Mile High Lemon Milano No Bake Cheesecake

Mile High Lemon Milano No Bake Cheesecake

Mile High Lemon Milano No Bake Cheesecake


No more rain!!!! I have now 8 children and 72 cats lost in the grass that we can’t cut because it’s too wet! And I don’t HAVE that many kids or cats here at any other time. The grass is starting to look like something out of a Stephen King novel. At night, I see eerie glowing eyes out there and I’m pretty sure I heard a satanic voice calling to me. Of course, I hear that same voice telling me to eat entire pints of ice cream, so that may have been my imagination. Plus, it’s Summer vacation now and my seven year old is home and it’s difficult to tell him to go out and play if 1) I’m afraid of him joining the eerie crowd, and 2) what can he do outside other than get wet and covered in ticks. The ticks are LOVING this weather. We can’t cut down their hiding places and every time the boys go out, we have to do a tick check when they come back in.

On topic, I have long had a steamy love affair with Milano cookies. Don’t leave me in the same state room with the chocolate orange ones them or I’ll finish them off before Cookie Monster can say “back away from the cookies!” I saw a recipe for cookies and cream cheesecake. It was the typical Oreo cookie type, which is of course wonderful, but I wanted something more Summery, more refreshing and bright. What better for that then lemon, right? So I grabbed some Lemon Milanos (gosh, I love those things!) and using that recipe as my inspiration, came up with this one. I used a store bought graham cracker crust because lazy is my hobby, but feel free to make a homemade one. This cheesecake is simple as can be, slightly tart and refreshing and has a mild crunch from the cookie pieces in it and on top. It’s nice and creamy but not overwhelmingly rich and man, does it fill a pie crust! On a side note,  I would imagine you could use any flavor of Milanos you want in this; just omit the lemon zest if it doesn’t go with the flavors.

You know the drill…. 😛

Mile High Lemon Milano No Bake Cheesecake

  • 1 9 inch graham cracker or cookie crust
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temp
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (cut this down to 1 1/2 if you’re using a different flavor of Milanos)
  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely crushed Lemon Milano cookies, plus more for garnish (buy two bags. You’ll have some left over. Hoard those for yourself 🙂 )
  1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the sugar, vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  2. In another bowl (preferably with the bowl sitting in the kitchen sink, unless you like being splattered to death with cream), on low speed with a hand mixer, beat the cream until slightly thickened, then turn the speed up to high and continue beating until firm peaks form.
  3. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture, then gently fold in the cookie
  4. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the pie crust and smooth the top. yes, it is very tall and yes, that’s a lot of filling. 😀
  5. Cover the pie lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to over night.
  6. When ready to serve, garnish with more crumbled cookies. Cut this into small slices. It IS a tall pie, so you’re getting a lot in a small slice. You should be able to get 12 servings out of this easily.

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Lemony White Chocolate Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Lemony Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Lemony Blueberry Streusel Muffins

We just got back from church a while ago and I figured I needed to get this written since at this point the muffins are long gone and the photos sitting on my desktop were constantly calling to me saying, “edit me! Edit me!”

Am I the only one who sits in church and while 99% of the mind is listening, the other 1% is totally off on a tangent? Mind you, in my defense, my tangents are pretty much always related to something church-ish (yes, that is now a word because I said so). Today, the gentleman in front of us was singing along and he had a sweet, if somewhat off key voice. The thought popped into my head that when we get to Heaven and our voices are raised praising God, I imagine it will be rather like in church. There won’t be a bunch of people with perfect voices sitting in perfect rows with perfect manners. It will be a mass of voices; the off key, the sweet soprano, the deep bass, the whispering alto and the childish murmurs of the young. I imagine we won’t be sitting on hard benches with politely folded hands; we’ll be shouting and waving our hands in praise as we listen to The Lord speak or shout in awe at the voices of an angelic choir. We’ll be on our feet or on our knees, but we sure won’t be silent. We certainly won’t be boring and worried about Sunday Manners.

