Saturday, July 22, 2017

Taco Cake


This year for my niece's birthday (Sue's daughter), she decided she wanted a taco theme for her party. Sue put on a big taco spread with all sorts of fillings and toppings. I was put in charge of the cake. 
I decided that a taco cake was totally appropriate and within my skill level. 
It's so fun, am I right? And, it is actually fairly simple to decorate as well. If decorating a cake usually intimidates you then you might want to give this one a try. The only tricky bit is piping the "lettuce". Everything else is easy peasy! I used a margarita flavored cake but you could use any flavor you like. All you need is one 8 or 9 inch round cake and you are good to go!


Taco Cake

Ingredients
1 8 or 9 inch round cake (any flavor)
2 cans vanilla frosting 
1 can chocolate frosting
7 Oreo cookies
3 tbsp shredded coconut
2 red jujubes (or similar gummy candy)
3 Tbsp Cool Whip
yellow food coloring
green food coloring
orange food coloring

Directions
Prepare your "toppings": Shredded Cheese - in a small baggy mix a few drops of orange food coloring with the shredded coconut until all coconut is colored. Tomato bits - cut the red jujubes into small squares. Lettuce - dye 1/2 of one of the vanilla frostings with a few drops of green food coloring. Set these aside. 
Prepare "taco": Place your round cake on a work surface. 


Cut the cake in half and stand it up on the flat side. Cut a small line around the center of each round and then cut off a little cake so the inner half is about 1/4 inch lower then the outer half. See photo for clarification.  


Frost the middle of the cake and the inner part of the round with chocolate frosting. Dye one can of the vanilla frosting with yellow food coloring. Frost the rest of the cake with the yellow frosting. Don't worry if the middle part doesn't look pretty - you will be covering it up with toppings. 


Coarsely crush the Oreos in a baggy and then add in a spoonful or two of the chocolate frosting - just enough to get it to clump together. Spread this over the inner part of the taco to cover where the chocolate frosting was. This is the "ground beef". See photo below for clarification. 


Now it's time to place your toppings! Pipe the green frosting in a wavy motion to look like lettuce. You don't have to use the full amount of icing. You want to leave some of the "meat" peeking through. Sprinkle with the coconut "cheese". 


Top with the "tomato bits". 


And, finally, top with a scoop of Cool Whip as your "sour cream". 


Store in the fridge until ready to serve. 


I love the Oreo and chocolate frosting "meat". It looked really meaty. 
You will most likely have leftover frosting and toppings. Use as much of them as you like to decorate your cake. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cherry Pie


I think the secret to a good pie crust is practice. Which is okay with me because practice means more pie. Who doesn't want more pie? Crazy people, that's who. 
Seriously though, I think the pie crust is what separates a good pie from a fabulous pie. Our Never Fail Pie Crust Recipe (Find it HERE), is the crust I use for everything. And I do mean everything! I've never used another pie crust because ours works like a hot dang. 
That being said, I decided to give another one a chance because I didn't have any lard in the house and couldn't make it to the store to pick any up. I decided to go with a strictly butter crust that only makes enough for 1 double crust. 
End result? Okay, our crust (HERE) is still my number one. Its flakiness just can't be beat. BUT this one is pretty darned good too. It made for a semi-flaky, definitely buttery flavored crust that complimented the cherries really well. I did find it a pinch tougher than our usual crust - although I may just be super biased towards my old favorite. Which crust do you prefer? Butter or lard?


Cherry Pie

Ingredients
Crust
2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, chilled
~1/2 cup ice water

Filling
4 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup sugar
scant 1/4 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp butter

Topping
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Directions 
Preheat oven to 400. 
Prepare crust - In a blender or food processor, pulse together flour, brown sugar, salt, and chilled butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (You can also cut in the butter using a pastry blender or 2 butter knives.) Using a fork, pulse in the ice water until dough just comes together. Place on floured work surface and divide dough in half.  NOTE - the less you handle the dough the better. The more you handle it the tougher it becomes. 


Roll out half the dough into a `10 inch circle. Place into a 9 inch pie pan and chill in fridge while you prepare filling. (Also chill the other half of the dough)


Make sure your cherries are pitted and halved. 


