Friday, April 29, 2016

Alabama White Barbecue Sauce and Gift Baskets

It's end of the school year time again around here and you know what that exams, volunteer appreciation and end of season meetings and acknowledgements...and last minute projects. I won't even tell you what I was doing at 6:18 am this morning (I can assure you it wasn't relaxing in my robe with a hot cup of coffee, curled up on the sofa and catching up on the morning news).  Let's just say, my self taught Microsoft Publisher programming and marketing designs do come in handy for school projects...we'll just leave it at that.

This past week however, we did thank goodness have ample amount of time to prepare thank you gift baskets for all the Booster Club parent representatives.  Our President had the great idea for these "S'More" gift baskets, in the spirit of upcoming summer.  I have to say I was really proud of myself in creating custom marshmallow letters for their tags!

32 S'More gift bags ready to prepare.

Are these just the cutest gifts ever?!?!

While we prepared the baskets, my husband made the most incredible beef brisket on our Traeger

During one of my Pinterest binging episodes a few weeks ago, I stumbled on "Alabama BBQ Sauce". Being a northern girl, I had never seen or heard of white BBQ sauce.  It looked so good and appealing, we had to try it...WOW!!  Unbelievably good...I recommend making a large batch of this deliciousness.  Not only was it awesome on the brisket and roasted fingerling potatoes, it was also great on our chicken we had later in the week.

Alabama White Barbecue Sauce
Courtesy of

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbl. water
1 Tbl. lemon juice
2 Tbl. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. honey
1 clove garlic, finely minced
A few dashes of hot sauce or sriracha sauce to taste

*** This does make a relatively small batch of sauce to serve about 4 people or so.  Double or triple the recipe as needed if serving larger groups.

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth.

If you like the sauce a little thicker, just add another tablespoon or two of mayonnaise or thin it with a little more water if you find it's too thick for your taste.

Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for several hours or even better to sit overnight to let the flavors develop. (Best if made the day before you want to serve).

One Year Ago: Mayan Chocolate Cookies
Two Years Ago: Pizzette

Friday, April 22, 2016

Pesto Cheesy Chicken and Playing In Wet Socks

Mom's need to be prepared for all things at all times.  There is no guidebook or manual on being a mom.  You live it and learn it as you go along.  Sometimes you fail and other times you have great successes.

All "professional" mom's know to keep a roll of duct tape, a roll of packing tape and a pair of scissors in their car.  The essential box of Kleenex, roll of paper towels and an EMT certified First Aid kid is forever packed in the back seat, because every mother has had to wipe a child's tears after a bad day at school, while dodging rush hour traffic and applying antiseptic wipes and a band aid to the other other child (all at the same time).

They know a black Sharpie marker must always be ever present in their purse (even before the MAC lip glaze makes it in there sometimes).  They know to never leave the house without beverages and snacks in the car for road trips, whether it's a 3 hour drive or a quick run to Target...and let's just face it, zip ties are the greatest invention ever and fix almost anything!...never, ever leave home without a stash of them in your car or purse.

Last weekend we had to hit the road early in the morning for a tournament.  In true form, my girls were doing their uniform laundry at 6 am the morning we had to leave.  I could have done their laundry for them the night before...but I didn't.  I have been trying my hand at a little tough love and hoping to prepare them for college life on their own (some days it works, others it doesn't)  No great surprise to me that their socks did not get dry in time before departure...however, my daughter was quite upset that she would have to play in wet socks.

Luckily we had a one hour drive in the snow, sleet and rain ahead of us.  I was going to need the heater on in the car anyway while we drove there, so might as well use the vents to dry her socks...genius!!  Not to worry, by the time we got to the tournament, her socks were dry and toasty warm.  We'll see if they remember that trick, when they become moms!

This dish will rock any mom's recipe repertoire!  It is so easy and delicious...simple ingredients with big flavor!

Pesto Cheesy Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 ounces prepared pesto
3 roma tomatoes, sliced
4 slices provolone cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray glass baking dish with non-stick spray.

Lay chicken breasts on prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Spread a small amount of pesto all over chicken breast.

Place 3 tomato slices on each piece of chicken.

Place one slice of provolone cheese on tomatoes.
Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over provolone.
Top with a sprinkle of parsley.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.

Ooey, gooey, cheesy goodness!

One Year Ago: Mom Monday

Friday, April 15, 2016

Torta Rustica and Tax Day Anniversary

It was today, 23 years ago that I met my future husband.  23 years ago I stood in his sister's family room enjoying a wonderful business luncheon they were hosting.  So much has happened in 23 years, I am in amazement at what we have been through (and I'm not just referring to my ever changing hair color either) and so thankful for all the blessings that we have experienced together.

Check out this stylish couple!
circa 1993, The Ritz Carlton Resort, Rancho Mirage, California
On that fateful day, they prepared an incredible menu of Torta Rustica, Arnold Palmer drinks and warm chocolate chip cookies.

Through the years, we have appreciated various deli styles of this Italian classic on our "meeting" anniversary. We decided this year we are going to try and create our own homemade version.  This weekend is forecasting another "Spring blizzard", so it's a good opportunity to stay home and enjoy old memories and new recipes.

Torta Rustica
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup roasted red sweet peppers, drained and cut into thin strips
1 Tbl. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (15 ounce) carton ricotta cheese
1 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 cup refrigerated basil pesto or classic pesto sauce
3/4 cup shredded fontina or gruyere cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 Tbl. all-purpose flour
4 ounces thinly sliced salami and/or pepperoni, cut into thin strips
1 Tbl. water
1 pkg. (17.3 ounces) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed (2 sheets)

Place drained artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers on paper towels;  set aside to drain while preparing filling.

