Wednesday, December 31, 2008


This is Cathy's favorite martini, Kristin's a big fan as well, and I must say it's way high on my list too. Not only does it have a crisp taste but it looks festive and is perfect for your next cocktail party. Fabulous!

Use the martini shaker lid to measure:

1½ citrus vodka
1 Cointreau or orange liqueur
splash Pom Juice
splash seltzer
garnish with lemon or orange rind

Assemble all ingredients in bar or mixing glass. Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with spiraled orange or lemon rind.

For a festive presentation, instead of garnishing with the orange rind, try rimming your martini glasses with superfine sugar and garnishing with a slice of fresh lime.
Btw, when I made them for TQ's Cocktail Lounge, I didn't have any seltzer, so I gave it a splash of ginger ale. It was great! Oh, and I always go a little heavy on the POM, just because I love it so much. Great then!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chocolate Martini

There are a million different recipes for chocolate martinis, but in my opinion, this one wins. It was given to me by my friend Jeni P, who is the Queen of All Beverages. Thanx Jeni P! Cheers!

Use the shaker lid to measure:

1½ Chocolate Liqueur
1½ Crème De Cacao
2½ half-n-half

Place everything in your martini shaker, shake well, and strain into martini glasses.

For chocolate chip cookie martini, add 1 vanilla vodka, splash of chocolate syrup, chocolate shavings

Monday, December 29, 2008


This is my favorite martini of all time. Ever since I went out for drinks with Nick before seeing Dolly Parton's Hello Dolly concert, I've loved appletinis. It was the first time I had ever been to Bump, and honestly, I had maybe a little too much, but BOY! was that a fun concert!!! Nick, you're such a bad influence!
Since then, I've found that there are a million different recipes for apple martinis, and the variations range from green apple to sour apple to caramel apple and on and on. My personal favorite is the green appletini. It's sweet and tart and crisp, just like an apple. Good times!

1 oz vodka
1 oz green apple schnapps
1 oz apple juice
crushed ice

Place all ingredients into a shaker, and shake well. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of apple or a stemmed maraschino cherry.

Caramel Appletini - add 1 part butterscotch schnapps
Sour Appletini - substitute Apple Pucker schnapps for the green apple schnapps

I've often seen this martini made with just the schnapps and the vodka, which I think is a little too harsh. I like to include the apple juice to cut the alcohol a bit. Great then.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seasoned Pretzels

Whenever Cathy makes these yummy pretzels for friends, they always want to know what the recipe is. Of course, she always keeps them guessing, only telling them when they've guessed correctly. It's always the lemon pepper that stumps everyone! I know your party guests will love 'em!
Thanx Cath!

1 box Snyder's Old Fashioned pretzels, broken into pieces
1 packet dry Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dill
1 tsp. Lemon pepper
1/2 cup oil

Mix seasonings together, toss pretzels to coat, spread on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Stir, back in for another 8 to 10 minutes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hot Cocoa

So, when I say hot cocoa, what words come to mind? Rich, delicious, warm, sweet, creamy, decadent, comforting, relaxing. Did I miss any? Seriously, who doesn't like hot cocoa? It's the perfect thing to have when you want to put your feet up and relax on a cold night. I like to start with the basic recipe and then try different variations. Some are perfect for the little ones, others are just for Mom and Dad. Even if you serve it without any of the variations, it'll always hit the spot!

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half cream

Combine the cocoa, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Blend in the boiling water. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir. Simmer and stir for about 2minutes. Watch that it doesn't scorch. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil! Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs. Add the cream to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature. Top each mug with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or a dusting of more cocoa powder, if desired.

For the kids:
-Stir your cocoa with a candy cane or a cinnamon stick.
-Float some miniature marshmallows in each mug or top with a dollop of marshmallow fluff.

For Mom and Dad:
Add a splash your favorite spirits:
-Bailey's Irish Cream
-Grand Marnier
-Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

Want something REALLY rich and decadent? Substitute half and half for some (or all) of the milk.
To add a deeper level of flavor, place a whole vanilla bean in a small pot with the milk. GENTLY simmer it until the milk is infused with the vanilla flavor and then add it to your cocoa as directed.
For a spicy twist, add a pinch of cayenne pepper!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
to kids from one to ninety-two
although it's been said many times many ways
Merry Christmas to you!

Rosemary Mulled Wine and Tea

To borrow a lyric from one of my favorite Christmas songs,

"Greeting cards have all been sent, the Christmas rush is through.."

Now that you're finished running around like a maniac, it's time to put your feet up and enjoy spending the holiday with your family. This is the perfect thing to have on Christmas night while sitting by the fire. The aroma is inviting and it makes the whole house smell wonderful.
Merry Christmas!

1 bottle full-bodied red wine
1 qt black Darjeeling tea
1/4 c honey
1/3 c sugar, or to taste
2 oranges, sliced thin and seeded
2 cinnamon sticks (3-inch)
6 whole cloves
3 rosemary sprigs

Pour the wine and tea into a noncorrodible saucepan. Add the honey, sugar, oranges, spices, and rosemary. Heat over low heat until barely steaming. Stir until the honey is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, reheat until just steaming and serve hot.

If you have leftovers, remove the oranges and rosemary, let the punch cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Reheat gently with fresh oranges and rosemary. The punch will be a bit stronger, but still quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Easy Homemade Fudge

The key to this recipe is the marshmallow creme. It creates the perfect creamy rich texture. Make a batch and then wrap up fudge squares for a thoughtful homemade gift.

3 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter
2/3 c. evaporated milk
1 (12 oz.) pkg. Baker's semi-sweet real chocolate chips
1 (7 oz.) jar Kraft marshmallow creme
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir together butter, sugar and milk in a heavy 3 quart saucepan. Bring to full boil, stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes over medium heat or until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in chocolate until melted. Add remaining ingredients. Mix until well blended. Pour into greased 13"x9" pan. Cool to room temperature. Cut into squares. Makes about 3 pounds.

For Peanut Butter Fudge: In place of chocolate chips, use 1 small jar smooth, crunchy or extra crunchy peanut butter.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Paula's Cheesy Shrimp on Grits Toast

Once again, I'm turning to Paula Deen, my favorite, for a fabulous recipe. I was recently watching Paula's Home Cooking, and she made these little gems. As I watched her make them, I kept thinking "How can these not be good??" Seriously, whats not to love? I also figured they'd be perfect for the Holiday Entertaining theme since they're clearly easy to make and simply elegant.

