Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Apricots

These were the hit of my party!!  Everyone loved them and wanted the recipe!!

I decided to throw a Christmas Eve Open House.  I wasn't sure what the turn out would be, as most of our friends have plans on Christmas Eve.  We however, don't usually have anything going on.  It was quite a success!  I think it will now become a tradition.  The challenging part is going to be to figure out how to top this years menu next year.  Every single appetizer was oh so delicious!!  I think the most commented on though, was this one.  The following 8 posts consist of all the appetizers we made.  Yes, I say 'we' because my wonderful husband did as much of the work as I did.  They also include a make-ahead strategy.  So, if you're having your own party, this is a great way to prepare in advance.  Or, maybe you're just bringing a dish to pass and you have a busy schedule.  I think you'll find it helpful.
All these appetizers were found in Real Simple Magazine.

24 small fresh sage leaves
24 large dried apricots
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
2 tbs pure maple syrup
toothpicks, for serving

Heat oven to 375.  Place a sage leaf on each apricot, wrap with a pice of bacon, and place seam-side down on a baking sheet.  Bake until the bacon is beginning to crisp, 6-8 minutes per side.  Remove from oven and brush with the maple syrup.  Serve with toothpicks.

Make ahead strategy:  The apricots can be assembled and frozen, unbaked, upt to 1 month in advance.  Freeze them on a parchment lined baking sheet until firm, then transfer them to a resealable plastic bag.  To cook, bake from frozen at 375 for 8-10 minutes per side; keep warm at 250.  Brush with the maple syrup before serving.

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Crisps

This is not the best photo...but you get the idea. 

This is a flavorful recipe.  I did make it on the potato chips that the recipe calls for, however, I think next time I will use a cracker of some sort, something harder.  The chips became a bit soggy quite quickly. 

1 tbs olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped radicchio
2 tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese (about 4 oz)
24 thick cut potato chips (from a 5 oz bag)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bell pepper, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5-6 minutes.  Add the vinegar and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the radicchio and parsley.

Gently spread the goat cheese on the potato chips and top with the pepper mixture.

Make ahead strategy:  The pepper mixture can be made and refridgerated up to 1 day in advance.  Assemble the crisps up to 1 hour before serving.  

Baked Camembert

This is chocked full of flavor!  Yum-O!!

1  8 ounce round of Camembert (sold in a wooden box)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), drained and sliced
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 tbs fresh thyme leaves
1 tbs olive oil
Bread or crackers, for serving

Heat oven to 375.  Remove the Camembert from it's paper or plastic wrapping, return it o the wooden box (discard the lid), and place on a baking sheet

Top with the sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and thyme.  Drizzle wiht the oil and bake until soft, 10-12 minutes.  Serve immediately with the bread or carckers.

Make ahead strategy:  The sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and thyme can be prepared up to 8 hours in advance and refrigerated.  Just before serving, sprinkle them on the cheese, drizzzle with the oil, and bake.  From Real Simple

Carmelized Onion Tarts

These are fabulous!  I love carmelized onions. 

2 Tbs Olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 red apples (gala or braeburn), cut into small pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

Heat oven to 400.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown.  Stir in the apples, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. 

Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.  Spread with the sour cream, leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Top with the onion mixture and bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, 30-35 minutes.  Cut into pieces before serving. 

Make ahead strategy:  The tarts can be assembled and frozen up to 1 month in advance.  Freeze them, unbaked, on parchment lined baking sheets until firm, then wrap in plastic.  To cook, bake from frozen at 400 for 40-50 minutes; keep warm at 250.  cut just before serving.  From Real Simple magazine.

Artichoke and Spinach Relish

This is a nice twist on the traditional warm dip.  It is definitely more of a relish, a bit tart, and served cold.  It's also quick and easy to prepare, a great thing to bring along to a party.

1/4 cup walnuts
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan
3 Tbs mayonnaise
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper
Crackers and cut-up vegetables, for serving

Heat oven to 400.  Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6-8 minutes.  Let cool, then roughtly chop

In a small bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan, mayonnaise, lemon juice, walnuts, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.  Serve with the crackers and vegetables.

Make ahead strategy:  The reslish can be made and refrigerated up to 1 day in advance.  From Real Simple Magazine.

Spiced Beef Empanadas

1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tbs ketchup
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 store bought refrigerated rolled piecrusts
1 large egg beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp lime zest

Heat oven to 375.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.   Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5-6 minutes.  Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until no longer pink.  Stir in the raisins, ketchup, cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper.

