Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year....and My New Years Menu!

Well, I sure hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  We sure did, it was festive, magical, and a perfect time spent with my family!  The kids enjoyed all their gifts, and I especially enjoyed the time around our tree watching our kids open all their gifts, well......and I enjoy my gifts too! 

Our Christmas Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings, was delicious.  I am glad we stayed home, cooked, and just enjoyed the day!  Here are some pictures of Our Christmas!

My kids on Christmas Eve!

Our Christmas Tree....what fun it was to put all those gifts under it, and then open them!

My Hubby and ME!!!!! 
We plan on going out tonight to a friends house, to ring in the New Year.  Then on Sunday, New Years Day, we are having our dearest friends over, whom we've known for over 25 years!  I am so excited to see them all since they don't live close by.

Here's my New Years Eve Menu

Meatballs and Sauce


And My New Year's Day Dinner
Pot Roast 101 and GRAVY

Homemade Dinner Rolls

Broccoli Casserole

Mashed Potato's

Baked Brie with Jam and Almonds


I hope you have a Wonderful New Years!  We have so much to be thankful for.....Good Friends, Great Family, Delicious Food to enjoy......and a Heavenly Father who is so Faithful!    Enjoy!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Day Menu! YUMMO

Just taking a minute to sit and check in.  I've been so busy cooking and wrapping, and just preparing for Christmas!  We didn't even get a flurry this year before Christmas, I am very disappointed, since I do love snow.  Hopefully we'll get some soon. 

I hope you all have a very Blessed Christmas, we have so much to be thankful for! 

This is what's on my Christmas Menu for tomorrow:

Breakfast Casserole
Homemade Sticky Buns - sorry I never showed you this recipe, just been so busy!

Roasted Turkey
Sausage Stuffing
Green Beans
Mashed Potato's
Homemade Dinner Rolls

Apple Pie
Assorted homemade cookies

Today we are traveling to my sister's house for our celebration.  Then tonight we'll go to church for our Candlelight Service.  We'll come home watch a movie, and I'll most likely fall asleep!  Then the kids go to bed, and my hubby and I will put all the presents under the Christmas tree.  It's a magical time, full of traditions, and I love it so!

Merry Christmas, thank you so much for visiting my blog! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tiramisu......Perfect for Christmas!

It's all finally coming together, I see the road at the end of the tunnel.  All the cookies are baked, the Gingerbread House is made, the decorations have been up now for a while, the presents are almost all wrapped, Christmas dinner is planned, and I went shopping today, the store was CRAZY! 

We are spending the day after Christmas with my in laws, and I am bringing a dessert. I was having such a hard time deciding what to make.  So it came to me today while food shopping, I saw them....the lady fingers, yes, that's it, that's what I will make......Tiramisu!  I haven't made it in years, and everyone loves it.  This recipe is another easy one, yes you have to a make a homemade custard, don't worry, it's easy, when you learn the art of making your own custard, you can make homemade custard pies and puddings, and realize yes it is easy when I get the hang of it!  This dessert has to chill in the frig up to 8 hours or overnight, so plan for it....yes it has some steps, but hey it's Tiramisu.  Give it a try, you will love it, and you will WOW your family and friends.  YUMMO!


The Custard
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yokes
2 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS butter, cut up into little pieces
2 TBS light Rum (YUM)
1/2 lb Mascarpone cheese at room temp (if you can't find Mascarpone Cheese, use Cream Cheese, I have used cream cheese in the pass and really like it)

Additional Ingredients
1 1/2 cups Heavy cream -
2 TBS coffee liqueur
1 1/4 cups espresso coffee or strong brewed coffee
24 Italian Savoiardi cookies (crisp ladyfingers)
2 squares unsweetened chocolate for garnish

In a medium sauce pot on a low-med heat, add the milk, sugar, cornstarch, whisk.  Meanwhile, separate the eggs, making sure you don't have any white of the eggs in the yolks, I use my hands to separate the whites from the yokes, it's so much easier!  Put the yolks in a small bowl, mix them with a fork, and add about 3 TBS of the warm milk mixture to it, this is called tempering, this is done so the warm milk mixture doesn't cook the egg yokes.  Add that yokes mixture back to the saucepan and whisk, whisk, whisk on med-low heat until thick and starts to bubble, will take about 3 more minutes, do not let this burn! 

