Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies & One Lovely Blog Award



It was a wonderful surprise to be nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by Christine Geschke, a German food nutritionist who has a fabulous blog, genussgeeks. This German gingerbread cookie post is dedicated to her for her kindness and her encouraging words in the comments she leaves me through our Facebook blogs.  In the cyber world, there is a tradition that once you get nominated for this blog award, you must tell 11 things about yourself and nominate 11 other blogs. 

1.  My maternal greatgrandmother was German.  She lived in a tiny little house in Chicago and didn't speak much English but she taught my grandmother how to make great cookies!  I feel lucky to have some of the recipes.
2.  My mother was not a good every day cook.  She worked full time, had three children, and spread herself way too thin.  But, when she had the time, she loved to make gourmet meals.
3.  However, I got my interest in cooking and entertaining from my mom.  I loved helping her prepare for wedding showers, baby showers, and dinner parties.
4.  I also have three children and recently "retired" from teaching school after working more than 30 years.  I remember spending hours in the car driving them and their friends to lessons, etc.
5.  During the time my girls were all at home, I felt that serving them healthy homemade meals and eating together as a family gave them strength and support to face and to be successful in the outside world.  Sometimes we ate in shifts, but always at the table!
6.  I developed some quick, easy, but healthy meals so I could get dinner together quickly, and not be tied up in the kitchen.  My husband, Roy, used to laugh that everything I made took 15 minutes.
7.  Now that I am "retired", I am busier than ever.  I have committed to several activities and organizations that occupy much of my time and I still wish I had more time to cook!
8.  My greatest joy continues to have plenty of people around to cook for.  I love it when the kids bring home several friends and I hear the laughter and their shared stories.
9.  The travels and experiences of my daughters have opened my eyes to different cultures and views.  I love to experiment with the cuisines of different countries.
10.  At the present time my favorite cookbooks are:  Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver, The Family Cher by Jewels & Jill Elmore, and The Working Mother Cookbook by the Editors of Working Mother Magazine.
11.  Treat yourself to these 11 gorgeous blogs that I drool over!  Most are food related but a few are not.  All inspire me!

 


Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients for 3 dozen chewy, delicious cookies:



1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon dark molasses

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cardamom

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Some sugar for sprinkling


Directions:




With an electric mixer, mix the butter and two sugars together until they are well creamed.  Add the molasses, vanilla, and eggs. Beat well.  Stir in the dry ingredients a bit at a time until they are entirely combined with the wet mixture.  Cover and chill the dough for at least an hour.  Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Shape the dough into walnut sized balls and space them out on the cookie sheet.  Using the bottom of a glass, press down on each ball to flatten it into a 1/4 inch thick circle. Sprinkle each circle with white granulated sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15  minutes or until cookies are slightly browned around the edges.


 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More Holiday Bites

This post is a portion of an article in At Center Grove .com, an online magazine

Party Perfect – Tips for Special Appetizers!

http://atcentergrove.com/blog/party-perfect-appetizers/





     For some people, serving a bag of chips and salsa out of a jar is enough to make a gathering a party.  I agree that when surrounded by people who love to be together, that might be all that is required. However, the holidays are times when a little extra pizazz and dazzle make occasions memorable.  Even just one out-of-the-ordinary appetizer makes an event seem more special.  The foundations of these little bites are made of dough I snagged out of the freezer section in the grocery store.  It is so easy to make these morsels ahead of time, freeze them, and then bake them right before they are served. Each is not more than just a couple of bites -  so enjoy! 



Vegetables such as peppers in all colors, red and green cabbages, and even cucumbers can be used as clever dip containers.  Slice off the tops, hollow out the insides, and spoon in the sauce.



 Baked Ham Sliders with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

1 dozen bake & serve yeast rolls (or refrigerated biscuits cut in halves)

1 tablespoon country style Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

 

¼ cup butter, softened

 

12 slices deli ham

 

 With a serrated knife, split each roll in half so there is a top and bottom. Brush the mustard over the top of each roll. Mix the green onion and butter together and lightly spread the mixture on the inside top and bottom of each roll. Fold the ham slices so they will fit and place each one between the top and bottom slices of each roll.  Place on cookie sheets and bake at oven temperature indicated on the roll package for at least 10 minutes or until the rolls are brown.  These sliders can be assembled and frozen until ready to be baked in preheated oven.


