May 31, 2013

Spicy Garlic Kale Chips

About a year ago or so I started seeing kale chip recipes floating around the internet.  I can tell you that at the time I never in a million years would have thought it would be something I would try.  However, I am now jumping on the band wagon.....mostly because right now there is very little I'm "allowed" to snack on, so I was in need of healthy alternatives.  

I do happen to like cooked kale very much.  There's so much you can do with it, and it's so healthy for you.  Lately I've been substituting kale where I would normally use spinach and I've been loving it.  My sister mentioned to me not too long ago that she loves a certain brand of kale chips but that when she tried making her own they were not good.  Of course I had to try my hand at making them myself, but the problem is that I've never had them before so I don't have anything to compare them to.  So, all I can tell you is that I liked the ones I made.  It was a great snack, but I will admit that it probably won't take the place of potato chips for me.  That being said, I hardly ever eat potato chips anyway, so it really isn't an issue.  But, as I was snacking on these kale chips I kept thinking about potato chips.  Weird.  Either way, I would make these again when I'm in need of a healthy snack!  EAT MORE KALE ☺

Spicy Garlic Kale Chips (about 4 servings)

8-10 cups kale, chopped
1 tbsp garlic flavored olive oil
Garlic Salt & Pepper Seasoning
Pinch red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 175.  Place kale on a cookie sheet & drizzle the olive oil over top.  Toss well to make sure the kale is evenly coated, then spread it out evenly in the pan.  Sprinkle a little of the garlic salt & pepper seasoning over the kale and add a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Bake for 1 hour.

May 29, 2013

Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken

Temps are starting to warm up here in Vermont again - THANK GOD!  This past weekend, the mountain near us actually got some snow.  I couldn't believe it....snow on Memorial Day weekend.  Is that crazy or what?  My husband said when he was a kid he remembers it snowed in August one year.  I'm sorry, but that's when I'd pack up and move.  As if summer isn't short enough as it is up here!  We bought everything to plant our garden over the weekend, but we are waiting.  I don't want to loose it all to frost, so hopefully this warm weather continues because I am anxious to get started.  There's just nothing better than growing your own veggies!

Since I am on a pretty restricted diet for now, dinners in my house for the past few weeks have been a little difficult.  Mostly I make my husband and son one thing, and something else for myself.  I am getting tired of that, so I'm on a mission to think of dinners to make that I can have and they will enjoy as well.  This chicken dish is a result of my brainstorming.  I can have chicken, spinach and feta.....and so this dish was born.  I'm sure someone out there has already thought of this combo, but for me it's a new dish.  Here's my version - enjoy!

Feta & Spinach Stuffed Chicken (serves 4)

4 boneless & skinless chicken breasts
1/2 large onion, diced
1 tsp garlic, chopped
olive oil
7 oz fresh spinach
1/3 cup feta cheese
Salt & Pepper

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute another minute.  Add the spinach and let it wilt a little, but don't overcook.  Remove from heat and stir in the feta and salt & pepper to taste.  

Rinse and pat the chicken dry.  Season the outside of each piece of chicken with salt & pepper.  Cut slits into the side of each chicken breast, and spoon in 1/4 of the spinach mixture into each piece of chicken.  Close the opening and secure with toothpicks.  Heat another 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat.  Place chicken in skillet and cook until golden brown and completely cooked through, about 20-30 minutes (depends on how thick the piece of chicken is).  Remove toothpicks before serving.

May 27, 2013

Stawberry Shortcake

Happy Memorial Day everyone!  Hope you are enjoy the holiday with your loved ones.  Huge "Thank You" to those who have served and to those who are currently serving (like my step-son Mark).  Today the sun is shining and we have clear blue skies - the first day in a week that it isn't raining!  Unfortunately for us my son has, not one, but two baseball practices today, each lasting 2 hrs.  So, there will be no family cook-outs for us today.  I will never understand why they schedule practices on holidays.  To me these rare days should be spent with family, enjoying time together.  

