12/31/11

Holiday Tray 2011: Red Velvet Cake Balls, Rosettes, Homemade Twix Bars, English Toffee, Cream Wafers and SO much more!


Another year of baking is over.  I had 24 items on my list to make this season and even around the relocation to the new state and all the unexpected repairs and things breaking down in the new house, I managed to pull off all but 6 of them.  I chose most of those six to forgo as they were similar to something else I made already (such as not making the Russian Tea Cakes as I had already made Peppermint Tea Cakes.  Or not making the stars and tree's sugar cookies as I already had the snowflake sugar cookie.)


A couple of the candy recipes are so incredibly quick and easy, I'm sure more people would make them if they knew how simple it was.  These are things like the candy dipped pretzels, toffee, and of course, the homemade Twix Bars. As a matter of fact, I'm adding the Twix 'recipe' to this post.  It happens to be one of the very very few candy bars I'll ever eat (remember, I'm not a fan of chocolate).

Twix Candy Bars

35 caramels - unwrapped
2 12-oz. bags milk chocolate chips
1/4 c water
1 box (about 40) Nabisco Lorna Doon Shortbread cookies (square) or Walkers shortbread (long stick)

Combine the caramels with the water in a small pan and melt over low heat.  Place the shortbread cookies side by side on an ungreased or lined cookie sheet.  Spoon a dab of the melted caramel on the cookie.  Place all cookies in the refrigerator until firm.  Melt the chocolate chips in a double broiler or in the microwave.  Remove cookies from the refrigerator and dip each one into the melted chocolate.  Tap off excess and place on wax paper.  Let them set up at room temperature - can take up to several hours depending on the heat and humidity of your home.
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12/29/11

Jicama Salad


Pachyrhizus erosu.  It sounds rather exotic and strange, but most of know it by it's other name; Jicama.  The sorta-sweet vegetable that looks like a white turnip and tastes more like an.... apple?  Green beans?  Sugar Peas?  Yeah.  That.

I didn't 'discover' jicama's until I had a strange white, crunchy 'something' in a salad at a restaurant and later when I finally bought them myself, realized this is what I had.  I loved them.   Although I don't have them on hand all the time, I use them quite a bit when my husband and I do a cleansing 'low carb' way of eating.  They are so delicious and versatile. 



Jicama Salad 
For each person eating have this approximate amount of ingredients per person;

2 cups ripped romaine lettuce pieces
1/4 c jicama sticks, peeled and cut into match-stick-size pieces or diced
1/4 c halved red seedless grapes
1/2 c fully cooked diced or cubed chicken
2 T cashew pieces
2 T red wine vinaigrette salad dressing

Combine all ingredients but the dressing and when ready to serve, pour red wine vinaigrette salad dressing evenly over salad ingredients.
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12/26/11

Cherry Pop Tarts


The month of December is always expected to be a little hectic and crazy but with our move 1000 miles across the country, getting ready for Christmas and preparing for my college kids to come home, I didn't get a recipe made that I was so excited to make;  Mini Pop Tarts!  I saw this on Pinterest and saved it in my files knowing these would not only be a hit with my three kids, but I love cherry Pop-Tarts as well and making them homemade would be not only fun, but a healthier alternative to the chemicals and preservatives in the store bought kind!

Alas, time got away from me, the rest of the week is jam packed before my kids fly off to various parts of the United States, and I know I won't get to make these until next month.  Nevertheless, here is the recipe from Pinterest for my files.... and a determination to get these made as soon as life slows down a little in the new year!


Mini Pop tarts

1 c fresh cherries, pitted and diced
3 T sugar
2 T cornstarch
2 T water
1/2 t almond extract
1 pkg pie crusts


Glaze
1 c powdered sugar
1-2 T milk
1/2 t vanilla
food coloring and sprinkles

In a small saucepan, combine cherries, sugar, cornstarch and almond extract.  Cook over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool. Unroll pie crusts and using a pizza cutter, slice them into 1 1/2″x 2″ rectangles.

