Sunday, March 28, 2010

Coconut Crunch Delight

My Grandma turns 90 this week. I can't believe it. You wouldn't either, if you could meet her. The woman refuses to act her age. I have been so blessed in my life to know all of my grandparents as well as a good number of my great-grandparents. They are such a part of me that I can't imagine letting them go. Grandma has seven kids and lots of grandkids and lots of great-grandkids, so get-togethers with this group always ends up being more of a reunion than anything.

Of course, we always eat well on these days.

This was a recipe that I made several times a few years ago. When our house burned, I thought I had lost the recipe, but it turns out I had written it out for someone at school and made a copy. This copy had somehow gotten stuck in between my desk drawers and when I went in search of my green laser, I found it, wrinkled and somewhat shredded. Still no word on the laser, but I can't describe how excited I was to find the recipe.

Melt 1/2 cup butter and mix with 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 1/4 cup shredded coconut. The recipe calls for slivered almonds as well, but I forgot to add those in :(
Bake the mixture at 350 for 10 minutes. You don't need to make it into a crust...
because after 10 minutes you are going to stir it all up and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Then stir again and bake for between 5 and 10 minutes more. You want it nice and golden brown; more of a toasted rather than baked.
While that is cooling, add 1 package of instant vanilla pudding and one package of instant coconut cream pudding to 2 2/3 cups milk. Whisk this all together. You don't really need to get out your giant stand mixer, but mine is still fairly new and I still need excuses to use it.
Fold in 2 cups of whipped topping. If your children are AWOL and not hovering over the bowl, just add in the entire tub.
Spread about 2/3 of the toasted mixture onto the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. You can use the one you toasted the mixture in if it has cooled. Then spoon the pudding mixture on top. It's pretty important to spoon it on instead of just pouring it in (experience here), otherwise you will end up with all your crust on one end of the pan.
Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture on top.
I'm not sure how all those test kitchens end up with perfect squares on their plates, but in my world, we just spoon it out. I love this dessert. It is so light and delicious and it just feels like spring. And so, so easy. Jeff loves coconut cream pie, and I can never get pie to turn out how I want it. This is an incredible substitute.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Coconut Crunch Delight
1/2 Cup Butter, Melted
1 cup Flour
1-1/4 cups Flaked Coconut
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Slivered Almonds
1 package Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
1 package Instant Coconut Pudding Mix
2-2/3 cups Cold Milk
2 cups Whipped Topping

In a bowl, combine first five ingredients; press lightly into greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes to form coarse crumbs. Cool. Divide crumb mixture in half; press half into the same baking pan. In a mixing bowl, beat pudding and milk. Fold in whipped topping; spoon over crust. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Garnish with fresh strawberries if desired.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Cheesecake Crumble

It's raining. Again. The only good thing about this storm system is that it is not cold enough to be snow. Although my distance runners SWEAR they saw snowflakes while outside at practice tonight.

This kind of weather always makes me want to cook. Well, nap and then cook. This recipe came to me in an email today and looked just like the comfort food I was craving.

I'm going to warn you now. The picture looked like kind of a bar cookie. That is deceiving. This is NOT a snack so much as a dessert. Just so you know.

Press down a package of oatmeal raisin cookie dough into a 9 x 13 pan. You could mix up your own, but Pillsbury (where I got the recipe) makes a refrigerated dough.Sprinkle with chopped pecans and press these down into the dough. Bake for about 13 minutes so the crust gets nice and brown.
Meanwhile, beat 2 packages of cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk together.
Add in two eggs and teaspoon of vanilla. The sound of the mixer will attract The Boy.
"I like frosting"
Put him to work mixing together the flour and brown sugar.
You will definitely have to help cut in the half cup of butter.
But he can add in the cinnamon chips and chopped pecans.
Add in the raisins.Spread the cream cheese mixture over the crust.
Throw on the topping mixture.

Bake at 350 for another 30 minutes until it is set up. Let this cool for a couple hours so all the flavors have a chance to blend together. This is the kind of dessert that is better (sadly) the next day.
Your kitchen will smell like heaven as these are baking. Someone needs to make a candle that smells like this. There is a lot going on here. A little too much for me. I think I will make them again, but not put the raisins on the top. Or the pecans. One layer of nuts is plenty for me. I just really couldn't tell there was a cheesecake layer at all, and that is tragic.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Oatmeal Raisin Cheesecake Crumble
1package (16 oz) Pillsbury® Big Deluxe™ refrigerated oatmeal raisin cookies (12 cookies)
2cups Chopped Pecans
2packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1can (14 oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1teaspoon vanilla
1cup Flour
3/4cup packed light brown sugar
1/2cup cold Butter
3/4cup cinnamon chips
1cup raisins
1/2cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats

Heat oven to 350°F. In bottom of ungreased 13x9-inch pan, press cookie dough rounds evenly for crust. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the pecans; press firmly into dough. Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add milk, vanilla and eggs; beat until well blended. On low speed, beat in 1/2 cup of the flour. Pour over crust; spread evenly.

