Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Tis the season to party

I just LOVE the holidays. Everyone is a lot more gentle and caring this time of the year. And I love to see the spirit of giving flourish. All in all, it's just one of those times of the year when everyone is just a little bit happier. It's even more fun to share that happiness and giving when gathered in a warm home among your friends or family or coworkers.

I've been to just about all kinds you can imagine and have hosted dozens. Some of my favorites are our Gingerbread party we loved having each year. An ornament exchange with our ladies from church. A cookie swap with friends. Secret Santa. Caroling and Cocoa. Formal business social events. There are so many fun nights we've had throughout past Decembers.

One of my other favorite party nights was when a very dear friend and I baked cookies and allowed our much younger children (then) to decorate them. We made a huge platter and sent them to the police department for all of the officers on duty that evening. The kids loved decorating and popping in a holiday movie made the whole evening shine like lights on the tree.
Parties are just a highlight of this season!! What about party food? What tops your list on the must haves for delectable delights?

Whether you like an elaborate spread or just a few heavy hor d'oeuvres, the friends and family that gather around is what really matters. To boost affordability and stretch your dollar, don't be afraid to ask each family to bring a favorite dish, appetizer, drink, or dessert. You can always assign each family something to bring....and you're sure to have something they'll want to eat.

Glass serving platters make a great way to showcase your food. Some really great simple designs can be found at your local dollar stores or department stores. One of my easy fixes to give food height is by making your own food stand. 1) simple glass plate 2) 1 glass candle holder 3) ceramic epoxy glue (found in the hardware department) Simply, glue the candle holder to the bottom of the plate and allow it to seal. what a great way to make a very inexpensive stand.

Here are a few of my favorite party must haves for any special event. What's great with entertaining is using your favorite classic food and just taking it up a notch. Like instead of a mozarella cheese sticks? How about some fried gorgonzola balls? Instead of a layered dip with tortillas, try a layered Greek dip with pita crisps.

Get the most out of your veggies and fruits. Not every party has to be unflattering to your figure. Be sure to include a fresh crudite and even skewered fruit makes a great presentation and is a delicious with this

Orange Yogurt Dip

1 package (4 oz) reduced-fat cream cheese
1 container (6 oz) Fat Free orange crème yogurt
2 Tbl. powdered sugar
1 Tbl. frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup fat free whipped topping

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add yogurt, powdered sugar, orange juice concentrate, vanilla. Beat on low with mixer for about a minute until smooth. Gently fold in whipped topping until blended. You can refrigerate this up to 24 hours and use with fresh fruit.

How about a hearty appetizer? Ever have leftover pie crust in the fridge? Sometimes I'll buy a box of 2 pie crusts and have one leftover and nothing to use it on. Try this out:

1 Tbl butter
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (Texas Pete or Tabasco)

Heat oven to 450°F. In small bowl, mix butter and hot pepper sauce. Remove crusts from pouch; place on work surface.
Cut crusts into 2-inch squares; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown.
Brush with butter mixture. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Top with a crab salad or a chunky chicken salad.
Try this Thai Chicken Salad:
2 1/2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
1/3 cup Thai peanut sauce
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

In large bowl, mix chicken, peanut sauce, mayonnaise, onions and bell pepper. Top each pastry square with chicken mixture. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until cold.

Here's another great way to serve veggies, the kick of gorgonzola makes these so delicious and balances out the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms:

Mistletoe Mushrooms
1 pound fresh whole mushrooms
1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts (filberts)
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
4 medium green onions, chopped (1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350°. Remove stems from mushroom caps; reserve caps. Finely chop enough stems to measure about 1/2 cup. Discard remaining stems.
Mix chopped mushroom stems and remaining ingredients in small bowl until well blended. Spoon into mushroom caps, mounding slightly. Place in ungreased jelly roll pan.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve warm.

What about another use for those pie crusts? Try them in a muffin tin! They make a perfectly portioned cup!! And they're even great in a mini-muffin tin.

Olive Chicken Bites
3 boxes refrigerated pie crusts, softened
2 cups cooked chicken chopped
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained
1/4 cup sour cream
4 medium green onions, finely chopped ( 1/4 cup)

Heat oven to 400º. Cut pie crusts into circles with 2 1/2- to 3-inch round cookie cutter or you can use a drinking glass. Place 1 pastry circle in each of muffin cups pressing slightly.
Mix remaining ingredients except onions. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of filling into each cup.
Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until pastry edges are golden brown. Sprinkle with onions.

Or how about a Layered Greek Dip? This is great with pita chips! You can either make your own or take a little help from the store.

Pita Chips
3 pita (pocket) breads (6 inch)
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 container (8 oz) chives and onion cream cheese spread
1 container (8 oz) hummus
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 medium Italian plum tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1 can (2 1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained
1 container (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions (4 medium)

Heat oven to 350°F. Carefully split each pita bread into 2 rounds. Cut each round into 6 wedges; place on ungreased cookie sheets. Spray wedges lightly with cooking spray; sprinkle with garlic powder.
Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Cool while making dip.
Meanwhile, in 10-inch plate or pie pan, spread cream cheese spread. Drop small spoonfuls of hummus evenly over cream cheese; spread evenly. Top with remaining ingredients in order listed.
Serve dip with pita chips.

Enjoy your holiday parties!! 'Tis the season!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Creamy Turkey Soup with Wild Rice

On one of my photographic escapades, this adorable backyard bricked herb garden caught my eye. I love how rustic it is. What's even better is this charming spot is nestled right in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the historic vicinity downtown. Across the street from this special patch of herbal bliss is this quaint little studio with a warm wood door and I especially love the windows panes and the sidewalk made of deep red brick and cobblestone. The brightly painted pots planted with viney green inspires me to dig my hands into the soil of the earth.

~The stone bench is so inviting;
It just makes me want to sit a spell~

A bowl of hot soup hits the spot on a cold night and fresh herbs compliment the wild rice so well in this creamy soup. I would love to put those herbs from that city garden to good use. Paired with crusty bread, this is a great weeknight dinner. It's quick and easy and can be made with things you probably already have on hand in the pantry.

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons canola or soybean oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups water
2 cups cut-up cooked turkey, chicken or ham
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 jar (4.5 oz) sliced mushrooms, drained
2 tablespoons instant chopped onion
(Add whatever herbs you love in your soup)
1 package (6 ounces) original-flavor long-grain and wild rice mix
2 cups fat-free milk
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Melt butter in 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in oil and flour with wire whisk until well blended. Stir in water, turkey, broth, mushrooms, onion, herbs, rice and rice seasoning packet.
Heat to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes or until rice is tender.
Stir in milk; heat just to boiling. Remove from heat. Sprinkle each serving with almonds.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Asian Chicken Stir Fry

I'm ready for a change of pace from the roast turkey. How about you? Not that it was bad. It was quite wonderful, but I have to quickly change back to the reality of work, school, and all the shopping I need to finish before Christmas comes to town.

Here's a refreshing change of pace for a quick weeknight supper. Chicken with a Teriyaki kick. Do not use store bought teriyaki sauce for this. Make sure to get the baste and glaze, which you can find in the Asian food aisle of the market.

1 pound cut-up chicken breast for stir-fry
1/2 cup teriyaki baste and glaze
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bag (16 ounces) frozen broccoli, carrots, water chestnuts and red peppers (or other combination)
Hot cooked rice, couscous, or noodles, if desired

Spray 12-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Add chicken; stir-fry 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center.
Stir in remaining ingredients except rice. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 6 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Serve with rice.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Next Day Turkey

So....As I had hoped, my turkey definitely delivered. Juicy. Delicious. And LOTS of it.

We had a phenomenal Thanksgiving Day. No stress, lots of yummy food and plenty of good old fashioned family time. I took the kids out for family portraits. Then we enjoyed ice skating together at the MacArthur Center outdoor skate rink. It was a lot of fun.....even if I did hang on to the wall for dear life. *Smile* It's probably best if I remain a photographer. Scott even showed his skills as did all of the kids.

After skating, we went home to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa with some leftovers and dessert, then watched a movie together in the family room. What a WONDERFUL day!!

