Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another Picnic Dish (Recipe: X-quisite Layered Fruit Salad)

I volunteered to do another dish for the Virtual Picnic, hosted by Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations. To refresh anyone's memory on the rules, each blogger chooses a letter and "brings" a dish that begins with that letter, also including all the dishes brought by the previous bloggers. Okay, here we go!

I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing...

A: Almond Joy Pie
By Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet

B: Baked Beans
By Grub and Stuff

C: Chocolate Picnic Cake
By Dying for Chocolate

By Sporadic Cook

E: Easy Blender Chicken Pie
By Simple Recipes

F: Five Bean Salad
By Moveable Feasts

By Fun Foods on a Budget

H: Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad
By Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

I: Incredibly Fruity Raspberry Cakes
By Raspberry and Chipotle

J: Jeweled Picnic Bars
By Rochelle's Vintage and Frugal Recipes

K: Kaltschale (Cold Fruit Soup)
By Kaffeeklatsch (German)

L: Long Island Lemonade Cocktail
By Culinary Types

M: Mushroom Tart
By Gherkins & Tomatoes

N: Nut Roast
By Green Gourmet Giraffe

O: Olive Nut Bread
By Chaya's Comfy Cook

P: Pomegranate Mousse Cake
By More Than a Mount Full

Q: Quiche
By Sweet and Savory

R: Raspberry Chocolate Macarons
By Anne's Food

S: Spicy Glazed Shrimp and Veggie Kabobs
By God's Perfect Promises

T: Turkey and Pear Wraps w/ Curried Aioli
By Girlichef

U: Unoriginal Whole Foods Salad Bar
By Mae's Food Blog

V: Vegetable Things of Spring Salad..Veal Shank with Risotto
..and Viennese Chocolate-Cherry Torte

By Postcards From The Dinner Table

W: White Caramel Popcorn
By One Crazy Cookie

My letter X: X-quisite Layered Fruit Salad (recipe below)
By Fun Foods on a Budget

I invented this exquisite salad tonight specifically for this picnic game! This recipe is partially based on my family's favorite fruit salad recipe, and utilizes the fruits I happened to have on hand. The layering is something I just thought of tonight, and adds a touch of elegance and beauty to the salad.

X-quisite Layered Fruit Salad
1 3.4-oz. box instant vanilla pudding mix
1 3/4 cup milk
1 12-oz. carton cool whip, divided
1 16-oz. carton cottage cheese
1 3-oz. box strawberry jello
2 cans fruit cocktail, well drained
4 large apples, chopped
1 lb. fresh strawberries

Whisk together pudding mix and milk for 1-2 minutes. Fold in half of cool whip. Chill while preparing other ingredients. Combine cottage cheese and remaining cool whip. Add jello.

Now it's time to layer. Pour drained fruit cocktail into large glass bowl (about 4 quart size, I think). Top with jello/cottage cheese mixture, then apples, then pudding mixture. Lastly, arrange strawberries on top. Cover and chill until serving.

I think the combination of a fruity jello-flavored sauce layer and a creamy pudding-flavored sauce layer really makes this salad pop. This can, of course, be customized with a variety of fruits and jello flavors. I just used what I had on hand, but I think it would be delicious with more fruits, like bananas, mandarin oranges, grapes, pomegranate seeds, fresh peaches, raspberries, etc. Plus, there's so much sauce in this salad that I think you could really get away with adding a larger amount of fruit (like mixing bananas with the apples before adding the pudding layer). Anyway, get creative! I know I will. :-)

The Picnic Game! (Recipe: Granola Bars)

When I was a child, we would play games on long road trips to make the time go more quickly. One of our favorites (that I still play with my husband sometimes) was the I'm Going to Grandma's House game. You start with "I'm going to Grandma's house, and I'm bringing [something starting with the letter A]. The next person says, " I'm going to Grandma's house, and I'm bringing [the word that starts with A] and [something that starts with B]. So on and so forth, you work your way through the alphabet, with each person reciting all the previous items before adding their own.

Apparently, there is a game that is very similar, called the picnic game. Same basic rules, just a couple differences. First, you start with "I'm going on a picnic..." And second, when we "went" to Grandma's house, we "brought" all sorts of random things, like aardvarks, umbrellas, and tutu-toting tortoises. For the picnic game, you have to "bring" a food. Actually, half the time our items for Grandma's house ended up being foods anyway, so this is right up my alley.

Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations is hosting a virtual Picnic. In order to participate in the Picnic Game, each blogger chooses a letter and brings a dish that begins with that letter. I love playing this kind of game, so I was excited to be invited to play Louise's virtual Picnic Game. Here goes!

I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing...