In medium bowl, mix brown sugar and remaining 1/2 cup flour. Cut in butter, using pastry blender or fork, until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in cinnamon chips, raisins, oats and remaining 1 cup pecans. Sprinkle over cheese mixture.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes longer or until set. Cool completely, about 2 hours. To serve, cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Creamy Chicken Penne

Spring Break this year was awesome. I did nothing. Really. I even went to Kansas City to go bridesmaid dress shopping (no bride) and came back empty handed. My plan was to go into my classroom at least one day and clean up some residual lab equipment, but even that didn't happen.

I feel so refreshed.

So much so, that I am back on track with supper plans. I have a menu for the week, something I have not had for several months now. I have been so overwhelmed, that even sitting down to plan menus threw me into a high anxiety state.

Oddly, I had my grocery list made out yesterday when the new Taste of Home arrived. I changed today's supper plans based on an advertisement on page 24. And I wonder why I am so stressed.

Cook two cups of penne pasta according to directions. You know, boil water, add pasta. One thing I cannot figure out about recipes is the insistence on listing "2 cups penne pasta, uncooked" as an ingredient. Then the first step is to "cook pasta as directed on package." Why don't they just list cooked pasta as an ingredient? Anyone else ever wonder about that??


Anyway, while your pasta is cooking, cook the chicken and onions in some olive oil until the chicken is done.
Add in the snow peas, red pepper and garlic. You might notice that there is more going on here than just snow peas. My little grocery store did not have just a package of snow peas, but they had snow pea stir fry mix. Close enough. They were also out of red pepper, so I used green.
Cook this for a couple minutes and then turn off the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer.
In a saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter.
Add in one tablespoon flour. I did not have regular white flour, so I used whole wheat instead.
Slowly add in the milk and whisk away.
Bring this to a boil. If you just got the milk out of the fridge now, it will take a couple minutes.
BE VERY CAREFUL! Milk will suddenly erupt when you have stopped stirring and your back is turned. Simmer for two minutes.
Mix in 4 ounces (half package) cream cheese and half a cup of shredded Romano cheese. Again, I couldn't find Romano by itself, so I used an Italian blend.
Heat until it is all mixed and add to the pasta. My mixture had kind of a grainy texture to it, but I think it was because of the whole wheat flour. You might also notice that I did not use penne, but large macaroni. You might also have been under the impression that my grocery list actually made it to the grocery store.
Stir all this in with the chicken mixture.
Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper.
This was a perfect spring supper. The sauce is really light, much lighter than I thought it would be. Even with all my improvisations, it turned out wonderful. It took about thirty minutes to put together and I ended up using quite a few extra dishes, so it might take some practice to make it more doable for a weeknight supper, but overall, this comes highly recommended.

Click here for Printable Recipe

Creamy Chicken Penne
2 cups penne pasta, uncooked
3/4 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pkg. (6 oz.) snow peas
1 small red pepper, chopped
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1-1/2 cups milk
4 oz. Cream Cheese, cubed
1/2 cup Grated Romano Cheese
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
Cook pasta as directed on package. Meanwhile, cook chicken and onions in hot oil in large skillet for 6-8 min. or until chicken is done, stirring frequently. Add snow peas, red peppers and garlic; cook and stir 1 min. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.
Melt butter in medium saucepan. Stir in flour until well blended. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to boil; cook on medium heat 2 min. or until thickened, stirring constantly. Add cream cheese, grated cheese, salt and black pepper; cook 1-2 min. or until cream cheese is completely melted and sauce is well blended, stirring constantly.
Drain pasta; place in large bowl. Add chicken mixture and sauce; toss to coat. Top with parsley. Yield: 4 servings, 1-1/2 cups each.

Special Extra: Add 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms halfway through cooking the chicken and onion.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pineapple and Strawberry Creme

If you are like the rest of the United States (with the possible exception of Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam), you have been under snow. Lots and lots of snow. And you are probably ready for spring to get here. Well, believe it or not, it is just around the corner. I know this because we started track practice yesterday. This completely snuck up on me. I still cannot believe it is the first of March already.

I also know this because our grocery store now has pineapples in stock. I love fresh pineapple. Some people are intimidated by pineapple. It's a bit of a chore to chop up. I never can get all the skin (is it skin??) off. And then you have to cut around the core, but it is one of the few things I really think is worth the effort, unlike, for instance, lobster.

I didn't think ahead enough to document me chopping up the pineapple or strawberries. And truth be told, I don't really think of this as a recipe. It is just something I throw together. I have had the creme part stuck in my head for so long that I'm not even sure where I got it.

But as The Girl pointed out (after supper), it's Tuesday. We must try something.

Add 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese to 1 teaspoon sugar (or Splenda if you choose) along with 1 teaspoon vanilla. You can change up the flavors here by adding almond, rum, orange, peppermint, any flavoring you have on hand. You can also add in a teaspoon of cocoa powder.
Stir this up and you have dessert. You could just enjoy it at this point, but to REALLY go all out, add in some sliced strawberries and pineapple chunks.
This just screams "spring" to me. You can justify seconds (and thirds) on this because it is extremely healthy. And if you use the Splenda, amazingly doesn't even contain sugar. Trust me, you will not believe your taste buds. Not only that, but it takes about 90 seconds to mix it all up.

Maybe I should put it on a recipe card...

Click here for Printable Recipe

Pineapple and Strawberry Creme
1/2 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon sugar
Sliced strawberries
Pineapple chunks

Mix it all together. Enjoy.