Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ball Drop Champagne Cocktail

Early in December, Les and I set out to test champagne cocktail recipes. We were having a small party to celebrate our 15th and final Christmas concert at the elementary school our children attended. Champagne and dessert were on the menu, but we also wanted to serve a fun cocktail.

We tried a few different cocktails, but my favorite was the Ball Drop, which I found in Food Network Magazine. It tastes a little bit like an old fashioned cocktail. It was definitely the favorite cocktail of our small party.

These Ball Drop Champagne cocktails would be a great addition to your New Year’s Eve menu, but be careful when you serve and drink these cocktails, they go down easily and they go to your head quickly!  

Ball Drop Champagne Cocktail
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
Printable Recipe 
Triple sec or other orange flavored liquor
Champagne or sparkling wine
Maraschino cherries
Orange twists

Pour ½ ounce bourbon and ¼ ounce triple sec into each champagne flute. Top with Champagne or sparkling wine and garnish with maraschino cherry and orange twist. Serve immediately.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Salsa Verde Frito Pie

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! Les was home for both Christmas and Christmas Eve this year, so it was…well, like Christmas! We hosted Margot and her family again this Christmas Eve. I am so happy we started our Christmas Eve tradition 17 years ago! Margot’s husband Jeff missed our Christmas Eve festivities this year with a bad case of flu. We missed him more than we can say!

We all share a love of Mexican food, so I made chicken and beef enchiladas and rice and beans. Margot brought a salad to round out our dinner. If you have seen my Christmas Cookie Countdown,  you know what we had for dessert.

We had a more traditional ham, potato, yam and asparagus Christmas dinner, after our traditional Christmas Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m kind of tired of eating!

The rest of my family doesn’t seem as tired of eating as I am, so I’ve been trying to find delicious meals that are easy and fast. This Salsa Verde Frito Pie is fast, easy and delicious, so it checks all the boxes. My son loves Salsa Verde Frito Pie. The first time I made it, he scarfed down two helpings before I even noticed. The Salsa Verde is like chili, but doesn’t contain a single tomato. The green salsa and chiles give this chili a tangy finish that pairs well with the pepper jack cheese.

My mom used to make Frito pie for us every so often, but her version just included opening a can of chili, shedding some cheese and serving it on a bed of Fritos. I loved that version as a kid, but as an adult, I prefer Salsa Verde Frito Pie.

Salsa Verde Frito Pie 
Adapted from Southern Living
Printable Recipe 
2 cups frozen whole kernel yellow corn, thawed
5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 12-ounce tube Jimmy Dean Hot Breakfast Sausage
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 16-ounce bottle of salsa verde (I used Herdez brand)
2 4.5-ounce cans chopped green chilies
1 16-ounce can small white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh limejuice
6 cups of original Frito corn chips, or 6 mini bags
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
Toppings: cilantro, sliced jalapenos, green onions

Add 3 teaspoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn and cook until the corn browns, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from skillet.

Sauté sausage in the same skillet until the sausage is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.

Add the remaining olive oil to the same skillet and add the onions. Cook onions over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in chili powder and cumin, and cook stirring often for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in salsa, chilies and sausage. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, 7 to 8 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in beans, corn and limejuice and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until everything is heated through.

Divide chips among 6 plates and spoon the chili over the chips and top with the cheese. Serve with the toppings.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Double Butterscotch Cookies

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 6 – Double Butterscotch Cookies

As I mentioned, I am on a slice-and-bake cookie kick this year, and yesterday I reaped the rewards of the cookie logs I had made in November.  I thought I had Christmas Eve all taken care of, and I was working on my family’s traditional Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas morning.  My daughter was slicing the last of the rolls and putting them in the baking pan, while I set out the fudge and cookies for our Christmas Eve dinner party later that night.  I realized that not only had I forgotten to bake the cookies for dessert, I had also forgotten to take the dough out of the freezer.

I was running out of time, so I didn’t have time to let the cookie dough defrost.  I gave slicing the frozen dough a shot, and it sliced up beautifully.  I was able to get the cookies baked in no time.  Christmas Eve was saved!  Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but I was less stressed because the cookies were so easy to bake.  The recipe makes so many cookies, I was able to bake a log of dough for three or four different events this year.  I love that!

Double Butterscotch Cookies are crunchy and sweet with a wonderful toffee flavor.  My friend, Margot said that of all of the cookies I offered last night, these were her favorite.  I am also sharing this year’s Christmas table.  I had made the black and white table runner for theme party we did in September, and I wanted to incorporate it into my Christmas table decorations.  Merry Christmas!

