Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Perfect Spring Dessert: Berries and Cream

When spring time hits and the strawberries go on sale at the grocery store, who could resist a little berries and cream for dessert?

I really liked this recipe. It was very simple. The addition of the buttermilk to the whipped cream added a nice tangy taste. The use of gelatin helped the whipped cream hold its shape longer than if it had been simple whipped cream and gave it a wonderful, thick, custard-like texture.

The recipe instructs you to dip each ramekin briefly in steaming hot water and invert it onto serving plates before topping it with strawberries. However, I felt that the dessert was just as pretty served in the ramekin itself. Plus, it was a lot less work and fewer dishes!

Oh, and I know I shared these links before, but you just have to watch them when you are thinking about or eating berries and cream. So, watch this, or maybe this version (since it has 10 million views). Oh, and this. Don't forget this one! Seriously, why didn't this commercial run longer? It always made me laugh. Who couldn't love the berries and cream little well as his little lad dance?

Buttermilk Creams with Strawberries

Whipped cream gives these no-bake eggless custards a delicate texture. Don't worry if the mixture forms clumps at first--it will come together with gentle folding.


1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4 ounce envelope)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 3 tablespoons cold water. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Heat over low, stirring, until gelatin has dissolved, about 30 seconds.

In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup sugar with buttermilk until dissolved. Whisking constantly, add gelatin mixture in a very thin stream. In another large bowl, beat cream and 1/4 cup sugar until soft peaks form.

With a rubber spatula, gently stir half of whipped cream into buttermilk mixture: fold in remaining whipped cream. Divide among eight 6-ounce ramekins. Refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours (or up to 1 day, covered with plastic wrap).

When ready to serve, toss strawberries with 1/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon water. Let stand until juicy, about 5 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge of each ramekin and dip each briefly in steaming hot water. Invert buttermilk creams onto serving plates and top with strawberries.

Above: Before adding the strawberries.

Source: Everyday Food, May 2009. You can find it here.

Notes: As I mentioned above, I didn't worry about unmolding these. I didn't have the time, I didn't want to do extra dishes, and they looked absolutely gorgeous already served in the ramekins.


Above: Just look at this great blank canvas! You could top this with fresh raspberries, blackberries, chopped mango, chopped peaches...any kind of fruit that you like with cream. Yum!

Just a Couple of Appetizers

I have a whole bunch of appetizers that I want to post...but for now, I will share two relatively new discoveries with you. I hope you like them! I did!

Pineapple Cheese Ball


2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (8 ounces) unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts (you can also substitute chopped parsley or chives)
Assorted crackers


In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, pineapple, green pepper, onion, and seasoned salt until blended. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minute. Shape into a ball; roll in walnuts (or chopped parsley or chives). Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with crackers.

Yield: 1 cheese ball (3 cups)

Nutrition information: 1 serving (2 tablespoons) equals 87 calories, 8 g fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 155 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.

Source: Taste of Home. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: I wanted to try this because years ago, a co-worker brought a pineapple cheese log into work around the holidays. It was to die for. This one is quite good too. I love the combination of salty and sweet.

Double-Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms


16 large fresh mushrooms (1 1/2 lbs.)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp finely chopped onions
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
14 Ritz Crackers, finely crushed (about 1/2 cup), divided
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley, divided


Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove stems from mushrooms; set aside. Use melon baller to carefully scoop small amount of flesh from each mushroom cap. Finely chop removed flesh and stems. Place caps, hollowed-sides up, on parchment-covered rimmed baking sheet.

Melt butter in large skillet on medium heat. Add chopped flesh, stems, and onions; cook and stir 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in next 3 ingredients, and half each of the cracker crumbs and parsley; spoon into mushroom caps. Top with remaining crumbs.

Bake 25 minutes, or until heated through; sprinkle with remaining parsley.

Recipe note: For best results, use mushrooms with caps that are about 2 inches in diameter.

16 servings.

