September 29, 2015

White Chocolate Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Last week, we went to Destin, Florida.  It was a spectacularly beautiful five days!!

Here's the view from our condo.  We were celebrating our birthdays.  Such a wonderful way to celebrate!!

We had "post-card picture perfect" weather with the exception of one day where the skies opened and poured heavy rain for quite awhile.  I had stopped off to get a pedicure, and just as I was leaving, it started pouring rain with a thunderstorm.  So, I ducked into a couple of shops and looked around while I waited for the rain to subside.  

One of the shops was a Olive Oil and Vinegar store, and I bought a cookbook there.  The cookbook is Southern Scrumptious Favorites by Betty Sims.  It has a lot of recipes that immediately caught my eye, and I plan on trying many of them in the near and not-so-near future!!

An interesting thing about this cookbook is it has absolutely no pictures of the food.  I love pictures of food.  Don't all food bloggers??

I found my inspiration for these cheesecake bars from this cookbook.

If you like chocolate sandwich cookies, cheesecake, a hint of lemon and white chocolate, you are going to like these!  I promise.

White Chocolate and Lemon Cheesecake Bars  

7 ounces of white chocolate, chopped
20 chocolate sandwich cookies
1/2 cup sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
Juice of two lemons
White chocolate curls for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Place white chocolate in a small metal bowl.  Melt over barely simmering water in a saucepan until smooth, stirring constantly.  Remove the bowl and set aside.

Place cookies in a food processor and process until ground.  Add two tablespoons of white chocolate to cookie crumbs and stir together.  Press ground cookies firmly into the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking pan.

Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add sour cream, three tablespoons of sugar, 1 egg, and lemon juice.  Continue to beat with mixer being sure to stop mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl so that all ingredients are well incorporated.  

Spread on top of prepared cookie crust.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Turn oven off and leave in oven for another 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely on countertop and then place in refrigerator.  Remove from refrigerator and cut into bars.  Garnish with white chocolate curls.

Serve to family and friends!

(Cheesecake bars should be stored in the refrigerator.)


September 16, 2015

Praline Apple Bread

WOW!  This bread is delicious.  We had to run up to Lowe's on Sunday to buy a new washing machine.  For me, this was a bit of an emergency, as my machine went out with loads of laundry left to do.   It used to be you could have an appliance for 15 to 20 years.  This one only last around six years.  What up with that?

On our way back home from Lowe's, we stopped to buy apples at this local farm stand.  I was actually looking for gourmet caramel apples.  I made caramel apples last year, but the caramel kept sliding off.  I really like caramel apples; so, I think I'll try again.  It's a bit work intensive.

I really wanted to try their apple bread or apple dumpling.  I've had their apple pie.  It's delicious!  But . . . I wanted to make apple bread myself, and I didn't want to eat it twice.
As I have said here many times in the past, this particular area in southern Illinois grows the best fruits and vegetables in the Midwest.  
Driving through most of Illinois, it is flat, and you will see many fields of corn and soybeans.

But here in southern Illinois, the prairie turns into rolling hills, and it is truly quite beautiful and lends itself to growing grapes, apples, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, squash, among several other fruits and veggies.  A true abundance that not only supplies all area local Farmer's Markets but the Midwest.

Cudjoe loves apples and so do my two doggies.

You know the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  I doubt seriously this apple bread can boast that sentiment!

It is yummy; truly more like cake than bread.  What makes it so moist and unique is the sour cream that is used - no oil, no butter.

And the praline topping, well, enough said!

Why not try this delicious bread this weekend?  I'm pretty sure you will love it!!

Praline Apple Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
8-ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaping cup of peeled and chopped Golden Delicious Apple (I used one large apple)

Praline Topping

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a mixer bowl using an electric mixer, beat sour cream, sugar, and eggs until well blended.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat until just blended.  Stir in apples.  Spoon batter into a greased and lightly floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.  Let bread cool in pan and remove from pan.

Boil butter and brown sugar together in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Stir in pecan pieces.  Remove from heat and spoon over bread.  Cool completely before eating.

Serve to family and friends!!


September 11, 2015

Fruit Trifle

This is a great dessert to make with just a little bit of effort.

No baking necessary.  

I used an angel food cake I bought from the bakery at the supermarket.  I used a large container of whipped topping and instant pudding.

I then layered it in a trifle bowl.  It is very pretty and sure to please!