Double Butterscotch Cookies
Adapted from Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies
6 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons cream of tartar
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, softened
½ cup of shortening
4 cups packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 10-ounce package English toffee bits
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt, set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, shortening and brown sugar until the mixture resembles wet sand, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.   Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, and mix well.  Stir in the toffee bits and pecans.

Shape the dough into three 14-inch rolls (the dough will be crumbly), and wrap each roll in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours to firm up the dough.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.   Unwrap the dough, and cut into ½ inch slices.  Place the slices 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool for 1 to 2 minutes on the baking sheets and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes 7 dozen.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cranberry Icebox Cookies

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 5 – Cranberry Icebox Cookies

I am on Day 5 of my Christmas Cookie Countdown, and I think today’s cookie is one of my favorites from this year’s batch of new cookies. I found this recipe in the Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies magazine. I’m on an icebox cookie kick this year. The convenience of a dough you shape into a log and store in the refrigerator or freezer can’t be beat. I made the dough for Cranberry Icebox Cookies in late November, and have been brining out the logs as needed this Christmas season.

This cookie has become my favorite due to its soft texture and sweet and tart flavor. My daughter likened the cookie to a scone. I’m not sure that is entirely accurate, but it is a special tender little cookie.  

Cranberry Icebox Cookies 
Adapted from Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies.  
Printable Recipe 
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix until just combined. Stir in walnuts. Carefully stir in the cranberries. Shape the dough into three 7-inch rolls, and wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Dough can also be frozen for up to one month.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut dough into ¼ inch slices and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Makes 5 ½ dozen.

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 1 - Pecan Tassies
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 2 - Chocolate-Orange Crackles
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 3 - Molasses Crinkles
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 4 - Peppermint Patty Fudge

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Peppermint Patty Fudge

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 4 – Peppermint Patty Fudge 

Technically, fudge is not a cookie, obviously, but fudge is such a big part of my Christmas gift giving, I had to include it in my Countdown. Some years, when I feel I don’t have enough time to bake, I always seem to find the time to make fudge. Fudge is easy and fast. You can whip up a batch in under thirty minutes.

As I’ve told you, I grew up with chocolate-butterscotch fudge, and I suspect it will always have a place in my Christmas candy repertoire, but this Peppermint Patty Fudge is also finding its way onto my list every year too with its creamy texture and minty taste. My daughter requested it this year.  

Peppermint Patty Fudge 
Adapted from Southern Food
Printable Recipe
4 cups granulated sugar
1 twelve-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup butter (two sticks)
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow cream
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups chopped peppermint patties

Line a 13-x9-x2-inch pan with aluminum foil, and grease thoroughly with butter. Set aside.

Combine sugar, milk and butter in a heavy saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and add the marshmallow cream, chocolate chips and vanilla, stir to blend. Pour half the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle chopped peppermint patties over the fudge mixture. Spoon the remaining fudge mixture over the top of the peppermint patties. Gently swirl the mixture with a knife to mix in the peppermint patties. Chill until firm and cut into 1-inch pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 1 – Pecan Tassies
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 2 – Chocolate-Orange Crackles
Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 3 – Molasses Crinkles

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Molasses Crinkles

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 3 – Molasses Crinkles

Molasses Crinkles from Fine Cooking’s Cookies magazine are my choice for Christmas Cookie Countdown on day three. I’ve made these cookies before (I’ve even blogged them before), but they are worth a revisit. Molasses Crinkles are sweet, spicy, soft and chewy. I think they might be my favorite Christmas cookies.

I like them so much, I made a double batch this year, but they are already gone, so I’ll be making more before the big day. Makes 2 dozen.  

Molasses Crinkles
Adapted from Fine Cooking’s Cookies
Printable Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon table salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup molasses
1 large egg
Granulated sugar for rolling

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt, set aside.

Add butter and brown sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil and beat until blended. Add the molasses and the egg and beat until the mixture is well blended, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the flour mixture until well combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the over to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure the dough into tablespoon-sized pieces and roll each piece into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the granulated sugar. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the center surface of the cookies is barely dry, about 9 to 10 minutes; don’t over bake. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Christmas Cookie Countdown - Day 1 - Pecan Tassies
Christmas Cookie Countdown - Day 2 - Chocolate-Orange Crackles

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chocolate-Orange Crackles

Cookie Countdown – Day 2 Chocolate-Orange Crackles 

The second cookie in my cookie countdown is a new cookie for me.  Food Network Magazine has some interesting cookies in their December issues, and when I saw the Chocolate-Orange Crackles, I knew I had to try them. I love chocolate and orange together.

