Recipe Wednesday: Mini Banana Cream Pies

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I’m crazy about bananas! They are one of my favorite fruits, so this easy and quick mini banana cream pies recipe is one of my favorites!

Ingredients:

1  roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
1  box banana cream pudding, prepared according to package directions and chilled
1 banana
Whipped cream for topping

Directions:

1: Roll the sugar cookie dough into little balls. Using a mini-cupcake pan, place one ball in each spot (there should be 24 balls total).

2: Bake according to the directions on the dough package.

3: Once cool, fill up each cup with banana cream pudding and top with whipped cream and a slice of banana, if desired.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

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Ending #SharkWeek with a DIY Activity and a Recipe

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As #SharkWeek wraps up, I’m ending the week with a bang…or bite, a shark bite that is. Below are two ideas, one DIY project, and one recipe, for you and your family to make and enjoy. First, it is a simple and fun Ocean Slime activity. Then, enjoy tasty Shark Marshmallow Pops. 

I hope you have had as much fun as I have celebrating #SharkWeek. Being the over-planner that I am, I’m already thinking about next year’s posts!

Ocean Slime 

Materials: 

  • 1 cup clear glue
  • 1/2 of liquid starch
  • Blue food coloring
  • Small ocean animal decorations or shells

Directions: 

  1. In a bowl, mix the glue and a few drops of blue food coloring together. Add in the liquid starch. Be careful and don’t pour in too much starch at first; otherwise, the mixture will get hard.
  2. Knead the slime until it no longer sticks to your hands. Add more liquid starch, if needed.
  3. Once you have your desired consistency, sprinkle the slime with the shells and animals. Have fun!

 

Shark Marshmallow Pops 

Ingredients: 

  • Giant marshmallows
  • 2 cups blue candy melts
  • 1 cup chocolate candy melts or chocolate chips
  • Small candy eyes
  • Lollipop sticks

Directions: 

  1. Place a lollipop stick into the bottom of each marshmallow. It is up to you on how many marshmallow pops you want to make.
  2. In the microwave, heat the blue candy melts. It should take about 3 – 4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until melted.
  3. Cover the entire marshmallow, except for a half oval at the bottom front, in the melted chocolate.

     

  4. Stick 2 candy eyes at the top and place in the freezer until the blue candy has hardened.
  5. While the marshmallows are in the freezer, use the remaining blue melted chocolate and pipe a small fin onto parchment paper. Place in the freezer.
  6. Once hardened, peel the fins off the paper. Dip the bottom into the melted blue chocolate and place on top of the marshmallow.
  7. In the microwave, melt the chocolate candy melts for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.
  8. With the melted chocolate, pipe a zig-zag teeth/mouth on the white part of the marshmallow. You can also add extra decorations to your shark with the chocolate.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

 

 

 

 

A Foodie’s Favorite Cookbooks

There are many benefits that come with summer: warmer temperatures, longer days, and more time outdoors. For most people, summer also includes having BBQs, cookouts, and eating outdoors. However, it can be tough to create a diverse menu for your summer event when the usual dishes are hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and more. For July’s “Writers Who Read,” I’m focusing on some of my favorite cookbooks to help you branch out on your menus.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

Based on the popular Food Network show, The Pioneer Woman, cook Ree Drummond gives readers 125 dinnertime recipes that are simple, quick, and enjoyable for the whole family. According to the cookbook, it answers the “age-old question – what’s for dinner?” Within the recipes, Drummond includes meals that are classic comfort, 16-minute meals, freezer-friendly foods, soups, main dishes, salads, and breakfast meals for dinner. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime is perfect for any person or family. Some of my favorite meals are Salisbury Steak, Oven Barbecue Chicken, and the Beef Stroganoff. Plus, Drummond offers tasty desserts to conclude any evening meal. Lastly, the cookbook includes photos, beloved stories, and a colorful layout. What more could you want?

Hungry Girl 200 under 200: 200 Recipes under 200 Calories by Lisa Lillien

During the summer, I like to get lighter, smaller meals. There is just something about a heavy meal during the hot, summer months that doesn’t sit right. Lisa Lillien, the founder of hungrygirl.com, helps readers enjoy delicious dishes, while also watching their calories. The cookbook is divided into various chapters, such as Hungry Girl Staples, Morning Minis, Dip It Good, Mini Meal Mania, and Scoopable Salads. Step by step instructions are given for each recipe. Just a few examples of some of the dishes offered: Cheesy-Good Cornbread Muffins, Cheeseburger Lettuce Cups, Chocolate Chip Cookie Crisps Pudding Shake, Holy Moly Guacamole, and Hot Boneless Buffalo Wings. Hungry Girl 200 under 200 is a great cookbook to use if you are hosting a summertime party or taking an appetizer, dish, etc. to a family or friends’ event!

