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Dine In: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough FudgeMy obsession this summer has been Andy’s Frozen Custard, specifically a chocolate chip cookie dough concrete with molten peanut butter poured into the middle. Chocolate chip cookie dough is my love language. I pretty much love anything chocolate chip cookie dough. It’s my favorite flavor of ice cream. It’s my favorite “mix-in” at Marble Slab Creamery. Yes, I even eat it raw by the spoonful every time I make cookies, and I haven’t gotten sick yet.

My sweetie loves fudge, and I love cookie dough. Trying this recipe was a no-brainer, a beautiful marriage of confections. It comes together quickly. The only problem with it is that the recipe says it keeps for a week in the refrigerator. In what alternate universe does chocolate chip cookie dough fudge last a week? Not in my house, for sure.

The directions tell you that 4 cups of powdered sugar make softer fudge, while 5 make a stiffer, sweeter version. I split the difference at 4 1/2 cups, and I thought it was just perfect. It had a great texture without making your cheeks pucker from overwhelming sweetness.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

Ingredients:
For the cookie dough:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbs half-and-half
1/2 cup all purpose flour

For the fudge:
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup butter
pinch of salt
1/3 cup half-and-half
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:
Using heavy-duty foil or parchment paper, line an 8 x 8-inch pan, leaving about a 1-inch overhang. Spray liberally with nonstick cooking spray.

Make this fudge in 2 parts. First, you prepare the “cookie dough” portion, then you stir it into the fudge base.

For the cookie dough, combine butter and sugar in a large bowl, and beat together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, salt and half-and-half. Stir in the flour until just incorporated. Don’t overmix. Set aside.

To make the fudge base, combine the brown sugar, butter, salt and half-and-half in a heavy saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until the butter melts and the brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth and well-combined. Add the vanilla.

Add the cookie dough to the fudge base and stir gently to combine. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish; chill until set, at least 3 hours.
Keep in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In, Kids


Dine In: Dip for Dinner


Mexi-QuesoA few weeks ago, Paul and I ate at a popular Mexican restaurant in downtown Tyler. During the day, this establishment is packed to overflowing with business people, jurors, politicians and anyone who works downtown.

On a Saturday afternoon it was just about deserted, which was fine with me because I could take a little more time to enjoy the ambience and get some recommendations from our waitress on dishes to try. I must confess, as popular as that restaurant is, I’d never strayed beyond a few menu items. I think it’s because there are so many things to try, I get overwhelmed with the decision.

Paul decided we’d order the Choriqueso.

“What’s that?” I wanted to know.

Turns out it’s exactly what it sounds like: chorizo and cheese.

On the menu it says, “Mexi-sausage and mozzarella.” Oh really? Most queso dips I’d tried didn’t have mozzarella in them, especially at a Mexican food restaurant. I wondered what else was in it.

Nothing. Nothing else was in it. The waitress brought us a bowl of browned, spicy Chorizo sausage mixed with melted mozzarella cheese. It was served with chips.

Oh my goodness, it was delicious.

One recent Friday night, we decided to make our version of the dip, which you had to eat really, really, really quickly or the mozzarella cheese got stringy. We married the American version of queso with the restaurant’s concept and ended up with the best of both worlds.

Oh, and we ate it for dinner.

Mexi-Queso

Ingredients:
1 lb chorizo links, removed from the casings
1 16-oz box Velveeta, cubed
1 10-oz can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies

Directions:
Brown sausage in a large skillet. Drain well. Pat with paper towels to remove excess fat.
Place into a slow cooker with cubed cheese and undrained can of tomatoes.

Cook on low until cheese melts. Serve with chips or tortillas.

Nutritional information: Calories: 285, Calories from Fat: 203, Fat: 23 g (10 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 60 mg, Sodium: 1079 mg, Potassium: 192 mg, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 16 g.

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Dine In: Cajun Chicken and Rice


Cajun Chicken and RiceThe other night at dinner, I asked my guys what was ONE food they could eat for the rest of their lives.

Curt was non-committal. After all, he’s 13 and it’s no longer cool to play Mom’s games at the dinner table.

Luke didn’t hesitate.

“Rice!” he declared.

Rice?

I mean, I like rice as much as the next person, but he waxed poetic about rice for several minutes.

A few days later, we went out to a Mexican restaurant. I told him he could ask for a double serving of rice instead of beans.

He ate his double rice, my rice and would have eaten his brother’s rice if I hadn’t put the kibosh on that, due to the fact his brother had a heinous summer cold (Luke caught it anyway).

While he’ll eat other forms of rice, his favorite is plain, old white rice.

However, there’s only so much of that I can take and am willing to serve. The best part of it is that if a dish contains rice, Luke is pretty much guaranteed to eat it!

