Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year and a Cranberry Salad Recipe

Happy New Year, Calvin and Hobbes Style

 I was trying to find some fabulously inspiring quote to give you for the new year, but nothing really seemed just right.  But mostly I want to thank each and every one of you for stopping by my little site, and wish you a warm and wonderful year filled with joy and blessings, and of course a lot of deliciousness!  Have fun "exploring" through 2011.

 Here's a little pic of the cranberry salad my MIL makes that I was telling you about.  

It's truly delicious, sweet and tart, with delicious bits of cranberry and pineapple.  Goes great with your meal or as dessert. 
Here's her recipe...actually recipes.  She has a regular and a diet version.

Cranberry Salad - original

1 bag raw cranberries - frozen if using a grinder or not frozen if using food processor
2 apples - peeled and chopped with food processor or by hand
11/3 cup pineapple - crushed or use tidbits and chop with food processor
1 cup sugar
2 small boxes Jello - cranberry and/or raspberry
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 carton Cool Whip - regular

Cranberry Salad - diet version

1 bag raw cranberries - frozen if using a grinder or not frozen if using food processor
2 apples - peeled and chopped with food processor or by hand
1 1/3 cup pineapple - crushed or use tidbits and chop with food processor
1 cup Splenda
2 small boxes Jello (sugar-free) - raspberry
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 carton Cool Whip Free

Stir together: ground cranberries, chopped apples, crushed pineapple and sugar; let set 1 hour for flavors to mingle and sugar to dissolve.
Prepare Jello; let set in fridge until it begins to thicken. Stir in fruit mixture; when it begins to set pretty well, blend in Cool Whip.

Only two people were interested in my used copy of "Dining with Joy", so my daughter wrote their names down on two seperate slips of paper and pulled their name from a cup to determine the winner is Glenda.  Congrats, and I'll be contacting you soon for your mailing info.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Food: Eggnog Pudding and Cranberry Sauce

Wow, what a great weekend it's been!  Good food, lots of family time, and PRESENTS!  What can I say, I'm a kid trapped in a 43 year old body.  

I did most of the cooking for Christmas this year since I was off and gave my MIL a break.  She usually does all the big meals.  But we always force her to make the deviled eggs (the best around) and her cranberry salad, which is like nothing I've ever had.  In fact she forwarded the recipe to me and I think I have a little left so I'll try to get a picture and post the recipe soon.

I had purchased two bags of cranberries and realized I had no idea why.  So I whipped up a little fresh cranberry sauce myself.

A Martha Stewart recipe that's easier than falling off a log.  I would recommend halving the recipe unless you are making it for a large crowd who really loves their cranberry sauce.  

2 bags (12 ounces each) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 wide strips orange zest, plus 1 cup fresh orange juice
Coarse salt and ground pepper
In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, orange zest, and 1/2 cup water; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in orange juice. (To store, refrigerate, up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.) 

Our dessert was a recipe I found at Country Living for Eggnog Pudding.  

I was really excited to try this, but was a bit disappointed because I found the molasses flavor a bit over powering.   If I made it again, I would definitely decrease that ingredient, or maybe eliminate it altogether.  Even though I wasn't crazy about it, my husband and son thought it was really good.  

1 can(s) (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk, (1 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cup(s) half-and-half
1 1/4 teaspoon(s) freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoon(s) molasses
1/3 cup(s) brandy
1/8 teaspoon(s) salt
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoon(s) cornstarch
1 teaspoon(s) cornstarch, (combine with above cornstarch)
 25 small (about 1 1/2 inch) gingersnap cookies
3/4 cup(s) heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) confectioners' sugar

Make the pudding: Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring the sweetened condensed milk, 1 cup of the half-and-half, nutmeg, molasses, brandy, and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from heat. Whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 cup half-and-half in a medium bowl until combined. Slowly add in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, while continuing to whisk, and set aside. Whisk the cornstarch and remaining half-and-half together in a medium bowl. Quickly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the hot milk mixture. Place the pan back on heat, increase to medium-high, and whisk constantly until it just boils. Remove from the heat and add the egg mixture, while stirring vigorously, to the hot milk mixture. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid just begins to simmer. Immediately remove from the heat and strain into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, placing the film directly on the hot pudding, and set in the ice bath to cool. Refrigerate.
Assemble the dessert: Crush 1 gingersnap and set aside. Combine the heavy cream and confectioners' sugar in a large bowl and beat to soft peaks. Alternate layers of cooled pudding, gingersnaps, and cream in six 6-ounce individual custard cups. Chill for at least one hour. Top with crushed cookies and serve.

