Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Eve Open House 2011

As many of you know, we host an open house on Christmas Eve.  We've been doing it for a few years now.  This year was another blessed evening.  I was so blessed by those that came, and hope they were too.  This is the Menu:

Olive Plate
Fruit Plate


Assorted Christmas Treats  (see the bottom of this post for a photo)

Sparkling Jubilee
Hot Cocoa Bar

The recipe's that are posted should be highlighted.  If they aren't, just hover your mouse over, and you should be able to click to the recipe.  

In case you are wondering "Sparkling Jubilee" is 1 bottle of White Grape juice,  and 1 2 liter 7-Up in a punch bowl.  I add fresh cranberries and fresh mint to garnish.  I just thought it needed a fun and festive name.  :-)

Christmas cheese plate

This was fun and easy to do.  Just a more festive way to serve cheese and crackers.

Candy Cane Punch

This is almost dessert rather than punch.  It was sooooo good!  I mean, I thought it would be good, but it was way better than I expected.  I was going for festive, and it was, along with deliciousness!
I found the recipe on Pinterest, and it's actually from Taste of Home.  My guests at the open house loved it!  My only regret... no picture!!  I was bummed.  But, you can see a photo of it here.

2 jars (10 ounces each) strawberry jelly
2 liters lemon-lime soda, divided
2 quarts peppermint stick ice cream
Miniature candy canes, optional

In a large saucepan, melt jelly with 2 cups soda. Chill the jelly mixture and remaining soda. Just before serving, place 6 cups ice cream in a punch bowl. Gently stir in jelly mixture. Add remaining soda. Add remaining ice cream by scoopfuls. Garnish with candy canes if desired. Yield: 3-1/2 quarts.

Sparkling Cranberry Brie Bites

These are delicious!  And almost too pretty to eat.  The recipe comes from Yummy Mummy.  I love how in her post she compared them to her sparkly shoes.  So creative!  I adapted it a little.  Instead of cranberry chutney or relish, I used jellied cranberry sauce and warmed it a little so it would be thinner.

Sugared Cranberries

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup good maple syrup
1 cup granulated sugar

Rinse cranberries and place in a medium bowl. Heat syrup in a small sauce pan just until warm. Pour over cranberries when syrup is warm, not hot, or cranberries may pop. Cool, cover, and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.
Drain cranberries in a colander. Place sugar in a large bowl or baking dish. Add cranberries in 2 batches and roll around until lightly coated in sugar. Place on a baking sheet until dry, about 1 hour.

16 crackers
8 oz Brie cheese
cranberry chutney or cranberry relish (I used cranberry sauce)
fresh mint for garnish

Assemble crackers with one slice of brie, a light layer of cranberry chutney, and 4 or 5 sugared cranberries. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Pies

This appetizer is a great seasonal one.  How I love pumpkin!  And I love goat cheese... so of course they're great together!  This was definitely a more tedious appetizer to do, but I felt it was worth the work.  :-)
I found it on Give Me Flour.

For the Dough:
2 cups of flour
1 1/3 stick of unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
1 egg beaten
3 tbs heavy cream or yogurt (more if needed)

1. Place flour, salt and butter in a big bowl. Work with your fingertips or with a pastry blender ‘til the mixture resembles coarse meal. You want to keep some visible pieces of butter

2. Beat together egg and 3 tbsp of cream. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients.

3. Using your fingertips, mix them smoothly by making circular movements. Don’t knead the dough.

4. Keep mixing. The dough should get together quickly and if it doesn’t happen, add one more tbsp of cream.

5. Don’t worry about spots, visible pieces of butter and stripes of cream; they are a good sign. Press to form a ball, cover with plastic film and keep on the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

IMPORTANT: You can keep this dough on freezer for about a month. Just place it on the fridge and let it defrost overnight before using.

For the filling:
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 small onion chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tbs fresh sage chopped
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 oz goat cheese

Sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil. Add all ingredients, (except cheese) mix well and let it cool completely before using.

Preheat oven to 350F˚.

