Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Watermelon Salad

Raised as a Country Girl in North Carolina, fresh fruits and veggies were a major staple of my daily diet. I walked out the back door and “real” food awaited me. This salad is a grown up version of a watermelon salad my Grandmother Baker use to make (See at bottom of post her version of the salad) This salad is cool and refreshing- makes a perfect starter for light summer meal (makes for a great dessert as well).

  • About ½ of a medium Watermelon (chill whole over night in the refrigerator)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Handful of baby greens (baby spinach work well)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 chilled glass plates


    Wash the watermelon, cut and remove the rind, trim away the pale flesh, leaving only bright red flesh
  • Cut the watermelon into ¾ - 1-inch cubes (sticks work great with kids- easy pickup)

    Arranging the salad

    Place a small amount of greens on the chilled plate
    Add the watermelon cubes (be creative- can dress this salad up or down
    Sprinkle with crumbled feta and baby greens

    Dressing the salad

    In glass bowl, combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar and whisk until well combined
    Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette and serve.

    Grandmother Baker’s Watermelon Salad


    Open the refrigerator and scoop out a bowl full of melon (she used an ice cream scoop- always a cold melon in the frig during the summer)
    A handful of hoop cheese (crumbled if not to hot in the house- otherwise a little or it really hot a lot stretchy)
    Head lettuce Leaves (Ice berge to the younger crowd) washed and dried
    a cup or two of watermelon juice (from the frig melon)
    Salt and Sugar to taste
    Small cup of salad dressing (in later years I learned that meant ½ cup)

    Arranging the salad:

    You start with a lettuce leaf in your bowl (her dressing required a bowl so you can “keep it all in”, drop the watermelon pieces on the lettuce leaf, followed by the cheese

    Dressing the salad:

    In a bowl put in the salad dressing, watermelon juice, salt and sugar (to taste- I learned meant sweet and salty). Using a wooden spoon, she would beat it until she like the look of it. Spoon on salad and go eat.

    On this date 9 years ago my Grandmother Baker died. I miss stepping out the back door into my country roots but the memories and recipes will always be here to stay.

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

    I love chocolate chip cookies. I've always made the Nestle Tollhouse variety until these amazing cookies came across my mouth. I've been reformed. These cookies have a distinct bakery feel to them. When I made them I made several large ones by making them in my muffin top pans. Nothing better than a big chocolate chip cookie, right? 

    Beckie's AH-mazing Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Combine in a medium bowl:
    4 1/2 cups flour
    2 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp salt

    Combine in a large bowl:
    1 cup butter (real butter!)
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1 1/2 cups brown sugar
    4 eggs
    2 tsp vanilla

    After combined, mix in dry ingredients. Then add one bag chocolate chips. Bake at 375* for 9 minutes. Enjoy and try to stop yourself from eating them all in one day.

    *This recipe will make a lot of cookies, close to 7 dozen of the smaller variety. If you are in the mood for some extra large cookies, combine three small balls of dough to make some extra large cookies. Roll them into a ball then slightly flatten them out. Make sure to cook the large ones a little longer. They will not be completely set when they are done cooking, but leave them on the hot cookie sheet to finish setting. 

    Source: My Amazing friend, Beckie.

    CPK Dinner Salad

    One of my favorite dinner salads is California Pizza Kitchen's Field Greens salad. I've re-created it at home as both a main and side dish.

    Large head of romaine or two bags of field greens
    One pear, peeled and thinly sliced
    3 to 4 oz. Gorgonzola cheese
    Glazed or candied walnuts
    Balsamic Vinaigrette (or Ken's Steakhouse Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette)

    1. Chop romaine or simply pour contents of bagged field greens

    2. Top with pears, Gorgonzola and walnuts

    3. Toss with vinaigrette

    A few things to consider:
    • If you're using this as a side dish, you'll probably want to half the recipe.
    • Since there are few ingredients, sometimes I just put the salads together on individual plates or bowls, rather than combining in one large salad bowl.

    Balsamic Vinaigrette

    My sweet friend, Lisette Bourgeois, a native of Mauritius who currently resides near Paris, shared this homemade dressing recipe with me. She just tossed the ingredients together without measuring, as I usually do, so feel free to tweak the amounts of each ingredient to match your personal taste.


    3 Tbsp Dijon mustard

    ½ cup balsamic vinegar

    1 cup extra virgin olive oil

    Salt and pepper to taste

    1. Whisk together all ingredients and serve with your favorite salad. [Or try it on the CPK Dinner Salad.]

    [photo courtesy of vociferous on Flickr]

    Candied Walnuts

    A delicious alternative to store-bought glazed walnuts.
    Try it on the CPK Dinner Salad.

