Saturday, August 31, 2013

Homemade Pepper Butter and a Yummy Grilled Ham n' Swiss!!

Several weeks ago when my youngest sister and her family came for a visit she brought me several jars of Pepper Butter that she had made.
Oh my! Delicious!!
I didn't remember ever eating any before but knew I needed to put some of that on the canning shelves in the basement for sharing at the Holidays when snacks are called for. It's great for lots of things like sandwiches, crackers, pretzel dipping, etc. I think it would go great with a chicken quesadilla too. It's just really yummy!
The recipe comes from an older sister. I doubled the recipe and modified it a bit to use less of both sugar and clear jel over all than the original recipe called for. I hope you cook some up to enjoy as well!
84 yellow and red banana peppers mixed
(seeded and chopped)
4 cups onions, chopped
3 cups white vinegar
2 pints mustard
8½ cups sugar
2 Tablespoons salt
1½ cups water
1 cup clear jel
(cook type)
I used an old fashioned hand turned grinder to grind both the peppers and onions because it took less time than slicing and dicing and they were all the same size. I know,
 food processor, but I like the texture of the veggies better from the hand grinder. Anyway, whatever you use, it's nice to have them in uniform pieces.
Combine all ingredients in a medium/large kettle and bring to a boil over medium heat. Took about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. When it begins to boil rapidly turn heat to medium/low and cook till soft. Another 20 minutes or so. Stir occasionally.
Mix the water and clear jel until smooth and slowly pour into boiling mixture while whisking with a wire whisk. You may or may not need all of this thickening mixture. Heat to boiling again and cook for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile clean approximately 12 pint jars and place them into the oven at 170°. I like to also place the flat canning lids on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven as well. Less messy than heating them in water and the rubber ring softens up for a better seal.
Fill jars up to the neck, wipe the top rim and seal. Turn upside down and allow to cool completely before moving.
I wish you success! :)
I was not hungry for breakfast food this morning so I waited till mid morning and made a scrumptious Grilled Cheese sandwich with , yep you guessed it, Pepper Butter!
pepper butter
double smoked ham
Swiss cheese
thin sliced fresh pineapple
mmm, mmm, mmmm!
Not my usual breakfast fare but I doubt that the sky will fall because I deviated from more nutritious choices this once! It was amazing! White bread and all! ha
Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ohio Weekend...


We spent the past weekend in Ohio for our usual end of Summer visit and also for the wedding of a Nephew. It was a very short but busy weekend and we enjoyed seeing my family again.
I know I've posted photos of my home place in Holmes County, Ohio before but I think it's beautiful and it makes me feel happy to look at it :)  So bear with me and be warned, there are lots of pictures!
Every time I visit I realize again that living in the country is definitely my first choice as opposed to living on the edge of town.
I'm not complaining, I'm merely stating a fact.
One of the benefits of living where I do now is the convenience of everything being handily close-by. And the beach is only a few hours away! :) 
 The pond wasn't here when I lived at home, it was just a field from which we wrangled scratchy crops of hay and corn. I've grown to love the water and the soothing atmosphere it lends to the place, and I think the trade off was well worth it! There's a road that goes right by the house, but it's still mostly a quiet place to live. And while I enjoy living in Lancaster County with all of it's beauty and benefits, I find the noise and busyness and the sheer volume of humanity that passes through in a days time less than soothing. Sometimes I dream of a wide open piece of sky somewhere far away from the hustle and bustle. :) You know, somewhere like Colorado, or Montana.
Ha, somewhere, I'm sure there was an eye roll just now! :)
Someday, maybe? But for now we will be happy here. After all, happiness is a choice, not a destination, right?
lol, when I snapped this photo Serena was with me and she gasped in consternation and said, "Mom! we're NOT tourists!"

There's an apartment on the farm that is used as a bed and breakfast (to the left of this photo) and that's where we usually stay when we visit. Quite lovely to be there but still have our own privacy!
My Mom loves flowers and landscaping and has always been good at it. She is, however, getting older and should think of slowing down (my opinion) but hasn't really indicated anything like that as of yet. :)

"fishing off the dock"
I think it would be easier with hooks and string, but who cares about easy if you can make it a challenge?!

