsp celery seeds
            • 1 Tbsp mustard seeds
            • 6 bay leaves
            • 1/2 cup sea salt
            • 1 Tbsp ground cayenne pepper
            • 1 pound shrimp, shells on 
            • 2 scallions, chopped
            • corn kernels, cut from 1 fresh cob of corn
            • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
            • zest of 1 lemon
            • juice of 1 lemon
            • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise with olive oil
            • 1 Tbsp Greek yogurt
            • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
            • sea salt
            • freshly ground black pepper
            • 1 egg, lightly beaten
            • 2 Tbsp canola oil
            In a large pot, add water, peppercorns, celery seed, mustard seed, bay, 1/2 cup sea salt and cayenne t.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add shrimp and boil for 2 minutes until they turn pink.  Remove from heat and run under cold water to cool.  Peel, devein and chop (or grind) the shrimp, then place in a large mixing bowl.

            To the mixing bowl with shrimp, add scallions, corn, ginger, lemon zest and juice, mayonnaise, yogurt, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine all ingredients together well.  Add egg and gently fold into mixture.

            Form mixture into 4 even size patties.  Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill and mold together (I would recommend longer, maybe an hour).

            In a large frying pan, heated oil over medium-high to high heat.  Once oil is hot, but not smoking, gently place shrimp burgers into pan.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until browned.  Flip and cook other side 3 minutes until browned.  Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb any extra oil.

            For the Tartar Sauce:
            • 1/2 cup drained pickle relish
            • 1/4 cup mayonnaise with olive oil
            • 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
            • juice of 1 lemon
            • 1 tsp lemon zest
            • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
            • sea salt
            • freshly ground black pepper
            Mix all tartar sauce ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.

            Serve burgers on rolls of your choice topped with tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato or other toppings of your choice.  Serves 4.

            Fig and Arugula Salad


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            This post jumped to the front of the line after our Sunday lunch.  When I can serve my husband a meal with very minimal meat, and he's satisfied, it's cause for celebration!  As we started lunch JR was making comments such as, "this is really good", "I'd eat this again", "these figs are the perfect ripeness".  He never asked, "where's the meat?"  I'm shocked, but I shouldn't be.  I did add just a few very slices of shaved prosciutto to the salads, and that was enough for him.  Lesson learned.

            Since fig season is so short, when I came across this recipe on courant.com last week, it immediately went on our weekly menu plan.  I'm so grateful it did.  I found arugula and a perfect goat milk feta, not too salty, at Sunday's farmer's market.  I was unsure about arugula since I'd never had it before and I'm not generally fond of bitter flavors, however, it worked really well here.

            I served this with a side of toasted baguette (also from the farmer's market), sliced and drizzled with olive oil and the remaining dressing.  This really was the perfect lunch for a blazing hot Sunday.

            Here is what you'll need:
            • 1 bunch arugula
            • 2.5 oz. feta cheese, cubed
            • 4 figs, quartered
            • 4 slices shaved prosciutto 
            • 1/4 cup pecans
            • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
            • 4 Tbsp olive oil
            • 1 Tbsp honey
            • 1/2 tsp sea salt
            In a small frying pan, toast the pecans over medium-high heat.  Be sure you watch them carefully and shake the pan a few times to move them around.  When you begin to smell the nuts, they're done.  Remove them from the heat and allow to cool.  Once cool, chop.

            Arrange arugula, feta, figs, prosciutto and pecans on a plate.

            In a small bowl, add vinegar, olive oil, honey and salt.  Whisk well.  Drizzle over salad.  Serves 2 as a main meal, serves 4 as a side.

            Jam Filled Muffins


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            Our niece recently came to stay with us for a long weekend.  I wanted to have something for her to snack on after her long train ride, as well as something to grab as a breakfast treat.  I knew I wanted to incorporate jam in some way since I've had an obsession with it lately; there are so many interesting flavors at the stores and farmer's markets!

            I remember years ago having what I remember to be jam filled corn muffins so I started searching for a recipe and came up with this one from Cooking Village.  While it's not a corn muffin, I was equally happy with the result!

            I made 2 varieties, blackberry and lingonberry.  As you can see, the lingonberry preserves didn't work well.  It was too thin.  Instead of sinking into the muffin, it spread over the top and spilled onto bottom of my oven.  I recommend using a firmer gelled jam, so that you aren't cleaning your oven in the middle of summer...

            Let's talk about the blackberry ones since that worked worked well.  I loved the way the jam buried itself in the middle of the muffin.  It was perfectly distributed and allowed for a bit of sweet jam in each bite.  I think our niece like them too because they were gone by the end of the weekend.

            A couple pieces of advice: read the instructions all the way through first!  I didn't and missed out on the sugar topping.  Also, I'd put a baking sheet under my muffin time next time, just in case!

