An Easy Chocolate Valentine’s Day Dessert– Homemade Chocolate Pudding

Today is Valentine’s Day.  In celebration of this romantic holiday, I made homemade chocolate pudding that we will have for dessert after a delicious home cooked meal.  It’s not fancy; it’s just good.

If you don’t like the sound of some of the ingredients that are listed on the packages of store-bought pudding, have no fear!  You will most certainly recognize each of the ingredients that go into this delicious, easy to make, creamy and chocolaty pudding.

I found this recipe at the Taste of Home

The only thing I changed? I omitted 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  And next time, I’d cut the sugar by 1/4 cup.  It is a tad bit to sweet in my opinion. 

I opted to serve the pudding individually so I used my mini glasses from Libbey Glass. I think these glasses make desserts look so much more fancy (even when they aren’t). 

This recipe makes a generous amount of pudding so I am planning on making homemade cream puffs and filling them with it.  Stay tuned…

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m linking this post up at The Novice Garden’s Fiesta Friday #3.  If you get a minute, check out all of the other great posts that have been shared there this week.  And please join in!

Cheesy Potato Casserole

There isn’t much I’m going to gab about in this post.  Other than how deliciously sumptuous and belly filling this Cheesy Potato Casserole is.

Yesterday was one of those days that I decided to play mad scientist in the kitchen.  And oddly enough, I wasn’t craving sweets like I normally do, I was craving a comfort food.  Maybe it’s because we’ve had such cold and blustery weather for days on end.  Or maybe it’s because I was preparing myself for a night of cozying up in front of the television to watch the latest episode of Downton Abbey.  Whatever the reason, this mad scientist made the best cheesy potato casserole in her history of cooking.

Since I opted to make this dish later in the day I missed the chance to get nice bright photo’s but I went ahead and took pictures anyways.

Cheesy Potato Casserole

1/2 of a 8 oz. brick of Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated

1/2 of a 8 oz. brick of Pepper Jack Cheese, grated

2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. diced onion

2 tbsp. diced red pepper

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 c. skim milk

1 pinch of salt

1/4 tsp. season salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 can of Cream of Potato Soup

5 mediums sized russet potatoes (with the skins on), sliced thin

1 1/2 cups French fried onions

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (set aside for topping)

Grease a large casserole dish with butter.  I used a 10” oval dish.

Grate the cheese into a large bowl.

Slice potatoes.  I used my Pampered Chef Mandoline to get the job done quickly.

Melt butter in skillet on low heat and lightly sauté onions, peppers, and garlic.

Add flour to sautéed vegetables and mix thoroughly.  On medium heat, stir in the skim milk making a white sauce.  Stir constantly until thickened.

Add potato soup, salt, pepper, and season salt to the white sauce, completely mix all ingredients.

Remove from heat.

Layer half of the potatoes on the bottom of the prepared dish.  Pour half of the sauce over the potatoes and sprinkle half the cheese over them. Then sprinkle half of the French fried onions on top.

Repeat the process.

Finish the dish by sprinkling the grated parmesan cheese on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees until potatoes are tender – about 1 hour.  Remove aluminum foil and bake for about 10-15 minutes more to brown the top of the casserole.

These potatoes are so good.  Cheesy, gooey, and crusty all in one dish!   I regret that I didn’t get a picture of the casserole bubbling and freshly baked.  We dug in before I even gave it a thought.

This would make a great dish to take to any potluck supper.  I can almost guarantee that you won’t have to worry about carting any leftovers home.

What is your favorite comfort food?

Crusted Garlic Parmesan Roasted Chicken From The Fall Harvest Dinner

I hope you made it to The Fall Harvest Dinner that my great blogger friends and I hosted yesterday?  If you didn’t, then please rewind for a minute and check it out before you continue reading this post.  You won’t want to miss the beautifully decorated fall table, tasty cocktail, yummy appetizers, scrumptious salad and side dish, soft and delicious homemade bread and rolls, and sweet dessert that was shared there.  Recipes are available for each dish featured in our Fall Harvest Dinner, along with Sandra’s table setting tips, at each individual blog.  Just follow the links I’ve included in that post to access them.