The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook Collection by Paula Deen

This cookbook is an oldie, but a goodie. Based off recipes from her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in Savannah, Georgia, cook Paula Deen creates two family-friendly cookbooks with hundreds of easy dishes, The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook (Deen’s first and best-selling cookbook)and The Lady and Sons, Too! Together, these cookbooks consist of mouth-watering recipes that are quick and easy to make for any occasion. Some of the dishes include Chicken and Waffles, Oven-Fried Catfish, Sweet Blueberry Cornbread, and many desserts. One of my all-time favorite recipes from the collection is the Ooey Gooey Butter Cakes. This dessert is rich and decadent. Plus, it can be made in different flavors, such as vanilla, chocolate, etc. Trust me, this is one recipe you can’t and don’t want to resist!

I’m a foodie and I love to eat. These are just a sampling of cookbooks I love to use, not just during the summer, but throughout the entire year.

xoxo,

Megan

Melt In Your Mouth Lemon Brownies

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This summer, my goal is to eat healthier and lose a little bit of weight. However, that is not stopping me from already deciding my cheat meals and desserts. On my list is the recipe below –  Lemon Brownies.

Lemon Brownies: 

Ingredients for the brownie mixture: 

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the glaze: 

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest

Directions for brownie mixture: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 square pan with tin foil, then grease.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the butter and sugar until combined. Add in the eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest and stir.
  3. Next, stir in the flour and salt until everything is mixed together.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 28 to 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool.

Directions for glaze: 

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir until smooth.
  2. Pour the glaze over the cooled brownies and let set.
  3. Garnish with lemon zest, if desired.

Enjoy!

 

xoxo,

Megan

P.S. Would you like for me to blog about my health journey this summer? Vote here! 

Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls

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One of my favorite things about any holiday is the chance to spend time with my family. Almost every holiday morning, we have a special breakfast together, either before or after the morning festivities. This Easter Sunday is going to be a little different with some of my loved ones being far away, however, our breakfast tradition still stands and this time, we are making these fantastic strawberry cinnamon rolls. This recipe is perfect for spring and Easter morning.

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 .25 ounce package of instant yeast, roughly 2 tsp
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water

Filling

  • 1 cup strawberry jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries

Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Directions:

    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    • Heat the milk in a small saucepan until warm. Mix in the butter until melted. Let cool to a lukewarm temperature.
    • In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Mix well.
    • Stir in egg and 1/4 cup of water. Then, stir in the milk mixture until dough forms.
    • Add in another cup of flour. When dough comes together, flip it onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
    • Return the dough ball to the bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 10 minutes.
    • Roll out dough into a 15×10 inch rectangle. Spread the strawberry jam all over the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Then, evenly cover with the chopped strawberries.
    • Roll up the dough and pinch the seam into a seal. Cut into 12 equal size rolls.
    • Place rolls cut side up in a greased 11×13 baking dish. Cover and let rise until doubled (30 mins).
    • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • For the icing, mix the powdered sugar and cinnamon with 1 tbsp of milk. Stir until glaze forms. Drizzle glaze over finished rolls. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice for additional flavor!

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Last Minute Bites for New Year’s Eve

As another year comes to a close, there is no better way to celebrate than with family, friends, and delicious food! Sometimes it can be hard to find quick and easy recipes, but never fear, I’ve done the hard work for you. Enjoy these 3 simple appetizers for your New Year’s Eve festivities!
Mini Lasagna Roll-Ups
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Ingredients:
Filling:
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
Lasagna Roll-Ups:
  • 10 cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Tomato sauce
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together.
  2. Cut the cooked noodles individually in half widthwise.
  3. Spread the filling on each noodle half, leaving about an inch at one end.
  4. Roll the noodle up, beginning at the end with the filling.
  5. Cut the rolled noodle in half widthwise.
  6. Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish and place the noodles on top.
  7. Place a small scoop of sauce on top of each roll and top with mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Cranberry Pinot Noir Meatballs
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Ingredients:
  • 1 (1 lb. 10 oz.) bag of Italian Style Meatballs
  • 1 (16 oz.) can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup Pinot Noir
  • 1 tsp spicy brown mustard
Directions:
  1. Prepare meatballs according to package directions.
  2. In a saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, brown sugar, Pinot Noir, and mustard. Whisk to combine over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and pour sauce over meatballs. Serve immediately or place in a crock pot on warm or low setting.
Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites with Cheese Sauce
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Ingredients:
Soft Pretzels:
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (about 2 ¼ tsps.)
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 ½ tsps. kosher salt
  • 4 ½ cups to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 quarts water
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 Tbs. cold water
  • Coarse sea salt
Cheese Sauce:
  • ½ Tbs. unsalted butter
  • ½ Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Directions:
Pretzels:
  1. Combine 1 ½ cups warm water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl in a mixer with dough hook. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and continue kneading until dough is smooth and begins to pull from bowl. If dough appears too wet, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Remove dough from bowl and knead into a ball.
  4. Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough, and coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Bring the 3 quarts water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and carefully add in the baking soda. It will boil over; add slowly and be careful!
  7. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 8 equal pieces, about 4 ¼ to 4 ½ ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 22 inches. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites.
  8. Boil the bites in the water solution about 15 bites at a time for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and place on a greased baking sheet.
  9. Brush the tops with egg wash and season with salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes.
Cheese Sauce:
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour of the pretzel bites or serve as a dip on the side.
Enjoy!
xoxo,
Megan

