Perfect Memorial Weekend Dishes to Bring to a Bar-B-Q

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

Are you invited to a bar-b-q or pot-luck for Memorial Day weekend?  It seems like quite often when asked to attend one of these type of events, I am asked to bring a side dish or dessert.  Since I love cooking, that is fine by me.  I always want to bring something special I know everyone will like.  I would rather bring a dish I have made a number of times, and feel comfortable making and am pretty sure will turn out exactly how I want it to.  That’s where these recipes come in.  They are tried and true recipes that I have made time and time again and will continue to do so because they taste great!

Red, White, and Blueberry Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

This Red, White, and Blueberry Salad is probably my favorite summer salad to make.  Everyone loves the sweet Poppy-seed Dressing, and the colors are so festive, they are perfect for any patriotic holiday.

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

These are my favorite Baked Beans.  They are classic beans that you cook slowly and have lots of brown sugar in them that caramelizes and gets thick and gooey and delicious as you bake them.  Men really seem to love these beans.  It doesn’t hurt anything that they have bacon in them either!

Rocky Road Fudge Brownies

I have made these Rocky Road Fudge Brownies a million times because they are so good.  Well, maybe not a million, but a lot! :)  I love to take them with us to our cabin in the summer.  It’s the homemade fudge frosting that makes these out of this world!

There you have it.  One of these recipes is what I would be bringing if you invited me to your pot-luck or backyard bar-b-q. I hope this gives you some ideas for what to take if you are attending a get-together and aren’t sure what to bring.  They are guaranteed to get rave reviews, and an empty bowl to bring home.  If you need more ideas, check out the Memorial Day section in the categories on the right.  Whether you are celebrating Memorial Day or just relaxing at home, I hope you have a wonderful weekend whatever you do!

 

Posted in 4th of July Recipes, Bars, Cabin Recipes, Desserts, Memorial Day Recipes, Party Recipes, Recipes, Salads, Side Dishes | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins That Just Happen to be Gluten-Free

Gluten Free Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins Lest you think I’ve gone over to the dark healthy side and am no longer eating anything loaded with carbs and sugar, let me explain the reference to gluten-free in the title of this post.  Recently my sister and brother-in-law and niece came for a visit. My brother-in-law for the most part, tries to eat gluten-free.  He never complained once about anything I fixed, but as we were eating, I realized that so much of what I fixed were things he normally wouldn’t eat.  I determined then that I would become more educated on how to cook gluten-free, and at least have a few things I could turn to when presented with a situation where gluten-free cooking was important.

Gluten Free Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins

I immediately thought of the blog, Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen as Teresa has so many gluten-free options there.  I remembered seeing some muffins that I wanted to make, not because they were gluten-free, but because they looked so delicious.  They were everything I had hoped they would be. They are filled with fresh strawberries and banana, and topped with an amazing streusel as well as drizzled with a vanilla glaze.

Gluten Free Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins

When you first bite into them you get a pop of tartness from the strawberries, then the yummy banana flavor reminiscent of banana bread with a hint of brown sugar and a crunchy sweet finish from the pecans and vanilla glaze.  There is so much going on, you won’t even notice they are gluten-free.

Gluten Free Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins

In talking with a friend of mine who has cooked and baked gluten-free for a long time, I found out the issue with using alternative wheat flour ingredients, is that baked goods tend to come out crumbly and dry.  I think the fact that you add banana to the muffin mixture, fresh strawberries, plus a glaze all help to make these muffins more moist.

Gluten Free Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins

Another nice thing about this recipe is that it uses a baking mix that already has the correct ratio of alternative flours.  It is called Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend.  I found it at Sprouts, but heard Fry’s carries it as well. Gluten Free mixes are so much more readily available than they used to be.  Also, they have come a long way with gluten-free baking mixes to ensure a great tasting end product.

Gluten Free Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins

I learned so much this week about baking gluten-free and am excited to find out it is not as scary or difficult as I thought it would be.  In fact, I know I will be making these muffins again and again whether I need to cook gluten-free or not.  They are just great muffins overall.  I could eat the streusel alone as an afternoon snack!  If you need a gluten-free recipe for muffins or just want a yummy strawberry banana muffin loaded with crunchy streusel, I highly recommend these for your next breakfast or afternoon treat!

