Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cranberry Orange Bread

I'm still on a cranberry roll. These little tart yummy fruits are just too good. They will be gone before we know it so lets enjoy! I saw this recipe on Zupas, made a few minor adjustments and had four mini loaves in no time. I chopped the walnuts and cranberries with my Pampered Chef Chopper, it made chopping quick and easy. I used my food processor to mix the cold butter and dry ingredients, I love that machine! Fresh orange juice, zest,  egg, walnuts and cranberries are quickly pulsed in. Quick bread in no time. Most quick breads require a frosting, glaze or at least a drizzle of something sweet. But I'm happy to say this bread was delicious as is. Slice and enjoy, very easy

Cranberry Orange Bread
makes 1 large loaf or 4 mini-loaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
zest of 1 or 2  large oranges (about 1 Tablespoon, packed)
1 egg
1 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (my Pampered Chef Food Chopper is a great tool for chopping both nuts and cranberries)
Preheat oven to 350°.  Put dry ingredients in food processor, pulse a few times Add cold butter pieces and pulse until the mixtures resembles coarse meal. Over a plate or parchment paper, zest the oranges using a microplane zester.  Set aside.  Cut the oranges in half and juice.  In another small bowl, combine the fresh orange juice, zest, and egg with a whisk.  Add the orange juice mixture to the dry ingredients all at once.  Mix until just combined.  Fold in the chopped cranberries and nuts.  Spoon the mixture into one greased loaf pan or into four greased mini-loaf pans (I use Pampered Chef stoneware mini pans).  If you make one large loaf, cook the bread for 1 hour.  If you are making the mini-loaves, check after 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack  for ten minutes then remove from pans.
I was planning on giving the loaves a drizzle of Orange Cream Cheese frosting, I drizzle or frost everything—but this bread stood on its own. A 5 star recipe for sure!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cranberry Christmas Salad

What do you get when you mix cranberries, pomegranates, apples, and heavy whipping cream?  The most delicious salad ever.  It is loaded with fruit so I am sure it is good for you. This seasonal treat is good for breakfast or dessert.  Make it while you can. Thank you Candise, this is my new favorite salad.

Cranberry Christmas Salad

1 package cranberries
1 pint whipping cream
1 bag miniature marshmallows
½ cup sugar
1 pomegranate
1 apple, grated

Chop the cranberries in a food processor, add sugar and let sit 2 hours.  In another bowl mix the marshmallows and the whipping cream (no, you don’t whip the cream). Let that sit 2 hours.  In the meantime, seed the pomegranate, wrap a few presents, and listen to the Celine Dion Christmas CD.  After two hours mix the cranberry/sugar mixture with the marshmallow/cream mixture.  Add the pomegranate seeds and grate in one apple.  Mix well and chill overnight.  Wake up first thing and have a bowl for breakfast.  Repeat at lunch, take to a Christmas party, and hope that there are leftovers for breakfast tomorrow!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Broccoli Salad

This yummy broccoli salad is always a crowd pleaser, I think it is the only way to eat broccoli! Broccoli buds, dried 'berries and cheeries', crisp bacon, flavorful red onion and fresh mushrooms combine with a creamy, slightly sweet dressing to make a beautiful and delicious holiday salad.
Don't let the cooked dressing scare you. It comes together quickly just allow time for the dressing to cool. Busy cooks will love this recipe, all components can be prepared a day or two before needed, just mix prepared ingredients before serving.

Broccoli Salad

5 cups broccoli buds and trimmed stems
1 cup dried ‘cherries and berries’, chopped
6-8 slices of crisp chopped bacon
½ cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped mushrooms
½ cup toasted pine nuts
Combine ingredients and stir gently. Add dressing 15 minutes before serving.

