Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I'm taking the week off to recover from all the baking I've done recently, spend time with my family, and just enjoy all that this time of year has to offer! I'll be back next week with some favorite potato recipes to kick off the new year. Enjoy a safe and happy holiday!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Cake in a Jar

I saw this on ourbestbites and just had to try it. They are individual chocolate cakes with ganache filling and peppermint frosting in a cute little jar. They can also be made as cupcakes, but the jar is so much cuter! What a fun gift! I am going to give you the link to the recipe for simplicity's sake, but will include my photos down below.

Chocolate Peppermint Cake in a Jar
*Note I did not make the frosting she recommended, it sounded too technical for me. I just made a standard butter cream frosting, but replaced the vanilla with peppermint extract.
Also my cakes sank in A LOT! I think, actually I know, it was due to the altitude here. It made for a nice deep hole to fill with ganache, but the ganache didn't cover the entire top as a result. Still pretty and delicious, just different than theirs.

 Just fill halfway or less because they rise up a lot and you want plenty of room for the other yummy stuff!
Mine were very cavernous and ready to be filled. You may need to cut a little hole to fill, assuming that you live at a lower altitude than I do.
Pour the ganache all around if you possibly can. It's pretty and it helps hold the moisture in the cake.
Top with mint frosting and crushed peppermints. Yum-o!
Screw on the lid, top with a bow, and you have 8 new best friends!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cornflake Wreaths

I have made these every year for a long time. They are so easy and fun to make. Get the kids involved and go to town! We made these at a mommy and me party this year and the kids had fun decorating their Christmas trees with all the sprinkles and M&Ms they could handle. Traditionally I shape them into wreaths and top with red hots for the holly berries.
(image courtesy of via google images)

Cornflake Wreaths
1 cube butter or margarine
1 1/2 bags mini marshmallows
cornflakes (sorry, I didn't measure)
green food coloring
red hots or other candies for decorating

Melt the butter in a large pot. When it is about half melted add the marshmallows. Once the marshmallows are melted add the food coloring until you get the color you want. Turn off the heat. Then add cornflakes to the right consistency. You want enough cornflakes that there is no marshmallow goo leftover, but you don't want too many or the cornflakes will be dry. Once the cornflakes are coated, let them cool a little, grease your hands (I just rub butter all over them, but Pam works too) and go to town. Shape into wreaths and place on waxed paper. This will be tricky when they are warm, but you can just shape them right on the waxed paper by placing a blob and making a hole in the middle. Add the red hots or sprinkles while they are still warm so they will stick. Let them cool completely, then peel off the waxed paper.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

So I love pumpkin bread, but my husband only likes it with chocolate chips. I went with it, everything's better with chocolate, right? So you can always omit the chocolate chips, but why would you do that? My 15 month old LOVED this stuff. It's ok to give her bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, right? Even if this so called "bread" is half sugar? As long as it was in the house, it was all she would eat. Even though ever loaf I made sank in (it's the altitude) I didn't mind because it was crunchy on top and moist in the middle. Let's just say it didn't last long t our house. This recipe comes from
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 cups sugar (yes you read that correctly)
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
(I subbed 1 1/2 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice for the 3 above spices)
1 (16 oz) can pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Combine dry ingredients. Stir into creamed ingredients until just moistened. Stir in pumpkin. Then stir in chocolate chips. Pour into 2 greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pans. (I did 4 mini loaves.) Bake at 350 until toothpick in the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs. About 1 hour for regular loaves, 30-40 minutes for the mini ones.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese Dip

This dip is festive looking and delicious. I got this one from my cousin Monica's food blog . Monica is a fellow lover of food and I love trying the recipes she and her friends post. This one seemed unique and delicious so I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did!

Cranberry Salsa Dip with Cream Cheese 
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained (6 oz.)
1/8 cup minced green onions
1 small jalapeno chile pepper, cored, seeded and minced
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
1 tablespoons finely-grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
Cranberries and/or cilantro sprigs for garnish

1. Rinse, drain, and pick over cranberries, (discarding all that are soft or bruised). Place them in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped but not mushy.

