Wednesday, February 27, 2013

No-Bake Cheesecake - Ditch the Box



My family loves those cheesecakes that are no-bake and come as a boxed mix.  We make them normally in the summer when I don't want to heat up the house. 

A few weeks ago, back before Rocky, Blizzard #2, 2013, we had some terrific weather,  weather that was perfect for BBQ hamburgers and no-bake cheesecake.  Mmm... I can just remember now how wonderful it was to sit out on our porch in the swing, smelling that delicious aroma of BBQ as the sun set and enjoying a 75 degree evening.  Missouri is crazy like that.  One week we get 76 degrees in February and the next we can have 26 inches of snow on the ground.  No kidding!

I am always on the hunt for something I can make AT HOME MY WAY that will satisfy a family favorite that we typically get from the store or in a box.  One of my favorite resources for homemade everything is Finding Joy in My Kitchen.  Sno-White offers recipes on her blog that are easy to make and dependably scrumptious.

I didn't know if this cheesecake would taste exactly like our favorite no-bake cherry cheesecake, but I knew one thing.  It would be delicious!

This super easy cheesecake is f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s!  I found it as close to a boxed no-bake cheesecake as you could possibly get.  Let's see, with the box you have to mix the graham cracker crumbs with sugar and butter, use a mixer, a bowl, and some measuring cups.  You're really not that many steps ahead by using the box.

I say, trade in your box of no-bake cherry cheesecake and try this homemade version.  It will knock your socks off!

Sno-White does make her own berry topping.  You can find her exact recipe for the cheesecake, her crust, and the mixed berry sauce HERE.  Our small town grocery store didn't have any cherries, frozen or fresh, so I had to use a can of cherry pie filling.  I did keep my cherry pie filling separate from my pie so that it kept fresh longer, but you could spoon it on like you do for the boxed version if you want.  Sno-White also assembles hers right before eating but I found it worked perfect for a cheesecake!

Here's how I made No-Bake Cheesecake - AT HOME MY WAY:

No-Bake Cheesecake

  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers (1 package of graham crackers crushed fine)
  • 1/3 cup butter/margarine, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
Filling:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used fat free) (I put it in the micro for a few seconds to soften.) 
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn syrup (optional)

1 can cherry pie filling (I haven't tried making my own yet.)

Directions:
I started with this huge bag of graham cracker crumbs.  My daughter's friend had a huge bag that she got somewhere and she had more than she could use.  I had no idea what I would do with a bag of graham cracker crumbs but, hey!  I took them and stuck them in the freezer.  Now that I have tasted how delicious and easy it is to make a graham cracker crust, I will be putting more fillings in graham cracker crusts!  Yummo!  They keep perfectly in the freezer and I just measured them out of the bag.
 
 
Combine the graham cracker crumbs with the sugar.  Stir well.   Add the melted margarine and stir well.  It should look something like this:

 
 
Dump the crust mixture into a microwavable pie pan and you will avoid heating up the oven.
 
 


 I use the bottom of a small measuring cup to press the crust into the pan.  I use my hands a little also to form the sides.


I put my pie pan/crust in the microwave and cooked on high for 1 minute.  This  will "set" the crust.  Let cool completely before adding the cream cheese mixture.

Cheesecake filling instructions:

In a medium  mixing bowl, using a mixer, beat the cream cheese for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and well whipped. Add in 2/3 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and whip again until smooth.

In a separate bowl, using your mixer, whip the 2/3 cup of whipping cream.  Whip just until stiff peaks form and then add in 1/2 teaspoon corn syrup.  Sno-White said that this helps the whipping cream keep its shape.  Whip again.

Carefully fold the whipping cream gently into the cream cheese mixture until combined well.

Pour the cheesecake filling into the COMPLETELY COOLED crust.  Spread evenly.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving or at least an hour.  Serve with cherry pie filling.




Enjoy!
 
Gina


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bakin' Bacon - in a Blizzard


We woke up to another amazing amount of snow this morning.  We knew it was coming, but... wow!  Twice in six days we got snows totaling 10+ inches each.  Thursday it was Storm "Q" and this morning (Tuesday), "Rocky" came to visit!  This snow is so beautiful because there is so MUCH out there!  It's not even very cold so you can really walk around and just breathe it all in!  Everything in our area is pretty much closed, thankfully, so we are home today enjoying a much appreciated day off from work.