Nutrition information: 60 calories, 4.5 g fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 115 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 3 g protein.

Source: You can find it here.

Notes: Holy cow, these were good. Again, this recipe discovery was prompted by a potluck years ago where someone brought some amazing stuffed mushrooms. These were every bit as good...if not better! Yum!

Game Day Foods

Well, we actually made these for the Superbowl, but the thing I have (sadly) learned is that there is always some sort of playoff or championship game going on. So, these are good options to make for the men in your life as they are celebrating some game or another!

Southwestern Corn-Cheese Dip


1 can (11oz) Green Giant Steam Crisp Southwestern Style Corn
8 oz. Mexican prepared cheese product with jalapeno peppers, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or sliced green onions, if desired
Tortilla chips


Drain liquid from corn into 2 quart saucepan. Add cheese; cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly until melted.

Stir in corn. Cook until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips.

8 servings.

Also can be served with fresh veggies (jicama, green beans, celery, and asparagus)

Source Betty Crocker. You can find it here.

Notes:  Come on just say it...It's Velveeta. Seriously took too long on the stove top. I pulled it out of the pan and nuked it in the microwave and added the corn in the final nuking.

Ultimate Hoagie Dip


1/2 lb bologna, cut into pieces
1/2 lb ham, cut into pieces
1/4 lb Genoa salami, chopped
1/4 lb pepperoni, chopped
1/4 lb American cheese, cut into pieces
1/4 lb provolone cheese, cut into pieces
3/4 c. mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 kosher picked, chopped
1 c. shredded lettuce
1 tomato, chopped


Combine the bologna, ham, salami, pepperoni, American cheese, and provolone cheese in a bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, garlic powder, and oregano. Sprinkle the pickle lettuce and tomato on top.

Source, submitted by CC0202. You can find it here.

Notes: Really good. Skipped the bologna because it makes Sarah throw up to think about it. Do ahead tip: Mix the mayo and spices and keep separately. The chopped ingredients can be put in a separate bowl. Wait until serving to combine with mayo. I would not serve this in a bowl next time because with the lettuce and tomatoes on top, it looked too much like a salad. But this was yummy.

Frog Lemonade

"Named in honor of the New Orleans Times-Picaunes' 'Weather Prophet,' the Picayune frong, who ws pictured on the newspaper's daily weather report for 1894 to 1982.


2 c. sugar
2 c. fresh lemon juice (approx 6-8 lemons)
1 1/2 c. pineapple juice
2 qts water
2 qts seltzer water
3 dozen strawberries, sliced
1 pineapple, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Sugar to taste
1 large ice chunk
Crushed ice, for serving.


Place sugar, lemon juice, pineapple juice, water and seltzer water in a large punchbowl and stir. Add strawberry, pineapple and lemon slices. Sweeten to taste and add ice chunk to bowl. When ready to serve, fill glasses 1/4 full with crushed ice and then fill with lemonade. Makes about 20 servings.

Source: The Costco Connection Magazine February 2013

Note: the general consensus was that the strawberries weren't incorporated enough. I had squeezed the lemon juice ahead and put it in the fridge until serving time. If I did this again, I would add that to the strawberries and leech out some of that flavor.

Loaded Baked Potato Chex Mix


5 c Rice Chex cereal
3 c. Corn Chex cereal
4 c. shoestring potatoes (in package, similar to large Pringles container)
2 c. bite sized cheese crackers (Cheese Nips)
1/4 c. bacon flavor bits or chips
1/4 c. butter or margarine
1 pkg (1 oz) ranch dressing and seasoning mix
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese


In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, potatoes, cracker and bacon bits.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 30 seconds or until melted. Pour over cereal mixture; sitr until evenly coated. Stir in dressing mix and cheese until evenly coated.

Microwave uncovered on High 3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Spread on waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in airtight container.

26 servings (1/2 c. each)

Source: I'll have to get the source from my Mom, but my guess is that it came from Chex. :)

Note: I think I did 5 Cups corn Chex and it was too much. Messed with the balance, but this was still good.

