Mexican Dip

I had this for the first time at a good friend's house a few years ago. I LOVED it then and she was nice enough to share the recipe. Since then it has become very popular. Whenever I take it somewhere people always ask for the recipe, and I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like it.
I know there are quite a few versions of this recipe; some with olives, or frozen corn, no avocado, prepared dressing, or black beans, etc. This is my favorite version by far, but also know that many things can be substituted. Sometimes I have just craved this dip and haven't had black eyed peas so I've used black beans, or I've even used just plain old canned corn.
Mix 1 pkg. “Good Seasons Italian Dressing” with red wine vinegar and pour over the following (I have figured out a shortcut, sometimes if I have a jar of Italian dressing around, I'll just pour that over instead - tastes the same and is much easier):
1 can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 can shoepeg corn, drained
1/3 c. chopped cilantro
2-4 large Roma tomatoes, diced

Refrigerate overnight and add the following just before serving:
2 large avocados, diced
1 limed, squeezed over the avocados

Perhaps the BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER

I love cooking. I also love looking through cookbooks for new recipes and now with the internet and recipe blogs, I am able to look at A LOT of recipes. I love it! I also love chocolate chip cookies. I have mastered my own recipe and quite enjoy it. One day I came across this recipe which claimed to be the best chocolate chip cookie ever. I didn't believe it, but had to try it for myself. They may in fact be my new favorite chocolate chip cookies. I guess the recipe came from the New York Times and I would recommend following it exactly....the chilling time is necessary! Enjoy!

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour*
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate chips in and stir just til combined. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop heaping tablespoon scoops onto baking sheet. Bake until golden brown but still soft, about 12 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day.

*If you do not have any cake flour, simply measure 1 cup of all purpose flour, remove 2 TBS. and replace with 2 TBS. cornstarch


What? I didn't even know it was possible to make churros yourself. I like to do themed dinners and so Cinco de Mayo was a perfect excuse, the only problem.....I got sick! I was bummed that I couldn't celebrate that day with food, but we went ahead and did a late version. I made some delicious taquitos (recipe coming later) and we ended the meal with churros. This is the recipe I used and it actually worked, of course I altered it a little bit. We were all in AWE at how light, fluffy and delicious they are!!! (unfortunately there is not a good way to photograph churros, but we tried)!

1 cup water
1/4 cup butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla
vegetable oil for frying

1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan.

Bring to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until dough forms a ball and begins to leave the sides of the pan.

On high speed of an electric mixer, beat in eggs, one at time, beating after each addition, until mixture is smooth. Add vanilla.

In a deep frying pan or electric skillet, heat 3/4" of vegetable oil to 375. Spoon dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe 3 inch strips into hot oil (we used scissors to snip the dough into the oil).

Fry churros, a few at a time, for about 3 to 4 minutes or until a deep golden brown, turning once. Remove from oil using a slotted to; drain on paper towels.

Combine 4 tablespoons sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a clean brown paper bag. Toss churros in the cinnamon mixture to coat well.

Serve immediately or store in in a tight container for up to one day.

Makes approximately 3 dozen churros.

Dutch Babies or German Pancakes

These have become an absolute family favorite. If I tell the kids we are having breakfast for dinner, I get cheers instead of moans. I like making these because they are easy, I can make them GF, we can just add some turkey sausage and fruit on the side and we are set for a relatively healthful dinner. My kids like this topped with powdered sugar, but I always like to add some fresh berries (strawberries or raspberries are my favorite) or peaches. There are countless possibilities when it comes to toppings or varieties . . . you can add blueberries to the batter, or layer thinly sliced apples over the butter and then pour over the batter, or cook them in muffin tins, etc. My mother-in-law (and husband) think they should only be cooked in a cast iron skillet, but I don't have the patience to clean it afterwards (neither do I have a large enough skillet) I know there are a lot of recipes out there, but this is the one I have finally come up with that is our favorite and works every time!

3 TBS. butter
1 c. milk
1 c. flour
6 eggs

Melt butter in 9X13 oven safe pan at 450 while preparing batter. Mix milk, flour and eggs well (can use a blender, but I have found it works just as well in a bowl with a whisk).

Pour blended mixture over hot butter. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Enjoy the puffiness, because it will be gone moments after leaving the oven . . . then the deliciousness begins! Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. Serve with cooked apples, berries, or peaches on top!

