Thursday, March 28, 2013

Easter Brunch

Happy almost Easter!  For those of you living in a cave….Easter is this Sunday.  I know that everyone’s family has their own traditions for Easter, and their own favorite dishes.  What do you do?  Easter breakfast?  Brunch?  Dinner? 

At our house, along with an egg hunt, we always have Easter Brunch.  Our families don’t live all that close to us, so over the years, we have started an Easter Brunch tradition with friends.  We all get together, not too early because I hate mornings, and hunt for eggs, drink mimosas, eat great food, and have a great time spending the better part of the day together.  The kids love it because they get tons of candy, and I love it because we always do it as a potluck.  That means this mama doesn’t have to slave away cooking.  I make a ham and one other dish, and call it a day.  Easy peasy.

This year, like usual, I am making a huge Peach Glazed Ham and my Cheesy Grits Casserole.  I love making a big ‘ol ham.  Mostly because I like having ham leftovers.  I will stick ham in anything…..ham salad, ham pasta, ham and eggs, ham sandwiches….you get the picture.  I’m like Bubba from Forrest Gump, but with ham not shrimp.  But enough about that.  Today I am going to show you the recipe for my scrumptious ham, and later I will show you how to make my grits.  I feel southern just saying the word.

For my ham, I start with a 10 pound smoked, spiral cut, bone-in ham.  You can do boneless if you want.  That part really doesn’t matter.  I get spiral cut because it is just way easier.  I always get the kind that comes with its own glaze packet.  Don’t hate on the packaged glaze….you can totally use it to jazz up your ham, along with a few other key ingredients.  My ham came with a “brown sugar” glaze.  Look for that or a honey glaze.

The first thing I do, after unwrapping the fifty two layers of wrapping, is place the ham in a large baking dish.  I cover it tightly in foil and bake it at 325 for about an hour and ten minutes.  Go about your business…..have coffee, take a shower, etc.  Just leave that ham alone.  Once the ham has about ten minutes left to cook, I get the glaze together.

In a small sauce pot, I add about a tablespoon of olive oil, a diced shallot and a minced garlic clove.  I let this cook for a couple of minutes, until the shallot is softened.  Then, I add the glaze packet, ¼ a cup of Dijon mustard, ¼ a cup of chicken broth, salt and pepper, and one jar of Gourmet Rooster County Fair Peach spread.  This spread has peaches, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and a couple other yummy things in it.  It tastes like peach pie filling!  If you can’t find it, look for a spiced peach spread in your grocery store.  If you can’t find that, use peach preserves.

I let this all boil together for just a couple of minutes.  Once the ham gets pulled out of the oven, and unwrapped, I pour the glaze all over the ham.  I let the ham cook for an additional thirty minutes, which gives the glaze a chance to caramelize and give the ham fabulous flavor.  It gives the ham a crunchy, crusty sweet exterior.  It’s like ham candy on the outside.  You will love it, your family will love it, and your friends will love it. 

As for my grits….(there I go, feelin’ all southern again), I use quick cooking grits chicken broth, butter, chive cream cheese, goat cheese, Jack cheese and eggs to make the best grits casserole you will ever taste.  The grits are creamy, cheesy, savory and amazing all at the same time.  And since it is a casserole, it holds its shape…it won’t run all over the plate.  I don’t like my food touching, but I am weird like that.

I start by boiling my chicken broth and grits together for about five minutes.  Remember, I’m using quick cooking grits, so mine cook pretty fast.  Once the grits are thick and creamy, I stir in butter and all the cheeses, keeping the grits over low heat.  And now it gets a bit tricky…..you have to temper the eggs into the grits to keep from getting scrambled eggs.

I beat the eggs in a little bowl with a salt and pepper.  Then, I take some of my grits, about ½ a cup, and beat that into the grits to raise the temperature of the eggs.  Once that’s done, I stir the egg/grits mix into the pot.  Once everything is blended, it can be poured into a greased 9x13 baking pan. 

This bakes for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  When they are done, they won’t be jiggly in the middle and the top will be nice and browned.


