Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top 10 of 2012

#10 Chicken-Apple Salad with   Candied Pecans

#9 Muffuletta Sandwich

#8 Texas Sheet Cake

#7 Ambrosia Fruit Salad

#6 Layered Banana Pudding Dessert

#5 Slow Cooked Tuna (or Chicken) Noodle Casserole

#4 Tortilla Soup with Black Beans & Chicken

#3 Apple Fritters

#2 Poppyseed Garden Pasta Salad

#1 Cheesy Grilled Potatoes

THANK YOU for a fantastic year! I'm looking forward to 2013 and I hope you are, too!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Countdown: Truffles!

A few weeks ago, Mary Burney (one of my Facebook followers) challenged me to try the Peppermint Oreo Truffles. You may have seen them on Pinterest - they are quite popular! Long story short, I accepted Mary's challenge and today you all get to see how I did.

I used the recipe found HERE. You won't find an easier recipe. Not only are there just a few steps, they are NO BAKE!!

I used a food processor to mix the truffles. I just put the cookies in the food processor bowl, broke up the candy canes, and tossed those in with the cookies. A few pulses later I had finely crushed cookies and candy and I was ready to add the cream cheese. I used the low setting of the food processor and pulsed until the truffle dough came together and formed a ball. All that was left was to shape the truffles, freeze, and dip. You can use white or chocolate candy coating and decorate with crushed candy canes or use another topping, if you like.

Peppermint Oreo Truffles


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Countdown: Shortbread!

I haven't made shortbread in the longest time and I sit here, wondering why. Only 3 ingredients, light, flaky . . . all the versatility of sugar cookies . . .

I saw pictures of these wonderful Frosted Shortbread Sticks in our local grocery store's magazine and I thought, "What a fantastic idea! I can make these!" So, I did.

Without further ado, I present to you . . . .

Holiday Shortbread

Makes:  about a dozen

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup flour

frosting & other toppings (colored sugar, coconut, chopped nuts, etc.)

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cream butter and sugar; stir in flour. If the dough seems crumbly, add another teaspoon of butter. Pat or roll into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut into sticks of desired length and width. Keep in mind, the shortbread will spread out just a bit in the baking process. You can also use cookie cutter and cut shapes, if you like.

Place the shortbread sticks on an ungreased baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, I frosted the sticks with vanilla (white) frosting, sprinkled with flaked coconut and chocolate frosting, sprinkled with chopped nuts (I used cashews). You can use any flavor of frosting you like and sprinkle with anything that comes to mind! 

If you prefer to have the shortbread plain, stir 1/2 tsp. vanilla into the dough when mixing and omit the frosting and other toppings.


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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Countdown: Candy!

Move over Peanut Brittle! Don't get me wrong. It's not that you're not delicious, but I've found an even easier brittle candy to make for the holidays and it only has TWO ingredients!

Yes, it's true. I've found a delicious, unbelievably easy recipe for an Italian sweet (but not overly sweet) treat. David Rocco of David Rocco's Dolce Vita shares his recipe for Almond Croccante (and many other recipes) on his website. His recipe has just two ingredients and takes hardly any time, at all, to make. I guarantee this recipe will become a favorite.

Almond Croccante

If you would like to make David Rocco's wonderfully easy Italian candy, just click on this LINK. I changed nothing in his recipe and the only alteration to the method I made was to cook the sugar over medium-high heat rather than high heat. My only advice is to stay by the pan and begin stirring once the sugar begins to liquefy. And be sure to butter your baking sheet, so the candy doesn't stick!

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Memoriam

In Memoriam 
Sandy Hook Elementary
Students, Staff & Families
Newton, CT

Like a shooting star
Flyin' across the room
So fast so far
You were gone too soon . . . 


Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Countdown: Cinnamon!

Our holiday tradition always includes these sticky cinnamon rolls. They're perfect for a busy (or not so busy) Christmas morning, New Years Day morning or any morning! I've been making (and eating) these Super Dooper Cinnamon Rolls for years and this recipe is foolproof! Perfect every time.

Super Dooper Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup milk

2 - 1/4 tsp. yeast (1 pkg.)

1/4 cup sugar

3 cups flour (use bread flour, if you have it)

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup oil

3 tbsp. butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

4 tbsp. butter

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the milk until small bubbles form around the edge. Cool to lukewarm. Pour into a bowl and add the yeast, sugar, and 1 - 1/2 cups flour. Stir to mix and let rise until bubbly. Add the salt, eggs, oil, and remaining flour. Knead well, adding flour as necessary. You will want a slightly tacky dough. Let rise in a clean, oiled bowl. Be sure to cover with a piece of plastic wrap.