Now, what am I going to do with all of that Leftover Turkey?? Well, luckily I had planned ahead. Here is a recipe that is perfect for those next day turkey feasts.

Turkey Tetrazzini
1 (16 ounce) package uncooked spaghetti
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 2/3 cups grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups chopped cooked turkey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a medium baking dish.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, and place in the prepared baking dish.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour. Mix in chicken broth and milk. Cook and stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir in about 1 1/3 cups Parmesan cheese, and remove from heat.
Mix chicken broth mixture and turkey with spaghetti. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, until surface is lightly browned.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Apricot Cranberry sauce with Ginger

Once upon a Thanksgiving, I recall a loaf of reddish stuff, some say it was cranberry sauce, but I'm not so sure. It came from a can. And it was sliced precisely on the lines imprinted from said can. Yummy? Not exactly. I couldn't bring myself to eat that high fructose jelly loaf. Other than stringing them together for a Christmas tree garland or using them to decorate with...like filling a pretty dish and nestling a candle inside, I wasn't so gaga over these little red treats......that is........until now!

I never realized the essential characteristics these berries possess. Although they contain their fair share of pucker power due to their tart taste, they have incredible nutrients and antioxidant quality.

Here's one sauce you definitely won't want to miss out on. It reminds me of Cherry Pie Filling...so sweet and delicious. This fabulous Apricot Cranberry Sauce can be stored for about 2 weeks and it's so easy....done in 20 minutes.
1 bag of fresh cranberries (about 3/4 of a pound)
1 can (15 oz) of apricot halves
3/4 cup of sugar or sugar substitute
2 tsp minced fresh ginger

Drain apricots (save the syrup). Add enough water to the syrup to make 1 cup. Chop apricots and set aside.Place syrup, cranberries, sugar and ginger in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer (uncovered) for 15 minutes until most of the cranberries have burst.

Remove from heat; stir in chopped apricots. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then refrigerate in a covered dish.

'Tis the day before Thanksgiving

I'm surrounded by the warmth of our home as I look out the windows of the sunroom to view the vibrant fall leaves billowing through the air before they reach the ground. The glow of the afternoon autumn sun makes deep shadows against the trees. Beautiful snowflake lights surrounded by a glittery green wreath top each lightpost along the streets in the neighborhood. It's picturesque and I'm so thankful to live here. We may not have the best of everything, but we certainly make the most of the time we spend together.
Our year has certainly had its ups and downs...but through adversity comes strength and we have come to appreciate all of the trials we've endured this year because we've been shaped by each event. We have also had many incredible opportunities for growth and success and I've found that being flexible along the way and opening my heart and mind to new possibilities has allowed me to enjoy things that maybe I wouldn't have otherwise.
I'm so thankful we have overcome our obstacles and that our triumphs far outweigh all of the difficulties.

I always look forward to preparing and sharing a Thanksgiving feast with our family. This year is no different. We'll have all 5 children here, enjoy the Macy's parade curled up together in the family room with a yummy breakfast of pumpkin butter and biscuits or maybe some luscious Apple Cinnamon Rolls. We have our special dinner and enjoy ice-skating at our outdoor rink downtown in our beautiful city.

I pray your holiday is surrounded by family and friends and you allow yourself time to reflect on all of the events that brought you to where you are today. May you make the changes in yourself that you wish to see, and may you enjoy what the Lord has blessed you with.

~With love and hugs and happiness from our family to yours~

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Incredible Apple Rolls

You haven't lived until you've eaten one of these Incredible Apple Rolls!! A flaky crust, a sweet cinnamon syrup, and sweet soft apples make these irresistible. These have an easy method and are actually not difficult to make.

I added about 20 minutes to my prep time, because I let my 7 year old help in the kitchen. She was more concerned with wiping flour on her apron. When I asked, "What are you doing??" She simply replied, "It will make it look like I've been baking." What fun to make memories with my baby girl.

These Honeycrisp Apples are HUGE. It only took one of these to make perfectly diced pieces. They are perfect for baking, very sweet and a nice even texture. If you don't have these Steroid Apples, I would highly recommend them, you can use about 2 smaller apples.

For the syrup:
In a saucepan, mix together 1 3/4 cups of white sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Add 2 Tbl butter. Allow the butter to melt, then remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp baking powder, and 3/4 tsp salt. Then cut in 1 stick of cold butter, with a pastry blender, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 egg and 1/2 cup of milk. Add to the flour mixture and blend just until the dough is evenly moistened. (It's okay for it to be dry.)
Dump the dough onto a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Now take one side of the parchment paper and fold it over, then press dough flat. Unfold the paper, turn it and do it again rotating the dough. This is what creates the layers of the pastry and makes it light and flaky.

Fold and press the dough a few times to help the dough stick together. Then lightly flour your rolling pin and roll the dough out to a 9x12 inch rectangle.

Now it's time to shred your apples. I just did a nice thin rough chop with a knife.
Evenly spread apple shreds on pastry dough, leaving about 1 inch space on the long end of one side to seal the seam. Carefully roll the dough up and cut with Dental floss, unflavored kind, like you do with cinnamon rolls. You can always cut them with a knife. Gently place in a 9x13 baking dish. This will make a dozen rolls.

Pour the syrup on and around the rolls. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm.

This is your heavenly outcome!! Amazing!!! Share some of these with your office during the holidays. A hot cup of Joe and one of these are a GREAT breakfast.

Apple Rolls on FoodistaApple Rolls

Proud Soccer Mom

Yes, I am a soccer mom, but without the mini-van. I've managed my 9 year old daughter's soccer team for the last year and I absolutely love it. Among all the day to day things I'm involved in (and there are a LOT, lemmetellya) the "Hurricanes" team is the most rewarding and fun thing I get to do. I've met lots of wonderful people through our local soccer league.; many I am proud to say, have become true friends.

There's nothing like the chill of the air on a Saturday morning, squealing children clad in cleats and shin guards, and parents with their foldable arm chairs sitting on the sideline cheering on their child's team.

What does a team mom do exactly? Well, I'm responsible for organizing snacks and drinks, making sure the parents know when the game is and what field it's on. I don't really stop there, though. This fall I organized an outing to watch an Old Dominion University Women's soccer match, organize the tournament event making sure our girls had Hurricane tattoos through a special order of course. And most importantly, organizing an end of season party. That's just to name a few. :)

The trunk of my car is full of soccer gear at any given moment. I always have extra socks, there could be a rogue ball that someone left at practice, a penny leftover from scrimmaging, or maybe someone's water bottle. And I never leave the field until every child has been picked up.

I'm a simple volunteer, but I love every minute of being involved and spending so much time with my daughter. Not only is our coach the best in the league, but the parents on our team are so special and are willing to help in an instant, which makes my job super easy. The girls on our team are fantastic players and really get along with each other, which is what makes our team amazing.

We ended our season at a local pizza parlor. The pizza was great, the social time was wonderful and one of our mom's made an incredible soccer ball cake. (shame on me for forgetting the camera) Each girl was presented with their soccer medals, certificates, and team photos.

Of course the coach's gift is an integral part of the closing of a season and our coach deserves so much because of her hard work and dedication. I presented her with a gift from the team and the team presented me with something so special and dear to my heart.

I was presented with a wonderful gift to Williams-Sonoma, which is one of my favorite places and I have a lot of fantastic kitchen pieces. But the best part: (If you know me, you know how much I love Handwritten Recipe Cards), but each parent/child on the team gave me these special recipe cards with one of their favorite dishes. I couldn't be more thrilled!! What a GREAT team to be a part of.

Thank you to the Hurricanes and Congratulations on an amazing soccer season!!

Here are my 2 little sweeties with their awards!!

Thanksgiving Menu

With my grocery list in hand, I headed to the market to do my Thanksgiving shopping. I've always done my Thanksgiving shopping in one special trip. Don't ask me why, somehow in my head it keeps me organized. I prepared my list ahead of time and even planned for a few suppers to make with what I hope will be the leftover turkey. I ended up with a 21 pound bird. That's a lot of poultry. Just sayin'.

There was a stocker whose job was to precisely stack the sweet potatoes for display in the center of the produce department. He was very good at his job and I could tell he took it very seriously. And I'm sure he will stay employed because at 28 cents per pound, he'll be stocking those yams all day.

There was an abundant selection of nuts in a bin. The baking aisle was amply supplied with the goods for pies and cakes and desserts. The cashiers were all wearing smiling faces and in a good mood. I'm not sure if that was because I arrived early, before the rush hour or because they're all feeling the happy effects of the upcoming holiday season...kind of like when the tryptophan kicks in after you eat a roasted turkey.

I was able to make it out of the store in less than an hour and didn't break the bank to feed the family this holiday.

Here's what we're having. What are you making??

Friday, November 19, 2010

Basilicata Rosalita

Although it could be the name of a Cabbage Patch Doll, Basilicata Rosalita is Italian for Chicken Rosalita, even with a big name, this is a super easy supper that takes very little effort, but the result is a rustic chicken dish with BIG flavor.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp parsley
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 can (14.5 oz) Italian-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
Shredded Parmesan cheese

In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken and garlic in oil 4 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until chicken is brown, season with salt and pepper, oregano, and parsley.
Stir in broth and pasta. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender and most of liquid is absorbed.
Stir in tomatoes and . Cook uncovered 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes with spoon.
Serve with cheese.
*Chicken is very easy to slice when it's still partially frozen.

Veggie & Cheese Stuffed Pasta

I could eat pasta almost any night of the week. If my family weren't such traditionalists, I would make it for Thanksgiving; we'd have a lasagna. Maybe I was Italian in my former life. Who knows.

I was in the mood for pasta, so I bought some jumbo pasta shells and stuffed them with veggies and cheese. The great thing about this is it's so versatile. You can use just about any kind of veggie you like.

Here's my version of Veggie & Cheese Stuffed Pasta.

Boil 1 box of Jumbo Pasta Shells, just until soft. Do not cook through complete, these will bake and you don't want to overcook the pasta.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a baking dish, spread 1/4 cup of pasta sauce (use your favorite jar/can/homemade sauce)

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together 1 (15 oz) container of Ricotta Cheese, 1 egg, 2 Tbl. minced garlic, 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 1 box of frozen creamed
spinachOnce your mixture is creamy and well mixed, pour into a ziploc bag. Snip the corner with a pair of kitchen scissors and you have the perfect way to fill your shells with the cheese and spinach mixture. Lay evenly in the baking dish, top with the remaining sauce and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25 minutes.

Your veggie and cheese stuffed shells will be creamy and delicious!! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gingerbread Pancakes

Remember making gingerbread houses when you were a kid? When my girls were really young we'd host a gingerbread party every year. Everyone who came would bring a different type of candy. We'd usually have a chili supper, followed by the decorating and eating of lots of gingerbread cookies and candy. Albeit, our cookie houses were easier made with graham crackers, but there's nothing quite like time with friends and family.

Why not take a seasonal classic and turn it into breakfast? These gingerbread pancakes have cocoa, ginger, cinnamon and cloves and are a delicious alternative to an everyday pancake breakfast.

3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons baking powder
3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons ground hazelnuts
3 cups milk
6 egg whites
6 tablespoons dark molasses
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon and cloves; stir in hazelnuts. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together milk, egg whites and molasses.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients into it. Stir just enough to moisten; batter will be lumpy.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

*A great trick to having perfect pancakes: use a meat baster to "squeeze" pancake batter onto your hot griddle or pan. Perfect shaped pancakes every time.
*Another great way to make a fun pancake, use a mustard/ketchup squeeze bottle and fill with pancake mix. You can write your child's name, make shapes, etc. Breakfast is FUN!!!

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Praline

There's a great BBQ restaurant in Savannah that makes the best baked sweet potatoes. They're simplistic and delicious and when served with their cinnamon butter, they are absolutely amazing.

For Thanksgiving this year, I'm making twice baked sweet potatoes with a coconut praline topping. I can't wait because I absolutely love sweet potatoes.

What's great about this dish is that you can split the yams in half and it's a perfect serving. One easy way to make these is in the crock pot. It just takes a little planning and a few minutes of prep work.

