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A Brony Birthday Party

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My little sister (that’s her with the black ponytail) threw a My Little Pony birthday party for her boyfriend last week.  That’s right, he’s a Brony.  A brother who likes My Little Pony.  I love that he’s secure enough in his masculinity not to have any shame about it!  He was so excited about the party and while she was taking millions of pictures of him posing with ponies, he declared it to be the best birthday party of his life.

Although I’ve sworn off decorated cakes (multiple times), she talked me into making the cake for his party.  (What convinced me was her offering a really strange amount of money – not like $20 or $30, but $32.73.  It was so weird and funny I had to say yes! lol)  It was a super-simple cake and I thought I’d share how to make one if you ever have need of a rainbow or MLP cake.

You only need a round single layer of cake.  If you make it in a 10″ pan, a cake mix will fit in it and the finished cake will serve up to 16 people, although it will be pretty difficult to serve.  I made mine in an 8″ pan and baked the rest of the batter into cupcakes, so this cake only served 8 but with the cupcakes it would have served 20.  You will also need red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and sky blue frosting for the rainbow.  Pack the frosting into disposable pastry bags, preferably fitted with couplers, though you can just slice the tip off the bag to pipe the frosting directly onto the cake out of the bag if you don’t own a lot of couplers or don’t want to buy them. If you are going to make this into a My Little Pony cake, you will also need extra green for the grass (I used a lighter green than in the rainbow). You’ll need some flower sprinkles (I used these) and a grass tip (Wilton #233, and ignore all the other tips – I didn’t end up using them).  If you want to make a pond, you’ll need some clear piping gel and sky blue gel coloring (available at Walmart by the cake decorating supplies in the arts & crafts section).

Slice your cake in half and squeeze/spread frosting onto one side. I made too much red so that’s the color I chose to use.

Sandwich the halves together.

Place the cake cut-side down to your platter or cake board.

Squeeze frosting onto the cake, starting at the middle with the red (I had to build it up a little to make it higher since it dipped down), making stripes in this order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  I just squeezed it out from my coupler without a tip and I thought this made the perfect width of frosting for each stripe.

Repeat down the other side and fill in the bottom of both sides with sky blue frosting to make it look like you’re looking through to the sky underneath the rainbow.

If you’re going to make a MLP cake, figure out where you’re going to put the ponies, then pipe a blue border to outline where your pond(s) will be.  Using your (clean) finger, spread a thin layer of blue frosting over the platter or cake board so that the silver (or other color of the board) doesn’t show through the piping gel.  Tint enough piping gel to fill the pond(s) with sky blue gel color and spread into the pond, creating some ripple effects with your spoon.

Pipe grass onto the rest of the platter and when you run out of light green, use up the rest of your darker green, then panic and use up your yellow.  Then realize there is no other color left that is suitable for grass so be really strange and spread some orange over the rest of the platter, hoping it won’t look too weird if you write a birthday message across it.  Sprinkle your flower sprinkles all over the grass.

Realize the orange is just wrong, and scrape it all off, rejoicing that you found some extra blue you had set aside in a bowl.  Use it to pipe a border for another lake and repeat the steps to create a second lake.  Rejoice that you saved a little bit of white frosting and tint it green to go around the lake, then steal some of the flower sprinkles to put on the new grass.  Much better.

To serve, cut it in half down the middle, then cut each half in half, angling toward the center.  Essentially, you are cutting it the way you would if it was right-side up, but from the side instead of the top.  Cut each thick slice in half and use a spatula or cake server to draw out one of the bottom pieces (most likely two pieces will come out and you’ll have to pull the top piece off onto another plate.  Once the first piece is out, serving the others is pretty easy as they just start falling onto your spatula.

TASTE THE RAINBOW!

Whoa. It’s like a rainbow…IN MAH MOUTH.

