Monday, March 28, 2016

Dumb Easy Dinner: Savory Crock Pot Pork Roast

It might be almost April (I may even have some spinach sprouting up in my garden), but I'm not ready to ditch the comfort foods quite yet. I mean, it might get cold at night. Are spinach smoothies going to help me with that? I think not. 

Which is why all of us still need a few good roast recipes in our back pockets. This is a very good recipe. Sometimes crock pot recipes come out a little more bland than their roasted counterparts, but this was packed with flavor and very tender. And I don't know about you, but I always appreciate a good dump-in-and-leave-it crock pot recipe. Five minute assembly, check.

Savory Crock Pot Pork Roast
adapted from Poor Amy
feeds 6-8 people unless you're big teenager man people, then maybe less
prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 6 hours in crock pot
Cost: $8.10 (this is $1-2/per meal for fantastic, top-notch food)
pork: $8, dry onion soup: .70, beef stock: .20, soy sauce: .10, other stuff: .10

Note: I did use the dry onion soup packet, which felt like cheating, but I tried not to feel too sorry since I did just make my family a fantabulous meal of meat and potatoes for freaking out's sake. However, if making food not from complete scratch is offensive to you, then use some good quality beef broth with an onion sliced into it instead of the dry onion soup/water in this recipe.

1 pork roast (mine was about 4 pounds)
1 (1-ounce) envelope dry onion soup
1 C water
3/4 C beef stock
3 Tbsp soy sauce
black pepper
1-2 Tbsp minced garlic

Dump that roast in the crock. Put the dry onion soup on top, then pour on water, beef stock, and soy sauce (pour this over the top so it mixes with the onion soup). Kind of mix everything together with a spoon. Top meat with black pepper and minced garlic.

Cook on high for 6-ish hours.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Dumb Easy Dinner: Barbecups

I don't know how you could possibly not make a dinner with a name as cute as Barbecups. I mean, come on, it's adorable.

 Also, these are very easy. I should warn you, however, that these are not a perfect whole food. You're going to be using some biscuits or croissants out of a can. If that bothers you feel free to make a batch of your own little biscuit dough from scratch. Just know that that will make these a little less dumb easy.

I should also warn you that these don't involve a vegetable (unless you count BBQ sauce as a vegetable, which you probably shouldn't, but I won't judge you if you do). To rectify that you can just use a bagged salad or--my husband's favorite option--open up a can of corn. I know that sounds super lame, but it will totally work and be delicious. You could also add olives to these if olives are your thing.

makes 12 (can make more if they're tiny)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes if you cook the chicken
Cost: $4.75
croissants: 2.00, chicken: 2.00, cheese: .50, bbq: .25

Note: If you want to make this incredibly fast, you can use canned chicken (that's been drained). I'm not going to lie--it's not as good. But it's very fast.

Note: You can used browned beef in place of the chicken. You'll probably need about 1/2 pound.

2 packages croissant dough (you know, the one in the tubes); you could also use biscuit dough
2 breasts shredded chicken (if you're chicken breasts are huge, you only need one)
3/4 C barbeque sauce
1 C shredded cheddar cheese

If you need to, cook your chicken breasts.

While your chicken breasts are cooking, open your croissants and lay them out as rectangles. Cut squares big enough to fit into the muffin portion of a muffin tin. Press them into the muffin tins.

When the chicken is cooked, shred it. A quick way to do this is to put them in your Kitchenaid if you have one--use the paddle mixer and it will shred that warm chicken breast.

Add barbeque sauce to your chicken breasts.

Put a spoonful of chicken/BBQ into each muffin tin. Top with cheese. That's it. Bake it according to the package instructions. And add some veggies to the side if you're feeling righteous.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Secret Recipe Club--Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

This month I had Oh! You Cook for Secret Recipe Club. I wasn't planning to make a dessert. I was intrigued by several posts Dena had about artists favorite foods--like this Georgia O'Keefe watercress soup. And I'd even purchased leeks to make a nice healthy potato leek soup (Claude Monet, in case you were wondering). And then evilness happened. Or, well, the weekend when I was all set to make my nice healthy soup, I didn't want nice healthy soup. I wanted, well, the truth is that I wanted cookies. So I went back to Dena's blog to scour around for cookies and I found this.

They weren't quite cookies, but I was pretty sure they would hit the spot and then some. Also, I had a half-used bag of pretzels languishing in my pantry. I felt it was my duty to use them up--food waste being a sin and all. So I made these and they were utterly fantastic and you should make them too.