Since we won't be doing anything "special" today, I decided to make strawberry shortcake for breakfast.  That's fine right?  Gotta enjoy life any way you can right?  Here is my favorite strawberry shortcake recipe.  The shortcake is more like a cream scone, and it is moist and delicious.  If at all possible, use homemade whipped cream - it really does make a difference when there are so few other components to the dish.   YUM! 

Strawberry Shortcake (serves 6)

2 1/2 lbs strawberries, sliced
4 tbsp sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar

2 cups flour 
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup light whipping cream or half & half

Strawberries:  Slice strawberries and place in a medium bowl.  Add 4 tbsp sugar and stir to combine.  Let set in fridge for at least an hour so it can develop a nice juicy syrup - the longer it sets the better (sometimes I'll even do this step the day before I know I'm making this).

Shortcake:  Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.  Cut butter into small pieces and blend in to the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.  Whisk together egg, cream and vanilla and add to flour mixture, mixing just until dough comes together.  Transfer to floured surface and knead gently 4 or 5 times then pat or roll dough until 1 inch thick.  Cut out rounds and place on cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray (I just use a glass to cut out the dough rounds).  Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.

Whipped Cream:   Place the heavy whipping cream into the bowl of an electric mixer and add the 2 tbsp of powdered sugar.  Using the whisk attachment beat on high until you have whipped cream.

May 24, 2013

Pork Loin with Spicy Apricot Glaze

It seems like I am always searching for new chicken and pork dishes.  Am I the only one?  I find it especially difficult to find recipes for pork that are appealing to me.  It's hard to beat the best pork in the world (click here for recipe), but at the same time if we ate it every week we'd get sick of it.....well, maybe.

The loin is my favorite cut of pork.  Pork chops are OK, and I do really enjoy pulled pork, but pork loin is my favorite because it's always so tender and it always seems to be the perfect size for my family.  Even though I am on a restricted diet right now, pork is on the approved list of foods I can enjoy.  Since I like to pair fruit with pork, I chose to go with this glaze.  It's sweet and spicy, and pairs perfectly with pork or chicken.  I tasted the glaze before putting it on the pork and I thought it was too spicy, so I was worried everyone would be chocking their food down.  However, after cooking it with the glaze on it barely even had any kick to it.  So if you like spicy, you may want to add even more spice than I did.  I thought this was absolutely delicious, and so did everyone else.  It was the perfect amount of sweet, not too fruity tasting and not too spicy.  Try won't be disappointed!

Pork Loin with Spicy Apricot Glaze

2 lbs pork loin
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/3 cup water
1 tsp powdered chipotle chile pepper
2 tbs olive oil

Heat oil in ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Rinse the pork and pat it dry.  Season with salt & pepper generously on all sides.  Place pork in skillet and brown, turning occasionally, about 4-5 minutes total.  Remove from heat, but leave pork in skillet.

Stir together the apricot jam and chile powder.  Spoon mixture on top of the pork.  Place skillet in the oven at 350.  Roast until thermometer inserted diagonally into the center of the tenderloin registers 140 degrees, about 25 minutes.  Let pork stand in skillet, loosely covered with foil for 10 minutes before slicing. 

May 22, 2013

Vanilla Rhubarb Jelly

My wonderful friend Becca stopped by my office the other day to deliver some fresh rhubarb from her garden.  I was so excited to see her and was so thankful for the rhubarb.  We planted some a few years ago on the edge of our woods and it begins to grow every year and then just dies off.  This year it looked like it might actually do really well.....and then my son ran it over with the lawn mower.  Oh well, maybe next year!

I've made a lot of jam over the years, but never jelly for some reason.  I figured this would be a good opportunity to give it a try.  I was hoping for a nice pink jelly full of rhubarb flavor.  I wanted to add something to enhance the rhubarb so I chose to put in some vanilla.  This jelly came out really good.  My husband and son really liked it.  And look how pink it is!  Thank you Becca!