 

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Chicken and Dumpling Casserole

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Chicken & Dumpling Casserole | veronicascornucopia.com

Although the first day of spring has come and gone, it’s been chilly and blustery here in Kansas, so I thought I’d share this warm and delicious casserole for everyone that’s still eagerly awaiting spring before it’s hot and sweltering and nobody wants to bake a casserole. This is pure comfort food and perfect to warm the soul on a chilly day.  It’s very quick and simple to make, which is good if you have a baby that has decided that if you aren’t holding him or playing with him or taking him on a stroller ride, he isn’t happy, because you won’t have to listen to him scream for very long  before dinner is in the oven. ;)

Chicken and Dumpling Casserole

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3 – 4 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (use rotisserie chicken if desired)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 (10.75 oz) can cream of chicken soup

Preheat oven to 400F. Place butter in 9″ X 13″ baking dish and place in oven while it’s preheating. Once butter is melted, you can remove the pan to continue with the recipe, or let it cook a little to brown it and add an extra dimension of flavor. Be sure to watch it if you decide to let it brown because it can go from nutty to burnt pretty quickly.

Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle prepared chicken over the top of the butter. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, flour, baking powder and salt. Pour over the chicken, but do not stir. In same bowl, after scraping out as much flour mixture as possible, whisk together chicken broth and cream of chicken soup. Pour that over top of casserole; do not stir.

Bake uncovered for 35 – 45 minutes. When done, the top will be beautifully browned and bubbly around the edges.

Yield: about 6 servings

Veronica’s notes: I boiled a whole chicken for this recipe. It was about 5 lbs and I covered it with water in a stock pot and added a teaspoon of salt, boiling for an hour or two. I forgot to set the timer so I really don’t know how long I boiled it because I was so busy with the baby- lol. If you make it this way, it’s very economical, and you automatically make your own broth to use in the recipe.

Recipe source: The Better Baker

Tennessee Banana-Black Walnut Cake with Caramel Frosting

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We celebrated Father’s Day early this year!  OK, truth be told, I made this cake for Father’s Day five years ago.  This is probably the longest it’s ever taken me to blog a recipe, but with the Black Walnut Banana Bread recipe I shared earlier this week, I figured it was about time.

You know a cake is good when you can still remember the flavor five years after you ate it.  This cake is what turned me onto using black walnuts in banana bread – the pairing is ever so perfect.  And the caramel frosting just puts it over the top!  Enjoy it for Father’s Day, or Mother’s Day, or just because you really need this cake in your life. Because you do.

Tennessee Banana-Black Walnut Cake with Caramel Frosting

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Cake:
1/2 cup (3 1/4 oz) solid vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 large overripe bananas
1/4 cup (2 oz) buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (4 oz) chopped black walnuts

Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup (7 1/2 oz) packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more as necessary
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 (16 oz) box confectioner’s sugar
2 cups (8 oz) finely chopped black walnuts, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.

For the cake: In a medium bowl, stir together flour and baking soda; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together shortening and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, mix until just combined. Stir in black walnuts.

Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool in pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare frosting. Melt butter in saucepan. Add brown sugar and cream. Cook over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.

Using a handheld electric mixer, beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. If frosting is too thick, add 1 tablespoon heavy cream at a time until consistency is right. Sandwich 2 layers of cake with icing. Ice the outside of the cake. Surround sides of cake with crushed black walnuts.

*Cook’s note: DO NOT substitute English walnuts for black walnuts.

Black Walnut Banana Bread

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Well look at that, I wrapped a slice just for you! ;)

If you’ve never tasted the magic that happens when you combine banana and black walnuts, you need to try it, starting with this bread! Black walnuts used to be the only nut I used in my banana bread and I have no idea what happened but for some reason, I just stopped and totally forgot about them.  Maybe because they are harder to find, I moved on to using pecans, my overall favorite nut for baking, and didn’t remember the superior black walnut until my Mom gave me a bag from the Nifty Nuthouse recently.  I seriously wasted about three years on black walnut-less banana bread before she reminded me of the wondermosity that is the black walnut.

There is something really special about black walnuts in combination with banana. I also like to use them in banana cake- both in it and on top of the icing.  Just so good.  I can’t describe the flavor but there’s a little something extra to them that the regular walnuts don’t have.  I want to say they have a sulfuric  quality but I’m not sure that’s exactly right.  You’ll have to tell me how you would describe them because I’m at a loss.

