12/31/09

Salad Greens with Raspberry Dressing (made from jam!)

Usually when I think about green salads I think about a summer day and a light, refreshing meal. Funny that when I was looking over my files this morning and saw this mixed green salad with an easy raspberry dressing made from seedless raspberry jam, that all I could think about is how wonderful it would be for a New Year's Day meal.

The salad greens are important so don't chop up Ice Berg lettuce or even just romaine. Use a nice, pretty mixture.



Salad Greens with Raspberry Dressing

3/4 c lime juice
3/4 c seedless raspberry jam
3 T canola oil
3 garlic cloves, pressed
3/4 t salt
3/4 t ground red pepper
1 bag (4 cups) mixed salad greens

Process first 6 ingredients in a blender until smooth. Cover and chill 2 hours. Drizzle over salad greens.



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Pineapple Cream Dessert - (or another fruit!)

Sometimes I look into my recipe files and wonder why I clipped or copied down a particular recipe. I don't save recipes that I don't really want and don't think I'll actually make at some point, so when I saw one for Crema d'Ananas I filed away in my collection from Pleasures of Italian Cooking, I knew I had to have had a reason at the time. The problem is that it called for canned crushed pineapple, which I don't care for and won't eat.

After I looked at the ingredients and prep I realized that I saved it because I was going to 'play with my food' a bit. Remember, for me, recipes are just a guide, but I never actually follow them! This one is one of those. It looks like a beautiful and simple dessert, but since I don't like canned pineapple I would replace it with raspberries or perhaps even leave out the fruit and top it off with fresh sliced strawberries on top.




Pineapple Cream Dessert

6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons cognac
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup crushed pineapple, drained


Beat yolks and sugar in top of double boiler. Place over hot water and cook, stirring constantly, till thick and frothy. Remove from heat and stir in cognac to taste. Chill 2 hours. Whip cream and fold in with pineapple. Spoon into 8-10 sherbet or parfait dishes. Chill 2 hours.
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12/29/09

Crab Cakes

Mmmm Crab Cakes.  This one is from Sunset Magazine back in January of 2002. Mini, so it makes them the perfect appetizer but in our house we'd make them a bit bigger and serve them as dinner.











Mini Crab Cakes with Homemade Aioli Sauce


12 ounces shelled cooked crab
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 1/4 cups panko (see notes) or fine dried bread crumbs
Roasted Pepper-Chive Aioli (recipe follows)
Fresh chives, rinsed and cut into 1-inch lengths

Sort through crab and discard any bits of shell.

In a large bowl, combine celery, minced chives, mayonnaise, egg, mustard, and hot sauce; mix well with a fork. Add crab and 1/4 cup panko; stir gently just to mix.

Put remaining 1 cup panko in a shallow bowl. Shape crab mixture into 24 cakes, each about 2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. Turn each cake in panko to coat on all sides, pressing gently to make crumbs adhere. Place cakes slightly apart in an oiled 12- by 17-inch baking pan.

Bake in a 475° regular or convection oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. With a spatula, transfer crab cakes to a platter. Spoon a dollop of Roasted Pepper-Chive Aioli onto each cake. Garnish platter with fresh chives. Serve hot.

Roasted Pepper-Chive Aioli. In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup chopped drained canned roasted red peppers, 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon minced garlic. Makes about 1/2 cup.
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Hormel Chili Based Nacho Dip (Very Popular!!)

Yesterday as I left work I checked in with the members of our busy family and found out only one child would be home at dinner time and she had just ate a late lunch/early dinner with friends so she wasn't hungry. My last call was to my husband to find out what his work schedule was and when he would be home. Typically home between 9:00 - 11:30 pm, I was surprised to find out he was going to be home by 7:30 pm - which is a very strange time. My confusion was quickly solved when I told him I was deciding what to make for dinner as it was just him and I.

"Good! Make football food because there's a game on!"

No wonder he switched shifts and got off work early. A big NFL game for his team played last night. Football food in our house means appetizers, finger foods and nacho dips. Things he and the kids love and request during every game. My appetizers, foods and dips change often depending on my mood and what's on hand. I currently had Hormel Chili on hand as I bought 3 cans to use in a nacho style dip for Christmas Eve Day in the crock pot but we had so much food already I didn't make it. Bingo! Perfect hot food for my husband during the game.

Play with this recipe!!!! Add and delete what you like - just start with some basics and build on it. You can't go wrong.


Basic Chili Bean Dip

3 cans Hormel Chili - with NO beans (hot or regular or mixture of both)
1 lb. Velveeta cheese (less or more is up to you)
1 block cream cheese
1 small jar salsa

This is the basic and tastes great. Place in a crock pot, heat on low for a couple hours and stir. Once the cheese melts you are good to go. Serve with tortilla chips.

Optional additions

Black Beans - rinsed and drained
Corn - drained
Green Olives - (I use about 1/3 c sliced)
Black Olives
Cheddar Cheese - grated
Jalapeno Peppers
Chili Peppers
Banana Peppers
Refried Beans
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Caramel Fruit Dip with only Two Ingredients

As a child I only loved green or yellow apples... not red. I remember for a span of about 3 months, I would walk to the local 'mom and pop' shop on the corner about 6 blocks from my home every afternoon and I would purchase a Fresca and one yellow delicious apple. Later CapriSun came out with their first 'pouch' drink, sold in the freezer section and only in lemon so I switched to 1 CapriSun and 1 yellow apple. I would eat them on my way home.

When it came to green apples, that was my family's favorite. My brothers and I would cut up a few green apples, place them in a bowl of salt water and munch to our hearts content. The more salt the better.

One thing we never, ever did was get into 'fruit dips'. Eating something sweet and sticky like caramel on our apples was just... weird. It was only after I moved out at 18 that I realized many other people loved sweet fruit dips for their apples - my husband included. When I make a fruit dip for my family it's usually a simple caramel dip. They don't seem to care for honey or strawberry or other flavors with their apples. Here is a simple fruit dip that only involves two ingredients. How can it get any easier?

Caramel Fruit Dip

1/2 cup Marzetti caramel dip
2 cups Cool Whip

Soften the caramel dip in microwave but only for about 15-20 seconds. You don't want it hot, just soft enough to stir easily. Stir the caramel into the Cool Whip. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve with sliced apples.
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12/28/09

Blue Cheese Logs


If you bought blue cheese for the holidays and need a recipe to 'use it up' on, how about a cheese log for New Year's? This one is from Southern Living back in March of 2004. If you have cheddar and blue cheese on hand as well as some leftover pecans from your holiday baking and perhaps some Worcestershire sauce in the cupboard, give it a go. You can make it today and freeze it or refrigerate it until New Year's.

