Caramel Apple Snickers Salad – HaliPawz

I received a text message from my niece this morning asking me for the recipe for my Caramel Apple Snickers Dessert.   I immediately came to my blog to pull it up and realized I had never typed it up!  I took all of the pictures the last time I made it, but forgot to write the recipe.  I needed to correct this oversight immediately! Now, yes, the title is misleading, it isn’t really a salad, it’s a dessert, but let’s face it, we all feel better calling it a salad.

Dessert, caramel apple
I will admit, I didn’t come up with the recipe, I found it a while ago, back before I was writing a blog, so I didn’t save the information of where I found it or who had authored it.  I have made some changes to it to suit my preferences and wanted to share it with everyone.  Because it is a nice cool dessert, it makes a nice Fourth of July celebration dish but can be enjoyed all year long.

For my dessert, I chose to use Ambrosia Apples.  You can use any type of apple you want, but I chose these because they are a low acid apple, so more people can enjoy them, they tend to be more sweet, than tart, and they blend well with the other ingredients. If you want a tarter apple, Granny Smith apples may be better for you.

As some of you may recall from my pasta salad recipe, I like to use the half size disposable aluminum steam pans.  I usually buy the pans and lids from Sam’s Club and use them throughout the year.  I never have to worry about remembering my pan after a party.  Depending on the size pan you are using, you can adjust the apples and the snickers to match.

Ingredients

6 Ambrosia Apples (Can use any type of apple you choose)

12-15 Fun Size Snickers Bars (I used the fun size because ounce for ounce,

they are cheaper than the full size ones at Wal-Mart and easier to cut up)

1 16oz tub Cool Whip

1/2 cup Milk

1 5oz package Vanilla Instant Pudding (If you want more pudding flavor,

use two small boxes and 3/4 cup Milk)

Caramel Topping

Chocolate Topping

Handful of chopped pecans (optional)

Before I begin to mix everything, I start by cutting up the apples and the Snicker’s bars.  To speed up the apples, I use my Pampered Chef Apple Peeler Corer Slicer.  It works amazingly well, and then I just have to cut them into a little bit smaller pieces.  I take the peeling off because it’s easier for my mom to eat that way, but if you don’t have anyone with those issues, feel free to leave the peelings on.

img_3179

Apple being peeled by Pampered Chef Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

For the Snickers bars, I found it easiest to flip them over, cut down the middle, then cut along the bar in small, bite size pieces.  It is important to make sure you start with a sharp knife.  I’ve tried it before with a knife I didn’t sharpen, and it was a mess.  When I sharpen the knife right before starting, it cuts through the candy bar very nicely.

Flip Snickers bar over for easier cutting

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Chopped up Snickers Pieces

To start putting it all together, I make a small pattern of the caramel topping and chocolate topping on the bottom of the pan.  I know no one sees it, but I think it helps with the flavors being better mixed.

img_3184

In a mixing bowl, combine the milk and the pudding mix.  Slowly blend in the cool whip.  Once you have it at a nice consistency, fold in  the apples and the snickers pieces.

Once they are all mixed well together, spread the mixture out into the pan.  If you’re like me, I try to smooth it all out, so it’s flat and even, but since it’s a “salad” it doesn’t matter how it looks in the pan.  Well yeah, to me, it does!

Drizzle the caramel sauce and the chocolate sauce over the top.  You can sprinkle some pecans on the top if you want as well.  I know I know, with the Snicker’s having peanuts, why would you add pecans….to that I say….why WOULDN’T you add pecans?  Pecans ALWAYS go with chocolate, caramel, and apples!

Caramel Apple Snickers Salad

Chill for at least an hour before serving.  If you’re taking it to a party, you might want to consider taking another empty pan, put ice in the bottom, and let the salad sit on the ice to keep cold until it is served.

Enjoy!

Whipped Chocolate Decadence Dessert -HaliPawz

For the last three or four years, my mom had made a dessert to take out to her cousin’s house for the 4th of July. I think it’s one that has been passed around for years with a bunch of different names.  She always used the recipe in a family cookbook where different members submitted different recipes.  Over the years, I’ve made a couple changes to it to suit MY taste.  Sadly, my mom couldn’t join us for the 4th because she is going out of town with different family members later in the week, but I’m still heading out and I decided to still make this dessert to take, along with my pasta salad I shared previously.

I don’t know the original name of the dessert, so I named it what it is to ME with the changes I have made!