Gluten Free Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins

Gluten-Free Strawberry Banana Streusel Muffins

  • Servings: 14
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Streusel:

  • 1/3 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 c Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend (Gluten-Free)
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans

For the Muffins:

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5.3-oz. container Chobani Strawberry Banana Greek yogurt, stirred
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 c Pamela’s Gluten Free Artisan Flour Blend
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 c fresh, diced strawberries (approximately 1 quart)
  • 1 large banana, mashed with a fork

For the Glaze:

  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. heavy cream (milk not recommended)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (use clear vanilla if you want to keep the glaze white)

For the Streusel:

  1. In a small mixing bowl, stir together all the streusel ingredients.  Set aside.

For the Muffins:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners, spray muffin pans with gluten-free cooking spray, or grease and flour tins with gluten-free flour.
  3. Dice strawberries, mash bananas with a fork, and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and whipping cream.  Mix on medium-low until well combined.
  5. Stir in flour, mashed banana, and strawberries gently with a wooden spoon until ingredients are just moistened.  Don’t overmix.
  6. Spoon the muffin batter into prepared muffin tins all the way up to the top.
  7. Crumble the streusel topping over each muffin and press the topping down gently into the muffins.
  8. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees.
  9. While muffins are still in the oven, adjust oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for 11 to 12 more minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Be careful not to overbake for moist muffins.
  10. Cool in tins 10 minutes.
  11. Transfer muffins to rack to cool completely.  While muffins cool, make the glaze.

For the Glaze:

  1. Sift powdered sugar to remove any lumps.
  2. Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  3. Place wire rack with muffins on a baking sheet.
  4. Place glaze mixture in a zip lock bag or piping bag and cut off tip.  Drizzle glaze over cooled muffins.
  5. Muffins can be placed in air tight container and stored in refrigerator up to one week, or frozen for one month.  If frozen, thaw approximately 4 hours before serving.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, originally found on Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen

 

 

Posted in Breads and Rolls, Breakfast, Company, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Mother’s Day White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Recently my brother-in-law and his wife visited us from Hawaii.  They graciously gifted us with 2 bags of macadamia nuts fresh from the islands.  They are so delicious, I cannot stop eating them.  But with 2 bags, I immediately thought of making White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies.  This also happens to be one of my mom’s favorite cookies so it seemed like the perfect dessert for Mother’s Day as well.

I used one of my favorite chocolate chunk cookie recipes and substituted the 2 kinds of chocolate with the nuts and white chocolate.  They turned out perfectly.  They are so soft and just melt in your mouth.

Best of all they are not flat, but rise quite high due to the size of the macadamia nuts. It’s important to make sure you like the taste of the white chocolate chips you have chosen as all white chocolate has a different taste. Be sure to follow the directions carefully as far as refrigerating the dough a couple of hours before baking and you will end up with one of the best cookies you’ve ever eaten.

I think I get my love of cooking from many of the female members of my family, but especially my mom.  We ate dinner together as a family every night, even though she worked during my high school years.  I remember seeing her get special dishes ready for a party or having the neighbors over for dinner.  She always had our relatives over for holidays as well as people she knew didn’t have anywhere to go that day.  Family was a priority to her, and she is still to this day happiest when surrounded by her children and grandchildren.  Every one of them knows that they are loved unconditionally by her.  She was and is a great example to me in how to love unselfishly.  I am grateful to call her my mom and look forward to sharing cookies and carrot cake with her tomorrow because we both have the same love language – food!  Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Thank you for all you do!!

Vicki Poor

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

  • Servings: approximately 32 cookies
  • Time: 15 to 30 minutes plus 3 hours chill time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 c all-purpose flour (King Arthur preferred)
  • 4 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt or to taste
  • 2 c white chocolate chips
  • 2 c macadamia nuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter on low-speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add the sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 3 minutes.
  4. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts, and either fold in by hand or beat for a few seconds on low-speed.
  7. Using a 2-ounce cookie scoop (a scant 1/4 cup), scoop out mounds of cookie dough, and place on a large cookie sheet or plate.  Roll each mound into balls, place back on cookie sheet or plate, and cover with plastic wrap.
  8. Refrigerate 3 hours or up to 5 days.
  9. When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.  Place cookie dough balls on the baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart.
  10. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cookies will still look underdone but will firm up as they cool.  For best results, don’t overbake.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, dough base originally created by Averie Cooks

 

 

 

Posted in Company, Cookies, Desserts, Mother's Day, Party Recipes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

5 Favorite Mexican Food Recipes

Shredded Beef Tacos

My family and I are so excited about Cinco de Mayo coming up this week.  I started going through my recipes to figure out what to fix.  If you will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo as well, I wanted to share some of my favorites in case you need some ideas.

Shredded Beef Tacos

If you have been following my blog for any length of  time, you might remember tacos are my favorite food group.  No list of my favorite Mexican food recipes would be complete if it didn’t include this one for Shredded Beef Tacos.  To me they taste just like the beef tacos you get at good Mexican food restaurants in Arizona.  The beef is shredded, tender, and so flavorful.

