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Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

Here’s a pecan pie for those who don’t really love pecan pie. I love pecan pie but I couldn’t resist the idea of adding more good stuff to one of my favorites.

The result? My kids, who don’t really care for pecan pie, LOVED this! Me? Turns out I’m a pecan pie purist. I love all the ingredients in this pie and thought I would absolutely love it, so I was surprised to discover I liked it but didn’t love it. Or it could have been that I was stuffed on the Chicken Artichoke Lasagna my daughter made for dinner and the plethora of sweets I’ve had lately. I’m not sure. I might have to make this one more time to decide.  :)Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

Alex said he isn’t really a nut person – I beg to differ ;) – but he really liked this pie. Tish liked it because she doesn’t like the texture of regular pecan pie. She also might be a bit of a chocoholic so that helped, I’m sure. When she was younger, maybe in junior high, I remember coming home from work and her telling me she had spent the day reading a book and eating the chocolate cookies she’d found in the kitchen. That’s my girl!

I’d say this pie is definitely worth the try! It’s super easy to throw together, and you can use a pre-made pie crust if you don’t want to make it from scratch. I’m lazy. I used the refrigerated pie crust. The crust is not pre-baked and you should not prick the crust before loading it with the filling.

One thing I didn’t do well, though – I didn’t rub enough flour on the pie crust before putting it into the pie pan. Shame on me for not following the directions on the box! If you’re making a pie with a high sugar content, such as pecan, you need to put flour on the pie crust to help absorb some of the sugar and prevent the filling from leaking through the crust. Mine leaked through the crust and the result was a pie that didn’t come out of the pan cleanly. Lesson learned!

Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Pie

from Culinary Covers

Stuff you need:

1 pie crust (store bought or homemade)
2 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest [I use the jarred grated zest found in the spice aisle.]
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups pecans
3/4 cup mini pretzels (about 18), broken into pieces
3/4 cup semi-sweet, bittersweet or extra dark chocolate [I used semi-sweet because that’s what I had. The kids liked it so I’d use that again.]

Now what?

Preheat the oven to 350F. Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish. Fold the edges over and crimp as desired. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use. [Make sure you flour the crust first! Rub a Tablespoon or so on each side.]

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla, brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the pecans, pretzels and chocolate.

Pour into the prepared pie crust. Bake for 30 minutes.

Cover the pie with foil and continue to bake until the filling is puffed and the center is just set, another 15 to 20 minutes. [I think mine took about 65-75 minutes. Might be my oven because my pecan pies take longer than the recipes suggest, so keep an eye on yours.]

Let cool and serve at room temperature.

Typically I’d agree with my friend’s assessment of homemade Chinese food: “Homemade is never as good as the restaurant!” Typically. But recently I made this Orange Chicken and I think it really IS as good as the restaurant version!

Orange ChickenI’m a sauce girl. It has to be good, and there has to be plenty! No skimping on the sauce – I want to drench my rice or pasta in it! Well, this sauce is near perfect. It’s got great flavor, and with this recipe, there’s plenty of it. The recipe only calls for 2 chicken breasts but there was enough sauce for 3 good-sized chicken breasts or 4 small ones.

The original recipe includes a recipe for fried rice. I’m lazy and I really wanted pasta that evening so I made orzo instead. Honestly, I liked the orzo better than rice, but I have never really a big rice fan.

The recipe, the way it’s written, is delicious but takes some time and the frying makes a mess! I consolidated some steps when I made it, and next time I’ll make an even  more streamlined version. I liked the heat of the dish, but if you don’t tolerate spiciness it can be toned down, so don’t let this recipe scare you off! See the tips below for a simpler recipe and for a milder version.

Streamlined Version

I followed the recipe and fried my chicken. I won’t lie. It was good, but it made a mess! I know the restaurant version is fried but if you’re pressed for time or you don’t eat fried food, you could skip the breading and frying part. Sautee your chicken in a little oil, use 3-4 cups of a rotisserie chicken, 3-4 breasts of baked or broiled chicken, or even leftover turkey. It’ll be faster and healthier!

