My current job has me working later than my husband. He gets home about an hour before I do and our dinner time has shifted an hour later than it used to be. Our meal planning has changed around. I now prep meals the night before or when I stop in during my lunch break as I often do. We’re really utilizing all those freezer meals I’ve stocked up on and we’re taking advantage of the crockpot too. Some nights we just want a quick and filling meal without all the work so that way we can switch to project mode as soon as our plates are clean.
That’s where the BLT salad comes in. If you like BLTs then this salad is almost a clone of your favorite sandwich. You can make croutons from old bread ahead of time; just drizzle some olive oil, salt, and pepper over some diced bread and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. They stay crunchy and fresh for days but if you make them fresh then they’ll be chewy just like the bread of a BLT. Then you’ll toss some bacon, lettuce, and grape tomatoes together with those croutons. Last up is the dressing; the combination of mayonnaise and buttermilk is the perfect touch for the salad. Just toss and serve with some french bread. If you’re a little hungrier, serve this salad with some soup or a sandwich, maybe even a BLT if that’s not a BLT overload.
- 1/2 baguette, sliced into cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 pound romaine, chopped
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- Start by making sure your bacon is cooked. You can do this on the stovetop or in the oven with the croutons by baking for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss bread with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden, around 20 minutes.
- In a medium bowl whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and vinegar.
- In a large bowl, mix together lettuce, tomatoes, and croutons. Toss with dressing, sprinkle with bacon and serve.
This weekend I finally made good on my plans to try my hand at making one of Jeni’s ice creams from her cookbook. I decided to try my hand at a recipe that didn’t include any hard-t0-find ingredients and would be a flavor both my husband and I would probably enjoy. That’s how I ended up with my cookbook turned to the recipe for Salty Caramel Ice Cream. It’s Jeni’s most popular flavor so why wouldn’t I want to try that?
Before you start this recipe, measure out every single ingredient and prep all your equipment. Your ice cream maker should be frozen 24 hours before even starting. I even poured my milk into a measuring cup so I could pour quickly when the moment came. The first half of this recipe goes low and slow and then suddenly you’re all in, racing to get everything in the recipe so you can start counting down the half hour it takes to chill it. For all things stovetop, I used a 4-quart pot for the process. I wouldn’t risk going any smaller than that with all the boiling this recipe takes.
Now the next part was the scariest for me: I had to make caramel. I don’t do well with sugared products because I’m impatient and easily distracted and that usually leads to sugar burning. Jeni has you make the caramel for your recipe by using the dry burn technique (see recipe notes) where you just heat sugar on the stovetop until it starts going through a transformation and then you invite all the other pieces of sugar to the party by melting them down.
Jeni says the look you’re going for is an “old penny” but I wasn’t sure if she meant 2001 penny that has seen my whole town or a 1953 penny that looks like it’s going green so I chose the more appetizing color. It seems to have worked out. Somewhere in the middle of the stirring process you’re likely to think you’ve failed and there’s an awful goopy mess but 1 minute later you’ll be screaming in glee “I’ve made caramel!” Embrace that moment because this is when the going gets crazy.
You’ll want to add just a bit of your cream + corn syrup to the cream while off the heat. It’ll crackle and pop so be careful. Jeni doesn’t suggest putting the pot back on till all the cream is added to your caramel but I found my caramel hardening too much so keep a close eye on things and introduce the heat as needed. After you add the milk you’re almost in the clear. You will need to keep a watchful eye on it so it doesn’t boil over and then add your slurry to thicken, stirring continuously. You can see above the soft golden tone the recipe starts to take on (and the mess this dish leaves behind)
You’ll then pour your ice cream through a sieve placed over a bowl with your cream cheese and salt in it. All the little hard pieces of caramel will be left behind and then you stir stir stir! Make sure to add the vanilla in this step. I use my own homemade vanilla but whatever you choose, make sure it isn’t imitation.
You’ll then want to chill your ice cream base as fast as possible. Pour your mix into a gallon sized Ziploc bag, seal it, and surround it with ice and ice water. Chill in your fridge for half an hour. Note: It’s very important not to let water get into your mix at this point. After your half hour is up, pour the mix into your ice cream maker and let it run about half an hour.
Now you have to freeze it for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better. I know, I’m a cruel and awful person to suggest such a thing. I scooped up a batch after waiting and sat down to test it. It was so smooth, just like the version I bought in the store. You can copy that quality perfectly in your own kitchen. My own version was lighter in color than Jeni’s official version so maybe you should aim towards an older penny than I did. I also expected more salt but that’s an easy fix. Overall I was thrilled with my results and have to say this is the best (but also the most complicated) homemade ice cream I’ve made to date. The only real disappointment I had was that it was eaten up so quickly. I guess I’ll need to make another batch or try a new flavor. If you’re a Jeni’s fan, let me know what flavor I should try next.