A couple of things I wanted to mention...

I was the lucky winner of a giveaway at Two Peas and Their Pod, and got this cute as a button popcorn bowl with Orville Redenbacher popcorn to fill it up with.

 That bowl's gonna hold a lot of popcorn!

Also, don't know if you remember, but I was given the chance to review a book called "Dining with Joy" recently, and just finished reading it today.

I suck at book reviews, but I found this to be a fun read, with lots of food talk, and a sweet (although improbable) love story, with issues of stuggles with faith thrown in as well.  In fact, I'd love to pass my copy on to one of you if you'd like to read it.  Let me know in the comments if you'd like to receive it, and I'll choose a winner later this week.  (US only please)

Have a great week as we gear up for a new year! 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Love Has Come!

Just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you a joyous Christmas.  

I've got visions of a Christmas like this is my head...

But it's way more like this...

Either way it's my favorite time of year.  Many blessings to all of you and enjoy your day! 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snowman Cheeseball

This is it folks, we're in the home stretch...Christmas is almost here!  I hope all of you are having a peaceful season and enjoying happy times with family and friends.  
Me..I've been working.  A lot.  But after Wednesday I'm off for 5 days, so yeehaw and pass the stuffing!  

I found this precious little snowman plate with spreaders at a Goodwill a couple of months ago and have been looking forward to getting to use it.

I only paid $1.50 for it so I thought that was a pretty decent deal.  It came with a recipe for snowman cheeseball to serve on it, which to turned out to be more like cheese-sludge.  So I had to toss it and start all over with this recipe I found at Thrifty Fun.  

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

1 8oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter (no substitutes)
1/4 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3/4 cup mini chocolate or cinnamon chips (reg size is okay too)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans  (I skipped the nuts and went with coconut so I'd have a white snowman)

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy. Gradually add sugars; beat just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours. Shape into a ball and refrigerate again until you can roll it in the nuts.  Serve with graham crackers.

 Cream cheese and a whole stick of butter?  Count me in!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Toasty Times and Trivial Tidbits

Firstly, Merry Christmas to all of you from our newest family member Rinny.

I once worked with a lady who had three daughters, who explained to me you have to keep a baby book for all of your kids so when they turn into little monsters you can look back at the book and remember not to beat them senseless.  I think the same holds true for having cute pictures of your pets...especially Mr. Rundowntheroad dragaroundgarbage chewupremote here.  Anyway....I digress.

Remember I told you I would be reviewing a CSN product that would deliver toasty goodness?  Well here it is...

This is the Hamilton Beach 6 Slice Convection Toaster Oven.  My old toaster oven looked like it had been drop-kicked into submission many times over so it seemed like the perfect  time to replace it.  I chose this one because I was interested in the "convection" aspect of the whole thing.  I'm still not sure what that really means, but am anxious to try it out.  This oven has a good sized interior so I'm pretty sure I could bake a chicken in there.  Will probably give it a try soon and see how it works out.
I can definitely say it delivers a nice piece of cheesy toast!

Now, let's talk about Kale Chips, shall we?

I've seen these all over the interwebs and people raving about them like they are the healthy-choice answer to all your crunchy salty cravings. 
To me, it was like being outside in the fall when all the leaves are coming down, picking one up that had been laying there long enough to get crunchy and shoving it in my mouth.  Plus they're kinda bitter.  Let's just say these aren't my cup of tea, but if you think they are yours, this is where I got the recipe.
I've said my peace. 

Also tried another Hungry Girl recipe, Fiber Fried Chicken.  It's saving grace was that I was using it to get the taste of Kale Chips out of my mouth.

Just kidding, it's really not that bad.  You just have to get it out of your head that it's going to be anything like fried chicken, and it's quite doable.
Even the kids ate some, if that tells you anything.  
I imagine these are quite versatile, could add all sorts of flavorings, Hungry Girl even suggests rolling the chicken in some buffalo sauce before rolling it in the cereal for a bit of a hot wing taste.   

Here's HG's recipe if you're interested.  This is just for one serving, so I quadrupled it to feed the family.