Less Spicy Version

I never seem to get the heat of cayenne correct and this was no exception. I had no idea what the peppers are that were called for in the recipe, so I substituted 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I would have used crushed red pepper flakes but I didn’t have any in my pantry. I used fresh ginger which I grated directly into the pan – without measuring – so it’s hard to say how much of the kick came from the cayenne and how much came from the ginger. Maybe I should have measured. Nah!  ;)   It had a pretty good bite to it. Not unbearable, but it would have been too spicy for someone who doesn’t like spicy food. Anyway, if you don’t like ginger, don’t have fresh ginger, or don’t want all the bite, you can substitute ground ginger. It still provides flavor, but it doesn’t have the bite of fresh ginger root.

Orange Chicken

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Stuff you need:

3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts or alternate as suggested in the Streamlined Version notes above
¼ cup cornstarch [if you are frying the chicken]
Salt and pepper
1 cup fresh orange juice [I used a good bottled orange juice.]
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 strips orange zest – 1″ wide by 2″ tall OR 1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
½ cups lightly packed brown sugar
½ teaspoons fresh minced or grated ginger (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
4 whole dried red chilies, broken in half OR 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons cornstarch, for the slurry
2 Tablespoons water, for the slurry
Cooked rice or noodles

Now what?

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat about an inch of vegetable or canola oil to about 375F.
In a large zip top bag, combine the cornstarch, salt and pepper. Add the chicken chunks and seal the bag. Toss to coat completely.
Add the coated chicken to the hot oil in two or three batches. Cook until lightly golden and the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 F. Transfer the cooked chicken to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Hold the chicken in the oven or microwave, covered.
Drain the oil from the pan but don’t wash it.
In the same saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, orange juice, lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar, orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and dry chilies. Stir to combine and stir the bottom of the pan to dredge up the leftover chicken bits.
Bring mixtsure to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let the sauce reduce by 1/3. [This step is VERY important. If you don’t let the ginger and garlic cook, you will have very raw flavors, not the mellowed-out flavor that the simmering brings about.]
In a small bowl, prepare the slurry by combining the cornstarch and water until smooth. Pour the mixture into the sauce and whisk until the sauce thickens. If it doesn’t thicken up, make more slurry and add it a bit at a time until the sauce is thick.
Add the chicken and heat through. Remove from heat and serve over rice or noodles.

Apple Bavarian Torte

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! 

I hope everyone’s had a good day! My mom is here from Chicago, my daughter came for dinner with her 4 kids, and we had a good, noisy afternoon!

Apple Bavarian TorteMy grandkids have an abundance of personality, and I find myself giggling and shaking my head quite often! The 6-year-old wanted to know “who caught the turkey” and wasn’t satisfied until we told her Butterball caught it. The 2-year-old helped me with the mashed sweet potatoes, or as she called them, orange taters. She enjoyed using the mixer and was ready to eat as soon as we turned it off!

The 3-year-old was playing puppy with his sister, running up and down the hallway on a leash, and got a nice lump on his forehead when he ran smack into the corner of the wall. And I didn’t notice when the 7-year-old slapped a sticker on my back. Hello, Kitty!

Oh, and I’m proud to say I introduced the two youngest to brown sugar – eaten right off the spoon! Sugar ‘em up and send ‘em home with their parents, I say!

We did the traditional staples for Thanksgiving: the turkey, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, mashed potatoes & gravy, rolls, cranberry relish and stuffing. Nobody seemed to care we didn’t have any vegetables, as long as we didn’t run out of rolls! I sent most of the leftovers home with my daughter. I made a pot roast the other day that we didn’t eat, so I sent that home with her too. Mom wanted to eat out, even though I had cooked. Wonder what that says about my cooking?  ;)Apple Bavarian Torte

For dessert we had the Pumpkin Pecan Crumble Pie I made / blogged last year (no, not the same pie – I made a fresh one!), and this Apple Bavarian Torte that’s been a favorite for years. It’s a cross between cheesecake and apple pie that’s not too rich or too sweet, so it’s perfect after a big meal.  As much as we love cheesecake (and that’s a lot!), this torte has just enough cheesecake filling to satisfy us. I sent about 1/4 of the torte home with my daughter, who said, “I wondered if I was going to get some of that!”

