Super Duper Pumpkin Cake...or Bread!


This recipe is full of great antioxidants from the pumpkin (lots of Vitamin A) as well as good Omega 3 fats from the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Walnuts. This is a very moist cake which is easily made in a sheet pan so it works great for potlucks or picnics. It is very delicious and pretty healthy.

Special note for Debbie ~ I've also made this as bread...just place into a prepared bread pan and cook for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Ingredients & How To

Sift together in small bowl:
2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice

In large bowl combine:
1 cup Splenda no calorie (or organic sugar)
1 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce

Blend In:
1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Extract
2 cups Canned Pumpkin

Beat In:
4 Eggs, one at a time

Gradually: 
Beat in flour mixture until creamy; stir in raisins.

Spread batter into prepared 12x18 pan (spray pan with Pam cooking Spray). Top with 1/4 Cup of Chopped Walnuts.  Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool.

Delicious with a scoop of ice cream or just plain ~ Enjoy

Holiday Survival Week ~ Mother Nature Table Settings

Simple is Sometimes Best



Sometimes Mother Nature knows best, as in this simple table setting that features a napkin accented by a single pine sprig.

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A Perfect Bloom



Flowers are a lovely addition to any party table setting. Here a perfect white tulip graces each napkin. Create your own floral holiday table by placing a red rose, sprig of evergreen, or even a silk flower under the napkin ring.

Holiday Survival Week ~ Sweet Potatoes

I consider sweet potatoes and yams to be super foods! They are so good for you that we eat them all year long. I've provided a link for you at the bottom of this post which lists the nutrional values ~ if you're unfamiliar with these facts then I think you'll be surprised.

Back to the topic at hand, I was pleased as punch when Costco got their large boxes in stock for the Holidays. We keep them in the bottom of our darkened pantry so they stay good for a very long time. I've included a traditional recipe as well as my super easy healthier version...and seriously, consider eating sweet potatoes/yams all year long.




Classic Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:
2 pounds sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons orange juice
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter, cubed
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large saucepan cook sweet potatoes in salted water over medium-high heat for about 20 minutes, until done. Drain, and add orange juice, brown sugar, nutmeg and butter. Whip until smooth. Spread into a medium size casserole dish and top with marshmallows.

Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until marshmallows are golden brown.

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Marie's Super Easy Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:
2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons nonfat milk
1/4 cup Splenda© granular or organic sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (depending on your liking)
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

DIRECTIONS
Place cubed sweet potatoes in microwave safe bowl with a few tablespoons of water. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for approx. 8 minutes or until potatoes are softened.

Mash sweet potatoes with masher and then blend in remaining ingredients (I use a KitchenAid mixer) until fluffy.  You may wish to put into a oven safe serving dish with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top...keep warm in oven until meal is ready.

Super food factshttp://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-sweet-potatoes.html

Holiday Survival Week ~ Words for the Season Napkin

Words for the Season




Create your own holiday message by using an iron-on transfer kit with cotton napkins. This photo also shows an inventive napkin ring made from a flea-market fork bent around a wooden form.

Holiday Survival Week ~ Green Bean Casserole Variations

Side dishes truly make your Holiday meal! The great thing is that you don't have to slave all day to have great side dishes. We've provided two versions of the always popular green bean casserole; including a healthier version (which I actually prefer).



Classic Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup milk
2 (9 ounce) packages frozen green beans
1 1/3 cups French-fried onions
ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
In a 1-1/2 quart casserole mix soup, milk, and pepper. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup french fried onions.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes or until heated through, stir. Top with remaining 2/3 cup of french fried onions. Bake 5 minutes more or until the onions are golden.

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Healthier Version: Delicious Almond Green Beans Side Dish

Ingredients:
2 pounds of thin green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 cup of whole almonds with skin, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons of finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 large garlic clove, minced
1-1/2 cups of coarsely chopped parsley leaves

Directions:
Begin by heating the olive oil in a large skillet over low to medium heat until it is hot but be sure it is not smoking. Add almonds and toast. Stir constantly until they are golden brown in color, approximately four minutes. Transfer the almond mixture to a small bowl and stir in freshly grated lemon zest and the minced garlic clove. Allow mixture to cool.

Add parsley. If you want some extra seasoning, add some salt, pepper or other seasoning. Set aside.

