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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Creamy Grape Salad


This dessert salad is absolutely good any old way... as dessert, a side dish, a breakfast, or a snack.  Its a simple mixture of fresh juicy grapes and crunchy sweet pecans blanketed by a super simple creamy sauce.  Make a lot because it will go fast; and it's even better the next day.

The original recipes for this dish contain sour cream, quite a bit of white sugar and vanilla.  I have taken the liberty of substituting the yogurt... it is low fat and healthy, still has "vanilla" flavor, it's plenty sweet already... and we've reduced the prep time and number of steps. I almost always have yogurt in the house as my little girl is a big fan.  So all in all, this is a quick, healthy, delicious snack!



Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds seedless green grapes
  • 2 pounds seedless red grapes
  • 8 oz package of reduced fat cream cheese
  • 2, 6 oz containers of "light" vanilla yogurt
    *or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar






So here's a disclaimer.  This photos of this process do not necessarily match the order of the steps I just gave you.  I was trying to cook something else, when these guys asked if they could make something. This seemed like a nice, safe dish for them to do together.  So we just sort of started in the middle and added things as they went.  As much fun as Canon had stacking and arranging the grapes in the bowl, I can only imagine what a mess it would have been to have made the dressing first and then had him putting his hands in it.  Ick!
Add the red and green grapes
    Chop the pecans
     
Add the pecans to the grapes
    Add in the yogurt
    We each have our own method of doing this, apparently. Ha Ha!
    Mix in the softened cream cheese and brown sugar.

    Mix and refrigerate.  Garnish with extra pecans and mint leaves if you wish. We have mint growing out of the wazoo, so no reason not to "fancy it up a bit." 

Written Directions
Prepare the sauce by mixing slightly softened cream cheese with yogurt.  Add brown sugar and mix well.  Wash and dry grapes and remove them from the stems.  Add them to the "dressing."  Mix them all together and refrigerate until serving.

That's all there is to it!

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Want more awesome recipes?  Please visit my Recipe Index for tons of ideas of things to cook with and for your family!   Here are a few to get you started:

Bacon Pancakes

Mahogany Glazed Chicken

Toffee Pumpkin Cheesecake

Vietnamese Style Lettuce Cups

Crawfish Fettuccine

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Avocado Lime Vinaigrette


A dressing for your salad or dip for your veggies that is healthy?  Yep.  Good luck finding a vinaigrette in the grocery story that doesn't contain gluten, dairy, egg, soy, or sugar!  Not to mention, this is so quick and easy! The store is full of creamy and nutritious avocados right now just begging for someone to take them home. Avocados give this vinaigrette a silky richness  without adding the first bit of dairy.  I'm pretty confident that you may soon have a new favorite dressing at your house with the creamy avocado, spicy bite of the jalapenos, the bright Southwestern flavor of the cilantro and irresistible sparkle of fresh lime juice.  

Avocados are packed full of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin K.  They also help you absorb lycopene and beta-carotene - two key antioxidants.  So adding avocado to your food acts as a nutrient booster, helping you soak up more fat-soluble nutrients from your food.  How wonderful is that?!  They also provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid.

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 medium/large avocado
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 Tbsp water
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
** The hard thing about putting quantities on these types of ingredients is that mother nature tends to enjoy variety in sizes.  Your avocado, jalapeno, etc may not be the same size as the ones I used.  So feel free to adjust your proportions to suit your tastes.
 

Step by Step -
Blend the lime juice and the rough chopped (and seeded for less heat) jalapeno in a blender for about 30 seconds.  
1 jalapeno, rough chopped.  Seeded or not - the heat is up to you!

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

Blend for about 30 seconds
Add the avocado and rough chopped cilantro.

1 large avocado

1/3 cup rough chopped cilantro
Drizzle in olive oil and water.  Blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
1 Tbsp olive oil (or canola oil)
5 Tbsp water (this may vary according to how thick you want it)
 Then kosher salt and black pepper to taste.


