Chocolate Turtle Icebox Cake

Icebox cakes are a great dessert showpiece, with often little to no baking or cooking. What they do require is time – time to let the layers meld together, for an ooey-gooey layered cake affect.

Turtle Icebox Cake

For a Labor Day picnic, I decided to whip up this Chocolate Turtle Icebox Cake. My sweet-tooth demanded that I bring a dessert, but both work and moving have been keeping me busy, leaving little time for more complicated recipes. I had all the ingredients I needed to make a decadent icebox cake – vanilla wafers, caramel sauce, and the necessary fixings for a quick chocolate pudding.

Did you know that whipping up homemade pudding is just as simple and quick as the boxed kind? I highly recommend that you try making the chocolate pudding from scratch, but you can use an instant pudding package if you prefer. Once the pudding is made, vanilla wafers, caramel sauce, pecans, pudding, and chocolate hardening sauce are poured in alternating layers into a springform pan.  The icebox cake does all the work sitting in the refrigerator overnight – the cookies soak up moisture and become cake-like, and syrupy layers become more dense.

Turtle Icebox Cake

When I unveiled the cake at the picnic the other guests swarmed. Their content smiles told me that the Chocolate Turtle Icebox Cake was a hit. What a perfect treat for a picnic!

Turtle Icebox Cake

Chocolate Turtle Icebox Cake

½ cup white sugar
¼ cup baking cocoa
1/8 cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups almond milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
14 ounce package of vanilla wafers
6 ounces caramel sauce (i.e. ice cream topping)
8 ounce container of “Magic shell” or 1 recipe of homemade hardening shell
2 ounces pecan bits

First make the chocolate pudding. In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil and stir for 2 minutes, or until it thickens. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and chill in the refrigerator. Once the chocolate pudding is cooled, prepare the cake. Lay 1/3 or the bag of vanilla wafers on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, then pour over ½ of the chocolate pudding to coat the cookies and evenly pour 1/3 of the caramel over pudding. Sprinkle with 1 ounce of the pecans, then repeat another layer of vanilla wafers, pudding, caramel, and pecans, in that order. Finally cover the top with the remainder of the vanilla wafers and then pour the hardening shell over the top. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

note: one 3.4 ounce package of instant pudding and 2 cups of milk can be used to substitute the first 6 ingredients.  Follow package instructions to make the pudding.


4th of July Party Mix

As the Fourth of July draws closer, I begin to think of the fun ways the U.S. celebrates its freedom: Parades, Fireworks, and BBQs. I enjoy all three and try to squeeze each of them in if I can. It is hard not to get wrapped up in the enthusiasm of the day and run rampant with patriotic colors of red, white, and blue. Flags are waved proudly, kids of all ages get to delight in sparklers and loud noises, and those who have served their country are honored. Friends & family get to relax, reflex on their freedom, and enjoy each other’s company.

4th of July Party Mix

For this year’s bash I decided to keep with the red, white, and blue theme. I mixed together freeze dried strawberries, yogurt covered almonds, coconut, dried blueberries, and peanut butter M&Ms® to make an eye-catching and tasty party mix that can easily be served at your celebratory BBQ or taken on the family road trip.

4th of July Party Mix

4th of July Party Mix

I think this 4th of July Party Mix is great for any gathering, since guests can take as little or as much as they would like, and you don’t have to worry about spoilage like so many other typical BBQ dishes.

4th July Party Mix

Just be forewarned, like the embers of fireworks this 4th of July Party Mix disappears quickly!

4th of July Party Mix

One 1.2 ounce bag of freeze dried strawberries (1 ½ cups)
1 cup yogurt covered almonds
1 cup dried coconut flakes
1 cup dried blueberries
½ cup red and blue peanut butter M&M® (or as many as you get from one 10.2 oz bag)


Mix together all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Store in a large container with a lid until ready to serve.


Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups

The dessert my husband always makes room for is the cannoli. If he just hears the word his eyes light up in anticipation of one of his most favorite treats. The chocolate cherry cannoli cups I made as a just-because dessert have now earned an equal space in his heart as compared to the traditional version.


The first time I made the filling I didn’t have time to make the typical forms, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying them free-form.  A generous bowl in hand, our children thought he was eating yogurt and followed suit with their own miniature bowls. Clearly this family loves their cannoli! It was my husband’s idea to put the filling in chocolate cups, which I have to admit is my favorite way to eat this cannoli filling. Not only do you get a perfectly sized bite of cannoli, it lends itself to a pretty presentation. I don’t think I can get out of having these at all holiday functions from now on.



Post Update:

As soon as my in-laws saw this post, they begged me to make some for dessert since they happened to be visiting.  I didn’t have time to make more cups, but I did manage to find to good pre-made Belgian chocolate thins and pre-made cups at Cost Plus World Market.

The result was just as tempting as the home-made cups!




Chocolate Cherry Cannoli Cups

2 cups ricotta
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ tablespoon cherry extract
½ cup shelled, whole pistachios
½ cup mini chocolate chips
36 maraschino cherries, divided
24 chocolate cups*

Place the ricotta cheeses and powdered sugar in a large bowl and stir together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cherry extract, pistachios, and mini chocolate chips to the bowl. Remove the stem from twelve of the cherries and dice the cherries and add them to the bowl. Stir the ricotta mixture until all of the ingredients are evenly mixed. Refrigerate the filling until just before you are ready to serve the cannoli cups. Just before serving, divide the cannoli filling evenly between the 24 chocolate cups and then place one cherry on top of each cannoli cup. Refrigerate any leftovers.
* Chocolate cups can be purchased pre-made, or you can make your own with Wilton’s melting chips and forms. I used only the bottom portion of a 3-D cupcake container mold to make my cups. Following the directions on the mold, I needed 16 oz. of dark cocoa candy melts (about 1 1/3 packages) to make 2 dozen cups.