Place a wooden Popsicle stick on top of one of the cut rectangles, then spoon a heaping teaspoon of cooled cherry filling into the center of the pie square, leaving a border around the edges. Gently lay a second rectangle over the top of the cherry filling. Press the edges of the rectangles together with a fork to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges begin to brown.

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla to make glaze. Tint with food coloring, if desired. Spoon over cooled pop-tart pops, sprinkle with colored sugar, and allow to the glaze to harden slightly before serving.
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12/23/11

Our Swedish Christmas Tradition: Rosettes


Christmas celebrations usually involve traditions.  One of the traditions from the Swedish side of my family that I have carried on to my family as well is the making of the Rosette's each Christmas.

A crispy, light, fried pastry, sprinkled with sugar crystals or confectioner's sugar; it's a flaky dessert cookie that I have to say is probably my first or second favorite at the holidays.  While I shun most desserts and don't care for chocolate, this is one 'cookie' I can and will eat.... it's my kryptonite of the goodie tray!

 

You must have a rosette/timbale set to make these.  Available for about $15 and you can get it on Amazon if you don't have a kitchen store near you.

Because I make these every year, I've posted this recipe previously on my website, back in 2007. Why reinvent the wheel?  Here is my post from 2007, which I'll be making this morning....  will you join me?

Rosettes

2 eggs
1 t sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 c milk
1 c flour

Break eggs into a bowl, add sugar, salt, vanilla, milk and flour. Beat briefly just until smooth. Do not overbeat! Too much beating makes your rosettes blistered and tough.

Have hot oil, lard or shortening in a pan on the stove heating. Leave the rosette iron in the hot oil for several minutes while you make the batter. Dip the hot iron into the batter being careful not to let the batter come up over the edge of the iron. Dip just about 4/5th of the way up the iron. Immediately place the iron/batter into the hot oil. Hold the iron in place and cook the rosette until it's golden brown and crisp. The temperature of the oil is perfect when it takes about 25-30 seconds for the rosette to cook. Too fast and it burns, too cool and it will be soggy and greasy. Use a fork to shake the rosette off the iron and onto a paper towel lined rack. When they are cool sprinkle with powdered sugar. These can be frozen. This recipe will make about 40.

  • If they do not come off the iron they were not fried long enough or you let the batter come up over the edge of the iron.
  • If they are blistered and thick, you have beaten the eggs too much.
  • If the rosettes drop off in the hot oil the iron is not deep enough in the oil.
  • If they are not crisp they have been fried too fast or the oil was not hot enough.



Heat the iron in the oil while you mix the batter

You must have a rosette set to make these.


Don't dip the batter up over the edge of the iron so they will slide off after frying.


Drain on paper towels

Sprinkle with powdered sugar for a delicious treat!


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12/20/11

Cut Out Christmas Cookies (edited to add the frosting I used)


I'm about half way done with holiday baking - about 11 (?) items made so far.   Yesterday I finished decorating the sugar cookies (snowflakes pictured above) and the cake balls.  I have numerous cookies, English Toffee and another candy to make yet but today?  Today would be perfect for baking but I'm soooo tired.  Literally.  I'm procrastinating against doing, well, pretty much everything!

I'm thinking a little freshly made coffee and a walk out to the mailbox is in order to wake me up and then?  Onward to more holiday baking for the goody trays!


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 on lined baking sheets at 350 until the edges just start to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.  Decorate as you desire.








Your wish is my command!  The comments below asked what frosting I used on the snowflake cookies.  They are both recipes I've posted on the site before but I'm pasting them here for easy access.  The first is the base coat glaze I put on the cookies and the second is a basic royal icing recipe I use for the swirls and lines of the snowflakes. 
Icing Glaze for the Base Coat
Makes about 1 & 1/3 cups

2 1/2 c powdered sugar
2 T water
1 T butter, softened
1 T light corn syrup
1/2 t almond extract or vanilla
Food color, if desired

Combine powdered sugar, water, butter, corn syrup and vanilla in small mixer bowl; mix until powdered sugar is moistened. Beat at medium speed until smooth, adding additional water if necessary to reach desired spreading consistency. Tint with food color, if desired.  Glaze cooled cookies and let stand until hardened (6 hrs. or overnight).