My contribution to our dinner party was a Crusted Garlic Parmesan Roasted Chicken.  Autumn is the perfect time to start roasting meats and chicken is no exception. This is an easy dish to make and a relatively inexpensive way to feed a hungry crowd.  The recipe and baking instructions come straight from the cook (hubby) in this house, not (me) the baker.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Remove the giblets and discard them.  Rinse and dry the chicken.   Place the chicken in a large roasting pan; drizzle olive oil, honey, and red wine vinegar on top.  Crush 4 cloves of garlic and sprinkle onto the chicken.  

In a bowl, mix together seasoning consisting of 2 tbsp. dried basil, 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning, 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese, 2 tsp. five pepper spice, 2 tsp. celery salt, and 1 tbsp. of dried cilantro.

Generously sprinkle seasoning over the chicken and into the roasting pan. 

Slice one medium onion, and chop the very top of a head of celery (including the leaves).

Cover the chicken with the vegetables.

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Fill the roasting pan 1/4 of the way full with water or chicken broth.  Place chicken in preheated oven and bake until internal temperature of chicken is 180 degrees.  For the size of the chicken hubby baked it took 2 hours.

Remove from oven and allow meat rest for about 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.

Slice and serve.

This chicken is baked just like I like it.  Moist inside and crusty on the outside – yum! 

What’s your favorite meat to roast?  Beef, pork, lamb, turkey, ham, or chicken?

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Ten Bloggers Present – The Fall Harvest Dinner!

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Dinner parties were once one of the most common forms of entertainment in this country.  Homemakers would set their tables with their finest dinnerware, make their favorite recipes, and invite some of their closest friends over for an evening of cocktails, delicious food, and great company.   

Some of my most favorite pictures are of my grandparents hosting dinner parties back in the day.  The women in the photo’s wore pretty dresses and heels, and the men donned dress slacks, dress shirts, and ties.  And as you can imagine, the photo’s depict adults having a great time dining and socializing.

With entertaining on my mind, I have invited some of my closest blogger friends to help me host a virtual Fall Harvest Dinner Party.  Each dish, including the table décor, signifies our beautiful fall season.  If you’re looking for Thanksgiving dinner ideas, you’ll likely find something from our dinner that you can put to good use later.  I am sharing just a tease (here at The Joy of Caking) of our dinner and the bloggers who helped make this all possible.  For loads more pictures, recipes, and to get to know each of these great blogger friends of mine better, please visit each of their sites.  I promise not to disappoint you!. 

Our dinner party begins with a beautiful Festive Fall Table created by Sandra of Sweet Sensations. Sandra has a real knack for coordinating and designing some of the most beautifully decorated tablescapes I’ve ever seen.  She claims it is nearly impossible for her to separate herself from the world of sweets and parties and I believe it! Have you ever seen the beautiful cakes she makes?  Sandra blogs to us from Michigan, and she tells me that her regular job as a fitness professional allows her to indulge moderately in all things sugar – lucky girl!  She say’s “it’s a good thing that I’m as passionate about working out as I am passionate about sweets!”  I only wish I could say the same Sandra.

I ask you, what’s a dinner party without a cocktail or two?  This scrumptious looking Apple Pie Cocktail with a Twist is brought to you by Terra of Café Terra Blog.  This cocktail looks like it would wet just about any whistle.  I know it would mine!  In my opinion, Terra is the ultimate cocktail queen – at least she is in North Carolina where she happily resides.  If you can think it; she can mix it!  Terra has been blogging for over three years.  By day she is a food safety/quality assurance specialist that checks on restaurants and hotels.  As a recipe developer, Terra say’s “I have discovered I love baking/cooking with booze.  So to add to my list of fun, I started creating cocktails with all the extra booze in my bar!”  Keep um coming Terra!

