Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Cookie Bouquets 2009

Round one of sugar cookie baking, decorating, packaging and giving was completed this past week. Looking back at last year's cookies proves the old theory true, "everything gets better with practice". Last Christmas was my first attempt with royal icing and sugar cookies and while they turned out pretty cute and were appreciated by all who received one, I am much more pleased with this year's version. Plus, I had WAY more fun planning and decorating these cute little goodies!

 The gingerbread house was the "centerpiece" of each of the bouquets. I loved the simplicity of the gingerbread boy and girl. Cute!!
 These three turned out to be my favorites of the bunch. I was so incredibly pleased with Santa and wanted to curl up and snuggle with Frosty!

The holly on the stocking was such a sweet addition. The peppermint candy and candy cane went perfectly with the gingerbread house.

The entire batch of 76 cookies that were completed very "early" in the morning. Some were for gifts and THANKFULLY there were several orders in there too which made the lack of sleep worthwhile. :)

From the heart of my kitchen to yours, may your experience be fun and the food always flavorful. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cheddar Topped Shepherd's Pie

I love one-dish meals! They are so versatile. Often, they are time saving, they offer less clean-up for the cook and they're great for busy weeknights. I won't lie, it has taken my kids some time and maturation to learn to like or at least try these types of meals, but more often than not, they end up really liking it.

I have always loved shepherd's pie. To me, it's one of the ultimate comfort foods. But, I've never fixed it for my family because only a few of us are mashed potato fans. When I saw this recipe that added sharp cheddar cheese to the potatoes, I knew I had to give it a try. The kids LOVE anything drowned in cheese. This did not disappoint! There is cheese stirred into the potatoes and then the entire dish is covered with more cheese that becomes a beautiful, delicious crisp topping to an already wonderful meal! Yum!

This would be a great dish to serve if you're planning on hosting family and friends over the holiday season because it can be made up to a day ahead of time and refrigerated separately. What a great time-saver for the busy hostess! This was also one of our "co-op" meals that was shared with my friend Sarah and her family. :)

From the heart of my kitchen to yours,  may your experience be fun and the food always flavorful. Enjoy!

Cheddar Topped Shepherd's Pie

2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced or cubed
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, 15-20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set beef filling aside.

3. Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1cup of cheese. Mash until smooth; season with salt and pepper.

4. Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes. (If topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Source: I can't remember where I copied this recipe from.