It is also great for the hot and humid temperatures we've been experiencing.  No need to heat up the kitchen and light and refreshing to eat!!

Fruit Trifle

1 quart of strawberries (I didn't use the entire quart)
2 small bananas
2 small spears of pineapple
1 large container of whipped topping
1 angel food cake (I only used half of the cake)
1 large instant vanilla pudding
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk (I used fat free because that's what I had)

(Use as much or as little fruit as you would like and try with different fruit.)

In a mixing bowl (I use a stand mixer), whip together pudding, 8 ounces of whipped topping, and one can of sweetened condensed milk until incorporated and thickened.

Cut one half of angel food cake into cubes.  Cut bananas into coin-shaped slices.  Cut two small fresh pineapple spears into bite-sized pieces.  Slice strawberries into bite-sized pieces.  Layer cake, fruit, and pudding and repeat.  Top with remaining whipped topping.

Serve to family and friends!!


September 9, 2015

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese

Who out there watches Man vs. Food?   Sometimes we watch it.  I do like him and enjoy watching him visit different restaurants around the country.

I am, however, uneasy about watching the part of the show where he is "challenged" to eat large quantities of food.  

So . . . I got the inspiration for this Macaroni and Cheese recipe from that program.  

It was delicious! The best macaroni and cheese I have ever made.

Here's how I did it:

Macaroni and Cheese

2-1/2 cups of elbow macaroni
4 Tablespoons of butter
4 Tablespoons of flour
2 cups of 2% milk
4 ounces of Velveeta Cheese 
4 ounces of grated Cheddar Cheese
1/2 green pepper, sliced or diced
1/2 small onion, sliced or diced
1 Italian Sausage, sliced into coin shapes
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon of butter

Prepare elbow macaroni according to directions on package.  In a small saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour, add milk and stir constantly over low heat until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir cheeses into white sauce until cheeses are completely melted.  Salt and pepper, if desired, to taste.  In a small skillet, heat oil and butter, add sausage and cook for a few minutes, then add green pepper and onion and continue cooking until sausage is done and vegetables have begun to soften.

Stir cheese sauce into prepared macaroni.  Pour into a cast iron skillet.  Spoon sausage, green peppers and onions on top.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly.

Serve to family and friends!!


September 4, 2015

Peach Daiquiri

Last month, I made peach daiquiris to celebrate peach season.  

Peach season is a pretty big deal around here.  Our neighboring community (Cudjoe's "hometown") has a Peach Festival complete with a parade and peach cobbler to celebrate the season.  This area has lots of peach orchards.   Peaches grown and harvested here are shipped all over the Midwest.  I bought mine at our local Farmer's Market.  

These daiquiris were very fresh and very tasty. A "farm-to-table" cocktail!!

One for him and one for me.

If you would like to make these delicious daiquiris for your Labor Day party, here's how I did it.

Peach Daiquiri

(To make two)

Two Peaches
2 ounces of rum
2 tablespoons of sugar
Crushed ice

Peel peaches and cut into small pieces.  Place sliced peaches in a blender.  Add two ounces of rum, two tablespoons of sugar and crushed ice.  Blend until slushy.

Serve to family and friends!!


September 1, 2015

Pink Sugar Cookies

These are the best sugar cookies I have ever made (or eaten)!  I am serious!   My hubby said the very same thing.

These delicious sugar cookies certainly are "pretty in pink"!

The consistency of this cookie is more of a "drop" cookie than a cookie dough you would use to make cut-out shapes.   It is, however, perfect to roll into a ball and bake.

Wouldn't this cookie be great to serve at a baby shower?   Wouldn't it be perfect for a birthday party?

Pink Sugar Cookies

2-1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons of oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Set aside.  Whip butter with a mixer until lighter in color.  Add oil and both sugars and continue whipping until light and fluffy.  Mix in water, egg and vanilla until well incorporated.

Add in dry ingredients in batches until just mixed.  Chill dough.

Scoop out chilled dough with a small cookie scoop and roll into a ball.  Roll dough into granulated sugar and flatten out.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper.
Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 10 to 13 minutes or until desired doneness.  Let cookies cool completely.  Frost cookies with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter - room temperature
3 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 to 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream
Red or pink food coloring

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese.   Mix in powdered sugar, a small amount at a time. Mix in salt and vanilla.  Add cream one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency.  Tint with food coloring.

Serve to family and friends!!