Everything But the Kitchen Sink Salsa

Of course you need salsa to go on the tacos, and Everything But the Kitchen Sink Salsa is a family favorite.  It is a little bit spicy, and chunky, and so tasty.  I could probably make this one in my sleep, I’ve made it so many times and will be making it again this week.

Shrimp Enchiladas

If you are looking for something a little more unusual than the traditional tacos and beans for Cinco de Mayo, I highly recommend this recipe for Shrimp Enchiladas with Poblano Chile Sauce.  There are so many flavors going on inside and outside the enchiladas, it is a fiesta in your mouth!  I am not a big shrimp fan, but I absolutely love these.

Chipotle Salsa

I always like to put out at least 2 different kinds of salsa when we have friends over as everyone has their favorites.  Chipotle Salsa happens to be my favorite.  I love the smoky flavor.

Pork Carnitas

Last but not least are these Pork Carnitas.  You will love the depth of flavor in these tacos.  It is a super easy recipe that is made in the crock pot, perfect for a busy day.  It is my go to recipe for carnitas.

I have so many more favorite Mexican food recipes, but didn’t want to overwhelm you.  If you need more ideas, check out the Mexican food category on the right.  Whether you eat out or make dinner at home, I wish you a happy and delicious Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cinco de Mayo, Main Dish, Mexican, Party Recipes, Recipes, Salsas | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Pollo Fundido with Jalapeno Cream Sauce

Pollo Fundido

Cinco de Mayo is less than 2 weeks away so I have Mexican food on my mind.  Of course, this is nothing new!  I always have Mexican food on my mind. When I was in high school, there was a Mexican food restaurant called Garcia’s across the street from my church, and quite often after church on Sundays, or after an event during the week, we would go there to get something to eat.  I don’t remember anything else they served except something called Pollo Fundido.  It was so delicious, I still think about it.  It is a fried burrito, stuffed with a flavorful shredded chicken mixture, and covered in a jalapeno cream sauce, then topped with melted cheddar cheese.  Oh my!  Just talking about it brings back wonderful memories.

Pollo Fundido

I decided it was time to try to make it.  It turns out, I’m not the only one who loves this dish, as there are many versions out there.  This recipe is the closest to what I remember.  The best part of Pollo Fundido is the sauce.  It is full of jalapenos, garlic, cream cheese, and sour cream.  It’s the stuff of my dreams!

Pollo Fundido

I’m trying to think of other things I can put it on so I can eat it more often.  I honestly think if you poured it over rocks, I would be tempted to eat them.  And then you melt cheese on top of it.  There just are not words….

Pollo Fundido

This recipe is not difficult, but there are a few steps, so I thought I’d share a few tips with you to make it easier.  I find it so much simpler if I cook the chicken ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze until needed.  Then the day you serve it, it is mostly assembling things. Use tortillas the size of a dinner plate.  Be sure to heat the tortillas in the microwave one at a time for 15 seconds before folding to soften them so they won’t tear.  Once you have made the sauce and assembled the chicken mixture, place a half cup of the chicken in the middle of your tortilla.

Pollo Fundido

It may not look like a lot, but don’t overload it as you need to be able to get the toothpick through the tortilla, and you don’t want any filling falling out while frying.  These things are very rich so it works out perfectly.  Next, fold the top and bottom of the tortilla over the filling.

Pollo Fundido

Then fold the sides over towards each other, and secure with a toothpick.

Pollo Fundido

Once it is secure, you are going to fry each meat filled pocket. I used a medium-sized saucepan, and it was just the right size. Watch them carefully as they brown up almost instantly.

Pollo Fundido

You can also bake them if you don’t want the mess or calories of frying.  I tried both, and with the sauce, you really can’t tell much of a difference when eating them. There is a bit of a different texture, but the taste is basically the same. Brushing the tortilla with a tiny bit of oil will help them to brown better, but it isn’t necessary.  I didn’t brush this one with oil, and this is what it looked like.

Pollo Fundido

Just don’t forget to take the toothpicks out afterwards no matter how you cook them. Toothpicks in your cheek is not a fun way to spend Cinco de Mayo! Next, place the cooked burritos on a baking sheet and cover with sauce and a handful of grated cheddar cheese.  Only bake for a couple of minutes until the cheese just starts melting.  If you overbake them the sauce becomes runny and falls off the burritos.  They still taste good, but you don’t get as much sauce that way!  And that would be very sad.

Pollo Fundido

Place the Pollo Fundido burritos on a plate and serve immediately!

Pollo Fundido

Your family and friends will then nominate you for president!  You will be able to make Pollo Fundido burritos for everyone, and there would be no more division in the country.  Everyone would get along….