1 egg
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
½ cup mayonnaise
In a small bowl whisk together egg, sugar, dry mustard and cornstarch. Set aside. In a saucepan bring to boil vinegar, water and salt. Whisk egg mixture in slowly, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir for about 2 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and add butter and mayo. Cover and chill.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pecan Pie Bars

Certain memories tend to stand out in ones mind, vividly. It seems like yesterday I was eating Thanksgiving Dinner with Greg's family. I was a bride of just a week when we were invited to Aunt Melbas to share in their Thanksgiving traditions.
I was young and came from a big family so I was no stranger to large gatherings. I felt welcome immediatly at Aunt Melbas. Aunt Melba was the kind of person  you want to be like when you grow up. She would ask questions and then wait for an answer, she really was concerned! She remembered our childrens names and did thoughtful things like send the news clipping that a baby girl  was born to G and C on Sept.19. A little yellow piece of paper, that said, 'I am thinking of you and I did something about it." Oh how I want to be like that!

Back to Thanksgiving in 1975, Pecan Pie was served!! My Mom made awesome pumpkin and coconut cream pie but I had never tasted pecan pie. It was love at first bite! Aunt Melba made the best Pecan Pie, I selfishly anticipated Thanksgiving each year just for her pie!
I wish this was a post all about how I have mastered the art of pie making--especially Pecan Pie. But I have not--Greg often asks me when I will be old enough to make pie. My answer is always, 'In ten years'. I think I may be running out of years. This will be the year that I master the art of making pies, especially pecan.
In the meantime I found a great recipe for Pecan Pie Bars. This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen so you know it is the best! I have made it 3 times in the last week. I always bring home an empty plate.

Pecan Pie Bars

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Place all ingredients except butter in bowl of a food processor. Process the mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal, about five 1-second pulses. Add cold chunks of unsalted butter, pulse untill mixture resembles sand, about 8 times.
Pat crust ingredients in a 9 inch square pan that has been sprayed and lined with foil, spray again. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon rum flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped coarse
While the crust is baking whisk together the melted butter, sugar, corn syrup, flavorings and salt in a medium bowl until just combined. Add the egg and mix until incorporated.
Pour the filling on top of the hot crust and sprinkle pecans evenly over the top. Continue to bake at 350 for 23 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Remove the bars from the pan and cut. Be prepared to share the recipe!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not your Grandma's Gingersnap!

I was asked to bring dessert for a church function, I couldn't decide on which yummy treat to make so I made 4 different cookies. Recipes were requested so for the next few days I will share the goods.
When I was young--like half a century ago we would  visit Grandma on Sunday evenings. Grandma was always happy to see us, she was kind and I'm sure I was her favorite grandchild!
Grandma always had a big bag of gingersnaps, like 3 pounds big, I'm sure they were purchased at Reams on her weekly shopping trip. My brothers liked the gingersnaps but I could not buy into them. One Sunday she offer me a gingersnap I bravely answered, "No thanks Grandma but I will have a square of real butter", (we were eating 'Gold-n-Soft' at home). She chuckled a moment and opened her fridge and handed me a square of 'real butter'. I went home a happy child! So my love with butter began.
Many ginger spice cookies have shortening in them, I made some last Christmas and they were good but I knew they contained the dreaded white stuff.  Dorie Greenspans recipe for Molasses Spice cookies contains butter and they are delicious! Winner. Dip them in white chocolate and you have a beautiful, tasty cookie that will be the hit of any cookie exchange.
White Chocolate Dipped Ginger Snaps

2 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
pinch black pepper
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 large egg
About ½ cup sanding sugar for rolling

