Saturday, June 25, 2016

Recipe: Banana Cream Cheesecake



How did I ever forget to post this recipe? This used to be one of our favorite desserts after a friend had made it for a get together. I made it often, then for whatever reason it got tucked away and it's been years since we've had it. I love recipes that also have memories attached to them. Don't you?


Last weekend for Fathers Day I pulled it out and made it again. It was hit with only one piece left. The original recipe calls for packaged pudding but I thought I'd try making my own. Over the last several years we have been on a journey of healthier eating, using less processed foods, or at least those foods being organic or as good as possible. This recipe calls for a few things that I'd typically avoid but wasn't sure about what to substitute and didn't really want to experiment. However, I was willing to try the pudding. I had a boxed mix on hand, and I know you can find organic instant pudding, but not in my small town in the two stores we have. The other item is cool whip and I just wasn't sure about this...maybe whipped cream beaten to stiff peaks would have worked, but again, I didn't want to mess with experimenting. 

This is a great dessert that is so good, especially during the summer months. I love dishes that are simple, yet pack great flavor and can be casual or elegant. I'm sure you could experiment with flavors as well. So add it to your list and try it out! Come back and let me know what you think. 

Ingredients: 

1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 28 squares)
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 carton (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed, divided
3-4 medium bananas, sliced
1 3/4 c. cold milk
1 pkg. (3.4oz) instant pudding, (banana or vanilla...I use vanilla)

Instructions:

1. In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar. Stir in butter. Set aside 1/2 c. for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9" springform pan or 9" square baking pan. Bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.


2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Fold in 2 c. of whipped topping. Arrange half of the banana slices on crust; top with half the cream cheese mixture. Repeat layers.

3. In a bowl, beat milk and pudding mix until smooth. Fold in remaining whipped topping. Pour over final cream cheese layer and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Refrigerate for  1-2 hours or until set. 


It's guaranteed to be a hit! 

If you make your own pudding, it may not set quite as well as the store bought kind. I may need to tweak this a bit or let it set longer. Or, possibly it was the combination with the cool whip, which I may just leave out next time. It still tasted very, very good!

With Joy UNquenchable,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Quick and Easy Chicken Chopped Salad

As much as I love doing almost everything from scratch, there are certain shortcuts I take because of time and sometimes money, though while taking shortcuts, I try to still remain true to buying items with the best ingredients, not settling for a cheap substitute.

A few days ago while waiting for my daughter to finish up a class, I stopped in at Fred Meyers to purchase something to make for dinner. I live in a small town about 20-30 minutes drive to a larger city and while our town does have a Safeway and a Walmart, sometimes I miss the convenience of visiting larger stores more often, or stores like Trader Joes, Chucks Produce, etc..with more of a variety of healthy options. So, as I was perusing the aisles, I saw some Dole Chopped Salad mixes on sale. I have always wanted to try a chopped salad, but just never took the time to purchase all the ingredients to put it together. The BBQ Ranch Chopped Salad Kit caught my eye and I thought it would be perfect with some grilled chicken on top! This particular kit included: green cabbage, red cabbage, green onion, kale, carrots, cheddar tortilla strips, crispy fried onions, and BBQ Ranch Dressing. I then headed off to find some chicken tenders, opting for their Simple Truth brand. I knew this would make a great meal. 

Once home all it takes is a simple seasoning of the chicken, my favorites being, garlic and onion powder, pepper, paprika, and maybe just a bit of italian seasoning. Grill the tenders, allow to cool or serve hot over the salad. We found that we actually really like the salad this way. It's much easier to eat and has great flavor. We had leftover salad and chicken which I ate for lunch the next day. While the dressing was gone, I did have a jar of Ranch in the fridge as well as a bottle of BBQ sauce, so I combined the two and came up with a great substitute for the package that came with the kit, plus I knew better what the ingredients were in the combo I mixed. 

What I discovered is that these kits would be a perfect meal for last minute guests, to take to a picnic or potluck or to have on hand for those nights you don't want to fix something. Hard boil some eggs, add some bacon or other protein, the options are endless...they are easier to eat and I found, more substantial and filling. We enjoyed them so much, it's what I made for dinner last night, this time opting to just make my own dressing. Winner, Winner, Chicken Chopped Salad Dinner!

I know you can easily make this yourself, as well, and I'm sure I'll try that too. When it comes to lettuces, I try to always buy those organic, but I couldn't find an organic kit so I purchased what was there. I would like to try it myself, but it's nice to know the kits are available in a jam! If we have had a heavy meal on a particular day, I like to light the next day, usually serving a large salad. 

With Joy UNquenchable,

Monday, June 20, 2016

SRC Reveal: Gnocchi with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Garlic Cream Sauce

Oh, you guys, it's that time of month again for Secret Recipe Club Reveal, and I've got a yummy one for you this month. Well, they're always yummy, but I really love this one because I really love the main ingredient. I have really enjoyed being a part of The Secret Recipe Club. It helps get me out of my rut of not knowing what to make or always making the same things. 

This month I was assigned the blog My Wholefood Family. I fell in love with the name because our family does try to stick to whole foods, healthier foods, etc.. Susan is an Aussie mom, which is pretty cool, (my youngest wants to go to Australia and jokes that she wants to marry an Aussie...she's a sucker for the accent), to three little boys. Check out her About Me page for more about her family and her desire to get back to basics and cook with less processed ingredients. I think we'd get along great. She had so many recipes I'd love to try, especially baking ones where she uses different types of flours, etc..

