2/28/11

Fruitcake. The Joke of Americans and the Glory of Weddings in the United Kingdom?

Say the word 'fruitcake' in the United States and you are bound to get a smirk or guffaw without even saying more. If you happen to have a piece in hand you might hear 'ewww' or 'makes a great door stop!'. We Americans may have embraced fruitcake a hundred or more years ago, but it's become the butt of jokes over the past 50 years and it's certainly not in fashion to eat or make a cake that no one wants to touch.


But apparently, our friends in the UK don't feel the same way. As a matter of fact, it's a crowning glory on wedding cakes!

Reading the news this weekend and being a fan of British media, I saw an article that informs it's reportedly going to be part of Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding cake.

If a Prince and his bride are choosing fruitcake for their wedding cake, you have to believe their country must not snicker at the dessert as we do; but I also suspect it's now going to become 'the' cake to have at any wedding in the United Kingdom over the next two years and perhaps, maybe (?) it's popularity might slowly spread back the United States.

Having never had a European version of the dessert but having seen different images and recipes for it I do believe our Americanized version of the cake is different than the European version and thus; the discrepancy arises.   The British version does seem a bit more cake like than our doorstop variety so if and when the fad of fruitcakes at weddings crosses to American borders, I hope the bakers of the United States use a more 'cake' like fruitcake than the heavy version typically given at our Christmas holidays.
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2/19/11

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie... nothing like the frozen version and oh so good when you need a nice hot dish on a cold winter night or you are in need of a good 'comfort food'.  I've been making this since the mid 1990's and it's a delicious favorite that I always make the week of Thanksgiving to use up leftover turkey as well!   Chicken or Turkey or even leaving the meat out altogether, it's filling and good!

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

1 10 oz. package mixed carrots and pea's or all veggies
1/4 c butter
5 T flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 t poultry seasoning or sage
1/8 t pepper
2 c chicken broth (or use 2 cups water and 2-3 bouillon cubes)
1 c milk
2-3 c cooked or leftover chicken, chopped, diced or torn to bite sized pieces
1/3 c chopped onion chopped and cooked until tender in a bit of water (microwave!)
1 c cooked and diced potatoes (or use canned or dice and cook them with the onions)

Prepare the pea's and carrots (or mixed veggies). I like to cook them in the microwave while I prepare the rest. Melt butter in saucepan. Blend in flour, salt, poultry seasoning or sage, and pepper. Gradually add stock and milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and smooth. Add vegetables, chicken and cooked onions and potatoes. Pour into a greased shallow baking dish. Make a biscuit topping and top the vegetable mixture. Bake at 425 degree's for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown. About 6 servings.

Biscuit Topping;

Mix

1 1/3 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

Cut in
2 T butter
3 T shortening

Add 1/2 c milk (scant) and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. If it's too wet and sticky add one or two more tablespoons of flour. Pat down on a lightly floured surface and roll out to the shape of your baking dish. If you prefer you can cut into wedges or squares and simply top the vegetable mixture that way too. (Up to you!).  This does not need to be exact.  It will raise and become like a biscuit.


The biscuit topping mix


Ready when it comes together to form a ball


The vegetable filling - so good I can't help but snitch while it's cooking!

Patting out the top and roughly cutting to the size of your dish to top
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2/18/11

Tiny Caramel Tart Bites

For someone who doesn't care for desserts too much, there are certain recipes that catch my eye and my attention and just have a hold on me for some reason.  This is one of them.

I love making mini tarts and 'tassies'.  From pecan tassies to chocolate filled mini tarts to tiny cheesecake bites and quiche;  they are so cute, pretty, simple and fun!  When I found this recipe I was not actually looking for it.  I don't remember what I was trying to find, but I spied this one and added it to my collection.  I hope you do too!


Tiny Caramel Tart Bites

2 c sugar, divided
1/2 c cold butter, sliced
6 T flour
4 egg yolks
2 c milk

Pastry Shells
1 c butter, softened
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
3 1/2 c flour

Whipped Cream to decorate

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add flour to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Shape dough into 72 (3/4-inch) balls, and place on a baking sheet; cover and chill 1 hour.

Place dough balls in cups of lightly greased miniature muffin pans; press dough to top of cups, forming shells. Bake at 400° for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 15 minutes).

Cook 1 cup sugar in a medium-size heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes or until sugar melts and turns golden brown. Stir in butter until melted.

