Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cookie Bouquets

I have to apologize for not posting for the last few days. This is the kids' last week of school before Christmas break and I've been crazy busy in my kitchen baking treats, dipping pretzels and candy canes and putting together gifts for all the wonderful people who teach, drive and care for my children while they're at school.

I feel compelled to take a moment to acknowledge those individuals who are in my children's lives-I won't mention you by name-but you know who you all are. I send my precious kids to you everyday with complete confidence that they are safe, secure and loved. You are not only teaching them the skills they need to pass a standardized test, you're helping us to nurture respectful, kind, courteous, thoughtful and caring young men and women. Marty and I are so thankful for each of you and feel very blessed that you have been a part of our children's lives. Merry Christmas to all of you!

My largest project for the week has been baking and creating cookie bouquets. I have always admired the creativity behind many fun bouquets I've seen and decided to try my skills at creating Christmas themed bouquets to give as gifts. I started with the Tuesday's with Dorie sugar cookie recipe that was featured a couple of weeks ago. I had such great success with her recipe and loved the addition of lemon zest that gave the cookie a little extra "kick", I knew it was the perfect choice for my bouquets. The glazed icing recipe I found through a link from one of my favorite blogs; The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch. Shelby created absolutely beautiful snowflake cookies on our TWD post and shared the link to Sara's blog. I haven't quite figured out how to link you from my post, but Shelby's blog site is listed under the "Blogs I Follow" feature to the right of my recipe posts. Enjoy her amazing blog!
My two youngest with their teachers' cookie bouquets!
It was Colts' Day at school-hence the blue jerseys instead of holiday wear.

I began by preparing three separate batches of dough not knowing how many cookies I would get out of each. I knew that the cookies would have to be extra thick for them to remain solidly in place on the stick. I certainly didn't want my little ones taking "fragile" cookies onto the morning bus. Can't you just see it little ones walking carefully across the street through slippery snow, taking those huge steps up into the big, yellow bus (by the way-why are those silly steps so darn big and difficult for little legs to climb? Didn't the designer know that there would be small children riding those buses? Ok, sorry-back to my story) and then trying to squeeze their book-bag, winter coat and fragile cookies into the narrow opening of their assigned, dark green bench. Not to mention the other precious riders on the bus, will they leave their hands off the packaged cookies or be so curious they have to touch just one to satisfy their urge? That's a disaster in the making...the poor teachers would have probably ended up with a package of crushed up sugar cookies complete with tears of "I'm Sorry". Not exactly a great "Merry Christmas" gift! I knew those cookies had to be "tough", so, to ensure stability, I ended up rolling the dough to 5/8" which was a perfect thickness to surround the stick and insure that our little cookies wouldn't go anywhere when finished. Because the cookies had to be so thick, each batch of dough yielded one dozen cookies.

Santa's Boot

Christmas Trees

I cut out six different designs for each bouqet, the Santa boot and Christmas tree pictured above as well as an ornament, snowman, gingerbread man, and a present. I wanted the cookies to be a decent size, especially since the base they would be placed in was a medium sized tin, so I chose to use 3 inch cookie cutters. They turned out to be absolutely perfect in size.

Glazing the cookies was fun and fairly simple albeit very time consuming. I really wanted these to be nearly perfect since they were gifts to some very special people. I used thicker icing to pipe around each cookie to make a "well" that would be filled in with the colored icing. I found that this is the best way to insure no run-off drips. After the piped icing dried a little, I went back and "painted" the cookies. Ever since I was a small girl I have loved to sit and color, well, this beats all...I not only got enjoy coloring cookies, but I got to eat the "crayons". Fun stuff!

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process of my project and can't wait for the next opportunity to create another cookie bouquet. My hope is that all who received this gift enjoys eating these yummy cookies as much as I enjoyed baking and creating them.

Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
lemon zest (optional)-for the most flavor, rub the zest into the sugar before adding it to the butter
Whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale. Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated-because this dough is best when worked least, you might want to stop the mixer before all the flour is thoroughly blended into the dough and finish the job with a rubber spatula. When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy and malleable.
Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. Shape each half into a disk and wrap in plastic. The dough must be chilled for at least 2 hours. (Well wrapped, the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll out dough between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper to a thickness of 1/4" (5/8" to make cookie bouquet), lifting the plastic or paper and turning the dough over often so that it rolls evenly. Lift off the top sheet of plastic or paper and cut out the cookies. Pull away the excess dough, saving the scraps for rerolling, and carefully lift the cookies onto the baking sheet with a spatula, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cookies.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely before glazing.
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Glace' Icing
1 lb powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
1/4 C + 2T Whole milk (low-fat actually works, but use whole if you can)
1/4 C +2T light Corn Syrup
1 t extract (I used almond)
With a whisk, combine sugar and milk until smooth (no lumps!). Then stir in corn syrup and extract.
You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. The way it is right now is the consistency you want for glazing. For piping just thicken with more powdered sugar.
Source: Our Best Bites

Monday, December 15, 2008

Candy Cane Cookies

One of my favorite memories of holiday baking is standing on a stool beside my Granny rolling this adorable cookie into the shape of a candy cane. I loved watching the red and white dough blend together in my small hands and never could resist the temptation to nibble dough off my fingers. (Of course, I had to wash my hands every time I licked the dough...Granny was a stickler for cleanliness while cooking.)

