Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Day Crock Pot

When I was growing up, on New Year's Day, my family would always bundle up and go to my grandparents' house in South Philly for the Mummers' Parade. My Dad became involved with the Mummers when he was just a boy of 13 and most of my family has been involved with the Mummers at one time or another, so it's kind of a big deal. (Just ask anyone who lives in South Philly!) Anyway, we'd spend the better part of the day outside watching the parade, and then we'd go back to my grandparents' house to have something to eat and to warm up. There was always a great big pot of soup and a huge pot of hot dogs and sauerkraut. It's one of the childhood memories that I'll always hold dear to my heart.
  Now we don't always make it over to the parade, but we still get together to watch it on TV, usually at Michael and Karen's house. And of course, we still have a great big pot of soup and a huge pot of hot dogs and sauerkraut. It just wouldn't be New Year's Day without it. I got the recipe from my sister Reen who had just given it to her son, Jude, at college. She said to him "Just throw everything in the crock pot and it'll smell like New Year's Day". When she sent it to me she said "Just the smell of it makes me think of Mummers." It's funny because it's true! And every person in my family will tell you the same thing! So give it a try! Invite a big gang of people to your house on New Year's Day and watch the Mummers Parade. You're likely to see my brother Denny's choreography or maybe even  hear a musical arrangement by my brother Michael!
Happy New Year!

1 or 2 large onions, sliced
1 bag of sauerkraut, rinsed
1 or 2 cans chicken broth
1 bottle of beer
Hot dogs

I suppose you could just throw everything in the crock pot and let it cook, just as Reen said, but I like to saute the onions and brown the sausages a little in a skillet before adding everything to the pot. Throw everything together in the morning while you're watching the Comics and the Fancies. Turn it to low for a few hours, just until the sausages are cooked through, then turn it to warm. It'll be all ready by mid afternoon when you're watching the String Bands and you can let everyone serve themselves right out of the crock pot. It'll keep everything nice and hot. It's so yummy, I bet there won't be any left by the time you get to the Fancy Brigades! Oh, btw, the amounts are just guidelines. If you have a lot of people to feed, just add more!

Tip from Reen:
I use turkey kielbasa and turkey hot dogs to lighten it up,
but you could use whatever you want.

Tip from Joey:
Whenever I'm having sauerkraut, I always like to add one or two diced apples. I think the sweet helps to balance the sour.
If your nose is not particularly fond of sauerkraut, try adding some chopped celery leaves to the pot. Seriously!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cocktail Meatballs

 This is an all time favorite recipe that is as simple as it is DELISH! I made it for my family's Quailapalooza holiday gift exchange and there wasn't a meatball left to be had by the end of the night! Will, especially, became an immediate fan. Glad you liked them, Will! Serve these at your next party and I PROMISE your guests will devour them!!

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup shortening
12 fluid ounces tomato-based chili sauce
1 1/4 cups grape jelly

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, milk, egg, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and ground black pepper. Mix together, and shape into meatballs.

In a large skillet, heat shortening over medium heat. Add meatballs, and cook until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from skillet, and drain on paper towels. Pour off any shortening.

Add chili sauce and jelly to skillet; heat, stirring, until jelly is melted. Return meatballs to skillet, and stir until coated. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Keep them warm during your party in a crock pot, if desired.

Instead of frying them, I placed them on a baking sheet and baked them at 350F for about 20 minutes. It's a lot faster than standing at a stove frying meatballs for a million years.
I used a tablespoon to measure each meatball as I rolled them. It helps to insure that all of your meatballs will be the same walnut size.
If you're feeding a crowd, just double or triple the recipe (or as many times as needed). Instead of cooking the sauce with the meatballs in a skillet, I just heated the sauce in a pot until the jelly was melted and the sauce was smooth. Then I placed everything in a crock for a few hours until it was time to go to the party.
The sauce makes quite a bit, so feel free to cut the amounts in half. If you find yourself with a lot of leftover sauce, it would be wonderful to pour over a meatloaf. Or just make more meatballs!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Beef and Brew Stew

Lately I've been in the mood for some old timey soups and stews. You know, the kind you cook in a heavy cast iron Dutch Oven. My Mother used to say "just throw everything into the pot and let it cook." I could be making some "Feel Better All Over" soup for Jaclyn, or Beef Stew or Beef Barley Soup for Paul, and it always brings me home to my Mom cooking a big pot of something all day on a Sunday afternoon.
So, when I saw this recipe, I knew immediately that I had to try it.  It screams comfort food and it'll satisfy your hungriest hungry man. Oh, and it's from the Campbell's Soup kitchens so you know it's gonna be fabulous. Seriously, just wait until you taste it! It's PHENOMINAL. Like, I think this just might be my new favorite "go to" recipe for beef stew. It's that good! It's the perfect thing when you need something to thaw you out. Whether you've been outside for hours shoveling snow, or working out in the cold all day, there's nothing like a delicious comforting stew to help warm you up and bring you home. You simply MUST try this one!

