Tuesday, July 31, 2012

101 Gourmet Ice Cream Creations Review Plus Chunky Brownie Ice Cream

Let's be real honest right now . . . . this ice cream is

The best chocolate ice cream I have ever had!

I was so excited to join the blog tour for Wendy Paul's new 101 Gourmet Ice Cream Creations Cookbook!  Cedar Fort Publishing was kind enough to send me a copy of the cookbook to test out a recipe and give my opinion about the book.

I was honestly drooling over the majority of the recipes and not only are there recipes for ice cream, but there are also shakes, various ice cream treats, toppings and ice cream cakes and pies!  A few that caught my attention right off the get-go were Ann's Lemon Supreme, Coconut Cream Pie, Banana Nut, Harvest Apple Walnut, Brown Sugar, Egg Nog, Pepperminty (I LOVE Peppermint Ice Cream), Red Velvet Ice Cream Cake Roll and Frozen Mexican Hot Chocolate just to name a few.  There are all of your favorite traditional flavors along with lots of new gourmet flavors.

The recipes all sound easy and I know that anyone, whether you are a cook/baker or not, could make amazing homemade ice cream with this cookbook.  I am sold on this book even after trying just one recipe!

If you are an ice cream lover and would like some easy recipes.  I know, without a doubt, that you will be a fan of this cookbook.
Now, onto this amazing Chunky Brownie Ice Cream.
Remember when I made this easy vanilla ice cream and I said that my mom makes the best vanilla ice cream, but since it has eggs in it, I was a little nervous about trying her recipe for my first attempt.  Well . . . this chocolate brownie ice cream has eggs in it and it was a piece of cake to whip up.  Nothing to be nervous about.  All you have to do is combine the ingredients and cook until it reaches 160 degrees.  You actually don't even have to cook it if you don't care about the raw eggs, but I personally prefer to make sure those eggs are cooked.
I tasted it when I was done heating it up and my first thought was "OMG - this is divine"  While it was warm, it tasted like a decadent hot chocolate.  I had to hurry and put it in the fridge to keep myself from drinking the whole thing.  

Not only was this so easy to whip up, but it only took about 25-30 minutes to freeze.  My ice cream maker stopped turning, so I figured a piece of ice must be jammed, but nope - it was done.  That is fast enough that you can easily make homemade ice cream on a weeknight.  I made the base the night before, cooled it in the fridge overnight and when I got home from work the next day, I put it in the ice cream maker.   

It is so good!  The chocolate flavor is out of this world.  It is thick and creamy and the brownies remain chewy even with the ice cream being frozen.  I love that it didn't make a huge batch.  That way, I can try all of the awesome flavors and not have to eat 10 gallons of each.  With that said, if you are making this for your family, you may want to double the recipe.

Chunky Brownie Ice Cream
2 egg yolks
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. 2% milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk)
1 recipe Fudge Brownies

Whisk together egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar until eggs are light yellow in color and fluffy.  Whisk in the rest of the sugar.  Combine the cream, milk and vanilla extract and whisk into egg mixture until completely combined.  Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly.  Add the cocoa powder and chocolate chips and whisk together until chocolate is smooth and no lumps appear.  Heat until temperature reaches 160 degrees, stirring constantly, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool completely in the fridge (I cooled mine overnight).  Place your creamy mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer directions.  During the last 5 minutes of mixing, fold in the brownie chunks.  Yield: 1 quart.   

Fudge Brownies
1/2 c. butter
1 (12 oz.) bag semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk)
1 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 c. flour
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large sauce pan, melt butter and chocolate chips on low, stirring frequently.  Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the sugar until well combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring after each one.  Add the salt and flour and mix until no flour is seen.  Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Bake for 25-28 minutes or until middle is set.  Do not overbake.  Cool completely and then break into small chunks.  