When Dionne from Try Anything Once Culinary graciously offered to make us one of her yummy appetizers for our dinner I couldn’t wait to see what she would bring.   This French recipe for Eggplant Caviar sounds so unique and delectable.  I love the creativity that flows from Dionne’s kitchen, and I drool over all of the belly filling food she shares.  Dionne say’s “I love writing, cooking, eating and photography. Strengthening my culinary skills was something that I found myself doing after my daughter was born. It was something that we could do together, no matter what our financial situation, and we could have that in common.”  Dionne operates their family by day and squeezes in time for food blogging when she can.  She’s a very busy girl especially since her and her “other-half” co-founded No More Hungry Nights in the state of Washington,  an organization dedicated to ending hungry nights one house at a time. They provide food donations, job connections and even training for local families in their community.  KUDO’S to both of them for taking on such a huge problem! 

I know that a new mom like Monet, from Anecdotes & Applecores, is probably more focused on feeding her sweet little Lucy than helping host a fall dinner party – but Monet is an amazing girl.  She always bakes delicious treats and writes from her heart  –  two of the things that I enjoy immensely about her.  Today, she brings an enticing Goat Cheese with Herbs de Provence to our dinner table.  While this recipe sounds like a fancy and time consuming appetizer, I’m sure she will tell you otherwise.  Monet writes and bakes in colorful Colorado.  She just recently finished her MFA in Creative Writing and she is currently working on a memoir about food and family.  Monet invites you to visit  Anecdotes and Apple Cores where she say’s,  “I share simple recipes that are meant to be shared.”  And while your there, be sure to ogle (like I do) over sweet little Lucy!

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Amy, aka “Ms. Toody Goo Shoes, has created a sapid Roasted Pear Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette for us to feast upon.  After a lengthy career in the TV industry,  Amy reports that she has ”hung up her dress-for-success clothes and pulled her domestic ‘genes’ out of storage.”  Now that she isn’t rushing off to catch the 7:52 every morning, she spends her time writing from her home in New Jersey about the things she always wished she had time to do when she was working; like baking, traveling and interior design. Amy’s great sense of humor and her creative writing skills make me laugh and keep me coming back for more.  And I haven’t even mentioned all of the other attractions she shares on her blog; like recipes, home decorating ideas, and her road trips! 

Jeanne is the author/blogger behind Inside NanaBread’s Head.  For our fall dinner she has prepared Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pineapple with Almond & Honey Streusel – yummy!!  Jeanne compares her blog to her junk drawers – filled with tidbits, trash & treasures – so open with caution; you never know what might fall out.  I can completely relate to that!  She writes from the big state of Texas about the things that make her world brighter.  Jeanne’s blog is much like mine in that she offers a little of everything – food, family, travel, an occasional craft or sewing project.  On occasion you may even get an update on the mildly exotic fruit that they grow; including pineapples, bananas and a new papaya tree.  Jeanne say’s she’s “prone to bouts of sarcasm, and believes that a good sense of humor is one of life’s greatest gifts.”  She’s always made me feel very welcomed at her blog, and she once told me if she ever wins the lottery she’s inviting me to a “girl’s getaway” she’s planning.  Hey, you never know!  Drop by her blog for a visit, poke around for a while, and say hello. Her door is always open.  

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My contribution to our dinner is a Crusted Garlic Parmesan Roasted Chicken.  Since I’m the baker in our house, and my hubby is the cook, I asked him if he would mind helping with the entrée for our dinner. Since he loves to cook, he was more than willing to roll up his sleeves and help out.  I’m so fortunate because the two of us can work side by side in the kitchen and produce some pretty tasty meals together.   Since this is a super long post I am going to be sharing his recipe in a new post tomorrow – so be sure to stop back for it!

Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake brings a beautiful and flavorful Pumpkin Challah to our table all the way from Indiana.  Liz credits her mom as being an amazing cook, but not much of a baker. She say’s, “when my sisters and I yearned for a sweet treat, I turned to our trusty BH&G cookbook and zeroed in on the dessert tabs. My love of baking began in my childhood kitchen.”  She married a chocoholic and together they had 3 children with plenty of sweet teeth.  Liz began blogging in 2010 (the same year I did) to chronicle her baking journey. She amazes me because I don’t think there is a day that goes by that she doesn’t post something delicious on her blog.  I love reading all the great stories she shares with her great recipes.  Drop over and say hi, and ask her how many times she’s had a fire truck at her house.