All I know is…it’s pretty simple to make and not that expensive. Win win for me!

Let’s start with the CRUST

Ingredients

1 Cup Flour

1/2 cup pecans finely chopped

1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter

Pre-Heat the oven to 350

Set the butter out to let it get to room temperature. In a bowl, mix the ingredients well. It will be crumbly.

Grab a pan….I use a half sheet disposable pan so I don’t have to worry about collecting a pan at the end of the night.  You can use any 9″x13″ pan though.

Pat the mixture down into the bottom of the pan well making sure to cover the entire bottom. I’m not the neatest baker, so I try to be specific for others like me!

Place the pan in the oven for 15 min. If you know your oven takes a little longer, try 17 min.

Take the pan out and let it cool completely.

Or…for a laugh, you can watch my video explaining the crust! LOL

Pecan Dessert Crust

Ingredients for the filling (the good stuff!)

First Layer:

1 package 8oz Cream Cheese.

1 cup powdered / confectioners sugar.  (May also be called 10X sugar depending on where you live)

1 1/4 cup Cool Whip (I buy an 8 oz container and it works perfectly)

Now, the baking for dummies side note….the cream cheese needs to be at room temperature (left out) and the Cool Whip needs to be thawed completely but left in the refrigerator.  Funny story, I tried to make this once and only the top was thawed.  Ended up being a mess and I had to keep stirring it to thaw it! Took forever!

Beat the Cream Cheese and powdered sugar together.  Then slowly add the Cool Whip. It should be nice, light, and somewhat fluffy.  Spread it over the cooled crust evenly.

First Layer: Cream Cheese & Cool Whip

Now, because I’m not a quick baker and I’m convinced these few minutes make a difference (yes, I know it probably doesn’t) I put the pan in the refrigerator while I’m mixing the second layer. Ok, really I have to take the time to wash the mixing bowl and measuring cups because I don’t have a lot of them! 😊

Second Layer:

2 packages Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding. (Rumor is you can do any flavor, but I never have.  You could try Butterscotch, Lemon, Pistachio….any flavor you would like in a cool treat)

3 cups milk

Another funny story….make sure it is INSTANT pudding.  Yes, I made that mistake.  To the expert bakers who are still reading this, I’m sure you’re laughing at me.  To the non-bakers, don’t worry about it, just make sure it’s INSTANT! Trust me!

Beat the two ingredients together. It will thicken, takes about 2+ minutes. Then carefully spread over the first layer, being careful to try not to mix them.  Not that it really matters, I’m sure it wouldn’t affect the taste, but just don’t do it! 🙂

Second Layer: You can see the thickness on the spatula

2nd Layer:  Instant Pudding and Milk

2nd Layer: Instant Pudding and Milk

Once you have the second layer done, you’re ready for the third layer, it’s pretty difficult, but you can handle it….

Spread the remainder of the Cool Whip over the second layer.  That’s it. Super simple.

I like to sprinkle pecan pieces over the top to make it pretty but also to make it clear there are nuts in it.  You can also put chocolate shavings on it. If you do lemon pudding, you could do something lemony, to indicate what flavor it is.

Whipped Chocolate Decadence Dessert with Pecan Topping

Whipped Chocolate Decadence Dessert with Pecan Topping

When done with the top, put a lid on it (another reason I use the disposable pan, so I can cover it with the lid and write on it with a permanent marker!)
Place in the refrigerator until time to serve.

Make sure you use a serving utensil that will cut through the crust.  If you don’t, people tend to “scoop” it out and miss the crust. If you use a disposable pan and pre-cut it, be careful not to cut right through the pan. It has happened!

I use disposable utensils as well.  If I get them back, great. If not, no big deal.  I get the pans, lids, and utensils from Sam’s Club.

When it’s time to serve, make sure you are close to the front because it goes quickly and you want to eat some!

Enjoy!

Example of a prepared dish to pass….My Pasta Salad ready to take complete with serving spoon taped to lid

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz

Cheese, it’s not just for plain snacking anymore – HaliPawz

appetizer cheese

Do you like a nice protein filled snack throughout the day?  Tired of snacking on just a plain cube of cheese?  Here is a great recipe to take your cheese cubes to a whole new level.

Ingredients:

Cheese Cubes – I prefer Colby Jack cubes and Sharp Cheddar cubes

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Rosemary

Thyme

In a container with a lid, drop your Cheese cubes in.  I tend to only put in the number of cubes I want to eat within a 24 – 48 hour time period

Drizzle with olive oil.