*You'll need about 4 sweet potatoes for 8 servings.
*Wash and pierce all potatoes with a fork. Wrap each whole potato in foil. Place in your slow cooker and cook for 6-7 hours on low.
*Once your potatoes are done cooking, remove from slow cooker and allow to cool slightly.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Do not remove the foil.
*Scoop all of the inside of the potato into a large mixing bowl. Try to keep the skin intact.

To your potatoes, add,
1/2 cup packed brown sugar or equivalent brown sugar substitute
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/4 cup coconut
1/4 cup broken pecans, toasted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together until light and fluffy.
On a baking sheet, fill your potato skins generously with the sweet potato mixture. You can make it nice and decorative by using a piping bag and tip. But a spoon will work just fine, too!

In a small bowl, mix together:
cup coconut

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup melted butter

Top your potatoes with this crumbly mixture. Then bake in the oven for 15 minutes. These potatoes are absolutely delicious and a great alternative to traditional candied yams.

NOTE: You can bake these in the oven in about an hour with the same prep work.

Autumn in Virginia

Welcome to Virginia. This is my neighborhood. I truly love where I live. It's a spectacular city.

I love these beautiful colors of Autumn. The fiery orange, vibrant red, bright gold and brown.

~The leaves are truly gorgeous this time of the year~

Even though I only have a 7 minute drive from the office to home, I took a little detour to capture some of my favorite spots in the neighborhood.
~This photo is near the St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Downtown Norfolk~~Botetourt Gardens, Fred Huette Center Horticulture Society~
~I love this beautiful little spot across the Hague~

~Historic Row Houses line the streets of Colonial Avenue~

~Did I mention I just love my neighborhood?~

Shake your Tail Feather

How cute are these fruity turkeys?? What a fun idea for a kids table at Thanksgiving!! I was looking through Disney's Family Fun website and came across this adorable edible idea. I just had to share. They had many cute ideas for making delicious and fun Thanksgiving recipes, they really wanna make you shake a tail feather!!
A yummy dip in a festive bowl would really be great with this!!

Here's how you make it per the instructions on their website:

Bosc pear (head)
Melon (body)
Cheese (beak and tail feathers)
Red pepper (snood, feet and side feathers)
Raisins (eyes)
Grapes (tail feathers)
Bamboo skewers

Stabilize the melon body by cutting a shallow slice off the rind to form a flat base. Using a section of bamboo skewer, attach a Bosc pear head to the melon, as shown.
Cut a cheese triangle beak and red pepper snood. Attach both, along with raisin eyes, to the head with sections of toothpick.
Cut red pepper feet and set them in place. For tail feathers, skewer cheese cubes and red grapes, then insert the skewers as shown. Pin pepper side feathers in place with toothpicks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Slow Cooked Pepper Steak

Have a meat eater in the family??
This is a savory tender sirloin recipe with some rustic veggies and a delicious tomato based sauce that simmers right along with the steak. It only takes a few minutes of prep time, then pop it in the slow cooker and come home to a hot dinner. This is great over rice or noodles. Serve with a salad and dinner is ready in minutes!

2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 2 inch strips
1 Tbl. minced garlic
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 beef bouillon cube
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 large green bell peppers, roughly chopped
1 sm. can sliced mushrooms
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned beef strips and garlic. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Mix bouillon cube with hot water until dissolved, then mix in cornstarch until dissolved. Pour into the slow cooker with meat. Stir in onion, green peppers, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.
Cover, and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low for 6 to 8 hours.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Honey Apricot Ham Glaze

Living only 30 miles from Smithfield, VA you can imagine that ham is fairly abundant in our part of America. Although our family isn't partial to eating pork we do enjoy the occasional ham, but it centers mostly around the holidays.

I've made Ham with many different types of glazes, some without any glaze at all. Complimentary flavors such as pineapple and brown sugar, citrus and herb, cranberry and red wine, or even the bold flavor of barbecue sauce can change ham to make it a very savory or sweet main course. You can use different combinations of fruit to achieve a soft sweet flavor.

Here's a great Honey Apricot Ham Glaze that is sure to please....the apricot and honey melt together and balance out the warm spice of the cloves.