Royal Icing Swirls - Frosting

4 c confectioners' sugar
3 large egg whites
1/2 t cream of tartar
1/2 t vanilla
1 T water

Beat 4-6 minutes on high.  (Add more or less water depending on stiff it is and how stiff you want it).  Will be very hard when it dries.




 
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A busy day Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole



It had been a busy day and in between cleaning and doing the school run, I had been baking holiday goodies and had been in the kitchen.  I went online to check email and read the news and relax when I looked at the clock. My husband would be home from work in about 45 minutes.  My daughter and I weren't really hungry, nothing sounded good and frankly?  After making holiday treats all afternoon and cleaning up the kitchen, the last place I wanted to be back in was the kitchen.

What could I throw together quickly, put into the oven and forget about?  My husband is not a casserole guy.  Actually, no one in our family is.  Most pasta dishes and casseroles just aren't loved in this family so it gets tricky.  But, once in a while I can pull one off, and this is one of them.

Easy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Chicken - almost any style
1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
1 box long grain wild rice with seasoning packet
water
*optional - fresh sliced mushrooms (about 1/2 cup)
salt and pepper or favorite seasoning

The chicken you use depends on what you have on hand.  Raw, boneless, skinless chicken is great.  Whole or sliced into long pieces.  Chicken tenders.  Cubed and cut up chicken.  You can even make it with precooked chicken or turkey left over from another meal or if you are one to buy canned chicken, you could even use that.  Pour the rice into a greased baking dish or casserole dish.  Sprinkle on the flavor package.  Add the can of soup.  Fill the soup can with water and mix into the rice.  Place the chicken on top (as much or little as you wish - I usually use about 3 chicken breasts).   Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper to taste or you can use a seasoned topping like lemon pepper, Mrs. Dash or whatever you like.  Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until chicken is completely done and the rice is golden brown around the edges.

Fix it and forget it!  A five minute meal to mix and then you are done until it's time to set the table.
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12/19/11

You know... 'the things with the pretzels and hershey's kisses?'

Ready to go into a warm oven

When you are pressed for time, not in the mood to make a holiday goody or want to make something with a child that is quick and easy... these are all good reasons to make something that doesn't really have a real 'name' yet.  You know, it's those things you make with the pretzels and a Hershey's kiss or hug.  Sometimes called a Pretzel Hug or a Pretzel Kiss, but we all know what they are and they are so good and so easy!

A recipe isn't really needed... but perhaps just a photo to get you started!


Use milk chocolate, caramel, dark chocolate, peppermint or use a Rolo Candy

Pretzels - squares or rounds 
Hershey's Kisses, Hershey's Hugs (use milk chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel or even peppermint)
Or use a Rolo 
You can add an M&M on top as well if you like!



Place an unwrapped candy on a pretzel.  I like to line my baking sheets with foil or parchment.
Place in a warm oven 275 is fine until the chocolate is shiny and glossy.  This is usually about 3 minutes for the milk chocolate and sometimes a minute or so more for other flavors.  Remove from the oven, press another pretzel on top or press an M&M candy on top.   Let set until hardened again (up to an hour or two).  That's it!  So easy and so good!  Play with many different variety of chocolate candies for different flavors.   Personally, we like the round pretzels with a caramel kiss and a peanut M&M on top!

My personal favorite? Peppermint!!!

My family's favorite; caramel filled chocolate with a peanut M&M
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12/17/11

Homemade Stuffing Like Grandma Makes



Tradition.  It's part of what makes holidays so special.  It's also what makes some of our favorite holiday meals so special.  Many a cook has heard a gasp or a groan when they've messed with a much loved, traditional recipe only to find that new additions, new recipes or leaving it out all-together was a huge mistake.  For my brother, it's my Grandmothers Cherry Dessert.  For my husband it's a Double Layer Pumpkin Pie.  For me, it's traditional sage stuffing.  Even as an adult who likes to be polite and eat what is given me;  if you put raisins, cherries, apples or other fruits in my stuffing, I will pick them out.  Discreetly of course, and I won't say a word, but I will be disappointed you ruined my beloved stuffing with fruit.

