Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tater Tot Taco Salad

Did you know that mini tater tots existed? I had no idea. I saw them on the ingredient list and thought I was in for another wild goose hunt for random ingredients, but they were right there in the freezer section next to their larger counterparts. Huh. Who knew. Unfortunately, I fear this will lead to more purchases of the little buggers just because tater tots rock. And anything that rocks is always ten times better in a tiny poppable size, isn't it? It is.

This is another recipe from grandma's stash, and I chose to try it partly because I've been yearning for all things taco and partly because I had every single ingredient except for the tots in my fridge or freezer.  Or so I thought. Turns out I was wrong. My shredded lettuce, which I swear looked just fine in the morning, was all brown and wilty by dinner time, and apparently I forgot that I ate that tomato with some cottage cheese on top (NOM!) for lunch the day before. Whoops. So, our tater tot taco salad experience was sort of lackluster, but it was still good enough to have me wanting to make it again. I think that says a lot right there.

Here's the recipe:

2 c. frozen tater tots
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 T. taco seasoning
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. sliced or stuffed ripe olives
1 c. shredded lettuce
2 T. taco sauce
1/4 c. sour cream

Bake tater tots according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning.  Divide tater tots between two serving plates or bowls. Top with taco mixture, cheese, olives, lettuce, taco sauce and sour cream.

Yield: 2 servings.

What I liked about this recipe: It was SIMPLE. I love simple. It was also fast and yummy and didn't make a huge mess in my kitchen. All the things I look for in dinner recipes! I also love that it makes only 2 servings, but is easily doubled or even tripled.

What I didn't like: Well, mostly the fact that I realized too late that I didn't have everything I thought I did on hand. Otherwise, no complaints at all!

Be sure to let me know if you try it, and stay tuned. I think there will be a breakfast casserole coming up soon...

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

See! I told you I had more recipes to share! My mom brought me a boatload of ripe bananas, and I decided that , rather than yet another banana bread, I'd try something new. I found this gem in grandma's recipe stash and set to work.

Now, let me tell you this was a first for me. There was a day when I wouldn't even clip or attempt a recipe if it had more than, say, five ingredients. It just seemed like way too much work. But, I'm happy to say I have matured as a baker since those days and therefore this was feasible. Tedious, but feasible. :)

Here's the recipe for you:

2/3 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 c. mashed bananas (about 4 medium)
1 c. milk (I used skim. You know, to keep it low cal. LOL.)
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. butter, softened
4 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Dash salt

1. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add bananas and milk; mix just until combined. Combine the flour, banking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture; beat for 2 minutes.

2. In another bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into batter. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth. Spread over cake. Store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 15 servings

What I liked about this recipe: It was DELISH! I was seriously concerned that the frosting would be too sweet (as it is by itself), but when coupled with the cake it was a perfect combination. The cake itself was very dense and very filling, almost like a carrot cake would be. I also appreciate the new alternative for over ripe bananas!

What I didn't like: It took For. Ev. Er. to cook. I checked it at 30 mins, and then again every five minutes thereafter. I didn't add up the entire time, but I was probably around 50 minutes of total bake time and my toothpick was still coming out with a little bit of batter on it. The edges were starting to get a little too brown for my liking, so I pulled it out even though it was still a tiny bit doughy, and it turned out fine. I have no idea whose oven could cook this in 30 minutes though, because the top was barely even set in that amount of time. But, I guess if you make it it's best to err on the side of caution and start checking at 30 or 35 mins like the original recipe suggests. It could also be because I didn't measure my bananas, and instead just used 4 medium (as the recipe comparison suggests) sized ones. Maybe I had over 2 cups in there, but it couldn't have been that much over. Who knows. Bottom line though is that it turned out and was divine. The other small issue I had was that the frosting recipe makes a boatload of frosting. Probably more than you need. I slathered it all on though - hate to be wasteful, you know! :)

So, there you have it! Let me know how it turns out (and what your final cook time was) if you decide to try it! And stay tuned for that Tater Tot Taco Salad recipe! That was a super fast dinner if ever I saw one. Just my style!

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Peanut Butter n' Jelly Bars

I can't even believe it myself, but I am blogging again in less than a week with a new recipe. Woot! AND, even better, I've tried two MORE new recipes since making this one and plan to share those, too. This is unprecedented territory, people. :)

I made these bars for the family reunion last weekend. I thought I'd try them out - I like to try new recipes for big events like that, so that if I don't care for it I'm not stuck with a whole pan. There's always *someone* who will love it! I thought these would be a hit with the kiddos, but I'm honestly not sure if any kids even got any, because the adults were gobbling them up first! They were sooooo easy to make, they're definitely going into my "must have" recipe book for future use.