Strawberries and Cream Pie with Chocolate Drizzle

It's Easter which means the pressure is on to make a fabulous dessert. I just wasn't feeling it this year and wasn't sure what to do. Friday afternoon I stumbled across this recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs "Our Best Bites." I thought it looked intriguing, but it wasn't until late Saturday night I decided to whip it up for Easter Sunday (good thing I had all the ingredients on hand). SO easy! And there is nothing I love more than chocolate and strawberries together . . . adding a cream cheese mixture and graham crackers just makes it all that much better! I changed the recipe a bit from the original to make it my own - I needed more chocolate!

1 quart fresh strawberries
1 8-oz. package cream cheese at room temperature (I used light)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 9″ graham cracker crust (store-bought or homemade)
1/4 c. whipping cream
1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate (chips work great)

In a medium bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, brown sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. In a separate large bowl, beat the whipping cream and powdered sugar until medium peaks form. Add about 1 c. of the whipping cream mixture to the cream cheese mixture. Beat until smooth and well-combined. Add the remaining whipping cream mixture and mix until just combined. Spread in the graham cracker crust and refrigerate for a few minutes while you prepare the strawberries.

Wash the strawberries and cut off the stems. Blot dry with a paper towel and then gently press, cut side down, into the whipped cream mixture. Set aside.

Pour 1/4 c. whipping cream in microwave safe dish. Heat about 1 minute until cream starts to bubble (or heat on stove). Remove and pour over chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Let sit for a few minutes to cool (ganache thickens as it cools, so you can decide what consistency you like best). When ganache is ready and cool drizzle it over the strawberries. Refrigerate for at least three hours before serving. Serves 8.

No Bake Chocolate Silken Pie

My mother-in-law shared this recipe with me. When I read the ingredients, I wasn't so sure it was for me . . . BUT I have been attempting to introduce more healthful foods into my diet, tofu being one of them. I decided to give it a try. First, let me say how SIMPLE it was to make. Secondly, it was so RICH that I could barely eat an entire piece. It was so yummy and I felt okay about eating it because it wasn't full of fat and too much sugar. I would highly recommend it.
I wasn't able to find Silken tofu at every grocery store. I don't know what the difference is but once I found it, I did use it. Enjoy!

1 graham cracker crust (either pre-made, or make your own)
My recipe:
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
2 TBS sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
In a medium bowl, melt butter. Stir in sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-in. pie plate. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling, or bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack before filling.

16 oz. Silken tofu
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla (or almond)
Whipped cream to garnish

Melt chocolate in microwave or in a double boiler.
Place tofu in a blender and blend until smooth. Add chocolate and extract. Pulse until mixed. Pour into graham cracker crust and chill at least 1 hour.
Serve with whipped cream.

Kneaders Double Chocolate Peppermint Brownies

I have this friend. We met in high school when we worked at the video store together. She is AWESOME! We always had the best time together. Then we grew up. We went to college. One of us got married (that's me). One of us traveled the world (that's her). Through it all, we kept in contact. She is currently living on the other side of the country. She recently got married and is now expecting baby #1!! I'm so excited for her. Anyway, when I was expecting baby #3 and we found out about my mom's cancer, she happened to be in town. Since she is so awesome, she came for a visit and brought some of these beauties with her. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE peppermint brownies and these may be the best I've had!! Did I mention she is the best? I realize it is no longer Christmas time, but believe me you can eat these anytime and you won't be disappointed. Enjoy!

1 cup butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Melt the chocolate and butter in a 2 quart bowl in the microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring every 20 – 30 seconds until the chocolate is melted. Cool slightly.
Add sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix well with a spatula.
Add the flour and stir to combine.
Stir in chocolate chips. Spread into a buttered 13-inch x 9-inch x 2-inch baking pan.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Do not overcook. Cool.

½ cup softened butter, margarine, or shortening
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 drops mint flavoring or to taste
1 drop pink food coloring
(I had to add evaporated milk to this as well)

In a small bowl, beat the confectioners’ sugar, butter and mint flavoring until smooth.
Add food coloring to make a light pink.
Spread evenly over cooled brownies and then chill.

Chocolate Ganache
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy cream crushed peppermint ( red and white)

Put the chocolate chips and cream into a small bowl.
Microwave on high for 1 minute stirring every 20 – 30 seconds until chocolate is melted. Do not over heat. Immediately pour over the brownies.
Decorate with crushed peppermint.

Do not refrigerate. Mixture will set up on brownies in about 15 – 20 minutes.