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Sharon and Denise are the makers of these tender and buttery Onion Rolls. Did I mention I love Onion Rolls?  Both are sisters born a scant 17 months apart, best friends, and the brains behind BeBetsy.   BeBetsy is a place to find fabulous food, flirty fashion, beauty trends, creative artists and a lot of inspiration!  Both gal’s tell me that they “like the idea that a modern woman can have a career, then carry her baby or grandchild on her hip wearing a fabulous dress and heels (or flats if her feet are killing her) and all the while admitting that she loves to cook, sew and garden, and finds the greatest joy in friends and family.”  I enjoy dropping by and linking up to their linky party every Tuesday.  It’s called Brag About It.  Please feel free too do the same! Lucky for me, these two ladies from the Wild West (Utah and Nevada) have become great long distance friends of mine.

Anne, a baker and blogger From My Sweet Heart, resides in a suburb of Washington, D.C.  Her dish to pass is my favorite part of any meal – dessert!  I can almost smell Anne’s Cinnamon Applesauce Tart, can’t you?  Anne admits, “I grew up in a generation where you always had dessert; even if it was after a weeknight supper; and even if it was only Jell-o. And to this day, when I dine at a restaurant, I always glance at the dessert menu first! I began baking later in my life.”  I can completely relate to what Anne says about always having dessert – that’s the way I remember it too!  She and I both appreciate vintage kitchen items and you will likely see many of them in the beautiful photographs that she takes for her posts.  Ann amazes me because she has a job that keeps her very busy by day, and yet she still manages to produce some of the most perfect looking desserts that I’ve ever seen. Grab yourselves a cup of coffee and head over to From My Sweet Heart for a slice of this delicious tart.

Thank you for coming to our Fall Harvest Dinner.  We all hope you have enjoyed yourselves, but remember it’s not over yet!  Hop on over to each of my friends blogs and pick up their scrumptious recipes for this meal, along with Sandra’s tips on setting a winning table.  And if you forgot to bring a hostess gift don’t fret; just pin, tweet, or Facebook our party and we’ll forgive you!  

Country Apple Caramel Sauce

Do you ever have insatiable sweet tooth won’t stop aching?   I seem to have one more times than not – like last week for example.  When my sweet tooth is screaming, I usually search for a quick and easy solution.  This Country Apple Caramel Sauce is both – quick and easy.  It will surely stop any insatiable sweet tooth from aching dead in it’s tracks – I promise!

Country Apple Caramel Sauce

5-6 apples peeled, cored, and sliced (use an apple that you favor)

1/4 stick of butter

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. skim milk

a couple dashes of salt

2 tbsp. cornstarch, set aside

2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large skillet, melt butter on low heat.  Add sliced apples and sauté until tender.  Stir in brown sugar, milk, and salt; cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Turn heat to low.  In a separate bowl, add cornstarch and add 1/4 c. of the hot apple mixture; mix thoroughly.  Pour cornstarch mixture into apple mixture and cook until apple mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

Serve warm on top of your favorite ice cream or cake.

I’m also thinking sauce would taste great churned into a homemade ice cream with a pieces of pie crust thrown in.  Homemade Apple Pie Ice Cream here I come!

Looking for an apple topping with a little kick in it?  Check out my recipe for Apple Rum Ice Cream Topping.

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You’re Invited To Join A Bunch of Great Bloggers for…

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On October 23rd, some of my favorite bloggers will be showcasing their awesome hard work here, and on their own blogs, as we host our first virtual fall harvest dinner party.  It’s going to be a fun filled and delicious dinner that you won’t want to miss.

During this virtual party we will show you how to set a winning table, mix the perfect fall cocktail, and we’ll share an array of scrumptious recipes that you’ll be proud to serve at any dinner you host.

Please consider this your official invitation to The Fall Harvest Dinner 2013.   We can’t wait to see you there!