Chocolate-Orange Crackles have a chewy texture, and rich chocolate flavor with a subtle orange finish. They are also pretty with their powdered sugar coating.

I loaded up a platter with different cookies, and took them to work with me, and the Chocolate-Orange Crackles were the first cookies to go.

Chocolate-Orange Crackles 
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
Printable Recipe
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into pieces
2 cups granulated sugar, separated
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.

Heat the butter, chocolate and 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until the mixture is melted. Let cool slightly, and then add the Grand Marnier and eggs, and stir until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Transfer to a bowl, and cover and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the remaining granulated sugar and the powdered sugar into 2 separate shallow bowls. From the dough into 1-inch balls, and dredge the balls first into the granulated sugar and then into the powdered sugar. Arrange the balls about 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until the cookies are puffed and cracked, about 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets, and then transfer the cookies to cooling racks, cool completely.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cookie Countdown - Pecan Tassies

Is there anything more fun at Christmas than a gift of cookies and fudge? Okay, that is arguable, but getting a gift of baked goods is really fun. We always baked cookies for Christmas when I was a kid, and they were always served to guests in our home, but I don’t remember my mom packaging them up as gifts.

The first time I received a gift of cookies, I had just moved up to northern California, and had made some new friends. One of these new friends, Janet, left a shirt box packed with cookies on my doorstep. She went out of her way to deliver her delicious and carefully packed gift of cookies. I was touched. And, I have given Christmas gifts of homemade treats ever since.

These Pecan Tassies have been part of my Christmas cookie giving for over 20 years. I have to laugh when I see the picture of the Pecan Tassies in the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cookbook though. Their Pecan Tassies are perfect—My Pecan Tassies are a bit more rustic. I like rustic, and these mini pecan tarts taste delicious either way.

Come back tomorrow to see the next cookie recipe I will be sharing.  

Pecan Tassies 
Adapted from Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cookbook  
Printable Recipe
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
Powdered sugar for dusting

Add the cream cheese and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until well blended. Add the flour and mix well. Place the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Divide the dough into quarters, and divide each quarter into 12 balls. Press each ball onto the bottom and sides of miniature muffin tins.

Combine eggs, brown sugar and vanilla, and stir in the pecans. Spoon the pecan mixture into the pastry shells, filing each cup.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and remove from the pans. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 4 dozen.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Goat Cheese with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Rosemary

Happy Thanksgiving!
I am a guest at Lynn’s Thanksgiving table again this year, and frankly, I’m happy and relieved.  I’m sure I will be hosting again sometime, but tomorrow we will be heading up to Lynn’s.  I am bringing these Mashed Potatoes, green beans and this Cranberry Salsa.  I am also thinking of bringing this Goat Cheese with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Rosemary appetizer.

My friend Janet, of Surfer Soup claim to fame, serves this up a regularly at camping trips and events are her house.  And, if you know Janet, you would know she would never serve it up as fussily as I have, but it is just as delicious.  She layers the tomato rosemary mixture on top of the goat cheese and serves it just like that.   She says the secret is in the crackers, and she is right.  Serve Trader Joe’s Raisin Rosemary Crisps or something similar.

Goat Cheese with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Rosemary
1 5-ounce log of fresh goat cheese
½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (use tomatoes in olive oil)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
pinch of salt

Mix together sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary and salt.  Lightly press the tomato mixture onto the outside of the goat cheese, and wrap with plastic wrap.  Chill for at least an hour.  Serve with Raisin Rosemary Crisps.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Southwestern Butternut Squash Sauté

 I think I’ve mentioned before I’m somewhat of a Thanksgiving traditionalist. I don’t waiver much from the normal Thanksgiving fare, but I appreciate those who can and do. My friend Sandy made cioppino last year for Thanksgiving, and I give her high marks for bucking tradition.

For me, bucking tradition might be to serve this butternut squash dish for Thanksgiving. If you have a more non-traditional Thanksgiving, or if you have room for another dish on your table, Southwestern Butternut Squash Sauté would be a great addition to the Thanksgiving menu.

The southwestern flavors blend nicely with the butternut squash to make a spicy sweet side dish that would be delicious with turkey, ham or anything else you are serving. By all means, don’t relegate this delicious side dish to Thanksgiving only, it goes nicely anytime of the year, and it tasted great with the grilled chicken I served it with recently.  

Southwestern Butternut Squash Sauté
Adapted from Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton  
Printable Recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into ½ inch dice
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons toasted pepitas

Heat olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the squash, onions and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Toss the squash mixture to thoroughly coat. Cook, stirring gently with a silicone spatula occasionally at first and them more frequently as the vegetables brown. Cook until the squash is tender and lightly browned and the onion is well browned, about 20 to 22 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, and add the coriander, cumin, chile powder and the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook stirring for one minute or two to bloom the spices. Add the maple syrup and simmer for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and stir in the lime juice.