1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup honey

1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thick and bubbly.
Spoon ham glaze over ham and baste during last 30 minutes of baking.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Layered Enchilada Baker

Nothing quite warms the soul like a hot home cooked dinner on a cool crisp fall night. I love the spicy kick the green chilis add to this Enchilada Bake. It's not over the top, but just right. You can always adjust the spiciness by altering the mild, medium or hot variety of salsa.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken breast meat
1 can (7 oz.) diced green chilis
1 package (1.25 oz.) taco seasoning mix
8 corn tortillas
1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, drained
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese,
1 jar (16 oz.) salsa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Heat oil in large skillet. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in chicken, chilis and seasoning mix. Layer half of tortillas in prepared baking dish. Top with chicken mixture, beans and 1 cup of cheese. Layer with remaining tortillas. Top with salsa and remaining cheese.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eugene, you genius!!!

This recipe originated in Connecticut somewhere. At least, that's how I remember it. The first time I had this dish was when my ex-mother-in-law made it for a Sunday dinner after church, over 10 years ago. It quickly became a favorite and I still make it for my new family because, we still love it.

It's so easy that you can't really mess it up. I'm sure it's been adapted, but here's my version...

8 oz sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup
4-6 chicken breasts or thighs, your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a baking dish place chicken. In a small bowl, mix together sour cream and mushroom soup. Pour over the chicken. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve over white or brown rice.

*The sauce will be thin.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spicy Maple BBQ Chicken

Fall flavors have clearly made an impact on me this year. Can you imagine anything better than maple and apple cider together in a thick rich sauce? I've had this hankerin' (yes, it's a word where I come from) for BBQ chicken. There's a low of 37 degrees tonight so I don't think we'll be grilling. But a juicy baked chicken would be delightful.

When you have some free time, make some of this sauce. It's got a fantastic baked in flavor when made in the oven.

1 1/4 C. ketchup
3/4 C. apple cider vinegar
2 white onions, minced
2 1/2 C. chicken broth
1/2 C. real maple syrup
2 tbsp. margarine
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a medium, non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced.
You can store this sauce in the fridge for a few weeks in an airtight container.
For the chicken, just coat your chicken in this sauce and bake on 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins

Here's an easy breakfast muffin for you that is absolutely delicious!! They remind me of popovers and would be perfect to take on a Sunday morning to share with your Sunday school class. They'll love you for it!!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins

1 1/2 c. white flour
1 c. oatmeal (do not use quick or instant)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. butter
1 c. milk
1 egg
2/3 c. coconut
1 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Butter muffin cups. In a bowl combine all dry ingredients including coconut. In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat, stir in milk and egg. Stir butter mixture into dry ingredients, and then add chocolate chips.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes let stand 5 minutes before removing from tin. Makes 12 muffins.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fresh Homemade Pumpkin Butter

Can you imagine anything more delicious than slathering fresh from the oven biscuits in a rich homemade pumpkin butter? Me either. And holy smokes, this recipe is a winner. I couldn't resist, I just had to make a batch. After doing some research on home-canning, I found a lot of information against canning pumpkin (all of it listed below). I love my family too much to infect them with botulism. So instead, I decided to make a small batch that can be refrigerated and I knew I'd want to share it too.

Here's a quick stovetop recipe.

1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently.

Transfer to sterile containers and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

Here's a slow cooked pumpkin butter recipe:

2 cups of cooked, pureed fresh pumpkin (or you can use a 15oz can of pumpkin if you don't want to use fresh)

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Spray your slowcooker with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in crock-pot and stir to mix well. Cook on High for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. It will thicken as it cooks. Do not let it burn or stick. Transfer to a container and keep in the refrigerator.

This would be a fabulous hostess gift or maybe a gift for a neighbor. I plan to make a batch of homemade biscuits for the office with a jar of this as a breakfast treat.