Asian Salad with Ponzu Dressing

When life gets busy, it is often easiest to make the same, old staples for meals – things that are quick, or don’t take much thought to prepare. While I fall into this trap myself, I think we are cheating ourselves when we walk past ingredients in the grocery store just because we have never used them. For example, have you tried ponzu sauce?


Ponzu sauce is a citrus based soy sauce that adds wonderful depth to an entree. In my opinion, it isn’t as harsh as soy sauce and can be used as a finishing touch in dishes, or as a key component of my Ponzu Dressing that tops my Asian Salad.

To make my Asian Salad, I started with some fresh, baby spinach,


and then I added some mandarins, green onions, carrots, cashews, and water chestnuts.




I mixed up some oil, rice vinegar, ponzu sauce, and dried ginger to make a dressing, poured it over the salad and tossed to coat. To serve, I topped each plate of salad with a bit of chow mein noodles – time to dig in!



Asian Salad with Ponzu Dressing

9 cups of baby spinach, washed
6 mandarins, peeled and segmented
½ cup diced green onion
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup cashews
8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup ponzu sauce
½ teaspoon dried ginger
1 cup chow mein noodles

Place the baby spinach in a large bowl, then add the mandarin slices, green onion, carrots, cashews, and water chestnuts. In a separate, small container, stir together the oil, rice vinegar, ponzu sauce, and ginger until well mixed. Pour the dressing over the spinach salad, and toss the salad to coat. Divide the salad between eight plates, topping each plate with two tablespoons of chow mein noodles, and serve immediately.



Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwich

A few years back, a good friend of mine brought a house warming gift when she visited me at my new home. It was a simple gift, but perfect in selection, since she new I loved to tinker in the kitchen and try new things.


It was a jar of Malaysian Seven Seas Curry made by Spice Appeal, which she found at a craft and specialty food event. I absolutely LOVE the flavor, and often put it in my chicken or tuna salad, which I thought I would share today.

The contents of the little jar have long been gone, but I managed to snag two industrial sized jars of it online to make sure I never run out again. Weighing in at a pound a piece, my replacement jars will make a ton of Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwiches.

For this spicy sandwich, I like to mix in celery, grapes, green onions, and cashews,



Along with mayonnaise and a generous amount of the curry.


You might think the grapes are an odd addition, but they add a nice sweet compliment to the heat of the curry.

Once it is stirred together it gets served in pita pockets, and then you let your family rave about your delicious lunch.


Can’t wait to try it? Stop on by – once you taste it I’m sure you will run out to find some for your spice collection!


Malaysian Curry Tuna Sandwich

(2) 7 oz. Cans of tuna packed in water, drained
1/3 cup cashew halves
½ cup diced red seedless grapes
½ cup diced celery
2 green onions, diced
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Malaysian Seven Seas Curry
4 Pita pockets, cut in half and opened to make 8 pockets

In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, cashews, grapes, celery, green onions, mayonnaise, and curry. Stir until well combined and them evenly stuff the pita pockets. Serve immediately.


Chile con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

I have been waiting all summer for fresh roasted chilies from my local farmers market. While I could roast peppers myself, you just can’t beat the chilies roasted over coals in a hopper. Last week I was informed that there was only one more week of waiting, so I put my name down for two bags of their medium Anaheim roasted chilies, assuming it was the quart sized bags they had last year.

What I hadn’t been told was that the list wasn’t for small bags of chilies, it was for bushels. BUSHELS. I had ordered TWO bushels of roasted chilies. I ended up leaving the market with one bushel, with the assurance that the other would go fast (which I have no doubt, seeing as how many people ask for them).

In case you are wondering, this is what a bushel of roasted chilies looks like . . . Getting through the entire fifteen pound bag may take a while, and will be why chilies may be a frequent ingredient in future postings.


The first thing I wanted to make with my chilies was Chili con Queso, surprisingly with a cheese substitute – Cashew Cheese. Cheese makes up a generous portion of my diet, which is why eliminating dairy from my diet temporarily to rule out a food sensitivity was difficult, and the few dairy-free cheeses I tried didn’t satisfy my craving. Thankfully, my cheese famine was short lived, though I’m always on the lookout for a good alternative, since some of my good friends have had to maintain a longer dairy hiatus.

Imagine my surprise when at a food event this April I stumbled upon cashew cheese.The unique aspect about the Beyond Better® product I picked up is that it is the only dried version on the market, making it a simple option to pack with you that requires only water for reconstitution. It is a diary-free, gluten-free, organic cheese substitute that actually tastes like cheese!


To make my Chili con queso, I cooked ½ pound of ground beef , then added the cashew queso dip and water,



then I added a bit of the diced freshly roasted chilies and some diced cherry tomatoes . . .



for a hearty, kid & husband approved, lunch of queso and blue corn chips.


Now I just have to figure out what to do with the remaining 14 ½ pounds of chilies. . . .


Chili con Queso with Fresh Roasted Chilies and Cashew Cheese

½ lb ground beef
4 oz package of Beyond Better® Spicy Queso Dip
1 ½ cups water
½ cup freshly roasted chilies, diced
½ cup diced cherry tomatoes

Cook beef in a skillet over medium heat until fully cooked and browned, breaking it into small pieces. Add the queso dip and water and stir until no clumps remain. Heat for 1-2 minutes longer, until thick and bubbly. Stir in the chilies and tomatoes, and then remove from the heat. Serve with corn chips.