I normally make this with apples, although I’ve made it with fresh plums and fresh pears too. The plums make a great summer dessert! If you’re using plums, I’d switch out the walnuts for sliced almonds but use what you like best.

Apple Bavarian Torte

Slightly adapted from The Joy of Cheesecake, Dana Bovbjerg & Jeremy Iggers

Stuff you need:

Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

5 Tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

Filling

1 pound cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Apple Topping

3 medium apples, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Now what?

Preheat oven to 450F degrees.

Crust

Mix crumbs, butter and sugar in bowl. Blend well.

Press crumb mixture onto bottom of 10 inch springform pan and set aside.

Topping

Place apple slices in a large bowl and add sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir to mix well and to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Set aside while you make the filling.

Filling

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.

Add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix until completely blended.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust.

Layer the apple slices on top of the cheese mixture, then sprinkle the top with the walnut pieces.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, then reduce heat to 350F degrees and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes, until filling is set and lightly browned.

Cool to room temperature, then chill.

Edamame Quinoa Salad

In my quest to eat better, I started a Pinterest board with a few friends so we could pin healthy stuff. One of my friends and I LOVE quinoa, and she posted this recipe.

Edamame Quinoa SaladShe had great timing! I had an empty frig since we had been on vacation last week, and I was looking for something healthy to make for the coming week. I already had the main ingredients – edamame and corn in the freezer, and quinoa in the pantry – and this looked nice and fresh. So off to the store I went to get the few remaining ingredients, and I mixed this up tonight.

I made a couple of modifications to the original recipe. My edamame was in the shell, so after I cooked it I had to pull out the beans. Peas. Those things inside the shell, whatever they are.  :)

I used walnut oil since the olive oil I had in the pantry was just a bit expired. One bottle was from 2012, and the other was from 2008. Apparently I don’t use olive oil very much! The walnut oil works, though, since the edamame has a nutty flavor.

I used bottled lemon juice, but fresh lime juice since I’d had to buy limes for my daughter’s birthday cheesecake. I highly recommend using fresh lime juice. It gives the dressing a nice pop that I’m not sure you’d get from the bottle. I needed the juice of just over 1/2 of a lime.

For the cilantro, I didn’t see any fresh in the store (probably walked right past it), but I found some in a tube. It’s the equivalent of 3 bunches of cilantro, chopped and mixed with some stuff, and it’s supposed to hold in the freezer 3 months without freezing. Sounded good to me, since I never use the whole cilantro bunch anyway. Turns out it’s pretty good stuff!

The recipe itself doesn’t take long, but you do need to plan for cooling the quinoa, edamame and corn before mixing it all up. This works as both a side to your meal or as a stand-alone dish. Both the quinoa and edamame provide protein, so if you’re going for a meatless meal, this is a great option!

I thought this looked tasty in the pictures, but in real life it was even better than I hoped! I’m excited to add this to my menus and hope you like it!

Edamame Quinoa Salad

adapted from Real Housemoms

Stuff you need:
16 ounces frozen, shelled, edamame
1 1/4 cup frozen corn
1 1/2 cup cooked, cooled quinoa
2 green onions, sliced
1 red sweet bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 Tablespoons olive oil or walnut oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne

Now what?
Follow package directions and cook the edamame. Drain and cool.
Microwave the frozen corn for about 3 minutes or boil according to package directions. Drain and cool completely.
In a large bowl combine the edamame, corn, quinoa, green onion, red pepper, and cilantro.
In a small bowl whisk together the olive or walnut oil, lemon juice, lime juice, salt, chili powder, black pepper, thyme and cayenne until well combined.
Add dressing to quinoa mixture and stir to mix well.
Cover and chill for at least two hours.

We have 3 July birthdays in karate, and they’re all within 10 days. That means 3 different birthday treats. Yikes!!Karate Flowers

The middle birthday is mine, and this year I got ice cream treats and flowers. Ice cream after karate? Fantastic!! And I’m still enjoying the flowers!

