Strawberry Cheesecake Shortcake

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My best friend Cindy’s son will be taking his driver’s test in the next couple of weeks. There are three things that I think about when I hear about someone taking their driver’s test….lawnmowers, my father laughing, and strawberry shortcake.

Cindy has heard this story a gazillion times, so Cynthia, I know you’re reading this, so you can skip these next few paragraphs while I tell everyone else my story….

I’m not a fan of driving, and there is no doubt that I’m a defensive rather than an aggressive driver. There is a very big reason for that…

I was a late bloomer when it came to getting my driver’s license. I took my test when I was 18 years old. When my friends were all going for their driver’s tests, there were rumors going around school of a very, VERY grumpy and balding examiner, who was failing kids left and right… they called him “Grumpy Bald Guy”. I was nervous enough, I didn’t need to think about grumpy bald guy (GBG for short).

My father drove me to my test that day, and as we sat there waiting, I prayed and prayed that I wouldn’t get GBG.

Yeah, my prayers didn’t go through that day.
GBG came walking up to my car.
My lime green Gremlin with a white stripe.

Mmhmm… That’s right.
Lime Green.
Gremlin.

GBG didn’t smile. Didn’t really do anything really, except get in the car, and wrote on the papers that were on his clipboard. I did everything I was supposed to do, checked everything I was supposed to check… my window was down so that I could do my hand signals…and his window was down too. We were set to go.

…And then he told me to make my first right hand turn at the stop sign. Ok, I made it through the right hand turn perfectly. Deep breath. So far so good.

It’s important for you to know that there was a man mowing his lawn to the right of us… GBG started to tell me to do my three point turn, when all of a sudden there was a loud bang on my car… GBG makes a loud grunting sound, and falls forward.

Somebody shot my car, and then shot GBG! There’s blood! The man was bleeding!! What does an 18 year old girl do, when she thinks that her car and GBG have been shot?? Well, she slams on the brakes in the middle of the street, and starts to cry…that’s what she does!

I can’t even tell you if I put the car in park, sobbing, I asked GBG if he was alright… maybe a little loudly, and very, very shakily.

GBG sits up, and grabs a handkerchief out of his pocket, and puts it to the side of his head. He had me pull to the side of the street until he could get his wits about him. And there we sat, him holding a handkerchief to his head, and me crying, watching the man mow his lawn.

He looked around the car, and picked up a pretty good size stone from the floor. The only thing that he could figure is that the man that was mowing the lawn to the right of us, hit a stone. The stone must have flown from the lawnmower blade, and somehow hit my car, but then somehow made it perfectly inside the window… and hit GBG in the head!

Seriously.
What are the odds?

I asked him if he wanted to go back to where we started the test, and he said “No, let’s continue the test”. He quickly rolled up his window, and the test continued.…

From that point on… my three point turn turned into a five point turn. My parallel parking was about three feet from the curb. I don’t remember using any hand signals at all…

We made it back to where we started, and the test was over. We got out of the car, and he walked over to my father, and stood there talking to him for a few minutes, and I sat in the passenger side of my car, waiting for my father to come take me home.

Pa laughed all the way home.
I cried all the way home.

I swear he had tears rolling down his eyes as he was telling my mom about it, he was laughing so hard. I know that he wasn’t laughing at me, but just laughing at the whole situation. In hindsight, it’s hilarious! But at that point in time, my life was crashing all around me..

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I stood there crying, watching her cut up strawberries while he told her about it. Mom was making strawberry shortcake for dinner. She would do that once in a while. It was a special treat when we had strawberry shortcake for dinner…and I think that she was making it to celebrate my drivers test!

Now, back then, they didn’t tell you that you passed your test on that same day. We either had to wait for the license to come in the mail, or we could call within a couple of days and they would tell us whether we passed or failed. There was no doubt that I failed that day.

I didn’t want to know. But after a few days, my father said that I should call. “No way” I said. So he called for me. After he hung up, he turned to look at me… “You passed.” he told me. And he gave me a great big hug.

And then we laughed…

GBG passed me.
He passed me.

To this day, I’m shocked that the man passed me. I did everything wrong during my test. I slammed on the brakes in the middle of the street when the rock hit my car. I sat there sobbing like a lunatic. Everything I did after that was completely wrong.

But the grumpy bald guy passed me.
To this day, I still have the rock that hit him in the head.

I’ve kept it in my jewelry box for all these years.  It serves as a reminder that some of the things we think are so “life crashing” at the time, are just memories and sometimes funny stories that we can tell later on…

So while I was cutting the strawberries for this, I was thinking of my mom, standing there cutting up strawberries while my father was laughing and telling her the story…. and I was thinking of Zach, Cindy’s son, knowing that on the day of his test, I’ll cross my fingers, and silently hope that there isn’t a man mowing his lawn to the right of him…just like I did for my kids…and probably will do for everyone that I hear has a drivers test coming up…I know that he will do just fine during his test, and I have no doubt that he will pass with flying colors.. I love that boy.