Jenn's Notes:  Make sure to use a brand of chocolate chips that you really like, since a lot of the flavor will come from that.  I used Guittard Milk Chocolate Chips, which are my absolute favorite.  I made a half batch of the above brownie recipe and I baked them in an 8x8 baking dish.  I think a half a batch was plenty and I got some brownie in each bite!   

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Have you guys been seeing this recipe all over Pinterest?  Who am I kidding - of course you have! Doesn't it sound yummy?  Well . . . zucchini season has officially started and I am ready for it.  Bring it on!  I have a long list of recipes to try!  So, consider yourself forewarned!  

This rice was great!  I couldn't actually taste the zucchini and if it wasn't for the green color, I probably wouldn't even have known it was in there.  Even though I couldn't taste it, just knowing it was in there made me feel good, since I was eating my serving of vegetables for the day!  I will definitely be making this one again.  

Cheesy Zucchini Rice
adapted from: Buns In My Oven
(Printable Recipe)

1 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. long-grain rice
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbl. butter, opt.
1 med. or 2 sm. zucchini, grated (I added around 1 - 1 1/2 cups)
1 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder, opt. 
salt and pepper
splash of milk, as needed (I added 2-3 Tbl.)

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Toast the rice, stirring often, until golden.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and cover.  Cook 15-20 minutes or until liquid is mostly absorbed.  Stir in the butter, grated zucchini, shredded cheese and garlic powder.  Cover and let sit 5 more minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste and add a little milk if you would like it creamier.  Serves: 4    

Jenn's Notes: I forgot to add the butter and garlic powder and it still tasted yummy.  I used Medium Cheddar and my rice only had a slight cheesy flavor.  I chose not to peel my zucchini, but if you want it to be a little more hidden, you could peel yours.   

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Cake

Have you ever had a blueberry cinnamon roll?  There is a local bakery where I live that makes the BEST EVER blueberry cinnamon rolls.  I would pick that roll over a regular cinnamon roll or even over an orange roll any day of the week.   I had high hopes for this cake.  The cake itself was delicious.  It was moist, had great texture and was loaded with cinnamon flavor.  Plus anything with glaze on top is a winner in my book.  The only problem was, it wasn't loaded with blueberry flavor and since it is called "Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Cake", it should taste like blueberries.  

However,  I think I have figured out how to get more blueberry flavor packed inside.  I think it would be perfect to layer half the batter, then a whole layer of blueberry sauce, then the rest of the batter.  That way you get blueberry in every single bite.  What do you think?  Either way this cake was yummy and you could even leave the blueberry out entirely and just have regular cinnamon roll cake!    
Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Cake
Blueberry Sauce 
1 pt. blueberries
1/4 c. water
1 Tbl. sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. orange zest, opt.
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
2 Tbl. flour
1 Tbl. cinnamon

2 c. powdered sugar
2 - 3 Tbl. milk (more if needed)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the blueberry sauce:  Add the blueberries, water, sugar and lemon juice to a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until thickened, mashing the blueberries as you go. (A potato masher worked best for me, but you could also use a wooden spoon).  Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool.  To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder.  In  a separate dish combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and melted butter.  Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until combined.  Pour into a greased 9x13 inch cake pan (or see my notes below for my suggestion).  Dollop blueberry sauce over cake batter and swirl using a butter knife.  For the topping:  Combine brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Cut in the butter until it looks like wet sand.  (My fingers worked best for this, but you could always use a fork or spoon).  Sprinkle evenly over the cake.  Bake for 30-33 minutes.  Let cake cool for 20-30 minutes.  To make the glaze:  Whisk together all ingredients until smooth, adding only enough milk until it reaches desired consistency.  Pour over slightly cooled cake.  Let cake sit for 1 1/2 - 2 hours before cutting and serving.  Don't rush this part or you might end up with a completely sunken cake.    