I promise, this is the perfect side dish for an Easter brunch….or any brunch!  And the ham, oh the ham…..it is sweet/salty perfection.

I hope you try these recipes!  And make your guests bring the rest.   Happy Easter!

Peach Glazed Ham

10 pound spiral cut ham with brown sugar glaze

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

½ cup Dijon mustard

¼ cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 9 ounce jar Gourmet Rooster County Fair Peach Spread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place ham in a large baking dish.  Cover tightly with foil.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes.

For glaze:

In a small sauce pan, sauté shallot and garlic in olive oil until shallot is soft, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in glaze packet, mustard, broth, salt, pepper and Peach spread.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes.

Remove ham from oven and unwrap.  Pour glaze over ham and return to oven for 30 more minutes.  Let ham rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 16 (will give you a lot of leftovers)


Cheesy Grits Casserole

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 ½ cups quick cooking grits

1 cup Jack cheese, grated

8 ounces chive cream cheese

6 ounces goat cheese

4 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13x2 baking dish.

In a medium sized sauce pot, bring broth and water to a boil.  Stir in grits. Simmer over low heat, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until thick.  Stir in cheeses.  Cook over low heat until cheeses are melted.

In a small bowl, beat eggs with salt and pepper.  Stir ½ cup of hot grits into eggs.  Add egg mixture into grits and stir until blended.

Pour grits into greased 9x13x2 pan.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until middle is completely set and top is browned.

Serves 12

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Strawberry Fields

Spring has sprung!  At least is has today.  By the time you read this, it could be snowing….it is Reno, after all.  But today, as I write this, it has been warm and sunny for the past few days.  And I love it.  I even wore flip-flops yesterday.  Yeah, I might be pushing it a little bit with that, but I don’t care!  Bring on the sun!

There are a few things in Reno that let me know that good weather (sun, warmth, no clouds) is on the way.  The first is the return of the marmots.  Have you seen these adorable little creatures?  They are all over South Reno when the weather starts to warm up.  I want to catch one and keep it as a pet, but I am afraid it might rip my face off.  The second clue that spring is on the way is that the little league fields are busy again!  Little cuties playing baseball and softball means sun and fun!  And lastly, the final way I know that sunny goodness is on the way is the very nice men selling strawberries on the corner…all the way from California.  Man, I love strawberries from Watsonville, CA.

Today, I am going to celebrate said strawberries….and they don’t have to be bought from someone on the street.  (That sounds weird, right?)  All of our grocery stores are overflowing with strawberries right about now.  The strawberries are juicy and sweet…and perfect.  Plus, they are usually a really good price right about now too.  My first recipe that I am going to show you is my Strawberry Balsamic Pork Chops.  These pork chops are smothered in a sauce that is sweet from the strawberries, tart from the balsamic vinegar and creamy from a bit of goat cheese.  They are crazy good.  My second recipe is a Berry Crumb Pie.  It is a perfect springtime treat, and especially good for Easter!  Let me show you how I made both.

For my pork chops, I start with about a pound of thin-cut boneless pork chops.  I give these a dredge in seasoned flour, and then a quick sauté in a large skillet.  I really just brown the chops on both sides.  Then, I take the chops out for a little rest and in goes some shallots into the same pan.  I cook the shallots just enough to get soft, about two or three minutes.  Then, I stir in Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, strawberries and chicken broth.  I let this all simmer together for a few minutes to soften the berries, and then I return the chops to the pan.  Once the chops are re-heated in the sauce, I stir some goat cheese in.  How easy is that?  So easy, and so ridiculously good! 



This is such an easy, fast and fresh dinner.  My whole family loves it.  I know that some of you probably think that you don’t like fruit with meat.  I hear that a lot.  But give this a try….you never know!  The flavors work so well together, and it just fits.  Plus, it tastes like a warm spring day.  Well, if you could taste that kind of a day, I guess.

I serve my pork chops with lots of rice on the side to soak up the excess sauce….the best part.  Last time I made it, I served it with a bulgur/quinoa combination.  Look at me….bein’ all healthy!