            Here is what you'll need:
            • 2 cup all-purpose flour
            • 1 Tbsp baking powder
            • 1/2 tsp salt
            • 1 egg
            • 1/4 cup canola oil
            • 1 1/4 cup milk
            • 4 Tbsp jam
            • 1/4 cup sugar divided 
            Preheat oven to 400F.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or use cupcake liners.

            In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 2 Tbsp sugar, and mix well.

            Add egg, oil and milk and mix well until just combined.  Do not overmix.

            Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Place 1 tsp jam in the center of each muffin.  Sprinkle the tops with remaining sugar.

            Bake for 20 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.

            What's Baking: Zucchini Cornbread


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            I'm so happy to be back participating in What's Baking!  This month's theme, Bake Local, was chosen by Lindsey from Our Share of the Harvest.  Lindsey's blog is dedicated to cooking local and a great resource when it comes to cooking from a CSA share.

            It wasn't until this week that I nailed down a recipe and I'm glad I waited.  Zucchini season is now in full force, and every year I'm on the hunt for ways to use it.  Let's face it, zucchini is great, but it grows so rapidly that it tends to get overwhelming!  So began my hunt for a new way to use it.
            The original of this recipe can be found on Baking Bites.  I think I did pretty good with the local ingredients, aside from the staple pantry baking ingredients.  In keeping with the local theme, I made several changes, subbing local honey for molasses, using local milk instead of buttermilk and adding corn.  I have to say that this experience was a real eye opener for me.  While I shop at farmer's markets, grow my own garden and look for local products at the grocery store, there are so many more opportunities for me to consider. 

            JR and I both really enjoyed this cornbread!  JR liked that it was sweeter than my normal recipe, and I liked that it was very moist and a great way to add some veggies to our meal.  I can see us making this again, and it may even become our go-to recipe.  By the way, if you have picky eaters, aside from a few green flecks, I doubt they will even be able to pick up on the zucchini if you use the finest grate.

            Here is what you'll need (items marked with * are local):
            • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter* 
            • 3/4 cup cornmeal
            • 1 cup flour
            • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
            • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
            • 1/2 tsp baking soda
            • 1/2 tsp salt
            • 1 cup whole milk*
            • 1 egg*
            • 1 egg white*
            • 2 Tbsp honey*
            • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter*, melted
            • 1 corn cob*, kernels removed
            • 1 cup grated zucchini*, squeeze off excess liquid
            Preheat oven to 400F degrees.  Grease an 8x8 pan with 1 Tbsp of butter.  

            In a large mixing bowl, add cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix well.

            In a separate mixing bowl, add milk, egg, egg white, honey and melted butter.  Whisk until well combined.

            Pour milk mixture into dry mixture.  Stir until just combined.  Add corn and zucchini and stir gently until evenly distributed.

            Pour batter into greased pan.  Tap pan on the counter a few times to let out any air bubbles.

            Bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool before cutting and serving.  Serves 9.

            Goat Cheese, Mushroom and Pancetta Quiche


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            Our niece stayed with us recently and for Saturday morning breakfast I knew I wanted to make a quiche.  Quiche is one of those great breakfast treats that you can make ahead and eat anytime, whether it's breakfast, lunch or even dinner.  This proved to be really useful as we had drop-in guests come by and I had something on hand to serve them.

            This isn't my first quiche post, I've made this vegetable one before.  I followed that same basic recipe, but decided to change up the flavors based on what I had in the refrigerator, which happened to include two of my favorite ingredients - mushrooms and goat cheese.  I really wasn't sure how the goat cheese was going to work in this, but I'm glad I took the risk.  It provided a nice slightly tart flavor and creamy texture.

            I also included a new ingredient to my kitchen, garlic scapes.  If you've never used them, you should try them.  It may be too late to get them this year, they have a short season, but you can look for them at your farmer's market next year.  They added the perfect light, garlicky flavor and slightly crunchy texture to this dish.

            This was definitely a winner with only one piece left after I served it and that piece was gone quickly the next morning.  You certainly don't need to wait for guests to make this, in fact I think you should make this as a breakfast treat for yourself soon!

            Here is what you'll need:
            • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
            • 1 Tbsp olive oil
            • 10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
            • 3 garlic scapes, chopped
            • salt and pepper
            • 4 eggs
            • 3/4 cup 2% cottage cheese
            • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 
            • 1/4 cup 2% milk
            • 1 tsp dried mustard
            • 1 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
            • 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
            • 1 pie crust
            Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

            Bake crust for 10 minutes.

            While crust is baking, in a large saute pan on high heat, add pancetta to pan and cook until starting to brown.

            Turn pan down to medium-high heat and add oil.  Add mushrooms and cook until partially browned, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic scapes, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until browned and softened, stirring occasionally.  Once done, remove from heat and set aside to cool a bit.