Place cherries in a bowl and add in the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla, and almond extract.


Toss gently to combine well. Pour into the crust in the pie pan. Dot the top with the butter. 


Roll out the second half of the dough to a ~10 inch circle. You can place the entire crust on top and simply cut a slit for steam to escape, or you can cut strips to place on top. Make sure to seal the edges of the pie crust around the pie and trim off any excess dough. 
Brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg then sprinkle with the almonds and sugar. 


 Place pie on a cookie sheet to catch drips. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes then turn the heat down to 375 and continues baking for another 30 or so minutes - until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. (I covered the edges of the pie with a pie shield after the first 15 minutes to prevent the crust edges from getting too dark.) 
Remove to wire rack to cool. Let pie sit for at least 3 hours to set up before serving. 


Now admire how pretty your pie looks. 


I mean..... it's soooooo beautiful, am I right?


Okay, that's enough of that. Let's get down to tasting. 


Did I take a million photos? Why yes, I did. Thanks for asking. 


Now we're getting to the good stuff. 


But, wait, what's pie without a little ice cream?


It just keeps getting better. 


This is the pie you want to make to impress your family at the next dinner. Cherry pie is a bit of a pain because of all that pitting you have to do but it is totally worth it. 


This is best eaten the day it is made, FYI. It is okay the next day but the crust is certainly better fresh! The butter crust is lovely but I think I may have to make this again with our Never Fail Crust just for comparison's sake. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Cherry Ice Cream


Fresh cherry ice cream has been on my list of things to make for several years now. I finally got around to giving it a try this year after receiving a big box of cherries from our uncle. 
I have to admit I was expecting it to be much more bold than it was. It is a very mild flavored ice cream. I suppose this really shouldn't surprise me as cherries are a fairly mild fruit as well. 


It is, however, very smooth and creamy and definitely still tastes like cherries. 
I think next time I would swirl in a little cherry jam just to boost the flavor a bit. 


Cherry Ice Cream

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
1/4 cup corn syrup
4 cups cherry puree
2 cups whipping cream

Directions
In a mixing bowl, beat together sugar, lemon juice, and eggs until smooth. 
Beat in the corn syrup, cherry puree, and whipping cream until well combined. 
Chill for 2 hours and then pour into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions. Freeze until ready to serve. 


I topped our bowls of ice creams with some fresh cherries for a splash of color and texture. You could also top with chocolate syrup, cherry syrup, or warmed up cherry jam! 


For a little different flavor boost you could add in 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of almond extract. Don't use too much though or it will overwhelm the flavor of the cherries. 
For the puree - if you don't want big bits of cherries/skin in your ice cream you can press your puree through a sieve. Just make sure you don't strain it all out! The little bits are nice in there. :) 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Kale and Cabbage Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing


Let's start with how pretty this salad is. I mean - normally I don't get too excited about salads but this one had me doing a few *jazz hands*. All that lovely green and purple makes me want to become a saladatarian. 
Saladite? 
Anyway, this dish only takes minutes to make, can easily be doubled for a crowd, and is able to sit for hours without getting soggy. And the dressing? Don't even get me started! Definitely one of my top 5 favorites now. Give it a try, let us know what you think!


Kale and Cabbage Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Ingredients
Dressing
1/2 cup 0 fat Greek yogurt, plain
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp poppy seeds
salt & pepper

Salad
3 cups lightly packed, torn kale
1/2 a medium green cabbage, cut in thin slices
1/2 a medium purple cabbage, cut in thin slices
1 cup broccoli florets, chopped

Toppings
1/4 cup onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Directions
In a small bowl, place all of the dressing ingredients.


Whisk together until well combined. 


Chill in fridge until ready to use. It may separate a bit - simply whisk together until combined again. 
In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients. 


Gently stir in about half of the dressing until everything is coated. Use more of the dressing as per your personal preference. (I use all of it.) Sprinkle with the onion, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries. 


Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve. Even with the dressing on, the salad can sit, covered, in the fridge for several hours without wilting. If you make it more than 6 hours ahead of time - simply don't dress the salad until right before serving. Keep the salad and the dressing in the fridge separately and then combine when ready. 


