Chess Squares, Nieman Marcus Bars, Paula Deen and Gooey Butter Cake....The real origin

Kevin & Amanda's Chess Squares
So, I saw this recipe on Pinterest a few weeks ago and thought, hmmm.  I need to try this! With my daughter's open heart surgery, starting my final year of school and then a few major work projects, the blog got lost in the shuffle for a bit. 

Last week however, I started on a cooking binge and the first thing on the clip board to try were these chess squares.  I read the blog that posted the recipe and realized they were reminiscent to her of another recipe.  I thought they sounded (and looked) like something I used to have at my grandmas.  So the sleuth in me kicked in, and a hunting I went, trying to find the progression on the variations of  this recipe and ultimately, the origins.

Nieman Marcus Buttermilk Pie
Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake
Searching for "Chess Squares" took me to Nieman Marcus Bars, which led me to the Nieman Marcus Website and their Butter Cake.

I then found the Paula Deen "Gooey Butter Cake recipe" - which is no different than all the other recipes for Chess Squares out there, but she called it Butter Cake - so then I went on the Butter Cake search.

That led me to a blog that described what this particular writer thought to be the origin - A German Bakery mistake in St. Louis.

 Yes, St. Louis claims to have been place of origin for the Gooey Butter Cake, the mistake of some German-American Baker. But lets get picky here.

Traditional English Chess Pie
The more I researched, the more I realized that what we now call as Chess Squares really is an amalgamation of German Butter Cake and the English Chess Pie - or cheese pie.

Original St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
Gooey Butter Cake (I live in MO, so give me some credit here) and Chess Pie are different.  Yes, they are both Gooey - but the real, original Gooey Butter Cake (not Paula's concoction) does NOT contain Cream Cheese.   That cheese/custard filling that is very distinctly a part of Chess Squares really comes  from the Chess Pie origins, that Cheese pie/Curd that is distinctly British. 

So to break it down:

Chess Squares have evolved from Chess Pie.

Nieman Marcus Bars or another name for Chess Squares got their name more than likely from it's
Buttermilk Pie.

Paula Deans Gooey Butter Cake are Chess Squares/Pie and NOT Missouri's Gooey Butter Cake.

The real Gooey Butter Cake has evolved from Butterkuchen or German Butter Cake and is more like a pound cake.

Have we got this all cleared up now? 

What we do know - They ALL are really yummy!  The batch I made - disappeared in less than 10 minutes!

We have provided the easy recipe below, just for your library!


My version of Chess Squares
1 box yellow butter cake mix
3 eggs
8 oz of cream cheese, softened

1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted
4 c Powdered Sugar - sifted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 cake pan (I prefer a glass pan for this recipe).  Mix cake mix, melted butter and 1 egg.  It will form a soft dough.  Press the dough into the prepared pan.

Mix the sifted powdered sugar (this will make for a very smooth custard), softened cream cheese (make sure it is plenty soft) and 2 eggs until smooth and creamy.

Pour the sugar/egg/cream cheese mix on top of the cake dough mix.   Bake at 300 degrees for 40-50 minutes.   The mix will be light and bubbly.  Do not overcook.  You want a creamy gooey center!



Sweet Balsamic Marinated Grilled Chicken

Summers, we grill.  Spring we grill and fall we grill.  My goal - figure out a way to endure the winter and continue to grill.  I grill more now that I live slightly out into the country where the local natural gas companies line stops short of my house by 50 feet. UGH.  So, I grill. 

We had been up at the hospital with my daughter for the past two weeks and I wasnt in the mood to prepare anything extensive, so i pulled  out the iPad and searched through my saved Pinterest recipes.  Scoured the fridge and we came up with the following:

Grilled Chicken marinated in Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette with Zucchini and Mushroom Cheesy Rice and a side of grilled cabbage

All of these recipes were inspired by Pinterest finds, but they also reminded me of favorites from home and friends.  Of course,  We adapted them and made them our own, as usual.  I think that's what we all sort of do, especially in a pinch.  I will link you the original inspiration for the dish as well - to pay homage to the cook/blogger who in most cases, lifted their idea from someone else too.  Lets be real,  we all really do that and that is the fun and enjoyment of what we do.  Even the best do it, watch an episode of Top Chef!

Here we go - Remember to have fun with them. 

Sweet Balsamic Marinated Grilled Chicken

1 jar Panera Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 c lime juice
2-4 T chopped Cilantro
4-6 chicken breasts or 8-10 chicken thighs
salt and pepper to taste

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Combine first 3 ingredients in a Ziploc bag.  Mix around til combined.   Add the chicken to the bag and seal tightly.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours, preferably 4-6 hours.  If you don't like the lime/cilantro combination, loose it and just use the vinaigrette.  Add a little more salt to the mix, though, to replace what is lost by the lime juice.

Heat your grill, place on the grill and grill skin side up for about 15 minutes, turn to grill skin side down for the rest of the time.  Watch Carefully.  Pull and enjoy!