            In a bowl combine eggs, cheeses, milk, mustard, chives and flour stir until thoroughly mixed.

            Spoon mushroom mixture into bottom of pie crust, then layer egg mixture on top of mushroom.  

            Place in oven and bake 45-50 minutes until knife inserted come out clean.  Allow to set for 10 minutes before cutting.  Serves 8.

            Simple Panzanella


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            Tomatoes and basil.  Summer deliciousness!  I love these summer staples that make it so easy to produce a dish bursting with flavor.  I've made Ina Garten's Panzanella before, but I was seriously not in a cooking mood this particular night, so I threw together this much simpler version and paired it with my Cheesy Italian Meatloaf

            I was able to put this together while the meatloaf baked making dinner ready in just about 30 minutes.  I wanted to point out that I used garlic paste.  This was partly due to laziness, but I also found it coated the bread nicely, almost soaking in.  I'll definitely use paste vs. minced from now on when toasting bread.

            This dish, and dinner, was so much better than takeout, which makes me glad I stuck it out in the kitchen.  Bonus, I even managed to get photos!

            I'm sure we'll eat this again before Summer is over, but I'm looking for other ways to use tomatoes and basil.  Do you have a favorite recipe you can share with me?

            Here is what you'll need:
            • 2-3 cups of cubed ciabatta
            • 4 Tbsp olive oil
            • 2 tsp garlic paste
            • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
            • salt and pepper
            • 1/2 lb. small tomatoes, quartered
            • 1/4 English cucumber, cut into 1 in. chunks
            • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1 in. chunks
            • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
            • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
            In a large bowl, place ciabatta, 2 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss until all the bread is coated well.

            Heat a nonstick pan to medium-high heat.  Add bread to pan and toast, turning over until all sides are browned.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

            Add remaining ingredients to large mixing bowl.  Toss until combined well.

            Add toasted bread to mixing bowl just before serving.  Toss gently until well combined.  Serves 3.

            Cheesy Italian Meatloaf


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            JR requested meatloaf for dinner which I initially wasn't thrilled about.  It's been 90+ degrees out, who wants to turn on the oven?  I thought about trying to make this on the grill, but then again I didn't feel experimenting while sitting outside in 90+ degrees.  You see, we had a planning error which placed our grill patio right where the sun is blazing at dinner time.  I starting thinking about an alternate dinner, when it struck me.  Making meatloaf would be no problem if I cooked it in our countertop oven.  I suppose the heat was making me slow initially...

            I decided to keep this a simple meal with an Italian flair and poked around to see what I had on hand to do so.  I ended up with this cheesy meatloaf paired with Panzanella.  This quickly prepared meal not only satisfied JR's meatloaf craving, but it kept me from overheating the kitchen.  And hello, it's full of cheese which automatically makes it delicious!

            As I've mentioned in other posts, you can substitute ground turkey here if that is your preference.

            Here is what you'll need:
            • 1 lbs. ground sirloin
            • 1 egg
            • 1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
            • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
            • 1 oz. Fontina cheese, grated
            • 4 basil leaves, chopped
            • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
            • 1 clove garlic, minced
            • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
            • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
            Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

            Add all ingredients, reserving 1 Tbsp olive oil, to a mixing bowl and combine until thoroughly mixed.

            Form into 3 small loaves and place on baking sheet.  Drizzle 1 tsp olive oil over each loaf.  Bake for 20 minutes.

            Top each loaf with 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese.  Continue baking 10-15 minutes until cheese is browned and center of meat is cooked through.  Serves 3.

            Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad (Suddenly Salad Knock-off)


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            As much as I like to cook homemade, I have no problem using boxed items from time to time.  Suddenly Salad Ranch & Bacon is one of those boxed items that I tend to go to for cookouts, because it goes over well with my family, particularly those who are less adventurous and/or don't like vegetables.  I am one of those people who likes to prepare enough side dishes so that there is at least one for each guest to eat (but sometimes I secretly want to just make what I like!).

            When preparing for a recent cookout, I decided to try my hand at a knock-off.  After all, I almost always have these ingredients on hand, so why would I go out and buy the box?  While I'm sure I'm not the first to have made this, my only reference point was my memory of the prepared box mix.

            The resulting salad was way more flavorful than any box can produce!  For starters, we're talking REAL bacon here.  Not only that, I had a bit better idea of what is in this, aside from the ranch mix, and I cut back some calories and fat by using milk, buttermilk and mayonnaise with olive oil.  Next time, I want to make a homemade ranch dressing, which I'm sure will bring this salad to a whole new level.

            By the way, how can someone not like vegetables?  I will never understand.