Next, cook the green beans in a pot of boiling salted water until they are tender, approximately eight minutes. Drain the water from the green beans and place in serving dish. If you want to season the green beans, do so now with salt, pepper, or any other seasoning. Add some of the almond sauce to the green beans. You can serve the rest of the sauce on the side. Makes 8 servings.

Holiday Survival Week ~ Cranberry Orange Bread

Serving brunch around the Holidays is quite common and this quick bread is an easy to bake item which will make your brunch all the more special. 
Our family prefers healthier treats so we always substitute all or most of the all purpose flour in recipes with whole wheat pastry flour, olive oil in place of butter and sea salt is the standard salt in our home.  I usually toss a few finely chopped walnuts into the mix too. We often replace eggs with egg substitute and the recipes are great... Just remember that as long as the amounts remain the same then you should get nice results. Have fun experimenting and take notes to come up with your own unique family recipe!




Marie's Cranberry Orange Bread

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or sifted whole wheat flour)
1 cup Organic Sugar (Sugar or Splenda granulated© works too)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten at room temperature
1 cup nonfat milk
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries (Craisins©)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped raisins
2 - 3 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel (depends on your preference)
Optional: Orange Glaze

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray bottom and sides of an 8x4x2-inch or 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with Pam© cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine egg, milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir in cranberries,  raisins, and orange peel. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). (Optional: Toss in about a 1/4 cup of finely cut walnuts and/or almonds**). Spoon batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake about 1 hour (start checking at 50 -55 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight.

4. Before serving, prepare Orange Glaze. Drizzle glaze over bread. Makes 16 servings.

Optional: Orange Glaze: In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel. Stir in enough orange juice (1 to 2 teaspoons) to reach drizzling consistency.

**I purchase walnuts and almonds in large bags from Costco© ~ take a cup of each and throw in your blender or food processor, then pulse until it is very finely chopped. I keep this nut combination in a tupperware container to use for baking.  You get the nutty flavor distributed throughout your recipe, however you don't need to use very much so it saves you money and calories.

Holiday Survival Week ~ The 'Eyes' Have It ~ Potatoes.

Ham & Cheese Mashed Potatoes
This recipe can be made with homemade mashed potatoes or instant mashed potatoes. Either way it tastes fabulous!

Ingredients:
2 cups of mashed potatoes
3/4 teaspoon of garlic salt
1 cup of fully cooked ham, diced
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of whipping cream, whipped

Directions:
Begin by combining the potatoes and garlic salt in a medium sized bowl. In a greased baking dish, spread the potatoes in the bottom. Add ham by sprinkling it all over. Fold the cheddar cheese into the whipped cream. Spoon it over the ham. Bake at 450°, uncovered for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 4-6 servings.

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Cheesy Mashed Potato Pots

Ingredients

2 pounds cut up, red potatoes, peeled
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Milk (optional)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a covered large saucepan, cook potatoes in enough boiling water to cover for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Mash with a potato masher then beat with an electric mixer on low speed. Season with the salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. If necessary, add a small amount of milk for desired consistency.

2. Grease four 10- to 12-ounce individual casseroles or custard cups or a 1- to 1-1/2-quart casserole. Spoon potato mixture into prepared casserole(s). In a chilled medium bowl, beat whipping cream with chilled beaters of an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl over); fold in cheese. Spoon cheese mixture over potatoes. Place casserole(s) on a baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and heated through. If desired, sprinkle with additional black pepper. Makes 4 servings.

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Walnut & Sage Potatoes Au Gratin
 
Ingredients

2 pounds small new potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2-1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons snipped fresh sage
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (4 oz.)
1/3 cup broken walnuts
Fresh sage leaves (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart casserole; set aside. Halve potatoes lengthwise. Place potato halves in colander. Rinse with cold water; drain.

2. For sauce: In a medium saucepan, cook onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in snipped sage.

3. Layer half of the potatoes in a greased 2-quart casserole. Top with half the sauce. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat layering with potatoes and sauce. (Cover and chill remaining cheese until needed.)

4. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake about 25 minutes more or just until potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; top with walnuts. Bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, garnish with sage leaves. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Microwave Directions: Using microwave-safe casserole, prepare as directed through Step 3. Cover with plastic wrap, turning back edge of wrap to allow steam to escape. Microwave on 70 percent power (medium-high) for 25 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; top with walnuts. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Holiday Survival Week ~ Quick & Easy Appetizers

I've compiled some Quick & Easy Appetizer Ideas for you ~ I've made most and sometimes easy is best! Don't tire yourself out so much that you don't have time to enjoy the holiday festivities.


