Blackberry Mountain
 
I do not care for potato salad nor do I care for ranch dressing.  BUT Jeremy likes both of these a lot.  This past weekend we hosted dinner for his family for the first time since we were married.  I prepared a ton of delicious food and one of those dishes was ranch potato salad.  My mom introduced Jeremy to this and so I have made it for him since then.

I cleaned and used some of these potatoes fresh from our garden.

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Ingredients:
Potatoes (as many as you wish)
bacon bits (premade or you can cook)
ranch dressing
green onions (chopped)

Boil potatoes until tender and drain.  Layer in a large bowl- potatoes, ranch, bacon, green onions...layer until you are out of ingredients.  You can decide the amounts you want--be sure not to overdue the ranch.

Enjoy!

 
 
As we welcome the summer we also welcome bonfires and backyard meals at our house.  We have had nice fire each nice for the past week or so.  It’s great because we get to relax and burn limbs/branches at the same time.  Last week we made one of our favorite meals, hobo dinners.  We love these and most people do, though sometimes they look rough before cooked.  My youth group made them and were very judgmental before we cooked them but when they ate, they loved them.

Start by building a fire because you need a nice bed of coals with extras to add if needed.

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Ingredients:
taters (potatoes)
onions
other vegetables (Jeremy used carrots)
meat (ground beef or chicken)
shredded cheese
spices
tin foil

Lay a piece of tin foil flat on a surface (big enough to wrap all the ingredients inside of). Mix all ingredients together or separate as you wish. I like taters and onions mixed with cheese on one side and beef and onions with spices on the other.  Wrap up with one strong piece of foil (don’t double wrap if you can help it) and cook for 20 minutes on each side.  Enjoy in foil- throw away for easy clean up!

Note: The photo above shows a fire heating the hobo dinners wrapped in foil.  The funny looking shape is bread dough I was playing with on the fire (it worked and tasted great minus the ashes). 


 
 
Well my birthday is coming up so I will be going out to eat with friends and family to celebrate BUT sometimes it's nice to stay home and save a little money.  One of our favorite restaurants is Outback Steakhouse and that is not a cheap option so I have tried a few menu items at home.  My favorite is Alice Springs Chicken and it is a recipe that is fairly easy to duplicate...enjoy and spend your saved money on a bottle of wine or a pack of beer to share with friends!

chicken breasts
seasoning of your choice (Outback using honey mustard, I use herbs and garlic)
cheese of your choice (I use cheddar)
mushrooms (lots)
bacon (2 or 3 pieces per chicken piece)

Prepare your bacon in a cast iron pan (or your choice of pan) and put it to the side.  Do not overcook because you will cook again.

Cook chicken in bacon grease with seasonings until done all the way through.

Lay chicken on an oven safe pan and heat oven to 400 so that cheeses will melt. 

Layer chicken, mushrooms, bacon and cheese for each piece.  Put in oven until the cheese melts to your liking.  ENJOY!



 
 
I remember being a child and eating pound cake made by a good family friend, Gladys.  She was so talented in cooking, sewing, and everything creative.  Honestly she probably has a lot to do with the love I have found in these things.  Gladys made the best pound cake ever...rich in the middle and crunchy top.  I found the following recipe in a youth group cookbook a few years ago and have used it since.  This weekend I tried it with King Arthur All Purpose White Flour (Unbleached).  I am assuming the flour quality made a difference because this was the best one I have made...very rich and yet still fluffy.   Give it a try!

3 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
3 cups all purpose flour
6 or 7 eggs
1 tbsp lemon extract
1/2 tbsp vanilla exract
1/2 pint whipping cream

Cream sugar and butter until well blended (I use a wooden spoon or my hands).  Add in eggs and flour alternating (3 or 4 tbsp of flour at a time).  Mix well.  Once all eggs and flour are in the mixture, add whipping cream and extracts.  Grease a tub pan (or two loan pans) and pour in batter.  Put into a cold oven and then turn it to 350.  Bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean).  ENJOY! 

It goes great with fresh fruit and whipped cream:)!
 
 
Spinach Artichoke Dip has become a favorite of mine and we often travel to Applebee's for this tasty dish.  While experimenting this weekend I wanted to try something new and decided to look for this recipe.  It just so happened the the very magazine I was reading, Mary Jane's Farm, had a recipe in the back.  This recipe is mostly like the one in the magazine but I added more cream cheese.  I honestly didn't measure any of it...I just decided how much I wanted of each item.  We ate it cold on crackers and that was mouth watering.  Then we ate it spread on pizza crust, melted with mozzarella cheese on top...also delicious!

1 block of cream cheese
3 or 4 cups of spinach
1 clove of garlic- chopped fine
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 can/jar of artichoke hearts (non-marinated)

Mix all of the above ingredients.  You can serve cool or you can warm in the oven or microwave with cheese on top.  Enjoy!
 
 
Cheesecake is a delicious treat but I find that not many people attempt to make their own.  It really isn't too bad and this recipe is especially easy for the first timers.  The recipe originally came from Southern Living magazine but has been adjusted a bit.  Give it a try...if you like cheesecake and/or red velvet cake...you will be very happy that you did!

1 1/2 cups crushed Oreos
1/4 cup melted butter
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4  large eggs lightly beaten
3  tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1  cup sour cream
1/2  cup buttermilk
2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1  teaspoon white vinegar
1  bottle red food coloring

Preheat oven at 325 degrees.