3 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 1/3 cup quick-cooking grits
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon butter, melted
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1/2 cup grated Italian cheese blend
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1/2 lb cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp, chopped
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in grits, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, or until grits are thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheese and salt. Remove from heat. Spoon grits into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Cover, and chill at least 2 hours, or until firm. Un-mold grits onto a large cutting board. Cut out 48 (1 1/2-inch) circles using a round or fluted cookie cutter. Brush a large jellyroll pan with melted butter. Place grits rounds on pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn grits, and bake 45 minutes more. Set aside. (Up to this point, the recipe can be prepared ahead. If preparing early, cover and refrigerate grit rounds until you are ready to top with shrimp mixture.)

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and half-and-half, stirring until combined. Stir in cheese, parsley, and shrimp. Top each grits round evenly with shrimp mixture. Top mixture with grated cheddar cheese. Broil 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through.

It seems to me that you could just cut the grits into small squares if you don't have time to cut them into the small rounds. This would also insure that you use all of your grits, rather than having scraps left from cutting circles.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Frozen Cranberry Margaritas

This one was given to me by one of my favorite people on the planet, Jessie. It's actually from the December 2006 issue of Bon Appetit, but since Jessie gave it to me, she gets the credit. Thanx Floss!

1 1/4 cup premium tequila
1 1/4 cups frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup canned jellied cranberry sauce
1/2 plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (this is 10 tablespoons total)
6 tablespoons Grand Marnier

To make the Margarita base for 12 drinks blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour out half of Margarita base into a glass measuring bowl. Set aside. To the other half add 3 1/2 cups ice cubes and blend until it's slushy; pour into salt-rimmed Margarita glasses. Garnish with cranberries.

Pour second half of Margarita mixture back into blender and repeat process, adding another 3 1/2 cups ice cubes.

Be sure to get Grand Marnier instead of using Triple Sec or some other lower grade of orange liqueur. It really does make a difference. It's the same with the Tequila. You don't have to use top shelf, but try not to get the bottom of the barrel.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tziki Dip

My sister, Maureen, made this for a family get together and I immediately became a fan. It has such a crisp fresh taste! Make it for your next event and your guests will love it!
Thanx Reen!

1 large container of plain yogurt
1 seedless cucumber, finely minced and well drained
1-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

Put a coffee filter (or cheese cloth) in a colander or a mesh strainer. Empty the container of yogurt into the filter, fold the edges over top of the yogurt, and sit the colander over a large bowl. Place the whole thing in the fridge. Leave it there for at least 8 hrs. Best to leave it there for a day or two.
After the yogurt is completely drained, place it in a mixing bowl along with the cucumber. Then add garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Mix well. Place back in the fridge to let the flavors blend for a while.
Serve cold with toasted pita chips.

Be sure to read your yogurt labels. To get the thickest richest result, make sure you buy a yogurt that has no gelatin in it. It'll still be great no matter what yogurt you buy, but the ones without gelatin work MUCH better. I'm just sayin'. Oh, and by the way, if you want a completely fat free dip, use a nonfat yogurt and omit the drizzle of olive oil! Simple!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Homemade Eggnog

Here's another one of those holiday splurges that's SO delicious but so rich! It's not something you'd drink every night, but BOY do I love it! This is the only time of year to enjoy, so have at it!

9 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1 1/2 c super fine sugar
1 qt whole milk
2 qt heavy cream
vanilla ice cream

Beat egg yolks until thick and pale yellow. Add sugar to yolks and beat while adding milk and 1 quart of heavy cream. Beat the other quart of heavy cream and egg whites separately and fold each into the mixture. Pour into punch bowl and float ice cream in bowl. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

If you like, you can stir in 1 pt bourbon, 8 oz cognac and 2 oz dark rum after adding the milk and heavy cream to the egg yolk mixture or you can just set the bottles of alcohol next to the punchbowl for your guests to add their own, if they so choose.
By the way, I seem to remember Sara Moulton saying not to worry about raw eggs because it's only like 1 in 20,000 eggs that isn't good, so the odds are in your favor. If you're still not comfortable adding raw eggs, just use pasteurized eggs and egg whites. Problem solved!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Paula's Peppermint Bark

Here's a little holiday treat from the one and only Paula Deen.
It's very simple to make and it's a fun and different something to offer friends when they stop by. Great then!

Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate
Peppermint flavorings, optional

Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy cane chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hot Spiced Apple Cider

A few years ago, I was invited to Bruce and Kim's for a caroling party on the night before Christmas Eve. It was so much fun! We all brought flashlights and bundled ourselves up, then strolled around town singing our hearts out for the whole neighborhood. We had a blast! Anyway, after we finished singing, we all went back to the house for a warming mug of spiced apple cider. It was the perfect thing! So, when you have YOUR caroling party, be sure to make this for your impromptu choir. It's warm and comforting and it makes the whole house smell wonderful!
Try it!

1/2 gallon apple cider
12 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
1 c. orange juice
1/2 c. lemon juice

Heat apple cider. Add all ingredients. Allow the mixture to simmer for half hour or more. That's all there is to it! Serve in mugs.

To keep everything warm, place spiced cider in a crock pot set on the warm setting. Place a ladle nearby so guests can serve themselves!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Baked Potato Dip

Cathy told me about this recipe that she received from her friend, Lee Pinksy. Can I just tell you it's to die for!! I'm not even kidding. You're gonna taste this and say OH MY GOD! Seriously, this is one of those dishes where you look at the ingredients and say "How can this not be good?" I mean, come on! It's everything you'd put on top of a potato, all baked into one fabulous party dip! Why didn't anyone think of this sooner? And it smells HEAVENLY while it's baking in the oven. It's so good you'll want to slap someone!
Thanx Lee!!!

1/2 cup potato flakes
1/2 cup milk

Mix and let sit for a few minutes.

Add 4 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1-2 scallions chopped
1/2 cup cheddar
1/2 cup bacon bits
Spices you like (garlic, salt, pepper, chives, dill)

Put into baking dish.
Top with chopped scallion, 1/2 cup cheddar, 1/2 cup bacon bits
Bake 20 minutes at 350
Smear it on your partner and enjoy!!!

If you have any other favorite baked potato toppings, feel free to add them! Oh, and in case anyone isn't familiar, potato flakes are simply instant mashed potatoes. Great then!