Pollo Fundido

I guess I got a little carried away. I did say that sauce was the stuff of my dreams.  But your family and friends would be REALLY happy if you made these for them!  In fact, they are so good, I’m going to take them to Fiesta Friday to celebrate the beginning of the weekend. Angie of Novice Gardener, Effie of Food Daydreaming, and Jhuls of The Not So Creative Cook are already there waiting for us.   Happy Friday, everyone!

Pollo Fundido

  • Servings: 5 burritos
  • Time: 1 to 1 1/2 hours not including cooking chicken
  • Difficulty: moderate due to the number of steps
  • Print

For the Burritos:

  • 2 c cooked, diced chicken (bake 4-6 chicken breasts for 1 hour at 350 degrees or in crock pot on low for 8 hours)
  • 3/4 cup green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 c shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 5 dinner plate size flour tortillas
  • canola oil for frying

For the Sauce:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1 c half-and-half
  • 2 ounces (1/2 of a 4 oz. can) canned, diced jalapenos (I don’t recommend fresh in this recipe)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top of sauce
  • sliced fresh jalapenos (optional for garnish)
  1. Saute diced bell pepper and onions in 2 Tbsp. oil until tender.
  2. While bell pepper and onions are cooking, make sauce by placing cream cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, half-and-half, and garlic cloves together in a blender.  Blend on high-speed until smooth.
  3. When bell pepper and onions are done, add in the diced chicken, and heat just until chicken is warm.  Turn off stove.  Stir 1/2 cup of the jalapeno cream sauce into the chicken mixture.  Set aside.
  4. Heat enough oil to submerge a burrito in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  When a small piece of tortilla dropped into the oil sizzles and bubbles, your oil is ready.
  5. While oil is heating, place 1 tortilla in microwave and heat for 15 seconds to soften.  Place tortilla on a plate, and spoon 1/2 cup chicken mixture into the center.  Fold top and bottom of tortilla over chicken mixture, then fold both sides towards each other so that it makes a square, and secure with a toothpick.  Do the same with the 4 other tortillas.  Be sure not to overfill them as it will be difficult to fasten the sides together and filling may fall out while frying.
  6. Very carefully using tongs, place one burrito at a time in oil, and fry until brown on both sides, turning once.  They fry up quickly so don’t leave them unattended.  If they are getting too brown or frying up too quickly, turn down to medium-low. When browned, place on a paper towel lined plate.  Repeat with all the rest of the burritos.  Important:  Take out toothpicks when cool enough to handle.
  7. You can also bake the burritos on a greased cookie sheet at 425 degrees for 12 to 20 minutes, turning once halfway (mine took 20).  They brown better if brushed with oil, but it isn’t necessary.
  8. When burritos are cooked, place on a greased cookie sheet.  Pour about a 1/4 cup sauce over each burrito, and sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese on top of sauce.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 2 minutes 30 seconds until cheese is just melted, watching the whole time to make sure not to overbake.  Overbaking will cause sauce and cheese to become runny and fall off of burritos.
  10. Place on platter, and garnish with jalapeno slices if desired.  Serve immediately.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, adapted from a recipe on Food.com

Pollo Fundido

 

 

 

Posted in Chicken Recipes, Cinco de Mayo, Company, Main Dish, Mexican, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Sprinkle Cookies That Can Be Customized for Any Celebration

Sprinkle Cookies

I made these cookies for Easter, and really enjoyed them for many reasons.  For one thing, they tasted great.  The dough is similar to chocolate chip cookie dough without the chocolate chips.  The cookies are buttery and moist and just melt in your mouth.  If you like sprinkles, you will love these cookies.  Sprinkles are my topping of choice when ordering ice cream at Cold Stone, so you can see why these caught my eye.  Maybe when I grow up I will put more sophisticated toppings on my ice cream and in my cookies.  I’ll let you know when that happens.  Don’t hold your breath, though.

Sprinkle Cookies

Another reason I like these cookies is because they are so colorful.  They just scream celebration to me.  I think they would be perfect for kids’ birthday parties.

Sprinkle Cookies

Another huge reason I love these cookies is because they are completely customizable for any holiday.  I made these for Easter so I combined even amounts of pink, orange, and yellow sprinkles.  They would be great with red, white, and blue sprinkles for memorial day or a fourth of July party.  If you have a graduation coming up, you could use your child’s school colors.  For Cinco de Mayo, you could use the colors of the Mexican flag or red and green at Christmas.  If you live in the Phoenix area,  ABC Cake Decorating Supplies, carries every color of sprinkles imaginable, and they are very inexpensive.  JoAnn’s and Michaels usually have quite a variety of sprinkles as well in the cake decorating area.  Or just get the pre-mixed colors that are available at most grocery stores.