            Here is what you'll need:
            • 1 lb bowtie or other shaped pasta
            • 1 cup frozen peas
            • 1/2 lbs bacon, cooked crisp and divided
            • 1/4 cup milk
            • 1/4 cup buttermilk
            • 1/2 cup mayonnaise with olive oil
            • 1 packet powdered ranch salad dressing mix
            • black pepper to taste
            Bring salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and continue boiling 10 minutes.  Add frozen peas to water and continue boiling 2 minutes, or until cooked to al dente.  Strain pasta and peas, run under cool water to stop the cooking process and allow to drain well.

            In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp.  You may need to do this in several batched depending on the size of your pan.  Remove crisp cooked bacon from pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towel.  Allow to cool completely.  Crumble into bite size pieces.

            In a large mixing bowl, add milk, buttermilk, mayonnaise with olive oil, ranch salad dressing mix and black pepper.  Whisk until well combined.

            Add pasta and peas to dressing.  Gently toss until the pasta is well coated.  Add 1/2-3/4 of the cooked bacon and gently toss to combine.  Top with remaining bacon.  Serves 8-10 as a side.

              Quick and Easy Chocolate Cheesecake Trifle


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              Let's face it, we all have hectic schedules and a few shortcuts are welcomed every now and then.  That's exactly what happened to me over Memorial Day weekend.  I had grand plans of making homemade ice cream and popsicles, but the weekend got hectic and those plans didn't materialize.  Not to mention it was SOOO hot, and our air conditioners weren't in for the season.  That's when a suggestion from my sister crept into my mind.  I went with it and came up with this dessert that got me out of the kitchen in no time.  Unfortunately I didn't snap a photo of the final product, but I was able to capture one of what little remained...

              Now that I think about it, it would have been much cooler to make ice cream and popsicles vs. baking a pound cake.  Obviously the heat got to my brain!

              I ended up making a second shortcut dessert this weekend as well.  I used the strawberry mixture from my Strawberry Shortcake, adding blueberries to the mix, and served it over a store bought angel food cake with whipped cream.  Everyone enjoyed it just as much as if I'd made the whole thing from scratch.

              Here is what you'll need for the trifle:
              • 1 chocolate pound cake, cut into 1 inch cubes (I made a box mix according to package directions)
              • 2 packages cheesecake pudding
              • 3 cups milk
              • 1 cup heavy cream
              • 2 Tbsp confectioner's sugar
              • 1/2 tsp vanilla
              • chocolate syrup for drizzling
              In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the pudding and milk until the powder is completely dissolved.  Chill in refrigerator until thickened.

              Make the whipped cream when you are ready to assembly the trifle.  Using an electric mixer at high speed, add heavy cream, sugar and vanilla to a chilled bowl.  Beat until stiff peaks form.

              To assemble the trifle, start by layering 1/3 of the pound cake in the bottom of a bowl, top with 1/2 of the pudding, drizzle with chocolate syrup.  Repeat the layers.  Top with whipped cream and drizzle with more chocolate syrup.  Serves 8-10.

                Shaved Summer Squash with Prosciutto and Goat Cheese


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                Hello my dear readers!  I've been on a hiatus recovering from an unexpected ailment. My next few posts are recipes I made over a month ago.  I am so sorry, I just didn't have it in me to get them posted.  The good news is that I'm well now,  I finally feel like blogging and I have a bunch of recipes to share with you.  I thank you for sticking with me and hope you enjoy what is to come! 

                You can see a trend with the last few posts; the weather was getting warmer and my last 3 posts are salads.  Well, I hope you don't mind, but the June 2011 edition of Cooking Light had several great looking recipes, a few of which happened to be salads including this one.  This works for me, because their prep really couldn't be any easier which is great for a weeknight meal.

                My local store doesn't sell ricotta salata, so I opted to go with goat cheese which I think worked well.  Luckily I had just purchased a mint plant for my garden, because the mint really adds another dimension of freshness which I glad we didn't miss out on.  While I have a jar of dried mint, I think fresh ingredients all around is the only way to go with this dish.

                Here is what you'll need:
                • 1 medium zucchini
                • 2 medium yellow squash
                • 1/4 tsp salt
                • 2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh mint
                • 1 Tbsp olive oil
                • 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
                • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
                • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
                • 3 thin slices prosciutto (1 ounce), chopped (I think you need 4 slices, one to snack on)
                • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled ricotta salata, feta cheese or goat cheese
                Using a vegetable peeler over a large mixing bowl, shave the zucchini and squash lengthwise into long noodle-like strips.  Salt vegetables and toss.

                In a small bowl, combine mint, olive oil, lemon rind, lemon juice, and black pepper.  Pour liquid over squash, toss and allow to sit.

                In a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, cook prosciutto until browned and crisp.  Transfer to a plate to cool.  Once cool, eat one slice and crumble the rest into bite size pieces.

                Add prosciutto and cheese to squash and gently toss to combine.  Serves 3.