Place dough in a floured surface and roll it out into a 1/8 inch thin layer. Using a 4 inch round cookie cutter cut the dough into circles. Place the pumpkin filling in the center of the circle, place a piece of cheese on top and fold the dough over into a semicircle. (I had goat cheese in log form, so I crumbled it to place on top) Crimp down the edges and arrange in a baking sheet. Keep doing the same process until the whole dough is gone. It makes approximately 24 pies.

Brush with eggwash, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 30 minutes or until golden in color.

Caprese Salad on a stick

I love Caprese salad!  This was a great appetizer, of course I couldn't only eat one.  :-)

1 pt grape tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella balls
Fresh basil

For the dressing:
Balsamic Vinegar
1 clove garlic

Depending on the size of your basil leaves, you may be able to use 1 basil leaf per "stick".  For me, I had to cut some of mine into large pieces.  All you do is thread the tomato, cheese, and basil on a toothpick.  Easy peasy!  I laid them all out on a plate and drizzled the dressing across them.  If you can't find mozzarella balls, you can use any type of fresh mozzarella.  I bought mine in the log form and cut it into cubes.  It worked just as well.

Crush 1 clove of garlic and put it in your dressing bottle.  Then pour in your oil and vinegar and shake it up.  I use about 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.  If you like it less tangy, use less vinegar.

Sweet Potato Cakes with Black Bean Salsa

I haven't thought to make my Sweet Potatoes with a little mexican flair before.  These were really tasty!  I adapted this recipe from Lisa is cooking.

For the cakes:
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 green onions, both white and green parts, finely chopped
4-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-6 tablespoons butter

-Steam the sweet potato chunks for 15-20 minutes until completely tender, and then transfer to a colander and allow to drain until dry. 
- Once very dry, place sweet potato chunks in a large mixing bowl and mash with a potato masher to break up chunks. Add flour and finely chopped green onions, and mix with your hands to form a smooth batter. Using your hands here is best so that it doesn’t become over mixed. In a food processor, the sweet potato mixture could quickly become gummy. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Once the mixture is smooth, and the flour and green onions are mixed in, you’re ready to fry. Note: the mixture should be sticky but not wet, so more flour may be needed.
- In a non-stick skillet, heat two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and two tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Form round, flat cakes from about two tablespoons of batter per cake, and fry four or five at a time for three minutes per side until golden. Transfer finished cakes to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain and cool. Add more oil and butter to pan between batches as needed, and continue frying a few cakes at a time until all are ready for their toppings.

For the black bean salsa:
1 16 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 cup dried beans, prepared
1 small can mild green chilies, chopped**
1 small, yellow bell pepper, small diced
¼ cup finely minced red onion¼ cup cilantro leaves, choppedJuice of 1 lime
¼ teaspoon salt
Sour Cream for serving

-Combine all salsa ingredients (except sour cream) in a small bowl and stir to combine.  Salsa can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

-Top each cake with sour cream and black bean salsa and serve.

**If you like heat, use a chopped chile in adobe sauce instead of the mild green chilis.  This will really kick it up!

Peanut Butter Brownie Trifle

MMMM!  How can you go wrong with Peanut butter and chocolate.  This was fab!  It comes from How Sweet it is.

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie Trifle

1 batch of your favorite brownies, boxed or from scratch, cooled and cut into cubes
1 large box (5-ounce) of instant chocolate pudding, prepared and chilled (this will most likely call for 3 cups of milk, nothing else)
1 bag of peanut butter cups, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar, depending on your desired level of sweetness
1 cup of creamy peanut butter
1 cup of powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
8 ounces of whipped cream cheese, at room temperature

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand mixer), beat heavy cream and sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to an separate bowl and stick in the fridge until ready to use. I did not even clean the bowl of my electric mixer and just began mixing the peanut butter mixture.

Add the peanut butter and cream cheese to the bowl and beat at medium speed, scraping down the sides a few times until mixture is creamy. Add in powdered sugar and mix until combined, then mix in 2 tablespoons of milk. Remove the whipped cream from the fridge and add 1 cup of it to the peanut butter, folding it in until the mixture turns lighter in color and is mostly combined.