Tortilla Roll 'Em Ups. Spread a thin layer of your favorite cream cheese spread on large flour tortillas (you can use plain, herb, sun-dried tomato, or spinach-flavored). Top with thin layers of turkey or roast beef, thinly sliced tomato, and baby spinach leaves. Roll the tortilla up very tightly, similar to a jelly roll. Chill rolls for about 30 minutes, then cut rolls into slices, creating small finger sandwiches. Note: These are really easy & fun to make ~ get the kids involved.



A Little Blue. Fill baked miniature phyllo dough shells with a small dollop of softened cream cheese. Top with a bit of crumbled blue cheese and a sprinkle of snipped tart dried cherries. If you like, sprinkle with candied pecans or almonds.


Where's the Shrimp? Who doesn't love shrimp? For a super-easy appetizer, thaw cooked frozen shrimp (or steam, saute, or boil your own raw shrimp). Place bowls of dipping sauces on a platter (such as tartar or cocktail sauce or aioli), then surround the bowls with the cooked shrimp.



A Taste of the Mediterranean. Purchased hummus and some yummy crackers or pita chips are an easy way to either keep hunger at bay until dinner or to supplement an appetizer spread. Select a couple of different flavors, such as roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, or black olive.

Dip This. Every party needs a dip, but here's an option that's a little bit more gourmet. Purchase garlic- or basil-flavored oil or make your own variations by stirring herbs, garlic, or grated Parmesan cheese into olive oil. Pour the oil into small dipping dishes and serve with chunks of focaccia or baguette slices for dipping.

Twisted Salsa. Here's a fun salsa variation that's almost a meal in itself. Combine drained canned black beans, thawed frozen corn, chopped roma tomatoes, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, chopped green pepper, and chopped avocado. Toss the mixture with some lime juice, salt, and pepper. If you like, you can also add chopped garlic, sliced black olives, chopped jalapeno peppers, or anything else! Serve with tortilla chips, or just give guests a spoon to dig in!



Relish the Ease. Prepare a relish tray like no other! On a platter, artistically arrange roasted red peppers; green, black, or specialty stuffed olives; cheese cubes; sliced meats, such as pastrami, ham, or salami; marinated artichoke hearts; smoked sliced salmon lox; marinated or fresh vegetables; and pickled peppers. If you like, serve the relish tray with hard or soft breadsticks.

An Apple a Day. Prepare a platter with sliced apples, pears, and/or grapes, crisp bread or crackers, and your choice of cheese, such as blue or brie.

Simply Salmon. With a pastry bag, pipe flavored cream cheese (such as chive) on cucumber slices. Top each cucumber slice with a small piece of purchased smoked salmon. If desired, garnish with fresh chopped chives.

Serve Them Up



Here's a great look for a casual holiday buffet table. Simply roll napkins and arrange them in a vase, basket, or bowl. The napkins will add color to the table and be handy for guests to pick up.

Pictures & descriptions compiled from www.bhg.com

Holiday Survival Week ~ Really Easy Stuffing

Stuffing is a holiday tradition and so easy to make. As everyone's amount of time and skill level vary, I've included two variations. I keep my stuffing separate from the inside of the turkey...this is due to the fact that my mother was a vegetarian, we don't normally cook a whole turkey and we all like it better. 

Stuffing is one of those things that you almost can't go wrong with! Experiment and have fun...oh yeah, don't forget that stuffing makes a great side dish (and economical) throughout the year ~ not just the Holidays.




Really Easy Stuffing Side Dish


Ingredients:
1 one pound loaf of white bread
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon of seasoning
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of ground black pepper
1/4 cup of water (or broth)

Directions:
Begin by moistening the bread with as much water as needed to make it moist. Next, add the chopped onion, seasoning, and the salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix together.

If you wish, you can place inside the turkey, however I prefer the tin foil method. Place the entire thing in a piece of tin foil and wrap it up. Cook for at least one hour.  Makes 5-7 servings.