Thanx to Cathy for making it for the picture!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sauerkraut Balls

Don't you just love how recipes travel? They get passed from family member to family member to friends to more friends and on and on. Denny passed this one to me and now I'm happy to pass it on to you! How fun is that? Now, before you go jumping to conclusions with your possibly preconceived notions about sauerkraut, just give it a chance. Rinsing the sauerkraut and finely chopping it changes everything. Trust me, you'll love it!

Ok, this recipe comes from Rick's best friend Karen's mother Sonia.
Very addictive.

1 cup pork sausage (8 oz.)
1/4 cup minced onion
1 (1lb.) can sauerkraut, rinsed, drained and snipped into fine shreds
2 tbsp. fine breadcrumbs
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
Salad oil

In large fry pan, crumble and cook sausage and onion until lightly browned; drain excess fat. Mix in next 6 ingredients. Refrigerate until cool. Shape mixture into small (melon baller size) balls (about 40) and coat with flour. Combine eggs and milk. Dip floured balls into egg mixture, then in remaining bread crumbs. Cook in hot oil (375 degrees) about 1 1/2 inches deep until golden brown, or 2-3 min. Serve hot. Keep warm in chafing dish over warmer.

The first time I made these, I immediately LOVED them, but I was dying to dip them into some sort of accompanying sauce. So, I tried a few different things. Pizza sauce, honey mustard, BBQ sauce, ketchup, cocktail sauce, duck sauce, even teryaki sauce. To be honest, I thought all of the sauces worked pretty well. I decided that the sweeter sauces were the ones I liked best. Maybe it's because I have an insatiable sweet tooth, or maybe it's because I've always love the combination of sweet and savory. The mustard is a key flavor, so I'm guessing that's why the honey mustard worked well. Try a few different sauces and let me know which ones you like best!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Entertaining!

If you've been following my blog, you know how much I love to do weekly themes. And by 'weekly theme' I mean posting an announcement on Sunday and then doing 6 recipes that have something in common throughout the rest of the week. The problem is that I have too many holiday themes and not enough holiday weeks! I thought of doing a week of party foods, since everyone is either hosting or attending holiday parties. And of course there MUST be a week of festive foods and beverages, since I love decorating and trimming the trees and baking and listening to Christmas music and watching The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who and Charlie Brown and the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser and Rudolph and Hermey and Yukon Cornelius and the Island of Misfit Toys and Frosty and Santa Claus and Miss Jessica and The Winter Warlock and The Burgermeister Meisterburger, (as told and sung by Fred Astaire). Then there's the week of cocktails and beverages, as we gear up for ringing in the new year. But wait! New Year's Eve is in the middle of the week! That's gives me only HALF of a week, which is CLEARLY not enough for an entire theme. What a dilemma! So, here's my solution. Instead of short changing any of those themes, I've decided to mix them all up into one big fat Holiday Entertaining theme! From now until the first weekend in January, I'll be doing all kinds of recipes from party foods, to cocktails, to anything Festivus! Great then!

Be safe and enjoy your holiday!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mom's Applesauce Bread

Mom always called it Applesauce Cake, but to me, it's more of a quick bread than a cake, so I'll just go with that. It was always one of Mom's favorites and it meets all of my quick bread criteria: delicious, moist, doubles easily, freezes well. Perfect!
Try it!

4 c. flour
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c. shortening
2 1/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 c applesauce
1/2 cup + 1 tbs water
1 1/2 c raisins (optional)

Heat oven to 325F. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Set aside.
Sift dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix shortening and sugar, then add eggs and mix until light and fluffy. Mix in applesauce. At low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with water, beating just until smooth. Stir in raisins, if using. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 1 1/4 hours or until cake tester comes out clean.

This recipe makes 2 loaves and the amounts may be a little tricky to cut in half. If you only need one, I suggest baking two anyway, and just put one of them in the freezer until you need another one.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lemon Loaf

Usually when I get a recipe from my sister, Patty, it's for a delicious and hearty soup. This time, however, it's a delightfully sweet treat that I'm sure you and your family will love. Thanx Pat!

I'm happy to be part of "quick bread week"! This recipe for Lemon Loaf was given to me by my sister-in-law, Carol. I'm pretty sure it was from a fundraising cookbook for her kids' school in London, Ontario (man, those recipes travel, don't they?) I like this one because it's not too sweet - just enough to feel like a treat, but not too sweet that you can't have it for breakfast (which I have, I confess....) This recipe makes one loaf, but I usually double it - it freezes very well.

2 tbsp. butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbs. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Cream butter and sugar (if butter is soft, you don't need to use a mixer - a whisk or wooden spoon is fine). Add eggs one at a time. Add all other ingredients. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan. Bake at 350* for 1 hour (check after about 45 minutes - loaf should be lightly browned around the edges when it is done and a wooden toothpick should come out clean when inserted in center). Remove from pan. When slightly cool, brush the top and sides with 1/4 cup sugar dissolved in 2 tbs. warm lemon juice (I usually just heat it in the microwave for a minute).

The thing that makes this recipe is the glaze. It REALLY gives you that perfectly delicious punch of lemon.
This recipe makes a really tasty batter and it seems to me that you could do many variations with it. Orange instead of lemon? How about a combination of both? Maybe add some blueberries or even craisins? Who's with me?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Zucchini Bread

This recipe is from Cathy's Mother-in-law. It's really the best zucchini bread I've ever tasted. No lie! I'm thrilled to be able to share it with you!

Here's the world famous Zucchini Bread from Mrs. Francis. It's very moist & delicious.

3 cups sugar
1 cup oil (I have also done 2/3 cup oil and 1/3 cup applesauce)
2 cups shredded zucchini
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups raising (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Spray 2 loaf pans with baking spray or grease/flour as you normally do. Mix first 3 ingredients together. Add eggs one at a time. Add blended dry ingredients. Fold in raisins, if using. Bake one hour or more until cake tests for doneness.

You can easily double this recipe or cut it in half!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Apricot Carrot Bread

Whenever I see a recipe with apricots, I always think of one of my favorite people on the planet, my friend Ginna. She LOVES anything apricot! So, this one is for you Gin Gin! It's SO simple! You just throw everything together, pour it into the pan and bake it. EASY! Ginna, even YOU could make it! No, that's not a cabinet at the far end of your kitchen. It's called an OVEN! Love ya!

