Ham & Gruyere Thumbprints

>> Monday, December 20, 2010

I've been assigned (okay, actually I sort of begged) appetizers for Christmas dinner. Since my darling daughter took another nap this afternoon, I started my work early. Yay for appetizers that can be made ahead of time, frozen and then baked from their frozen state (i.e. no defrosting)!

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart's website and it sounded intriguing to me - turning a sweet cookie on its head to become a savory appetizer. While I did manage to freeze most of these, a few of them found their way into my tummy. They were delicious - flavorful and flaky "cookie" and melted cheese! If you're looking for a unique finger food, I'd highly recommend these!

As always, I can't follow a recipe exactly; however, I only made two little changes. Instead of using the full 1 cup of shredded gruyere, I used 3/4 cup gruyere and 1/4 parmesan. I also added chopped chives to the batter and sprinkled a few on top for a garnish.


Hunter's Christmas Cookies

>> Sunday, December 19, 2010

My friend Hunter has made these delicious molasses cookies during the holidays for the last several years. And she made them again last night! And they were still absolutely delectable! And I even got to take some home!

This year, Hunter outdid herself by also making these adorable snowmen cookies. They looked so cute and they even tasted great! I think you could easily modify the decoration of the cookies to become ghost cookies for Halloween too.

Anyway, I just wanted to pass along these cookie recipes in case anyone is on the prowl for some new recipes for their holiday baking!

Hunter's Molasses Cookies

3/4 cup crisco
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 cup flour
1 egg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Melt shorting over low heat. Remove, set aside for 5 minutes. Add sugar, molasses and egg and mix. Add soda, flour, spices, and salt. Beat well with mixer. Chill several hours or overnight. Form dough into 1 inch balls; roll in sugar. Bake on greased cookie sheet 8 - 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Yields 3 dozen.

Hunter's Snowmen Cookies
adapted from AllRecipes.com

1 roll of refrigerated sugar cookies dough, sliced and baked according to pkg directions
large marshmallows, cut in half on the diagonal
1 c confectioners sugar
2 t milk
2 t corn syrup (you may need to add a little more if the icing is too thin)
1/4 t almond extract
orange food coloring
black food coloring
mini chocolate chips

As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, place half of a marshmallow at the top of each cookie. The marshmallow will melt a little and adhere to the cookie better.

While the cookies cool, make the icing. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and extract until icing is smooth. If its too thick, add more corn syrup.

Divide the icing into three bowls. Add orange food coloring to one, add black food coloring to another and keep one white. Using the white icing, frost each cookie completely covering the cookie and marshmallow. Place two mini chocolate chips on the marshmallow to form eyes and three chips down the middle of the cookie to form buttons.

While the icing hardens, place the orange and black icings into separate ziplock bags. Cut a small corner off of each bag when you're ready to frost. Use the orange frosting to create the "carrot" nose and the black frosting to create the stick arms.


Chicken a la King

On Friday, I spent much of the day shopping in the midst of Christmas chaos. Since we got take-out the night before, I knew I had to make dinner even though I didn't feel like it. I found this recipe online and decided to give it a try.

Chicken a la King is like the more sophisticated cousin of chicken pot pie. It has a delicious, creamy chicken sauce that is served over puff pastry shells (or you can substitute toast points, rice, noodles or biscuits). Because I had the oven preheated, this recipe just took about half an hour from start to finish. Gotta love that! And in my opinion, it's fancy enough to be served to guests, especially if you use the puff pastry shells.

FYI - Each box of puff pastry shells contains 6 shells and they aren't too big. Andrew ate 2 shells for dinner, so if you're serving lots of men, you may want to buy more than one box of puff pastry. The recipe makes plenty of sauce so you wouldn't need to double it. If you're serving mostly women, then one box should be enough.

Chicken a la King - serves 4-6
adapted from RealMomKitchen.com

1 box puff pastry shells
6 T butter
1 c fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 stalks celery plus their leaves, chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c white wine
1/8 - 1/4 t dried sage
1/8 - 1/4 t dried thyme
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped (I used a rotisserie chicken to save time)
1 4-oz jar diced pimentos
5 T flour
1 1/2 c fat free half and half
1 c chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. As soon as oven is preheated, put puff pastry shells in to cook for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add mushrooms, celery and onions. Cook about 3 minutes, or until the veggies are just starting to soften. Add the garlic and the wine and cook until the veggies are soft but not browned, about 4-5 more minutes, stirring often. Season with sage, thyme and a little salt and pepper.