Sprinkle Cookies

Lastly, not only do these taste and look great, they are so simple and quick to make. That is really nice if you have a lot of other things to do to get ready for a holiday.  I think I had them ready to bake in less than half an hour.  Just don’t forget to refrigerate them before baking so they won’t spread out too much on the baking sheet.  Parchment on the cookie sheet also helps with that. They can be frozen after baking so you can make them ahead of time, too.  Whatever color you choose, these cookies will help make your celebration delicious and a lot of fun as well for all of the kids in your life and the kids at heart!

Sprinkle Cookies

Sprinkle Cookies

  • Servings: 15
  • Time: 30 minutes plus refrigeration and cooking time
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (King Arthur recommended)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 c sprinkles
  1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-creamed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes or use a hand mixer and beat for at least 7 minutes.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.
  2. Add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt, and mix until just combined about 1 minute.
  3. Add the sprinkles and beat momentarily to incorporate, less than 1 minute, or fold in by hand.
  4. Using a medium 2 inch cookie scoop, form heaping two tablespoon mounds (should make 15 of them).  Roll mounds into balls.
  5. Place balls on a large plate, in a single layer not touching, and cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking.  Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.  Place balls of refrigerated cookie dough on cookie sheets.
  9. Bake for 8 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if undercooked, pale, and glossy in center.  Cookies will stay white even though done.  Do not bake for longer than 9 minutes for soft cookies because they firm up as they cool.
  10. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 8 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.
  11. Store cookies airtight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, slightly adapted from Averie Cooks

 

Posted in 4th of July Recipes, Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, Cookies, Desserts, Easter, Memorial Day Recipes, Recipes, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

Things to Do in Arizona – Desert Botanical Gardens

Desert Botanical Gardens

My sister recently visited from out of state, and while she was here, we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens with my dad, one of his favorite places.  It was a great time to visit the gardens as the weather was perfect, and many of the cacti were in bloom.  I had forgotten what an interesting and beautiful place it is.  There is so much to see at the Gardens that I can only give you the tip of the ice berg or maybe I should say the needle on the cactus as to what is there so you will just have to go see it for yourself.  But here is a glimpse of what you might encounter.

As you enter you pass by glass sculptures by Chihuly.  Every so often his colorful artwork is displayed throughout the garden which just enhances your experience there.

One of the things that struck me immediately is all of the different textures that are represented.

Desert Botanical Gardens

You really have to watch where you are going if you are in the desert!

Desert Botanical Gardens

Fortunately, there are level paths all the way through the gardens.

Desert Botanical Gardens

The Palo Verde trees (our state tree) were in bloom all over the park.  They added a lot of color to our walk.

Desert Botanical Gardens

Not only did the Palo Verde trees add color, the blooming cacti were stunning!

Desert Botanical Gardens

Look at the perfect ring of flowers on this cactus.  So fascinating.

I love these yellow and orange flowers.

Desert Botanical Gardens

The flowers on the Ocotillo cactus remind me of fire crackers.

Desert Botanical Gardens

So many shapes and colors around every corner.

Desert Botanical Gardens

There are also some really strange types of cactus that I never knew about, and wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.  This is a snake cactus!:(  The name fits.

If you get tired, there are plenty of places to sit down.

Desert Botanical Gardens

We got thirsty about halfway through our time there and found a little cafe that had drinks and snacks.  They even had macaroni and cheese.  That is my kind of cafe.

The best part about our visit to the cafe, was while we were sitting at the tables taking a break, we saw so many little critters.

There were quail, squirrels, and even a Cactus Wren which is our state bird.  I think they were hoping for some macaroni and cheese.

After our brief break, we continued on some trails we hadn’t been to yet.  Seeing the giant saguaros was such a treat.

Desert Botanical Gardens

I think I had Easter on my brain as everything looked like a bunny to me.

Desert Botanical Gardens

The nearby mountains made a beautiful backdrop for the plants.

Desert Botanical Gardens

And the people (my dad and sister)!

Desert Botanical Gardens

There are different sections throughout the gardens, one of them being a section for plants that thrive in the shade.  It contained a water feature and pond and was about 10 degrees cooler in that area.

Desert Botanical Gardens

The desert is full of some strange and wonderful things.

Desert Botanical Gardens

Did you know you can make wine out of the fruit of the Prickly Pear cactus?  My husband tried it.  It is definitely an acquired taste!

Desert Botanical Gardens

There is so much more you can see at the Desert Botanical Gardens.  I highly recommend it as one of the premier things to do if you are visiting the Phoenix area or just want to explore the city you live in.  It would be a great thing to do with company from out of town (as long as it’s not summer) or to take your mom to for Mother’s Day.  They also have a gorgeous luminary display at night during the Christmas season.  Whenever you go, you will come away with a greater appreciation for the diversity and beauty of the desert. Check out the link below to their website for lots more details about all they have to offer.