I made desserts for the other two birthdays: strawberry cheesecake for Alex, and these Oreo Fluff Brownies for John. John loves brownies, and last week he was saying how much he loves Oreos. So after a little poking around on the internet and looking at various ideas, I settled on the idea of Oreo Brownies.

Oreo Fluff BrowniesI found a recipe for Oreo Truffle Brownies, which is the delicious combination of Oreos and cream cheese atop a brownie base, and thought those sounded good. But I was really sugared-out from Birthday Week and all the treats I was given for my birthday, and it just sounded too rich and too chocolatey – if you can believe that!

I was thinking about how to lighten them up a bit and decided to use one of my favorite frosting additions – marshmallow fluff. It’s something I use to “customize” a can of pre-made frosting, or to combine with a block of cream cheese to make a lighter cream cheese frosting. It adds a little “something” that can really make a difference!

I used a boxed brownie mix because I was having a challenging week at work and made the “cake” version. If you want to make brownies from scratch, try the Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies on the Mix it Up! page. After they cooled, I mixed up the topping, smeared it over the brownies, drizzled on some quick-setting chocolate ice cream topping, and popped them in the frig to set up.Oreo Fluff Brownies

I think the marshmallow addition was just right! It kept the topping from setting too hard, and provided a lightness that was really nice. The birthday boy was happy, too!

Oreo Fluff Brownies

Stuff you need:

1 9×13” pan of brownies, baked according to directions and cooled.

2 8-oz. blocks of cream cheese, softened

1 jar marshmallow fluff (7 oz, I think)

Magic Shell chocolate ice cream topping

1 14-ounce package of Oreos, crushed in a large zip-lock bag with a rolling pin. [I left some chunks of Oreos for a little texture but you can crush yours more finely if that’s your preference. This isn’t an exact science, so if you eat a few, it won’t ruin the brownies. ;)]

Now what?

Beat the softened cream cheese in a mixer until smooth.

Set aside ½ cup crushed Oreos and add the rest to the cream cheese and mix well.

Now stir in marshmallow fluff and mix until there are no streaks.

Spread the Oreo mixture on the brownies.

Drizzle with the Magic Shell chocolate topping and quickly sprinkle the remaining Oreo crumbs on top.

Place in frig to let the topping set up.

Store in frig. The topping will still be somewhat soft, but it will set up some.

When I was younger, Mom used to take us into downtown Chicago to shop. We’d take the commuter train down and walk over to State Street, where all the big department stores had their flagship stores. We’d spend the day in the beautiful, multi-storied buildings window shopping and enjoying the experience. At Christmastime we’d go downtown and look at all the store windows, which were fixed up with elaborate Christmas season displays. The sidewalks were filled with people crowding in to see the windows. It was a wonderful tradition that I’ll never forget!

Deerfield Bakery's Pecan Pie

Happy Birthday, Jackie!

Mom and I still go downtown when we get a chance. Most of the big stores are no longer on State Street, which is a shame, but we still enjoy it.  Lunch was always a part of our trips downtown, and that’s still the case. I remember eating many, many times in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field & Co. Even though it’s now called Macy’s, The Walnut Room is still there, and the current menu includes some of the traditional favorites we enjoyed years ago!

I have two vivid memories of food downtown. One was the Field’s Special from The Walnut Room — iceberg lettuce, sliced turkey, Swiss cheese, smoked bacon, tomato and egg served open-faced on rye with thousand island dressing. Nothing special, but it was my favorite and I still order it!

The other is the Pecan Pie from Flo’s. I don’t remember much of the place except that it was more of a diner, noisy and crowded at lunchtime. I don’t even remember what we’d order for lunch, except that knowing me, it was probably a grilled cheese. That was my go-to meal when I was young.

But what I remember the most about Flo’s was the pecan pie. Oh, was it good!! It was served heated up, and the filling was warm and gooey and just to die for! I’ve never been much of a pie person because I don’t like regular pie crust, but Flo’s pecan pie was a wedge of heaven!!!