Using a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles from the piecrusts.  (You can use the top of a glass or anything round if you don't have a cookie cutter)  Divide the beef mixture among the circles, brush the dges with water, fold in half, and press with a fork to seal.  Transfer to a baking sheet and brush wiht the egg.  Bake until golden, 20-25 minutes.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl and sprinkle with the lime zest.  Serve with the empanadas.

Make ahead strategy:  The empanadas can be assembled and frozen up to 1 month in advance.  Freeze them, unbaked, on a parchment lined baking sheet unitl firm, then transfer them to a resealable plastic bag.  To cook, bake from frozen at 375 for 30-45 minutes; keep warm at 250.  the lime sour cream can be made up to 1/2 hour before serving.  From Real Simple Magazine.

Peanut Chicken Skewers with Chili Mayonnaise

This finger food is from Real Simple Magazine. 

3/4 cup salted roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley
Kosher salt and black pepper
12 chicken tenderloins cut in half length wise
3 Tbs canola oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
24 6-inch bamboo skewers

On a large plate, combine the peanuts, bread crumbs, cilantro, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.  Thread each strip of chicken onto a skewer and coat with the peanut mixture, pressing gently to help it adhere.

In batches, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the skewers until golden, 2-3 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a plate as they are cooked and add more oil to the skillett as necessary. 

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and chili-garlic sauce.  Serve with the chicken.

Make ahead strategy:  The skewers can be assembled and frozen up to 1 month in advance.  Freeze them uncooked, on a parchment lined baking sheet utnil firm, then transfer them to a resealable plastic bag.  To cook, thaw the skewers on a plate in a skingle layer in the refrigerator overnight, then cook as directed in the recipe; keep warm at 250.  The chili mayonnaise can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. 

Mini Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This is a gourmet grilled cheese, and very grown-up.  This recipe came from Real Simple Magazine. 

12 slices white sandwich bread
12 ounces cheese, such as Gruyere or fontina, thinly sliced
1 cup fruit chutney, such as cranberry, fig, or mango

 Form 6 sandwiches with the bread, cheese and chutney.  In 2 batches, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the sandwiches until the bread is golden and the cheese has melted, 2-3 minutes per side.  Cut each sandwich into quarters before serving.

Makes 24

Make ahead strategy:  The sandwiches can be cooked up to 2 hours in advance and kept at room temperature.  reheat on a baking sheet at 350 for 10-15 minutes; keep warm at 250.  Cut just before serving.

Pasta Sauce

Pasta sauce:

10-12 tomatoes
basil, oregano, and/or any blend of Italian seasonings
4-6 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 large onion, chopped
grated carrots (3-4)
grated zucchini (1)
grated summer squash (1)
1 12 oz can of tomato paste
You can use vegetables of your choice. I happen to have alot of carrots, zucchini and squash from my garden this summer. The tomatoes also came from my garden.

Chop the onion and saute in evoo until tender, 5-6 min. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Blend the tomatoes in a food processor, and add to the pot. add the remaining ingredients and simmer. The longer you simmer, the more flavor will come out. cool completely and place in jars or containers and freeze. You can also add meat at the time of making the sauce or when you decide to serve it.  This is so easy to customize and always very flavorful. Plus it's good for you with all the extra veggies, and if you grate them, or throw them in your food processor as well, no one will even know they're in there! Great for picky eaters. :-)

This made about 2 1/2 quarts.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Magic Cookie Bars

I'm sure there is a more proper name for these bars.  When I was growing up, this is what we called them.  I come from a family of magicians, so there was definitely a pun intended.  We always said the cookies were magic because they disappeared as quickly as they appeared.

1 1/2 cups Corn Flakes
1 stick butter, melted
3 tbs sugar
1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
3 oz semi-sweet chocalte chips
3 oz butterscotch chips
3 1/2 oz coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Crush the corn flakes so they are like crumbs.  Mix them with the melted butter and sugar.  Press into 9 x 13 inch pan.

Sprinkle walnuts, coconut, chocolate chips and butterscotch chips evenly on top.  Make sure the coconut is not on the very top, otherwise it will get too done.

Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the top.  This takes awhile, but just keep drizzling until it is gone.  It will soak through. 

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. 
ooey gooey yumminess!!

Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups

This recipe is from Taste of Home's Quick Cooking magazine. 