Sprinkle with some Rosemary and Thyme

Put the lid on it and shake shake shake

Remove the lid and enjoy!

appetizer cheese

Colby Jack Cheese Cubes with Olive Oil, Rosemary, and Thyme

Makes an attractive, unique appetizer when hosting a gathering as well.

Enjoy!

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz 

Crouton Cups for Pasta Salad – HaliPawz

Italian Dressing

I shared my crazy steps to get to this recipe here, but I figured I would make it easy to navigate by putting it in simple form for those interested in JUST the recipe and not the story!

Ingredients:

12 slices of bread (I used Sara Lee Honey Wheat Bread but any regular bread would work)

Italian Dressing

Set the oven to 375 degrees

Trim the crusts off the bread slices. You want them somewhat square in shape, but mine were definitely not even!

Flatten the slice.  You can use a rolling pin for evenness if you prefer. I just used my hand.

Baste the bread on both sides with the Italian dressing, don’t over saturate! That was my mistake with my first batch.  Make sure you get all the way to the edge.

italian dressing

Trimmed Bread Slices for Crouton Cups

Next, pick the slices up and carefully place in a muffin / cupcake tin.  They will be slightly soggy, so the weight will pull them to the bottom with little help from you.  Let them slide in, then position the corners so they are up, out of the tin.  Be careful not to tear the bread

bread in muffin tin for crouton cups

Place in the oven 13-16 minutes, making sure not to burn them, but you want them to be crisp.

They will come out nice and brown, let them cool about 5-10 minutes, then pop then out of the tin and place in a flat surface to finish cooling.

Baked Italian Dressing Crouton Cups

When ready to serve, carefully fill cups with pasta salad and serve! Nice way to have pasta salad as an appetizer.

If you like this and want to stay up to date with my posts, follow me on Twitter @HaliPawz  or Like me on Facebook.com/HaliPawz 

My simple Pasta Salad – HaliPawz

Italian Dressing, Rotini, Colby Jack

You can read the whole story of my experience with Crouton Cups and Pasta Salad here, but I thought I would share my recipe for my favorite pasta salad. I’m not a fan of salads made with mayonnaise, so I like the freshness of this one.  It’s pretty quick to make and goes quickly at every event I take it too.

Italian Dressing, Rotini, Colby Jack

Simple, Fresh, Pasta Salad with Bacon, Cucumber, and Cheese

Ingredients:

Pasta – I generally use Barilla Tri-Color Rotini but I have used Wal-Mart’s Great Value as well.

Italian Dressing – I have always used Wishbone Robusto Italian Dressing but this past one, I used Olive Garden’s Italian Dressing because that’s what Sam’s Club had and I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I liked it ok but will stick with the Wishbone in the future. If you’re a fan of Olive Garden, you’ll like either one.

Bacon – Just eliminate if you want vegetarian style

Cucumber

Colby Jack Cheese – I do the block of cheese from Sam’s Club and cut it to save some money, but you can also buy the cubes.  You can mix sharp cheddar cubes and Colby Jack cubes as well.

If you use the block cheese, I highly recommend a great cheese knife. I use the wavy pampered chef one, but couldn’t find it on their site to share, so not sure if it’s still available.

cheese knife, michigan, cutting, board

Pampered Chef Cheese Knife on Michigan Cutting Board

I throw the bacon on my Pampered Chef bar pan on 350 degrees.  After about 20-25 minutes, I check it.  For this salad, you’ll want it more on the crispy side, so it may take a little longer or shorter depending on your oven and how crispy you want it.
While the bacon is in the oven, I start my water to boiling. Prepare your pasta to the directions on the box.  Drain and rinse with cold water.

In a large bowl, add about a quarter of the dressing to the pasta.

Peel the cucumber and cut into small bite size pieces.  I generally quarter it lengthwise then slice it. Add to the pasta, stir.

Next add your cheese.  Again, bite size.  Big enough to taste the cheese though. Stir in about another quarter of the dressing bottle at this time.

Stir well then cover and place in the refrigerator until the bacon cools and you can add it.  This gives the pasta time to absorb the dressing.

Once the bacon is ready, if you went extra crispy, just crumble it into the salad. I like mine crispy, but not crumbly, so I usually tear and crumble.

Add more dressing, stir, and place back in the refrigerator.