    1 cup sugar
    2 tsp corn syrup
    1/3 cup water
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1 tsp cinnamon
    2 cups walnuts

    1. In a small saucepan, heat sugar, corn syrup, water and salt to rolling boil, and let boil for two to three minutes.
    2. Remove from heat and add vanilla, cinnamon and walnuts.
    3. Pour on wax paper to cool.
    4. Allow 12 to 24 hours to completely cool and harden.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Cherry Cheese Pie

    I have this memory from when I was small. My mom was hosting Mother's Club at our house and she made Cherry Cheese Pie to share. I begged and begged to have a small piece. She told me no. I begged and begged to stay up so I could see all the ladies. She told me no.

    I was heart broken.

    I was also a bit devious. I went to bed when Mom asked (like an angel, I'm sure!), and then when I knew all her friends were there and she couldn't get mad at me, I sneaked out of bed, batted my eyes a few times, and got some pie!

    And we wonder where OUR kids get it. Yikes.

    I hope you enjoy this dessert as much as I do. It's so simple, the only thing I question is why I don't make it more often!

    1 sleeve Graham Crackers
    1/3 C white sugar
    6 Tbsp Butter, melted

    1. Put the graham crackers in a zip-lock bag and close it, making sure it's air-tight. If it's not air-tight, keep your broom handy!
    2. Using a rolling pin, your feet, or your car's tires, (OK, I may be kidding on the last two), crush the crackers into tiny crumbs. Dump them into a 9" Pie Plate.
    3. Add the sugar to the crumbs and mix it well with a fork.
    4. Add the butter and mix until all the crumbs are well coated and moist.
    5. Press the mixture to the sides and bottom of the pie plate. Set aside.

    1 (8 oz) Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
    1 (14 oz) can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
    1/2 C Lemon Juice
    1 tsp Vanilla
    Pie filling of your choice (We like cherry or blueberry. And, sinners that we are, we use the canned kind.)

    1. Beat the cream cheese until it's light and fluffy--about 3 minutes or so.
    2. Add the sweetened condensed milk--don't forget to steal a taste or two!--and mix well.
    3. Add the Lemon Juice and Vanilla.
    4. Pour into the pie crust.
    5. Chill 2 - 3 hours.

    Serve topped with pie filling.

    Source: Mama Karri


    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    "Lower Fat" Spinach and Bacon Quiche

    In honor of an overnight stay from my mother, I would like to dedicate this quiche to her. My husband and my dad have not, and will never enjoy one bite of a quiche. "Bless their hearts." Since the boys were out of town and I was cooking for just my mom and myself, I decided to make her favorite and alter the ingredients (just a bit) for a lower fat version. By lower fat, I mean that there is no crust.

    5 eggs
    1/2 cup skim milk (because that's what we keep in the fridge)
    1 cup ricotta cheese (you may use part-skim if you prefer)
    1/2 cup Swiss cheese
    6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
    Half of an onion, chopped
    6-ounce bag of baby spinach

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray.

    Cook bacon in a pan until done and crisp. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease.
    Saute onion in grease until tender, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and continue cooking until just wilted and liquid is evaporated, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.
    Whisk eggs in a bowl until lightly beaten. Add milk and ricotta and whisk until incorporated.
    Stir in spinach mixture, Swiss cheese and bacon until combined.
    Pour into greased pie plate. Bake until top, center is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 35-45 minutes.

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Limey Guacamole

    If you like lime--you'll LOVE this guacamole!  Over the past 3 years I've been on the hunt for the best guacamole recipe; this one is a combination of several.  The real secret to this guac is the fresh style salsa.  With the fresh ingredients already chopped and the flavors already mingled, it's easy and unbelievably tasty!  

    4 large, ripe hass avocados 
    1 heaping cup of fresh salsa (with onions, and cilantro) 
       (I recommend Italian Rose from Sam's Club) 
    1 tsp. minced bottled garlic
    2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
    1 T lime juice (I use bottled most of the time...but fresh is always best!)

    1.  Peel and pit avocados, mash into a semi-chunky consistency 
    2.  measure and add all other ingredients, stir until blended.  
    3.  Serve with your favorite tortilla chips! 

    How to choose avocados for guacamole
    How to peel an avocado

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Blueberry Muffins with Crumb Topping

    These. Are. So. Good. I've tried a few different blueberry muffin recipes and so far this is my favorite. They are so moist (even without the crumb topping) and freeze well (you are going to find this is one of my favorite things!). This recipe makes 12 regular-sized muffins, but believe me, you're going to want more than that.