Blue Cheese Log

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, cubed
2 (4-ounce) packages crumbled blue cheese
1/2 small onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted and divided
2 cups finely chopped fresh parsley, divided
Crackers

Process cream cheese, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, onion, worcestershire sauce and 1 cup of the pecans in a food processor 1 to 2 minutes until combined, stopping to scrape down sides.

Stir together cheese mixture, 1 cup pecans, and 1/2 cup parsley. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Shape cheese mixture into 4 (7-inch) logs.

Combine remaining 1 cup pecans and 1 1/2 cups parsley. Roll logs in parsley mixture; cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve with crackers.
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12/27/09

Cinnamon Buns or Cinnamon Rolls using Parker House Rolls or Bread Dough

When it comes to Cinnamon Rolls or Buns I admit... I usually pass.

I know they are hugely popular with (apparently) everyone but me, but even as a child I would pass them up. I do make them for my family however, and they are certainly popular for breakfast when hosting overnight guests. I typically make mine (pictured above) from a simple white homemade bread dough recipe, but another 'quick' version is to use pre-made frozen rolls or bread dough bought from the grocery store. This is how my mother makes her rolls and they are ever-so-popular with all friends and family that have enjoyed them over the years. Below is the old Parker House recipe your Grandmother probably has tucked in her files as well but if you use bread dough, just let it thaw long enough that you can cut or pull it into about 8 equal sized chunks and proceed as below.



Cinnamon Buns

1 Pkg. Parker house rolls
1 sm pkg. Vanilla pudding (the 'cook' style - not instant)
½ cup brown sugar
cinnamon to taste
1 stick of butter, melted

The night before serving, spray a 9X13" pan with Pam. Place the frozen rolls in the pan. Mix the dry ingredients and pour over the rolls. Melt the butter and drizzle over the rolls.

Place into a cold oven (or just leave it on the counter). Allow to sit all night. The next morning, remove the rolls, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to sit for five minutes before serving. You can top with a simple powdered sugar/milk/butter glaze if you prefer!
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12/24/09

Buckeye Candy Like Grandma Made (Peanut Butter Balls)

Real Buckeyes - the seed to a tree
Your Grandmother probably made these and more than likely, if you were a child of the 70's or 80's, your Mom did too. The more recent recipes tend to leave out the paraffin wax but back then it was a must! Here is the traditional recipe I knew as a child. A sweet peanut butter center dipped in chocolate and let hardened, it's a staple at most holiday gatherings. If you prefer, you can dip the candies all the way to be a simple 'peanut butter ball' verses the traditional buckeye resemblance.



Traditional Buckeyes (Peanut Butter Balls)

1 1/2 c peanut butter
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 t. vanilla
1 lb. powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1/4 cake or stick paraffin wax
1 package chocolate chips

Mix the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar. Start with just 3/4 of the powdered sugar and add the last of it only if needed. Mix until it's dough-like and not sticky. Chill in refrigerator while you melt the chocolate chips and paraffin wax together over low on the stovetop or in the microwave. Dip the peanut butter balls 3/4 of the way into the melted chocolate with a toothpick. You only dip 3/4 so they resemble buckeyes.
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White Trash - a Perfect Holiday Party Mix

Image from Taste of Home
It's Christmas Eve morning and I took the day off from work as it's a 'family' day for us. A day of board games, food, crafts, movies and Scandinavian and German traditions all rolled together into making memories.


This morning I glanced through some of my files to see what I had anticipated having time to post and/or make but didn't get to yet (thanks to that 'other' job I have where I report to an office each day!). I found White Trash in my files and since it's a hugely popular recipe to make during the holidays I knew I had better post it asap! A mixture of cereals, peanuts and candy all covered in the wonderful goodness of vanilla almond bark or white vanilla chips, it's a perfect mixture of salty and sweet and will be gobbled up by the handfuls! Hugely popular, don't be surprised if you find yourself making 2 or 3 batches of this!

White Trash Party Mix

1 - 10 oz package miniature pretzels
5 c Cheerios
5 c corn Chex cereal
2 c salted peanuts
1 lb pkg M&Ms
2 - 12 oz pkgs. vanilla chips or 24 oz. almond bark
3 tablespoons canola oil

Place the pretzels, cereals, peanuts and candy in a large bowl. Microwave the chips/almond bark and oil until melted. Stir the mixture until creamy and smooth. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Spread on wax paper covered counter. Cool and break apart. Store in a sealed container.
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12/23/09

A Make Ahead Dessert for the Holidays; Chocolate Meringue

This dessert came to my files from Pillsbury and works great for an office party or pot-luck so you can make it the night before, finish it in the morning and chill it in the office refrigerator until it's break time at lunch. The meringue sits in the oven to finish baking and 'drying' so the process can happen while you are sleeping!

Chocolate Meringue Dessert

6 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ cups sugar
6 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup chocolate syrup
1 pint heavy cream, whipped
1 cup miniature marshmallows
½ cup sliced almonds


Beat whites, cream of tartar and salt. Add sugar gradually 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat to stiff peaks and glossy. Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Put in 450ยบ oven. Turn oven off and keep closed several hours or overnight.

Beat cheese and syrup. Beat cream. Fold in chocolate mixture and marshmallows. Spread over cold meringue. Sprinkle with almonds. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Cut squares to serve; drizzle with 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup. This does not store well as it will weep so it's best to make for a crowd, not just one or two people.
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12/21/09

The Goodies are Delivered and the Trays are Made

Unfortunately I didn't get to make everything on my list before the calendar rushed ahead and a couple deadlines loomed but yesterday I got the baked goods delivered to about 8 neighbors (along with a 'Thank You' for helping us dig out of the blizzard a couple weeks ago!) and 3 goody trays are made for my husbands place of work, ready to be delivered tomorrow. Of course I saved extra for a few other gifts, a large tray for our own family celebrations, some to share, etc. Even without making all 27 items on my list I had more than enough to go around.

I still have to make "People Puppy Chow" for my 17 year old son but other than that my baking for 2009 is done. How about you? Did you fare well?
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12/18/09

Soy Bran and Soy Flour Blueberry Muffins AND Regular Blueberry Muffins

When the wind is blowing outside and the snow is flying, my body seems to crave hot creamy soups, casseroles and comfort foods. On a warm summer day in June I think shrimp on the grill with a side of fresh fruit is mouth watering. But blueberry muffins? I feel like these are a year-round food that goes well on a summer or a winter morning.

