Thursday, June 30, 2011

Simple Patriotic Foodie Designs

I wanted to share some ideas for adding fun and creativity to your holiday weekend!

My husband is retired from 20 years of military service, and our home is decorated in red, white & blue....all over the place.  Here's just a peek..

I have been given many nice things also. 

I love dressing up food for patriotic holidays too. (It's just a 'given' for this 'Better' Baker I guess!)

This is a simple idea I did a couple of years ago.

I baked a cake mix in a 9" X 13" pan, placed it on a cutting board and after frosting, I used small jelly belly jelly beans to make a flag.  A long pretzel rod makes for a good flagpole.  I used gel in a tube to make the USA.

Give it a try.....or a salute! 

(Hubby and I both get 'decked out' for these special holidays too, and when I've gone into church with my r,w & b scarf, earrings and purse, one of the dear older ladies salutes me. How fun!)

I've also baked a brownie mix in a cookie sheet or a pizza pan - it takes about 13 - 15 minutes to bake.  I topped it with a cream cheese/whipped topping mixture, then decorated with berries.  You can either make the star outline with blueberries or strawberries.  I added some glaze to the berries for one of these fun presentations.

Star Spangled Brownies 


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lemon Curd Bars

Three in One Recipe Day!
Three versions of a lemon bar - take your pick!

I had never tried lemon curd before now, but will definitely try it again!

A friend gave me a jar of it and so I used this easy recipe that I found at for Lemon Curd Bars.

It was wonderful!! 

The lemon curd is tangy but not as much as I thought it might made some awesome and tasty bars.  Good enough to share!

This recipe was quick and easy to make.

I easily mixed 4 simple ingredients - patted 2/3 of it in the bottom of the pan - covered it with the lemon curd, then added coconut and toasted almonds to the remaining crumbles, sprinkled it over the top and baked.

Soo....if you don't have lemon curd, but are hungry for some lemon bars, check out my dear friend Angie's recipe - at A'lil Country Sugar for Best Lemon Bars in the World, using everyday ingredients from your kitchen. I've made them too and they were truly OUT OF THIS WORLD!

This is my picture of them...I ran out of powdered sugar =(


1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 (10 ozs) jar lemon curd
2/3 c. flaked coconut
1/2 c. toasted and chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 375. In large mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add flour, sugar and baking soda.  Mix until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Pat 2/3 of mixture into the bottom of a 9" X 13" baking pan (ungreased). Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool slightly. 

Spread the lemon curd over the baked layer. To the remaining 1/3 of crumb mixture, add the coconut and almonds.  sprinkle over the top of the lemon curd.

Lower temp to 350. Bake bars for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Enjoy every yummy bite!

I'm guessing if you want a different flavor, you could use any favorite jam instead of the lemon curd.  The crust is buttery and so delicious. 


After I had this post typed up, I saw my sweet friend Betsy's recipe for Three Layer Lemon Bars at My Five Men .  This recipe has been a 'hit' (in the top #3!) at some linky parties so be sure you check it out also.  YUM-OO!!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick 'n' Easy Peanut Butter Chocolate Candy Pie

I saw this recipe on a calendar by Taste of Home and knew I would have to try it.

(How could you possibly go wrong?)

Not long ago, my husband's siblings got together.  Hubby is the 5th of 10 children - 2 passed at a young age, and both parents were deceased before the age of 50. This group is close knit and they appreciate each other and the gift of life itself.

These local siblings love to get together a few times a year.  It's always a great night of fun, hilarious laughter, game-playing (Outburst!!), reminiscing and of course food.  (We ARE Baker's after all!)

I had had a busy day that day, and so I needed to make something quick to take along. (Beside my yummy egg salad sandwiches).

I had leftover peanut butter cups from cookies I'd made for a bake sale, so this was a great way to get them out of the pantry, and not (have) to eat them all myself!

This pie whips up in just a few minutes and only has to chill 15 minutes before cutting.

I know this is going to be a go-to dessert for me whenever I'm in a rush.

And everyone loved it.

I changed this up a little by doubling the pudding amounts, because I wanted a thick(er) pie.


1 pkg. (6 ozs) mini peanut butter cups
1 cup cold milk
1 4-serving size instant chocolate pudding mix (I used sugar free...
(I know....there's candy in this pie, but it still cut back on the sugar...and you could use sugar free candy if you wanted - Reese's now makes sugar free peanut butter cups) 
1 8 ozs. tub frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 chocolate crumb crust (8")

Cut four peanut butter cups in half; coarsely chop remaining cups and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft set.  Fold in whipped topping.

Fold in chopped peanut butter cups.  Spoon into crust.  Arrange halved peanut butter cups on top. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 8 servings.

