Tuesday, December 28, 2010


One of the kids gifts this Christmas was a kitchen apron and a kid's cookbook.  They love to help in the kitchen and were thrilled.  This dish came from one of those cookbooks.  I changed up a couple things, and it was a great dish!  Very easy too.  And it's pronounced pah-STEET-see-oh.  Enjoy!

1 box elbow macaroni
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp salt
1 jar tomato basil pasta sauce
a splash of red wine  ( I just go by taste)
a dash of sugar  (I go by taste here too)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 10 oz container fresh Alfredo sauce (I used Buitoni and liked it.  I don't like most jarred alfredo sauces)
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Cook macaroni accordin to package directions; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook ground beef, onion and salt over medium high heat, breaking up meat until it is no longer pink.  Drain well and return to skillet.  Stir in pasta sauce, wine, sugar and cinnamon.  Brig to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer uncovered about 5 minutes.

Spoon half of macaroni into a 9x13 lightly greased dish.  top with meat mixture.  Spoon remaining macaroni over meat mixture.  Spread Alfredo sauce over macaroni, and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Makes about 8 servings.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve Open House 2010

Our Christmas Eve Open House was another success.  Thanks to all those who joined us!!  It was truly a blessing to celebrate and fellowship with one another.  Here's a few pics from our menu:

I shared my menu with you last week, and this week I've got all the recipe's up on the blog.  I thought I'd put all the recipe's together in one post as well, just to make it easy.  So, here you go...

Texas Brisket
Bacon wrapped apricots
bacon wrapped jalepenos
Sweet Potato Pasties
Cranberry & Pistachio cheese roll
Fruit Jellies
Chocolate Crunch Brownies

Fruit Jellies

These are so pretty!  And of course they taste great too.  But I will warn you... keep them cold or they will melt.  Just speaking from experience.  :D

1 1/3 cups fruit juice (any flavor)
4 packets powdered gelatin (1 ounce total)
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups fruit preserves or jam

Place 2/3 cup juice in a small bowl or measuring cup and sprinkle with gelatin.   Let sit 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine remaining 2/3 cup juice and 1 1/2 cups sugar, bring to a boil over medium high and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, 5 minutes.  Add preserves and whisk to combine.   Return to a boil and cook until thick and syrupy, 2 minutes.  Add gelatin mixture and whisk until gelatin dissolves.  Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into an 8 inch square baking dish.  Refrigerate until set, 3 hours (or up to 2 weeks).

Place 1 cup sugar in a pie plate or shallow bowl.  Cut fruit jelly into 1 inch squares.  Toss in sugar to coat just before serving.

If you want to make them ahead, keep them uncoated, tightly covered in plastic wrap in the fridge.

I used Pomegranate-cherry juice with raspberry jam for one batch, and a Berry Blend juice with strawberry jam for the other batch.  Some other combination suggestions are:

  • apple juice and apricot preserves
  • grape juice and jam
  • strawberry apple juice and strawberry jam

Cranberry Pistachio cheese roll

This is a great festive appetizer.

shelled pistachio's
dried cranberries (craisins)
goat cheese

Roughly chop the pistachio's and cranberries.  Roll the log of goat cheese in the nuts/berries.  I had to kind of press them in a bit.  Serve with crackers.

I get my goat cheese from Costco because it comes in a long log form, and it's much more economically priced.

Chocolate Crunch Brownies

These are super yummy!  This comes from my friends over at fanksgiving.

1 cup butter softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup flour
6 Tbs baking cocoa
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

1 small jar marshmallow creme
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups crisp rice cereal

  • In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add eggs.
  • Stir in flour, cocoa, vanilla and salt. Spread into a greased 9x13 pan.
  • Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in a pan on a wire rack.
  • Spread marshmallow cream over the cooled brownies.
  • In a small saucepan over low heart, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat: stir in cereal.
  • Spread over marshmallow layer.
  • Chill for 1 hour before cutting.


1 can of chickpeas, drained with 3 tablespoons of the liquid reserved
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini

Bread, crackers, pita chips, or veggies for serving.

Place the chickpeas, reserved liquid, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini in a food processor.  Blend until smooth and well combined.  I served this with Rosemary and Olive Oil bread, but any of the above suggestions work great.

Texas Brisket

One of my dear students from the ELS language center gave me a cookbook for my birthday.  This recipe comes from "Nigella Kitchen".  She's a food network star, maybe you're familiar.  Anyway, I served this brisket up as an appetizer during my Christmas Eve Open House.  It turned out very good and it was an easy one to make.  It serves about 12, so just half it if you're just making it for your family.

3 medium onions
approximately 5 1/2 lbs beef brisket (make sure you don't buy salted or corned beef...just fresh)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup steak sauce (such as A-1)
1/4 cup strong brewed black coffee

Preheat the oven to 300

Slice the onions, stripping away any skin that unwraps itself,  (It doesn't matter if the skin stays on) and arrange them in the center of the pan to create a platform the brisket will sit on.  I used an oval roasting pan, it worked great.

Place the brisket on top, fat-topped side up.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour them over the brisket, then cover the pan with aluminum foil, sealing it tightly.  Place it in the oven for 3 1/2 hours.

Remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a cutting board.  Slice the brisket in diagonals across the grain.

Transfer the onions to a blender with a ladleful or two of the liquid from the pan and blend til smooth, then add back to the rest of the liquid in the pan and stir.

