Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pizza Pasta Bake

It's General Conference weekend, and that means being spiritually fed AND physically fed with yummy food. Here's one dish we enjoyed between Saturday's sessions.

Pizza Pasta Bake
(based on One Pot Pizza Pasta Bake from
Serves 8

16 oz. mild Italian sausage (we used Tennessee Pride)
1 cup mini pepperoni, divided
1 quart tomatoes (blended), or tomato sauce
3 cups water
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
16 oz. rotini or penne pasta
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. dried parsley

Preheat oven to broil. In a large skillet or pot, brown sausage and separate into small crumbles. Drain excess fat. Stir in 1/2 cup pepperoni until heated through, about 1 minute.

Stir in blended tomatoes or tomato sauce, oregano, basil, garlic, pasta, and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil; cover. Reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through.

Remove from heat. Pour mixture into glass 13x9 pan. Top with mozzarella cheese, remaining 1/2 cup pepperoni, and parsley. Place into oven and broil until cheese is melted and golden brown.

Serve immediately with tossed green salad and garlic toast.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole

Tater tots for breakfast? Yes, please! We first made this casserole in a 12" Dutch oven while camping and fell in love with it. We've since made it at home in a 13x9 pan with similarly delicious results.

Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole
1 T. butter
32 oz. seasoned tater tots (we used Western Family)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. ground sausage, browned and drained
8 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in 13x9 pan in oven and promptly remove pan from oven.

Mix tater tots, cheese, and sausage together in a bowl, and then place mixture into 13x9 pan.

Mix eggs and milk and pour over tater tot mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes, uncovered.

Optional: serve as breakfast burritos in tortillas with salsa, sour cream, etc.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bryant and Katelyn's Luncheon

August 18 was a very special day for our family. Bryant was sealed to Katelyn for time and all eternity! The sealing was done in the Provo City Center Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Afterwards, we held a luncheon and enjoyed dancing and visiting at The Startup Building at 111 W 600 S in Provo.

Here are the recipes for the food we served:

Chicken Salad Sandwiches on Cocktail Croissants
2 cups finely chopped chicken
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise (no substitutes)
2 T. sour cream
1 T. chicken broth
1 T. lemon juice

Four rotisserie chickens were enough for 100 people. Cocktail croissants were purchased at Sam's Club.

Italian Pesto Pasta Salad
1 lb. pasta (I used spiral pasta from Winco's bulk section)
1 cup pesto (I used Sam's Club brand)
1 cup Italian dressing (I used Olive Garden)
cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
sliced olives
feta cheese

Cook pasta; rinse with cold water. Add pesto and dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, stir in desired amounts of tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese. The original recipe called for shredded rotisserie chicken, grapes, and chopped, fresh spinach. Since we were serving chicken salad sandwiches, I didn't want this to be a main dish salad, which is why we decided to add tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese. We served approximately 100 people with 5 pounds of pasta, 1 large package of cherry tomatoes, 1 large package of feta cheese, and 1/2 large (#10) can of sliced olives (all from Sam's Club).

Nuts About Berries Salad (copycat from Zupa's Cafe)
3 large bags chopped romaine
1 large container spinach
4 lbs. strawberries
1 1/2 lbs. raspberries
1 1/2 lbs. blueberries
1 1/2 lbs. blackberries

Wash greens and fruit. Place romaine and spinach in a very large bowl. Pour Poppyseed Vinaigrette over greens and toss to coat. Carefully mix in berries. Serve sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar toasted pecans. This is enough to serve approximately 100 people.

Poppyseed Vinaigrette
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. minced dried onion
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 T. poppyseeds

Mix all ingredients except oil and poppyseeds in blender. Once sugar is dissolved, slowly add in oil while blender is running to emulsify the mixture. Add poppyseeds and mix for just a second until the poppyseeds are incorporated throughout the vinaigrette. A double recipe is plenty for the above amount of salad.

Cinnamon-Sugar Toasted Pecans
1 bag pecans (from Sam's or Costco)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Chop pecans in food processor, not too finely. Pour pecans in a very large skillet. Mix sugar and cinnamon, and pour mixture over pecans in skillet. Toast and carmelize pecans over medium-high heat, stirring continually until sugar sticks to and coats pecans. Pour pecans onto parchment paper to cool. 1 bag of pecans is enough for 150-200 people.