THIS IS WHAT I DID: I mixed 2 sm. pkgs. of pudding with 2 cups of milk; folded in whipped topping. Before adding candies, I took out 1 cup of pudding (for later) then poured the candy-laden pudding into the crust.

Something to remember...sugar free pudding has a softer set

Linked to Melt in Your Mouth Monday
                    Sweets for a Saturday

Friday, June 24, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Mess

I was excited to find this (another!) delicious recipe from Lark's Country Heart.  She posts recipes weekly at a Lincoln County Central website.  See the recipe here.

This dish is easy and wonderful. As Lark says, this is what she would call a 'pantry meal' as you should have what you need in the pantry to make it - besides the chicken.

I love easy meals like this one!

And as you already know, I love cream cheese too.  For me, this is a fantastic combination of flavors.

This dish reminds me of poppyseed chicken, so I added the almonds on top.  I also served it over chicken flavored rice, just because I had a box that needed to be eaten. 

It was wonderful!


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 (8 ozs) sour cream
1 (10.5 ozs) can of cream of chicken soup
1/2 c. milk or water
1/4 c. finely diced onion
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms (I used canned)
2 Tb. margarine
1 (8 ozs) cream cheese, cut into small cubes
salt & pepper to taste
4 c. cooked rice

Saute onions and mushrooms in butter until tender. Place chicken, sour cream, soup, milk and seasonings into slow cooker. Add sauteed veggies.  Stir until well coated. 

Cook on high for 4 hrs. or low for 6 hrs.

When there's 45 minutes of cooking time remaining, stir in cream cheese cubes.

To serve place cooked rice on plate and top with chicken mixture, then sprinkle with nuts if desired.

Linked to Whatcha Crockin' Wednesday

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*Note: you can use cooked noodles in place of rice if desired.

Linked to Whatcha Crockin' Wednesday

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kansas Cucumber Salad

credit: La Grande's Farmer's Market

Tis the season for fresh veggies...
and this is my favorite thing to do with cucumbers.

We found them recently on sale for 50 cents each - and they were large ones!

Hope you enjoy this quick and easy salad.  We eat it up quickly.  I also love serving it on top of fresh chopped tomatoes. The sauce goes great with that combination.

I've been making this recipe for many years, and think I found it in a Taste of Home magazine.  

Enjoy every crunchy bite!


1 c. (lite) mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1/4 c. sugar (I use Splenda)
1/4 c. vinegar
1/2 tsp. dill weed, optional
1/2 tsp. salt, optional
4 medium cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced (4 - 5 cups)
3 green onions, sliced

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, dill and salt.  Add cukes and onions; toss. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. 

Yield: 6 - 8 servings

For variety - use half mayonnaise and half sour cream.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Microwave Chocolate Pudding


As the saying goes..There's nothing better than a good friend except a good friend with chocolate.

I do hope you'll give this recipe a whisk and a 'zap'.

It's so easy and quick. 

It's comfort food for me!

I LOVE eating it the saying goes....RIGHT FROM THE OVEN!

(mixing milk into sugar/cocoa mixture pre-microwaving)

This recipe is simple enough for older children to make.

You can flavor it up any way you want....add chocolate or vanilla chips and stir until melted.  How about some peanut butter chips? 

(But trust me - it's great just the way it is)

It's so nice to be able to make it quickly when I get hungry for something satisfying.

I added peanut butter after it was know, protein is good too. 

And besides....I made it with splenda instead of sugar. (That means I can eat MORE right?) *-*

I have to be honest and tell you that I divided this 4-serving delight into two servings and we ate it up in one sitting.  We'd only had a light supper, and then we had dessert...and lots of it!

Sometimes you just have to live a little, ya know?

This is how I choose to live....and chocolate always hits the spot.


1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. baking cocoa
3 Tb. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In 1-qt. microwave-safe bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the milk until smooth; microwave on high, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Stir, then microwave 3 - 4 minutes, stirring after each minute, until it thickens. Add vanilla; pour into individual serving dishes; cool, cover and refrigerate.  Garnish with whipped topping if desired. 

Sensational Almond Strawberry Pie

I LOVE strawberries and am SO glad their 'season' has arrived.

I am elated that I found this wonderful recipe at Cooking with K -

Kay shares a lot of her mama's (granny) recipes!  I love it when these kinds of 'treasures' are passed down to family.  Please take time to check out her blog.

This pie is easy, delicious and a real winner in my book!

The sauce for the strawberries is easy enough and has almond extract added, which makes it oh-so yummy!

And because you used boxed jello and pudding, I was able to use sugar free and made this awesome dessert guilt-free as well!

The Buttery Shortbread Crust is awesome too.  Such a nice change from regular pie crust. And it melts in your mouth.


