Sunday, August 31, 2008

Karen's Amazing Chocolate Caramel Dessert

My friend Allison's sister Karen sent Allison a care package for her birthday back in July. In it were these amazing chocolate caramel dessert bars. Allison shared her bounty with me--I probably had eight of the delicious little morsels. I asked for the recipe straight away.

The recipe, while it looks easy--actually happened to be a little bit difficult. The problem was that I might possibly have not split the batter into two parts. Someone who has made these before recommended taking the second half of the batter and stretching it across the top with your hands because once it is down, it sticks and is impossible to move.

Karen's Amazing Chocolate Caramel Dessert

-1 package yellow cake mix
-2/3 C evaporated milk, divided
-1 1/2 sticks butter (melted)
-~55 caramels
-1 C chocolate chips (I used the mini ones and this turned out to be easier to spread)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour the bottom of a 9x13 pan.
2. Mix yellow cake mix, melted butter, and 1/3C evaporated milk
3. Take 1/2 of the mix and cover the bottom of cake pan, spread evenly with a rubber spatula (it turns out these are mostly made with silicon now)
4. Bake for 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, ombine caramels and 1/3 C evaporated milk and melt in microwave until melted (~4min)
6. Pour the caramel mixture over the bottom crust.
7. Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over caramel.
8. Cover with remaining cake mix (this is very hard, see above notes
9. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes

Allow to cool completely before trying to cut. Once cut, nobody noticed that the top was missing. I didn't have any left by the end, they go like hotcakes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lemon Pasta

While I did not taste or even see this dish, I entered the house shortly after it was cooked and it smelled absolutely delicious. Jenny has taken to listening to a particular podcast recently called The Splendid Table. The podcast discusses a variety of food topics but Jenny's favorite part is when the leader of the cast answers questions from people who called in.

Recently, a lady called in about a taste she was craving after a recent trip to Italy. There they had pasta with a Lemon Sauce. The speaker questioned the lady about the sauce and gave her ideas of how to recreate it at home. Jenny is a big fan of Lemon Pasta and decided to make the dish herself after hearing what sounded like a simple recipe. The recipe doesn't have measurements and can easily be adjusted to taste.

And simple it was (and delicious to boot!)

- Olive Oil
- 1 Lemon
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- Coarse salt
- Ground pepper
- Fettuccine

1. Place a generous amount of olive oil in a skillet, coating the bottom of the pan. Place the zest of an entire lemon in with the oil, along with 3-4 cloves of garlic, cut up in petals. Sauté over medium heat with salt and pepper to taste.
2. Boil fettuccine in heavily salted water. A minute or two before you are to drain the pasta, take 1/2 c. of the pasta water and place in the oil mixture. Stir in and let cook, to thicken oil mixture.
3. Drain pasta. Place in skillet and toss with oil mixture.
4. Remove from heat. Pour in juice from lemon onto pasta. Toss. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fresh Mozzarella Salad w/ Avocado & Roasted Corn

I love fresh mozzarella. Here is where I found this recipe. Of course the original calls for tomatoes which I omitted, also, it called to lay on a bed of greens & I decided it was already a large amount, so I skipped that as well. The colder the better...we had some left over from dinner last night which I ate for lunch today & I liked it better really cold. Next time, I will make in advance & cut the avocados up right before I serve so they don't brown.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Needed: Banana Recipe

As I was leaving the store today I noticed a cart with bags full of Banana's for 99 Cents (5 bunches for 99 cents you only see 4 below long story short...locked my keys in the neighbor in the world came for Me & Julia...shared my bargin with her).

Now what am I going to do with all these bananas???? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cold Green Bean Salad with Tarragon Dressing

I was trying to find a green bean recipe that was similar to the one Aunt Gail made for the reunion...this wasn't it, but, it was very good. I omited quite a few of the ingredients from the original recipe I found & changed it from a 2 bean salad to a 1. Here is the link.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Great Squash

My mom sent me vegetables from the family farm in Indiana--through the mail all the way to California for my birthday. She said she wanted to know how far they could travel. She sent me a sweet potato and she sent me a squash which I mis-identified initially as a yellow zucchini.

The yellow vegetable arrived in not quite ship-shape condition in case you are planning to send vegetables across the country to your relatives. It was wrapped in a wet paper towel inside a ziploc bag and the very end had to go right away--the rest though was fine. It made the box smell like farm water--and if you've had the opportunity to smell farm water before, you know it's a little putrid. The sweet potato looked as though it had been just picked and filled up the box, but that's a different story.

I'm not a big squash fan. I couldn't think of many family recipes in which squash was a factor. I hemmed and hawed. Finally I decided to make this. I bought all the ingredients and then I put it off. I didn't make it and the squash sat. Finally I told myself that this squash was ready to be eaten and I was going to do it, no matter what.