I made this particular recipe very simple in order to showcase the banana and black walnut flavors without muddying the waters with butter or vanilla or cinnamon or  bourbon, et al.  I’m really partial to using oil in quick breads and cake because, in my opinion, it makes a superior crumb that butter just can not compete with, except in flavor, of course.  When the butter flavor isn’t necessary, I happily use oil.  I’ve made this bread both ways, and we both prefer the oil version – much more moist, tender, and almost silky.  The butter version is good, but not as good.  It’s also heavier and more dense.  I really recommend trying it this way before you scoff at the lack of butter.  You won’t believe how good it is!

Black Walnut Banana Bread

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2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 ½ cups (14 oz) mashed overripe banana
½ cup (3 1/2 oz) vegetable oil
½ cup (2 ¼ oz) black walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a large 9×5 loaf pan with oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the banana and oil and whisk until completely incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the wet mixture into the dry, then use the spatula to stir until somewhat blended. Add the black walnuts and stir until everything is just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Invert onto your hot pad-covered hand and then invert again onto a cooling rack to cool as long as you can stand it. Wrap up to seal in moisture if it doesn’t get eaten in one sitting. :)

Just had to share this cautionary photo of my thumbs after I’d tried to harvest my own black walnuts since they grow abundantly in the neighborhoods around here. It took me two hours to fill maybe a single teaspoon with tiny little nut shards (it’s so hard to get through the shell!) and my thumb nails broke through the latex gloves I was wearing while I was working on them and my thumbs were stained like this for weeks. I highly recommend paying for them – the free nuts are just not worth the effort!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

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Looky what I did! I kind of feel like a rock star, having made my first batch of cookies post-baby, and not even the bar kind. The kind you actually form the dough into individual balls before baking.  I still haven’t recovered the sleep I lost over them since devoting this kind of time to baking requires staying up at night while the baby is sleeping, but they were oh so worth it.  And who am I kidding, I do that every night anyway! :)

Mel worked hard to perfect her recipe, and the cookies are truly wonderful.  Soft and chewy, which is my favorite cookie texture, with the crunch of macadamia nuts and the complimentary sweetness of white chocolate.  Cookie perfection.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

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1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces white chocolate chips
1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup toasted coconut (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar with a handheld mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until the mixture is well-combined. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy and light in color, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the salt and baking soda until incorporated, then stir in the flour until just combined; a few streaks of flour are OK. Add the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts and mix until combined and no streaks of flour remain.

Roll tablespoon (or slightly larger) size balls of dough and place on silpat or parchment lined baking sheets, 1 to 2 inches apart. Bake for 9-11 minutes and remove from pan to cool on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough.

*Veronica’s Notes: if using unsalted butter, increase salt in the recipe to 1 1/4 teaspoons.  If your macadamia nuts are roasted and salted like mine, you might want to reduce the amount of salt. I omitted it completely since both my butter and nuts were salted. I added toasted coconut to half the batch (unphotographed because they were gone by the time I broke the camera out), and although they weren’t the classic white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, they were even better in their own class. I like both versions so I recommend you try half and half!

Recipe source: slightly tweaked from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Lemon Muffins

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I adore baking up lemony treats any time of year, but lemon has such a bright and cheerful color and flavor that I find it particularly appealing on a cold winter day.  I picked this recipe from my foodie mama’s cookbook to brighten up one such day a couple weeks ago.  Her cookbook is self-published, the same kind that churches print for fundraising, so it’s pretty straightforward without a lot of extra words, but at the end of this recipe, she said, “Wonderful!” so I knew it had to be good.  If she didn’t say anything at the end of her blue ribbon recipes, which I’ve tried and loved (like this banana bread and this peanut butter pie), I knew this one had to be a real winner.  And I was right.