While doing the no-sugar, no-white flour detox I was on the hunt for delicious sounding recipes and saved a handful to my collection to use in the future. This is one I hadn't tried yet but want to keep in my collection for future use. I'm following it up with a very typical, regular blueberry muffin recipe for my readers that aren't looking for a low carb or soy option.





Soy Blueberry Muffins

4 tablespoons Rice Bran
3 tablespoons soy flour
2 cups soy flour
1 cup Splenda
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup club soda
1 cup blueberries tossed with Splenda before adding

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix Rice bran with 3 tablespoons soy flour. Set aside. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil cooking spray. Evenly sprinkle the inside of the muffin cups with the rice bran and soy flour mix. In a bowl, whisk all the remaining ingredients, except the blueberries. Fold in the blueberries and fill the 12 muffins cups evenly with the batter. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tops turn golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.

A Traditional Blueberry Muffin

1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c white sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1/3 c canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
Topping:
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c butter, cubed
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin tins or line with muffin liners. Mix together the crumb topping ingredients; 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Blend and set aside.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture. Sprinkle the reserved topping over muffins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the center is done and the tops are golden.
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Shrimp Stuffed Banana Peppers

My readers know how I love my 'poppers' - stuffed jalapeno peppers. Wrapped in bacon, breaded,stuffed with cheeses, seafood, chicken, baked, fried, grilled... any way I can get them!

I would make these with BOTH banana and jalapeno's. (I usually add cheeses to my stuffed peppers too - play with your recipes! Play with your food!)



Shrimp Stuffed Banana Peppers

Yellow Banana Peppers
shrimp - deveined, cleaned and pat dry
Bay Seasoning
bacon strips
oil for frying

Slice half way around the top of the pepper and a slice down the middle to clean out the seeds. Try to leave the top intact. Sprinkle Bay Seasoning on the shrimp and stuff the inside of the peppers. The amount you use depends on the size of your peppers. Wrap the pepper in bacon. Secure with a toothpick if you need to. Fry in 2 inches of hot oil. Drain on paper towels.
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12/16/09

Chipped Beef Cheese Ball

This Christmas Eve day will be celebrated by my family by spending the day together playing board games, watching Christmas movies and enjoying food... lots of food! Two of the foods I'm most excited about are not even main dish items. They are appetizers! One of them is a recipe that your Great-Great Grandma probably made and your Grandma and your Mother as well. Chipped Beef Cheese Ball. It's been around forever but it's oh-so-good. I like it with Ritz crackers, which is odd because I don't typically like a Ritz cracker as a dip-cracker with anything. This however, goes perfectly.


Chipped Beef Cheese Ball

2 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
4-5 green onions, chopped
1 (3 oz.) pkg. slender chipped beef, chopped
2 tbsp. mayonnaise

Mix together and shape into a ball. Let stand in refrigerator 6-8 hours.
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12/14/09

Musings of a Housewife; It was a Baking Weekend Afterall


When I was a full time Mom and housewife with small children, I would spread my holiday baking out over the course of a month, starting at Thanksgiving and baking up to the week of Christmas. I averaged about 14-19 different recipes, sometimes making 2-3 batches of the more popular items.

So how is it that when I'm working outside the house full time at the office as well as working part time doing freelance at home, and trying to keep up with the crazy-busy schedules of our teens, that my list of holiday baking has grown from 19, to 27 items? As new recipes are tried and deemed a 'keeper' by my family the list grows... and all of the recipes are so good that we don't want to cut any of them out!

This week is the first of my mini-deadlines for baking and candy making. Although I won't do the holiday trays for my husbands workplace until next weekend, as well as the neighborhood goodies, I have a fund-raiser bake sale tomorrow so this weekend was crunch time at getting a few of the items made from my list. I think I'm up to about 9.

The snowflake cookies are decorated and ready to go, which is a three day task with my full time job. I make the dough on one day, cut and bake them other and frost the third. Sunday was my 'frosting' day and they are packaged and ready to be added to the trays along with the green tree's and yellow stars. Candy coated pretzels and almond truffles were also made last night... looks like I'm getting there, slowly but surely!!

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12/13/09

Shortcut Shortcakes... Strawberry Shortcake Using Grands Biscuits






Serve your family strawberry shortcake tonight... using Grands Biscuits instead of shortcake!

Not quite as wonderful as a homemade pound cake base, homemade sweet biscuit or a homemade sponge cake, but it's quick and easy and tastes pretty good. Best of all it takes just minutes! You can have dessert made in minutes.






Shortcut Shortcakes

1 can of Grands Biscuits (in the can)
sugar
2 T melted butter
whipped cream
strawberries in syrup, thawed or fresh, sliced

Open the can of biscuits, separate. Holding the biscuit in your fingers, dip just one flat, round side into the melted butter and then into the sugar. Place sugar side up on a baking sheet. Repeat. Bake as directed on the package and top with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.
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12/12/09

Layered Ice Cream Cake with Ice Cream Sandwiches too!


Readers that have been around awhile know that I'm often waiting in doctor, dentist and orthodontist offices for my three kids. As I flipped through waiting room magazines I often times found myself scrambling for a piece of paper in my purse large enough to hand copy a recipe or two down from the magazine. (Please don't be one of 'those' people who actually rip the recipes or articles out of the magazines! How rude!!) Finally, a few years ago, I realized the camera in my purse would be a lot faster and easier then giving myself hand-cramps and started to snap pictures of recipes I read them. What is funny is that I now have all these 'pictures' in my files and I rarely have the time to go back and re-type them for my website! Gah! Will try to do better. Let's start with this one.

This is one of the desserts that looked quick and easy but very fun and festive. Holidays are the perfect time to offer something deliciously fattening and appealing to the senses.

Layered Ice Cream Cake

15 Oreo's
1 T milk
9 ice cream sandwiches
1 pint mint chip ice cream
1 pint vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
1 pint strawberry ice cream or frozen yogurt
1 8 oz. container of Cool Whip or similar topping - thawed


Coat bottom and sides of a 9 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the wide with waxed paper - the spray will help it adhere to the pan. Crush about 12 of the cookies, add milk and process in a food processor until mixture holds together. Set aside. Unwrap 4 ice cream sandwiches and cut each into quarters. Stack strips of sandwiches on end, packing them tightly together around the wax paper lined pan. Spoon cookie crumbs into the center of the pan and spread, pressing firmly to form a crust.



