Friday, April 20, 2012

Monster Bars

Delicious Monster Bars with a colorful twist!

Monster bars are moist, chewy and oh, so good!  They are a family favorite and so easy to make.  Honestly, I love these bars because my monster cookies never turn out the best. :)

For Monster Bars you'll need:

  •  1 stick margarine, softened
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 1/2 c. oatmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips
  • 3/4 c. M&M's
Cream the first six ingredients together then add the oatmeal, baking soda, chocolate chips and M&M's.  Pat mixture into a greased 10 x15 or jelly roll sized pan and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes are until edges are golden brown.

I'll be honest I slightly under bake these bars because I like them that way.  I typically use plain M&M's in this recipe but for a weekend with the family I put speckled peanut butter filled M&M's in this batch instead and they were mighty tasty!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


This cooler weather put me in the mood to throw together a warm and delicious casserole for dinner!  This is one of my family's favorites and it's something everyone will eat.  I will say the sausage pieces are a favorite and it's hard to get the casserole in the oven before the kids start picking out the sausages and eating them.  They are pre-cooked!
For Cavatelli you will need:
  •  16 oz rotini noodles
  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 14 oz package Polska Kielbasa sliced
  • 1 16 oz jar of hot sauce
  • 1 24 oz jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 1 package of mozzarella cheese
Brown burger and cook rotini noodles.  Mix browned burger, cooked noodles, Kielbasa, hot sauce, spaghetti sauce and half bag of cheese in large bowl. 

Pour mixture into 9x13 pan and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.  You will notice my mixture doesn't have any cheese in it.  A few of my family members don't like cheese!  I know, crazy huh?  Anyway I add cheese to each individual serving after it's baked.  My family literally scarfed this casserole down before I had a chance to take a picture of it in the pan!  The picture far above was what I was able to get on my plate. 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lemon Meringue Tart

This tart is so delicious, smooth and bursting with lemon flavor.  I got this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten.  Surprise, surprise it's a French recipe.  Someday I'll get to France with my French for Dummies in tow!

This tart consists of a flaky, buttery crust filled with a fresh, creamy lemon filling and topped with perfectly whipped meringue.  I'll be honest this recipe does take a little time but with worth it!  I was so excited how well this tart turned out!

Lemon Meringue Tart

For the crust & meringue you'll need:
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cold Crisco
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in bowl and place in freezer for 30 minutes. 

Put flour mixture in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add butter and Crisco and pulse about 10 times until butter is in small bits.

 Add ice water and process until dough comes together.

Dump on well-floured board and form into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

The first time I made this I did not have a food processor so I used a pastry cutter to cut in the butter and mix the dough.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out dough to fit into a 9-inch tart pan with removable sides.  Don't stretch dough to fit because it will shrink during baking.  Cut off excess by rolling the pin across top of pan.  Line tart shell with piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill with dried beans or rice.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove beans and foil and prick bottom of shell over with a fork to allow steam to escape.  Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.

Above while your dough is sitting in the freezer for 30 minutes you can make your lemon filling.  For the lemon filling you will need:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 3 extra-large egg yolks(save the whites for the meringue)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest (6 to 8 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Cream butter and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 1 minute.  On low speed, add eggs and egg yolks one at a time, and then add the lemon zest, lemon juice and salt.  Don't worry it will look curdled.

Pour mixture into small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until thick, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Whisk briefly when it starts to thicken and cook over low heat for a minute or two, whisking constantly.  Don't allow to boil!  It will be 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.  Pour into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Now you can let your filling cool while you roll out and bake the crust above.  While crust is baking you can make your meringue.  For the meringue, whip the 4 egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and 1/4 tsp of salt in bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment on high speed until frothy.  With the mixer still running slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until meringue is think and shiny, about 2 minutes.