I made this strawberry shortcake a little differently this time around… I really wanted strawberry shortcake with the warm biscuits, and fresh strawberries….but I was really in the mood for cheesecake with fresh strawberries too…so why not have both? There really was no reason not to! And to be honest, even if there was a reason not to, I probably wouldn’t have listened..

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Strawberry Cheesecake Shortcake. I simply made the whipped cream into a cheesecake whipped cream. It’s delicious. The best of both worlds! It’s a wonderful dessert… or a wonderful treat for dinner!

I truly hope you do have strawberry shortcake for dinner sometime…

I’m bringing my strawberry cheesecake shortcake to Angie’s Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener to share with everyone. Angie is a beautiful host, and always puts on a wonderful party! This week, she has asked Margy from La Petite Casserole, and Sylvia from Superfoodista to co-host… two absolutely beautiful souls. I know that this party will be so elegant, so sophisticated with these two wonderful girls in control. I just cannot wait to get there… Thanks to Angie, Margy, and Sylvia.. it’s going to be a wonderful time..

Life is good, it’s a “He passed me. The man passed me.” kind of good…

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Strawberry Cheesecake Shortcake
Serves Four

Just a quick note: The biscuits that I made were “Ruth’s Diner Mile High Biscuits” that I found on Pinterest, and that’s the recipe that I’m sharing with you today. It made exactly 7 biscuits for me. I toasted the remaining three biscuits for a couple of days, and ate them with fresh strawberry jam.

2 quarts fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup sugar (I don’t like them too sweet, so use as much sugar to suit your sweet tooth)
Cheesecake whipped cream (Recipe to follow)
Ruth’s Diner Mile High Biscuits (Recipe to follow)
Whole strawberries for garnish

In a large bowl, mix the strawberries and sugar. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Ruth’s Diner Mile High Biscuits:
Adapted from Deals to Meals
3 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup water (Prudy’s note: I had to use 1/2 cup water. 1/4 cup just wasn’t enough)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and butter until crumbly. Mix in buttermilk, egg and just enough water to make a workable dough. Mix the dough until it is just barely combined (don’t over mix). Roll the dough onto a floured cutting board about 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch biscuit cutter, or a 2 inch round cup. Place on a greased baking sheet (touching each other) and bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 12-15 biscuits, depending how thick you make them.

Tips to making awesome biscuits:
*ONLY hand mix your dough. Don’t mix in a Bosch or with a hand mixer. The dough will be too tough and the dough will become dry if you use a mixer. You don’t want to over mix this recipe. The best way to mix this dough is with a pastry cutter or using two knives and cutting the dough back and forth. This method takes a little longer but will ensure the perfect biscuit. You want pieces of butter left in your biscuit, that is what keeps the dough light and flaky.
*Next tip is to keep your biscuit dough fairly thick. You want a tall and thick biscuit more than you do a thin and hard biscuit. Keeping the dough thick will ensure a chewy and soft biscuit. I keep my dough about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick (cooking times may vary depending how thick you make them).

Cheesecake Whipped Cream:
1 8oz cream cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

In a mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble the shortcake:
Slice a biscuit in half, place the bottom half in a bowl. Pipe the cheesecake whipped cream onto the bottom half of the biscuit. Generously top with strawberries. Place the top half of the biscuit on top of the strawberries. Pipe a dollop of cheesecake whipped cream on the top of the biscuit, and garnish with a whole strawberry.

Serve immediately. Enjoy!
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The Hills Have Pies

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Have you ever seen the movie(s) The Hills Have Eyes, by Wes Craven? If not, I highly recommend you don’t…unless you love to be on the edge of your seat and scared out of your mind. The 2006 movie was a remake of the 1977 classic of the same name. Wes Craven really knows how to tell a scary story…one that stays with you…pretty much forever. Scared and scarred for life.

The story is basically about a family who is on a cross country, and is purposely detoured, and drive unknowingly into an abandoned U.S. nuclear testing site. There, they are terrorized and almost all of them killed by mutant “hill people”.

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It’s a movie that always comes to mind when we are at the cabin….because, of course… our cabin sits on a 57 acre hillside. And what makes it even creepier…is that there is this man who has suddenly appeared in the last few months while we are on a hike, or a four wheeler ride. Although the land is posted, there are still some of the local neighbors who use the trails for their four wheelers, or for going on walks.

But this man… he’s just plain scary. He’s rather elusive, which makes him even more creepy….and when we come face to face in the woods, he just disappears into the trees. One minute he’s there… the next minute…poof. He’s gone.
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We did find out from the local neighbors that he’s harmless. But that doesn’t make him any less scary, especially when he’s there… and…you know he’s there because you saw him…but then all of a sudden he’s not there anymore. And then you have to walk by the spot in which he disappeared because that’s the way back to the cabin….

And it always makes me think of the end of the movie, when the remaining family members think that they’ve killed off all of the mutants…and unbeknownst to them, there is a mutant hill person silently watching them through the trees…is he watching me through the trees as I pass by? It’s quite unnerving.