Last weekend my girls were begging to bake some holiday cookies and these immediately came to mind. I knew they would both love rolling and forming the cookies as much as I had as a little girl. We shared some great laughs while working side by side in the kitchen and I love to watch my girls as they discover the wonder and enjoyment of baking. These are certainly moments I will treasure.

These cookies are very simple to prepare and so much fun to form into cute little candy canes. The cookies are sprinkled with a mixture of crushed candy cane and sugar when they are hot out of the oven. Yummy! My eldest daughter suggested that next time we make these we should add a little crushed candy cane to the dough, she thought the cookie needed something "more". Oh, my future baker...gotta love it. Enjoy!

Candy Cane Cookies
1 cup margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy canes
1/2 cup white sugar for decoration
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and white sugar and confectioner's sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla and peppermint extracts. Combine the flour and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Cover or wrap dough and chill for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Divide dough into halves. Color one half red by mixing in the food color. Roll a small amount of each dough into 4 inch strips. Roll them together in a twisted rope and curve the end like a cane. Place onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together the crushed candy cane and remaining white sugar. Roll hot cookies in the sugar mixture.
Source: All Recipes

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD - Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies

This week for TWD, Ullrike of Kuchenlatein chose Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookie. What a perfect recipe for this time of year! The kids and I love to bake sugar cookies with all kinds of holiday shapes from the Halloween season on through Christmas. It's sort of become our tradition to make the cookies and then enjoy a carpet picnic in front of a crackling fire and devour our yummy, fresh baked goodies while watching a holiday video...usually Charlie Brown. You just can't top Charlie Brown and all the gang! Makes me feel like a kid again! Ok, now on to the cookie of the day.
I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating, I love Dorie's cookbook! She explains everything in great detail and offers many tips and options to creating your own version of any recipe. Fantastic, fun and so many flavorful adaptations.
For these cookies, Dorie offers a variation of either adding lemon or orange zest. I decided to think outside my box and add the lemon zest, and oh, I'm so glad I did. Yummy! I'm already thinking of enjoying an afternoon break with a cup of hot coffee and a cookie...or two...or three. Shhh, don't tell anyone-it'll be our little secret. :)
This time of year a sugar cookie just has to have icing on it in colorful, festive designs, that's half the fun! I had a great time (and alot of comments from my peanut gallery) decorating my cookies. They didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped, but they're still cute. Enjoy!
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours-Dorie Greenspan

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peppermint Bonbon Cookies

Tis the season to be baking, Fa la la la la la la! I positively, obnoxiously, love the Christmas season! I love the reason behind the season most of all; the celebration of Christ's birth. WOW-that's certainly the best gift any of us can ever receive, our Savior! I also enjoy all the other festivities that transpire over the season; the decorating, music, parties, shopping, and wrapping but most of all I LOVE the baking! There's never another time in the entire year that is so focused on baking. :)

I baked my first "holiday" cookies this past week and shared these with my friend Sarah who has been in the hospital with pre-term labor. I wanted something festive and chocolaty and this recipe was perfect! If you like peppermint, you'll fall in love with these cookies! There is crushed peppermint and chocolate chips in the bonbons. When the cookies come out of the oven, you sprinkle with more peppermint and then I chose to drizzle white chocolate over the cooled cookies. D-E-L-I-S-H! Sarah said Mike ate almost half of the cookies I sent before he arrived at the hospital, so I guess they were a definite hit with him! :)

Add these festive little guys to your holiday baking list and see if they're not a huge hit for your loved ones too! Enjoy!
Peppermint Bonbon Cookies
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup finely crushed hard peppermint candies
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
Additional coarsely crushed hard peppermint candies, divided
Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 cup crushed peppermint and 6 Tbsp. sugar. Let cool 30 minutes.
Add eggs to melted chocolate, 1 at a time, stirring well. Stir in extracts.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to chocolate mixture, stirring until combined. Stir in chocolate morsels. Cover and chill dough 2 hours or until firm enough to shape.
Shape dough into 1 1/2" balls; place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and cracked on top. Sprinkle coarsely crushed peppermints onto cookies; press candy lightly into cookies. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on baking sheets. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Drizzle with melted white chocolate.
Source: My Recipes

Friday, December 5, 2008

Devil's Food White-Out Cake

This post is a couple of week's past due, but with the Thanksgiving holiday and the busy-ness of our schedule, I haven't had a moment to download pictures and compose this post. But, better late than never. :)

Our boys celebrated their birthdays the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. Ironically enough, they were both born the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, four years apart....and yes, these handsome boys of mine forced me to eat a holiday dinner in the hospital TWICE. To think I sacrificed all those delicious, high caloric dishes and desserts for two beautiful, warm bundles of bouncing baby boys....Oh, who am I kidding? I'd do it again in a New York minute to have these two amazing blessings in my life!

I have always allowed the kids to pick the flavor, color and style of their birthday cakes. I am certainly no cake decorator, but the kids enjoy watching their cakes being decorated and helping me by licking spoons and spatulas during the entire process. A couple of months ago, I purchased Dorie Greenspan's cookbook, "Baking-From My Home to Yours" and the moment the boys saw the cover of the book, they knew what kind of birthday cake they would be requesting. I can't count how many times they reminded me which cake to prepare for their celebrations.

The preparation of the cake was really pretty simple, just follow Dorie's detailed instructions. It was a little more time consuming than I had anticipated, but I'm known for not planning enough in advance for these sorts of details. Marty calls it "procrastinating", I call it LIFE with four kids and babysitting three of which is 12 weeks old. Anyway, I digress.