Cajun Chicken and Rice
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water or chicken broth
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbs Cajun or Creole seasoning
2 Tbs olive oil
4 cups diced onions and bell peppers
1 (10 oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Louisiana Hot Sauce, for serving

Directions:
Combine rice and water (or broth) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 14 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside, leaving the cover alone. (This is always the mistake I make with rice. Don’t. Touch. The. Lid.)

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, and season with a Cajun or Creole seasoning like Tony Chachere’s. Add half of the olive oil to a large pot and set heat to medium-high. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken without overcrowding the pan. Brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then brown on the other side. Remove chicken to a plate to rest.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan; increase heat to high. When the oil is hot, add the onions, bell peppers and more seasoning; sauté until the vegetables become soft and browned.

Add the tomatoes, and then add the chicken back in, along with any juices that may have collected on the plate. Add the cooked rice and stir until well-combined. Add the cheese if desired and stir well to combine.

Serve with Louisiana Hot Sauce.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 610, Calories from Fat: 227, Fat: 25.3 g (9.4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 131 mg, Sodium: 495 mg, Potassium: 662 mg, Carbohydrates: 48.3 g, Fiber: 3.4 g, Sugar: 6.3 g, Protein: 44.8 g

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Banana Cream Pie Bites


Banana Cream Pie BitesIf you know me, you know I don’t like bananas.

It’s really the only food I will not eat.

When my boys were little and I was packing school lunches, I had to hold the banana in plastic wrap when I cut into it so my hands wouldn’t smell like the fruit.

Most people love bananas. They’re really good for you, chock full of potassium. I just don’t care for them.

Recently, my best friend and I were eating at the restaurant where her daughter works. It’s a French café and bakery.

After our super-healthy salads, she plunks down, right smack in front of us, two of the “Cupcakes of the Month,” which happened to be banana pudding cupcakes.

Now, I’m not opposed to eating banana in other forms other than the (healthy) raw form. I like a good banana bread and still bake my favorite Southern Living recipe several times each winter. I will put a banana in a fruit smoothie. When I was on a job interview once over lunch and my prospective employer told me to order the banana pudding for dessert, I did so and enjoyed it immensely.

So, I was up for trying the Banana Pudding Cupcake. After all, NOTHING this bakery has ever produced is less than excellent.

What I didn’t expect was to enjoy it so much! It was a delicious blend of banana and vanilla. Yummy!

I wasn’t up for baking cupcakes last Friday night, but I did see this Pinterest recipe and decided to try it! I have to say, it was delicious.

Maybe it’s made a banana convert out of me.

Banana Cream Pie Bites

Ingredients:
1 (16.5 oz) roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 (3.4 oz) box vanilla or banana pudding, prepared according to package directions and chilled
1 banana, sliced into 24 rounds
1 ctn French Vanilla flavored Cool Whip topping

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 24-cup, mini-muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Divide sugar cookie dough into 24 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place dough in prepared muffin tin.

Bake until golden-brown and set, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and use the back of a spoon to press each cookie down; let cool 10 minutes. Remove cups from pan to a rack; cool completely.

Place a slice of banana into each cookie cup. Top with a generous dollop of pudding and finish with vanilla Cool Whip. Serve immediately or chill until ready to eat.

Makes: 24 bites

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 104, Calories from Fat: 33, Fat: 4 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 7 mg, Sodium: 235 mg, Potassium: 18 mg, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Sugar: 7 g, Protein: 1 g

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Salami Roll-Ups


Salami Roll-UpsWhile we’re at the beach, we pack lunches every day to bring from the beach house onto the sand. No one, and I mean no one, wants to leave the beach to go back and be bothered to eat lunch, so we pack it and have lunch al fresco listening to the waves pounding on the shore.

I have to admit I’m not always creative when it comes to lunches, but my sister-in-law makes it look so easy. She concocts all these spreads, wraps and rolls for her kids, using all kinds of fun and fresh ingredients.

Yesterday, they ate spinach wraps spread with hummus and topped with roasted red peppers, cucumber slices and baby spinach.

We tried this version, which would also be great for a Friday night dinner, with a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc.

Salami Roll-Ups

Ingredients:
1 lb cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 to 3/4 lb salami, very thinly sliced
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced

Directions:
Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap on the work surface. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the cream cheese on top of the plastic wrap and cover with another piece of wrap the same size. With a rolling pin or an offset spatula, roll the cream cheese out into an even layer, approximately 1/4-inch thick. This process can get messy, so be aware of the cream cheese seeping out of the edges of the plastic wrap.

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and add the salami, laying the slices in an overlapping pattern and lightly pressing into the cream cheese. Cover the cream cheese entirely with salami.

Replace the plastic wrap; flip the salami and cheese mixture over so that the cream cheese is on top. Remove the wrap and place the sliced green peppers over the cheese.