While Doug went out to shovel, I put on a pot of coffee and started some breakfast.  This morning I made bacon and our favorite homemade biscuits.  My favorite way to make bacon is to bake it on a broiler pan.  There is no mess, no smoke, no burned spots on the bacon, and no burned ME from popping grease.  It turns out perfect every single time.  You also can pretty much cram it all on the broiler pan, stick it in the oven and walk away.  No flipping bacon nor grease popping action going on.

This morning while the bacon was a-bakin', I opened the front door to give a "look-see" at the magnificent beauty that was outside.  Wow!

This is what I saw:


I hadn't told Doug that I was making breakfast.  But as I was standing there with the front door open, he looked up from his shovel with a huge smile on his face and said, "I SMELL BACON!"  I had just earned gold stars!

Here's how I make Bakin' Bacon AT HOME MY WAY:
 
Baked Bacon 
 
Ingredients and Utensils Needed: 
  • 1 package of bacon
  • 1 broiler pan (which should have a deep bottom piece and a tray that sits on top with slits in it)
  • 1 oven
 
Directions: 
 
Turn on your oven to 400 degrees.  Lay all of your bacon everywhere you can squeeze it over your broiler pan like this:

 
 
Put your broiler pan loaded with bacon in the oven (it is not necessary to preheat the oven - there is nothing to burn).
 
 
Bake until you see your bacon looking like you prefer.  I like mine crispy.  I don't remember how long this took.  You don't have to flip the bacon.  Just let it keep baking in there until it looks done. 
 
 
This is how mine looked when I took it out of the oven (be careful because the grease will have drained into the bottom part of your broiler pan and could slosh out.):
 
 
 Don't forget to save the bacon grease for frying chicken!
 
And here are some more peeks at this beautiful snow!
 
 
These pine trees are very precious to us!  They were suffering this morning with all the weight of that snow!
 
 
 
This snow is so wet!  It's like big piles of meringue!
 
 
 
Our deck! 
 
 
Blizzards bring out the best in our kitchens!
I made this beautiful rainbow bread during another Missouri blizzard.  What do you like to cook during bad weather?
 
 
 
 
 
Gina
 
 




Monday, February 18, 2013

Mashed Potato Casserole - Best Ever - Hands Down!



This weekend my daughter, Rebecca, wanted to make something "different" to go with our BBQ.  Hey!  If someone wants to cook for me, and I don't have to leave my house?  Bring it on!

Rebecca tried this super delicious recipe.  It was wonderful!!  Her dad is very, very picky.  In fact, we made a plain baked potato for him just in case he didn't like it.  But like it?  He did!  He loved it.  He raced home after work on Monday, to gobble down the leftovers.

We halved this recipe.  We also varied from the original recipe in that we used instant mashed potatoes.  We made them using water and milk as called for on the box, and omitted the milk from the recipe here.  We also only made half of this recipe since there were only three of us eating.  Half of this recipe would easily feed a family of four, unless you want leftovers and it's so delicious that you might want to make the whole shabang!  You are going to want leftovers!

This would be great for dinner parties and potlucks!

Here's how we made Mashed Potato Casserole AT HOME MY WAY:

Mashed Potato Casserole

Ingredients
  • 5 1/2 cups mashed potatoes (around 6-7 large baking potatoes) (or equivalent of prepared instant mashed potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup milk (omit the milk if you are using instant potatoes and if you used milk plus water according to box directions)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley (we omitted)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 slices bacon crispy cooked and crumbled  (we used those real bacon bits and just sprinkled some in - not the whole package)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
  2. Peel, quarter, and boil potatoes for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Drain potatoes and and beat with a mixer until smooth. Add milk, cream cheese, sour cream, parsley (we did not use parsley), and garlic salt. Beat at a medium-high speed until nice and creamy. Add salt to taste keeping in mind that the cheese and bacon will add a little salt later.
  3. Spoon into a  sprayed 9x13 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Top with cheddar cheese and bacon. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts.
  4. Serves 12 people.
 
Enjoy!
 
Gina
 
 
 


Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Menu Plan and .. Cinnamon Buns!


My menu plan for the week is pretty simple.  We ate lots of leftovers last week so I plan to include lots of the items I had planned to use last week for this week's meals.

Breakfasts
  • Leftover Cinnamon Buns (these are BEYOND delicious so I am posting the recipe today);
  • Yogurt w/ fruit and Perfect Granola
  • Homemade Biscuits
  • Toast w/Homemade Peach Preserves

Lunches:

Suppers:

NOW... WITHOUT FURTHER ADIEU... the cinnamon buns!