Seriously y’alls.  The texture.  The flava flav.  It’s all kinds of wondermous.  It’s like someone crossed a pound cake with angel food cake and turned it into a muffin.  The lemon flavor is really incredible, with lemon zest and juice in the muffins, and a lemon syrup soaking down into them.  The only thing I almost changed was the walnuts, because nuts seemed such a strange addition to a lemon muffin to me.  Then I almost decided to use another nut,  like almonds or macadamia nuts because they seemed more suited.  I’m so glad I went with my foodie mama’s instinct because she never steers me wrong.  The walnuts are perfect and they even take on a pretty golden color from being toasted and baked, and look so appealing studding the yellow muffins.

Marina still has copies of her cookbook available and is selling them for $10 plus $3.50 S&H.  Email me at vraklis@yahoo.com if you’d like to purchase one!  You can see some of the recipes in her cookbook here.

Lemon Muffins

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Lemon syrup
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Muffins
4 eggs, separated
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
3-4 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted & finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the sugar and lemon juice for the syrup and set aside. Butter or place paper liners in 12 muffin tin wells.

Making sure your mixer and beater(s) are completely grease-free, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff. Scrape into a separate bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until light, about five minutes. Add egg yolks, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt, and beat well. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the lemon juice, beating until combined. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, then stir in the walnuts. Fill prepared muffin tins almost full to the top and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Leaving the muffins in the tins, pierce them several times with a fork while still hot. Drizzle the lemon syrup over the tops, then remove the muffins from the tins to cool completely on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight container.

Recipe source: Marina Castle

Chocolate Italian Love Cake


I made this for our Valentine’s Day dessert because 1) it’s “Italian” (I put that in quotations because honestly, I think the only reason it’s called “Italian” is because there is ricotta cheese in it), so I thought it would go well with our Spaghetti & Meatballs, and 2) it’s a Love Cake, therefore perfect for Valentine’s Day. :)  However, I’m sharing this with you today, a regular non-Hallmark holiday day, because it’s simply a fantastic cake that should be enjoyed and made for those you love on any old day, not just days designated for celebrating your loved ones.

This cake is every bit as good as it looks.  I don’t like ricotta because of the texture, but it really works with this cake.  It’s not a heavy cake, which is dangerous, because it’s also addictive and the “lightness” makes it easier to trick yourself into thinking that eating half the pan by yourself isn’t all that obscene.  Not that I’ve done that or anything.

Chocolate Italian Love Cake

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1 package chocolate cake mix (I recommend using Betty Crocker brand), and the ingredients needed to make the cake according to the package directions

  • OR your favorite chocolate cake recipe that makes as much batter as a cake mix

2 lbs. ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (5.9 oz.) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, defrosted

Preheat your oven to 350*F and spray a 9×13 inch pan with nonstick spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together your cake mix according to the directions on the box or prepare your favorite chocolate cake.  Spread into prepared pan and set aside. In another bowl, beat together the ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Carefully pour the ricotta mixture over the cake batter, trying to get it evenly distributed, then spread it as best you can over the cake batter with a spatula. The layers will switch during baking!

Bake the cake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool, whisk the pudding mix and milk together until smooth and slightly thickened. Gently fold the whipped topping into the pudding until incorporated. Spread the pudding mixture over the top of the cooled cake. Do not spread it over the cake if it’s even slightly warm or it will melt and ruin the topping. Cover the cake and refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving. It tastes even better the next day.

Veronica’s notes: 1) I do not recommend my favorite chocolate cake for this recipe as it makes a lot more batter than a box mix and your pan would probably overflow if you tried it. 2) I have a stack of 9×13 baking dishes because I use that size more than any other. My largest one is a Pyrex dish and I highly recommend you use your largest one too – preferrably a Pyrex dish because they seem to be the largest.  I know every 9×13 dish should measure 9×13 but apparently they do not…or maybe some companies measure from the inside and some from the outside.  This recipe fills it up to the top so you really need to use a large dish.  3) If you live in an area that sells 5.1 ounce pudding mixes, that’s fine – it’s the size called for in the original recipe. You only need a cup of milk if you have a 5.1 ounce box, according to the original recipe. 4) I know ricotta can be expensive so if you have an Aldi in your area – go see if they sell ricotta there. Mine sells it for $1.68 for a pound. It’s also good quality! And get some pumpkin puree while you’re there – it’s usually $1 (or less) for a can and is very good quality. :)

