Thursday, November 29, 2007

Honey-soy glazed chicken

Sorry I am late on this post ladies. Our life has been crazy lately and I haven't had too much time on my hands. However, we had this chicken tonight and we really liked it. Its healthy and its super easy and quick. I also served it with some spaghetti squash and a side salad-even Miss Lily enjoyed it.

1/2 C. honey
2 Tbs. soy sauce
8 skinless chicken drumbsticks (3 lbs.)
coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a shallow roasting pan or 9x13 baking dish with foil. In a large bowl, mix together honey, soy sauce, and 1/3 C. water. Add chicken and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Bake chicken for 30-40 minutes, basting with juices every 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quick and Easy Tips

For my last week posting quick and easy recipes I thought I'd share my favorite tips for those nights when you just need to get some dinner on the table. The idea here is that a little prep goes a long way.

The first tip I learned from my mother in-law. The tip is to buy your meat in bulk at Costco or Sam's Club. You get good quality meat for a good price. For instance, you buy the huge packets of ground beef (or ground turkey if you prefer). When you get it home, instead of breaking it into small chunks and freezing it to thaw and cook later, just cook it all up in a big pot.
I usually add a chopped onion (or dry onion flakes if I'm feeling lazy) and brown the meat. Once the meat is cooked, you separate it into ziplock bags and put them in your freezer.
This saves you quite a bit of time when all you have to do is toss the bag of cooked meat in the microwave to warm up. I don't know about you, but it seems like it takes forever for a chunk of meat to thaw so I can brown it! I will also freeze rotisserie chicken in small bags. This puts you a step ahead for many meal options...tacos, spaghetti, enchiladas, etc.

The second tip is my favorite quick treat tip. When I make cookies, I always double the recipe. I cook the amount I want and then I take the rest of the dough and make it into balls and place them close together on a cookie sheet. I then place the cookie sheet in the freezer for several hours or until the cookie balls are frozen. At this point I remove the cookie balls from the sheet and put them all into a ziplock bag. Freezing them on the cookie sheet first makes sure they are individually frozen so they don't stick together in the bag. I almost always have a bag of cookie balls in my freezer to pull out and bake whenever we need or want a quick treat. Just set the amount of cookies you want to cook out on the cookie sheet while the oven pre-heats. This gives them a chance to thaw a little.
Then cook the cookies per the instructions in your recipe. You have hot, fresh cookies and all you had to do was turn on the oven! Oh yeah, and did I mention that frozen cookie dough balls make a good treat, too???

What are your favorite tips for speeding up the dinner making process?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Party Night - Lava Cakes

I'm late posting this because we were out of town last Friday, but I wanted to share a very tasty and very easy dessert that you can make for a party crowd.

1 (18.25-oz.) box dark chocolate cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 bottle Hershey's hot fudge topping
vanilla ice cream (or flavor of choice)
Magic Shell chocolate topping
caramel for garnish (optional)

You make the cake mix according to the directions on the box and then pour 1/2 cup batter into the greased cups of large (Texas Size) muffin pans. If you only have one of these pans you can cook it in two batches (the batter will make anywhere from 8-12 cakes). Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Turn out cakes to cool. The cakes will be served upside down, so you might have to cut off part of the domed top so they will lay flat when turned over. After you have flipped over the cooled cakes, use a knife and cut out a 1 1/2" diameter chunk in the center of the bottom (now the top) of each cake to make a hole. Scoop out the cake so that you have about a 1 1/2" hole - this is where you will secretly pour the hot fudge for the lava. Spoon about 2 Tbsp of fudge into each hole in the cakes (you can put the "top" of the cake back over the opening to hide it more if you want).

At this point, you can store the cakes in a sealed container in the fridge until ready to serve. When you want to serve them, heat each cake in the microwave for 20-40 seconds, or until you see the fudge begin to bubble. Let is rest for 30 seconds or so and then place a big scoop of ice cream (we really like vanilla and cookies & cream) on top (hiding the hole). Pour a coating of Magic Shell chocolate topping over the ice cream and serve on a plate that has been garnished with caramel sauce. Yummy!!!

Festive Food Tuesday: Happy Leftovers!

Raise your hand if you have this in your fridge:

Do you also have tupperware full of unidentifiable goop that was either mashed potatoes, yams, or green bean casserole last Thursday, and lots and lots and lots of turkey?

Yeah, me too. I am not sure how many more Thanksgiving leftover dinners I can get away with, but I'm trying to! We've kind of maxxed out on turkey sandwiches, but there are some great leftover ideas here...