Vanilla Rhubarb Jelly (makes one, 8oz jar of jelly)

2 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 tsp vanilla + the scrappings from the inside of one fresh vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 of a 1.75oz package of powdered pectic

Prepare your canning jars according to directions on/inside the box of pectin.  If you need further canning instructions, or if the pectin box didn't include them, then CLICK HERE for very well explained canning preparation and instructions before beginning this process. 

Combine the rhubarb, vanilla and water in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the rhubarb the rhubarb is cooked down.  Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.  Pour the cooked rhubarb in, and let it sit for 30 minutes - you should have about 2 cups of rhubarb juice.  Discard the rhubarb pieces.

In a large pot add the sugar and pectin, and whisk well to combine.  Add the rhubarb juice and stir well.  Bring to a boil and cook over high heat for about 25 minutes, stirring often.  Keep stirring until the mixture reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer (there will be lots of foaming and bubbling during this step).  Turn off heat and fill jar.  Wipe the rim, apply the lid and screw on the band until just tightened with your fingers.  Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on counter.  You should hear the seal pop at some point, but if you don't you can check it after it's completely cooled by pressing on the top of the jar and if there's not movement then it's sealed. 

May 19, 2013

Strawberry Cake

This weekend I wanted to make a treat for my boys to enjoy.  Of course, I wanted to try something new (I think it's an obsession) so I took to Pinterest to see what I could find.  I came across this recipe and thought that it looked  and sounded delicious.  Gotta love Pinterest and all the other websites out there devoted to food.  As much as I tend to stay away from the constant progression of technology, the internet is one thing I could not live without!  It really is such a vast source of information and inspiration.  

This cake turned out to be so very delicious!  My son had a friend over and they both had a piece.  Later that night my son said his friend couldn't stop saying how good the cake was and even told his grandmother that his friend's mom makes a better strawberry cake than she does!  Haha....I doubt she appreciated that comment as much as I did!  I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe because I don't like desserts to have too much lemon flavoring.  I'd rather not taste the lemon, I just wanted it to subtly enhance the strawberry flavors in the cake.  Strawberry is the star of the show after-all!   My husband described the cake as moist and full of flavor.  The best part is no icing is needed, which makes this a wonderfully light and refreshing cake for spring and summer get-togethers.  Make this for your next cook-out - your guests will love it!

Strawberry Cake (adapted from A Spicy Perspective)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, diced
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour a 10" Bundt pan and set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the 2 ¼ cups of flour, baking soda and salt. Mix in the lemon zest and set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated.
Toss the diced strawberries with the remaining ¼ cup of flour, then fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool at least 30 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. In a small bowl whisk together the 1 tsp of lemon juice and the powdered sugar.  Add a dash of vanilla and a dash of water.  Stir well, and if it's too thick add a little more water until it reaches desired consistency (so you can pour it on the cake).  Drizzle over the top of the cake.

May 17, 2013

John Wayne Casserole

Ahhh.....John Wayne, how my husband loves you so!  Seriously - he is obsessed with John Wayne.  He owns every movie he ever made.  We went to Jamaica about 7 yrs ago, and while there we did a horseback riding on the beach excursion.  The leaders of our group gave everyone a nickname (must have been their way of remembering people), and as fate would have it, my husband was given the name John Wayne.  That was all it took for him to start channeling John Wayne and he displayed horseback riding skills I never knew he had (honestly, I don't think even he knew he was that good on a horse)!  He went to the front of the line and lead the was pretty hysterical to watch actually!  Made for one great memory that I will hold dear to my heart forever ♥.

When I came across this recipe for John Wayne Casserole I knew I needed to make it for him.  Not so much because of what's in it, but because of the name alone!  If nothing else, I figured I'd get a chuckle by just making it and serving it to him.  Turns out this recipe is very similar to one I already make on a semi-regular basis - Taco Casserole, click here for recipe.  Because of my current restricted diet, I was not able to enjoy this meal with my husband and son.  However, they both really liked it.  I think in the future I will combine the two recipes and see how that goes over.  If you are looking for something different, give this recipe a try.