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add brown sugar and molasses and beat for 2 minutes. Add egg and beat for another minute. Reduce to low and add flour mixture, mix just till combined being careful not to over mix dough. You will have a smooth very soft dough.
Divide dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least an hour or up to 4 days.
If you want big bakery cookies divide each half in 16- 20 pieces, roll into ball then in sanding sugar. Place each ball on parchment lined sheet. Flatten with a glass dipped in sugar to about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes until tops feel set to touch.
When cookies are completely cool dip half in melted white chocolate. Or just drizzle with white chocolate. Either way they are delicious and beautiful. I like to use Guittard Vanilla Flavored A’Peels. This product melts easily in the microwave and tastes delicious. I buy them in 5 lb bags at Gygi’s. The contrast of the spicy ginger and the cool white chocolate is so fun.
Printable Recipe
 This recipe comes from my favorite cookbook, ‘Baking, from my home to yours’, by Dorie Greenspan. And most any cookie is better with white chocolate!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Quick Tomato-Basil Soup

It is cold in my neighborhood, just the day for a hot dish of soup. I tasted this soup at a church function last year and had to track down the recipe. It was kindly shared with a disclaimer--it makes a big batch said Cori. Big batch was not the word for it, I did not have a pan big enough to cook it in, and I have big pans. So I went to work and cut the recipe down to a manageable size for two people. After a few revisions I think I have a yummy fresh tasting tomato soup. It is a pantry meal and you really can have it on the table in 30 minutes. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches and an apple slice. I think this is the perfect meal.
Quick Tomato-Basil
Sauté ¾ cup diced onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil till soft.
Add three (14 oz) cans of Italian Mix stewed tomatoes (put in food processor or blender till smooth),
16 oz. tomato puree
1 quart chicken stock
1½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Bring to a boil and simmer at least 10 minutes, add 1 cup cream and heat.
Check the freshness of your spices--how long have they really been in your pantry? I bought a new small jar of basil--it smelled so much fresher than what I had in the pantry! This soup made a yummy meal with a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread. Or throw in some of the kids fishy cheese crackers!

Small batch
½ cup onion
2 (14 oz) cans Italian Mix Stewed tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 small can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon basil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ to ¾ cup cream

Sunday, November 29, 2009

MSCC Apple Spice Cupcakes

I really do bake more than cupcakes! And later this week I will prove it. But for now I will share another 5 star recipe from  Martha Stewart's Cupcake cookbook. The bonus round this month was Applesauce-Spice Cupcakes on page 55. This was a great fall pick, it mixed together quickly with ingredients in my pantry. The recipe called for toasted pecans, an ingredient I use often. I toast several cups at once on my large Pampered Chef bar pan and keep them in the freezer.

The cupcakes were spicy, the toasted pecans added a fun texture but the frosting really brought all these fall flavors together. A simple frosting of butter, cream cheese and brown sugar was the perfect topping for another fun cupcake. Check MSCC and see what other bakers created.

I'll be back later this week with my favorite tomato soup--a great 30 minute meal. I also have a pecan pie bar that was a hit at Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

MSCC Candied Sweet Potato Cupcakes

I enjoy sweet potatoes, I just don't think of them as a cupcake flavor. Thanks to the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club I had a chance to combine the two.
The cupcakes came together quickly, cream sugars and butter add eggs, stir in baked mashed sweet potatoes. Add dry ingredients that include plenty of cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg. The house smelled wonderful as the cupcakes baked.

They were delicious warm from the oven. The suggested 'frosting' is simply mini marshmellows and candied pecans which I'm sure is yummy...but I wanted to mix things up. Actually I didn't have any marshmellows, it was snowing sideways and I didn't want to go out. I love browned butter frosting and it proved to be a great alternative. I must give this recipe five stars it was excellent!

Check out MSCC and see what others created.

Friday, November 13, 2009

All In One Holiday Cake

Did you know that November 15th is 'National Bundt Day'? It probably isn't on your calendar but it's presence is felt in blog land. Check out The Food Librarian she has been making 'bundts' for the last 30 days. The Tuesdays With Dorie baking group also made a delicious bundt cake this month. I couldn't quit thinking about it, the reviews were great. I tried to talk myself out of making it, do I really need a bundt cake right now? But trust me you need to make this cake! It is full of everything fall, I gave it 5 stars.