When the dough has doubled in size (about 1 hour), roll out into a 12 x 18 rectangle. Spread with 3 tbsp. butter. Mix the 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the buttered dough. Roll up the dough, starting at one of the long ends. Cut into 12 (1 - 1/2 inch thick) slices. Place the slices in a greased 9 x 13 pan and space evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

While the rolls rise, mix the water, brown sugar, and 4 tbsp. butter in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Before baking, pour the cooled brown sugar mixture over the rolls. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly on a wire rack and then invert the rolls on a platter or serving plate (be sure it's large enough for the rolls!).



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Countdown: Savory!

I'm switching gears in this post and making something a little less sweet. I was planning to make a vegetable pizza, but then I had what I thought was a GREAT idea! Instead of making a traditional vegetable pizza, I thought, "why not cut holiday cookie shapes out of the dough and make a spread out of the toppings?" So, I did!

The result was these fun, cracker-like crescent rolls shaped like holiday cookies covered with a tangy vegetable-cream cheese spread. You could also serve this spread with crackers, like Triscuits, Club or Ritz or on a toasted bagel. You're only limited by your imagination!

Vegetable-Cream Cheese Spread

1 - 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 pkg. Hidden Valley dry dip & dressing mix

1/2 tsp. dill seed

1/4 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

a variety of finely chopped vegetables:  red pepper, green pepper, black olives, green olives, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green onion, red onion, seeded Roma tomatoes, dill pickles or any others you like

Combine all the ingredients, except the vegetables, in a bowl and mix well, making sure all ingredients are thoroughly combined. 

Stir in the vegetables. You can use any combination of fresh vegetables or canned olives and pickles. I used about 1/4 cup of each in my vegetable spread.

Refrigerate until ready to serve and to store vegetable spread.

If you'd like to try your hand at homemade crescent rolls, I found a terrific recipe. This dough is super easy to make and you won't be able to tell the difference between store-bought dough for crescent rolls and these homemade rolls.

Homemade Crescent Rolls

Follow this LINK to the fantastic recipe for Homemade Crescent Rolls.

For either the store-bought dough or the homemade dough, roll the dough out to 1/4 - inch thickness and cut the shapes with cookie cutters. Place the shapes on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 400°F. 

Aren't these cute? They look a lot like sugar cookies, don't they? They taste just like crescent rolls and just like the vegetable pizza, when covered with vegetable-cream cheese spread, with one minor improvement:  the vegetables don't fall off the pizza! And they're so festive - perfect for your holiday get-togethers!


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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Countdown: Snaps with Style!

Ginger Snaps are great just as they are, but they become phenomenal when dipped in white chocolate (what isn't?) and sprinkled with crystallized ginger! I like to call these . . . .

Ginger Snaps with Style

Makes:  about 4 dozen

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup shortening

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg, room temperature

2 - 1/4 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. salt

2 - 3 tbsp. sugar

6 oz. white chocolate (1/3 cup white chocolate chips)

1 tbsp. shortening

crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Cream brown sugar and shortening; stir in the molasses and egg. Mix well. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves, and salt. Mix just until combined.

Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. You may also use a #24 cookie/ice cream scoop (you'll make about 2 dozen using a cookie scoop). Dip the tops in the sugar. Place balls, sugar sides up, about 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or just until set. Remove from oven and allow cookies to remain on baking sheet for another 2 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.

Using a double boiler or a bowl set over a simmering pan of water, melt the white chocolate and 1 tbsp. shortening. Stir until smooth. Dip half of each cookie in the white chocolate mixture, place on a sheet of waxed paper, and sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger. Work quickly, so the chocolate coating doesn't harden before the crystallized ginger is sprinkled on the dipped cookie.


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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Countdown: Brownies!

If you enjoy both chocolate and cheesecake, then this dessert will not disappoint you! A wonderfully creamy, tangy cheesecake filling between two layers of chocolate brownie . . . . Mmm, mmm, mmm!

These yummy brownies will definitely be on my dessert menu this Christmas!

Cheesecake Brownies 

1 cup butter

4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate

Cream Cheese Filling (see below)

2 cups sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 - 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13 x 9 inch pan. Set aside.

Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.

While the chocolate mixture cools, make the Cream Cheese Filling (see below).  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the chocolate mixture, sugar, and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl occasionally. Mix in the flour and salt on low speed 30 seconds; scrape bowl and mix 1 minute on medium speed. 

Spread 1 - 3/4 cups batter in the prepared pan. Spread filling over batter. Drop the remaining brownie batter in mounds randomly over filling. Carefully, spread the brownie batter to cover cream cheese layer.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Filling

2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 large egg, room temperature

Beat all the ingredients until smooth.


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