Monthly Archives: December 2008

Blog UPGRADE!

I’m in the process of making some changes to my blog to make it more user-friendly and organized. Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be posting Blog UPGRADE posts to announce my changes. I have gotten a bit lazy on keeping this organized so I’m hoping these changes will help.

As my first upgrade, I added a Recipes tab at the top of the page. As I add new recipes to my blog, I will add them to the master list. This is an easy way to check out everything that’s in the blog by category. I just think it may be a bit easier to really see everything that’s available instead of clicking around a whole bunch of tags and categories.

Speaking of tags and categories, mine are a pile of crap, useless and horribly disorganized – right now. That will be my next change…updating and organzing the category bar to the right. Stay tuned! πŸ™‚

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Pie + Booze = A Winning Combo!

Christmas is almost here! Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit quicker than getting in the kitchen and baking up a storm! In order to get my hands on a recipe I never tried before, I decided to participate in a holiday sweets recipe exchange on the cooking board I frequent. How fun is that?! Tara over at Smells Like Home put the whole thing together. Thanks, Tara, for doing this!

I was so beyond excited to get a recipe in my inbox! When I opened it and found an interesting recipe for a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, I have to admit I was slightly concerned. Pecan pie has never been a top choice on my favorite desserts.

But then I got to thinking about my previous experiences with pecan pie….I think the only way I’ve ever had it was of the overly sweet, overly mushy store bought variety. I’ve never made it, I don’t think anyone I know has ever made it! Well…I can’t stereotype an entire dessert just because I didn’t care for the crappy store bought variety! I started getting excited to give this one a go. Hello….pie AND booze…yeah, count me in!

This recipe comes together lighting quick! That’s always a plus in my book. Not to mention it is absolutely delicious!!!!!! The bourbon in the background gave this pie an irresistible warmth that just screams Christmas. That, coupled with the semi-sweet chocolate, really helped cut the sweetness of the filling. And the best part?? The top got all caramelized and crunchy…almost like a creme brulee. Mmmm…

This is a keeper for sure! I’m very anxious to see who submitted this. Thank you, whoever you are!! πŸ™‚

CHOCOLATE BOURBON PECAN PIE (Recipe Source: WC Holiday Sweet Recipe Exchange)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees F).
  2. In a small saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter or margarine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter or margarine melts and sugar dissolves. Cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl combine eggs, bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Slowly pour sugar mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until set and golden. May be served warm or chilled.

ENJOY! πŸ™‚

If you are interested in seeing the recipe I submitted, check out Amy’s blog Skinny Food by Amy to find my mom’s recipe for Chocolate Shot Cookies! πŸ™‚

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It’s a Fiesta…

That you can hold in the palm of your hand!!

I was browsing chicken recipes on the Food Network on Thursday night and happened to stumble along a recipe for chicken empanadas from Paula Deen. Now, normally I wouldn’t even bother opening a link to a Paula Deen recipe. It’s not that I don’t like her…I’ll watch her if she’s on, but nothing she makes ever looks like anything I would want to make at home. Too much butter and cream and what not. And too much mayo!! Has anyone else noticed how often she uses a lot of mayo. I LOATHE mayo and I refuse to cook with it. I had her on TV the other day and she was making something all white and creamy per usual and Eric came in just as she was glopping a big ole’ scoop of mayo down into a bowl in all it’s white, jiggly glory. He says to me: “You know what? Mayo on a big screen TV in HD is unbelievably disgusting.”

It certainly is, Eric…it certainly is. A scoop of mayo as big as your face = the ultimate in appetite killers.

Anyway, I opened the link because I was curious and was pleasantly surprised to see that they were not fried! Reading through the ingredients, the wheels immediately began turning on how I could put my own spin on these. I knew these would be right up Eric’s alley. Now, I’m claiming they are healthy – as they use refrigerated pie crusts, but at least they are baked and not fried! They are a bit laborious to make – but you’ll have that. I don’t mind doing it. It was worth it in the end.

Eric loves little finger food appetizer type things so he mowed down on a whole plate of these and loved them. I liked them too, but I kinda wished they were a bit more crunchy. Next time, I might forgo the pie crust in favor of a prepared pizza or french bread dough so they get a bit more crisp.