Put the brisket slices in the gravy in the pan and serve.

bacon wrapped jalepenos

These are easy to make and were a hit at my open house.  Thanks Pioneer Woman!!

jalepenos sliced in half
cream cheese

Scoop out the seeds/ribs from the jalepenos.  Fill with cream cheese.  Wrap 1/3 slice of bacon around it and secure with a toothpick.  They will come unwrapped while cooking if you don't secure it.  Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes.  If they are not as brown as you like them at the end of the cooking time, place them under the broiler for a few minutes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Braised Beef with Cranberries

This is a great tasting, easy dinner!  Plus it sounds so fancy.  A couple of friends commented when I told them what I was making... "oh, you are so talented!"  Well, the compliment is appreciated, but this really doesn't take any talent.  It's also quite festive for this time of year.  Fresh Cranberries are seasonal at the grocery store, so buy extra and freeze them.  They freeze great.

3 pounds chuck roast (brisket works well too)
coarse salt and ground pepper
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
1 can beef broth
1 cup dry red wine (merlot or cabernet Sauvignon)
1 bay leaf
2 Tbs unsulfured molasses
2 cups water
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 bag (1 pound) frozen pearl onions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 with rack in lowest position.  Season beef with salt and pepper.  Heat a 5 quart dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high.  Add chuck roast, cook until browned, 8-10 minutes, rotating once.  Transfer beef to a plate

2. Add flour to pot and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.  Add broth, wine, bay leaf, molasses, half the cranberries, and 2 cups of water; bring to a boil.  Return beef to pot, and cover.  Transfer to oven; bake 3 hours.

3.  Stir in onions; cover, and return pot to oven.  Cook 30 minutes more.  Stir in remaining cranberries; return pot to oven.  Cook uncovered, until beef is fork-tender, 30 minutes more.  Discard bay leaf before serving.

Isn't it festive?  

I served it up with some baked potatoes, and a green salad.   

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Pasty

I just got a new cookbook from my dear friend Julie called "Just 5 Things".  This recipe comes from it and is one I'm serving at my Christmas Eve Open House

I wish I could be 100 percent precise, but I've adapted this a bit.  The cookbook has it served in a larger portion as a lunch, but I switched it up a bit in order to make it more of an appetizer.  So I had to double in a half my ingredients, and I still had filling left over.  But it's so good I'll just serve it as a side.

4 1/2 sweet potatoes
1 15 oz tub ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese (please, get the real stuff and grate it yourself)
4 Tbs basil pesto
6 sheets frozen puff pastry thawed

Bake the sweet potatoes in a 400 degree oven until done.  This can be about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the size of your potatoes.  Just make sure they are soft inside.  Then slice them in half lengthwise and let them cool.

Once they're cooled, scoop out the insides and put in a bowl.  Combine the ricotta, parmesean, and pesto with the potatoes and mix well.

Lay out your pastry dough and cut in equal squares.  A pizza cutter works great for this.  I got 9 squares for each piece of pastry.  There's 2 per box and I used 3 boxes.  Then spoon a little of your potato mixture in the center and form a triangle.  Use a little water to seal the edges.

I brushed the top with a little bit of milk and placed them in a 425 degree oven.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes.  Make sure you spray your pan or they will stick.  I've made these up ahead of time and will be baking them from frozen.  So, my time may vary.

Here's what they look like after they're baked...

These tasted GREAT!  They're a great appetizer, side dish or lunch.  Be sure to let me know what you think if you try them.  :D

Gingerbread houses

Hello bloggy friends!
Yes, a new post!!  It's a christmas miracle!  :D

Well, my life is full as most of you, and some things just need to be put on the back burner.  I enjoy posting and I don't want it to become a "task" I check off on my to do list.  So, my goal starting in January will be to post at least once a week.  If you subscribe, you'll get my posts right in your inbox.  That will save you from randomly checking the blog to see if there's a new post.  But, whatever you prefer.  I just am so grateful for you checking in, and my hearts desire to to be a blessing to you.

so, today I'm sharing Graham cracker gingerbread houses and my christmas eve menu.  I'll post the recipe's later, but at least you'll know what's cookin'.

Here's a link to instructions on how to do the gingerbread houses.  My kids had a great time!
Also included here is a recipe for royal icing.  If you want to be 'safe' from not eating raw egg whites you can actually buy them pasturized at your local grocery store.

After 'glueing' together, let them set for about 15 min.

Our decorations

Last year my husband and I decided to have a Christmas Eve open house.  His family is out of state so we don't see them at Christmas, and we see mine on Christmas day.  So we don't typically have plans on Christmas Eve.  We've been out of the habit of attending Christmas Eve services for a couple reasons... first, we were at a church for a long time that didn't have Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services unless it was actually a Sunday, in order to allow more time with family.  Second, our kids still go to bed pretty early, so it just hasn't worked all that well.  Anyway, we thought probably no one would come, but let's just try it.  And to our surprise many friends stopped by and it was such a delight!  Most came by on there way to or from a family gathering or something, but we were just so grateful to spend a little time with loved ones.  So, we are doing it again this year.  
Here is my menu:

Texas Beef Brisket

Bacon wrapped apricots
Bacon wrapped jalepenos 
Hummus with focaccia 
Cheese and sweet potato pasties 
Olive/pickle tray
Fruit jellies 
Cranberry/pistachio cheese roll w/crackers
Cheese/cracker tray
Chocolate crunch brownies

Sparkling punch w/cranberries and mint

I'll keep you posted on the recipe's.  What are you cooking this holiday season?  I'd love to hear from you.