Grilled Cabbage

1 head of cabbage, cored and cut into 4-6 wedges
12-16 pieces of thin sliced, hickory or apple wood smoked bacon
1 t olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 kosher salt
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper

Cut and core cabbage.  Slice into 4-6 wedges.  Place on a piece of nonstick tin foil.  Mix olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Pour marinade in equal portions over the cabbage.  Wrap wedge in bacon.  Fold tinfoil around wedge, with the opening top side up.  Place on grill around chicken.  Cook for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the wedge. 

Zucchini and Mushroom Cheesy Rice

4 c good chicken stock
3 T butter
2 c rice (I had about 1-1/2 c of Basmati Rice and about a 1/2 c of regular short-grain rice and I combined them.  Use a short-grain, sticky
rice for this recipe.  It works really well. 
1 large zucchini, grated on a grater, large holes
1 small pkg of mushrooms - use any kind you would like.  I had button, but baby portabellas would be nice as well. 
1 small sweet onion, sauteed in about 1 T butter, til translucent
1/2 c pecan pieces
1 c cheese (any kind, we used a three cheese blend and some Parmesan). 

In a rice cooker, add the chicken stock, 2 T of butter and rice.  Cook until done. (If on the stove, boil the stock first, then add rice, turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat).  When rice is cooked, open lid and stir in zucchini, onion and mushrooms.  Close lid for  approximately 5 minutes.  Then add cheese and pecans.  Mix and close lid again for about 2-3 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Have fun!



Strawberry Freezer Jam

I have to say that the best success I have had with Strawberry Freezer Jam was this year!

I got my hands on a boatload of berries this year and brought them home, with the absolute intention of making enough
freezer jam to last us for a few years.  I ran out to get the pectin and containers and the store only had 1 box of the dry pectin but had 5 boxes of the liquid.  I had never used the liquid before, but thought, oh, what the heck.  Lets try it.
I am in love.  It was easier and the freezer jam had a softer and more jam-like consistency as it gelled. 

I took some out of the freezer today and opened it up for the first time and it was just like my mother's!  All the years before,  I could never get it to be the consistency that hers was.   I just love it.  Now, please note - its the full sugar recipe.   I have tried this year, all variations and this is for me, the better of the bunch!  So I am sharing... Enjoy!!!

This recipe is for 1 puch of liquid fruit pectin:

2 C of fully ripe strawberries
4 c sugar
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin
2 T lemon juice

Make sure that your containers are clean and dry.
I use a Ziploc Freezer container.   You don't need anything fancy, just something that will keep the air out and sealed nice and tight.  Stem and crush your berries.  The riper, the better.  If they are good and ripe, they will mash perfectly.

Measure 2 c of smashed berries into a large bow.  Stir in sugar.  Let sit for 10 min.  Stir a few times. Mix the pectin and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Add the mix to the berries.  Stir for about 2-3 minutes or until the sugar is dissloved.  (No grains).

Fill your containers about 3/4 full, leaving about 1/2 inch on the top.   Clean the edges of the containers, so no jam remains. Cap tightly.  Let stand for 24 hours at room temperature.  This is a MUST! 

Place into the freezer.  Will store for up to 1 year frozen.  Keeps 3 weeks in the fridge!


Sour Cream Cucumber Salad

My sister Charlene emailed the other day.  She wanted my mom's Sour Cream Cucumber Salad recipe.   Its not the first time someone has been asking for that salad lately.  Almost all the kids are home right now and everyone has put in their order for the good stuff!  So, nature is hinting that its a must on the menu tonight or tomorrow (along with a special strawberry cake for a special girl - which we will post as well).

Its interesting to me that at times of stress or anxiousness, we long for the things that bring us a sense of home and family - peace and comfort.  I mean it's a duh - that's why they call it comfort food.  It's security, familiarity, all of that.  They also make us feel special.  When someone goes out of their way to make us something that is comforting a a taste of home, it brings us a feeling of being important.    I know that's what cooking with my mother Arlene brought to me.  The kitchen was a place where I could set aside the differences and tensions of our mother-daughter relationship.  We had a common ground and a place to relate that helped me to see her in a different light.  Her love of food was not about eating - it was about helping those around her feel comfortable and at home.  It was her way of showing love. 

My sister Charlene will be sharing this recipe and others from her home, garden and heart, on Thursday,
June 28th, Coulee  Region radio WIZM La Crosse, Wisconsin at 10:00 AM.   If you are in earshot - take a listen. 

Here is the recipe:

Arlene's Sour Cream Cucumber Salad

4 med cucumbers
1 sweet Vidalia onion (small to medium)
1 -2 T salt (Rock or Sea Salt – Coarse)
½ c sour cream
3 T white vinegar
1 T sugar

Slice the cucumbers about ¼ inch thick.  Put into a bowl.   Slice onions in thin ½ rings.  Put into bowl with cucumbers.  Sprinkle onions/cucumbers with salt.  Add 1-2 c of ice to the cucumber/onion mix. 
Weight the cucumber mix down with plate, so that the cucumbers and onions are compact under the plate. 

Place in fridge for at least two hours, overnight is even better.  As the ice melts, the cucumbers will lose the retained water.  The ice will keep the cucumbers crisp.  Occasionally drain the water from the bowl to avoid the cucumbers and onions soaking in the liquid.  

Remove the cucumbers from the fridge.  Drain any remaining water and remove any remaining ice cubes.  

