Two hot summer recipes

Summer, a time for being at the lake, sunshine, picnics and, of course, BBQs and cold beverages – especially with the Fourth of July holiday just a couple days away.

I do enjoy BBQs and cold beverages, even if I don’t have a grill of my own.

I usually find recipes that I can tweak a little and make as if I were outside on a deck grilling, except I am probably inside, with air conditioning, in my kitchen, using my George Foreman. I guess I am technically still “grilling.”

I love BBQ chicken; it has been a favorite of mine for a long time. One of the recipes that I am going to share with you doesn’t even use a grill, but it still involves BBQ!

This would be a wonderful appetizer to bring to a picnic, or any event really. I happened to stumble across this recipe in a “Taste of Home” cookbook that I have. This BBQ chicken pizza roll-up is simple to make and oh-so yummy.

Along with summer picnics and grilling, I also think of my go-to drink: margaritas. I love me a nice blended margarita while sitting outside in a chair, soaking up some sun.

To me, summer and margaritas go hand-in-hand. So, when I found a recipe for margarita bars, well… I was in heaven.

They’re basically lime bars with a hint of orange and splash of tequila. So, margarita.

I may have put more than a “splash” of tequila in my bars, but it is all about personal preference. Personally, I love more, haha.

The tequila can be left out if you want or need to exclude it. Just add more orange or lime juice (notes in the recipe). These bars are super easy and they’re the perfect dessert for summer.

Stopping after just having one, well, that might be the hard part.

If you have questions/comments for me about a recipe, feel free to email me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

 

BBQ Chicken Pizza Roll-Up


 

Ingredients:

-1 tube (13.8 ounces) refrigerated pizza crust

-1/4 cup honey barbecue sauce

-1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

-1-1/2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast

-1 small red onion, finely chopped

-1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

-1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (optional)

-1 egg white

-1 tablespoon water

-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

 

Directions:

-On a lightly floured surface, roll crust into a 12×9” rectangle; brush with sauce. Layer with cheese, chicken, onion, cilantro and Italian seasoning (if desired).

-Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; pinch seams to seal. Place seam-side down on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

-Beat egg white and water; brush over top. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Yield: 2 dozen.

 

Margarita Bars


 

Ingredients:

-1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

-7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (no substitutions – use real butter)

-2-1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

-4 eggs

-1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from about 5-6 limes)

-1 teaspoon lime zest

-1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

-1 tablespoon tequila, (optional – can omit and use extra tablespoon lime or orange juice instead)

-1/4 cup all-purpose flour

-Powdered sugar, for dusting

 

Directions:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×9” pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

-Mix crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and melted butter with a fork in a large bowl. Press into bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 12 minutes.

-While crust is baking, prepare the filling. Whisk the eggs with remaining 2 cups sugar. Whisk in juices, zest and tequila. Add flour, then whisk until no lumps remain.

-Pour lime mixture slowly and carefully over hot crust, then continue baking for about 25 minutes until the top starts to brown and is no longer translucent.

-Cool bars completely before cutting. (It’s easiest to cut cold bars, so I suggest chilling them before cutting.)

-Dust the tops with powdered sugar. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Shiny, new toys and recipes for the kitchen

Do you ever just get so excited when you get something new (or new to you) that you don’t know what to with yourself, or what to do first with your new toy?

This is exactly how I felt last week when my wonderful UPS delivery lady dropped of my new food processor. I wanted to rush home right away, take it out of the box, clean it up and just start playing with it.

OK, so I probably did just that anyway… but you can’t blame a girl! It was so pretty, new and just begging to be used right away!

The possibilities of what I can use it for are endless too. I could go on and on about it, but I am sure I would end up forgetting why I was writing this column and never get to talking about an actual recipe.

Well, I can’t just forget about that!

Moving on from that excitement, I want to talk about enchiladas this month. I’m not a fan of them.

I have never really cared for chili sauce, chili powder or most of the ingredients in them. I know they can be made in a variety of ways too.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Well, why are you bringing it up to us then?”

Let me tell you why.

I used to be someone who didn’t really like to try new foods or recipes, especially if my mind was set that I probably wasn’t going to like it anyway.

