Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Strawberry Pretzel Salad is a dessert I hope to see at every picnic I go to.  When it went missing, I figured I needed to learn how to make it.  Last summer, I prepared it for almost every get-together.  Everyone loved it...except my husband.  He seemed to think that sometimes the jell-o topping had a plastic-like quality; he gave a long explanation about how growing up sometimes the jell-o had a skin on it, and he couldn't eat it.  John spent time searching for jell-o making techniques to avoid the plastic film while I slammed pots around refusing to make it again.  After he went to bed, I copied the information he found and noted it in this draft.    After a year break, I made my strawberry pretzel salad; it is almost August, and I haven't  had it all summer. John ate it and asked for a second serving.

This delicious summer picnic staple can be tricky to get right.  Make sure you give your self enough time for cooling and setting up.  Also, make sure you create a smooth cream cheese layer; it will seal the pretzels from the jell-o.  No one wants a soggy crust.


  • 2 cups pretzels, crushed
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 cream cheese (8 oz), softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 frozen whipped topping (8 oz), thawed
  • 2 strawberry flavored gelatin (3 oz)
  • 2 cups water, boiling
  • 2 packages frozen strawberries
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix 3 T sugar, crushed pretzels, and melted butter together in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Press mixture into bottom of dish.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool.
  2. Mix cream cheese and 1 cup sugar well. Fold in the whipped topping.  Spread over the pretzel crust-make sure to cover all the way to the edges to prevent soggy crust.  Chill well.  
  3. Put gelatin into large mixing bowl, add boiling water.  Whisk until all powder is dissolved.  Stir in strawberries.  Pour over cream cheese layer.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate to set. (I found mixing well and covering in the refrigerator kept the jell-o skin away)

Difficulty: Medium
Time: I make this in parts over the course of a day to allow for proper cooling and setting.
Source:  Almost every recipe I found online was the same

Monday, July 22, 2013

Creamy Lemon Basil Potato Salad

Potato salad, while certainly a picnic and barbecue staple, has never been a favorite of mine.  In fact, I can't think of even one time that I put it on my plate while pursuing the options at a summer get-together.  When I came across The Pioneer Woman's Creamy Lemon Basil Potato Salad recipe, I knew I had finally met my potato salad match.  The basil, lemon, and pesto are just what I needed...the combo makes for a perfectly delicious and light dressing when mixed with a minimal amount of mayo.  This version of the recipe makes enough for a side dish (with a little bit leftover) for my family.  I would double or triple it if making to take to a picnic, where it is sure to be a hit.

  • 1 qt small red or new potatoes (8 or so), cut into quarters (or smaller, depending on the size of the potato)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise with olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp pesto
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring water to a boil; add a pinch of salt and the potatoes.  Boil for 10-15 minutes or until fork tender.  (Careful not to overcook; you don't want mashed potatoes!)
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo, olive oil, lemon juice, and pesto until thoroughly combined.
  3. Drain the potatoes and place in serving bowl.  Pour dressing mixture on top and gently stir.  Add chopped basil, salt, and pepper; stir again.

Difficulty: easy
Time: 20 minutes
Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman's recipe of the same name (click here to see original)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Orange Cream Freezer Dessert

On the weekends in summertime, we spend a lot of time at my aunt's pool.  Many times we end up eating together, and I like to contribute.  I never know the exact number of people who will be swimming so this dessert works well yielding 24 servings.  But if it is just us, it can stay covered in the freezer for over a month.  The tartness of the orange juice mixes beautifully with the ice cream for a refreshing treat.


  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I like them fine in this dish, so I buy them)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 stick of melted butter
  • 1 container of vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1 can orange juice concentrate, thawed


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 pan.  In a separate bowl, combine crumbs and sugar.  Mix with butter. Reserve half of mixture for topping.  Press remaining mixture into pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.
  2. In a mixer or large bowl, combine ice cream and orange juice until smooth.  Pour into pan.  Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture, gently push down. Cover and freeze.  
  3. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving.

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 20 minutes, but cooling will take a bit of time 
Source: adapted from Taste of Home Church Supper Desserts

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Couscous with Swiss Chard, Raisins, and Feta

Though Kelly has gotten fresh produce through a CSA for several years, this is the first summer that my family has signed up to participate in one.  I wanted to support local agriculture and enjoy some fresh-from-the-farm foods.  In addition, I knew that it would expand my family's food horizons, and I was looking forward to that, too.  It is really fun to see what is going to be in the basket when we pick it up.  Having never tried swiss chard before, my husband and I were astounded by how delicious this healthy, fresh recipe was.  I am hoping that we get more swiss chard in our basket this summer!  (Full disclosure:  My kids each had a bowl with little complaints, but I think that it will take a few tries before they enjoy it as much as my husband and I do.  As with all kids, it generally takes a couple exposures before they are totally accepting of new foods...but they get there eventually!)


  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped 
  • 1 1/4 cups couscous (I used French)
  • 1 14 oz can vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1 bunch swiss or rainbow chard, stems and leaves chopped separately 
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed 
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese 
  1. In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add half of the garlic and the couscous and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. 
  2. Add the vegetable broth; bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer until the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in the raisins; season with salt. 
  3. While the couscous is simmering, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic and the swiss chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. 
  4. Add the swiss chard leaves, chickpeas and 1/2 cup water, cover and cook, turning, until the chard is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve on the couscous and top with the feta.

Difficulty: Medium
Time: 20-25 minutes total
Source: http://www.rachaelraymag.com/Recipes/

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Honey Sauced Chicken (Slow cooker)

I am usually pretty good about predicting how well I (and my family) will like a new recipe...unless it is cooked in a slow cooker.  I am always trying new things and am always looking for new slow cooker recipes, but in that category, there have been an unfortunate number of (surprising) flops.  I would never subject anyone to the flops, of course.  This recipe is one that my running buddy, Marie, has raved about for quite a while.  It is one of her go-to recipes, and I am happy to say that it has made it into my regular rotation, as well.  

  • 2 medium/large chicken breasts 
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 small onion, chopped (~2 Tbsp.)
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

  1. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and place in slow cooker.  (Some may prefer to omit the salt due to the soy sauce in the recipe.)
  2. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour over top of chicken.
  3. Cook on low for 3 hours.  Cut chicken into bite size pieces and return to pot.  Mix with sauce to coat.  Continue cooking for another 15-30 minutes.  Serve over rice or noodles.
Note: Depending on how hot your slow cooker cooks, your sauce may turn out to be quite thin.  If thin sauce isn't your thing, try cooking for longer (at the risk of drying out your chicken a bit) or mix a bit of cornstarch with a small amount of water and stir it in before you add the chicken back in.  For the record, I liked the thin sauce.

Difficulty:  very easy
Time: 10 minutes prep, 3.5 hours cooking
Source: adapted from www.mmmcafe.blogspot.com