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Monday, December 26, 2011

LadyBug Crackers

We all agree that lady bugs are far too cute to even think about what they would taste like. That would just be a crime. But....if you could make an appetizer look like one, that included seasoned cream cheese, olives, tomatoes etc, well than maybe you might think it would taste great! That's what my mom and I did for one of our Christmas appetizers. They tasted great and everyone thought they looked super cute!

2 oz cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp sour cream
Black Paste food coloring ( I didn't have this, so I used equal parts of yellow, blue and red food coloring until I got it dark enough)
1/2 tsp chives, minced
1/8 tsp garlic salt 
1/8 tsp fresh parsley, minced
Ritz crackers
Cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters or grape tomatoes, cut into halves (width wise)
Large, ripe pitted olives
Chive pieces, cut into 1-1 /2 inch long pieces for antennas

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Remove 1 tablespoon to a small bowl and tint black. Place tinted cream cheese mixture in a small plastic bag and set aside. 

 Add the chives, garlic salt and parsley to the remaining, non tinted, cream cheese mixture. Spread over crackers. Arrange two tomato pieces on each cracker, for the ladybug wings. 

For heads, halve the olives width wise and  place one half on each cracker with the larger hole end facing up. Insert two chives into the olive head for antennae. 

Use tinted cream cheese mixture to pipe spots onto wings. 

Orange and Vanilla Cranberries

Cranberries are not usually "my thing" but I actually wound up liking these. The sugar helps cut the tartness of the berry and the orange flavoring just adds an exciting taste twist to it. Since cranberries are so tart, I was sure glad these were rolled in sugar, because the sight of me puckering is not pretty! Well maybe when the hubby leans in for a kiss, but definitely not with a cranberry in my mouth. HaHa. Be prepared as you bite into some of the cranberries, your mouth will burst with cranberry juice that squishes out of the berry. Some of the berries behave well and do not do this! These make a great dish to have sitting out instead of the usual candies or cookies at some gatherings. If I had remembered to take a picture when they were all set up in their pretty dish with a green leaf to make them festive, the picture might have been more appealing....but instead you got stuck with the "they are done, so I just have time to throw them on a plate and take a quick one" kind of picture!

3 3/4 cups sugar, divided 
1 1/4 cups water 
1/2 cup orange juice  
2 tsp. vanilla 
2 tsp. orange extract 
1 (12 oz) bag of fresh cranberries 

Combine 2 ½ cups of sugar, water, orange juice, vanilla extract and orange extract in a sauce pan. Heat over medium until the sugar has completely dissolved, but don't allow it to come to a boil. 
Put in the cranberries and stir. Place the cranberries and the liquid into a large bowl. Use a small plate or a smaller size bowl that will fit inside the larger one and place it on top of the berries to keep them as pushed down under the water as you can. Put a cover on it and leave it in the refrigerator over night or for at least 7 hours. Place the remaining 1 ¼ cup of sugar in a dish that will fit all the cranberries and allow you to shake it all up. Drain the cranberries and shake them in the sugar until they are completely coated. Place them on a cookie sheet to dry for a couple of hours.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Whole Roasted Chicken with Orange and Rosemary

Between the pine scent from the Christmas tree, the orange and rosemary scent from the chicken that was roasted earlier and the brownies that are now cooking in the oven, my nose feels like it's been on a vacation to paradise! Thank God it wasn't really paradise and I didn't have to worry about putting on a bikini after this meal! ;)
Believe it or not, tonight was my first experience roasting a whole chicken. I guess I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit that! I just usually take the easy way out and buy the pieces already cut up. Well...that's about to change. I loved cooking my chicken like this. It was super moist and really easy to do. I can't wait to conjure up some new ways to cook it. Tonight I decided on trying a recipe I had read about awhile back that sounded good. For my first try roasting a chicken, I thought I might as well depend on someone that knows what the heck they are doing with whole BAM...I used an Emeril recipe!
*I did adapt the recipe a bit as I used an orange instead of the tangerines called for in his reccipe. I also substituted fresh orange juice instead of the tangerine juice called for.

Here is a link to the recipe!

This first picture is before I put this "bad boy" in the oven!
 Now it's roasted and ready to eat!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cilantro and Jalapeno Latkes

This was my first experience making Latkes. I don't think it will be my last. It's almost like having a yummy, flavor filled hash brown with dinner. I really liked the flavor of these. The cilantro and jalapeno added a good, spicy, combination to the potato. I'm not exactly sure how they will fare for leftovers today, but then again, leftovers are never my favorite!

3 cups shredded and peeled potato
 1/2 cup grated onion
 3 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
 1 Tbsp chopped Jalapeno
 1 egg white and a small part of the yolk ( I just used my fingers to break apart the yolk)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup olive oil, divided
Combine potato and onion in a colander. Drain 30 minutes. Press occasionally with the back of a spoon to get more of the liquid/moisture out of them.. Combine potato/onion mixture, flour, cilantro,, jalapeno, egg, cumin and salt in a large bowl. Mix together with a spoon. 