    1 1/2 C flour
    3/4 C sugar
    1/2 t salt
    2 t baking powder
    1/3 C vegetable oil
    1 egg
    2/3 C milk
    1 C fresh or frozen blueberries (I usually add a little more-my children LOVE blueberries)

    Crumb Topping:
    1/2 C white sugar
    1/3 C flour
    1/4 C butter, cubed
    1 1/2 t ground cinnamon

    1. In a medium sized bowl the dry ingredients.
    2. In a small bowl whisk the wet ingredients together.
    3. Combine wet and dry mixtures. Stir just until incorporated, don't over mix. It may contain small lumps. That's not the end of the world-they'll still bake up fine.
    4. Carefully fold in the blueberries.

    5. For the crumb topping mix the flour, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl. Cube the cold butter into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork or a pastry blender to form a crumb-like mixture.
    6. Line your muffin tins with liners. Fill the liners 3/4 of the way full, then sprinkle with the crumb topping.
    6. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes (for regular-sized muffins).

    **For the children I like to make mini-muffins. Bake mini muffins at 400 degrees for about 14 minutes or until golden brown.
    Most of the time if I'm freezing these I don't put the crumb topping on (and it helps cute back on some of the sugar-they're plenty sweet enough on their own).

    Source: Jamie Cooks It Up! blog

    Sausage Pancakes

    I hate cooking sausage patties.  Love the flavor, but hate cooking them.  They never seem to get done in the middle unless the outsides are overdone.  Cooking ground sausage, however, is much easier.  (We often mix sausage crumbles with scrambled eggs and shredded cheddar and serve that on toasted English muffins, like a breakfast sandwich.)  If you love the flavor of sausage and maple syrup, you will love these pancakes.  They are very filling.  My pickiest eater requests these all the time.

    2 cups flour (white, wheat, or a mixture)
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    2 eggs (or use egg powder)
    2 cups buttermilk or sour milk*
    2 Tbsp. oil
    1 lb. ground sausage, cooked and drained

    1.  Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
    2.  Mix eggs, milk, and oil together with a whisk until well blended.
    3.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Do not over-mix.
    4.  Pour on hot, greased griddle and cook on both sides till golden brown.

    *Sour milk--place 2 Tbsp. white or apple cider vinegar in a 2-cup measure.  Add milk to the 2-cup measuring line.  Let sit for a few minutes.

    To freeze, layer pancakes with wax paper in between them and place them all in a freezer bag or container.

    Source:  The Hows and Whys of the Year Supply by Melissa Coombs

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Mormon Morsels: Mind Fields

    "The mind is like a field: you will harvest whatever you plant in it if it is nourished."
    --Grant Von Harrison, Drawing on the Powers of Heaven

    One of the main ideas in the book Drawing on the Powers of Heaven is that learning to control our minds is vital to our success and what we are able to accomplish in this life.  Harrison says, "Your life is influenced more by your thoughts than anything else."  And really, he's right.  We become what we are thinking.  Our thoughts influence how we handle challenges, relationships, faith, self, prayer.  It takes a sustained mental effort to think positively and be believing, especially over a long period of time or during a particularly challenging trial.  Thinking negatively, however, is as easy as pie and requires no effort.  

    Negative thinking, or stinkin' thinkin' as Zig Ziglar would say, has been a particular challenge in my life.  A natural-born editor, I tend to very quickly see what is wrong or needs to be fixed.  It's just so easy to point out the negative, so natural.  Yes, so much the "natural man".  And when we don't make a real effort to control our thoughts we are "prone to dwell on petty feelings (e.g., resentments, offenses, jealousies, anxieties, strife, contempt, self-pity)".  Stinkin' thinkin', indeed.

    "Look unto me in every thought;"
    --Doctrine & Covenants 6:36

    How can we overcome this?  A constant prayer in the heart and a conscious desire to change.  And faith, looking to the Lord in all our thoughts, which is part of what it means to pray continually.  Lots of faith that the Lord really can help us have a new heart, and a new mind where this stinkin' thinkin' is concerned.  I really think that is a recipe for success.  In fact, I know it is.  It worked for Enos; it can work for us, too.

    So what are you nourishing in your mind field?

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Chewy Brownies

    Call me crazy, but I love brownie-mix brownies.  I love the flavor, but I especially love the texture of them.  Every once in a while I'll try a recommended brownie recipe, but I'm always disappointed in the results.  I found this recipe in a Google search for "scratch brownies that taste like a mix".  This recipe is good enough to keep using, in place of the box mix, until I find an even better one.  It's awesome with warmed up peanut butter for a sauce with Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce and 3 Ingredient Ice Cream.