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Boxed Stuffing Variation


If you opt for the boxed stuffing route then I recommend Stove Top© stuffing. Evidentally different regions of the country offer different varieties. Our favorite is the Whole Wheat of Sourdough versions...if you can find them. From reading reviews it appears that the Stove Top© Turkey stuffing has the best flavor.

Store-bought mixes benefit from the addition of sautéed celery and onion, and the use of broth in place of water.

A good rule of thumb is that about a cup of each add-in is sufficient to enhance a pound of stuffing mix, up to two add-ins per pound (in addition to celery and onions). Get creative and make it your own!

Prepare the box of stuffing as stated and add the following (make chopped items small enough that you get some in every bite). Use the tin foil method mentioned above to keep warm until everything is ready to eat.

Apple Raisin Stuffing
Box of Stuffing
Can of vegetable or chicken broth
Chopped sauteed onions
Chopped sauteed celery
Chopped apples
Chopped raisins (golden, black or combination of both)
Chopped walnuts
A dash of cinnamon

Holiday Survival Week ~ Cheery Red Napkin

At Every Place



Dress up a cheery red napkin with plaid ribbon and a Christmas light. To make, take a one-inch section of cardboard tubing and hot-glue ribbons around it, folding raw edges underneath at the back. Next, hot-glue accents to the lightbulb before gluing it to the top of the ring.

http://www.bhg.com/

Holiday Survival Week ~ Baked Pork Shoulder

If you're like me, you like to mix it up once in a while and not always prepare the exact same turkey or ham for your Holiday dinner.  Heck, my family begs for my crockpot Lasagna most years!

This recipe may be a great option if you want to try something new, but still be a bit traditional.  This fabulous Baked Pork Shoulder has a Cranberry Glaze; however you can easily substitute the cranberries for cherries if you prefer.



Ingredients
2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 4-1/2-to 5-pound boneless pork shoulder roast (also called a "Boston butt")
3 to 4 cups quality apple cider
2 sticks cinnamon
6 green cardamom pods
1 red or purple onion, cut into wedges
1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
2 cups dried cranberries
1/4 cup loosely packed thyme leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and ground pepper

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In skillet toast coriander seeds over medium-high heat about 1-1/2 minutes or until fragrant, shaking pan often. Transfer to a dish to cool. Place seeds in coffee or spice grinder. Grind until seeds resemble coarse meal.

2. Rub pork with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and ground coriander seeds. Place on rack in large roasting pan. Add 3 cups of the apple juice, the cinnamon, and cardamom to pan. Roast 1-1/2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F. Remove from oven. Transfer pork to large platter; keep warm. Pour pan juices through a mesh strainer into large liquid measuring cup. Return pork to pan along with onions. Increase oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Meanwhile, for Glaze, skim fat from strained pan juices (if necessary, add additional apple juice to make 2 1/2 cups). Transfer to large saucepan. Add dried cranberries. Place over medium-high heat. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberries rehydrate and liquid is consistency of syrup.

4. Brush pork with 1/4 cup of the Glaze. Return to oven and roast 1 hour more or until pork is tender (165 degrees F) and onions begin to brown (cover loosely with foil if pork becomes too brown). Remove from oven, cover with foil. Let stand 15 minutes. 

5. To serve, place pork on a warm platter. Arrange roasted onions around pork. Stir half of the fresh thyme and parsley into the Glaze. Carefully spoon some of the glaze over pork and top with remaining herbs. Serve with Glaze.

Kitchen Tip: To check temperature, insert meat thermometer into thickest park of meat, close to bone but not touching bone. For accuracy, check multiple spots.

Makes approx. 8 servings plus
Adapted from http://www.bhg.com/

Holiday Survival Week ~ Serene Table Scheme

Serene Scheme




How to dress up your regular dishes for the holidays? Try adding neutral decorations like these sparkling tiny trees, reindeer ornament, and a glittery artificial pine sprig in white.

I really love this...it just shows that you can have a very elegant and festive look without using red and green everywhere.

Cookie Week ~ 3 in 1 Sugar Cookies


This recipe was easy to make and very tasty. The cookies had a crunch and freshness to them. Instead of buying already made dough, just make these. They require few ingredients and they do not take much of time to make.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Coarse sugar, aka sanding or crystallized sugar
Royal Icing, recipe follows

Directions
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat the butter and both sugars in another medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and orange zest mixing until fully incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture, and continue beating until the dough comes together, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

For rolled cookies: Roll about a tablespoon of dough by hand into a ball. Dip 1 side of the balls into some coarse sugar and place them sugar-side-up on an ungreased baking sheet, leaving about 1-inch between cookies.