Tastes however, are up to the individual and some people love raisins in their stuffing (my Grandma for instance!)  but for those you looking for a good old-fashioned, traditional stuffing with no bells or whistles, this is my recipe and this one is for you!


Traditional Homemade Stuffing

1/2 c chopped onion
3/4 c celery, chopped or diced
1/4 c butter (half a stick)
4 c dry bread crumbs - cubed or ripped to about 1 inch pieces
3/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/4 t poultry seasoning
1/4 t dried sage
1/2 - 3/4 c water or chicken boullion
1 egg - beaten

Cook the onion and celery in the butter in a pan over medium high heat.  When it's soft and translucent, add this to the bread cubes in a large bowl for mixing.  Sprinkle with the dry seasonings.  Mix the 1/2 cup water with the egg and add to the mix.  If it's too dry and not holding together (depending on the bread you use) add more broth or water a little at a time until it just binds together. You do not want a soppy mess so go light.  The juice from your chicken or turkey is going to help it bind together during the roasting process.  Stuff your cleaned and prepared bird and bake according to the poultry time table.   Remove stuffing to a bowl for serving at meal time.

Cooking the celery and onion in butter until translucent and soft

Add enough broth or water just until it binds together but is not soupy

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12/16/11

Lemon Tea Cakes

Yesterday and today I've been baking and making holiday goodies.  One thing I am not making for Christmas but will make later on this Spring is Lemon Tea Cakes.  I AM however making regular, original Russian Tea Cakes (also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes) and I have my Peppermint Tea Cakes DONE and packaged as of last night (recipe and photos to come).  In the meantime, enjoy this lemon version made in mini muffin tins, and slip it into your files to make in a few weeks!

Lemon Tea Cakes

1 1/2 c butter
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
2 1/4 c sugar
6 eggs
3 T lemon juice
2 t lemon extract
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 t grated lemon peel
3 c flour

5 1/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 c plus 3 T milk
3 1/2 t lemon extract

Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well.  Beat in the lemon juice, extracts and lemon peel.  Gradually add flour.  Fill greased mini muffin tins and bake at 325 degrees for 10-15 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes, remove from pans.  In a bowl, combine the glaze ingredients.  Dip the tops of each cake into the glaze.  Place on waxed paper to dry.  Makes 8 dozen.
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12/15/11

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

One of the many positives about our recent relocation to the South is my love of some traditional Southern foods.  Biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, bacon, pecan pie.... 

While I have a favorite biscuit recipe I've used almost exclusively since the 90's, I always try new recipes once in a while to make sure I'm not missing out on anything better.  On Tuesday night I tried a new (although very basic) buttermilk biscuit recipe. 

I always tell my readers that recipes are just a guideline and you should always 'play' with your food to make it your own based on preferences, allergies, and mostly?  What you have on hand!

Since we just moved in I don't have my pantry built up with all the basics so once in a while there are things I don't have on hand.  Right now I do not have any shortening in the house so my first substitution was using all butter.  I tweaked a few other things and here is the recipe I came up with.  It is fairly similar to our family favorite, and it's a great 2nd place.  See what you think.


Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/8 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 c butter (half a stick)
3/4 c buttermilk


Preheat your oven to 450.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with no-stick baking spray.  Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, two forks or your fingers (my personal favorite) until the butter is incorporated into the flour mixture and it's course crumbs.  Stir in the buttermilk with a fork or wooden spoon until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface (I turn it out directly onto the parchment lined baking sheet), sprinkle with flour and knead only about 8 - 10 times until no longer sticky.  Pat or roll out to about a half inch thick and cut with a floured round biscuit or sharp edged cookie cutter.  Cut straight down, don't twist!  This ensures high rising biscuits.  Re roll scraps up to a couple times, but keep in mind every time you re-roll the dough gets a little stiffer and your biscuits a little tougher.  Bake about 10-12 minutes until the tops are golden brown.  Serve warm.  Makes about 8-10 biscuits.