Once we cut into the cake and tasted it, I was sold on this recipe!! The cake was so stinking moist and the mini chocolate chips give you a little crunchy surprise with almost every bite. I don't think I can purchase another boxed mix again! Dorie's cake called for a marshmallow type icing and I attempted three times to prepare it, but after burning the 3rd batch, I threw in the towel and resorted to my fail safe buttercream icing recipe. So, all in all, I'm calling this a great success. My boys loved their birthday cake, I expanded my culinary resume and we all enjoyed an evening of celebrating our pride and joys.....our sons.

Here are the birthday boys with their cake, Nathan (left) celebrating his 9th birthday and Matthew (right) celebrating his 13th birthday. Aren't they handsome? Happy Birthday boys!

Not the best of pictures, but shows the three layers of the cake. YUMMY!!
Devil's Food White-Out Cake
For the Cake
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temp.
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temp.
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
Getting ready: Center rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8X2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
To Make The Cake: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bow, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don't worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)
When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gently sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.
To Assembly the Cake: Put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don't worry about smoothing the frosting-it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs into the filling with your fingers.
Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving.
Source: Baking-From My Home to Yours

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wild Rice and Chicken Soup

Winter has arrived in central Indiana. Sunday morning we woke to the beauty of snow dusted tree limbs and meandering deer grazing for food across a pristine white field. I love the crispness of freshly fallen snow and the peace it brings to our surroundings. Of course, by the afternoon, the temperatures were rising and all that was left of the beautiful picture was wet, nasty roads and muddy driveways...but we enjoyed it while it lasted.

One of our favorite soups that we enjoy throughout the long winter months is this hearty, thick chicken and rice soup. The creamy base has a delicious, rich flavor while the celery that is added toward the end of the recipe adds a crispness that blends so well with the other textures of the rice and chicken in the soup. This is marvelous when served with fresh, hot bread and a crisp, green salad. This is great warmed up for lunch the next day. (I've been known to eat it for several days as my lunch and never tire of it.)

Wild Rice and Chicken Soup

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups half and half
2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots, cooked (I cheat and use canned carrots)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (I omit)
1/2 cup parsley

1. Saute' onion in butter. Add flour to make a thick roux.
2. Slowly add broth and half and half using a whisk. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until slightly thickened.
3. Add rice, salt, chicken, vegetables and parsley. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. If soup is too thick, thin with extra broth.

Source: Necessities and Temptations

Friday, November 28, 2008

Caramel Corn

I pray that you all had a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving Day and that you took a moment to look around to see all your blessings for which to be thankful for. I always love to be surrounded by my family and enjoy the sound of the kids' laughter and raucous playing in the background while my Mom and I finish preparations for dinner. We all have so much to be thankful for!

My Granny has been unable to join us for Thanksgiving dinner for a couple of years, but we were thrilled to be able to set a place for her at the table yesterday. I have shared with you before that my Granny has been a large influence to my love of cooking and baking. I remember as a child watching Granny and Mom spend hours in a hot kitchen working hard to get a fantastic holiday meal to the table. Oh..those were great days, listening to Mom, Granny and my Grandma talk, laugh and cook together. Three incredibly amazing women!!

There were several times yesterday I became nostalgic and thought back to the many special treats Granny would fix for her five grandchildren to celebrate the many wonderful holidays falling between Halloween all the way through to Superbowl Sunday. I often wish my memory had a recorder that captured every moment that I took for granted as a child. Do you ever wish we could imprint the importance of savoring every moment to our children? We all seem to realize all the "should haves" a little too late. :)

There are many treats that Granny fixed us that I have begun to share with my own kids. One of these special treats that I'm sharing with you today Granny would prepare before Halloween and have on hand every time we were at the farm. She never allowed me to help in the preparation of the Caramel Corn because she was always cautious about the boiling caramel and never wanted any of us to get hurt, but I often stood at the kitchen door and watched with great curiosity as to how she fixed this yummy treat. I asked her several years ago to write the recipe down (so I would have it in her handwriting) and I began to make it for my kids. It's become one of our favorites and it'll be on hand all weekend as we decorate the house for Christmas.

This caramel corn is pretty easy to prepare and makes about 5 quarts of ooey-gooey, caramely popcorn. If you like your popcorn with just a little caramel on each kernel instead of "stick-to-your-teeth" caramel corn, pop an additional couple of quarts of corn for the recipe. Either way, it's delicious and fantastic to munch on during movies, family game night or just sitting by a crackling fire watching the twinkling lights on your Christmas tree. Enjoy!

Caramel Corn

5 quarts popped popcorn-unbuttered
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. Heat oven to 225 degrees. Place popcorn in a large roasting pan; set aside.
2. Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, molasses and salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reaches 250 degrees or small amount of mixture dropped in ice water forms a hard ball. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. The caramel will foam up a little and turn a lighter color when you add the baking soda.
3. Carefully pour hot mixture over the popcorn. Using a wooden spoon, stir until all popcorn is coated. Place in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir to evenly coat the popcorn. Return to oven. Continue cooking for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately spread caramel corn onto waxed paper. Let cool completely. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in tightly covered container.
Source: Edna Harris (Granny)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Wishes

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wish you all a very blessed day full of family, fun, laughter, memories and of course....fabulous food! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TWD - Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

This week's TWD selection is Thanksgiving Twofer Pie chosen by Vibi of La Casserole Carree. Although Vibi is not celebrating our traditional American holiday, she chose this for all of us English speaking neighbors to enjoy and savor for our special day. Thank you Vibi, that was extremely thoughtful!