As I have said, I am not a “pretty” cook.  My dishes don’t look perfectly made, things aren’t evenly sliced, but for me, as long as it tastes great, I’m happy!

Leave in the refrigerator for at least one to two hours, giving time for the pasta to truly take on the flavor of the dressing.  You can prepare it the day before, just add a little more dressing in the morning.

Before serving, add a little more dressing to keep it from tasting dry, stir it up again.  Taste.  If you want more flavor, add more dressing.

I usually use one whole bottle (16 oz) per box of pasta.  Just remember to not add as much the day you are preparing if you are serving it the following day.

I will add, I don’t think the Olive Garden dressing sticks to the pasta as well as the Wishbone dressing does. It tasted good the first day but I could barely taste it the next night.  I was surprised because, to me, the Olive Garden dressing has a little bite to it.

Either way, it is a great salad for a hot day.  Fresh and, with the cucumber, nice and crisp.

Enjoy!

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Copycat Chipotle White (Basmati) Rice – HaliPawz

Basmati Rice, Cilantro, Copycat recipes

Earlier I posted the story of why I decided to try to make my own Chipotle style meal at home, but I wanted to post just the rice recipe by itself.  It is good enough to make on it’s own.

CopyCat Chipotle Basmati (White) Rice

Ingredients

1 tbsp butter

(I always cook with real butter, you can also use 1 tbsp oil)

1 Cup Basmati Rice

2 cups water

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 lime

2 tbsp Fresh Cilantro

Melt the butter over a medium heat, add the rice and saute it.  You want it to have almost a translucent (or wet) appearance.

Add the water, turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a boil.

As soon as it begins to boil, turn the heat down to low, place your lid on your pan, and let the rice simmer for 15-20 minutes.  You want the water to be absorbed

Turn off the heat.  Now the tough part….and trust me, you will be tempted, but DO NOT LIFT THE LID for 30 minutes after you turn off the heat.  The steam will help the rice be nice and fluffy and you want fluffy rice.  🙂

While it is steaming, in a small dish, mix the salt and the lime juice together until the salt is dissolved.  You can also get your cilantro ready at this time.  If you know how to chop cilantro with a knife, go for it, but I use my mini chopper because it works best for me.

After the tortuous, tempting 30 minutes of steaming WITHOUT CHECKING ON IT…..lift the lid, allowing the steam to escape and put the rice into a mixing bowl. Fluff the rice with a fork while adding the salt / lime mixture.

Add the cilantro slowly while continuing to fluff.

Copycat Chipotle Chips and Pico De Gallo; My Version – HaliPawz

Copycat recipes

I love Chipotle’s Chips and mild Pico De Gallo.  I’m odd.  I do not like tomatoes but I love Pico, Salsa, etc.  I won’t put a tomato slice on a burger but I’ll put tomatoes and other ingredients on a tortilla chip.  I really wanted to try to make it at home but I was afraid it would be a passing fancy and I didn’t have a food chopper, which I thought I had to have to make it, so I went on the search for one. I found one at Wal-Mart for less than $10, Rival Mini Chopper.  Even though the version has changed slightly, they still have one available for less than $10.

I could not wait to try it out.  I checked the internet for recipes for the Pico and found a few different versions.  After trying it a few ways, I have finally come up with a recipe I like and have made it many times.  My friends and family love it so I must be doing something right with it.

Fun Fact….What is the difference between Pico De Gallo and Salsa?  While they are both very similar, Pico De Gallo is always fresh, made with fewer ingredients cut more in into chunks, and served chilled.  Salsa is cooked, more of a sauce, and may contain more ingredients.  You can make salsa ahead of time and preserve it by canning it which you can not do with Pico because it needs to be served fresh.

I have learned from experience my Pico recipe only lasts about a day to a day and a half and then the flavor doesn’t taste the same and needs to be thrown away so you don’t want to make up too much at one time.  I will say it goes quickly though, so don’t be surprised if your family or friends start eating and don’t stop.  I would say to make one serving per every four to six guests depending on how much food you are serving with it.  I usually put the Pico out ahead of the food for my guests to munch on while they are waiting for the food, so I go through more of it.

Over quite a few trials and errors, I am going to be specific about how I prepare it to maximize texture and flavor.