Freeze the crust 1 hour and then remove all three ice creams from the freezer and let them soften for about 15 minutes at room temperature. Transfer mint ice cream to a bowl and stir until it's spreadable. Do the same to the other two. Remove the crust from the freezer and spread the mint ice cream over the bottom. Top with the vanilla ice cream, followed by the strawberry. Level the top and add the whipped topping. Garnish with the last 3 Oreo's, broken up and sprinkled on top. Freeze overnight. To serve, remove the side of the pan and then remove the wax paper. Let stand about 10 minutes and then slice into wedges and serve.
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Cream Puff Appetizers

Cream Puff Appetizers

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
2 egg whites
1 egg
Vegetable cooking spray
Chicken Salad

Combine the flour, salt and ground red pepper and set aside. Combine water and butter in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add the flour mixture, stirring well until mixture is smooth and pulls away from sides of pan. Remove from heat, and let cool 5 minutes.

Add egg whites and egg, 1 at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth and it loses some of it's glass. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip, and pipe 30 (1 1/2-inch-round) mounds onto a baking sheet coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°, and bake an additional 10 minutes; let cool completely on a wire rack.

Cut tops off cream puffs; fill each cream puff with 1 tablespoon filling; chicken salad, shrimp and cream cheese mixtures, hot crab filling, buffalo chicken fillings; any savory filling that would do well being served as a 'finger food' in a little cream puff bite!
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12/11/09

Artichoke Jalapeno Dip

The other night for dinner I found myself home with just one other child... everyone else at work or with friends. It was a quiet night and not being too hungry I decided to have cheese and crackers. However, I didn't want just any cheese. I was craving a cream cheese based dip and jalapenos. I love jalapeno's and artichokes and they pair so well together! Keep this one on file for personal use or to serve at your next get together.


Artichoke Jalapeno Dip

1 can (about 14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely diced
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain unsweetened yogurt
7 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon seasoned salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Take three whole artichoke hearts and quarter. Set aside.

Chop remaining artichokes and mix with remaining ingredients using electric mixer. Carefully spoon one-fourth of mixture into each of four oven-proof dishes that are about 1 inch deep and 5 inches wide. Smooth top of mixture in dishes, being careful not to get any on the sides, as it will burn. Arrange three artichoke sections artfully atop each dish.

Bake in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve with a round loaf of bread. Makes 4 bowls of dip, 1 to 2 appetizer servings per bowl.
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12/8/09

Holiday Prezel Rounds with M&M Candies

I love this 'recipe' because it's not only quick, easy and fun, but it's brightly colored, looks great on your holiday cookie platter and they taste so good! With only three ingredients you can either whip these up yourself or have your kids or grandkids join you in the kitchen.

This time of year it's easy to find round pretzels in most grocery stores. This week I did my grocery shopping at a Super Walmart which had them in two different area's, so if you can't find them in your local grocery store, check Walmart.

Holiday M&M Pretzels

1 bag round pretzels
1 bag Hershey's chocolate kisses (unwrap them)
1 bag M&M's

Place the pretzel rounds on a foil or parchment covered cookie sheet for easy lifting later. Place one unwrapped Kiss in the center of each. Bake at 275 degree's in the oven for about 5 minutes until the chocolate looks 'wet' and shiny. This means it's 'squishable' and melty. (Love my use of the English language!?) Remove from the oven and press one M&M into the center of each chocolate, pressing down just a bit. Let cool completely for the chocolate to harden again.

Delicious, fun and frugal!



My youngest daughter helps place M&M's

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Snowballs - Use Pecans or Walnuts



I've been making Snowballs (Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes) for years and typically use walnuts as the original recipes call for. Sometimes I would use almonds and other times I've used pecans. This year I planned to use pecans as I had bought 2 bags for Thanksgiving pies and had some left over. I smiled when a newsletter from myrecipes.com popped into my email box this week that also called for pecans. I'm not the only one that uses pecans in place of walnuts!









Snowballs

1 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 350° F.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts and salt. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated. Mix in the pecans.

Shape the dough into tablespoon-size balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Transfer half the balls to a second parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake until lightly golden, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes.

Place 1/2 cup of the sugar in a large bowl. Toss the warm cookies in the sugar and return to the baking sheet. Sift the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar over the cookies before serving.
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12/6/09

Christmas Molasses Cookies


Although I thought I'd be up to my elbows in Christmas baking this morning I've found myself running errands and cleaning and organizing instead. The eggs, mixing bowl and frosting tips are sitting on the counter waiting for me. I got so preoccupied with household cleaning that I decided to check emails and take a little break before embarking on the afternoon of baking.

First on my list is the Striped Cookie Rolls that I posted yesterday but I also want to get the dry Molasses Cookie Mix together and bagged so that later this week on an evening after work, I can throw together one or two batches of this delicious Christmas cookie and get a couple made and froze for party platters later. Having doughs and mixes pre-made and ready is a blessing when I find myself with 40 minutes free at 9:00 pm.

Molasses Cookie Mix

6 c flour
3 c sugar
1 T baking soda
1 T baking powder
1 T ground ginger
1 T ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t ground nutmeg
3/4 t ground cloves
1/2 t ground allspice

Additional ingredients for each batch

3/4 c butter or margarine
1 egg
1/4 c molasses
sugar

In a bowl combine the first nine ingredients. Mix and store in an airtight container or zip lock baggie. Will make 9 cups of mix - or 3 batches of cookies.


To make cookies: Cream butter, add egg and molasses. Mix well and add 3 cups of the mix. Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in sugar. Bake 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 9 minutes at which time the edges should firm up and surface crack. Cool completely. You should get about 4 dozen per batch.
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12/5/09

The Holiday Baking Has Begun! Annual Snowflake Cookies




This is the sugar cookie recipe I've used for a couple years now and I really like it because not only does it have great flavor, but the dough retains its shape and doesn't spread when baking. This makes it perfect for my snowflake cookies... which incidentally is the first double batch of cookies I made. I then followed up with a couple dozen each of bells, stars, trees, holly leaves and more. I originally posted this recipe two years ago but it's a keeper and it's the one I used again this evening. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Sugar Cookies


1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 c butter, soft
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cream of tartar
1 t salt

Combine sugar and butter, beat until creamy with your electric mixer. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix until blended. Chill dough until it's easy to work with; 30-60 minutes.

On lightly floured surface roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out cookies. Bake at 350 until the edges just start to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Use your favorite cookie cutter...
here is one of my snowflakes



Naked cookies waiting for some icing!