They were beyond wonderful!  I was in awe of the beautiful pastry sitting on my plate.  They were as beautiful as any I had ever seen "under glass" in fancy bakeries!  And delicious?  YUM!  I could go on and on...



But easy?  Super easy!  Seriously!  I made the dough in the bread machine, rolled them out, cut them, and placed each thickly cut roll in a large muffin tin (sprayed).  To some of the cups, I added brown sugar and pecans (I used homemade brown sugar - I think the molasses gave the buns their special sheen) which were flipped out and became true Sticky Buns!  The others, I frosted with powdered sugar/milk/vanilla glaze.  (My husband prefers sticky buns and I prefer the glazed ones!)



Here's exactly how I made Homemade Cinnamon Buns AT HOME MY WAY:

Homemade Cinnamon Buns

 (Bread Machine instructions)
  • 1 1/3 cup very warm water (hot but no hurt)
  • 1 packet of yeast (or 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
 Instructions: Measure the water in a 2 cup measuring cup, add the sugar and yeast. Mix well and set a timer for 10 minutes. Let this get all foamy for 10 minutes and then dump in your bread machine pan.

Add:



  • 1/4 cup oil (vegetable, canola, or even olive oil is fine)
  • 1 blended egg
Next add:
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt.

Set your bread machine to the dough setting. (Mine takes 2 hours.)
When the dough setting is complete, proceed as below by forming rolls, etc.

Spray your muffin cups with cooking spray well!

Additional Ingredients needed for Cinnamon Buns/Sticky Buns:
  • flour for rolling
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Melted Butter/Margarine (8 Tablespoons total - Melt 4 Tablespoons for using on each half of the dough when rolling.)
  • Additional brown sugar, if making sticky buns
  • Pecan pieces, if making sticky buns
Forming Rolls:

Cut the dough ball in half.  Sprinkle the dough with flour and roll each half on a floured surface to about 11" x 14".  Spread with melted margarine.  Spread with 1/2 cup of brown sugar, sprinkle well with cinnamon.  Roll lengthwise as for cinnamon rolls.  Cut in thick slices (app.  2 inches for each slice). 

For frosted rolls, place each spiral of dough in a sprayed muffin tin.

For "Sticky Buns" (with caramel/nuts), sprinkle in each sprayed large muffin cup, 1 heaping Tablespoon of brown sugar and some pecan pieces.  Place the spiral of dough in the cup on top of the brown sugar/pecans.



Spray the rolls with cooking spray or cover with a damp cloth and let rise approximately 45 minutes in a warm place. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake 25 minutes or just until the the rolls are browning.



Remove from oven, let rest for only 5 minutes.  Loosen rolls with a knife from the edges of the muffin cups.  If making sticky buns, place a plate over the muffin tin, flip so that the buns land upside down on the plate.

If just making frosted rolls, remove each "bun" from the muffin cup and frost with powdered sugar/milk/vanilla glaze.  I used about 1 cup powdered sugar + 2 Tablespoons milk + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla for my glaze.



Now sit back and take in the beauty of homemade pastries!

(**I only made 6 rolls for us this weekend.  I placed the other unbaked rolls (sliced and ready to go) in the freezer on a plate, then bagged them up for baking later, as I only have one large muffin tin and since there are only two of us eating these hunks of loveliness!)



WOW!
 
Enjoy!
 
Gina


I shared this recipe at:
 




Friday, February 8, 2013

Homemade Pizza Pockets



Tonight is homemade pizza night at our house.  I normally like to have some pizza dough in the refrigerator for Friday nights and Saturday lunches.  I know that one of those meals will definitely be pizza.  The most affordable way to eat pizza is AT HOME MY WAY! 

The recipe for the dough for making pizza and Homemade Pizza Pockets is "here" and "here".  (Remember that you can make lots of things using this dough, like Homemade English Muffins, a pizza bread, or even just some simple crusty bread to go with soup.)

Sometimes, by the end of the weekend, we've eaten all the pizza we want and there's just a little dabble of dough left, like this:



What to do with such a small amount of dough? Make Homemade Pizza Pockets for the freezer, of course!  You can tailor them to have just the fillings you prefer and later in the week, you will be so glad you have some homemade goodness in your freezer for lunches on the run!   

I've made them with ham & cheese, pepperoni, just cheese, peanut butter & jelly, and even apple pockets (which I love to eat for breakfast).  This little dabble of dough will go a long way on Homemade Pockets.

