Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate covered strawberries are a natural for Valentines Day. Adding chocolate to the juicy, sweet yet tart flavor of a strawberry takes it to another level. Making chocolate covered strawberries is so easy that you should make it for that special person every Valentines Day.

Usually around Valentines Day, I can find Florida grown strawberries from a local specialty foods store and this year was no exception. I used Florida grown berries in this recipe today. I find them to be tastier than the ones grown in California.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

1 (12 ounce) package of semisweet chocolate chips
1 pound of fresh large strawberries with leaves

Gently wash the strawberries and very carefully completely dry them.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips in the microwave until melted. Be sure to stir the chips every 15-30 seconds to prevent burning or scorching. Remove from the microwave and stir to make sure completely melted. Carefully grasp the stem or leaves of the strawberries and dip into the chocolate and swirl in chocolate to partially cover. Give the strawberries a gentle shake as you take out of the chocolate. Place the strawberry on a prepared cookie sheet lined with tin foil. Repeat with the remainder of the strawberries. Allow the chocolate to harden. Enjoy.  

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Cream of Potato Soup

I love homemade soup and make it quite often. I very rarely buy the canned variety. Homemade is so much better and usually not that difficult to prepare. With the cold and snowy days we have been having, a hot and hearty soup is a must for lunch or dinner. This soup is a favorite of my family on wintry days.

The soup is rich and made even richer by the addition of cream cheese and heavy cream. While the soup is not low-calorie, it is comfort food that will surely help soothe the winter blues.

Cream of Potato Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
4 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken stock or broth
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Stir in the potatoes, salt, pepper and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are fork-tender. Use a potato masher to roughly mash the potatoes. Cut the cream cheese into small pieces and add to the soup. Stir until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream.

Serve the soup with your favorite toppings such as grated cheddar cheese, bacon pieces and chopped green onions.  

 

Pineapple Casserole

There are a lot of versions of the Pineapple Casserole on the web.  Most of them have Cheddar Cheese and Ritz crackers as ingredients.  This recipe does not include those two ingredients.

When I first got this recipe, I thought surely that it was a Southern recipe, even though the family member who gave me the recipe is from Grand Rapids.

The recipe was given to me over ten years ago and I have been making it at least once a year since then.  It makes a wonderful, slightly sweet  and delicious side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners.  It goes especially well with Ham.

We associate the pineapple  with Hawaii.  But the pineapple is actually native to South America and was introduced to Hawaii by early European Explorers.  Try this Pineapple Casserole recipe, your family is sure to love it.

Pineapple Casserole

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup of whipping cream
1 cup of crushed pineapple, drained
4 cups of cubed white bread (with crust)
1 cup of walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and the whipping cream  to the creamed mixture.  Beat together.  By hand, mix in the drained pineapple, bread cubes and walnuts.  Pour into a 9 x 13 inch  pan or 2 1/2 quart casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake at 350° for 30 to 45 minutes till golden brown.  

pineapple casserole

 

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

A Sugar cookie is a cookie made typically from sugar, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla, and a leavening agent.   Sugar cookies may be formed by hand or rolled and cut into shapes.   Cream Cheese was discovered by a New York Farmer in 1872 who was trying to replicate Neufchatel.  Whoever first added Cream Cheese to a Sugar Cookie dough is to be thanked.

Sugar Cookies are a favorite at Christmas time at our house.  The first cookie I ever made was a Sugar Cookie from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book, 1961 Edition.  This cook book was  handed down to me from a beloved Aunt.   Even though I no longer make that recipe, I always think of her when I make Sugar Cookies.

Luckily,  I discovered Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies that everyone in the family loves and wants on a Christmas cookie tray.   The recipe for this cookie is adapted from a 2002 Taste of Home Magazine but the same recipe is available on a lot of recipe web sites.

The cream cheese adds richness to a classic sugar cookie and the cookies practically melt in your mouth.

