Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Burger Sauce

Perfect Pairing:  Slap Chop

Typically ketchup, mustard, and pickles get all the action when it comes to topping a hamburger.  This burger sauce combines all of those along with some other good stuff.    It is a one-stop shop sort of deal, and a fun way to jazz up the standard summer burger!  Try it with some onion slices and avocado.  So good.  It is also great as a sandwich spread.

I have been known to collect obscure cooking tools, but I think the “slap chop” is pretty standard in many kitchens nowadays.  I don’t use it all the time but there are times when it is great.  I typically enjoy chopping, but the slap chop is the perfect for this recipe.  I used it to chop up the bread and butter pickles.  The pickles tend to slide all over the place when you try to chop them with a knife. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

World’s Best Chocolate Layer Cake

Perfect Pairing:  Vegetable peeler

There has been no official study proving that this truly is the World’s Best Chocolate Layer Cake, but I think it is definitely the best.  Perhaps I am too emotionally attached to make an unbiased decision.  You see, this is my birthday cake!  My wonderful mom makes it for me every year.  Proof…
Try not to be jealous of my awesome short-sleeved sweater with shoulder pads.  Not sure what I was trying to accomplish with the hand under the chin move.
8 09 (420)-001

8 09 (1031)-001

That is when my age started with a "3"!

 2013 cake

I love the story behind this cake and how it became my personal birthday dessert.  My mom first tasted it at a family reunion in the summer of 1982.  She was 9 months pregnant with me and picked up a piece of this cake in the potluck line.  She absolutely loved it, and really wanted the recipe.  She left a note on the cake asking the cake-maker to find her and share the recipe.  I love that story!
The actual cake portion is nothing crazy, just a standard cake mix.  It is the chocolate layer in between the cake that makes this special.  This is how it goes down.
Slice the two 9 inch cakes in half, lengthwise.  This is much easier to manage if you freeze the cakes first.
Spread a layer of melted chocolate and toasted slivered almonds.  This layer hardens as it chills and just makes the whole thing over the top delicious.  It is kind of like a candy bar in the middle of the cake. 
 Another layer of cake, layer of cool whip, then more chocolate

Top everything off with cool whip and chocolate curls. 

Use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate curls before melting the rest of the chocolate.  It is so simple but adds a nice touch to the finished cake.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Salted Peanut Bars

Perfect Pairing:  Foil

This is another family favorite that we have been making for years.  They are the perfect combination of salty and sweet and crunchy and chewy.  I believe the recipe came from a Pillsbury bake-off pamphlet 15+ years ago, but I was not able to find the original source online.

The crust is almost like a chewy shortbread made with brown sugar.  That is topped with either salted peanuts or mixed nuts, your preference. 

Then the whole thing is drizzled with a butterscotch sauce. 

They are fabulous.  They are also hard to get out of the pan.  UNLESS you use the perfect pairing of foil!

You can see that they lift easily out of the pan on the foil, leaving a clean pan!  I get excited about things like this.

They also come off the foil easily for slicing.  You’re going to love them!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thai Peanut Pasta Salad

Perfect Pairing – San-J Thai Peanut Sauce

What a fabulous weekend!  As I suspected, it was full to the brim of fun and good times.  The weather was perfect and we definitely made the most of it.  Getting back to reality might be a little difficult!

I like my pasta salads to have a lot of veggies, texture, and crunch.  Most importantly they need to have a delicious dressing.  A good example is this Crunchy Asian Noodle Salad.


Recently I went to the store to get the ingredients for Thai Broccoli Slaw Salad.  To my great annoyance they were out of broccoli slaw.  I stood in the produce section looking helpless for a few minutes while I came up with an alternate recipe in my head.  Turns out, I am really glad they were out of broccoli slaw because I loved this salad.  It checked off all of my pasta salad pre-reqs, it was crunchy, filled with veggies, and had a fabulous dressing. 

I used whole wheat rotini as the base for the salad and added Napa cabbage, green onions, cilantro, and edamame.  Everything is tossed with store bought Thai peanut sauce and topped with honey roasted peanuts.  It is so easy to throw together.  I think I can safely say it is my favorite pasta salad.  It is definitely going to show up a lot on my summer menu.  It is perfect served alongside anything that comes off the grill.  I made this for a "wienerpalooza" party this weekend (more on that later) and it was a big hit.

You could certainly use your favorite store bought peanut sauce, but I used San-J Thai Peanut Sauce.  I will admit that I first started using it because it was the only one my store carried, but after trying multiple brands it is my favorite.

Monday, July 1, 2013

4th of July Recipes


I say this every year, but I really need summer to slow the heck down!  It is my absolute favorite season and it always goes by way too fast.  I can hardly believe Independence Day is this week.  The weather forecast in the Midwest looks great and I plan on taking full advantage of it.  My best friend is coming for a visit and I can’t wait to spend time with her and her sweet family!  There is sure to be lots of laughing, good food, great stories, family, friends, sunshine, and celebration.

Our menu planning for the holiday weekend is well underway.  Here are some ideas for your parties! 
Grapefruit Margaritas – Refreshing and summery


Chicken Sausage Appetizer – Only two ingredients and a surefire hit!

Caramelized Onion Dip – If you bring this to a party you will be going home with an empty bowl. 

Corn and Avocado Salsa – My personal favorite

Jicama and Chile Lime Salt – Fresh, healthy, spicy and delicious

Crunchy Asian Noodle Salad – Perfect for a crowd

Coconut Curry Grilled Pineaple – Throw this on the grill with your hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken breasts. 

Summer Corn Salad – Fresh corn, bacon, caramelized onions, avocado, and garden basil make this irresistible. 

Fruit Pizza Cookies – Festive and fun for the kids!

Lemon Trifle – Surprisingly light and fabulous

Strawberry Pie – An American classic
Happy Independence Day!
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