Letting the icing harden


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Cookie Sticks - Striped cookie rolls to add to your holiday tray

Although I'm so busy with my full time job, the house, errands, the kids schedules and cleaning and laundry that I'd probably find it easy to put-off making most of the holiday goodies, I have a few baking responsibilities that keep me on track and keep me focused. One of those is the upcoming bake sale at school - which is a fundraiser for the Junior Class After Prom Party. It's one of my signature volunteer opportunities as it's a fundraiser I have a keen interest in since it's not sports related.

With the bake sale looming and my husbands coworkers asking about cookie trays, I'm trying to organize my baking schedule and find the time to make what I can before the event. One of the cookies that has been heavy on my mind these past few days are Cookie Sticks.

Eye-catching on a cookie tray and tasty too, it's a simple recipe that reminds me of the flavor of fortune cookies. When I first told my readers about it, I suggested you could also add a bit of peppermint flavoring to make them minty.



They are time consuming, so be sure you have a good 2-3 hour window 'free' to embark on these if you decide to make them.

Before you start this recipe take a large piece of cardboard or tape two pieces of heavy card stock together. Using an exacto knife cut a rectangle in the center 3 inches by 6 inches. This will be your 'stencil' for the cookies.


Candy Striped Cookie Sticks

8 large egg whites
2 c sugar
2 c flour
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 sticks butter, melted
6 T heavy cream
1 1/2 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degree's while you place the egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix on medium until foamy. Mix in flour and salt. Add melted butter, cream and vanilla. Mix. Place 3/4 c batter into each of two bowls. Tint one pink and one red. Transfer the tinted batter to decorator bags with a small round tip or if you don't have them, use a large ziplock baggy with a tiny corner cut off.

Lay the cardboard stencil on a silpat mat on a baking sheet or on parchment lined baking sheets. Using heaping tablespoon of dough, spread it in the stencil, smooth and lift the stencil to leave a rectangle cookie dough shape. Use the pink and red colored dough to pipe stripes on your cookie. Bake 6-8 minutes until the edges are pale golden brown.

Immediately loosen the edge of the cookie with a spatula and flip it over. Starting from one of the long sides, roll the cookie up into a cylinder shape - or a cookie stick or 'roll'. Let cool completely. (click on the photo below to make it larger and read the instructions as well as see the details).

These cookies set up fast after they come out of the oven so you must work quickly. I found it best to have three cookie sheets going at one time, as I would take one out of the oven I would have another cookie ready to go in, and one half way done cooking. This way I was removing a cookie and rolling it approximately every 3 minutes.

Makes about 25-30 cookies.
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12/2/09

Delicious Almond Truffles - Perfect for Christmas Candies


With 'truffles' on the brain from the previous post I went in search of my old files from 2007 and 2008 to find the almond truffles my daughter made. She had just turned 17 when she made these for a new boyfriend. So quick and so easy she needed little help from Mom and managed to pull off some beautiful dessert truffles, which we packaged using (recycling) a "chocolate candies" box from Harry & David.

These are just so pretty and so incredibly creamy and smooth that they will probably be some of the first to go on your holiday goody table or tray.


Almond Truffles


1/2 c evaporated milk
1/4 c sugar
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 t almond extract
1 c finely chopped toasted almonds
OR 1 cup melted chocolate almond bark for dipping (or extra chocolate chips)
and melted white almond bark for drizzling

Combine evaporated milk and sugar in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil. Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in chips and almond extract, stirring gently until smooth. Chill mixture about 45 minutes until it can easily be shaped into balls. Roll into the crushed nuts or dip in melted chocolate. Drizzle or sprinkle with nuts if desired. Chill until ready to serve.


My daughter dipping them in chocolate
and drizzling the top with melted almond bark

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Christmas Dark Chocolate Truffles!

Although I'm not a fan of chocolate, I married one that is - and the darker the better! Funny that one of our three kids is also a 'dark chocolate' fan. These truffles are dark, smooth and delicious. Even I, a non-chocolate lover, will nibble on a good quality chocolate truffle with a cup of hot, fresh coffee to go with it!

Start your Christmas baking off with these and it may not matter if you make anything else!


Dark Chocolate Truffles

1/3 C heaving whipping cream
6 Tbs unsalted butter cut into small pieces
2 C (Ghirardelli) 60% Cocoa Bittersweet chocolate chips OR (2) 4oz of 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate baking bars
3/4 C finely chopped almonds


Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add butter and stir until melted. Add chocolate, stir until melted and smooth.

Remove from heat and pour the chocolate mixture into a shallow bowl. Cool, cover and refrigerate until firm - at least 2 hours. Roll mixture into 1" balls and then roll each ball into the finely chopped almonds.

Put into a cute little mini muffin tin sized holiday or foil cupcake liner.
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12/1/09

The Elusive Layered Christmas Cookie

A couple years ago I was surfing the internet when I saw a photo of a striped bar cookie that caught my attention and I was smitten. I had to make them! Unfortunately there was no recipe with it - it was just a photo used in an article.

I saved the picture to my files in the hopes of someday finding out what they were and making them.

Last year while surfing the internet I stumbled up on the photo again, only this time I saw the recipe! I copied it down to my files to match up with the picture. Only... I forgot about them.

This morning I laughed out loud. It seems this elusive recipe is now gaining popularity because I'm starting to see it - and the same stock photo - all over! Many websites now have both the cookie and the recipe listed. It has spurred me to add it to my holiday baking list. Here it is... the cookie that captured my attention a couple years ago. It's known by many different names.

The Layer Cookie with Many Names
Italian Layer Cookies
7 Layer Cookie
Seven Layer Bars
Rainbow Bars



* 4 large eggs, separated
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 (8-oz) can almond paste
* 2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
* 1 teaspoon almond extract
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 25 drops red food coloring
* 25 drops green food coloring
* 1 (12-oz) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained
* 7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper.

Beat whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl.

Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set white batter aside. Chill green batter, covered. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook.)

Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.

When all layers are cool, invert green onto a wax-paper-lined large baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert red layer on top of white layer and discard wax paper.

Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.

Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over water.

Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.
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Musing Over Morning Coffee

This morning while I sip my coffee and enjoy some quiet time before heading off to work, I gaze out the window to the sunrise, past the glitter filled glass bottles in sparkling green, gold and silver that I have on the windowsill.

This weekend I 'decked the halls' of our home with boughs of holly. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and the chairs are set with bows glittering brightly.

Our holiday table of course won't be set until Christmas Eve, but the ivory and gold tablecloth will be laid, adorned with candles and set upon with Oyster Bisque, Cheese Soup and other traditional fare.

