Pork Tenderloin Marsala

This is one of my most requested meals – and probably my personal favorite. It is savory and rich and full of flavor. Pretty simple too – not a lot of ingredients, and can be prepared start to finish in just about an hour.  Not typically one of my weeknight meals, but a weekend go-to for sure! The pork cooks to a perfect medium and is so juicy and tender.

Pork Tenderloin Marsala

2 pork tenderloins
4 – 5 tbsp Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon Country Dijon is best)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp butter
4 shallots, minced
2 cups marsala wine (not cooking wine, real wine)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 lbs assorted mushrooms, sliced (I use a mix of white and baby portobellos)
Salt and pepper

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Salt and pepper the pork; coat with 4 to 5 tbsp Dijon mustard.  Heat olive oil in large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add pork and sear on all sides.  Remove from dutch oven and place in casserole dish.  Bake for 20 minutes, turn over pork and bake for 20 more minutes.
3.) In the dutch oven where pork was cooked, add butter and saute shallots until soft. Add mushrooms and deglaze with the marsala wine. Stir in heavy cream and remaining mustard. Cook until reduced by half (will take about as long as pork is cooking). Stir frequently.
4.) Serve pork with the mushroom marsala sauce on top.

This pork goes great over mashed potatoes, but that marsala sauce would go great over anything! Enjoy!

Marsala wine
This is the Marsala wine I always use – I get it at Publix and it’s only $6!

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It’s a lot of mushrooms, but trust me, you’ll be glad you have them all!

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You don’t have to be perfect with the Dijon – just slather it on there!

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The drippings from the meat cooking will give this sauce so much flavor!

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As you can see, the sauce goes from pretty light and thin, to darker than thicker (below).

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Pork Tenderloin Marsala

The Taco Night Superstar: Spanish Rice

I’m a sides kinda girl – sure the main course can be great, but I love a good side dish! (Just wait until Thanksgiving!!) So tonight I planned to make tacos and I thought all day about what else I could make to go with it.  I decided I’d try to make Spanish rice (an old time favorite of mine).  Although I had never made this from scratch before, I am pleased to say that my experiment turned out delicious!  This is a really simple recipe and cooked while I was making the taco meat, so it definitely qualifies as weeknight-worthy.  If I had planned ahead, I would have added some chopped red pepper (but I didn’t have any on hand).  Maybe next time.  But with or without red pepper, I think Spanish rice will be my new taco companion.  Hope you enjoy!

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Spanish Rice

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup white rice (I used jasmine rice)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1 2/3 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste

1.)  In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.  Add rice, cumin, salt, pepper and paprika. Cook for about 2 minutes more, stirring frequently so that rice does not stick to pan.
2.) Add chicken broth and tomato paste. Increase heat to high.  Stir well until the tomato paste fully dissolves.  When rice begins to boil, reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for 13 minutes.

Click here for my homemade taco seasoning.

Lasagna with Goat Cheese and Sausage

Lasagna is such a comfort food!  Whether it’s a tried and true recipe or something outside the box, lasagna rarely disappoints. So I decided to try a new twist on an old classic and add goat cheese to my lasagna. One of my co-workers does this and her lasagna is always great, but this was a first for me.  I also opted for chicken sausage versus ground beef, for no reason other than wanting a different taste than my traditional.  I made the sauce from scratch, which I’ve been doing a lot lately (finally weening myself from Prego!), and having the tomato pieces in there was really good.  I was a little nervous about how the boys would like this because I’ve fed them goat cheese before and I think the taste was too strong for them.  But in this recipe, it is very subtle and to me, adds just the right amount of tang to make it interesting.  Blake said he could barely taste the goat cheese, so if you’re after a stronger flavor, I would suggest you up the ounces on the GC.  Back to my little boys, they loved it!  Like, really loved it – I was thrilled!