1 3/4 c. flour
1 ts baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. carrots, shredded
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1/3 c. dried apricots, cut into small bits

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray an 8x4" loaf pan with cooking spray. In large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium size bowl combine beaten egg, sugar, apple sauce, carrots, and vegetable oil. Add all at once to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened (batter will be thick). Fold in apricots. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar and 2 tsp apple juice to make drizzling consistency. Pour over cooled bread.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cherry Sweet Potato Bread

Here's a flavor combination that I never would have thought to put together, but which goes together beautifully. It's kind of similar to pumpkin bread, but it has a slightly different texture. The cherries add just the right sweetness to go with the fullness of the sweet potatoes. Delish! And the red cherries make it look so festive, don't you think? Oh, btw, just fyi, the original recipe called for the addition of raisins and nuts, but I chose to omit them. As far as I'm concerned, they seemed to clutter everything up. I kinda figured it's not called cherry sweet potato raisin nut bread. It's just cherry sweet potato bread! So, that settled that. If, however, you feel that your life will end if you don't add the raisins and nuts, then by all means, go for it! Who am I to argue?

1 3/4 c flour
1 1/2 c sugar
1 ts baking soda
1/4 ts salt
1 ts cinnamon
1 ts pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c vegetable oil
1/2 c milk
1 ts pure vanilla extract
15 oz canned sweet potatoes, drained, mashed
1/2 c maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
1 ts pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325F.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, salt, soda, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Add eggs, oil, milk, and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Stir in sweet potatoes, and cherries. Pour into well greased bread pan that has been lightly floured. Bake approximately 1 hour (check at 50 minutes). Remove from oven when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Be sure to chop up the cherries. If you add them whole, they'll sink to the bottom instead of being disbursed throughout the bread.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Eggnog Bread

I made this recipe for the first time last year and I can't even begin to tell you how HUGE of a hit it was. Everyone RAVED about it! It has such a wonderful eggnog flavor. You MUST try it! Not only is it AMAZINGLY tasty, but it's also quick and easy to throw together, it uses basic ingredients and can be made WAY in advance. It's perfect! If you like eggnog, then this is definitely for you!

2 eggs
1 c sugar
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tbs rum extract
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom only of 9x5 inch loaf pan. Set aside. Beat eggs in large bowl. Add sugar, eggnog, butter, rum extract, and vanilla. Blend well. Sift dry ingredients. Add to batter, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove to wire rack. Cool completely.

The key to this recipe is, well yes, eggnog of course, but actually it's the rum extract. It REALLY gives you the huge burst of eggnog flavor that you want.
This recipe doubles easily, so make lots of them! Since both the eggnog and the baked loaves freeze well, go ahead and stock up on eggnog around the Christmas season, freeze it in one cup containers, then you can bake eggnog bread whenever you like. Bake extra loaves and keep them in the freezer for a treat any time of year. For an easy variation, pick your favorite chocolate quick bread recipe and marble them together.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Quick Bread Week!

It's time for gift baking, so do you know what that means??? It's Quick Bread Week! For years and years I've baked most of my Christmas gifts. I discovered long ago that it's MUCH less expensive and everyone is always so happy to receive something that's homemade. Every year, I choose one thing and then bake several of them. This week is Quick Bread Week because most times I choose some sort of quick bread for my gift of choice. I can make them far in advance and just keep them in the freezer until I visit with friends on Christmas day. So, this week, I'll be sharing some of my favorites. Bake a couple extra ones and keep them in the freezer in case you have unexpected company.

Great then!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rolo Cookies

Mmmmm..... caramel and chocolate! Two of my most favorite things! Ok now put them in the center of a delicious chewy chocolatey cookie, and what do you get?
Serious Chocolatopia!
Better make a double batch and have lots of ice cold milk on hand. These are to die for!

2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 c. butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
48 Rolo caramel candies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup, level off. In small bowl combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda; blend well. In large bowl, beat sugar, brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, beat well. Mix together the dry ingredients with the wet. Flour your hands. Shape dough around each Rolo, covering completely.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until set and slightly cracked. Cool for about 5 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet to a flat surface to cool.

I've seen versions of this recipe that include chopped pecans or other nuts. Not only do they include 1 cup of chopped pecans stirred into the cookie dough, but they also include pressing one side of each ball into a mixture of 1/2 cup pecans and 1 tbs of sugar. Then you place them pecan side up on your baking sheet and bake as usual.
As much as I like pecans, I like these cookies better without them and besides, my brother Denny doesn't like nuts, so I'll save the pecans for another recipe.
Ok Den? Happy now????????

Friday, December 5, 2008

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies

These thumbprint cookies are so named because you literally use your thumb (or finger) to make an indentation in a ball of cookie dough and then fill it up with jam or preserves. There are probably a gazillion recipes for thumbprint cookies, but this one is way high on my list. They're super tasty and the red jam makes your tray of cookies look all the more festive. Don't like raspberry? Choose another kind of jam! Try using blueberry, strawberry, apricot or pineapple preserves or even lemon curd. No matter what flavor you choose, they'll be scrumpdillyicious!

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar until smooth. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Mix in flour until dough comes together. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Using a thumb or finger, make a small hole or "thumbprint" in the center of each ball and fill the hole with 1/4 tsp of the preserves.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes in preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Let cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet.
In a medium bowl, mix together the confectioners' sugar, 3/4 teaspoon almond extract, and milk until smooth. Drizzle lightly over warm cookies.

The thing that makes this cookie is the almond glaze. Yes, they taste wonderful without it, but the glaze puts it over the top!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Whenever I find a fabulous recipe, I always want to know how it came to be. Sometimes it's all about the nation or region of origin. Sometimes it's about the cooking technique. And in this case, it's all about the name. What exactly is a "Snickerdoodle"? Of course, I did some research and this is what Wikipedia says:

The origin of the name “Snickerdoodle” has given rise to many theories but few facts. The Joy of Cooking claims that snickerdoodles are probably German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word for "snail dumpling" (Schneckennudeln, or cinnamon-dusted sweet rolls). Similarly, one author states that “the word 'snicker' may have come from a Dutch word 'snekrad', or the German word 'Schnecke', both describing a snail-like shape.” However, another author believes the name came from a New England tradition of fanciful, whimsical cookie names, and yet another cites a series of tall tales around a hero named Snickerdoodle from the early 1900s.

So, there you have it. Lots of ideas, but no facts. Oh well. I guess it really doesn't matter, though, does it? They're SO tasty! And it just wouldn't be Christmas without them. They go perfectly with a cup of coffee or an ice-cold glass of milk. If you've never tried them, you simply MUST.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
2. Mix 1 1/2 cups sugar, the butter, shortening and eggs in large bowl. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
3. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Mix 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Thanx to Betty Crocker for the recipe and also for the picture!