Recipe source: adapted from Chew Nibble Nosh

Really Great Spaghetti & Meatballs


Growing up, I practically lived on spaghetti.  It was the one “junk” food my Mom allowed us to eat (junk because it wasn’t whole wheat spaghetti).  Therefore it’s what I ate most of (because I hated health food)!  Spaghetti with Ragù sauce – I loved it.  But the best was when I made meatballs to go with it, which was a special treat because we didn’t do a lot of meat in our house.  I remember one time I was cooking my famous spaghetti & meatballs dinner for the family when I was about twelve and they all left me at home to cook while they went to the health food store.  I didn’t really love the health food store, but I still cried into my meatballs because I didn’t want to be left out.  Meanie old Davis family! haha

Anyway, this recipe is a lot different from the one I made growing up, but my recipe was little more than ground beef mixed with tons and tons of garlic powder, salt and pepper, rolled up and cooked in a skillet before being added to a pot of pasta with Ragù sauce on it.  I will always love meatballs made that way because that’s how I ate them growing up and have a fondness for it, but honestly these are better, the best I’ve had, actually, and I love the cooking method.  You don’t have to cook them separately, you just plunk them into the sauce and let it simmer away!  So simple.  It also makes the meatballs more tender and moist to cook them this way, and the flavor of the sauce and the meatballs both benefit from cooking slowly together.

The sauce is a very simple recipe and so, so good.  The amount of black pepper gives it a bit of a spicy kick so I’d cut it by half if you don’t like heat.  This is now my go-to spaghetti sauce (I’ve made it twice in the last week) and I hope you’ll give it a try!

Really Great Spaghetti & Meatballs

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Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Meatballs
1 egg
1 lb lean ground beef
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1 (1 lb) package spaghetti

Remove ground beef from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature while the sauce cooks.

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan to coat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes. Lower the heat if they begin to burn. The more color that develops on the onion and garlic, the more flavor they’ll add to the finished sauce.

Once the onions and garlic are tender and caramel in color, add the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Add the remaining sauce ingredients (oregano through pepper), stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pot, and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the bottom does not burn.

Make the meatballs: Lightly beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Break apart the beef as best you can into the bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Use your hands to mix together until well incorporated, trying not to overmix, which could render your meatballs more tough. Shape the meat mixture into 12 balls (I always get 13), each about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Drop them into the sauce, stir gently so that they’re all covered in sauce. It might look like there’s only enough sauce for the meatballs and there won’t be enough for pasta, especially if you’re like me and love your sauce, but trust me, there’s enough. Let them cook, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Once the meatballs are done, cook your spaghetti to al dente according to the package directions, drain, pile some onto plates, and top with sauce and meatballs.

Veronica’s Notes: your tomatoes matter. I bought very cheap tomato puree (and tomato paste, for that matter) from Aldi that was excellent but found that Walmart’s brand, which is higher in price, was horrible by comparison. Buy good tomatoes or you won’t have good sauce. Also, the original recipe used mint in the meatballs instead of parsley and I just wanted to mention that in case you’d like to try it.

Recipe source: Can You Stay for Dinner

Tiger Butter


If you need an idea for last-minute Valentine’s Day treats for your loved ones, I gotcha covered!  I’ve made four batches of this Tiger Butter fudge since Christmas and everyone has been so impressed with it, I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of how easy it is to make!  Three ingredients, melt, stir, and swirl, and you’re done.

And if you’re wondering about the taste, it is oh so good.  The peanut butter layer is incredibly creamy and of course the chocolate is the perfect complement.  Need I say more?

Tiger Butter

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1 (24 oz) package vanilla almond bark candy coating
1 (1 lb 2 oz) jar creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil; set aside.