2. Place crushed cranberries in a bowl; mix together with minced green onions, jalapeno peppers, sugar, cilantro leaves, ginger, and lemon juice.
 (In case you've never seen it, this is fresh ginger. You can find it in the produce section by the herbs. Most pieces were more gnarly than this one, but I got the most "normal" looking one because I figured it would be easier to peel. Peel it then grate it with a fine grater. I found that the most inner part was too fibrous to grate. I ended up using about half of this to get my 1 Tbs. this recipe called for.)

3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours so flavors develop (salsa will be too sharp and tart to begin with).
4. On a serving plate, place cream cheese; cover with the dip. Garnish, if desired, and served with crackers.
 This one got rave reviews. It was both beautiful and delicious!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ritz tagalongs

Someone made these for us last holiday season and I thought it was such a great idea. So easy, and so yummy! Wrap them up in a cute Christmas tin and they make the perfect gift for friends and neighbors!

Ritz Tagalongs
Ritz crackers (I used the whole box, all 4 sleeves)
creamy peanut butter (about half a small jar was plenty)
milk chocolate chips (I used 2 bags)
shortening (I used 3 Tbs.)
white chocolate chips (optional)

Make the Ritz crackers into sandwiches with the peanut butter. Melt the milk chocolate in a double boiler with about 1-2 Tbs. of shortening added for every bag of chocolate chips (this will help keep the chocolate creamy).
(This is my makeshift double boiler. It worked great!)
 Ready to go!
Here goes nothing!
 Hide and Seek!

Dip the sandwiches into the chocolate, tap the edge of the pan to get off any excess chocolate, and place on waxed paper to cool. (This is easier with a set of metal tongs.)

Once all the sandwiches are dipped, melt the white chocolate in the double boiler (no shortening this time) and drizzle over the cooled cookies to add a nice decorative touch. (I found the cooler the melted white chocolate was the drizzlier it was, not really sure why.)You can also sprinkle the cookies with festive sprinkles while the milk chocolate is still warm if you'd prefer.
 The first cookies I drizzled.
The more drizzlier ones later.

Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Bars

I wish these had a better name but they don't, so let's just call them yumminess. I made these last year and my husband took some to work. He came home that day saying everyone was singing my praises and I had been named the best wife. Well, that's a tough title to live up to, but I try by making these as often as I can (which equates to about once a year!) I am taking these to a cookie exchange I am a part of tomorrow night. They are sure to be a hit!
*Update, the day after I made these my husband's boss asked when I was going to make those chocolate caramel things I made last year. So of course he took her some the next day. Whatever makes the boss happy!

this recipe comes from The Essential Mormon Cookbook by Julie Badger Jensen

Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Bars

1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. butter or margarine, melted
1 (14 oz) bag caramels (about 48)
½ cup whipping cream
1 (12 oz) package milk chocolate chips

In a large bowl combine the first 6 ingredients to form a crumbly mixture. Unwrap caramels. Melt caramels and whipping cream in a saucepan over low heat. Sprinkle half of crumbly mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over baked mixture and top with melted caramel mixture.

Sprinkle remaining crumbly mixture on top. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Make a day ahead or several hours ahead to allow time for the caramel to set. Makes 2 dozen bars.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chex Mix

I made this last weekend and it took some serious self control to keep from eating the whole batch! This is mostly the same as the recipe on the box of Chex, except I like it a little saucier and with more stuff added. If you have never made Chex mix, I promise the home made stuff is WAY better than the stuff you buy in the store.
Chex Mix
9 cups Chex cereal (I used 4 cups rice Chex and 5 cups corn)
2 cups mixed nuts (that's 1 can)
2 cups pretzels
2 cups goldfish (I prefer Cheez-its, but goldfish is what I had)
9 Tbs. butter or margarine
3 Tbs. worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. onion powder

Melt butter in microwave then stir in other seasonings. Mix together all the dry ingredients and pour butter and seasonings mixture on top. Stir until evenly coated. Pour into two 9x13 baking dishes and bake at 250 for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. pour onto paper towels or clean dish towels to cool.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Treats!