Jenn's Notes: I made 1/2 a batch.  I did add orange zest, but I couldn't taste it at all, so you could totally leave that out or add it to the glaze instead.  Next time, I am going to spread half the batter into the cake pan, then spread an entire layer of blueberry sauce over the batter (instead of just dolloping).  Then, I will top with the remaining cake batter and continue with the rest of the cake as instructed.  By just dolloping and swirling the sauce, you end up with only a few patches of blueberry and by adding an entire layer of blueberry sauce, I think it will add much more blueberry flavor, since you will get some in every bite, but the choice is up to you. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oven Baked Garlic Parmesan Fries

These potatoes were good.  Then,  I dipped them in ranch dressing and they were So Good!  Although they don't get super crunchy, they do get slightly crunchy. The thinner you can slice your potato, the more likely they will end up crispy.  They are like little, bite-size, healthier potato skins! Imagine a bacon and Cheddar cheese version (of course that wouldn't be a healthy version).  

By-the-way, on a little side-note, I recently purchased a bottle of Light ranch dressing.  I got the same brand that I love, but I went with light instead of original and I swear - it tastes the EXACT same.  The bottle even said "I bet you can't tell it is Light" and boy is that statement true.  So, if you want to save a few calories and a lot of fat grams, consider trying out light salad dressings.  Either way, make these soon and be sure to dip them in ranch!!!  
Oven Baked Garlic Parmesan Fries
adapted from: Babble
(Printable Recipe)

3 small - medium russet potatoes
2-3 Tbl. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. panko bread crumbs
1/4 c. Parmesan, freshly grated
garlic salt
freshly ground black pepper
chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Clean and roughly peel the potatoes, leaving a few strips of skin intact.  Slice potatoes into 1/4'' pieces, using a knife or a food processor.  Place slices in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat each potato.  Add the panko, parmesan, garlic salt and pepper.  Stir again to make sure each slice is coated with a bit of the ingredients.  Spread evenly onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 450 degrees for 18-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and panko are golden brown and desired crispiness is achieved.  Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.  

Jenn's Notes:  These didn't get super crispy, but they were slightly crispy.  They were way good dipped in ranch dressing.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cheesy Chicken Taco Pasta

For someone that used to say they didn't like pasta very much, I sure have been making a lot of it lately.  Guess I like it now - you think? 

I think this Taco Pasta and this Cheesy Chili Mac are what jump-started my new found love for pasta, but both of those use ground beef and I wanted a chicken version of a Mexican pasta.  I wanted a creamy dish, but I didn't want to have to make a roux.  What could work instead of a roux?  How about cream of chicken soup?  I took that idea and turned it into a Mexican style dish by adding some Rotel, cumin, chili powder and cilantro.  It totally worked.  

It turned out creamy, cheesy and yummy.  
Cheesy Chicken Taco Pasta
from: Jenn@eatcakefordinner
(Printable Recipe)

1 1/2 - 2 c. cooked and seasoned chicken, diced
2 c. shell pasta, cooked (measure before it is cooked)
1 3/4 c. Cheddar cheese, divided
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 can mild Rotel, undrained (diced tomatoes and green chiles)
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper
2 - 3 Tbl. chopped cilantro, opt.
1/4 c. milk (or more if needed)

Combine cream of chicken soup, Rotel, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, chopped cilantro and milk.  Add the cooked chicken, cooked pasta and 1 1/4 cups of cheese.  Stir to combine. If you think it needs a little extra milk, now is the time to add it (I did not add any extra to mine).  Taste and add more seasonings, if needed.  Pour into an 8x8 inch casserole dish.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.  Garnish with more cilantro, if desired.  Serves: 4-5  

Jenn's Notes: I baked one very large chicken breast that I had seasoned with some salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and garlic powder.  I accidentally cooked a little more than 2 cups of pasta, so your dish might end up looking a little more saucy than in my photo.  If you are not a pasta person, I think this would taste great with rice too.  Feel free to switch this up however you like.  You could add Pepper Jack cheese if you want a little extra kick, you could add some corn and beans or you could even use ground beef instead of chicken.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Teriyaki Chicken and Noodle Bowl

I LOVED this noodle bowl!!  It was such a nice change using noodles instead of rice like I do with so many other dishes, like this Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken and this Bourbon Chicken over Rice.  However, if you don't want the noodles, I think it would be great over rice too.  