Now you can spread your cooled lemon filling into the cooled tart shell and pipe the meringue over it with a large start tip.  Be sure the meringue covers the entire top and touches the edge of the shell, to prevent it from shrinking.  Bake for 3 to 5 minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned. Cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mini Strawberry Tarts

I love no-bake strawberry pie!  It has a light, cool and refreshing taste.  It is the perfect end to any meal.  The other day while I was in the super market I came across some tiny little graham cracker crusts.  They were so cute I had to buy them!  I decided to turn my strawberry pie into mini strawberry tarts.  This recipe is super easy and delicious!

For the mini strawberry tarts you'll need:
  • 6 mini graham cracker crusts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons strawberry jello
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • Cool Whip
Cook sugar, water and cornstarch until thick.
Remove from heat and add jello.
Let the mixture cool then add fruit.  Place tart shells on a cookie sheet.

Fill tart shells with fruit and jello mixture.

Place pan of filled tart shells in refrigerator until ready to serve.  These don't take long at all to set up.  Once you are ready to serve, top with Cool Whip and enjoy!  These are so delicious it's hard to eat just one!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cake a Toddler could make, literally! More French parenting tips!

The book, Bringing Up Bebe, has been very interesting.  Now granted not ALL French parents parent the same way just as not all American parents do, but for the American journalist, Pamela Druckerman, it seems as though her circle of middle class Parisian friends parent very much in a similar manner.  In my opinion, toddlers are more exhausting than newborns.  They are often wild, fearless, loud and sticky human beings.  However, French toddlers seem to be less of those things.  Their parents educate them on learning patience from the time they are born, so most French toddlers have the ability to entertain themselves.  You won't see a French mother carrying a diaper bag full of toys and snacks in Paris, they just don't do it.  Women in Paris can actually carry on conversations while their kids play...can you imagine how wonderful that would be! 

Pamela learned a few simple rules when parenting toddlers.  Now these tips may sound like common sense as they did to Pamela, and she hasn't quite perfected the knack of French parenting, but she sure is trying.  French parents believe that when they say 'NO' their child will obey, they also believe if they tell their child to 'wait a minute' they'll wait.  In a nut shell it appears that French parents are very confident with their parenting practices and the children can sense it.

Toddlers are often found at restaurants in Paris and they aren't having melt downs or tantrums or even throwing food on the floor.  They sit and wait to eat just like everyone else.  Again, in Paris, French parents seem to mold a child to fit their lifestyle, not change their lifestyles to fit the child.  The parents control the child, not the other way around.  French parents are very good about taking time for themselves and school children as young as five will go on week long field trips with their class.  This gives parents a break from parenting.  Pamela does believe that French parents just seem a lot less stressed all together, which may be in part to the fact that in France you don't pay for preschool, health insurance or college.

Now French children aren't angels by any means but according to Pamela they seem to mind more than American children do.  French parents do set up strict guidelines but allow a lot of freedom within these guidelines.  For instance if a child is to go to bed at 8:00 p.m., then he goes to his or her room every night at 8:00 p.m. no questions asked, however he does not have to go to sleep.  The child can do whatever he likes in his room as long as he stays in his room. They also put their kids on an eating schedule.  Most French toddlers eat breakfast, lunch, gouter (gooh-tay), which is what they call afternoon snack, and dinner. That's it, period! They also allow their kids to have sugar daily during the afternoon snack and allow it at holidays as well, other than that a child does not get cookies, cake or chocolate.  They feel sweets in moderation are good for the child, that way when the child does have the chance to eat sweets they do go crazy with them.

Speaking of sweets they often serve gateau au yaourt for gouter or as we would call it, yogurt cake.  They do a lot of baking with their toddlers, it's a tradition in many families to bake together on the weekends.  So I decided to have my four-year-old make yogurt cake and it was delicious.  He was so excited when I told him he could make a cake all by himself!

For Yogurt Cake you will need:
  • 2 6oz containers of plain whole-milk yogurt or for a lighter cake use low-fat plain yogurt (use the empty containers to measure other ingredients)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 containers sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Just under 1 container vegetable oil
  • 4 containers flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • A mix-in (could be 2 containers frozen berries, a container of chocolate chips or any flavoring you like)
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a 9in cake pan or a loaf pan.