Sweet Pork Slow Cooker Chili


2 pounds ground pork
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced small
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, drained
1 (11 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 (12 oz)can tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 c. chopped green onions
1 c. chopped baby corn
1 1/4 c. hard apple cider
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon white vinegar


Cook the ground pork in a skilled over medium heat until completely browned, drain.

Combine the cooked pork with remaining ingredients in a large slow cooker. Stir.

Set slow cooker to high. Cook at least 4 hours.

Source: This is an recipe submitted by Alex N. You can find it here.

Note: I didn't have fresh corn for the baby corn. I just used some frozen. This is just as it says. It is a sweet chili...not super spicy. I thought it was really good.

Layered Pizza Dip

1 (8 oz.) container soft cream cheese with chives and onions
1/2 c. pizza sauce
1/2 c. chopped green bell pepper
1/3 c. finely chopped pepperoni
2 oz. (1/2 c.) shredded mozzarella cheese
2 oz. (1/2 c.) shredded cheddar cheese


Heat over ton 350. In ungreased 9 in. pie pan or 1 to 1 1/2 qt. baking dish, layer all ingredients in order listed.

Bake at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes or until dip is hot and cheese is melted.

Serve warm with bagel crisps, bagel chips, or crackers.

Makes 2 cups.

Do-ahead: Layer the ingredients and store wrapped in the fridge up to 24 hours ahead. Let sit at room temp just a few minutes before baking.

Source: Betty Crocker. You can find it here.

Oreo Cupcakes


24 Oreo Cookies
1 pgk. (2 layer size) chocolate cake mix (and ingredients listed on box to bake cake)
2 cups thawed frozen whipped topping


Place 1 cookie in each of 24 paper-lined muffin cups. Prepare cake batter as directed on package; spoon over cookies. Bake cupcakes as directed on package. Cool in pans 5 minutes; remove to wire racks. Cool completely.

Remove paper lines; cute cupcakes horizontally in half.

Fill with whipped topping. Serve cookie-sides up.

Source: You can find it here.

Note: I only did about six of them slicing them in half. I don't think it really gave the appearance I was going for. Also, I didn't want to just use whipped topping. I searched for a knock off Oreo cream filling. I used the one on I added some milk to the filling because I could not get it to the consistency I wanted. But it did end up tasting good. That recipes is as follows:

Oreo Cream Filling Frosting


3 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 Tablespoons hot water
2-4 Tablespoons milk, if necessary


Combine ingredients, except milk, with an electric mixer. Add desired amount of milk to achieve desired frosting consistency.


Thanks for the Idea!

I like potlucks because you get great ideas and recipes from other people. Not every family cooks the same, and it is kind of fun to see what other people do.

We had a family dinner where we made pizzas. I told everyone that I would provide the dough and make a few pizza staples (cheese pizza, pepperoni, Hawaiian, BBQ Pork, black olive). I also asked them to bring some of their favorite toppings so that they could top a pizza of their own to share with us.

My sister-in-law, Kim, brought this great topping combination that was really easy and super delicious. If you haven't tried this before, you need to!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza


Pizza dough
Kraft Ranch dressing
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Chicken, cooked and shredded into small pieces
Cilantro, chopped


Stretch pizza dough and put it on your pizza pan.

Spread pizza dough with desired amount of ranch dressing. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Top with crumbled bacon and chicken.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the pizza dough is nicely browned.

Top with chopped cilantro, if desired.

Source: My lovely sister-in-law!

Notes: Yum! This was so was one of the first (if not the first) pizza to disappear.

Just Good, Basic, Comfort Food

There is no need for a long explanation me, baked pasta and some yummy Italian bread will always make for great comfort food.