Serena loves it here as well. There is always a horse in the barn to love on and she spends lots of time with it petting and dreaming. Not sure how much petting she did this time though. The horse that was there was new, (and enormous!) and looked a bit intimidating. But she still visited him and talked to him. :) And she has two girl cousins living close by who also love horses who enjoy hanging out with her.
And finally my Nephew and his Lovely Bride!
~Brian and Faith~
The bride and groom and their entourage came to take wedding photos so I trailed along behind and took a few of my own.☺
♥Have a blessed Thursday!♥

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Perfectly Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Squares

I decided to bake an after school treat for the boys on Monday, kind of to ease the pain of letting go of their Summer freedoms. ha :) Truthfully, I only heard one of them bemoaning that fact but I think he'll come around. :)
I have made these bars countless times without the peanut butter but I always think they're too sweet and too gooey in the center. I decided to play around with them a bit and add some peanut butter in the place of some of the regular butter and also reduce the sugar.
The peanut butter is not over powering at all but adds a subtle flavor, and with the sugar reduction they are fluffier but still somewhat chewy. And I didn't think they dried out as quickly as usual with the addition of peanut butter.
This makes a pretty big pan (half bakers sheet) of bars so for those of you not feeding an army, cutting the recipe in half works well, too. :)
1cup butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
2½ cups brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup mini peanut butter chips
Combine the first six ingredients in a Kitchen Aid Mixer and with the paddle attachment beat until fluffy. Add the baking powder and salt. Give it a stir then add the flour 2 cups at a time. Mix well. Add the chips and stir again.
Bake in a half bakers sheet (sprayed with non stick spray) @350° for 25 minutes.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Random Pics of Life

I happened to be standing in the kitchen when I glanced outside early one dewy morning to see the gossamer web of some hard working spider. Have you ever REALLY watched a spider do it's thing? I did. It's amazing! And very cool!
Speaking of early mornings, this morning before anyone else was stirring I heard someone quietly walking through the house. Then I heard the back door closing. Hmmm, who could that be? Turns out it was this one here...
...heading out for an early morning ride. She is really feeling the threat of less time with the pony after school begins on Tuesday. Or is it the horse themed books and movie she reads/watches that spurs her on? haha, you just never know. I do enjoy seeing her have a great time with her pony. She brushes and braids and grooms till he shines. :) She is also diligent with the tack. And if you look closely there's a red string in her hat. That's baler twine :) her own version of a "Stampede String" because her hat wasn't cool enough to have one of it's own. I was proud of her for improvising instead of whining for a new one. :)
One of my new "babies" for my hydrangea collection this year.
♥"Forever & Ever Endless Summer Lace" ♥

And last but not least, 3 of the 4 softball players in the house. All of who had a great season and learned a lot about team playing and how good it feels to improve your game. I'm proud of you guys, you were fun to watch! :) 
Summer seems to have gone by at lightening speed and next week we begin the school schedule. Senior, Sophomore, Freshman, and 4th Grade. Indeed, where has TIME gone?! I do enjoy this stage of life that is much less about us doing everything for them and more about teaching them to be independent and about recognizing the potential of each one and guiding them in the right direction, teaching them to be comfortable and at peace with their differences, and most of all about just being a Christian example for them that is worth following. Experiencing their sense of humor and sometimes being the referee when that same sense of humor seems forgotten. :) None of these things is for the faint of heart, (although I feel faint at times, lol). It's all good and we love and enjoy where we're at.
We are looking forward to a family weekend and a nephew's wedding (Congrats to Bryan and Faith!).
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Mango Cheesecake with Coconut Macadamia Crust & Caramelized Pineapple Topping

Can I just say it's like a Tropical Paradise in your mouth! The crust alone is enough to make me swoon!

I've been wanting to make a mango cheesecake for a while but it never really came together in my mind until I saw the Caramelized Pineapple Topping on here. I started thinking about a cheesecake with a tropical twist.

The crust was super fun to build and I was almost finished with it when I remembered that I have some Macadamia Nuts left over from another recipe. Perfect! Had to add those! It really is as delicious as it sounds!! Okay, maybe that's just my opinion, but if you enjoy coconut at all I'm pretty sure you'll agree. :)

I love to use the Champagne Mangoes. The skin is yellow and they are smaller, but the flesh is smooth and super creamy with no strings in it. Yum! It's a good idea to make sure they are very ripe. Stronger mango flavor and better color for your cheesecake. Mine were not quite as ripe as I would have liked but I was kind of eager to try this one.

Regular Vanilla would be fine to use but I had Tahitian Vanilla in the cupboard and following the tropical theme I decided to use it. They really do smell and taste different but it's not a big deal if you use one or the other.