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Lasagna with Goat Cheese and Sausage

Meat Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb sausage (I used mild chicken sausage, removed from casings)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 to 10 mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 cup red wine
3 14.5-oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Goat Cheese / Ricotta Mixture
16 oz ricotta cheese
6 oz goat cheese, softened
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
2 eggs

12 Lasagna noodles (oven ready)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1.) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage, break apart with spatula as it cooks and cook until it begins to brown.  Remove from pan and set aside.
2.) Add onions, garlic and mushrooms to the same skillet.  Cook for 3 to 5 minutes and deglaze pan with red wine.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Add sausage back to sauce.
3.) In a bowl, mix together ricotta, goat cheese, parmesan and eggs.  Spoon cheese mixture into a gallon Ziploc bag and cut one of the corners (this will aide in evenly distributing the cheese mixture in the lasagna).
4.) In a 9″x13″ casserole dish, start with sauce on the bottom. Add 3 lasagna noodles and layer sauce first, then cheese mixture.  Repeat 2 more times.  On 4th layer, only top the lasagna noodles with sauce.  Tightly cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  Remove from oven, remove aluminum foil and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.  Place back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese browns.  If it is slow to brown, use the low broiler (but watch it closely!!)

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Shrimp and Grits

I’m going to throw a warning out on this one – unless you don’t have kids or you have a babysitter, this is not a good weeknight meal.  I regretted making this on a Tuesday immediately after I started – it’s a lot of chopping and shredding and a lot of moving parts all cooking at the same time.  The kids destroyed the kitchen while I was making this one – they had snacks pulled out, Play-doh, pots and pans, tupperware, towels all over the place.  It was a freaking wreck!  And then I was so busy just trying to prepare the food (and fast to prevent any further destruction from the boys) that I left myself an even bigger mess.  But luckily, the dish turned out great and it was not for naught!  So my verdict on this – will definitely make again, but next time I’ll do it on a weekend when I’ve got backup (Blake).

So about this dish – I found the recipe on Pinterest (shocker!) and stayed pretty true to it. I used less lemon juice and Gouda instead of Gruyere (it was what I had on hand).  It has lots of fresh veggies (which I love), fancy cheese (which I love), and the acidity of the shrimp/peppers/tomatoes pairs perfectly with the rich and creamy cheese grits.  This Shrimp and Grits recipe was everything I hoped it would be – hope you enjoy it as well!

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Shrimp and Grits

Grits
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup quick cooking grits
1/3 cup each shredded parmesan, white cheddar and gouda
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Shrimp
1/2 cup butter, divided
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped (I used a yellow and a red)
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp cajun seasoning
1 1/2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp
1 cup dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of diced cherry tomatoes

1.) Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Add garlic and 1/2 tsp thyme; sauté 1 minute.  Add milk and 1 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil; whisk in grits. Reduce heat to lowest setting; cook 5 minutes or until done, stirring occasionally. Add cheeses and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm. If they set too firmly when ready to serve with shrimp, add water or milk to thin and reconstitute.

2.) Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet. Add garlic, celery, bell pepper, onions, thyme, cajun seasoning; sauté 30 seconds. Add shrimp, and cook 7 minutes. Remove shrimp and veggies from skillet.

3.) Add wine to skillet. Reduce heat to low; whisk in remaining butter, 1 tbsp at a time. Stir in lemon juice and tomato. Cook 3-5 minutes. Return shrimp and veggies to pan. Stir to mix with butter tomato sauce. Serve over grits.

Adapted from Katrina Runs for Food’s Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits

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And this is what my kitchen looked like when I was through….

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(Almost) Cube Steak with Gravy

So I’ve actually never made cube steak… or if I have, it was so unmemorable that I have forgotten.  But it’s one of those things that I have aspired to make well.  So tonight I decided to give it a try.  Only problem, I didn’t actually have “cubed steak” – but I did have ground beef; really, really awesome organic ground beef from Costco that is the best tasting ground beef I have ever, ever had, hands down.  So I decided to improvise.  I figured that if I made my ground beef into thin enough patties, and then treated it just like cube steak, it would work.  Well, it did – it was awesome!  It was the kind of awesome that made me want to get on the phone and tell my friends about how awesome it was (which I did LOL).  Really good.  Now of course this dish is not the healthiest thing you can fix for dinner, but as I say, everything in moderation (however, moderation is tough with this one).  But it is made from scratch using good quality ingredients, so in my book, that counts for something!