On the 5th Day of Christmas…

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There is nothing better than your house smelling like Christmas during the holidays. An easy way to do that is by making this simple cranberry orange stovetop potpourri. Plus, it makes a great present for teachers, hostess gifts, and more! It takes a little more planning and assembling than other presents, but definitely worth it, and you can also make one for yourself! All you need is:

  • 1–16 oz. Mason jar with lid
  • ½ cup fresh cranberries
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 slices of an orange
  • 23 cinnamon sticks
  • Nutmeg
  • Water
  • Burlap
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Gift tag

Then, fill the jar with the ingredients and immerse in water. Decorate the outside with the burlap, ribbon or twine, and add a gift tag with instructions on how to use. The instructions should say something like: “Pour contents into a small sauce pan and simmer over low heat. Add water as needed. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Healthier Baking 101

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Sweets are in abundance during the holidays. From the cookies, cakes, and more, there always seems to be something tasty in my kitchen. However, too many sweet treats can be a problem. Many baking recipes include sugar, butter, and other fatty ingredients that are unhealthy for a person’s body. The good news, though, is that there are still ways for you to have your favorite confections that include healthier ingredients. Put the tips below to use this holiday season. Trust me, your recipes will taste the same, and your loved ones will never know that you swapped oil for applesauce.

Replacing Oil: 

  • As mentioned above, a great way to replace some of the fat is using unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. A common rule of thumb is for every one cup of oil in a recipe, switch out for ¾ a cup of applesauce. Don’t have any on hand? Combine one mushed apple and a splash of lemon juice.
  • Greek yogurt is another favorite of many and works fantastic in place of oil or fat. It keeps the moisture and flavor of the dish. Plus, the yogurt is full of calcium, protein, and probiotics.

Replacing Sugar: 

  • You can’t have a dessert without sugar! Or so they say. Instead of artificial sugar, mash up a banana into your ingredients. Make sure the banana is ripe. This substitution keeps the sweetness of the dessert but has healthier advantages, such as being rich in glucose, easy to digest, and improves your energy, preventing a sugar crash.
  • Alternatives to white table sugar are honey, maple syrup, or dates. These natural forms reduce the amount of added sugar but still should be consumed in reasonable amounts.
  • Lastly, spices work well in adding flavor and taste to treats with excessive amounts of sugar. Cinnamon and nutmeg are common replacements and boost metabolism, an extra benefit.

Replacing Flour: 

  • Almost all baking recipes include flour. Yet flour can affect your health in many ways, both good and bad. One simple way to add more health benefits is using whole wheat flour in lieu of white flours. The latter is made from heavily refined and processed wheat grain that isn’t good for you. As for whole wheat flour, it is processed differently and has more health advantages.
  • Try making your own flour from oats, flax, and nuts. All you need to do is blend up the items in a food processor or blender, and you are good to go. There is no need to change the needed amount the recipes call for; just blend until you have the same amount of fine dust.

Other Tips and Tricks: 

  • Even though it is a baking recipe, all desserts don’t have to actually be baked. Research and find a no-bake treat for your favorite sweet. No-bake desserts can include healthier ingredients and possibly use less fatty ingredients than are needed for a baked dessert.
  • Dark chocolate is known for its advantages, including aiding in weight loss, reducing stress, and controlling a person’s appetite. Moderation is key, but don’t hesitate to switch any type of chocolate with dark chocolate.
  • Avocados are a healthy fat and a unique way to replace butter. This fruit is packed with protein and nutrients. In addition, it gives a smooth texture to the item.