Mix the sour cream, vinegar and sugar in a separate bowl.  Use this ratio of cream to vinegar to sugar for additional dressing. 

Pour the dressing into the cucumber/onion mix.  Mix thoroughly. 


I sometimes use red onion instead of the Vidalia onion or when a sweet onion is not available.  It adds color to the dish.  Make sure the water and ice are completely drained. 

Leaving extra water or just one ice cube, can make the dressing become runny and thin. 

Add some fresh dill for added flavor.  2-3 T, depending on your preference



S'Mores Bars

So again, I love Pinterest!  I get the greatest ideas and especially reminders of foods eaten and enjoyed throughout my formative (and non-formative ha ha) years.  I mean really - its rare these days to find someone who has not had S'Mores!   Call me crazy - but in the middle of summer a real S'More is the best.  Fire pit in the backyard or over a camp fire while camping with family, friends, scout troop, church group, whomever.  Charcoal fire crisped marshmallows sandwiched between chocolate and graham crackers.  Upscale all you want - nothing beats the original.

HOWEVER, I was COMPLETELY intrigued by the recipe being passed around Pinterest for a S'Mores bar.  Again, call me crazy - but baking a S'Mores bar in the middle of the summer and on one of the hottest days - crazy, but we had to try it.  I had a houseful of upper teens to mid-20 somethings and of course - my rationalizing that heating up the house wasn't a smart idea.  They suggested then that we make them at 9pm at night - so we did.

These bars are the best.   I have a few tips though for all of you who want to try this.

FIRST - I have made the recipe fit into a 9 x 13 pan, cause the 8 x 8 pan just is not big enough.  For a small family, just cut everything in half.   For the rest of us - we need something a little bigger to feed all the folk who will want to eat these.

SECOND - Make sure your layer of Marshmallow cream is thick.  DO NOT be hesitant about how much the recipe calls for.  I thought AN ENTIRE JAR????(that was for the 8 x 8 version!) and subsequently skimped.  Wrong!!!  It needs the whole jar.  Remember - you don't make a real S'More with mini-marshmellows.  You make them with the big ones or even now a days - the GIGANTIC - Look at me, I am the Supreme Marshmallow made just right to fit between a square of graham crackers!

THIRD - really watch the baking time.  This will vary on your oven, but you really want it bubbly and crisp, but not burnt.  The edges are the BEST, cause the marshmallow combines with the graham cracker cookie batter and oh my word....its just so delicious and crispy and sweet.

Have fun with this.  The kiddos, no matter what the age, will love to make this.

S'Mores Bars

1 c butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c white sugar

2 large eggs
2 t vanilla
2-2/3 c flour
dash of salt
1-1/2 c graham cracker crumbs - this is about two packages of crumbs from a box.  I used the already crumbled cracker crumbs.
2 t baking powder
4 to 5 large (5 ox) Hersheys Chocolate - you can also use ANY kind of chocolate you wish, a nice ghiradelli dark or milk chocolate.  I had some Cadbury bars with nuts that I had brought back from England still around and used those.
2 containers of Marshmallow creme or fluff.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare ( I used butter) the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.  I recommend a glass cake pan.  It helped to crisp up the crust to a nice crunch.

In one bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.  The should be light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  It will look like the beginning of chocolate chip cookie dough.

In a separate bowl, add the flour, cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt.  Whisk till completely combined.  Add the butter mix to the flour/cracker mix, low speed and until just combined.

Divide your dough in half.  Put the first half in the bottom of your prepared pan and press down firm with the back of your spoon, making sure that the dough is evenly distributed across the pan.

Unwrap the Hershey bars and lay them on top of the dough, in a single layer.  Break them up as needed, to cover the pan completely.  DO NOT Double up - I guess you could if you really want a gooey chocolate bar - but you would need more bars then!  :-)

Now spread ALL of the marshmallow fluff/creme over the top of the chocolate, again, making sure that you have a nice even layer.  Don't be surprised by the thickness of the layer.  You don't want a thin layer.  Its basically sugar and some will be absorbed into the dough.

Take the second half of the dough and place it on top of a piece of wax paper, the size of the 9 x 13 pan.  Place another piece of wax paper, the same size, over the top of the dough.  (You can spray the wax paper with Pam if you like.  It will help keep the dough from not sticking).  Take your rolling pin and roll the dough out into a rectangle, the size of the pan, making sure it is an even layer of dough.  Take the top piece of wax paper off,  then place the dough, raw dough side down, onto the layer of marshmallow creme.  Peel off the bottom layer of wax paper.  Voila.   I did not do this the first time I made them and it was so much easier than trying to press the dough evenly on top of the marshmallow creme!

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

Now here is the area of preference - you can dish it up right away, only allowing for a few minutes of cooling - its all gooey, both the chocolate and the marshmallow.  OR you can wait and let it cool completely.  The chocolate is more firm and the mallow is as well.  We preferred warm and gooey - but is a personal choice.

ENJOY!  We sure did!