I had no idea teriyaki sauce was so incredibly easy to make.  I even had all of the ingredients on hand, including the sesame oil.  I really like the flavor of sesame oil and even using only 1 teaspoon in the sauce, you can really taste it.  It tastes way better than store bought sauce and it makes quite a bit, but Jamie says it will keep in the fridge up to a week.  I think it would be way good served on a chicken sandwich, maybe with some bacon too???    

I want to try and pre-cut some carrots and red peppers and freeze them to have readily available and to help cut back on some of the prep work.  Has anyone tried freezing either of those? How about chopped onions?  
Teriyaki Chicken and Noodle Bowl
adapted from:  Jamie Cooks It Up
(Printable Recipe)

4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless (I used breasts)
2 Tbl. olive oil
salt and pepper
3 large carrots
1 red bell pepper
1/2 med. onion
any other veggies: mushrooms, broccoli, peas, zucchini, etc . . .
1 (16 oz.) pkg. angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti noodles

Teriyaki Sauce
1 1/2 c. cold water
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. soy sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 Tbl. cornstarch
1 tsp. sesame oil

Cut chicken into strips (or cubes if using breasts). Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken; season with salt and pepper.  Let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  You want it to get nice and golden brown on each side.  While your chicken is cooking, chop up the veggies.  You want to be sure they are chopped pretty small (about 3/4 of an inch).  Now is the time to heat up a pot of water and cook the noodles according to package directions.  When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pan and set aside.  

Add the other tablespoon of oil to the hot pan.  Add the veggies and cook until they are crisp tender.  While the veggies are cooking, mix all the teriyaki sauce ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, making sure there are no lumps.  Once the veggies are cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside with the chicken.  Pour the teriyaki sauce into the hot pan.  Whisk it around until it thickens up.  This should only take about 3 minutes.  Serve.  Place hot noodles in a bowl or plate, top with chicken, veggies and top with the sauce.  Serves 4 - 6     

Jenn's Notes: I used carrots, red pepper, yellow onion and steamed broccoli for my vegetables.  I used chicken breasts instead of thighs.  I cooked my teriyaki sauce in a separate pan and kept the vegetables in the pan they were in and I added the chicken back in to ensure everything would be warm.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Easy Weeknight Chicken Tacos

These tacos were quick and easy and they tasted DELICIOUS.  I knew I wanted to try them after seeing they called for orange juice.  My favorite carnitas recipe calls for orange juice and I figured it would be perfect with chicken too.  Since these call for chipotle chiles in adobo, I think they would be too spicy for kids.  Even the smallest amount of those chipotle chiles adds a big kick.  You can buy chipotle chili powder seasoning and I think that would be a great substitute, because you still get that nice smoky flavor, but not so much heat.
Easy Weeknight Chicken Tacos
adapted from: America's Test Kitchen
(Printable Recipe)

3 Tbl. butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. chipotle chiles in adobo, seeds removed, minced
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. + 1/4 c. cilantro, minced, divided
1 Tbl. Worcestershire sauce
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 2)
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter.  Add the garlic clove and minced chipotle chiles and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the orange juice, 1/2 cup minced cilantro and Worcestershire; stir well.  Add the chicken breasts and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is done. Flip over halfway through.  The thickest part of the chicken should register 160 degrees.  Remove chicken and set aside to rest for a few minutes.  Continue heating the sauce and reduce to a glaze.  Add 1/2 tsp. of yellow mustard (this helps emulsify it) and stir well.  Shred the chicken and add back to the glaze; toss to coat.  Stir in 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in toasted tortillas with diced tomato, fresh lime juice, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, sour cream and Feta or whatever toppings you desire.  Serves 4.    