Grab your trifle dish and begin to layer your ingredients however you’d like. I did a layer of brownies, then pudding, then a handful of chopped peanut butter cups, peanut butter, whipped cream, and so on. I repeated it until I got to the top, then piped the remaining whipped cream on top and sprinkled the candy on. You really can’t go wrong with layering – just use a long spoon to serve!

Blizzard Bars

These were super easy to make and super delicious!  They are from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  
12 ounces chocolate chips, semisweet, bittersweet or milk chocolate
1/2 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
3 cups crisp rice cereal (like Rice Krispies)
2 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup chocolate chips or M&M’s
Garnish: mini marshmallows and additional M&M’s
Lightly grease an 8X8- or 9X9-inch baking pan and set aside.
In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips for one minute. Stir. Then continue to microwave in 30 second increments until the chips are completely melted. Stir in the peanut butter until combined. Let the mixture cool slightly, about five minutes. Add the rice cereal, marshmallows and chocolate chips and/or M&M’s. Fold together with a rubber spatula until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Press additional marshmallows and M&M’s into the top of the bars, if desired. Let the bars cool and set for 5-6 hours until they are firm and no longer gooey and melty. These bars take a lot longer to set up than the Avalanche Bars, in fact, when I made them, I kept pressing on the top wondering if they would ever set up. Sure enough, after a long enough rest, I finally cut into them (even though they still felt soft on top) and they were gloriously decadent and messy. Once the bars are firm and set, cut into squares and serve.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Hi Friends,
There is no chicken dinner post here, but my son often says this phrase when someone wins something, so I couldn't resist.

So, the winner of the Calendar Giveway is:

Thanks to everyone for entering the contest!

Blessings to you,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bean soup

If you haven't entered my giveaway yet, there is still time!  The details are here

This recipe comes from a room mate I had years ago.  At the time I had no interest in cooking like I do now.  She was an excellent cook and I had her write this recipe down for me.  I've kept it all this time.  It's probably been at least 13 yrs. or so.  It's a classic tasting dish.  I hope you enjoy it.

1 lb dried Great Northern Beans (or navy or other white bean)
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 tsp sugar
2 carrots
1 ham shank
salt and pepper to taste

If you're preparing ahead of time, rinse your beans, cover them with about 3 inches of water and soak them overnight.  If you don't plan that far ahead, still rinse the beans, place them in a large pot and cover with about 3 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.

Add the rest of the ingredients and let the soup simmer, covered, about 3 hours or until the beans are tender.  You may need to add more water, but I never have.  Once it's finished, remove the shank and pull off all the ham and add back to the soup.  The ham should fall right off of it.  You can add additional ham if you like.  For me, it just depends on how much actually was left on the ham bone.  In this case, I bought a spiral cut ham and used the shank from that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Give Away!!!

Hi friends!  This week, I am giving away my custom-created calendar.  Have you got your 2012 calendar yet?  Or would you like this one??  It has a recipe for each month.

To enter this giveaway, all you need to do is add a comment in the comment section of this blog of your favorite Christmas tradition.  Extra entries for:

  • becoming a follower
  • subscribing to email updates
  • posting about this giveaway on your blog
  • posting on fb about this giveaway
  • tweet about this post
Contest starts today, December 20 and ends Friday December 23 at 6pm.  Good Luck!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

SRC: Pesto Pecan Chicken

This month for the Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Apron Strings.  The authors of this blog are Donna and Anne, a mother daughter duo who have an awesome story.  I have to admit, I was a little scared when I first saw their blog.  Anne was on the Food Network, and Donna has written several cookbooks!  Yikes!  I thought, these ladies are way beyond me.  But, after browsing a bit, I realized what an honor to cook something off of this blog!  They have lots of awesome recipes and I chose one that is extremely simple but most flavorful. Yes, they are way beyond me in their skills, but I'm so happy they are willing to blog and share their talents with the world.  D and A... You women are an inspiration in many ways.