For filling, in a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion;  cook and stir about 3 minutes or until tender.  Stir in garlic; cook about 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add spinach; cook for 2 to 3 minutes more or until liquid is evaporated.  Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.  Transfer to a colander.  When spinach is cool enough to handle, use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  Transfer spinach mixture to a medium bowl.  Stir in ricotta, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, one of the eggs, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unfold 1 pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 14-inch square.  Press the pastry into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan, leaving the excess pastry draped over the sides of the pan.  Brush the pastry sheet with other egg beaten with water.

Spread pesto sauce over bottom crust in pan.  Spread ricotta mixture over pesto.  In a small bowl combine fontina cheese, the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and the flour.  Sprinkle half of the fontina mixture over ricotta mixture.  Top with layers of salami/pepperoni, roasted peppers, and artichoke hearts.  Sprinkle the remaining fontina mixture over artichokes.

Unfold the remaining pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the remaining pastry sheet into a 10-inch square.  Place the pastry sheet over the filling.  Trim off any excess pastry and discard or save for another use.  Fold the edge of the top pastry over the bottom pastry and press to seal.  Brush the pastry with the egg mixture.

Place the springform pan on a foil lined shallow-sided baking sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  Let the torta cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Remove torta from pan, set on serving platter and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

** We enjoyed our Torta Rustica with a mixed green salad, honey mustard vinaigrette with toasted pine nuts, Pinot Noir (and warm chocolate chip cookies of course) Cheers!  

One Year Ago: Cambozola Platter
Two Years Ago: Carrot Cupcakes

The Finale!!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mike's Marinating Mess

Sunday mornings are bath days...for the boys that is.  We have our favorite dog wash in town and this Sunday will be no exception, even though it is Masters Championship Day!

Angus sporting his "Masters Green" towel.

As predicted, last year's winner Jordan Spieth hosted and served an "Authentic Texas Barbecue" this week for his traditional Champions Dinner complete with various bbq meats, baked beans, bacon and chive potato salad and a warm chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Our latest go-to bbq chicken marinade was created by my brother-in-law many, many years ago.  This marinade is perfect for when you are needing to clean out the spice cabinet and have that last little smidgen left in various containers but don't want to throw away.

Since it needs a good 6-8 hours for the right chicken fusion, it's the perfect amount of time for a visit to the dog spa!

Mike's Marinating Mess
Courtesy of Brother Mike

1/2 can beer (your favorite brand)
1 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 ounces, steak sauce
5 dashes, Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes, soy sauce
2 ounces, teriyaki sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbl. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup white wine
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian herb seasoning
1 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. parsley flakes
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. paprika

Mix together.  Marinate your favorite meat in this mess (for 6-8 hours) and barbecue or broil.

One Year Ago: Chicken with Gorgonzola Sauce
Two Years Ago: Parmesan Potato au Gratin

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mastering The Art of Desserts and The Masters

It's Masters Week here at our house.  No more news channel in the's The Golf Channel all the way until Sunday, live from Augusta, Georgia.  Looks like there will be a lot of the traditional egg salad and pimento cheese creations I get to come up with this weekend...yummy!!

Tonight is also the traditional Champions Dinner which will be hosted by last year's champion, Jordan Spieth.  Since Jordan is from Texas I'm sure BBQ will be served tonight along with some other Lone Star surprises.  I always have fun trying to re-create the Champions Dinner the same weekend as The Masters...looks like BBQ brisket will be on Sunday dinner's menu for us.

As much as I love watching golf with my husband on Sundays I can usually only take so much. During my off time I'm usually in the kitchen playing with recipes and catching bits and pieces of the tournament from the Family Room television.

I have never been much of an adventurous baker, but every now and then I try to conquer my fears.  I saw this cheesecake on Pinterest a few weeks ago.  The photo was breathtaking so I clicked on it to get the recipe.  The entire site was in a foreign language...not good.  I tried doing the translation button and that didn't work...definitely not good.  Well I had no idea how to make this, so I decided to just try the "semi-homemade" version and wing it myself.

In the photo I saw some kind of chocolate cake type base but didn't know if the cheesecake was baked or not.  I turned to my best friend "Jell-O"!!  This masterpiece definitely took some time and strategy to try and figure out.

I wish I could give an exact recipe, but I'm sure anyone can create this.  Once I got into it, the dessert really started to come together nicely.  The taste of it was out of this world!!  Now if I could just figure out what part of the world their Pinterest page and recipe came from and learn the language!!

The Masters Cheesecake
My Semi-Homemade Version

Start with a box of your favorite brownie mix.  Assemble according to box directions but this time, bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Baking time will decrease due to a thinner brownie than usual.  Let brownie cool after baking.

Take a spring form pan and put on top of the cooled brownie.  Trace and cut the shape/size onto brownie.  Line the bottom of spring form pan with parchment paper and place the circle of brownie into the bottom of pan...this is now your base of dessert.

Cut 1/2 pound of strawberries into vertical slices and line the circle inside of pan with the cut strawberries right on top of the brownie...this is the perimeter of dessert.

Next, prepare 2 boxes of Jello-O "No Bake" cheesecake mix, according to directions.  Do not prepare the graham cracker crust from the it for another golf tournament creation.  Pour the prepared cheesecake mix into the pan in the center.  Spread evenly to get all around pan as it will now completely cover the strawberries.  Put in refrigerator and chill for at least 4-6 hours.

For the topping, prepare your favorite chocolate ganache recipe (I think there are about 257 of them published now).  Spread the prepared ganache all over the chilled cheesecake.  Let cool in refrigerator for at least one hour.  Top with more cut strawberries.

Now, congratulate yourself on mastering this's well worth it!!

One Year Ago:  Spicy Sausage Skillet
Two Years Ago:  Mushroom Soup