I look forward to that in a way I never did when I was going to the quiet Lutheran church I went to as a child. The church we attend now took some getting used to for a lady who was used to quiet services, printed hymns sung in polite unison and above all else, manners, always manners. While I will probably (at least not in this life) never be a person who stands and waves my hands, who sings at the top of my lungs or shouts out “Praise God!”, I take a quiet joy in watching the tiny older lady who sits a few pews in front of us do so. I get choked up when I see the one man who always has his hands raised and a smile on his face that speaks of a elated communion with God. I find it hard to sing without tears as I hear all of these voices raised together in worshipful community and I see the worship leaders looking as though they feel that on that stage, in that moment, is where they want to be above all else. It’s not the songs I grew up with and I admit to being thrilled when we all sang “It Is Well With My Soul” a couple of weeks ago, but nonetheless, I think I have found my place, my home for this lifetime, the people I will watch grow and change over time. I look forward to that too.

Moving onto muffins, if you like the blueberry lemon citrus combo, this should be right up your alley.  Plus, they have streusel! What else does one need in life, right? I need to come up with a recipe for streusel topped streusel to satisfy my streusel addiction. In the meantime, I need to make more of these muffins. They are loaded with fresh blueberries, sweet white chocolate and lemon zest, then topped with buttery, crunchy streusel. These are perfect for breakfast, an afternoon snack or even dessert.

You know the drill…. 🙂

Lemony White Chocolate Blueberry Streusel Muffins

  • Streusel-
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and sliced thin
  • Muffins-
  • 1 cup buttermilk mixed with 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup good quality white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 15 muffins cups or line with foil or paper liners.
  2. Make your streusel- In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until you have pieces that are about pea sized. Set aside
  3. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk mixture and the oats. Let sit for about ten minutes to soften the oats.
  4. In another small bowl (you have someone to wash the dishes, right?), whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. In a large bowl (last bowl, I promise), stir together the melted butter, brown sugar and lemon zest. Dump the oats mixture into that and stir well.  Pour all of the flour mixture in at once and stir JUST until combined.
  6. Gently fold in the blueberries and white chocolate chips.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup to near the top. Top each with a heaping tablespoon or so of streusel and gently press down (you’ll have streusel left over. Just put it in a tightly covered container or ziploc bag and freeze it for another time) Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Gently remove from the muffin cups and let cool on a rack.

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Lemony Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Lemony Blueberry Streusel Muffins

 

Uncommon Goods Fathers Day Goodies!

About a month ago, a gentleman named Tom from the company Uncommon Goods got in contact with me and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their Fathers Day products or something from the section of their website geared towards what I jokingly call “Manly Gifts”. 😛 I had heard of Uncommon Goods before and had gone to the site to drool more than once. Drooling over cool products makes me happy. Plus, I found out that Uncommon Goods is so much more than just your average everyday shopping site. One of the things I love? They have another website called Uncommon Knowledge that has just what the name implies; all sorts of short pieces that delve into interesting and sometimes humorous subjects like “Is there a mom in your computer” or “What is the gold standard for sushi?”. This is a company that has been awarded the Bizrate award for outstanding customer service every year since 2007, so it’s not like they HAVE to go that extra mile to make another site. They do it just because they can, and want to. PLUS, as if that’s not enough, this is a company with a conscience. With every purchase you make, they donate a dollar to the non profit charity of your choice. Cool, right?!
Back to the gifts however! If you visit Uncommon Goods you can see some of the neat gifts for the men in your life that they have. We’re talking everything from grilling supplies to a whiskey making kit to garden tools to these really cool Himalayan salt tequila glasses. And I didn’t manage to touch on what all they have. You can check out the ideas for men right here. I was given the option of choosing from that section or from their Fathers Days section which you can find right about here. I so love the make your own hot sauce kit over in that area!
It took me a while but I finally decided on this Artisanal Bamboo Salt Chest. I have been trying forever to teach the guys in my life that salt can be soooo much more than the harsh stuff you get out of the cardboard containers form the grocery store, so I knew this would be something that my husband would enjoy as well as me. I just hadn’t realized how cool my KIDS would find it, too! I think we all raised our blood pressure about 50 points the first day by trying all the different salts, hehe.Artisan Salts Uncommon Goods They have a few smoked salts in there that are amazing! I find myself reaching for them to sprinkle over anything that would do well with a smoky touch; meats of course, but also veggies, eggs, even pasta.
Moral of the story? 😛 If you’re looking for some great Fathers Day gifts or maybe hubbie or son has a birthday coming up, hie thyself on over to Uncommon Goods and check out the gifts they have there. Make sure you check out one of my favorite areas over here if you have any geeky guys in your life; I’m totally crushing on these planet lollipops! I know for certain they have won MY loyalty with great products. I am already planning how to refill the various salts in the case!

