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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