Last night I made my holiday baking list. It had 22 items on it of all the traditional cookies and candies our family loves that I plan to make this year.  I'm now up to 23. Yes. Twenty-three items are on on my holiday baking list and yes... even with my full time job and three kids I always do this much baking!

Join me this holiday season as we bake and cook... playing with recipes and making them our own, and taking time to sip our morning coffee and enjoy quiet, contemplative mornings during this busy season.
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11/30/09

Cream Horns - Lady Locks - Coronets - Clothespin Cookies

To kick-off the holiday baking season I'm choose my all-time favorite cookie/pastry; the Cream Horn!

Sometimes called Lady Locks or Clothespin Cookies or even Coronets - named in part due to the nature of cookie mold or form being used. Our great-grandmothers oftentimes used wooden clothespins or dowels to wrap the dough around. Much of the time the pastry dough would stick to unseasoned wood however, and the cookies would break. Paper molds were also made and used - time consuming and delicate. Between the time and work involved in making the pastry and the frustrations with the forms, no wonder these cookies were soon only found in bakeries and grocery stores!

To get started you'll want to invest in aluminum forms. Be sure you purchase enough to bake all your cookies as the pastries need to cool on the forms and only baking 4-8 cookies at a time will take you literally all day.

 
The smaller form in the back is from Grama Joans cookie forms
The larger cone in the front is from Amazon (Cream Roll Horn Molds, Set of 6)

If you have time and you love to bake, try your hand at the pastry recipe below. It requires an hour chill time between folds and an overnight chill time when the dough is finished, so plan accordingly. However, I have a time-saving recipe if you need these dainty pastries by this afternoon; Puff Pastry. Available in your grocer's freezer, purchase sheets of puff pastry and use them in place of the traditional pastry dough. Slicing, wrapping and baking can be accomplished in 30 minutes while you also mix the filling, and with a quick cool-down in the freezer you can have these delicious cookies out the door in under an hour!

Cream Horns

3 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 c ice water
2 egg yolks
2 c cold butter or shortening - or a mixture of both

Combine flour, salt, water and egg yolks. Mix well until a ball is formed. Place on a floured plate, cover with wax paper and refrigerate about 1 hour. Roll out dough to form a rectangle. Spread 1/2 cup of the chilled butter/shortening down the center. Fold over the rest of the dough in envelope fashion so that all edges meet exactly. Press edges slightly to seal in the air. Chill one hour. Follow the same procedure again, permitting an hour chill time. Continue two more times until all the shortening/butter has been used.

Place on a floured plate, cover with wax paper and chill overnight. The next day divide the dough into 3 parts. Work on one part at a time. Roll out each disc to 1/8" thick. Cut into strips about 3" - 4" in length and up to 1" wide. Wind each strip around an aluminum form, overlapping slightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes until lightly golden. Cool. Slip off the form. Fill.

Cream Horn Filling

1 c Crisco
1 c butter (not margarine...)
4 c powdered sugar
4 t vanilla
3/4 c marshmallow creme

Cream the Crisco and butter. Add the sugar gradually and then the creme and vanilla. Beat well until it's smooth like whipped cream. Fill cooled or chilled cream horn forms.






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11/26/09

Thanksgiving Gravy - Make Ahead or The Last Minute - Won't Gel Up!

Did you make your gravy ahead of time? Or do you just need a really delicious gravy recipe for Thanksgiving Dinner? Here it is! Our annual Thanksgiving Gravy recipe that I've made every year since.... ? About 20 years now! Best of all - it doesn't gel up so you can make it this morning and then add the turkey drippings and reheat just before serving!

simmering the broth


Thankgiving Gravy
*best when used with homemade broth - but you don't have to

*broth*
6 c chicken broth (water with boullion is fine)
2 lg. onions, chopped
1 c sliced fresh carrots
1 c water or dry white wine
1/2 c celery leaves and stems

Mix all ingredients in a soup pan and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Strain through a wire strainer and discard vegetables. Add water if needed to make it 6 cups.

*gravy*

Mash 6 T butter with
3/4 c flour

Mash until it's a paste and break into 4 chunks.

Bring 6 c chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in flour chunks one at a time, whisking until thick and smooth. Boil 3 minutes. Cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed within 2 days. If longer, be sure it's in an airtight container in the coldest part of the fridge. Can also freeze until needed and slowly cook and reheat to thaw before continuing.

When you are ready to make your gravy;
After your turkey is done, add the pan drippings - at least 3/4 - 1 cup (up to 2 cups) heat until hot and serve!




x
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Just Finished Making the Cranberry Cherry Salad Dessert!

You can tell this is a recipe from an older generation as it's a dessert but the recipe calls itself a 'salad'. Salad to people under the age of 40 means something green and leafy! I'm calling this a dessert and it's chilling in the refrigerator right now!

Here is a recipe to start you off but I'll tell you how I made mine - I used 1 box cranberry jello and 1 box sugar-free raspberry jello. I put it into a square glass 10" Pyrex dish and it's... beautiful! The brilliance of the dark red is just stunning. Put this in a glass dish if you have one!

Cherry Cranberry Salad Dessert

1 6 oz. package cherry gelatin
1 1/2 c boiling water
1 (20 oz) can cherry pie filling
1 can (16 oz.) whole cranberry sauce

Combine the cherry gelatin with the boiling water and mix. Add pie filling and cranberry sauce to the gelatin and mix well. Pour into a large pan and freeze it for an hour if you are in a hurry or chill it (preferred) for 3-6 hours before serving.
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11/25/09

Heath Pie for Thanksgiving! For Those Who Don't Care for Pumpkin!


If your crew isn't a pumpkin pie kind of crowd, perhaps this recipe from Pillsbury is more to your liking? I mean, seriously, who could turn down a pie made with Heath candy bars!?



Toffee Dream Pie

8-or 9-inch baked pie shell
8 oz. marshmallows
1/3 cup milk
5-8 Heath bars, crushed
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons diced toasted almonds

Heat marshmallows and milk, stirring occasionally, until marshmallows melt. Remove from heat. Stir in Heath bars. Chill until thickened but not set. Beat cream until thick. Fold into marshmallow mixture. Spoon into baked pie shell. Chill until firm, at least 3 hours. Garnish with almonds and additional crushed Heath bars.
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I made my pies this morning! Do you have your pie crust recipe ready?