When all thick and bubbly, take off the heat, and add the butter in little pieces, vanilla and rum.  Whisk to combine. Put in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap touching the pudding mixture so a skin doesn't form on top. Chill in the frig for 2 hours.  You just made Vanilla Pudding spiked with Rum...YUM!

Take out of the frig and fold in the Mascarpone or Cream cheese, making sure there are no lumps and mixed through. 

In a mixer whip up the heavy cream to stiff , yet billowy peaks form and then FOLD IN ONLY HALF of the the whipped cream into the custard mixture until all combined. Reserved the remaining whipped cream for the topping.

Whipped Cream.....YUM!

To Assemble
Mix the Espresso Coffee and the Coffee liqueur in a bowl and dip each Savoiardi cookie in the coffee mixture until some liquid is absorbed. . Arrange in a 9 inch casserole dish, or a TRIFLE BOWL, or a clear class bowl.....first one layer of the cookies, then half of the custard/cheese mixture on top of the cookies, sprinkle with half the grated chocolate, then another layer of cookies, and another layer of the custard. Ending with a evenly spread of the reserved Whipped Cream, and sprinkle the remaining grated chocolate on top.  Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.  ENJOY!!!!!
Layering in a trifle bowl

Layering in a casserole dish

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Fudge!

Are you getting it all done?  We are, but it's been so busy, and honestly, I'm TIRED!!!  Yesterday we went out to breakfast with good friends, then came home and since it was my hubby's day off, we got started with all the wrapping!  We wrapped, wrapped, and wrapped!  Most of it is all done, and what a relief that is!

I do enjoy this time of year, Christmas is one of my favorite times, but when you get caught up in all the WORK, it's no fun.  I hope you aren't caught up in all the work, and really sit back and enjoy this time.  I plan to, not just yet!!!  Christmas Day will be my day to sit and reflect and watch my kids open up their gifts, take in every moment, we will enjoy a wonderful breakfast, and best of all we won't have to run out, we will be HOME!  I will post tomorrow what I will be making for our Christmas Breakfast, it will be so YUMMO!

I found this delicious recipe for Fabulous Fudge.  I never made Fudge before, my mom never made it for us while growing up, and I have never eaten a piece of Fudge before!  Yes, I know I have been depraved!  I never knew what all the hype was about, until I made a batch last year for Christmas.  It was EASY, and so delicious.  If you're looking for an easy dessert idea, or a little something to go with your dessert for one of your Christmas parties, here it is!  YUMMO!

Fabulous Fudge

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT Evaporated)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped fine nuts....whatever you wish, I used Almonds this time, (or you don't want to add nuts, then don't, it will be fine)

(if you want you can use 1 cup Peanut butter chips and 2 cups semisweet chips.....peanut butter and chocolate thingy)

On the stove in a medium saucepan melt the chocolate chips on medium heat, add the Sweetened Condensed Milk, salt, and vanilla.  Do not let it burn, do not answer the phone, or walk away! When all melted and creamy looking, fold in the chopped nuts.  Line a 9 inch square pan with foil, with the foil hanging over so you can remove it from the pan, spread the fudge evenly in the pan and chill for 3 hours in the frig.  Take out of the pan and cut into little pieces.  So easy, so YUMMO!  Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Recipe Revisied.....A Great Appetizer....Baked Brie with Strawberry Jam and Almonds!

Are you READY for the big day?  Christmas will be here before we know it!  Today we did our last shopping, and then ran to Costco, I just love that store, and got some goodies, and our Christmas turkey!  We will be home alone this Christmas, just the four of us!  I am looking forward to the relaxing day, no running, no preparing for company.  We'll be going to my sister's on Christmas Eve, and that will be fun!  

We have our traditions, homemade sticky buns with coffee right before we open the gifts, and of course the Breakfast Casserole that I posted a couple of weeks ago.  We open our gifts with the "Yule Log" playing on the t.v., and it really takes about 2 hours until we are all done!  It's a wonderful and festive time for us, and the kids love the traditions that we've made over the years! 

Here's another appetizer that I love to make, and it's one of the easiest around. It's a Baked Brie.  It's so simple, but whenever I make it, I "WOW" everyone. Baked Brie is truly a most delicious appetizer. I know, Brie is an expensive cheese, but I buy a nice size round in Costco, so much cheaper than at the local grocery store. I wrap a whole Brie round in 1 sheet of puffed pastry, but first I spread strawberry jam on both sides, and top it off with either almonds or walnuts. So delicious, and EASY! Try it!