Over the years, I started to sometimes weigh the pros and cons. I’d see if, maybe, I could adjust it to something I would like to try, as recipes can be changed and have changed over the years.

So, one day when I was going thru one of my many recipe books/magazines, I came across a spinach enchilada recipe.

Not going to lie, my first instinct was to not even read thru the recipe because of the word “enchilada,” but I stopped myself, because I do love spinach.

As soon as I read through it, I knew it was something that I could and would try. Minus the onions for me, these spinach enchiladas are delicious.

I kept the chili powder to slightly less than 3 teaspoons and that was perfect. Of course, you can add more to your taste! I got about 8 tortillas out of the recipe.

Trying something new, that I normally wouldn’t have, was able to feed my creativity and prove to myself that it was just as exciting and wonderful as getting something new. I hope that if this recipe is new to you, it does the same for you.

 

Spinach Enchiladas

Ingredients:

1 can (14-1/2 oz.) chicken broth

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

3-4 tsp. chili powder

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained

3 green onions, chopped

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup 4 percent cottage cheese, drained

1-1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Colby/Monterey Jack cheese, divided

6-8 corn tortillas (7-inch)

Directions:

-For the sauce, whisk the broth, tomato paste and chili powder in a saucepan. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

-Meanwhile, combine the spinach, onions, sour cream and cottage cheese in a bowl; stir in 1 cup shredded cheese.

-Spoon 1/2 cup of the sauce into a greased 11x 7-inch baking dish. Dip tortillas in the remaining sauce; spoon about 1/4 cup spinach mixture down the center of each tortilla.

-Roll tortillas and place in the baking dish with seam-side down. Top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

If you have questions/comments for me about a recipe, feel free to email me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com

May showers bring fluffernutters

The month has slipped by me once again.

People, I have a confession to make.

Sometimes being a responsible grown-up is not as easy as it looks.

OK, maybe it has never looked that easy to some, and I am sure it is old news to most of you. Sometimes it is just hard to keep up with things with everything we have going on in life.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining at all. I am actually a very busy person, and it keeps me active and never makes for a dull life. Occasionally though, I would like to go back to the days of kindergarten and take a nap in the middle of the day to recharge.

Take it from me kids, listen to your parents when they say its nap time, you will regret it later when you can’t have it all the time.

I would consider myself a fairly organized person and responsible grown-up. Come on now, I can’t be all responsible, I have to have some fun sometimes too.

Why do I bring this up? In coming up with a couple of recipes to share with you this month, I realized that I was short on time and almost stepped away from the “try something new from all the cookbooks I have” theme.

I was about to toss some recipes that I have made before (and are some of my go-to’s) out there.

But, one of my most absolute favorite places to be is in the kitchen – cooking and baking. That inner grown-up in me went to her recipes and looked for something new to try. Actually, I went to my laptop.

Last weekend, I discovered some other recipe books I had. I had forgotten about them, because it had been a few years since I had a laptop. When I set up my brand-new laptop, I discovered that I had documents with links to cookbooks I had discovered or created myself. I was like a kid in the candy store again.

I present to you a couple of fun and delicious treats for the month of May.

Both are recipes for bars. Since May is the month of graduation parties and BBQs, why not try these recipes for those events that you need to bring something to.

The first is White Chocolate Ritz Fluffernutter Bars. Say it with me now… “Fluffernutter!” You know it’s fun to say, don’t lie.

Not only is it fun to say, but they are just as delicious to eat. They are a no-bake bar, so even better!

The second is for Blueberry Bars. These bars are simple to put together and make quite a few bars. They would even make a good breakfast or brunch treat.

I hope the responsible and non-responsible adult in you enjoys both of these recipes.

White Chocolate Ritz Fluffernutter Bars

Ingredients:

16 oz. vanilla almond bark

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

50(ish) Ritz crackers

1 to 1-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

7 oz. jar marshmallow fluff

Directions:

Line a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment paper. Spray with nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, melt vanilla almond bark according to package directions. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and stir until smooth and combined.