Here is a weird coincidence….as I write this, it is actually “Pi Day”.  And fittingly, I have a pie recipe to show you.  I love pie.  Fruit pie, cream pie, pot pie….and kind of pie.  Pies make me happy.  Especially this pie.  My Berry Crumb pie uses the fresh strawberries of spring and blueberries.  I have also used rhubarb instead of blueberries, but I am a bit early in the season for rhubarb…it isn’t typically ready till April.  But rhubarb or blueberries…the strawberries and the crumb topping are the shining star of this pie.

I start with my favorite pie crust recipe, which I am including below.  You can use my recipe, or you can absolutely use a boxed pie crust from the store…you know, they kind that comes rolled up?  I won’t judge you.  The boxed kind is great!

I place my crust in a pie dish and then fill that crust with a yummy mixture of strawberries, blueberries, sugar, orange extract and tapioca.  The tapioca will thicken the juices of the fruits without making the pie gummy.  Now here is the best part….. I don’t use a top crust.  Instead, I top this pie with a mixture of flour, brown sugar, white sugar, pumpkin pie spice and butter.  This combination makes THE BEST crumb topping.  It is almost like you get to break through a cookie/candy layer to even get to the pie.  I am obsessed with this crumb topping.

This pie bakes for about 50 minutes, and while it cooks, it fills your house with the most amazing smell.  But what’s more amazing is the taste of this pie.  It tastes of sweet berries, crunchy crumb topping and buttery, flaky crust.  Perfection.  I think your friends and family would love this for Easter!


Have a great week!  And buy some strawberries!

Strawberry Balsamic Pork Chops

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup flour

1 ½  teaspoons salt

1 ½  teaspoons black pepper

1 pound boneless thin-cut pork chops

1 tablespoon butter

1 large shallot, chopped

2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 pound strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped

1 cup chicken stock

4 ounces goat cheese

Stir together flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a shallow bowl.  Dredge pork chops in flour mixture.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Sauté dredged pork chops in oil, about 2 minutes per side depending on thickness of chops.  Remove chops from skillet and set aside.

Add butter and shallots to skillet.  Sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in mustard and vinegar.  Add strawberries and chicken broth.  Return to a boil and add pork chops back into the pan.  Cook until pork chops are re-heated, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in goat cheese and heat until melted.

Serve pork chops smothered in sauce.

Serves 4.


Berry Crumb Pie

1 pie crust (recipe to follow)

2 cups strawberries, sliced

2 cups blueberries

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon orange extract

¼ cup tapioca

Crumb topping (recipe to follow)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix strawberries, blueberries, sugar, extract, and tapioca in large bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes. Pour mixture into a 9 inch un-baked pie crust.

Top evenly with crumb topping.

Bake pie at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Adjust heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 20 to 25 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Serves 8-10

Crumb Topping

¾ cup flour

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

3/4th of a stick of butter, very cold and diced

Mix all ingredients with your hands until mixture is in pea sized pieces.

Pie Crust

2 & ½ cups flour, plus extra for rolling

2 sticks butter, super cold and diced

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon orange extract

6 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in food processor. Pulse to mix. Mixture will resemble a course meal when mixed.

Add extract and slowly add ice water, pulsing to mix. When dough comes together, it is ready.

Place dough onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. Cut ball in half. Place both halves in fridge for at least one hour. (recipe above only needs one ball, or half)

Place chilled dough on floured surface and roll into 12 inch disk. Place in pie pan and trim excess edges.

Makes enough for 2 Berry Crumb Pies.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Leprechaun Treats!

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day….A day filled with people wearing green, leprechauns, and people trying to force you to eat corned beef and cabbage.  Now I actually enjoy corned beef and cabbage…..but I think that the majority of people out there don’t.  If they did, wouldn’t they eat it more than once a year?  Wouldn’t it be a staple of our American diet?  You can’t find it in most restaurants, and it is nearly impossible to find a corned beef at a grocery store if it isn’t March.  All signs point to it not being very popular.  Yet every March 17th, people all over America throw a corned beef in their slow cooker and serve it to their family.  The funniest part about all of this?  The Irish don’t even really think of corned beef as a typical “Irish” food.  They usually just serve it to tourists.