Disclosure- I was given product to review in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions in this post are my own and are 100% honest.

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

 

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

I like meatballs. My family likes meatballs. I don’t however, make meatballs very often because it’s one of those foods I have a weird mental block with, thinking they are far harder than they really are. When I DO make them, I realize that I was wrong, but in between times, it’s like, “Ooo, I want meatballs. Wait… no, I don’t. They’re a pain in the tushie.”

But I was in the grocery store the other day and they yet again had ground turkey in the reduced section. They ALWAYS have ground turkey there. Someone in the ordering department needs to get with the program and stop buying so much ground turkey, then they could possibly sell it at normal price. But I digress. They had some, so I bought some on a whim. I do many things on whims. I like to think it makes me interesting. It probably really just makes me extremely confusing and annoying, but humor me. I normally don’t even use ground turkey, finding it too dry and flavorless, but man, did I manage to shake that stereotype with these meatballs!

These turned out really, really good. Like worlds best meatball type of good. You of course, after trying them, might not agree, but hey, I’m the one naming them, so worlds best it is. 😀 These are tender and moist with a LOT of flavor and a mild bite of spicy red pepper to them. They aren’t difficult at all. These delicious bites are perfect with pasta, which is what I used them for this time, but I can easily imagine them in a small loaf of crusty bread, covered in red sauce and a ton of melted cheese.

You know the drill… 🙂

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (this is one of those times it’s fine to use the inexpensive powdery stuff. It helps bind the meatballs)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons minced garlic, depending on your love for garlic. I used a lot.
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil for the pan (more for each batch)
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients up through the salt.
  2. Use your hands to mix well.
  3. Shape the meat mixture into 30 meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Obviously, if you want smaller, go smaller, or bigger, same thing.
  4. Pour the olive oil into a large deep pan. Heat for about a minute, until the oil is getting shimmery, then places meatballs in a single layer. Cook over medium heat until nicely browned, about 3 minutes, then flip them and brown the other side. If you’re planning to add them to pasta sauce and cook further, stop there so as to not end up with overcooked, tough meatballs. Otherwise, cook until no longer pink inside (an internal temp of 165)
  5. Clean the pan out between batches and use a bit more oil each time or you end up with burned bits on the bottom that cling to the meatballs.
  6. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, letting the excess grease drain and serve with pasta, on sandwiches, as an appetizer, plain… whatever trips your trigger.
Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs 2

Worlds Best Italian Turkey Meatballs 2

Honey Bun Cake

 

Honey Bun Cake

Honey Bun Cake

When my three older kids were little (they range from 30 to 26 now), we were stone broke. I’m talking momma eats the tail of the chicken and says that is enough for her so that there was enough for an extra meal for the kids kind of broke. Needless to say, store bought treats were a rare…well, treat for them. One of the things they loved was when I would spend 75 cents (yes, I’m old enough that that was how much they were) on a box of Little Debbie Honey Buns for them. My son Cameron, now 28, especially loved those and I’d have to hide them from him. Personally, I never liked them. Too sweet, too goopy, too relatively flavorless. Even back then, while I couldn’t afford it, I was an ice cream sort of a gal.