Spread half of the candy mixture in the bottom of your prepared pan.

Press crackers on top of the candy, so that they are touching. You’ll have roughly 7 rows of 4 crackers. Spoon peanut butter evenly over the surface of the crackers, then spread with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. (I used about a heaping cup of peanut butter – you can use more or less to suit your taste.)

Spoon marshmallow fluff evenly over the peanut butter and spread. It doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t worry if it smears a little.

Top surface evenly with crackers, making sure they are all touching. Pour remaining white chocolate mixture over the crackers. (If it’s too thick to pour, place in microwave and heat for 30 seconds at a time, until it’s thin enough.)

Spread candy over crackers evenly. Garnish with sprinkles, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars and serve.

Keep leftover bars refrigerated.

Blueberry Bars

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

1-3/4 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can (21 ounces) blueberry pie filling

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Glaze:

1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions:

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture just until combined.

Spread half of the batter into a greased 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Spread with pie filling; sprinkle with nutmeg.

Drop remaining batter over the top by teaspoons.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown.

In a small bowl, combine the glaze ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over warm bars. Cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 4 dozen.

 

If you have questions/comments for me about a recipe, feel free to email me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com

Hamming up Easter leftovers

Normally, I don’t like to be unprepared for things. I try to be organized, have things in order, and be ahead of things as much as possible.

Not this month though, I will admit I was a little slack in getting my column done, but I had good reason for it! I was a bit more focused on planning and organizing myself for a wonderful vacation, so I will admit that my column may have been the last thing on my mind (literally).

Now to just get my mind out of vacation mode, but who ever wants to do that?!

Where did I go? Well, I am so glad that you asked! (You did ask right?)

I was able to fly out to Colorado last week and visit my cousins in Colorado Springs. I had never been to Colorado, so I decided to treat myself to a little five day trip out there and visit my family.

It was a wonderful trip, full of great sights to see and great quality time with people who I am lucky to call family. It was great to be able to get a first-hand tour of beautiful sites and landmarks. Definitely a trip I will be making again!

While I was out there, I was reminded that it was just a week away from Easter. How is it April again already!?

I know, it comes the same time every year, but still, the year seems to be speeding away from me. Easter gave me a great idea for recipes though! I know that almost everyone has a big ham for their Easter dinner… and with that usually comes leftover ham. If you are looking for a couple ideas of what to do with all the leftover ham, boy, do I have a couple of great recipes for you!

The first one is spinach manicotti with ham. It is a very simple recipe that might take a little time to put together, but it is well worth it and you get a lot out of it. I enjoy the way the ricotta cheese and spinach work with the ham. Delicious.

The second recipe is for ham and cheese bowties. Now, the recipe calls for farfalle (bow tie) pasta, but sometimes I can’t find that. So, I have used other pastas, and the dish turns out just fine. I usually turn to spiral pasta and it works great! Neither recipe calls for an excessive amount of ham, but it is a good way to help us some of that extra Easter ham up, I promise.

If you have questions/comments for me about a recipe, feel free to email me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

 

Spinach Manicotti with Ham

Ingredients:

12 uncooked manicotti shells

1/4 cup butter, cubed

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups milk

15 ounces ricotta cheese

10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed dry)

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1-1/2 cups fully-cooked ham, cubed

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Cook manicotti according to package directions.

For sauce, melt butter in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour, pepper, salt and nutmeg until blended.

Gradually whisk in milk, then bring to a boil.

Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.

For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, spinach and oregano.

Stir in ham; add 1/2 cup sauce.

Drain manicotti and stuff with ham mixture.

Spread 1/2 cup sauce into a greased 13×9-inch baking dish.

Top with stuffed manicotti. Pour remaining sauce over top; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes longer or until golden brown.

Ham and Cheese Bowties

Ingredients:

8 ounces farfalle (bow tie) pasta

1/4 cup butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard

2-1/2 cups shredded Colby cheese

4 ounces cooked ham, julienned

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic 30 seconds.

Whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until smooth.

Pour in milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Bring mixture to a boil for a minute.

Stir in mustard and Colby. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.

Remove from heat; stir in pasta and ham.

