Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle and an Early Easter Dinner

This is my mom's signature Easter dessert. If you're on the look out for what to take to your family pitch-in this weekend, you can't go wrong with this recipe! Year after year we look forward to this dessert at the conclusion of our Easter dinner. I happened to have my camera handy as mom assembled the Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle this year, so I snapped some pictures.

This trifle can be broken into three components that are absolutely magical when combined. First, the strawberries. You want to combine 3 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of almond extract (that's right...tablespoons!)With two quarts of strawberries. Let it marinate while you mix up the cream cheese filling and angel food cake.

The second component is angel food cake. You can purchase a pre-made cake from the grocery or make one "from scratch". My mom compromised in the middle of these two options and made an angel food cake from a box mix. Tear the cake into bite-sized pieces.

The third component is the cream cheese/whipped cream filling. This is a picture of the combined whipped cream and cream cheese mixture. In one bowl mix together 2 packages of cream cheese, powdered sugar, sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract. In another bowl beat the whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon more vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of sugar until peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.

Then, fold in the pieces of angel food.

Beginning with the strawberries, layer the angel food cake mixture and strawberries alternately, all the way to the top of a clear glass bowl.

Finish with the strawberries. This is SO good and really simple to create. For me, the appearance of this strawberry trifle signifies that Spring has finally arrived.

Here's the recipe:

Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle

2-8 oz. packages cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 pint whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar

In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and sugar, add sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract. Set aside. In a small, deep bowl, whip the cream, vanilla, and sugar. Fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.

1 Angel food cake, torn into bite-sized pieces

Fold cake pieces into the cream cheese mixture.

2 quarts fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons almond liqueur or almond extract

Stir strawberries, sugar, and extract together.

Starting with the strawberry mixture, layer with the angel food cake-cream cheese mixture in a clear glass bowl. Finish with strawberries.

For a printable copy of this recipe, click here!

Now on to dinner!

We will attend two Easter dinners this year, one with my family and one with my husband's family. My mom hosted Easter a weekend early as some of our family will be in Florida on Spring Break for the actual holiday. No recipes here, I just thought that I'd take you on a tour of our little Easter buffet.

This basket served as a centerpiece on one of the tables. Totally simple and sweet.

Our family has grown to0 big to fit around one table at family dinners (we have added 6 new family members in the past 5 years!) At this point, it's more practical to serve ourselves in buffet style rather than pass platters and dishes around to two tables. Here was the buffet this weekend:

First, a couple of starters. This time we had hot pepper jelly over cream cheese to spread onto butter crackers

and deviled eggs. Lots of deviled eggs...

Oh yeah, and Oreo bunnies.

My sister, Angie, brought her famous Casa Salad. One of these days I'll tackle it for this blog. It's amazing! One of my all-time favorite salads.

For the main course: grilled duck breast. This time it was Cajun marinated and grilled to perfection!

Um, The Colonel also made an appearance...just in case anyone in our family has not yet realized how wonderful duck tastes. : )

Now for the side dishes:

Buttery corn, frozen straight from the field last summer.

Also, steamed asparagus sprinkled with sea salt.

Since this is my all-time favorite veggie, I got a close up.

Wild rice too! This is SO perfect with the duck breast and asparagus. It's the perfect meal.(At least, I think so.)

What else? Oh, yeah! We can't forget the rolls. I ate mine with homemade peach jam. YUM!

Now for dessert. Of course, the Strawberry Cheesecake Trifle.

And these cute lil' cupcakes that my mom decorated.

Very sweet with their coconut "grass" and jelly bean "eggs".

Next weekend, another Easter celebration! I'll be contributing THIS Pork Loin as well as some appetizers and desserts. I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dilled Panko Chicken Strips

Chicken Strips (or nuggets) and macaroni and cheese. How many times has this combo found it's way onto your dinner table in the past few months? If you've got little ones, I'd wager that this kid pleasing dinner has made an appearance at least once or twice. Did you know that in just about the same amount of time, (and with a few more dirty dishes) you can make both chicken strips and mac n' cheese from scratch, rather than from the box? That's the motivation for cooking from the box, right? We want to save time! Who doesn't? There's nothing wrong with striving for effeciency. These days, we're all busy people. This chicken strip recipe uses just 4 ingredients: chicken breast, egg, panko, and dill. You also need olive oil for frying and salt and pepper to season...so I guess that makes for 7 ingredients. To compare these to the store bought, boxed, freezer versions of Chicken Tenders, I grabbed a box from my parent's freezer tonight. At this minute, I am holding that box of high quality, name brand, chicken breast tenderloins in my hand. The box boasts: 100% all natural ingredients. 0g Trans Fat. Made with White Meat. NO Preservatives. As far as freezer chicken strips go, these are top notch. But here's the thing, I just counted the ingredients...there were over 15 if you count the oil used for frying. Salt was listed 3 times. And the store brand are deep fried (albeit in vegetable oil) rather than pan-fried (as in not immersed) in olive oil.