Baked Penne with Italian Sausage


1 (12 ounce) package dry penne pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add past and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Place sausage and onion in the skillet and cook over medium high heat until evenly browned. Drain excess fat. Pour in wine (or chicken broth), and cook for 1 minute, stirring, to deglaze the pan. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss with cooked pasta, and place in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle top with mozzarella.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Source: submitted by SADIEQQ. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: I have nothing to add. This was just good stuff!

Bacon, Herb & Cheese Snack Bread


4 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour
2 envelopes Fleischmann's rapid rise yeast
2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs 
8 ounces (2 cups) shredded cheese blend, divided
10 sliced cooked bacon, coarsely chopped


Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, undissolved yeast, Italian herb seasoning, salt, and garlic in a large mixer bowl. Heat water and oil until very warm (120 to 130 degrees F.); gradually add to flour mixture. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add eggs and 1 cup flour; beat 2 minutes at high speed. Stir in 1 cup cheese and remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Spread batter on greased 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan, or rimmed baking sheet with at least 1-inch sides. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; top with bacon. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until puffy, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until done. Cover loosely with foil during last 5 to 10 minutes of baking if cheese topping beging to overbrown. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack. Serve as strips or squares, or slice and use for sandwiches.

Variation: Replace bacon with 1 1/2 ounces thinly sliced salami.

Source: My Mom found this in a group of coupons in a mailer. judging by the ingredients list, I would say it came from King Arthur flour and Fleischmann's yeast.

Notes: Sorry! I forgot to snap a picture of this one! However, it was delicious...and pretty to look at!

No Recipe Required: Classic Kid Treat

My Mom made these for us...I've made them for my kids...hopefully, the tradition will continue.

Dirt Cups


Pudding (instant pudding prepared according to package directions--or heck, you can even use pudding snack packs!)
Crushed Oreo cookies
Gummy worms


Divide pudding equally among glasses. Top with crushed Oreo cookies (if using snack packs, you can put the crushed cookies directly on top of the opened pudding cup rather than putting the pudding into a cup, of course).

Place one or more gummy worms on top of the crushed Oreo cookies.

Variation: Using vanilla pudding and crushed vanilla wafers or crushed golden Oreos, you can make Sand Cups instead of dirt cups. You can top your sand cups with beach or ocean inspired gummy candies instead of the worms.

Source: I think this was first thought up by the Kraft Recipes folks. You can find their slightly different version of the recipe here.

Notes: You can keep these simple, as seen above, or you can add a little more (as found in the Kraft recipe--they add Cool Whip, by mixing it into the pudding mixture. They also add crushed cookies into the pudding as well as on top of the pudding).

Oh, Fudge!

If you haven't seen A Christmas Story, you have to...but since it is April, wait until Christmas (or if you want to follow our family tradition, watch it while you are eating pie on Thanksgiving in the evening to welcome in the Christmas season).

One scene features Ralphie saying, "Ooooh, fuuuuudge...," and then going on to explain, the narrator (grown up Ralphie) says, "Only I didn't say 'fudge.' I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the 'F-dash-dash-dash' word."

In honor of that scene, I will be sharing some delicious and easy fudge recipes today (no candy thermometer required).

Bavarian Mint Fudge


1 1/2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 package (11 1/2 ounces) milk chocolate chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Line an 11-in. x 7-in. pan with foil and grease the foil with 1 1/2 teaspoons butter; set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and remaining butter; stir until smooth. Stir in milk and extracts until well blended. Spread into prepared pan. Refrigerate until set.

Using the foil, life fudge out of the pan. Discard foil; cut fudge into 1-in. squares. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: about 2 1/2 pounds, or 77 pieces.

Nutrition information: 1 serving (1 piece) equals 62 calories, 3 g fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 13 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein.

Source: Taste of Home. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: The mint taste of this fudge is so subtle...kind of like a mint truffle. Delicious. My only advice? This doesn't take long to make, but it seems like my kids will completely ignore me while I am cooking--unless it is one of those cooking moments that require my full attention...such as sauteeing onions and spices just before adding the broth or tomatoes...or when you are stirring sweetened condensed milk into melted chocolate and trying to get it smooth and not overworked. Well, both of my boys had meltdowns and immediately needed me right when I was mixing the condensed milk into the melted chocolate. As a result, my fudge didn't turn out quite as smooth as it would have. However, it tasted fantastic.

