December 22, 2010

Spinach, Pear and Parmesan Salad

This is a great salad to serve during the holidays.

8 cups fresh baby spinach
2 Bosc pears, quartered lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced
2 oz. Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine spinach, pears, and cheese. For dressing whisk together vinegar, mustard, 1 tsp. each sugar and salt, and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Whisk in oil. Drizzle on salad and pass remaining. Makes 8 servings.  


December 20, 2010

Cranberry Pecan Mini Muffins

I frequently change my mind on recipes I'd like to make, so tonight I made these mini muffins instead of the bread I planned to make for tomorrow's holiday potluck at work.  I'm glad I did because I really like them.  I'm a big fan of anything made in the mini muffin pan because it's such a great serving size, especially for a holiday potluck when people tend to want to try a little of everything. 

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/cranberry-pecan-muffins-recipe.htm/printable

1‑3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2‑1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (or 1/2 tsp dried lemon peel)

1.Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease or paper-line 36 mini (1-3/4-inch) muffin cups.

2.Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Combine milk, butter and egg in small bowl until blended; stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Fold in cranberries, pecans and lemon peel. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling almost full.

3.Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Remove from pans. Cool on wire racks.

I used my favorite chopper to chop the cranberries I froze a couple weeks ago, as well as a paring knife to cut any remaining big pieces.


I also have to mention my favorite nut grinder because I had one for years that was crap.  I bought this one a few months ago and can't believe how well it works for $8!  The best part are the measurements, so you easily know when you've ground 1/3 cup.



December 12, 2010

Italian Pasta and Bean Soup

This soup recipe is from the November 2010 issue of Woman's Day.  It's quick, simple and delicious.  The only slight deviation I made from the recipe was using dried parsley instead of fresh.  We enjoyed this soup, with a spinach salad, soft breadsticks and a glass of Bodega Norton cabernet sauvignon (Argentina).


1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp minced garlic
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1⁄2 cups farfallini (small bowtie pasta), tubettini or other small pasta
2 cans (about 15 oz each) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes in juice
1⁄2 cup chopped parsley
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan

1. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a 3-qt saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes or until light golden. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute.

2. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook 5 minutes.

3. Stir in beans and tomatoes; cook 4 minutes or until pasta is tender. Remove from heat.

4. Stir in parsley, cheese and remaining 2 tsp oil.




The nylon knife from Pampered Chef is ideal for cutting the breadstick dough (just make sure to flour it, in between cuts).  I love using a pastry mat for any type of dough because cleanup is quick. 


Another favorite kitchen tool is my silicone pastry brush, which is so much easier to clean than traditional pastry brushes.  For the breadsticks, a pastry brush is needed to brush the egg whites on.



Steel Cut Oats with Pomegranate and Walnuts

We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of steel cut oats topped with pomegranate seeds, walnuts and a little milk and maple syrup.  A food steamer is ideal for cooking steel cut oats.  Set the timer the night before and it's ready when you wake up!


I had never purchased pomegranates before, so I followed the directions on this blog for removing the seeds, and it was really easy.  I ended up with 1 3/4 cups of seeds.



Pictured before I stirred everything together.

December 07, 2010

Spaghetti Squash

I wanted to make something fairly quick for dinner tonight, so I microwaved spaghetti squash, and topped it with Newman's Own pasta sauce (my favorite variety is Sockarooni) with green pepper and garlic added.  Speaking of which, I love my new Pampered Chef garlic press

To microwave spaghetti squash, poke 5 times with a fork and cook for 9-12 minutes or until skin gives, rotating every 3 minutes.  Let cool, remove seeds and scrape spaghetti with a fork. 



I added freshly grated parmesan too but forgot until after I took the photo.

December 06, 2010

Freezing Cranberries

I purchased a few bags of cranberries the other day, while they're still available, and froze them tonight for later use.  I found this advice online as to the best way to freeze them. 

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Purchase whole cranberries that are firm, not wrinkled, that have skins with no splits or punctures, or that are leaking any juice.

Occasionally a white or very pale cranberry will be in with the bright red berries. There'snothing wrong with those; they just didn't receive enough sunlight during the growing season. They taste the same as red cranberries. However, if you've serving the red cranberries for their color, you can discard any white berries.

Check through them when you get home for any shriveled berries and pull off any stems that may still be attached. Wash well and drain. Pat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.


Freeze whole cranberries is just as they are, no cooking, no chopping. And an easy way to freeze them is to place the individual cranberries on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer.


After they're frozen, transfer them to zipper plastic storage bags, or other freezer safe containers in one cup measurements, since many recipes call for that amount. Freezing them this way keeps them from turning into one big frozen mass of cranberries and allows you to measure out exactly what you need, and return the rest to the freezer for later use.

Roasted Beets

I really like beets and after trying a few different beet recipes now, I can say this one is definitely not my favorite.  I'm only sharing the recipe in case someone really likes rosemary and thyme and wants to try that seasoning with their beets.  However, I'd recommend roasting the beets by the method in this recipe instead.

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Roasted-Beet-Wedges/Detail.aspx

1 pound medium fresh beets, peeled
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
Cut beets into small wedges; place in a large resealable plastic bag. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme; seal and shake to coat.
Place a piece of heavy-duty foil (about 12 in. long) in a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Arrange beets on foil and top with rosemary. Fold foil around beet mixture and seal tightly. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until beets are tender.

December 04, 2010

Christmas Cookie Exchange Party

I had a lot of fun making holiday cookies with my co-workers today!  We made Candy Cane Thumbprints, Christmas Cornflake Wreath Cookies, chocolate covered Oreos and White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies.
 