I'm working from home today as I have not only a strict deadline for budgets and financial information to be emailed to the Board, but we have my 81 year old father-in-law visiting and I'm trying to get the pies made for tomorrow. Two down and 1 to go!

I was making the pie crust this morning and instead of digging it out of my files I brought up my website to find it quickly and easily... yeah, right. The search feature through the Blogger labels leave something to be desired and the site-search I have to the right through Google is ok, but I noticed many things don't come up as they should. I'm sure it has to do with the caching of the site... but suffice to say that I decided I had better put my pie crust recipe back up again so I can (and you!) can find it quickly and easily!

Pie Crust made with a Food Processor
(I've used this one since October of 1997 and love it!)

2 c flour
1 t salt
3/4 c shortening/butter mixture
4-5 T ice water

Combine flour and salt in your food processor using the S-blade. Add shortening and/or butter. I like a mixture of both to equal 3/4 c. This allows for a tender flaky crust with good flavor. Pulse the machine until it's a crumb mixture. Add the ice water by tablespoons, drizzling and running just until the dough comes together to form a ball. Stop the machine and divide the dough into 2 - wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate an hour or until needed.

Work on a floured surface to roll the disc out two inches larger than the pie you need it for. Use a spatula to fold in half then into quarters. Gently transfer to the pie place, open the folds and press to feet. You can brush the top with beaten egg white if you prefer.


I like a mixture of butter and shortening

Once it forms a ball, stop the machine
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Chocolate Sundae Dessert (Chocolate Ice Box Dessert)

The word "ice box dessert" is an instant throw back to the 30's and 40's in my mind. It's a term I often see in my old church cookbook collections but it's one that doesn't have the 'yummy' connotations today as the term did back then. It's dated and the term 'ice box' just screams 'old fashioned'.

So when it comes to a recipe entitled "Chocolate Ice Box Dessert" by someone's great-great-grandmother, you may want to give it a second glance and not pass by so quickly just because it doesn't sound appealing. Instead, let's pretend it says; Heavenly Chocolate Dessert. Chocolate Dream. Chocolate Sundae Dessert. Any chocolate recipe name you want to call it! This is a very, very old recipe, but like most old recipes that are still around... there is a reason for it.

Chocolate Sundae Dessert

1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup butter (not margarine)
2 eggs
1 small can chocolate syrup
4 ounces marshmallows
¾ cup broken nuts
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Graham cracker crumbs


Cover bottom of 8x12 pan with cracker crumbs. Mix sugar and butter. Add eggs and chocolate syrup; beat very well. Fold in marshmallows, quartered, nuts, vanilla. Fold in cream. Pour into crust. Refrigerate overnight.
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11/24/09

Love Crab Cakes? How about Making Vegetable Cakes?

I'm in the middle of cleaning up the kitchen right now when I moved one of my recipe books and out fell my handwritten recipe for vegetable cakes. They sound really, really good right now too! I have grated zucchini in the freezer from our garden that will work great in these!

Vegetable Cakes

4 eggs
2 c grated zucchini
2 c grated squash
1/2 c grated carrot
1/3 c bread crumbs
1/3 c fresh basil, ripped
1/3 c parmesan
1/4 c grated onion
salt and pepper

Beat eggs stir in everything else and pour about 1/4 c in a hot skillet with a bit of oil. Cook until golden brown, flipping once.
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How to Make Real Cranberries


Much to the disappointment of my teenagers, we will indeed have cranberries on our Thanksgiving in some way, shape or form.

They don't know it yet... but they're going to love them. Just like I do now. Now being the most important word in that sentence. You see, I didn't think I'd like them either. I spent my whole life thinking I probably hated them. They didn't look all that appetizing, and of course, you have to remember that as a small child, barely able to see over the edge of the table, I thought cranberries only came in one form... can shaped with ring lines on the sides from the indention's of the can!

I not only became enlightened in my mid-thirties to the incredible goodness of cooked cranberries, but I'm hoping that my readers will give it a try this year. Cranberries are so affordable, so brilliant and beautiful on the table and really, truly, very delicious!

When I make them this way I improvise with dried, powdered spices as I don't typically have whole cloves and allspice. I only use about 1/2 t of each because I don't particularly love the taste of cloves. Do some taste tests and see what you think. Play with the recipe and make it your own!

Cranberries

4 c (12 oz. bag) fresh cranberries
1 t dried orange peel or a fresh strip 1X3"
3/4 red zinfandel wine
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
5 whole cloves (tiny little things)
5 whole all spice
1 cinnamon stick

Boil the syrup by putting everything in the saucepan except the cranberries. Bring to a boil and reduce it to 1 1/2 cups of thick syrup. Add cranberries and cook about 4-6 minutes until they are all burst. You can serve this warm or cold.


MMMM. Brilliantly colored and oh so beautiful.
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A Cheese Pizza Crust

Regular readers know that my husband and I just finished a 3 week 'detox' of our bodies from all sugar and flour products. We do this a couple times a year when we start to feel run down, tired all the time and well... 'blah'. We do it to feel great and re-energize, others eat this way all the time to manage their Diabetes, others to lose weight and many other reasons.

Since we kicked off our first detox back in the Spring of 2002 following the Atkins induction, I've gathered about a thousand low carb recipes. Some are awesome, some not so great. This is one of the good ones. It is interesting that you'll get different results based on the brand or style of cheese you use and whether you grate it yourself or buy it shredded already. I think using pure cheddar is too greasy (don't use a pizza pan with holes in it without a pan underneath!) but I hope my readers play with this recipe to make it their own. See which version you like best.


Cheese Crust


2 c shredded cheddar/jack cheese
2/3 c Parmesan & Romano cheese (pre-mixed in a green can - you know the one)
1 t pizza seasoning
pizza toppings

Mix the cheeses with the pizza seasoning and sprinkle evenly over the bottom of a well sprayed pizza pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes until the cheese forms a crust and is starting to brown. Remove from the oven, let cool about 10 minutes and place into the freezer for about 25 minutes until frozen solid. When using to make your pizza, remove from the freezer and top with a little pizza sauce, your favorite pizza topping and mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350-375 until the cheese on top is melted.
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11/23/09

Old Bay Seasoning Wants to Help You Celebrate the Season... and WIN!!!

For those of you who took part in the Old Bay contest I held this summer... Old Bay is BACK and has a holiday contest they hope you will take part in!

November 19th through December 25th, OLD BAY wants to hear from its Facebook fans* on how they use their favorite spice blend during the holidays - it could be whipping up an OLD BAY recipe, sprinkling it on a holiday favorite, using it as a holiday decoration or giving it as a gift.