All that said, when I was at the library recently, I took out the book “Blue Ribbon Baking From A Red Neck Kitchen”. I mean, I live in rural Kentucky. How could I resist anything with that title, right? While I didn’t find a million recipes in it that interested me, I just had to tab the one for Honey Bun Cake. Just the name made me think of my kids when they were little, so it was a moral imperative that I make it. 🙂

This is quite a bit better than the Little Debbie ones. It is still really sweet, but it’s a sweet with flavor due to the cinnamon and brown sugar, not just a generic sweetness that overwhelms and gives you a toothache or 9. The cake is moist with a crispy edge and is perfect for the kiddos. It’s also really nice with a cup of coffee. It goes together in like 5 minutes max and that’s if you’re slow. So make this for a nice last day of school snack or a family dessert or maybe even a sweet treat to start the day. I promise; you’ll like it. 😀

You know the drill….

Honey Bun Cake

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Filling-
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I didn’t use those)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (truthfully, I didn’t measure; just sprinkled it over the brown sugar straight from the jar)
  • Glaze-
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk (she called for 1/2 cup but it was REALLY thin with that amount, so it needs cut down a bit)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 13X9 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together on medium speed the cake mix, eggs, melted butter and sour cream. Beat for about two minutes, until the batter is thick and creamy looking.
  3. Pour about 1/2 of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Carefully dollop and spread the rest of the batter over the top. Do your best to get to the corners, but life will go on if you don’t have every inch covered. it will spread as it bakes.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze, which is simply a matter of whisking together the glaze ingredients. Not hard at all 😛
  6. While the cake is still hot, poke holes all over the top. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, spreading to try to get it down into the holes also.
  7. Let it finish cooling in the pan, then slice and serve.

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Honey Bun Cake

Honey Bun Cake

 

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

I mentioned eons ago that I have a set of cookbooks called Time-Life Foods Of The World. They were published in the late ’60’s and early 70’s and are anything but just recipe books. They are more food culture of various parts of the world with recipes thrown in. These books are some of my most treasured possessions and I reread them whenever I am in the need of some reading comfort. I was reading, for the umpteenth time, the one in the series that talks about the region of the states where Creole and Cajun cooking are the norm. I swear, each time I read that one, I want to get in the car and make my way to New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana, just to eat. 😛

Well, after I finished reading it, I couldn’t get out of my mind one of the dishes mentioned. The author called it Chicken Piquante. It was described as chicken in a spicy tomato based sauce that had plentiful amounts of onion, garlic, etc etc. It wouldn’t leave my head and all I could think of was that I wanted to make something like that.

So I did.

And man, was it a hit! This turned out so darn good! The chicken was tender and moist and the sauce, which I served over brown rice as well as the chicken itself, was spicy, filled with tender/crisp veggies and tomatoes, with a VERY slight sweetness to it. This is one dish that I know I’ll be making again, and again… and again. And other than the time taken chopping the vegetables, this is barely any work at all. Plus, you can use your own favorite chicken parts in this. I used breasts and thighs, but you use what your family enjoys

You know the drill! 🙂

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

  • 4 to 5 lbs chicken parts (the equivalent of one normal sized chicken. I used a combo of thighs and bone in, skin on breasts)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or some other neutral oil) plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red pepper
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, diced (omit this if you want the dish less spicy)
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used the kind with peppers and celery in it)
  • 2 15 ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup (yes; ketchup. It adds a richness and subtle sweetness)
  • 2 tablespoons Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (you may need more if your Cajun seasoning is salt free. I used McCormicks, which has salt in it)
  1. Pour the 2 tablespoons oil into a large pan (I used my 7 quart dutch oven just to leave room for splattering grease). Add in the chicken pieces, skin side down, doing it in two batches if they don’t fit comfortably in the pan. Cook the first side of the chicken for about five minutes. Don’t try to pull it up if it doesn’t come up easily. When meat has browned enough, it will flip without leaving half the skin in the pan. Flip each piece and let it cook for about another five minutes, then transfer the meat to a plate.
  2. Drain the grease in the pan and add in the 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup flour. Over medium heat, stirring frequently if not constantly, cook them together until the mixture is a medium brown color. You’re making a roux here and it will add a delicious flavor to the finished dish as well as help thicken the sauce up a bit.
  3. Once the roux is a medium brown, add in the various chopped veggies. Stir them around to coat and let them cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Snuggle the chicken pieces down into the vegetable mixture. It’s ok if they are kind of propped up on each other; they will still cook fine once covered in the sauce
  5. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and then pour it all over the chicken pieces. Stir a little to get the sauce down in there, then cover the pot. Let this cook, stirring occasionally just to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick, for about 45 minutes (this is going on thighs and large breasts. If using other parts of the chicken, watch your time accordingly), uncovering for the last 15 minutes or so to give the sauce a chance to cook down a bit. Taste your sauce once during cooking to see if you think it needs anything; more spiciness, more salt, a touch more sugar, etc
  6. Garnish with green onions and sliced jalapenos if desired and serve with rice or noodles to sop up the amazing sauce.