Stir just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl


Cut straight down with a biscuit cutter or sharp edge. Do not twist.
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12/13/11

Simple Christmas Cranberry Sauce


Everyone thinks of cranberries for Thanksgiving but they are so brilliant, so bright and so beautiful I certainly hope they are going to be served at everyone's Christmas holiday table!  What could be more easy than throwing the ingredients into a saucepan and letting it cook?  You can do it!

Christmas Cranberry Sauce

1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 c  sugar
2 t  orange zest
1/2 c orange juice
1/4 c water


Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened.
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12/9/11

Rib-eye with Sauteed Onions, Mushrooms and Bacon


Our family loves sauteed onions and mushrooms over a nice steak, but this time around, when I opened the refrigerator, I spied an open package of bacon calling my name and the addition of bacon to the mix was delicious!

I can make up this mixture and eat it as a side dish, I love it so much, but most people will probably want to top a grilled steak or even a baked potato with it.

Sauteed Onions, Mushroom and Bacon

Butter (about 3 T)
1 large onion (I like to use yellow onions or sweet yellow onions whenever I can!)
1 package or can of mushrooms (4 - 8 oz. depends on how many you want to add)
1 - 7 slices of bacon (again, depends on how many you want to add)
salt and pepper
(a dash of sugar if you would like - I'll explain in a moment)

Place the butter in a pan over medium to medium high heat.  Add chopped onion, sliced mushrooms and chopped bacon.  Cook all, stirring every now and then, until it's all golden brown.  You don't want to cook it too fast.  10 - 15 minutes is great.  The onion and butter will make this naturally somewhat sweet but if you want to help it along, you can add just a dash (like, 1/2 teaspoon) of sugar, but this is completely optional.  Season with salt and pepper. 


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12/7/11

My Homemade Guacamole


When my two youngest kids were about 9 and 6, they used to have a running argument each time we had guacamole.  Who was the "king" or "queen" of guacamole.  Basically, it was a sibling argument over who loved guacamole more.  Even though my son is now in college and that little six year old is almost 16, they still bring up the "I'm the King of Guacamole!"  "No!  I am the Queen of Guacamole!" argument when he is home from school and it's served.   

Tonight when I picked my daughter up after school she picked up a 'easy' style recipe book I had sitting the seat and flipped through it as we made the commute home.  She was mortified at the two guacamole recipes featured in the book.  One called for cottage cheese and the other added cream cheese and salsa.  She made me promise to never even try these two recipes.  I assured her that I have yet to find a better guacamole recipe than the one I make, and that I had no intention of adding cottage cheese.  

The Guacamole My Kids Argue 'Who Loves it More'

2-3 avocados (2 large, use 3 if they are on the smaller side)
1/2 onion, quartered
1/4 c diced chilies
1 heaping teaspoon minced jalapeno's
1 T cilantro or parsley (half that if you use dried)
1 T lime juice
1 large clove minced garlic (or use about 1  teaspoon pre-minced jarred style)
1/4 t salt
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded and diced

Slice and remove the seed from the avocados.  Scoop the flesh into a food processor bowl.  Add the onion, chilies, jalapeno, cilantro, lime and garlic and salt.  While on pulse a few times, just a few seconds each time.  Don't over process, but be sure the onion is all incorporated.  Stir in half the tomatoes, put into a serving dish, top with the remaining diced tomatoes.  Serve with tortilla chips.



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12/6/11

Cream of Spinach Soup with Cheese




I may have relocated down 'South' last month from our previous home in the North, but it seems we brought some cold weather with us!  And to add insult to injury, our heat went out last Friday night and I've been doing everything short of bribery to get the service guy to come out here and fix it!  They do things differently in the South, that's for sure.  I'll just leave it at that.

Our family loves creamy soups and this is one of the many that I have that I 'play' with the recipe depending on what we have on hand.  I expect, and hope you will too!  One of the best things about this soup is using different cheeses to give it a different subtle flavor.  I like to add any smoked cheese we have to it but this time around I also left out the salt and pepper and instead, used grated Beecher's Peppercorn Cheese (Marco Polo) from Seattle's Pike Place Market.  Delicious! 

Cream of Spinach Soup with Cheese

1 - 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
1 medium sweet onion or 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
3 T butter
5 - 6 cups chicken broth
1 c cream (or if you only have milk, mix in 2-3 T flour and whisk well before adding)
1/4 t lemon juice
2-3 oz. cubed Velveeta (thickens, adds a hint of color and creamy texture)
3 oz. grated smoked Gouda or cheddar (the hint of smokiness with the spinach is fabulous!)
2-3 oz. grated Peppercorn cheese (this eliminates the need to add pepper to season too!)
Tabasco sauce (just a dash or two!)

Cook the spinach in the microwave (or a pan) and drain well.  (See the photo below - I cook it in the box, squeeze it out flat over the sink and tear the box over the pan to let the spinach out - quick and easy!).  Cook the chopped onion in butter over medium high heat until translucent.  Add the broth (use chicken bouillon cubes with water if you wish!).  Add lemon juice and a couple dashes of Tabasco sauce.  Add spinach.  Add cream.  Heat through (do not let it boil after you add the cream).  Add the cheese, stir until melted.  Serve.  Goes great with a hearty bread on a cold winter night.





I cook the spinach in the box and squish it flat to drain



grated cheese ready for adding to the hot soup



Add some toasty bread and enjoy!
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12/3/11

Delicious Alfredo with Bowtie Pasta - starting with a jar of store bought


My teenage daughter was grocery shopping with  me and placed a jar of alfredo sauce in the cart telling me she was craving pasta alfredo and simply must have it!  I make a really delicious homemade sauce but with the bad luck we've had since moving into the new house just a week before ($4000 in vehicle issues, heating problems, lost billfolds (my husband, not mine), etc. I've not only been busy with repairs and phone calls but I really haven't been in the mood to cook!  
Store bought Alfredo sauce has a taste that I don't particularly care for.  It doesn't matter the brand, they are all similar to me.  But knowing it would make a quick and simple meal and she was wanting to have pasta Alfredo so badly I said "sure", knowing it can easily be doctored up!

Here is a quick and simple way to use what you have on hand and make a dish starting with a store bought sauce.

Pasta Alfredo with Vegetables

12 oz. dry pasta
1 jar alfredo sauce
1/2 - 3/4 cup of various chopped fresh vegetables;  red peppers, broccoli, snap peas, carrots, onions and/or peas
1/3 c grated smoked cheese (optional, as is most of this recipe)
Tomatoes, diced


Boil your pasta according to package directions.  Add fresh vegetables of your choice to the boiling water.  Drain as usual.  Add the pasta sauce.  Stir and top with cheese and diced fresh tomatoes.  The cheese should quickly melt into the hot pasta but if it doesn't, just microwave it for 2 minutes or put it under the broiler of your oven for 1 or 2 minutes.  Delicious with French or garlic bread.



Simply add chopped vegetables to the boiling pasta
Adding some chopped tomatoes and a little smoked cheese
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12/1/11

Apple Cranberry Pie

Apple Cranberry Pie



This Thanksgiving I had to two packages of brilliant, beautiful, fresh red cranberries.
And a family that doesn't tend to eat cranberry sauce.  Even yummy, delicious cranberry sauce.

Determined to find a new way to add them to our holiday dinner I made my favorite cranberry sauce, put it into the bottom of my daughter's favorite apple pie and a lovely two layered dessert was made.  What was even better is that I made two (2) of them and then decorated the top of one with Autumn leaves and the second with holly berries and leaves; which is currently wrapped and frozen, ready to be taken out and used at our Christmas dinner.

And the family that always says they don't like cranberry sauce?  Loved it. 


Apple Cranberry Pie

3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
1/2 t dried, grated orange peel
1 c sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 c water
1/4 t salt
5 cups apples (McIntosh or mixed varieties)
1 T lemon juice
3/4 c brown sugar
3 T flour
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t salt
2 T butter
2 double pastry pies



Bring cranberries, orange peel, sugar, cinnamon, salt and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally,  pressing the berries against the side of the pan with a spoon to break the berries down. Simmer about 10-12 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat.  Cool to room temperature.

Peel, core and slice your apples into a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 T lemon juice.  Add brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  Toss with a wooden spoon to coat the apples.   Pour the cranberry mixture into the bottoms of two unbaked pie shells.  Spread evenly.  Top with half of the apple mixture in each.  Dot the tops of the apples with a tablespoon of butter on each.  Roll and cover each of your pies with the top pastry.

Seal the edges with your finger pinching or a fork, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over tops and cut vent holes in the pastry.  Place on a cookie sheet to catch any over spills that may or may not happen.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven.  If you are baking both at the same time be sure to swap the pies around half way through baking to ensure even cooking and browning.  Bake approximately 1 hour.  Let cool at least 2-3 hours before serving.  Goes great with home-whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.




Layer the cranberries in the bottom of the pie pastry

Place the apple filling on top of the cranberry mixture



Decorate the top of the pies with excess pastry trimming if you wish



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11/30/11

My current favorite cheese ever? Bellavitano Merlot!


Every year for Thanksgiving we have a cheese tray.  There are a few family favorites that we absolutely *must* have every year but then I like to mix it up a little by adding new and different cheeses we've never had before.

For about 3 years I've tried various merlot cheeses from all over the world, but never found any I loved enough to make a point to search that particular brand out again.  Until this year.

I have a clear winner... so much so that after I tasted it, I dug the wrapper out of the trash, carefully washed it out with soap and water and saved the label so I wouldn't forget to pick up more for our Christmas holiday!  What was this cheese I loved so much?  And was it from France?  England?  Italy?  No....  Wisconsin, USA!   It's Bellavitano Merlot Wisconsin cheese and it's incredible.

Here is the description they give and then I'll tell you my thoughts after;

Created by the master cheesemakers at Sartori using time-honored techniques and the highest quality milk, Bellavitano features a rich and creamy texture with a great, cravable taste reminiscent of an aged, premium Cheddar balanced by a full flavored Parmesan. Bellavitano offers a versatile flavor with excellent melting characteristics and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. This Bellavitano is then soaked in merlot to give it extra tang and full merlot flavor.


In my own words;  It's a semi hard cheese with a hint of Parmesan, but only just.  It's a nice firm, but crumbly texture that starts to melt when it hits your tongue.  The Merlot the rind is soaked in has great flavor, not overbearing or too bitter.  It just has the slightest hint of berries but it's paired perfectly with the flavor of the cheese that neither fight for your attention. 

I'm loving this cheese right now and so very glad I can find it locally here in our new city and state!  But for those of you who can't, I've included the link above that takes you right to a place you can purchase it from on Amazon.   Enjoy!
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11/26/11

Who Wants Turkey!? No One. So... Let's Make it Into Sandwiches! Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Ideas

Who wants some turkey?

The roasted turkey on Thanksgiving afternoon smelled and tasted delicious. Leftovers that evening and even yesterday were quite good! But today, the second day of reheated turkey, a dab of potatoes and a little gravy doesn't sound appetizing.

In our home, today is the day I freeze what is left over. Two weeks from now I'll make ours into a warm, comforting Turkey Pot Pie with a homemade crust that we just love on a chilly winter evening.

For those of you who don't want to put your leftover turkey in the freezer for a later date, here are some sandwich ideas to use it up.  Now, if you ask my Dad, he'll tell you the best sandwich is also the simplest.  Use a split dinner roll, butter both sides, add some sliced leftover turkey pieces, sprinkle with a bit of salt and squish it together before biting.

For those of you who want a little more to your leftover turkey sandwich, here are a few ideas.




Turkey BLT
It's a classic with a twist


2 slices bread
lettuce
thin sliced leftover turkey slices
tomatoes
bacon
mayonnaise

Microwave or fry a couple bacon slices.  Toast the bread and top each with a smear of mayo; add the lettuce, tomato and turkey. ** Also note that I like to add avocado slices to this and top one side of it with Chipotle Dressing. (Taco Bell makes a great store bought Ranchero or Chipotle Sauce.)



Grandma's Favorite Turkey and Gravy Sandwich (eaten with a fork)

My memory of this 'sandwich' is that when my mother, my grandmother and I would stop at a little cafe' restaurant in the small town where she used to live, she would order this from the menu.

