Roasted Corn Tostadas

I am so excited to have my Rachael Ray magazine subscription started again! I never watch her show, but I have found many good recipes in her magazine and it's fun to be able to actually flip through and look at the different recipes instead of finding them online like I usually do. Anyway, these were a big hit! I especially loved them and have eaten them non-stop the past couple days. They are so much better than a normal tostada, especially with the Chipotle cream sauce, but still so easy to make. They are great for lunch too and once you have prepared them, you can keep all the different toppings in the fridge and they are ready to assemble quickly whenever you want them!

Ingredients:
6 ears corn, shucked
Vegetable oil, for drizzling
Ancho chile or traditional chili powder, for sprinkling
Salt and pepper
Grated peel and juice of 1 lime
1 cup heavy cream
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon sauce
One 15-ounce can spicy vegetarian refried beans (I used a Goya variety)
Chopped iceberg or romaine lettuce, for topping
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped, for topping
1 small red onion, finely chopped, for topping
Drained and sliced pickled jalapeƱo chiles, or giardiniera (pickled vegetables), for topping (I didn't use these)
Chopped cilantro (optional), for topping
Eight 4- to 6-inch flour or corn tortillas (I used pre-made tostada shells)
2 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack or mild mexican melting cheese

Directions:
*Preheat an outdoor grill or preheat a broiler to high and position a rack on the second shelf. Dress the corn with a little oil and season with a sprinkle of chile powder, salt and pepper. Grill or broil the corn, turning occasionally, until tender and evenly charred, 12 to 15 minutes. Invert a small bowl in a larger bowl. Using tongs, remove the corn from the grill or broiler and steady the ears upright, 1 at a time, on the inverted bowl. Using the back of a knife, scrape the kernels from the cobs. Dress with the lime juice.
(I grilled a bunch of corn earlier in the week because I had a few different recipes that needed it. The night we made these, I cut the corn off the cobs and tossed with some lime juice, chili powder, salt and pepper)
*In a small saucepan, bring the cream, chipotle, adobo sauce and lime peel to a boil over medium heat on the stovetop only (cream requires a babysitter and the grill heat is too high). Lower the heat to a low, slow boil and cook until reduced slightly.
*In another small saucepan, combine the refried beans and 1/4 cup water on the grill or over medium-low heat. Heat through and remove from the grill.
*While the beans heat, line up your toppings. Char the tortillas on the grill or under the broiler, then top with the beans and some of the cheese. Melt under a covered grill or the broiler for 1 minute. Save a little cheese for garnish. (I used the pre-made tostada shells and placed them under the broiler in the oven once they were topped with the cheese, etc.)
*Serve 2 tostadas per person. Top each tostada with a mound of corn, the chipotle cream, the remaining cheese, the lettuce, tomatoes, onion, pickled chiles and cilantro, if using.

Tex-Mex Chicken Dumplings

I came across this fun new food blog one day, Homesick Texan. There are many new recipes I can't wait to try and this was the first one that caught my eye. It was a little labor intensive, but you could cut down the prep time by using canned chicken and store-bought chicken broth. The end result was really yummy...even on a hot summer day :-)!

Ingredients:
For the chicken:
1 four-pound chicken
16 cups of water (1 gallon) (my pot only held 8...I added 2 cans of chicken broth at the end so there would be enough liquid for the soup)
1 onion
9 cloves of garlic, divided
2 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
4 celery stalks, cut into quarters
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried or 1 stalk fresh epazote, optional (I didn't use)
1 leafy stem of cilantro, plus 1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
1 can of Ro-Tel
2 jalapenos, sliced
1/4 cup cilantro
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup of cream
Salt, black pepper, cayenne and cumin to taste
For the cornmeal dumplings:
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 tablespoons of minced cilantro