Note - As with most salads: you can play around with the amounts of the ingredients in the salad. (The dressing not so much). Want more kale in there? Throw it in. Want more broccoli? Why not. Love pumpkin seeds? Add another sprinkle. 
The only reason I have written specific amounts is to figure out the nutritional counts. According to MyFitnessPal, one serving (recipe makes 5 servings) is: 250 calories, 22 carbs, 15 fat, 9 protein, 5 fiber. 
I've counted this as 5 servings because we had this for our lunch as the main dish. If you were serving it as a side with dinner or such, it would make many more servings. Probably closer to 10 or so. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Kale and Feta Dip


This time of year we have a lot of kale coming from the garden. A LOT OF IT. We try our best to use it up but there is only so much kale salad one can eat. We made a Kale Artichoke Dip for the Slow Cooker (Find it HERE) that uses a huge amount of kale but we were still looking to make a recipe that was even easier to whip up. 
Enter this tasty kale and feta dip. It is soooo ridiculously easy to put together and tastes better the longer it sits so you can make it ahead of time if you are having a get together. Serve it with veggies or crackers or bread PLUS any leftovers make a great burger spread. Seriously. Put it on your burger. You won't regret it. 


Kale and Feta Dip

Ingredients
2 cups lightly packed, torn kale leaves
1 300 gr (about 2 cups) bag Feta (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
1/2 cup 0 fat, plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp oregano
salt & pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp garlic granules
juice of 1/2 a lemon (about 2 Tbsp)

Topping
1/3 cup feta
1/4 cup purple onion, finely diced

Directions
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Throw in the kale and cook for ONLY 15 seconds - just until it is bright green and wilted. Immediately drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Pat with a paper towel to dry any excess moisture. 
Add the kale and the remaining ingredients (except for 1/2 cup of the feta and the purple onion for the topping) to a blender or food processor. 


Process until smooth, scraping sides of container as needed.


Pour into a serving bowl. 


Sprinkle the remaining feta and the purple onion on top.


Serve with your favorite veggies, bread, or crackers. (Chill until ready to serve!)


A couple of notes - I used Kraft Feta with Oregano and Sun Dried Tomato but any crumbled feta would work. The longer this sits the longer the flavors have to mingle so you can serve it right away but you can also make it a few hours ahead of time. If you don't have garlic powder and garlic granules then just use 2 - 3 cloves of fresh, minced garlic. 
Literally 10 minutes to make which makes it perfect for those last minute invites to gatherings.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Spoodle Turkey Skillet Meal


What's a spoodle, you ask? 
A spoodle is a sweet potato that has been through a spiralizer. 
What is spiralizer, you ask?
Well, think of a giant pencil sharpener for vegetables. Basically it turns veggies into faux noodles. If you don't have a spiralizer then you can simply cut your sweet potato into small cubes and the dish will still work wonderfully. Spiralizers are fairly inexpensive and tons of fun though so you may want to think about investing in one. 
This dish is fabulous if you are in a hurry! From start to finish in about 30 minutes plus it's healthy, plus it's pretty, plus it's great for meal prepping. 


Spoodle Turkey Skillet Meal

Ingredients
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup chopped kale
1 lb lean ground turkey
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 a lime
1 tsp soy sauce
1 medium large sweet potato, peeled and spiralized

Directions
In a large pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add in onion and cook for 2 minutes to soften. Add in garlic, ginger, and kale and cook an additional 2 minutes. 


Add in the ground turkey and cook until turkey is no longer pink (about 8 minutes or so). Add in the sweet potato spirals. Stir together gently.


Add in salt & pepper, vinegar, lime juice, and soy sauce. Stir until everything is well combined. Continue to cook and gently stir until sweet potato spoodles soften - about 8 minutes. 
Serve hot. You can top with cilantro, green onions, or radish slices - if desired. 


You can substitute lemon juice for lime juice if you are not a fan of lime. It only changes the flavor ever so slightly.


According to MyFitnessPal one serving (recipe makes 4) is: 405 calories, 35 carbs, 12 fat, 32 protein, and 5 fiber. One serving is fairly generous too, FYI.