Additionally, they're easy to do and with Easter coming they could easily be shaped into little darling eggs. Some of mine came out pretty egg-shaped without even trying. But we didn't wait till Easter to eat them.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles
adapted from Oh! You Cook
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $2.10
pretzels: .30, peanut butter: .50, chocolate chips: 1.00, sugars: .25, butter: .05

1 1/4 C pretzels
1/2 C creamy peanut butter
1 Tbl. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbl. brown sugar
3 Tbl. confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1-2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Put your pretzels in a large Ziploc bag, then roll them with a rolling pin. My kids thought this was awesome. You'll have 1/3-1/2 C crushed pretzels--you want them crushed to small pieces, but not to powder (thus you might want to avoid the food processor this time). Set these aside.

In a small bowl, mix peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and confectioners' sugar, stirring until blended and as smooth as possible. 

Reserve 1 Tbsp of the crushed pretzels. Then add the rest to the peanut butter mixture and mix.

Roll these into balls. I put my dough into the freezer for 20 minutes or so, so they were easier to roll. 

After they're rolled, melt your chocolate. I did this in the microwave in 20 second intervals. When it's melted, you can either dip the peanut butter pretzel balls in, but that sounded hard and messy to me and I'm shamelessly lazy. So I put my balls on parchment paper and simply plopped chocolate onto them. This meant their bottoms didn't get covered, but we didn't mind (although having a fully covered chocolate give you that satisfying crack of the chocolate shell when you bite into them...)

Then sprinkle with remaining pretzel crumbles.

Allow chocolate to harden. We did this in the freezer for about 20 more minutes. You can also do the fridge, or--if you have the patience of Job--just leave them on the counter for several hours. 


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Ebates--A Friendly Reminder That It's Awesome

In case you forgot about Ebates, let me remind you that it's awesome. 

You buy stuff like you normally would. And then you get cash back. For doing nothing except what you would normally do.

The other day I bought some jeans for my daughters. They needed jeans. They looked like tiny adorable homeless people with worn out jeans when went go to school. So I bought jeans. I had three good coupons for Kohl's, which I used just like I would have at the store and my jeans were a good deal. The only difference is that with Ebates I got a bonus deal of 6% back (this made my 15% off coupon more like a 20% off coupon, which makes me happy). It's not a ton of money that came into my account. It was $2.55, but I'd like to emphasize once again that it was entirely free money. If you send me $2.55 in the mail and I don't have to do anything at all, I will be happy. If you do this anytime I buy something online I will be happier.

Sign up for Ebates. Be happy.

Here's a link:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I'm usually pretty content with a regular old grilled cheese sandwich--cheddar and sourdough being my staple. Because of this I generally don't look outside my little grilled cheese box all that often. I mean, what more can you ask for than warm cheese and good bread with toasty butter on the outsides?

Well, it's not that you can exactly that you can ask for more because, well, bread, melty cheese, butter. But sometimes you want to have a meal that feels like real dinner instead of lazy summer lunch. Don't get me wrong, I'm never opposed to a nice lazy summer lunch, and I'm definitely not opposed to sliding some of those meals into the dinner slot occasionally.

But sometimes, I mean, sometimes, it seems like you should actually eat some vegetables with your lazy summer lunch turned dinner. So last night when I was crunched for time right before dinner, grilled cheese with a little sophistication hit our plates.

And let me be honest, I wasn't sure that this was going to work. The filling I put inside looked weird--not cheesy enough to be cheesy, not gooey enough to be a dip. Also, the primary cheese was Swiss and I was worried that it would just taste too Swiss-cheesy. But once that heat was added, the texture was fantastic and the artichoke and Swiss balanced each other out, so nobody got to screaming at you too much. I wanted to eat fifteen.

You can eat these alone or add a salad, fruit, or even fries to make it more dinner-like. As for us, we stuck with apple slices as a side dish, because apparently, I'm still a little stuck in lazy summer lunch zone. But don't let my 12-year-old-ness fool you. This is a grilled cheese sandwich for any grown-up to be proud of.

Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich
adapted from Hun, What's for Dinner
Makes 8 small sandwiches
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 5-10 minutes
Cost: $4.00 (that's about $1/serving)
bread: 1.00, artichoke hearts: 1.75, Parm cheese: .25, Swiss cheese: .90, other stuff: .10

1 loaf French bread, sliced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 oz Parmesan cheese, shredded (NOT the powdery kind)
4 oz Swiss cheese, shredded

Note: Pre-shredded bagged cheese may not work as well because they coat it with something. That said, I bet you could use it and this would still be fine.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Plop an ice cream scoop(ish) sized portion onto your bread.