You can make them more chewy or more crunchy, depending on how long you bake them. If you like a chewier cookie, under bake them just a little. They'll be VERY soft when you take them out of the oven, but just let them cool for a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack. You'll wind up with a fabulously chewy cookie.
If you like a crispy crunchy cookie, just leave them in the oven for an extra minute or so, and then let them cool on a wire rack as usual.
Just one other note....
Many cookies recipes can be doubled with no problem, but in this case, I prefer to mix each batch one at a time. I don't know why, but for some reason, I find that they turn out better.
I'm just sayin'!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Eggnog Cookies

Many years ago, I was browsing through the cookbook section of a book store and I happened upon the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book. I bought it and tried a few of the recipes. Can I just tell you that it's now one of my all time favorite cookbooks? like EVER! I've tried easily dozens of the recipes in the book and there isn't a bad one in the bunch. Seriously! Here is one of my favorite Mrs. Fields recipes. Try 'em! I know you'll love 'em!

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup salted butter
1/2 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 larges egg yolks
1 tablespoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 300F.
In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix well with a wire whisk and set aside. In a large bowl cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer to form a grainy paste. Add eggnog, vanilla and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed just until combined. Do not overmix. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased baking sheets, 1 inch apart. Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until bottoms turn light brown. Immediately transfer to a cool, flat surface.

I like to add a tsp of rum extract. It really punches up the flavor!
If you'd like a glazed cookie, add a little eggnog to some powdered sugar until it's the right consistency and drizzle over the cooled cookies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crackerjack Cookies

This is one of my all time favorite cookie recipes. You might think that the name refers to Crackerjack caramel popcorn, but no. The name comes from an old expression, meaning GREAT. As in, "You're doing a crackerjack job!" My sister, Patty, first brought them to my attention and now they're permanently on my list of favorite cookies. You MUST try them! Like, right now!

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
2 cups crisp rice cereal

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, stir into the creamed mixture. Gently stir in the oatmeal, coconut, and rice cereal.
Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

It seems to me that you either love coconut or you're not a fan at all. For me, this recipe needs the coconut, so I wouldn't omit it. My friend, Michael, is not a fan of coconut and LOVED these cookies. So give them a try!
Oh, and for those of you who've asked about adding chocolate chips, I wouldn't. Yes, you certainly can, but I find that they overpower the rest of the flavors.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mom's Butter Cookies

If there was ONE cookie that says Christmas, as far as I'm concerned, it's this one. You can have chocolate chips or peanut butter cookies any time of year, but these cookies are clearly meant to be enjoyed during the Christmas season. Now, I know they take a little extra time, but they're seriously not as difficult as you might think. If you don't own a cookie press, or you've never used one, give it a try! They're really inexpensive and widely available. My Mom used to have this really old cookie press which was basically a small canister with a knob on the top. When you turned the knob, the cookie batter would be pressed through whatever design plate you had chosen and the cookie shape would be formed out of the bottom onto the cookie sheet. Then the big buzz was all about the Super Shooter, which is basically an electric version of the old stand by. The one I use now is sort of similar to a caulking gun. It's not electric, but it's easier to use than the Super Shooter, I think. You pull back the plunger thingy, fill up the canister with cookie dough, then you pull the trigger. It clicks the plunger forward, pressing out exactly one perfect little cookie. How awesome is that? Then when the canister is empty, you just fill it up again and repeat with as many different designs as you like.
They make the tray of cookies look festive, they don't spread out while they're baking so you can bake LOTS of them on one sheet, they only take 6 minutes in the oven, and one batch makes 6 dozen (instead of 3, as with most other cookie recipes). Oh, and did I mention how tasty they are? Better make extra because they'll go quickly! Have fun!

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 sticks butter
3 cups flour
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and flour gradually. Chill for a little while. Place in a cookie press. Press cookies into desired shapes onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake cookies at 400 degrees for about 6 minutes. Makes 6 dozen.

For a tasty variation, add a tsp of almond extract!
If you'd like to add colored sugar crystals or other decorations, just sprinkle them onto the cookies before you bake them.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

C is for Cookie!

For me, it just wouldn't be Christmas without a huge tray loaded with lots and lots of different kinds of home baked cookies. Store bought? NEVER! This is DEFINITELY one of those times when it's better when YOU make it! And besides, baking cookies around the holidays always makes a home feel more festive. I like to put on some yuletide carols or a holly jolly DVD and suddenly I'm filled with the Christmas Spirit. It's right up there with decorating my Christmas trees!
Since many people bake their cookies early in December, I figured this would be the perfect time for a week of cookie recipes. There are a couple old faves and some new faves as well. They're all delicious and simple and I KNOW you'll love them!

For more cookies ideas, here are a few websites that you might like to browse!

I always use the air bake cookie sheets, which have the pocket of air between the baking surface and the bottom of the sheet. They REALLY prevent you from burning your cookies. I also use parchment paper. You never have to worry about greasing your cookie sheet and it makes removing them from the pan super easy. Just slide the whole sheet of paper onto a flat surface for the cookies to cool. Easy!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkey Salad Wraps

Still have leftover turkey? Make turkey salad!
Leftover chicken? Make it chicken salad instead!
To be honest, I never really thought of writing down an official recipe for turkey salad, but I get SO many emails from people thanking me for simple basic recipes, that I figured this needed to be included. This is how I always make it, but you can certainly change it up however you like.

2 cups cooked turkey, cubed
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 ribs celery, finely diced
a few shakes poultry seasoning
freshly ground black pepper
big pinch onion salt

Stir together all ingredients. Scoop a huge mound into the center of a flour tortilla. Top with shredded lettuce (and/or tomato, cheese, pickles. etc). Fold sides in and roll it up. Slice it in half and serve.

As my Mom would say, "do you like a lot of celery? Add a lot of celery." You get the idea. Personally, I do like a lot because I love the crunch. You can add diced onion instead of the onion salt, but I find the raw onion to be slightly harsh. The onion salt is a little more subtle.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, yes, I know it's wrong!
But you have to admit,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mare's Stuffing

A few years ago, my niece, Terri, asked me if I'd help her make stuffing, as this was her cooking assignment for Thanksgiving. Of course, I said Yes. Since then, it has sort of become a Thanksgiving Eve tradition. Every year, on the night before Thanksgiving, Terri comes over (usually joined by Kelli, or Katie, or anyone else who might like to join us) and we make "Aunt Mare's" Stuffing. We always make a double batch for Terri's in-laws as well. Don't you just love how traditions are born?

1 stick of butter
1 whole stalk of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 loaves white sandwich bread
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
poultry seasoning

Preheat oven to 350F. Using a serrated or electric knife, cut bread into cubes and place in a big bowl. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions & celery and saute until softened. Add a little salt & pepper. Add a lot of poultry seasoning to onions & celery. Pour onions & celery onto pile of bread. Add milk until it's enough. Mix together and add more salt and pepper and poultry seasoning if needed. Bake for 1/2 hour.

Once again, here's a perfect example of my Mom's rule of adding something "til it's enough". You'll know it's enough milk and enough poultry seasoning when it's as moist and as spicy as you like it. Some people like it on the wet side, some people like it to be a little more dry. It's whatever you like! And the best way to see if it has enough seasoning is simply to taste it, of course. I like a wet spicy stuffing, so I always add A LOT of milk and A LOT of poultry seasoning.

When I say "a whole stalk" of celery, I mean the whole thing, not just one of the "ribs" that you break off. Savvy?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sweet Potato Casserole

OK, seriously, this casserole is one of the sole reasons I look forward to Thanksgiving. I mean, you have your turkey and gravy, yes, and you have your homemade cranberry sauce, sure, but it's all about the sweet potato casserole. The first time I ever tasted it was when my sister-in-law, Karen, brought it to our holiday meal and I've loved it ever since. If you've never tried it, then you need to stop what you're doing right now and adjust your holiday menu to include it. It's not something you'd serve everyday, because, well, how shall I put it....Lets just say Paula Deen would LOVE this recipe. I know, I know, it's laden with butter and sugar, but for a holiday meal, it's nice to splurge! Besides, no one should be dieting on Thanksgiving anyway!

4 cups canned sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 cup melted butter, divided
1 cup flaked coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Drain and mash potatoes. Add sugar, eggs, milk, half cup butter, coconut, vanilla and nutmeg. Pour into greased casserole. In separate bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, remaining butter and nuts. Sprinkle over top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

For me, it's all about the crunchy pecan topping. If you'd like to have more topping to casserole ratio, serve it in a shallow dish so that you have more surface area to put more of the crunch on top!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mom's Cranberries

Every year, for Thanksgiving, my Mom always made homemade cranberry sauce. For me, it was always one of the many reasons to look forward to Thanksgiving. Well, now, I'm happy that I get to be the one to continue that tradition. Actually, I think I might be the only person who stopped and asked my Mother how to make them. I asked her where she got the recipe (since it's slightly different from the recipe that's usually on a bag of fresh cranberries) and she told me that this was how her mother used to make them. Yes, it's easier to just open up a can of jellied cranberry sauce, but SERIOUSLY, there's really no comparison. Some people like to add oranges or other fruits, but I like them just by themselves. Simple and uncomplicated. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them! Give 'em a try!

1 bag fresh cranberries (12 oz)
1 1/2 cups water (12 oz)
1 1/2 cups sugar (12 oz)

Place cranberries and water in a sauce pot and bring to a slow boil over medium high heat. As they cook, the berries will bubble and squeak and eventually they'll pop. When all the berries have popped, then it's time to remove the skins. The best way to do this is to use a food mill. Place the food mill over a large bowl and pour the cranberries and water into the bowl of the food mill. Turn the handle until all the pulp is pushed through to the bowl below, leaving the skins behind.
Now you're left with a thick cranberry puree. Pour the puree back into the sauce pot and add the sugar. Stir the sugar and puree over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. You don't want it to come to a boil. It should just be a low heat, and as my Mom used to always say it should just sort of go "bloop....... bloop...... bloop..." Know what I mean? Let it cook for about 35-40 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
Pour the cranberry puree into a pretty glass serving bowl. Let it stand for a while until it cools to room temperature, then place the bowl in the fridge to chill. The puree will gel as it chills.

The cooking time doesn't have to be exact. It's very forgiving. I've let it go for 45 to 50 minutes and it still turned out fine. The longer you cook it, the thicker your cranberry sauce will be.
When you cook the cranberries with the sugar, the bubbles that form will sort of clump together and form a kind of cranberry foam on the top. When they're finished cooking, I always use a wire whisk to quickly stir out any foamy clumps. This will insure that the cranberries will have a nice smooth surface and a much prettier presentation when you serve them.

Original recipe UPDATE: 
The amounts in this recipe have been adjusted from the original post., which were originally 1 pound of each item, instead of 12oz. Since cranberries are now mainly available in 12 oz bags instead of one pound bags, I needed to change the amounts of sugar and water to insure the correct sugar to cranberry ratio. Otherwise, you might have a bit of a cranberry sitch, not unlike The Great Cranberry Debacle of 2009.
 Also one final note.. if you happen to be making quite a large batch, please be careful not to measure some things in cups and other things in pounds. You might confuse your amounts which would create another cranberry sitch.. not unlike The Great Cranberry Debacle of 2023...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Week!

OK, so, by now, you should be in full Thanksgiving planning mode. If you're the one doing all the cooking, don't panic! You'll be fine as long as you plan everything. Whenever I'm catering an event or cooking for a big group, I always make lists. That's how my Mom used to do it. She'd list each day leading up to the big event, and then fill in each task, depending on how far in advance she was able to do it. For instance, you can make the cranberries a few days in advance, so that's something that can be done, say, Monday night. Pies and cakes can be made a day or two in advance too, so they can be finished on Tuesday night. Wednesday night is perfect for making the other side dishes and casseroles. I wouldn't make the cole slaw in advance because it might get too soggy. It's usually not a problem to make it right on Thanksgiving day because you can do it while the turkey is in the oven. Like I said, make lists! Organization is key.
Another thing to consider is oven management. Sometimes it can be a little tricky trying to make sure all the food is hot when you serve it. I suggest making all the side dishes and casseroles in advance. Then when you take the turkey out of the oven, put all the side dishes in. The turkey needs to rest for a while before you can cut it anyway, so this is a good time to heat up everything else. You can also heat up side dishes in the microwave, then keep them covered and place them in one of those large coolers, you know like you'd use to fill with ice to keep the beer cold in the summer. It'll keep everything nice and hot for you until you get to the table. Oh, and here's another way to keep each dish hot until it's time to serve. After your casserole or side dish is hot, cover it and wrap the whole dish with a thick cushy clean towel. It'll keep the dish insulated and you'll be amazed at how long everything will stay hot.
So, there ya have it! I'll be checking my email often, so feel free to email me with any questions! Happy Cooking!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Homemade Biscuits

This recipe is from my grandfather and is a Quaile family staple. They're quick and easy, moist and delicious, and they go perfectly with any meal. They're also great for breakfast with a cup of coffee. Love 'em!

2 tbs. melted shortening
1 cup milk
1 beaten egg
2 tbs. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour

Mix together all ingredients.
Fill greased muffin tins.
Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Green Bean Bake

This is the famous casserole that everyone loves and it has become a yearly Thanksgiving tradition. It's simple, delicious, and is one of those side dishes that screams "home cooked meal". By the way, I know the rest of the world calls it "Green Bean Casserole", but Mom always called it "Green Bean Bake", so I'll stick with that. Great then!

1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
3/4 c Milk
1/8 ts Pepper
2 cans cut green beans, drained
1 1/3 c (2.8 oz. can) French's Fried Onions, divided

In a 1 1/2 qt. casserole dish, combine soup, milk and pepper; stir until well blended. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup onions. Bake, uncovered, at 350F for 30 minutes or until hot. Stir. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes longer or until onions are golden brown.

You don't have to use canned green beans. Any kind will work. Fresh, frozen, canned, French cut, regular cut, all fine. If you're using fresh ones, just snap off the ends and steam them until they're almost tender, then continue with the recipe as directed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pecan Pie

This is one of those REALLY easy pie recipes that doesn't even require the use of a mixer. All you need is a bowl and a spoon. Simple, right? Just stir everything up and pour it into your pie shell. How easy is that??

one store bought unbaked pie crust (or half recipe for Easy Pie Crust)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2 tbs melted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup pecans

Heat oven to 350. Roll out pie crust. Dust with flour. Brush away excess. Place crust floured side down in a Pyrex pie plate. Flute edges by crimping them with your fingers. Stir all ingredients together and pour into shell.
Bake 50-55 minutes or until set.
Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or chilled with a dollop of whipped cream.

For a little variation, add 1/2 cup chocolate chips!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Joey's Candied Sweet Potatoes

This is another one of those dishes where I never really use a recipe. I always just sort of throw it together and bake it. But since I've received a few requests asking "how do you make yours?", I figured I'd write it down. I usually don't even measure anything, so I'm just guessing the amounts. Like I said, it's not really a "recipe", but this is how I do it.
Hope you like it!

4-6 sweet potatoes (or enough to fill the casserole dish)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter, melted
1 heaping tbs orange marmalade
big pinch kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350F.
Boil whole sweet potatoes until almost tender (30 minutes). Place them on a tray or shallow plate and allow to cool until you can handle them. Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2″ slices. In a large bowl, stir together remaining ingredients. Place potatoes in casserole dish. Pour sugar mixture over all. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, be careful because the casserole pan will be screaming hot! Carefully spoon some of the glaze from the bottom of the pan over the potatoes.

Lots of Tips:
The orange is very understated and just perks up the overall flavor of the glaze. It's not a strong orange taste. If, however, you'd like a more distinctly orange flavor, by all means add as much marmalade as you'd like! You could even substitute a splash of orange juice instead of the marmalade, if that's what you have on hand, but I must say, I do like the marmalade better. I'm just sayin'!

For a slight variation, instead of using 1/2 cup brown sugar, use 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup. You can also add a few drops of vanilla extract if you like, and whatever spices suit your fancy. (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger)

To save time, you can use canned sweet potatoes. Just be gentle with them so they don't get all mashed up.

Do you like marshmallows? After the potatoes are finished baking, just sprinkle 3/4 cup miniature marshmallows on top, and then bake for 5 minutes longer, or until slightly brown on top.

My brother, Chris, makes his sweet potatoes pretty much the same way I do, but instead of the orange marmalade, he adds a few glugs of Bourbon. He says the alcohol cooks out of it and it "caramelizes into syrupy deliciosity". Well, I guess I can't argue with that! Thanx, Chris!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy 80th Birthday, Mickey!!!

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie

There are many recipes for classic pumpkin pie, but it seems to me that this one is the standard against which all others are compared. I've tried other recipes but I always come back to this one. It's been on Libby's pumpkin labels since 1950! Clearly, they know what they're doing!

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) Libby's solid pack pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Libby's Tips:
1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice may be substituted for the cinnamon, ginger and cloves; however, the taste will be slightly different. Do not freeze, as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.

FOR 2 SHALLOW PIES: substitute two 9-inch (2-cup volume) pie shells. Bake in preheated 425° F. oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F.; bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until pies test done.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (3,500 to 6,000 ft.): Deep-dish pie- extend second bake time to 55 to 60 minutes. Shallow pies- no change.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lets Talk Turkey!

OK, so, the first and most important part of Thanksgiving dinner, at least for me, has to be the turkey. It just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it! But where do I start? There are many things to consider and many steps to preparing a turkey. It can be quite overwhelming! My brother, Bobby, once called my Mom and said "ok, Mom, how do you cook a turkey?" and her first thought was to ask him "from what point?" because, like I said, there are several steps to take. She didn't know if he was asking her to start at the very beginning or if he was asking something as simple as "how long should I cook it?". So, she said to him "How much do you know?" and his response was "This is a turkey." And to that she answered "Aha. Well alrighty then.... here we go...."
There are many ways to cook a turkey. You can roast it, grill it, or deep fry it. But regardless of how you choose to cook it, there's one thing you MUST do first, and that's to BRINE your turkey. It makes ALL the difference in the world and you'll wind up with the juiciest turkey you've ever tasted. I'm not even kidding. You won't even believe how juicy a turkey can be!
To be honest, I must confess, I've never even cooked a turkey. Well, maybe once, but I'm sure I had my Mom on the phone the entire time. So, I launched into "research mode". I looked up a few web sites and then I turned to an authority on the subject, my sister, Jeanie. Every year, we have quite a huge Thanksgiving dinner, which means more than one turkey. Well, actually, we do two turkeys and a turkey breast. We all have our cooking assignments and Jeanie always cooks one of the turkeys. It always turns out perfectly and she swears by brining her turkeys. If it's good enough for my Jeanie, it's good enough to recommend to you!

Below is an excerpt from an article I found at I found it to be EXTREMELY informative when it comes to brining. Do your Thanksgiving a favor and take a quick minute to read it. You'll be glad you did! Following the article, I've listed a few brine recipes. And following the brine recipes, I've listed a few links to assist you in cooking your turkey via whichever method you choose.

You can TOTALLY do this! I know it seems a little daunting, but just relax and breathe. It just takes a little planning and a little organization. It'll all turn out fine! Promise!

Brining Your Turkey

To properly brine a turkey you need to start the night before you plan to cook. You will need at least 10 to 12 hours (plan on 1 hour per pound of turkey), a container large enough to hold your turkey and enough brine to cover it. You'll also need salt, water, sugar, seasonings, and enough room to refrigerate it. A large stainless steel stock pot or even a 5 gallon clean plastic bucket would make excellent containers. Whatever container you choose the turkey needs to have enough room to be turned so it should be big. Both Reynolds (Oven Roasting Bag for Turkeys) and Ziploc (XL Storage Bag) make very large food safe sealable bags that are great for brining.

Now let's get to the turkey. The turkey should be cleaned out, completely thawed, and should not be a self-basting or Kosher turkey. Self-basting and Kosher turkeys have a salty stock added that will make your brined turkey too salty. A fresh turkey works best, but a completely thawed, previously frozen turkey will work just as well.

Brine Ingredients:
To make the brine, mix 1 cup of table salt in 1 gallon of water. You will need more than 1 gallon of water but that’s the ratio to aim for. One way of telling if you have enough salt in your brine is that a raw egg will float in it. Make sure that the salt is completely dissolved before adding the seasonings you like, making sure not to add anything that contains salt. Brines can be spicy hot with peppers and cayenne, savory with herbs and garlic, or sweet with molasses, honey and brown sugar.

Sweetening the Brine:
Sugar is optional to any brine, but works to counteract the flavor of the salt. While you may choose a brine without sugar, I do recommend that you add sugar (any kind of "sweet" will do) to maintain the flavor of the turkey. Add up to 1 cup of sugar per gallon of brine. Like the salt you need to make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved.

Place the turkey in a container and pour in enough brine to completely cover the turkey with an inch or two to spare. You do not want any part of the turkey above the surface of the brine. Now you put the whole thing in the refrigerator. The turkey should sit in the brine for about 1 hour per pound of turkey. Brining too long is much worse than not brining enough so watch the time.

Keep it Cool!:
Don't have room in the refrigerator? Try a cooler. A cooler big enough to hold your turkey makes a good container for your turkey and brine. The cooler will help keep it cool and allow you to brine your turkey without taking up precious refrigerator space. If the weather is cool, but not freezing you can put the whole thing outside until you need the turkey. If the weather is warm fill a half gallon milk carton with water and freeze it. Place this in the cooler with the turkey and brine and it will hold down the temperature during the brining process.

When you are ready to start cooking your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse it off thoroughly in the sink with cold water until all traces of salt are off the surface inside and out. Safely discard the brine and cook your turkey as normal. You will notice the second you start to carve your turkey that the brining has helped it retain moisture. The first bite will sell you on brining turkeys forever, and after you've tried this you will want to brine all your poultry.

Wasn't that informative? I was going to attempt to write about all of that but it seemed like a better choice to just show you the article. Now that you understand all about brining, here are a few brine recipes:

Poultry Brine

Hawaiian Style Turkey Brine

Savory Turkey Brine

Cranberry Turkey Brine

Cooking Methods:

Ina's Perfect Roast Turkey

Turkey on the Grill

Deep Fried Turkey

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cheddar Broccoli Bake

Here's another Campbell's Soup recipe that's sort of along the same lines as the famous Green Bean Casserole. It's warm and comforting and always hits the spot. Maybe try this one instead of the green beans next time!

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) Campbell's® Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup
1/2 cup milk
dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked broccoli cuts
1 1/3 cups French fried onions

MIX soup, milk, black pepper, broccoli and 2/3 cup onions in 1 1/2-qt. casserole.

BAKE at 350°F. for 25 min. or until hot. Stir.

TOP with remaining onions. Bake 5 min. or until onions are golden.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rice Pudding

Many people in my family have signature desserts. They're the desserts that everyone is asked to bring to every family event because they're SO good and because it just wouldn't be a family event without them. If you're looking for Cherry Cheese Pie, then you should talk to Maureen. If it's Carrot Cake you want, I'm your man. And if you're in the mood for Rice Pudding, without a doubt, your "go to" person is definitely my sister-in-law, Marianne. She's the authority! And her Rice Pudding is the best you'll ever taste!
Thanx Mare!

1/2 gallon whole milk (8 cups)
1 cup rice, Carolina long grain
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter

Bring all ingredients to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together:

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Remove milk mixture from heat. Add egg mixture to milk mixture slowly, whisking while you add so the eggs won't scramble. Let cool. (It will thicken as it cools.) Add cinnamon if desired.

Tips from Mare:
I've had a few times when it didn't thicken up so I put it back on the stove for a few minutes at simmer and just kept stirring it. Most times that will do the trick.
When making the milk and rice mixture, I think the key is to let it come to a fast boil (stir often) over medium heat and then once it comes to a fast boil, lower the heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often. I start mixing the eggs, sugar and vanilla when the milk mixture has simmered 25 minutes, figuring that it will take me 5 minutes to mix everything up. Also, mine NEVER thickens when I make a double batch.

Tip from Joey:
If you add the egg mixture too quickly to the hot milk mixture, you'll end up with scrambled eggs. To prevent this from happening, you should temper the egg mixture first. This simply means to gradually warm the egg mixture by slowly adding some of the hot milk mixture in a few small amounts. After you add a little of the hot milk to the eggs, then you're free to stir the two mixtures together and your eggs will be less likely to scramble.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower

Here's a fabulous and fresh tasting side dish that's as simple to make as can be and it's REALLY flavorful! The key to it is the lemon juice. It really wakes up the whole dish! Try it the next time you're cooking a roast or serve it as a part of your next holiday meal. It's SO tasty!

a few glugs of olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a mixing bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Add florets and toss until well coated. Place in 9x13x2 casserole dish. Place casserole in the hot oven, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes, until the top is lightly brown. Test with a fork for desired doneness. Remove from oven and sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese. Place it back in the oven for 5 minutes.

If you have other things baking at the same time, you can bake this at 350F instead of 400F. It'll just take a little longer to cook through.