As for me, I'm thinking about making my mom's delicious chicken enchiladas, and swapping the chicken for the turkey. I love this recipe!
1 package flour tortillas (Trader Joe's brand, if you can)
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 can black olives, sliced
1 can mild green peppers
2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese
1 can (approximately 2-3 cups) red enchilada sauce (Trader Joe's, if you can; Rosarita brand is good too.)
2 tablespoons cilantro (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Heat the olive oil in a large sautee pan. Cook onions and red pepper until softened, about five minutes. Add olives and green peppers until everything is heated through. In a large bowl, mix chicken and 2 cups of the cheese. Add onion mixture to the bowl. Turn off stove, but return the pan to the warm burner and empty the sauce into the pan. Dip tortillas in the warm sauce, transfer to a large casserole dish (glass is best) and put about 1/3 cup of filling on the tortilla, and roll it up (seam-side down)! This should make about 8 enchiladas. Drizzle the remainder of the sauce over enchiladas. Top the enchiladas with the rest of the cheese and cilantro. Bake, covered with foil, for 30 minutes, and remove the foil and bake for 5-10 more minutes. Yummy!

Monday, November 26, 2007

hidden goodness

my kids love this - i just tell them it is mr. pumpkin and they think it is so cool.

really the name of this is sweet potato souffle, and might i say, it will turn yam doubters into believers - guaranteed.

3 cups sweet potatoes or yams - mashed
1/3 stick of butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup of chopped nuts (we are pecan lovers ourselves)
1/3 cup flour
1/3 stick of butter, melted

boil cleaned sweet potatoes with skin on. cook until tender. set aside to cool and then peel and mash. mix together sweet potatoes with 1/3 stick melted butter. blend in 1 cup sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and milk. pour into 9X13 greased glass baking dish. for topping, mix nuts in flour. add brown sugar and 1/3 cup melted butter. sprinkle on potatoes. bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. serve warm and enjoy a slice of HEAVEN~

Sunday, November 25, 2007

American Stir Fry

O.K. it is late and I did not cook today. You may be like me and need a break from the turkey everything so here is a nontraditional meal that may get your kids to eat their veggies. It at least works on my husband.

Stir Fry (American version)
6-8 pieces of bacon (I like thin sliced low sodium)

1 cup chopped broccoli (can be frozen)
1 cup long sliced carrots
1 can corn

1 can bamboo shoots
1-2 eggs

white rice
soy sauce

Cook bacon in large frying pan until done. take bacon out. drain most of the grease. Put all the veggies in the pan cook until tender. Move veggies to the side fry 1 or two eggs. crumble bacon over top. Serve over white rice. Add soy sauce to individual taste for flavor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Holiday Favorite- Cranberry Nut Bread

Today I am very late in posting...but that is what happens when you are preparing for a holiday! I don't have a quick and easy recipe post for you today, but I do have one of my favorite holiday recipes to share and since it is a holiday week, I thought it was appropriate.

I have to say that I come from a long line of exceptional cooks. There is definitely a legacy of good food in my family. As a little girl we spent a lot of time at my great grandma Sena's house. She would often serve us a feast, and I know she loved having someone to cook for. Great Grandma Sena is my dad's grandmother. I know she passed along a lot of secrets and tips to my Mom, especially as they would bake together during the holidays. My mom, in turn has passed those on to my sisters and I. I love the fact that my Mom was so close to my dad's grandma. I'm grateful for that because it meant we spent a lot of time with her while we were growing up and I cherish the memories we shared. The following recipe was one of her favorites. We have had this Cranberry Nut Bread around the holidays for as long as I can remember. In fact, it was probably served at my very first Christmas, 25 years ago.

Now, cutting all the cranberries in half is a bit of a labor of love, but I love making this every year and enjoy thinking about my great grandma Sena as I chop up those berries.
This bread is delicious while it is still warm out of the oven, but my favorite is to eat it chilled.

Cranberry Nut Bread

2 Cups Flour

1 tsp. Soda

½ tsp. Salt

1 Cup Sugar

Stir ingredients together and then mix:

1 egg

2 Tbsp. Sugar

½ Cup Water

1/3 Cup Oil

½ Cup Orange Juice

1 Tbsp. Orange Rind

1 Cup Walnuts, chopped

2 Cups fresh cranberries cut in half

Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for approximately 1 hour.

Here is what it looks like in my Bosch, ready to go into the pans. I double the recipe to make 2 loaves.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Festive Food Tuesday:Thanksgiving Miscellania

Because Thanksgiving isn't until Thursday, I don't have any pictures of my food yet--it is still in various stages in the fridge (turkey thawing, pie disks waiting to be rolled out) and lucky for me, I delegated the food assignments enough that I don't have too much to make, while I'll still be able to enjoy ample leftovers. For today's post, I thought I'd include a few Thanksgiving recipes that I've used in years past that have bee a hit at the holiday table.

Crimson Cranberry Sauce (from The Essential Mormon Cookbook):
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries

In a medium saucepan mix sugar and water, stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil; add cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce heat. Boil gently about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Makes about 2 1/4 cups. can be made several days ahead and refrigerated or made weeks in advance and frozen.

This is the most simple thing to make--almost as easy as opening a can. And this cranberry sauce doesn't have those ridges and funky consistency that canned sauce does.

Another great recipe from this cookbook is candied yams and apples (come on, admit much as we all say we love the yams with the marshmallows, it is just sickeningly sweet.)