1 (3 oz.) pkg. strawberry Jello

1 pkg. vanilla flavored cook and serve pudding, (not instant), 4 servings

1 1/4 cup water

1 1/2 pt. strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups whipped cream

Click on this link for the crust recipe - very simple 3-ingredient crust that you pat into the pan.  Easy Homemade Buttery Shortbread Crust

Combine Jello and pudding mix in a medium saucepan. Stir in water, cook and stir over high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Add almond extract and stir in sliced strawberries and pour into the pie shell. Chill until set, about 2-3 hours. Top the pie with whipped cream. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the whip cream if you like.

Now go wipe the drool off your chin and make this delicious dessert for dinner tonight!  :-}

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                    Made it on Monday
            Sweets for a Saturday
             Foodie Friends Friday
      Weekend Potluck

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Girlfriend Vacation - Whoop-de-doop!!

I've been SO excited to share my recent time away with you. It's been very difficult to sort through all the pictures because I'd love to share even more.

I met with two 'old' girlfriends in Spokane, WA.  We had all lived in Anchorage, Alaska and went to the same church in the early 80's. 

It had been over 25 yrs. since we'd all been together. And it felt like we picked up right where we left off. 


Sherri lives in Spokane in the home where she was raised, on a street lined with relatives.  She has a large & amazing Italian family. It seemed no matter where we were driving in town, she had a cousin or an uncle that lived in this or that house....we were in awe!

Sherri also has the gift of hospitality and Wanda and I felt like we were very pampered in the 12 days we shared together.
These are only a few of the many pictures we have in our albums.

In Sherri's Home
from l - r - me, Wanda (Anchorage) & Sherri

Gondola ride over the river at Riverfront Park

Carousel ride at Riverfront Park  

A devestating tragedy occurred while we were there.  Sherri's beloved 38 yr. old nephew tragically died, and Wanda and I were so thankful that God-ordained our time together so we could be for her then. We both were blessed and honored to help serve in the kitchen at the funeral dinner.

Sherri's husband John, had left that same morning to go hunting 500 miles from home, just to turn around and return the following day because of the death.  So we gals got to enjoy unexpected time with him.  He would fix coffee (fresh ground no less!) for us every morning...I told him we do it the scriptural way in our home also...HE BREWS! *-*

Anyway, we had such a great time with John.  He's quiet and reserved, much like my own hubby, and we appreciated his 'stretching himself' to spend time with us. He said he hadn't laughed so much in a long time. We enjoyed
playing card games together. And eating out...

(A rose between the thorns, huh Wanda?) ha
Brunch at Twigs Restaurant after church

Wanda and I absolutely fell in love with their sweet pooch, Gracie.
She's a Maltepoo and just adorable.  I have really missed her attention and affection. The way Wanda is adoringly gazing at her in this picture says it all!

We did lots and lots of shopping too!  Oh what fun!

My hubby Ron, was stationed at Fairchild AFB, just outside of Spokane, after we moved from Anchorage, so it was a blast to catch up with 3 special gals I had worked with and 2 of my daughter's special school chums also. F.U.N!!!!

I was thrilled to share a meal out with a special young family with 6 children...ages 4, 7, 8, 9, 10 & 12.  The mama was a little girl when we lived there.  They are an amazing family and sa-weeet!!

Of course, food played a big role in the time we shared too. 

Sherri has the words "Mangia! Mangia!" on her dining room wall in Italian it means, "Eat! Eat!"  We sure did more than our share!

Sherri made us tasty yogurt/fruit smoothies in the mornings...and oftentimes, made lowfat caramel macchiatos (using decaf coffee) in the evenings.  We were so spoiled!

I enjoyed this very full bowl of huckleberry oatmeal when we stopped at a diner on the way home from the airport - YUUUUM! I left an empty bowl behind too!

I really splurged when John took us to breakfast at the Kalico Kitchen. I enjoyed every bite of this wonderful bacon/egg/tater/onion/cheese scramble.

We had fun with our food too!

Onion ring tower at Red Robin

Wanda watches Guy's 'Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives' on Food Network so we 'had' (right!) to go to a few of the places on her 'bucket list'.  That was always fun.

This was Sherri & Wanda at Jimmy's Down the Street, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

And while we were in town, this one is Wanda and me by a moose statue on the sidewalk in Coeur d'Alene..I love moose! This one was too big to bring home.

It still cracks me up to think of ALLLL the pictures we posed for!!!
Silly girls having a ton of fun! Older, but we're still young at heart.

Anyway - that's a sneak peek into my fabulous time away. I have said again and amazing that 3 gals could spend that much time together and leave one another, loving each other more than when we began! I slept soo well and came home feeling very rested, despite the 3 hr. time change.

I am truly blessed to call Sherri & Wanda very special sisters of my heart!! We're already talking about when we can meet together again.

Wanda is the one who sends me these beautiful name tags!!! Now you all love her too huh? =)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chicken Ranch Stroganoff

This is another family created recipe..and it's in my cookbook - Page 49.