Roll the salami over the cream cheese firmly. Roll the meat log and press the outer layers tight to hold it all together. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or overnight. It’s easiest to cut when well chilled. Cut thin slices of the roll; serve as is or with your favorite cracker or crostini.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 310, Calories from Fat: 263, Fat: 29.2 g (16.6 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 93 mg, Sodium: 653 mg, Potassium: 157 mg, Carbohydrates: 2.6 g, Sugar: 0. 9 g, Protein: 9.7 g

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Dine In: Italian Sausage Sliders


Italian Sausage SlidersWe’re about to go on our annual beach vacation: one week of fun, family and food. The food is important. My whole family stays together in a beach house, and we all take a turn cooking.

This year, it’s very important to my younger son that he is an integral part of the process. From choosing the menu to helping with prep work and cooking, he has been talking about what we’re going to make for our meal for weeks now (he is MY son, after all).

We talked about it for a long time last night. It’s not easy to plan a meal that will satisfy 20 people, not take forever to cook or clean up (because who wants to spend all vacation cleaning up when there’s “Night Beach” to be had?), and doesn’t cost a fortune (it’s not cheap to feed 20 people).

We knew that we wanted to grill on our night to provide a meal. No one else was planning a grill night, and goodness knows grilled food tastes great after a day on the beach, plus it smells great mingled with sea air.

We vetoed the idea of doing ribs. It’s a great idea, except for the fact that I like to cook them on low heat in the oven for hours and finish them on the grill. Ain’t nobody got time for that kind of maintenance when there’s boogie boarding, sand volleyball and sunning to do. Luke then suggested sliders, and we all loved the idea. We can do a variety of different kinds with different condiments. He approved this recipe, which sounds a little different from your basic burger.

Italian Sausage Sliders

Ingredients:
2 lb Johnsonville® All Natural Ground Sausage (or links removed from casings)
1 lb ground beef
16 small slider buns or mini sandwich rolls
condiments, including provolone cheese, marinara sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes, giardiniera (marinated chopped vegetables and olives), sautéed onions, roasted red peppers, sautéed mushrooms and cheddar cheese

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine sausage and beef. Using your hands, blend the two meats together and form into one large ball. Use a spoon or a small measuring cup to gather up  3-ounce balls and press into patties.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Cook for about 3 minutes then flip; continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Test for doneness. Internal temperature should be 160° F.

Slice the buns and top the sliders with your favorite condiments.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 248, Calories from Fat: 76, Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (3 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 42 mg, Sodium: 643 mg, Potassium: 114 mg, Carbohydrates: 23 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g, Protein: 20 g

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: S’mores Bites


S’mores BitesMy friend Leslie is one of the greatest people I know. She’s smart, thoughtful, hilarious, hardworking, dedicated, strong and brave. She’s a great mom and a great friend, and she has a true servant’s heart.

She also goes bonkers over s’mores. One of my favorite Leslie experiences was one night on my back porch when I think we were enjoying a Girls’ Night In. We’d made dinner, lit a fire in my chiminea and were going to roast marshmallows for traditional s’mores. Leslie finished preparing hers first and dug right into the chocolaty, gooey, crunchy treat; the look of complete ecstasy sent us into gales of laughter.

Since then, we’ve swapped recipes for anything s’mores related that we can find!

This is one I’ve found recently and can’t wait to try.

S’mores Bites

Ingredients:
7 whole graham crackers (equals 1 cup)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
6 Tbs butter, melted
2 (1.5 5 oz) milk chocolate candy bars (like Hershey’s)
12 large marshmallows

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Finely crush the graham crackers into crumbs, using whatever method you want. I used my slap chop, but a food processor would work or putting them in a plastic bag and smashing.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and melted butter into a small bowl.

Evenly divide crumb mixture into each cup of a 24-cup mini muffin pan, greased slightly before using. Press crumbs down to form shallow cups.

Bake 4 to 5 minutes or until edges are bubbling.

While that’s baking, break the candy bars into the divided rectangle pieces. Also, cut the marshmallows in half using a pair of scissors that has been sitting in cold water.

Remove the pan from the oven and place one chocolate rectangle into each cup.

Place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup.

Return to oven for 2 to 4 minutes or until marshmallows are just slightly softened.

If you’d like the tops to be brown, turn the oven to broil, and broil the s’mores bites for 1 to 2 minutes.

Cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan.

Do not freeze; preferably eat within 3 days of making.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 234, Calories from Fat: 106, Fat: 12 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (7 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 15 mg, Sodium: 76 mg, Potassium: 6 mg, Carbohydrates: 32 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 25 g, Protein: 3 g

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: No-Bake Lemon Icebox Cake


It’s funny how your tastes change as you get older, or maybe they just change with different phases in life.