So, I chose pesto pecan Chicken.  My husband re-named it Pesto Pecan Pollo, just get 3 P's in there.  But this recipe is 3 ingredients!  Yes, just 3 and it was incredibly delicious!

4 oz jar pesto
3/4 cup pecans finely chopped
4 chicken breasts

The only adjustment I made was to use home made pesto, because I had made some this fall and froze it.  I love when I have stuff already on hand.  Also a couple of my chicken breasts were quite thick, so I fillet'd (I do not know how to spell fillet in past tense) them, and actually got 6 pieces of chicken.  Or, as Apron Strings recommends, you could pound them between 2 pieces of wax paper to thin them out.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Season your chicken with salt and pepper.  Salt and pepper don't actually count as ingredients.  Spread a thick layer of pesto sauce on each chicken breast.

Then top them with the pecans, and press them down a bit.

Bake in the oven loosely covered for 15 min.  Then remove the foil and bake the remaining 15 minutes.  Starting out with the chicken covered will help the pecans to not get too dark or over done.  Depending on the size of your chicken, you may not need the full 30 minutes, just make sure you check it.

This dish was sooooo good!  We loved it!  Thanks Apron Strings!  Be sure to check out their blog for lots more great recipes.  Also, if you'd like more info on the Secret Recipe Club, go here for more info.  Plus you will find tons and tons of great blogs and fabulous food on there!  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Almost Merry Christmas to you!  Thanks to my faithful bloggy friends for stopping by.
You would think this time of year I would be cooking up a storm!  I love holiday cooking/baking, and, I just haven't done that much yet!  My kids are now on vacation and we are planning to do some fun things in the kitchen this week.  Also, our annual Christmas Eve open House is quickly approaching.  So, I'll be plenty busy getting ready for that.
Here's what I'm hoping to bring to the table this year:
  • Caprese salad on a stick
  • Sweet potato cakes with black bean salsa
  • Pumpkin and goat cheese pies
  • Apricot bacon wraps (this is always the hit of the party, I have to make it)
  • Sparkling cranberry brie crackers
  • Chocolate covered pretzel rods
  • Christmas tree cheese plate
  • Olive wreath
  • Pretzel bites
  • Sundried tomato, basil and cheese dip
I need a few desserts, I just haven't decided yet.  

Of course, all recipe's will be posted with pictures.  Make sure you stop by tomorrow for Secret Recipe Club reveal day!  See whose blog I got to cook from!  I was impressed... so maybe you will be too.  :-)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Slow Cooker Sunday: French Dip Sandwiches

This recipe is adapted from baking bites.  I saw it on Pinterest, where lately I have been seeing lots of great recipes.

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches
approx 3 1/2 lbs beef chuck roast
16-oz. beef broth (1 1/2 cans)
1 10.5-oz. can condensed French onion soup
6-oz red wine
3 cloves crushed garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
4-6 French rolls
sliced provolone cheese, optional
Trim excess fat off of beef roast and season meat all over with salt and pepper.
Pour beef broth, condensed French onion soup, red wine and garlic into slow cooker and place beef roast into liquid.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Slow cookers have different time intervals that you can select, so work with your cooker. Depending on how the settings on your slow cooker work, the time will vary. Since this is cooking in liquid, you don’t have to worry about the meat drying out.
Take beef out and rest it, covered with aluminum foil, for about 15 minutes. Slice beef and return to slow cooker on low or very low for 30 minutes.
Lightly toast the bread and evenly distribute cheese between rolls, if using. Divide beef onto rolls and spoon the beef juice* into ramekins or other small bowls and eat everything while it is hot. Serve each sandwich with its own dip.
Seves 4-6.

I really like french dip sandwiches, but I've never attempted to make it.  We LOVED this recipe!  It was so good, my son even asked for seconds.  
*Note: If there is excess fat in your au jus, simply pour it from the slow cooker into a large measuring cup and let it stand for about 5 minutes so the fat separates. Skim it off, then pour the juice into serving cups.