My family claims to not like corned beef and cabbage.  Since, like I said above, I enjoy it….I have been searching for ways to serve it to my family in a way they would enjoy.  Well folks, I hit the nail on the head with this recipe.  I created a “Luck ‘o The Irish” Mac and Cheese that has corned beef, cabbage, Irish cheddar and a few other star ingredients.  It is a hit with my family…and yes, they actually ask for it all year long.

We all know what corned beef is, right?  We don’t need a history lesson?  Well for those that maybe live under a rock, corned beef is a salt cured beef.  It is a brisket, so it has to be cooked low and slow.  I have a fabulous recipe for corned beef that I will give you at the end of this….but the easiest way to get corned beef for my mac and cheese?  Go to your deli and ask for some, and have the deli person slice it thick, like ½ an inch thick.  They will do that for you.  Throw them a little wink if necessary.

I also use plain green cabbage in this recipe, about ½ a head.  Just plain green cabbage, which is one of the cheapest things in your grocery store.

So that takes care of the corned beef and cabbage part of this recipe….let me walk you through how I make it.

Let’s start with the sauce.  I start by making a roux out of butter and flour.  Then, I whisk in some milk.  Once the sauce is thickened, I stir in a good strong Irish cheddar cheese.  Your grocery store should have a few choices, it is pretty main stream.  I also whisk in some spicy brown mustard.  This sauce can sit on the back of your stove over low heat while you prepare the rest of the mac and cheese.

I boil about a pound of macaroni noodles for this recipe.  You can use whatever cut of noodle you want….I am a rationalist.  Once the macaroni is cooked and drained….toss it in a big bowl and let it wait for the remaining ingredients.

Ok, so we have sauce and noodles…we still need cabbage!  I shred my ½ a head of cabbage and then sauté it quickly in butter, salt and pepper.  Then, I add that to the macaroni.

Finally, I dice up my corned beef, about three cups worth.  I add this to the macaroni and cabbage.  Then, I pour the sauce over the macaroni and mix.  This whole mixture gets poured into a greased 9x13 baking dish.  But it isn’t done yet!  I top the whole thing with rye bread crumbs.  Rye goes well with corned beef, right?  At least on a Rueben sandwich it does.  You won’t find rye bread crumbs at your grocery store.  The easiest way to make some is to toast a few slices of rye bread, and then throw them in your food processor.  These crumbs give the mac and cheese a wonderfully crunchy top.

Ok, so this whole thing bakes for about thirty minutes.  The mac and cheese will meld together and get all gooey and delicious.  It is like a work of art.


Did I mention this is a fabulous way to use up St. Patrick’s Day leftovers?  Well, it is.

After a yummy dinner like that, you still need dessert!  Now this dessert recipe won’t appeal to the kiddos…go buy them a Shamrock Shake.  But, if you are cooking for adults, I have got the recipe for you.  I am going to show you how to make a flourless chocolate cake topped with an Irish Cream sauce.  It is amazing.  So amazing that I dream about it sometimes.

A flourless chocolate cake means just that.  This baby doesn’t have any flour in it.  This means that it comes out like a giant gooey brownie.  It is soft and almost seems not quite done in the center, but that is just how I like it……gooey chocolate goodness.

I start by buttering a spring form pan.  Then, I dust the whole thing with cocoa powder.  Flour would turn the cake a weird color.  Oh yea, I also preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

I use a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips for this recipe.  I toss the chips in a large bowl with some butter, salt and espresso powder.  Then, I microwave the whole thing until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Then, I set it aside to cool slightly.

In the meantime, I beat together sugar and eggs with my hand mixer.  You can use a standing mixer too and that will shave some time off of this.  If you are kicking it old school with a hand mixer, be prepared to beat this for about six minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Once the egg mixture is thoroughly beat, fold the chocolate slowly into the eggs.  It will take a minute, but it will blend.  Then, pour the whole thing into your spring form.