Pour into a 2-quart baking dish (an 8×8 or 9×9 pan works well). Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly and golden.

Lazy-day leftovers

Leftovers can make for quick and easy meals – without looking or tasting the same the second time around.  My weeks are usually pretty full, even during the winter. With all the volunteering I do, training the service dogs and other things, I need to think ahead and try and have a few nights where I can just plan on a quick meal if I need to rush back out the door after work. This is where leftovers play a big role. I can make something one night that I know will last as leftovers for when I need that quick meal. I also like to try meals that won’t be as time consuming, as convenience is also often the key to success in the kitchen for cooks who don’t have much time on their hands.

Sticking with my new theme of trying new recipes, I searched for something that might provide leftovers, but could also be somewhat easy to prepare. Paging through my many cookbooks I found just the right thing: Mini Meatloaves. I never used to be a meatloaf fan, but over the years I have grown to like it because I have been able to try many versions. This recipe makes 18 mini loaves, so you will have plenty for leftovers (unless you are really hungry). You can also use them to make a meatloaf sandwich, and I can’t say enough good things about that! At the end of the recipe, I have also included instructions for freezing to be used later, which is also a nice, convenient option.

I wanted a good side veggie dish to go with the meatloaf, and I really didn’t want to go with my typical potato side dish. What I did find was beyond delicious. Garlic carrots added just what I was looking for to complete an already great meal. I am craving them right now, just after writing that.

These were very simple to put together, didn’t take very long and were absolutely delicious (Well, to me… I guess you have to like carrots and garlic to think the same). The recipe calls for 1-2 tablespoons of olive or canola oil. I only used 1 tablespoon and thought it was plenty. These carrots could easily go with any main dish you cook. I already have many plans to make them along with roasts and other things.

Mini Meatloaves and Garlic Carrots are two quick and easy recipes that also make for good leftovers.

Mini Meatloaves and Garlic Carrots are two quick and easy recipes that also make for good leftovers.

Now that I am once again prepared for a busy week, I hope you can take a little time this month to enjoy these two recipes. I know that they will be worth it.

If you have questions/comments for me about a recipe, feel free to email me at jessicahoner@hotmail.com

Garlic Carrots

Ingredients:

1 pound baby carrots

2 garlic cloves, minced

1-2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1/4 cup hot water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Dash of pepper

Directions:

In a skillet, sauté carrots and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. Add water, salt, thyme and pepper, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 8-12 minutes, or until carrots are tender.

Mini Meatloaves

Ingredients:

1 cup ketchup

3-4 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon ground mustard

2 eggs, beaten

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

3 cups Crispix or Rice Chex cereal, crushed

3 teaspoons onion powder

1/2-1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 pounds lean ground beef

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard. Remove 1/2 cup for topping, set aside. Add eggs, Worcestershire sauce, cereal and seasonings to remaining ketchup mixture; mix well. Let stand for 5 minutes. Crumble beef over cereal mixture and mix well.

Press meat mixture into 18 greased muffin cups (about 1/3 cup in each). Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. Drizzle with reserved ketchup mixture; bake 10 minutes longer, or until meat is no longer pink and an inserted meat thermometer reads 160.

Special Note: You can freeze these. Serve desired number of meat loaves. Cool remaining loaves; freeze. Transfer to freezer bags; freeze for up to three months.

To use frozen meat loaves: Completely thaw in the refrigerator. Place loaves in a greased baking dish. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until heated through, or over and microwave on high for 1 minute or until heated through.

Dare to be different – and delicious

Can one have too many cookbooks?

I think not, but then again I may have a problem and just can’t admit to it.

How did I come to realize that I might have a cookbook collection problem?

A wonderful reader of my column recently asked if I had a good recipe for bread pudding. I could honestly and quickly say, ‘I don’t know.’ I have never attempted to make bread pudding, so I wasn’t sure if I had a recipe for it. When I got home, I decided that I would look and see, and that’s when I realized I have quite a few cookbooks.

Then I started to think about how many recipes I have never tried and how sometimes I – and I’m sure many others – will stick to what I know or something similar to what I have always cooked and baked.

