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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark is one of my favorite holiday treats.  And since the main components are the white and/or dark chocolate--the type of chocolate you use really matters!  I like it plain with just white chocolate.  I like it with the dark chocolate drizzle.  And I like it with a light crunch from Rice Krispies.  Over the years I've become quite opinionated about how to make it and blended several recipes.  I prefer the taste of peppermint oil over peppermint extract (but extract works too).  I like Bob's candycanes best.  I only use Ghiradelli white chocolate chips.  But I like to mix those with with high quality melting wafers or white chocolate bars from specialty shops--I don't ever use almond bark.  So here's my favorite recipe:

12-15 candy canes
1 pound white chocolate (I use a 12oz bag of ghiradelli white chocolate chips and 4-6oz. of melting wafers, you could also chop a block of white chocolate)
4 drops peppermint oil (or 1/2 t peppermint extract)
1 1/2 - 2 cups crispy rice cereal
**1/3 dark chocolate chips or 3-4 oz. of chopped high quality dark chocolate

1.  Spray a rimmed cookie sheet.  Then line with wax paper.  (The spray is strictly to help the wax paper stick to the cookie sheet).
2. Crush candy canes.  Place unwrapped candy canes in a quart size ziploc bag.  Place that ziploc in a gallon size bag.  Smash into pieces using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer.  Sift candy cane pieces through a fine mesh seize and toss or set aside the dust to use with hot chocolate.
3.  Melt white chocolate and wafers.  I prefer to heat in the microwave at 50% power for 30-60 second intervals, stirring in between.  (Confession, I always do the first minute at full power without the chocolate ever burning).
4.  Add the peppermint oil/extract and half of the crushed peppermint and stir.
5.  Gently fold in crispy rice cereal.
6.  Spread out in an thin even layer on the wax paper.  (**If adding a dark chocolate drizzle, melt the dark chocolate in the microwave and drizzle on with a fork in zig-zag motions before the white chocolate sets).  Then generously sprinkle with the remaining candy cane pieces on top.  Press gently into the bark.  Chill for at least an hour.  Break into pieces.

Ruby Jewel Cookies

3 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
About 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam or caramel*
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting or chocolate for drizzling*

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready two ungreased baking sheets or mini muffin pans and liners.
2.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and vanilla together; set aside. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the top of the flour and sugar and with a pastry blender or two forks, work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk mixture and carefully mix to combine until the dough starts to come together (this worked best using my hands).
3.  Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a flat disk. Wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
4.  With lightly floured hands, pinch off pieces of dough and shape the dough into ¾-inch balls. Place each ball in a mini muffin paper liner, if using. If not using a mini muffin pan, place the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
5.  Using the end of a wooden spoon handle dipped in flour, make an indentation in the center of each cookie, but do not press all the way through the dough.
6.  Using a spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, fill each indentation with about ¼ teaspoon jam.
7.  Bake the cookies until the edges are golden, 15-20 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the pans on wire racks. Transfer cooled cookies to wire racks and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

*For Caramel Cup Version

Keep the directions the same as above for steps 1-5.  But instead of filling with jam, bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes unfilled.  Remove from oven, and reform the indentation on the half-baked cookies.  Fill each cup quickly with a thick caramel sauce.  Return to the oven for another 4-6 minutes.  Let the cookies cool completely the remove to a wire rack.  Drizzle with melted chocolate.

Jill's Gingerbread and Royal Icing

These gingerbread cookies are soft and flavorful.  You cut out the dough while still warm eliminating the time-consuming step of chilling.  From my friend, Jill Hunter.

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1 t ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t baking soda
2/3 c butter, cut into pieces
1 egg, beaten
4 cups flour

In a medium saucepan mix sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt over medium to medium high heat.  Cook until just beginning to boil.  Stir and add butter until melted.  Remove from heat and add baking soda.  Mixture will foam up a bit.  Quickly add in the beaten egg stirring constantly.  Then add flour one cup at a time.  (I had trouble stirring the thick dough by hand, so I moved the mixture to my Kitchen Aid for the last 1-2 cups to mix).  Roll dough out immediately on a floured surface while still warm and cut into shapes.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 6 minutes.  Let cool on pans for a couple of minutes before moving to a cooling rack.  Cool completely before icing.