Directions:
-Clean and rinse your chicken and place in a large stock pot. Add water, onion, 8 cloves of garlic, carrots, celery, bay leaves, epazote and whole cilantro stem. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour and a half, occasionally skimming the foamy scum off the surface.
-Remove chicken from pot and turn off the heat. After it’s cooled, remove fat and pick the meat off the bones and either shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
-Take cooled broth and strain and throw out the vegetables as they’ve done their duty. Now you need to remove the fat from the broth. If you don’t have a preferred way of getting rid of the fat or lack a gravy separator, you can try the plastic bag method. Take a quart-sized plastic storage bag, pour some broth into it. You will see the fat rise to the top. Snip a bottom corner of the bag and drain the broth, stopping when you get to the fat layer. (You will probably have to do this in batches).
-Place the broth back into the pot and add the shredded chicken and lime juice. In a blender, add the can of Ro-Tel, sliced jalapenos, chopped cilantro and garlic and blend. Add puree to the pot. Now add the cream. Add salt, black pepper, cayenne and cumin to taste. Bring to a boil. And while the soup is coming to a boil, make the cornmeal dumplings.
-Sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt. Beat the milk with the eggs and add to the dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter, cilantro and jalapenos.
-When soup is boiling, turn heat down to low and gently drop the dumpling batter into the pot, one tablespoon or so at a time. Do not stir. Place lid on top and steam dumplings for 20 minutes.
-Ladle the chicken and dumplings into bowls and sprinkle cilantro on top. Serves six to eight.
Notes: If you want a thicker broth, feel free to add some flour. I'd add it slowly, a quarter cup at a time.

Chipotle Pork Chops with Spicy Side Salad

I was on the hunt for another pork chop recipe and thought this one from Tickle My Palate sounded awesome. It was SOOO good...a hit with the whole family! It wasn't hard to make and was a great combination of flavors. I made a wild rice mix to go with it and thought it was perfect. I ate the leftover side salad with chips like a salsa and it was delicious. Definitely give this one a try this summer!
Pork Chops marinade (I used 3 small ones) :
4 T olive oil (I'll just use 3T next time)
3T fresh lime juice
1T minced garlic
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce chops with seeds and about a teaspoon adobo sauce
pepper to taste
(set aside some for side dish...I set aside almost 1/3 cup)

*Pour on meat. Ready to grill after marinated for an hour.

Spicy Side Salad:
1 ear grilled corn (I used 2)
1 can black beans drained
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes drained
1 diced avocado (use a big one, mine was small and I wished there was more)
marinade blend
chopped green onion
salt and pepper (to taste)
cilantro

Cheese Enchiladas

The girls LOVE cheese enchiladas. Whenever we go to Mexican restaurants that is what they get and they eat it ALL. Since they never seem to like any of my enchiladas very much I decided to try and make the kind they prefer. I found this website, Delicious Mexican Recipes, and used this one as a guide. You don't really need much of a recipe for cheese enchiladas I realize, but these were restaurant good (in my opinion :-). The girls, of course, didn't eat them as well as they do at the restaurants, but what can you do?

Ingredients:
1 lb of mild cheddar cheese, grated (I used Monterey Jack and Cheddar)
corn tortillas
vegetable oil
1/4-1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
Enchilada sauce, heated (I used the Pioneer Woman Sauce, recipe here)
sour cream, optional
guacamole, optional

Directions:
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium heat.
Using tongs, dip two corn tortillas at a time into the hot oil. When the tortillas start to bubble, lift and dip them into the oil 3 times fairly quickly.
The goal here is to make the tortillas soft. If the tortillas are left in the oil too long they will get hard and be difficult to roll. If that happens just toss them out and start over.
Okay, back to dipping the tortillas 3 quick times in the oil. Once you do this, dip the tortillas into hot enchilada sauce to coat. Now put the tortillas on a plate to cool one minute.
Add a hand full of the grated cheese and sprinkle some onion down the center of one tortilla and roll it. Do this by grabbing one end of the tortilla and bringing it 3/4of the way over to the other end. Tuck and roll the tortilla.
Pick up the cheese enchilada with your fore fingers on the bottom where the seam is. Let your pinky fingers cover the ends of the enchilada to keep the cheese from falling out while you move it to an oven proof dish.
With a little practice you will be a pro in no time at this.
Using a ladle, pour hot enchilada sauce over the top of the cheese enchiladas and let plenty of sauce run down the sides. Remember, the sauce is what makes it!
Sprinkle more cheese and onion on top in the desired amount.

Oriental Green Beans

I was on the hunt for a new vegetable side to try when I saw this recipe on Peachtree Cooking. These are SOOO good! All I wanted for dinner that night were these beans. They are definitely my new favorite side and so easy to make too! I've already decided I'm making them again next week :-)!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed
3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. oriental sesame oil
1 tsp. sugar
6 garlic cloves, minced

Directions:
Steam green beans for 3-4 minutes. (I used a Ziploc steam bag...love those!)
Combine soy sauce, oil, and sugar in small bowl.
Spray wok or 10" skillet with cooking spray, or small amount of oil.
Add garlic, cook for one minute.
Add green beans, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.
Add soy sauce mixture, continue to stir and cook a few more minutes until beans are brown and yummy (but not soggy).

