Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cranberry Pear Pie
Taste of Home magazine
TIME: Prep: 20 min. Bake: 50 min. + cooling
Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
5 cups sliced peeled fresh pears
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup cold butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Directions: Line a 9-in. pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, syrup and butter until smooth. Add the pears and cranberries; toss to coat. Spoon into crust. For topping, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in walnuts. Sprinkle over filling. Cover edges of crust loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Remove foil; bake 35-40 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Red Velvet Peppermint Cake
Source: Southern Living

1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix
3 egg whites
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (9-ounce) package yellow cake mix*
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons red liquid food coloring (I always use way less)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
Garnishes: 6 (5-inch) red and white peppermint candy canes, crushed;
12 (5-inch) green candy canes, broken;
12 round peppermint candies

BEAT first 4 ingredients according to cake mix package directions.
BEAT yellow cake mix and next 6 ingredients according to package directions.
Spoon red batter alternately with white batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cakepans. Swirl batter gently with a knife.
BAKE at 350° for 22 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

SPREAD Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. (Cake may be chilled up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month.) Garnish, if desired.

Serve within 2 hours.
*Substitute 1 3/4 cups yellow cake mix. NOTE: If cake is frozen, thaw completely before garnishing to prevent crushed candy from running. Do not refrigerate after garnishing.

MAKE-AHEAD GAME PLAN: Up to 1 month ahead: Prepare cake layers and frost with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting. Freeze in a plastic airtight cake dome.
Day to Serve: Thaw cake and add decorations.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
For Quick Peppermint Frosting: stir together 3 (16-ounce) containers ready-to-spread cream cheese frosting and 2 teaspoons peppermint extract.
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter or margarine
1 (2-pound) package powdered sugar
2 teaspoons peppermint extract*

BEAT cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at low speed until smooth. Add extract, beating until blended.
* Substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

The credit for the recipe goes to my dad. It's the best butternut squash soup recipe I've ever tried. Let me know what you think...Especially you, Shannon.

4 Tbsp melted butter
1 cup chopped leeks
1/2 cup shallot
1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash chunks
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste

dallop of sour cream and/or orange zest for garnish

Melt butter in a large pot
Saute leeks & shallots until brown in the butter
Puree broth and squash chunks (which have been steamed or baked until softened---about an hour prior) and add to the large pot. Bring to a boil...once boiling, reduce to a simmer.
Add heavy cream & orange juice & spice (do not bring to a boil again)

Serve when ready. Add sour cream & zest as garnish

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2 perfect treats for your Christmas plates!

Layered mint fudge

1 1/2 tsp butter, softened
2 c (12oz) semisweet choco chips
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk, divided
2tsp vanilla extract
1c vanilla or white choco chips
3tsp peppermint extract
1 to 2 drops green or red food coloring

Line a 9" square pan (I used a 9" round pan) with foil; grease the foil with butter and set aside.
In a heavy sauce pan, melt chocolate chips and 1c milk over low heat.
Cook for 5-6 min. or until smooth.
Remove from heat.
Add vanilla; stir for 3-4 min. or until creamy.
Spread half of the mixture into prepared pan.
Refrigerate for 10min or until firm.
Set remaining choco mixture aside.

In heavy saucepan, melt vanilla chips and remaining milk over low heat; cook and stir for 5-6 min. or until smooth (mixture will be thick).
Remove from the heat.Add peppermint extract and food coloring.
Stir 3-4min or until creamy.Spread evenly over chocolate layers.Refrigerate for 10min or until firm.
Heat reserved choco mixture over low heat until mixture achieves spreading consistency; spread over mint layer.
Cover; refrigerate overnight or until firm.
Using foil, lift fudge out of pan.Gently peel off foil; cut into 1" squares.
Store in the fridge.
Makes about 1 3/4lbs.

Peppermint-Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
2 hr 25 min
Cook Time:
10 min
12 sandwich cookies