Preheat oven to 300°.
Prepare an 8" Spring Form Pan with a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom. Trim the excess neatly leaving about a ½ inch sticking out around the bottom of the pan. Spray sides and bottom lightly with nonstick spray.

For the Crust:
¾ cup toasted sweetened coconut,
finely ground (coffee grinder)
½ cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped
(Pampered Chef Chopper)
½ cup almond meal flour
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup white sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, grated

Combine all the dry ingredients and mix. Grate in cold butter and gently mix until pea sized crumbs form. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Place a small bowl of hot water on the floor of the oven or the bottom rack.

32 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temp.
1 cup white sugar
Beat until light and fluffy.

3 Champagne Mangoes, peeled and sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 eggs
1½ teaspoon Tahitian Vanilla or regular Vanilla
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

Place these 5 ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat just until completely combined. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl as needed for even mixing.


Pour into baked crust and bake for 1 hour. Sides should look puffy and dry. Center of the cheesecake should be a little bit wobbly when you shake it gently.

Turn oven off and prop the door open with a wooden spoon handle and leave it in there for another 45-60.

If you follow instructions your cheesecake should not crack. Cracked cheesecakes make me unhappy. They taste the same but they're not so pleasant to look at, but maybe that's just me. :)

Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edge of the top and allow to come to room temp. before placing into the refrigerator. Chill till completely firm, over night is a great idea.

Caramelized Pineapple Topping:
revised from
4 cups fresh pineapple, cut into tidbit size
½ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoon fresh ginger root, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons pineapple juice
3 teaspoons cornstarch, (approximately)

Melt butter and sugar in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When it begins to bubble stir in the pineapple, juice, and ginger. Cook until sauce is golden brown. Thicken slightly with cornstarch.

Lime zest for garnish


We enjoyed a lovely visit this past weekend from one of my nephews and his sweet girlfriend. Jordon and Trish, thanks so much for coming to see us, you really made the weekend special! It's always fun and refreshing to sit and laugh with family! :) Seems like we did a lot of that while you were here. :)


Summer keeps rapidly moving towards the beginning of another school year. How can that be?!?!
I have some that are ready to go back and others that wish they wouldn't need to think about school but I think they'll be fine again once they are actually there. :)

We are missing our Dad/Grandpa who went home to be with Jesus in July. Really seems hard to believe that it's really true! We are happy for him that he has a new body that is free of pain, but we miss him a lot!  


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sweet & Tangy Apple Walnut Salad

Thought I would share with you all my current favorite salad. Simple and so yummy!
Leaf Lettuce
Fuji Apple
Roasted Sunflower Seeds
Dried Cranberries
Feta Cheese
Red Wine Vinaigrette
I use this Vinaigrette all the time. It stays fresh on the counter for a long time. No need for refrigeration.
2/3 cup Olive Oil
1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup White Vinegar
1/4 cup Sugar
Stevia, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a jar and with a tight fitting lid. Shake until sugar is dissolved.
This is only half the sugar the original recipe calls for so that's why I also use the Stevia. I like the flavor better this way. The dressing separates as it sits but a quick shake is all that's needed.
Happy Thursday!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sundried Tomato and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breast and a Summer Giveaway Winner

If you're looking for a tasty way to dress up a chicken breast, try these.
Lin and I enjoyed them a lot! :)
1 chicken breast
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon
snipped and plumped Sundried Tomatoes
1 heaping Tablespoon Whipped Cream Cheese
1 heaping Tablespoon Crumbled Feta Cheese
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
Fresh Rosemary, snipped
Melted Butter
Italian Flavored Panko Crumbs
McCormick's Garlic and Herb Seasoning
Snip the tomatoes into little pieces and place into a small container. Pour boiling water over them to cover and allow to soak for about ten minutes. Drain well and place into a small mixing bowl.
Add the next four ingredients and stir together until well mixed. Make a horizontal cut into the chicken breast but don't cut all the way through. Stuff with the cheese mixture and close it up again.

Dip into melted butter and then into Panko Seasoning mixture and place in a shallow baking dish. I used a Pampered Chef Baking Stone Pie Pan.
Bake @375° for 35-40 minutes or till juices run clear and chicken breast register 170° on an instant read thermometer.
Serve with a salad and enjoy!
Congrats to Wilma King! She is the lucky winner of my (Tomato Knife) Summer Giveaway! :)
I hope you enjoy using it as much as I do!