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Cheeseburger Salad

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Usually when I want to enjoy a cheeseburger in salad form, I make a hamburger salad and just top it with some shredded cheddar.  But I knew I had to try this Pampered Chef version when PW featured it a while back.  So glad I did because it’s so much better than my old stand-by!  I love how the sauce is mixed into the meat so that you don’t need dressing.  Saucy, flavorful meat, crisp lettuce, pickles & onions, juicy tomatoes, cheddar cheese–this salad just can’t be beat!

OK, now Pampered Chef and PW get all crazy and actually turn hamburger buns into croutons by baking them.  So cute, right?  But grizzle, puh-lease!  I may be crazy in certain ways, like adding way too much butter and sugar to my desserts to where they are literally swimming in evil, but I’m not the kind of crazy that likes to bake my own croutons in the summer for a simple salad.  If I’m turning on my oven, it’s for something sweet, not for croutons.  If you’re not my kind of crazy, you might want to just go to the original recipe for the crouton instructions.  As for me, Texas Toast croutons suit my salad just fine.

But, truth be told, this is the way I prefer to eat my cheeseburger salad:

Sans croutons.  I mean, the reason I like to turn hamburgers and cheeseburgers into salad is to get away from the bread because it gets in my way, and I like the veggies way more than the bread.  Plus, I get enough carbs from sugar. :)

Cheeseburger Salad

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2 lbs. ground beef
1 ¼ cups ketchup
3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 small red onions, one sliced into rings, the other diced
8 dill pickle spears, sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered and sliced
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
16 cups chopped Romaine lettuce (about 2 heads)
Texas Toast croutons (optional)

Cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove from heat, drain the fat, and stir in the ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the diced onions and pickles (you can set some aside for garnish if you like). and stir to combine. Put 2 cups of lettuce on each plate, then divide the burger mixture between them. Top with cheese, tomato, onions and pickles if you set some aside, and croutons if desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe source: adapted from The Pampered Chef

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Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Sheet Cake

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I found this recipe on Picky Palate and saved it for Thanksgiving, but wanted to give it a trial run beforehand.  I do crazy things like enter pumpkin bread into state fair competitions without ever having made the recipe before or since, but I try not to pull surprises on my family.  I can deal with not winning a ribbon, but I have a reputation to uphold when it comes to loved ones! ;)

I ended up making this for the CFC bake sale at work and my co-workers raved!  After sampling a piece myself, I had decided it wasn’t that exciting and I wasn’t going to bring it to Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s, but after all the raving, I gave it a second chance and tried another piece.  Maybe it was the power of suggestion, or maybe my palate just wasn’t ready to handle cake for breakfast when I tried the first piece, but I enjoyed the second piece so well that I’m now reconsidering this for turkey day.

The cake is very, extremely, uber moist, and the swirls of cinnamon filling are very complimentary to the pure pumpkin flavor.  The color is a very nice orange, which I liked, and the simple glaze is a perfect compliment, really finishing off the “cinnamon roll” feel of the cake.  The size of the cake makes it great for a big family gathering because it can easily be cut into 24 slices or more, whereas a normal layer cake would only be 16 pieces at best.  It’s nice to have a “small dessert” option after filling up on turkey and stuffing!  Or, let’s be honest, so you can enjoy more than one dessert. :)

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Sheet Cake

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Cake
1 (18.25 oz) box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk (I used water)
1 (3.4 oz) box vanilla instant pudding mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

Cinnamon filling
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Glaze
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a jelly roll pan with non stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly.  Mix the filling ingredients together, then drizzle mixture evenly over cake.  Take a knife and run it through to swirl the filling into the batter.

Bake cake for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through and remove. Mix glaze ingredients until creamy and smooth. Drizzle over warm cake then let cool for 20 minutes before cutting into squares.  Store covered until ready to serve, refrigerating if not serving within the next day.

Recipe source: Picky Palate

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Bread

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Let’s pretend that this bread isn’t spiked with cranberries and toasted walnuts and isn’t made with orange juice or vanilla bean paste.  That bread, the one pictured down there, without all the extras, is the one I won third place for last year.  I thought I’d kick it up a notch by adding all the things we’re pretending it doesn’t have, sure that would get me at least a 2nd place ribbon…and I got nothing.  I got good feedback on my judging paper, but I guess the others this year were still better.  Kansas has some pretty excellent bakers!