Drizzle the butter mixture over the squash and stir thoroughly but gently with the silicone spatula. Stir in the cilantro. Transfer the squash to a serving dish and top with the pepitas.

Serves 4

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce

My dad had been gone for a little over a year now, and I think about him and miss him every day. My dad was probably a foodie before it was fashionable to be a foodie. Even in has last few years when everything became difficult for him, he still enjoyed his food. I saw him every Thursday the last four years of his life, and we bonded over our lunches of sandwiches, salads and soup from our favorite café.

He loved nothing better than a well prepared meal whether at his gourmet group, a good friend’s house, a favorite restaurant or at home. And, if the meal came with his favorite Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, all the better!

When I was growing up, my mom put a nutritious, if uninspired, meal on the table every weeknight, but the kitchen was my dad’s on the weekends. Dad was a master on the grill. His barbeque chicken was amazing with juicy, succulent meat and crispy skin. The neighbors always requested his chicken on the 4th of July.

He enjoyed puttering around the kitchen too trying new recipes, and I enjoyed his endeavors (his ratatouille not withstanding). My hands-down favorite meal was his spaghetti. I knew it was going to be a good day when he would start making his spaghetti sauce in the morning.

Dad’s sauce is rich and hearty. He most often just stirred the sauce into the spaghetti, but sometimes he would add hot Italian sausage to the sauce to add a different level of flavor.

I’ve made this sauce for years, and I have made some changes here and there, but I still love the sauce just as my dad made it. This is his recipe just as written, and just as I remember.

My Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce
Printable Recipe
¼ olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds lean ground beef
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
4 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
2-6 oz cans tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2-28oz cans plum tomatoes
2 bay leaves

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Stir in the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Move the ground beef mixture to the edges of the pan, and add the celery and parsley, and sauté for one minute. Add the basil, salt, black pepper, sugar and tomato paste and stir into the ground beef mixture to combine. Stir in the red wine, plum tomatoes and bay leaves. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then turn the heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the sauce has thickened. Remove bay leaves, and serve over cooked spaghetti and top with grated Parmesan cheese. Makes 12 servings.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake

I recently started following Weightwatchers again. I haven’t been on Weightwatchers for over ten years, but I knew I needed to do something when earlier this year during my vegan Lent, I only lost two pounds. Generally, I try not to equate weight loss with my Lenten promises, but (Come on!) I should have shed a few more pounds. I was obviously eating healthy, so I knew my problem was with portion control. And, Weightwatchers has been helping.

My only problem with Weightwatchers, or any weight loss program really, is that I don’t do well with someone else telling me what to eat and how much exercise I need. My mind plays tricks on me, and I end up cheating. Somehow I never think of it as cheating on myself, but as cheating on “the man.” I know, it doesn’t make any sense—it’s just how I am, and I have to work on that.

So, last week, all I could think about was cake. I’m not even a huge cake fan, but all I wanted to do was bake, and all I wanted to bake was cake. I found this recipe for Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake in Taste of the South magazine. I’m not sure how I ended up with this magazine, but I received it in the mail, and when I saw this cake, I couldn’t resist the frosting. I’m a sucker for caramel frosting!

This cake is easy to make. I love sheet cakes for their technique. I used my hand-held mixture, but with a little fortitude, you could mix the cake and frosting by hand. And, who doesn’t love being able to pour warm frosting over a warm cake? It saves so much time, and keeps the cake tender and moist.

Les and our son loved this salty sweet cake, and were disappointed to see me packing it up to take to work. I wanted to bake a cake—I just didn’t want to eat it all! I am on Weightwatchers after all. My co-workers polished the cake off before 9:30am. Win!  

Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake 
From Taste of the South 
Printable Recipe
1 cup butter
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel Frosting (recipe follows)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 15x10-inch baking pan. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring butter and 1 cup of water to a boil. In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Add the hot butter mixture to the flour mixture and beat at low spread with an electric mixer just until the mixture comes together. Add the sour cream, beating well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix, and stir in the vanilla. Pour mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until it is lightly browned, and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake, comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Pour hot Caramel Frosting over warm cake, spreading to edges. Sprinkle with pecans. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.

Carmel Frosting
½ cup butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

In a large heavy saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar and salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and slowly stir in the sour cream.