Strawberry Shortcake Fudge (with variations)


1 can Duncan Hines starter icing
1 packet Duncan Hines Frosting Creations (any flavor you like--in this case, strawberry shortcake)
1 bag white chocolate chips
Sprinkles or other toppings or mix-ins (optional)


Line an 8x8-inch pan with aluminum foil.

Mix frosting creations packet into icing starter.

Melt white chocolate chips in microwave. Melt in 30 second increments, stirring during each interval until smooth.

Mix icing into melted chocolate chips (if using mix-ins, stir these in now).

Pour into foil lined pan. Sprinkle toppings on top if you would like.

Chill for 2 hours.

Makes 64 1x1 inch pieces.

Source: We found this on a blog called Make-Bake-Celebrate. You can find the recipe here.

Variations: The flavors, mix-ins, and toppings are only limited to your own imagination. You can use any kind of frosting you like (Duncan Hines Frosting Creations...or any other kind of canned frosting). How about normal white vanilla frosting with crushed Oreo cookies mixed in?With the Duncan Hines Frosting Creations flavors and your own imagination, just think of the possibilities!

Above: We made caramel fudge too (using the Duncan Hines Frosting Creations)

Above: Classic chocolate fudge.

Below is a list of all of Duncan Hines Frosting Creations flavors:

Key Lime Pie
Peaches and Creme
Pink Lemonade
Fruit Punch
Bubble Gum
Cherry Vanilla
Chocolate Almond
Chocolate Marshmallow
Cinnamon Roll
Cotton Candy
Mint Chocolate
Orange Creme
Strawberry Shortcake
White Chocolate Raspberry

Birthday Cake Fudge aka Cake Batter Fudge


2 cups and 2 tbsp white or yellow cake mix
2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter, cut into four pieces
1/4 cup milk
2/3 cup white chocolate chips
Sprinkles, optional
1 can of icing, optional


Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with foil. Lightly grease foil.

In a large microwave safe bowl, mix together cake mix and powdered sugar until completely blended. Add in milk and butter.

Microwave for 2 minutes. Your butter should be almost completely melted. If not, microwave it for a little longer.

Stir together until blended. It will be a thick consistency. Then, fold in your white chocolate chips. The hot batter will melt them as you stir. Be sure to keep stirring and folding until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate chips are melted.

Pour your fudge batter into your foiled lined baking dish and smooth out with a spatula. You can use a piece of wax paper and an icing smoother to get your fudge nicely smoothed and leveled.

Add sprinkles on top, if using (unless you are using a can of icing to frost your fudge, in which case, you would wait to add your sprinkles).

Let chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Then lift the fudge out of the pan using the foil.

If you want to frost your fudge, pull the foil back and add icing and sprinkles.

Cut into 1 inch squares.

The chill time will depend on how stiff you like your fudge.

Source:  This also came from the blog Make-Bake-Celebrate. You can find it here. She was inspired by a blog called Sally's Baking Addiction. You can find it here.

Notes: These were delicious. We opted not to frost ours. Personally, topping fudge with frosting seems like a good way to die from a sugar overdose, you know? There can be too much of a good thing!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fun for the Kids

This is a great play dough recipe that I thought I would share. Enough said!

Holiday Fun Dough


1 1/4 cups Original Bisquick mix
1/4 cup salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon liquid food color


In a 4-cup microwavable measuring cup, stir Bisquick mix, salt, and cream of tartar until mixed. In liquid measuring cup, mix water and food color.

Stir in a small amount of colored water at a time into dry mixture until all water is added. Microwave covered on high for 1 minute. Scrape mixture from side of cup and stir. Microwave uncovered 2 to 3 minutes longer, stirring every minute, until mixture forms a ball. Let dough stand uncovered about 3 minutes.