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

I stocked up on pork chops again last week and went on a hunt for a new recipe to try with them. I found this one on Smitten Kitchen and they were really delicious! The girls love pork chops no matter how I cook them, and so they even loved these too...always a bonus. These were easy and pretty and had a sophisticated taste to them that made them seem fancier than they are :-). A+ in my book!

*notes: This recipe was developed using natural pork, but enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution) will work as well. If using enhanced pork, eliminate the brining in step 1. The bread crumb mixture can be prepared through step 2 up to 3 days in advance. The breaded chops can be frozen for up to 1 week. They don’t need to be thawed before baking; simply increase the cooking time in step 5 to 35 to 40 minutes.
Ingredients:
Table salt
4 boneless center-cut pork chops, 6 to 8 ounces each, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (I used the whole grain wheat bread we always buy and it was still delish)
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons) (I used 1 green onion)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges

Directions:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt in 1 quart water in medium container or gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Submerge chops, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes. Rinse chops under cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. (I skipped this step...I was running short on time...they still turned out great, but maybe would have been even better?)
2. Meanwhile, pulse bread in food processor until coarsely ground (LOVE my new food processor!), about eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer crumbs to rimmed baking sheet and add shallot, garlic, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until crumbs are evenly coated with oil. Bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. (Do not turn off oven.) Cool to room temperature. Toss crumbs with Parmesan, thyme, and parsley.
3. Place 1/4 cup flour in pie plate. In second pie plate, whisk egg whites and mustard until combined; add remaining 6 tablespoons flour and whisk until almost smooth, with pea-sized lumps remaining.
4. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Season chops with pepper. Dredge 1 pork chop in flour; shake off excess. Using tongs, coat with egg mixture; let excess drip off. Coat all sides of chop with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to chop. Transfer breaded chop to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 chops.
5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chops registers 150 degrees, 17 to 25 minutes. Let rest on rack 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.

Falafels

I finally got a food processor and this was a great recipe to try it out for the first time! I saw this recipe on Dish Delish and thought it would be a perfect summer meal. It was a hit all around! All the kiddos liked it, I loved it and even Mike thought they were good. We'll definitely be making them again!!!
Ingredients:
1 can chickpeas (drained)
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 Tbs. fresh parsley
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c.+ flour
vegetable oil for frying

1 recipe of Soft (Pita) Flat Bread (or store bought pitas-- If you're in a pinch)
English cucumber slices, quartered
tomato, diced
shredded romaine lettuce
1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
ranch dressing

Directions:
Place chickpeas and onions in a food processor. Pulse until almost smooth. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, red pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until well-blended but not pureed.

Remove chickpea mixture and place in a bowl. Sprinkle in the baking powder and flour, and gently mix. Add enough flour so that the dough can form a small ball without being too sticky. Refrigerate, covered, while you heat the oil and chop the veggies. Mixture can easily be made several hours ahead of time.

Using a small cookie dough scoop sprayed with Pam, form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts (you should have about 16-18 balls). Flatten between greased hands, until each ball becomes a 3 inch circle.

Heat 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a deep pan (I always use a candy thermometer to make sure my oil temperature stays consist ant) and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 5 balls at a time for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Stuff warm pita bread with 2-3 falafel balls and all vegetable toppings. Add a generous amount of ranch dressing and serve hot. (to serve with the falafels I cut each pita in half and opened them up at the seam to stuff them)

Soft (Pita) Flat Bread

I made these to go with our Falafels tonight. I was worried I wasn't doing it right at the beginning, but much to my surprise (and excitement) they actually turned out pretty darn good. Maybe baking will be in my future afterall :-). I saw the recipe on Dish Delish. She posts some great vegetarian meals and super yummy desserts! (to serve with the falafels I cut each pita in half and opened them up at the seam to stuff them)

Makes 8 flatbreads
Ingredients:
3 c. flour
1 1/2 c. boiling water

1/4 c. potato flour OR 1/2 c. potato flakes
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp. INSTANT yeast

Directions:
Place 2 cups of the flour into a large mixing bowl (or Kitchen Aid). Pour the boiling water over the flour, and stir till smooth. Cover the bowl and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes. This process will cook out some of the starch, making the bread very soft and pliable.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the potato flour (or flakes) and 1 cup of the remaining flour with the salt, oil and yeast. Add this to the cooled flour/water mixture, stir, then knead for several (5-7) minutes to form a soft dough. Add additional flour only if necessary-- The dough should form a ball, but will remain somewhat soft. Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour. (Note: Since this is a flatbread, the dough will not rise very much due to the small amount of yeast-- But it should still rise noticeably.)