Desert Botanical Gardens

Desert Botanical Gardens

1201 N Galvin Pkwy

Phoenix, AZ 85008

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Classic Deviled Eggs and an Easy Peeling Method That Really Works

Classic Deviled Eggs

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to have found an easy way to peel hard-boiled eggs. We usually celebrate Easter at our house by going to church, and then having a big Easter dinner with lots of family, and an egg hunt for the kids.  I love tradition so every year I fix the same foods (with the help of my wonderful mom) which includes deviled eggs.  They seem like the perfect Easter appetizer.

Classic Deviled Eggs

Until you try to peel them.  Some years it has literally taken hours to get those pesky shells off.  Not fun when there are so many other things to do to get a holiday meal on the table. That is why I will be forever grateful to Emily at Emily’s Homestead for a completely different method for cooking the eggs which results in the egg peels almost sliding off.  I have tried so many different methods that sounded promising, but didn’t really work.  This one does.  I am almost giddy with happiness.  Another 2 hours in my day.  I’d call that an Easter miracle!

The secret to successful peeling is to steam the eggs for exactly 17 minutes.

Classic Deviled Eggs

I have a steamer, but you can also just use one of those steamer inserts that you place inside a pan of boiling water.  Once the water is boiling, place your cold eggs in the steamer and steam for exactly 17 minutes.  When the timer goes off, take the eggs out and immediately place in a bowl of ice water.

Classic Deviled Eggs

If you steam them for exactly 17 minutes, you don’t get green yolks.  They will be bright yellow, and make the prettiest deviled eggs instead of deviled eggs that look like they were leftover from St. Patrick’s Day because of the greenish colored yolks.

Classic Deviled Eggs

I found out after trying this method several times, that the eggs are easier to peel the warmer they are so don’t wait for the eggs to cool.  Start peeling them right away.  Leave the eggs in the ice water, but take one out at a time and peel it.  The warmer they were, the easier they were to peel, but the ice water is necessary for them to stop cooking and the yolks to stay yellow.  Another great thing about this method is you have perfectly smooth egg whites instead of all the gouges in them from fighting with the peel.

Classic Deviled Eggs

After peeling, give them a quick rinse, slice in half, and pop the egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium slow speed for a couple of minutes to break up the yolks.  Then add the other ingredients and mix until smooth.  If you break up the yolks first, you end up with a smoother egg mixture.  You can either scoop the mixture back into the egg halves with a spoon, use a baggy with a hole cut in one end, or a piping bag.  The baggy or the piping bag are definitely the quickest method.  It takes just a few minutes to fill 24 egg halves.  Sprinkle with paprika, chives, or parsley to garnish.  If you cover well with plastic wrap, these will keep over night in the refrigerator and you won’t have to be rushing around at the last-minute filling eggs.

Classic Deviled Eggs

The next time you need to make deviled eggs, give this method a try.  I hope it gives you a little more time to relax  and makes your holidays even happier!

Classic Deviled Eggs

  • Servings: 24
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 12 hard-boiled eggs (bring water to a boil in a steamer or pan with steam insert, place eggs in steamer, cook for 17 minutes, and plunge in ice water before peeling right away)
  • 1/2 c Best Foods mayonnaise or your favorite brand
  • 2 tsp. vinegar
  • 2 tsp. mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • chives, paprika, or parsley to garnish (optional)
  1. Halve hard-boiled eggs lengthwise.
  2. Pop out yolks and place in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  3. Mix yolks at medium low-speed for a couple of minutes to break up.
  4. Add mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, and salt to yolks.  Mix at medium speed until smooth.
  5. Using a spoon, plastic baggy, or piping bag, place egg yolk mixture into holes of egg halves.
  6. Sprinkle with chives, paprika, or parsley if desired.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  8. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, originally found in Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1985, page 196  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 4th of July Recipes, Appetizers, Breakfast, Easter, Recipes, Summer Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Chocolate Lover’s Cupcakes for the Birthday Girl

Chocolate Lover's Cupcakes

A friend of mine from out-of-town has a birthday coming up soon, and she will actually be staying at my house on that day.  It is pretty rare that we get to be together on her birthday so I wanted to make her a special treat.  I know she likes chocolate, dark chocolate especially, so I set out to make her the cupcake of her dreams.  Hence this chocolate lover’s cupcake!

Chocolate Lover's Cupcakes

The base of the cupcake is made from my go to chocolate cake recipe.  It makes the most moist, chocolaty cupcake you could ever want.  Then the middle is filled with a dark chocolate ganache.  This really adds richness, while balancing the sweetness of the frosting.  The first layer of frosting is from my Vanilla Bean Cupcakes recipe.  Full of vanilla extract and real vanilla bean seeds, it is heavenly and adds a contrast to all of the chocolate flavors.  The top layer  is a semi-sweet chocolate frosting with 2 types of chocolate incorporated into it.  I have been wanting to find a great chocolate frosting recipe, and I think this is it.  It has abundant chocolate flavor, yet is light and creamy.