A round of Brie!

Baked Brie with Strawberry Jam and Almonds

1 6 inch round of Brie
1 sheet of puffed pastry thawed
4 TBS strawberry jam, or whatever kind you prefer
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds or walnuts whatever nut you prefer
1 egg and 1 TBS Water for Egg Wash

Unroll the puffed pastry and put it on a floured board, and just roll it out to get rid of the lines from the fold. In the middle of the pastry, put 2 TBS jam, spread it in a circle, about the size of the Brie, top with 1/4 cup of the nuts. Take the Brie out of the package, and keeping the white part on, put it on top of the jam and nut mixture, and add more jam and nuts to the top side of the Brie. Fold the Puffed pastry up around the top side of the Brie, folding it into a neat package. Turn it over, the bottom will now be your top, since it's smooth and prettier. Put it on a greased cookie sheet. Crack the egg into a small bowl and add 1 TBS water, and mix, brush it all over the packaged puff pastry Brie,. Now you can either bake it in a 375 oven for 20 mins or put it back in the frig and pop it in the oven right before your guests come. Serve with crackers on a pretty platter. YUMMO

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Week Before the BIG DAY.....Christmas Bread!

Well, it's one week before the big day!  What are you all doing today?  This will be the first Saturday that I am able to be home, and get some things done.  I plan on baking two more batches of cookies, while my hubby and kids go out Christmas shopping for their Mama!  I SURE HOPE THEY TOOK MY HINTS!   Anyway, tonight is our Christmas Cantata at church!  I am so very excited, we have been rehearsing since September, and really can't believe how fast the time has gone!  It will be a very special evening, and we are praying that hearts are touched, and many come to know our Lord Jesus Christ through this Cantata.  My son is in the Children's Choir, it's gonna be GREAT!

Every year for Christmas, I make this most delicious Christmas Bread, it's kind of like a "Panetone" Italian Bread.  It has golden raisins, walnuts, and that candied fruit that so many people don't care for, but I enjoy it so!  This bread is yeast based, now don't let that scare you, baking with yeast is so EASY, take it from me.  Over the years I have learned to make the most delicious breads, and cakes with yeast, just takes some learning, and practicing, don't worry I will give you step by step! The bread is delicious right out of the oven, and if you don't eat it all then, you can toast it for breakfast the next day, and put lots of butter on it!  YUMMO!

Christmas Bread

4 cups flour (I like to use bread flour because I have a 20lb bag of it in my garage!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice
1 pkg (2 1/2 tsp) RAPID RISE YEAST - NOT ACTIVE DRY YEAST there's a this recipe it calls for Rapid Rise.

Add all of this into a large bowl, and if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer like I do, put the dough hook on, if you don't have a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can do this all by hand, just will take you a little longer, but no worries....but it's Christmas, make your life easier, and ASK SANTA for a KITCHEN AID MIXER!!!!

1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk

Heat the butter and milk on the stove until 120 - 130 degrees warm, make sure it's NOT HOTTER than that, it will KILL The YEAST, now don't worry, you will be fine, if it's hotter, just let it cool a little.  I remember whenever I read this in a recipe I would never make it, but I got over my fears and bought a candy thermometer, and it worked out perfect every time :)   Add the butter mixture to flour mixer and mix on low, then increase the speed to 2. - Yes and this is the time when all the flour goes EVERYWHERE! 

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup candied fruit (supermarkets have this stuff in the baking isle around this time)
1 cup chopped very fine walnuts

Add the raisins, walnuts and candied fruit.Scrap down the sides of the bowl.  Now what is the dough doing?  Is it forming into a ball around the dough hook? Does the dough look like a thick dough or does it look like a cake batter?  If it looks like a CAKE BATTER, then you need to add a little more flour, about 1/4 cup, when the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is wrapped around the dough hook like a ball,  it's all kneaded, and ready.  The dough still may be a  little sticky, just flour your hands, and take the dough hook off and in the bowl knead the bread a little, making sure it all comes together.  Grease with 1 TBS oil a large bowl, and put the bread dough in and turn over so its coated with oil.  Cover with foil and let rise in a warm space.  I usually heat up the oven for 3 minutes, then shut it off, and put the dough in there to rise, it's a great TIP!!!!

All kneaded and ready for the first rise!