6 yams
4 apples
1 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Peel and cut yams into desired size pieces. Place in a large saucepan and cover with water; cook until tender. Peel and core apples and cut into wedges. Arrange yams and apples in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish. In a medium saucepan, combine orange juice, orange peel, cornstarch, melted butter, brown sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Pour sauce over top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until apples are tender.

I really love these recipes, because they are simple, homey kinds of food. Just perfectly comforting on Thanksgiving.

My all-time favorite mashed potato recipe is from Everyday Food magazine, Garlic Mashed Potatoes. It's simple and relatively healthy, compared to those recipes that pile on the cream cheese, bacon, and butter. The garlic adds great flavor, so you can leave the artery-clogging food for dessert:)

And, this is the recipe to my signature pie, Apple. I got this recipe from a question and answer section of Martha Stewart Living years ago, and it never fails me:
(it is also very similar to the Harvest Pie, which I wrote about last week)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out dough
Pie Crust (from my post a couple of weeks ago)
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 pounds assorted apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
Best-quality vanilla ice cream

1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of piecrust to a 1/8-inch circle, about 13 inches in diameter. Drape dough over a 9-inch pie pan. Transfer pan to the refrigerator and chill 30 minutes.
2. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the egg yolk and cream; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, toss together the apples, lemon juice, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt; place in chilled bottom crust. Dot with butter.
4. Roll out the remaining disk of piecrust as in step one. Brush the rim of the bottom curst with the egg wash. Place second piece of dough on top and trim so 1 inch overhangs. Tuck the dough under, and crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers. Transfer pie to the refrigerator, and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.
5. Remove pie from the refrigerator, brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle generously with sugar. cut four vents in the top, allowing the steam to escape.
6. Bake until crust begins to turn light brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees, and bake until golden brown and the juices are bubbling, 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve pie with vanilla ice cream.

I am nervously preparing to cook the turkey and gravy. I must say, roasting the bird is a lot of pressure! Please do leave me some tips, recipes, or words of confirmation in the comments section! I can use all the help I can get!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

some random kids favorites

my kids love when i come home from costco and there is a large bag of lemons. they know the inevitable is coming, homemade lemonade........
i am always asked how i make this. i do have a rhythm but no real recipe. so i will give tips.
i use a 4 or 5 pound bag of the prettiest looking ones.
i cut the peel off, cut each end and then cut down. try to have only the lemon flesh showing. the peel and white flesh tend to make it a bitter flavor.
slice the remaining part of the lemon in slices. this also helps get the seeds out.
kid help - they love squeezing the tops and bottoms of the lemons into the container. also, they love to smash the lemons with a large spoon when they have been all cut up)

dump the slices in a large serving container with sugar, 3-4 cups and some ice. mash with a large spoon the lemons to get the juice started. let this set overnight in the fridge. in the morning add water and sugar to your liking. i also like to add frozen berries as ice cubes maybe 1/2 hour before serving. i also add cream of coconut or weeping strawberries (sliced strawberries with powdered sugar - let sit over night). it is a favorite, much love and labor involved also.

next up - school lunch rolls
let me preface this with saying these are the good school lunch reminder rolls that i grew up with, not my kids. school lunch is such a disappointment. they ban anything homemade and it so takes away from the nutrition. they have to have premade stuff which will inevitably have preservatives and unhealthy, unnatural additives. back on track here, this is how i make school lunch rolls.
start with the loaves frozen, it just works better. to thaw, i put in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. i then break apart and make little balls, placing in a greased pyrex. one loaf will get what you see in the picture, about 12 rolls. for flavor you can dip the tops of these in butter and then parmesan cheese or onion soup is also good.

turn your oven on warm for a few minutes. turn it off before you place the rolls in and place a bowl of hot water in a bowl below the pyrex. it should rise in about 2-3 hours.

cook on 350 for 15-17 minutes. my kids hate crust or hard on any part of a roll. these are soft and pillowy all around and the tops stay soft because of the butter. enjoy with a variety of toppings or with a large pot of soup.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

BBQ Ribs (in the crock pot)

Another easy Sunday recipe that is delicious. Something about that slow cooked meat that just falls off the bone, you really can't resist it. This is one of Cameron's favorites, and he is a rib lover.

What you need.

Costco vacuum sealed Baby back pork ribs (I fold in half and freeze the two extra racks separately) I have really found Costco's to be the best meat.



Bullseye Original BBQ sauce (or BBQ sauce of your choice, we tried Kraft and it was not good on these)

Sprinkle ribs with salt and pepper. Place in crock pot on high for 5-6 hours. About 1 1/2 hours before eating pour BBQ sauce over ribs. Turn the lid so steam comes out, this will make the sauce stick on ribs.

The meat should be so tender it will fall off the bone. I eat it with a fork, so it is not as messy. Enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Party Night - Egg Rolls

Sorry for two deep fryer posts in a row, but if we get it out we figure we should make it worth it! Here's a recipe we really love for pork egg rolls. We make these when we know we have missionaries coming over to eat a bunch of them.