Fresh Fruit to serve 100
2 watermelons
3 cantaloupe
3 pineapple
5 lbs. grapes

Gourmet Bakery Brownies - Gardner Style

Brownie Batter
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups (8 oz) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup and 1 tablespoon (3.3 oz) cake flour
¾ cup and 2 tablespoons (2.8 oz) Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder Use a good brand--it is important. I usually use either Callebaut Royal Dutch cocoa or Cacao Barry Extra Brute.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare a 9x13-inch baking pan by lining with heavy-duty aluminum foil--leaving edges of aluminum foil hanging over to help lift brownies from pan when they are done.  Spray foil with Baker’s Joy baking spray or lightly grease the foil in the pan.

Cut the butter sticks into 1-inch slices.  In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter pieces over the lowest setting; add the bittersweet chocolate.  Stir with a small whisk until combined and the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Turn off the heat but leave the saucepan on the burner while proceeding with the recipe.

Using a large whisk, lightly beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Place the sugar and salt in a separate small mixing bowl, then whisk into the eggs just until incorporated.  Briefly whisk the melted chocolate mixture, then gradually whisk into the egg mixture until just combined.  Briefly whisk in the vanilla.

Place the flour and cocoa powder in the small mixing bowl; whisk together to combine.  Sift through a medium strainer directly onto the batter; stir in with a silicone spatula until just combined.  Add optional fold-ins if desired and fold in gently.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a small offset spatula.  Bake for 26 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, then refrigerate the pan for 7 to 8 hours, or overnight.

To remove brownies from pan, grasp the edges of the parchment paper and lift out the entire block.  Place on a cutting board and use a large sharp knife to cut into 2-inch squares.  Refrigerated in an airtight container, brownies will keep for up to 3 days.

For Mint Brownies, fold into brownie batter before baking - 2 cups (12 oz) mint baking chips. Spread cooled brownies with Fluffy Mint Frosting and Chocolate Glaze as directed below. Garnish warm glaze with 1 tablespoon white chocolate Callebaut Crispearls and 1 tablespoon Valhrona Dark Chocolate Crunchy Pearls.

For Peanut Buttercream Brownies, fold into brownie batter before baking - 1 (8 oz) bag unwrapped Reese’s Minis peanut butter cups. Spread cooled brownies with Peanut Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Glaze as directed below. Then drizzle with Peanut Butter Drizzle while glaze is still warm.

For Coo Coo for Coconut Brownies, fold into brownie batter before baking - ½ cup (1.4 oz) unsweetened organic shredded or flaked coconut, toasted. To toast the unsweetened shredded coconut, adjust an oven rack to the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350°F.  Spread out the coconut evenly on a quarter-sheet pan. Bake for 4 minutes until the coconut is very lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack. Spread cooled brownies with Marshmallow Topping and sprinkle with ½ cup (2 oz) shredded sweetened coconut, toasted following same toasting directions as coconut added to the brownie batter.

For Cookie Dough Brownies, spread cooled brownies with Cookie Dough Topping and Chocolate Glaze as directed below.

Fluffy Mint Frosting
8 tablespoons (3.2 oz) white all-vegetable shortening (Hi-Ratio shortening is recommended and what I use)
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow crème
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (or more to taste)
1 ¼ cups (5 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1 drop green food coloring (optional)

Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat together the shortening and butter on medium speed until well combined and completely smooth.  Add the marshmallow crème, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract to the mixing bowl and beat on medium-low speed until well combined.  Add the confectioners’ sugar to the mixer bowl.  Starting on low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high, beat until the mixture is fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add a drop of green food coloring if desired.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again briefly.  Dollop the frosting over the brownie slab and spread evenly with a small offset spatula.  Place the slab in the refrigerator while preparing the glaze.

Peanut Buttercream Frosting
½ cup (4.5 oz) creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups (8 oz) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place the peanut butter, butter, and salt in a small mixing bowl.  Using a hand mixer, beat together until the mixture is perfectly smooth.  Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl along with the milk and vanilla; beat until well blended and fluffy.  Dollop the frosting over the brownie slab, then spread evenly with a small offset spatula.  Refrigerate the brownie slab while preparing the chocolate glaze.

Peanut Butter Drizzle
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/3 cup (2 oz) peanut butter-flavored baking chips, such as Reese’s

To make the peanut butter drizzle, place the oil and peanut butter chips in a 1-cup microwave-safe measuring cup.  Microwave on 50% power for 2 minutes, then stir with a small silicone spatula until the chips are melted and completely smooth.  Pour the mixture in a thin stream randomly over the warm chocolate glaze.  If desired, use a skewer, toothpick, or small knife to marble the drizzle with the chocolate glaze.  Refrigerate the slab until the peanut buttercream frosting and glaze are quite firm, at least 2 hours.