Source: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch (or just 4 teaspoons- it's the same thing)
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
- Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
- Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.
- Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note below). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.
- Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
- Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
- Pour into frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy in ice cream maker.
- Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.
- Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don't add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:
Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color — like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.
When I think of cakes, I tend to think of my old standbys, like chocolate, pound cake, and white cake. I don’t often think of lemon cake as a must-have cake except in the spring time. There’s something about eating a bright yellow cake on a sunny day with some fresh berries and whipped cream to really remind you of how delicious lemon cake is.
This recipe is another one of my doctored cake mix recipes. In addition to lemon cake and lemon juice and lemon zest, the secret lemon ingredient is lemon pudding. It makes the cake very moist and dense so it’s like you’re eating a wonderful lemon pound cake. When you top it with the lemon glaze, make sure to do it while the cake is still warm. You won’t regret the extra zing it provides.
- Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 Tablespoons)
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 (18 ounce) box lemon cake mix
- 1 (3.4 ounce) box instant lemon pudding
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup of powdered sugar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Zest a lemon and place shavings into a large bowl. Squeeze the lemon into the same bowl.
- Add the cake mix, pudding, eggs, and oil into the bowl. Stir until just combined.
- Fold in the sour cream.
- Pour the batter into a prepared bundt cake pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes before removing from pan.
- Combine powdered sugar with lemon juice.
- Pour over cake while it is still warm. Let harden before eating.
This recipe makes a delicious appetizer. You simply broil bread, brush it with garlic, broil goat cheese in marinara and dig in. You can use your favorite marinara, go bottled, or try Kevin’s Kalamata Olive Marinara. It pairs perfectly with a bowl of pasta and the goat cheese salad from yesterday’s post. Don’t forget a bottle of wine!
Recipe from Kevin at Closet Cooking
- 1 baguette (sliced)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
- 4 ounces goat cheese (sliced)
- Brush the baguette slices with olive oil.
- Broil the slices until golden brown on top. (Note: Watch them carefully as they can burn really quickly on broil.)
- Let the baguette slices cool and then rub them with the garlic.
- Place the marinara sauce in a baking dish and top with the goat cheese.
- Broil until the goat cheese is soft and golden brown, about 4-6 minutes.
My latest obsession is with goat cheese. I’ve never been much of a cheese eater but Aldi has these little 4 ounce packages of goat cheese and I just can’t get enough of them. My favorite way to eat goat cheese right now is to make patties, fry them in panko breading, and plop them right on a salad. They’re the perfect size for 2 people to enjoy with dinner.
To make the goat cheese easier to fry, just pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes before breading them and back into the fridge for another 30 minutes before frying. This way you’ll have soft cheese that stays right inside the breading. I like to top the salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Tomorrow I’ll show you my second favorite way to use these goat cheese packages- and it’s a perfect pairing with this salad.
- 4 ounce goat cheese log
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 dash dried parsley
- 1 dash dried thyme
- 1 dash garlic powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup of flour
- olive oil
- 4 cups salad greens
- Dressing of your choice
- Chill your goat cheese in the freezer an hour ahead of cooking
- While chilling, set up your dredging station. Mix your panko bread crumbs with parsley, thyme and garlic powder. Use one small bowl to hold your beaten egg and use another small bowl to hold your flour. Set up your station with flour first, then egg, then your breadcrumb mix.
- Half an hour before cooking, pull your cheese out of the fridge and cut into four slices, wiping the blade in between each cut.
- Dip your cheese into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, coating on both sides.
- Place cheese on a baking sheet covered in waxed paper and chill another half an hour.
- Heat your stovetop to medium heat and warm the olive oil. Fry each side of the goat cheese until golden.
- While cooking, prep your salad greens onto two plates and drizzle with dressing. Top with cheese and serve warm.
I’m in a fondue mood because I keep meaning to try Stone Cellar Fondue in St. Charles, Missouri. I was hoping to get over there this weekend to celebrate a mini-anniversary (my first date with my husband was 9 years ago this weekend) but we have a concert to go to instead (The Black Keys). So instead of going out, I decided to bring the fondue home. I hooked up my mini crockpot and while it warmed I mixed up some chocolate chips and cream on the stovetop. In 5 minutes the chocolate was ready to pop in the crock and for the dipping to start.
The key to a great fondue is choosing the best ingredients to dip. I like to take pound cake and freeze it ahead of time for dipping. I love including cookies like Oreos and graham crackers, though today I decided to go the route of animal crackers and Oreos. Either way, make sure you have a good cookie to scoop out any accidental drops in the chocolate. Fruit is the other most important dipper. I love cherries and bananas but my absolute favorite dipper is the simple strawberry. My best dip today was a strawberry layered between two pieces of pound cake. If only I’d had some brownies laying around it would have been perfect.