1 pkg. regular flavor pork sausage
2 (16-oz.) pkg. cole slaw mix (I usually use less than this because I think that's a bit overpowering)
3 Tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. (18-20) egg roll wrappers
vegetable oil for frying
spicy mustard, sweet & sour sauce or soy sauce for dipping

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat, stirring frequently until no longer pink. Remove from heat; add cole slaw mix, ginger, garlic, pepper, and salt - mix well. Transfer to a colander to drain; cool 15 minutes. Assemble egg rolls as directed on wrapper package, using 1/3 cup sausage mix for each roll.

To cook: in a wok, dutch oven or fryer, add oil to 3" deep; heat to 375 degrees. Fry 4 at a time for 3 minutes or until golden brown; drain on paper towels. Serve with your favorite's one of ours:

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. ginger root
2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix together the brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in chicken broth, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a boil and cook 2 more minutes to thicken.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wasatch Mountain Chili with Wild Rice Stuffed Squash

Okay ladies, this isn't your typical chili recipe. It is so good and very, very healthy! I love making soups this time of the year when its cold out and especially adding squash to the mix-I feel like you can never have too many soups or squash in the Fall. Here you go...enjoy!

1 medium onion
1 T. cooking oil
1 15 oz. can of hominy, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can of Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 oz. can of chicken broth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cooked and chopped
1/4 C. lime juice
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 C. shredded Colby or Monterrey Jack cheese
Bottled green salsa
white corn tortilla chips

In a large saucepan, cook onion in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Stir in hominy, beans, chicken broth, chopped chicken, lime juice, cilantro, cumin and pepper. Cover and bring to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally. Serve topped with cheese, salsa, tortilla chips and fresh cilantro. YUMMY!

Wild Rice stuffed squash
2 acorn squash halved lengthwise, seeds removed
2 T. butter
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 box (6oz.) wild-rice blend (discard the seasoning packet)
1/2 C. dried cherries (optional)
1/2 C. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange squash cut side down; cover sheet tightly with foil. Roast until tender-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic and sage; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until tender (3-5 minutes). Add rice and
1 3/4 C. water; bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until tender, without stirring-about 25 minutes.
Remove rice from heat and stir in cherries and pecans; season stuffing with salt and pepper. Dividing evenly, mound stuffing into halves and serve.

Sorry I don't have any personal pictures of these 2 dishes. By the time I got it put together with the chaos of having 2 children, I forgot to take a picture of them but if you want to view the squash recipe, check it out here- it is also delicious and pretty to look at!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

One Pot Wonders- Pork Chops with Veggies

The following recipe has got to be my easiest, quickest, mid-week meal. The great thing is that it tastes like it takes more time than it does. In fact, this recipe is so easy you don't even really need a recipe. Here is what you do:

1. Take one pork chop per family member
2. Dice 1 carrot per family member (or a handful of baby carrots...even easier!)
3. Chop 1 potato per family member (if I use red potatoes, I don't even peel them)

Sprinkle the pork chops with Salt and Pepper and brown on both sides in a skillet.
After the pork chops are browned, pile the potatoes and carrots on top of each pork chop and add a little more salt and pepper to taste (go light on the salt since you will be adding beef broth). Then take a can of beef broth and pour over everything. Do it fast, cause it's going to steam!
Put the lid on the skillet, set a timer for 30 minutes and before you know it, dinner is served! Add a piece of bread with butter or a roll if you like. The other great thing about this meal is that it leaves very little to clean up. Even better when you are in a time crunch.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Festive Food Tuesday: Happy Baby Kristy!

This post is a little on the late side, because I don't want Kristy to see the food I've got waiting for her baby shower and I wanted to post a few pictures of the big event. I thought that it would be fun to experiment with Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes for the shower, because if anyone else is like me, I can't get enough cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in the fall. It's a great way to feel cozy.

First up, pie #100! (and #101!)

I made Harvest Pie, which is ironic, because this recipe was also pie #1. It's a full-circle moment, folks. The recipe that I had for this pie is just horrible, so I totally revamped it. Here is my version:
(for a 9-inch pie plate--and of course I have another comment. I much prefer glass pie dishes to metal ones. And I only use the leftover Marie Calendar pie tins in a major, major bind and have absolutely nothing else. But, that's just me.)
4 Granny Smith Appels (or you can mix with other tasty, crunchy apples, like Macuon)
2 firm pears
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 Tablespoon lemon juice (juice from 1/2 lemon--give the lemon a good roll before juicing)
zest from 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoon flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons cream
1 egg yolk
Sweetened Whipped Cream (recipe below)
Pie Crust (from last week's post)

Roll out one of the crusts, transfer to pie dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the meantime, peel, core and thinly slice the apples. People often ask me if I use one of those handy-dandy apple peeler gizmos, and I actually prefer just a good ol' peeler and paring knife. By the time I dig it out from the very back of my appliance cupboard, dust it off, get the sucktion cup thing to take hold to the counter, remember how to set it up so it works, start peeling, then stop, because I did something wrong, try again, have something else go wrong, have to explain what is going on to Shane and let him get the picture. I usually can get it done the old-fashioned way. When I'm doing the apples, I kind of get a peeling mojo on and can really crank them out--I choose to peel a circle around the top of the apple, another circle around the bottom, and then straight down all the way around. I quarter, core, and then slice, which is my favorite part. I start feeling like an iron chef at this point. And after a day with a sick, teething one-year-old, I'm happy to shut the door to the kitchen, crank up the Christmas music, and lose myself in rhythmic chopping.