I served this over white rice – Jasmine rice to be exact.  Jasmine rice is by far my favorite – it cooks perfectly in 15 minutes, is never sticky and always maintains a good texture.  When I’m making my rice, I always add a little olive oil and about a teaspoon of salt.  The gravy with this rice is to die for – reminds me of a dish I loved growing up called Corned Beef and Rice and brought back all kinds of good memories.  The boys loved this as well (although they like just about anything with ground beef).  And I would say dinner was perfect, except that I inhaled a piece of rice in my first bite and I spent 10 minutes or so coughing and choking on it – but other than that, it was a dinner success!

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(Almost) Cube Steak with Gravy

1 1/3 lb ground beef
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 tbsp flour
2 cups beef broth
Splash of half and half (or milk)
Salt and pepper

1.) Separate beef into 6 equal parts and press to make very thin patties, but not too thin since you will need to be able to handle the meat without it breaking apart. Season meat well with salt and pepper.
2.) In a pie plate, mix flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika.
3.) Heat oil and butter in an electric skillet at 350 degrees.  Dredge patties in seasoned flour and then place into hot oil/butter.  Cook on each side for about 3 minutes.  Remove from skillet and set on paper towels.
4.) Add onion to the beef drippings and cook until translucent. Sprinkle flour over onions and mix well.  Add beef broth and a splash of half and half.  Cook until gravy begins to thicken, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste (pepper is your friend in this dish!). Turn off heat. Add beef patties back to the skillet and smother with gravy.  Serve over white rice.

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Sausage and Peppers Spaghetti

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes!  It’s not your typical spaghetti – it’s full of fresh veggies, made with sausage and I like mine with angel hair.  This recipe makes a pretty large pot; plenty to feed a family and have leftovers too (I love leftovers!).  It’s pretty easy to make and can be done in around 30 to 40 minutes.  Me and the boys had this for dinner tonight, and after Brogan was done, he asked, “Can we have this again tomorrow?”  Dinner win!

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Sausage and Peppers Spaghetti

1 lb angel hair pasta
1 lb Italian sausage (I use Publix Greenwise Sun-dried Tomato Chicken Sausage)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 bell peppers, cut into strips (I use three different colors)
1 red onion, cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-oz cans of Italian style diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for garnish)

1.) Cook pasta according to package, set aside.
2.) Remove sausage from links and brown in a large saute pan or dutch oven, breaking apart with spatula as it cooks.  Remove cooked sausage from pot and set aside.
3.) In the same pot sausage was cooked, add olive oil and then sauté peppers, onions and garlic. Cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, basil and parsley. Cook for about 10 minutes.  Add sausage to veggies, mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
4.) Add cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese to sauce, mix well (tongs work well here). Serve with Parmesan cheese on top.

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Biscuits and Gravy

It probably comes as no surprise that I like biscuits and gravy.  I really like it.  My mom made it for me growing up, and I still make it the same way she did.  This Southern masterpiece is the ultimate comfort food and can be enjoyed any time of day – we actually had it for dinner tonight (mostly because when I told Blake I planned to make it for breakfast tomorrow, he made an audible awe sound because he will be at work then).  And so as some of you may know, my husband has a hard time telling me what he wants for dinner, so when I heard this, I was on it like white on rice – you don’t have to tell me twice!  Biscuits and gravy for dinner it was!

The gravy itself is pretty simple, but I am a glutton for punishment and opted to make the biscuits and sausage from scratch too.  I don’t make things complicated on myself just because – I’d be perfectly happy to use the ready-made stuff from the store, but the biscuits are loaded with trans fat and the sausage is full of MSG.  So until they open a Whole Foods close by or my Publix starts to carry natural versions of these things, I’ll keep on making them myself.  It feels good knowing exactly what you’re eating, and so I go the extra mile and it is well worth it!  The sausage making does require a meat grinder – I have an attachment to my KitchenAid mixer that works like a charm.