- 1/4 cup of cream
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chip
- Heat the cream on the stovetop just until bubbles form.
- Remove cream from heat and stir in the chocolate chips.
- When chocolate is smooth, transfer it to a fondue pot or a mini crockpot.
- Serve with cakes, cookies, brownies, and fruits to dip into chocolate.
The hot weather finally calmed down but I don’t trust it will stay away for long so I wanted to make this next recipe before summer really sets in. The hour of baking for this recipe means you do not want to prep this in the heat of summer. Many people think you can’t freeze potatoes. I’ve had a failure where all the potatoes turn black and I’ve had mashed potatoes that did alright but were never quite as good as the original without a little work. This recipe for freezer twice baked potatoes is a standout because they taste incredible after being in the freezer. The secret is that you freeze them after only the single bake and then you cook them in the oven right in their frozen state.
I bought a 10 pound bag of potatoes from my local grocery store for only $2. I had used about 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes for other meals so I used 7 1/2 pounds (or 25 potatoes) for this recipe. I’ll share the full 10 pound recipe for you guys so you can just use a bag and not have to do a lot of guesswork. With so many potatoes, you’ll want to rotate the pans in the oven every half hour. I like to put my potatoes on baking sheets according to size so if the smallest potatoes finish after an hour I can just remove the small potato baking sheet and let the larger potatoes keep cooking until they have some give.
I like to make my potatoes a little healthier so I try to use skim milk, laughing cow cheese (the queso and garlic ones are my favorites), and I leave the shredded cheese off my pieces. When I bake them I add cheese and bacon to my husband’s portions and I top mine with sour cream or Greek yogurt after I’ve baked mine. These also taste incredible with some pesto drizzled on top. The possibilities are endless. If you don’t care about those adjustments, regular milk or even half and half work for your liquid and regular cream cheese works perfectly with this recipe. I’ve done it all.
When you store your items, make sure to let them freeze flat first. Then you can pop them in containers. I found these containers at the Dollar Store and I love the flat tops, they’re perfect for easy stacking. I usually fit between 4 and 8 halves in each container. When reheating I cook the entire package on a cookie sheet and eat any leftovers during the week with my lunch. My favorite way to eat these for lunch is to take some chili and pour it over a potato half. It’s perfection.
- 10 lbs large baking potatoes
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 2 cups skim milk
- 6 ounces fat free cream cheese or laughing cow cheese
- 4 teaspoons salt (to taste)
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper (to taste)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Clean potatoes and dry. Place them on baking sheets. 10 pounds of potatoes usually requires 3 baking sheets.
- Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and kosher salt.
- Bake potatoes for 1 to 1/2 hours depending on the size.
- Allow potatoes to cool around 15 minutes. While cooling, mix together butter, cream cheese (or laughing cow), salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
- Cut potatoes in half lengthwise taking care not to damage the rest of the skins.
- Use a large spoon to scoop out the inside of the potatoes, leaving a thin layer of potato attached to the skin. Put the middles you scoop out into the mixer with your butter cheese blend.
- Once you've scooped out all the potatoes, place the shells back on the baking sheet with the skin side down.
- Blend potato and butter/cheese mix in your mixer. Add milk as needed until potatoes resemble stiff mashed potatoes.
- Spoon the potato mix back into the shells. If you are adding shredded cheese, sprinkle and press onto potatoes.
- Place pan back into the oven and bake 15-25 minutes.
- Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and place baking sheet in freezer until potatoes are completely frozen.
- Remove potatoes from baking sheet and place in plastic bags or foil containers with baking instructions written on them.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and place potatoes on baking sheet. Loosely cover with foil.
- Bake about 45 minutes. Uncover foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.
I always seem to buy too many bananas. If I buy 6 I eat 3. If I buy 3 I eat 1. I hate letting them go to waste so they always end up in my freezer for a batch of banana bread to be made at some date in the future. This time I wasn’t in the mood to wait for banana bread. Even better, I had some Nilla Wafers in danger of going stale. Still, I didn’t have enough bananas or wafers to make my old school style banana pudding so I decided to work some magic to turn them into a parfait.
You’ll need bananas, Nilla wafers, and french vanilla pudding. It has to be french vanilla because I remember my grandma driving to an extra grocery store because regular vanilla just wasn’t good enough for banana pudding. She’d also demand the pudding be baked and have meringue but I’ve never been a fan or meringue or even whipped cream so I go without. You can do as you wish and maybe you’ll make my grandma happy.
The real secret to making these parfaits taste just like real banana pudding is letting them chill for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better. That way your vanilla wafers will get that creamy consistency that makes you think you’re in the South, eating nana puddin as I called it as a kid. The wait is long but it’ll be worth it. You can do as you wish and maybe you’ll make my me happy.