Look, I'm not saying that I never feed my family processed food, because sometimes I do. And I'm not criticizing anyone that slaps a freezer pizza down on the table a couple of times a week because their child is just "too picky for words" and that's all they want to eat OR because you are too tired to even fathom cooking dinner. I get that. I once read another blogger describe the period of her life when her children were young as the "Mac n' cheese tunnel". I get that too. What I am saying is that when I can cook from scratch for the same amount of time and money, I will. And that's why I'm so glad that I found this chicken strip recipe.

Last week on the Krista's Kitchen Facebook page I threw down a "Quick Fire Challenge". I wrote: I thawed too much chicken breast. Please submit your favorite recipe for boneless skinless chicken breast as a comment here. Between 5 and 9 pm on that day, I got 9 delicious, new chicken recipes. I picked this one as the winner. Thank you to Jill Jordan for submitting this recipe for "Crispy Herbed Chicken Strips". These were yummy!

I especially liked the crispy finish on these. Credit goes to the panko bread crumbs. Panko is a variety of flaky bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine as a crunchy coating for fried foods. Panko is made from bread without crusts, and it has a crisper, airier texture than most types of breading. I love this stuff for creating a crispy breading, without the need for deep frying.

Here's my breading station. Slice 3-4 chicken breasts into wide strips and season with salt and pepper. Beat an egg in a shallow dish. Pour the panko into a separate dish and mix with 1/4 cup of chopped dill. There's no dill in the picture below. I made one batch without dill, just in case the kiddos objected to the addition of this herb to these crowd-pleasing chicken tenders.

Just dip the chicken into the egg first.

Then give it a roll in the panko.

And transfer into a skillet heated with olive oil. Cook over medium heat until golden and the meat is cooked through. These brown up beautifully!

After the first batch of "plain" chicken strips, I added the dill to the breading. Loved this! The dill was subtle, yet such a nice little twist on regular chicken tenders.

This dinner was wonderful! Jill recommends to serve these with cucumber spears and ranch dressing. No problem with my family...they LOVE ranch dressing. It's their favorite condiment. It never occurred to me to serve cucumber spears before. They were a hit! What a great way to get kids to eat a vegetable. Plus, we had a little de-constructed pickle action going on...the dill in the chicken...the raw cucumber alongside. It was brilliant!

As for the mac n' cheese, I made it from scratch on my stovetop...in just minutes! You can read all about how I make mac n' cheese right HERE. This time I cut the recipe in half, and went simple. No onions or extra stir-ins, just hot, cooked pasta, butter, flour, skim milk, cheddar cheese, and a little salt and pepper.

Jill's Crispy Herbed Chicken Strips

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
1 egg, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup dill, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste


Cut 3-4 chicken breasts into wide strips; season with salt & pepper. Dip into beaten egg, then a mixture of 2 cups panko bread crumbs and 1/4 cup chopped dill. In batches, cook the strips in 1/2 inch of olive oil over medium heat until golden & meat is cooked through. Serve with ranch dressing and cucumber spears.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meal Plan and Grocery List 3/29- 4/4

Hello friends! In addition to the meal plan, I've got some fun posts planned for this week including an April Fool's Day treat and another field trip. The meal plan this week kicks off with the winner of my Facebook Quick Fire Challenge. Congratulations to Jill Jordan on her winning chicken strips recipe. Delicious!

Monday March 29th

Dilled Panko Chicken Strips with Cucumber Spears
and Easy Homemade Mac n' Cheese

Tuesday March 30th

Beef Stir Fry
(make extra rice for Wednesday's dinner)

Wednesday March 31st

Shrimp Fried Rice

Thursday April 1st

Angie's Enchilada Casserole

Friday April 2nd-Sunday April 4th

Oven Baked Fish and Chips

On the road again...Easter weekend with family!

Grocery List


green onions
red bell pepper
2 large baking potatoes


3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. beef round steak
3 oz. bacon or ham
8 oz. medium shrimp, uncooked
1 lb. ground beef
4 white fish fillets


4 eggs
Mexican blend shredded cheese
shredded cheddar

Canned Goods

olive oil
soy sauce
sesame oil
beef broth
rice wine vinegar
1 can refriend beans
tomato soup
cream of mushroom soup
1 jar enchilada sauce
light Italian dressing
Miracle Whip Light

Dry Goods

Panko bread crumbs
corn starch
Jasmine or basmati rice
1 envelope taco seasoning
hard corn taco shells
1 pkg. Shake n' Bake extra crispy
dry macaroni

Friday, March 26, 2010

Easter Bunny Oreo Truffles

My dear friend, Molly sent me a recipe for "Oreo Balls" back in February. Christmas was already over and we were travelling on Valentine's day. These Oreo Balls called for an occasion. To make them for no reason and with no one to share them with could be dangerous. Every once in a while a really great idea floats into my mind. That's what happened here. I could make these for Easter...only, I'd make them into bunnies! Yes, that's it! Bunny Oreo Truffles. Perfect! I have seriously been thinking about this since February. It was very cool to see this "vision" come to life yesterday.