My daughter, Deb came up with this one.  Her family enjoys it often and I'm here to tell you it is very delicious!

Deb is the The Queen Mommy but most importantly, she is wife to Greg, and mom to Claira, Kaity and Sam. This picture was taken in March when Sam was 3 weeks old.  He was born nearly 10# 13 ozs.  (and Deb is still smiling!!??)

(And I'm boo-hooing because I haven't seen them since then!!=( though I did get to see Deb and Sam when we tried video skyping for the first time a few days ago)

Hope you'll take time to check out Deb's wonderful blog post for today...
Saving Money in the Kitchen
(She's a gal after her mama's heart!)

Funny how ALL the kids have their mouths open...ha

Deb has helped me stretch my wings in so many ways...

Not only is she my firstborn, who made me a Mom for the very first time, she's the one who talked me into blogging, and then managed my blog for me until I figured a few things out on my own.  

She's my hero for a list of reasons...and I believe we would be friends even if we weren't family.

Anyway - here's her awesome & creamy creation.  Do hope you'll give it a try.

(From The Better Baker)

1 (16 oz) box whole wheat rotini
1 (12 oz) can chicken breast, drained
1 tsp. dried minced onion
2 (10 ozs) each cans cream of chicken soup
1 c. Monterey jack cheese
2 - 3 Tb. dry ranch dressing
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, optional

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain in colander.  In same pan, stir chicken breast and minced onion over medium heat until warmed.  Stir in soup, cheese and ranch dressing.  Heat until cheese is melted.  Reduce heat and stir in sour cream.  Add pasta and stir well.  Allow to heat on low for 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times. If you want to bake it, pour into a greased casserole dish; sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake 20 minutes at 350.

(Because I wanted to bake it, I added a couple TB. of milk before baking, but it isn't necessary).

Serve with a salad or add carrots or broccoli to the mixture and have a super one-dish meal.

Linked to Gooseberry Patch Roundup

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

My husband loves fresh pineapple, but doesn't care for it from a can...unless it's baked.

I had just bought a can of canned pineapple rings the week before seeing this recipe at A'lil Country Sugar , so of course I HAD to try this great recipe.

We both loved it.

I lightened it up for our dietary needs, so I will share those changes in BOLD font within the recipe.

MMMMMMelt in Your Mouth Goodness!

(From The Better Baker and A'lil Country Sugar)

1/4 c. butter  (nothin's better than butter=)
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
(I substituted with 2 Tb. brown sugar splenda {equal to 1/4 c.) + 1/3 c. packed brown sugar - mixed together before sprinkling over melted butter)
1 can (16 ozs.)  sliced pineapple - in heavy (light) syrup
maraschino cherries
1/2 c.(1/4 c.) chopped walnuts or pecans
1-1/3 c. flour
1 c. white sugar (I used 1/2 xylitol)
1/3 c. shortening
3/4 c. milk (I used 1%)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt (I omitted)
1 egg (I used 2 egg whites)

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in 10" round baking pan.  Sprinkle brown sugar ove melted butter. Arrange pineapple on top with cherry in center.  Sprinkle nuts on top (or fill in around pineapple rings). Beat remaining ingredients on low for 30 seconds, then on high for 3 minutes.  Pour over pineapple.  Bake 45 - 50 minutes. (I baked for 35 minutes...splenda always bakes faster).

Linked to Totally Tasty Tuesday
              Made it on Monday

Friday, June 10, 2011

Amazing Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

I can't tell you how excited I was when I was making this dish!!!

I was just hungry for it I spose, and couldn't keep my nose out of the crockpot!

It's a wonder it ever finished cooking!

I just knew I'd have to try it when I saw the recipe at Lark's Country Heart

I'm always a sucker for anything cheesey, especially when it includes cream cheese! This is definitely creamy dreamy...

It will be made and enjoyed in my kitchen again...and again.


1 - 16 ozs. pkg. of macaroni
20 ozs. sharp cheddar, or your choice, shredded
1 - 8 ozs. cream cheese, cubed
1/2 stick of butter or margarine, melted
2 eggs
2 c. milk (I used a little less - you can always add more later)
salt & pepper to taste

First boil pasta until it is half done, about 7 - 8 minutes.
Drain; pour into lightly sprayed crockpot. Add shredded cheese and cream cheese to pasta. (Lark does NOT recommend using pre-shredded - it makes the sauce grainy)

In bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt & pepper; beat well. Add (cooled) melted margarine to egg mixture and blend well. Pour mixture over cheese and pasta.  Stir until all is blended.  Cook on low heat for 2 hrs. stirring occasionally.

Enjoy a wonderful weekend!

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Linked to Savory Sunday
              Melt in Your Mouth Monday