For sliced cookies: Divide dough in half, roll by hand into 2-inch-wide logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Cut the logs into 1/4-inch-thick cookies and place them on ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1-inch between cookies.

For cutout cookies: Divide dough in half, pat into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

**Tip: roll out and use cookie cutters when the dough is room temp, THEN refrigerate before... baking. Cookies do spread quite a bit when baking, so leave plenty of room between cookies.

Roll dough between lightly floured parchment, or waxed paper, until about 1/3-inch thick. Transfer sheets to a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut into desired shape using a cookie cutter, place them on ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1-inch between cookies. (Gather the dough scraps together, pat into a disk, chill and reroll.)

Refrigerate cookies while preheating the oven to 375 degrees F, for at least 30 minutes.

Bake the cookies, until the bottoms are golden, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on shape. Cool on sheets until firm enough to transfer to a rack to cool. Decorate as desired and serve, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Royal Icing:
5 tablespoons meringue powder (egg white powder)
6 tablespoons water
1 pound confectioners' sugar (about 3 3/4 to 4 cups or 1 box)
Food coloring, as desired

Combine all the ingredients, except the food coloring, in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix slowly until stiff enough to form peaks. The icing should be pure white and thick, but not fluffy and bubbly. If the frosting is overbeaten, it will get aerated which makes it harder to work with. If this happens, let the frosting sit to settle, then use a rubber spatula to vigorously beat and smooth out the frosting.

Alternatively, combine ingredients in a large bowl, and beat with hand beaters on low speed until the frosting thickens to stiff peaks.

Add up to 1 tablespoon food coloring and mix with a rubber spatula until the color is uniform. (Adding too much color reduces the sheen of the frosting and can break down the consistency of the frosting over a couple of days.) Store icing, covered, with plastic film on the surface of the icing.

Yield: 1 pound royal icing (1 2/3 cup)

Copyright 2005 Television Food Network, G.P. All rights reserved.

Cookie Week ~ Orange Almond Bars


These bright citrusy bars are the perfect addition to a platter filled with rich chocolate treats.

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Milk
1/2 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped
Orange Icing

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add about half of the flour, the sugar, egg, baking powder, orange peel, almond extract, and salt. Beat until combined; scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the remaining flour. Using hands, knead dough into a ball.

2. Divide dough into fourths. On a lightly floured surface, shape each portion into an 8-inch-long roll. Place two rolls 4 to 5 inches apart on each of two ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten with hands until rolls are 2 inches wide.

3. Brush flattened rolls with milk; sprinkle with almonds. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 22 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cut warm rolls crosswise at a diagonal into 1-inch-wide bars. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Drizzle Orange Icing over cooled cookies. Makes 40 bars.

Orange Icing: In a small mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Stir in enough orange juice (3 to 4 teaspoons) to make an icing of drizzling consistency.

To Store: Place cookies in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week. Or freeze undrizzled bars for up to 3 months; thaw bars and drizzle with icing.

Nutella Cupcakes?


I found this fascinating Nutella Cupcake post today:
I first saw these delectable cupcakes in Baking Bites and another posted by Mandy of Fresh from the Oven and they also appeared in a few other sites too. I just knew I got to take a bite of these… well, I had 4 small ones, they were not that big! Really! Well, they were slightly bigger than minis, and definitely not in the BIG category.
You should read the whole article.
ritasbasket, Rita’s Basket: Nutella Cupcakes, Dec 2009
 
 

Cookie Week ~ History of the Cookie


The word cookie originally came from the Dutch keokje, meaning "little cake." In addition, the Dutch first popularized cookies in the United States. The British took a liking to them in the 19th century, incorporating them into their daily tea service and calling them biscuits or sweet buns, as they do in Scotland.


Sometime in the 1930s, so the story goes, a Massachusetts innkeeper ran out of nuts while making cookies. Therefore, she substituted a bar of baking chocolate, breaking it into pieces and adding the chunks of chocolate to the flour, butter and brown sugar dough. The Toll House Cookie, so named after the inn in which it was served, was a hit.

Historians credit the innkeeper, Ruth Wakefield, with inventing what has since become an American classic - the chocolate chip cookie.