The chef's notes: Instead of doing the ganache, I just substituted chocolate frosting which I just made with powdered sugar, evaporated milk, softened margarine and some cocoa powder. Once I put on the mint frosting I put them in the fridge to let the frosting harden and then added the chocolate frosting. I think the brownies ended up cooking about 30 minutes instead of 25 - but your oven might be different. Enjoy!

Quick-Fix Burrito Skillet

My lovely sister found this recipe, tried it, loved it, and passed it along to me. I made it, loved it and am passing it on to you. It is SO easy to make. Contains ingredients we all have around. And is tasty. We will definitely be making this many times in the future.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 pkg. (1-1/4 oz.) Taco Seasoning Mix
1 can (19 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed
1 cup Salsa
1 cup water
4 flour tortillas (6 inch), cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces (I used corn tortillas to make it gluten-free & I liked that flavor better myself)
1 cup Mexican Style Finely Shredded Four Cheese (I used cheddar and only about 1/2 c. to keep the calories down)
1/3 cup Sour Cream (I omitted)
1 large green onion, chopped (I omitted because didn't have, but think it would be a nice addition)

Brown meat in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat; drain. Add seasoning mix, beans, salsa and water; stir. Bring to boil. Simmer on medium-low heat 5 min.

Stir in tortillas; top with cheese. Cover; let stand 5 min. or until cheese is melted. Top with sour cream and onions.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling

Somebody around here had a birthday last week. Audra turned 1 on Friday. Amazing how quickly a year has gone by! I have been looking forward to making a girl birthday cake, since I made Conner his first birthday cake. Many months ago I came across some small cake pans, I ordered them knowing I would be using them to make her a cake at some point. It was very difficult to frost, but turned out cute and she was our most destructive 1-year-old eater.

But the rest of us needed a treat, so I combined a bunch of recipes and came up with these delicious cupcakes. I definitely think I will use more filling next time, but they were a hit. Oh, and I could have been much generous with the frosting - I was worried about running out. Turns out I had quite a bit left over! I kind of feel like I've been on an episode of "Cupcake Wars" (on the Food Network), so I think I'm done with cupcakes for awhile. Enjoy!

Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ tsp almond extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F. Place liners in a 12 cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until it looks creamy.

Beat in the egg and the vanilla and almond extracts until mixture is smooth. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until almost combined. Add buttermilk and stir, again, until almost combined. Add the rest of the flour and stir until all ingredients are mixed in.
Divide batter evenly into muffin cups.

Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350F, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool before filling.

Strawberry Filling
1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese, chilled (I used cream cheese)
1/2 cup thawed and drained frozen strawberries (I used fresh strawberries)
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup
1 tablespoon lemon juice

In a food processor combine the mascarpone cheese, strawberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice. Process the mixture until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip. Push the tip gently into the bottom of a cupcake and squeeze in the strawberry mixture until the cupcake plumps. Continue with the remaining cupcakes.

The Best Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter (soft)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons of whipping cream

Cream butter and powdered sugar together. Then add vanilla and whipping cream!

Cream-filled Cupcakes

It was my brother-in-law's birthday. I am the assigned Sunday dinner dessert maker, so he requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Well, I couldn't just stop there. I mean I love chocolate and all, but I watch "Cupcake Wars" (on the Food Network) and needed to make these cupcakes a little more special. I decided a filling would be the best choice. I found a recipe I thought sounded delightful and turns out it was! Here's how it went down.

I made this recipe, but turned it into about 20-24 cupcakes. Filling paper cup liners 2/3 full. Baking them for 18-22 minutes.

Once they were cool, I used my handy-dandy apple corer to remove some cupcake from the center, taking care to not go all the way down. If you don't have said corer, just use a small spoon to remove. Or, you can just make the filling, put it in a piping bag and pipe directly in the center of the cupcake. No piping bag? No problem, just spoon some filling in the center and it doesn't have to look pretty because you'll be covering it up with frosting.

After filling the cupcakes, frost with your favorite chocolate frosting. One of my favorites is listed below. I kept these guys refrigerated. And they were devoured in no time!

2 tsp very hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1 (7 oz) jar marshmallow cream
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Dissolve the salt in the hot water and allow to cool.
Whip the marshmallow cream, shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla until it begins to get fluffy. Add the water and whip well.

For the frosting:
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 – 8 ounce block cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy. Slowly add in cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Add vanilla. Spread and enjoy!