12 Lasagna Noodles
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzerella
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 jar meatless spaghetti sauce (or homemade)

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain.  In a bowl, combine the eggs, cheeses, spinach, salt, peepr, and nutmeg.  Spread 1/3 cup cheese mixture over each noodle; carefully roll up.
Pour 1 cup spaghetti sauce into an ungreased 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Place roll-ups seam side down over sauce.  Top with remaining sauce.  Bake uncovered at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.
Serves 6

Smoked Turkey

My husband made this for his guys weekend away.  We have a Big Green Egg.  For those of you not familiar, it's a smoker grill, and it looks like this:

Yes, it sits out all winter and we even use it.  As a matter of fact, my husband had to pour hot water on the lid because it was frozen shut.  Anyway, on with the recipe.

1/2 gallon apple juice
1/2 cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 quart of water

Combine the above ingredients and heat enough to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Pour this over your turkey.  You will need a big bucket or stock pot, something big enough to hold the turkey, so it will be covered once you pour the brine onto it.

3 oranges halved and squeezed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs whole cloves
2 bay leaves

Soak the turkey in the brine for 24 hours.  This should be in your fridge, or do its cold enough outside, then you won't take up fridge space.  Remove from brine, and refridgerate for 12 more hours.
smoke on The big Green Egg on a vertical turkey rack at 225 for 7 hours.

I was fortunate enough to have some of the left overs, and it was fantastic!  Well worth the effort.  Yeah, easy for me to say since I didn't do anything.  :-)

Baked Chimichanga's

This is a 'healthy' version of a chimi.  Not fried, baked.  And it turns out nice and crispy.  I got this recipe from "Apples of Gold", a bible study that my church did a couple of years ago.  These freeze well too.  I flash freeze them, then if I can grab just one serving, or several.

6 seven or eight inch tortilla shells
1/2 tsp salt
1 # ground chicken  (I put cooked chicken in a food processor to get a fine texture)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped green chilies
1/4 cup salsa (hot, med. or mild)
1/4 cup refried beans
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup cheese
melted butter

Mix all ingredients well.
Soften tortilla shells in microwave for 10 seconds.
Put 1/3 cup filling in center of tortilla shell.  Roll one turn then turn sides in and continue to roll until chimi is formed.  Place each chimi seam side down, in a lightly greased baking pan.  Brush top and bottom of each chimi lightly with the melted butter.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

This can also be made with beef or pork.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Once a Month cooking synopsis

If you've been following, you know I've been on this Once a Month Cooking Journey.  I have to say I am incredibly BORED!  It was a challenge to make 14 meals in one day, which actually was not how I did it due to circumstances that changed my plans. I ended up making the meals in 2 different stages.  That was still a challenge.  However, I have to say the recipes themselves have not been spectacular.  So, overall, I'm not really impressed.  There are several OAMC books, but the one I used was Once-a-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg.  The good thing about this book is that most of the ingredients you'll find in your pantry.  There's not a whole lot of unusual types of herbs/spices, etc.  If you want easy, staple items it's great.  Also, it shows you exactly how to prep for your cooking day.  It includes a meal plan, grocery list, what to do before your big cooking day, even suggestions for types of containers to use.  On the flip side, I think someone forgot to edit this book!  I found many mistakes which made it confusing at points.  For example, a recipe would call for cooked chicken, then tell you to cook it.  Or there was a meal on the planner, but no recipe for it.  And that's only 2 of about 10 mistakes I found. 

I am in a cooking group (which desperately needs a name) and it is a great way to do freezer meals!  I look forward to posting recipes from that.  I just made 3 meals that look fantastic!  I guess I'm just partial to food that is extraordinarily good.  Not that there's anything wrong with those staple items in your pantry, but I like creativity, more flavor, etc.  When you're making 14 meals, or even 30 for your freezer in one day, that is probably not going to happen.  You need more time to be more creative.  So, I'm giving this book about 2 1/2 stars out of 5.  Also, I'm done posting recipes from it unless something is very enjoyable.  I do still have several meals left in my freezer.  But if I'm boring myself, I must be boring you, yes you, all 4 followers that I have, and 1 cyber stalker--you know who you are--haha!  Who knows, maybe there are more. 

Looking Ahead:
  • I hope to be more consistant in the future with my posts.  Hmm, maybe this is a New Years Resolution.
  • Fun holiday treats
  • Cranberry Chicken, Spinach Lasagna Roll ups, and Thai peanut chicken
  • Eggplant Parmesean, which I promised in early November.  (they were actually out of eggplants!  I could post the recipe, but I really wanted a picture for this one.)

London Broil

Meal #9 from OAMC. 

