Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

I really love the Fall season.  The crisp air, the falling leaves, the scent of apple baked goods, soups simmering on the stove; I love it all.

I am happy to inaugurate my Fall baking season with this recipe.  Although it looks complicated, it's really easy and comes together quickly.  Not to mention, it makes quite a bit!  My Husband and I shared one piece and then I sent the rest of the 9x13 pan with him to work. I know that I'll be making these again this Fall for sure.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars
Recipe from: The Girl Who Ate Everything

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 sticks butter, softened

Cheesecake Filling:
3 (8oz) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped (I used 1 1/2 apples which yielded about 4 cups of chopped apples which I think was perfect.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar

Streusel Topping:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 stick butter, softened


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and brown sugar.  Cut the butter in with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.  Press evenly into a 9x13 pan.  The mixture is very moist so it worked best for me that I just used my clean hands to press it into the pan.

Bake for about 15 minutes until the crust is a golden brown.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with 3/4 cup of sugar until smooth.  Then, add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Pour this over the warm crust.

In a small bowl, stir together the apples, 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Spoon the apple mixture evenly over the cream cheese mixture.

For the streusel topping, mix together the flour, brown sugar and quick cooking oats. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender until it resembles a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until the filling is set.

Drizzle with caramel topping and let cool. Serve cold and enjoy! Makes 16 servings.

If [and that's a big IF] there are leftovers, I'd store them in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Raisin & Almond Granola

My Husband and I both really enjoy yogurt for breakfasts.  We usually just buy the individual servings of Yoplait but recently I just bought a large tub of Dannon yogurt and are going to make our own individual servings.  It's about the same cost, if not a little cheaper.

I decided that I wanted to make some granola to go with our yogurt.  I've made this recipe in the past so I looked it up again and now I'm finally blogging it!  I bought some grapes when I did some grocery shopping so I'll make my own yogurt, granola and grape parfait for breakfasts!  I made two batches of this recipe and it almost filled this cookie jar.

Raisin & Almond Granola
Recipe from: Ellie Krieger

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients.  Mix well so that the syrup has coated everything.  Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Be sure to stir occasionally.

The original recipe says that this should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  I plan on going through this pretty frequently so I'm not worried about it going bad.  I'm going to store it in the jar shown in the picture, on my counter.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Chicken

Whenever we go out to eat or even if we buy frozen appetizers from the grocery store, we usually enjoy some jalapeno poppers. Usually, they're pretty good.  Although, sometimes you'll get those duds that are a little soggy or have no flavor.

I enjoy jalapeno flavor but I don't always enjoy very much spice. This dish was perfect for me because you definitely got the flavor of jalapenos but it wasn't overwhelming.  You can keep some of the seeds in the jalapenos if you'd like to kick up the flavor a little bit.

This chicken has been on my radar for awhile now and we finally had the jalapenos on hand thanks to my Mom and Dad's plentiful garden.  This meal came together rather quickly but felt like it was more labor intensive than it was The chicken breasts that we had were very thick so I probably should have doubled the filling.

I took some leftovers for lunch the following day and it was good but dry.  I am pretty sure that's because I warmed it in the microwave.  I think leftovers warmed in the oven would be very good.

Jalapeno Popper Chicken
Adapted From: Elly Says Opa! 
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp taco seasoning
2 egg
4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced
3 chicken breasts

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with foil. Lightly spray the foil with cooking spray.

In a small skillet over medium heat, warm the breadcrumbs (I was hoping this would toast them a little, but I don't think it did.  Next time, I might use the panko breadcrumbs Elly's recipe suggests).

Add the taco seasoning to the breadcrumbs and place in a shallow dish.

In a separate shallow bowl or dish, lightly beat the eggs.  In another shallow bowl or dish combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and jalapenos.

Using a small knife, cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast or horizontally slice the chicken through the center, until it is almost butterflied. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper and then divide the cream cheese mixture evenly between each chicken breast's pocket. I used a pampered chef scoop and that worked really well.  One thing I would recommend is to warm the cream cheese slightly so that it's more easily spread on the chicken breasts.