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I really need to stop watching scary movies.
And I need to start making more pies.

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So anyway… up in the woods along the trails are wild strawberries. They’re everywhere…And if I’m lucky enough, I can grab a few before the mutant hill man, or a chipmunk finds them first. What better way to calm my jittery nerves, than a rustic strawberry pie, and a scoop of fresh ice cream on top…

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The hills have pies.
And that’s not scary at all.
It’s delicious.

It’s delicious especially with my quick (cheater’s) fresh vanilla ice cream, which is basically frozen whipped cream, and a cute little pastry heart garnish (Because every pie should have a heart). This is enough bring a smile to even the crankiest of mutant hill men!

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….And…. I’m bringing my rustic strawberry pie to Angie’s Fiesta Friday today… and have the honor once again to co-host! Today, I am thrilled to be co-hosting with Elaine from Foodbod! This is going to be one lovely party, because not only is this lady one highly talented chef, her sweet personality is like a magnet.  It’s truly love at first sight as soon as you meet Elaine, you just can’t help it…she is so darn adorable!

A special thank you to Angie from The Novice Gardener for hosting Fiesta Friday. I know I say this all the time…but how time flies when we’re having fun…. Can you believe that we are at week number 22 already?? Our beautiful Angie certainly knows how to put on a fabulously fun party, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds every single week! But how can it not? Angie is true blue…with a kind heart, and a hilarious outlook on pretty much everything! And not surprising, her funny and entertaining manner keeps people coming back each week! And don’t get me started on her absolutely gorgeous photography and mouth-watering recipes. Seriously. You’ll become instantly smitten. I promise.

I hope that you’ll stop by and see all of the delicious recipes that everyone has brought to the table this week…you’ll be amazed. We have some truly talented people there!

….AND….If you are a blogger and haven’t had the chance to link up, now is the time! If you are new to this party, or even new to blogging…we welcome you to join us! It is a wonderful way to meet other blogger friends, and gain exposure and views! Please feel free to contact me, Elaine or Angie, if you have any questions! We are here to help, and look forward to meeting you!!

Please be sure to link your posts to Angie’s blog, as well as my blog so that we know that you have arrived! It’s as simple as clicking on the “Click to Join” button right here…

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I truly hope to see you there!

Life is good, it’s a “I wonder if mutant hill man likes strawberry pies, because maybe I’ll make him one someday” kind of good…

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Rustic Strawberry Pie with Fresh Vanilla Ice Cream

Just a quick note…if you’re planning on making the ice cream for this recipe, although it’s simple, then you’ll need to plan ahead. You’ll need to freeze your ice cream maker bowl for at least 8 hours, to overnight!

1 quart fresh strawberries (Because let’s face it. Wild strawberries aren’t readily available to everyone.)
1/3 cup Sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
dash salt
Aunt Linda’s Pie Crust (Recipe Below)
Fresh Vanilla Ice Cream (Recipe Below)

Aunt Linda’s Pie Crust:
If you haven’t tried this pie crust….you honestly need to. It will be your “go-to” pie crust forever.
2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar

In a small bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, shortening, and salt together until mixture is in pea size crumbles. Pour the milk and vinegar mixture into the flour mixture and stir. The dough will be sticky.
Roll out on a generously floured surface, a little on the thicker side. Maybe about a ¼” thick-14” square. Spoon the strawberry mixture into the middle of the crust, leaving about a 2-1/2” edge. Cut around the square so that the edges are perfectly straight. Save the scraps. Fold the edges up over the strawberries, overlapping the corners, so that it folds into a perfect square. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Roll the scraps again to about ¼”, and using a heart shaped cookie cutter…cut a heart out of the pastry dough, and place it in the middle of the pie (Because all pies should have a heart).
With a smaller heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many pastry hearts as you can. Sprinkle all of the hearts with course sugar, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch them, so that they don’t burn! These hearts will be used to garnish the pie and ice cream later.

Quick Vanilla Ice Cream:
Just a quick note:  This is basically frozen whipped cream.  You want the heavy cream to be cold when you start this. Make sure that you keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to make the ice cream!  I only add 1/4 cup of sugar, because I just don’t care for it when it’s so sweet, especially when it’s going to top a very sweet pie. If you like it a little sweeter, then by all means, add more sugar.  It won’t change the texture of the ice cream at all.
2 cups heavy cream (Just out of refrigerator, you want it to be cold!)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

Combine the heavy cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Since the heavy cream is right out of the fridge, then you can go ahead and pour it into your ice cream maker’s bowl. Churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. It takes a good half hour or so.

As soon as it’s frozen to your desired consistency, serve it with a square of fresh strawberry pie, and garnish with a pastry heart.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts

IMG_1395I admit to going a little overboard when I’m out grocery shopping. I’ve mentioned a few times how pretty displays throughout the store pull me in, and before I know it, both my shopping cart and mind are filled with ingredients and ideas for said ingredients.

And that’s all well and good, as long as those groceries aren’t perishable…and then I’m scrambling to use them up before they go bad..