This will bake for about an hour.  It won’t look quite set in the middle, but don’t worry, it is done.  This cake needs to cool for about a half hour before you cut it.  Seriously….find something to take your mind off of it because you really do need to wait.

Now for the best part…the glaze!  I pour some good Irish whiskey into a sauce pan and bring it to a boil.  This cooks the alcohol off.  Then, I pour in a can of sweetened condensed milk and let that simmer together for a few minutes.  This sauce will be thick, rich and so, so good.  I let it cool to almost room temperature before I pour it over the cake so it doesn’t immediately soak in and disappear.  That’s fine if it does, but I like for the glaze to show a little bit.


This looks crazy good, right?  It is.  It is so rich and chocolaty that just a small piece will do.  Or you might still eat the whole cake.  Tell your family a leprechaun ate it.

Flourless Espresso Chocolate Cake with an Irish Cream Glaze

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

12 tablespoons (1 & ½ sticks) butter, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing pan

1 tablespoon espresso powder

¼ teaspoon salt

6 eggs

1 & ½ cups sugar

Cocoa powder for dusting pan

½ cup Irish whiskey

14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 2 spring form pan with butter. Coat entire pan with cocoa powder.

Place chocolate chips, butter, salt and espresso powder in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 2 minutes in microwave. Stir and then heat in 30 second increments until fully melted. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool a bit.

Crack eggs into large bowl. Add sugar and beat with hand mixer for 6 minutes, until mixture in light and fluffy.

Slowly add chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Fold gently, until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees for one hour, or until top is set. The middle will still be gooey.

While cake bakes, bring whiskey to boil in a small pot. Simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in condensed milk and heat through. Remove from heat and let glaze come to room temperature.

Let cake cool for at least 20 minutes before releasing sides of spring form pan. Pour glaze over the top and serve.

Serves 12.


Irish Mac and Cheese

1 box (16 ounce) elbow macaroni, cooked

3 cups corned beef, chopped

½ a medium sized head of green cabbage, shredded

¼ cup butter, plus 3 tablespoons

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups whole milk

2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard

3 cups Irish Cheddar Cheese, grated

Salt and pepper

1 cup rye bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté shredded cabbage, in 1 tablespoon of butter, for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Melt ¼ cup butter in sauce pot, over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour. Whisk until a smooth paste is formed. Continue cooking, over medium heat, for one minute. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Cook over medium heat until sauce comes to a boil. Simmer for one minute, or until thickened. Stir in cheese and mustard. Cook, over low heat, until cheese is melted. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together, in a large bowl, cooked macaroni, cooked cabbage, corned beef and sauce. Pour into a greased 13 x 9 casserole. Top with bread crumbs. Dot remaining butter over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until browned on top

Serves 8-10

Best Ever Corned Beef


One store bought corned beef with spice packet, about 3 to 4 pounds


3 cups baby carrots


1 large yellow onion, chopped


1 jar Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ Sauce


2 cups apple juice


½ cup brown sugar


Place carrots and chopped onion into slow cooker. Set beef on top of vegetables. Sprinkle over spice packet.


In a bowl, stir together BBQ sauce, apple juice and brown sugar. Pour over beef.


Cook in slow cooker for 8 hours on low.


Let meat rest before slicing. Pour cooking liquid over meat.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Girl Scout Cookies....Can They Get Any Better?

What does Mid-February mean to you?  Valentine’s Day?  Lent?  Anticipation of spring?  For me it means one thing, and one thing only….and all the little girls in my neighborhood know it.  Girl Scout cookies.  I live for Girl Scout cookie season.  I have never turned down a girl scout.  You know on my door pushing cookies, and I will probably be your best customer.  I have already had my favorite little Girl Scout, Baylee, deliver a second round to me.