When it's all nicely risen, you will be able to tell, it will double in size and look all puffy. Punch it down and deflate it, I know you are saying why? It's all pretty and risen, yes but now you must shape it and let it rise AGAIN in a cake pan!

Dough rising in bowl, see how big it gets!!!!

Take it out of the bowl, and either divide it in half for 2 breads, or whole for one big bread.  Flatten it with your hands, and kind of make it into a football size, and put them in 2 GREASED loaf pans, or just shape it into a snake-like rope, and put the whole thing in one big GREASED cake pan, like a bundt pan.  Cover lightly (just lay the piece over, don't wrap) with a piece of GREASED wax paper or foil, it has to be greased so the risen dough doesn't stick to the foil or wax paper....another great TIP!  Let it rise until it's high and about 1 inch over the rim of the baking pan........about 1 hour or so.

Eggwash - 1 egg yolk with 1 tsp milk or half & half - right before baking, brush carefully over the top of the bread When I say carefully, I mean brush it lightly, cause you could deflate the risen bread...take it from me, I have done this!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sausage, Peppers...........and Onions!

Well, Christmas will be here before we know it.  Our Church Cantata is this weekend, and yes I am singing in it.  I am excited, we are singing a beautiful musical, "Hope is Born, Emanuel!"  We have a full orchestra, and our children's choir will be singing as well....and my little boy will be singing with them!  We've been been practicing since September, and it's going to be really nice. So that will be our busy weekend, the last weekend before Christmas!  I have some last minute baking that I want to get done tomorrow morning, along with wrapping presents, will I ever get it all done? 

Last night I cooked Sausage & Peppers for dinner.  I love Sausage & Peppers, mom use to make them when I was a little girl, not too often, but when she did, they were delicious!  This is such an easy dish, I usually make it in the summer when we have a crowd over.  I roast the pepper and onions in the oven, so much easier than on the stove top.  I don't put any sauce in my sausage & peppers, just a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  I cook the sausages separate from the peppers and onions, I don't like greasy pepper and onions!   Yes, I do try and cook healthy.

Make Sausage & Peppers for your next dinner, they are delicious and EASY!

Sausage & Peppers

About 10 Bulk Sweet or Hot Sausages
4 large Green Peppers 1 large Red Pepper chopped
4 large Onions chopped
2 TBS Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut up the green peppers, red pepper, and onions.  Put them in a greased dutch oven, or 9x13 casserole dish.  Pour the olive oil over them, salt and pepper, toss with your hands.  Put in a 350 oven for 45 minutes, until all cooked down and almost caramelized.

 Line a cookie sheet with foil, and put the sausages on it, put them int the oven alongside the peppers and onions.  Cook for 45 minutes until nice and brown and cooked through.  Take the Sausages off the cookie sheet, throw out the foil and grease, and put them in the pan with the peppers and onions, and cook for another 20 minutes.  Serve with hard rolls, or we like to eat them over pasta!  SO YUMMO!

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies.....Jam Thumbprints!

Are you all running around crazy getting ready for Christmas?  I sure hope you all are baking.  I feel Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without home-baked Christmas Cookies.  I love giving them away to my children's teachers, special friends, and setting up a a beautiful tray displaying them on my dining room table, all ready to enjoy! 

Here's another delicious Christmas Cookie that I make every Christmas without fail.  They are so easy, and everyone loves them.  YUMMO!

Jam Thumbprints

3 sticks butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Raspberry, Apricot or Strawberry Jam (whatever kind of Jam you wish)

Mix the flour, and salt together with a whisk.  In mixer (remember I use my Kitchen Aid Mixer to mix all my cookie recipes) cream the butter until smooth, add the sugar, add the vanilla.  Slowly add the flour and salt mixture and mix until the dough starts to come together. Take the dough out of the mixer and put it on a piece of plastic wrap, and then roll it together with your hands, wrap it up and chill in the frig for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough into little balls, and put them on a greased cookie sheet, and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger....hence "thumbprint".....Drop 1/4 tsp of Jam into each indentation.  Bake 20 minutes.  Remove and cool.  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Great Appetizer.....Layered Reuben Spread!

Christmas will be here before we know it.  It's been such a busy time around here.  All the festivities, all the baking, the entertaining, the Christmas parties, and the shopping!  But I do love it all.  I am happy to be home today, catching up on things here in the house, and I'm making a really great dinner tonight, Meatloaf 101, it's a great dish, easy, and my family loves it! 