1 (16.5 ounce) tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough (or make your own!)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Decorating suggestion: crushed candy canes or peppermint candies; white, red and green sprinkles; or red and green decorating sugar
Special equipment: a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter(or a greased cup), and a 1/2-ounce cookie scoop (or a spoon)
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, knead together the cookie dough and 1/4 cup flour until smooth. Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles from the dough. Knead together any scraps of dough and roll out again. Continue to cut out pastry circles until there are 24 pieces in total. Place the dough circles on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are slightly golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Reserve 1 parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Combine 1 cup of chocolate chips and the cream in a small bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the peppermint extract and refrigerate the mixture for 1 hour. Using a 1/2-ounce cookie scoop or a tablespoon measure, place the chocolate mixture in the center of the flat side of 12 of the cookies. Place the remaining cookies on top and gently squeeze to distribute the filling evenly. Place on a baking sheet and freeze until the filling has set, about 25 minutes.
Combine the remaining chocolate chips and the vegetable oil in a small bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Dip the top of each cookie in the melted chocolate and return to the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with crushed candy canes or peppermint candies. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight plastic container.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 box stuffing
1 can Healthy Choice Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
2 cloves garlic (or two tsp pre-minced garlic)
3 tsp salt
3 tsp pepper
About 2 Tbsp olive oil
Grated Parmesan and mozzerella cheese (optional)
4-6 x 6-inch string/floss pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a small casserole dish with foil
Cut each breast in half (long ways) but not all the way through, opening up the breasts into a heart shape. Pound them out so that they are thinned.
Prepare the stuffing as the box suggests (I leave out the butter for calorie and healthy preferances, but do as you like).
Take several good handfuls of stuffing and place them in each chicken breast. (If you like cheese, this is the time to put some cheese in with the stuffing. I didn't, since I can't have cheese and it was really yummy without it...but some people love cheese, so there you have it)Close the chicken breasts around the stuffing and tie closed with 2 or 3 strings each. You have to tie them pretty tight.
Place the stuffed chicken breasts in the dish and lightly coat each breast with olive oil and salt and pepper (and parmesan cheese--again, if you're a cheese person--if not, it was yummy without it).
Bake on one side for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the Cream of Mushroom Soup with the milk, garlic, and salt and pepper. After the 10 minutes has passed, turn over the stuffed chicken breasts, baste them with olive oil and salt and pepper, and pour the C of MS mixture over them covering them completely.
Bake for 10 minutes at a time for another 40 minutes, turning over chicken breasts and re-covering them with C of MS mixture every turn. (On last 10-minute turn over, add more cheese on top if you're a cheese person)
Serve hot with vegetables and bread.

(I made up this recipe, too, because I wanted a healthy "fancy" meal one night. We thought it was just delicious. Let me know what you think!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Healthy "Funeral Potatoes"

I just kind of made this up since I was assigned to make Funeral Potatoes for a church function and didn't want to lead astray my fellow church-goers with those nasty fat-filled potato casseroles. Surprisingly, they turned out DELICIOUS. See what you think...

1 x 10 oz bag of frozen potato chunks (the hash kind that isn't grated)
1 x 8 oz block of Neuftchel Cheese (a goat's milk, less fat version of cream cheese)
1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 yellow onion chopped and diced
2-5 stalks celery chopped and diced
1 Tbsp (ish) melted butter
2 tsp (ish) salt
3 tsp (ish) black pepper
1 Tbsp (ish) celery seed
1 1/2 tsp (ish) sage
Several handfuls of crushed corn flakes or corn chex
4 oz block (ish) cheddar cheese (optional)

Mix together frozen potato chunks, Neuftchel cheese, plain yogurt, onion, and celery until creamy. Add butter, salt, pepper, celery seed, and sage and mix thoroughly.

Meanwhile, line the bottom of an an extra large casserole dish with crushed corn flakes/checks. Spoon creamy potato mixture over corn flakes/chex and then cover potato mixture with another layer of crushed flakes/chex. Grate cheese over the top (or not...) and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Serve hot. Yum.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Zuppa Toscana Soup

Zuppa Toscana Soup (Tastes just like the soup at Olive G.)
Makes: 6-8 servings

1 lb ground Italian sausage (You can use the spicy Italian sausage and omit the red peppers)
1½ tsp crushed red peppers (or can use a fresh hot pepper)
1 large diced white onion
4 Tbsp bacon pieces (Can use Turkey bacon)
2 tsp garlic puree/ finely chopped
10 cups water
5 cubes of chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
¼ of a bunch of kale (or spinach)

Saute Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.
In the same pan, saute bacon, onions and garlic for approximately 15 mins. or until the onions are soft.
Mix together the chicken bouillon and water, then add it to the onions, bacon and garlic. Cook until boiling.
Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.
Add heavy cream and cook until thoroughly heated.
Stir in the sausage.
Add kale just before serving. Delicious!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Death by Chocolate Cake

This is a very dense, rich cake, not to be taken lightly. You could call it the king of chocolate cakes. It is the best served while it is still a little bit warm.

1 Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake mix
1 3.9 oz. package instant chocolate pudding
1 cup melted butter
2 cups (1 16 oz. container) sour cream
5 eggs
1 tea vanilla
1 bag mini chocolate chips
Combine all ingredients except chips and mix for 1 min. on low, and 2 min. on medium. Then fold in mini chips (optional: save about 1/8 cup to sprinkle on the top). Bake in a well greased bundt pan at 350 for 60 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup + 1 TB granulated sugar
3/4 cup + 1 TB semi sweet chocolate chips.

Combine butter, milk and sugar over medium heat and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in chocolate chips gradually until it is smooth. Immediately pour over cake. Garnish with reserved mini chips or shaved chocolate.

*A few notes: This is very thick batter, I don't suggest trying to mix by hand. Also, don't try to cut the fat out of this cake, it will ruin it. If you are looking for a lower calorie cake, pick another recipe.