I started by making the ears for the bunnies. I melted both white and dark chocolate and put them into a squeeze bottle. I piped the bunny ears onto a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.

I melted a couple of pink chocolate melts in my Wilton Candy Melting Plate. I purchased mine at my local candy making store. You just pop your chocolate melts into the tray and melt them in the microwave. I also purchased the melts at the candy store, although I think even Walmart sells them these days.

Then you can actually use paint brushes and paint the melted chocolate into molds(You can see the candy molds that I painted for my daughter's birthday HERE) or onto candies, like I did with these bunny ears. If painting is fun, then painting with chocolate is even better!

That pile of sugar on one set of the bunny ears warrants some explanation. My toddler was "helping" me. I looked up from carefully piping bunny ears just in time to watch this happen. Okay, so... one set of sparkly ears. : )No problem.

I placed the tray of ears in the fridge to harden and began making the truffles. All you need to make the filling for the truffles are a block of cream cheese...

Excuse me, softened cream cheese...

and a package of Oreo cookies. Actually, I used the less expensive chocolate sandwich cookies that I found at ALDI. I think that they call them "Waves". You can chop them like this or....

crush them in a bag with a rolling pin or meat mallet (or a soup can or a paperweight or a rock from your backyard...any blunt, heavy object that fits in your hand will do). Looking at this, I wonder if the countertop designer for this house actually had a crushed Oreo motif in mind. It matched perfectly.

I both crushed and chopped because I wanted some bigger chunks of Oreos in these truffles. Add the cookies to the cream cheese.

Mix together.

Then roll into balls. I used my cookie scoop to keep the size uniform on these. Now chill. No, not you. I mean chill the balls in the fridge for an hour. But you can chill too if you really want to.

While the balls chilled, I melted my chocolate chips over a makeshift double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler, just place a glass mixing bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water!) Add in the chocolate chips and keep stirring until melted.

I melted both white chocolate (candy melts melt better!) and chocolate chips for dipping the oreo balls.

I dipped each truffle into the chocolate and rolled it around.You can lift them out with a spoon or even better, a fork. Tap the side of the bowl with the utensil and the excess chocolate will fall back into the bowl and create a smooth effect on the truffle. If you really wanna be a pro you can get a Wilton Candy Dipping Set. I think that I'm getting one of these for the next time.

Once the truffles were coated, I returned them to the fridge to let the chocolate harden.

To attach the ears, I enlisted the help of my squeeze bottle again. Just squeeze a little chocolate on top the truffle and press the ears into the chocolate.

This is tricky, but with a little patience, you can get the ears to stay in place. The dark chocolate ears melted fast in my hands as I handled them, so I needed to move quickly!

I put the dark chocolate "eared" truffles in the fridge while I worked with the white chocolate bunnies. Once the ears were applied to the white bunnies, they went into the fridge and I pulled the dark chocolate bunnies back out to paint on their faces and give them tails.

Ah...here's everybunny all together!

Okay, I know that I've mentioned before that I love my Wilton Ultimate 3-In-1 Cupcake Caddy and Carrier. It's wonderful for moving cakes and cupcakes from place to place and each truffle fit perfectly into a circle on the mini muffin side of the tray. These bunnies made the 4 hour trip to my parent's house yesterday. Around curves and over potholes in the back of my van with shifting luggage, each and every bunny arrived unscathed under the protection of my cupcake caddy.

I'm so excited to share these with my family at our early Easter dinner tomorrow. The kiddos are gonna love em'! Who am I kidding? The grown ups are going to devour these too.

If you have neither the time or patience to make these truffles into bunnies, you can dress them up with sprinkles too. I did one with pink sprinkles, one with yellow, one with lavender, and one with light green. Oh, and a couple with nonpareils too. Very festive. A drizzle of white chocolate on the dark truffles and dark chocolate on the white truffles would look cool too. Actually, you don't have dress them up at all...but definitely try them! With just 3 ingredients these truffles are so simple, yet SO good!

Oh, wait. I haven't told you how the bunnies got their faces. I melted pink and blue candy discs (melts) in my tray, then used a confection paintbrush to apply the heart-shaped nose. I used a toothpick, dipped in the blue candy coating to dot on the eyes.

Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin' down the bunny trail. Hippity hoppity, Easter's on it's way!

Remember the sparkly ears? Here they are. I started out painting little whiskers on a couple of bunnies. Then I looked over at the 7 loads of laundry waiting to be folded and remembered that I also needed to pack that folded laundry into suitcases for our trip. I decided that the rest of the bunnies didn't need whiskers.

The End.

Oreo Balls from my friend Molly's sister-in-law Stacy : )

1 package crushed oreos
8 oz cream cheese, softened
Chocolate chips

Mix together, then roll into balls. Put on wax paper in the fridge for about an hour. Melt chocolate chips and dip balls in. Chill for another hour or 2.

Hope you all are having a lovely weekend!
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