I made some changes to the original recipe. Per some reviews, I halved the chicken and it was more than enough. I actually only had one pie crust to work with, because I used the other crust for an actual pie (coming soon to a blog near me) so I had some extra filling left. If I had used both pie crusts in the package, I think it would have been just the right amount. Because of that, I also halved the amount of shredded cheese, and the spices. I kept the 4 oz. of cream cheese, because 2 oz. didn’t seem like enough to bind it together. I swapped a jalapeno for chipotles in adobo and added a green onion, just because I like ’em. πŸ™‚ I cooked down the peppers and the green onion in a tiny bit of olive oil for a couple minutes to mellow them out for my hubby – who I have a feeling would have been turned off by crunchy veggies inside. Yeah, yeah…I know, I know…

CHIPOTLE CHICKEN EMPANADAS (Recipe adapted from: Paula Deen – Foodnetwork.com)

**I served with cheese sauce for dipping. I’d like to say I made it but it’s the Tostido’s stuff. You know…from a jar. Disgraceful, huh? Meh…**

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cups chopped, cooked chicken
  • 1 cup package shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 scallion (whites and greens), chopped
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie crusts
  • Water
  • Olive Oil, for brushing on top.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a skillet, cook red pepper, scallion and chipotles in a teaspoon of olive oil until crisp-tender.

Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a large bowl, combine the chicken and next 7 ingredients. Unroll piecrust onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 15-inch circle. Cut out rounds, using a 3-inch cookie cutter. Re-roll dough as needed. Repeat procedure with remaining piecrusts, making 12 to 15 circles total (you will probably get more than this…FYI). Arrange 1 round on a clean, flat surface. Lightly brush the edges of crust with water. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of chicken mixture in the center of the round. Fold the dough over the filling, pressing the edges with a fork to seal. Repeat with the remaining rounds and chicken mixture. (Up to this point, the recipe can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month). Arrange empanadas on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes.

ENJOY! πŸ™‚

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    Happy Thanksgiving!!

    Whoops! I’m about three weeks late on this, aren’t I? HA!

    Okay, so I’m ever so slightly behind on blogging my Thanksgiving Day dessert. It happens. I was so busy in November that I didn’t do much blogging it all so between catching up on other yumminess and blogging new yumminess from December, I just hadn’t had the time to share this absolutely to die for delicious pie!

    Eric and I always travel for the holidays (speaking of…only a couple more days until we begin our great Christmas pilgrimage across the great state of Illinois to see both sets of families! Sooooo not ready! LOL!) so it’s always hard for me to make something that will survive the trip. I wanted to contribute to the family feast in some way, so I asked my mom and dad for some suggestions for a dessert I could make and bring along. Since my mom was making the pumpkin pie, my dad requested something with berries, more specifically a triple berry mix of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Hmmmm…well, I’m never one to back down from a challenge so off I went to find to find something to really wow him!

    Well…not to toot my own horn or anything (LOL. Well, this is my blog so I’ll toot my own horn all I want, thank you very much!) but this pie I made was downright awesome. I was nervous presenting it to my family, as I had never made a pie from scratch before, but my dad absolutely loved it. I did too.Β  I know Dad was sad to see the last slice go. It was so good. And the best part of all was that it STAYED good for the rest of the weekend. It didn’t turn to mush after we cut into it. I don’t love pumpkin pie so this was the perfect alternate Turkey Day dessert. I will for sure be making this again. In fact, my mom tackled it just this weekend for a holiday party. I’ve yet to hear how it turned out but I’m sure it was just as good.

    CITRUS-SCENTED MIXED BERRY PIE WITH OATMEAL LATTICE CRUST (Recipe Source: Bon Appetit-August 1997, as seen at epicurious.com)

    ‘Scuse the photo, if you will. I was much more concerned with eating this pie on Thanksgiving Day then photographing it. It’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, but it is fabulously delicious. YUM!

    FOR THE CRUST:

    • 4 1/2 tablespoons ice water
    • 1 large egg yolk
    • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
    • 1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 1/4 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into pieces

    FOR THE FILLING:

    • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (add an extra 1/2 tbs. if you use frozen berries to make up for extra moisture)
    • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 3/4 cups fresh raspberries (I went ahead and used 4 cups of frozen mixed berries, no need to thaw!)
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
    • 3/4 cup fresh blackberries
    • 1/4 cup blueberry preserves
    • 1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)

    DIRECTIONS:

    *The directions require a food processor for the crust. I actually don’t have a full size food processor, so I did this all by hand – cutting the butter and shortening in with two knives.Β  Just like grandma used to do. Yes, it can be done, although it does take forever. So use the food processor if you got it!*

    Make crust:
    Whisk 4 1/2 tablespoons ice water and yolk in small bowl to blend. Blend flour, oats, brown sugar, lemon peel and salt in processor 30 seconds. Add butter and shortening and process until coarse meal forms. Add yolk mixture and process using on/off turns until moist clumps form. Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other. Flatten into disks; wrap each in plastic and chill 1 hour or up to 1 day. Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.

    Preheat oven to 375Β°F. Roll out larger dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer dough to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Fold overhang under, forming double-thick rim. Crimp, forming high-standing rim. Freeze 15 minutes.

    Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 10 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Continue to bake until crust is set and looks dry, about 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Maintain oven temperature.

    Roll out remaining dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips.

    Make filling:
    Mix 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, orange peel and nutmeg in large bowl. Add all berries and preserves and toss to blend.

    Mound filling in crust. Place dough strips atop pie, forming lattice; trim excess. Gently press strip ends to crust. Brush lattice with glaze. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

    Place pie on baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling bubbles thickly in center, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Cool on rack. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature edges with aluminum foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool. Serve pie lukewarm or at room temperature.

    ENJOY! πŸ™‚

    My proud papa presents pie perfection! πŸ™‚

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    Use your Nog(gin)

    If there’s one holiday tradition you probably wouldn’t see me enjoying, it’d be eggnog. I remember trying a taste of some at a friend’s house when I was like 11 and that was it for me. Way too thick and creamy. That was 15 years ago and up until now, I had absolutely no desire to give it another try.

    But then I got to thinking…just because I don’t want to drink it from the carton, doesn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t like it another way. You won’t find me eating cream cheese right out of the package on a bagel either, but you will for sure find me using it to bake up something fabulous. Maybe I should give eggnog another chance this year…

    I spotted a recipe for an eggnog muffin in my December issue of Midwest Living and just had to give it a try. Now, let me stray off topic here for a second and say that I big pink puffy heart this magazine. It’s full of all sorts of Midwestern hidden treasures – places to visit, ideas to try, recipes to make. I just love it! The Midwest has so much to offer all year round, it’s no wonder I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It is truly the perfect place to call home! πŸ™‚

    Enough bragging on my home turf – back to the recipe!

    I nearly panicked when I poured the eggnog out of the carton, because honestly, just looking at it, I thought – there’s no way I’m going to be able to handle this! But I’d committed to making the muffins, so making them was what I was going to do. Now, you will notice that the recipe calls for mixing melted butter with two eggs, the eggnog and the extracts. The first time around, I didn’t let the butter cool long enough and I cooked my eggs when I added them to the butter. Oopsies… So I had start over. The second time, I let the butter cool for 15 minutes AND put it in the fridge for 5 minutes and it was much better.

    You will also notice in my photo that the topping looks a little sparse. That’s probably because I tried to cut the butter into the flour/sugar mixture with a couple knives (I don’t have a pastry blender…need to put that on my list!) and I gave up way before I had the right consistency, so it just kind of disappeared on top. Still tasted good though! πŸ™‚

    I was pleasantly surprised by the results, especially after the initial scare of actual watching the eggnog come out of the carton for the first time. LOL. I found the muffins to be very moist and quite rich, but not overly sweet. Just one is more than enough. I think they’d be dynamite with the addition of a bit of cinnamon to warm up the flavor a bit and maybe some chopped pecans for crunch and texture. These would be great at a holiday brunch along side something savory like a breakfast casserole and fresh fruit. Yum!

    EGGNOG MUFFINS WITH NUTMEG -STREUSEL TOPPING (Recipe Source: Midwest Living)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1 cup dairy eggnog
    • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp. rum extract
    • Nutmeg-Streusel Topping (recipe below)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Grease twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups or line with paper bake cups; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and nutmeg. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

    2. In another bowl, combine eggs, eggnog, melted butter, vanilla and rum extract. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy.) Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Sprinkle streusel topping over muffin batter in cups.

    3. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.

    4. Nutmeg-Streusel Topping: In small bowl, mix 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg using pastry blender. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

    ENJOY! πŸ™‚

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    It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas!

    Wow! With all the baking I’ve been doing this week, you would think I was one of Santa’s little helpers….if Santa’s workshop made cookies…you know, instead of toys. Yeah…

    Anyway, I got a jumpstart on holiday baking for an open house we held at work to try to recruit more volunteers to our non-profit program. I volunteered myself to make all the refreshments. Why? Because I’m all kinds of crazy, I guess.Β  I went totally overboard, of course, but I couldn’t help it. This was my first time really baking for a crowd and it felt great! Eric is always teasing me that I should just quit my job so I can bake cookies and write books for the rest of my life. He best shut it with that talk because that is all too tempting. I’ll do it, I swear I will!

    I made and assortment of yummy goodies for the event and everything was a huge hit. So much fun! I never get to cook or bake for anyone else so this was a blast for me! I couldn’t have done it without all the other lovely bloggers out there. I was inspired to include recipes I spotted on other blogs. So much talent out there.

    Here’s one pic of part of the spread:

    The posts below this one highlight some of the recipes I made, but it’s not all inclusive. Here’s a list of everything I made, with links where applicable.