All In One Holiday Cake is from my favorite cookbook 'Baking: From My Home To Yours", by Dorie Greenspan. You need this cookbook, put it on your Christmas list.
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Beat together butter and sugars in stand mixer with a paddle attachment  on medium speed untill light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and beat for one minute after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin and chopped apple--don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into a bundt pan, I like my Pampered Chef Stoneware pan. I spray my bundt pan with a good amount of 'Bakers Joy'. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-70 minutes, my cake baked for about 56 minutes, a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean.
Transfer cake  to cooling rack for 10 minutes before unmolding. Let cool to room temperature, just before serving dust cake with powdered sugar.

I'm sure a slice of this cake counts as a serving of fruit. It is great toasted with a bit of butter for breakfast or brunch, top it with some whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a delicious dessert.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Baked Potato Soup

The assignment was easy--make a pot of soup. I volunteered to help provide lunch for a gathering at our church. But...I like to make things difficult. My brain gets carried away. If I make a double batch I will have dinner ready, I can even take a bowl to my mom. I think I must have forgotten how long it takes to make a white sauce with 12 cups of liquid! I scrubbed, wrapped, chopped, mashed, peeled and stirred for two hours. Note to self--Do not double this recipe!
But the end result was delicious! This is pure comfort food. Years ago following a surgery Cyrstal (a roommate of Candise) offered to bring us dinner. She arrived with this delicious soup, it quickly became a family favorite. This hearty dish is rich and filling; add a colorful salad, a crusty loaf of bread and you have the perfect fall/winter meal. Just don't double it!

Baked Potato Soup

4-6 large baking potatoes
½ cup butter
2/3 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 green onions chopped
1 ¼ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
12 slices cooked and crumbled bacon

Bake potatoes in a hot oven until tender, cool. Cut in half and scoop out pulp; set aside. Melt butter, add flour, stir and cook over low heat until smooth. Gradually add broth and milk, cook over medium heat until mixture is thick and bubbly; stir often. Add potatoes, seasonings, half of the green onion and cheese. Heat thoroughly. Stir in sour cream. Add extra broth or milk if necessary for desired consistency. Garnish with remaining green onion, cheese and crisp bacon.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

MSCC Bonus Round

Create a Halloween Cupcake was the assigned task. Perfect timing, our church was having a fall carnival, I volunteered to bake 2 dozen cupcakes for the cakewalk. Time was short (isn't it always) so I decided to make Marthas One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes on page 152. I had all the necessary ingredients and the batter came together quickly. The sweet scent of homemade goodness soon filled my kitchen.....things went south from there! Do I blame it on my altitude (I'm baking at 4300 feet), a bad recipe?  I'm sure it's not me; I've been cooking for almost half a century. The cupcakes had 'sinkholes and soft spots', a coarse texture and didn't taste good. I will have to give that recipe a very generous one star.

My deadline was fast approaching so I went to my Hello, Cupcake! cookbook. "Our cupcakes made from doctored store-bought mix stand up to homemade versions in taste test after taste test", was their claim. I had nothing to lose. Simply add 1 cup buttermilk, 4 large eggs and the amount of oil called for on the box to a box of vanilla cakemix (one without added pudding) and beat for 3 minutes. The cupcakes looked great had no sink holes or soft spots, they had a great texture and were easy to frost, and they tasted good.
What's the verdict? I really think my altitude plays a big role in cupcakes but there are so many 'fixes', more flour, less sugar and butter, alter baking times. What is an amateur baker to do other than move to sea level? I will keep trying, maybe find a cookbook from bakers in Denver, any ideas from high-altitude bakers?

But I will keep a couple of cake mixes on hand! Thanks MSCC for another fun challenge.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun With Food

It all started with the Taste of Home Halloween magazine. 
The 'Ghouls are in Town' stated the shower invite; please bring 'finger food'. We ran with it.