I have to apologize that I don't have any pictures to share with you for today's post, but my camera must be experiencing the same kind of week as it's owner and has decided to stop functioning properly....wish I could do the same. :) I plan to serve this pie on Thanksgiving day as one of our desserts and Mom and Dad always bring a camera to capture the kids, so I plan to take a photo of this pie prior to serving it. Look for an update this weekend.

Now to the actual process of preparation. This was a very simple two layer pie to assemble and was literally ready to pop in the oven in no time. I love recipes that are like this! It also combines two of my favorite pies; pumpkin and pecan. Mmmmm, I can't wait to taste a piece of this!!

Again, thank you Vibi for this selection, I'm sure it's going to be a huge hit on Thursday!!

Source: Baking From My Home to Yours with Dorie Greenspan

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Slow Cooker Lasagna

Most Monday's, although I am home throughout the day, our evening commitments allow us approximately 30 minutes to sit down at the table as a family to eat dinner. In this case, I rely heavily on my slow cooker to have dinner ready for us when we rush in the door. Rarely does the crock pot let me down and this recipe was no exception. What a delightful, yummy success on a cold fall evening. It was quick and simple to assemble and had all the wonderful tastes of a lasagna that takes many hours to prepare. The only changes I might make the next time I fix this would be to add Italian sausage to the ground beef for more depth and add a variety of Italian spices to enhance the flavor of the sauce. I can't wait to put this on our weekly menu again this next month when we need a simple, delicious meal during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

Convenient Slow Cooker Lasagna

1 lb. ground beef
2 29-oz. cans tomato sauce
8-oz. pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese

1. Spray the interior of the cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Brown the ground beef in a large nonstick skillet. Drain off drippings.
3. Stir in tomato sauce. Mix well.
4. Spread one-fourth of the meat sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker.
5. Arrange one-third of the uncooked noodles over the sauce. (break them up so they fit better)
6. Combine the cheeses in a bowl. Spoon one-third of the cheeses over the noodles.
7. Repeat these layers twice.
8. Top with remaining sauce.
9. Cover and cook on Low 4 hours.

Source: Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sundays For Sarah - Dutch Oven Dinner

To all of you who have been faithful followers of my posts about my "bed-bound" friend...Good News, this past week Sarah was able to avoid seeing her OB because she has been doing so incredibly well! Baby Hannah began her 32nd week of gestation yesterday and we're praying that she continues to behave herself and stays comfortably inside Mommy's tummy for several more weeks. Thank you to everyone who is praying for the O'Briens, God is so Good!

Now for the yummy, food section of my weekly post. This week Sarah chose a recipe that our friend Annie posted on her blog ( several months ago. Sarah has a new dutch oven and this recipe was perfect to initiate it with. We rearranged the meal schedule this weekend and prepared dinner on Saturday evening instead of Sunday because of our girls' cheer competition. I'm so glad we didn't decide to skip this week...this was a fun meal to fix. My oldest daughter and I went over to Sarah's and had dinner simmering in less than 30 minutes...give or take with girlfriend chatter and the amusement of watching Josh. The meal was very simple to prepare and according to Mike.."This might be his favorite dish...put cheese on top of meat and voila...delicious." Another great thing about this recipe is that it's prepared with ingredients you probably keep stocked in your pantry and freezer, it makes for a great "go-to" meal when you're in a pinch. Enjoy!

Dutch Oven Dinner

1 lb. lean ground sirloin
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2/3 cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups frozen corn
1 package (10-12 oz.) egg noodles
1 can (28 oz.)diced tomatoes, with juices
2 cups shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Brown ground beef in 5-quart Dutch oven or large skillet with a lid. Add onion, mushrooms and corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread uncooked noodles evenly over top. Sprinkle cheese evenly over noodles. Pour the entire can of tomatoes over all. Simmer, tightly covered, for 1 hour, then let it stand 3-5 minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats

Land of Nod Cinnamon Rolls

I am always looking for new, fun and creative recipes to fix my family for weekend breakfasts. Our weekday mornings are so chaotic getting ready for school that I'm lucky to prepare boxed muffins for the kids, more often than not, they have a bowl of cereal. So, on the weekends, I love to bake something scrumptious and delicious that will put smiles on all their adorable faces.

These cinnamon rolls are so easy to fix due to the use of frozen rolls. You prepare this before bedtime and leave on the counter overnight for the rolls to rise and the next morning you simply bake for 25 minutes and then savor the taste of fresh, homemade cinnamon rolls! Oh, my....these were wonderful! The six of us devoured the entire pan, not a morsel was left on the platter...not even for a mouse. (Sorry, I'm getting into the Christmas spirit a little early. I even have Christmas music playing while I type this!) Marty said that it was the best cinnamon rolls I've ever made for breakfast. Who cares that it was made with frozen rolls, I love to please my family! The original recipe didn't call for any glaze, but a cinnamon roll isn't a cinnamon roll without icing!! I just mixed up confectioners sugar with some milk and vanilla and poured over the warm rolls. D-E-L-I-S-H!!