We love these topped with Royal Icing

Royal Icing
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (8oz)
1 1/2 T meringue powder
1/4 cup lukewarm water

Combine in large bowl, beat a medium speed of mixer for 5-6 minutes or until the icing is firm enough to pipe, but still spreading consistency.  Add a few more drops of water if needed.  If desired, tint frosting using paste food coloring.  Note: icing dries quickly, keep it covered at all times with a damp paper towel.  Spoon icing into ziploc freezer bags and snip a small hole for piping.  Pipe around the edges of the cookies then fill in.  Add sprinkles and decorations while still wet.  Let set for one hour to dry.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spinach, Apple and Gouda Salad

A recipe swap recipe from Rebe Moore who got it from the BYU Museum of Art Cafe.

1 crisp apple, diced
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup smoked Gouda, cubed
1/4-1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped (I love the lightly salted Trader Joe's roasted almonds)
Baby spinach

Mix all salad ingredients in a bowl serve with your favorite honey mustard dressing.  We like Brianna's and Newmans Own Light honey mustard.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

A super easy appetizer that's always a crowd-pleaser.

1 jar apple jelly (or grape jelly), about 12 oz.
1 jar chili sauce
2-3 lbs. frozen meatballs

Combine jelly and chili sauce in a crock pot and stir until smooth.  Heat the mixture if needed to combine.  Add meatballs.  Cook on low for 2-5 hours, stirring to coat occasionally.  Serve with toothpicks.

Apple Salsa

This is great served with cinnamon sugar tortilla or pita chips.  Also super yummy with a pork loin roast as in the original recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

2 cups crunchy sweet apples (like Fuji), cored and diced (about 2 medium apples)
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
¼ cup red onion, finely diced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the apple salsa ingredients, stirring well to coat the apples with the lime juice and other ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mom’s Apple Cinnamon Muffins

From my Mom.  I remember waking up to these.  They're so good--especially the mini bite size ones.  Slightly adapted from her Betty Crocker Cookbook.

1 egg                       
½ cup milk               
¼ cup vegetable oil   
1 cup grated apple (about 1 large apple)  
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder                               
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon

Brown Sugar Topping
¼ cup brown sugar (packed)
¼ tsp. cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 400.  Grease bottoms of 12 medium muffins cups or 24-30 mini muffins.

In a large bowl, beat egg; stir in milk and oil and grate apple.

Mix in remaining ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon) just until flour is moistened.  Batter should be lumpy.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and sprinkle with brown sugar topping.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes large muffins, 9-11 minutes for mini-muffins or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sweet Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin {Slow Cooker}

Sweet Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin {Slow Cooker}



8 cups water
¼ cup salt
¼ cup sugar

2 pound boneless pork loin roast or two 1-lb pork tenderloins trimmed of large fat pockets
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed
1 cup water


In a large bowl (preferable glass)  Mix the 8 cups of water 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup sugar.  Add the two 1 lb. pork tenderloin and put everything in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.  Remove roast from water, rinse, and pat dry with a paper towel.

In a small bowl, combine the thyme, salt, pepper and garlic. Rub the spices all over the roast. Place the pork roast in the slow cooker and pour in 1 cup water. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred.  Serve with balsamic glaze or your favorite BBQ sauce:

Balsamic Glaze:
1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens.

*Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  I added the brine, substituted thyme for sage, and upped the water.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


This is my favorite homemade guacamole.  It's definitely the chunky variety--more like a pico de gallo mixed with avocado.  Soaking the onions is genius!  It's delicious!  From Martha Stewart.

1/2 cup minced white onion 
3 ripe avocados, coarsely chopped 
1 jalapeno chile (seeds and ribs removed), minced 
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced 
1/4 cup chopped fresh, cilantro 
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
Coarse salt 
Tortilla Chips

Place onion in a small bowl. Add enough cold water to cover. Let soak 20 minutes; drain.

In a bowl, combine avocados, onion, jalapeno, tomato, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with salt, and mix to combine, mashing slightly. Serve with tortilla chips.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Maple Balsamic Salad Dressing

This is one of my all-time favorite salad dressings.  We love it with a mixed-green and spinach salad with feta or Gorgonzola  pecans, and dried fruit.  But it's also great with a green salad, tomatoes, grilled chicken, peppers, etc.  It's delicious!  From Katie Thomas and recipe swap!

1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 TBS Dijon mustard
3 TBS Real Maple Syrup (dark is better)
1/4 cup half and half (I use whole milk sometimes too!)
small dash kosher salt
1 scored garlic clove

Put scored garlic in bowl. Add all other ingredients. Whisk together and leave garlic in bowl. (Alternatively you can shake in a reusable salad dressing bottle). Serve immediately or store in fridge.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


This recipe is originally from my sister-in-law, Kristen.  It's a favorite!  Dangerously rich, delicious, and addictive and so yummy.  We do prefer this recipe over the other caramelita recipe that uses caramel ice-cream sauce.