Pecan Pie from Deerfield's BakeryYears later, my favorite pie is still pecan pie – partly from nostalgia, and partly because it’s just that good. I recently had the opportunity to make a pie for a birthday celebration at work. I’ll admit I cheated and used a refrigerated pie crust. I’d like to perfect a scratch-made pie crust, but that will have to happen when a) I have more time; and b) I don’t need it for a special event.

When the pie was baked, I thought it looked a bit darker than the pecan pies I’ve made in the past. It took me a minute to realize the recipe I used was a little different from any I’ve used before because it includes brown sugar and honey instead of white sugar. It was wonderful! I may try it again and use maple syrup instead of honey. Maple and pecans are great complements, so that should be good in the pie.

I did use more pecans than the original recipe. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of pecan halves but I didn’t think that was enough! I used somewhere between 1 and 1 1/2 cups. If you don’t want a ton of pecans, start with the 1/2 cup and see if that looks like enough for you. If you’re like me and LOVE pecans, load ‘em up!

If the crust starts to brown too much while you’re baking, use foil and loosely cover the pie. Either foil or those crust protectors you can purchase will do the trick.

All the comments I received on the pie were positive, so I know I’ll make this one again!

Pecan Pie

Adapted from the Deerfield’s Bakery recipe published in Killer Pies

Stuff you need:

3 Tablespoons honey

1/3 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

10 tablespoons packed brown sugar [I used light brown sugar.]

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

1 to 1 1/2 cups pecan halves

Now what?

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a saucepan, mix honey, corn syrup, butter and brown sugar and heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly.

Once the butter and sugar dissolve, remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm. [If you add the eggs to the hot mixture, the eggs will scramble and ruin the pie.]

While the mixture is cooling, line the uncooked pie shell with the pecan halves. They’ll rise to the top while the pie is baking.

Beat the eggs and vanilla together and stir into the cooled sugar mixture.

Gently pour the mixture over the pecans. [They won’t all stay in place, so don’t worry if some float and move around.]

Bake for 1 hour, then allow the pie to cool before serving.

Kyoshi's Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Congratulations, Kyoshi Colahan! Banzai!!

A couple of months ago our karate instructor was promoted to 6th Degree Black Belt and awarded the title of Kyoshi.

This is a big deal in our system! It takes 3 1/2 or more years to earn your first degree black belt, and even longer to earn higher ranks. Kyoshi’s been studying karate for over 20 years.

Our club was at the belt test to celebrate with Kyoshi, and when we returned to class the following week decided an additional celebration was in order. Celebrations for us include food, of course! We love our Banzai Treats!

One of Kyoshi’s favorite cakes is a Chocolate Pistachio Cake. This is also a favorite of several friends at work. I’ve made this several times and in many forms – as a bundt cake, layer cake, regular and jumbo muffins, and as a sheet cake. This time, in celebration of Kyoshi’s promotion, I wanted to make a cake that represented his new rank / belt, so I went with a sheet cake.

This is a super moist cake, thanks to the pistachio pudding and it’ll hold for several days, assuming it lasts that long. If you want the cake a little bit greener, add a couple of drops of food coloring. I did to this batch and you can see the color in the picture below, but normally I don’t add any extra green.

Chocolate Pistachio Kyoshi CakeThe cake is just sweet enough that it doesn’t need a rich frosting. I frosted this with the butter cream frosting typically used to decorate cakes. If I wasn’t decorating it, I probably would have either dusted it with powdered sugar or just used a light chocolate glaze.

The Kyoshi belt in our system is red and white, so I used fondant to create the belt for the cake. I haven’t used fondant much, and could probably have done a better job, but it turned out OK. The more I use it, the more skilled I’ll become. At least that’s the hope!

Don’t wait for a big karate promotion to try this cake. ;-) It’ll quickly become one of your favorites!

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Adapted from Ann Byrn’s The Cake Doctor

Stuff you need:

1 (18.25 ounce) package white or yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 ounce) package INSTANT pistachio pudding mix
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1/3 cup chocolate syrup* [I reduced this from 1/2 c. It was sticky with too much syrup.]
A few drops of green food coloring (optional)
Powdered sugar or light chocolate glaze, if desired

Now what?