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Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

Spicy (Or Not) Cajun Chicken

Streusel Topped Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Streusel Topped Chocolate Chip Banana Bread 3

I would apologize for having been gone so long, but you’ve all heard it before. I’ve become like that straying spouse that says for the 12th time, “I promise; it won’t happen again! Trust me!” and then they step out on you again 😛 I do what I can post wise lately and I know that those of you who have been around for pretty much my full five years (Yes! We passed the five year mark early this month. D’you believe it!?) love me anyway.

Are you all as totally sick as me of all the political crap on facebook anymore? I love my friends, but I swear, I can’t scroll half an inch there without being bombarded with “Democrats are evil; no, Republicans are evil!” posts. It is enough to make one want to go live on a deserted island in the south pacific with only a banana tree for food and a macaw for company.  Wait; I wanted to do that anyway. I mean, really, think about it. Bananas are a perfectly good food to live off of (though if I wanted protein, I imagine my buddy the macaw would start looking tasty hehe) and you can’t beat a nice sunny tropical island. Just send me with a few crates of books and a way to play music and it’s all good.

This wasn’t originally going to be a post, but it was too tasty to keep to myself. It’s nothing earth shaking. I was making my original banana bread and I noticed that I had a partial bag of chocolate chips I needed to use up. Then, when I glanced in the freezer for something else, I saw my stored bag of streusel. The two brain cells I have left decided to use both of these things in the bread. I have to say, it’s really quite good. I added a layer of streusel to the middle of each loaf along with a small handful of chocolate chips, then topped each loaf with more of the same. Simple, yet delicious. I sent some in with Joshie for his teacher today and she texted me saying it was fantastic. I soooo love when people enjoy what I’ve made. 🙂

This is a perfect after school snack, great with coffee for a quick and somewhat decadent breakfast (but it has bananas! It must be good for you, right?!), a nice late night treat; just an all around nice baked good to have around. And, as as in the case for most quick breads, this is easy to throw together and get in the oven.

You know the drill…. 🙂

Streusel Topped Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup solid shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups of mashed bananas (this is about 5 to 6 medium bananas)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon banana flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon butter flavoring (optional, but it adds a nice flavor)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (toast in a single layer in a 350 oven until they are a light golden brown)
  • 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips or chunks
  • Streusel-
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (optional; with me, nuts in streusel depends on my mood)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350. Grease 6 mini disposable foil loaf pans and set aside. Alternately, you can do this in a 9 inch loaf pan, but you’ll have extra that you’ll need to make muffins with.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. In a large bowl, on low speed, cream together the shortening and the sugar until well combined. Add in the mashed bananas, vanilla, banana and butter flavorings and eggs. Beat well.
  4. Dump in the flour mixture and using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine JUST until mixed. It’s fine if there are a few lumps or white streaks. I have said before and will say again, you do NOT want to over beat quick breads and/or muffins. You end up with tough rubbery final products doing that. Resist that urge.
  5. Fold in the toasted walnuts. Again; don’t over mix.
  6. Fill each mini loaf pan about half full. Sprinkle with about 2 heaping tablespoons of the streusel and then about a tablespoon of the chocolate chips. Divide the rest of the batter evenly over each loaf, carefully smoothing the top to get it over the streusel. Top each loaf with another 2 tablespoons of streusel and some chocolate chips. If you have streusel left over, it freezes wonderfully.
  7. Bake at 350 for 35 to 45 minutes minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean  If this starts to brown too much, just lay a piece of foil over the top as it bakes.
  8. Let it sit in the pan for ten minutes, then gently squeeze the bottom of the pan to loosen the loaf and turn it out carefully to a rack to finish cooling.