    Chex Party Mix
    Rice Krispie Treats
    Red Velvet Truffles
    Oreo Truffles
    Cream Cheese Mints
    One Bowl Brownies
    Cranberry White Chocolate Bars
    Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Sugar Cookies
    Holiday Grog
    Fruit Tray
    Meat and Cheese Tray

    ENJOY!! Happy Holidays!!

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    Holiday Grog

    Grog? What’s Grog? Sounds kind of, sort of like something I might step in that would mess up my shoes. Ha.

    Luckily, that’s not the case. It’s actually a super yummy, deliciously spicy, delightfuly warm apple cranberry drink. I thought it would be a nice change of pace from the usual cider or hot chocolate for the open house. Huge hit. This recipe will be featured in my next volunteer newsletter! πŸ™‚

    I didn’t get a pic because I made it in my crock that has a black insert and I had had nothing to serve it in but icky Styrofoam cups, so yeah…not real pretty for pics. I just had to share the recipe, because it was so so good.

    HOLIDAY GROG (Recipe Source: Gooseberry Patch – Coming Home For Christmas)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2 cans frozen apple juice
    • equal amounts cranberry juice
    • 2 oranges, sliced and studded with cloves
    • sprinkle of cinnamon
    • sprinkle of nutmeg

    DIRECTIONS:

    Prepare apple juice according to package directions using water or apple cider (I used water). Pull all ingredients in a crock pot or heat on stove until hot. Ladle into mugs and serve with a cinnamon stick, if desired.

    ENJOY! πŸ™‚

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    Sugar Cookies

    Sugar cookies are not my personal fave, but they are usually a crowd favorite, especially around the holidays. Had to make up a batch for the open house. I don’t think I even tried one of these (lol) but everyone loved them! I did some with just sprinkles and some with icing. I admit, I bought frosting in a tube. I had so many other things to make, I just couldn’t deal with making my own this time around.

    I spotted these over at one of my favorite blogs – The Way the Cookie Crumbles (delish recipes and awesome photos!!). I liked how they used butter instead of shortening, and they looked like they’d come together quickly, so I decided to give them a try.

    My decorating skills are…sub par to say the very least – so sorry about that. Someday I’ll work on that…I just don’t much decorating.Β  The “SCP” on the cookies are the acronym for the non-profit I work for. My boss and the volunteers got a huge kick out of this personal touch. These were lots of fun! πŸ™‚

    FAMOUS SUGAR COOKIES (Recipe Source: As seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles, originally adapted from bakingblonde)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2ΒΎ cups (13.75 ounces) flour
    • Β½ teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, very soft
    • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

    2. Beat butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

    3. Place dough on floured work surface and roll to β…“-inch thickness. Use cookie cutter to cut desired shapes.

    4. Place cookies on baking sheets and bake for 6-9 minutes, until cookies are beginning to brown on bottom and around edges. Don’t overbake or they will be crisp.

    5. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Cool completely before frosting.

    ENJOY! πŸ™‚

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    Cranberry White Chocolate Bars

    When I was planning out my menu of goodies for the open house, I actually wrote down on my list “something with white chocolate and cranberries” but I didn’t have a recipe picked out. Within just a couple days Katie at Good Things Catered shared this recipe for a totally delish sounding cranberry white chocolate bar! Perfect!! I immediately added it to my list of treats. They did not disappoint – such a wonderful combo! Loved the little citrus tang in the background. Thanks, Katie, for sharing this recipe! πŸ™‚

    CRANBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE BARS (Recipe Source: Good Things Catered)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1/2 c. butter, softened
    • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
    • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 c. flour
    • 3/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • zest of 1/2 orange
    • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 c. dried or fresh cranberries
    • 1/2 c. white chocolate chips

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Preheat to 350 degrees and line an 11 x 7 pan with foil, coating with cooking spray.
    2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, nutmeg and set aside.
    3. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on high until soft and light in color, about 3 minutes.
    4. Turn mixer to low and beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla until thoroughly combined.
    5. Slowly incorporate flour mixture.
    6. Remove from stand mixer and stir in cranberries and white chocolate.
    7. Spread batter in pan (it’s thick so use a spatula and be sure to remove all air bubbles).
    8. Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
    9. Cool on rack for 1 hours.
    10. Remove from pan and cut into bars.

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    Red Velvet Truffles

    I’ve been wanting to try these for ever!! So very easy and really yummy.

    For the open house, I did a truffle tray with the red velvet dipped in white chocolate and Oreo truffles dipped in semi-sweet. For the Oreo truffle recipe, go here! πŸ™‚

    RED VELVET TRUFFLES (Recipe Source: Bakerella)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 box red velvet cake mix (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
    • 1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
    • 1 package chocolate bark (regular or white chocolate)
    • wax paper

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
    2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can cream cheese frosting.
    3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet.
    4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
    5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
    6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

    ENJOY! πŸ™‚

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