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan.
In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, pudding mix and sugar.
Add water, oil and eggs and mix well.
Reserve 1 cup batter and pour the rest of it into the prepared pan.
Stir the chocolate syrup into the 1 cup reserved batter.
Pour the chocolate batter over the pistachio batter and use a butter knife to swirl them. Don’t overmix or you will lose the swirly effect.
Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

NOTE: If you choose a different pan size / shape, follow the baking directions on the cake mix box. This will make a 9 X 13″, about 2 dozen normal sized muffins, 2 9″ cake layers…basically, whatever the cake mix would make.

I kept seeing this recipe pop up on Pinterest. I like spaghetti squash and I love cheese, so I thought I should try it!

Spaghetti Squash au GratinIf you’ve never tried spaghetti squash, you should. I normally don’t care for squash, but I think it’s mostly a texture thing. I kept hearing spaghetti squash was different. That it was “just like spaghetti” and could be used in recipes in place of spaghetti.

Not wanting to make a whole squash in case I didn’t like it, I saw it on the menu at a restaurant one day. I ordered it, and my friend and I both gave it a try. We were both happy to find we liked it, and it’s now something we both cook in our homes.

Usually I rub the inside with garlic, salt and pepper before baking it and then eat it with just a bit of butter. I didn’t season the squash for this dish because it looked like there were enough seasonings once it was all put together, and I was right.

You can add more or less seasoning to match your tastes and desire for heat. You can also change out the cheeses to use what you like best. I used a sharp white cheddar for flavor and a mild colby jack cheese for melting. If you click on the “dandy dishes” link and read the comments, you’ll see some other ideas from people who’ve tried it.

I wouldn’t say spaghetti squash is the same as eating a noodle. And I wouldn’t say this recipe was just like hash brown casserole that some people said it was. But it’s good in its own way, and I’d make it again. The Pretty One didn’t care for it, but at least he tried it. I shared it with the resident veggie lover on our team at work. She declared it YUMMMYYYYY and said she especially liked the pepperiness of it.

If you’re interested in trying something new, try this. If you’re already a fan of spaghetti squash, try this! I think you’ll enjoy the dish.

Spaghetti Squash au Gratin

Adapted from dandy dishes

Stuff you need:
1 medium spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or ground cayenne pepper, or more if you like it spicy
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese [Use whatever combination of cheeses you like.]
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Now what?
Cut the spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds. Place cut-side down in a glass dish with 1/4 inch water and microwave for 10 -12 minutes. In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add the butter, onions, garlic, red pepper or cayenne and thyme and cook until the onions are slightly brown in color. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash and add to the skillet. Add the sour cream and 3/4 cup shredded cheese, and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a buttered baking dish and top with remaining shredded cheese and sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake at 375F 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top and hot inside.

Honey Bun Cake

Honey Bun Cake“What did you bring me?” That’s my son-in-law’s usual greeting for me. The last couple of times I saw him I didn’t have anything for him. My daughter’s no slouch in the kitchen but I like baking for him, so this time I sacrificed my beauty sleep and dragged myself out of bed early Saturday morning to bake for him. Seriously – this is a sacrifice. I love my sleep.

If you like glazed donuts or those commercially baked honey buns, you’ll like this. I made these for my friend’s birthday one year. Actually, I made 2 pans to take to work for her birthday – one with nuts and one without. She immediately took a pan to her car so she didn’t have to share!

Chunky Monkey

Chunky Monkey. Cute, isn’t he?

You’ll be pleased with how simple this cake is to put together. The hardest part is putting on the topping – and doing it right. :D  As many times as I’ve made this, for some reason this time I mixed all the topping ingredients together. It made a cinnamon mud and that just didn’t look right, so I went back and read the instructions. Good idea, huh? I had forgotten it was just a matter of drizzling and sprinkling the topping ingredients and then swirling them with a knife.