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Sausage Gravy

1 1/2 lbs breakfast sausage (recipe below)
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste

1.) In a large dutch oven, cook sausage over medium high heat until browned, breaking it up with a spatula as you cook it.
2.) Add butter to sausage and allow it to melt.  Sprinkle flour evenly over sausage and mix well.  Add milk, a couple of cups at a time, stirring constantly and scrapping off any sausage that stuck to the bottom of the pot.
3.) Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, or until gravy begins to thicken.  It will thicken even more once it cools.  Serve over buttermilk biscuits (recipe below).

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Consistency when milk is first added.

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Consistency after it has thickened.

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Buttermilk Biscuits

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 + 1/8 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
10 tbsp unsalted butter, very cold, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
Extra flour for baking mat

1.) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.) Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add cubes of butter and cut into flour mixture with a pastry cutter.  Cut until course meal texture is achieved.
3.) Add the buttermilk and mix just until combined.  Transfer to a floured baking mat.
4.) With the palms of your hands, kneed the dough until it is 1/2 inch thick.  Fold dough in half, and need again until 1/2 inch thick.  Repeat 5 times (this creates flaky layers).
5.) With a biscuit cutter, cut dough and transfer to baking stone (or cookie sheet).  Cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

I used a 3 inch biscuit cutter and it yielded 22 biscuits.

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For the breakfast sausage, I made more than was needed for this recipe, and froze the other half. Too much effort to not get two batches out of it!

Breakfast Sausage

3 lb pork butt
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp pepper
4 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp pure maple syrup

1.) Cut pork into 1″ cubes.  Do not discard the fat – this is needed to achieve the flavor of sausage!  Feed through meat grinder.  Keep the receiving bowl (that the meat is falling in to) in a larger bowl full of ice water to keep the pork cold.  Run pork through the meat grinder a second time.
2.) Add all seasonings to the pork.  Mix well with a potato masher.

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The Best Pancakes Ever!

We like pancakes around my house. They have always been one of Brogan’s favorites, and even my husband, who typically does not like sweets, loves these things!  The pancake craze began shortly after I stumbled across this Martha Stewart recipe. The first thing that caught my eye was the buttermilk to flour ratio – 3:2. Most recipes I had tried before were equal parts milk to flour. Since what I love most about pancakes is the salty/sour flavor that comes from the buttermilk, these seemed like a winner to me.

Martha Stewart’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tbsp butter, melted (plus more for the griddle)

1.) Heat griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps. (The lumps are important – they will be very flat if you beat out all the lumps!)

2.) Grease the griddle with about 1/2 tbsp butter before each batch. Using 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour pancake batter, in pools about 1 inch away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

3.) Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in a 175 degree oven. Serve warm.

Pancakes on griddle

Pancake

I enjoyed mine with some butter and pure maple syrup.

Brogan pancake

Brogan ate his like a sandwich with no syrup.

Beckett pancake

Recipe from Martha Stewart

My Philosophy on Food

Over the past five years, I have turned into what some may call a food snob – I call it food enlightened. I’ve become hyper-aware of those dirty little secrets in our food supply: MSG, trans fat and hydrogenated oils, food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, BHT and other preservatives. With each discovery of something else that is chemically derived and hiding in my favorite foods, I purge my pantry. Is it too much to ask that my food not be laced with chemicals??

Making this change is hard. Some of the most common offenders are things I grew up enjoying – condensed soups, ranch mix, onion soup mix and taco seasoning.  So I went on a mission to find substitutes for some of these items, made only from real ingredients found in my kitchen. I scoured the internet to find recipes that don’t taste like a knock-off of the “real thing”.  I will admit, you do sacrifice some of the convenience, but for me, being able to eat guilt-free is worth a few extra minutes. One day I may even make this stuff in large batches (like I keep saying I’ll do) and save myself some time on those hectic weeknights!

Below are some of my favorites of these copycat recipes.

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Ranch Dressing Mix

1/2 cup dry buttermilk
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried onion flakes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients together and use just like you would the ranch packets. I typically use this for ranch dip and add it to a 16-oz container of sour cream.