Now, as for what we thought of this bread (we being me, my husband, and his co-workers), we loved it.  No ribbons aside, this bread is fantastic and has a great texture (if I do say so myself).  Perfectly sweet, with a nice variation in texture from the chewy cranberries and crunchy nuts.  The bread itself is so soft and moist it practically melts in your mouth.  A great bread to include in your holiday baking this year!

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Bread

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1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
¾ cup orange juice
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 eggs
2 (15 oz) cans pumpkin puree
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste*
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice

In a small bowl, combine cranberries and orange juice. Cover and let soak at least one hour before making bread. Meanwhile, place walnuts on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for one minute. Stir with fingers, then continue to microwave for another 1-2 minutes in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until fragrant and toasted. Set aside until ready to use.

Heat oven to 350. Generously butter two 9×5 loaf pans; set aside.

Drain the orange juice into a large mixing bowl and set the soaked cranberries aside. Add the eggs to the orange juice and whisk them until well beaten. Add pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla bean paste. Beat until well mixed. Measure the flour and remaining ingredients into a separate bowl and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth. Stir in the reserved cranberries and toasted walnuts.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pans by inverting onto a rack and tapping the bottom.

*Vanilla extract can be substituted for vanilla bean paste.

Vegan Cinnabon Caramel Corn

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Katie from one of my favorite vegan blogs, Chocolate Covered Katie, announced today that she is going to host an online bake sale to raise money for disaster relief in Japan.  She grew up in Japan so this cause is near and dear to her heart.  I imagine we have all been touched by the disaster in one way or another, and I’m no exception.  I have a good friend that lives in Japan, and also have a co-worker whose family lives there, and while all of them came  out OK, my heart goes out to those who are suffering from loss and devastation because I know how easily it could have affected someone that I loved.

I had so much fun participating in Stephanie’s bake sale for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, so I immediately started brainstorming about what I could donate to Katie’s.  I only have two vegan dessert recipes on my blog (Mounds Cake and Black Rice Pudding), and neither would travel very well, so I opted to make something else that would.  Caramel corn!  I took my favorite  Cinnabon Caramel Corn and turned it vegan and I have to say, it’s scrumptious!  I will be offering a full gallon-sized bag of it for Katie’s bake sale on April 5th.  I will give another announcement the day of the bake sale so you can stop by to bid or see if there’s anything else there you’d like to bid on and help raise money for Japan.  If you’d like to donate a vegan baked good, click here to check out the details.

Vegan Cinnabon Caramel Corn

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½ cup popcorn kernels or about 12 cups popped corn
½ cup roughly chopped pecans
½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
½ cup Earth Balance
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup light agave nectar or light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces vegan white chocolate, roughly chopped*
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Use an air popper to pop corn into a large bowl.  Fish out any unpopped kernels, then sprinkle the nuts over the top and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the Earth Balance over medium heat; stir in the brown sugar, agave nectar, cinnamon & salt. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly (I increase heat to medium-high to achieve this faster, then reduce heat back to medium once it’s boiling), then allow to boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla (mixture will bubble up and become foamy). Pour over the popcorn and stir well to coat. Spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for half an hour, stirring halfway through baking time. Remove from oven and scatter onto waxed paper-lined cookie sheets. Place white chocolate and coconut oil in microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds; stir. Heat in 15-second intervals, stirring in between, until smooth. This should only take 1-2 times. Using a spoon, drizzle chocolate over the popcorn and put in refrigerator for ten minutes or until chocolate is firm.  Break into pieces and store in an airtight container or Ziploc bags.

*If you can’t find some sort of dairy-free, vegan white “chocolate” in your area, it is available for purchase online or you can make your own.  I used this recipe.  If you use homemade vegan white chocolate, do not melt it (it becomes too liquid and won’t coat the pieces very well).  Instead, chop fine and once the caramel corn is spread on waxed paper lined cookie sheets, scatter it over the top so that the heat from the caramel corn will melt it.  Place the sheets in the refrigerator as soon as the chocolate is on top to keep it from melting too fast or it will drain to the bottom instead of staying on top.

Recipe source: adapted from Our Best Bites


Crispy Caramel Puffed Corn

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When I stopped in on a friend this summer, I couldn’t help but notice her kitchen counter was covered with drying caramel corn. I mean, I tried not to notice (because I’m trying to lose weight, dagnabbit!), but caramel corn is just not a thing I can ignore. I looked closer at it, and then got really close.