My only excuse for making it harder than it had to be was that the oven was fired up long before my brain was!

I’m not a donut fan but I really like this cake. It’s good warm, and it’s good after it cools. It holds well due to the sour cream and oil that are added. This also travels well, and would be great for a picnic or BBQ. Enjoy!

Honey Bun Cake

from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn

Stuff you need:

Cake:
1 (18 ounce) package plain yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

Filling:
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 – 2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon [I use 2 Tablespoons. We like cinnamon!!]
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted [Or be lazy like me and just stir well.]
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Now what?

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly spray a 9×13″ baking pan with vegetable oil spray.
Place cake mix, sour cream, oil and eggs in large mixing bowl.
Blend with electric mixture on low speed for 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula.
Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping sides as needed. The batter should look thick and well blended.
Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula.

Time for the filling!
Drizzle the honey on top of the batter.
Next sprinkle on the brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans.
Using a butter knife, swril through the batter to slightly blend the topping with the batter.
Bake for 38-40 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed with your finger.
Remove from oven and place on wire rack while you prepare the glaze.

For the glaze, place the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla in small mixing bowl and whisk or stir until smooth.
Pour the glaze over the top of the hot cake in the pan, spreading it to the sides with a spoon.
Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes more, and then serve warm.

I love cream cheese brownies! That’s because I love cream cheese and I love chocolate. Mix them together, and the taste is divine!Blackberry Cream Cheese Brownies

I honestly didn’t think that combination could get any better…until I tried these Blackberry Cream Cheese Brownies TL posted on our Chocolate Madness! board.

Oh my. Oh my, my, my!!!

I’ve never put berries in my brownies, but these I had to try. I love blackberries, and almost always have some in the house.

I was poking around in my frig and realized I had 4 packages of cream cheese, a full container of blackberries, and some stir fry veggie mix. Passing over the veggies, I was wondering what to bake this weekend, and was browsing our board. These jumped out at me – they looked like something I might like, and I had the time to make the multiple steps.

Blackberry Cream Cheese BrowniesTurns out they weren’t as difficult as I thought they might be! There are only 2 steps, not the 3+ I expected. The hardest part about these is stirring in the blackberries – and not eating them all. :)

They can be made with a boxed brownie mix (follow the cake-style notes on the package) and can be made gluten-free if needed. I made them with my Craggy Topped Fudge Brownies. The recipe calls for frozen blackberries. I had fresh, so I popped them in the freezer (in a single layer) for about an hour. Poof – perfectly frozen and ready to stir in!

These were delish just a few minutes out of the oven – with the berries still warm. Mmmm!! I keep trying them as they cool, just to make sure they still taste OK, and they do. But I’ll try them again in the morning just to make sure. Quality control, you know??

If you’re looking for an interesting brownie give these a try. They’re fantastic, I promise!

Blackberry Cream Cheese Brownies

Adapted from Bless Her Heart
350F, 9×13″ greased pan

Stuff you need:

For brownie layer:
1 brownie mix for a 9×13″ pan plus ingredients for the cake-style method or your favorite brownie recipe that makes a 9×13″ pan
[I used my Craggy Topped Fudge Brownies:  http://munchiesmind.com/2012/07/11/chocolate-madness-craggy-topped-fudge-brownies/  Check the Mix It Up! page for the recipe.]
1 1/4 cups frozen blackberries
1/3 cup chocolate chips

For cream cheese swirl:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Now what?
Beat all cream cheese swirl ingredients and set aside while you mix up the brownie batter.

Make the brownies according to the cake-style method on the package directions or make your preferred recipe.
Gently fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and 1 1/4 cups of frozen blackberries.

Pour the brownie batter into the pre-greased baking dish.

Using a large spoon, drop the cream cheese mixture into the brownie batter. Drag a butter knife through the cream cheese and brownie mix to create the cream cheese swirls.

Bake at 350F until a toothpick poked into the center of the brownie pan comes out clean, 25-35 minutes. This is kind of hard to tell, since you might be poking a juicy blackberry! [Mine took about 35 minutes.] 

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