Jenn's Notes: I made the recipe as is, except I used 2 large Costco chicken breasts.  I was worried about adding yellow mustard, but it did not stand out at all. I really really liked these!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Frozen Pistachio Pudding Pops

I have been loving popsicles lately and I have eaten more than my fair share so far this Summer.  It has been so hot, that cold treats are a must to help cool down.  I had some half-and-half leftover from this homemade vanilla ice cream and I have been craving pistachio lately, so I combined the two and made some pudding pops!  So Good! They are so smooth and creamy and your kids will love them!  

The possibilities are endless with this easy recipe.  You can create so many different flavors.  You can use any flavor of pudding or layer different pudding flavors.  You can add crushed up cookies, chopped fruit or different flavored extracts.  You could even make a family night out of it and let everyone create their own flavor.      
Frozen Pistachio Pudding Pops
adapted from: Our Best Bites

1 3/4 c. half-and-half
1 (3.4 oz.) box instant pistachio pudding
1/4 tsp. almond extract, opt.     

Whisk together all ingredients and pour/spoon into popsicle molds.  Add a popsicle stick to each one and freeze for several hours or until frozen.  Yield: about 8 pops.  Keep in mind that the number of popsicles you get will vary depending on the size of molds you use.

*Notes: Our Best Bites tested all kinds of dairy combos and they discovered that half-and-half works best and will give you a richer and creamier texture.  You can substitute milk, but your pops will be a little icier.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mama DePandi's Cannelloni

I love me some celebrity gossip!!  I read People Magazine and I watch E! News every day.  Giuliana (Depandi) Rancic is one of the hosts of E! News.  She is married to Bill Rancic (who was the winner of the first season of The Apprentice).  They were in one of my Paula Deen magazines and they shared this recipe for Guilana's mother's cannelloni.  The Depandi's are Italians, so I was excited to try a true authentic cannelloni recipe.  Now that I have fresh basil growing, it was the perfect time to try it. 

I am NOT very good at making cannelloni.  How in the world do you get the filling inside the shell without ripping it?  Please, let me know.  I think I ripped every one of my shells, but it still turned out fine.  I just put them really close to each other in the baking dish and that kept the filling from oozing out.

Mama DePandi's Cannelloni
adapted from: Giuliana and Bill Rancic 
(as seen in Paula Deen Magazine Jan/Feb 2010)
(Printable Recipe)

2 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 green pepper, chopped, opt.
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil
2 tsp. Italian seasoning, opt.
1 tsp. garlic powder, opt.
1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
2 tsp. black pepper, divided
1 Lb. ground beef, cooked
1 (16 oz.) pkg. shredded Mozzarella
1 (15 oz.) container whole milk Ricotta
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1 (8 oz.) box cannelloni shells, cooked

Heat the olive oil in a large pot.  Add the onion and green pepper and cook 4-6 minutes or until tender.  Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the cooked ground beef, Mozzarella, Ricotta, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper along with 4 Tablespoons of the sauce mixture.  Stuff each cannelloni shell and place in a single layer in a greased baking dish.  Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.  Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.  Serves: 6-8 people.  

Jenn's Notes: I am used to the jam-packed flavor of My Spaghetti Sauce, so I had to add a little extra flavor to this dish.  The green pepper, Italian seasoning and the garlic powder were not part of the original recipe, but I felt like it needed a little extra flavor with the spices and I added the peppers, well because, I add peppers to everything!  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Easier Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

This dish is so so so YUMMY!! 
I didn't want to stop eating it.  It was so easy to throw together and I know it will be a frequent dinner item, because it was loved by all.