I love appetizers, and I am always looking for new ones.  This Layered Reuben Spread is really delicious, and so very easy.  When I have a dinner party, I always have 1 or 2 appetizers, something not too heavy, so everyone isn't so stuffed, and still want to enjoy the dinner I prepared for them.  Try this recipe, so easy and delicious!

Layered Reuben Spread

1/3 cup Mayonnaise
1/3 cup Thousand Island dressing
1 can 8oz sauerkraut, well drained
1 bag 8oz shredded Swiss Cheese (2 cups)
1 pkg (6oz) thinly sliced corned beef, chopped
2 TBS sliced green onions (2 medium)

Heat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and dressing until well blended.

Using a greased 9 inch casserole dish, layer the sauerkraut, half the cheese, the corned beef and mayo mixture.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese and onions on top.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes and it's all bubbly around the edge.  You can serve this with crackers, but I like to serve this with that little pumpernickel bread!  YUMMO!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies......Christmas Biscotti!

I started baking Christmas Cookies on Sunday!  I love baking for Christmas, especially Christmas Cookies!  It was great on Sunday, because my family helped, and we had a really nice time baking in the kitchen.  We put the Christmas music on, and it went really fast.  I usually bake about seven different kinds of Christmas Cookies, I know, crazy right.... but I think this year will be a little less. Just too many around the house for me to eat! 

This Christmas Biscotti is a most delicious recipe, it's easy, and festive!  Biscotti is a cookie that is "baked twice", they are first baked as a large log, and let it cool for 30 minutes, then you slice them and toast them until they are lightly brown.  They become hard and perfect with a cup of coffee!  To top them off, I dip one end in melted chocolate, oh so delicious! Try this recipe, you will love them!

Christmas Biscotti

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. almond extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds

Cream the butter and sugar in the mixer.  In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to combine.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix real good.  Add the cranberries and almonds and mix.  Take the dough out of the mixer and put it on a floured board and with floured hands knead a little.  Grease a foiled cookie sheet, and bring the dough over and shape it on the cookie sheet into a long 13x3 inch log. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Right out of the oven from the first bake

Take out of the oven and cool for 30 minutes.  Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick slices.  Arrange them cut side down, on the baking sheet.  Bake until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Slicing the Biscotti for the second bake

Melting the Chocolate
1 bag 16 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate
2 TBS Crisco Shortening or oil
Dipping the Biscotti into the Melted Chocolate!

In a microwave safe bowl add the chocolate, crisco shortening or oil, microwave on high for 25 seconds, stir, microwave again for 20 seconds and stir again, do not let it burn!  Is the chocolate melted and smooth?  Or do you have to melt it more?  You want the chocolate melted and smooth, almost liquid looking, that's what the crisco or oil are for.  Dip one end of each cookie into the chocolate, and put onto a foiled line cookie sheet.  Let them dry completely.  You may have to put the trays in the frig for one hour or so to get the chocolate nice and hard.  ENJOY!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A GREAT Appetizer..........Pizza Biscuit Wreath!!

I love Appetizers!  They are easy, and perfect for parties!  I came across this Pizza Biscuit Wreath years ago, and it was a keeper! It's kind of like mini calzones, made with refrigerated biscuits.  It's delicious, and easy!  Make this for your next Christmas Party, you will WOW everyone!  YUMMO!

Pizza Biscuit Wreath

2 cans (12 oz each) Pillsbury Golden Layers Refrigerated Biscuits
60 small slices of that thin pepperoni
20 small chunks of Mozzarella cheese
1 egg beaten
2 TBS Parm cheese
Pizza Sauce or homemade if you like

Love these biscuits!
Heat oven to 375. Spray large cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Separate the 2 cans of dough into 20 biscuits.  Press each biscuit flat.

Place 3 pieces of pepperoni and 1 piece of cheese on top of each flattened biscuit.  Wrap the dough around the pepperoni and cheese, pinching the edges to seal and forms a ball.  Leaving a 4-inch hole in the center, arrange 8 balls seam side down and sides almost touching into a ring on a greased cookie sheet. Arrange remaining 12 balls sides almost touching around outer edge of first ring.  Brush with beaten eggs, sprinkle with parm cheese.  Bake 18 - 20 minutes until golden brown.

Carefully slide wreath onto a round serving platter and put a small bowl of Sauce in the center of the wreath. Serve warm.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Breakfast Casserole........GREAT for Christmas Morning!