 

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce


Mix together:

3 tablespoons country style Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons honey







Individual Italian Pies

 

 

Ingredients:

2 ready-made pie crusts

1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

½ cup store bought pesto (plus 1 tablespoon for top of pies)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

 

 

Using a small juice glass as a “cookie cutter” cut out small circles from the pie crusts.

 

 

 Spread the pesto on half of the pieces, distribute the cheese on each one, then top with the other half of the pie crust rounds. Brush the top of each individual pie with the remaining 1 tablespoon of pesto and top with a few pine nuts.  This can now either be frozen until party time or bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown.


Puff Pastry Mini Tarts

 

 

 Slice each sheet along the three fold marks and then cut each third into five pieces.  Then top with goat cheese, sliced cherry tomatoes or asparagus tips, and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  If pastry starts to become too brown before cooking time is over, cover loosely with foil.








Monday, November 19, 2012

Little Holiday Bites

This post is a portion of an article in At Center Grove .com, an online magazine

Party Perfect – Tips for Special Appetizers!

http://atcentergrove.com/blog/party-perfect-appetizers/




Our family friend Dianne is great at entertaining.  After years of having a houseful full of boys, she has recently had the opportunities to host events for ladies.  I picked up this cute little idea from her that I think men would like as well.  She serves appetizers in small glassware such as vodka shot glasses and mini martini stemware.  I extended this concept to serving a couple of minature meatballs in some small juice glasses that I have. Great places to find interesting glass pieces are Goodwill or Walmart.  I initially got a dozen of the vodka shot glasses at a garage sale but just found some more at Target's dollar bin. 




Ranch dressing would work well with any vegetables you stick in to the shot glass.  However, I found that 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons country Dijon mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder all whisked together tastes great if you choose to use thin, young, tender asparagus as one of the veggies.





 

I added a bit of jazz to the shrimp cocktail by putting a white lemon dill sauce next to the traditional red.  Mix 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon dried dill together.  Pour or spoon about a tablespoon of the red sauce to one side of the glass, then spoon in the white.








Since the meat balls are resting on a "bed" of sauce, I figured it needed to be nice and thick to support them.  I combined 1 (15 oz). can of tomato sauce 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon red wine (optional), 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a microwave safe bowl.  I microwave the sauce for 5 minutes and spooned it in the bottom of the small juice glass. I made the meat balls a little smaller than I usually do so I could fit two in the small juice glass. Then I sprinkled the top with a bit of chopped flat leaf parsley, but I think fresh basil would work even better.  There are three different types of meatballs in this post:  "Meatballs and Moving"  or, they can be found  in the freezer section of the grocery.  When I made these, I assembled them ahead of time, and then just before serving I microwaved several of them for 20 seconds.  However, even at room temperature, they are yummy!











Thursday, November 15, 2012

Delicious Dilemma – Leftover Turkey!


What to Do With All the Extra Turkey?

This post is featured in At Center Grove .com, an online magazine

Delicious Dilemma – Leftover Turkey

http://atcentergrove.com/blog/leftover-turkey/

     

So the meal of the year is over, everyone’s stuffed, but there is the question of what to do with all the extra turkey.  It is a wonderful problem to have!  Richer in flavor than chicken, turkey really kicks it up a notch in comforting cooler weather dishes.  The real dilemma is choosing which recipe the turkey will wind up in!  Included here are three of our family’s favorites.  The spices in the White Turkey Chili add depth to its flavor and play off nicely against the monterey jack cheese.  Its fun for everyone to have their own Individual Turkey Pot Pies or just make one large one for the entire family.  Store bought pesto could be used in the Turkey Pesto Pasta, but give everyone an early holiday present and make it using fresh basil leaves – it is so worth it!