I really love my other version of Chicken Cordon Bleu Florentine Casserole, but I wanted to give you another option which is a little easier to make and uses common ingredients (no spinach and no Gorgonzola).  I used the base sauce recipe from this Guiltless Alfredo (it is made in a blender), but added Swiss cheese instead of Parmesan.  It was so cheesy.  I LOVE cheese!  The sauce turns out thick and rich and creamy.  I even used fat-free cream cheese, but feel free to use whatever you have in your fridge.  If you never got a chance to try out this amazing sauce with the alfredo, now is your chance with this recipe.  It really is a great sauce and you could adapt it to work in so many different dishes.
Easier Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
from: Jenn@eatcakefordinner
(Printable Recipe)

2 c. milk (I used 1%)
3 oz. cream cheese (I used fat-free)
2 Tbl. flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbl. butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 - 1 1/2 c. Swiss cheese, shredded
1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
3/4 c. deli ham, chopped
5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 1/2 c. pasta, cooked (whatever shape you have on hand)
  (measure the pasta before it is cooked)

Panko bread crumbs
dried parsley
powdered Parmesan cheese

or use Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Add the milk, cream cheese, flour and kosher salt to a blender.  Blend until completely smooth and creamy.  Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute about 30 seconds.  Carefully pour in the sauce mixture.  Stir constantly for 3-4 minutes or until it comes to a simmer.  Add Italian seasoning, onion powder and pepper.  Taste, and add more seasoning, if needed.  Continue cooking until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or so.  

Once it reaches desired consistency,  add the shredded Swiss cheese and stir until melted.  Add the shredded chicken, chopped ham, crumbled bacon and cooked pasta.  Stir together until everything is coated in sauce.  Pour into a large casserole dish.  Cover top with Panko bread crumbs, parsley and a little powdered Parmesan cheese.  Or, you can omit those three ingredients and use Italian seasoned bread crumbs.  Spray topping lightly with butter spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly and bread crumbs are lightly browned.  (If you don't care about the bread crumbs being browned, you could skip the baking part and eat this immediately as it will be creamier if you don't bake it).  Serves: 4 - 6

Jenn's Notes:  You don't need to soften the cream cheese before you add it to the blender, you can add it cold, right out of the fridge!  Regular table salt can be used in place of kosher salt, but make sure to use half as much.    

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Easy Vanilla or Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Did you know July is National Ice Cream Month?  Does that mean it is okay to eat ice cream for dinner the whole month of July! Ha!

I have made it a family tradition to have homemade vanilla ice cream every 4th of July.  Since my family was camping this year, I had to make my own.  My Mom makes the best vanilla ice cream ever and her recipe involves a little cooking, because there are eggs in it.  I have never made her recipe and I figured for my first attempt at homemade vanilla ice cream, I needed an easier recipe.

I got this one from my friend's sister.  It is super easy and the hardest part (which isn't hard at all) is heating the milk and sugar together just until the sugar is dissolved, which takes only a minute or two.  

Then, all you have to do is mix everything together and freeze!  It makes a lot - plenty for your whole family and then some!  My favorite way to serve this is with some fresh fruit, but you could always do sprinkles, caramel or fudge sauce for the kiddos (or the men that don't eat fruit)!

*Note - Homemade ice cream is very soft.  In order for the ice cream to be scoop-able (like in my photos), it will need to be frozen for several hours.*
Easy Vanilla Ice Cream
adapted from: Kortni S.
(Printable Recipe)

2 c. milk (I used 1%)
4 c. whipping cream
4 c. half-and-half
2 3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbl. vanilla extract
  or 1 Tbl. vanilla extract and 1 Tbl. vanilla bean paste

Combine milk and sugar and heat over medium-low just until sugar is dissolved.  This should only take a minute or two. You can tell it is dissolved if you get a spoonful of the liquid and rub it between your fingers, if it is smooth, then the sugar is dissolved.  If it still feels grainy, then you need to keep heating.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour into ice cream maker and freeze.  Serve with desired toppings.  

Jenn's Notes: I heated the milk and sugar together, then I put that in the refrigerator for a few hours until I was ready to make the ice cream.  The colder the ingredients are when you start out, the faster it will freeze.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Crispy Cheddar Chicken

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure I see this chicken every single time I get onto Pinterest.  Jamie did say it was her most viewed recipe last year and I can see why - literally!