Zesty Italian Grilled Chicken Thighs

My mother was a very inventive and resourceful cook.  With 7+ kids and usually a few dinner guests to boot, she had to be pretty ingenious and creative.  She too, loved a good cookout and last night, I made one of her more "regular" recipes.   She would buy Zesty Italian Dressing by the caseful.  Not cause she loved Italian dressing, in fact, I cant even remember having a salad ever in our house with Italian Dressing.  No, this was her marinade.   Now remember, this was back a few years ago....before any of the dressing companies

got clever with their marketing their product as anything but what it was!  She would buy a family pack of chicken thighs, then throw them into several Ziploc bags (or before she used those, she would put the thighs into a large baking pan and pour the dressing over) and marinate for most the day.   There was nothing else you would need to do to it.  Nothing.

So in tribute to Arlene and summer grilling - Here is the very simple, very affordable and incredibly scrumptious recipe.

Arlene's Italian Grilled Chicken Thighs

1 bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing (I have tried several brands and I still come back to Kraft)
1 pckg of 8 Chicken thighs (can be in the bone or skinless-boneless if you like - just remember to reduce the cooking time and spray your grill well with Pam Grilling Spray.

Place the chicken thighs into a large gallon-size Ziploc bag.  Pour the entire contents of the dressing into the bag.  Seal, removing much of the air out of the bag.  Then roll the thighs around in the dressing, until well coated.  Place in the fridge and marinate overnight or all day, turning the bag occasionally to distribute the dressing.  

Fire up your grill.  Spray it liberally with Pam Grill Cooking spray.  Place the thighs on the rack, skin side down, and grill approximately 7 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the thighs.  Watch them carefully, since the dressing contains oil and will have a tendency to burn a bit.  I don't mind a nice char on mine, but that is all personal preference.


As part of our dinner, we also had Grilled Zucchini and Carrots.  Here is the recipe for those tasty sides as well:

4 Zucchini - washed, ends trimmed and cut length-wise into quarters
8 large carrots - washed, peeled, ends trimmed and cut length-wide into quarters.
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian Seasoning

Place the prepared zucchini and carrots onto a baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil.  Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, coating generously.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and italian seasoning. 

Place on the grill rack, ABOVE the main rack.  Too close to the flame and you will char these puppies!  Let cook at the same time as the chicken. By the time the chicken is done, so will your veggies!




Burgers and Grilled Asparagus

Summer, grilling and all that is fine.   I think we spend 80% of our time cooking on the grill in the summer, for several reasons.  First, its just so nice to grill and its so easy and after a long day at work, with the kids, etc., etc., all you want to do is easy.  Makes for a great cleanup too, no pots or pans.  But the main reason I have been grilling more this year, than every before is I have no GAS STOVE!  Yes, I live in a part of a community that has NO GAS LINE - well it does, but they wanted 10k to bring the gas line to my house.  I said no.  It was a sad day.  So, I/we jumped at the chance to have a pretty decent gas grill this year and I promised myself that within 3 years, I would have an AWESOME gas grill.  Cheaper than bringing the gas line to the house, but satisfies the need to cook over a flame!  Zippideedodah!

Today's recipes - Grilled burgers, a tad different than you are used to, but oh so good.  Everybody will love helping out to make their own, as well.   And since we are trying to eat fewer carbs, grilled asparagus. 

Cheese Stuffed Burgers

2 pounds of ground beef (the leaner the better - your burgers wont shrink and what you loose in fat of the beef, you gain in the bacon wrapped around the burger)

1 lb of hickory smoked bacon (I use a double smoked and thicker slab of bacon.  Peppered thick sliced bacon also works well for this)

2-3 cups shredded cheese - your favorite kind (if you want spicy, try a pepper-jack, or smoky - try a smoked cheddar.  Just

Divide the beef into 6 equal portions.  Shape into a ball and then flatten out onto a hard surface. Sprinkle each patty with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Fill the center of the flattened patty.  You can also add sauted mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, as well.  Fold the patty over and around the center mixture, creating a ball.  Make sure all the ingredients in the center are amply covered with the ground beef.  Once you have a nice tight ball, carefully shape into a thick hamburger patty.  Season the patty again with salt and pepper and wrap in single layer, covering the entire surface of the patty.  

Fire your grill up to a nice medium flame.  Place the burgers on the grill and take care not to let the bacon burn on the outside of the burger.   When nice and crip, flip over to the other side and do the same.  It should take about 5--7 minutes per side.  Toward the end of the grill time, I close the lid for a few minutes.  It helps to hold the heat in to cook the burgers through.  I like my burgers medium to medium rare, so adjust your cooking time accordingly.


Grilled Asparagus

1 bunch of thick-stemmed asparagus
1/2 lb of smoky bacon (or peppered bacon is good too)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash and trim the asparagus.  Damp excess water off with a paper towel.  Late out flat on a cutting board or sheet pan.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  (I sometimes use crushed red pepper, for a bit of a kick).  Take 4-5 stalks and wrap together with a peice of bacon, making sure to cover as much area of the asparagus as possible.  Continue until all asparagus are bunched and wrapped. 

Place on the top rack of the grill, while your burgers are cooking.  Turn the bunches as needed, so that all sides of the bacon and asparagus are evenly cooked.   It should take the same amount of time to cook the bacon as it does to grill the burgers. 