Ingredients

6 Roma Tomatoes

3/4 Cup Cilantro

1/2 Jalapeno

(Remove Seeds for Mild Version)

1/2 Medium Red Onion

1 1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt (or Sea Salt)

1 Lime

Because I am not an expert cook by any means, I am going to be pretty detailed with how I prepare everything to help those, like me, new to experimenting with things outside of meat and potatoes or pasta.  It is pretty easy.  As you prepare each item, just throw it into a mixing bowl.

Starting with the Roma Tomatoes, wash them in cold water, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and juice.  I use a spoon to make sure I have all the seeds out and then place it down so the remainder of the juice runs out while I cut the other tomatoes. Make sure you are using a sharp knife.  It is the best way to cut the tomato without “squishing” it.  The sharper the better, just be careful.  I don’t cut the top of the tomato off until I’m ready to start dicing it, I have found it is easier to scoop the seeds and liquid out if the top is still intact.

I learned the hard way NOT to use the food chopper for the tomatoes.  Dice them with a knife.  It may take a few minutes longer if you aren’t used to cutting food up that small, but it is worth the extra time.  I used to take me about 45 min to do a serving (yes, I’m extremely slow when I’m first making something because I have to keep going back to the recipe, I’m extra careful cutting, etc) but now I can usually have it done in 15 min or less if I’m just making one serving.

I have found a couple links to show how to dice a roma tomato that were helpful to me when I was starting out.  I also have to thank my sister because she was the one who pointed out it would be easier and less of a mess to cut them instead of putting them in the chopper when she was helping me prepare it one day.  Here is one link I found though to help  you with a visual:  How to dice a Roma Tomato  

If you would like a little juicier Pico and you don’t want to remove the seeds, you can also dice it this way.  Video how to dice a Roma Tomato  What did we do before the internet to help us figure all of this out?

Cilantro – I can not cut Cilantro.  I have followed the steps, I have looked it up many times and have learned, it’s ok, just use the food chopper!  So, if you are talented with a knife and comfortable cutting up cilantro, then go for it.  If you’re like me, don’t feel bad.  The chopper was invented for people like us.  Wash the cilantro really well, pat it dry with a paper tower, pull out any wilted or discolored pieces.  Cut the stems off and throw them away.  Throw the leafy part in the chopper.   I usually let it cut it up until it doesn’t look like it’s doing anything anymore, take a small spatula to push the cilantro down off the sides, and run it again for a few seconds.  It’s easiest to then scrape it into a 2 cup glass measuring cup so you can see how much you have cut up.  Once you get more comfortable making it, you will find you don’t need to measure any more, but for starting out, for me, it was the easiest way and dumped out of the glass measuring cup smoothly.

Don’t bother washing out the chopper.

If you want to try your hand at cutting it instead of using the chopper, WikiHow has a pretty detailed example.  

Jalapeno –  Wash the jalapeno, cut the top off, and then cut it lengthwise.  Make sure to get all of the seeds out if you want it to be mild.  I throw the seeds away so they don’t accidentally get mixed in with the pepper while I am cutting it up.  They are sneaky buggers and attach easily!  You dice it up pretty much the same way you do the Roma Tomato.

Red Onion –  Cut the red onion in half and I cut off both ends. I peel off the outside skin.  Then I cut the half into quarters, throw it into the chopper, and let it work it’s magic.  Yes, I know you can dice it yourself, but honestly, the chopper is less complicated for me.  I throw the onion in the mixing bowl with the other ingredients and mix it all up.

Add the Salt – I usually stir it once or twice

Lime – Roll the lime against the counter with your hand.  This is a tip I learned a long time ago to get more juice out of a lemon, tried it and found it helps with the lime as well.  You want as much lime juice as you can get from it.  I also read where you could put it in the microwave, but I never do that, I just roll it along the counter.  Cut it in half and then you can either squeeze it directly into the bowl of ingredients or use a juicer. You don’t need anything fancy to get the juice from the lime into the bowl.  Do not throw the lime away just yet, just set aside.

Mix everything together one last time and then I will transfer to a container with a lid and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.

For the Chips – I LOVE the chips you get from Chipotle so I will usually grab a bag of white tortilla chips from the store, dump half the bag into a large plastic bowl with a lid, take one half of my squeezed lime and hand squeeze any last lime juice I can over the chips, sprinkle with a little bit of salt, put the lid on them, and shake it gently to distribute the juice and salt.  Add the other half, using the other lime half, repeat with the lime juice and the salt, shake gently again, and you have some yummy chips to go with your Pico De Gallo.

Enjoy!