 

 

White Turkey Chili

 

 

Ingredients for four to six servings:

2 cups leftover turkey, cut into bite sized pieces

1 (15 oz.) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15 oz.) can butter beans, drained and rinsed

2 (15 oz.) cans of chicken broth

2 celery stalks, diced

1 onion, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/3 cups shredded monterey jack cheese

1/3 cup pepper jack cheese

½ cup reduced fat sour cream

Directions

Sauté the onions and celery in the oil until they are tender.  Add the chicken broth, turkey, beans, and spices and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Take off the heat and stir in the cheeses and sour cream.  If desired, garnish with some addition shredded cheese and sliced green onions.  More pictures available at  http://yatesyummies.blogspot.com/2012/09/its-chili-season-white-red.html

 

 

Individual Turkey Pot Pies

 

 

Ingredients for six individual pot pies or one large:

2 cups turkey, cut into bite sized pieces

1 ready-made pie crust

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons flour

2 (15 oz.) can of chicken broth

1 (10 oz.) package frozen mixed vegetables

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the olive oil and diced onions.  Sauté over medium low heat until the onions are soft.  Mix in the flour and stirring constantly, cook it for 30 seconds.  Whisk the broth in and continue cooking until the mixture thickens.  Add the salt, pepper, turkey, and mixed vegetables.  Divide the mixture into individual ramekins (or a pie pan) and place crust on top. If I am making individual pot pies, I use the empty ramekins as “cookie cutters” for the crust.  Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes for a brown and flakey crust. More pictures available at http://yatesyummies.blogspot.com/2012/01/more-comfort-food-chicken-pot-pie.html 

 

Turkey Pesto Pasta

 

 

Ingredients for four servings:

1 ½ cups turkey, cut into bite size pieces

½ package spaghetti cooked according to directions on box

1 cup fresh basil leaves, stems cut off (4 herb size packages)

2 tablespoons pine nuts and ½ tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup parmesan cheese

1 ½ tablespoons romano cheese

Directions:

Put the pine nuts and ½ tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet. Watch carefully and brown the nuts over medium heat.  Place the nuts, basil, salt, garlic, and ¼ cup olive oil in a food processor and blend well.  Place in a bowl and stir in the cheeses.  Add this mixture to the hot cooked pasta and the turkey.  Serve with extra grated parmesan cheese.  More pictures available at http://yatesyummies.blogspot.com/2012/08/pesto.html 

 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Desserts Designed to Impress - Not Stress!


This post is featured in At Center Grove, an online magazine

Desserts Designed to Impress – Not Stress!

http://atcentergrove.com/blog/desserts-to-impress/


     Providing a special dessert that is not only delicious, but also looks fabulous is the ultimate compliment to guests.  It makes them feel they are important enough for the host to go to the trouble to prepare something exceptional.  Unfortunately, our busy lives leave little time to slave away in the kitchen – especially with the hectic holiday season approaching!  The desserts included here still look and taste wonderful, but they are super easy to make - thanks to some short cuts that can be taken!  Instead of whipping the cream up from scratch, Cool Whip can be used.  Likewise, store bought raspberry jam and lemon curd shave off lots of precious time that would be used making homemade sauces. Each of these desserts has a "history" in our family.  The tiramisu is a company dinner party dessert;  in the summer I use fresh raspberries in place of the wintertime toffee bits.  The ice cream bombe has been the finish to several wedding showers and the torte is a holiday favorite the girls would put together while the rest of the dinner cooked.

Toffee-White Chocolate Tiramisu

 

Ingredients:

2 (6 oz.) white chocolate baking bars

¼ cup heavy cream

1 (16 oz.) container of Cool Whip

1 (3 oz.) package of cream cheese

3 (3 oz.) packages of ladyfingers

¼ cup strong coffee

¾ cup toffee pieces (divided into ¼ cups)

Directions:

 

Put the white chocolate and heavy cream in a bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds.  It will keep its shape until it is stirred smooth. If necessary, microwave it again for about 15 more seconds.



. 

 In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy.  Then beat the melted white chocolate mixture into the cream cheese. 

 

Take ½ of the Cool Whip out of the container and gently fold it into the white chocolate mixture. 

Next, line the sides and bottom of a springform pan (or glass bowl) with ladyfinger halves.  Brush the ladyfinger with the coffee (save some coffee for the next layer of ladyfingers).  Spread half of the white chocolate mixture over the ladyfingers and sprinkle the top with ¼ cup toffee bits. 

 

 Repeat with the remaining ladyfingers, coffee, white chocolate mixture, and toffee bits.  Cover with enough remaining Cool Whip to reach the top of the pan.  Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup toffee bits and refrigerate 4 hours. Remove side of springform pan before serving.