Land of Nod Cinnamon Rolls

20 frozen dough rolls
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 box butterscotch pudding
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins (I omitted)
1/2 cup butter, melted

Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan. Add frozen rolls; sprinkle with brown sugar, pudding powder, cinnamon and raisins. Pour melted butter over all. Cover with clean, damp cloth (cheesecloth works best). Leave on counter overnight. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then turn out onto a platter. Serves 10.

Source: adapted from The Joy of Hospitality Cookbook

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

After my love for God, my husband and four kiddos, this desert combines my next three loves and absolute favorites of chocolate, cookie dough and cheesecake. Oh my! The taste of all three combined into one amazing desert sky-rocketed me into heavenly bliss. It took most of my willpower to take this with us to a friends' house to share with them at a get together. But because I don't need my backside or thighs to develop into one big, ball of cookie dough...I behaved myself and shared. Everyone raved about the richness and deliciousness of this desert and gobbled most of it up. I did allow myself a little piece and savored every last bite. Mmmmmm!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

1 & 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 Tbs. butter, melted
2/3 c miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9" square baking pan (I used a 9" springform pan). Line pan with parchment paper, leaving enough to extend over the sides. Lightly coat the parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter until crumbs are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips. Press crust mixture into bottom of pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool.

Cookie Dough
5 Tbs. butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tbs. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I followed the advise of My Kitchen Cafe and reduced the flour by 1/8th of a cup from the 3/4 and found the dough to be very workable)
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Using electric mixer, mix butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt and vanilla extract at medium speed until smooth. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.

10 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar just until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating just until blended. Pour batter into baked crust. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls over the top of the filling.

Bake about 30-35 minutes, or until set. Transfer to wire rack.

For chocolate topping, melt 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave. (Tip: put the chocolate chips into a zipper bag and heat on 50% power for a few minutes. Cut the corner off the bag and squeeze the bag to make drizzling less messy.) Use a teaspoon to drizzle chocolate over top of bars. cool bars in pan completely, about an hour. (Stick the bars in the freezer for 5 minutes to set quickly if you're in a hurry).

Using the edges of the parchment paper, remove bars from pan. Cut into bars (clean the knife after each cut) and serve.

Source: adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sundays For Sarah - Vegetable Soup

First let me explain the picture of the pink pig. Sarah is a first grade teacher and I guess you could say her classroom theme is pigs. Well, since I don't have a picture of her dinner on Sunday, (explained later in this post) I thought this would be a cute way of beginning today's update. :-)

This week's post for Sarah is another filled with great news from the Doctors! Because Sarah has done such an incredible job resting and obeying Dr.'s orders, there has been no change AGAIN and she was sent home to continue bed rest with baby Hannah tucked snugly in Mommy's tummy. Thank you to all who are lifting Sarah and her family up in your daily thoughts and prayers.

For the O'Brien's dinner on Sunday evening, they were treated to a great vegetable soup brought by Mike's boss and his wife. It's so wonderfully amazing to watch all those that love this family rally around them and contribute in any manner needed! Wow! I thought about apologizing to all of you for not having a new dinner recipe to share, but then I thought...."Wait a minute, it's not about the food (well, the food part is fun though) it's about Sarah and her family." I guess I still could have gone over and taken a picture of their meal for you, but since I just thought of that..I didn't and I don't. So, keep checking the blog and I promise you we'll have lots more to share and we'll update you on the baby. Deal? Deal.

Also, I wanted to send a HUGE Thank You to Adele (Sarah's Mom) and her two sisters (Rachel & Becky) who hosted a beautiful Baby Sprinkle this weekend for Sarah. You ladies outdid yourselves! The food was absolutely amazing, the decorations adorable and your hospitality heart warming! Thank you for allowing my girls and myself to share in a wonderful afternoon of celebration. HUGS!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Scrumptious Sugar Gems

I love sugar cookies! Every year, just prior to Halloween, our family sets aside one evening that we bake and decorate sugar cookies in all sorts of fun shapes and sizes and decorate them with LOTS of icing and sprinkles. We then take our goodies to a large blanket on the family room floor, sit in front of a roaring fire and watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". It's been a great tradition to enjoy with the kids through the years! It gives me a fleeting glance at what could be considered a Norman Rockwell moment. I have tried several sugar cookie recipes and they've all been good but not mouth watering, don't need layers of icing for taste good. So, I've continued to search for the "perfect" sugar cookie recipe. Well my blogger friends...I think I've found it!

When I read this recipe on The Sisters Cafe, I bookmarked it and couldn't wait to bake these fabulous cookies. While this isn't a dough you can use to do cookie cut-outs, it's well worth the sacrifice for the taste of this incredible recipe! The dough does not have to be refrigerated after mixing which makes the process a little quicker than most sugar cookie recipes. I have to confess that after suffering through long minutes of divine aroma of the first batch of baking cookies, I nearly burned all my taste buds off tasting a VERY hot cookie. But, ohhhh was it worth it! The cookies had a great thickness to them that makes every bite a heavenly mouthful. The oil and butter combined make for a very soft cookie that is wonderful without icing, but once I tasted them WITH icing....there was no turning back...I was addicted. The icing calls for 2 tsp. flavoring of any kind. I went with almond extract and never regretted it. It was the perfect addition to the perfect sugar cookie! If you plan to do alot of Holiday baking, add this recipe to your list and you'll certainly be thankful you did.