64 caramel squares, unwrapped
1 cup half and half (or heavy cream)

1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour (you can do 1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup white)
2 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cup butter, melted

12 oz (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over medium low heat.  Stir often until completely smooth; set aside.

In a separate bowl combine brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda.  Pour in melted butter and stir to combine.  Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust.  Pour caramel mixture over the chocolate chips.  Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel.  Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool completely before cutting.

*Note: Cooling takes a couple of hours, a stint in the fridge can help them cool faster if you're pressed for time.  But they shouldn't be served cold.  Best served and stored at room temperature.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Salt Crusted Potatoes with Rosemary

These potatoes are amazing: creamy, salty, and flavorful with the fresh rosemary.  Literally every time I serve them to guests they rave and can't stop talking about them!  We usually serve these on the side with pulled pork or zippy BBQ.

1 bag (4-5lbs) small boiling white potatoes (1 inch to 2.25 inch) or salt potatoes
1 T regular  salt
2 T olive oil
2 T minced fresh rosemary leaves (I've used 2-3 teaspoons dried instead if I'm don't have fresh)

1.  Preheat oven to 425.
2.  Place potatoes in a large bowl.  Toss to coat with olive oil, salt, and rosemary.
3.  Transfer to baking sheet, bake 25 minutes.
4.  Turn potatoes and continue baking about 20 more minutes or until they are fork tender.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our Favorite Rolls

My friend Eva kindly adapted her normal roll recipe one to make it egg-free for us.  The quickly became our favorite and while Little Red has mostly outgrown her allergy but we still love them!

3 C warm water
1 T instant yeast
2/3 C potato flakes
1 tsp salt
2/3 C margarine or butter, melted
2/3 C sugar
7+ C flour (I usually do mostly white whole wheat with 1 T vital wheat gluten).

Put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.   Knead a few minutes.  The dough will be a little sticky.  Let rise for about 2 hours (they can rise for up to 5 hours especially if you cut down the yeast a bit).  Punch down the dough and divide in half and then half again.  Roll them out however you want (balls, crescents, etc) and let rise 1-2 hours covered. Bake about 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees (Baking time varies depending on size of rolls).  Makes about 4-5 dozen rolls.

*Note: original recipe calls for 2 eggs and baking at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Heath Bar Cake

Everyone LOVED this.  Both of my girls gave it 10 thumbs up.  A great delicious cake--good enough for company and simple enough to whip up as last minute family night treat.  I sized down this recipe for just our family.

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3  (1.4 ounces each) chocolate covered toffee bars (like Heath), chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly grease a 8x8-inch pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, white sugar, flour and butter. Crumble these ingredients together with a pastry blender, whisk or two forks until the mixture is crumbly and coarse.  With a cup measure set aside 1/4 cup of  the crumbly mixture.  In the bowl with the remaining crumbs, add the buttermilk, egg, vanilla, baking soda and salt. Mix well.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to the edges. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the reserved crumbs and chopped Heath bars. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the center is no longer gooey but a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. The cake may fall slightly in the center leaving the edges raised. No fear! It will still be delicious.  Serves 6.

Crock-pot Split Pea Soup

This recipe is from my friend Dakin.  I usually make it in the spring using leftover ham from Easter.  Curly LOVES this soup and she doesn't even like peas!

1 (16oz) package dried split peas, rinsed
2 cups diced ham
8 oz. carrrots, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped (or 1/2 T dried)
1 T salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6-7 cups hot water

Layer ingredients in slow cooker in the order given.  Pour in water.  Do not stir.  Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours (or high 4-5 hours), until peas are very soft.  Stir and serve.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan

Note: This is a mild fish dish perfect, for non-fish eaters.

·          1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
·          1/4 cup butter, softened (I usually reduce this to 2 T)
·          3 tablespoons mayonnaise (low-fat or fat-free works)
·          2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
·          1/4 teaspoon dried basil
·          1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
·          1/8 teaspoon onion powder
·          1/8 teaspoon celery salt (I omitted this because I didn’t have it on hand)
·          2 pounds tilapia fillets

Preheat your oven's broiler. Line a pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.

Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fillets over and broil for a couple more minutes. Remove the fillets from the oven and cover them with the Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side.

Broil for 2 more minutes or until the topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Watch closely and be careful not to over cook the fish.  Serves 8.  from

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Salted Caramel Brownies

These are some of the best brownies I've ever had!  And the salted caramel is amazing!  Taken from Smitten Kitchen.


