Strawberry Pineapple Fruit Punch

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The sweet, tangy, refreshing flavors of this drink will have you coming back for seconds!
This was very refreshing to have on a Sunday afternoon upon arriving home from a family trip to the park.
The weather has finally warmed up! Spring has finally sprung and signs of “new life” is upon us. This is indeed my favorite time of the year. Not only because we get to experience beautiful sunsets, listen to birds chirping, watch the plants as they blossom; but we get to enjoy ice cold beverages, outdoor grilling and lounging around on the deck in the presence our families and friends. Can we ask for more?

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Strawberry Pineapple Fruit Punch
Yield: ~10 cups

Ingredients:
2 cups strawberries
2 cups pinepple, cored and cleaned
Juice of 1 lemon
1 liter 7up (gingerale or any fizzy clear drink works well too)

Puree strawberries and pineapple in blender until smooth. Pour into pitcher with 1 liter of 7up. I used a little over 3/4 of the bottle as the entire bottle didn’t fit into my pitcher.
Fill glasses with ice and pour drink into glasses.
*You may puree strawberries with up to 1/2 cup of sugar for more sweetness. Or if too sweet, dilute with up to a cup of water.
Note that when you pour this over ice, ice will dilute the drink a little.

Candied Pecans

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Have you ever been to Bass Pro Shop to buy some camping gear, look at equipment, boats, or just to go on a nice long romantic walk on the , — oh wait, wrong setting.
What I meant was, Bass Pro Shop has some amazing treats, especially the candied pecans. We love going there with the kids around the holidays to just walk around with some treats in hand, scope out the fish tanks, hubby checks out the “toys,” and we all admire the beautiful Christmas decor.
That’s where my inspiration for this post came from. Let’s face it, it is a little pricy to buy these babies there.
So why not make your own! They’re super simple and require minimal effort. These are great for snacking, topping on ice cream, Super Bowl Sunday, or just on their lonesome!

Candied Pecans

INGREDIENTS
1 lb pecans, walnuts (for cheaper alternative), or mixture of both nuts
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 egg whites (liquid egg whites work)
1 tsp or more of ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Coat the nuts in the egg whites. I like to drain remaining whites if there are any. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and then pour over the nut mixture. Coat well and spread onto a baking sheet, then bake for 35-40 minutes, making sure to mix the nuts every 15 minutes or so. I like to use a silicone baking mat for easier cleanup.
That’s it. Easy peasy!

Warm Spinach Dip

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Ladies, this is how I get my husband to eat his leafy greens. I make him spinach dip. He loves it and this is pretty much the only way he will eat spinach. It’s THAT delicious. This will work as an appetizer or even a meal if you dare! I won’t judge. Also perfect for game day! (Go Cowboys!)
I searched high and low for a good spinach dip recipe that I can make for us at home. We don’t like too much tanginess. We like creamy, and not too cheesy when it comes to spinach dip. The recipes I found had an overwhelming amount of all those things. So I played around with all the different recipes I tried, and came up with this recipe. This one hits the spot. I has all those things in moderation.
I make it pretty much for every party or gathering that we have at our house. And to help you along with the chopping, you can even use a food processor.
Now… GO EAT YOUR LEAFY GREENS!

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Warm Spinach Dip
Yield: 2-3 cups

3 tbs butter
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 small onion, minced (or chopped for more texture)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 10 oz bag of fresh spinach, chopped
2 oz cream cheese
6-8 oz heavy cream, more if needed to thin out
1-2 tbs shredded mozzerella or Monterey jack cheese (optional)

Melt butter in a nonstick skillet. Add red pepper flakes and onion. Sautee on low until onions are soft. Do not brown. You may need to mix often.

Add garlic cloves and Sautee another minute before adding your spinach. Cook until wilted.

Add cream cheese and let that melt before adding your heavy cream. If it’s too thick, add more heavy cream. If too thin you can add more cream cheese.
Finally, this is optional, add a tablespoon or two of shredded white cheese to help give it some body and another depth of flavor. Not too much or it will change the consistency of the dip.

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Tiramisu

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I am pretty sure that once you try my recipe for tiramisu, you will never go back to any other recipe. At least that’s what my friends and family say. Each time I make this, I get asked for the recipe. It’s quite simple, actually. And not very time consuming.
The taste of coffee with Kahlua gives it that authentic taste. Along with the mascarpone, which is the Italian version of cream cheese, but less tangy and more buttery tasting.

Tiramisu
Serves 12-16 in one 9×13 dish or similar

Ingredients:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, separated
2 tbs Kahlua (optional)
16 oz whipped cream (may use pre-made as long as it’s thawed)
8 oz mascarpone cheese, (not cream cheese), room temperature
48 lady fingers
2 cups strongly brewed coffee or espresso

Directions:
Mix coffee with 2 tbs Kahlua and 2 tbs sugar, set aside to cool

Meanwhile, make the cream in a double boiler by whisking with egg yolks with sugar  continuously until thickened and pale yellow in color. Remove bowl from double boiler and set aside to cool slightly.
Add 1/2 of your whipped cream and all of your mascarpone cheese to your yolks. Mix until it’s well incorporated.

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To assemble: in your 9×13 glass dish or similar, take each lady finger (breaking if necessary to make them fit), and one by one and dip into coffee,  then place each one in the dish. Add 1/2 of cream mixture and then repeat with another layer of lady fingers and remaining cream mixture, then finally last layer of lady fingers.
Top with remaining whipped cream and sprinkle some sifted cocoa on top and shaved chocolate. (Optional)
Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, preferably over night.