This is pretty addicting on tortilla chips.  Just sayin'!  ... and also great on the Creamy Work-Week Chicken Enchiladas!! (find the recipe posted by scrolling along the right side of the page)

... and IF you had the notion to mix some sour cream with this.... my oh my.. I can't be responsible.

Written Directions:
Blend the lime juice and the rough chopped (and seeded for less heat) jalapeno in a blender for about 30 seconds.  Add the avocado and rough chopped cilantro.  Drizzle in olive oil and water.  Blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blueberry Cream Cheese Tarts

My mother remarked the other day that she never remembers "learning" to cook... she just always did.  How could that be?  That means that she grew up in and around the kitchen, probably standing on a chair pushed up to the counter, helping with this and that.  Well this post is sort of about that.  

We've had SO many rainy days lately where we've been stuck in the house.  The kids and I made these miniscule blueberry tarts using stuff we had around the kitchen.  I fully realize that using pre-made ingredients may not constitute some people's idea of "cooking," but don't tell that to these little ones.  We end up with quality time together (vs. watching TV and playing video games all day), and are they learning techniques that they will carry with them from this point onward.  I hope that one day they will say to their children that they never remember learning to cook... that they just always did.  How awesome is that?!
Ingredients:
  • Pillsbury roll out pie crust (in the box)
  • blueberry pie filling (in the can)
  • reduced fat cream cheese (about 4 oz)
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla (Mexican vanilla)
  • orange zest
  • mint leaves for garnish (from the garden)


Step-by-step
(Please remember, this is about cooking with the kids, so maybe more photo steps than normal.)
Roll out pie crust a bit thinner than it comes on a lightly floured surface.  
This Pillsbury is my favorite pie crust.  Easy, reliable, consistently good results.

With the French rolling pin.

Cut out rounds of crust using a cookie cutter (or in our case, a wine glass).
Using a glass is a safe way of letting little ones cut the crust.  No sharp edges and shaped well for little hands.

I couldn't resist including this photo. Canon is such a photo hog.

The rounds could have been a bit bigger, but we didn't know that until afterwards.  The opening of the glass was 2.5" so probably a 3.0" opening would be perfect.
Prick the rounds with a fork to prevent them from puffing up. 
This step is a must!
Gently shape the rounds over mini muffin tins turned upside down to create a small "cup." It's really not important that they are not "perfect."  They made them and in the end, that didn't matter. 
Looks like Lily is the one teaching techniques here.

Bake for about 8  minutes or until golden brown in a 400 F degree oven.  Set aside to cool.
Little dessert cups.. made easy.
 Mix slightly softened cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla.
4 oz cream cheese, 3 Tbsp powdered sugar

Add in the vanilla.
LOVE my clear Mexican vanilla!!!
powdered sugar, cream cheese, plus 1/4 tsp vanilla
Blueberry pie filling. The store brands work just fine.
Pipe into the cooled cups using a pastry bag or zip top bag with the corner snipped off.
Our make-do pastry bag.  A zip-top baggie with the corner snipped off.
Pipe the sweetened cream cheese mixture into the "shells"
Top with blueberry pie filling.  Grate some orange zest over the top and garnish with mint leaves.

LSU fans should appreciate this combination of purple and gold! 


Super cute.  Super easy.  Good times.  ... and yes, feel free to fill them with whatever!

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Roll out pie crust a bit thinner than it comes on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out rounds of crust using a cookie cutter (or in our case, a wine glass).  Prick the rounds with a fork to prevent them from puffing up.  Gently shape the rounds over mini muffin tins turned upside down to create a small "cup." Bake for about 8  minutes or until golden brown in a 400 F degree oven.  Set aside to cool.
Mix slightly softened cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla.  Pipe into the cooled cups using a pastry bag or zip top bag with the corner snipped off.  Top with blueberry pie filling.  Grate some orange zest over the top and garnish with mint leaves. Super cute.  Super easy.  Good times.  ... and yes, feel free to fill them with whatever!

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Looking for more recipes like this?
Baked Chicken Taquitos 

Fire Roasted Corn Guacamole

French Onion Soup

Prosciutto and Spinach Pinwheels (and Pepperoni and Cheese for the kids)
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