1 London broil (about 2 lbs)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbs grated lemon zest
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp light brown sugar

In a shallow bowl, stir all ingredients together, making a marinade.  Turn the steak in the marinade, rubbing the ingredients into the meat. Let set 30 min to marinate.  (or overnight) Grill aobut 5 min. per side.  Do not overcook or meat will become tough.  Carve slices on the bias.

Playoff Burgers

Meal #8 from OAMC.  This is a seasoned up burger. 

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbs steak sauce
1 cup grated monterey Jack Cheese
salt and pepper to taste
6 whole wheat buns.

Combine all ingredients, form into patties.  Grill and serve!  Easy, but a little more flavor than your traditional burger. 

Poppy Beef

Meal #7 from OAMC.  This is a fancy name for a spaghetti bake, but it has more of a white cheesy sauce instead of your traditional tomato sauce.

2 lbs ground beef
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz cottage cheese
1 tbs poppy seeds
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
8 oz light cream cheese
1/4 tsp pepper
8 oz linguine
1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese

Saute the beef with green pepper, salt, and onion in a large skillet on medium heat until the beef is no longer pink, about 15 minutes.  Add tomato sauce and set aside.  In a seperate bowl mix together cottage cheese, poppy seeds, yogurt, cream cheese and pepper.  Cook and drain the pasta.  Stir into cheese mixture until well blended.  Place it in a 9x13 baking dish.  Top with the meat mixture and parmesean cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Country Captain (curried chicken)

I have no idea why this is named "Country Captain".  Basically it is a curry chicken dish.  If you like curry, you'll enjoy this.  This is meal #6 from OAMC.

1 14pz can stewed tomatoes (undrained)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup currants or raisins
1 tbs cury powder
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tbs cornstarch
1 tbs cold water
Cooked couscous to serve with
Slivered almond (optional)

Combine first 8 ingredients.  Put chicken in skillet and pour sauce over top of it.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.  Remove chicken from skillet.   Mix cornstarch and cold water together, add to skillet.  Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. You may need to bring it to a boil again in order for it to thicken up.  Pour sauce over chicken, top with slivered almonds and serve over couscous. 

Herbed Chicken

Meal #5 from OAMC. 
This is another easy recipe that contains pretty much staple items from your pantry.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 10 oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil leaves
1 tspdried oregano leaves
3 cups white rice, cooked

Combine all ingredients except rice in a bag or bowl to marinate.  Bake at 350, covered for 1 1/4 hours.  (Now, I think I cooked it alot less than that, let's not dry out the chicken!  Use your judgement).  Serve over rice.

Chicken Nuggets

Meal # 4 from OAMC.  My kids loved this very kid-friendly meal.  You can make it more adult friendly by adding some unique dipping sauces.

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
3 tbs butter melted
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup dired bread crumbs, Italian style
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
sauces for dipping.

Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces (kitchen shears work great).  combine chicken, melted butter, and worcestershire in a 1 quart freezer bag to make a marinade.  combine the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese in a second bag.  You can freeze at this point if you're looking to stock your freezer. 

To prepare for serving, remove the chicken pieces from marinade. Shake them in the bread crumb bag to coat, a few at a time.  Yes, kind of like 'Shake and Bake'.  The kids will think this is fun too. Arrange chicken on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 7-9 minutes at 450. 

So easy!  My daugter does not seem to like meat, but she actually ate these!  And my husband liked them too.  We used BBQ sauce, Honey Mustard, Spicy Mustard, and Ketchup for our sauce choices.  You could add Teriyaki or a thai peanut sauce to make them a bit more 'gourmet', or 'grown up'.

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

Here is meal #3 from Once a month Cooking.  It was pretty good, and a nice twist on a traditional lasagna.  Also, I LOVE Mexican food, so really how can you go wrong with these flavors?

3/4 cup chopped onion
3 14 oz cans stewed tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup salsa, medium or mild
1 package taco seasoning (I usually use my own blend)
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained, or you can prepare dried beans, which is my first choice
1 large egg
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 tsp crushed garlic
10 oz lasagna noodles
4 boneless, skinless cooked chicken breasts cooked and cut into bite size pieces
1 4oz can chopped green chilies
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese

Combine chopped onion, tomates, salsa, taco seasoning and green chilies.  In a seperate bowl combine egg, ricotta cheese and garlic.

Spread 1 cup tomato sauce mixture over the bottom of a 9x13 in. pan.  Top with uncooked noodles, half the cheese mixture, half the chicken, sauce and half the shredded cheese.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients and top with sauce and cheese.  Bake uncovered at 350 for 40 minutes or unitl noodles are tender.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.