Monday, July 25, 2011

this week's craving: strawberries!

Oh dear...I'm so behind!  I have so many recipes to share with you all, but life has been a whirlwind lately.  I'm looking forward to August when things will slow down.  Coming up in August, I'm giving you new desserts, main dishes, sides, and another Gooseberry Patch giveaway!!!

Until then, I'm eating a strawberry and wondering why I've never done a recipe featuring strawberries?  I love the berries, but I don't have a single recipe in my recipe box that honors them.  Crazy!

Fortunately, today's This Week's Cravings is all about strawberries.  I can't wait to see what everyone links up...I know I'll get some great ideas from you!


Monday, July 18, 2011

this week's craving: ice cream bonanza!

Whoohoo!  This Week's Craving is all about ICE CREAM!  I'm so excited to see what everyone will link up.

Here are my favorites from my archives..

First, looking for an ice cream maker?  Check out this post on ice cream makers before you go and buy one yourself.  

Ice cream makers can be used for more than just ice about sorbet?  This mango sorbet is the best I have ever tasted, and it's SO EASY.  It's a must-try while mangoes are in season.

Now for the ice cream!  I can't get enough of this cookies-and-cream.  It's the most creamy and delicious homemade ice cream in the world...and it's chock full of Oreos!

And this double chocolate cheesecake ice cream is absolutely delicious.  It's got just the right amount of cheesecake and graham cracker and a double portion of chocolate.  Make mine 3 scoops!

Now let's not forget the traditional flavors.  Here's as classic a vanilla homemade ice cream that you can get...

And, of course, we can't forget the rich dark chocolate...

And finally, we MUST have hot fudge!  Ice cream just wouldn't be the same without it!

And now, I've got to see your favorites.  Link them up!

Ice Cream!!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

the coolest cake ever!

For the past few weeks, I've been traveling through Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma visiting family.  We ended our visit on Route 66 in Oklahoma, visiting Cookie Bandit's family.  While there, I talked my mother-in-law into making a cake that I've been wanting to make for quite some time.  It's an M&Ms Barrel Cake!

Cookie Bandit and his family are the biggest M&M lovers in the world, so this cake was perfect.  They love M&Ms so much, that his parents actually made us a special cookbook when we got married.  I just had to show it to you...

Sounds intriguing, right?  Here are the "recipes"!

Haha!  I love that cookbook and use it often.  So, of course, I had to insist on making the M&Ms cake for our big family birthday celebration.  I first saw this cake on Mommy Topics.  What I love about it is that you can use any cake and frosting recipe that you want to...the secret is in the decorating.

We made a two-layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for filling.  We covered the outside with chocolate frosting and then proceeded to make our barrel out of Kit-Kats.  I don't suggest trying to construct the cake by yourself...the Kit-Kats kept falling off while I was trying to put it together, so my father-in-law came to the rescue.

Once we got all of the Kit-Kats in place, we tied a ribbon around the cake to hold them in.

Then, we filled the top with two medium bags of M&Ms!

The cake was a huge hit...especially with this little guy. :)

This is the perfect way to dress up any cake for a special occasion, and it requires no cake decorating skills!  Hope you love it as much as we did!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

hello, skinny pants!

I've been chilling with family in Kansas and Oklahoma, eating way too much homemade ice cream, and, as a result, my pants are getting a little snug.  To remind myself that healthy eating can be delicious (and because I haven't been doing any cooking while traveling), I'm pulling one of my favorites from my archives.  Time to get skinny!

hot bacon pasta salad

I have this pair of pants.  They aren't my skinny pants.  They aren't my fat pants.  They are more like...measuring stick pants.

Do you know what I mean?

This is the pair of pants that fits me perfectly when I'm exactly the size that I should be.  If they get too loose, then I eat a little more dessert (can't get too skinny or I won't have any clothes that fit!).  If they get a little tight, I know it's time to start exercising.

And it's time to start exercising.

Lately, I've been showcasing fried foods (my husband's picks).  And, as a result, my measuring stick pants have been getting more and more snug by the day.  So I've decided that today, I'm posting a cast iron recipe that's just as delicious but much more healthy.  It would be even healthier if I used less bacon...but my pants aren't that tight.