A - Almond Joy Pie
By Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet

B - Baked Beans
By Grub and Stuff

C - Chocolate Picnic Cake
By Dying for Chocolate

By Sporadic Cook

E - Easy Blender Chicken Pie
By Simple Recipes

F - Five Bean Salad
By Moveable Feasts

And my letter: G - Granola Bars!
By Fun Foods on a Budget

These bars are super yummy and super easy to make. Plus, you can customize them any way you want!

Granola Bars
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ or wheat bran
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup flour - all-purpose or whole wheat
1-2 cups additions - like nuts, dried fruits, and baking chips
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey, corn syrup, or pancake syrup
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, additions, and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes for chewy bars, or 30-35 minutes for crunchy bars. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

I have made these several times, doing something different each time. This delicious batch is chewy, made with 1/2 cup each raisins, slivered almonds, and white chocolate baking chips. Yum!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mrs. Fields Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies - Top Secret Recipes Version

Jeff and I have several books in the Top Secret Recipes series. We love being able to make copycat versions of foods that we usually wouldn't otherwise get (because we're too cheap to pay for them, haha). This is a recipe from Top Secret Recipes Unlocked; it's a copycat version of Mrs. Fields Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies. I made these for a picnic at the zoo with the in-laws. I have to admit that the star of the meal was my sister-in-law's chicken salad, but these cookies were super good too. :-)

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
Top Secret Recipes version of Mrs. Fields cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups chopped dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted these, we don't usually put nuts in our cookies)
3/4 cup white chocolate chunks (I used white baking chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet stuff until blended. Stir in the cranberries, walnuts, and white chocolate.

Spoon 1/4 cup portions 2 inches apart onto a nonstick surface (parchment paper, silicone mat, or Release foil [I just greased my cookie sheet, none of that fancy stuff for me]) on baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are just beginning to brown - the cookies will still be soft in the center. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

These cookies came out very large, a little crispy on the edges, and nice and soft in the middle. Yum!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


...For my camera! I have a couple posts that I need to write and post, but can't really do it until I upload a bunch of pictures. Okay, technically I could write them, but it'll be much more interesting with pictures. Now I know that camera's around here somewhere...

Well, when I find it I'll put up a nice recipe or two. But right now it's late and I really should get to bed. I just thought I'd pop in and let everyone know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth or anything. :-)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Homemade Salad Dressing

I love salad dressing. Ranch and Italian will always be favorites of course, but I also really enjoy "fancy" dressings. When they go on sale for super cheap we usually pick up several varieties of vinaigrettes and creamy dressings - red pepper, balsamic, bacon ranch, avocado, Greek, Asian sesame, creamy Italian - my mouth is watering.

But these sale-and-stock situations are pretty rare for us. So what do I do when we run out of all our fun salad dressings and I want to have a delicious salad? I make my own salad dressing, of course!

This particular recipe was originally titled Buttermilk & Onion Salad Dressing, but I didn't have buttermilk powder or dried minced onion. So this is basically just a yummy, creamy dressing without a real name.

Homemade Salad Dressing
1/2 cup dry milk powder (or use dry buttermilk powder)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried minced onion (if you've got it, use it)
1 tsp. monosodium glutamate (optional, I didn't add this)
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. dried parsley leaves (yikes, we're out. I substituted Italian seasoning)
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
2 cups mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice (omit if you're using buttermilk powder)
1 cup water

In a large bow, combine all dry ingredients. Add mayonnaise, lemon juice, and water, and blend thoroughly with a wire whisk. Pour into a 1-quart container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate overnight (skipped this step, we used it right away!). Makes about 3 cups.

This makes a somewhat thin dressing. If you prefer thicker dressing, start with about half the amount of water and add more until you get the desired consistency.

I only made a half batch of this, because we really didn't need a full 3 cups of dressing. Then I served it over a salad made of pasta, green leaf lettuce, tomato, carrot, olives, pepperoni, and Colby Jack cheese. Delicious!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grandma's Chili-Cheese Casserole

A few years ago, my paternal grandmother gave me (as well as many of her other granddaughters) a folder containing some of her favorite recipes. This is one of them. It's super simple, and takes only minutes to put together. Like many casseroles, it's not exactly the prettiest thing in the world, but it's yummy.

Here is the recipe exactly as Grandma wrote it.

Chili-Cheese Casserole

Mix together 1 large can chili con carne w/beans and 2 cans cream of mushroom soup. Layer in casserole with large flour tortillas and grated cheese, ending with cheese. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

When I made this, I only needed a little bit. Grandma would make this large enough to feed a crowd, but I only had my little family to feed. So I used one regular-sized can of chili and one can of soup, and layered the ingredients in a 9-inch round cake pan, then cooked it for 20 minutes. The soft-taco size tortillas were the perfect size to fit in my cake pan.