Sugar Gems

Cream together:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup real butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

5 cups flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda

Mix all ingredients well. Roll into golf size balls and place on cookie sheets. Flatten with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes. Cook and frost with sugar gem frosting.

Sugar Gem Frosting

2-21/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp. flavoring (almond, vanilla etc.)
3-4 Tbsp. milk
Coloring if wanted

Mix well and add a little more milk or powdered sugar to get the right consistency.

Source: Melanie @ Sisters Cafe

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken

If you're like me, you love to spend time in your kitchen cooking and baking and trying excitingly new recipes. There are days that I could whittle the entire day away cooking, but there are so many instances that quick and easy is the only way to go. When a friend shared this recipe with me I knew it would appear on my weekly menus repeatedly over the months because of its simplicity but more so because it was a HUGE hit with my family. The picture does not do this dish justice. Now that we have set our clocks back, there is no natural light at dinner to photograph foods, so I'm left to use the kitchen lights with no flash and the result is a dull, colorless picture. You'll have to take my word that this is a scrumptios meal to feed your family! There are only four ingredients that you can throw in the crock-pot in less than 5 minutes, you go about your day for 6-8 hours, boil some rice and then plate up a fabulous dinner that your family will love. Next time you know you'll be in a pinch during the dinner hour, put your slow-cooker to work for you with this savory chicken dish. You won't be dissapointed!

Salsa Chicken

3 to 4 skinless-boneless chicken breasts
taco seasoning (as much or little as you want)
1 (16 oz.) jar salsa (mild, medium or hot...please your own tastebuds)
1 can fat free cream of mushroom soup
1 cup fat free sour cream

Layer first four ingredients in crock-pot in order listed. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. During last 15 minutes of cooking time, stir in sour cream.

Serve over rice.

Source: Malynn Hearon

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TWD - Rugelach

This week for Tuesday's With Dorie, Grace of Piggy's Cooking Journal chose Rugelach. I can't begin to tell you how to say it correctly. Ruga what?? Roo-gu-la? Is the "ch" silent or pronounced making the "ch" to sound like a cat coughing up a fur ball? Oh, sorry, not a pretty mental picture for a food blog. Well, I'm not really positive on how it's properly pronounced, but I can absolutely, positively share that this was a fantastically yummy pastry! D-E-L-I-S-H!

The preparation of Rugelach was a little more difficult than I thought it would be. My dough blended together nicely in the food processor, but after refrigeration, did not want to roll out at all. I ended up working the rolling pin too much which caused the dough to warm and stick to the pastry sheet which made it rather difficult to roll the cookie into a crescent shape. But, I persevered and while my first batch looked worse than awful, they tasted divine and before I could get any pictures, my family had eaten all but two. Made for a great lesson of the old adage...Don't judge a cookie by it's cover. Ha! For my second batch, because I still couldn't get the dough to roll out to the circumference called for in the recipe, I decided to cut 8 wedges instead of 16 hoping this might create a nicer looking cookie. A select few of the second batch looked presentable, but the dough didn't seem to hold together properly through the baking process. ???

The Rugelach filling is a combination of raspberry jam, nuts, sugar, cinnamon and semi-sweet chocolate. Although some of my filling ran out of the dough, the flavors were heavenly.

I have to share that I fall further and further in love with my Baking From My Home to Yours cookbook every week. The recipes are thoroughly described, simple to follow and challenge me to expand my baking abilities beyond drop cookies and pan brownies. I'm so thankful that I chose to join Tuesday's With Dorie because it holds me accountable to try something new and exciting every week from this great cookbook. My family is also enjoying the wonderful aromas and delectable tastes of so many new sweet treats.
Thank you Grace for choosing Rugelach for this week! I may never learn how to say it correctly, but I'm determined to bake these again to attain a beautiful cookie that matches it's wonderful flavors!
Once again, blogspot has a mind of its own with the font of my posts...I have tried multiple times to rectify this and have given up. It's readable, it's late and my kids are fighting. Three great reasons to sign off for tonight.
Source: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pumpkin Biscotti

A few weeks ago, I experienced my first opportunity to bake biscotti with Tuesday's with Dorie and I fell in love with the texture and flavor of that little biscuit. Ever since then I've been looking for a recipe that would incorporate flavors of the Autumn season and would yield a richer type of biscotti. When I found this recipe for Pumpkin Biscotti, I immediately bookmarked it to fix when I had some extra time. (o.k., I know, as a Mom we don't have "extra" time with all the laundry, cooking, sports, homework...blah, blah, blah, what I meant was any time that I could carve out for myself....oh-let's not go there either. You know what I'm saying.) I loved, loved, loved this biscotti! The pumpkin flavor is tremendous and was even heartier after sitting for a day. The recipe called for chopped pecans, but instead, I stuck to my favorite addition to pumpkin...chocolate! I seriously cannot get beyond the delectable combination of those two ingredients. I'm sooo glad I added the mini chips, they were a delicious addition and it turned out to be a great way to entice my kids to try a different looking cookie. They loved 'em! On Sunday, I took these over to my friend Sarah's to share with her and she seconded our opinion that these were a hit. You won't regret trying this variation of my new type of cookie...biscotti!