There have been a few times when I've gotten a blogger from another country and have struggled with measurements conversions..have those of you in those other countries had the same struggles with our measurements? There were a few recipes I wanted to try but I just couldn't figure the conversion or was getting different answers from different places online. The other thing I find sometimes and I'm sure it's the same way the other side around is finding certain ingredients or knowing what the ingredients are...it's a great challenge though, because it makes me do some research or hunt for an equally acceptable alternative. I really do enjoy it. 


I decided to make her Gnocchi with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Garlic Cream Sauce. I mean with all those ingredients in the title, who could go wrong! It was a winner! I'm sure I'll make it again. In fact I have another pack of gnocchi up in the cupboard. 

Ingredients:

2 pack gnocchi
1 large sweet potato
2 Tbs. butter
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. sliced mushrooms
2 c. heavy cream (her recipe called for 400ml of pure cream...I figured heavy was close..no idea..lol)
pinch salt
black pepper
lots of fresh parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1. Peel sweet potato, then cut into 1/2" cubes (I wanted them to be easy to eat but you could make them larger). Toss with olive oil and bake in a hot oven (about 375) till tender. I cooked mine on parchment paper so it wouldn't stick. Cook until golden, about 20-30 minutes.
2. In a saute pan, cook onion, garlic and mushrooms in butter until tender and liquid has evaporated. Add cream and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. 
4. Once gnocchi is cooked and in a separate bowl, add sweet potatoes and cream mixture, tossing to coat. Add shredded parmesan to the top and serve. 

Pretty sure even a picky eater would enjoy this!





With Joy UNquenchable,

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cereal Box Packaging.....


I love ideas that involve re-using something, salvaging something, or anything similar, especially since I started following the blog Salvage Sister and Mister. My friend Deborah and her hubby are masters at salvaging, reusing, etc...please check out their blog and FB page. Anyways, about a week ago, a friend said she had an extra cookbook and wondered if I'd like it. I said sure, whey not (I also love hand me downs) so when I received the package in the mail I was pleasantly surprised to find the box she used was actually a cereal box! Now, why hadn't I ever, ever thought of that?! What a great idea. So I looked in my recycled items, stacked in the kitchen waiting to be disposed of and found a cereal box. I wanted to re-create the idea. Now, I wouldn't recommend this for something too heavy unless you are going to reinforce it, and you certainly don't want to use it for something fragile, but it was great for a small book or you could even use it to wrap a birthday or Christmas gift....at least I don't think it's tacky...someone else might. Boxes can be spendy and HELLO...they just get thrown away, usually, unless you live with someone who likes to recycle. 

Or How many times have you gone to look for a box at the last minute, only to find you had nothing? I'm not saying save all of your cereal boxes, but why not set a few aside for those moments when you're desperate. I try to save a few boxes when I get things from Amazon or somewhere. Often I have to return textbooks that we've rented from Chegg or Amazon, or I just need a gift box, especially around birthday or Christmas.

 Hunt through your good ole' recycle bin and find a box!
 Begin disassembling the box carefully!
 Once it's disassembled, flip it over!

 begin re-assembling, taping as you go. I would use packing tape instead of scotch tape, I just didn't have any. 

 Here ya go, ready to fill up. 
I found a little bit of fancy packing tape so I added it. It really is a great idea and an awesome way to re-use something you almost always have in your home. 


With Joy UNquenchable,

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Easy Triscuit Appetizer

Summer is here folks and with come BBQ's, get togethers, or just too hot of weather to cook. I have the perfect appetizer, snack or shoot, make a meal out of it. I mean, I could make enough, eat them and be a happy camper. 

Growing up in a home that was half Italian, I ate my fair share of ricotta cheese. I love that stuff. I mean, really, LOVE. THAT. STUFF. Awhile back I bought some to make Chicken and Spinach Stuffed Shells, a favorite recipe of ours. I figured I should probably find a way to use it up, other than eating with a spoon, out of the carton. I found the perfect combination.

Triscuits are one of those versatile crackers that can be used for almost anything. Sometimes we like to add a thick slice of salami and a piece of cheese and melt it in the oven. How about mini pizzas? The skies the limit. Another fresh, yummy treat involves my favorite Ricotta Cheese, tomatoes and fresh basil. Simple ingredients for a simple snack. You could use a lower fat ricotta, but often times I find that things labeled "sugar free" or "fat free" contains other ingredients I don't want in my body so I just buy the real deal and maybe eat less...or not!
Ingredients: 

Triscuits
Ricotta Cheese (leave plain or season)
Basil cut into small pieces or ribbons
fresh tomato, sliced and cut into quarters or to fit triscuit.

Instructions:

Do we really need instructions? You can certainly season the ricotta cheese if you like...maybe with some garlic or onion salt, pepper, even some Italian seasoning, but with the basil on top I don't think you need much of anything else. Spread a fair amount of ricotta on cracker, top with tomato slice and a ribbon of basil. There you have it! Simple, easy, fresh, YUMMY!

Go enjoy your summer!



With Joy UNquenchable,

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