    1/3 c. cocoa
    1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. boiling water
    2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
    4 Tbsp. butter, melted
    1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    2 large eggs
    2 large egg yolks
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    2 1/2 c. sugar
    1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
    3/4 tsp. salt
    6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/2" pieces

    1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving about a one-inch overhang on all sides (do this in two foil layers).  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
    2.  Whisk together the cocoa and boiling water in a large bowl until smooth.
    3.  Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted.
    4.  Whisk in melted butter and oil (mixture may look curdled).
    5.  Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth.
    6.  Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated.
    7.  Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined.
    8.  Fold in bittersweet or semisweet chocolate pieces.
    9.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it, about 30-35 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1 1/2 hours.
    10.  Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan.  Return them to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour.  Cut into 2" squares and serve.

    If you like thicker brownies, just bake in a smaller pan and increase cooking time.

    Makes 24 brownies 

    Source:  Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Comfort Potato Salad

    I admit it.  I am a potato salad snob.  I grew up in a very different potato salad culture than most people, I think. And I have yet to taste a potato salad that is anywhere close to my mother's recipe.  Still, growing up, there were things about my mother's potato salad that I did NOT like.  So, a few years after I got married, I decided to give this family classic a good makeover (although I have included my mother's ingredients at the end of the recipe in case these foods really float your boat).  And the result?  One of our family's favorite dishes.  Simple but so, so good.  SO good, in fact, that my husband and kids cannot resist picking at the bowl before I am even done making it.  I hope you enjoy it.  And I won't be offended if your personal potato salad culture makes it impossible for you to like mine!

    Comfort Potato Salad

    5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (pictured are gold, purple, and red potatoes from our garden)

    1 1/2 c. mayo (NOT Miracle Whip!....wait, that's a mayonnaise culture thing)
    1 tsp. celery seed
    4 tsp. salt
    1/2 tsp. pepper
    1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
    1 tsp. prepared mustard

    1.  Clean potatoes gently in water and place in large pot.  Cover with water to and at least an inch above the potatoes.
    2.  Boil potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes.
    3.  Drain potatoes and place them on a cooling rack set in a cookie sheet.
    4.  While potatoes are cooling, make the dressing in a large bowl.
    5.  When potatoes are cooled enough to handle (still warm is really yummy!) cut potatoes into bite-size chunks (leave the skin on) and place in the bowl with the dressing.
    6.  With a rubber spatula gently toss the cut potatoes until they are evenly "bathed" in the dressing.
    7.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Source:  My Mom

    My mother's recipe differs in that she:
    • adds 1 large green pepper (chopped), 1 small onion (chopped), and 1 large jar of chopped pimento.
    • uses red potatoes only (I find them too water-y).
    • peels the potatoes before cutting them up.

    3 Ingredient Ice Cream

    I have a Cuisinart counter-top ice cream freezer and it doesn't hold much.  This recipe is just enough to have a small scoop of ice cream over a brownie for each person in my family (7).  I have never gotten around to remembering to refrigerate the condensed milk, and it always turns out fine.  I'm sure it would set quicker, though, if I did.


    1 c. cold heavy cream
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 (14-ounce) can cold sweetened condensed milk

    1.  In a mixer, whip heavy cream just until it begins to thicken.
    2.  Add vanilla and whip until soft peaks form.
    3.  With mixer running, slowly pour in condensed milk and whip until high peaks form.
    4.  Transfer into freezer "can" of ice cream freezer and allow machine to run until ice cream has thickened.
    5.  Transfer this to a freezer container and freeze until it's "ice cream hard".  (I was too impatient to wait for mine, so it looks pretty soft in the picture above; but it will freeze hard.)

    Source:  The New York Times

    Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce


    1/4 c. butter
    1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
    3/4 c. sugar
    1/4 c. cocoa
    1/4 c. half and half, whole milk, or heavy cream
    1/8 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. vanilla

    1.  Place butter and unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring constantly.
    2.  Add sugar, cocoa, half and half, and salt.  Stir until combined.  Bring slowly to a gentle boil withOUT stirring (well, maybe you could stir a couple of times).  If you let it go too long, the sides begin to burn; but if you don't let it go long enough, the sugar crystals won't dissolve and the sauce will be gritty.
    3.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.

    Source:  Betty Crocker Chocolate Cookbook

    This is great served over vanilla ice cream with toasted coconut and toasted almonds.  Or on a Chewy Brownie sundae with 3 Ingredient Ice Cream and warmed peanut butter as a second sauce.

    And by the way, this peanut butter thing is one of the most amazing secrets I've ever found.  While on vacation at Disneyworld one year, we visited the wonderful ice cream parlor, Beaches and Cream.  I ordered something with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce and was in utter ecstasy!  When I asked how they made the peanut butter sauce I was floored when they said it's just warmed up peanut butter.  Now whenever we have sundaes at home, we always have this peanut butter "sauce" with this chocolate sauce recipe.  Yeah.  Utter ecstasy.