I thought it was pretty good.  Mine didn't get very crispy, but I think that could easily be fixed by spraying the Ritz crusted chicken with a little butter spray before baking.  I am a huge fan of the rich and buttery flavor of Ritz crackers.  I have even been eating the Reduced-Fat Ritz lately and I think they are still so good, just slightly a little more crumbly than the regular ones.

I had a hard time getting the cheese to stick to the chicken and I ended up adding it in with the cracker crumbs, which helped it stick better, but I thought it was weird that my cheese didn't end up melting?  I served mine with a big side of broccoli, but I think it would be great served over rice.    

Crispy Cheddar Chicken
4 large chicken breasts
2 sleeves Ritz crackers
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. milk
3 c. Cheddar cheese, grated 
1 tsp. dried parsley

1 (10 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
2 Tbl. sour cream
2 Tbl. butter

Cut each chicken breast into 3 large chunks (I cut mine into 2 strips).  Crush the Ritz crackers by either using a food processor or by putting them in a zip-lock bag and hitting them with a rolling pin.  Pour the milk, cheese and cracker crumbs into 3 separate dishes.  Add the salt and pepper to the cracker crumbs and stir around to combine.  Dip each piece of chicken into the milk, then the cheese.  Press the cheese into the chicken with your fingers.  Some of it will fall off when you add it to the cracker crumbs, don't worry about it.  Place the cheesy chicken into the cracker crumbs and press it in.  

Place into a greased 9x13 pan.  Sprinkle dried parsley over the chicken.  Cover the pan with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes or until the chicken is done and the edges are golden brown and crispy.  Into a medium-sized saucepan, combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream and butter.  Stir it over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sauce is warm.  Serve over the chicken.  Serves: 4-6.   

Jenn's Notes: This was easy to throw together and I loved that it was baked.  Next time, I will spray my Ritz crusted chicken with butter spray before baking to help it get crispier.  I used a little less cheese than the recipe called for and I did not add the butter to the sauce, but instead, added a little milk to help it reach a gravy consistency.    

Monday, July 2, 2012

Frozen Strawberry Watermelon Lemonade

It definitely quenched my thirst!  I even got a few brain-freezes a long the way.

I threw everything in the food processor and pulsed away.  Then, I stopped it to taste and see what adjustments needed to be made.  It needed nothing - it was PERFECT!  I should have made a bigger batch.  Who knew homemade lemonade could taste so good.  I'm 100% sure I will be making this a lot in the next few months.  

I love the flavor the fresh strawberries added.  It ended up thick and smooth and creamy - not icy at all.  Some people might find this overly sweet, since the fruit is fairly sweet on its own, but I love sweet things, so I thought it had the perfect sweet/tart balance.  If you don't care for super sweet things, I would start out with less sugar and add more if needed.    

This would be the perfect beverage to serve at your next barbeque.  Or even just to go with Sunday dinner!  If you are worried about serving it at a barbeque and having it melt.  Don't worry, it tastes really really good regular too.  I whipped up a batch and put some extra in my fridge.  A few hours later, I went to drink the rest and even though it was no longer frozen, it was still AMAZING.

Between this lemonade and this Watermelon Frosty, you have no excuses to not use up every last bit of that watermelon in your fridge.
Frozen Strawberry Watermelon Lemonade
8 c. watermelon, cubed and seeded, frozen
1 c. strawberries, halved  (I used way more)    
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
1 c. granulated sugar
2 c. water or Sprite (I used Sprite)

Combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth (you may have to do it in two batches).  You can also skip freezing the watermelon cubes and make regular Strawberry Watermelon Lemonade.    

Jenn's Notes: I cut this recipe in fourth and made it in my food processor.  I added quite a bit more strawberries than the recipe called for, because I wanted a strong strawberry flavor.  I also used the juice of an entire lemon.  Fourth of a batch made enough for two medium-sized glasses.  It is pretty sweet (which I like), but I think you could cut back on the sugar and it would still be yummy.  It tasted great frozen and it tastes great not-frozen too.       

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