- 1 3 oz package instant french vanilla pudding
- 2 cups milk
- 32 Nilla Wafers cookies
- 2 bananas
- Whipped cream or cool whip (optional)
- Use the pudding package and milk to prepare the pudding as directed. Let chill 5 minutes.
- While pudding is chilling, place 8 Nilla Wafers cookies in the bottom of a wine goblet. Repeat with 3 additional goblets.
- Divide half of the pudding between the 4 wine goblets, placing on top of the cookies.
- Cut each banana into 1/2 inch slices. Place half of each banana in each goblet on top of the pudding.
- Spread the second half of the pudding on top of the bananas, dividing evenly.
- Chill for at least 4 hours.
- Top with whipper cream or cool whip and serve.
Do any of you remember those Polar Pizzas or Treatzza Pizzas from Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins back in the 90s? If you don’t, you missed out. The ice cream pizzas usually had an Oreo or cookie crust, some ice cream, and a batch of toppings that would send you to a sugar coma. I remember my brother getting one at his birthday party and being very jealous that I had just had a homemade cake at my own party a month earlier.
Flash forward to last week when we had 90 degree temperatures at the end of March/beginning of April. My husband and I were spending hours outside building a retaining wall and yet we were too stubborn (aka cheap) to turn on the air conditioner. I was desperate to find a way to cool off and then I remembered those pizzas.
I took some cookie dough and pressed it into a pie pan. I risked a quick bake in the oven and cooked the dough about 15 minutes. After the cookie cooled on the counter, I popped it into the freezer. Just before dessert time I thawed about 5 scoops of ice cream (you might need more if you use a bigger pie pan) and then I smoothed it into the cookie dough base.
To keep with the sugar coma memories of my childhood I drizzled on some Magic Shell and then sprinkled on some mini chocolate chips and some mini-Reese’s Pieces leftover from my Christmas cookies. It was some delicious frozen cookie pie, just like I remembered.
- 1 tube cookie dough (or 16 ounces of your favorite recipe)
- 5 scoops thawed ice cream
- Magic Shell
- 1/8 cup mini chocolate chips
- 1/8 cup Reese's Pieces
- Press the cookie dough into a pie pan, shaping the extra dough along the edges to resemble a pizza crust.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
- After cooling, place the cookie pie in the freezer for at least 2 hours.
- Thaw ice cream for about 1 hour minutes before your serving time. You can skip this step by scooping the ice cream into a bowl and microwaving about 10 seconds.
- Smooth the ice cream into the center of the cookie pie and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Pull the pie back out of the freezer. Drizzle with magic shell and sprinkle with candies.
- Use a warm knife to cut the cookie pie and serve.
Until last year, I don’t think I’d ever eaten Hot Cross Buns. I’d heard of them but only in the sense that I learned to play that song Hot Cross Buns on the recorder, the piano, the trumpet, and the french horn.Yup, that’s right, I was a total band nerd in my youth.
Last year I was determined to see what the fuss was all about and I was happy with the idea of hot cross buns but I wanted to jazz them up a bit. This year’s recipe came out perfect. I made sure the dough had plenty of cinnamon and orangey taste and I added much plumper raisins to the mix. The best part was the smell, my whole house smelled of spices and sugars all day long.
You can make these tonight and let them do their second rise in the fridge overnight. Tomorrow morning just pull them out of the fridge, take a shower, preheat the oven, and pop them in while you get ready. They taste perfect with some milk or tea and if they make it till Easter they’ll still taste good.
- 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- 1 cup warm milk (warm to the touch)
- 1/4 cup butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup baking raisins
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- Rind of 1 orange
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 3/4 cups flour
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon butter, softened
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (you can also substitute almond or maple extract here)
- 2 tablespoons milk
- In your stand mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in the warm milk. Let stand for 5 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy.
- Add in the butter, raisins, cinnamon, orange peel, egg, salt, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Use a spoon to mix gently until smooth.
- Place the mixer bowl onto the mixer base with the dough hook attached. Slowly add in flour while mixing on a low speed until the dough begins to pull from the sides of your bowl. Move your mixer to speed setting 3 and let your dough hook knead the dough for 5 minutes.
- Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled. In a warm environment this should take about 60-90 minutes.
- Punch down your dough and divide into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place in a 13x9 inch glass pan.
- Cover and let dough rise until doubled again, about 45 minutes to an hour. If you are preparing this recipe at night, place the dough in the fridge to rise overnight instead. The cold will slow down the rise of your dough so it shouldn't rise too much.
- Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Let the buns cool in the pan on a wire rack.
- Combine the powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla. Slowly add milk until the mixture reaches piping consistency. Using a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off, pipe an "X" on top of each bun.