Remove dough from measuring cup, using spoon. Knead dough in your hands or on the counter about 1 minute, or until smooth. (If dough is sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons Bisquick mix.) Cool about 15 minutes.

Use dough to make fun shapes. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator up to 30 days. Dough is not edible.

Source: Betty Crocker recipe found here.

Notes: This stuff is an awesome texture and consistency. It is so easy to make, and my kids love playing with it. I like to heat it up for about 15 seconds in the microwave (after it has been refrigerated) each time my boys play with it...otherwise, it is kind of cold to handle until it warms up to room temperature.


Last summer, we did a mini carnival/state fair for the kids/cousins/grandkids on my side of the family. We had corn dogs for dinner, tortilla chips with nacho sauce and jalapenos, cupcakes, chocolate covered rice crispies treats on a stick, kettle corn, funnel cakes, cotton candy (my Mom has a cotton candy maker, and we bought some watermelon flavored cotton candy sugar at Zurchers), churro chex mix, etc. Nope. No one can accuse us of going over the top...right?

None of that really requires a recipe...except for the kettle corn and the funnel cakes (I will need to get that recipe from my sister, who is the one who made those...they were so good!). This stuff is so delicious! Plus, if you add food dye, you can make it any color you darn well please (red and green for Christmas, pastels for Easter, pink, red, and purple for Valentine's, green for St. Patrick's Day...go crazy).

I have a Whirley Pop popcorn maker. See here. They are $20. They come with a fun recipe booklet (where I found the recipe for kettle corn). Or, it is just a nice way to pop your own popcorn. It takes 3 minutes or less.

If you don't have a Whirley Pop popcorn maker, you can make it in a pan on your stove top. I have never done it, myself. However, on, the recipe (which is very similar...almost identical) has 4 1/2 stars and over 900 reviews. So, I think it is a good bet. I will share both versions for you.

Kettle Korn (Whirly Pop)


1/3 cup popping corn
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup popping oil (I only use about 1/8 cup vegetable oil...I just fill my 1/4 cup measure half-way)


Preheat electric stove (just above medium setting). For gas stoves, set low, never higher. Preheating is unnecessary. Pour all ingredients into popper. Stir constantly until kernels have finished popping. Quickly empty kettle corn onto cookie sheet. While the corn cools, take popper immediately to sink, run hot water into it with liquid detergent. Close lids on suds and let it soak for easy cleanup. When kettle corn is cool, break into pieces with a wooden spoon. Pick out any upopped kernels. Makes approximately 4 quarts of kettle corn.

To add color: Add a few drops of food coloring on the unmelted sugar when ingredients are put in popper. Don't squirt in one spot; it will lump. Dot small amounts around in 6 or 8 places. Store finished kettle corn in an airtight canister or jar.

To add flavor: Choose from coconut, rum, vanilla, almond, or other flavorings. Try 1/2 teaspoon in the first batch, and increase with each batch to suit your taste.

Source: This came from my Whirley Pop recipe booklet.

Notes: I use less oil than the recipe calls for because seriously, that much just isn't needed. It just makes your hands messier when you are eating it! Even with the Whirley Pop, the hot oil splatters (even through the lid of my popcorn maker). I always stir it while I am wearing oven mitts and an apron...and I stand as far back as I can!

Kettle Corn (using a regular pot)


1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels


Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, stir in sugar and popcorn. Cover, and shake the pot constantly (over the heat) to keep the sugar from burning. Once the popping has slowed to once ever 2 to 3 seconds, remove the pot from the heat and continue to shake for a few minutes until the popping has stopped. Pour into a large bowl, and allow to cool, stirring occasionally to break up large clumps.

Source: submitted by Sue202.

Notes: As mentioned above, the oil gets really hot and splatters. Wear oven mitts and an apron, and do not forget to cover the pot while you shake it as the popcorn is popping!