1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt, more to taste)
3 tablespoons heavy cream


3 ounces (85 grams) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or 1/8 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour

Make caramel: Set a square of parchment paper over a medium-sized plate. Lightly butter or coat the parchment with a spray oil, just as an added security measure.

In a medium, dry saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your sugar; this will take about 5 minutes, stirring if necessary to break up large chunks. By the time it is all melted, if should be a nice copper color; if not, cook until it is. Remove from heat and stir in butter. It may not incorporate entirely but do your best. Stir in cream and salt and return saucepan to the stove over medium-high heat, bringing it back to a simmer and melted again any sugar that solidified. Cook bubbling caramel for a few minutes more, until it is a shade darker.

Pour out onto parchment-covered plate and transfer plate to your freezer. Freeze until solidified, which can take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes in a decent freezer to 40 minutes in my terrible one.

Meanwhile, or when your caramel is almost firm, make your brownies: Heat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment, extending it up two sides. Butter the parchment or spray it with a nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt chocolate and butter together until only a couple unmelted bits remain. Off the heat, stir until smooth and fully melted. You can also do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between each. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla and salt. Stir in flour with a spoon or flexible spatula.

Assemble brownies: When caramel is firm, remove it from the freezer and chop it into rough 1-inch squares. Gently fold all but a small amount of caramel bits into batter. Scrape batter into prepared pan, spreading until mostly even. Scatter remaining caramel bits on top. Bake in heated oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool thoroughly — a process that can be hastened in the freezer, which will also produce cleaner cuts — and cut into squares or other desired shapes.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Homemade Pretzels

I've been in search of a good homemade pretzel recipe for a long time.  Not just a bread-like recipe you shape in the form of a pretzel, but one that tastes more like the pretzel at the Auntie Anne's in the mall.  And I finally found one that satisfies in every way--quick to make, fun to bake, and tastes great!  Adapted from here. Enjoy!

1 t dry yeast
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/8 tsp salt
1 C. bread flour*
3 C. regular flour*
1 1/2 C. warm water

baking soda wash
2 C. warm water
2 Tbsp baking soda

2 – 4 Tbsp butter (melted)
coarse salt or cinnamon sugar

Mix yeast, brown sugar, salt, and flour in a mixing bowl with a whisk.  Add 1 ½ cup warm water.  Knead dough with dough hook until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes.  Place dough in a greased bowl.   Cover with saran wrap.  Let rise about at least 30 minutes.

While dough is rising preheat oven to 450.  Then prepare a baking soda water bath in another large bowl with 2 cups hot water and 2 tbsp baking soda. Be certain to stir often.

After dough has risen, punch down and pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long rope (about 1/2 inch or less thick) and shape. We live making pretzel sticks for dipping or traditional pretzels shapes.  To make the pretzel shape roll into a long rope (24+ inches) pick up both ends of the dough and give it a little spin so the middle of the dough spins around once. Lay the dough down with the loop nearest to you. Fold the ends down toward you and pinch to attach them to the bottom of the loop. The twist should be in the middle.

Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on baking sheet lined with a slipat or parchment paper. Allow pretzels to rise again (optional). Bake in oven at 450 for about 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Brush generously with melted butter. Sprinkle with coarse salt or cinnamon sugar.  Enjoy!

*Note: I don't usually have bread flour on hand and I like to use whole wheat flour so I used the following: 1 cup white whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten, and 1 3/4 cup flour.

Dittmer Mix

This recipe is known by many other names.  But it will always be remembered as "Dittmer Mix" for my friend Anna who introduced it to me.  Beware it is very addicting for those who like sweet/salty combinations.  It's a fun treat to make with seasonally colored M&M's.  Slightly adapted from here and from the Dittmer family recipe.

3 ½  cups Cheerios toasted oat cereal
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
16 ounces M&M's plain chocolate candy
2 ½ cups salted mixed nuts or almonds (about 12 oz)
2-3 cups small pretzels (we like the square window-pane ones for this recipe)
1 ½ (11 ounce) packages white chocolate chips (Ghirardelli brand preferred)*
1-2 T shortening*

Dump the cereals, M&Ms, nuts & pretzels in a large bowl.

Melt the white chocolate and shortening in the microwave or in a double boiler. Melt very slowly, stirring occasionally, being careful not to burn the chocolate.  Stir.

Dump melted chocolate over the rest of the ingredients and fold over and over until you have well-coated hunks and chunks.

Spread the whole mess out on parchment paper and set in a cool place until it sets up, then break it into pieces.

Store in zip-top bags or air-tight containers.

*I used 1 package Ghiradelli chips plus about 1 cup of white melting wafers and 1 T shortening.  You can also use almond bark if you like.