  John Wayne Casserole (adapted from Mississippi Magazine)

1 lb ground beef (or you can use venison)
1/2 packet of taco seasoning (I used 4-6 tbsp of my homemade taco seasoning, click here for recipe)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 small onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup canned jalapeno peppers, diced
1 cup Bisquick mix

Preheat oven to 325, and spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.  In a medium skillet, brown the meat.  Add the taco seasoning and water (according to package instructions), stir and remove from heat and set aside.  While your meat is browning, saute the onion and bell pepper together in a small pan with a little butter or olive oil until slightly tender - about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the sour cream, mayonnaise and 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese.  In a medium bowl stir together the Bisquick and about a 1/2 cup of water until it forms a soft dough.  Pat the dough evenly into the bottom of the baking dish, and up the sides some if you can.  Evenly distribute on top of the dough the meat, then the diced tomato, the green pepper & onion mix, the diced jalapenos, the sour cream mixture, then top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes, or until edges of dough are lightly browned.

May 14, 2013

Beef Stroganoff

One of the dishes my mom made often when I was a kid was beef stroganoff.  I never liked it, and to be honest I still don't.  When I was the cook at my son's elementary school I had to make it once in a while, and that's when I realized this was a dish I was probably not ever going to like.  Don't get me wrong - I don't hate it.  I can eat it if I have to, but I would prefer not to. 

Since it's not a dish I like, I have never made it at home for my family.  Then a few weeks ago my son came home from school and said he had it for lunch that day at school and really liked it.  That prompted my husband to say how much he's always liked it as well.  I filed that info away in the back of my memory. This week when I needed to make them a different dinner than what I was having (because I am on a very restricted diet right now) I remembered how much they both said they like beef stroganoff.  

I looked in my Cook's Illustrated cookbook and sure enough there was a recipe for it, so I decided to make it for them.  Cook's Illustrated uses cut pieces of beef (which is how I had it as a kid), but both my husband and son said they way they've had it was with ground beef.  I choose to make it using the pieces of beef, and since it was a Cook's Illustrated recipe I figured it would impress these guys and they'd love it even more than any other version they've ever had.  It didn't quite work out that way.  They both liked it, but they both said it didn't taste like what they were used to.  My husband said it tasted like veal marsala, and I'm guessing that's because this recipe uses white wine.  I gave the sauce a taste and thought it was pretty good (better than I remember it being when I ate it as a kid).  The recipe shown here reflects my reduction of the white wine and a couple of other changes, but I you could leave it out the wine altogether if you want to.  Overall this is a great recipe - it's just more of a gourmet version of beef stroganoff.  Personally, I think it's a big improvement and much better than I remember it being!

Beef Stoganoff (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
12 oz white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thickly
3/4 beef tenderloin or sirloin, cut into 1/2" long 1/4" wide strips
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup onion, minced
1 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/4 white wine  
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup sour cream
8 oz egg noodles, cooked & drained and tossed with 1-2 tbsp butter

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet (I used a 12" cast iron skillet) over med-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook without stirring for 30 seconds.  Season with salt & pepper and continue to cook until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Transfer to a medium bowl.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet, and heat for 1-2 minutes.  Place the beef into skillet in a single layer, and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes.  Turn beef over and cook on second side until browned, about another minute. Season with salt & pepper and transfer to bowl with mushrooms.  

Melt butter in skillet, then add the onion, tomato paste and brown sugar. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the flour and stir until well incorporated.  Whisk in the beef broth and wine.  Increase heat to med-high and bring to a boil while whisking occasionally.  Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the sour cream until well incorporated.  Add the beef and mushrooms to skillet and heat to warm through, about 2 minutes.  Salt & pepper to taste if needed.  Spoon over buttered noodles.

May 12, 2013

Chocolate Cobbler

Happy Mother's Day to all you amazing moms out there!  It is the hardest, and sometimes thankless, job there is but also the most rewarding.  So, relax with your loved ones and enjoy your special day.  I think my boys are taking me to see The Great Gatsby 14 year old son sitting through that movie just for me - now that's love!  Haha☺

For the next few weeks most of my posts will be recipes I've collected that I've always wanted to try.  Since I am currently on a restricted diet, I figured it was a good time to try dishes that are geared towards what my husband and son would enjoy.  Over the years I have collected lots of those types of recipes!  This chocolate cobbler is one of them.  Since chocolate is not my favorite thing, I knew this would be the perfect time to make this. I had never heard of chocolate cobbler before, so I was intrigued.  This dessert is super quick and easy to throw together, which is an added bonus. 