6 oz. Tyson (or another brand**) Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (raw); cut lengthwise into 5 strips (I cut mine into only 4 strips)
1/2 cup Fiber One cereal
1/4 cup Egg Beaters, Original
1/4 tsp. Lawry's Garlic Salt
pepper (to taste)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a blender or food processor, grind Fiber One cereal to a breadcrumb-like consistency. Add Garlic Salt and pepper to crumbs. Place crumbs in one small dish and Egg Beaters in another. Next, coat raw chicken strips with egg substitute and then with crumb mixture. Place strips on a baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Spray a light mist of nonstick spray on top of strips and place in oven. Cook for 10 minutes, and then turn strips over. Add another light mist of nonstick spray and cook for an additional 8 - 10 minutes (until chicken is fully cooked and Fiber One looks crispy). Enjoy! Serves 1   (nutrition info can be found at Hungry Girl's site)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Just so you know this is not pumpkin bread pudding, it's pumpkin bread pudding.  Big difference, I'd say.  

I saw this recipe at Martha Stewart's site and made it a few weeks ago.  I found it delightful and pretty easy.  I don't think anyone else cared for it as much as I did, just to be honest.

Here's Martha's recipe:

 Serves 6.
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for ramekins
6 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup bourbon
1/3 cup hot water
One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of salt
One 12-ounce, day-old loaf brioche or challah bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter six 10-ounce ramekins or custard cups, and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and set aside on a baking sheet. Place raisins in a small bowl, and cover with bourbon, if using, and the hot water; let soak until plump, about 20 minutes. Drain; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, granulated sugar, milk, vanilla, spices, and salt. Toss in the bread cubes, and stir gently to evenly coat; let stand a few minutes. Fold in the raisins. Divide among prepared dishes, pressing down slightly to make level.

Bake until custard is set in the center and top is golden, about 40 minutes. If bread browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Remove from oven; let cool slightly. To serve, un-mold onto plates; dust with confectioners' sugar. 

And just for kicks I tried a different version of Beef Bourguignon.  This one by none other than Rachael Ray.

It was pretty good, but definitely not as good as Ina's version, certainly no quicker.  And I didn't get to set anything on fire. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Marshmallows and Ornaments

Making easy and so fun.  There's something a little magical seeing the liquid ingredients you pour into your mixer turn into this snowy white fluff.

If not a little sticky.

I used Alton Brown's recipe,  here it is for ya...

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

For regular marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

For miniature marshmallows:

Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper, spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the confectioners' sugar mixture.

Scoop the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans lengthwise, leaving about 1-inch between each strip. Sprinkle the tops with enough of the remaining cornstarch and sugar mixture to lightly cover. Let the strips set for 4 hours or up to overnight.

Cut into 1/2 inch pieces using a pizza wheel or scissors dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining sugar mixture and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

We also whipped up a batch of ornaments I just recently read about from some facebook friends.  

 According to the recipe you use one cup of applesauce and 12 ounces of cinnamon and mix it together to make a really stiff dough.  I ended up having to add maybe about another 1/2 cup of applesauce because my dough was just too dry and crumbly.  After you get it mixed up, roll it out and cut it into shapes.  I'm told it takes about 3 days for them to dry, and you flip them over once a day.  (these definitely aren't for eating)

I'll probably poke some holes in them before they get completely dry to put ribbon in for hanging up.  They smell just wonderful!  And so do my hands :D 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dark Chocolate Bread

Once again I was inspired by Monet of Anecdotes and Applecores to create a lovely sweet treat.  If this makes me some sort of a stalker, so be it!

It's a bread, and it's chocolate.  Only good things can come of it.  I had a little extra batter so I put it in a small round dish and baked it too.  

Monet is right, it's easy to over bake, so keep an eye on it...a few of my edges got a little too crisp.  But the inside is moist and wonderful.

 Either way, it's delicious!  I took it to work and someone there compared it to a muffin.  So I guess you could say it's a large delicious muffin in loaf form. 

Here's Monet's recipe....make it, eat some, share some, and be happy.

1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted  (I didn't sift, I'm dreadfully lazy)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan, dust lightly with flour and knock out any excess flour.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine brown sugar, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Using the paddle attachment, mix until well-combined.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk until blended, then add the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; whisk until combined.
4. With the mixer on low, slowly stream the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing until just combined. Slowly add flower and mix together. Stir in the milk chocolate chips with a spatula.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs (it is easy to overbake this bread). Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out on a wired rack to cool completely.
*I think my bread pan was smaller so I only left it in about 45 minutes.

Spread with peanut butter...if you know what's good for you.