The earliest cookie-style cakes are thought to date back to seventh-century Persia, one of the first countries to cultivate sugar. There are six basic cookie styles, any of which can range from tender-crisp to soft. A drop cookie is made by dropping spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet. Bar cookies are created when a batter or soft dough is spooned into a shallow pan, then baked, cooled and cut into bars.

Hand-formed (or molded) cookies are made by shaping dough by hand into small balls, logs, crescents and other shapes.

Pressed cookies are formed by pressing dough through a cookie press to form fancy shapes and designs.

Refrigerator (or icebox) cookies are made by shaping the dough into a log, which is refrigerated until firm, then sliced and baked. Rolled cookies begin by using a rolling pin to roll the dough out flat; then it is cut into decorative shapes with cookie cutters or a pointed knife.

Other cookies, such as the German Springerle, are formed by imprinting designs on the dough, either by rolling a special decoratively carved rolling pin over it or by pressing the dough into a carved cookie mold. In England, cookies are called biscuits , in Spain they're galletas , Germans call them keks, in Italy they're biscotti and so on.

The first American cookie was originally brought to this country by the English, Scots, and Dutch immigrants. Our simple "butter cookies" strongly resemble the English tea cakes and the Scotch shortbread.

The Southern colonial housewife took great pride in her cookies, almost always called simply "tea cakes." These were often flavored with nothing more than the finest butter, sometimes with the addition of a few drops of rose water.

In earlier American cookbooks, cookies were given no space of their own but were listed at the end of the cake chapter. They were called by such names as "Jumbles," "Plunkets," and "Cry Babies." The names were extremely puzzling and whimsical.

http://www.kitchenproject.com/history/cookies.htm

Cookie Week ~ Snickerdoodle Croissant Cookies


If you like Snickerdoodles these cut croissants are a must try! This special shape is easier to create than you may think.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
Milk
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans*
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions
1. Beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough into three equal portions; shape each portion into a disk. Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll each portion of dough to a 9-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Lightly brush each round with milk. Combine nuts, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Sprinkle nut mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Cut each circle into 12 wedges with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Roll up each wedge, starting from the wide end. Bend ends of roll to shape it into a crescent. Place crescents 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 14 to 16 minutes or until bottoms are lightly brown. Cool cookies on cookie sheets on wire racks for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Makes 36 cookies.

Tip: To toast nuts, spread them in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until nuts are slightly golden brown, stirring once or twice. Cool completely. Finely chop nuts and set aside. Makes: 36 cookies
To store: Place cookies, without powdered sugar, in layers separated by pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw cookies, if frozen. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Cookie Week ~ Oatmeal Scotchies


A cookie jar classic, Oatmeal Scotchies are chewy and crisp cookies chock-full of butterscotch flavored candy morsels. I've replaced some of the sugar and all-purpose white flour to "bulk" the cookies up a bit and add more fiber. These are also fabulous if you substitute some of the butterscotch chips with chopped walnuts (great source of omega-3's for you!).  The same recipe works with chocolate chips or a combination of butterscotch & chocolate...experiment and have fun!

Tip: You can save yourself a ton of time if instead of making cookies, these are made into cookie bars. Just place all the dough into a rectangular 9" x 13" casserole dish (spray with a light coat of Pam© cooking spray first) and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. My husband loves these bars warmed in the microwave with a scoop of ice cream on the top.
Makes 48 servings

Ingredients
1/2 pound butter, softened
3/4 cup Splenda granulated
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Oatmeal, uncooked (either quick or regular)
11 ounces (1 pkg.) butterscotch morsels

Directions
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Add oats and butterscotch morsels; mix well.

Drop dough by level tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 7 to 8 minutes for a chewy cookie or 9 to 10 minutes for a crisp cookie. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered or wrap thoroughly and freeze.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (Homemade Oreos)


Recipe by: Brown Eyed Baker

One word: Amazing. If you have any affinity for Oreo cookies at all, you will happily devour these without looking back. Two chocolate wafer cookies that sandwich a vanilla cream between them – if you close your eyes you may not even notice that they didn’t come out of a blue package. Well, that’s not entirely true. They are better because they’re homemade, of course. The familiar chocolate wafer packs an insane amount of richness and a perfectly balanced flavor, thanks to the use of Dutch-processed cocoa powder. And the vanilla cream in the middle? The texture is perfect and you can easily twist these apart just like you did when you were a kid. Whether you lick off the cream the middle, eat one side at a time, or dunk the whole thing in milk, one thing is certain: you will absolutely enjoy eating these. You’ll feel like a kid again, all while enjoying a grown-up, non-processed version of a favorite cookie.


