Monthly Archives: July 2011

Grandma Amy’s Secret Fruit Salad Dressing

I always imagined I would keep this recipe a secret.

I am seriously in love with the phenomenon of the Old Southern Biddie who has her secret recipe that she absolutely refuses to give away.

I always wanted to have one of those recipes, and I thought this could be it.

I imagined people would come over to my house, plop the fruit salad on their plates, unsuspectingly sample one bite, and then scream in ecstasy, “This is the best fruit salad I have ever had!” They would all then proceed to follow me around for the rest of the day begging for the recipe, but I would never cave.

(I have illusions of grandeur. Humor me.)

I imagined I would keep it a secret until my death bed. Whereupon I would raise a shaky finger beckoning my favorite grandchild, and whisper the location of the recipe that I had scribbled on the back of a crossword puzzle years before.

Then I started a food blog and said, “Meh….what’s the point in that?”

There really isn’t too much to say about this one.

It makes a ho-hum bowl of chopped up fruit feel fancy.

It makes someone like The Hubs (who’s traditional idea of late night dessert snack is a candy bar) eat two bowls full in one sitting.

It’s the kind of thing you can eat out of fancy little goblets with a sprig of mint, or straight out of the fridge with a fork at midnight while standing in your socks and underwear.

This dressing is silly easy and is literally good on any kind of fruit you wanna cut up. Just go with what ya’ got. And I wouldn’t get all flustered about having a lot of different types of fruit to go in it either. If all you have is apples, just do that. Really. It would be delicious!

It calls for a whopping four ingredients: lime, honey, fresh ginger, and vanilla.

Please, go ahead and buy fresh ginger root. You can use the dried, ground variety if you insist; but the flavor of fresh ginger just pops so magically on the fruit. You can keep it forever by putting it in a plastic baggie and into the freezer. Just grate off what you need at the time and put it back. You can use it in a lot of Asian dishes, fancy up your lemonade, but if you are anything like the members of this household, you will have to make more fruit salad after about an hour anyway so the whole root will come in handy.

Simply given them a whirl with a fork.

Here is the Little Dude with a little demo…

Now pour it all over your fruit.

And voila! Your basic fruit salad just got all gussied up!

Grandma Amy’s Secret Fruit Salad Dressing

Enough for 4-5 cups of chopped fruit

Juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 tablespoon honey

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cuban Nachos

The Hubs is a super picky eater.

This is a very sad thing when you like to cook and have a food blog.

He is waaaayyy better than he used to be though. Now I can actually get him to try some stuff. That is where a lot of his problem lies. He just refused to try things for one reason or another. Pretty much everything that he eats now he will say, “Man, I remember when fill in the blank random food used to freak me out.”

<Sigh> Whatever.

There are however, a few things that he has always loved. Three of those things are pickles, mustard, and pork.

So I am sure you can imagine my confusion when I learned a few years ago that the man had never had a Cuban sandwich. He probably thought it was too good to be true. He probably just imagined that the thing was covered in mayonnaise or ranch dressing and that it was just implied. He probably figured that he was safer just sticking with what was familiar. So he chickened out every time and went on back to a hamburger with nothing on it but ketchup and mustard (…yup…that’s right folks, so picky he won’t even order cheese on a burger when we go out).

Well, I am proud to tell you that I finally got him to try his first Cuban sandwich about two months ago. He was nervous. He kept asking me, “So are you sure I am going to like this?” To which I would say, “Dude. Yes. Trust me. This sandwich was made for you. What’s not to love?” He took one bite and I could immediately see that look on his face that he gets when he is eating something he loves. And do you know what he said?

“This is the best sandwich I have ever had. Thank you.”

How ’bout that?

I tried to tell him.

So now that I have him eating one of the best sandwiches imaginable, I thought I would try to knock his socks off again. “What if I made Cuban Nachos?”

I think I saw a little tear in his eye when I told him my idea.

Want me to tell you how I made them?


Since you asked.

First off, we need to make the tortilla chips.

Spray down your cookie sheet very liberally with cooking spray and place it in the oven. Turn it on to 450. Now, keep your eye on the pan. I don’t want you to burn down your kitchen, but the idea here is to give yourself a thin layer of very hot oil so that when you toss your tortilla triangles on, it fries them.

I took my pan out when the temp was around 400 because it started smoking. Again, just watch it. Only you can prevent oven fires! (…OK I’m sorry. That was cheesy…)

While the oven and pan is preheating, place 6 flour tortillas on your cutting board and cut them in half with a pizza cutter.

Next, cut them into triangles.

Hey! There’s a tortilla thief in my kitchen!

Now place them in the pan in a single layer and spray the tops with more cooking spray. I can only fit about 4 tortillas on one sheet pan so you will either need to bake them in batches or use more than one pan. Bake them for about 4-5 minutes or until golden and crispy. Immediately sprinkle with salt.

Congratulations. You just made it through the most technically challenging portion of the recipe!

Now we just need to chop up the Cuban toppings.

First, some pulled pork. We smoked a couple of tenderloins over the weekend and this is what I had leftover. You could easily use some pork from your favorite BBQ joint as long as it isn’t covered in sauce, or,hey, cut up a leftover pork chop if you want…me no care. Although, I will say that the smoked flavor is part of what makes these so yummy.