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan. Spoon 1/2 cup potato mixture at a  time into the hot oil. Flatten with a spatula. Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Candy Cane Hearts

I saw these cute candy cane hearts awhile back on the Internet. I had 5 leftover candy canes from a recipe earlier this week and they were beckoning me to either eat them or make something else with them. For once, I decided to let the "make something" side of me win the argument haha! Maybe next year I will make these as "gift toppers" to go under the Christmas tree. Just add some plastic wrap, some ribbons and voila.....a cute "gift topper".
Candy Canes
Milk Chocolate
Andes baking mint chips
Crushed Candy Canes

On a sheet of wax paper, place two candy canes in the shape of a  heart. In a bowl, melt the chocolate and Andes mints in the microwave (or you can use a double boiler, I just don't happen to have one anymore) and spoon the melted chocolate into the middle of the candy canes. Sprinkle  the crushed candy cane onto the chocolate immediately and let it all firm up on the counter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

Comfort food? Yes please. I love to eat good old comfort food. This is the time of year when the classics seem to make an appearance at our home. One of those classics is chicken pot pie. Sure it might be easier to buy the little frozen Swanson brand pies at the market, but I'm sure they wouldn't be as fresh or taste as good as home made. This is a super easy meal to make and it really doesn't require a lot of cooking skills.
* Next  time I make this I am going to think of a way to incorporate cream of chicken soup into the recipe. I think it will make the insides even more of an authentic pot pie taste. 

1box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
2 3/4 cups cooked, shredded, chicken
 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

Preheat oven to 425. Roll out the bottom pie crust as directed on package. Place into an ungreased 9" pie pan. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until well blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk, cooking and stirring until bubbly and thickened. Stir in chicken and mixed vegetables. Spoon the mixture onto the bottom crust, which is in the pie tin.Top with second crust ( I like to cut hearts out of mine before I place it on top) Trim the edges or seal and flute them. (Cut slits in several places in top crust, if you don't use a decorative cutter) Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. During last 15 minutes of baking, cover crust edge with foil to prevent burning.

Peppermint OreoTruffles

Once in awhile I take a recipe I am already familiar with and love, and add just a little something different to it to produce new results. That's what I did today with this batch of Oreo Truffles. John and I are bringing these yummy truffles for the greeting ministry at church tomorrow. How can you go wrong with the words "Peppermint, Oreo and Truffle" all in one title? You can't!!! I hope they get eaten up at church tomorrow or I will be forced to bring them back home, in which case, I'm sure I will make a pig of myself eating them. It seems as though they call out my name each time I pass by. So far I have done well at ignoring their calls but I'm not sure how much longer I can keep it up! ;)
1 (8 oz) block cream cheese
1 bag Oreo Cookies (not double stuffed)
6 Candy canes crushed (you can put the candy canes in a sealed baggie and crush with a hammer)
1/4 cup Andes mint baking chips (unfortunately these are only available at Christmas time in your local stores)
Semi sweet chocolate chips, melted with just a touch of shortening
* A few chopped Andes mint baking chips for the tops of the candies

Place the cream cheese, cookies, crushed candy canes ( you can put the whole candy canes in a sealed baggie and crush with a hammer) and the 1/4 cup Andes mints in the food processor. Process together until it comes together in a big ball and no white  cream cheese is visible anymore. Roll into balls and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and place into the freezer for about 10-20 min. (You don't want these to be frozen, but you do want them firm enough to dip into the chocolate). Remove from freezer and dip into the melted chocolate. Let the excess chocolate drip off and place back onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet Place a little bit of chopped andes baking mints onto the top of each truffle. Place the cookie sheet into the refrigerator until they are completely solid, firm and not shiny!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut butter and chocolate go together almost as good as my hubby and I. So why not add some chocolate chips to your favorite peanut butter cookie recipe and bring some new life to it? I did that along with trying a new peanut butter cookie recipe and I actually liked the results. To be honest, if I had my choice, I would go back to the old style peanut butter cookies that are rolled in sugar and flatted with a fork to make a criss cross pattern. Maybe that's because the look and taste of those take me back to my childhood. But.....these did turn out good and I'm sure they will get eaten at work tomorrow. Today began our two weeks of our all day "grazing" pot luck in our staff lounge. Oh boy, my thighs are already staging a protest by rubbing together! *UGH*

1/2 cup (1cube) butter, softened
1cups smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3/4 Tbsp milk
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4  tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350
In a large bowl combine the butter and peanut butter and beat until it's light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the eggs and mix until it's well combined and light in color. Add the milk and vanilla and mix again. Add the dry ingredients and mix only enough to combine. Do NOT overmix. Stir in the chocolate chips. If you allow  the cookie dough to sit on the counter for 10 min or so it will firm up and be easier to scoop. Place balls of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet with a space of about 1 to 2 inches between the cookies. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes after baking, then move them to a cooling rack.

Cinammon and Sugar Pull Apart Bread

Well, I guess there is a first for everything. This is the first time I have ever posted on my blog without trying the recipe first. But really, how can you go wrong with bread, cinnamon, sugar, spice and butter? Those are practically staples of life. Tomorrow will be a verdict as to whether or not this recipe is a keeper. If so...then Pinterest gets another "high five" from me for having the most amazing recipes ever.

These next couple of weeks at work are going to be filled with potlucks of endless "grazing" in our staff lounge! As if I didn't feel like a cow already, this grazing definitely will not help my cause ;)
Since everyone signed up to bring two things each, I decided to make both mine tonight and contribute them tomorrow. So for now I will go lay down in my "pasture" and rest, for tomorrow brings more grazing!!

For the Dough:
2 3/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
4 Tbsp. butter, melted

In a large mixing bowl whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Set aside.
Whisk together eggs and set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  This takes awhile but keep stirring! Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir for about 2 minutes.  The dough might be sticky.  That’s ok!
Place the dough is a large, greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size.  (about an hour or so)
While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling.  Set aside.  Melt 4 Tbsp. of butter. Set aside.  Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch  loaf pan.  Set that aside too. Punch down the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out.  The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long.  If you can’t get the dough to 20-inches long… that’s okay.  Just roll it as large as the dough will go.
 Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture.  
Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips.  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again.

You’ll have six stacks of six squares.  Place the dough squares in the pan so the top looks like the pages of a book. (with the thin sides down, not the flat parts)
 Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown.  The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw.  A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.