This is what I've been listening to lately. Anyone who knows me really well will pity Shane, my husband, who has to hear it, because they know that I am addicted to this cd. It has the most gorgeous choral Christmas music, arranged by John Rutter, truly one of the greats. I have probably listened to this cd 5000 times. No kidding. And this is the 3rd copy of this cd I've had to buy or steal from my mom, which makes me wonder....have roommates in the past secretly hidden this cd, so they wouldn't have to hear it played continually from late October through January?

Oh yeah, back to the pie. Hello? Anyone there? Sorry. So, after you are done slicing the apples and pears, put them in a medium-sized bowl with the flour, lemon, sugar, and spices. Mix, add the cranberries, and just turn the fruit over a few more times.

Next, roll out the top crust. Put the fruit mixture in the chilled bottom crust, put little pieces of butter on top, transfer top crust to pie and seal the edges (I like making the cute little notches all around the crust with my knuckles.) With a sharp knife, make 4 vents in the center of the pie. Put the pie in the fridge. Now here's another little secret, which really makes your pie look irresistable--in a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons cream. Get the pie out of the fridge and brush the cream mixture all over the crust with a pastry brush. This gives the pie a beautiful golden shimmer. A sprinkle of sugar on top of that makes it even prettier. Here's another lesson that was a hard one to learn: I always bake my pies with a baking sheet underneath. I SO do not love cleaning gunk out of the bottom of my oven and I think my neighbors will absolutely kill me if the fire trucks come again on my behalf. Ahem....
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for another 25 minutes. Ta da! Yummy pie!

For sweetened whipped cream (which does not come out of a can--blech!), I mix 1 cup heavy whipping cream with 1/4 cup sugar on the highest setting in my kitchenaid or hand-mixer. Let it go until stiff peaks form and enjoy your friends saying, "ooooh, REAL whipped cream!" all night.

Now on to pie 101 (which is a tart, but it still counts!): Chocolate Pumpkin Tart
Weird sounding, I know, but sooo tasty! I love this tart! I made this tart in my 12-inch tart pan, which I now regret; it's really shallow. But, it still tastes pretty good.
You can find the recipe here
I wish I took a picture of this tart, because it really is as pretty as the picture on Martha Stewart's website.
I DID, however, take a picture of two of my all-time favorite ingredients, that also happen to be in this recipe:

Hoorah for Creme Fraiche! It is kind of in-between heavy cream and sour cream and somehow the flavor surpasses all. It is king of creams! I've been trying to find this in New Haven for years, and last week, Kristy told me that she saw it at Trader Joe's. "NO WAY!" I cried in disbelief, but, she was absolutely right. Last week, I saw it sitting there on the shelf, the same shelf I have looked at over and over, wishing it was there. I almost got emotional when I put the Creme Fraiche in my shopping cart...
However, if you are less fortunate than I have been of late, you can substitute the creme friache with evaporated milk and it works a-ok.

Now, who doesn't like a huge hunk of semi-sweet chocolate?! I love this big blocks of Ghiradelli that they sell at Trader Joe's. In my humble opinion, this is the best way to buy chocolate for baking.

I also made some of my very favorite holiday cookies ever. These cookies have a story, which I will tell, so skip ahead if I'm driving you nuts here. Two years ago, I wanted to give friends and neighbors the very best cookies I could; thus, the Christmas cookie bake-off was born! I just have so many holiday cookie recipes that looked good, and I decided that I would make 6 different kinds of cookies and choose some trustworthy friends (my husband, Kristy, and her husband Paul) to try out the different varieties and vote on the winner. This humble gingersnap was unanimously chosen the winner. It looks so unassuming, but it has the best flavor and melts instantly in your mouth.
I've thought about making the cookie-tasting party a tradition, but it's kind of a lot of work....

Aunt Claudia's So-soft Gingersnaps
1 c. sugar
1 egg
3/4 c. shortening
1/4 c. dark molasses
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt

Cream until light and fluffy:
1 c. sugar
1 egg
3/4 c. shortening

1/4 c. dark molasses

Mix together and add to the creamed mixture:
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt

For best results, chill dough overnight. Roll into balls approximately 1" in diameter. Roll the balls in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven! Take cookies out of the oven when they just start to turn golden brown. Do not let them turn brown or you will have hockey pucks!

You can easily double or triple the batch and stash the dough in the freezer. Nice for when things get crazy at Christmas time.

I also made a couple of appetizers for the shower. These are easy and fun for Christmas parties coming up:

Sweet and Spicy Almonds--I love this recipe from Everyday Food.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 2 1/2 cups unblanched almonds on a rimmed baking sheet; toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook 1 tablespoon each honey and water with 1 teaspon olive oil, stirring , until combined.
3. Transfer nuts to sugar mixture (do not scrape extra glaze into bowl); toss to coat. Cool in a single layer.
These keep a couple weeks, if stored in an airtight container. I love the depth of flavor in these nuts--they start out very sweet and end with a big bang, thanks to the cayenne pepper.