The witches fingers were delicious, I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe found at Our Best Bites. I made the dough several days before the party. Forming the cookies was fun, kids might get discouraged but the eight women (age 24-81) at my house enjoyed the activity!

Sugar Cookies

1 C real butter (no substitutions!)
1 C sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 t almond extract (I only used pure almond extract, I tried imitation once and it was not as good)
3 C flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy- about 2 minutes. Add egg and extract, mix to incorporate.
In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined.

Shape the dough into 2 flat disks and wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours. Or let it chill for several days. In my perfect life I will always have chilled sugar cookie dough at my disposal!

 Form a small ball of dough into a finger shape, keep it on the thin side as these will expand a little. Make knuckle marks with a butter knife. Press a whole blanched almond for a fingernail. Bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes. While cooling pop off 'fingernail', when cool attach nail with red gel. Looks spooky! Check out Recipegirl for the finished cookie. They were devoured quickly, we didn't get a shot of the finished digits.

We created Witches Fingers, Mummy Dogs, Bones and Blood, NutterButter Ghosts and Cheesenstine. Thanks to Our Best Bites and  Recipegirl for inspiration and recipes. Our spooky creations were tasty too!
The Mummy Dogs were good (for hot dogs), we cut hot dogs in half and wrapped them with thin strips of thawed puff pastry. The were baked in a hot oven 400 degrees till just beginning to brown. They had mustard eyes and were served with dipping sauces.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Girls Weekend

I have lived long enough to realize that life often does not go as planned. But...I also know that things that are not planned do not happen! With that in mind I decided to plan a 'Girls Weekend'. I started early, eight months ago to be exact. My girls live in 5 different states and have 9 children ages six and under. But plan we did. Flights were purchased, daddies arranged to take time off work, laundry was done, pantry stocked, lists made and my 5 girls were on their way.

We had wonderful weekend that included shopping, cooking, visiting, eating, laughing, sharing and more visiting. We enjoyed a shopping excursion at Orson Gygi's, it is a chefs paradise! It was a beautiful fall day, perfect for wandering at Gardners Village.
 The witches were out! Lunch was at Archibalds, we had a 45 minute wait but no one minded because Pine Needles is close by.

We had fresh Alaskan salmon and shrimp for dinner, Greg was more than happy to provide this meal! The Grandmas spent the evening; we made white chocolate ghosts, witches fingers, bones and mummies. It is amazing what can be accomplished when there are no 'little helpers'!

Saturday was sharing time. My girls are talented and knowledgeable. We learned how to budget better, write our personal history, make laundry detergent for pennies, craft, embrodiery and make marshmellow fondant. What a fun day we had.

Next was a triple shower. Kaytie and Anna are having babies soon and Jen is getting married I would say we had reason to party! Lynne was kind enough to host the party; we had a Halloween party complete with 'finger food'.

It is always fun for cousins and aunts to reconnect and catch up with each other.

Sunday came too soon, the party was winding down, real life was calling. We said goodbye with plans to meet again soon! Thank you girls for a wonderful weekend.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pasta with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatoes

My sweet husband introduced me to artichokes shortly after we were married. I'm not sure they exsisted before 1975, they certainly weren't in my world! So artichokes are a special treat at our home, when the price is right we indulge. Our children learned to love them and so do many of our grandchildren. Now you know our artichoke histroy I will continue.

I was scrolling thru Pioneer Woman and saw the words creamy, tomato, artichoke, easy and pasta all in the same post. I knew I must take a closer look. This is a 30-minute meal full of yummy flavors, it is so easy; chop an onion and open a can, boil water and you have dinner! This meatless main dish is very satisfying a crusty piece of french bread would complete the meal for me. Hubby had some grilled chicken with his pasta, 'delicious' was his comment. We had leftovers for lunch, I am happy to say this dish improved with age. Now that is a good thing.

Check out Pioneer Woman Cooks for detailed recipe. It really is a keeper.