I will admit that I got some of the sauce from this on my finger and so of course I had to lick it off.  Even though chocolate is not my favorite thing, that little taste made me want to eat it!  Very tasty - I bet it would be amazing with vanilla ice cream!  Anyway, my husband who loves chocolate, loved this dessert.  I asked him how it ranked in comparison to his favorite chocolate desserts (chocolate cake, chocolate cream pie and brownies) and he said he liked this better than brownies and chocolate cake and that it's tied with chocolate cream pie.  That tells me he REALLY likes this!  I will definitely be keeping this recipe and making if many more times in the future.  

Chocolate Cobbler (from
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Cake: Preheat oven to 350.  In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add the milk, butter and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Pour into an 8x8 baking dish that's been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. 

Topping/Sauce:  In a small mix together the sugar, brown sugar and cocoa.  Sprinkle this evenly over the cake batter, then pour the hot water over top - do not stir.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the middle is mostly set (meaning when you jiggle the dish it barely moves in the middle).  Cool for 15 minutes before serving.  Spoon the sauce on the bottom over the cake when you serve it. 

May 10, 2013

Honey Pork

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but Vermont has been absolutely beautiful everyday for a whole week.  Temps in the 80's on some days!  This may not seem like a big deal to you, but for us Vermonters, this is huge!  I remember getting a foot of snow on Mother's Day just a few years ago, so I am absolutely loving this weather.  I wish I could be home all day every day enjoying it, but oh well....can't have everything right?

Here is an oldie but goodie, pulled from the good old recipe box.  I don't know where I got this recipe from, but I do know that I alter it almost every time I make it depending on what I have on hand.  It's super quick to throw together, and the crock-pot does all the work.  Perfect weeknight meal....especially if you are like me and your children are playing sports, which means you don't get home after the games in enough time to make dinner!

Honey Pork

3 lbs country style pork ribs or chicken
4 tbsp honey mustard
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup honey BBQ sauce
1 cup beef broth or water

Add everything except the pork to the crock pot and mix together.  Place in the pork or chicken and make sure it's covered in the sauce (may need to add extra water and BBQ sauce).  Cook 8 hrs on low or 5 hrs on high.

May 7, 2013

Carrot Ginger Soup (aka: anti-inflammatory soup)

For the last couple of years I have struggled with various digestive issues and the only thing my doctors could tell me was that my problem is caused by inflammation.  When I asked them what is causing the inflammation they could not give me an answer, and the only thing they offered was to "try this and see if it works" kind of solutions.  Nothing worked.  

That lead me to start researching what inflammation actually is, and that lead me to a naturopathic doctor.  Since I've been seeing her things have started to get better, slowly but surely.  I have followed her suggestions and there have been significant improvements.  She did lots of tests and blood work, and one of the things she found was that I have gluten sensitivities.  This vital information got me questioning and researching food and how it could be related to my specific problems.  

As of today I am beginning an "elimination diet" in hopes of figuring out if certain foods I eat regularly are the cause of my problems/inflammation.  I do no know if I will be successful in this journey, however I am trying to be hopeful.  If nothing else, at least I know I tried it and we can move on to other possibilities.  So, since inflammation is supposedly my problem, here is a soup that is supposed to help reduce it.  This will be a regular in my diet for the next month or more, so I figured I would share it with you.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who is effected by inflammation, so maybe this recipe will benefit someone else out there.  Wish me luck!

Carrot Ginger Soup (aka: anti-inflammatory soup)

1 quart of water
1.5 lbs of carrots
1 zucchini
1 onion
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

Chop the carrots, zucchini, onion and add it to a large saucepan.  Add the water, garlic, ginger and spices and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer until vegetables are nice and soft, 30-45 minutes.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or you can use a regular blender or food processor).  Serve hot.