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I found myself with about three quarts of strawberries in the refrigerator last week, and decided to make a quick jam. I do love fresh jam, especially when it’s still warm, and I have some warm biscuits to slather it on.

I didn’t have biscuits.

Anyway… while the jam was cooking on the stove, I thought, “Shoot, I should have made a strawberry pie..” And then I thought…it’s not too late… I could make pop tarts instead!

I threw Aunt Linda’s pie crust together (honestly, if you haven’t tried this pie crust recipe, you need to. It will be your “go to” recipe forever) and in no time, had pop tarts thrown together and cooling on a baking rack!

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Of course, my finicky Boy (who is my son Mike…I call him Boy) comes walking through the kitchen:

“What are you making?” he asks.
“Strawberry Pop Tarts” I answer.
“Don’t ask me to be your taste tester” he replies.
“There’s a surprise” I respond.
“You know I like chocolate” he said.
“It’s not always about you..” I reply.

Funny…I’m sure you know it…and especially he knows that that couldn’t be further from the truth….but I should mention that he isn’t a little boy that I’m talking to like that…he will be 19 next Sunday…and he is usually deserving of a wise-ass comment from me… which I might add will usually end up with him picking me up and throwing me into the kitchen sink and turning the faucet on…

Ahh…the love of a mother and her son. There is nothing like it. I love my kids more than life itself, and they all know it. You can be sure that I’ll be making those chocolate pop tarts very soon for the little jerk (said lovingly, of course), and maybe, just maybe, for that day, I won’t have to change my wet pants from being thrown in the sink…

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Anyway…back to the strawberry pop-tarts. Jess just happened to come walking into the kitchen, during the conversation between boy and me.

“Mmm” she says.
“Thank you for that” I respond, giving boy the “look”.
“You want to go in the sink?” he threatens..

Jess picks one up, and takes a bite…and said that I should make them again, “These are really good”…

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And they were. I was surprised that they weren’t huge ordeal to throw them together. What made me really happy was that the crust remained flaky, yet firm enough to be able to pick them up and eat, the jam was perfectly gooey, not runny at all, and a quick royal icing sealed the deal.

A perfect treat for kids of all ages… except for boy, who only wants chocolate.

Life is good..it’s a “too many strawberries in the fridge make for delicious pop-tarts” kind of good..

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Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts
Makes Six Pop Tarts

Just a quick note: This jam is made with pectin. I know..I’m cheating… but it comes in handy to make a quick jam when the mood strikes!

Create a rectangle template from cardboard 3-1/4″ x 5-14″

Strawberry Jam:
1-1/2 cups crushed strawberries
1-1/2 tbsp pectin (such as Sure Jell)
1-2/3 cup granulated sugar

Combine the strawberries and pectin in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring back to a boil, and boil for one minute. Remove from heat, and let cool.

Aunt Linda’s Pie Crust:
2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar

In a small bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together.  Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, shortening, and salt together until mixture is in pea size crumbles. Pour the milk and vinegar mixture into the flour mixture and stir.   The dough will be sticky.

Roll out on a generously floured surface, kind of on the thicker side. Lay your template on the dough, and cut out as many rectangles as you can with the first roll out. Repeat rolling and cutting out rectangles until you have 12 rectangles.

Give a cookie sheet a spritz of vegetable spray, and place as many rectangles on the sheet that you can. I was able to fit four.

Spoon some strawberry jam on to each rectangle, filling it to about 1/2” from the edge. Place another rectangle on top, pressing down around the edges with your finger. Crimp around the edges with a fork.

Bake at 350” about 1/2 hour, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Frost with royal icing, and sprinkle with decorating sugar.

Quick Royal Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp meringue powder
2 tbsp water

Combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for about 12 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

Enjoy!

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Wine Jello Shots with Strawberries | Fiesta Friday #15!

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There is a restaurant in Buffalo that is the epitome of gaudy, especially at Christmastime. Seriously. If you looked the word “gaudy” up in the dictionary, you’d see the photos of these places as the definition.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not using the word “gaudy” in a bad way. I just mean, it’s not my style, which is why I call it gaudy, but I guess in reality, it’s quite grandeur…unless you’re me, then it’s gaudy…but that doesn’t stop me from dining there!

The owner has his vintage cars on display outside of the restaurant behind glass. There are statues everywhere. I’m sure that there are fountains, but there is so much to take in, you just cannot remember everything that is there. The owner actually has requested permission from the city to build a mausoleum in front of his restaurant so that he can be buried there when his time here on earth has ended. You know.. His demise. When he kicks the bucket. Croaks.

And honestly? I wouldn’t be surprised to find a wax figure of him standing inside the restaurant someday after “that” happens.  Let’s just pray that it’s a wax figure…Shudders…

You’re probably wondering if the food is good. Yes. It is. But it isn’t memorable, and I blame that on the showcase that he has going on there. I know I enjoy the food when I’m eating it, but the only memory that lingers on after we leave is the over the top display.

