I love tacos. I even ate a fish taco once. Not my favorite. The recipe on the back of the seasoning blend package is great, but today's recipe sounded so good, I couldn't wait to adjust it to my tastes and pass it on to you to do the same thing. I almost balked at French dressing in taco filling. I decided if I made my own and reduced the amount in the taco filling to half a cup, it might just be delicious....and according to my taste, it is. The remaining dressing is wonderful on just any ole green salad. As you can see, it's fast and easy to prepare. And I can pronounce all the ingredients. Just sayin'.

Have you ever gone to a bakery, saw the most delicious looking brownie, bought it, took it home, took one bite and put the rest down the 'lectric hawg? Yes, me too. Today's recipe is really rich and chocolatey and suited my taste just fine. Comparing it to Marie Nichols' s brownies is, like apples and oranges. If you made her recipe when I shared it a while back, you know what I mean. Her recipe is my all time favorite.

Be sure to but a good quality brownie mix for the base.

Speaking of Marie Nichols, the Bavarian cream is her recipe as well. I know it's time consuming, but it's worth it when you want a very special dessert for very special guests. I make it about once a year only partly because of the time involved. I've been known to eat half of it.

French Dressing

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

1 cup ketchup

I used chili sauce

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup white vinegar

1 small onion, diced

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until thick and smooth. Cover and refrigerate.

Peanut Butter and Caramel Brownies

Your favorite plain brownie mix. Disregard the directions on the box.

1/2 cup peanut butter

2/3 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with Pam.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix by hand. Beat forty strokes. Spread in the prepared pan and bake 35-45 minutes or until just done. Set aside to cool.

For the filling:

1 bag plastic wrapped caramels, unwrapped

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup peanut butter

In a microwave safe bowl, melt caramels in the cream, stirring at two minute intervals. Add peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Spread evenly over brownies. Set aside to cool.

For the topping:

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

In a microwave safe bowl, melt chips and peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Spread evenly over the caramel layer. Cool. Cut into small bars for serving.

Beefy Taco Filling

1 pound ground beef

1 medium onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 fresh jalapeno, seeded, deveined and diced

2 tablespoons taco seasoning blend

1 cup beef stock

1/2 cup French dressing

1 can seasoned black beans, slightly drained

Cook beef with onions,garlic and jalapeno until beef is done. Drain. Add seasoning blend, stock and dressing.

Simmer until thickened. Stir in beans, heat through.

Serve with salad greens, red and yellow bell pepper slices, chopped tomatoes, fresh salsa, assorted grated cheeses, avocado, sour cream, chips or tostada shells.

Bavarian Cream

1 package unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup whole milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 slightly rounded tablespoons all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 pint whipping cream, chilled

1 angel food cake, cut into half inch slices

1 large carton extra creamy cool whip

1 cup shredded Coconut

Dissolve gelatin in cold water. Scald milks in a medium sized sauce pan. Set aside to cool slightly. Whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Stir eggs into the dry ingredients until well blended. The mixture will be thick.

Slowly add warm mixture to the egg mixture. Pour mixture into the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook and stir until the mixture is hot (165°) and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in gelatin mixture and vanilla. Pour into a medium size bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. Fold into the chilled custard. Beat whipping cream to firm peaks. Fold into the custard.

Place a layer of cake in the bottom of a 9x13-inch dish. Spread half the custard over the cake. Repeat with a layer of cake. Spread the remaining custard over the cake. Spread cool whip over custard. Sprinkle generously with coconut. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Better served the second day.

Cook's note: you may divide the chilled custard whilst hot and add one ounce of melted chocolate. Proceed as above but add half the beaten egg whites and half the whipped cream to each half of the custard.

Miss Olivia Sipe is the owner of Miss Olivia’s Table in Maryville.

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