Here's how I make Homemade Pizza Pockets AT HOME MY WAY:

 
Homemade Pizza Pockets (or "whatever" pockets)
 
FIRST:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
 
Ingredients you will need:
 
 
 
  • 5 Minute a Day dough from your fridge
  • Fillings of your choice, pizza sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, block of cheese, or ham slices, cheese, or even apples with cinnamon/sugar.
  • Cornmeal or cooking spray
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Small rolling pin or heavy glass for rolling

Instructions: 
 
 
Start by sprinkling the dough you have in your fridge with flour.
 
Sprinkle a cookie sheet with some cornmeal (or spray with cooking spray).
 
Remove some dough, like this:
 
 
 
Place the dough ball on your cookie sheet (I want the least mess as possible so I keep all the rolling action on the cookie sheet.)  Make sure the ball of dough has plenty of flour on it (you're going to roll it out on the cookie sheet). 
 
 
 
I use a heavy glass to roll with because my rolling pin is too big to roll with on the cookie sheet.  Works great for me!  Roll the disc flat like a tortilla.
 
 
 
 
 
Sometimes mine turn out round.  Sometimes not.  I don't worry about it.  Keep truckin' on...
 
Now, spread a little bit of sauce in the center of one-half of the flat shape, keeping sauce away from the edge.  Top with your topping (I used pepperoni), and a couple of cheese cubes (grated cheese really seeps out fast so I use hunks of cheese instead of shredded cheese). 
 
 

Lift one half over the other half and fold to make a pocket. 
 
 
 
Crimp the edges like a pie crust, squeezing to seal and push this finished pocket off to the side.   Get out another dough ball and keep on making pockets.  You want the pockets not touching each other for baking.



Once your cookie sheet is full or your dough bowl is empty, put the pockets in the oven (preheated to 400 degrees) to bake:

Bake 20 minutes or so - until they are browning.

 
 Let them cool.  Bag them up for the freezer and you're in business!
 
 
  We just warm ours in the microwave.  Just remember that the cheese inside will be hot so be careful with the first bite!
 
 
 
Enjoy!
 
 
Gina
 


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies



Remember when I made Homemade Brown Sugar the other day?  I promised the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies.  Well, after that, the attack of the stomach flu landed on me and I didn't get recipe that posted.  Having just finished the last of these delicious Soft Peanut Butter Cookies, I remembered that I needed to post the recipe.

This recipe uses shortening.  I rarely buy or use shortening but I confess that I do use shortening when it comes to making soft cookies.  I normally make Chocolate Chip Cookies and use shortening (not butter-flavored, just regular).  I find that when I use butter, I just cannot get soft cookies like I can with using shortening. 

The other night I was pinning and pinning on Pinterest and ran across a simple, delicious recipe and scrumptious picture for peanut butter cookies.  Hmmm!  Sometimes I forget to make this simple, old fashioned cookie.  Why?  I don't know.  Truly they are never upstaged by exquisite frosted cookies on any cookie platter because when you eat one, it all comes back - the church socials, trips to grandma's house, bright red punch or cold glasses of milk and ... peanut butter cookies, all glistening with sugar and hatched.  You never have to guess which kind they are.  You just know!  Those are Peanut Butter Cookies!  They are easy, frugal, and delicious; a bright spot for any lunchbox!

Here's how I made Soft Peanut Butter Cookies AT HOME MY WAY:


Soft Peanut Butter Cookies
 
  •  1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Directions:

Heat oven to 375°.  Spray cookie sheets with cooking spray

Combine peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Cream very well or beat with mixer until combined.

Add egg.  Beat just until blended. 

Add baking soda and salt.  Blend well.

Add flour.  Blend again.

Drop by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets (I spray mine.)  I spray my fork with cooking spray and press to make the hatch marks.

Bake at 375° for 7-8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.  Cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet, and then remove to a cooling rack or foil.



Enjoy!
 
Gina



This recipe was shared at:






Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Homemade Chocolate Syrup




We ran out of chocolate syrup several weeks ago.  Wanting ice cream with chocolate syrup, I made some instead of running out to the store. It turned out just perfect. 

I found this recipe at the Hillbilly Housewife site.  Here's her link.  It's easy to do and fast!  You only cook it for 3 minutes and I had all of the ingredients needed since it only requires cocoa, sugar, water, salt & vanilla.  The only hard part was waiting on it to cool.

I store mine in a glass jar but you could refill you old chocolate syrup bottle and your family would never know the difference. 

It passed the "Doug" test and that's all our family needs ha! 

I made a delicious glass of chocolate milk with it and also made myself a big honkin' chocolate sundae with peanuts for dessert the other night.  It's mighty fine stuff!