Bring mixture just to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating at medium speed with a hand mixer until the frosting is smooth. Pour immediately over warm cake.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Corn and Heart of Palm Salad

I love potlucks! We had a potluck lunch at work last week, and while the company brought in the main dishes, everyone else brought in salads and desserts. I know I just admitted loving potlucks, but my love is for homemade potluck dishes, and have you noticed more and more potluck tables are populated by boring store-bought items? I don’t love those, but I have to admit resorting to a store-bought dish in a pinch. I know, bad huh?

I usually try to taste all of the homemade dishes, and lucky for me, someone always brings something interesting. Last week’s potluck was no exception. My co-worker Jill brought in this Corn and Heart of Palm Salad. I was in the kitchen while she prepared the salad, and when she needed someone to test for seasoning (okay, I kinda forced myself on her as a taste tester, but she was gracious and let me try her salad.) And, since I got a preview, I knew exactly where to head when it was time to eat.

I love the combination of the sweet corn, creamy avocado and crunchy hearts of palm in this salad. Once you stir the avocado into the salad, it mixes with the lemon juice to make a delicious almost creamy dressing. Jill says this is her go-to salad for potlucks and parties. If avocados aren’t looking good at the market, she just leaves them out and adds a bit of olive oil. I added the parsley for some color and flavor, but it wasn’t in Jill’s original recipe.

So, next time you need to bring something to a potluck, try Corn and Heart of Palm Salad. It's almost as easy as picking up something pre-made from the grocery store.  

Corn and Heart of Palm Salad
Printable Recipe 
2 14.5 ounce cans of sweet corn, drained (or 4 cups frozen corn, thawed)
1 14.5 ounce can hearts of palm, drained and chopped
¼ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup chopped parsley (optional)
3 avocados, cut into chunks
juice of one lemon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix together the corn, hearts of palm, red onion, parsley in a medium bowl. Squeeze half of the lemon juice over the avocado, and add to the corn mixture. Add the rest of the lemon juice, salt and pepper to corn mixture. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Let the salad sit for 15 or 20 minutes so the flavors can mingle, and serve.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vegetable Barley Soup

It’s official—I now have two teenagers. My son just turned 13, and I can hardly believe how quickly the time has flown! I know what you're thinking—she’s going to blog about vegetable soup to celebrate her steak loving kid’s birthday? Not quite.  He had prime rib on his actual birthday, but I did make this soup for the first night of his birthday party camping trip last weekend (along with these delicious sandwiches)

This was our third annual birthday camping trip celebrating my son’s birthday and Sandy and Brian’s twin sons’ birthdays. I was in charge of Friday night's dinner, and we’ve decided soup is a great way to start a camping weekend.  Nothing is better than a belly full of warm soup for a cool evening by the campfire.

This soup is a very flavorful vegan soup. It is an easy dinner to make for camping or on a busy weeknight.  I make sure to always have the ingredients on hand, and that is easy since the ingredients are either in the pantry or freezer. I love this soup! I especially love it the next day when the barley swells up and it becomes almost like a stew.  

Vegetable Barley Soup
Adapted from Fat Free Vegan

Printable Recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1lb bag frozen California style vegetables
1 14 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 32oz containers of vegetable broth – I like Pacific brand for this
a few dashes of tabasco sauce
1 14 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup uncooked pearled barley

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and add the garlic. Cook the garlic for one minute, and then add tomato paste, basil, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and cook until the herbs are fragrant, about one minute. Add the frozen vegetables, tomatoes, vegetable broth, tabasco sauce, garbanzo beans and barley. Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until the barley is tender, about 30 minutes. Serve.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Breakfast Casserole

Happy Easter! I hope you are having a wonderful Easter. I just read my Easter post from 2011, and it made me a little sad. In 2011, my Easter table was full—my dad and Lynn joined us, Les had the day off from work and my daughter was still in high school and at home. This year, Lynn, my son and I are having a quiet Easter with my daughter away at college and Les working, but the three of us attended a beautiful mass together and enjoyed a delicious brunch.

I’ve made this Breakfast Casserole countless times, so I was surprised this morning when Lynn said she had never had it. I guess that makes sense, since I tend to make Breakfast Casserole for Christmas breakfast, and Lynn usually comes over in the afternoon on Christmas for dinner. This casserole is perfect for brunch. You can assemble it the night before, and pop it in the oven to bake in the morning. It is savory and delicious and perfect with a sweet roll or a bit of fruit salad. I could also imagine it with a spinach salad with strawberries. Breakfast Casserole is the first to go on a breakfast potluck table.