Sweet and Spicy Cucumber Salad

My mother, for many years, took in ESL students from all over the world.  They would come to the US from the respective countries and stay about 6 months or so, attending an English Second Language school in my home town.  They would be housed with English-speaking families, so that they could be immersed in the language with the ultimate goal of passing their TOEFL exam.  They would either then return to their home country or go on to school in the US.   While the students were in our home (most of the students, by the way, were male), my mother would require them to cook at least one meal for the family and a dish that was native to their home.  She usually asked for them to make the favorite meal that their mother’s would cook for them.  One year, we had a student from Thailand.  He was quite the character and worked for a local Thai restaurant.  We became fast friends.  He was a great cook and many evening would bring home food from the restaurant.  We would sit up for several hours talking and I would get to eat this food from a country that I had never been too, let alone dared to try the cuisine.  This friendship and experience resulted in a passion for Thai (and subsequently Indian) food and flavors.  One of my most favorite salads turned out to be one of the simplest recipes I have ever made.  So here is my version of a tangy Thai – inspired cucumber salad recipe.   Its perfect for hot summer days!!
Sweet and Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad

Sweet and Spicy Cucumber Salad
2 japanese-style cucumbers, peeled and chopped.
½ c rice wine vinegar
½ c red wine vinegar
6 T sugar
½-1/2 t red pepper flakes
½ medium red onion, chopped. 
Chop cucumber and place into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add chopped red onion and a dash or two of salt.  Mix.  Place into the fridge to keep cold. 
Whisk together the vinegars and sugar.   A few T of canola oil can be added to slightly emulcify, but I don’t do this, as I prefer a “cleaner” dressing.   Add the red pepper flakes and whisk thoroughly.  

Pour the dressing over the cucumber-onion mixture.  Mix completely.  Place back into the fridge for about 30 minutes until well chilled. 
TIP:  Some individuals are known to add ½ c water to the vinegar and sugar mix, then cook on the stove until reduced to about 1/3 cup, then cool completely.  I have tried this and while it intensifies the flavors, it does add “time” to the process.  I have found that making the dressing without cooking results in a brighter flavor, but this is all personal preference – so play with it yourself and see what you can come up with!


Sweet and Spicy Thai Cucumber Salad - PRINTABLE RECIPE


Stuffed Cube Steak

The other day, I had a hankering for cube steak, but did not want Swiss Steak or
Chicken Fried Steak - my usual go to's.  I wanted to do something else with cube steak
and remembered I had bookmarked a recipe from Pinterest that involved cube steak, bacon
and goat cheese.  I tried it, we liked it, and it is now in the regular dinner rotation.
I also discovered that this recipe can be done on the grill and is quite tasty either
broiled or grilled.  You dont need a potato or rice dish with it.  A really nice salad
and some crusty bread with some homemade lemonade really makes this a great summer meal.
It is also very quick.  Just what we all want out of our summer dishes!

Stuffed Cube Steak

Serves 4

4 Cube steaks
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz cream cheese (or goat cheese) softened - very soft.
2 T coconut oil
1 small sweet onion (Vidalia or Maui) finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 c baby spinach - stems removed and coarsely chopped
6-8 slices sun dried tomatoes, julienned
6- 8 strips of smoked bacon

Salt and pepper your cube steaks.

In small saute pan, melt coconut oil.  Add the onion and garlic.
Saute until soft and translucent.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, onion/garlic mixture, spinach, tomatoes and
mix until well-incorporated.

Divide the mixture into four and generously spread cream cheese mix on one side of
the steak.  Roll the steak up into a log.  Wrap the cube steak log with the bacon (1-2
slices of bacon per log).  Place onto a broiler pan or rack.  Broil for 10 minutes,
until bacon is crispy.  Turn the steaks around and broil 10 minutes longer.  Check
for doneness.  Depending on the desired doneness, the thickness of the steak and the
bacon, will determine the actual cooking time for the steak.

Can also be placed on a grill - just be careful of oozing stuffing!

Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.

Serve with a nice salad and crusty bread!

Printable Stuffed Cube Steak Recipe


Creamy Chicken Rollups

Creamy Chicken Rollups

1 can of Pillsbury Big & Buttery Crescent Rolls

1 (10-3/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 c grated Velveeta Con Queso Cheese
1/2 c heavy cream

FILLING6 oz softened cream cheese
4 T softened butter
1 t garlic salt
1/2 c fine chopped green onions
1 can chopped jalapenos
2 larged cooked chicken breasts (I cook them during the day in the crockpot, while at work with some salt, pepper and onion)
1 c grated Velveeta Con Queso Cheese
1/2 t Lawry's Seasoning Salt
1/2 t fresh cracked pepper
4 T mayonnaise
2 C grated pepper jack cheese

Mix chicken soup, 1 c Velveeta Con Queso cheese and heavy cream in a small bowl.  
Pour the mix into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, garlic salt, onions, jalapenos, chicken,
Con Queso cheese, seasoning salt, pepper and mayonnaise.  Mix completely until well-combined.

Open crescent roll package and pull apart the individual crescent rolls.  Roll them out to make a perfect triangle with yourrolling pin.  This also makes them larger, for stuffing and thinner, for cooking. 
Place a heaping spoonful of chicken mix into the center of the dough.  Start rolling up from the flat edge, rolling toward the top point.  Half way through, take the right and left side points and fold toward the center, creating more of an "envelope" than a traditional looking crescent roll.   When completed rolled, place into the prepared baking dish, on top of the sauce.