Whew......what a weekend, yes it was fun, had friends over on Saturday for dinner, then Sunday we were in church all morning!  It was our Sunday School Christmas program, and the kids all did such a wonderful job!  I am loving this festive time.  We came home and didn't even get to rest, I went right into the mode of , Christmas Cookie Baking!  My whole family helped and it was really a wonderful time!  I will post some Christmas Cookie recipes tomorrow, I promise!

Today I am posting a really easy Breakfast Casserole recipe.  I'm sure many of you have already made a similar one, but it's so easy, and perfect for Christmas morning.  You put the whole thing together at night, and the next morning, all you have to do it pop it right in the oven!  In 40 minutes of so, it's all ready for you and your family to enjoy! 

Breakfast Casserole

12 eggs beatened
2 cups  milk (I use 2 %)
2 cups  shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. mustard (yes, it will be fine)
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
4 pieces bread cubed  (whatever you have, I have even used hamburger buns in a pinch!)
1 lb cooked bulk sausage (cook it in a frying pan before, and drain all the fat)

Mix the eggs with the milk, add the mustard, salt, pepper, cubed bread, cheese, and COOKED sausage.  Mix really good.  Pour into a greased (with cooking spray) 9x13 casserole dish.  Cover, put into the frig for overnight.  In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 and bake for 20 minutes covered with foil, and then 20 minutes uncovered.  SO YUMMO!!!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sloppy Joes! So comforting....and Roasted Sweet Potato Fries....YUMMO!

I feel like I've been running around crazy this past week.  I know Christmas is coming, but come on all this just for one day?  Well I do it all because my kids like all the traditions we started since they were babies.  This weekend I will start my Christmas baking.  I went to the store and got all the ingredients, and hopefully after a long morning at church, being involved with the Children's Christmas Program, and the Choir, I will want to come home and bake. I will start posting Christmas Cookie Recipes next week.

Sloppy Joes are an EASY and Quick meal for a busy weeknight.. Perfect for tonight's busy evenings.  Tonight is Becca's Christmas Concert at school, she's a sophomore in high school, and the choir is fantastic!!!  I am excited to see her perform, all the girls are dressed in black gowns and the boys are in wonderful and festive!  Back to the recipe, this recipe is The Pioneer Woman's recipe, and it's easy, and delicious.  Of course I made a few changes to my liking, but that's what "cooks" do!

Here's the recipe for homemade Sloppy Joes....Enjoy!

2-1/2 pounds Ground Beef
1/2 whole Large Onion, Diced
1 whole Large Green or Red Bell Pepper, Diced
2 Tsp. Garlic powder
1-1/2 cup Ketchup
1 cup Water
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
3 TBS Chili Powder (more To Taste)
1 TBS regular Brown Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (more To Taste)
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (optional)
Salt To Taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
Hamburger Rolls, I found really great Whole Wheat Hamburger good!

Spray a large skillet or dutch oven with some cooking spray, over medium high heat add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of the fat and discard, but do not pour it down your drain, it will stop the drain up!  I learned that from experience years ago!

Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, or until vegetables begin to get soft.
Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili powder, red pepper flakes, mustard, water, tomato paste. Simmer on low.  Taste it what does it need?  More salt, more chili powder,  and adjust seasonings as needed.   Cook for 1/2 hour on low heat with a lid not quite covering so it thickens. Serve on any roll of your choice, but those Whole Wheat Hamburger rolls were YUMMO!

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

3 large Sweet Potato's - or more if WANTED!!!!!
2 TBS canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut up the potato's into wedges, do not peel.  Line a cookies sheet with foil or parchment (for easy cleanup) and coat with cooking spray, add the sweet potatoes, oil, salt and pepper, toss with your hands.  Cook in a 400 oven for 1/2 hour until lightly brown and crispy.  Enjoy!

Posted by on April 11 2010

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mom's Christmas Cutout Cookies.......So YUMMO!!!!

We decorated the outside of our house for Christmas today, it was a long job, but so pretty!  My hubby really did most of the job, I was there to assist.  So now I can officially say the house is completely ready for Christmas. This weekend we have our first Christmas dinner with friends, and I am getting excited!