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Streusel Topped Chocolate Chip Banana Bread 5

 

My favorite Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies & A Hamilton Beach Giveaway!

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip & Toffee Cookies

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip & Toffee Cookies

It’s time for me to get to enjoy being a Hamilton Beach Ambassador one more time! I always love when I get the chance to share my thoughts on one of their products with you, and I especially love getting to give away whatever that product is to one of you! So, what do we have to talk about today? The most recent thing the lovely people at Hamilton Beach sent to me is their Easy Reach 4 Slice Toaster Oven .

4 Slice Easy Reach™ Toaster Oven with Roll-Top Door

4 Slice Easy Reach™ Toaster Oven with Roll-Top Door

This toaster oven is so darn cute! Yes, I just called a toaster oven cute. But really, it is.31334 Other women will understand it, while men will just shake their heads and assume I’m insane; rather like my husband does when I say that those teeny tiny mini sized bottles of ketchup are cute. Inside, this oven is only a wee bit smaller seeming than the typical toaster oven. What makes it seems tinier is it’s lack of bulk. You have a glass door on the front that rolls up rather than opens downward. This has a pro and a con. It makes it easier to get into the oven without worrying about the door getting in your way as you pull things out. BUT… and this is again something most women will “get”; it also means that you can’t set any sort of knick knacks or decorations on top of this oven. On my old one, I kept the cup that held all the keys, my ceramic cow named Herman (don’t ask) and a knick knack that once belonged to my mother in law. With this one, I can’t do that due to the roll top door.
But it makes up for it in other ways. The Hamilton Beach 4 Slice goes from 200 degrees all the way up to 450 degrees. Beyond toasting, you have the already mentioned bake function, plus a broil one. I can see THAT one working great for melting the cheese on top of something or crisping up a food; making burgers.

Did I mention that the door was removable? Can we say “easy cleanup”?! Unlike ones where you end up with a door so splattered and icky that you can’t see through it, with this one, after each use, just take the door off, wash it up, dry it and put it back on. No mess! 31334-04 This comes with a removable rack that can be used in two different positions and a crumb tray that isn’t attached inside, so you can pull it out easily and clean it off.
My old toaster oven? I was afraid to actually COOK anything in it. I used it for toast and frozen pizzas and that was about it. But I knew if I was going to be able to accurately review this for you, I needed to branch out a little. I thought about homemade pizza, then realized that was still hedging my bets; pizza is pizza when it comes to baking. So I finally decided to make one of my family’s favorite cookies; my Brown Butter Chocolate Chip & Toffee Cookies. This cookie isn’t cheap to make generally, so I was counting on this oven to do it correctly and not end up burning the tops or the bottoms like other ones have done. So I took a deep breath and dived in.
IT WORKED!! The cookies came out looking just like they should, though they seemed to finish baking about a minute and a half quicker. Obviously, you can’t fit a full sized tray of cookies in there, but the oven comes with a tray and that tray fits four cookies just fine. If made smaller, you could fit six, but I like generously sized cookies 😀 My sons got a hold of the cookies (I only got ONE cookie! Darn kids!) before I got a photo (I had only made a half batch) so the photo I am using here is my old one, but trust me, there was no difference in the cookies.
As for the cookies themselves, if you haven’t tried these before, now’s your chance! These cookies are awesome, if I do say so myself, hehe. They are ooey gooey, with a slight nutty flavor from the browned butter, but no actual pesky nuts. They have that wonderful soft middle with the crispy edge. You could make a half batch like I did and have enough for the here and now, or make the full batch of dough, freeze half in cookie sized balls, then bake in the toaster oven anytime you get a craving. You can bake straight from frozen; just add a couple of minutes time on.