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Taco Seasoning

2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano

Mix together and add to 1 lb of ground beef, ground turkey or shredded chicken. I also use this as a marinade/rub for chicken I plan to grill by adding some olive oil to the seasoning mix.

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For this recipe, I haven’t used it in all the ways I previously used Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix, but it does make some awesome dip!

French Onion Dip

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (I use sweet)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups sour cream

1)  Heat oil, add onions and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook until caramelized (20 minutes). Let cool.
2)  Add remaining seasonings and cooled onions to sour cream. Stir well and serve with potato chips.

Food on the Fourth of July

My husband’s birthday is July 4th, and every year his mom and stepdad throw a big party for him and his twin brother. I helped to make a couple of dishes – a 7 layer Mexican dip and what started out as a Blueberry Angel Food Delight (and ended up much closer to a blueberry and strawberry cheesecake).

Of all the parties I’ve had and of all the appetizers I’ve made, I have never made a cold 7 layer Mexican dip! For whatever reason I was craving the fresh lettuce and tomato on top, and so I did a quick Pinterest search and took some ideas from a couple of recipes to arrive at this beauty…

7 Layer Mexican Dip

7 Layer Mexican Dip

2 cans refried beans
16 oz sour cream
1 package of Mexican seasoning (or homemade)
2 cups prepared guacamole
16 oz fresh salsa, drained (I like Publix’s deli salsa)
Iceberg lettuce, shredded
Grape tomatoes, diced
Green onions, sliced
Mexican cheese blend, shredded

1) Spread beans in the bottom of a 9×13″ casserole dish.
2) Mix Mexican seasoning with the sour cream and spread on top of beans.
3) For the remaining layers, add ingredients in this order: guacamole, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, green onion and cheese.
4) Chill, serve and enjoy!

Upon further review, looks like this was an 8 layer dip… but who’s counting!

Blueberry and Strawberry Angel Food Delight

My mother-in-law found this recipe through a feature on her local news. I have re-named it to be more fitting of what we actually prepared. Our first variation on the recipe came from us not having any blueberry pie filling on hand (this was okay with me, because I personally prefer to make as much from scratch as possible).  We had fresh blueberries, so I attempted to make homemade pie filling, with a little consultation from the hubs.

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I started by rinsing the blueberries and removing all of the stems. I then placed them in a saucepan, added sugar and turned the heat to medium-high.

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After about 15 minutes, the blueberries had cooked down really nicely.  They were not quite the right consistency for pie filling, so we added some cornstarch to thicken them up a little.

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At this point, we realized that we did not have enough blueberries to substitute for 2 21-oz cans of pie filing, so we decided to add some fresh strawberries we had on hand. I removed the blueberries and added strawberries to the pan.

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I mixed all the berries together and moved on to the next step, mixing softened cream cheese and powdered sugar.

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Next I took a pre-made Angel Food Cake and cut it into 1-inch cubes.

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I added the cubed cake to the cream cheese and powdered sugar and stirred until it was coated well. I poured it into a casserole dish and spread evenly. (This is where, despite the fact that we thawed the cool whip and had it ready on the counter, I forgot to add it.)

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Pour the berries on top, chill and serve!

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Leaving out the cool whip made the bottom layer taste a lot like cheesecake, and it was yummy! Next time I make it, I may attempt to make some homemade whipped cream and add it to the cream cheese mixture, but you will not be disappointed eating it like this!

Blueberry and Strawberry Angel Food Delight

1 dry pint of blueberries, stems removed
1 lb of strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch, mixed with a little cold water to make a slurry
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 prepared angel food cake (14 oz) cut or torn into 1″ cubes

1)  In a medium saucepan, add berries and sugar. Cook on medium-high heat for about 15 minutes. Pour in the cornstarch slurry and simmer for another 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
2)  In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar.  Fold in the cake cubes until well coated.
3)  Spread mix evenly into an un-greased  9×13″ dish and top with pie filling.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

adapted from Blueberry Angel Food Delight