We each picked out one type of cookie to make, and then brought the ingredients (or dough that we made at home) to bake together.  It worked well to have a couple no-bake recipes because the oven was in heavy use.
 



 

Soft Breadsticks

In addition to deviled eggs, I also brought dough to make breadsticks at our cooking making party.  In hindsight, I should not have brought a non-holiday cookie that required use of the oven.

I've made these breadsticks substituting applesauce for the vegetable oil and I couldn't tell the difference...still delicious.  



Soft Breadsticks

Prep Time: 1 hour (including rise time)
Cook Time: 15 minutes


Ingredients (2 dozen)
  • 1 pkg. regular or quick-acting dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil or unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 to 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 egg white, slightly beaten
  • Coarse salt
Instructions
  • Dissolve yeast in warm water in 2 1/2 quart bowl.
  • Stir in 1 cup of the flour, the oil, honey and 1 teaspoon salt. Beat until smooth.
  • Stir in enough remaining flour, scraping dough from side of bowl, until soft dough forms.
  • Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Stir down dough by beating about 25 strokes. Turn dough onto generously floured surface; roll around lightly to coat with flour.
  • Divide into 24 equal parts. Roll and shape each part dough into a rope, about 9 inches long, sprinkling with flour if dough is too sticky.
  • Place on greased baking sheet (or parchment paper). Brush with egg white and sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake until crust is deep golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Store loosely covered.
Recipe adapted from: Cooks.com
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December 03, 2010

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

I'm attending a cookie making party tomorrow with 4 co-workers and am bringing cut-out cookies to decorate.  When making cut-outs, I always use the Betty Crocker recipe for the cookies and frosting. It's on page 127 of the 1998 version and the recipe can also be found on the Betty Crocker website.

I doubled the recipe, so that's what is shown below.  These cookies freeze very well, both unfrosted as well as frosted and decorated.  In fact, one of my favorite memories is eating frozen cut-outs while visiting my grandparents over Christmas.  My Grandma stored all of her holiday cookies in her unheated 3-season room, which kept them fresh and delicious.

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3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1.Mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

2.Heat oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease cookie sheet.

3.Divide dough in half. Roll each half 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes with 2- to 2 1/2-inch cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheet.

4.Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

Smaller shapes like stars only need to be baked for 5 minutes.


Larger shapes like snowmen need to be baked for 7 minutes.



Creamy Deviled Eggs

Tonight was my first and last time making deviled eggs.  Don't get me wrong, this recipe is really good!  However, I had no idea how tedious it was to make deviled eggs.  I have a new appreciation for the people who often bring them to potlucks (I made mine for the cooking making party tomorrow).    

The things I didn't like include: 3 eggs exploded, the eggs were difficult to peel, it was hard to remove the yolk halves and some of egg whites didn't hold together, as a result.  I was surprised to see eggs explode in my electric steamer because I've made hard boiled eggs a few times now and this is the first time it's happened.

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/creamy-deviled-eggs

8 large eggs
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Paprika, for garnish

Place eggs in electric steamer. Set timer for 15 minutes. Run eggs under cold water to cool them.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, shallot, and hot sauce.

Peel eggs, and halve lengthwise; remove yolks, leaving whites intact. Transfer yolks to bowl with mayonnaise mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Mash with a fork or pastry blender until smooth.

Mound yolk mixture into whites. Sprinkle with paprika just before serving, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 8 hours.


I really like this new pastry blender I got from Pampered Chef.  It's ergonomic and works really well!


December 01, 2010

Brillant Sauteed Broccoli

This is a simple and tasty way to cook broccoli.  Next time I will add no crushed red pepper though.  Even Chris, who LOVES spicy food, thought it was too much.  Although part of the problem might be that I didn't weigh the broccoli and it's possible I had less than a pound.

The original recipe calls for brown sugar which I omitted based on the online reviews.  I really like getting recipes from the web for that reason.  Often the reviews have tips and tricks that are very helpful.  Although, many of the cookbooks I own are also on the web, so I'm able to see reviews for recipes in my cookbook too!

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Brilliant-Sauteed-Broccoli/Detail.aspx?src=etaf

1 pound broccoli florets
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1.Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl or pot with half ice and half water. When the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli florets using a strainer with a handle if possible. Allow the broccoli to cook for 1 to 2 minutes until just tender. Immediately remove from the boiling water, using the strainer or draining, and transfer to bowl of ice to stop the cooking process. Immerse the broccoli completely in the ice water for a minute or two. Remove and place in a dish that has been lined with paper towels. This part can be done up to two days in advance.

2.Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Throw in the broccoli and season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to coat the broccoli, then cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and dust with the Parmesan cheese.


Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

These sweet potatoes taste more like dessert than a dinner side dish, and are a great addition to holiday meals.  The original recipe comes from one of my favorite sites - Simply Recipes.



The picture below is what the dish looked like after removing it from the oven the second time and I don't like how the pecan mixture is still dry on top.  Next time, I'm going to stir the yams halfway through the second baking time.



Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes


Ingredients (serves 12)
  • 4 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4 inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 8 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, divided
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
Instructions
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the sweet potatoes. Cook until the water starts to simmer again, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, then rinse in cold water.
  • Butter a 9x13 glass baking dish. Add sweet potatoes, and then pour maple syrup over the sweet potatoes. Dot with 3 tablespoons of the butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the sweet potatoes are almost tender, about 25 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, mix flour and brown sugar. Add remaining 5 tablespoons of butter, and rub in with fingers until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Then mix in pecans.
  • Sprinkle pecan mixture over the sweet potatoes.  Bake, uncovered, about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through baking time.
Recipe adapted from: Simply Recipes
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