· To enter the contest, post a photo on the fan page (www.facebook.com/oldbay) showing how you zest up your holidays using OLD BAY – (Entries are limited to one photo posting per week).Each post will be voted on by the amount of “likes” it receives from fellow Facebook fan members.

· The photo post with the most “likes” will receive an “Ultimate Holi-Bay Gift Basket” ($140 value) that includes:

o A $25 gift card, a steamer pot and fryer, tons of OLD BAY products, 5 sample packs of OLD BAY for you to share with friends and family, as well as some items for the ultimate OLD BAY fan – branded t-shirts, cups, temporary tattoos, and an inner tube for sledding (or relaxing in the water for those who live in warm weather all year round)!

· One winner will be announced each week, starting the week of November 30th.

· Old Bay will mail out all gift baskets upon receiving each winner’s address information.

*You must be a Facebook member and fan of OLD BAY’s Facebook page to enter contest

Here are also a few of the recipes we think would be great for any upcoming holiday gatherings:

Hot Crab Dip

OLD BAY Crab Cakes

OLD BAY Steamed Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
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11/22/09

Cherry Cranberry Salad - Perfect for Thanksgiving

If you were to ask me what our Thanksgiving traditions were as a child I'd have to reply that I don't think we had any. Although we had plenty of tradition's in general, Thanksgiving wasn't one of them.

One Thanksgiving around 1982 I know we were at home that year because my Uncle and four favorite cousins came to visit and we had a blizzard that year complete with the power going out. Our family had oil lamps for camping that we dug out of the garage and lit for light, along with two wood burning stoves that heated our house. However, with eight (8) kids between the ages of 2 and 15 coupled with those stoves the house was almost 90 degree's and we had to open the windows! The power went out about 3/4 of the way through preparing dinner, so we finished cooking the turkey and gravy on the old Franklin stove in the family room, and had a complete Thanksgiving dinner despite the power outage. Other Thanksgivings were spent at my Grandma N's house where we always, always, always had cherry dessert.

Although I don't specifically remember spending Thanksgivings at my Grandma H's house, I know we did some years, because I do have a very specific memory of this holiday at her dinner table. She served cranberry sauce from can in which she plunked out onto a crystal serving dish and put it in the middle of the table. With the ring lines from the can still in place, they served as her slicing marks and the cranberries looked to me like big round beet slices. This is my only memory of Thanksgiving at her home.

Now I have to say that using a can of cranberries this holiday season is actually a good idea if you don't relish the idea of cooking and popping and spicing your own cranberries. But... let's not serve it straight from the can, shall we? How about trying this simple and quick recipe on for size?


Cherry Cranberry Salad

1 6 oz. package cherry gelatin
1 1/2 c boiling water
1 (20 oz) can cherry pie filling
1 can (16 oz.) whole cranberry sauce

Combine the cherry gelatin with the boiling water and mix. Add pie filling and cranberry sauce to the gelatin and mix well. Pour into a large pan (9X13 works) and freeze it for an hour if you are in a hurry or chill it (preferred) for 3-6 hours before serving. This will serve about 6 people.
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11/20/09

It's THAT time! Mini Thanksgiving Dinner Cupcakes!

It's an annual tradition in our family that my kids have grown up with and even at 18, 17 and 13 they still won't let me slack... this weekend is the weekend to make our mini Thanksgiving Cupcakes! Want to join me?


Brach's Maple Nut Candies
White frosting
Yellow gel food color (in a little tube)
non-perils - red or green (for tiny red cranberries and green peas)
I bought the long shapes and called them 'green beans'
caramels, melted or chocolate chips or butterscotch chips for 'gravy'
a package of cookies - I choose the ones with the 'pretty edge' to look like a plate
yellow frosting or other for the 'plate'

Bake and cool your favorite cupcake recipe. Place frosting on the cupcake and top each with a cookie while the frosting is soft to 'adhere' the cookie-plate to the cupcake.

Slice the maple nut candies thin and layer them as 'turkey'.
Dab some white frosting next to it for 'mashed potatoes' followed with a little dab of yellow gel food color as 'butter'.
Melt your caramels, butterscotch or chocolate chips and thin with a little vegetable oil. Drizzle over the 'turkey' as gravy.
Finish it off with the 'cranberries' (red colored sugar or non-perils) and little green 'peas' or 'beans'.



You can slice the top off the cupcakes
if you filled them 3/4 full and they have
a little peak. This will let the 'plate'
evenly on the top of it.

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11/17/09

Homemade, Incredible, Beef and Bean Burritos


This week I made the most amazing beef burritos. So good that I had to share with my readers. Regular readers will remember that we bought 1/2 a cow this year which included a lot of beef roasts... and we are not a 'roast' family. We only like traditional roast beef dinners a few times a year, usually on a very cold, snowy winter day. Coming up with new idea's for roasts, I've stumbled upon one that I will use over and over and over (and over!) again... all year long. It's THAT good.

Homemade Beef and Bean Burritos

1 good sized roast - mine was about 4 1/2 pounds and was chuck
2 packages of taco seasoning (I used Penzey's Salsa Salad Seasoning in place of one of them - but you can use 2 regular taco seasoning packets. Only use 1 if you have a smaller roast!)
salt and pepper
tomatoes - either 2 (15 oz) sized cans of diced tomatoes or the equivalent. I used tiny tomatoes from my garden that I had frozen at harvest
1 Tablespoon oil
jalapeno's or chilies if you desire a level of hotness
1 can refried beans (leave this out if you are doing strict low-carb)

Trim the roast of excess fat now or be sure to cut it off after cooking before shredding. Place your roast in a crock pot and sprinkle the oil, seasonings, salt and pepper and tomatoes (and chilies if you use them) over all. Cook on low for 8-10 hours until completely done. There will be a lot of liquid, but don't drain it.

Using two large forks, shred the beef. Cook for another hour. Just before serving, stir in 1 can of refried beans. Warm through until all is hot and serve on tortilla shells with salsa, cheddar cheese and sour cream.

*This is one of those meals you can make ahead of time and either freeze it for future use or if possible, make it a day or two ahead, don't add the refried beans yet. It's like chili - it's even better the second day! Add the beans when you reheat it - and serve as usual.





I froze my tiny cherry tomatoes from the garden this summer and
used them - but you can use two cans of diced tomatoes


Shredding the beef with two large forks is quick and easy!


A family favorite!


*To make this very low carb you can leave out the refried beans or just use 1/2 of a can for the entire recipe and you will only have about 1 carb added per serving.




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