Breakfast Casserole
Printable Recipe
1 28 oz bag of frozen O’Brien hash brown potatoes
1 lb of bacon, cut into pieces, fried and drained
1 7 ounce can diced green chilies, drained
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 dozen eggs
1 cup milk
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the frozen potatoes in the prepared baking dish and top with the green chilies, bacon and cheese. Beat the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and mustard together, and pour it over the potato mixture.

I usually prepare the casserole the night before and leave it in the refrigerator until I’m ready to cook it the next day. You can also prepare it the same day, but the casserole will take a little longer to cook due to the frozen potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the casserole for 40 to 45 minutes or until the edges are brown and the center is firm.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Butternut Squash and Red Bean Stew

I really wanted to post a few vegan recipes during Lent this year, but I’m guess I’m just going to have to admit I'm a slacker during Lent. I have been cooking plenty of delicious vegan recipes, but I just haven’t been photographing them or blogging them. Maybe someday!

I'll just have to be satisfied with posting this recipe for Butternut Squash and Red Bean Stew along with the Vegan Muffelatta Sandwich I posted last month to represent my Lenten vegan cooking this year.

Butternut Squash and Red Bean Stew is another delicious recipe adapted from Bean by Bean Cookbook by Crescent Drangonwagon. The flavors in this stew are rich and filling. You won’t even miss the meat. Les and I enjoyed Butternut Squash and Red Bean Stew for dinner one night, and then I packed it for lunch all week, and it got better with age.

Butternut Squash and Red Bean Stew 
Adapted from Bean by Bean Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon
Printable Recipe
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 serrano peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (regular or light)
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1 Roasted Butternut Squash (recipe follows)

Heat the canola oil in a Dutch oven and add the onions and cook until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the Serrano pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Lower the heat and add the beans, tomatoes, coconut milk, agave nectar and roasted butternut squash. Heat for about 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Serve with brown rice, and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and sliced green onions.  

Roasted Butternut Squash 
1 (1½ - 2 lb) Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the butternut squash in a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Drizzle the squash with olive and bake until the squash is golden brown and tender, about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Vegan Muffuletta Sandwich

The verdict is in! I enjoy the Academy Awards much more when I have seen the majority of movies (Seth McFarland not withstanding, but that’s another story)! I know. It’s not like my discovery is rocket science—most everything is better when you’re clued into details and inside jokes. But, I was worried it would bother me when someone won who I didn’t think should. That didn’t really come to pass. I’m not sure I agreed with the academy every time, but none of the winners were too ridiculous.

I usually catch a couple of the best picture nominees before the awards, either in the theater or on DVD, but I haven’t seen all of them since, I’m embarrassed to admit, 1997. And, it was easier then with only five movies to see.

This year, I saw all nine best picture nominated movies, plus Flight and The Impossible to catch Denzel and Naomi. I missed The Master and Sessions, but I plan to rectify that as soon as possible.

Now to the burning question—what did I make for our Oscar party? I made a vegan Muffulatta Sandwich. Now, don’t scratch your head and wonder why you weren’t invited. Les and I had a party for two. My son was home as well, but he wasn’t interested in the awards ceremony. He did come out for some of the sandwich. He loves anything with olives! He was also excited Argo won, since he stayed up late to watch it the night before.

I wanted to make a muffulatta sandwich, because I’ve been fascinated by the them since I watched Emeril Lagasse make one on television year’s ago. Les and I gave up meat and dairy again this year for Lent, so as delicious as all the Italian cured meats look in the original sandwich, I knew I needed a different filling. Roasted vegetables filled the sandwich deliciously. Les loved this sandwich, and I’ve made it twice now. I think I like the vegetables better than the meat. The vegetables add a juicy, flavorful compliment to the salty, tart olive salad. This Vegan Muffulatta Sandwich, can be tricky to eat (be sure to eat over a plate or a napkin), but it is worth it, and when you exchange the cured meat for vegetables it is healthy too!

Vegan Muffuletta Sandwich 
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
Printable Recipe
1 cup sliced pimento-stuffed olives, plus 2 tablespoons of liquid from the jar
1 cup chopped giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetables), plus 1 tablespoon of liquid from the jar
2 tablespoons drained chopped capers, plus 2 teaspoons of liquid from the jar
½ cup sliced Calamata olives
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small shallot, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 large round loaf of sourdough bread (I used a green olive loaf)

2 small Italian eggplants, sliced ½ inch thick
1 medium zucchini, sliced ½ inch thick
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and quartered
1 red onion, sliced ½ inch thick
½ teaspoon Italian Seasoning
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, stir together the pimento-stuffed olives, giardiniera, capers and their respective liquids. Add the Calamata olives, garlic, shallot, parsley, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes. Stir in the olive oil and let the mixture stand for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the eggplant, zucchini, red onion and red pepper on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Bake until the vegetables are lightly browned and softened. The zucchini and eggplant take 10 to 15 minutes, and the onion and pepper take 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a plate when done, and let cool.