Once all rollups are complete, top the entire mixture with the grated pepperjack cheese. 
Printable Creamy Chicken Rollup Recipe 
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.  Keep an eye on them.  Bake til they are bubbly and golden brown. 

Printable Creamy Chicken Rollups Recipe


Pineapple Mango Salsa

I have always wanted to try a salsa like this.   Its the combination of sweet fruit with the spark of an onion and cilantro, add the lime juice and it just sounded yummy.  

The hubby grilled some pork chops and I made the salsa as a topping of sorts.  I loved it.  He liked them separate and even had some alternative ideas to use the salsa with - with some kind of chip or cracker.  Then I thought, those butter crackers, spread with cream cheese and topped with the salsa - would make an excellent appetizer. 
My mouth is already watering.   Yummy. 

Here is my version:

2 c diced fresh pineapple.
2 mangos, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced fine
3 scallions, diced
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juiced
pinch of kosher salt

Mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or so, to allow flavors to blend.  (Now, last night, I did use this within 30 minutes and it was still really good). 

Serve with tortilla chips, on crackers spread with cream cheese or a topping to any grilled pork, fish or chicken.  Its just good.


Jalapeno Poppers Grilled Cheese

Inspired by:  http://bsinthekitchen.com/jalapeno-popper-grilled-cheese-sandwich/

Okay - I saw this recipe on Pinterest.  (Once again, thank you Pinterest!  Its such a great idea place.) And of course, I couldnt leave it alone.  I had to adapt it and make it my own, to a degree.  I had our date night group in mind from last year and thought what a wonderful Date Night,  late night dinner/snack this would make. 

from bsinthekitchen.com

So here is my version.   

6-8 medium sized jalapenos.
2 T olive oil
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing
2 T Chives, chopped
6 slices of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 Package of real bacon peices.
4 slices of Monteray Jack Cheese (not the processed kind, but the good deli slices. 
 You can pick your favorite cheese to shred on top too, if you wish. 
4-6 pieces of bakery sour dough bread (large long, slices)
Butter, softened

First - Place the jalapenos on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil.  Add a little salt and pepper.  Roast under a high broiler (or on a hot grill) for about 5-7 minutes, making sure to turn, to blister all sides.  Remove and cool slightly.  Slice the top off the pepper, then cut the jalapeno lengthwise, down the center, splitting into two pieces.  Using your knife, scrape out the seeds and membrane from the pepper. 
Unless you want it with a real bite, make sure you get all the seeds and membrane.  Flatten the pepper with your knife.  

In a small mixing bowl, add the soft cream cheese, dressing, chives and sun dried tomatoes.  Mix together until well incorporated and smooth.  Make sure your cream cheese if soft, so you dont have a lumpy spread.  Then take one slice of bread and spread the cream cheese over the top.  How much and how thick, will be your preferance.  Depending on the size of your bread slices and how thick you want the cheese spread to be, you will be able to make anywhere from 3-5 sandwiches with this recipe. 

Lay the jalapeno slices on top of the cream cheese mix.  Making sure they are flat and covering as much area as possible.Place the cheese slices (or shreddeed cheese) on top of the jalapeno slices, making sure to cover the entire piece of bread.

Sprinkle real bacon pieces over the cheese, covering the entire sandwich. 

Cover the sandwhich with a second slice of bread.  If you want, you can also spread some cream cheese on the inside part of this piece of bread as well.   Butter the top peice of bread, on the outside. 

Place the sandwhich onto a hot griddle or teflon pan, buttered side down.  Once the sandwich is securely in place, butter the remaining side.  When sandwich has been nicely brown and cheese is melting, turn over and grill the remaining side, making sure not to overcook, but getting the bread nice and crunchy.

Remove from pan. 


Printable version of Jalapeno Poppers Grilled Cheese


Mediterranean Cabbage Rolls with Lemon Sauce

So the official name is Lahanodolmades Avgolemono (Cabbage rolls with egg Lemon Sauce).  I love it.  My hubbie liked the cabbage rolls, but is still not converted to the lemon sauce yet. 

Its easy, great with the kids help (they love to stuff and roll cabbage leaves) and it cooks on top of the stove and not in the oven, so nice for the spring, summer months as well.  The lemon sauce makes it lighter for this time of year too. 

Greek Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Lemon-Egg Sauce (Lahanodolmades Avgolemono)

2 pounds sweet Italian sausage (seasoned ground lamb sausage is good too)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 c risotto rice (uncooked)
2 T dried dill or 3 T fresh dill, chopped
1-1/2 t fresh ground sea salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper
1 T fresh dill
1 med onion, chopped fine
1 T olive oil
1 T water
100 g pine nut, coarsely chopped
2 medium sized tomatoes, shredded
3 T fresh chopped Italian parsley
3/4 c olive oil
1 onion sliced, thin
3 med carrots, sliced lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick
2 stalks of celery - leaves only
chicken stock
2 heads of cabbage

Clean cabbage leaves.  Remove the core from the cabbage, making sure not to tear or break the large leaves.  Carefully separate and remove the whole leaves from the cabbage head. Rinse clean. 
Cut out the bitter center vein at the bottom of the leaf, only slightly up into the leaf.  Do not cut the leaf in half.  Set aside the smaller leaves. 