Goat-Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
One thing I love about this recipe is that I was able to make the filling a couple days in advance. I just cleaned the mushrooms, stuffed, and baked on the day of the party. The cheese filling takes like two seconds in the cuisinart, but everyone eating it will think it's totally gourmet since it has goat cheese in it. Go fig.

Here she is, the beautiful Kristy Walker! And that face just describes the whole night: "Oh my oh my, this is SO CUTE!"

Happy Baby Shower!

Monday, November 12, 2007

roll em up kids......

so this next one came from years of eating chicken pillows, chicken roll ups and other variations. mostly influenced from my mom's recipe, this is one i came up with and we all heart it.

my kids love, love, love to help roll them up, dip them and most importantly, EAT THEM!

preheat oven to 350

3 chicken breasts cut into small pieces and sauteed. you could use a rotisserie chicken, frozen breasts or leftover chicken from a grill night.

1 tub of vegetable cream cheese

opt. cashews - my kids won't do nuts but if they don't mind, this gives an ultimate crunch and flavor

mix these 2 together. it might help if your chicken is warm or your cream cheese has been out at room temp for a few minutes.

2 packages of tube crescent rolls

1 cube of butter melted

2 cups of bread crumbs - season to your liking. i use salt, pepper, parm cheese, basil, parsley and oregano

take a spoonful of mixture and place in the center of the crescent roll. roll up sealing the sides. dip in the butter and then the bread crumbs.
this makes 16 and it usually works out perfect. bake for 20-25 minutes on 350. you can serve this with gravy or plain. i serve them with mashed potatoes (a fav at our house) and KoolAid on family night!

she loves brown gravy, you can use your favorite, traditionally it is served with chicken gravy. ENJOY!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saturday/Sunday Brunch - Buttermilk and Lemon Scented Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup

These are so delicious! The lemon zest really gives them a nice light flavor and the blueberry syrup is so easy to make and delicious!

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 T sugar

1 t baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

2 T butter, melted

2 T fresh lemon zest, finely chopped

1 pint of fresh or frozen blueberries (or any other berry would be just fine)

sugar to taste

Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl.

In another bowl whisk the buttermilk, egg, and butter until fully incorporated.

Add the sifted ingredients to the milk mixture and whisk until slightly smooth but still has some lumps.

Fold in the lemon zest and allow the batter to sit for a couple of minutes. Lightly grease a griddle over med heat.

Cooking in batches, pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the batter bubbles and is golden brown.

Place a pat of butter onto each pancake. Drizzle with confectioners sugar and syrup.

For the syrup:

combine blueberries and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and with a potato masher, mash the berries. Keep warm.

Shredded Chicken Tacos

I love this recipe, because it is soooooooooo easy.

1 jar of thick and chunky red salsa (mild-hot, any brand your choice)

10 oz can of enchilada sauce (mild-hot, any brand your choice)

2-3 breasts of chicken (if you add more chicken add another jar of salsa, don't add more enchilada sauce). You can start with frozen chicken.

Throw all the above ingredients into a crock pot and cook on high 4-6 hours until chicken falls apart easily. About 30 minutes before you eat fry up some corn tortillas in medium high heat. We like the white corn ones. Just put some veggie oil in a pan fry one side, fold in half with crispy side in, then fry two outer sides. Let them cool on paper towel. These tortillas are much better than buying the ready made hard ones and they don't take long to do.

White corn tortillas

Veggie oil (or your preferred oil)

Shred chicken with fork and leave in sauce. Fill tacos with Chicken, and any of the following.

Torn or shredded lettuce (I find if I tear lettuce it does not go brown as quickly, or you can shred with a plastic or wooden knife. Metal will turn the lettuce brown).

1-2 chopped tomatoes

Sour cream

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

These are healthy and delicious, and you will have leftovers that can be frozen. Some times I make this a little fancier for guests and add more options for sides or fillers.

(optional sides or fillers)

Black beans- ( 1 can of black beans, 1/2 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 TBS. salsa, lime juice, about 1/4 tsp cumin) Warm in sauce pan.

Saffron Rice-follow directions on package. We buy Mahatma.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Party Food - Buzzard Eggs

Last year our family had the opportunity to live in La Crosse, Wisconsin during my husband's intern year of residency. We have so many wonderful memories of this beautiful town and would consider going back to live there someday. In the top 10 of our favorite things about La Crosse would be Buzzard Billy's! Some good friends of our told us about the Buzzard Eggs and we decided to try them out. Wow. We were sold from the first bite. If you are ever in the Midwest and happen to go near one of their 4 locations, you should go and get some of these. You won't regret it. If we were lesser controlled people, we would have indulged in these tasty balls of goodness probably a couple times a week. But being the incredibly strong-willed people that we are, we held out with only getting them every other week or so (wink). It's an Ebbert famly favorite.