For the Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Garnish: Decorative sugar (optional)

1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Divide dough in half and form each piece into a 6-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

4. Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 14×10-inch rectangle (1/8-inch thick). Slide dough in parchment onto a tray and freeze until dough is firm, about 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Cut out as many rounds as possible from first chilled square with a 2-inch fluted or round cutter, reserving and chilling scraps, then quickly transfer cookies to a buttered baking sheet, arranging them ½ inch apart. (If dough becomes too soft, return to freezer until firm.)

6. Sprinkle half of cookies with decorative sugar (if using), then bake cookies until baked through and slightly puffed, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on sheet on rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely (cookies will crisp as they cool).

7. Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (re-roll only once).

8. To make the filling, beat the butter and shortening together at medium speed until combined and smooth. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until the filling is light and fluffy.

9. To assemble the cookies, pipe a heaping teaspoon of filling onto the flat side of the plain cookies. Top with the sugared cookies to make sandwiches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield: About 3 dozen sandwich cookies

(Adapted from Gourmet, December 2007)

Weekend Bonus! Slow Cooker Two Pea Soup


Mixing earthy green split peas, green peas, and fresh flat-leaf parsley puts a vibrant spin on a comforting favorite. Simmer with smoked pork hocks if you're a traditionalist.


Ingredients
1 large onion, cut in wedges
2 medium carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut in 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup dry split peas, rinsed and drained
2 lb. meaty smoked pork hocks
1/2 tsp. dried summer savory or marjoram, crushed
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 16-oz. pkg. frozen green peas
1/3 cup packed fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Directions
Thaw frozen peas.
Finely chop onion, carrot, celery, and garlic (do not roast).
In 4- to 5-quart slow cooker combine the chopped vegetables, dry split peas, savory, pepper, and 4-1/2 cups water.
Add pork hocks; cover.
Cook on low for 9 to 10 hours or on high for 4-1/2 to 5 hours.

Remove pork hocks. Place thawed peas, and parsley in a blender. Add about 1 cup of the soup; process until smooth. Stir into soup. Carefully cut pork off bones; chop and add to soup.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in lemon juice.

Original article: bhg.com

Crock Pot Week - Lasagna


Today's recipe is very easy and delicious. I prefer to use my larger oval shaped crock pot for this recipe as there is less cutting or breaking of the noodles necessary.  You don't even need to purchase special noodles (those no-boil kind) I have made this recipe for years and always have used standard lasagna noodles.  This is a great recipe for large gatherings.


Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 large jar spaghetti sauce (such as Ragu in the 1 lb. 10 ounce jar)
1/4 cup water
1 package (8 ounces) lasagna noodles
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan/Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Brown the beef, onion, and garlic in a little oil in a frying pan. Drain off any grease.

Add the spaghetti sauce and water into the browned meat mixture. Mix well (note: you want the sauce to be a bit thin as the noodles will soak up the water during the cooking process).

In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, milk, and egg. Beat until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Then mix in the mozzarella cheese and the grated cheese, so that all the cheeses are combined.

Spray the sides of the crock pot lightly with Pam© or similar cooking spray.

Put about 1/4 of the meat and sauce mixture in the bottom of the Crock Pot. Place a layer of noodles on top of that (break or cut them if needed). Put about 1/3 of the cheese mixture on top of that. Then repeat with sauce, noodles, cheese for another 2 layers. Top with meat sauce. Cook on low for 6 hours or until noodles are tender.

Crock Pot Week - The History of Slow Cooking


Ever since man first tamed fire, slow cooking was discovered as a way to soften up and tenderize those tough slabs of meat and fibrous rooty vegetables. In prehistoric times, indigenous peoples often cooked wild root plants in a slow burning fire pit for a full 24 hours. This released the nutrition locked into the bulbs and made them much more tender and tastier to eat. Tough meat cuts especially benefit from slow cooking. Slow cooking these chewy cuts broke down the collagen in the meat and turned it into a gelatinous broth. As the fibers of the meat separated and shrunk during slow cooking, the juices would moisten the meat and turn even the toughest cuts into a mouth watering meal.