Divide the dough into 8 pieces (each around 3-4 oz.-- I use my kitchen scale for this), cover, and let rest on an oiled surface for 15 to 30 minutes. Roll each piece into an 8-inch circle, and dry-fry them (fry without oil) on a griddle or frying pan over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until they’re flecked with brown spots. Adjust the heat if they seem to be cooking either too quickly, or too slowly; cooking too quickly means they may be raw in the center, while too slowly will dry them out. Stack the cooked bread in between a soft, clean towel to keep them warm and soft. Serve immediately, or cool before storing in a plastic bag.

Oven Fries

I got this one from Our Recipe Box. Easy, tasty, and a healthy alternative to actually frying them up! I L-O-V-E potatoes, so I loved these :-)!

Ingredients:

Russet or red potatoes
Seasoning Salt
Montreal Steak Seasoning (I used Pappy's seasoning that we had on hand)
Butter or olive oil (I used olive oil)

Directions:
Microwave potatoes (with skins on) until tender when poked with a fork. (I let mine cook too long and then they fell apart when I cut them, so watch them)
Cut potatoes into long strips. Place in baking dish.
Drizzle olive oil or melted butter over potatoes. Sprinkle with seasonings.
Broil or bake until potatoes are warm and crispy. (I baked at 425 degrees for 10 minutes and then broiled for 3-4 minutes)
Serve with fry sauce or ketchup.

Spicy Honey Chicken

My hair lady (as I affectionately call her...and who better come out of hair styling retirement soon!) emailed me this chicken recipe that she found on Our Best Bites. Her husband claimed it was the best chicken he has every had, so I just had to give it a try. And it was pretty dang good! Thanks for passing it on Shannon :-)! We'll definitely be making it again...I can't wait to have the leftovers on top of salad for lunch tomorrow!

Ingredients:
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2lbs...Yes, Thighs!! everyone is always asking me if they can use breasts for this. Sure you can, but I'm tellin' ya right now it's better with thighs. (despite this info I still just used chicken breasts :-)
2 t vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
Rub:
2 t granulated garlic (I used garlic powder)
2 t chili powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t coriander
1 t kosher salt
1 t cumin
1/2 t chipotle chili powder (I just used extra regular chili powder, but I'm sure the chipotle flavor adds a lot!)
Glaze:
1/2 C Honey
1 T Cider Vinegar

Directions:
-Combine the rub spices in bowl and mix well.
-Use kitchen shears (or a pair of clean scissors) to trim off any excess fat from the chicken pieces. Pat dry. Drizzle oil over chicken and rub in with your hands to lightly coat all the pieces. Then toss chicken with the spice rub to coat all sides well. Use your hands and get in there! Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
-While chicken is cooking, warm honey in the microwave so it's not so thick. Add the vinegar and combine well. Reserve 2T honey glaze for later. Take the rest and brush on chicken (both sides) in the final moments of grilling.
-I'm gonna warn you that this can make a hot mess, literally. It's sugar, and it's gonna drip. But the smelly smoke is worth it for a minute or two. Just leave your grill on for a few minutes after the chicken is done to burn off any excess glaze. It's totally worth it once you taste this stuff.
If you don't have a bbq, try it on an indoor grill pan or use your broiler. Just be sure to open a window in case you burn your glaze!

Watermelon and Lemon Ice Pops

I got a great deal on 2 humongous watermelon a couple weeks ago and was worried about being able to use it all fast enough. When I saw these in Cooking Light I thought they'd be perfect...not to mention the girls had been waiting all winter to use a princess popscicle maker they got at Christmas time. The original recipe has mint in it, but I was worried the girls wouldn't like it so I skipped it. We all LOVED how they turned out...sooo refreshing on a hot afternoon!

Ingredients:
Watermelon layer:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint (I left out)
2 cups packed (1/2-inch) cubed seeded watermelon
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Lemon layer:
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon orange extract (left out)

Directions:
1. To prepare watermelon layer, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; cook 30 seconds, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in mint; cover and let stand 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl.
2. Place watermelon in a blender; process until smooth. Strain puree through a sieve into bowl with mint syrup; press with back of a spoon to extract juice. Discard solids. Stir in lime juice; cover and chill 1 hour.
3. Pour about 2 1/2 tablespoons watermelon mixture into each of 8 ice pop molds. Freeze 1 1/2 hours or until almost set. Arrange 1 wooden stick into mixture, being careful not to push through to bottom of mold. Return to freezer. Freeze 1 hour or until frozen.
4. To prepare lemon layer, combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; cook 30 seconds, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour into a bowl; stir in lemon juice, orange juice, and extract. Cool 15 minutes; cover and chill at least 1 hour.
5. Remove molds from freezer. Pour about 3 tablespoons lemon mixture over frozen watermelon mixture in each mold. Freeze 2 hours or until completely frozen.