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So, I’ve been waiting all week for Fiesta Friday to get here. I had these delusions of grandeur to make jello shots to share with you. Yep. I used them both in the same sentence… grandeur and jello shots!

Lily Tomlin once said: “Delusions of grandeur make me feel a lot better about myself”… which for me, was my perfect excuse to get away with making jello shots for Fiesta Friday…. But really, is it the delusions of grandeur that make me feel better about myself, or am I so delusional to think that I can get away with grandeur and jello shots in the same sentence??

I don’t need to be delusional to know that jello shots can be sophisticated…

When I mentioned jello shots for my blog to Katie, she was like “Mom, that seems a little trashy…” …and I asked: “What if I made them sophisticated?” She kind of laughed: “Jello shots sophisticated? I don’t know about that…” And after I explained to her what I had in mind, she replied: “Challenge accepted..”

I know that this type of dessert has been around for ages. I also know that this particular one has probably been made a thousand different ways. I always choose to not search the internet for recipes like this…I’d rather do it on my own.

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In my mind, a pretty jello shot made from wine, with some of that sour cream filling from seven layer jello dessert. I thought that it would be pretty to top it off with more fruit, whipped cream, and then a fanned strawberry.

To be honest with you, I’ve never had a jello shot in my life! These little wine shots were my first, and definitely not my last.

They are so delicious! As a matter of fact, Jessica was walking through the kitchen, and I handed one to her to try. She made that involuntary “Mmmm” sound.. so I grabbed a spoon and took a bite from her glass… Oh yeah.. It really was “Mmmm” worthy!! When I went to grab another spoonful, she pulled her glass protectively toward her, and said “Get your own!!”. Right then and there I knew that it was a winner.

The problem was, that they were gaudy. Like that restaurant’s gaudy. Even though I love a million flavors going on at the same time… there was just way too much going on cosmetically (See the photo below).  I was so uncomfortable with they way they looked. I didn’t like the fruit in the jello part. While I loved the taste of the sour cream filling with the wine jello, I didn’t like the way it looked with this particular wine jello shot. That’s not to say that it will never be used again, because there are more wine jello shots in the future now! The whipped cream look ok, but that fanned strawberry? Oh Prudence… that’s so 1995… I did, however, like the fruit on top.

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There is really nothing about me that is gaudy. You won’t find chandeliers in my house, or brocade designs, or even gilded vases. I’m more of a simple kind of girl. Simple to me is tasteful. But that is me. Simple. It shouldn’t be any different with the food that I prepare. I mean, “simple” IS my tagline.

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So, I went back to work, and made a very simple jello wine shot, one that would be memorable for it’s taste alone… not for the way that it looked.

Simple.
Wine and strawberries. Perfect.
Simple Sophistication.

I also want to mention the wonderful grapey scent that just wafts from them.. it’s just another one of those “close your eyes and savor the moment” kind of thing…you know…that happy place we all love to be…

I’m so pleased with these little wine jello shots. This is a dessert that I would happily serve to all of you… my most honored guests. Which is why I’m bringing this simple wine jello shot to Angie’s Fiesta Friday…

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This week Angie has asked Jhuls from The Not So Creative Cook (she is complete opposite of her blog’s name!!), and Selma, from Selma’s Table to host Fiesta Friday #15! I adore both of these girls… they bring the most beautiful recipes to the table week after week… along with wonderful stories that always make me smile. There is no doubt in my mind that you will love them as much as I do… especially Selma’s Asparagus and Feta Cigars (I know, right?) Fabulous, Creative, and so Delicious!! Jhuls brought the most delicious muffins I’ve ever seen… and you have to read her post. It’s the cutest thing, guaranteed to bring some sunshine to your day!

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And Angie…what can I say about Angie that most of you don’t already know? This lady unselfishly gives herself, her time, and her blog, The Novice Gardener (Novice…hardly)…to us every week for Fiesta Friday… and on top of that, creates the most beautiful works of culinary art that we have ever seen.

I hope that if you are new to reading my blog, that you’ll stop by Fiesta Friday to meet Angie, Jhuls, and Selma…and all of the other wonderful bloggers who have given their time to share their beautiful ideas with you. If you are a blogger…you are most welcome to link up with us, and join this wonderful community of the most supportive and loving bloggers…I just know that Angie would welcome you with open arms!

Life is good, it’s the “simple things that make you happy” kind of good…

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Wine Jello Shots with Strawberries

Just a quick note: This is so easy, very few ingredients, and so simple to make… but yet, it’s dessert that will really “wow!!” your guests! It’s also a perfect refreshing snack for a warm summer’s evening… feet up, relaxed mode, watching the fireflies work their magic…

I used six 7oz mini dessert cups for this recipe. I found them on Amazon, and they’re called Circleware “Samba”.

2 cups sweet white wine (or red, your preference)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2- 1oz envelopes unflavored gelatin

1 quart fresh strawberries (or your fruit of choice)
1 tbsp granulated sugar

Whipped Cream (Optional)

In a small saucepan, bring the 2 cups of wine and sugar to a boil, until the sugar has dissolved. Shut the heat off, and whisk the two envelopes of unflavored gelatin into the wine until it is completely dissolved. Pour 1/3 cup of the wine mixture into each cup. There will be a little leftover in the pan, and you can just divide it among the six cups.

Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

While the wine is chilling, cut the strawberries into small bite size pieces. Mix with the sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When the wine is set into gelatin, and just before you are ready to serve, spoon the strawberries over the wine jello, and if you desire, top with whipped cream.

That’s it!! Simple!! Enjoy!!

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Strawberry-Banana Cheesecake Splits

It doesn’t happen very often, but once in a while, I love to eat dessert for dinner…especially when it comes to strawberries. There is nothing better than baking some fresh biscuits, and serving them hot with fresh strawberries and whipped cream… but let’s save that for another day when strawberries are in season…and instead, talk about this dessert… strawberry banana cheesecake splits…

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Sometimes it’s fate when things happen the way that they do…

And I’m going to be real here… it isn’t like this came to me in a dream…I didn’t have a vision… nor did I work long hours in the kitchen creating this recipe… it was a matter of a series of events that set the wheels in motion…

A Craving
Not Enough Ingredients
Pure Laziness (that kept me from running to the store for ingredients)

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I was in the mood for a banana split, but I was also in the mood for a piece of strawberry cheesecake. Neither of which, I had access to. I couldn’t have made them if I wanted to… I had bananas, but no ice cream…and I had strawberries, but only one package of cream cheese, not enough for a cheesecake.

Because I couldn’t have what I craved, but wanted SOMETHING sweet….my plan was to make a banana cream pie with a graham cracker crust, pastry cream, and bananas. That still sounds really good to me, but…in my true fashion…. I chopped when I should have sliced, I whisked when I should have folded… I added when I should have subtracted.. (well, not really subtracted…that was purely for lack of a better word!)

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And in the end came up with a banana cheesecake type of banana split…with banana cheesecake cream and toasted coconut…and strawberries….and chocolate cookie crumbles….and sprinkles….and a cherry on top.

It’s a big dessert…with big flavor…one that I’m not certain could be eaten after dinner…. But instead, should be eaten FOR dinner, which I did. Happily. Instant gratification… both cravings satisfied in one dessert!

Life is good…it’s an “instant gratification with strawberries and sprinkles and a cherry on top” kind of good…

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Strawberry-Banana Cheesecake Splits
Serves Four

Just a quick note: This is such a versatile dessert! You can change the cheesecake flavor to whatever you’d like it to be…. Strawberry cheesecake, coffee, toffee, chocolate…the list is endless! Change the cookie crumbles to vanilla cookies, ginger cookies, graham crackers…and the fruit…go crazy!  Cherries, plums, peaches… imagine how many different desserts this could actually be!!

But never…never…ever… change the sprinkles and the cherry on top!

I used a 15oz stemless wine glass for this, but any type of glass/cup will do!

3 bananas, sliced
2 cups strawberries, chopped
Whipped cream, about ½ cup
Sprinkles
4 Maraschino Cherries

The Cheesecake Cream
1 – 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup heavy cream
2 ripe bananas, crushed
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ cup coconut, toasted

To toast the coconut: Spread the coconut over a baking sheet, and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes, or until lightly browned and toasted! Watch it carefully! It will go from lightly toasted to dark brown burned in a matter of seconds!!

Whip the cream cheese, heavy cream, bananas, powdered sugar, and vanilla together using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Stir in the toasted coconut. Refrigerate for ½ to 1 hour.

The Chocolate Cookie Crumbles
1 – 9oz package Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, crushed
1 stick butter, melted
3 tbsp granulated sugar

Mix the crushed chocolate wafers, butter, and sugar in a medium size bowl. Stir until completely blended. Set aside.

Layer the Dessert:
Place about 3 tbsp chocolate cookie crumbles in the bottom of each glass. Spoon a generous amount of cheesecake cream on top of the crumbles. Layer bananas, and then strawberries on top of the cream. Add another layer of the chocolate cookie crumbles, another layer of the cheesecake, another layer of bananas and strawberries. Top the strawberries with about a tablespoon of cookie crumbles. Add a dollop of whipped cream on top, sprinkle with sprinkles, and plop a maraschino cherry on top!

Serve cold and Enjoy!!

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Twisted Tuesday… Grilled Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches

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I have a lot of happy memories from my childhood, some of them are real… and I’m sure that some of them are probably embellished by a little girl who thought that those things happened, but maybe not exactly the way she thought they did…and sometimes different things going on in my life spark bits and pieces of those memories for a fleeting second or two.