As food preparation became more refined, family chefs looked for quicker ways to prepare their meals. Modern appliances and easy fixing meals meant that all day cooking was a thing of the past. Slow cooking was considered an archaic pastime and primarily used to for stewing old hens, preparing kettles of soup and baking beans.

With canned bean selections pretty limited in the early 1960s, it's no wonder that the West Bend developed an electric bean cooker called the Bean Pot. This early electric slow cooker resembled a tradition crockery bean pot which rested on a warming tray.

The Crock Pot is developed
The Naxon Utilities Corp of Chicago developed their own version of a bean cooker, called the Beanery. This primitive slow cooker was a self contained unit and the precursor of the modern slow cooker. In 1970, the Rival company acquired the assets of the Naxon Utilities Corp and the rights to the Beanery. Rival refined the looks of the Beanery, and in 1971, introduced the Rival Crock-pot slow cooker.

The Crock Pot was an instant success and soon housewives across America included Crock Pots in their lineup of must have appliances. In 1974, Rival redesigned the Crock Pot once again to include a removable stoneware liner. This removable liner made it much easier to store the food in the refrigerator and made cleanup a snap.

After only 10 years, Crock Pot sales reached $30 million dollar in 1981.

These days, Crock Pots and slow cookers aren't quite as popular as they once were, and are often the butt of Wedding Gift jokes. I myself received six of them back in the late 1970s! All six of the Crock Pots were returned since I already had one of my own ~ Mom's old Rival's 1971 debut Crock Pot in Brady Bunch orange. 35 years later, her old crock pot is still being used twice a week to prepare family dinners. I think of it as my little secret for cooking mouthwatering meals on a shoe-string budget.

How Crock Pot cooking can save time & money in the kitchen
The idea behind the slow cooker is still a sound one. That long, slow simmering does tenderize tough cuts of roasts and chicken, and bring a fullness of flavor to home made soups. It's also ideal for cooking dried beans and legumes which require hours of slow simmering to soften. Stews and soups aren't all that Crock Pots can do ~ in our household, we slow cook everything from casseroles to rice & pasta dishes, steamed puddings and even breads.

The greatest advantage of all, is something that our mothers discovered back in 1971. Fifteen minutes of prep time in the morning meant that a steaming hot dinner greeted our families at the door after a long day at school and work. For a family watching pennies, even after 35 years, Crock Pot cooking continues to be an easy and affordable way to prepare evening meals.

Written by C. Jeanne Heida - Featured Business & Finance Contributor

Crock Pot Week - Vegetarian Burritos


This is one of our favorite recipes as it requires just a little prep around lunch time, and then by the time dinner rolls around, your crock pot vegetarian burritos are ready!

Prep Time: 5 minutes; Cook Time: 4 hours

Ingredients:
1 cup rice
2 cup vegetable broth
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 15 oz. can mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 tsp ground chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
6 8-inch flour tortillas
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup salsa
1 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Preparation:
1. Place the first seven ingredients in a 4-quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-5 hours, until liquid is absorbed.

2. Place about 1/2 cup of the bean mixture in each tortilla, then wrap the tortilla around the bean mixture.

3. Top each burrito evenly with the sour cream, salsa, cheese, and green onion.

Serves 6; Per Serving Calories 307

Crock Pot Week - Pineapple Chicken


Serve this crock pot pineapple chicken over steamed rice for a complete, healthy asian meal. Pineapple and red bell pepper load the dish with vitamin C, and lean chicken breast contributes loads of lean protein. For an extra nutrition boost, skip the white rice and instead use brown rice for extra fiber and B vitamins.

Prep Time: 5 minutes; Cook Time: 5 hours, 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb. chicken breasts
1 20 oz. can unsweetened chunk pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped red bell pepper (1 medium)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced fine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped green onion

Preparation:

1. In a four-quart slow cooker, line the chicken along the bottom of the dish. Add the undrained pineapple, red bell pepper, chicken broth, ginger, and garlic.

2. Cook on low for 5 hours.

3. In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, corn starch, white vinegar, and brown sugar. Remove the cooking liquid from the crockpot using a ladle, and add to the pot. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, unitil the mixture becomes thick. Return the sauce to the crock pot.

4. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped green onion.

Serves 4; Per Serving Calories 210