Stir together Oreos and melted butter (add a little butter at a time—you may not need it all because of the Oreo cream).   Press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Beat 3 packages cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups sugar at medium-low speed for about 1 minute. Add eggs and next six ingredients (cocoa, sour cream, buttermilk, vanilla, vinegar, and food coloring), mixing on low speed just until combined. Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300 degrees, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes longer or until center is firm. Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake to loosen from pan. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit in oven for 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from the oven; cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill for 8 hours.

Frosting:

1  (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4  cup  butter, softened
2  cups  powdered sugar
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
Crushed Oreos (optional)

Beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter at medium speed until smooth; slowly add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread evenly over top of cheesecake. Sprinkle with a few crushed Oreos if you wish.  Remove sides of springform pan. 

 
 
It is not the season to buy fresh apples but this can be done quite nicely with apples from the grocery store...or you can store the recipe for a later date.  Apple butter is one of my favorite toppings for biscuits and toast  so I have tried making it a few times.  I have found that recipes call for various cooking times.  While most of the time it is important to follow the recipe, in the case of cooking apples it is really up to the person that will be eating the apples.   I prefer cooking them starting early in the morning and going throughout the day because I can watch the progress and avoid overcooking.   When you have fresh apple butter, make some biscuits or fresh bread and slather it on.  Enjoy! 

Ingredients:

Crock pot of peeled, cored, sliced apples
1 cup water
4 cups sugar (may reduce if you wish)
1 tsp cloves (add more to taste)
1 TBSP cinnamon (add more to taste)

Put water and apples in the crockpot.  Cook on high until the apples start to get soft or the mixture comes to a boil and then turn to low.  Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.  Add sugar one cup at a time with an hour in between.  Taste before you add more so that you are sure it is properly proportioned with the amount of apples and your family's taste.  Add spices to taste.  Some would suggest cooking for 18 hours.  I find that this is too long.  Aim for 10 to 12 hours but you should be able to tell when the apple butter is at the right consistency for you.  This is a fun recipe because it allows you to be creative and there are not too many things that can be messed up.  Once you are finished with your preparations you can freeze (if you make a large batch) or process pints in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 


 
 
Crescent rolls are one of those breads that, if prepared the correct way, seem to melt in your mouth because they are so good.  I have toyed with a few recipes but this one seems to be the best so far.  Rising times are very important and using the correct amount of flour (sifted before measuring) is vital or you will have rock-like rolls. 


Crescent Rolls (yields 12 rolls—doubling is a good option)

2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
½ cup warm milk (100-110 degrees)
1 TBSP sugar
2 cups bread flour
½ tsp salt
4 TBSP butter, room temperature

Mix yeast, water, milk, and sugar in a bowl (use the mixer bowl if you prefer to mix with a mixer).  Let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy.  Add the bread flour and salt and mix with your hands or a dough hook.  Cut the butter into three or four pieces and drop them into the dough and then continue to mix.

Knead for about two minutes using hands or a mixer.  Cover the bowl and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Turn risen dough onto a floured surface.  Press it out with your hands first and then a rolling pin creating an even 10 inch circle.  Cut into twelve triangles.  (Note: If you want to make a Taco Ring, skip the rest of these steps and move on to the next recipe).

Start with the outside edge of the triangles—roll the edge towards the thinner part of the triangle into a crescent roll shape.  Repeat with all rolls, cover and let rise for 20 minutes.

Melt additional butter (1 TBSP) in a small bowl.  Brush tops of rolls with butter.  Bake for 15 or so minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

 



Taco Ring

I borrowed this recipe for one of my best friends.  Throughout college we shared many dinners with tacos as the menu.  We both married and ended up living only eight miles apart and started out with the same trend of hosting dinner with tacos as the main course.  We expanded our cooking skills a bit over the months and years and rarely eat tacos anymore when we get together.  Fortunately, Kimberly had to cook something quick and easy a few months ago and she shared her discover, a taco ring.  I admit that hearing that title makes me giggle for some reason but the result is delicious.  This is the simple recipe but you can add other toppings such as sour cream, salsa, etc. 

Ground meat of your choice (I use beef, turkey or cut up chicken)
taco seasoning
cheese
cresent roll dough (or if you wish, you can buy some from the store)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare meat according to taco seasoning directions.  This recipe is nice because you typically end up with leftover meat—meaning tacos or salads for lunch the next day.

Lay out the cresent roll triangles in the shape of a ring.

Add a layer of cheese, then a layer of meat, then another layer of cheese.

Cover with cresent rolls and form as needed so that it is mostly covered with dough.

Cook for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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Some days there just isn’t enough time to prepare a big meal and it is just as easy to make something quick.  This recipe is great for a quick meal or afternoon snack.  Jeremy and I have these every now and then, not only because they are easy to make, but because they are also delicious!

Tortillas
Pizza sauce
Toppings of your choice
Cheese

Preheat oven to 400.  Lay out tortillas on whatever pan they fit nicely onto.  Add sauce, toppings and cheese.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until cheese is to your liking.  Enjoy! 

 
 
While hosting family over the holidays I needed something easy to prepare for breakfast.  I am a big fan of blueberry muffins and just happen to have a great recipe.  We were able to pick lots of blueberries at our friends house this summer and still have a large bag in the freezer so I decided that muffins were the best choice.  I used the recipe below but switched the sugar to Splenda for our guests dietary needs.  Either way, it works great! 

1 ¾ cups flour

½ sugar

1 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

4 TBSP butter

1 egg, beaten

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt).  Cut in the butter.  In another bowl mix the egg, milk, and vanilla.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture.  Stir until just moistened, then carefully fold in the blueberries.  Fill greased muffin tins ¾ full or so.  Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Makes about a dozen muffins.