My memories of my Grandpa Bucolo are just snippets in my mind… Grandpa passed away when I was about 8 years old, so while I have memories of him, they’re vague…But strawberries tend to spark strong memories of Grandpa…and I envision me in a strawberry patch eating strawberries, and him in his metal patio chair saying in a stern, yet joking…Italian laden accent:  “Get outta my strawberries..”  Now, whether he was actually sitting in a chair, I don’t know… but his words are a strong memory…

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But then again…
I was a little girl, it was years and years ago…
And sometimes my memories aren’t that accurate…

Like this memory… I must have been about five years old… and I remember falling out of bed.  I can remember that my mom came in to my bedroom and helped me back into my bed… and then I can remember hearing her say to my father: “She must have hit a tree”…

I don’t know why, but that has always stayed with me….and I  brought it up to my mom quite a few years ago, because over the years, I couldn’t understand why she would have said “She must have hit a tree”… when obviously, there was no tree in my bedroom!  She sat there and thought about it for a minute… and said: “Could it be possible that maybe I said: ‘She must have had a dream..'”….   Oh, my gosh… yeah, now that makes sense!!  We laughed and laughed about that one!!  But once in a while, that memory pops up into my head… and I can still clearly hear my mom saying: “She must have hit a tree…”…even though I know it’s not the way it happened..

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Sometimes those memories, right or wrong, are embedded in our brains…and we are going to remember them the way we want to remember them.. So whether or not that actually happened with my grandpa.. it is what I remember, and what I hold on to because that’s all I have of him.

Strawberries and Grandpa Bucolo.  They just belong together, and the whole time I made these sandwiches, I thought of him.

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Now…I can’t take full credit for this idea today… Kelsey Nixon made these cute little strawberry sandwiches on one of her shows not too long ago, and I thought that was the cutest idea.

I thought that these would be fun to share on Twisted Tuesday, but with my own twist…

Kelsey made hers with a lemon cream, grilled strawberries and poundcake.  I changed it up just a little bit to suit my personality and taste, and of course, I added some Nutella, and thought it would be cool to make them into ice cream sandwiches.  A perfect twist to an ice cream sandwich!

These little beauties are so easy to make, and such a cool and refreshing dessert, or summertime treat!  The vanilla ice cream loaded with fresh strawberries and blueberries was so delicious with the Nutella and pound cake.  I would say that you could even make deconstructed ice cream sandwiches with a slice of pound cake frosted with Nutella, a scoop of ice cream on top, with macerated strawberries poured over the top!

Life is good. It’s memories filled with sweet strawberries on a summer’s day kind of good… 

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Grilled Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes 4 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Just a quick note:
I grilled the pound cake and strawberries (on my stovetop), but you don’t have to grill them, if you don’t have a griddle.  If you prefer, you can toast the pound cake, and roast the strawberries…or do absolutely nothing to them and eat them as is! They’re delicious, no matter how you choose to eat them!

Try this with peaches, nectarines, cherries, or any kind of fruit that might tickle your fancy!! Pineapple! Oh, this would be so good with pineapple!!  Have fun and mix it up!

One pound cake, ½” slices  (recipe below)
12 large fresh strawberries, sliced in half
2 cups vanilla ice cream
1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
½ cup fresh blueberries
Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)

Line a 11×7” pan with plastic wrap.

Place the ice cream in a large mixing bowl, and leave at room temperature until softened.  Add the chopped strawberries and blueberries to the ice cream, and mix well.  Pour into the prepared 11×7” pan, cover with more plastic wrap, and place in freezer, until frozen. Cut into rectangles to fit the slice of pound cake.

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Place the pound cake on a heated griddle, and grill until it’s toasted with golden brown grill lines, about three to five minutes on each side.   Remove from the griddle, and set aside.

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Place the strawberry halves on the griddle, and grill until they have seared grill lines on them, about three to five minutes on each side.  Remove from griddle and set aside.

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To assemble the ice cream sandwiches:
Spread the Nutella on the inside of two slices of pound cake. Place one rectangle of ice cream on top of the Nutella on one slice of pound cake. Place six strawberry halves on top of the ice cream, and top with the other slice of pound cake, Nutella side down. Wrap in plastic wrap, and store in freezer until ready to serve.

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The Pound Cake:
This makes two pound cakes.  Freeze one for another day, or double the recipe above to make 8 ice cream sandwiches!

3 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp salt
4 sticks butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
10 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)

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Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Butter two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans.

Sift the flour and salt in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for about a minute.

Add one cup of flour at a time until it’s completely incorporated.  Pour into prepared loaf pans.  Bake for about an hour, or until a cake pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from pans, and cool completely on cooling rack.  Slice into 1/2″ slices.

Enjoy!!

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Twisted Tuesday: Fruit Sushi

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I know I’ve mentioned before that I tend to get on different kicks at different times. And…I know that I’ve mentioned my tunnel vision on that certain food until I’ve had my fill. It could last a day…it could last weeks…months… and of course, if it’s a yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles, then it can and will last for years…

But this isn’t about cupcakes today..
It should be (because you know I love them), but it isn’t.
It’s about sushi.
Fruit Sushi to be exact…

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I’ve been on a sushi kick lately; and in my tunnel vision, I’d eat it every day for lunch if I could! I actually had it for lunch today..