Why haven’t I tried something I have never cooked or baked before more than just once in a great while?

I can’t answer that question with a simple response, so I have decided that I am going to change a little and step away from the familiar. For the rest of the year, I am going to pick through the cookbooks I have at home and choose a few new-to-me recipes to try out.

Maybe they’ll be recipes I have always wanted to try, maybe they’ll be for things I’ve never even heard of, or maybe there’ll be one that I just wasn’t sure I could even do. I am going to try now.

I started with bread pudding. Bread pudding is a bread-based dessert popular in many countries. There is no real fixed recipe, but it’s usually made using stale bread and some combination of liquid ingredients.

Not knowing too much about making bread pudding, I started searching through my cookbooks and, sure enough, I found one. One of my church cookbooks contains a recipe for Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce. Sounded delicious to me!

I didn’t have any dry bread cubes so I took the whole wheat bread that I had at home and cut up what I needed and dried it in the oven, which was very easy to do. This is a lighter version of bread pudding and is, in my humble opinion, delicious.

With this recipe you can use bourbon or brandy extract. I actually used honey bourbon (you don’t use that much at all) and it complimented it very well.  Definitely a recipe I will be making again.

After making the bread pudding I looked through other dessert recipes to see if I could find another that I had never tried. I stumbled upon a recipe for Oslo Kringle. I had never even heard of it before, but the recipe didn’t look complicated and sounded good.

Before I attempted to make it, I wanted to learn a little more about it, so I went to good ol’ Google and did a little research. Oslo Kringle is a Norwegian dessert made with a cream puff base and topped with icing. There are many varieties.

With ingredients in hand, I made my first Oslo Kringle. It’s yummy, simple and just wonderful.

It really wasn’t hard at all to put together, and it has a simple taste that I can see being addicting. It would be good with your morning tea or coffee and as a dessert. Next time I think I am going to put some slivered almonds on top to add a little something extra.

I really enjoyed trying these two new recipes, and am excited to keep branching out and finding more. Some may be great and some not so much, but I am ready to take that chance and have fun with it.

If you have a recipe you have been looking for, or a suggestion of something I should try, I would love to hear from you!

 Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Pudding:

2 cups fat free milk

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

2 eggs

6 cups dry bread cubes – about 8 to 10 slices of bread

1/2 cup raisins, if desired

Bourbon sauce:

1 cup fat free caramel sauce

2 tablespoons bourbon or 1 tsp brandy extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine milk and butter. Heat on medium heat until butter is melted. In a large bowl combine sugar, cinnamon, salt, and eggs. Whisk until mixed together well. Stir in the bread cubes and raisins (if desired). Stir in the milk mixture.

Put into an 8-inch pan. Bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes or until set.

In a small bowl, mix caramel sauce and bourbon until smooth. Serve sauce over warm bread pudding. Store in fridge. Makes about 8 servings.

 Oslo Kringle

Kringle:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

2 tablespoons water

Cream Puff paste:

1 cup water

1/2 cup butter

1 cup flour

3 eggs

1/2 tsp almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

Cut butter into flour; add cold water and mix as for pie crust. Divide dough in two and roll out to ropes 16 inches long. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and, with your hands, flatten out each portion to 4 inches wide.

For the paste, bring water and butter to a boil. Remove from the stove and immediately add flour. Stir until smooth and then add the eggs, mix all together until smooth.

Spread on the above strips, covering dough completely. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Makes two pastries, 30 pieces or more when cut.

Frost when cool with the following icing:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon butter, soft

1/2 tsp almond extract

1-2 tablespoons half and half or heavy cream

Mix confectioner’s sugar, butter and almond extract. Add just enough cream for spreading consistency. Best eaten the same, day but freezes well.

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com

A recipe Grandpa would have loved

Some months I just know right away what I want to write about and what recipe I want to share with you, and other months I am not so sure. This month, well, it was an easy one.

I could write about what my New Year’s resolutions are, but I never make any. Or I could talk about what I am hoping the New Year will bring and what my plans are, but most of the time I just like to take it one day at a time.