Please don’t send your Girl Scout to my house though.  I already am stacked to the ceiling with boxes of delicious cookie goodness.  Thin Mints, Samoa’s, Trefoils, Tagalongs….you name it.  I’ll eat it.  In fact, I have so many boxes of cookies that I had to come up with creative ways to eat them.  We have already eaten so many that we need a change of pace.  And don’t think I haven’t thought of freezing them because my freezer is full too.

By “creative ways”, I don’t mean standing on your head while eating them, or maybe eating them while jumping….I mean that I have added cookies to different recipes, and man….I came up with some good ones.

I’ll start with my favorite cookie….the Tagalong, or the “Peanut Butter Patty”.  I made the most amazing Dark Chocolate Tagalong Brownies.  They are too die for.  I started my crushing up a whole box of cookies.  Ok, well a whole bag minus the one that I ate.  Ok, Ok…the two that I ate.  Oh for crying out loud…it was three.  Anyway, I put the cookies in a zipper bag and crushed them with the flat bottom of a frying pan.  Not to smithereens, just chunks.

Next, I made a brownie batter with butter, sugar, eggs, flour, dark chocolate cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and espresso powder.  This is my “go to” brownie recipe.  Once that was blended, I stirred in my cookie chunks.  I spread this into a greased 9x13x2 baking pan.

Now for the best part.  I heated up about a cup of peanut butter in a sauce pan.  I find that peanut butter is so much easier to work with when it is warm.  Once it was warm, I poured it over the top of the brownies.  Then, I swirled the peanut butter into the brownie batter with a butter knife.  So pretty! 

These bake for about a half an hour.  When they are cooled, you can dig in.  These brownies are rich and chocolaty, with the best kick of peanut butter….and crunch from the cookies!  The cookies are the best addition to these brownies.  These are seriously sinful.

My next trick, I mean treat, and Tropical Crispy Rice Treats.  I use a new Girl Scout Cookie for these.  Have you tried the Mango Crèmes?  They are a vanilla and coconut cookie with a mango filling.  They taste like summer.  Or Hawaii.  Or a pina colada.  They are crazy good.

I put two sleeves of cookies into a zipper bag for this recipe.  Same as the Tagalongs, I crushed them up.  Again, not crumbs, more of a chunk.  I also use key lime flavored marshmallows, diced dried pineapple, butter and crispy rice cereal.  I found my key lime marshmallows at Wal-Mart.  It really is amazing how many different flavors of marshmallows you can find these days!

I melted the butter with the whole bag of marshmallows, plus a bit of a second bag.  One bag just wasn’t enough!  Once it was smooth, I stirred in my cookie chunks, dried pineapple and crispy rice cereal.  This mess got pressed into a greased 9x13x2 pan.  Here is a hint…..get your hand slightly wet to help you press the treats into the pan.  Otherwise the stickiness will overwhelm you and your kitchen. 

These just have to sit for about 30 minutes, then they are good to go.  My kids went bananas over these.  Which is only fitting because bananas are tropical.  But seriously, these taste like the most delicious tropical treat you will ever taste.  And they are such a welcome change from plain rice crispy treats!

Ok, my final cookie that got transformed into something else is the Trefoil, which really is just a shortbread cookie.  I like shortbread, but the rest of my family isn’t too thrilled by them.  They think they are boring.  Clearly my palate is superior to theirs.  You sensed the sarcasm in that, right?

I transformed these simple cookies by layering them with peanut butter, caramel, then another cookie, making a sandwich.  The whole thing got dipped in melted dark chocolate that I melted in my slow cooker.  That way it stays warm while I’m a dippin’.  Then, I let the chocolate harden.  You know what these are like?  A Twix bar……probably my favorite candy bar ever.  This really takes the simple Trefoil to a whole new level.  A level that I like.