Add chicken and pimentos. Stir in flour, one tablespoon at a time. Slowly add in half-and-half and chicken broth, stirring well to prevent lumps. Continue to cook over medium heat until mixture has thickened sufficiently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon chicken mixture over puff pastry shells and serve immediately.


Apple Pie by Grandma Ople

>> Thursday, December 16, 2010

I've had this recipe bookmarked for years. Years! Last week I was really in the mood for some apple pie and I finally got around to trying out this recipe. It's from AllRecipes.com and it has over 3500 five-star reviews so I knew it had to be good! And it didn't disappoint me at all. Andrew had two huge slices and then sat on the couch moaning that he overate. He did the exact same thing the next night too. If that's not a ringing endorsement for a good recipe, then I don't know what is!


A Few Christmas Recipe Ideas

>> Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our family's Thanksgiving menu is pretty much set in stone, but the Christmas menu varies quite a bit. This year we're having Christmas dinner at my parents' house and they're hosting a crowd. My mom is making a ham and my dad is smoking a turkey (his specialty!) and it's up to all the rest of us to bring the appetizers, sides and desserts. I've spent a good chunk of time this morning perusing recipes on food websites hoping I can find some inspiration. I though I'd pass along a few of the recipes that sounded like they could be good contenders to make this year's menu. Maybe they'll be on your table too!

- French Onion Tart - I think I'd add goat cheese and some arugula on top!


- Green Bean Casserole - two options


Brunch Ideas


Santa Fe Soup

>> Thursday, December 9, 2010

Santa Fe Soup

adapted from AllRecipes.com

1 lb ground beef
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T chili powder
1 T Tex-Mex Seasoning
2 14-oz cans of diced tomatoes with chilies, drained
1 can corn, drained
1 can ranch style beans
1/2 c chicken broth
1 lb Velveeta, chopped
avocado, sliced (optional)
tortilla chips or fresh tortillas, for serving

In a large pot over medium heat, brown ground beef with chopped onion and garlic. Drain off fat. Add chili powder, Tex-Mex seasoning, diced tomatoes, corn, beans, broth and velveeta. Stir well to combine. Lower heat to medium-low and continue cooking until cheese is melted.

For serving, ladle soup into bowls. Top with avocado. Serve with tortilla chips.


PW's Blackberry Cobbler

My daughter loves blackberries so I buy a pint almost every week at the grocery store. But one thing that's important for me to remember, which I often don't, is that Finley eat minuscule amounts of food. So at just about any given time, there are multiple containers of half-filled with berries in my refrigerator. I was thumbing through my Pioneer Woman cookbook and found this recipe for blackberry cobbler and I had all the ingredients! Hallelujah!

I thought the name 'cobbler' wasn't really fitting for this recipe. It reminded me more of a clafouti than a cobbler as it has a cake-y dough on the bottom. It's still a delicious dessert though and I'll definitely make it again....but I'll call it by it's proper name - blackberry clafouti. I served it with vanilla ice cream on the side and it really was a great dessert.

Patsy's Blackberry Cobbler
adapted from Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1/4 lb (1 stick) butter, melted
1 1/4 c plus 2 T sugar
1 c cake flour
1 c milk
1 t vanilla
a pinch of salt
2 c fresh blackberries, washed and patted dry

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 3-quart baking dish with butter (or nonstick spray).

Place the butter in a bowl and microwave until melted. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 c sugar, flour, milk, vanilla and salt. Whisk in melted butter. Pour the batter into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle blackberries over the batter. Sprinkle berries with 1/4 c sugar.

Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and bubbly.


Pumpkin Cheesecake

>> Friday, December 3, 2010

I mentioned this recipe briefly in a previous blog post about Thanksgiving dishes, but I wanted it to have it's own dedicated post since it really is one of my very favorite fall desserts. The filling is so creamy and pumpkin-y and the gingersnap crust is too die for! If you need a fantastic dessert to serve a crowd, I wholeheartedly suggest you make this one!


Bacon, Potato, Rosemary and Fontina Pizza

I'm always looking for different pizza recipes since I love to serve homemade pizza on the weekends. Nothing says weekend more than pizza, wine and a movie! Anyway, I digress. This pizza was great and such a change from traditional pizza. The name pretty much says it all, except it does leave out the best part - the arugula you put on top after cooking. I love the peppery bite of arugula and I thought it paired nicely with the pizza.