Bring salted water to boil in a large pot. Once the water is boiling, blanch 2-3 leaves at a time, removing and allowing to cool.  Do not cook completely, just blanch so they are pliable and will shape into a log around the filling.  Repeat until all the leaves are blanched. 

In a large mixing boil, combine the sausage, eggs, risotto, dill, salt, pepper, onion, pine nuts, tomatoes and parsley.  Mix together, adding the oil and water to moisten.  

Spoon out filling and place into the center of the leaf and carefully folding the cabbage around the meat mixture in a nice secure bundle.

In the bottom of a large stew pot, line the bottom with the sliced onions, carrots, and celery leaves. 
Then place the remaining smaller cabbage leaves on top of the onions and carrots.  Place the prepared cabbage rolls on top of the cabbage leaves, making the snugly fit together.  Then put plate, inverted on top of all the cabbage rolls, pressing down slightly to secure. 
Pour over top, the chicken broth, covering the mixture and the plate.  Once the broth has come to a boil, turn down the flame to simmer. Simmer the cabbage rolls for approximately 1 hour. 

Right before the cabbage rolls are done, prepare the Avgolemono sauce. 

Avgolemono Sauce

5 egg yolks
1 T water
1/2 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 T corn starch

Whisk eggs over simmering water until frothy.  This should take a few minutes. Pour slowly into the whisked egg mixture, the lemon juice.  Add about 1 T of the cooking broth to the egg mixture.  Carefully whisk into the mix (still over the simmering water) the cornstarch.  Cook until slightly thickened.  Remove the cabbage rolls from the broth and place on a platter. Pour a few spoonfuls immediately over the cabbage rolls, and pour the rest of the sauce into a serving bowl.   Garnish top of cabbage rolls with chopped fresh dill.

Printable Recipe for Mediterranean Cabbage Rolls with Lemon Sauce


Asparagus Pasta Salad

It's spring and asparagus abounds.  I love asparagus.  I have memories of stopping at the road side with my mother and picking wild asparagus.  She had some in the garden, but that never seemed to be enough.  All the asparagus I ever ate as a kid and young adult came from the wild or from her garden.  It wasn't until I was on my own that I actually bought asparagus in the store.  I noticed the difference right away. 

So it's been my desire to scatter the asparagus seeds along the back fence of our new property.  I know, I will share it with the deer, the bunnies and the occasional cattle that roam; but there will be enough for us all, I am sure.

We had a carry-in lunch at work yesterday and one of the nurses' brought in an asparagus pasta salad, which I had never had before.  It was wonderful.  Of course, that got the ideas flowing and away we went with our own version.

Roasted Asparagus Pasta Salad with Lemon and Crumbled Goat Cheese

1 lb Penne Pasta
2 T Olive Oil
2 Gallons water

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until tender (al dente).  Drain well.  Lightly toss with olive oil.  Set aside to cool.

1 lb Fresh Asparagus

Place the asparagus on a sheet pan.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Do not overcook.  You want the asparagus still firm and cruncy to hold up in the salad.  Remove from oven when done.  Remove asparagus from hot sheet pan (to avoid furthe cooking) and cool completely.  TIP:  Can blanche the asparagus as well, if you dont want to heat up the oven or the house).

1-1/2 t fresh Garlic, mashed
2 T white balsamic vinegar (champaign or white wine vinegar works nicely)
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 T Dijon mustard
3/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 T fresh lemon zest
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper (if you want a kick - add crushed red pepper - 1 T)
3/4 c (one small container) crumbled goat cheese
1/2 c thinly sliced proscuitto (can substitute crumbled cooked smoked bacon)

In a bowl, combine the garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, pepper and mustard.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil to emulsify the mixture.

To a large bowl, add the colled pasta, colled asparagus and toss.  Add the dressing mix to the pasta and asparagus, along with the cumbled goat cheese and the prosciutto (or bacon).  Toss together.  Chill in the fridge before serving.

To add a crunch to the dish, add toasted nuts (sliced almonds, pecans or walnuts would work nicely).



Chocolate Chip Reeses or Rollos Brownie thingys?

I have no idea what to call these, but oh my goodness are they easy and good.  This recipe comes to you via Pinterest.  I tried to trace it all the way back to its originator, but failed.  It just kept going.   So, I do not claim these as mine - although I have tweaked them and will try something new this weekend.  

As the picture indicates, these were done with premade cookie dough, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and box brownie mix.  Thats the "easy" no frill recipe.   Here it is:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray the insides of a square all edges brownie pan with Pam spray.   Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of premade cookie dough and press into the bottom of each square.  Top the cookie dough with a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup placed upside down.  Then fill up the well with your favorite prepared brownie mix up to 3/4 full.   Bake in oven for 15-18 minutes.  Remove and cool slightly.

Here are some tips:  

You can use cupcake/muffin tins (either small or large) in replacement of the all-edges brownie pan.  For the large muffin tins, just bake about 5 minutes longer.  