 

Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark

When I was a kid, my sister and I would disguise ourselves in our annual Halloween costumes (on Halloween) and we’d join the throng of other kids in our small town for a night of trick or treating.  Our goal was to fill our big orange plastic pumpkins with as much candy as we possibly could. We usually didn’t have much trouble doing that either.  After a final stop at the fire hall for a cup of cider and a doughnut, we’d head home to sort the candy we had scored that evening.  Once everything was sorted; the trading began.  She had her favorite candy and I had mine.  It only seemed logical to negotiate for more of what each of us really wanted. 

Once the negotiating was done, and we’d eaten enough sugar to keep us fueled for the next few days to come, I’d stash my candy away for safe keeping.  My sister say’s I would have saved my candy until Easter, but we’ll never know that because after she ate all of her candy, she’d find my stash and eat that too.  So much for all that negotiating… 

My daughter and I recently got together to make this Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark.  It is one of the easiest Halloween treats that you can make, and it looks impressive.  If you can chop, melt, and pour, you’ve got it made in the shade. 

Triple Chocolate Halloween Bark

1/2 c. milk chocolate chips

1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

1/2 c. white chocolate candy wafers

1/2 c. (lime green, black and orange) Celebrations Sixlets, chopped

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Measure chocolate chips into separate glass bowls.  Microwave one at a time – for about 1 minute each.  Stir completely, and pour onto prepared cookie sheet into thirds.  Repeat until all chocolate has been melted and poured onto cookie sheet.  With a toothpick, swirl the chocolate together.  Sprinkle the chopped Celebrations Sixlets on top.  Place in refrigerator until chocolate has hardened.  Cut into desired sizes.  Store in refrigerator.

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Did you stash your candy as a kid?  Or did you raid your siblings stash?

Thanks to SweetWorks Candy for providing the Celebration Sixlets and the adorable Halloween pumpkin gumballs featured in this post.

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Holy Cow Parfaits

Milk Chocolate, dark chocolate, mocha, heavy cream, and Kahlua makes this the ultimate dessert.  Or as I’ve named it; the Holy Cow Parfait.  Just you wait and see!

Last month, I wrote a post which I ended up titling Skinny Mini’s.  Yes dear friends, it was a mini dessert that you could conceivably consider a no-guilt necessary dessert.  Sugar-free gelatin, a mini vanilla shortbread bite, and a tiny dollop of Mascato infused whipped cream starred in that show.  A perfect ending to a heavy meal; most definitely. 

This month however, I wanted to get away from the skinny.  I wanted a dessert that was rich, creamy, and delectably smooth.  And that’s how the Holy Cow Parfait came to be.  I decided to serve this parfait in my (oh, so cute) Just Desserts Square Mini Dishes, and my Just Dessert Parfait Dishes that I received from my friends at Libbey Glass.

So, are you ready for The Holy Cow Parfait??

Kahlua Milk Chocolate Pudding (Holy Cow Parfait)

1/2 c. sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. salt

2 c. skim milk

1/2 c. milk chocolate chips, chopped fine

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp. margarine

1 tbsp. Kahlua

In a medium saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Stir in milk and milk chocolate; cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly.  Cook for 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat and gradually add 1 cup of hot milk mixture to the beaten egg. 

Return all mixture back into saucepan and cook for about 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat;  stir in margarine and Kahlua.  Transfer hot pudding into dessert dishes and place in the refrigerator while you prepare whipped cream.

Mocha Whipped Cream

1 c. heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. instant coffee granules

1/2 tsp. sugar

2 tbsp. dark chocolate, chopped fine (one tbsp. for the whipped cream; one for garnish)

In a refrigerated metal bowl, add whipping cream, instant coffee, sugar, and 1 tbsp. of chopped chocolate.  Beat with electric mixer until whipped cream is formed.   Transfer from bowl into a pastry bag and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.

Remove dessert glasses with pudding, and pastry bag filled with whipped cream, from the refrigerator.  Place whipped cream on top of each dish of pudding.  Sprinkle chopped dark chocolate on top of whipped cream as garnish.  Return to refrigerator until ready to serve.