“Where in the world did you find popcorn that pops up so large?” I asked.

Her boyfriend piped up. “It’s not popcorn–I used puffed corn.”

I’m pretty sure an exclamation mark went off over my head. I loved this idea. He urged me to try it and as soon as I did, I knew I had to make some. He didn’t share his recipe but I just went with the recipe I always use, omitting the salt, halving it and using the puffed corn instead of popcorn. It was a hit at a family reunion and got devoured pretty quickly.

While I prefer caramel corn made with real popcorn, this is more of a snacky treat that is particularly appealing to kids and teens. It has a light coating of caramel and has a nice, salty taste and airy, crispy crunch from the puffed corn. That salty-sweet-puffy crunch can get pretty addicting! Try it out at a children’s Halloween party or pass it out to guests at a holiday party. Just try not to nibble on it while it’s cooling or you’ll have to make a second batch! I may or may not know this from experience.


CRISPY CARAMEL PUFFED CORN
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Printable recipe with picture

1 (8 oz) bag butter flavored puffed corn
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Pour puffed corn into a large bowl. Melt butter over medium heat, then stir in brown sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Stir well. Pour over the puffed corn and stir to coat well. Bake in a roaster or two jelly roll pans for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on waxed paper to dry, separating pieces with a silicon spatula as you go. Serve once cool or store in an airtight container.

Recipe by Veronica Miller, inspired by Gary R.

Snickerdoodle Blondies

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Whether you’re a fan of snickerdoodles or not, I think you will love these bars!  I personally don’t love snickerdoodles.  I’ll eat them.  Come on, cookies are my favorite food group so of course I’ll take one when offered.  But these, I love.  They are so soft and buttery sweet and just…wonderful.  I think it must be the cinnamon in them, but I think the flavor is perfect for fall!

I know from experience that they have a good shelf life–I shipped a package of them in the hot summer and they weren’t delivered for five days because of a Post Office error, but they were still fresh when the birthday girl picked them up.  So don’t be afraid to make these up in advance for holiday gatherings/gifts–they freeze great too!

Snickerdoodle Blondies

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Cookies:
2 2/3 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (15 oz) brown sugar, packed
1 cup (8 oz) butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Topping:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray 9×13-inch pan with nonstick spray, line pan with parchment and let it hang over the sides, then  spray the parchment with nonstick spray too. (The parchment is optional but creates nice handles to lift the bars out for easier cutting.) In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream of tartar and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer (3 to 5 minutes). Mix in eggs, one at a time, then vanilla, beating until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until well blended. The batter will be thick. Spread it evenly into the prepared pan. Spray your hands with cooking spray and use them to pat the mixture down evenly. Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl; sprinkle evenly on top of batter. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Let pan cool completely. When ready to cut, use ends of parchment paper to lift out baked bars. Place on a cutting board. Use a large, sharp knife to cut into bars.

Makes 20 to 24 bars

Recipe source: Recipe Girl (her optional additions left out)

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

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I have been making this dessert every fall for about five years because not only is it my favorite fall dessert, but it is usually requested at our Thanksgiving gathering.  Although “Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake” is the official name, I feel that “Pumpkin Bars” is more apt and usually refer to them that way.  The bottom layer is like a cross between cookie and cake and the pumpkin filling is sweet, perfectly spiced and ultra creamy (not what I would call gooey, though it does jiggle when you take it out of the oven).

If you want to know how this recipe rates, here’s is the list of my top five favorite desserts (that I make):
1. Laura’s Cherry Crumble Bars
2. Laura’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
3. Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
4. Dark chocolate Raspberry Cake
5. Zesty Lemon Pound Cakes

And if you still don’t believe me, here’s further proof that this is a must-try.  I brought this to the charity bake sale at work last week and it sold out faster than anything else.  I watched one woman scrape her container of every crumb after finishing the slice she bought, then go back to buy another only to find they’d all sold in the time it took her to eat it.  When she found out I’d made it, she made me promise to bring more next week!

She is not the first to catch the butter cake fever and won’t be the last.

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Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

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Printable recipe with picture

Cake:
1 (18 1/4-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

Filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter, and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes (I usually do 45 minutes). Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

From Paula Deen’s Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook

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