So I hunkered down and decided against the ribbons (I'm not a fan of the vegetable peeler). I cut up the squash into discs. I cut up part of the red onion into little pieces. I cut up a green pepper that might be sweet--but might also be spicy--I don't remember. I cut up a little bit of sweet yellow pepper. And I cut up a little tiny spicy pepper that I got for something else--and I don't know what it is or what the spice content was--but it's pretty.

I sauteed the onion in a little bit of olive oil for a little and when it got fragrant I added the remaining ingredients and sauteed some more. I added a little salt, a little pepper, a little Jamacian Jerk Seasoning (I'm more aware of the Jamacians than usual because of the Olympics!) And when I could see a little browning and smell the squash I decided it was done--the only thing worse than squash is squishy squash.

The verdict? A pretty good vegetable stir-fry.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How to Grow a Sweet Potato

My mom sent me a sweet potato for my birthday. I am still contemplating my strategy for it. I think I will bake it and then consume it over two meals with honey-butter or cinnamon butter or butter and brown sugar. I think I will make it tonight and let you know. In the meantime, you can check out how much it has grown just sitting by itself with no sun or water alternating between seats on my table and microwave. How does it do it? I wish I knew the secret combination so that I could grow other things. Unfortunately, my green thumb is usually not so green--this is the most accomplished growing that I have ever seen pass over these hands!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Taste Sensation

Last night Joey and I decided on a whim to make some cheesecake. Philedelphia cream cheese has this great interactive program on their site (the Kraft site) called the Cheesecake Customizer where you can choose exactly what you want to do and it will provide you with a recipe. Joey and I used the customizer and came up with an oven baked chocolate cheesecake with a white chocolate swirl.

We went to the store and got all the ingredients. We started mixing with the Kitchenaid mixer I have and I thought it was working, but it turns out, that for cheesecake, you should use an electric hand mixer if possible because it can get at the bottom of the mix and really bite through the thickness. We didn't know that there were un-mixed-in white chunks until we started pouring the mixture into the purchased chocolate graham cracker crust.

Knowing that over mixing after the egg is added creates cracks, we decided to pour the overly thick cream cheese mixture back into the bowl and remix. We tipped the crust over the pan and--whoopsie-daisy! The entire crust fell out of the pan into the bowl.

Totally unexpected.

We decided to do another mix and make the cheesecake anyway without the crust. This crustless cake is delicious! It is a Taste Sensation. It remindes me a little bit of cheesecake brownies. The edges got a little overcooked but the inside was delicious--I think this could easily be solved by cooking it less time (but that didn't occur to me at the time)

1 Pre-made chocolate cookie crust (not oreos, but more like chocolate graham crackers)
1 8oz package cream cheese
1 8oz package neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
3 squares (3oz) semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
2 squares (2oz) white baking chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 325° and prepare crust (take it out of the wrapper)
2. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl (I recommend a hand mixer) until well blended
3. Add the chocolate and sour cream until mixed together.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until JUST COMBINED to avoid cracks (only applicable if you are making real cheesecake and NOT the Taste Sensation)
5. Dump crust over bowl and beat once more until combined.
6. Evenly spread mixture into a 8-9 inch circle cake pan
7. Gently drop spoonfulls of white choclate over the batter and cut through batter with knife for a marble effect.
8. Bake 25 minutes (do less) until center is almost set
9. Cool completely, then chill for at least 4 hours.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 10, 2008

German Apple Pancake

This month's cooking light came in the mail and made my mouth water at first glance. On the cover was a German Apple Pancake, and "light" to boot! I immediately bought the ingredients to make it. And then I didn't. But yesterday, I woke up unusually early, and decided it was time.

So, I bought the ingredients but I refuse to buy things that I can only use for the one recipe. This recipe, in an effort to make it "light" I guess, called for egg substitute. I bought regular eggs--I planned to use the remaining eggs in an ice cream recipe. The problem that I ran into was my failure to look up how many eggs = 1 cup of egg substitute. Well actually, I did look it up, but then I didn't follow the directions based on what I learned. I learned that 1/4 cup of egg substitute equals 1 egg. Then I continued to use only 2 eggs. I'm not sure what was going through my head except for maybe "4 eggs is a whole lot of eggs." So I used 2. This caused my German pancake to be really thin and not quite as custardy as promised. However, it was still delicious and I would make it again in second (and I would likely try it with 4 eggs).

Recipe below found in the Cooking Light August 2008 as well as online here.


1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup egg substitute (or 4 eggs)
1 cup milk (low-fat if you want to be 'healthy')
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple mixture:
Cooking spray
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup thinly sliced Granny Smith apple

Remaining ingredient:
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1. Mix together the dry batter ingredients in a large bowl using a whisk. In a separate bowl mix together the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a whisk until just combined. Let sit 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, spray ovenproof pan with cooking spray on the bottom and the sides. Mix together 1/4 sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle sugar mixture over the sides and bottom of prepared pan. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

3. Slice apples into thin slices and place in a windmill single layer over the sugar mixture. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 of sugar over the apples. Heat over medium heat until mixture bubbles (they say 8 minutes, I say 4-5). Remove from heat and pour the batter over the top.

4. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 for 13 minutes more (don't take the pancake out). Remove pan from oven and transfer to plate (or just cut it from the pan). Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top and enjoy.

I think this pancake could be used for dessert but I enjoyed it for breakfast. I realize it has apples in it, but I think it would be delicious served with some fresh raspberries.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tomatoes and Avocados

My sister Debbie delivered some homegrown tomatoes from Indiana and I used a couple to make a delicious salad for our dinner - sorry there are no pictures since we gobbled this down too quickly.

Layer sliced tomatoes and sliced avocados on a platter. Sprinkle with some Italian dressing and then scatter fresh basil on top.

Cool Asian Chicken Salad

This is a great make ahead dish for warm summer days. I found the recipe years ago in Sunset magazine (I don't know the year since I cut out the recipe). This is a double recipe.
It is pretty easy to make, can be done ahead and always gets rave reviews.

Cool Asian Chicken Salad (serves 4)

2 stalks fresh lemon grass, ends and coarse leaves trimmed; or 2 strips lemon peel (yellow part only, each about 3 in. long)
6 quarter size slices peeled fresh ginger (peel ginger with back of spoon)
1 lb Chinese pea pods, ends and strings removed
4 boned, skinned chicken breast halves (about 1- 1/4 lb total)
Asian dressing (see below)
Romaine lettuce leaves rinsed and crisped
Rice triangles (see below)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

In a 4 to 5 quart pan over high heat, bring about 1 1/2 inclues water, lemon grass and ginger to a boil. Add Chinese peas; cook just until brighter green (1 - 1 1/2 minutes). Quickly skin peas from water with a slotted spoon and at once immerse them in ice water. Add chicken to boiling water, cover and remove from heat. Let stand until breasts are white in center. Cut ot test at 20 minutes. If pink, return to water until white, about 5 minutes longer. Immediately immerse chicken in ice water with peas. Pour cooking liquid through a srainer; seave seasonings for dressing.

When chicken is cold, in about 30 minutes, drain off ice water. Cut chicken into 1 inch diagonal slices. Line a platter with lettuce, top with chicken, peas and rice. If making ahead, chill airtight up to 3 hours. Add dressing and peanut (I pour on some dressing and peanuts and serve the rest on the side)

Asian Dressing
Mince reserved lemon grass and ginger. Mix with 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 2 T. each soy sauce and salad oil and 2 t. sugar. (I minced them in a little food processor -- adding some of the liquid ingredients to make it easier to blend)

Rice Triangles
In a 2 to 3 quart pan over high heat, bring 1 cup medium or short grain white (pearl) rice (DO NOT USE LONG GRAIN RICE -- I used medium grain/shushi rice from the Asian food aisle) and 1 3/4 cups water to a boil. Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Firmly pack hot rice in an even layer in an 8 inch square pan; cool. (If making ahead, cover and let stand up to 4 hours). Run a knife between rice and pan rim. Invert pan, easing rice from pan bottom onto a counter. Cut into 2 inch triangles; rince knife often with water.

Monday, August 4, 2008

BBQ Tri-Tip Burritos

We spent Saturday in Ojai visiting some family friends. Before we went to their house, we stopped at a local Mexican restaurant called Jim & Rob's Fresh Grill. While eating our tacos, we noticed a peculiar menu item--the bbq tri-tip burrito. Intrigued but stuffed, we decided we'd have to try it next time.

Instead, Jerry (Joey's dad for those of you who don't know names) decided to make it tonight! The recipe called for tri-tip (a type of beef that seems to be available only in California), pinto beans, salsa, cheese and of course, tortillas.

This is pretty much the easiest recipe ever--I hardly qualify it as a recipe at all. Surprisingly, the burritos were good. The barbecue sauce added a whole new level of flavor to the burritos. If I were to change anything, I'd just make them tacos and use corn tortillas OR homemade tortillas instead.

BBQ Tri-Tip Burritos

Tri-tip (2 pounds for 4 people)
Pinto Beans
Salsa - don't let the flavors overpower the bbq sauce
BBQ Seasoning
BBQ Sauce


1. Sprinkle BBQ seasoning over tri-tip
2. BBQ tri-tip until medium rare
3. Meanwhile, heat canned pinto beans on the stove
4. Slice meat into bite-sized strips


1. Heat tortilla in the microwave or on the grill
2. Fill with meat
3. Add beans
4. Add Salsa and Cheese
5. Drizzle with bbq sauce on top (I recommend heating the sauce a little)
6. Fold the sides in and enjoy