Makes about 12 mini desserts.

I am really smitten with this dessert because the milk chocolate makes the pudding sweeter, while the whipped cream topping has a slightly bitter taste garnered from the instant coffee.  The two pair perfectly when you take a spoonful that has a little of both on it.

Have you ever made mini desserts?   If you were going to make one of these two desserts, which would you choose?  The Skinny Mini or the Holy Cow Parfait?

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Vanilla Cheesecake Bars with Blueberry Sauce

Anne, one of my most favorite bloggers From My Sweet Heart inspired me to write this post.  (She just doesn’t know it yet.)  All it took was one look at her Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Strawberries and I knew that I needed to make something cheesecakey too.  With a shortage of time and baking supplies I decided to make these Vanilla Cheesecake Bars to hold me over until I get around to making Anne’s delicious recipe which I’ve filed away for future use. 

Typically, I make individual mini cheesecakes but this time I made the recipe into bars.  

*Please note –  if you opt to make bars instead mini’s you will bake them in a 9”x13” foil lined pan. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray and bake the bars for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes clean when inserted in the center.  The foil helps you lift the baked bars out of the pan for easy cutting.

And for this delicious Blueberry Sauce?  The recipe can be found below.

Blueberry Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

3/4 c. of blueberries, crushed

1 c. of whole blueberries

3/4 c. water

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. butter

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 drops of blue food coloring (optional)

In a large saucepan, add crushed berries, water, sugar, and cornstarch.  Mix ingredients using a whip until cornstarch is completely dissolved.  On medium heat, bring mixture to a boil and stir constantly until it thickens.  Add in whole berries and remove from stove top.  Stir in butter, vanilla extract, and food coloring. 

Keep in the fridge until ready to use. Re-warm in microwave if desired.

Oh, and I almost forgot, this topping is also great on ice cream too!

What is your favorite flavor of cheesecake?  And what is your favorite topping? 

Getting Pickled

I have no room to complain about the abundance of veggies we are getting from our garden this year, especially since last year was a total wash.  The only thing that I might say is that when life has you going a hundred different directions, your garden doesn’t wait for you to catch up; it just keeps growing.

The vegetable drawers in my fridge are packed full of zucchini and cucumbers.  And now our jalapeno peppers are coming on strong.  Yes, it’s time to make homemade pepper jelly.

My mother was a domestic wonder woman, and truthfully I think she enjoyed it just as I do.  She made it all look so easy and I know that isn’t always the case.  My daughter just bummed homemade strawberry freezer jam from me (just as I did my mom), and she even asked if we could make my mom’s recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce (together) this year.  Could it be that she looks at me as a domestic wonder woman too?  She does tell me that I make blue ribbon deviled eggs and that makes me laugh every time she say’s it.  Of all the things to be admired for, it all boils down to eggs?  No pun intended.

Today, I want to share one of my mom’s recipes with you.  This is my favorite refrigerator pickle recipe.  You won’t believe how easy they are to make, and if you like sweet pickles, you won’t be able to stay out of them.  They are not overly sweet in my opinion, and they are super crunchy for a refrigerator pickle – yum!

Sheila’s Sweet Refrigerator Pickles

Makes about 2 quarts

8 medium sized cucumbers, sliced thin

1 large sweet onion, sliced thin

1/2 c. salt

In a large bowl, place cucumbers, onion, and salt.  cover with cold water and let stand 2 hours. 

Drain and lightly rinse cucumbers with cold water.  Add the following:

2 c. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. mustard seed

1 tbsp. celery seed (I used 1 tsp. of celery salt)

1 c. vinegar ( I used 1 1/2 cups of apple wine vinegar since the recipe didn’t specify)

Mix all ingredients well; cover and place in fridge. Stir a couple times a day for a day or so.  These pickles keep in the fridge for several weeks.

These pickles make a great snack, go great with a hearty sandwich, and are delicious with hamburgers or pulled pork sandwiches too. 

So, are you a sweet or dill pickle fan? 

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