I love to bake, but sometimes the recipes aren’t the healthiest. The solution to that problem is incorporating these tips. Using substitutions in baking is easy and simple. Plus, you won’t feel guilty eating a few more pieces of a sweet treat, because you know it is healthier.

xoxo,

Megan

Quick and Simple Fruit Dip

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This evening, I’m going to a summer party with some friends. Being from the south, I have learned the aged-old tradition of never arriving to a party empty-handed. Earlier today, I wiped up this quick and simple fruit dip and cut up some beautiful fruit to take. This recipe is a personal favorite and one I had to share!

Fruit Dip:

Ingredients: 

  • 8 oz. packaged cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 7 oz. jar marshmallow fluff
  • 2 Tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

Directions: 

  • Scoop the marshmallow fluff into a large bowl and microwave for 15 seconds.
  • Add in the softened cream cheese and orange juice concentrate. Whisk until very smooth.
  • Chill for a few hours or overnight.

The dip works great with strawberries, blueberries, and apples!

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

North Carolina BBQ 101

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Some people like Eastern, while other people prefer Lexington. Wondering what I’m talking about? North Carolina barbecue. This tasty food has had a longstanding history in the Tarheel State that dates back to colonial times.

According to historians, barbecue, in general, was first introduced in the Caribbean. During the 1500s, there would be island barbecues with meat, such as lizard and alligator. Shortly after, the Spanish brought hogs to the Caribbean and southeastern United States. This is when pork became the favorite meat for barbecue. As for North Carolina, influences came from the original settlers and African-Americans on plantations. Today, many people associate barbecue with their favorite style and you can’t have barbecue without a sauce.

Main Types of Barbecue:

It is said that Eastern-style barbecue (vinegar-based) was the first style in the state. It wasn’t until Heinz created ketchup and introduced it to the public at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, that we began seeing a difference in barbecue styles. During World War I, Lexington-style barbecue was created in Lexington, North Carolina.

Eastern-stylebarbecue is a vinegar and pepper based style with no tomato. All parts of the hog are used. There is a common saying associated with this style, which is that “every part of the hog except the squeal is used.” Originally, lemon juice was used in the base. However, since this juice was hard to find in many southern states when barbecue started gaining popularity, vinegar was substituted. Eastern-style barbecue has more of a spicy-tartness and focuses more on the actual meat than the sauce. As for Eastern-style slaw, it matches the tangy taste of the barbecue and includes vinegar. This style is mostly famous along the east coast of North Carolina.

Lexington-style barbecue (my favorite) is all about the tomato. This style is commonly referred to as Piedmont or Western style. It uses a red sauce, made up of ketchup, vinegar, and pepper and has a smokier taste compared to Eastern. The slaw mimics the tomato sauce, as well, and is called “red slaw” or “barbecue slaw.” Lexington-style barbecue is more well-known in the Piedmont and western parts of the state.

Other Styles: 

Most people are only familiar with North Carolina barbecue as being Eastern or Lexington. However, another, lesser known style involves pork ribs. The Baby Back Ribs, also called top loin ribs, are cut from the center section of the loin and are a favorite among many. Another type of pork ribs is spareribs. This style is a larger and longer rib and more flavorful than Baby Back Ribs. This style of barbecue can be found at many festivals and competitions throughout the year, including the Twin City RibFest.

Lastly, throughout North Carolina, pork meat isn’t the only type of barbecue a person can find. Chicken and beef are also favorites to serve up. In addition, there are influences from Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jamaica.

Cooking Barbecue  

The most traditional way to cook barbecue is pit style. According to historians, this technique has been used for thousands of years. A pit barbecue is an enclosed, above-ground “pit” that cooks the meat slowly over different types of wood. Some popular varieties of wood are hickory, mesquite, and oak. The smells and smoke of the wood drift up into the meat and flavor it. Also, pit style is known for producing very tender meat. An example of pit style cooking is smoking barbecue or using a smoker. There are many various ways on how to use this style, as well as types of equipment needed. The most common types are cold smoking and hot smoking. Cold smoking is used to flavor the meat and hot smoking can be defined as the meat’s cooking time.

Barbecuing versus Grilling 

Yes, there is a different between barbecuing and grilling. Barbecuing can be defined as a slower process that uses lower heat than grilling, and the food is cooked by the heat of the smoke. In grilling, dry heat is used and is applied to the food being cooked.

Barbecue has been a longstanding staple in North Carolina. Most people, from a young age, find their favorite style and it stays with them for the rest of their lives. Summer has just begun and what better time is there to have a barbecue with your family and friends?

xoxo,

Megan

Originally written for Forsyth Woman Magazine, June 2018.