Above: Here is a picture of the mini funnel cakes topped with some powdered sugar that my sister made. Holy cow, they were good. I need to get that recipe from her!

Above: Don't forget to add some caramel sauce, jam, or pie filling to your funnel cakes!

Above: We got these containers for our carnival food from Zurchers.


Above: Yum!

Above: Rice crispy treats dipped in melted chocolate, and then sprinkles, and put on a stick.


Above: Churro Chex mix. Recipe found here.

Above: Cotton candy made with our cotton candy machine. We got watermelon flavored cotton candy sugar from Zurchers.

Above: I would just suggest making these in advance, because otherwise, you will spend the whole time making cotton candy to keep up with the kids' demand!

Above: We made some confetti/sprinkle cupcakes. We just used a boxed mix, and a canned frosting (that came with sprinkles).

Above: We got the cupcake liners and balloon picks from Zurchers.


I had two flan recipes I wanted to try (in addition to a bunch of creme caramel recipes--basically, the same thing). I wanted to post them altogether, but I decided that rather than waiting, I would share this fantastic recipe with you now.

Follow the recipe exactly as written, and this is an absolutely delicious, easy, yet elegant and impressive dessert.

Creamy Caramel Flan


3/4 cup sugar
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
5 eggs
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla


In a heavy saucepan, cook and stir sugar over medium-low heat until melted and golden, about 15 minutes. Quickly pour into an ungreased 2-qt. round baking or souffle dish, tilting to coat bottom; let stand for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour over caramelized sugar.

Place the dish in a larger baking pan. Pour boiling water into larger pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 50-60 minutes or until center is just set. Mixture will jiggle.

Remove dish from larger pan to a wire rack; cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, run a knife around edges and invert onto a large rimmed serving platter. Cut into wedges or spoon onto dessert plates; spoon sauce over each serving.

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Nutrition information: 1 slice equals 346 calories, 16 g fat, 155 mg cholesterol, 182 mg sodium, 41 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 10 g protein.

Source: Taste of Home. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: This is actually quite easy to turn over onto a serving plate. I did it quite successfully...the first time! I doubled this recipe for a family dinner. The mistake I made was that I figured I would just turn the second flan out onto the same serving plate...without washing it first ("Why waste that yummy extra caramel sauce?" I said to myself)...however, I realized that because of the caramel sauce, I couldn't turn the plate as easily to catch the I tried to use my hands to steady the flan, and then the serving plate slipped...and before I knew it I had a crumbled flan in my hand and a barely saved serving dish! My advice...if you double this, use two separate serving dishes. Ha ha!

Worth Stealing

Well, since this has been a super cold spring, I have been craving soup, stew, and chili even though I thought soup season was over. I was looking through my cookbooks and I found this absolutely amazing and super easy recipe for chili. Holy cow, it was sooooo good. This is going to be a recipe staple for me from now on.

The funny thing for me is that every time I think of chili, I think of a silly story that my brothers like to tell. I totally don't believe it is true, but my brothers still maintain that it actually happened. You listen to this story, and you be the judge.

I had graduated from high school and had a bunch of my old high school friends over for a get-together. My brother decided to make himself some chili for lunch (just canned chili, but gussied up a bit with some yummy toppings). While my friends and I were busy, my brother stepped away from his chili, and he claims that when he returned to his bowl of chili that one of my friends (named Justin) was totally eating his chili.

Now, I just can't imagine my friend doing this...and yet, my brothers just won't give up on this story and still say that it is true--despite the fact that it happened over 10 years ago. The plot hole for me is that I can understand someone stealing a bowl of chili if it was THIS chili. However, why in the world would somebody sneak from a bowl of simple canned chili? Even with awesome toppings, it is still just canned chili!

At any rate, if you this cold spring continues, you should take advantage of it with a fantastic bowl of chili--whether stolen or rightfully earned!