So instead, I am dedicating my column to a great man who was a big part of my life and recently passed away. My grandfather, Tom Pulford, taught me a lot in life, from fishing to water skiing, growing a garden (especially raspberries) to playing cribbage. Many fun times were had while playing cribbage with Grandpa and discussing life. Beating him at cribbage, though, well that’s a whole other story. You were lucky when you did, and when I did, well, I may have rubbed it in a little bit, but he may have taught me that, too.

Grandpa loved his chocolate and, since January was his birthday month, I am doing this recipe in his honor. I am sure that he would have loved it.

I introduce to you German Chocolate Cake Bars.

I first tried out this recipe this past summer when I made them for a friend’s birthday in July. I was looking for a simple German Chocolate Cake recipe that might travel well when I came across these bars. They are very simple to make and are delicious. Chocolate with coconut – what’s not to love about that?

The recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk; I made it with the fat-free kind (to try and be a little healthier) and the bars turned out great. You can either use sweetened coconut or unsweetened coconut, too. I will leave those kinds of decisions up to you.

 

German Chocolate Cake Bars

Crust:

1 box devil’s food cake mix (not the kind with pudding added)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 large egg

Filling:

1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cake mix, butter and egg, and press into the bottom of the prepared pan. The crust should not come up the sides. Bake for 7 minutes and remove from the oven. The crust will not look done.

While the crust is baking, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, egg, pecans and coconut. Pour evenly over the warm crust and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Bake for 24-30 minutes, until the top is a light golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting.

Cookie recipes to sweeten Christmas

I have visions – visions of Santa sending me my very own elf to help me with all the holiday baking that I take on every year (and very much enjoy). We all know that Santa is too busy for that, though, so I like to prepare myself far in advance for my holiday baking adventures.

I search grocery store ads for sales starting in about October, and calculate everything I will need to have a successful holiday baking season. I would go broke if I tried to buy all my ingredients in one shopping trip instead of over a couple of months. I make a list of what I plan to bake and arrange it so I can plan my time.

I have a range of cookie and bar recipes that I like to make every year. They vary from simple to a little more time consuming, so my holiday baking is usually spread out between a few weekends to make it a little easier and even more enjoyable.

I’ll be honest – and I am not afraid to admit this at all – I started some holiday baking before Thanksgiving this year. Maybe I get a little overly excited about the holidays and baking, but I love to bake, so bake I shall!

This last weekend, I spent my Saturday baking a good chunk of the cookies I wanted to get done. I even tried a couple of new cookies. Though I really don’t need to add to my baking collection, I will and do anyway, of course.

I am sharing a couple of recipes with you that you might want to try this holiday season. One is a new recipe I just tried, and I am in love with it: chocolate-covered cherry cookies. These might require a little extra effort, but they are worth it. The recipe calls for 48 cherries, but I actually got a couple extra cookies out of it.

The second recipe is for chocolate mint cookies. This is a favorite holiday cookie recipe for me that I got from my grandmother. The mint swirled on top of this chocolate cookie just melts in your mouth with goodness. You can use either milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips in this recipe. I have done both and they are delicious either way.

I hope everyone enjoys these cookies during this special season, just like I do.

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

 

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cookies

Jessica Honer/FOCUS
Chocolate covered cherry cookies take a little extra effort to make, but the end result is worth it.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup baking cocoa

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

48 maraschino cherries, blotted dry

 

Frosting:

1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 to 3 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice

 

Directions:

In a bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture (batter will be very firm). Shape into 48 balls, about 1-inch round, and place on ungreased baking sheets. Push one cherry halfway into each ball.

For frosting, melt chocolate chips in milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; add cherry juice and stir until smooth. Spoon 1 teaspoon of frosting over each cherry (the frosting will spread over cookie during baking).

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

 

Chocolate Mint Cookies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 (12 oz) bag chocolate chips

2 eggs

2-1/2 cups flour

1-1/4 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Andes mints (2 boxes)

 

Directions:

Beat butter, brown sugar, and water in a saucepan until the butter melts. Add chocolate chips. Stir until melted. Cool 10 minutes.