Knowing that we were going to be moving from La Crosse, we decided that we needed to figure out how to make them ourselves so that we could indulge every so often in Buzzard Egg goodness. Here is our version (but know that it pales in comparison to getting the real thing...)

Buzzard Eggs:

you only need a handful of ingredients for these - bacon, chicken, jalapeno peppers, and pepper jack cheese (and oil for frying).
I like to use chicken tenders, but you could also use chicken breasts and cut it into smaller pieces. Each buzzard eggs uses 1/2-1 chicken tender, 2 pieces of bacon, a couple slices of jalapeno, and a small chunk of pepper jack cheese.

The chicken needs to be thin enough to wrap around the chunk of cheese and jalapenos. So you wrap the chicken arond them first and then grab your bacon and start to roll it around the chicken.
The biggest key for these is to make sure that you bacon wraps everything up securely, or else you'll end up with melted cheese leaking out of the ball, and that just ruins all the fun. As a side note - don't try to use toothpicks to hold them together! We tried this and it just creates a conduit for the cheese to run out of. Just wrap the bacon tightly around it and you'll be ok. We wrap one piece around in one direction, then wrap the other piece around in the opposite direction to close everything up nicely.
Here's what they look like when they're all rolled up.

I should also note that we're still experimenting with this a bit. On this night we used thick cut bacon and it tasted great, but it made it harder to get the cheese melted on the inside. But another time when we used thin bacon, it has too many holes in it and the cheese melted out. So...look for bacon that isn't cut so thin that is tears apart, but you don't necessarily have to use thick cut. Helpful, aren't I?

Throw these babies in the deep fat fryer or in a pan with hot oil. It is supposed to be 400 degrees for about 11 minutes (the ones we made were a bit bigger, so we had to cook them for a few minutes longer).
You eat the buzzard eggs by cutting them open and dipping them in ranch dressing. I haven't figured out how to make Buzzard Billy's awesome homemade ranch yet, so for the time being we are using this copy cat version of Outback Steakhouse's Ranch Salad Dressing:

1 tsp. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (buttermilk recipe)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well. Cover bowl and chill dressing for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tada! There you go - tasty Buzzard Eggs. Oh yeah, and don't be intimidated by these babies just because they have jalapenos in them. I don't like things that hot, so I just take the jalapenos out after it is cooked and it leaves a nice kick of residual flavor in it for me, while Todd glories in the full pepper. My kids absolutely LOVE these as well. They instantly start salivating when we ever say the name. Serve with a nice salad (to alleviate some of the guilt). Happy eating!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shrimp and Corn Salad Tortillas

Thursday Healthy Meal
2 c. fresh corn kernels or 10-oz. of frozen, thawed

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 small jicama, cut into thin strips (optional)

1 pound peeled and deveined large cooked shrimp

1/2 c shelled roasted pumpkin seeds

6 scallions (white and light green parts) thinly sliced

1/4 c. fresh orange juice

2 T. fresh lime juice

2 tsp. honey

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 T. olive oil

3/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the corn, tomatoes, jicama (if using), shrimp, pumpkin seeds, and scallions. In a separate bowl, whisk together the orange and lime juices, honey, cumin, oil, salt, and pepper. Toss with the shrimp mixture. Serve over salad or in a tortilla.

So we tried these tonight and they were tasty! The picture doesn't do them justice but they were very, very fresh and the taste of cumin! Oh, I love that spice. Anyway, as you can see in the picture I omitted the tomatoes because I forgot to buy them (my bad) but I am sure they add a wonderful flavor. As far as the pumpkin seeds go, you can find them at any Trader Joes or Whole Foods place.

I served these with a side salad that had pomogranites on it (one of my favorite Fall/Winter fruit) and sliced grapefruit (not shown). We enjoyed these tortillas and we hope you do to! :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Quick and Easy- Chicken Rolls

This is such an easy and yummy recipe to make and is perfect for a middle of the week meal. I love the flavor that the pecans add.

Combine and set aside 1/2 Cup herb seasoned bread crumbs and 1/4 cup crushed pecans.

3 oz. Cream Cheese
1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice
1 Cup Cooked and Shredded Chicken or Turkey
Diced Celery
Salt and Pepper

Mix the cream cheese and lemon juice until smooth. Add the diced chicken, celery, salt and pepper and mix. Then separate 1 package of Crescent rolls. Place a large spoonful of mixture in the center of each piece and roll up, seal edges.
Dip in melted butter and then in crumb mixture. Rolls can be frozen at this point and used for later (an even quicker meal for another night!) or place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Serve with thinned cream of chicken soup as a gravy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tuesday: The countdown has begun....

You and I both know it's coming! You know what I mean...when the heaters start clinking, and the skies turn gray, and we all start digging around for hats and scarves, we all know it is getting to be that magical time again when we celebrate! I think the beginning of November is my favorite time of year, because I love the anticipation of Christmas and things haven't gotten busy yet. I can plan and plan and plan. Oh yes, this year, I'll be making dozens of cookies and homemade stockings and write an incredibly witty newsletter (unlike last year); and in early November I actually DO think that I will be able to get it all done! I love it! Because I love the idea of the upcoming holidays so much, I usually start playing with Thanksgiving dishes well in advance. I have so many recipes to try and I'd rather try out a new dish on my husband Shane than try it out at the Thanksgiving table, when it just wouldn't be cool to mess up the mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, or heaven forbid, turkey!