Here's how I made Homemade Chocolate Syrup AT HOME MY WAY:


Homemade Chocolate Syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup tap water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Find a 2 quart saucepan. In it, mix the cocoa and water with a wire whisk or fork. Heat the chocolate water over medium heat, stirring occasionally. (It swells when it starts a full rolling boil so make sure your pot allows room for expansion.) 

Add the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil.

Reduce the heat to medium low and boil for a full 3 minutes.

Remove the syrup from the heat.

Add the salt and vanilla, stirring to blend.

Pour the syrup into a clean pint sized canning jar or other container with a good lid.  Store in the fridge.


*This is the stuff I had ran out of and I took a picture of the ingredients list.  Hmmm... more than 5 ingredients on there.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Just to check, I took a picture of my cocoa ingredients.  Yep.  Just "cocoa!"
 
 
 
THIS SUNDAE WAS SO DELICIOUS!  Definitely cheaper than hitting the DQ!  And I have all the stuff to make lots more sundaes!  Bring it on!
 
 
 
 
Enjoy!
 
Gina
 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bagels (Bread Machine-easy) - Oh MY!


I found a recipe for Homemade Bagels making the dough in the bread machine.  I knew I had to try it!

I love my bread machine!  I think lots of people have these little appliances and don't use them.  Get your bread machine out of the cabinet!  They are so wonderful!  I rarely bake anything in mine, but I DO use it for all the mixing and timing.  That saves lots of steps.  But what I most like is that anything you mix in the bread machine is "managable".  There are no huge day-long baking adventures created with one batch of dough in a bread machine.

This little recipe made 8 bagels!  Perfectly managable.  Especially for a night when I had worked all day, came home to make supper, and wanted to do try something new like making bagels.  I have tried making bagels before but never with this much success.  These are perfect!!!!

These bagels are chewy, with a crispy crust, but light inside!  I loved them!  I will definitely be making these all the time.  I might also try this recipe and method for making homemade pretzels sometime in the near future.  But, I digress.  Back to the bagels.

Here's how I made Homemade Bagels AT HOME MY WAY:


Homemade Bagels (Bread Machine)
Ingredients for Dough:
  • 1 cup Warm Water
  • 1-½ teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons White Sugar
  • 3 cups Bread Flour
  • 2-¼ teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
Ingredients for boiling the bagels:
  • 3 quarts Boiling Water
  • 3 Tablespoons White Sugar
Ingredients for Baking:
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornmeal
  • 3 Tablespoons Poppy Seeds, Or Your Choice Of Toppings
Directions:

1.  Place water, salt, sugar, flour and yeast in the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough setting.

2. When cycle is complete, let dough rest on a lightly floured surface.

3. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a small ball. Flatten balls. Poke a hole in the middle of each with your thumb. Twirl the dough on your finger or thumb to enlarge the hole, and to even out the dough around the hole. Lay the bagels (shaped) on a cookie sheet, spray with cooking spray, and let rest for 10 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar.


5. Sprinkle an ungreased baking sheet with cornmeal. Carefully transfer bagels to boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, turning halfway through. (I set a timer for 30 seconds and then flipped, then timed for another 30 seconds.

6.  Drain briefly on a clean towel (just a few seconds).

7.  Arrange boiled bagels on the cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet. brush tops with butter or egg (optional), and sprinkle with your choice of toppings (optional) (I love poppy seeds).


8. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F (190 degrees C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until well browned.  (Watch them.  Mine only took about 22 minutes.)

Here are some pictures of the process, start to finish!  Easy and fun!  My husband even got up away from his favorite show to take a peek at how these are made.

First the dough, after the bread machine had done it's part:



Separate the dough into eight even pieces.  I cut in half, then each half in half, and so on until I had eight even pieces:



I formed into a ball, pulling the sides under and pinching:






I pushed my thumb in to make the hole, and widened the hole:


Here they are resting, ready for their bath (10 minute-rest):
After resting 10 minutes, notice they plump up just a little bit (before their bath):


Scrub a dub-dub, bagels in a tub (boiling in the sugar/water) (30 seconds on each side, then flip for another 30 seconds):


Drip dry (just for a few seconds on a towel), then place on the cornmeal covered cookie sheet, brush with melted butter or egg, and add any toppings.:



Ready for the oven my pretties:



All done and gorgeous, don't you think?  Wait until you TASTE 'em!





Enjoy!

Gina

This recipe was shared at:






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