Lighter Beef Chili


1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pound ground beef sirloin
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Assorted toppings, such as reduced-fat sour cream, sliced scallions, and baked tortilla chips, for serving (optional)


In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add tomato paste, chili powder, and cocoa powder. Cook, stirring, until mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef and cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes (with their juice) and beans. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to a simmer, and cook until chili is slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes. Serve with toppings, as desired.

Serves 6

Per serving: 221 calories, 7 g fat, 20.7 g protein, 22.9 g carbohydrates, 5.5 g fiber.

Source: Everyday Food Light cookbook, ISBN 978-0307-71809-9. You can also find the recipe online here.

Notes: Don't listen to all the haters who made comments on the Martha Stewart website. A few people called this chili "bland." I have no idea what they are talking about. This chili is NOT bland. It is deep and flavorful. It isn't a super spicy chili. Maybe those people were hoping for a really spicy/hot chili. The cocoa powder adds a great depth to this chili. I loved it. Yum!

Your Choice: From Scratch, or Dress Up a Mix

Recipes can be great when you follow them exactly as written. However, sometimes they can be a jumping off point. They can give you ideas for embellishment, or simplification if you scale it down.

The following recipe has only been tried in the scaled down form. It is for an absolutely fantastic cake topped with a mixture of whipped cream and berries. Perfect for a spring or summer tastes light, but it is still decadent. I've tried it with both raspberries and strawberries. However, it would be fantastic with blackberries too. Plus, I don't know why it would need to be limited to just berries. This would be delicious with peaches, apricots, mangoes, etc.

I made mine with a cake mix. However, I have no doubt that the from scratch recipe for yellow cake would be delicious. I'll have to try it sometime when I have a little more time on my hands! Just try this dessert either way! From scratch or by dressing up a mix!

Above: By the way, this was even prettier when it was cut into slices. Here it is made with a cake mix.

Raspberry-Cream Layer Cake


Unsalted butter, for cake pans (I used non-stick baking spray)
1 recipe Classic Yellow Cake Batter (recipe below--or, you can use a cake mix, like I did)
2 cups raspberries
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups cold heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter two 9-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep). Line bottoms with parchment paper; butter parchment. Divide batter between pans, firmly tap on a flat surface to remove air bubbles, and smooth tops.

Bake until cakes are golden and puffed and a toothpick inserted inc enter comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Run knife around edges, then invert; remove parchment. Invert cakes again and let cool completely on racks.

In a medium bowl, gently mash 1 cup raspberries with a fork. Stir in 1 cup whole raspberries. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream, and confectioners' sugar on high until soft peaks form, 1 minute. With a rubber spatula, gently fold raspberries into whipped cream. Place 1 cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread raspberry cream on top, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Top with other cake, press gently, and finish with remaining raspberry cream. Serve immediately.

Recipe note: To make parchment rounds for lining cake pans, trace the bottom of the pans onto the paper, then cut out the rounds.

Source: You know me, I love those Everyday Food recipes (I am still mourning the loss of that magazine. Sniff, sniff). You can find the recipe here.

Above: Here it is with the cake made from scratch (recipe below).

Classic Yellow Cake Batter


1 cup (2 sticks butter)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour (spooned and leveled)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk


Bring cold ingredients to room temperature. Butter should be soft enough to hold a thumbprint but still keep its shape. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.

Beat in 4 eggs plus 2 yolks, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla extract.

In another large bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low, add 1/3 the flour mixture to butter mixture, beating to combine.

Beat in 3/4 cup buttermilk, another 1/3 the flour mixture, and another 3/4 cup buttermilk, and remaining flour mixture until just combined. Scrape down bowl as needed.

Source: Martha Stewart Everyday Food. You can find the recipe here.

Notes: Who couldn't love berries and cream? One of the best combinations ever. Even Starburst loves Berries and Cream. Check this out for proof, or maybe this version (since it has 10 million views). Oh, and this. Don't forget this one! Seriously, why didn't this commercial run longer? It always made me laugh. Who couldn't love the berries and cream little well as his little lad dance?