Dip the chicken pieces one at a time, first into the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture, making sure to coat the chicken completely.  Place the chicken onto your prepared baking sheet and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cheesy Green Beans

This is a recipe from my Grandma.  I remember she would always make these when we were up visiting at her house and they were most definitely at each Holiday meal.  As Grandma has gotten older, she's not cooked as much and usually Holiday meals are now at my Mom's house.  We were visiting her recently when she made lunch for us and these beans were on the menu.  I love green beans to begin with, but these were nothing short of nostalgic.

Some people might shrug their shoulders or turn their nose since these are made using canned beans and processed cheese slices.  I, however, will continue to make them and share them with my kids.

They look like a pile of mush, and not very appetizing in this picture, but trust me.  They're good! 

Cheesy Green Beans
From: Grandma 

Can of french cut green beans (as many cans as you'd like to serve)
Pasteurized american cheese slices (such as Kraft
a couple tablespoons of butter

Prepare the beans on the stove-top as directed.  Drain the water.  Put your beans back in the pot you used to cook them.  Keep the stove on warm-low. Tear your cheese slices into small pieces and place in the beans.  Add one tablespoon of butter.  Mix the cheese & butter into the beans.  Stir the cheese around in the beans until it and the butter melt.  Add more butter if you think it's necessary until you reach a creamy consistency.  The beans should not be runny. 

When you've got the consistency that you want, transfer to a serving dish and serve! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chicken Mandarin Salad

I first had this salad when Matt and I were dating and I was at his house for dinner.  It's SO good.  His Mom makes it pretty often and I can see why! It's a lengthy recipe but SO worth it.  Please don't hesitate to make this salad, despite it's long list of ingredients, it's pretty easy to make!

We made this for dinner on one of the nights that we were having a 90* heat wave.  It was nice to have a cold, refreshing salad for dinner.

This recipe is featured in a family cookbook that Matt's family made to raise funds when his Grandpa was diagnosed with Leukemia. In the front of the cookbook, they have a page dedicating the book to his Grandpa, Dallan Walter.

The second paragraph says "In our homes today, as always, life is centered around the kitchen.  It is with this thought in mind that we have compiled these recipes.  Some of the recipes are treasured family keepsakes and some are new; however, they all reflect the love of good cooking."

The picture on the bottom is of a cabin, the woods and a fish jumping out of a lake.  All things that Dallan treasured. I love the stories that Matt would tell me of his Grandpa. They'd spend time up north, Grandpa would take them fishing, Grandpa would tell them stories, overall, Grandpa was their Guy.  Matt is the oldest Grandchild on that side and so he got to spend lots of great, quality time with his Grandpa.

Now, after getting a little sentimental, let's get on to the recipe!

Chicken Mandarin Salad
Recipe from: Family Cookbook

For the chicken and marinade:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup orange juice
4 green onions, cut into rings
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast

For the salad dressing:
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 1/4 tsp onion juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp dry mustard
salt to taste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 tsp toasted sesame seeds (I left these out because they were so expensive at the store!)

To marinate the chicken, combine the soy sauce, orange juice, half the green onion and garlic in a large plastic bag. Add chicken, seal & refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.  Grill or broil chicken until cooked.  Chill thoroughly, then cut into strips.

To make the dressing, combine the sugar, vinegar, onion juice, soy sauce, mustard and salt in a medium bowl. Start mixing with an electric mixer on medium speed. Slowly add oil and mix until thick. Add sesame seeds and beat thoroughly. Cover and set in the refrigerator to chill while you finish preparing.

For the salad:
5 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
5 tblsp diced roasted red peppers (can use canned)
1 (8oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained (I omitted these because Matt doesn't like them)
1 (11oz) can mandarin orange sections, drained
1 cup frozen pea pods, thawed and patted dry
2 1/2 cups of romaine lettuce
2 1/2 cups of iceberg lettuce
1 cup flat thick cut chow mein noodles (we used wonton strips)
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
5 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Combine the chicken, bacon, red pepper, water chestnuts, orange sections, pea pods, remaining green onion, and both varieties of lettuce in a large bowl.  Add 3/4 cup of the dressing and toss lightly. Add wonton strips or chow mein noodles and toss again. Before serving, garnish with almonds and sesame seeds.

Makes 4 servings