May 3, 2013

Eclair Cake

This week I decided to try a dessert for my "new recipe" of the week.  My husband absolutely LOVES chocolate eclairs, so when I came across this recipe I knew I had to make this for him at some point so I printed it out and filed it away.

He said to me the other day "When are you going to make something I want?"  I thought that was an interesting question, especially because he almost never mentions specific items he'd like to eat.  Whenever I ask him for ideas, or what would he like, nine times out of ten his answer is "I don't know.  Whatever."  Needless to say, the comment stuck in my head.  So, when I thought about trying a new dessert recipe, this one came to mind....for him (see honey, I love you!). 

If you like chocolate eclairs, you will certainly enjoy this dessert.  My husband loved it!  In fact, I think he was solely responsible for eating about 60% of the dish!  It is really easy to throw together if you use all the short-cuts, but I know it would be even better with homemade pudding, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  I didn't have enough time to make this completely homemade but it was still delicious.  Perfect summer dessert, or to bring to a potluck.  I'm pretty sure my husband will be requesting this again in the future, so this recipe is a keeper. 

Eclair Cake (

1, 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1, 5.1oz box of vanilla instant pudding (feel free to make it from scratch, which is even better)
3 cups milk

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs

1, 8oz container cool whip - you won't need the whole container (feel free to make homemade whipped cream, which would make this even better)
Chocolate syrup (feel free to make homemade chocolate sauce)

Make the pudding by beating the pudding mix together with the milk for 3 minutes.  Cover and put in the fridge until cooled and set.  Whip the softened cream cheese in a medium bowl, then add the pudding once it is set.  Mix together until it's nice and smooth, then place in refrigerator to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 and lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  To make the crust, melt the butter in water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the flour.  Mix in one egg at a time, being sure each is fully incorporated before adding another one.  The mixture will be very wet, but do your best to spread it onto the bottom of the baking dish, and up the sides as best you can.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.  You don't want to overcook the crust so start checking it after about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely - resist the urge to push down the bubbles, just leave them be.

Once the cake is completely cooled you can add the filling and then top it with either the cool whip or homemade whipped cream - I just did a thin layer, but use however much you want.  Serve it with a drizzle of chocolate syrup. 

May 1, 2013

Banana Pancakes with Nutmeg Syrup

Banana pancakes are my all time favorite pancake.  However, not one person in my family likes them.  Everyone prefers blueberry, and every time I suggest making banana pancakes I get a resounding "NO!"  While this does disappoint me on occasion, it truly is for the best since it's really not something I should indulge in too often.  Penny Cluse in Burlington, VT is one of our favorite breakfast spots, and they serve to-die-for banana pancakes.  So, since no one ever wants me to make them at home, it is comforting to know I can still enjoy them anytime I want.

On this day however, I happened to be alone on a Sunday morning, which almost never happens.  As I pondered what I'd make for breakfast, I spotted the bananas on my counter.  It was in that moment that I realized I could actually make my own banana pancakes AND enjoy them without protests from my family!  Whoo hoo!!  This opportunity may never come around again, so I made a few extra and froze them (that's me - always thinking ahead).  If you get nothing else from this blog post, try a little nutmeg in your maple syrup - it sends any pancake over the top, especially banana pancakes!

Banana Pancakes with Warm Nutmeg Maple Syrup (makes 6 large pancakes)

3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 small bananas, mashed

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground

Heat griddle on medium high heat and spray with cooking spray.  Mix the vinegar with the milk and set aside for 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk the egg, vanilla and butter into the milk mixture, then add it to the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined and lumps are gone.  Stir in the mashed bananas.

In a small saucepan, add the syrup & stir in the nutmeg - warm on low heat.  Pour batter onto griddle in whatever size pancakes you like (small, medium or large).  You'll know it's time to turn them when bubbles start to form and the one side is a nice golden brown.  Remove when cooked thru, and serve with the nutmeg maple syrup.