Pumpkin Biscotti

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup solid-pack canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups pecans, coarsely chopped and toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease (I covered with parchment paper) 2 large baking sheets. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spice. In a small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs and vanilla. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until well combined. Knead or gently stir the toasted pecans into the dough. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into 3 equal portions. Lightly flour your hands. Shape each portion into a slightly flattened log about 3-inches by 12-inches. Place logs 3-inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes. Do Not Shut Off Oven! Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Transfer each log to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Line the slices up, standing, on the baking sheets and bake 12-15 minutes, until dry. Cook on wire rack.

Source: All Recipes

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sundays For Sarah-Creamy White Chicken Chili

First of all, I would like to apologize for not posting any new, yummy recipes this past week. It's been crazy busy around our household and while I have continued to cook and bake some delectable dishes for my family this week, I haven't had one spare minute to download and post anything to share with you. Please remain patient and I'll get caught up soon.

Now, for some really great news. Sarah had a very positive Doctor's visit this week. The medications are doing their job and keeping her contractions under control, so she was ordered to go home and straight back to bed. Another week that precious Hannah has continued to mature and grow inside Mommy's tummy. Wonderful, wonderful news!!
This time Sarah and I chose a recipe together. Our family was going to be extremely busy this weekend at a soccer tournament with our son, but I wanted to follow through with Sunday's for Sarah. So we talked and decided that a soup or chili recipe sounded good and would fit in with our family's weekend time schedule. I remembered a great chicken chili that my friend Jennifer had fixed for our Bible study group awhile ago and she had submitted the recipe to be published in our church's cookbook. When I read through it Saturday evening, I knew it was the perfect, quick dish to prepare and it sounded absolutely delish!

This chili was so EASY to prepare and the flavors of all the spices and chilies was fantastic. We topped our bowls of chili with a little extra sour cream and cheddar cheese and savored every delicious bite. Sarah and I both said that this is definitely a new favorite for both our families. You won't be disappointed if you choose to try this recipe.

Creamy White Chicken Chili

1 lb. boneless chicken, cut in cubes
1 medium onion
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 T. vegetable oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
2 (15 oz.) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chicken broth
2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chilies
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. whipping cream
In a pot, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil. Add beans, broth, chilies and all seasonings (salt, cumin, oregano, pepper and cayenne pepper). Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and whipping cream.

Source: Jennifer Wall -Sharing Our Best

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sundays For Sarah-Love Birds - Chicken in Pastry

The first thing I want to share with you today is that Sarah has made it to the first "benchmark" set by her doctor...29 weeks gestation! Whooo-hoooo! When I spoke with her earlier today, she sounded incredibly relieved and joyous to have reached this monumental point. This is certainly cause for celebration and to extend a gracious thank you to everyone who has lifted Sarah and her family up in your thoughts and prayers. Please continue to pray for the health and growth of baby Hannah and for Sarah to remain patient, calm and relaxed during her time of bed rest. Also, please keep Mike (her husband) in your thoughts as he takes on more responsibilities at home, that he not become overwhelmed and for Josh ( her precious little boy) that he understands some of the limitations that his Mommy has but never questions her unconditional, unmeasurable and unending love for him.

Now, for the food portion of our weekly adventure. This week's recipe is another selection from Rachel Ray that she prepared this week on Food Network. She prefaced this recipe preparation as a great dish to fix for an anniversary or engagement celebration, so this was a perfect selection to celebrate Sarah's milestone of 29 weeks.
This recipe was a lot of fun to prepare and came together incredibly easy. You have to love recipes that posses those characteristics. This would certainly be a great dish to serve for a small dinner party since it takes such little time to get into the oven to bake. The original recipe calls for fontina cheese, but I couldn't find it in two grocery stores, so I opted to use provolone for it's mild flavor that would not overwhelm the fig preserves. And speaking of fig preserves....oh my, I fell in love with the stuff and it was a perfect addition to the chicken and cheese. Wrap all that up in a delicious puff pastry and you have savory, culinary success. Mmmmm.

Sarah, thank you for allowing me to share your family's story through this blog. I can't wait to see what blessings are in store for you and your family with all the thoughts and prayers that are being said on your behalf.

Love Birds - Chicken in Pastry
4 pieces skinless chicken breast, boned (about 8 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 springs fresh finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 sheet puff pastry (11 by 17-inch)
8 sliced Italian fontina cheese, slices should be 2 to 3-inches square and 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick)
1/2 cup fig preserves
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water-for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Season the chicken with salt, pepper and rosemary. Cut each piece of chicken in half across the breast giving you 8 equal portions. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the chicken on both sides, 5 minutes total. Remove from heat.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 8 pieces. Place a piece of cheese on each pastry square and top with spoonfuls of fig preserves and the chicken pieces. Pinch and seal the dough up and over the meat and cheese. Seal with egg wash, flip the pastry packets over and brush the tops with remaining egg wash. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden.
For entire portions, simply leave chicken breast whole and cut the pastry into quarters. Trim off excess dough and use it to decorate the pastry with small cut outs such as heart shapes.

