Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pometinis


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.

Tip:
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
½Vodka
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

Appletinis



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.

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

Tip:
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:
-Kahlua
-Bailey's Irish Cream
-Grand Marnier
-Kirsch
-Chambord
-Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
-Amaretto

Tips:
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.


Tip:
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.

Tip:
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.
Fabulous!

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.


Tips:
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.

Tips:
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.

Tips:
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 Egg Nog



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
nutmeg

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.

Tip:
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.

Tips:
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!!!


Tip:
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!

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


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.


Tips:
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.

Tip:
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!


Joe,
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.
Enjoy!
P.


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).

Tip:
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!
Thanx!


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



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.


Tip:
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.

Optional:
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.


Tip:
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

Egg Nog 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.

Tips:
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.


Tip:
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.

Tip:
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

Snickerdoodles



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!


Tip:
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.

Tips:
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.

Tips:
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.

Tip:
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.