You can substitute Rollos for the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups.  Youll have caramel instead of peanut butter. 
You can substitute Peanut Butter cookie dough for the chocolate chip cookie dough to really make a peanut butter exprience!

For those who dont like chocolate (heaven forbid, I have one daughter who doesnt!  Eeek).  Use sugar cookie dough for the base.  Place a Dove chocolate in the center and top with blonde brownie mix. 

You can use all the wonderful variations of prepared brownie mix as well.  Use the caramel brownie with the rollo centers or the white chocolate brownie mix with the sugar cookie base and a rollo.  BE CREATIVE.

This is a GREAT recipe to involve the kids, teens, everyone. 

Thanks Pinterest!


Texas Carrot Cake

What makes it a Texas Carrot Cake versus just a Carrot Cake?  I have no idea, so if anyone knows the answer to that story, let me know!  Must be Texans just make good cake, cause this is my favorite carrot cake and my Texas Sheet Cake is my favorite chocolate cake.  No matter, this one is for the middle daughter.  Its her favorite cake in the whole world.   Where did I get it?  From a Texan of course.  It was a copy of a recipe that was out of one of those local church cookbooks from some small town somewhere in Texas.  I loved this woman.  She was a riot and a great cook!   This was the gift she gave me before she moved back to Texas, where else?  Its a little different and do not be afraid of the German chocolate.   It makes a difference!

Texas Carrot Cake, vis Missouri

3 c cake flour, sifted
2 c bakers sugar (or regular sugar)
1 oz (or 1 square) of German sweet chocolate, grated
2 t ground cinnamon
1-1/2 t salt
1-1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple, drained (save syrup)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1-1/2 c vegetable oil
2 t vanilla
2 c grated raw carrots
1-1/2 c fine chopped pecans
1-1/2 c currants or raisins reconstituted in 1/4 c apple juice (drain when ready to use).
Baking pan spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a bundt pan with baking pan spray.  I use a bundt pan.  

In a large bowl, sift your flour, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder.  

Combine the eggs, syrup from the drained pineapple, oil and vanilla.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes.  Stir in the pineapple, carrots, pecans and raisins.   

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 75-90 minutes.  Make sure to check the cake and test for doneness with a tooth pick.   cool in pan 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and ice and decorate.


2-1/4 c powedered sugar
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3 T butter, soft
1 T vanilla
1 T milk
1 c toasted flake coconut.

Using a medium bowl, add the sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and milk.  Beat until smooth.  Spread onto cooled cake.  Sprinkle the frosted cake with toasted coconut. 


Scotch Eggs with Mustard Dippling Sauce

My daughter got married last month.  It was beautiful.  Scottish wedding with Thistle and English Roses, groom and groomesmen in kilts and foods from the British Isles.  One of her requests was Scotch Eggs.  Now, the scotch eggs never did make it to the reception food table.  They ended up on the Sunday morning after-the-wedding brunch table, but they were there.   My kids have been dining on Scotch Eggs for as long as they have been my kids.  As a single mom, they were great school day breakfast food.  I dont even remember when I started making them.  Long before I had kids.  I remember eating them as a wee totter at my Great Aunt's house when I was young. 

Here's a little history about those tasty, protein packed breakfast yummies.  They have been claimed to have been invented by Fortnum and Mason department store of London in 1738, as a snack food for coach travelers exciting the city.  There is a more ancient Moghul version of the egg called nargisi kofta.  They were smaller, more like a meatball.  A recipe for Scotch eggs is puported to have been first printed in Mrs Rundell's 1809 New System of Cookery cookbook.  It was suggested in that recipe to serve them warm, with a gravy.   They seemed to make their way north and to the commoners during the 19th century.  They were commonly eaten by the Miners in Scotland, Ireland and northern England.  They were portable and a hearty source of protein.  No matter how you look at it, they have been eaten by many for a long time and they are good.   Not hard to make either. 

Scotch Eggs

6 eggs
1 lb of pork sausage (mild seasoning.  Can kick it up and get the hot if you want a bite!)
1/4 c flour
1/2 c panko breadcrumbs.
Vegetable oil for frying

Hard boil your eggs.  I do that by placing the eggs in a sauce pan and completely covering with water.  Bring the water to a boil.  Boil for 7 minutes.  Shut off the fire or remove from the electric heat immediately.  Pour out hot water and run cold water into the pan.  Cool for 2-3 minutes.  Pour out water again, run over cold water while peeling. 

Divide sausage into 6 balls.  Flatten the ball of sausage into your hand, until you have a disc about 5 inches in diameter.  Dip the egg into the flour.  Place that egg in the center of the disc and wrap the sausage completely around the egg.  Roll the Sausage covered egg into the breadcrumbs.  Do this with all 6 eggs. 

Pour oil into a deep frying pan until there is approximately one inch of oil in the pan.  You can also heat up a deep fryer and deep fry the eggs, as well.  When the oil is hot enough (a drop of water sprinkled into the pan, pops at about 350 degrees)), add your eggs.  Fry on all sides until the sausage is brown and completely cooked through.   Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.   Serve with Mustard Dipping Sauce.

Mustard Dippling Sauce:

1 T whole grain mustard
1 T honey
1 t lemon juice

Mix completely together.  Serve cold with eggs.