Chocolate Chip Yogurt Cheesecake

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Craving a lighter cheesecake with fewer calories? Or maybe something that has fewer ingredients and less work? You’ve come to the right place. –And so did the other 10 people that were at my house the evening I made this!

I’ve been waiting a long time to post this recipe. I wanted to wait until summer though, because this is a lighter cheesecake, and paired with some delicious summer fruit, you have yourself a fabulous dessert to serve your guests. Or just yourself. I won’t judge.

The caramel on this cheesecake is amazing. And it doesn’t harden. Please don’t skip the caramel! DON’T DO IT! Recipe can be found here. 

And if you do decided to skip the caramel (which you wont, right?), make sure to make a water bath for your cheesecake to bake in to prevent cracks.

 

Chocolate Chip Yogurt Cheesecake
Yeild: 8 slices

 

Ingredients: 

Crust:
2 cups lady finger crumbs (I just put some lady fingers in a ziplock bag and smashed them with a rolling pin. Food processor works well too)
1 tbs sugar
1/2 light butter, melted

Batter:
2 blocks of cream cheese, softened (light cream cheese may be used)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I used Fage Greek)
2 eggs
1 vanilla bean pod, opened and scraped
1/2 cup sugar OR 1/3 cup Truvia (or sugar substitute)

1 batch of caramel sauce
Directions:

For crust: Mix all ingredients together and spread evenly into the bottom of a spring-form pan.

For Batter: In a mixer with paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add sugar or sugar substitute and mix well. Incorporate yogurt and vanilla bean. Lastly, add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one gets mixed in well. Pour batter into pan, over the crust. Bake at 325 for about 40 minutes or until no longer jiggles. Don’t worry about cracks, because it will be topped with caramel sauce. If you are skipping the caramel sauce, I recommend you make a water bath. Directions can be found here.

Romanian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (sarmale)

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In the Romanian community, this is usually made once per week. Cabbage rolls are a staple for us. We make them for holidays and we usually make them a day or two in advance to serve on Sundays; as most christian Romanians don’t cook on Sundays.

This is a comforting dish that brings back so many childhood memories. My grandmothers would make cabbage rolls by the hundred with homemade bread alongside, and then call over my family and all of my aunts and uncles to their house to feast. All of my cousins, my sisters and I would get together, sit at the “kids table” and laugh while we ate. Now that most of us are grown up and scattered all over the country, we still have these memories to hang on to.
The visits to our grandparents’ house,
the worry-free diets,
the Sundays after church when we would meet up and not have a care in the world about homework.
The days we were all together.
The “cabbage roll” days. : )

There are so many variations of this dish. My mom makes it differently than I do. She makes it differently than her own mother, too. I guess you can say that upon getting married, we changed the recipe to make it to the liking of our own families. But I did, however, try to keep it as authentic as possible. I get lots of compliments on my sarmale. On all my 10 versions of it! But here is the one my own family loves best:

Romanian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Yield: About 25 sarmale <-So call your friends over!

Ingredients:

2 large medium onions, chopped

1 large head cabbage

1 1/2 lbs ground pork (any ground meat works. I love ground chicken mixed with pork)

3 slices bacon, chopped

2-3 tbs mild oil (Such as canola or vegetable. Not olive oil)

2 tbs paprika

2 tbs Vegeta seasoning

1/2 tsp pepper

1 cup cooked or partially cooked white rice (not par-boiled from store)

2 tsp fresh dill

1 can tomatoes in sauce (I use San Marzano)

1 ham hock

4-8 oz sauerkraut

 
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Directions: 

  1. Cut a small square around the core of the top of the cabbage, so that it will be easier to peel off.
  2. Simmer a large pot of water on the stove, add entire head of cabbage.
  3. Carefully peel each leaf as it unravels from the head of the cabbage. Be careful, the water is hot. You may need to use tongs and other utensils.
  4. When most leaves have been peeled off, and you get the larger ones, you are done. Set aside aside to cool. You don’t need the small inside leaves.
  5. In the meantime, saute onion in oil on medium heat until translucent.
  6. Add paprika and stir well.
  7. Add to a large mixing bowl and set aside until cooled enough to handle.
  8. Add ground meat, rice, bacon and all seasonings and dill to the bowl of onions. Mix well.
  9. Take a cabbage leaf, and depending on the size, spoon about 2 tbs into each one. Roll like a burrito. Tucking in the sides. If some squirts out, it’s okay. Just use less filling in the next one.
  10. Roll until you run out of mixture.
  11. When all cabbage leaves are filled and rolled, prepare your crockpot or a large heavy bottom pot, such as a dutch oven, by layering the bottom of the pan with leftover cabbage leafs to prevent sticking.
  12. Add the ham hock at the bottom of the pot, and layer the cabbage rolls on top. When you filled the pot, add the sauerkraut if using, and the tomato sauce.
  13. Then add enough water to go about halfway up the pot. Partially cover with lid, and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for about 2 hours, until the meat mixture is cooked. Make sure to move the pot a few times to make sure its not sticking or burning to the bottom.

 

Pico De Gallo

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My healthy and homemade pico is delicious on everything. No preservative filled jars here, no weird ingredient list, just wholesome goodness. You can use this to top eggs, enchiladas, rice, or just dip some chips in it! I have this at every single party or gathering that I throw. Also perfect for those upcoming Monday Night Football games (Go Cowboys)!

Pico De Gallo
yield 2 cups

Ingredietns:
6 Roma tomatoes, pitted and chopped
2 serrano peppers, devained and seeded
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juiced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp ground cumin (optional, I skipped it this round)

Directions:
Chop all ingredients and mix together in a bowl, juice limes and add seasonings. May use food processor to get a more uniform chop, but I like a more rustic feel, so I chop it by hand.