Slice the loaf of bread in half, and hollow out the top and the bottom slightly to allow for the olive salad. Spoon the olive salad on both sides of the bread evenly. Place the red peppers on the top layer over the olive salad. Arrange the red onion, zucchini and eggplant on the olive salad on the bottom layer. Carefully close the sandwich. Wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Cut the sandwich into wedges and serve.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Crabby Snacks

This year, I’m on a mission to see more than one film nominated for an Academy Award—before the awards ceremony preferably! As of today, I have only seen two of the nominated movies. I saw Les Miserable with my daughter before she went back to Montana, and I saw Silver Linings Playbook last Friday night with a couple of girlfriends.

I thoroughly enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook, but the end was a little too romantic comedy for me after all the drama of the first half of the film. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I am bit food obsessed, so in the movie when Delores (Jacki Weaver) implores her son Pat (Bradley Cooper) to stay and watch the Eagles game with his dad (Robert De Niro) by telling him she made crabby snacks and homemades, I sat in the theater (with a Junior Mint melting in my lap unfortunately), wondering what crabby snacks and homemades are.

Little did I know, I already had the answer (at least to what crabby snack are)! In fact, I’ve made crabby snacks and blogged about them here. The recipe I have refers to the cheesy crab snacks as Crab Corners, but they will now be known to me as Crabby Snacks! The Crabby Snacks were very popular at our Atomic 60’s party, and I have it on good authority they make a great Thanksgiving appetizer.

If you are having a themed Academy Awards party – something I’d like to do, if and when I see more than two nominated movies – Crabby Snacks would make a great addition to your buffet table. Oh, and homemades? That refers to homemade pasta.  

Crabby Snacks (formerly Crab Corners)
Printable Recipe

4 English muffins, split in half
1 6 ounce can crab, drained
1 jar Old English cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic salt
½ cup butter
dash of Tabasco sauce

Mix together the crab, old English cheese, mayonnaise, garlic salt, butter and Tabasco sauce. Spread crab mixture on the English muffin halves. Place muffins on a sheet pan, and put the sheet pan in the freezer until the muffins are fully frozen, about 4 hours or overnight. Remove from the freeze and cut the muffin halves into quarters. Place muffin quarters in plastic freezer bags and back into the freezer until ready to bake.

To Bake: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place frozen crab corners onto a sheet pan, and bake for 10 minutes or until they are golden brown and bubbly.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday

I’m going to post this quickly before I head off to the Super Bowl party I’m attending. I’ve shared a couple ideas for your Super Bowl party (Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars and Nacho Topped Chili), so I thought I would share what I’m actually taking to the party this year. My friend Elva handed me this recipe on Wednesday, so I didn’t have time to share it before now. I didn’t even have time to test the recipe before making it today, but if Elva says its good, I’m willing to trust her.

These Sweet Spicy Chicken Bites are really tasty, and they are the perfect nibble for a party. The bacon, brown sugar and spices mix together to taste almost like barbeque sauce. Elva suggests serving the chicken bites with ranch dip, so I’m going with the ranch dip too. Thanks Elva!

Sweet Spicy Chicken Bites 
Adapted from Paula Deen
Printable Recipe

1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breasts)
1 pound sliced bacon
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two cooling racks with nonstick cooking spray and set them into baking sheets.

Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes. Cut bacon slices into thirds. Wrap each chicken cube with a slice of bacon securing with a wooden toothpick. In a large plastic bag combine brown sugar, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Drop 4 to 5 wrapped chicken cubes into the bag and shake to coat the cubes completely. Place coated chicken cubes on the prepared racks. Repeat until all the chicken has been coated. Bake the chicken for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp. Serve warm with ranch dip.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nacho Topped Chili

So, what are you doing for Super Bowl? In my last post, I might have mentioned my football team is going to the Super Bowl (Go 49ers!!!)! Technically, it is not my football team—I am merely a fan, but they are still going to the Super Bowl!

My team going to the Super Bowl does put me in a slightly awkward position though. I usually like to focus on the food, the socializing and the commercials at the Super Bowl party, and I’m committed to doing all of these things this year, in addition to concentrating on the game. How am I going to do this you ask? I’m not really sure, but I hope to come up with something soon.