Speaking of my lunch, here is a quick story…

So my boss and I went out for lunch today. We are fairly new working with each other (just under a year), so, naturally I want to put my best foot forward at all times.. or at least show a little class once in a while…

He’s kind of on a sushi kick too, so when he sent me a meeting notice to go to lunch for sushi, I immediately accepted! Well, we went to Fuji Grill, and on the menu are these lunch boxes that include some California rolls, a couple of dumplings, a small salad, and your choice in entrée. Jerry chose the teriyaki salmon. I chose the chicken tempura. When I ordered it, the waitress asked “You do know they’re fried, right?” I answered: “That’s fine”. Red Flag Number One: Went totally over my head.

So we’re sitting there talking, and all of a sudden I see the waitress walking across the restaurant carrying a box filled with huge (and I mean huge!!!), claw-like THINGS that were topped off with this massive fried ring of SOMETHING. I thought to myself at the time: “Wow, whoever ordered that must be starving”…

And then she started walking toward our table. Red Flag Number Two: Suspicious Activity Heading Your Way. “Please don’t let it be mine…please don’t let it be mine…” I kept thinking as she was getting closer… and then she stopped in front of our table. Yep. It was mine. Red Flag Number Three: Target Hit.

And as she stood in front of us, in one hand holding a box with the perfect lunch size piece of salmon for Jerry, and in her other hand, a box with that mammoth STUFF for me… Jerry just burst out laughing. Of course he did, as I struggled to maintain any ounce of dignity that hadn’t already drained from my body… What else could I do, but dig in? Have you ever tried to eat a whole chicken with chopsticks? It isn’t pretty. By the time I finished eating, there were tempura crumbs all over the table. Probably all over my sweater, and I’m quite sure on my face.. Absolutely no class at all..

Reality is..it was delicious! Great food, wonderful company, and some serious laughs. Eh, I never really had a best foot to put forward anyway…

Ok, back to the fruit sushi..

My friend Steve came up with the genius idea of making fruit sushi for Twisted Tuesday… LOVE it!! We brainstormed a little bit, trying to figure out what could take the place of rice, what could take the place of nori, the soy sauce, and wasabi. He came up with the brilliant idea of using fruit roll-ups for the nori, and we kind of thought that because this was going to be more of a sweet dessert type of deal, Rice Krispie treats would be a great substitute for the rice, not to mention a great texture feature.

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In place of the wasabi, I made a strawberry crema with peach schnapps.
Orange juice reduced with peach schnapps and sugar worked perfectly in place of the soy sauce.

I do admit I was a little worried about how they would turn out. Would the rice krispie treats be pliable enough to roll, and would it stay rolled? That worry continued on to taste. How would they taste? Would they be mushy? We were pleasantly surprised! I was able to roll them up, slice them, and they stayed in a roll, just like regular sushi should.

Honestly? I’m pleased with the way they turned out. I think they taste really good, and I think they’re very, VERY cute. This is a fun dessert, and the variations could be endless! It would be perfect for a kid’s party, a summer party, or any kind of party for that matter!

Tempura crumbs and fruit sushi? Life just doesn’t get any better…

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Fruit Sushi
Makes about 18 individual sushi rolls, from 3 sushi logs

Just a quick note:  In case you’re wondering when you get to the pictures below… I could only find tattoo fruit roll ups.  I’m sure that they make them plain, but they were nowhere to be found the day I was out shopping!  I think they’re Spiderman!

You will need:
A variety of fresh fruit such as: Strawberries, Melon, Blackberries, Blueberries, Pineapple, Apples, Pears
Fruit Roll-ups
Rice Krispie Treats
Heavy Cream
Peach Schnapps
Sugar
Orange Juice

The Fruit
Thinly slice your choice in fruit into matchstick size pieces. You’ll want to leave the blueberries and blackberries whole, for the middle and topper of the sushi. Set aside.

The Rice Krispie Treats
I just used the recipe from Kellogg’s website (cut in half)

1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 cups mini marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Remove from heat, and add the Rice Krispies. Stir until well blended.

Assembling the Sushi:

On a piece of waxed paper, shape about 1/2 cup of Rice Krispie treats into a square about 1/2 inch larger than the fruit roll-up. It should be about 1/4 inch thick. Add more Rice Krispie treats if necessary.

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Lay a fruit roll-up on top of the square of Rice Krisipies. Line a row of blackberries down the center of the fruit roll-up. Top with matchstick fruits.

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Using the wax paper, roll the sushi up until the Rice Krispies meet, squeezing tightly so that the sides adhere to each other.

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With a sharp knife, carefully slice the ends off of the sushi log. Slice the sushi log into six individual rolls.

Garnish with blueberries. Serve with strawberry creme, and orange juice reduction.

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The Strawberry Crema
1 cup heavy cream
6 whole strawberries
2 tbsp peach schnapps

In food processor, add the heavy cream, strawberries, and schnapps. Blend on high until thickened. Serve on the side with the sushi.

The Orange Juice Reduction
1 cup orange juice
3 tbsp peach schnapps
2 tsp sugar

Pour the orange juice, schnapps and sugar into a small saucepan, and simmer over low heat until reduced by half. Serve on the side with the sushi.

Enjoy!

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