Chocolate Lover's Cupcakes

Then to top it all off, I drizzled the frosting with some more dark chocolate ganache and pearl sprinkles because you just can’t have too much chocolate in a chocolate lover’s cupcake, and how can you have the cupcake of your dreams without sprinkles? Not possible.

Chocolate Lover's Cupcakes

Quite often I find myself on the fence about whether I am a chocolate lover or a vanilla lover at heart.  I guess that is why I love this cupcake so much.  It incorporates all of my favorite flavors – dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, vanilla beans, and sprinkles.  What more could a girl (or boy) want?

Chocolate Lover's Cupcakes

I am making it sound like I made this cupcake for me instead of my friend.  Turns out the cupcake of her dreams is also the cupcake of my dreams.   I guess that is why we get along so well.  We agree on all the important things in life!

Chocolate Lover's Cupcakes

  • Servings: 24
  • Time: 4 hours with time in between for baking and cooling
  • Difficulty: moderate due to time involved
  • Print

For the Cupcake:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 c vegetable oil
  • 1 c hot coffee (you won’t be able to taste the coffee at all, just makes the chocolate more pronounced)
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients.
  3. Add oil, coffee, and milk and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes.  Expect batter to be thin.
  5. Line cupcake pan with approximately 24 paper liners.
  6. Pour batter into liners, making sure each liner is about 2/3 full.
  7. Cook approximately 15 to 18 minutes, testing after 18 with a toothpick to see if done.  Important not to over bake.
  8. Cool cupcakes on wire rack.
  9. After cupcakes are pretty cool, cut out a small hole in center of cupcake, about 1 inch wide and 3/4 inches deep.  A smaller serrated knife works well for this.

Recipe from Food.com

For the Ganache:

  • 10 ounces dark chocolate chips (I recommend Ghiradelli)
  • 1 c heavy cream
  1. Place chocolate pieces in a large heat proof bowl.
  2. Heat heavy cream on medium high until just before it comes to a boil. Stir constantly and watch carefully so it doesn’t come to a boil.  Remove from heat and immediately pour cream over chocolate.  Do not stir.  Let sit for 10 minutes, and then stir until completely mixed and glossy.  Allow ganache to cool.
  3. When ganache is cool, spoon into a piping bag or baggy and snip off the end.  Fill holes in cupcakes. SAVE LEFTOVER GANACHE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR DRIZZLING AT THE END.
  4. Cover cupcakes and refrigerate until frosting is ready.

Ganache recipe a combination of recipes from Savory Sweet Life and Martha Stewart

For the Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (or clear vanilla extract to maintain bright white color)
  • 1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted (approximately one 1 lb. box plus 1 3/4 plus 1/8 cups)
  • 4-6 Tbsp. heavy cream (I used 4)
  1. Beat butter and vanilla bean seeds until soft and fluffy.
  2. Add in powdered sugar, and beat at low-speed until all lumps are gone.
  3. Add in vanilla and 3 Tbsp. heavy cream.  Beat well.
  4. Add in 1 to 3 more Tbsp. of  heavy cream one at a time and beat until of desired consistency.
  5. Place in a piping bag with a large round tip.  Squeeze onto cupcakes in a single round layer, leaving edges of cupcake showing.  Leave cupcakes out at room temperature while making chocolate frosting.

Recipe from My Baking Addiction

For the Chocolate Butter Cream:

  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips)
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder, sifted (I used Ghiradelli)
  • 2 c unsalted butter, almost room temperature
  • 1/4 c half and half
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 c pre-sifted confectioners sugar (sift first then measure out 3 cups from sifted powdered sugar)
  1. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave in 15 second intervals (important so the chocolate doesn’t seize up).  Stir after each interval, being careful not to overheat it.  Set aside to cool.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes on medium low-speed.
  3. Add half and half and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, but start on low-speed or milk will go everywhere.
  4. Add all the cooled melted chocolate, and then beat for about 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and beat to incorporate.
  5. Add sifted cocoa powder and powdered sugar in half cup increments, beating well to incorporate, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Beat until it is as light as you would like it, but it is more of a soft set frosting.
  6. Pipe on top of the vanilla frosting using large round tip.

Recipe from American Heritage Cooking

For the Dark Chocolate Ganache Drizzle:

  • leftover ganache from above
  • piping bag
  • pearl sprinkles
  1. Place leftover ganache into piping bag without tip.
  2. Cut a tiny hole in end of tip.
  3. Drizzle ganache over cupcakes.
  4. Sprinkle with pearl sprinkles if desired.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Make sure you set them out 1 hour prior to serving.
  6. Can be frozen for up to one month.  Thaw out for approximately 4 hours before serving.