So, last weekend, after watching the rain fall for long enough, I decided this was the perfect kind of day to fill the house with the wonderful aromas of fall celebrations...

First off, dessert. We're going backwards here. Pumpkin pie is something I think everyone should know how to make. One of those essentials. Here's my favorite recipe:

As Cortney so kindly mentioned (I'm still blushing from her kind post), I have had a quest of becoming a pie master (this pie is #99) and there are a few things I've learned on this journey. May I now take this opportunity to talk about the art of the pie crust. Whenever I tell people that I like to make pies, I always get questions about the crust, so here we go...
I used to try different pie crust recipes and in all the lessons I've learned after making 99 pies, the biggest lesson of all is to never stray from my trusty recipe. I get it from my cooking bible, pictured here:

I love this cookbook so much. Besides my son Peter and my wedding album, it's what I would grab if there was a fire in the apartment. Ok, and I'd grab my laptop too, I suppose. And Shaner. But, hopefully, he could just get himself out of there. Anyway, I bought this book right when I graduated from college with some happy graduation money, and I've never regretted it. I'm just a bit sad that the binding is becoming a bit tattered.

So, enough of that. Here's my crust (it's on page 862, Deluxe Butter Flaky Pastry could this not be good, right?!):

The key element of pie crust is the temperature. I cut up 2 sticks of UNSALTED butter and stick it in the freezer. Martha says to also put the flour in the freezer, which I guess could be helpful on really humid days, but seems to be just a tad much. You know how Martha can be sometimes...

I then get 1/3 cup ice water ready to go.

Next, I put 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon white sugar, 1 teaspoon salt in the food processor and pulse until mixed.

Then I put the butter and 1/4 cup of Crisco in the food processor, and pulse it just a few times until the butter is in pea-sized clumps.

I add the water next. This is the most tricky part of the whole process and can make or break your crust--too much water, and it's totally soggy, too little, and it's like eating flour. I remove the ice from the water, turn on the processor and stream the water in through the top until I hear what I call the crust rumble. It really is a rumbling sound that is the sound of the crust binding together. Here's what it looks like:

I take the dough out of the processor bowl and put it in 2 saran-wrapped disks. I stick it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I roll out the first crust, put it in the pie dish, and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. There's kind of a tricky way I transfer the crust so it doesn't fall apart on me during the move--I roll it around the rolling pin and unroll it into the dish.

In the meantime, I made the filling. Here is another pie lesson I've learned: no matter how cute the sugar pumpkins look at the market, and how homemade you would feel by seeding, peeling, roasting, and mashing the pumpkin pulp yourself for your 100% homemade pumpkin pie, I have some news for you--it really doesn't taste very good. Seriously, I've tried it, and guess who was REALLY disappointed while forcing herself to eat yucky pie that took way too long? Yep, I have been there, my friends.

Might I recommend instead, using Libby's good ol' prepared pumpkin in the can? And maybe you can make those homemade stockings with all that extra time on your hands:)

Ok, sorry, enough digressing. Here is the filling recipe:
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 425. In a small bown, combine sugar, salt, and spices. Beat eggs in mixer. Stir in pumpkin and evaporated milk.

Pour into pie shell.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes; reduce temperature to 350 and bake for 45-50 minutes or until firm.

And, wow, did my house smell like autumn all day!

Next up, I tried a new green bean dish. My family never did the green bean casserole for Thanksgiving, but since I've had it here, I'm really not a fan. I don't really like food that makes a squishing, slurping sound when I dish it on a plate. Instead, I found a lighter green bean dish in my favorite food magazine, Everyday Food:

1. Bring one inch of water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket.
2. Place 2 pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed, in basket. Cover; steam until crisp-tender, 5-8 minutes. Rinse under cold water. When cool, drain; pat dry with parper towels. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl or jar, whisk 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 taqblespoon white-wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon course salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper until thickened and combined. Pour over beans; toss to coat.

And, lastly, this isn't a Thanksgiving dish, but it was a lovely autumn dinner to eat on a chilly Sunday afternoon, so I thought I'd throw in my favorite pot roast recipe:

3 pound piece beef for pot roast
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces (or cheat like me and use baby carrots)
4 medium new potatoes, cut into quarters
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup (secret ingredient...I never expected this to be good!)

1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Place carrots, potatoes, and onion in a Crock-Pot. Season with salt and pepper. Add bay leaf and thyme.

2. Place meat on top of vegetables. Add soup. Cover, and cook on low heat for 8 hours (high for 6 hours)
3. Remove meath to a cutting board. Transfer vegetables to a platter. Slice meat, and add to platter. Pour sauce into measuring cup and skim fat. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables, and serve. Or skip this step, like I did, and just plunk the crock pot on the dinner table:)

Happy fall, everyone!