Whisk together flour, egg yolks, milk, and remaining 1 cup sugar in a 3-qt. heavy saucepan; bring just to a simmer over low heat, whisking constantly. Add sugar mixture to flour mixture, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Cover and chill 4 hours. When chilled, spoon caramel mixture into pastry shells, and top with whipped cream.
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2/15/11

Mussels with Garlic Butter & Wine

Where we live, winter lasts about 7 months out of the year and everything is covered in deep snow. This year we seem to be blessed with what might (?) be an early spring - or, we are just being teased because the last couple days the sun is out, the sky is blue and the snow is quickly melting.

My husband and I long to live near the ocean and make at least one annual trip to the beach every year; lately we've been trying to make it two. We are currently planning the first one, coming up next month and with the thoughts of sun, sand and sea coupled with the blue sky outside my kitchen window, my thoughts turn to the amazing seafood I will have.

In honor of mussels, here is a photo of the last mussels I bought and a recipe I found online a year or two ago but is a very basic recipe that everyone uses and is written easy enough for all to understand.

Mussels with Garlic Butter and Wine

1 1/2 pounds fresh cleaned mussels
1/4 cup white wine
1 teaspoon minced garlic
dash lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter


Preheat a pan over medium heat. Once you have chopped your garlic, place a small amount of butter into your preheated pan. Stir the garlic into the butter. A light olive oil could be substituted for butter.

Cook the garlic in the pan until it becomes a tan color. Do not burn the garlic, as burned garlic is very bitter. If you do wind up overcooking the garlic, throw out both the butter and the garlic, then wipe out the pan and start over.

Once the garlic is tan, add the mussels. Do not add too many mussels to the pan at once. If the mussels are stacked on top of each other, the weight of the other mussels will make it more difficult for the mussels on the bottom to open. Using this method, you should only cook enough mussels to cover the bottom of the pan at one time. Toss the mussels around in the garlic butter and coat the shells with the fat. Be careful not to be too rough when tossing the mussels in the butter, as the shells are somewhat fragile and will crack and chip.

Once the mussels have been coated, add about 1/4 cup of wine per dozen mussels. This creates the necessary steam required to open the shells. It will also decrease the overall heat within the pan. Cover the mussels with a lid to finish cooking.

After about 4 minutes, remove the lid. At this point, most if not all of the mussels will be open. Mussels, unlike clams, will open before they are cooked all of the way through. If some of your mussels have not opened, then it is possible that either they were not cooked long enough, or they are bad and should be discarded. If most of them have not yet opened, place the cover back on the pan and wait another minute or two. Be careful not to cook the mussels for too long, as they will become tough and grainy if overcooked.

Remove the mussels from the pan. Pour the juices left in the saucepan into your serving plate or bowl with the mussels. The juice is delicious when sopped up with slices of fresh bread.
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2/11/11

Easy chicken with mushroom wine sauce (can be made in a crock pot too)

Another one of those recipes that isn't really a recipe but you can play with it and make it your own... 

There are many versions of this dish, thought up by millions of men and women who use the same general idea and then tweak it a little to use what they may have on hand.  The basic idea is chicken breasts, some liquid, a can of soup, some mushrooms and cream cheese.  Herbs, dried salad dressing mixes, etc.  all optional as well.

It's one of those 'keep it in your back pocket' recipes for a day or night when you don't really feel like cooking and you have an hour before you have to eat OR you throw it together in a crock pot earlier in the day so it's done at dinner time.  Not incredibly healthy some would say, but you can use lower fat cream cheese, the healthy version of the soup and fresh mushrooms.

Now that you know this is an easy recipe that can be improvised in a hundred ways; let's get started!

Chicken with Mushrooms and Wine Sauce

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c white wine - not fruity (or water or chicken broth)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can mushroom slices or fresh mushrooms, sliced (4 oz, 8 oz. up to you!)
1 pkg. cream cheese
1 - 1 oz. pkg. dry italian salad dressing mix (like Good Seasons Italian)

Puree the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Add a little more or less wine for your sauce to be nice and thick or if you want more of a 'gravy' later if you are serving with a side of potatoes, you can add about 1/2 cup more.  Another option for less of a wine taste is to use water for the liquid OR my favorite; chicken broth.  I rarely cook with wine but will make this when I have the last of a bottle of wine to 'use up'.


When smooth, pour over chicken breasts in a greased or sprayed baking pan.  Bake at 350, uncovered for about an hour or until done and no longer pink in the center.  The size and thickness of your chicken breasts determine this.  If you are putting these in the crock pot, just pour over chicken breasts in the slow cooker and heat on low for 8 hours or according to your crock pot's instruction booklet.  Serve with pasta, potatoes or steamed vegetables. 


Smooth


Ready to bake
My kids love the sauce most of all
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2/10/11

So, Clorox, Which is it? 97% or 98%? Goof in packaging!

This morning's 'smile' is actually thanks to my husband who was helping me in the kitchen one evening this week and while waiting on me to finish one of the steps for dinner was standing by the sink and just randomly staring at our dish soap.

Our current soap is green works by Clorox and depending on if you read the FRONT of the bottle or the BACK of the bottle it's either 97% naturally derived or 98%.

I'm not kidding!  Check it out;


FRONT OF THE BOTTLE
says
97%



Turn it around and the
BACK of the bottle 
says
98%



Have a great day readers.
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2/6/11

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas (No Soup)


Homemade enchiladas are a favorite of this household but we haven't decided if there is one particular version that is 'better' than the rest.  We seem to like all of them!  I sometimes make the quick and easy version that uses a Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup base in the mix and other times I will pick up a can of store bought enchilada sauce to have on hand for those nights when I work late and get home with about 20 minutes before dinner has to be on the table.    However many people are looking for a good enchilada that is similar to the white chicken version served in many restaurants.

This is one of those!   Made from scratch, you can keep it 'pure' by using white pepper and only Monterey Jack cheese but if you just want a yummy white chicken enchilada and don't mind black pepper and a bit of cheddar or other color in it then use what you have on hand and improvise.   You can also use store bought chicken broth in place of the water and bouillon cubes.  I don't buy nor use store bought broth as I usually have homemade on hand in the freezer or bouillon cubes in the cupboard.  I served it this week with a side of Southwestern Style Rice and tortilla chips.  Enjoy! 


Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas


2 T olive oil
1/2 c onion, finely chopped
3 c chicken, cooked and diced or shredded
3 oz. cream cheese
½ t salt
2 c cheese, shredded (Monterey Jack is good but use what you like)
12 flour tortillas

¼ c butter
¼ c all-purpose flour
2 c water
1 t minced garlic
2 chicken bouillon cubes
½ t salt
¼ t white pepper
2 c sour cream
1 4- oz. can green chilies, chopped (I used some Pancheros green sauce in place of)
Sprinkle with extra cheese if you like
I also sprinkled the top with Santa Fe Seasoning from Penzey's Spices

Preheat oven to 375* degrees. Spray a 9x13” inch baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large skillet, sauté the onion in the oil just until softened. Add the chicken, sprinkle with the salt, and toss to combine. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then add the cheeses and mix thoroughly.

Place an equal amount of the chicken mixture on each of the 12 tortillas, roll them up and place them, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, and whisk constantly for a minute or so, add garlic. Gradually whisk in the water and add crushed bouillon. Add the salt and pepper, and cook, while stirring, until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from the heat, stir in the sour cream and green chilies.

Pour the sauce evenly over the tortillas, and bake for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese if you like. I also sprinkled a bit of Penzey's Southwestern seasoning on but this of course is purely optional.

My husband helps sprinkle cheese on before baking


Ready to go into the oven

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2/1/11

Red Valentine Brownies

In the middle of a blizzard today so after cutting my time at the office short, I returned home and felt like baking.  My family likes things that are 'chocolate' however, since I don't, when I saw this recipe in Southern Living for a red velvet brownie I immediately pictured the taste of a traditional 'red velvet cake' in my mind.  I could almost taste the distinctive flavor and immediately decided to make them.

Unfortunately for me, this is not a red velvet anything...  but are just regular brownies that happen to be colored a deep, rich red.   But I am excited to post them anyway as they are tasty, easy and best of all?  Brilliant red, just in time for Valentine's Day!  Make them for your sweetie or enjoy them yourself.  A basic brownie made with a bottle of red food color to get you in the red and white holiday spirit.

Valentines Day Brownies


4-oz. bittersweet chocolate baking bars, chopped
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (1-oz.) bottle red liquid food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 t vanilla extract
1/8 t salt
Cream Cheese Frosting
Garnish: white chocolate curls



Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.

Microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk in sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Gently stir in flour and next 4 ingredients. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake at 350° for 44 to 48 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 2 hours).

Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles; gently remove foil. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting on top of brownies, and cut into small 16 squares or larger 8 squares. Garnish, if desired.





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