Chocolate Lover’s Cupcake created by Cook AZ I Do

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cupcakes, Desserts, Party Recipes, Recipes, Wedding Reception Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

I think this might be the best breakfast I have ever eaten, and it didn’t even involve cookies or pie.  I just don’t know what is happening to me.  I never used to eat breakfast let alone like breakfast.  My poor mom tried for years to find something I would like.  I just wasn’t ever hungry first thing in the morning.  That’s because I was still trying to deal with the fact that I was awake.  Mornings and I were not on friendly terms.  Now I get up early every day because I want to have more time to get things done, and I actually enjoy it.  It is so weird.  And now I’m liking breakfast food?  Maybe it just took me a long time to grow up.  I don’t know,  but I am not complaining because it means a whole food group has opened up for me.  And it includes this amazing recipe.

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

I really don’t understand why this recipe is so good.  The ingredients are pretty basic.  But the end result is so much more than the sum of the ingredients.  I thought I was going to like it.  But I didn’t think I was going to go crazy over it.  I am pretty sure already that this is going to be in my top 10 recipes of the year.  It is not a difficult recipe, but it does take a bit of time as there are several steps.  It includes roasting some veggies,

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

rolling out puff pastry,

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

then chilling it.  This would be a great recipe for an Easter or Mother’s Day Brunch or overnight company.  I would recommend roasting the veggies and chilling the dough the day before.  That way, all that has to be done in the morning is spread the sour cream over the pastry,

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

and bake it with the eggs.

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

Don’t let the fact that you have to roll out puff pastry worry you either.  It is already rolled out into a square, and all you are doing is flattening it out a couple of inches more.  Just make sure you follow the recipe exactly.  Don’t be like me and forget to bake the puff pastry squares 10 minutes before you add the egg.  You will end up with mushy pastry.   Believe me, whatever you have to do to make this recipe is 100 percent worth it.

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

But don’t let me lead you to believe it is difficult, because it really isn’t.

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

I made these eggs because I just couldn’t get them out of my mind once I saw the picture of them.  Now I can’t get them out of my mind because I know how they taste.  I keep pondering when I should make them again.  I’m thinking as soon as possible and as often as possible.  We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day.   I guess being a grown up has its advantages!

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

Roasted Bell Pepper and Egg Breakfast Pastries

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 2 to 2 1/2 hours
  • Difficulty: moderate due to time
  • Print

  • 2 large red and/or orange bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 2 purple onions, halved and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
  • fresh sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and saved
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 sheet puff pasty, THAWED
  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry
  • 4 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • salt and freshly cracked pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix together the pepper, onions, thyme, and spices in a bowl.  Add the olive oil and toss well so that everything is coated with the oil and spices.
  3. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, stirring and rearranging the veggies a few times so they don’t burn.
  4. While veggies are roasting, chop parsley and cilantro leaves.
  5. After you take the veggies out of the oven, sprinkle them with half the fresh herbs and set aside.
  6. Turn the oven up to 425 degrees.
  7. Roll out the pastry on a FLOURED (IMPORTANT!) piece of parchment paper with a piece of FLOURED parchment paper on top of pastry so the paper doesn’t stick to the dough.  Roll until it reaches a 12×12 inch square (if it’s not quite 12×12 don’t worry about it).  Cut off uneven edges.
  8. Cut into four 6 inch squares.
  9. Transfer each piece to a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, spreading them out a little bit so they have room to bake and expand.
  10. Take a dull knife and score a little 1/4 inch frame around each square of pastry.  Don’t cut all the way through.
  11. Prick the inside of the squares all over with the tines of a fork.  Place pan of pastries in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  12. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and spread the INSIDE of each square with 1 Tbsp. of sour cream.
  13. Brush the outside edges of the squares with the beaten egg.
  14. Top each square with some of the veggie mixture, spreading it out evenly, leaving the borders free, and the center of the square empty for the egg which will go in later.  DON’T PUT THE EGG IN YET.
  15. Bake for about 10 minutes until rising and just starting to brown.
  16. Remove pan from oven, and carefully crack an egg into the center of each pastry. You may not need to use all of the egg white if egg starts to overflow.  Put back into the oven for about 10 minutes until the egg is set.  Egg will be soft set and slightly runny at this point.
  17. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining herbs.  Best if eaten immediately.
  18. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Recipe from Cook AZ I Do, adapted slightly from The View from Great Island blog, and originally found in the Jerusalem cookbook

 

 

Posted in Breakfast, Company, Easter, Mother's Day, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments