Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake... and my new mixer!

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Anne of AnneStrawberry. She selected this gorgeous and wonderful Tall and Creamy Cheesecake. You'll find the recipe on her blog.

So guess what Santa brought me!! A KitchenAid mixer! I love it!!! Can you tell by all of the exclamation points?!?!? I used it for the first time to make the cheesecake. Look how fabulous it looks, working so hard.

I'm officially retiring my old hand mixer. I didn't really know what to do with myself not having to do all the work to mix up this cheesecake recipe (which required a whole lot of mixing, by the way). At first I just stared in amazement at the contents of the bowl being mixed. And then I decided I better take advantage of my extra free time. Wanna know what you can get done while your KitchenAid mixer is doing all the work for you? Well, I found out...

1. empty the dishwasher
2. pull out all of the subsequent ingredients you need
3. eat a cookie
4. pull out the roasting pan from the deep dark pits of your cupboards
5. stare a little more in amazement at your beautiful mixer
6. wash the dishes you've already used
7. chase your child around the room
8. eat another cookie

It's quite a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Well, I know it's Wednesday and I'm a day late. But I decided to make the cheesecake for a New Year's Eve celebration. It is so creamy and delicious and just wonderful.

Despite my tin foil not really working well and a little water leakage onto my crust... and my top being a tad bit more browned than I'd like... it's wonderful. Quite close to perfect if it weren't for those two things. My husband's absolute favorite thing is plain cheesecake, so he forbid me to put fruit or chocolate or anything else into this. I'm kind of glad I didn't either, it's oh so heavenly.

And by the way, the Tuesdays with Dorie group is opening up to new members until New Year's Day. So if you've been contemplating joining, I urge you to do it. It's very fun and you'll make lots of new friends as well as make everyone swoon over your fancy treats. Let me know if you're interested in joining, I can give you all the info. Or, just go to the TWD site and check it out for yourself.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

French Toast Stuffed with Bananas and Walnuts

Well, I am trying very hard to recuperate from my holiday sugar high. Unfortunately I don't think it's really going to end until after New Year's, when I'm vowing to start back up my diet and do some exercising again. This holiday season seems to have been filled with more food than ever, and while it's really been enjoyable, it's just not good, if you know what I mean.

I've had this particular recipe for Stuffed French Toast bookmarked for quite a while in one of Paula Deen's cookbooks. In her The Lady and Sons, Too cookbook she has a chapter of recipes from some of her favorite Savannah restaurants, and this recipe for Banana and Walnut Stuffed French Toast piqued my interest from that chapter quite some time ago. So when planning out our Christmas morning menu, I remembered this and knew I had to make it. The result was great - this is very tasty and so easy. And I had all of the ingredients on hand, which means now I have no excuse not to make this over and over and over again... maybe New Year's Day breakfast?

French Toast Stuffed with Bananas and Walnuts
(adapted from Paula Deen)

6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
4 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup (1 oz.) coarsely chopped walnuts
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
8 slices egg bread
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1. In a large, shallow bowl, using a fork, beat the eggs until lightly frothy. Stir in the milk; set aside. Peel the bananas into a small bowl and mash them with a fork. Stir in the walnuts and the nutmeg. Spread the walnut mixture evenly over half the bread slices, leaving a 1/4-inch border uncovered on all edges. Top with the remaining bread slices and press down gently. Turn gently and let soak for a moment, until evenly saturated on both sides. Remove from the bowl and repeat with the remaining 2 sandwiches.

2. In a frying pan or on a griddle large enough to hold all the sandwiches at once, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sandwiches and fry until the undersides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip the sandwiches with a spatula and fry until the second side is browned, about 2 minutes longer. Serve hot, with jam or maple syrup.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownies

This recipe is for all of the peanut butter lovers out there (you know who you are). Just reading this recipe for Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownies made my mouth water. I loooove peanut butter and chocolate, so the ingredients sounded magical to me. Nutter butters, butterfingers, reeses peanut butter cups and chocolate chips... is there any better combination?

This recipe does not disappoint. You have to trust me - TRY THIS! I sent a plate of these to work with my husband for a potluck lunch. He comes home that night and tells me he conveniently "forgot" to put these on the potluck table. He instead kept them in his office and ate a bunch himself. And he, thankfully, brought the rest home. I did a little happy dance when I saw them again... it had been rather sad when he left the house with them that morning. Yep, that's my husband... helping me gain 10 pounds in the month of December.

The original recipe called for peanuts and coconut. I'm not a big fan of peanuts in my brownies and I just didn't think I wanted coconut in the peanut butter gooey goodness, so I omitted both ingredients. Feel free to throw them back in if that's your type of thing. I was also thinking next time I may try making the crust with Oreos instead of the Nutter Butters to see how they turn out being a little more chocolatey.

Peanut Butter Candy Bar Brownies
(adapted from

1 16-ounce package Nutter Butter cookies, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
7 & 1/2 ounces Reese's peanut butter cups (about 25 miniature cups), coarsely chopped
4 ounces Butterfinger candy bars (about 7 small candy bars), coarsely chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13″x 9″ pan with aluminum foil, allowing it to extend over edges of pan. Grease foil well.

2. Combine crushed cookies and butter in a medium bowl. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes.

3. Combine condensed milk, peanut butter, and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

4. Sprinkle chopped candy bars and chocolate morsels over prepared crust. Drizzle condensed milk mixture over toppings.

5. Bake for 25-27 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan on wire rack. Using foil, lift out of pan. Peel foil away, and cut into small bars (they're rich!).

Makes about 25 bars.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday's Super Tip: How to Store Fresh Herbs

I am constantly purchasing bundles of fresh herbs at the grocery store, only to use a tiny bit at a time. They usually end up going bad before I can use them up, which can be very frustrating since they're not cheap. One of these days I'll start growing my own herbs. But until then, I'm forced to use some tricks to increase their shelf life and allow me to get my money's worth.

Here are some ways I keep my herbs fresh so I have time to eat them up.

1. Wet a paper towel and wrap it around the stems of your herbs. Cover them loosely in a plastic bag to store.

2. Another option is to put them in tiny containers with water. A small glass or container with just a little water at the bottom is your best bet. Be sure to put a loose plastic bag over the tops and then store them either in your refrigerator's crisper or on the countertop.

3. If you won't be using your herbs within about a week and a half, pop them in the freezer! Take them out when you need them, allow them to thaw, and then use them just like you normally would. They'll last about a year in your freezer, but their potency deteriorates over time, so use more than you normally would if they've been frozen for a while.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pumpkin-Filled Cinnamon Rolls

A few weeks ago I compiled a kinda-sorta bucket list. Just a list of things I want to do or places I want to see over the next several years. It was kind of fun to do! One of the things on my list was to make homemade cinnamon rolls. I am a die-hard cinnamon roll fan and I just looove their ooey gooey goodness. So I've always wanted to make the perfect cinnamon roll.

Well, I think I may have done just that. And instead of the normal cinnamon-filled kind, I decided to mix in some pumpkin to make them even more flavorful and wonderful. It totally worked. These rock!

My all-time favorite kind of icing on a cinnamon roll is cream cheese flavored. So I frosted them with a great cream cheese icing recipe and it all came together perfectly.

Anyone who's ever made cinnamon rolls from scratch knows what a tedious process it is. If you want these for a weekend breakfast, you'll need to start the dough the day before. Just pop the dough in the fridge after it's done with its first rise, and pick up the directions where you left off the next morning. These are so perfect for a Sunday morning breakfast. Enjoy!

Pumpkin-Filled Cinnamon Rolls
(dough recipe adapted from Betty Crocker)

3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 packages regular or quick active dry yeast
1 cup very warm milk (120 to 130 degrees F)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 large egg

2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make dough: mix 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Add warm milk, 1/4 cup butter and the egg. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

2. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Place dough in large well-greased bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour 30 minutes or until double. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

3. Prepare filling: place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well blended.

4. Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Flatten dough with hands or rolling pin into 15x10-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. Spread with filling. Roll rectangle up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Stretch and shape until even. Cut roll into fifteen 1-inch slices with dental floss or a sharp serrated knife. Place slightly apart on a well-greased baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until double.

5. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Prepare cream cheese frosting: cream butter and cream cheese in a bowl. Mix in the vanilla and then the powdered sugar until well blended. Frost cinnamon rolls in the pan if eating them warm. Or, remove them to cooling racks and frost when cooled.

Makes 15 rolls.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TWD: Buttery Jam Cookies

Buttery jam cookies... I love you.

Typically these wouldn't be the kind of cookie that I'd gravitate to. I like my cookies loaded with "stuff" - things like chocolate chips, oatmeal, peanut butter, that kind of thing. This is a very simple cookie. But it's sooo soft and moist and just kind of melts in your mouth. Oooh, I liked these cookies.

I chose to use an orange marmalade in my cookies and it was a really great flavor. The only thing I was disappointed in was how tiny they turned out. Dorie instructs us to scoop out rounded teaspoonfuls, which is what I did. But these cookies did not spread AT ALL. So I had tiny little bite sized cookies, which just made it all that much harder to stop eating them. They were too easy to pop them right in my mouth.

I was fortunate enough to bake these up last week while at a baking party that a friend of mine hosted at her house. We whipped up several different kinds of cookies together and all swapped. Besides the buttery jam cookies, I came home with white chocolate cranberry cookies and peppermint cookies. What fun!

This week's selection was chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. You'll definitely want the recipe, so go find it on her blog!

I want to take a quick second to give a big shout out to my secret Santa (or... elfster? What are we calling this?). Jill at Jill's Blog sent me not only a cute Christmas card, but the most adorable kitchen towels and snowflake-shaped pot scrubber. I was beyond ecstatic when I opened it. The towels are already hanging on my stove. Thanks so much Jill! Here's a photo of my gifts, with the buttery jam cookies making an appearance again!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday's Super Tip: Sweetened Condensed Milk

Welcome to Sunday's Super Tip - where I give you a valuable kitchen tip! This week's tip is how to make sweetened condensed milk. It's happened to me before - I'm getting ready to bake, taking out my ingredients, when I realize - I don't have what I need and there's no time to get to the store! Grrrr!

Well, if you find yourself in a bind, here's how to whip up your own sweetened condensed milk!

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup powdered milk
2/3 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.

Leftovers can be stored in a tightly sealed container for up to one week.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ritz Cracker Ice Cream

Did you ever think to make ice cream with Ritz crackers? I could have never dreamed this up myself.

I saw this ice cream over at a fabulously creative blog called Ideas In Food. Check them out, you won't be sorry. You're guaranteed to find things there that will leave you scratching your head and wondering how people can just naturally be this creative. I wish I got that gene.

This ice cream is really rich and tastes like eating pie crust. This is serious sinfulness and total deliciousness, people. Hey, the diet starts in January, right?

Ritz Cracker Ice Cream
(adapted from Ideas In Food)

1 pint half and half
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups crumbled Ritz crackers
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Combine the sugar and the half and half and bring to a boil. Pour over the crumbled Ritz crackers and then stir in the sour cream.

2. Puree the mixture in a blender. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and then process in an ice cream maker according to your machine's instructions.

And now for some award business! Cathy over at Tortefeasor passed along this award to me. I was so honored because I absolutely love her blog and her hilarious commentary. Thanks, Cathy!

And I'd love to share this award with some of my favorite food bloggers out there.

1. First and foremost, my great friend Michelle. I've known her since high school and I love having a fellow foodie who I actually know! She's not only sweet and wonderful, but she's a great cook too. Check out her site, Sweet Sensations.

2. Another blog I frequent and love belongs to Teanna over at Spork or Foon. I love all of the crazy things she finds and shares, and she is such a riot. Thanks for keeping me laughing, Teanna!

3. The next site is one that I just recently started reading and really enjoy. Amy of The Delicious Cook does such a great job of bringing us really great classic recipes. Everything on her site looks delicious. Check out her sweet potato creme brulee. Yum!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

TWD: Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

Chosen perfectly for Christmas, this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was made by Ulrike of Küchenlatein. Find the recipe there!

As you can see, I chose to make Christmas-shaped cookies. I don't even wish to discuss the amount of time I spent making these. Chill the dough, roll out the dough, now too soft to hold any shape, so put the dough back in the fridge, take the dough back out, cut the shapes, pick up the scraps, chill the scraps, etc.

At least they came out pretty though! I found some of them to be too hard, so I started doing batches with thicker dough, and it was much better that way.

Half of them I sprinkled with some sugar - these were my favorite.

The other half I spread with colored icing - very fun and festive looking.

Up next week - more cookies!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Beer Cheese Bread

It's a rather well-known fact that I'm not a big fan of beer. You wouldn't guess it knowing some of the people I've hung out with over the years. And of course then there's my husband, who loves the stuff and even brews his own beer. That's right - I gave him beer mixes for our anniversary a few weeks ago. I'd love to support his hobby, but I just can't bring myself to like anything he's made. Shame on me.

So... beer cheese bread? Really?


I've developed a newfound fondness for beer. I've finally found a use for the beverage - pour it into a batch of bread and voila! Tasty!

I served this with hot bowls of chili. Moist, comforting, perfect.

Beer Cheese Bread
(from Cooking Light magazine)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
13.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
12 oz. bottle lager-style beer (I used Yuengling)
2 Tbsp. melted butter, divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in pepper and garlic, cook 1 minute.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Add onion mixture, cheese, and beer to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

4. Spoon batter into a 9x5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. butter over batter. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes. Drizzle remaining 1 Tbsp. butter over batter. Bake an additional 25 minutes or until deep golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Try some variations to this recipe: Use cheddar cheese, a hard cider, and add apple chunks for Apple-Cheddar Beer Bread. Or, substitute jalapenos for the onion, use Manchego cheese and a Mexican beer for Manchego-Jalapeno Beer Bread. So many possibilities! Happy baking!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lucky Peas

Well, as you can see I skipped out on Dorie this week. The selection was a cookie. I don't think I can handle any more sweets after Thanksgiving weekend, so I decided to sit out and wait patiently for next week.

Life is busy around the holidays - and stressful at times. I'm trying to keep on top of my posting. I haven't been lagging on cooking, fortunately I always seem to make time for that. I'm just a bit backed up on posting the yummy creations. So I'll try to be a good girl and keep up!

Here's a really tasty and unique recipe - Lucky Peas. I don't make black-eyed peas very often, but I think this recipe is going to become a regular in my house, so the pea-frequency may increase. This is super simple to make and the ingredients are easy to come by - two things I love!

The blend of the peas, ham, and the spices are just perfect. It may not sound like much, but it's really a great family friendly and inexpensive dish. My 13-month old son even enjoyed it and my hubby requested that I make it again. Serve it over a bed of rice and with cornbread on the side and it's perfect.

And for those who don't know, eating black-eyed peas on New Year's day is a tradition in the south. They're thought to symbolize wealth (which couldn't hurt). And because they swell when you cook them, it's another sign of prosperity. So there you have it - eat these now and then again on New Year's Day!

Lucky Peas

1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped cooked ham
1 garlic clove, minced
Two 15-oz. cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
14 oz. can chicken broth
1 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
Chopped tomato, sliced green onions and hot pepper sauce for toppings

1. Saute chopped onion in hot oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat for three minutes. Stir in ham and garlic, and saute three minutes. Stir in peas and next 4 ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Serve with desired toppings over rice.

Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

TWD: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

What a perfect selection for Thanksgiving week! This "twofer pie", as Dorie calls it, is a pumpkin pecan pie. It was chosen by Vibi of La Casserole Carrée. The recipe is on her site.

Despite the name, I decided not to wait until Thanksgiving to make this, and instead served it over the weekend when I had friends over for dinner - with a little vanilla ice cream, of course. It was a real hit and my husband is STILL raving about it. He was a little sad and whiny that he won't be getting any on Thanksgiving. Being the mean wife that I am, I have no desire to make this again no matter how much he wants it! I'm in charge of the apple pie this year at my family's Thanksgiving dinner and that will be enough work for me. There's no way two pies will get made between now and Thursday, so he's out of luck.

As far as my opinion of the pie goes, I'll just begin by saying that I've never been a fan of pumpkin pie. There's something about the consistency that really turns me off. So I was hopeful that this pie would be just enough pecan to balance it out and make me a fan. Well, it was pretty good, but that layer of pumpkin still just didn't do it for me. I had one piece and let my husband enjoy the rest of the leftovers. See, I'm not that mean of a wife.

So if you're a pumpkin pie fan, I think you're going to really like it. One thing I really did enjoy was Dorie's pie crust. I love it's flakiness and it's flavor, which is why I'm using the crust to make my apple pie on Thanksgiving. I'm getting very excited just thinking about it.

Hope everyone has a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pumpkin Apple Bread

This is by far one of my favorite things to eat at Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law Jen gave me the recipe a few years back and I'm hooked. I make it every Thanksgiving.

I've never been one who is fond of anything pumpkin. I always pass up pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread... just never seemed appetizing to me. BUT, then I tried this pumpkin apple bread and the apple and the streusel topping is just enough to make it all come together and turn me into a pumpkin fan. I still can't believe it. If you make one new thing this Thanksgiving, make this bread!

The recipe makes 2 loaves. You could cut it in half and just make one, but trust me, you'll be sorry! I always make one for Thanksgiving day, and put the other in the freezer to enjoy later. This is AWESOME bread, and you have to try it!

Pumpkin Apple Bread

1 Tbsp. flour
5 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. butter

3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
16 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 and 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped

1. Make the topping: In a bowl, blend all ingredients until it resembles coarse meal. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter 2 loaf pans.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, oil, sugar, and eggs. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture, stirring until combined. Fold in apples and divide into loaf pans.

3. Sprinkle each loaf with topping mixture and bake loaves in the center of oven for 55 - 65 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

4. Let the loaves cool for 45 minutes then remove from pan. The bread keeps well wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, chilled for one week and frozen for up to one month.

Makes 2 loaves.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sausage Stuffing

Just in time to start planning your Thanksgiving menu - here's a really great stuffing recipe. I don't know about everyone else, but the Thanksgiving dish that is most intimidating to me (besides the turkey) has always been the stuffing. I'm not sure why, but it just seems like it should be complicated. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's really nothing to be afraid of.

And little did I know that there are so many good variations to stuffing. Not every stuffing has to taste like Stovetop-from-the-box! This recipe in particular is sooo good. It combines really great flavor combinations - sausage, apples, onion, celery. It's really delicious.

And it's nothing to be intimidated by. You can cook it right up in a 9x13 pan and use a loaf of storebought bread - plain or sourdough. Find a nice loaf at your grocery store, cut it up into 1-inch cubes, and place them on a pan or two in the oven to crisp them up. The rest is a piece of cake, truly. So if you're looking for a delicious and unique stuffing recipe to add to your Thanksgiving menu, give this a try!

Sausage Stuffing
(adapted from Ina Garten)

16 cups 1-inch bread cubes, white or sourdough (1 and 1/2 pound loaf)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups medium-diced onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and large-diced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (or, use a combination of sweet and spicy sausage)
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Place the bread cubes in a single layer on one or two sheet pans and bake for 7 minutes. Remove the bread cubes to a very large bowl. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

3. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, apples, parsley, salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add to the bread cubes.

4. In the same saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a fork while cooking. Add to the bread cubes and vegetables.

5. Add the chicken stock and cranberries to the mixture, mix well, and pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TWD: Black and White Arborio Rice Pudding

This week's selection was not only something I had never made before, it was also something I had never ever tasted before. The idea of rice in my pudding has never seemed very appetizing to me. But Dorie gushed about it in her book and I know the woman has good taste, so who am I to question that?

The selection was made this week by Isabelle of Les gourmandises d’Isa. She is in Canada and her blog is written in French. Even though I can't read her recipes, her creations look delightful!

I could only find a ginormous bag of arborio rice at my supermarket, and since I only used 1/4 cup for the pudding, I now have to make ginormous amounts of risotto with what's left. But since I love risotto, it's not a bad dilemma to have.

The pudding was easy enough to make. When I asked my hubby what flavor he preferred - chocolate or vanilla - he said "definitely vanilla." And if you know me at all, you'll know I said "definitely chocolate." So, I made half and half. It all came together nicely. I fortunately read Dorie's comment on the TWD site to increase the cooking time to 55 minutes instead of 30. And after 55 minutes on the stovetop, it was pretty perfect.

So, I let it chill for the recommended 6 hours, put it into pretty little serving dishes, and we dove right in. I was a little worried that I wouldn't care for it. I'm not used to rice in desserts. But it was really pretty good. It tasted just like pudding... but with risotto rice in it! I tasted the vanilla and I by far preferred the chocolate. I'm not sure I'll ever make this again, but at least now I can say I've had rice pudding! Another successful week!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cheese Ravioli with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Okay, so I didn't go to the extent of making my own pasta. I'm not quite that good. Though I do want to try my hand at homemade pasta someday... in the future... when I have the proper materials to do so. So instead I made these ravioli with won ton wrappers and it was easier than I care to admit. The hardest part was finding won ton wrappers at the supermarket. I looked in 3 different stores without any success. I wandered up and down the aisles aimlessly and cluelessly. So then one day a thought occurred to me... and I went to my computer, got on Google and typed in "where to find won ton wrappers at the grocery store." Thank goodness for Google. They're in the produce section - so no one has to feel silly and go through what I went through.

Won ton wrappers can be a little tricky to deal with. For starters, they dry out really quickly so it becomes super important to keep them wrapped at all times. As you fill the wrappers, put them on a pan and either cover them with plastic wrap or with a wet towel. And in order to get them to close properly, brush the edges with a little water and fold them over and flatten them to get out all of the air bubbles. It's really easier than it sounds.

Very gently put them in the pot, in two batches, and let them boil. Then carefully remove them and place them on a wire rack to drain. Next, prepare the sauce which takes just a few minutes and is very light and tasty. The sauce has a little kick to it, but you can tone down the red pepper flakes if you don't care for any spice. Or, turn it up a notch and make it spicier! Whatever you care for.

This is a really delicious and light meal. If you ever thought you couldn't make your own ravioli, guess again. Trust me, it's really good!

Cheese Ravioli with Spicy Tomato Sauce
(adapted from Southern Living magazine)

1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
8 oz. package won ton wrappers
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Stir together first 3 ingredients and 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil in a small bowl.

2. Arrange 1 won ton wrapper on a clean, flat surface. (Cover remaining wrappers with plastic wrap or a damp towel to prevent drying out.) Lightly moisten edges of wrapper with water. Place about 1 and 1/2 tsp. cheese mixture in center of wrapper; fold 2 opposite corners together over cheese mixture, forming a triangle. Press edges together to seal, removing any air pockets. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Repeat procedure with remaining wrappers and cheese mixture.

3. Cook ravioli, in 2 batches, in boiling salted water to cover in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain well on a lightly greased wire rack. Divide cooked ravioli among 4 individual serving bowls.

4. Saute tomatoes in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes or just until soft. Add broth and white wine vinegar; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until tomatoes begin to wilt. Stir in dried crushed red pepper, salt, and remaining basil. Pour sauce over ravioli. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Corn Chowder

This is a great recipe for a cold day. I love love love corn so I think I could eat this corn chowder every day. It's rich and creamy and has really great flavor. Could that be from the bacon added in? Or maybe the cup of heavy cream? I'll have to start wearing more sweaters to hide the weight I'm surely gaining from dishes like this.

I got this recipe from my buddy Emeril. I tried to resist shouting BAM when I put things into the pot, but it was hard. I'm betting this soup is extra good when corn is in season. But since it's not right now, I used cans of sweet golden corn, or you can use frozen. Either will work fine.

Sprinkle on whatever toppings you're in the mood for. I used crumbled bacon, chopped onion and parsley and it looked so pretty. Don't miss out on this yummy dish!

Corn Chowder

4 oz. bacon, chopped
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
3/4 cup finely chopped red bell peppers
5 cups corn kernels
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 and 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled russet potatoes
1 Tbsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup heavy cream
Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat and cook the bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.

2. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the stockpot and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers and corn to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle the flour into the pot and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Pour the chicken stock into the pot and stir to combine. Use a whisk if necessary to break up any clumps. Add the potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes.

3. Season the chowder with the salt and cayenne and stir in the cream. Serve with the bacon and parsley as garnish.

Makes 3 quarts, 10 to 12 servings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

TWD: Kugelhopf

Kugel-huh? Another week where I have no clue how to pronounce the recipe I'm making! But I guess that's part of the fun of the process though.

The choice of Kugelhopf for this week was selected by Yolanda of The All-Purpose Girl. The recipe is posted on her site if you'd like to go get it.

Well, I now know that Kugelhopf is a French treat. It's considered to be part bread, part cake and is really quite unique and fun. It's traditionally baked in a kugelhopf pan, however I don't have the luxury of owning one. So I resorted to my handy bundt pan which worked well enough for me. I couldn't see myself buying the correct pan unless I knew I'd make this several more times.

The recipe was rather time consuming and a tad bit complicated. I felt like it had to rise soooo many times. First in a warm spot, then in the refrigerator, then the next day another 2 hours in a warm spot. Sheeeesh, this is the hardest I've worked for a TWD yet!

I was a little worried throughout the process because I don't own a stand mixer with a dough hook. I resorted to my little hand mixer for all of the mixing and I didn't feel as though it was really getting the job done. I mean, 5 straight minutes of mixing followed closely by another 10 straight minutes was hard on the arms. And without the dough hook, I was never sure I was getting it done right.

But it all seems to have come out correctly. I made a tiny version in a 5-inch springform pan for my hubby and I to share. And I made the one in the bundt pan for some friends with whom we had dinner plans over the weekend. It was really quite good. Our friends thought it tasted like a croissant and I do agree. Quite a unique taste and very scrumptious!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Coca Cola Cake

I was introduced to Coca Cola cake several months ago on our family trip to Charleston, SC. We went to Jestine's Kitchen, a tiny little restaurant that has classic southern food. We had a fabulous meal and decided to try a piece of the famous Coca Cola cake for dessert. After all, we'd heard that it was one of Oprah's favorites.

Well, as we ate I began to wonder how I had gone so many years without ever experiencing something so wonderful. It melts in your mouth and was just fabulous. The Coke flavor isn't overly powerful, and it instead tastes a little chocolatey. It's just really a unique flavor and oh so delicious.

So not long after we got home from Charleston I went on the hunt for a Coca Cola cake recipe and here it is. I made it a little while back for my Mom's birthday. I even successfully froze the leftovers. Upon defrosting, it was just as good as the day it was made. And be sure to serve it with ice cream - it's not complete without a scoop or two.

Coca Cola Cake

Ingredients for cake:
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup Coca-Cola
1 cup butter
1 and 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon cocoa
6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
1 pound box confectioner's sugar

1. Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside. In a large bowl combine flour and sugar. In a saucepan combine the cocoa, Coca-Cola, butter, and marshmallows; bring to a boil. Combine the boiled mixture with the flour and sugar mixture.

2. In a separate bowl mix eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla; add to the first mixture. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until cake tests done.

3. For frosting: in a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and Coca-Cola to a boil. Stir in the sugar and mix well. Spread over the cake while both cake and frosting are still warm.

Makes about 16 servings.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pizza Margherita

Who doesn't like pizza?

Pizza is so easy to make, it might make you rethink ordering delivery next time. I have a recipe for a basic pizza dough and a pizza margherita that both came from Cooking Light magazine. Though, if you know my husband, you know he wouldn't let me make a traditional pizza margherita. "Can you put on some sausage or pepperoni?" We compromised and I included ham, which doesn't have quite so powerful a taste as what he was suggesting. We ARE trying to eat healthy, after all.

You can make the pizza dough ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for a day or two. It's pretty easy to roll out and the nice thing about cooking for your family is no one cares if your pizza isn't perfectly round. We're not Papa Johns after all! And the rough edges give it some character.

One thing to note - the recipe suggests using a pizza stone. I don't have one, so I used a metal pizza pan and reduced the oven temp to 425 and cooked it for about 13 to 14 minutes with great results. Use whatever you have and take it out when you see the cheese and the crust starting to brown. Delicioso!

Basic Pizza Dough

1/2 tsp. dry yeast
6 to 7 Tbsp. warm water, divided
4.5 oz. all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1/2 tsp. salt
Cooking spray
1 Tbsp. cornmeal

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour and salt in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until blended. With processor on, slowly add yeast mixture through food chute. Add enough of remaining warm water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, until dough forms a ball; process 30 seconds. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead lightly 4 to 5 times. Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees F), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

3. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

4. Roll dough into a 10-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on an inverted baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Top and bake according to recipe.

Makes one 10-inch crust.

Pizza Margherita

1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 (10-inch) pizza crust
6 very thin slices tomato
3 oz. mozzarella, cut into small pieces
3 Tbsp. torn fresh basil or 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1. Position an oven rack in the lowest setting. Place a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack.

2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Preheat pizza stone 30 minutes before baking pizza.

3. Gently brush 1/2 tsp. oil over pizza dough. Pat tomato slices with a paper towel to prevent pizza from becoming soggy. Arrange cheese over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top with tomato slices. Slide dough onto a preheated pizza stone, using a spatula as a guide.

4. Bake at 500 degrees F for 9 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from pizza stone. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with basil, salt, and black pepper. Cut into 8 wedges.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Southwestern Chicken

My husband and I started dating while in college in upstate New York. The very first trip we took together was to Lake Placid, which wasn't far from our school. It was February and it was really cold. You know how when you're first dating and you try to be nice and agree to do something if that's what he wants? Well, we went skiing and I hated it. I'm totally not a skier and I've actually never been again since that trip about 8 years ago. Don't laugh, but I literally fell off the ski lift trying to get off of it. You'll never get me close to one of those things ever again. Not my thing. Point me to the fireplace and the hot chocolate and I'm happy. Here's a picture of me from that trip. Do I look like I'm having fun?

Well, thankfully the trip did get better after that experience. We spent a day in downtown Lake Placid, shopping and hitting up the restaurants. My then-boyfriend and now-husband knew how much I like to cook even back then and bought me a great cookbook with a collection of Adirondack recipes. This recipe for Southwestern Chicken is from that cookbook. The recipe comes from a great place in Lake Placid called the Interlaken Inn and Restaurant. It's one of the oldest inns in the Adirondacks and it's meals are elegant and served over candlelight.

This recipe is truly a gem. It's sophisticated and so perfect for a special occasion. The puff pastry makes it fun and different and is surprisingly easy to work with. It's just plain awesome and (thankfully) reminds me of the good parts of our trip.

Southwestern Chicken
(adapted from Famous Adirondacks Restaurants and Recipes)

2 chicken breasts
5 oz. jar marinated artichokes, drained
4 oz. can diced green chilies
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup sour cream
10 oz. package Pepperidge Farm puff shells (6 shells)

1. Bake puff shells according to the package directions.

2. Cook chicken and dice.

3. Puree artichokes, green chilies and sour cream in food processor. After chicken is cooled, combine it with the artichoke mixture.

4. Put mixture into a pan and heat through. Add cheese and stir well.

5. Spoon mixture into pastry shells and serve.

Makes 6 puff shells with chicken filling.

And now for some award business!

My good friend Michelle of Sweet Sensations presented me with a blog award. What an honor! These awards are given by our peers and are a great way to encourage all of us bloggers to keep up our hard work. It's great to know that people are getting enjoyment out of what we do.

I wanted to pass this along but it seems that all of the blogs that I frequent have already received it. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks highly of them.

Thanks Michelle!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TWD: Rugelach

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal. Click on over to her blog if you'd like the recipe to make these fun cookies.

If you're like me, you're reading the name of this cookie and thinking, huh? How do I prounounce this? And what in the world is it? Well, that's what I like about this group... I'm trying new things. I now know that rugelach is a rolled cookie made with a cream cheese based dough. It's typically filled with nuts, raisins and preserves.

I used one out of the three of those fillings. I tossed out the idea of nuts because I knew no one would eat them but me. I made them with raspberry jam - one batch with bittersweet and white chocolates, and the other with bittersweet chocolate and dried cranberries.

They were just a tad bit harder to make than I originally thought. I listened to Dorie's podcast about how to make them and she made it sound so simple. It didn't help that I started out the process by slicing my finger on the blade of the food processor. That hurt like the dickens! So I was a bit impaired as I was trying to roll out the dough and spread on the fillings and then roll up the little crescents. It eventually all got done, and they came out looking pretty good.

I brought them with me to visit some family and I think a few people tried them, but I took a whole lot home with me, so I'm not sure if they weren't liked, or people just weren't all that interested. I, however, do think they're yummy. My husband said, "they're okay." I probably won't make them again, but they sure look pretty and I'm glad I tried them. Now I have to finish the 10 or so cookies that are left all by myself. Darn.

And by the way, happy election day! Hope everyone is getting out and voting!