Do you have a million boxes of Girl Scout cookies too?  You should try one of these recipes.  You might think that there is no possible way for Girl Scout Cookies to taste any better……I once thought that too.  I was wrong.  So wrong……

Dark Chocolate Tagalong Brownies

1 box Tagalongs (Peanut Butter Patties)

1 cup melted butter or vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1 cup flour

2/3 cup dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s)

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cookies in zippered plastic bag.  Crush cookies with a rolling pin or the bottom of a frying pan.  Crush cookies into chunks.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, stir together sugar, vanilla and melted butter or oil until smooth.  Stir in eggs and espresso powder.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Slowly stir dry ingredients into wet until combined.  Stir in cookie chunks.

Pour batter into a greased 9x13x2 baking pan.  Smooth batter out so that it is even.

In a small sauce pan, heat peanut butter over low heat until it is pourable.  Pour peanut butter over batter.  Using a butter knife, swirl peanut butter into batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool before cutting.

Makes about 36 brownies.


Tropical Crispy Rice Treats

1 box Mango Crème Cookies

3 tablespoons butter

10 ounces Key Lime Marshmallows (Campfire)

3 cups Crispy Rice Cereal

1 cup diced dried pineapple (I used Wal-Mart brand)

Place cookies into a zippered plastic bag.  Crush cookies with a rolling pin or the bottom of a frying pan.  Crush cookies into chunks.  Set aside.

In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in marshmallows.  Melt marshmallows into butter, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together crushed cookies, crispy rice cereal and dried pineapple.  Pour melted butter and marshmallow mixture into mixing bowl.  Stir together quickly until completely blended.

Press mixture into a greased 9x13x2 pan.  Let sit for about 30 minutes before cutting.

Makes about 36 squares.


Trefoil “Candy Bars”

1 sleeve Trefoil cookies (1/2 a box)

½ cup plus 2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter

6 teaspoons caramel dessert sauce

2  12 ounce bags semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt chocolate chips in slow cooker set to low. 

Lay 10 cookies out on a large piece of foil or waxed paper.  Spread peanut butter on each cookie, about 1 teaspoon each.  Top peanut butter with caramel, equally dividing caramel on each cookie.  Place another cookie on top forming a sandwich.  Dip each sandwich in melted chocolate covering completely.  Place dipped sandwich on foil and let harden, about one hour.

Makes 10 sandwiches.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Burgers With an Asian Twist

Do you ever order a hamburger when you go out to eat?  I never do.  I love hamburgers, but I never think to order one.  Last weekend, we ate out at a fabulous new restaurant, and I took a walk on the wild side.  Ok, not too wild, but I did order a cheeseburger.  It renewed my love of burgers.  This burger was meaty, juicy and all together delicious.  It was topped with BBQ sauce, blue cheese, onion strings and bacon.  Oh Mah God….it was good.  And it made me think, you know what…I haven’t cooked a burger in a while.  So I did.

I’ve experimented with burgers before, Nacho burgers, Italian burgers, Turkey burgers etc.  This time I gave my burger kind of an Asian flair. I combined ground beef and ground pork with a teriyaki marinade, and I topped the burgers with grilled pineapple, caramelized onions, and a spicy coleslaw.   It turned out amazing.  Let me walk you through I how made it.  And oh yeah, the best part….I also made Sweet Potato Fritters with a yummy dipping sauce to serve on the side.  Don’t worry, I will show you how to make those too.

I started with one and a quarter pounds of ground beef and one and a quarter pounds of ground pork.  I put this in a bowl with a packet of teriyaki marinade.  I found a cute little packet in the Ethnic Foods aisle.  I also sprinkled in some ground ginger and black pepper.  I mixed this together with my hands and formed burgers, about six of ‘em.

The teriyaki marinade really loads the meat with teriyaki flavor, without making the meat too loose, like a teriyaki sauce would do.  And the ginger adds a spicy sweetness that works so well with teriyaki.

To backtrack a bit….I also had about one and a half onions caramelizing on the stovetop while I formed and cooked burgers.  To caramelize onions really takes a long time…so start that early.  It is just essentially cooking onions on low for about 40 minutes.  I sprinkle the onions with salt and pepper and let them do their thing.  Low and slow.  They get super sweet….like onion candy.

