Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

Continuing on with my summer BBQ theme here is a great potato salad to add to the mix.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe I saw on Dainty Chef but I didn't have all of the ingredients that she called for so I tweaked it a bit to work with what I had in the house. It came out super delicious and is something I will definitely make again.

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
Adapted from Dainty Chef

4 lbs red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1 bunch green onion, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp garlic powder
2-3 tbsp Hidden Valley Ranch dip powder, to taste
8 slices bacon, chopped and cooked to crispy

Cover potatoes with 1-2 inches of cold water and add the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until the potatoes are tender, about 8-12 minutes. Drain potatoes and transfer to a serving bowl. Allow to cool slightly.

While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, green onion (reserve some for garnish), lemon juice, milk, garlic powder and dip powder in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Stir half of the dressing into the cooled potatoes. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Toss with remaining ranch dressing and bacon. Top with reserved green onions and serve.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

No Bake Cheesecake Parfaits

Here is another great summer dessert that is really easy to take with you to a BBQ or party!

These no bake cheesecake parfaits are assembled in mini mason jars so all you need to do it put the lid on them and take them with you wherever you go. It is a great way to have cheesecake in the summer when you don't want to turn the oven on. They were good plain and with the strawberry topping. Please note that the recipe below will make 12 mini mason jar parfaits but the recipe below for the strawberry topping will only top 6 of them with strawberry topping. If you want them all to have strawberry topping, then double the topping ingredients below.

No Bake Cheesecake Parfaits
Adapted from Annie's Eats


For the strawberry topping:
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
2 tbsp granulated sugar

For the graham cracker base:
3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake layer:
8 oz reduced fat cream cheese
2 cups non fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp heavy cream

For the whipped cream layer:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp granulated sugar

To make the strawberry topping, combine the strawberries and sugar in a small bowl and toss with a fork to combine. Let stand at least 1 hour, stirring once or twice, until the berries have released their juices. Mash the berries a bit with a fork. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Set out 12 mini mason jars (small glasses will also work but not be as easily portable). In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Stir with a fork until evenly combined. Scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture into the bottom of each jar and tamp down gently with the bottom of a small glass.

To make the cheesecake mixture, combine the cream cheese and Greek yogurt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until smooth, abut 1-2 minutes. Add in the confectioners' sugar and mix until well incorporated, 1-2 minutes. Blend in the vanilla and heavy cream, on low speed, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes more. Divide the mixture between the serving jars. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours to let set.

While the cheesecake layer is setting up in the refrigerator, combine the 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tbsp granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until the cream is light and fluffy and has formed peaks.

Remove the jars from the refrigerator and top with the whipped cream. Spoon the strawberry topping (drain some of the liquid out of the strawberry mixture before using) on top of half of the jars. Place the lids on the jars and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Makes 12 parfaits

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Summer Macaroni Salad with Tomatoes and Zucchini

I know, I know, I have been gone for a very long time. I am not sure if anyone even follows or looks up this blog anymore but I hope there are still some of you out there. I am sorry for the absence. There is no real excuse but I have missed blogging and hope to get back into it on a more regular basis. Joe has started a blog about his mixology called Drinks About Friends (check out the link on the right hand side) and helping him get his blog up and running has brought me back to mine so thanks Joe!

I took a look through my photos to see what items I had photographed but not blogged about yet and this macaroni salad caught my eye. I brought it to a friend's BBQ and it was a big hit. It is a Skinnytaste recipe so it is also much healthier than your traditional mayonnaise based macaroni salad. I really don't love mayonnaise so I tweaked the recipe a little bit to use more Greek yogurt and less mayo which is reflected in my version of the recipe below.

If you need a macaroni salad for an upcoming gathering, I recommend this one!

Summer Macaroni Salad with Tomatoes and Zucchini

16 oz uncooked elbow macaroni
4 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 cups (1 small) zucchini, sliced and quartered
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
5 tbsp light mayonnaise (Hellman's)
2 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp fat free Greek yogurt
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta in generously salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a medium bowl, combine onions, mayonnaise, vinegar, yogurt mustard, oregano, garlic powder; mix well. Add tomatoes (and any juice from the tomatoes), zucchini, pasta, salt and pepper to taste, toss well and place in a large bowl.

Makes 16 cups

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Cream Scones

The other type of scone that I made was a more traditional scream scone with a biscuit texture rather than a cake texture. They were still light and fluffy and moist though, not dry and cracking like I often see of scones purchased from a bakery. These scones I made fresh on Sunday morning, rather than the blueberry scones which were done ahead of time. Both types were gobbled up by our friends for breakfast so I would say they were both a success!

Cranberry-Orange Cream Scones
From Cook's Illustrated

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted cutter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
1 tsp grated fresh orange zest
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup heavy cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in food processor to combine, about 3 pulses. Scatter butter and orange zest evenly over top and continue to pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some slightly larger pieces of butter, about 12 more pulses. Transfer mixture to large bowl ad stir in dried cranberries. Stir in cream until dough beings to form, about 30 seconds.

Turn dough and any flour bits out onto floured counter and knead until rough, slightly sticky ball forms, 5 to 10 seconds. Pat dough into 9-inch round and cut into 8 wedges.