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
3/4  teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In a bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar.  Beat in egg yolk and extract.  Combine the flour, salt and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or until easy to handle.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut with your favorite cookie cutter dipped in flour.  Place 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.  Decorate as desired.  The following simple glaze may also be used for decorating.  Yield:  Approximately 4 dozen cookies

Glaze

1 cup Powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of water

Mix Powdered sugar and water with a spoon until a thin glaze is formed and then add food coloring to the mixture.  Brush on cookies with a small brush.  If desired, add sprinkles immediately as the glaze will start to harden. 

 

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Chocolate Crinkles are a favorite Christmas Cookie in this family.  I start getting requests for these cookies right after Thanksgiving.  A Teen in the family who has a birthday in December requests them for a birthday gift.  They are that good.  These cookies taste like a brownie, chewy, moist and fudgy.  As the cookies bake they will “crack”  to give them a crinkled look.  This recipe is from  Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, 1963 edition.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 squares unsweetened chocolate (4 ounces), melted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups confectioners sugar, or more if needed

Mix oil, chocolate, and granulated sugar.  Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed.  Add vanilla.  Measure flour by dipping method.  Add baking powder and salt to the flour and add this into oil mixture. This will be a soft dough.  Chill the dough several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350°.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into confectioners sugar.  Roll generously in sugar; shape into balls.  Place 2″ apart on greased baking sheet or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes; or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly in center.  Cool on baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  Makes approximately 6 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Cherry Blinks

This is one of my favorite Christmas Cookies.  It is an old fashioned cookie that won the Junior Division of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in 1950.  The recipe is taken from Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book 1976 Edition.  My Cookie Cook Book was handed down to me from a favorite Aunt.  I always include these cookies on Christmas cookie trays for friends and family members.  I use the cut-up dates and candied cherries for the cookies that I make.  You will want to double the recipe and make two separate batches at a time.  One batch of cookies is just not enough.  These cookies bake up soft and chewy with a little crunch from the Wheaties crumbs.

Cherry Blinks

1 3/4 cups Wheaties cereal, crushed
1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4  teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins or cut-up dates
1/2 cup chopped nuts
candied or maraschino cherries

Heat oven to 375°.  Mix shortening, sugar, and egg.  Stir in milk and vanilla.  Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting.  Blend the dry ingredients together and stir into the shortening mixture.  Mix in dates and nuts.  Drop dough by teaspoonfuls  into crushed cereal.  Roll gently so balls of dough are completely coated.  Place cookies about 2″ apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Top each cookie with half of a cherry.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until no imprint remains when touched lightly.  Remove cookies from cookie sheet and place on a wire rack.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Cherry Blinks

 

Smoked Boston Butt on a Gas Grill

This is for my Dad who was a true Southern Gentleman and Cook and who just happened to make the best Pulled Pork ever. He didn’t have one of the fancy smokers of today or even a gas or charcoal grill but some sort of a homemade smoker/grill contraption. So, Pulled Pork has long been a family favorite.

Smoked Boston Butt On A Gas Grill

Ingredients

One 3-4 Pound Boneless Boston Butt Pork Roast

Rub
1/4 cup Paprika
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 tablespoon Coarse Grind Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Chili powder
1 teaspoon Cayenne
1 teaspoon Cumin

3-4 cups wood chips (hickory, oak, apple, or other fruit wood) soaked in water for at least 30 minutes)

In a small bowl combine all of the rub ingredients. Coat the roast evenly with the rub. Allow the roast to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare the grill for Indirect grilling over low heat (210°F to 240°F). Light one side of your gas grill. Place the wood chips on the lit side of the grill. Some recommend placing directly on the lava rocks or element. I simply put the pan of wood chips on the grate above the fire.

Place the roast fat side up on a rack over a pan to catch the drippings. Once the grill is smoking, place the roast in its pan on the Cool side of the grill. Close the top of the grill. Try to maintain a temperature of around 225°F.

Replenish the wood chips if needed.

Cook the roast until an instant read thermometer registers 195°F. Depending upon how successful you are in maintaining the optimum temperature, cooking time can take from 3-5 hours.

Once the roast is cooked, remove from grill and tent loosely with tin foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes to an hour. Use two forks to pull the pork.

Serve on a bun with your favorite barbecue sauce. The pork goes well with a Hickory Brown Sugar barbecue sauce.  

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