“Home canning is not recommended for pumpkin butter or any mashed or pureed pumpkin or winter squash, but we do have directions for canning cubed pumpkin. Pumpkin puree can be frozen or made into a spicy pumpkin leather…
There are not sufficient data available to allow establishing safe processing times for any of these types of products. It is true that previous USDA recommendations had directions for canning mashed winter squash, but USDA withdrew those recommendations…
Some of the factors that are critical to the safety of canned pumpkin products are the viscosity (thickness), the acidity and the water activity. Studies conducted at the University of Minnesota in the 1970's indicated that there was too much variation in viscosity among different batches of prepared pumpkin purees to permit calculation of a single processing recommendation that would cover the potential variation among products (Zottola et. al, 1978). Pumpkin and winter squash are also low-acid foods (pH > 4.6) capable of supporting the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria which can cause the very serious illness, botulism, under the right storage conditions. If the bacteria are present and survive processing, and the product has a high enough water activity, they can thrive and produce toxin in the product.
More recent research with pumpkin butter has been done at the University of Missouri. Pumpkin butter is mashed or pureed pumpkin that has had large quantities of sugar added to it, but not always enough to inhibit pathogens. Sometimes an ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice is added to the formulation to increase the acidity (decrease the pH). However, pumpkin butters produced by home canners and small commercial processors in Missouri have had pH values as high as 5.4. In fact, the pH values seemed to be extremely variable between batches made by the same formulation (Holt, 1995). It is not possible at this point to evaluate a recipe for pumpkin or mashed squash for canning potential by looking at it. At this point, research seems to indicate variability of the products is great, and in several ways that raise safety concerns. It is best to freeze pumpkin butters or mashed squash.”
Obviously, pumpkin pie filling is essentially “pureed pumpkin” and similar to pumpkin butter. This means that neither the cooked pumpkin puree nor the pumpkin pie filling (puree plus sugar and spices) would be candidates for safe home canning.
The University of Illinois Extension also says: “Canning pumpkin butter not a good idea, but try pieces or freezing. “


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Do you say Peecan? or Pecaun? Well, either way, pecan pie is a classic. You'll be hard pressed not to find one of these at a church potluck. And my favorite recipe is my Grandma Mildred's Pecan Pie.

At this time of the year, I tend to bake more than any other season. I don't know if it's the part of me that loves to share baked goods or just because it's a tradition to bake during the fall and winter months. It certainly does keep the house warm and cozy.

I was tidying some paperwork today and came across one of my recipes for Chocolate Pecan Pie. It gives a nice twist on a traditional favorite, but takes the flavor just another step.

I thought I'd share with you!! Enjoy!!

1 piecrust for a 9" pie
2 eggs
1/2 cup AP flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips
Pecan halves for presentation.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Using your favorite pie crust (homemade or storebought), fit into a 9" pie plate. Crimp Edges. Evenly layer 1 cup of chocolate chips in the bottom of the crust.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, then slowly add flour and then sugar. Beat on low for a minute and a half. Stir in butter and vanilla until completely combined. Fold in chopped pecans. Pour into the pie crust on top of the chocolate chips. Layer the pecan halves in a pattern on the top of the pie filling.

Bake for 55 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove and cool.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hashbrown Casserole

Once, we lived in a small town in the southern part of Georgia. One of the only good things about living there was this recipe for Hashbrown Casserole.

1 32 oz. bag of frozen diced hashbrowns (thawed)
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz. sour cream
1/2 small chopped onion (optional)
1 stick of melted butter
2 cups shredded cheese (I like colby jack in this particular dish, but just use your favorite)

4 cups crushed corn flakes (I love the crunchy topping, but you can use 2 cups if you're not a crunchy kind of cook)
1 stick melted butter

In a large bowl, pour melted butter over hashbrowns and toss together, then add the soup, sour cream, onion, and cheese and mix well, but do not allow the hashbrowns to mash together.
In a small bowl, mix together the corn flakes and melted butter.
Pour hashbrown mixture evenly into a baking dish and top with the corn flake mixture.
Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

*Original Special K cereal is a great substitute for corn flakes.

*I realize my photo does not have the corn flakes, I just used a layer of cheese, which is another great way to top this dish. We happened to be out of corn flakes. So sad.
*I recommend a 13x9 baking dish. Here I used a 9" deep round glass dish and increased the baking time to 50 minutes to make sure it was baked through.