Ice Cream Bombe

 

 

Ingredients:

3 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup peanuts (or 1 cup butter)

3 pints ice cream, each a different flavor

Bottled chocolate sauce

 

 

Directions:

 

Put graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, and peanuts in food processor and process to mix.  Press mixture along the bottom and sides of a well-greased Bundt pan.

Slightly soften the ice cream.  Layer one flavor at a time on top of the crumb mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Freeze at least 8 hours.  To serve, submerge the bottom half of the pan into a bowl of hot water for 30 seconds.  Invert onto a serving plate, slice, and serve with chocolate sauce.


 

So Easy Raspberry Lemon Torte


 

Ingredients:

 

2 (8 inch) layers yellow cake

1 jar raspberry jam

1 jar lemon curd

1 (8 oz.) container Cool Whip

 

Directions:

 

With a serrated knife, slice each cake layer in half through the middle.  Place first split layer on serving plate and spread with jam.  Top with a split layer and spread lemon curd over it. Top with the third split layer and spread jam over it. Place the last layer on top and frost the whole cake with cool whip.  Garnish with lemon slices and fresh or frozen raspberries.

 

 






 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Easy Scrumptious Butternut Squash Pizza



     I am a member of the "Lamest Book Club Ever".  I know that sounds disrespectful to the other members, but that is what we call ourselves!  Although we all love to read, coordinating meeting times to accomodate everyone's busy lives has been quite a challenge and we usually end up rescheduling just about every meeting.  However, another thing we love to do is cook and eat!  Last month we had a pitch-in dinner and my friend Tanya brought butternut squash that was so delicious that we all went crazy over it.  I knew Tanya was super smart, but I'd didn't realize how talented she was at putting wonderful flavors together!  Her dish added basil, walnuts, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar to the squash and the result was amazing!  My craving for this yummy combination led me use the same ingredients, but I put it on a ready made whole wheat pizza crust.  My family declared it as "scrumptious"!  Enjoy!


Ingredients:



1 whole wheat ready made pizza crust

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash

1/4 cup diced shallots (or red onion)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

4 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Place the squash cubes and diced shallots in an oven safe dish.  Toss them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Roast them in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until they are tender.

Mix in the basil and the walnuts to the squash mixture.  Spread this evenly over the pizza crust.

Crumble the goat cheese over the top of the pizza.  Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Luscious Butternut Squash Soup!

          One thing we really enjoy when the weather starts to get cold is soup.  I especially love comforting bowls of thick creamy soup such as the kind chain restaurants have, but they can be a bit pricey and, I suspect, not very good for my waistline!  Our Aunt Lynn says you can take any type of vegetable or fruit, cook it until it's tender, and then food process or blend it into a lovely soup.  She says it's "the French way to make soup" and she should know - she lived in Switzerland for seven years.  I've adopted her technique and it works equally as well with my hand held immersion blender as it does with a food processor or regular blender.  It makes soup seem rich and thick without using flour for a roux -  good news for people who need to avoid wheat.  For this soup, I included Granny Smith apples and a bit of curry powder to add a tang and a kick that our family loves!

 

Ingredients for 4 to 6 servings:

 

1 medium sized butternut squash

2 medium sized Granny Smith apples

1 medium sized yellow onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced or put through a press

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 (15 oz.) cans chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup half and half (optional)

Directions:


Peel the apples and the squash.  Scrape the seeds out of the squash and cube enough of it to make about 4 1/2 cups.  Core the apple and cube it also.  Set the apples and squash aside.



Dice the onion and saute it in the olive oil until it is soft and tender.  Then add the curry powder and garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.  Pour in the two cans of broth.



Add the cubed squash and apples along with the salt and the pepper.  Bring the mixture up to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Cook until the squash and apples are tender.  A fork should go through them easily since they are going to be pureed.



Use an immersion blender or process the mixture in two batches.  If desired, add the half and half, stir well, and heat again if neccessary but do not bring the soup back up to a boil.  If you do not use the half and half, you might want to add at least 1/2 cup more broth so that the soup is not so thick.  Half and half is a splurge but it's lower in fat than cream!



Another splurge is serving them with croutons!  Cut bread into cubes and brown in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil. Asiago bread is great for this!