Now, take 6 slices of thinly sliced deli ham and chop it up into little pieces. You can use whatever kind strikes your fancy.

Chop up 2 pickle spears.

Woa! Look who is crawling up, making her blog debut! It’s little Monkey Mode! Hey sweet girl!

Here is the reason that I say kids “under foot” in my title. She was literally biting my ankles while I was trying to chop up the cheese. Lovely

As for the cheese, hack away at 6 slices of Swiss. If you can find a block of Swiss that you would rather grate up, then awesome. This is all I saw at the Wal-Marts while The Little Dude was squawking about something…it was a “grab the first thing you see and get the hell out” kind of situation.

Now go back to your pan of tortilla chips that you made and arrange them a little closer so that all of your yummy toppings don’t go all over the pan, but not so close that you get some chips that don’t have the goodness on them.

Now, simply layer on the Cuban toppings. Pork, ham, cheese, then pickles. Next, take your mustard and squirt it on all fancy looking. Fun!

Place it in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until our cheese is gooey and bubbly.

See why The Hubs loves me?

This is how I prove I love him. (Awwww)

The other way I show that I love him is by waiting to put the “healthy stuff” on my nachos until they are on my plate. If you find that you enjoy things like tomatoes and chopped spinach on your nachos, then be like me. It was yummy.

But you can eat them like this too. Enjoy!

Cuban Nachos

6 6″ flour tortillas

cooking spray

salt to taste

1 1/2 cups smoked pork

6 slices thin cut deli ham

2 pickle spears

6 slices Swiss cheese

mustard to taste

To make tortilla chips:

Liberally spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place pan into a preheating 450 oven, and watch closely for smoking. When oil is hot and just beginning to smoke, remove from oven.

Meanwhile cut tortillas into triangles.

Place on hot pan and spray tops with more cooking spray.

Bake for 4-5 minutes until golden. Sprinkle with salt while still warm.

To make nachos:

Turn oven down to 350.

Chop pork, ham, cheese, and pickles into small pieces.

Place tortilla chips on baking sheet and layer on pork, ham, cheese and pickles. Squirt on desired amount of mustard.

Bake for 5-10 minutes, until toppings are hot and cheese is melted.

Cake Batter Caramel Corn

Did ya’ll miss me?

Well here’s a little PSA from A Stool at the Counter:

Do not leave your expensive camera sitting on the edge of the kitchen counter whilst cooking. Your Little Dude might walk by and knock it off, forcing you to take an unplanned hiatus from your fun new food blogging hobby, and spend a whopping $116 on camera lens repair.


The good news is, I have now learned my lesson and keep my camera in less precarious places.

The other good news is, I spent my time off developing this very tasty little treat for you.

The Little Dude just turned three so I have had birthday cake on the brain recently.

And also, if I my little food blog was in high school and was trying to be like the cool kids, this would be the cool kid my food blog would want to be (…was that kind of weird?).

I am kind of obsessed. She went on a cake batter tangent a little while back where she made things like Cake Batter Crispy Treats and Cake Batter Pancakes. And I haven’t really been able to get them out of my head. So I decided to have a little fun of my own.

(Dear Jessica, will you be my friend?)

It starts off, as any deliciously sinful treat should, with a stick of butter….cue the angelic choir music…

Now to that we add in sugar, corn syrup, a little salt, and the thing that makes this treat possible, powdered cake mix! I used a box of good old, plain, yellow cake mix.

While this starts to heat up, pop up a bag of popcorn. Then pour it onto a greased baking sheet and pick out all of the unpopped kernels.

True story: the first time I made these, I definitely forgot this little step and had to throw them all away…very sad.

Uh-oh….somebody realized there is popcorn in the kitchen. I like to call this photo, “Paaahhhleeeaaaase! Can I have some popcorn?!”

….hmmm maybe she should be begging me instead to brush her hair…

Anyway, back to the stove…

Once the butter and sugar mixture starts boiling, you need to stay with it and stir constantly for 5 minutes. It is going to bubble up and get thick and beautiful and you are going to want lick your spoon. But you don’t need to do that. You probably would not enjoy what would happen to your tongue.

When your 5 minute stir fest is up, turn off the heat and add in your vanilla and give it one last good stir.

Now just pour it over your popcorn and try to get it as evenly coated as you can. But don’t stress out about it too much. I promise you that sometime within the next hour, every last kernel will get covered in the goodness.

Place the baking sheet in the oven at 250 and stir it every 15 minutes for 1 hour. Add in the sprinkles when you take it out of the oven for the last time, right before you stir it.

Come on! Cake Batter Caramel Corn?? How great is this??

Uh-oh….somebody’s back. And this time she is singing “Happy Birthday” to herself, and trying to blow out the candle. It seems my sprinkles, candles, and singing “Happy Birthday” at every meal on her birthday may have created a monster.

Go make these now and sing “Happy Birthday” to yourself.

Cake Batter Caramel Corn

1 bag microwave popcorn

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup cake mix

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 250.

Pop popcorn according to package instructions. Spread out on a greased sheet pan, and remove all unpopped seeds.

In a saucepan combine butter, cake mix, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil.

Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add vanilla to butter mixture and stir to combine.

Pour butter mixture over popcorn and stir to coat.

Bake in oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Add sprinkles as the popcorn comes out the last time. Stir to combine.

Let cool for 1 hour before serving.