Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad

This salad was served at Emily's baby shower and then I made it for Christmas Day. Pretty dang tasty! (Adapted from here.)

Strawberry Pecan Pretzel Salad
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1 c. broken pretzels (minis broken into 4 parts)
1/2 c. chopped pecans
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter, melted
3 c. diced strawberries (1.5 lbs)
8 oz. cream cheese (1 block)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. Cool Whip (8 oz. tub)

Mix together pretzels, pecans, brown sugar, and melted butter.
Spread on a large, rimmed baking sheet, and bake at 400°F for 7-8 minutes.
Allow the mixture to completely cool, and break into small pieces.
(The prepped strawberries and this sugared mix can be stored overnight.)
Beat together softened cream cheese, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Fold in the Cool Whip.
Stir the strawberries and sugared mix into the fresh cream cheese mixture.
Serve immediately.
(Salad will get watery over time, so don't plan on leftovers.)

Chewy M&M Cookies

M&Ms have always been one of Connor's favorite candies! These easy cookies, adapted from here, did not disappoint!

Chewy M&M Cookies

1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. flour
M&M's chopped and whole, separated

Cream together sugars, butter and oil.
Add eggs and beat until fluffy.
Add dry ingredients as well as vanilla.
Mix in chopped M&Ms (however many you want).
Place in balls on greased pan, insert 3-5 M&Ms on top.
Bake at 350°F for 7-8 minutes.

Carrot Cake Muffins

When you have 2 pounds of baby carrots in your fridge that you're not going to get to before they go bad, you make delicious Carrot Cake Muffins! (Adapted from here.)

Carrot Cake Muffins

1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. finely, freshly grated carrots

Eggs should be at room temperature, so pull them out of the refrigerator 30-60 minutes prior.
Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl combine oil, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and mix well. Stir in grated carrots.
Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until completely mixed.
Fill muffin liners 2/3 full.
Bake in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to continue cooling.
Serve fresh or store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days, or in the fridge up to 2 weeks.

Optional: reheat them in the microwave for about 15 seconds and spread a little butter on top for the ultimate breakfast treat.

Cookie Butter Snickerdoodles

I made these for Christmas this year, and they might be my new favorite way to make snickerdoodles! The cookie butter adds a little extra spice and covers up the tang of the cream of tartar quite nicely. The cookies also stayed soft for a good, long time. (Adapted from here.)

Cookie Butter Snickerdoodles

3 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c light brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c cookie butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
cinnamon-sugar mixture:
     1 c sugar
     1 Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with silpat liners.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
Using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar, sugar, and cookie butter until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined.
Using a small cookie scoop, roll the dough into balls, 1 at a time. Then roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared pans.
Bake, one pan at a time, 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on the pans for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield: 4-5 dozen cookies

Margene’s Famous Potato Salad (Instant Pot)

Slowly but surely, I'm trying to make more use of my Instant Pot. I made Mom's Potato Salad over the weekend, and kept track of quantities (since her recipe doesn't have any amounts in it). Even if you don't use an Instant Pot to cook the potatoes and boil the eggs, the specifics in this recipe might help with your efforts. I cooked the potatoes and eggs in the Instant Pot, according to a recipe at Pressure Cooking Today.

Margene’s Famous Potato Salad (Instant Pot)

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5-6 large russet potatoes
5 eggs
1.5 c. water
1 celery heart
1 cucumber
4-5 large dill pickles
6-8 green onions, (just the white & light green part)
12-14 oz. Miracle Whip
2 Tbsp. yellow deli mustard
paprika

Clean potatoes, then peel and cube.
Add water to Instant Pot.
Add cubed potatoes to the IP steamer basket and place the eggs on top.
Lock the lid in place, select High Pressure, 4 minutes cook time, and start.
When the timer beeps, turn off the IP and do a quick pressure release.
When the release is done, carefully remove the lid and the steamer basket.
Place the eggs in an ice water bath to cool.
Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl to cool.
Prep celery, cucumber, pickles, and onions (don’t worry about getting anything too finely chopped – chunky works well), and add them to the mixing bowl.
Peel and chop 4 eggs into small bowl, set aside. Peel and slice 5th egg and save for garnish.
Mix large bowl ingredients with Miracle Whip and mustard, until well combined.
Add in chopped egg, and gently mix.
Transfer to serving/storage bowl.
Garnish with sliced egg, and sprinkle with paprika.
Tastes best if you chill 4+ hours prior to serving.

Caramel Carrot Poke Cake

I found this recipe online, and made it to complement our Easter dinner - it was delicious! Very reminiscent of my Candy Bar Cake. (Adapted from Something Swanky.)

Caramel Carrot Poke Cake

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1 carrot cake mix, baked in a 9x13 pan and cooled
8-10 oz. of store-bought caramel sauce
6-8 oz. whipped cream cheese (in the tub)
2.5 Tbsp. sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip
1/4 c. chopped pecans

Poke holes all over the cake using the bottom of a mixing spoon handle.
Pour the caramel sauce over the cake, aiming for the holes. 
Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours before serving.
Make the frosting before serving. Using an electric mixer, whisk the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in the Cool Whip. 
Spread the frosting mixture over the top of the cake. 
Top with the crushed pecans and additional caramel drizzle, if desired.
Store cake in the refrigerator.
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