Butter the outer sides of your bread and warm on a skillet until cheese is melty and outsides are butter-crisped and perfect.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Coconut Almond Cheesecake

I was supposed to finish killing you with sweetness yesterday and this cheesecake was it. But yesterday I had a little girl with a very high fever, so I didn't get to kill anyone with sweetness. Lucky for you, she's mostly better and the sweetness killing can happen today.  

The inspiration for this recipe came from a cheesecake called Almond Joy Cheesecake. That was an apt name. You can put some coconut and chopped almonds into the creamy cheesecake as well as on top or just leave it as topping. I left it as topping because I served it at book club and wanted people to be able to pick out any nuts or coconut if they didn't like those things (my picky children have ruined me), but truthfully I think it would have been fan-flibbing-tastic on the inside too.

Cheesecake is a a scary food to make. And it does take some forethought as it needs time to cool. However, I think that most of us are afraid of it because most of us have had icky, chalky, bland cheesecake before. But cheesecake is actually pretty simple--cream cheese, sugar, eggs, flavor of some sort, and that's it. You just beat this stuff together. The biggest secret I think, to good cheesecake is that you not overcook it. And here I must tell you that this is an act of faith. Because when cheesecake is done somewhere between 165 and 180 degrees, that sugar mamma is still jigggggly. Don't doubt. Don't leave it in till the jiggle is gone. Take it out when it's between 165 and 180 degrees at the center. Do it. It's helpful to have an instant read thermometer, but if you don't, know that the center 2-4 inches (sometimes even a little more) is still going to jiggle. The edges should be set, but not firm as a rock.

Coconut Almond Cheesecake
adapted from Creations by Kara
Makes 1 cheesecake
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 75-85 minutes
Cool time: 4-6 hours, or overnight
Cost: $8.00 (not cheap, but still a steal when you consider that one slice at Cheesecake Factory will cost you this, and that even a cheap frozen cheesecake from Walmart is significantly more)
Meh, cheesecake isn't cheap, but it doesn't have to break the bank. I always look for cream cheese on sale. It freezes well, especially if you'll be using it to cook with, not spread on things. I always try to get mine for less than $1.
cream cheese: 4.00, generic oreos: 1.00, sugar: .05, butter: .15, more sugar: .30, eggs: .40, extracts: .50, coconut: .30, almonds: .50, cream: .30, chocolate chips: .50


1 1/2 C crushed Oreos (or generic version) crumbs--this is about 20 cookies
1/2 C sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C melted butter

For the cheesecake:

4 8-oz. packages cream cheese
1 1/2 C sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 coconut extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
1/2 C sweetened coconut flakes (optional)
1/2 C chopped almonds (optional)

For the topping:

6 Tbsp cream
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 C toasted coconut
1/2 C chopped almonds

Note: My almonds were covered in a sweet chocolate powder covering. I found them at Aldi. They seemed perfect. But they're not necessary. Regular almonds would be delicious too.

For the crust: 

Place cookies in a food processor and crush them. Add other ingredients and blend. If you don't have a food processor a blender will work. If you don't have a blender, you can put the cookies in a large Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush them.

Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. (Note: I used a round of parchment paper on the bottom of mine.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

For the cheesecake: 

Blend cream cheese. Add sugar and blend. Add eggs and blend. Add extracts and blend. Add pinch salt. If using add coconut flakes and chopped almonds.

Put this mixture over your crust in the springform pan.

Bake at 325 for 75-85 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads between 165 and 180 (165 will be creamier and looser than if you cook a little longer). If you don't have a thermometer, the center 2-4 inches will JIGGLE. (Note: I did use a water bath and you can too if you wish--put the cheesecake in a roasting pan that has been filled with a few inches of HOT water. However, I think your cheesecake would cook fine even without this. Do know that it might cook faster so you might want to check it at 60 or 65 minutes.)

Cool your cheesecake. Overnight is ideal, but you need at least 4-6 hours.

When you're ready to top it, run a knife along the edge and then release the sprinform part of your pan.

When it's cool, make the chocolate ganache by  combining the cream, chocolate chips and vanilla. I do this in the microwave in 30 second intervals, mixing in between. When it's silky, pour it over the cheesecake.

Then put on toasted coconut (or regular coconut if you're too lazy to put it under the broiler for 2 minutes and toast it--no judgment here; you just made a cheesecake by golly). And add the almonds. I mixed mine together and thought it was pretty.

Allow your ganache to set for an hour (if you can; if you're in a rush, life will still go on).



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