Here's the recipe:

1 tube (16 1/2 oz.) refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough
1/2 c. peanut butter chips
1 can (16 oz.) buttercream frosting (I used cream cheese - couldn't find the buttercream)
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. seedless raspberry jam or grape jelly (I used grape, and didn't measure - just put a few dollops on and swirled)

Let dough stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to soften. Press into an ungreased 9x13 dish; sprinkle with peanut butter chips. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 - 18 minutes or until lightly browned and edges are firm to the touch.

In a small mixing bowl, beat frosting and peanut butter until smooth. Spread over bars. Drop jam by teaspoonfuls over frosting; cut through frosting with a knife to swirl the jam.

Yield: 2 dozen

What I liked about this recipe: As I said, it was super easy to make! It's also kid friendly, as little hands could help press the dough into the pan, sprinkle the chips, spread the frosting, etc.

What I didn't like: Unless you have most of this stuff on hand, or watch for sales, it's kinda pricy to whip together. I think it cost me about $10 for everything I needed (dough + frosting + jelly + chips). Granted I didn't use all of the chips or jelly, but they are not normally things we keep on hand so now my husband is suffering through pb & j lunches and I have 3/4 of a bag of pb chips in the freezer to use up somehow (maybe on more of these?!). I will also say that the jelly doesn't really "swirl" per se. It's kinda clumpy and no where near as pretty as the photo that is with the original recipe that was clipped from Taste of Home. I'm wondering if they didn't heat their jelly a little bit before swirling it? I guess if appearances matter, you could try that....

SO! There ya go! Two of grandma's recipes down, and two more waiting in the wings (Tater Tot Taco Casserole and Banana Cake)! Stay tuned!

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Colorado Peach Cobbler

With few exceptions, I can say that everything I learned about cooking, I learned from my grandmother. I spent every weekend at my grandparents' house in the country and my grandma was an amazing cook. Every Sunday she prepared a meal fit for a king (i.e. grandpa ;) ) including dishes and courses that most families were only treated to on Sundays. There was usually dessert, and Christmas was the biggest treat of all, when she baked a huge variety of cookies and bars for the family to enjoy through the holiday season.

Over the years, grandma clipped and collected several recipes from various magazines, friends, and newspapers, and when she passed away last spring I inherited the majority of them (mom saved a few to try, too). I have finally organized them all into a binder, and am excited to work my way through them - all things that caught her eye that she never got around to trying. My goal is to share them with you here as I make each one, but I've had several blog related goals since the fall of 2009 when we lost our son Henry and none have come to fruition, so bear with me if this never pans out! My intentions are good though, and that has to count for something. :)

I'll start you out with this delicious dish that grandma clipped from an old issue of Taste of Home. Judging by the style of the art around the recipe, I'd guess it was originally printed in the early 90's. I made this last week for a movie night I was having with two of my girlfriends. I think the general consensus was NOM NOM NOM! It was seriously tasty! Here's the recipe:

Colorado Peach Cobbler

1 c. Sugar
2 T. Flour
1/4 t. ground Nutmeg
4 c. sliced fresh Peaches

1 c. Sugar
1 c. Flour
1 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Salt
1/3 c. cold Butter (or margarine, if you aren't a purist *wink* )
1 Egg, beaten
Ice cream, optional (Seriously, who opts out of ice cream. Wait. I know one person *cough*Karen*cough* Other than her though... Who? NO ONE!)

In a bowl, combine sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add peaches; stir to coat. Pour into a greased 11" x 7" x 2" baking pan (Note: I used a 9x13 because my 11x7 was wayyyy back in the cupboard and I was too lazy to take everything out to get to it). For topping, combine sugar, flour, baking powder and salt; cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs (mine was a little lumpier than that, but it still worked fine). Stir in egg. Spoon over peaches. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden. Serve hot (YES!) or cold (meh.) with ice cream if desired (pfft).

Originally submitted to the magazine by Clara Hinman of Flagler, CO. She notes that she has used other fruits that are in season with this recipe, but that her family likes it best with peaches.

What I liked about it:
I really liked the way the salt complemented the sweetness of TWO FULL CUPS of sugar. I remember thinking as I was making it that it was going to end up being sickeningly sweet, but it wasn't at all. It was a perfect balance of salty/sweet with that dollop of vanilla bean ice cream on top.

What I didn't like:
It seemed to flatten out after baking. When I took the picture, it was all puffy and pretty, but it fell as it cooled. Granted it would have stayed higher in the pan had I used the 11x7 dish like I was supposed to, but still... Not the point. ;) This didn't affect flavor at all though, and I'd probably use the 9x13 again next time (likely for the same reason).

So, there you have it! The first of my grandma's "recipe's to try" collection. If you try it, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how you liked it!

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