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the chocolate chips for one minute and stir well. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring well in between, until completely melted. This takes 2 intervals for my microwave. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate and stir well after each interval, allowing the residual heat to melt the chips before microwaving again. If you overheat them, they will get too thick and you won’t be able to use the melted chocolate for swirling. Once melted, set aside.

Melt the almond bark according to package directions. Usually that would be to place them in a microwave safe bowl, microwave for 1-1 1/2 minutes, stir well, and microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. Once melted, stir in the peanut butter until creamy and smooth. Spread into prepared baking sheet.

If the melted milk chocolate has become too firm with standing, microwave for ten seconds, stir, then pour it over the peanut butter mixture in long horizontal lines. Drag a spatula through the lines in a vertical pattern, going up on one line, then down on the next, repeating until the pan is swirled. Allow to set for several hours or overnight before cutting. You may refrigerate the fudge to set it up quickly.

Stores great at room temperature, and you don’t even have to cover it. Great shelf life. I’ve left some uncovered for up to two weeks with no spoiling.

Veronica’s notes: although I haven’t tried it, you should be able to substitute 1 1/2 lbs white baking chips for the candy coating if you can’t find it in your area, or even real white chocolate if you don’t mind the big price tag. I like to use milk chocolate with peanut butter, but semisweet chocolate is perfectly fine and would create a more dramatic stripe effect.

Recipe source: adapted from The Better Baker

Roasted Tomato & Portabella Meatloaf

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Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and Italian Green Beans is my ultimate comfort meal.  But for some reason I rarely make it!  In fact, I only have one other recipe for meatloaf on my blog.  What is up with that?  There’s a good reason that I don’t make other favorites like pecan pie and cheesecake – because I puffy heart loooove them would eat way too much of those fat and sugar bombs.  But meatloaf isn’t necessarily unhealthy (you can even use ground turkey if you like!) and is so delicious.  I really need to make it more often.

My first meatloaf sammie! So good.

I adapted this recipe from my Foodie Mama, Marina‘s, recipe, which she adapted from the original Quaker Oats recipe.  I love that about the online foodie world – recipes keep shifting and changing as they pass from person to person.  I didn’t mean to get all fancy pants on my meatloaf, but baby portabella mushrooms were on sale at Aldi (LOVE ALDI!) for 99 cents and I had no idea what I was going to do with them, and when I decided on meatloaf I had no tomato sauce and had to make my own with canned roasted tomatoes (also from Aldi), so this wonderful meatloaf was born.

This is probably my favorite meatloaf I’ve had so far, but I know there are a lot of different ways to make it and I don’t have a ton of versions to compare it to.  It’s got lots of great flavor, the added veggies keep it nice and moist, and we thought the the sweet and sour roasted tomato sauce really put it over the top.  I hope you enjoy it too!

Roasted Tomato and Portabella Meatloaf

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2 lbs lean ground beef
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 (8 oz) package mini portabella mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion (or ½ of a medium), diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can diced roasted tomatoes, undrained
¾ cup quick oats
1 large egg
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, divided
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup ketchup
½ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon lemon juice

Take the ground beef out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before starting the recipe.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Saute until softened and all the liquid is evaporated; set aside. Place the roasted tomatoes, with the juice, in a food processor or blender and process for about a minute, or until pureed. Spoon out ½ cup of the puree and add the mushroom mixture to the remaining puree. Process until vegetables are very finely chopped, or until pureed if you don’t want to see them in your meatloaf. If you are using a blender, you might have to stop frequently to stir the mixture.

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef with the tomato and mushroom mixture, oats, egg, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, salt, and black pepper. Pat into a loaf pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the reserved toasted tomato puree with ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Spread ½-2/3 cup of the sauce over the meatloaf and bake for 1 ½ hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 160F. Remove from oven and carefully pour off the liquid; allow to sit for ten minutes before slicing and serving. Refrigerate leftovers and make meatloaf sandwiches the next day. :)

What’s your ultimate comfort food? Here are a few of my personal favorites…

Chunky Chicken Soup

Easy Salisbury Steaks with Onion Gravy

Creamy Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

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