Source: Food Network

Friday, October 24, 2008

Apple Crumb Cake

It's finally beginning to feel like fall here in the Midwest with cooler temperatures and chilly rain. I'm overly anxious to sit, curled up in a blanket, by a crackling fire with a cup of hot chocolate and yummy, baked goodies. When I found this recipe this week, I thought it sounded perfect for my Autumn "mood". My friend, Sarah, had given us quite a few apples that needed to be used before they spoiled, so I had the perfect recipe to use them up. The apples are layered between the cake batter and then sprinkled with a streusel topping....oh my!! This was the moistest (moistest or most moist?-I'm certainly no English Major) cake I've baked in a long time. Since I had such great success with the streusel topping on my apple cobbler, I duplicated it for this cake, YUM! This was like eating apple cobbler in cake form. I couldn't help taking little bites off the edges of the cake as it cooled. Because of the moist texture, I stored this cake in the fridge to keep it from getting yucky at room temperature and then just warmed the pieces up in the microwave when I was craving another piece. No, I won't tell you how often that was. I haven't enjoyed this delicious cake by the fireplace yet (hint: Marty hasn't brought wood up to the house) but am definitely planning to bake this again to savor on a chilly afternoon.

Apple Crumb Cake

Crumb Topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (I used 2 packets Cinnamon Roll Flavor oatmeal)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
5 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. stick butter, softened

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. each baking powder and baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat sour cream at room temperature
3 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored and very thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9x2 in. baking pan with nonstick foil, letting foil extend 2 in. above ends of pan.
2. Topping: Mix flour, oatmeal and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until large crumbs form.
3. Cake: In a large bowl with mixer on low speed, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt 3 minutes or until creamy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time until blended. With mixer on low speed, add flour alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour and beating just until smooth.
4. Spoon 1/2 into prepared pan; spread evenly. Cover with 1/2 the apples, the remaining batter, then remaining apples. Crumble topping over apples.
5. Bake 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Holding foil ends, lift cake from pan to rack to cool. Cut in squares with a serrated knife and serve warm, or cool before cutting.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD-Pumpkin Muffins

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe is Pumpkin Muffins and was chosen by Kelly from Sounding My Barbaric Gulp! What a great recipe to enjoy this time of year. I adapted the recipe, once again, to please the palates of my family. Why go through the time and effort of baking if it's not going to be enjoyed by your loved ones, right? Dorie's recipe called for raisins to be folded into the batter and also to sprinkle sunflower seeds on the tops of the muffins prior to baking. I knew my kids wouldn't come near the muffins if they saw seeds on top, so I added mini chocolate chips in the batter and placed regular sized chips on top. I can't seem to move past the wonderful combination of pumpkin and chocolate. got me.....I like to add chocolate to nearly anything and everything that I bake and this gave me another opportunity to indulge in my craving. There, I feel better admitting my weakness.

The muffin batter was incredibly simple to mix together and took very little time. This would be a great muffin to whip up on a chilly winter-y morning for your family. I think the next time I make these I'll add a little more cinnamon and maybe some pumpkin pie spice. I like to really taste the pumpkin flavoring in my cookies and muffins.

As I write this post, the kids are beginning to devour the muffins. So, this is another Tuesday's with Dorie success. Thank you Kelly for choosing this great recipe!

Source: Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sundays For Sarah-Smoky Turkey Shepherd's Pie

This is the first installment of "Sundays for Sarah" and I am thrilled to report to you that Sarah is doing well. It's been very touching to read through some of your comments and know that your thoughts and prayers for Hannah and Sarah began immediately after reading the post launching our exciting venture. Thank you. thank you!

For our first week of cooking, Sarah chose a Rachel Ray recipe. As you know, Rachel's 30 minute meals are so popular, not only for their preparation time but also for their wonderful flavors. This dish was very simple to prepare. You could summarize the process with just a few adjectives; browning, peeling, chopping, boiling, mashing and browning. That sounds so easy doesn't it? And aren't you proud of my literature skills? Well, I digress...the thyme and the chives that are added helped to create a fantastic, savory meal that was perfect to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon of football. I loved the crispness of the sauteed veggies with the creamy mashed potatoes, great combination! This was a definite success at both Sarah's and my home. I hope you decide to fix this wonderful, warm dish and think of Sarah and Hannah during your preparation. Enjoy!

Smoky Turkey Shepherd's Pie

3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
coarse salt
2 tablespoons EVOO-extra-virgin olive oil-2 turns of the pan
1 1/3 pound ground turkey breast
1 tablespoon smoked paprika, available in small cans on spice aisle of market
(You may substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons each sweet paprika and cumin combined)
coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons, 5 or 6 springs, fresh thyme leaves
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 ribs celery from the heart, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream, divided
3 tablespoons butter
1 large egg, beaten
10 to 12 bladed fresh chives, chopped or snipped

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook the potatoes until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Heat a deep, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, to the skillet. Add bacon and brown it up, then add ground turkey to the pan and break it up. Season the turkey with smoked paprika, salt and pepper and thyme. When turkey browns up; add onions, carrots, celery. Season the veggies with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, then add red pepper and peas cook another 2 minutes. Stir in flour and cook flour 2 minutes. Whisk broth and combine. Add 1/2 cup of sour cream and combine. Simmer mixture over low heat.
Preheat your broiler to high.
When potatoes are tender, add a ladle of cooking water to the egg. Drain potatoes and return to the warm pot to dry them out a little. Add remaining 1/2 cup sour cream, butter, half of the chives and salt and pepper. Smash and mash the potatoes, mashing in the beaten, tempered egg. If the potatoes are too tight, mix in a splash of milk.
Pour turkey mixture into a medium casserole dish. Top turkey with an even layer of smashed potatoes and place casserole 5 inches from hot broiler. Broil the potatoes until golden at edges and remove the casserole from the oven. Garnish the casserole with the remaining chives and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

Source: Food Network