PB&B Cloud Cookies

I couldn't resist trying these cookies out when I saw them in an old Rachael Ray magazine...peanut butter, bananas...AND gluten-free :-)! I couldn't stop eating them, so it was a good thing it didn't make tons! I'll definitely make them again, they were easy, tasty and pretty too!

Ingredients:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons mashed ripe banana
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup salted peanuts, chopped

Directions:
1.Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with 1/8 teaspoon salt at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gradually mix in 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar and beat until thick and glossy, about 2 minutes. Fold in the peanut butter until just blended.
2.Using a 1-inch ice cream scoop, place 16 mounds of the cookie mixture evenly on each prepared cookie sheet. Bake, switching and rotating the sheets halfway, until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly on the sheets, then, using a metal spatula, transfer to a rack to cool completely.
3.Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the butter with the remaining 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the banana and lemon juice.
4.Spread the banana frosting on the cooled cookies and sprinkle the peanuts on top.

Strawberry Shortcakecake

Little bites of Heaven!!! Strawberries, Cream cheese frosting, yummy pound cake that has soaked up the sweet strawberry juice...YUM! When I saw this on The Pioneer Woman's site I KNEW this was the dessert I had to try for Preston's birthday party. Baking is always a little stressful for me, but this turned out magnificently...if I do say so myself. SOOO good! (just keep in mind it doesn't save well - the cake gets soggy from the strawberries)
(also, I tend to get annoyed by the amount of pictures on PW's recipe blog, but this was an instance where they sure came in handy. to view her post on this cake click
here)
Ingredients:
Cake
1-½ cup Flour
3 Tablespoons Corn Starch
½ teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
9 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
1-½ cup Sugar
3 whole Large Eggs
½ cups Sour Cream, Room Temperature
1 teaspoon Vanilla
_____
Icing
½ pounds Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
2 sticks Unsalted Butter
1-½ pound Powdered Sugar, Sifted
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 pound Strawberries (she pictures 2 16 oz containers, so I used both, but had a little extra of the smashed strawberries at the end)

Directions:
IMPORTANT: Be sure to use a cake pan that’s at least 2 inches deep! Before baking, the batter should not fill the pan more than halfway.
Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and corn starch.
Cream 9 tablespoons butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined.
Pour into greased and floured 8-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until no longer jiggly like my bottom. Remove from cake pan as soon as you pull it out of the oven, and place on a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.
Stem strawberries and slice them in half from bottom to top. Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, mash the strawberries in two batches. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoons sugar and allow to sit for another 30 minutes.
Make icing: combine cream cheese, 2 sticks butter, sifted powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt in a mixing bowl. Mix until very light and fluffy.
Slice cake in half through the middle. Spread strawberries evenly over each half (cut side up), pouring on all the juices. Place cake halves into the freezer for five minutes, just to make icing easier.
Remove from freezer. Use a little less than 1/3 of the icing to spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer. Place the second layer on top. Add half of the remaining icing to the top spreading evenly, then spread the remaining 1/3 cup around the sides.
Leave plain OR garnish with strawberry halves.
IMPORTANT: Cake is best when served slightly cool. The butter content in the icing will cause it to soften at room temperature. For best results, store in the fridge!

Restaurant Style Salsa

I wasn't planning on making my own salsa for Preston's party, but when I went to The Pioneer Woman's site looking for a yummy dessert to try (which I found!) I saw this and thought, well, why not?! It was really, really good! And easy too. I think it's about time for me to invest in a food processor though, the blender has been a little tricky with all these recent recipes, but it still does the trick.
**update: for Ella's birthday I used 2 cans Original Rotel and left the seeds in the Jalapeno and it was even better!!!**

Ingredients:
1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice
2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (on her site she pictured one original can and one mild, so that is what I used)
¼ cups Chopped Onion
1 clove Garlic, Minced
1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin (I took out most of the seeds and next time will keep most of the them for some added heat, mine was very mild)
¼ teaspoons Sugar
¼ teaspoons Salt
¼ teaspoons Ground Cumin
½ cups Cilantro (more To Taste!)
½ whole Lime Juice

Directions:
Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.
Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips or cheese nachos.