Mashed potatoes
Gravy

Leftover turkey pieces, thin sliced
Bread (of your choice but a nice hearty style is best)


Place bread on a plate.  Top with hot mashed potatoes, turkey and gravy.  Serve!



Turkey Quesadillas
A favorite of my son and daughter as they are so quick and easy to make

2 flour tortillas
butter or oil
thin strips of leftover turkey
1/2  c shredded cheddar cheese
salsa and sour cream if you wish to top or dip it

Brush the outside of the flour tortillas with butter or oil. Place a tortilla, butter side down in a medium hot pan (or use a George Foreman Grill)  and top with cheese and turkey.  Place a second tortilla on top, butter side out.  When golden brown and the cheese is melting, flip it quickly and carefully. (Not necessary to flip if you are using the George Foreman Grill).
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11/23/11

In America: The Day Before Thanksgiving... Preparation!

Cooking down the cranberries for use in the Cranberry Apple Pie


It's the day before Thanksgiving in America and many people are in the kitchen doing some of the prep work and/or baking to prepare for a day of blessings and thankfulness tomorrow;  shared with their friends and family.

This year is a very strange, odd and rather sad year for me in that it's just the three of us.  Our recent move to Alabama places us 1000 miles from not only extended family, but two of our own kids as well!   Even though we are paring the size of the turkey down to accommodate fewer eaters, the traditional foods and fare will be on our menu.  This year I'm mixing it up a little by changing the apple pie to 'cranberry apple' with a layer of delicious and brightly colored cranberries on the bottom and therefore incorporating this traditional side dish into a fabulous dessert.

Cheese Tray with various imported and smoked cheeses
Crackers

Roasted Turkey
Stuffing
Mashed Potatoes
Gravy
Green Bean Casserole
Cheesy Corn
Rolls
Double Layer Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry Apple Pie

Wine and Sparkling Grape Juice

Making the pies

Simmering a delicious broth for use in the gravy
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11/21/11

Baked Mini Cake Donuts

Baked Mini Cake Donuts

This weekend my daughter and I were shopping for dishes for the new house when I got sidetracked in a kitcheny store and couldn't help myself;  I bought a few little trinkets including an adorable itty bitty mini donut pan

Last night in between caulking the master bath and sealing the grout I decided to bake mini donuts with the new pan and see what I thought.  When you purchase specialty pans they almost always come with a stock recipe printed on the packaging.  My pans for Madeleine's, Cream Horns and other little desserts and cookies all come with them but I've rarely (if ever?) found that they were good recipes.  Still, I believe in giving them a chance so last night I followed the recipe on the package with one exception; I added a 1/2 t of vanilla to the batter and when I found it was too thick to pour into the pan, I added an additional 1/2 cup of milk.

In the end I found this recipe from the package to be ok but not fabulous.  When my husband and daughter got home last night, my description to them, which I think is fitting is;  If the 'cuteness' factor is more important than taste, then this is a fine recipe to use.  For small children, parties where there are a lot of other foods and venues where presentation is more important than someone eating just one and savoring it, this would work fine and is simple.  But if I am serving just these mini donuts and I want the 'wow' factor to be the flavor and texture of the donut, I would probably use a traditional fried cake donut instead of baked.

Baked Mini Cake Donuts

1 1/4 c cake flour
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 1/4 t baking powder
1/8 t nutmeg
3/4 t salt
scant 1 c buttermilk (use more or less depending on the thickness of your batter)
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray your pan very lightly with nonstick spray.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients;  flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.  Add the buttermilk, vanilla, egg and melted butter.  Stir just until combined.  For ease of filling the molds, you can place the batter into a ziploc baggy and snip the end or just spoon the batter into the cups about 1/2 full.  Bake 4-6 minutes until the tops spring back when touched.  Let cool in pan for 3-4 minutes and then remove to cool complete.  Frost as you wish with a simple glaze and sprinkles.  (Glaze can be made with 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 T milk and 1/4 t vanilla or almond extract).



Placing the batter in a ziploc for ease of filling the cups

Out of the oven.  These don't 'brown' but stay white


Decorate as you wish!




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