Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All the right attributes

Everyone loves this strawberry pretzel Jell-O. It works as a dessert, or it could be a side dish for a holiday cook-out. It has all the best attributes -- creamy, salty, sweet, crunchy. Note that this dish requires several hours of refrigeration time.


2 c. chopped/crushed pretzels
1/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip

6 oz. package strawberry Jell-O
1 c. boiling water
1 c. cold water
1 lb. fresh strawberries, sliced

Chop pretzels in food processor. You'll get a nice mix of chunks and powder. I found about 4 cups whole pretzel sticks reduced to 2 cups chopped. Mix with sugar and butter, then press into 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Place cream cheese and sugar in dish and microwave until soft so sugar can easily be stirred in. Let stand to room temperature. Stir in Cool Whip. Spread over pretzel crust, ensuring that cream mixture reaches edges of baking dish and seals off access to pretzels. Refrigerate several hours.

Stir Jell-O into boiling water until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water, then sliced strawberries. Pour over cream layer, which should be firm enough by now to handle liquid. Arrange strawberries evenly. Refrigerate about 3 hours, or until Jell-O is set.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pumpkin year-round

I am aware that it's springtime, but for some reason I wanted to open a can of pumpkin. I don't know what got into me. I made this pumpkin mac 'n cheese, and my whole family was happy with it. It's something different from the ordinary, and it's fast and easy to make. We will definitely remember this one for when fall rolls around.

The recipe is adapted from Taste and Tell. The ingredients are kind of crazy, so I recommend going on faith. Don't taste the sauce until it's all put together. Then you'll love it! I could have eaten it like a soup.


8 oz. whole wheat penne*
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground mustard
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
Shake of cayenne pepper
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp. honey OR brown sugar
1 c. milk
1 c. pumpkin puree
2 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar, divided

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large saucepan. While it melts, put flour and seasonings in a small bowl. When butter is melted, whisk in flour mixture until smooth, then whisk in chicken broth. Mixture will start to thicken quite rapidly. Mix in milk and honey and continue cooking until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in pumpkin, then 2 cups cheese.

Preheat broiler to high. Combine pasta and sauce in 9x13 dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and place in oven. Broil until cheese is melted, bubbling and browning in spots.

*Don't substitute enriched noodles. This isn't just a health thing. The ingredients are written to complement the nutty flavor of whole wheat, and it makes a huge difference. I made this recipe both ways, and my entire family thought the whole wheat version was way better. The enriched version lacked flavor.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Not your everyday breakfast

This praline french toast casserole makes a delicious breakfast for special occasions. I adapted the recipe from one by Paula Deen. I cut the butter in half and used whole milk instead of half-and-half. I'm sure the original die for. My version is still plenty decadent, and my family loved it. This is a make-ahead dish. It's extremely easy to throw together, but plan for a long bake time. Enjoy!


1 16 oz. loaf french bread*
8 eggs
3 c. whole milk
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt


1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

The night before serving, rip french bread into chunks and place in greased, deep 9x13 baking dish. Whisk together casserole ingredients and pour evenly over bread. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Combine topping ingredients thoroughly with fork, then cover and set aside for later use. No need to refrigerate. (Or just make the topping in the morning.)

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place casserole, still covered, in oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and plop small blobs of topping all over the casserole. It's easiest to just use your fingers. Bake, uncovered this time, for 55 minutes more, or until a knife inserted in the middle of a bread portion of the casserole comes out clean. (Paula Deen listed a total of 40 minutes baking time, which was completely off for me. I live at a high altitude, though, so you might want to keep an eye on your dish.)

*I like to rip up my bread a couple of hours before assembling the casserole and leave it on the counter to dry out. Dried out bread often has better absorption. Paula Deen didn't do this, though, so it might not be necessary.