Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies

Whether someone wants to or not, the holidays make them reflect upon their family. My maternal great-grandmother was Austrian-German. Standing about four feet and some inches tall, 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!  While I feel lucky to have some of those recipes, I'm even more grateful for the kindness of my Grandmother and how she made me feel truly loved- whatever I said or did!  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. I got my interest in cooking and entertaining from my mom because that was one thing we had in common and enjoyed doing together.  I loved helping her prepare for wedding showers, baby showers, and dinner parties. The cookies posted here, are in honor of my grandma's style of cooking- simple, old fashioned, but tasty.

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


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

     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




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

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" (2011) 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!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Desserts Designed to Impress - Not Stress!

     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



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)



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




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





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




2 (8 inch) layers yellow cake

1 jar raspberry jam

1 jar lemon curd

1 (8 oz.) container Cool Whip




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!


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


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)


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!


Easy Autumn Meal

     My favorite go-to meal for autumn entertaining evolved out of a sweet potato salad. The salad was developed as a way to ease our cousins' distress - their dad was (and is!) addicted to sweet potatoes and made them several times a week, but always with mini-mashmallows.  I tried to invent some tasty but easy alternatives he could try.  The resulting sweet potato salad and four other recipes became one of the most visited Yates Yummies posts. Since then, I started serving the salad on a bed of baby spinach and then topping it off with sliced grilled chicken. So far this month I've served it at three different gatherings - it's that quick and easy to make. Before grilling chicken or pork is rubbed with a fall-festive blend of sage, garlic, and other spices; it's aroma is heavenly! I also like to skewer pears, apples, and cheese on cake pop sticks tied the end with raffia. Then I chop up the extra fruit and put it in the apple cider served in canning jars.  Hot Caramel Pears (or Apples) Delicious over ice cream is a great dessert to finish this meal off - you'll find it under September.

The Menu:

     Sage Thyme Grilled Chicken

     Sweet Potato Salad on Baby Spinach

     Skewered Fall Fruit and Cheese

     Apple Cider

Sage Thyme Grilled Chicken


4 to 6 chicken breasts

2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press

1 sprig fresh sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


Cut the sage leaves off their stem and chop them up.  Blend them with the rest of the ingredients to make a paste.  Rub the mixture on the front and the back of the breasts.

Grill them over medium low for about 7 minutes a side.  Or, bake them at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.  Let them rest about 5 minutes before you slice them to put on the salad.

Skewered slices of fall fruit and cheese make a great accent to this autumn entree salad. 

Autumn Sweet Potato Rice Salad


2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 Granny Smith apples
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder


Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes. Cook them in salted water until tender, but not overdone. Cook rice according to package directions. Put sweet potato cubes, rice, apple, celery, and onion in bow.  Whisk vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder together. Pour vinegar and oil mixture over ingredients in the bowl and gently toss.

Cider with the extra cut up fruit is just a bit more fun served in Ball glass canning jars!