Gently combine yogurt, eggs, sugar vanilla and oil.  Yes, I let my four-year-old crack eggs.

He stirred all the ingredients himself and was very proud.

Then mix in dry ingredients.

This part can be a bit messy but fun!

Mix gently and don't over mix.  Now you can add either the berries, chocolate or flavorings if you like.  We doubled the recipe and made two cakes, one with frozen blueberries and one with chocolate chips.

Bake for 35 minutes or until it passes the knife test.  It should look crispy on the outside and springy on the inside.

Let it cool, slice and top with whipping cream or in France they use creme fraiche, however, I still have yet to find creme fraiche in my local grocery stores.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ice Cream Oreo Dessert

I know, I know, I owe you a lemon tart and I WILL get to that posted this week.  My mommy brain has kicked in, and I keep forgetting to pick up the tart pan I need for that dessert.  I've made the tart before but borrowed my mom's pan.  As I've said, I don't have all the latest baking gadgets but I'm getting there.

This weekend I made an ice cream Oreo dessert that was simply mouthwatering.  Literally, my mouth watered as I served myself up a piece.  Part of the fun of this dessert was that I got to use my new food processor that my parents got me for Christmas and boy was that fun!  This dessert includes all of my favorites; Oreos, ice cream, fudge and Cool Whip and combines them into a rich and creamy treat.

For this dessert you will need:
  • 1 package Oreos
  • 1/4 c. melted butter
  • 1/2 gallon of vanilla ice cream softened
  • 1 8oz tub of Cool Whip
  • 1 4oz bar of German chocolate (found in the baking box)
  • 2/3 c. evaporated milk
  • 1/2 c. margarine
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
First set ice cream out to soften.  Next place 25 Oreos in food processor and pulse while adding 1/4 c. melted butter.  If you don't have a food processor you can put the cookies in a plastic bag and hit with a spoon until crushed, then pour into pan, add melted butter and combine.  Once you've got your Oreo/butter mixture complete press into 9x13 pan.  Place pan in freezer.

Now on to the homemade fudge.  If you wanted to save time you could substitute this for a jar of fudge but this homemade version only takes about 5 minutes and it's well worth the time!  In a sauce pan heat German chocolate, milk, margarine, sugar and salt until smooth then boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Set aside to cool completely.

Next pull pan from freezer and spoon in the softened ice cream spreading evenly.  Place pan back in freezer for about 15 minutes or until fudge is cooled.  Pour fudge over ice cream and spread evenly, place back in freezer until ready to serve.  I top with Cool Whip and sprinkle with more crushed Oreos just before serving but you can do that step earlier and freeze if you like.

Let sit out for about 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Banana Bread and Homemade Butter

My kids seem to eat bananas in spurts. One week they'll gobble them up, the next week I'll have a few black ones sitting on the counter.  I really don't mind those ripe bananas, because they make the best banana bread.  I love the aroma of fresh baked bread throughout my home and my favorite is the eat it warm right out of the oven. My banana bread recipe makes two loaves so I usually let the kids eat one loaf, and I freeze the second one for a later day.  This recipe does call for three ripe bananas, so you can either set aside three bananas to ripen or you can freeze them as you get them.  Yes, I've often times only had one banana no one wanted to eat so I'd stick it in the freezer and wait for another ripened banana.  Once I had three bananas I would make my bread.

Not only do my kids love banana bread they love making homemade butter.  This is a very simple recipe that my mother-in-law taught my kids a few years ago.  One day my kids came home from her house talking about making butter so I had to get the recipe!

For the banana bread you'll need:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening (I use butter flavored Crisco)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt

Mix in order given.

The mixture will be smooth and creamy once mixed.  Place in two greased loaf pans.  Of course I'm only showing one here, but you can make two nice loaves out of this recipe.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  I like to bake mine for about 50 minutes and then prick it with a fork to make sure it's done.

Homemade Butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Salt to taste
In a mixing bowl whip the whipping cream and salt until thick and creamy.  Then spread on the banana bread.  This is delicious!