Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Pat Prager’s Famous Peanut Butter Bars from Kitchens of the Great Midwest

This recipe for Pat Prager’s Famous Peanut Butter Bars is found in the book I recently reviewed, Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.  Pat Prager was a character in the book who won a blue-ribbon at her local county fair in Minnesota with these peanut butter bars. The bars are NOT at all on the yeast-free eating plan as they contain powdered sugar and chocolate.  However, it is a great recipe that you could make with your children while everyone is home and they require no baking. 

Pat Prager’s Famous Peanut Butter Bars

Ingredients:
  • 2-1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup melted Grade A Butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon Grade A butter (I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips.)
Instructions:
  1. Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 1 cup melted butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar.
  2. Pat into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan.
  3. Melt the chocolate and 1 teaspoon butter and spread on top of the bars.
  4. Refrigerate until firm.
  5. Cut into bars.
I may or may not have eaten the bars.  I’ll let you guess!  Well, actually, I have to tell you I cheated, and they are delicious!  They are rich, so cut them in smaller bars than I am showing in the photo.  You could also cut the recipe in half if you do not want that much temptation in your home!  But Pat Prager, the sweet lady who made the bars in the book, really did deserve that blue ribbon!  Enjoy, in moderation!!




Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey, Lemon & Dijon Vinaigrette


I made Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey, Lemon & Dijon Vinaigrette in early March and have been waiting to share it with you during this Spring, Easter, and Passover season.  I found this recipe on the blog/website Proud Italian Cook.  The potato salad is different in that it does not use a mayonnaise base.  Many of the ingredients you probably have at home right now, too.

Fingerling Potato Salad with Honey, Lemon and Dijon Vinaigrette 

Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs. vibrant colored fingerling potatoes, roughly same size and cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 or 4 hard boiled eggs halved or quartered, your choice
  • 1/2 cup or so of sliced olives, green or black
  • 3 green onions sliced on the diagonal
  • Balsamic pearls (optional) (Note: I did not use them.)
Vinaigrette:
  • 1 big shallot or 2 small, finely chopped
  • Chopped parsley, a handful
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon  
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (It is off plan, but I did use it.)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon honey (It is off plan, but I used it.)
  • 1/3 cup or so of good olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
Instructions:
  1. Whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl, taste to your liking.  Maybe you want it sweeter, add more honey; more tart, add a splash more vinegar or lemon juice or even more olive oil. Then set aside.
  2. Wash your potatoes really well. 
  3. Place the potatoes into cold water and let them reach a boil; then turn down heat to a medium simmer.
  4. Test the potatoes for doneness, if you don’t want them mushy.
  5. When the potatoes are finished cooking, drain and gently place them into a large serving dish.
  6. Sprinkle in the green onions and olives around the potatoes.  Arrange the hard-boiled eggs.
  7. Spoon the vinaigrette over all of the warm potatoes so that the flavors can absorb.
  8. Taste and determine if more salt and pepper is needed,
  9. Serve best at room temperature.
This potato salad is fantastic!  It would go well with a traditional ham, leg of lamb, roast of beef brisket, lamb shoulder, or roast chicken for your Easter or Passover meal.  The potato salad would  also pair well with sandwiches made from leftovers!  I hope this recipe brings you joy this week!





Thursday, April 2, 2020

March 2020 Reading

What a great month of reading!  I do have a pattern.  I continue to read books by authors I have previously read, such as Rebecca Serle, Laurie Gelman, and J. Ryan Stradal.  In these cases, it was a good thing!!  An Unexplained Death, The Flatshare, In Five Years, The Lager Queen of Minnesota, Class Mom, and A Good Neighborhood were my favorites.  You can find my reviews of each book on blogs this month.  You can search for the title of each book.  I hope you enjoyed reading this month as much as I did.  Let me know if you have read or plan to read any of these books!


Book Reviews—The Lager Queen of Minnesota & Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal


The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal was published in July, 2019.  It is a book about family, forgiveness, and Midwestern values.  And, let us not forget—beer!  The novel begins in the 1950’s and follows the lives of three women, Edith, her granddaughter, Diana, and Helen, her younger sister.  I listened to a podcast by Stradal, and he said that the character, Edith is based on his mother and grandmother.

Edith’s father leaves all of his money to Helen, after she convinces him that she has a plan for the inheritance, and Edith doesn’t.  Edith never speaks to Helen again.  Helen goes on to open a extremely successful brewery.  Edith marries, has children, and works at a nursing home where she bakes award-winning pies.  Diana sees how her grandmother is struggling, and is motivated to open an IPA business of her own.  I don’t want to spoil what happens, but this is a delightful novel.  If you are Midwestern, Minnesotan, have a Swedish background, like pie and beer, then this book is for you!  Who is the Lager Queen?  You will have to decide this for yourself!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

After reading The Lager Queen of Minnesota, I just had to read Stradal’s debut novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest.  It was published in July of 2015.  This book follows the life of the character, Eva Thorvald.  Eva has a tough beginning in life.  However, at a young age, it is discovered that Eva has a “perfect palate”.  She begins working in a restaurant, underage and unpaid, just to get experience. Each chapter introduces characters that Eva comes in contact with at that period in her life to tell her story.  Many characters appear again in later chapters to show Eva as she grows.  I found this structure a unique way to tell Eva’s story.  There are recipes throughout the book.  I want to make the award-winning peanut butter bars that are mentioned in the book.  They are completely off of my diet plan, and I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand (due to Coronavirus), but I will feature them on the blog at a later date!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

I look forward to reading more books by J. Ryan Stradal.  I love the characters that he creates.  It makes me reminisce about my childhood in the Midwest, which is a good thing.



Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Book Review—A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

A Good Neighborhood is a great read.  The book grabbed me at the beginning and kept my interest the entire time.  Author Therese Anne Fowler has crafted a solid 5⭐️ book, in my opinion.  One of the interesting things she chooses to do is have a third-person narrator introduce the book and make comments at the beginning of many crucial chapters.  The narrator knows what is to come, and gives the reader just enough information not to spoil anything, but to keep the reader extremely engaged.  A Good Neighborhood is the March Barnes & Noble Book Club selection, as well as Spivey’s Club’s pick for April.

One of my favorite characters in the book is Valerie Alston-Clark.  She is raising her son, Xavier, in Oak Knoll, a neighborhood in North Carolina.  Xavier is excited about going to college after he graduates, and Valerie, a professor of forestry and ecology, knows her life will be changing with Xavier not at home.  Everything in their life is going well until the Whitman’s move in behind them.  Brad Whitman is a businessman who became a local celebrity because of the HVAC television commercials he stars in to promote his business.  The Whitman home’s is huge and has every convenience and gadget imaginable.  Brad is fairly newly married to his wife, Julia, and has a step-daughter in high school, Juniper.  Brad and Julia also have their own daughter, Lily.  Because of the massive size of the Whitman’s home, the tremendous, stately oak tree in Valerie’s yard is compromised, and starts progressively dying.  Valerie, being a conservationist, is extremely upset, and hence is the beginning of the novel’s conflict.

I highly recommend A Good Neighborhood.  It will pull you deeply into the conflict, as well as tug on your heartstrings.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


Recipe Repeat—Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

It’s mid-week, and you may be just in the mood for a slow cooker supper. Then search no more!  This Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup is just what you need!  Most of the items in the soup are pantry staples.  The soup takes 5-6 hours to cook in the slow cooker on low.  It is really delicious!!  I linked at the bottom of the post my recipes for Soft Tacos with Homemade Taco Seasoning & Chili Yogurt Sauce, Guacamole, and Salsa.

I hope you are enjoying my “Recipe Repeats” as I am trying to find simple, delicious meals you can make while staying at home.  Much love to all!!
—————————————————-———
Here is a great recipe just in time for Cinco de Mayo!  This chicken tortilla soup is super easy to make, since it cooks in the slow cooker.  That way, you can use your oven for other things for your Cinco de Mayo celebration!  This recipe appeared on Delish, and I adapted it by using dairy-free cheese and sour cream and grain-free tortillas!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 bell peppers (I used three because I found beautiful red, yellow, and orange peppers at the Winter Park Farmer's Market
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1-15 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken both
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used Follow Your Heart Pepper Jack in the block and shredded it.  They also have Monterey Jack, too.)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 small corn tortillas, cut into strips (I used Siete almond flour tortillas; they also have cassava flour, chickpea flour, cashew flour, and cassava & chia tortillas.)
  • Sliced avocado, for serving
  • Sour cream, for serving (I used Follow Your Heart dairy-free sour cream.)
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Instructions:


  • In a large slow cooker, combine chicken, black beans, corn, peppers, onion, fire-roasted tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, and chicken broth.
  • Cover and cook on low until chicken is cooked and falling apart, 5 to 6 hours.
  • Shred chicken with a fork, then top soup with Monterey Jack and cover to let melt, 5 minutes more.
  • Meanwhile, make tortilla crisps:  In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil.  Add tortilla strips and cook until crispy and golden, approximately 3 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt.
  • Serve soup topped with tortilla crisps, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, and lime.

Ready for Cinco de Mayo!

This is such a delicious soup!  I used very fresh vegetables from the Farmer's Market (onions, peppers, cilantro, avocado, and limes) to make the soup.  Also, I think the fire-roasted tomatoes add a great kick to the soup.  

Also, I am linking my Soft Tacos with Homemade Taco Seasoning & Chili Yogurt SauceGuacamole, and Salsa recipes for you!  I hope have a great Cinco de Mayo!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Book Review—In Five Years by Rebecca Serle


I read In Five Years by Rebecca Serle in one day!  I couldn’t put it down.  I read Ms. Serle’s The Dinner List last year and loved it.  I was so excited when I heard that she was publishing another book!  In Five Years was highly anticipated and was a Spivey’s Club pick for March. 

In Five Years is a book about self-discovery and choices made by the main character, Dannie Cohan.  Dannie is living the dream in New York City.  She is recently engaged to her fiancĂ©, David, is on the fast-track at work, and has a terrific best friend in Bella.  One night Dannie has a dream that shakes her to her core.  The book skips ahead 4 1/2 years at this point, and the reader continues to be involved in the lives of the characters as events continue to evolve.  

This book is more than a typical romance novel.  Dannie is faced with many life-changing choices.  Rebecca Serle has woven an extremely interesting novel that will keep you enthralled until the end, and afterwards it will stay with you.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5