Place wedges on prepared baking sheet. Bake until tops or scones are lightly golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blueberry Scones

Continuing with my HP weekend recipes, we are now onto Sunday morning's breakfast. I made two different kinds of scones. These blueberry scones I was able to make earlier in the week, freeze and then bake them directly from frozen. They have a great crunchy exterior with the sugar on top and a nice soft interior loaded with blueberries. You could also substitute other berries like blackberries in this recipe with great results as well.

Blueberry Scones
From Cooks Illustrated

16 tbsp unsalted butter (2 sticks), each stick frozen
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove half of wrapper from each stick of frozen butter. Grate unwrapped ends (half of each stick) on large holes of box grater (you should grate a total of 8 tablespoons). Place grated butter in freezer until needed. Melt 2 tablespoons of remaining ungrated butter and set aside. Save remaining 6 tablespoons butter for another use. Place blueberries in freezer until needed.

Whisk milk and sour cream together in medium bowl; refrigerate until needed. Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest in medium bowl. Add frozen grated butter to flour mixture and toss with fingers until butter is thoroughly coated.

Add milk mixture to flour mixture and fold with rubber spatula until just combined. Using spatula, transfer dough to liberally floured counter. Dust surface of dough with flour and with floured hands, knead dough 6 to 8 times, until it just holds together in ragged ball, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Roll dough into approximate 12-inch square. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, using bench scraper or metal spatula to release dough if it sticks to counter. Lift short ends of dough and fold into thirds again to form approximate 4-inch square. Transfer dough to plate lightly dusted with flour and chill in freezer 5 minutes.

Transfer dough to floured counter and roll into approximate 12-inch square again. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over surface of dough, then press down so they are slightly embedded in dough. Using bench scraper or thin metal spatula, loosen dough from counter. Roll dough into cylinder, pressing to form tight log. Arrange log seam side down and press into 12 by 4-inch rectangle. Using sharp, floured knife, cut rectangle crosswise into 4 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally to form 2 triangles and transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

TO MAKE AHEAD:  After placing scones on baking sheet, either refrigerate them overnight or freeze for up to 1 month. When ready to bake, for refrigerated scones, heat oven to 425 degrees F and follow baking directions above. For frozen scones, do not thaw, heat oven to 375 degrees F, brush the tops with melted butter and sugar and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Short Rib Shepard's Pie

I have never been a big fan of shepard’s pie until I saw this recipe. Traditional shepard’s pie is made with ground beef and the texture was something that never really caught my fancy. The use of short ribs slow cooked in red wine and then shredded was a much more pleasing texture to me. And the flavor that the short ribs had was out of this world. I think everyone at dinner wished I had doubled the recipe because they could have eaten at least another serving each. The only thing I plan on doing next time I make this recipe is to add more vegetables to the filling so it doesn't feel like it is only meat topped by fluffy and crunchy potatoes.

This recipe does take quite a long time to make, but I had a roomful of happy faces tell me it was definitely worth it!

Short Rib Shepard’s Pie

4-5 lbs boneless beef short ribs
Sea salt and ground pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 carrot, chopped
3 ½ cups dry red wine such as Syrah
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
4  cups, or as needed beef stock
1 ½ lbs Yukon gold potatotes, peeled and quartered
¼ milk
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg yolk, beaten


Season ribs with salt and pepper and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. Bring to room temperature and season again with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat until hot. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. In batches, sear ribs on all sides, turning as needed, until well browned. Transfer to a Dutch oven. Pour off all but 2 tbsp fate from sauté pan and return to medium heat. Add onion, celery, garlic and carrot and sauté until beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add wine, bay leaves, and thyme, raise heat to medium-high, and boil to reduce wine by half. Add stock, bring to a boil, and pour contents of pan over ribs. They should be just covered with liquid; add stock as needed.

Cover tightly and braise in oven, adding stock as needed to maintain liquid level, until a fork slides easily through meat, about 2 ½ hours. Skim off any fat from surface, let ribs cool in liquid until they can be handled, then remove ribs from pot and pull meat from bones. Shred meat into bite-sized pieces, return to Dutch oven, and discard bones.

While ribs are cooling, in a saucepan, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, dry in pan over low heat, then pass through ricer back into warm pan. In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter until mixture is steaming. Pour into potatoes, add egg yolk and fold to mix well.

Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Transfer contents of Dutch oven to a 9x13 inch baking dish or divide among 6 – 8 individual gratin dishes. Cover top(s) evenly with potatoes. Bake until topping is golden, 35-40 minutes. Serve at once.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rock Cakes

Hagrid’s rock cakes were always so hard they were nearly inedible. It turns out that his two mistakes were over mixing his dough and cooking his cakes for too long. If you are careful to keep both of these things in mind, you will create a cookie that is very soft and delicious. Keep in mind though that these are best served the day they are made, preferably within hours of baking. They do lose some of their soft and chewy texture the longer they sit. The original recipe called for raisins but I substituted dried cranberries for the raisins in my batch.

Rock Cakes
Adapted very slightly from The Unofficial Harry PotterCookbook

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted cold butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
½ cup whole milk
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour a large cookie sheet (or use a silicone mat). Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture reaches the consistency of wet sand.

Beat the egg together with the milk and pour it into the flour-butter mixture. Fold it together using a spatula to form a stiff dough. Fold in the dried cranberries. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the bottom are golden, rotating the pan midway through baking.

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