The inspiration for this hot bacon pasta salad came from a Tasty Kitchen recipe posted by the Pioneer Woman herself - spinach salad with warm bacon dressing.  The salad was delicious, so I decided to convert it into something more filling, more hearty, and slightly healthier (by using turkey bacon).

The cast of ingredients includes turkey bacon (you could also use regular), a small package of sliced mushrooms, a package of baby spinach, red wine vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

Ooops...don't forget the pasta!

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  In the meanwhile, slice up your bacon into smaller strips.

Toss these into a large skillet and season very, very liberally with pepper.  Cook until they get as crispy as you like.  Once the bacon is cooked, remove it to a separate bowl.

Toss your mushroom slices in the skillet, and cook and stir until they get nice and tender.

Then throw in your package of spinach.  Stir it around for about a minute, or until the spinach has wilted.

Once your spinach has wilted, add the bacon back to the skillet and turn off the heat.

 Mix together 3 tablespoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and a dash of salt.  Because my mushrooms had soaked up most of my bacon grease, I also added a small amount of olive oil to the dressing, although I'm not sure that it was really necessary.

Toss the cooked pasta in with the spinach, mushrooms, and bacon...

Then pour in the dressing.

And toss your pasta salad to mix everything all together.

And there you have it...a fast, easy, hearty, delicious, and relatively healthy skillet meal! 

Hot Bacon Pasta Salad
16 oz. package of pasta
1 lb. bacon or turkey bacon
1 small package (2 cups) sliced mushrooms
10 oz. package baby spinach
3 T. red wine vinegar
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
dash salt
pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Dice up bacon and place in a large skillet, seasoning liberally with pepper.  Cook until crispy; remove to another bowl.  Add mushrooms to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes, or until tender.  Add spinach leaves; cook and stir until wilted.  Toss in cooked pasta.  Mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt and pour over the pasta.  Stir everything together and serve hot.  Serves 8.

Nutrition:  320 cal, 13g fat, 3g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 91mg cholesterol, 736mg sodium, 35g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 16g protein, 67% vit. A, 18% vit. C, 7% calcium, 22% iron.

Monday, July 4, 2011

traditional homemade ice cream

We have a Fourth of July tradition in my family.  Every year, we make a batch of my mom's delicious homemade ice cream, pack it in an ice chest along with brownies and other deliciousness, and then enjoy our sugar rush while watching the town's fireworks show.  I love traditions.

I've featured homemade ice creams on this site before, but those are a bit different.  They are made custard-style, so they end up with that delicious smooth and creamy texture that you find in the best store-bought ice creams.  Mom's ice cream is the traditional kind - that irreplaceable, only-can-be-made-at-home ice cream.  It's delicious!

It requires very few ingredients - whipping cream, eggs (or egg substitute), sugar, vanilla, and milk.  We used egg substitute since it has been pasteurized, just to be on the safe side.

This is my mom putting the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a blender. :)  Hi mom!

Blend the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.

Then, add the whipping cream and blend until mixed (just don't blend too'll make butter!)

It should be nice and smooth...

Pour the cream mixture into a 4-quart ice cream maker and then add milk until the mixture reaches the fill line in the ice cream maker.

Now...if you are like my sister and like your ice cream plain, you can just stop there.  If you are like me (and I'm ALWAYS right...ask my husband), then you know that homemade ice cream is always better with Butterfinger mixed in!

I crushed up Butterfinger with a strange contraption my mom had in her kitchen drawer - it looked like a giant version of something you'd find in a dentist's office!  I just love searching through Mom's never know what you'll find.

I mixed the crushed Butterfinger into the ice cream and voila ~ perfection!

But, since my sister was also visiting home, I felt it was only fair to leave her some plain homemade ice cream.  I felt festive and decorated her bowl for the Fourth of July. matter how you serve it, this ice cream is good!

Traditional Homemade Ice Cream
6 eggs (or the equivalent of egg substitute)
2 cups sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 pint whipping cream
milk (approximately 2 quarts)

Blend the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a blender.  Add the whipping cream and blend until smooth.  Pour into a 4-quart ice cream maker, and then add enough milk to bring mixture to the fill line.  Freeze according to ice cream maker instructions.  (If you're cool, add Butterfinger.)

Red, White, and Blue!

Link up your favorite Fourth of July themed recipes here!  

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