No recipe today because I am busy in the kitchen getting the baking extravaganza underway. Are you ready?! Next week I will be featuring some of my favorite holiday treats to make and eat and share. Some are old favorites and some are new to me, but I'm sure will become classics.
photo courtesy of
Aren't these adorable? I'm not doing sugar cookies this year 
(too much other fun baking to do) but if I were I would totally copy these!
Some things to look forward to:
Chex mix--a classic
Ritz Tag-a-longs--easy and beautiful
Chocolate Peppermint cake in a jar--a new one to me, but sure to become a favorite
Cornflake wreaths or trees--fun for the kids
Oatmeal/chocolate/caramel bars--won me the title of best wife at my husband's work
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread--another classic

At least one treat a day so  heat up your ovens, unbuckle your pants, and come enjoy the feast.

*And while I'm at it, please feel free to share your favorite holiday treats to make and/or eat.  I am always looking for new ideas and recipes!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coconut Chicken Curry

I got this recipe off of my cousin Vanessa's blog awhile ago. I have been wanting to make it for a long time, but since my husband does not like curry I saved it for my birthday so he could not complain. But, lo and behold, he liked it! He even took it for lunch the next day, and my 15 month old liked it as well. I love anything with curry, so this recipe was a good find. Thanks Ness!

Coconut Chicken Curry
2 lbs chicken, cut into small chunks
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 1/2 T veg oil
2 T curry powder
1 1/2 r paprika (or cayenne, if you want it spicy)
1/2 onion
2 cloves minced garlic
4 red potatoes, in small chunks
(I also added about 1 cup of frozen veggies)
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 14 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
3 T sugar

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat oil, curry powder, and paprika in a large skillet over medium-low heat for two minutes, until fragrant (but don't let it burn). Turn the heat up to medium and stir in onions and garlic and cook ten minutes more or until onions are very clear. Add chicken, tossing lightly to coat with curry oil and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and is cooked through.

Add potatoes, then add coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and sugar into the pan, and stir to combine.

Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes or until sauce thickens. (I took off the lid for the last 10-15 minutes to let it really thicken up. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tortellini Caesar Salad

I love Caesar salad. This is a version that I used to make quite often in college, but just recently started making again. It stands well as a meal all on its own or you can pair it with some yummy bread.

Tortellini Caesar Salad
1 lb. cheese tortellini cooked (you can do this in advance if you want)
1 head Romain lettuce, chopped and washed
1 lb. chicken, cooked and chopped (I like to saute boneless, skinless chicken tenders in olive oil)
parmesan cheese
your favorite croutons (I love the Foccacia croutons our Costco used to carry, but I can't find them anymore)
your favorite Caesar dressing (I like Kraft's Classic Caesar)

Toss it all together and serve. You can prepare everything in advance and just toss right before serving or you can cook the chicken and tortellini right before serving. The salad might be slightly warm, but I kind of like it that way. Don't try to serve the dressing on the side with this one. It is absolutely necessary that the dressing be evenly dispersed among all the delightful elements of the salad. Perfect summer (or even winter) meal!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Easy Beef Stroganoff

This is one of my husband's favorites. I call it guy food. It is an easy go-to meal that can be put on the table start to finish in less than 30 minutes and it's a classic.
Beef Stroganoff
1 lb. ground beef
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. sour cream
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper

Brown the meat with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a saute pan. Once it is cooked all the way through, drain off the grease and add the cream of mushroom soup and milk. Stir until combined and simmer for about 7 minutes until warm all the way through. Right before serving stir in the sour cream. Serve warm over rice with lots of pepper on top.