Chocolate Glaze for Mint Brownies and Peanut Butter Brownies
6 tablespoons (3 oz) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 cup (6 oz) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Slice the butter into ½-inch slices.  Place the butter slices and corn syrup in a small saucepan and melt over the lowest setting.  Meanwhile, place the chopped chocolate in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.  Microwave the chocolate on high power for 90 seconds, whisk with a small whisk, then microwave for an additional 15 seconds.  Whisk again.  Pour the melted butter mixture into the melted chocolate and whisk gently until combined and completely smooth.  Pour the glaze over the fluffy mint frosting and spread evenly with a small offset spatula to completely cover the frosting.  Refrigerate the slab until the frosting is firm, at least 2 hours.  Makes 12 large squares, 24 smaller bars, or sixty 1 1/8-inch pieces.

Coconut Marshmallow Topping
1 cup cold water (divided)
3 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (9 oz) light corn syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract

To make the coconut marshmallow layer, place ½ cup of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the surface of the water; set aside.  Sift (or strain) the sugar into a 1 ½- to 2-quart heavy saucepan.  Add the salt, corn syrup, and the remaining ½ cup of water.  Place over moderately low heat and stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, about 7 minutes.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat slightly, cover the pan, and boil for 2 minutes to allow any sugar crystals on the sides of the saucepan to dissolve.  Remove the pan lid and increase the heat to medium-high.  Insert a candy thermometer into the mixture and let the syrup boil without stirring until the temperature reaches 240°F.

With the mixer on low speed, pour the syrup into the gelatin mixture.  After all the syrup has been added, gradually increase the speed to high and beat for 12 minutes.  The sugar mixture is very hot--increase the mixer speed gradually so the syrup does not splash up out of the bowl.  Reduce the speed to low and add the extract.  Increase the speed to high and beat an additional 4 minutes, until the mixture is lukewarm and the consistency of whipped marshmallow.  Use a pastry scraper to dollop the slightly warm and thick marshmallow over the top of the brownie slap; quickly smooth the top with a small offset spatula.  Sprinkle the top of the marshmallow with the toasted sweetened coconut.  Refrigerate the pan for 7 to 8 hours, or overnight.

Cookie Dough Topping
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons (2 oz) milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups (6-3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 ounces) mini semisweet chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Mix in milk and vanilla.  Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Gently spread dough onto cooled brownies, smoothing the top into an even layer.  Refrigerate while you prepare the glaze.

Glaze for Cookie Dough Brownies
7 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Gently melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler.  Stir until smooth.  Pour over cookie dough, carefully spreading into a thin, even layer.  Return pan to refrigerator and chill until set, about 30 minutes.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Smothered Chicken

Mom and Dad visited a few weeks ago, and Mom baked a pasta casserole dish that had Dijon mustard in it. I was looking for a way to use up the mustard and found this recipe. We're so happy we found it, because it was SO good the day of AND the day after! We'll be making it again in a few weeks when we vacation at a cabin in Provo Canyon before Bryant's wedding.


Honey Mustard Marinade: Combine ingredients. Reserve 1/3 of the mixture and chill in the refrigerator for later. Pour the remaining 2/3 of the mixture over 4 skinless chicken breasts. Marinade the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. (We marinated the chicken overnight.)
1/2 cup Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 T. oil
1/2 tsp. lemon or lime juice

Mushrooms: saute mushrooms in butter and season with salt and pepper if desired
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 T. butter
Salt and pepper

Bacon: cook bacon until crispy; crumble (we used pre-cooked bacon crumbles from Costco)
8 slices of bacon

1 cup shredded Monterey cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Grill marinated chicken until done. Place each breast on a baking sheet. On each breast, spoon some marinade (the sauce that was set aside) and layer with cheddar cheese, mushrooms, Monterey cheese, and finally the bacon crumbles. Broil in oven until cheese is melted. Serve any remaining marinade on side of chicken.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

No Bake Peanut Butter Cheerios Bars

I like these better than Rice Crispy treats!

No Bake Peanut Butter Cheerios Bars
1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups Cheerios cereal (I prefer the honey-nut variety)
2 cups chocolate chips

In a saucepan, mix sugar and corn syrup over medium-high heat. Continue to stir until the mixture comes to a boil and sugar is dissolved. Immediately remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until melted and mixed. Pour sauce over Cheerios and mix well. Press mixture into a 9x13 pan. Melt chocolate chips and spread on top of bars. Once cooled, cut with hot knife.

Macadamia Creamsicle Cookies

I had all the ingredients for these cookies and was going to make them for Christmas. But I never got around to it. I finally decided that macadamia nuts are too expensive to waste, so I made the cookies yesterday. Oh, my! They're to die for!