In mixer, add eggs to chocolate mixture. Mix well. Add flour, soda, salt and beat until just blended. Chill for 30 minutes.

Roll into 1-inch balls and bake 12-13 minutes at 350 degrees. Unwrap mints. Remove cookies to cooling rack, place mint on top and swirl when it melts. Let cool.

How ‘bout these apples?

I do believe that apple season is upon us. At least it is for me. Did you know that the first apple trees were planted by Pilgrims in Massachusetts Bay Colony? (There may be a quiz on this later, so now you’re prepared.)

I have been picking up apples that have fallen for a couple of weeks now, and I have a tree that is full of apples that are ready to be picked. My greatest challenge when picking apples is to get to them before my dogs (or the deer) do. I have a golden retriever and a German shepherd that absolutely love the apples. If only they would pick them and put them into the basket for me! But alas, that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

I get that some people are not into baking. Some recipes may be too detailed and can be intense. Baking (and cooking in general) has always been for me though – healing. It can cure any bad mood or day. I’m not saying I am in a bad mood, but you know when you have those days where nothing seems to be going your way? I take those days and turn to baking or cooking.

The fact that it takes time is what I love about it most. Baking makes you work for it, and I’ve always loved that. Sometimes it fills me up when nothing else can.

This year, I have been looking at apple recipes that don’t take too much time to put together and bake. I recently had a weekend to myself where I got to try out two new recipes. One is an apple pie recipe called Grandma’s Apple Pie, and no, I did not get it from my grandma, I found it online. The second recipe is for apple bars. Both are simple to make and oh so delicious.

Apple Bars Ingredients:

1⁄2 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 1⁄2 cups flour, 1⁄2 tsp baking soda, 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon, 2 cups apples, finely chopped

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in rest of ingredients. Put in a 9×13 pan. Top with 1⁄2 cup brown sugar mixed with 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Apple Bars

Grandma’s Apple Pie Ingredients:

4 cups apples, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 egg, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1⁄2 cup buttermilk, 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil, 1⁄2 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Cut up apples and mix with 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Put in a greased 9-inch pie plate. Mix rest of ingredients together and put on top of apples.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Grandma’s Apple Pie

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.

A new twist on meatloaf

My calendar recently told me that it is now September. My brain is still trying to process that. I could ask, ‘Where did the summer go?,’ (something I am sure everyone asks themselves every year), but I know exactly where it went while I was busy with many different things.

The seasons are starting to turn once again, and I can feel the cool fall air moving in. I even noticed while I was out camping and riding horse at Maplewood State Park this past weekend that the leaves are already starting to change. Seems a bit extreme to me, Mother Nature – you can slow down a little bit!

I do enjoy the fall season, though. I look forward to the sweatshirt weather, picking our apples and everything else that comes with fall. I do a lot more cooking and baking in the fall because of the cooler weather. I love having my kitchen window open while I have something delicious baking in the oven.

While thinking of a good cool-weather recipe to share with everyone, I remembered one of my favorites while digging some potatoes from the garden: gluten-free mashed potato meatloaf squares.

This is a great twist on meatloaf. The potatoes in the center really put a special touch to the meatloaf, and it may make your mouth water while it is cooking in the oven. The recipe can even be doubled and made in a 9×13” pan to serve even more.

Gluten-free mashed potato stuffed meat loaf squares

Ingredients

1 1⁄2 lb. lean ground beef, 2 cups Rice Chex cereal, finely crushed, 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce, 1 medium carrot, grated (about 1 cup), 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley, 3⁄4 teaspoon salt, 3⁄4 teaspoon pepper, 2 eggs, slightly beaten, 3 cups prepared mashed potatoes, 1⁄2 cup ketchup.

Instructions

Heat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Spray 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.

In large bowl, mix beef, cereal, tomato sauce, carrot, parsley, salt, pepper and eggs just until combined. Press half of beef mixture into pan. Spread mashed potatoes on top; cover with remaining beef mixture. Spread ketchup on top.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in center of meat reads 165°. Cool 15 minutes; cut into four squares.

Contact Jessica at jessicahoner@hotmail.com.