                         Browned Butter Chocolate Chip & Toffee Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, browned to a golden brown color & cooled
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 ounce bag semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 bag Heath Bar toffee chips (or 4 Heath bars, crushed)

 

  1. To brown the butter, in a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Let cook,stirring frequently, until it turns a golden brown color. This can take anywhere from five to ten minutes. It will sputter, spit and foam a lot at first then that will stop. Do NOT walk away from this as it can go from yellowish butter to burnt garbage very quickly.
  2. Pour the browned butter into a large bowl, leaving behind all the solid bits at the bottom of the pot (though if you get some in there it’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.). Let cool.
  3. When cool, pour both kinds of sugar into the bowl with the butter. Beat until well mixed.
  4. Add in the egg and egg yolk, then pour in the vanilla and the cream. Beat on low speed until well mixed.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.
  6. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and at slow speed (unless you want to be covered in flying flour), mix until you have a cohesive cookie dough.
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips and the toffee bits.
  8. Now you can chill for about an hour if you want. The original recipe says to but I didn’t bother and they were fine.
  9. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. If you don’t have a silicone mat, please go buy one. They aren’t cheap but oh my, they’re worth it. Trust me on this. The first time you use it, you’ll totally understand. Spray the cookie sheet with baking spray.
  10. Scoop the cookies up and place about 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheet.
  11. Bake at 350 until golden brown on the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes. Do NOT over bake or they will lose that delicious softness and gooeyness (yes, that is now a word). They should be firm on top if you press one lightly but not hard.
  12. Let cool for a minute on the sheet then transfer over to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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Now for the fun part; the giveaway! Enter below for your chance (chances) to win one of these Hamilton Beach 4 Slice Toaster Ovens for yourself!

Click here to view this promotion.

Disclosure-The lovely people at Hamilton Beach provided me with a 4 Slice Easy Reach Toaster Oven With Roll Top Door to review, but all opinions are 100% my own and completely honest.

Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta

Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta

Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta

I have a writing pad that I write recipe ideas in. It’s totally not pretty; just a typical notepad. Half the things in it are so scribbled that I’m the only one that can read them. My writing is atrocious at the best of times (leftie here!), but when I get an idea for something at 3am (yes, this is a curse of food blogging), it is even worse. When I finally try to create what my mind thought up in the throes of sleep, it gets crossed off of the list. The list, however, is NEVER going to get finished, because I keep adding to it. One of the things that was in there for ages was to try to recreate one of my favorite dishes, which is chicken cordon bleu, as a pasta dish. I love it the regular way, but it’s such a pain in the tush to make; pound the chicken down, roll it up with the ham and cheese, get it breaded, fry it, and then do the clean up. Ugh.

So, while I realize it’s not new; you can find 50,000 versions of this online, this is MY version of a chicken cordon bleu pasta. My family really enjoyed this one. It made a pretty full pan of pasta, but other than a little bit my husband took to lunch the next day, it ALL got eaten. Of course, I live with all males, two of whom are 19 and 21, but still…

This turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. Tender pasta filled with chunks of ham, slices of chicken (I cheated and use the packaged slices; SO much easier!), all in an ultra creamy Swiss and Gruyere cheese sauce with a little bit of peas mixed in for color and to convince myself that this is chock full of nutrition instead of fat and calories. 😀  So, so delicious!

