Strawberry Jello Pretzel "Salad"

I suppose we can call this a salad if it helps us sleep better at night. It is really a dessert if you ask me. Look at all that sugar! But whatever you want to call it, you will love it when you taste it. The combination of salty and sweet is so yummy. It's also quite pretty, we served it at a baby shower and it worked perfectly with our "girly" color scheme. You can also make this dessert with raspberries and raspberry jello, or blackberries, etc. Try it, you'll love it!

Strawberry Jello Pretzel "Salad"

2 cups crushed pretzel sticks
3 Tbs sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp
8 oz. whipped topping
1 cup sugar
2 cups boiling water
6 oz. package strawberry jello
2 10 oz. packages frozen strawberries, partially thawed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix crushed pretzels with melted butter and sugar. Press into bottom of 9x13 pan. Bake for 8 minutes if metal pan, 6 minutes if glass pan. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (Possibly put it in the fridge to speed it up a little.)

In a medium bowl, mix softened cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread cream cheese mixture over pretzel crust.

Whisk powdered jello into boiling water in large bowl until dissolved. Stir in strawberries. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Pour over cream cheese layer. Chill at least four hours or overnight.

Recipe from the Harding Family Cookbook.


Sundried Tomato and Chicken Pasta

I love when I find a really great recipe that allows me to use up what's on hand. I had sundried tomatoes from a salad I made last week, and found this recipe online. It was so easy to throw together and so delicious. I was wary of the condensed soup because sometimes it takes over a recipe, but I thought the taste of the dish wasn't dominated by the soup. It just tasted like a really yummy, creamy pasta dish. It was so good! Definitely a keeper. I served this rich pasta with a very simple spinach salad drizzled with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil. It was a great compliment to the taste of this dish.

Sundried Tomato and Chicken Pasta

1 (16 ounce) package farfalle pasta
1/4 cup butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbs dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in water (I used the kind bottled in oil and drained them)
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan. Add garlic cloves and cook until garlic browns. Add the cream of mushroom soup and milk, stirring until smooth. Stir in the dried parsley, salt, and ground fresh pepper. Let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add bite size chicken pieces and hydrated sun dried tomatoes. Simmer for 6 to 8 minutes. Mix in grated Parmesan cheese. Toss cooked and drained pasta with chicken sauce. Serve warm.

Serves 4-6.

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com.


Country White Bread

A slice of warm homemade bread with honey and butter is right up there with a warm chocolate chip cookie on my list of most tempting treats. And pulling two loaves of this beautiful bread out of the oven just makes you feel good. It is surprisingly easy to make (it just takes time). I think this bread has improved my life. Which is why I've made it twice in the last two weeks. And why you should make it too.

Country White Bread

1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk* (room temp.)
1/4 cup oil
5-6 cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 tablespoon salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast

Egg Wash:
1 egg white
3 Tbsp. milk

Mix together water, buttermilk and oil. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add sugar and eggs and mix together till smooth. Mix in the salt. Then mix in yeast. Allow to sit uncovered for 15 minutes.

Add flour a 1/2 cup at a time. Mix until it forms a dough and clears the side of the bowl (you may not need all the flour). Knead the dough for 5-6 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Spray the top of the dough with an oil spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about 1 hour (I didn't spray it and I just covered it with a towel).

Pour out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut dough in half. Shape dough into 2 rectangles the length of a 5x9 loaf pan. Roll the dough like a jelly roll being sure to lightly press with each rotation of the dough. Pinch the seam closed with your fingers. Place into two greased 5x9 loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap (or a towel) and allow to rise till double in bulk about 45-60 minutes.

Make egg wash and brush the tops of the loaves. Wait 5 minutes then brush again. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack.

*A good buttermilk substitute: Put 1 Tbs of lemon juice or vinegar in a 1 cup measuring cup, and fill the rest with milk (preferably 2% or whole). Let sit for a few minutes, and you've got buttermilk.

Recipe from friend Sarah. THANK YOU SARAH!


Sweet and Sour Chicken Stir-fry

This sweet and sour chicken was really tasty and colorful. It was a little intense to make because it's thrown together so quickly and cooked at such high heat. But it was exciting and fun! Just make sure you have everything chopped and prepped before you start cooking, then everything will run smoothly and come together in just a couple minutes. I'd definitely make this yummy stir fry again.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Stir-Fry

2 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into uniform pieces
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
2 to 3 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion, peeled and cut into thin strips
1/2 sweet red pepper, cut into strips
1 20 oz. can pineapple chunks
3 medium scallions, green parts cut into ¼-inch lengths and white parts minced
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

Stir Fry Sauce:
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
1 ½ Tbs tomato sauce
1 ½ Tbs pineapple juice from the can
¼ tsp salt

Toss the chicken with the soy sauce and vinegar in a medium bowl; set aside for 15 minutes while you chop vegetables, tossing once or twice.

Combine all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Chop vegetables and measure out ingredients.

Heat a 12- or 14-inch skillet over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes (the pan should be so hot you can hold an outstretched hand 1 inch over the pan for only 3 seconds.) Add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl it so the oil evenly coats the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil until it just starts to shimmer and smoke. Check the heat with your hand as before.

Drain the chicken and add it to the pan. Stir-fry until seared and about three-quarters cooked, 2 ½ to 3 minutes. Scrape the cooked chicken and all of the liquid into a bowl. Cover and keep warm.

Let the pan come back up to temperature, 1 to 2 minutes. When it is hot, drizzle in 2 teaspoons oil. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the onions and peppers and stir-fry until just tender-crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pineapple and cook 1 minute. Add the scallion greens and cook 15 to 30 seconds.

Clear the center of the pan and add the white parts of the scallions, garlic, and ginger. Drizzle with ½ teaspoon oil. Mash into the pan with the back of a spatula. Cook until fragrant but not colored, about 10 seconds. Remove the pan from heat and stir the scallions, garlic, and ginger into the vegetables for 20 seconds.

Return the pan to the heat and add the cooked chicken. Stir in the sauce and stir-fry until the ingredients are well coated with sauce and sizzling hot, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with rice.

Recipe adapted from My Kitchen Cafe.