I grilled these burgers on my indoor grill, but a frying pan would work just as well.  While the burgers cooked, I also grilled some canned pineapple slices.  Have you ever had grilled pineapple?  It is delicious.  It gets even sweeter and a bit smoky.  You can obviously use a fresh pineapple if you want, but I am way too lazy to cut one.

The final element to these burgers is spicy coleslaw.  I use packaged coleslaw mix.  I’m not cutting cabbage tonight.  Are you?  I make the dressing for the coleslaw with mayonnaise, sugar, rice wine vinegar, a splash of soy sauce and Sriracha hot sauce….my favorite part.  I love the spiciness of the Sriracha with the sweetness of the sugar, and the creaminess of the mayo.  It all just works.  And it comes together so quickly!

I served my burgers on ciabatta rolls that I quickly toasted in the oven.  Then, I layered on the burger, pineapple, onions and coleslaw.  I didn’t dress the bread with any condiments.  The pineapple and coleslaw bring the moisture.

Remember I said Sweet Potato Fritters?  Did that get your attention?  These are so easy to make, and they are the best side for a burger.  They are fluffy, sweet and salty, and crispy.  Perfection in just a couple of bites.


I used about 2 and ½ cups of leftover mashed sweet potatoes.  Ok, they weren’t leftover.  I used a box of instant mashed sweet potatoes.  I don’t care how you get there, just get there.  I love a good shortcut, but you can cook your own sweet potatoes, or even use the refrigerated version.  Whatever works for you.  We are all busy, right?

I mixed the sweet potatoes with an egg, a splash of buttermilk, baking powder, salt and pepper, and flour.  I mixed this well and dropped the batter into hot oil for a deep fry.  I used an ice cream scoop to drop my batter in.

These little guys cook up in a few minutes, and they are so crazy good.  I serve mine with an Asian-esque dipping sauce.  I mixed together more mayonnaise, a splash of soy sauce and more Sriracha.  The spicy sauce is perfect with the soft pillowy fritters.  Doesn’t it sound amazing with my Asian Burger?


It was, amazing that is.  This meal satisfied my craving for a good burger.  I think I might make these more often!

And a little tip….add sugar to the fritter recipe and you have breakfast!

Court’s Asian Burgers

2 onions, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons black pepper, divided

1 ¼ pounds ground beef (90/10)

1 ¼ pounds ground pork

1.25 ounce package Teriyaki Marinade (I used Sun Bird)

2 teaspoons ground ginger

20 ounce can sliced pineapple, drained

6 Ciabatta buns, toasted if desired

Spicy Coleslaw:

14 ounce bag pre-shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix)

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Melt butter into olive oil in a large sauté pan, over medium heat.  Add sliced onions, salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Reduce heat to low and sauté onions, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes.  Set aside.

Place meats in a mixing bowl.  Add teriyaki marinade, ginger and remaining pepper.  Mix gently, with your hands, until everything is incorporated.  Form 6 equal patties. 

Grill burgers on indoor or outdoor grill for about 5 minutes per side, or cooked to your liking.  Let burgers rest.

Grill pineapple slices on indoor or outdoor grill for about 2 minutes per side, or until caramelized.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and Sriracha until smooth.  Stir in cabbage until completely coated.

To assemble burgers:

Place burger patties on toasted buns.  Top burgers with pineapple, onions, and coleslaw.

Makes 6 burgers.

Sweet Potato Fritters

2 ½ cups mashed sweet potatoes

1 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

¼ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Vegetable of Peanut Oil for frying

Pour enough vegetable or peanut oil into a deep pot to reach about 4 inches up the side of the pot.  Preheat oil over medium heat until it reaches about 360 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients.  Stir until incorporated.

Drop heaping teaspoons of batter into hot oil.  Fry about 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Drain fritters on paper towels and sprinkle with salt while hot.

Serve with dipping sauce.

Makes about 18 to 20 fritters.

Dippin’ Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce

2 teaspoons soy sauce

Mix all ingredients together until mixed.  Serve with Sweet Potato Fritters.