When I was younger, I was all about chocolate. The more chocolate, the better. I wanted chocolate cake with mocha frosting for my birthdays. I chose a chocolate soft-serve cone dipped in chocolate every year at the ice cream shop on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach. If I was going to eat a piece of candy, it was going to be a Hershey’s Kiss over a bag of Skittles.

Now, I still love chocolate, don’t get me wrong (although I’m more apt to eat a small morsel of dark chocolate these days than pig out on chocolate cake), but over the past year or so, I’m all about citrus. I love the fresh smell, the taste and the vibrancy of anything citrus.

I love this lemon icebox cake, especially in the summertime! Its flavors are bright for the summer; you don’t have to turn on your oven, and it’s cool and refreshing – great for an every night dessert or a special Friday night meal. Next time I make this, I might make it with lemon AND lime. I also make this dessert in a trifle bowl; it’s as pretty as it is delicious.

No-Bake Lemon Icebox Cake

Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of 1 1/2 lemons
2 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup heavy cream
34 lemon shortbread cookies
1/2 cup milk
whipped cream and strawberries, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with plastic wrap and set aside. In a large bowl, whip cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest until smooth and creamy. Stir in heavy cream and whip 1 to 2 minutes, or until filling starts to thicken. Dip each cookie one by one into the milk and line the bottom of dish with cookies to cover (cut cookies in half to fit in properly). Pour 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture over cookies and smooth the top. Repeat layering of cookies and cream until you have 3 layers of each. Cover the top with plastic wrap; refrigerate 12 hours or overnight. Cut into squares, and serve with whipped cream and strawberries.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 408, Calories from Fat: 235, Fat: 26 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (17 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 77 mg, Sodium: 202 mg, Potassium: 56 mg, Carbohydrates: 39 g, Fiber: 0.8 g, Sugar: 21 g

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Posted in: Cooking, Dine In


Dine In: Fourth of July Dessert Kebabs


Fourth of July Dessert Kebabs	One elementary school teacher, perhaps Mrs. Riley in the second grade, told us that the way to remember how spelling “dessert” was different from spelling “desert” was that “dessert” has a second “s” because you always want seconds of desserts!

That theory worked for me.

That’s why these patriotic dessert kebabs don’t just stop at “red, white and blue.” They go for the bang with the addition of brownie bites! Two desserts on a kebab can’t be a bad thing, right?

Aside from this dessert being so simple, it’s almost not fair; it’s so cute, super sweet and so delicious that it’s not even funny. I like it because it appeals to adults, kids and everyone in between. They’re easy to prep ahead of time for a party, low maintenance at an event, portable and easy to eat at a picnic, cookout or Fourth of July fireworks show!

They’re also easy enough for your kids to make, as long as they don’t resort to sword fighting with the wooden skewers (that would happen in my house).

Use any combinations you want on the skewers and enjoy!

Fourth of July Dessert Kebabs

Ingredients:
1 pint blueberries, washed and dried
2 pints strawberries, stems removed
1 (12 oz) pkg jumbo marshmallows
1 pan brownies, cut into 1-inch squares
wooden kebab skewers

Directions:
Assemble fruits and desserts onto a wooden skewer in a red, white, blue and brownie pattern!

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 249, Calories from Fat: 77, Fat: 9 g (2 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 21 mg, Sodium: 120 mg, Potassium: 117 mg, Carbohydrates: 43 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 18 g, Protein: 2 g

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Dine In: Chili-Lime Cod


Chili-Lime CodMy doctor told me to eat a low-fat diet.

Of course, when I hear “low-fat,” I translate that to “low-flavor.”

However, that isn’t remotely true.

You can eat low-fat with loads of flavor, and this fish is the perfect example. I was tired of eating lean pork and chicken. I love fish, so I decided to give this a whirl.

The lime and spices brighten up this fish so much that you totally forget you’re eating low-fat, plus it’s really high in protein.

My family has not always been receptive to eating fish, but they loved this recipe. White fish isn’t too “fishy” for them, and the spices remind them of their favorite Mexican meals. Plus, I got to eat low-fat with big flavor, so this recipe was winning all around!

I left out the butter in this recipe, but you certainly don’t have to!

Chili-Lime Cod

Ingredients:
2 lbs fresh cod fillets
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp dried parsley or 1/2 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs butter
1/4 tsp cumin
1 lime, juiced

Directions:
Heat oven to 450° F. Coat oven-safe pan with oil or cooking spray. Place cod in pan. Sprinkle chili powder, herb and salt. Roast 5 to 7 minutes or until opaque. Melt butter in small saucepan. Add cumin and lime juice; cook for 1 more minute. Before serving, drizzle butter mixture over cod.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 485.6, Calories from Fat: 133, Fat: 15 g (8 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 226 mg, Sugar: 0.4 g, Sodium: 951.4 mg, Carbohydrates: 3 g, Fiber: 0.6 g, Sugar: 0.4 g, Protein: 81 g

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