You know the drill… 🙂

Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta

  • 10 ounces of your favorite pasta (I used fusilli just cause they are a fun shape), cooked and drained (reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water just in case you need to thin the sauce) and poured into a large bowl or pot
  • 16 ounces cooked, cubed ham
  • 12 ounces cooked, sliced chicken breast (I cheated and used the prepackaged slices in the lunch meat/deli area of the grocery store)
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed (leave them sit out for ten minutes… they’ll be thawed enough)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 3/4 cup milk (I used whole. I don’t suggest trying this with skim or 1%)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded and combined with
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded, and
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (the REAL stuff, not the cheap canned type)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (taste the sauce before adding salt. Some Parmesan can be pretty salty and you may not need as much or even any at all)
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an oven safe pan or medium sized dutch oven. In a medium heavy bottomed saucepot, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Slowly whisk in the milk, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. When you have all the milk in, switch over to a spoon or rubber spatula and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, JUST until the mixture comes to a light boil.
  3. Slowly whisk about 1 cup of the milk mixture into the beaten eggs. You’re trying to temper the eggs (heat them up slowly) so that they don’t scramble when added back into the rest of the milk. Once the full cup of milk has been whisked into the eggs, slowly pour the eggs back into the milk mixture, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat for about a minute.
  4. Pull out 1/2 cup of the mixed cheeses and reserve to top the pasta with. Dump the rest of the combined cheese into the milk and stir constantly, until melted. Take the pot off of the heat and stir in the dill weed, Dijon mustard and black pepper. Taste for saltiness and then add the salt if needed.
  5. Dump the ham, chicken and peas over the reserved pasta and stir. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta mixture and stir to combine. If the sauce seems too thick, use some of the reserved pasta water to thin it down.
  6. Spoon the pasta into the prepared pan or dutch oven and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Sprinkle with a little extra dill weed, if desired.
  7. Bake at 350 just until heated through and slightly bubbly around the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

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Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta

Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta

 

 

 

Herbed Roasted Potatoes And Root Vegetables

Herb Roasted Potatoes And Root Vegetables

Herb Roasted Potatoes And Root Vegetables

I have whined more than once about how much I dislike carrots. But it bears saying again. I don’t like carrots. Though for a woman who doesn’t like carrots, I have a fair amount of recipes that incorporate them, don’t I? If this doesn’t show my love for you carrot loving weirdos, I don’t know what does. But did I ever mention that I’m not a huge potato fan, either? I like french fries, and I love roasted potatoes, but I’m not much on mashed or baked. In other words, if it has been made crispy, I’m cool with it. Crispy for the win! *does a cheer, breaks hip*

That said, I have a major thing for roasted veggies. Roasting even makes carrots taste good. 😛 Seriously though, if you have anyone in your family who isn’t fond of veggies, try this recipe. With roasting, you get crispiness and the roasting process makes them sweeter and takes away any bitter edge some vegetables can have. The following is my family’s absolute favorite way of making them. You have the main part, which is the potatoes and carrots, all flavored with onions, shallots, garlic, salt and herbs. So, so good. This is perfect with a roast, with baked chicken, heck, with pretty much anything. Plus, it works for a special dinner too, not just a family one. The combo of vegetables and herbs never fails to get gobbled up.  And this recipe is totally variable in amounts or type of veggie, too. Feeding more people? Double up into two pans with extra vegetables. Feeding less? Same thing. Like turnips or rutabagas? Cut some up and toss them in there.

You know the drill… get to cooking! 🙂

Herb Roasted Potatoes And Root Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 lbs baby potatoes, washed, dried and cut in half
  • 1 lb carrots, cut into chunks (you can also just use baby carrots)
  • 1 large onion, chunked
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 4 cloves minced garlic ( I have also been known to keep the garlic whole (peeled), and roast it that way. It get caramelized and soft and oh so good)
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes De Provence (easily found in the spice aisle of any decent grocery store)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt or amount desired
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper)
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Combine the potatoes, carrots, onion, shallots and garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle the oil over it all and use your hands to give it all a good stir, making sure to get everything coated in oil. Dump in the pan and turn all the potatoes so that the cut edge is on bottom (gets them crisper that way) Sprinkle everything with the salt, pepper and Herbes De Provence.
  3. Roast at 425 for between 30 to 40 minutes, or until everything is tender and the potatoes have nicely browned on bottom. Taste for salt and serve.

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