I’m also not sure what food to bring for the party. A friend at work handed me a fun recipe for chicken bites I might have to try, or I might bring this Nacho Topped Chili. I made this chili for my family during one of the playoff games to test it out. My son and husband loved it. I loved it too since it combines two of my favorite things to eat chili and nachos, and it did it beautifully! The chili is spicy and flavorful and the nacho topping makes the chili fun and delicious.

The original chili is a meat only chili, but I happen to like beans, so I added them to the chili too. I tested the recipe with the kidney beans and without, and my family preferred them with the kidney beans.  
Nacho Topped Chili 
Adapted from Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day
Printable Recipe
4 poblano peppers
2 large jalapeno peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds lean ground beef (no more than 10% fat)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup tomato paste
1 12-ounce bottle beer (Rachael recommends Negra Modela, but I used Budweiser since that’s what I had on hand)
2 cups beef stock
2 14-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 bag corn tortilla chips
1 16-ounce can spicy refried beans
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 Fresno red chili pepper
½ cup pickled sliced jalapeno peppers
2 green onions, sliced

Place the poblano peppers and jalapeno peppers on a baking sheet and broil them until the skin is blackened. Place the charred peppers in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap until the peppers are cool enough to handle. Peel, stem and seed the peppers, and place into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is pureed.

While the peppers are roasting, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the meat and brown well. Add the onions, garlic, and cook until the onions are softened. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the beer, and let it bubble a minute or two to cook off the alcohol. Add the beef stock, kidney beans and pureed peppers, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the chili is thickened and the flavors have combined.

Place the chili in a casserole dish (your serving dish of choice) and top it with the tortilla chips. Dot the tortilla chips with the refried beans, and add the shredded cheese. Place the chili topped nachos in a preheated 400°F oven until the beans are warm and the cheese has melted. Garnish with sliced peppers and green onions. Serve.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars

We are very excited here in the San Francisco Bay area. Our 49ers are going to the Super Bowl! Last year we came really close, but the Giants beat us in the NFC championship game to go on to the Super Bowl and win it.

As excited as I am to watch my team in the Super Bowl, I’m a little out of my comfort zone. For the last 18 years, I have focused on Super Bowl snacks and my football pool numbers. This year, I’m going to have to juggle the snacks, the party, the football pool and rooting for my team! I’m sure I’ll be successful (I just hope I don’t have to hope for a safety against my team in order to win the football pool)!

I baked these Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars while the 49ers played and won the NCF championship game against the Falcons. These bar cookies are chewy and sweet with a deep rich flavor, and I love their texture! Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars would be perfect for your Super Bowl table (even if your team colors aren’t red and gold).  

Oatmeal Butterscotch Bars
Adapted from Great American Brand Name Baking
Printable Recipe

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 11-ounce package Butterscotch Morsels

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 15 x 10 inch baking pan with parchment paper that overlaps the ends.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until light and creamy. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in oats and butterscotch morsels.

Spread dough in prepared pan, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool completely. Cut into 2-inch squares. Makes about 3 dozen squares.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Black Bean Chili with Vegetables

I usually take a few moments on New Year’s Day to, if not review the whole year, to at least review the last few weeks. Last year, I reviewed my “blissful” Christmas season. This New Year’s day, I am reflecting on 2012 as a whole.

My family went through some major changes in 2012, but we are blessed. I will always miss my father, but I had a close relationship with him, and I will always treasure the weekly lunches we shared in the last few years. I am also very proud of my daughter who did well her first semester in college.

While this year’s Christmas season was not quite as blissful as last year, I did love having my daughter home from college, and we did spend some time with friends and family over good food!

Now, I’m busy trying to get rid of all the sweets lingering in the house, and my meal planning is getting seriously healthy!

This black bean chili recipe is another holdover from our vegan Lent, and we all love it. It is full of vegetables, and has a rich flavor and an almost meaty texture. The chili is delicious topped with some avocado and cilantro, or if you aren’t vegan, top it with a little cheese and sour cream.  

Black Bean Chili with Vegetables
Printable Recipe
Adapted from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped, small dice
1 green bell pepper, seeded, chopped, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, chopped, small dice
1 pound zucchini, chopped, medium dice
1 cup frozen or fresh corn, defrosted if frozen
2 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
dash of freshly ground black pepper
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons agave nectar
Juice from one lime

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions and bell peppers, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 4 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, cayenne and black pepper, and cook stirring constantly until the spices are fragrant. Mix in the carrots, zucchini and corn. Add the vegetable broth. The vegetables should be mostly submerged.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, covered, until the carrots are tender and the zucchini is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, black beans and cilantro. Cover and cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Mix in the agave and lime juice. Add more salt to taste if needed, and serve.


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