*I don't know what it is, but I always have to have corn with my stroganoff. And I like it mixed in with the meat and rice. I won't eat it any other way. Try it, it's good.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spaghetti Sauce

First off I am so excited to announce that I was featured as a guest blogger on my friend Heather's blog last week! Heather has lots of great recipes and a weekly menu and shopping list to follow as well. Head on over and check it out!

Ok now onto today's recipe. This is a classic go-to recipe at our house. It's not super authentic or even super homemade, but it is super yummy and super easy! Serve with your favorite pasta and you've got an easy weeknight meal.

Spaghetti Sauce
1 lb. ground beef (or I'm sure turkey would work)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I buy whatever is on sale)
1 lb. pasta (I like whole wheat penne)

Brown the meat  with a little salt and pepper in about 1 Tbs. olive oil a large saute pan, add the onions and garlic when the beef is about halfway done.

Once the meat is cooked all the way through, add the jar of spaghetti sauce.

Stir, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. This allows the sauce to thicken a little and the flavors to combine. Serve over hot pasta with lots of Parmesan cheese on top.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie is my favorite kind of pie hands down. The tricky part is that I'd say 90%+ of lemon meringue pies out there are no good. I have made it a goal of mine to make lemon meringue pie every Thanksgiving until I perfect it. This was the third year in a row and it was pretty darn close. The filling didn't set up as much as I would have liked, but the flavor and texture were divine. I like this recipe because, unlike other recipes I have tried, the filling and meringue are prepared at separate times. Other recipes require you to spread the perfectly fluffy meringue over a piping hot filling and the timing never quite worked out for me. This one uses a method of a hot syrup to cook the meringue so the filling does not have to be hot to cook the meringue. When I saw this on my favorite show, America's Test Kitchen, I knew I had to try it and I'm so glad I did!
Lemon Meringue Pie
Once again I am simply going to give you the link to the recipe for simplicity's sake. (You will need to log into the site to view the recipe, but it's a really simply registration process and they don't bombard you with annoying email and who knows, you might find another recipe you like on there.) Down below I will have step by step pictures with a few pointers.
This is what it looks like when it coats the back of a spoon. You should be able to run your finger through it and leave a line.
Make sure your filling is spread out evenly and press the plastic wrap down to the surface of the filling before chilling. This will prevent a nasty film from forming on top.
Can you believe that started as 4 measly egg whites at the bottom of the big bowl? Keep beating. Glossy, stiff peaks look something like this. When you pull the beaters out peaks should form and keep their shape.
Make sure your meringue goes all the way to the edge so it won't shrink up as it bakes. You can make as few or many peaks as you want on top. I think with this one the messier it looks, the prettier it is!
Watch it carefully as it bakes, you don't want your meringue too toasty. Wait until it just starts to get golden and beautiful! Be sure to keep this chilled until you are ready to eat it! I would say chill at least 1 hour but no longer than 12. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I don't love pumpkin pie, but I know it is a staple at Thanksgiving and I love cheesecake so I went for the pumpkin cheesecake instead this year. I'm so glad I did because it was delicious! It was my first time making cheesecake in a spring form pan and it turned out pretty good. Serve this with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and it's heaven!
Pumpkin Cheesecake
This recipe come from Paula Deen on the food network. For simplicity's sake I will just give you the link to the recipe. I used 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice in place of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves because I didn't have nutmeg or cloves and I substituted a ginger snap crust for the graham cracker crust, but I'm sure graham crackers would be tasty as well!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Apple Pie

Of course there are a million different recipes for apple pie, but this one is my favorite. It takes a little extra work, but it makes a great pie! I got this recipe from my cooking class at BYU (best class I ever took!). I remember the instructor telling us that a traditional apple pie will have a gap between the apples and the top crust because the apples shrink down as they bake, but this method does away with that. I always do a lattice crust on my apple pie because I think it's pretty and fun to do. I don't just make this pie at Thanksgiving time. I make it whenever my little heart desires. While apple pie is not may favorite type of pie (more on that tomorrow) I have a hard time resisting a good slice of homemade apple pie. Enjoy!