Here are a few thoughts about the recipe though:
1.) Next time, I'll cook the bacon beforehand so it's crisper and the pizza won't be as greasy.
2.) I didn't make my own dough and you don't have too either. Most pizza places will sell you a huge ball of their dough for only $1-2. Score!
3.) While fontina is a wonderful melting cheese, it can be a little pricy (mine was $5.50 and I used it all). Fontina is a mild cheese, so I think you could easily substitute shredded mozzarella for a fraction of the price without sacrificing flavor.


Chicken and Brie en Croute

Sounds pretty fancy-schmancy! But with only 4 ingredients, this recipe is fabulously easy too! I prepare this a lot when I'm short on time or not feeling particularly inspired to make a really time-consuming meal. This has been one of my go-to recipes for years and I can't believe I haven't posted on it already!

Below I have the basic recipe, but it can easily be adapted to fit your tastes. A few things that I've done in the past: added sauteed mushrooms or other veggies, omitted the brie and used up all the random pieces of cheese in the fridge, made them mini-size for an appetizer, used puff pastry dough in place of the crescent roll dough, used left-over Thanksgiving turkey instead of chicken...Really this versatile recipe is just a good starting off point!

Chicken and Brie en Croute
1 can crescent dough
2 chicken breasts cooked and diced (I usually buy a rotisserie chicken to save time)
4 oz brie cheese (I suggest the garlic & herb flavored brie so you don't have to worry with adding a bunch of herbs yourself. I realize how lazy that makes me...)
2 green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll the crescent roll dough. Press the seams of 2 triangles together to make a rectangle. You'll end up with a total of 4 rectangles.

To assemble, place a handful of chopped chicken, a few spoonfuls of brie and a smattering of green onions on one half of each rectangle, leaving a little dough showing on all the edges. Fold the dough over itself and press the edges together firmly to seal it. You don't want any of that delicious cheese escaping! Bake on a greased baking pan for about 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown.


Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

I saw this recipe on Food Network's website and I loved that it only had a few ingredients. Sometimes baking intimidates me a little because there is usually so many ingredients and you have to measure everything so exactly or else the recipe may not turn out well. I'm not really an exact measurement kind of gal, so I was excited this find this gem from Paula Deen! I took these cookies to a happy hour and was asked for the recipe - always a good sign! And my husband paused mid-bite to exclaim that the cookies were "amazing"!

Here are a few things I found out about this recipe that I thought I'd pass along:
1.) since the dough is chilled, the cookies don't spread out very much
2.) it makes a ton of cookies! I think I made close to a 100, which could be great if you need to make a lot of cookies for a bake sale, Christmas party, etc.
3.) the dough can be refrigerated for several days and then baked


Pantry Chili

My regular chili recipe has about a gazillion ingredients. Don't get me wrong, it's delicious and worth the time and expense to make...BUT this Pantry Chili recipe is wonderful to make when you need something hearty, quick to prepare and with few ingredients. We've all had one of those days when you look at the clock, realize it's 5:30 and you have no idea what you're going to make for dinner. This recipe can come to your rescue!

Pantry Chili
1 lb ground turkey or beef
2 T chili powder
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans Ro-Tel or diced tomatoes (do NOT drain these)
2-3 T tomato paste
Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

In a pot over medium heat, add ground meat and cook until browned. Drain fat. Sprinkle chili powder over meat and stir. Add all the canned veggies and stir well. Lower heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 30 minutes. A few minutes before you want to eat, stir in the tomato paste to thicken the broth. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and serve!


Creamed Spinach

Oh. My. Goodness. We practically licked the bowl clean. Even Finley, who usually turns her nose up at most anything green, ate all of her spinach first. To me, that makes this recipe a winner! Also, I worked to lighten up the traditional creamed spinach so that it doesn't actually contain any cream!

Creamed Spinach
1 T olive oil
1/2 small white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 oz. spinach, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, defrost in microwave & drain thoroughly)
3 oz cream cheese (can use low fat)
3 T grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper, to taste

In a pan over medium heat, add olive oil and onion. Saute until onion becomes soft and translucent, about 2-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add spinach. Cook spinach, stirring often, until wilted (if using fresh) or until heated through (if using frozen). Stir in cream cheese and continue stirring until it is melted and well combined with the spinach. Add parmesan and stir. Let cook an additional1-2 minutes, so that cheese fully melts. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot!


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