Macadamia Creamsicle Cookies

2½ cups all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract (I used 1/4 tsp. orange oil)
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped dry-roasted macadamia nuts (I used about 3 oz.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and orange extract until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in orange zest, white chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Do not flatten cookies; it will make them dry. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Do not overcook! Cookies will be plump. Cool for several minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Note: my dough was SO thick that I couldn't even stir in the chips, zest, and nuts. I ended up adding 1 T. milk in order to stir in those ingredients. Maybe I should have measured the flour more carefully. I think these cookies would be incredible with lime or lemon also!

Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sweet Tooth Fairy Copycat Cupcakes

Sunday I made a disaster of a mess inside my oven. I made a cake recipe from the internet that claimed to be the "best ever" vanilla cake. The blogger's description and how my cake turned out were exact opposites. She must blog and bake at sea level, and I have no idea how in the world she got her cake to turn out. My ended up all over my oven!

I just hate cooking failures! So I started researching cupcake recipes and remembered the delicious cupcakes I've had at the Sweet Tooth Fairy Bakery here in Utah. Both of the copycat recipes I tried turned out beautifully here at high altitudes! These recipes are adjusted slightly to make approximately 12 cupcakes. If you have extra batter, spray a mug with baking spray, put the leftover cake batter in the mug, and "bake" in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, depending on the wattage of your microwave and the size of leftover batter.

Double Vanilla Cupcakes
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 T. butter, melted
2 egg whites
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Mix wet ingredients in measuring cup and add all at once to the dry ingredients. Beat until mixed well. Place a scoop of batter in 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Frost when cooled.

I think this vanilla cupcake recipe is a great basic recipe to play around with. What about adding coconut milk in place of the milk, along with folding in coconut into the batter and topping the cooled and frosted cupcakes with toasted coconut? That's just one idea. I'm sure you could come up with a zillion other great ideas! White chocolate. . . Raspberry Swirl. . . Pina Colada. . . Key Lime. . . Lemon. . . You get the idea!

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup ready-to-eat chocolate pudding
1/3 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Mix wet ingredients in measuring cup and add all at once to the dry ingredients. Beat until mixed well. Fold in chocolate chips. Place a scoop of batter in 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Frost when cooled. (I didn't have any ready-to-eat pudding, so I just added 1/2 cup buttermilk. Note that sour cream can be substituted with buttermilk or yogurt.) I had these with vanilla frosting, but they'd also be delicious with the white chocolate frosting, any chocolate frosting, German chocolate frosting, etc.

Vanilla Frosting
1 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. coconut extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Add butter to the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix on medium speed with whisk attachment until the butter is light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add cream, extracts, salt, and 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar. Mix on low until combined and then increase speed to medium and whip for 3-5 minutes. The consistency of frosting is important if you're going to pile it high. It should be a medium consistency and should be sturdy enough to hold a spoon up. Keep adding powdered sugar until the frosting is the right consistency. Place frosting in a bag and pipe on the cooled cupcakes with tip 2A.

White Chocolate Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup white chocolate chips, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Bear cream cheese and butter. Add chocolate and vanilla and beat. Add sugar gradually. Place frosting in a bag and pipe on the cooled cupcakes.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

DIY Cleaning Products 101

Over the last few months of unemployment, we've attempted to live as inexpensively as possible. When we ran out of cleaning products we had purchased, I started to research DIY cleaning products, and I thought I'd share the ones I've tried and like.

The main ingredients are VERY inexpensive: baking soda, dish detergent, baking soda, and a few essential oils.

DIY Orange Degreaser
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp. dish detergent
20 drops orange oil

Mix together. Place mixture in spray bottle. Spray on area that needs de-greased. Let sit for a minute or two. Use a sponge or cloth to wipe off. Little, if any, scrubbing is needed! I used this on the inside glass of my oven and on some spots on the inside of my oven that wouldn't come off, even after running the "cleaning" cycle of the oven. They came off!

DIY Oven Rack Cleaner
Place racks in tub. Spray or sprinkle with vinegar. Sprinkle liberally with baking soda. Let sit for 10 minutes. Fill tub with hot water to cover racks. Let sit for another 10 minutes. Now simply wipe the racks down to get all the gross grimy stuff off. No need to scrub!

Shower & Tub Cleaner
Use the Oven Rack Cleaner method above. It really works!

DIY Warm-Mist Humidifier Cleaner
When running the humidifier, add 4 or 5 drops of "breathe" mixture of essential oils. When the water is gone, simply shake out the sediments or use the spray nozzle at your kitchen sink. No scrubbing necessary! Plus, you get the benefit of kind of a vapor-rub effect from the humidifier!