Fresh Apple Pie

4 cups fresh apples ( I always use Granny Smith) peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices--I usually peel them with my potato peeler then core and slice with my apple slicer and then finally cut each of those slices into 2 or 3 thinner slices.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional--I usually leave it out because I don't have it on hand)
3 Tbs. cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup apple juice
2 Tbs. bottled lemon juice
dough for one double pie crust

Put peeled, cored, and sliced apples into medium microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes. Shake bowl and microwave further until apples are tender, but not mushy. Drain off any liquid. Combine dry ingredients in medium saucepan. Add water, apple juice, and lemon juice. Cook on medium heat until thick and bubbly. Fold in drained apples. Turn whole mixture into unbaked pie crust. Cover with top and seal edges well. If using a solid crust on top, prick for ventilation. Brush lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar (coarse sugar is best). Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes.

Perfect Pie Crust

Pie crust can be tricky. This is a simple recipe that I think turns out pretty well. Some people swear by butter for pie crust, others swear by shortening. Butter gives you good flavor and shortening gives good texture. I've heard some people use half of each. I tried that once and had a hard time getting a consistent texture. So, my compromise is to use butter-flavored crisco. This is just as much about technique as it is about ingredients. You get a flaky pie crust when the bits of butter or shortening melt in the oven and leave a little pocket behind. Butter has a lower melting temperature, that's why it does not always work as well. It tends to be melted before it ever reaches the oven. Now that I have totally scared you, here is the pie crust recipe. I promise, it's not really that difficult. Once you get the hang of it, you will never buy pie crust again.

Pie Crust
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter flavored Crisco
ice water (it must be icy cold)

Stir the salt into the flour. Add the shortening and use your hands to break it into small bits between the size of a pea and a marble. Once the shortening is all broken up, add ice water a couple tablespoons at a time. To avoid over mixing, I use my hands for this as well. Gently work your hands to the bottom of the bowl and then gently turn them over until the water is incorporated. Add more water until you get a dough that sticks together. It will not be a smooth dough. It should be somewhat shaggy or you added too much water. This recipe makes enough for a double-crusted pie or 2 single-crust pies. Carefully divide in 2 and wrap each ball of dough in plastic wrap. You should be able to marbleing of the shortning throughout the dough.

Try to make it as round as possible without manipulating the dough too much. This will make it easier to roll out. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. When you are ready to use it roll it out onto a dough mat or a floured surface. Work carefully because you only get to roll it out once. Once you have a large enough circle, carefully roll onto your rolling pin then roll into your pan or flip off your dough mat onto your pan. Finish off the edges, fill with your favorite pie filling, and bake.
For the lattice crust: After rolling out your second ball of dough use a pizza cutter to cut it into strips. Starting with 2 of the longest strips criss-cross them across the middle of the pie.
Then pick 2 more strips and layer them next to the very first strip you put down. Fold up one end of those 2 strips to put 1 more strip down going the opposite way then fold up the other side in order to put 1 more strip going the opposite way.
Continue folding up alternating strips in order to put strips underneath until you reach the edge.

Then crimp the edges and bake.
*To crimp the edges first cut off any excess that hangs more than 1/2 ince over the edge of the pan. Then Fold the dough up all around the edge to seal. Lastly, using 2 knuckles on one hand and a finger from the other crimp the edges by pushing the dough between your knuckles with your finger. (see picture)

At this point I usually brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Then I bake it.

It is also smart to cover the edges of the pie with foil to avoid over browning. The easiest way to do this is to fold a square of foil in fourths. Then cut a semi-circle out of the folded corner.  
Unfold (there should be a circle opening) and place on the pie.

Remove foil the last 5-10 minutes of baking.

(If you look carefully you can see the flakes in the crust. Mmm!)
*Making a lattice crust really is not difficult, but it looks very impressive. It definitely is easier to explain in person than with words and pictures. If you want a one-on-one lesson just call or email me and I will gladly walk you through it.