I love to bake cookies for Christmas.  I usually bake around seven different kinds. Well one year it was 14 different kinds, I know I was CRAZY!  I'm going to start the baking this Sunday after church, and everyone here will help me!  The kitchen will be a mess, there will be flour and sprinkles everywhere, but that's the way to bake cookies with kids, and I kind of wish it wouldn't get so messy, but it's an easy cleanup.  I make Christmas Cutout Cookies every year for Christmas.  This recipe is from my Mother-in-law, and it's the the best Cutout Cookie in the world.  At first the dough looks crumby when putting it together, but then you work it, and it really comes together very nice.  The dough has to be chilled, and when it comes out of the frig, it's really cold, but working it with your hands will make it easier. These cookies come out crispy, they are not a "soft sugar cookie", and they are very sweet so you wouldn't frost them with icing, that's a different kind of cutout cookie.  Try them you will LOVE them! 

Hint - I mix all my cookies with my Kitchen Aid Mixer, never by hand, so much easier, and faster! I remember the old days baking with my Mom, we would mix all the cookies by hand, my hand got tired from mixing some stiff doughs.... And I usually mix up about 3 different kinds of cookie doughs at a time, wrap them with plastic wrap, label, and put them in the frig until we are ready to use them, and it could be like 2 days later! 

Christmas Cutout Cookies

This recipe has been doubled, but I usually triple it for when I make them!
1 cup butter (Softened - NOT MELTED!)
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs and 1 TBS water mix in a bowl for eggwash

Cream butter, then add sugar, and mix until creamy.  Add eggs, and beat until fluffy, add vanilla.  In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix with a whisk to combine, and add slowly to the butter mixture and mix until all combined.  Take dough out of mixing bowl and shape in a disk and wrap in plastic wrap, label and chill in the frig for about 3 hours.

Take dough out of frig and working with a floured surface, take a piece off the disk and work it with your hands, it may be crumbly, keep working it, and make sure there is flour on your rolling pin and surface and roll out, not too thin, but not thick, and making sure the dough doesn't stick.  Then choose your cookie cutters, and start cutting out the cookies, re roll the dough and continue the process adding more dough to it.  Brush each cookie with egg wash and whatever kind of sprinkles you wish.

Rolling out the cookie dough

My hubby and Davey rolling out the cookie dough EASY!!!

Put the cookies on a greased cookie sheet, and bake in the oven at 350 for 12 -18 minutes.  I like to chill the cookies right on the cookie sheets before they go into the oven, the shapes hold better.  Make sure to rotate your cookie sheets, so they cook evenly, the bottom rack will brown the bottom of the cookies and top rack will brown the top of the cookie.

Take out of the oven when they are light brown and transfer to a rack.

Not the best picture, but ME BAKING COOKIES!!!

If you want to "paint" your cookies, you can add food coloring to the eggwash....just add a couple drops to 1 cracked egg and 1 tsp water, and color, I usually crack 4 eggs in 4 different bowls, and color each bowl with a different food color, this is great "food coloring paint" and fun for the kids too, and the cookies come out looking so pretty!  But you PAINT before you BAKE!!!  Then add sprinkles and BAKE!!!!  The cookies will come out of the oven with a "painted finish" so pretty!

Mix each egg with a different food color.....mix it up and start painting then BAKE!!!

Use your imagination! Happy Baking!!!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana........ NOT FRIED BUT BAKED!

Are you all getting ready for Christmas?  We sure are over here.  All the decorations are up, and so pretty.  I haven't started my Christmas baking yet, that will start this Sunday.  My son Davey's Christmas Concert was last night, and it was WONDERFUL!  He sang with such emotion, and expression on his face, I couldn't take my eyes off him!  It was a wonderful and festive Christmas Concert, and I will cherish the memories forever!

We are having friends over this weekend, and I plan on making Italian. One of the dishes will be my Eggplant Parmigiana!  I love Eggplant Parmigiana!  But it's a big job, and I don't like frying the Eggplant, the extra calories, and the SMELL of the oil!  So, I came up with this idea years ago to egg them,  bread them, and instead of frying them in oil, put the slices on cookie sheets, brush with Olive Oil, and bake on a high heat for about 15 - 20 minutes and baking on the bottom shelf of the oven is the key, and turning them over once.  What would you know, the Eggplant came out so delicious, and so crispy, that they didn't even make it to Parmigiana, we would eat them right out of the oven!   This recipe is so easy, and so delicious, try it, you will never fry Eggplant again!

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

2 large Eggplant - peeled and sliced thin into circles
Bread Crumbs starting off with 2 cups (you will need more)
Eggs start off with 4 (you may need more)
1/2 cup milk (you may need more)
Olive Oil starting off with 1 cup (you may need more)

To Make the Eggplant
1. Crack the eggs in a med size bowl and mix up, add the milk, and mix. 
2. Starting with 2 cups of bread crumbs put them on a large plate, or pie plate
3, Start dredging the Eggplant slices, first in the egg mixture, then in the bread crumbs.
4, Line 4 cookie sheets with foil and coat with cooking spray
5. Put the dredged eggplant slices on the cookie sheets, brush with Olive Oil.  You will have to do this process again until all the eggplant is used up, adding more eggs/milk and bread crumbs when needed.
6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or so, checking them, and turning them over once during the cooking process until crispy! I also rotate the cookie sheets, the cookie sheets on the bottom cook faster.... Don't let them BURN!!!  When they are done, transfer to a plate or rack to cool, and fill up with cooked Eggplant. 

All dredged and waiting to be baked!

All baked and Crispy!

Now if you have any Eggplant left after eating them right out of the oven, you can make the Parmigiana!

You will need:
2 - 3 cups Marinara Sauce - Homemade of course, or just use JAR!!!
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Using a 9x13 baking dish, coat with cooking spray, then add a little sauce on the bottom of the dish, add one layer of baked Eggplant then some Mozzarella cheese, then some sauce, and repeat process 2 more times or so, top with a little sauce you don't want this dish soupy, and the Parmesan Cheese.  Bake in a 350 oven for 20 minutes! YUMMO!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Best Cheesecake EVER....My Mom's New York Cheesecake

I'm linking this recipe up with Robyn's View. Go take a look-see!

We have a very busy weekend, traveled to Long Island, New York yesterday for my hubby's brother's 40th birthday party, it was fun, and always good seeing the family.  Then today was church, and our Sunday School is performing their Christmas Program next Sunday, so we were all rehearsing for that, it was busy, but exciting!  Then we go to Shepherding Group the first Sunday of every month with families from our church, and that was today, we had a wonderful time sharing good food, and fellowship. WHEW.... I am tired but our weekend was wonderful spending time with family and our friends. 

My mom makes the best Cheesecake, it's a New York Cheesecake it's so creamy, and so delicious, and just SCREAMS Christmas to me!   It's very easy to make, and she's been making it now as long as I can remember. Usually Cheesecakes call for like 5 pounds of cream cheese, this recipe calls for only 3, and it still makes a large cake.  Try this recipe, so many people are intimidated by cheesecakes, it's easy, and I have a special trick to prevent it from cracking!  YUMMO!

Mom's New York Cheesecake
3 - 8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
All these ingredients must be at room temperature, including the eggs! This is a must!  So take them out of the frig and let sit on your counter for 1 hour, before you start.
Mix the cream cheese until really creamy, then add the eggs one at a time, add the sour cream, and vanilla. Scrape the sides down a couple of times, and really beat for about 5 minutes, scraping the side down yet again, until really smooth and creamy.

For the Crust, combine1 & 1/2 cups graham crackers crumbs, 1 & 1/2 Tbs. sugar, and 1 stick butter already melted.

Mix all the crust ingredients together and put them into a greased 9 inch springform pan.(if you don't have a springform pan, you could also use a 9x13 baking dish)  Lined the outside of the springform pan with foil...pat the crust into the bottom, and up the sides a bit. Bake the crust for 10 minutes in a 350 oven. Cool.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the springform pan....put into a large baking pan (see below picture this is the TRICK for avoiding a crack in the middle) Bring about 3 cups or so of water to a boil, and gently pour the boiling water halfway up the sides of the cheesecake....into that baking dish, without getting any water into the unbaked cheesecake. This will help the cheesecake to cook evenly, and help it not to crack.

Put into a 350 oven for 45 minutes. Then shut off the oven, and let stand in the oven for another 45 minutes. Then take out of the oven and let stand at room temp for another hour. Meanwhile prepare the sour cream topping.

Sour Cream Topping -

1 & 2/3 cup sour cream,
 1/2 cup sugar,
1 tsp. vanilla.

Take the cake out of the pan of water and let sit at room temp, mix the sour cream, sugar and vanilla with a whisk, and pour on top of the cheese cake, and spread with a knife or offset spatula. Preheat oven to 350, and cook again for only 5 minutes. Take out and let sit again for 1 hour at room temp....and then refrigerate.