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 3 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large onions, sliced (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (10 3/4 ounces each) Campbell's® Condensed Golden Mushroom Soup
2 cans (10 1/2 ounces each) Campbell's® Condensed French Onion Soup
1 bottle (12 fluid ounces) dark beer or stout
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 cups fresh or frozen whole baby carrots
Egg noodles, cooked, drained and buttered

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an oven-safe 6-quart saucepot over medium-high heat.  Add the beef in batches and cook until well browned, stirring often, adding an additional 1 tablespoon oil as needed during cooking.  Remove the beef from the saucepot.  Pour off any fat.
Heat the remaining oil in the saucepot over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir the soups, beer, brown sugar, vinegar, thyme, bay leaf and carrots in the saucepot and heat to a boil. Add the beef back to the pot along with any juices. Give it a good stir. Cover the saucepot.
Bake at 300°F. for 2 hours or until the beef is fork-tender.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Serve over the noodles with some warm crusty bread.

I used Beck's Dark beer because the recipe reminds me of a hearty sort of German stew, so I chose an imported German beer, but you can use whichever dark beer or stout you like.
I added two pounds of baby carrots instead of one pound because, frankly, I like carrots. And if you like a lot, you should add a lot!
The recipe suggests that you serve it over buttered egg noodles, but I think it would be just as fabulous over some mashed or smashed potatoes, or you could even just cut some baby red potatoes into halves or quarters and add them right into the stew.
This recipe can also be made in a crock pot. Just brown everything up as directed, then transfer everything to a crock pot and slow cook it for 8 or 9 hours on low.
When I first typed up the recipe, I noticed that someone in the Campbell's Soup kitchen neglected to instruct when to add the beef back to the pot. As I've stated above, I just added it to the pot after I gave everything else a good stir and it turned out perfectly. I'm guessing they meant to do that!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Russian Tea Cakes

 These are the classic little gems that everyone loves, and in my family, my niece, Natalie, is the one who's famous for making them. Besides being delicious, one of the things I love about them is that they add a little variety to a cookie tray. Sometimes when you assemble a mixed tray of cookies as a gift, all the cookies start to look the same, but these tasty morsels stand out and make the tray look festive. And they're easy!! Try 'em!
Thanx Natalie!!!

Hey Uncle Joey, these cookies store pretty well, which makes them perfect for entertaining during the busy holiday season!

3 sticks of butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1/2 finely chopped pecans
12 ounces mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375F.
Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add flour, salt, and pecans. Mix until soft dough comes together. Add chocolate chips. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Cook at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are a light golden brown. Roll in 10x sugar while warm. Cool the cookies. Roll once again in the 10x sugar and serve.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies are such a simple pleasure, don't you think? They're quick and easy, they smell heavenly while they're baking, and they make the whole house feel warm and inviting. Plus, they ALWAYS hit the spot with a nice tall glass of ice cold milk. Christmas would simply NOT be the same without them!
 I found this recipe and it looked simple and quick to throw together, (which is a MUST during the busy holiday season), so I gave it a try. Joshua and Denny were my testers and they both gave it a big "thumbs up"! It's no surprise, though, because seriously, can you ever go wrong with a really good basic chocolate cookie? I think not. This is now my "go to" chocolate cookie recipe. They're rich and fudgy and they taste like brownies in the form of a thin chewy cookie. What's not to love? So, whether you're baking for a holiday cookie swap or an after school snack, these cookies should definitely be in your repertoire!

1 1/4 cups butter (2 1/2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3/4 unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. 
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Don't over bake! You want them to be soft and chewy, so under bake them just slightly. Allow to set on cookie sheets before removing to a cool flat surface. 

Whenever I bake cookies, I ALWAYS use parchment paper on an airbake cookie sheet. (you know, the cookie sheets that have the pocket of air inside?)  Seriously, I can't even remember the last time I burned a cookie or had one stick to the pan. As soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, you just slide the whole sheet of parchment right off the pan onto the table. You barely even need a spatula! Then you can slide the next sheet of parchment (full of unbaked cookies) right onto the sheet and into the oven it goes. While it's baking, you can get the next sheet of parchment ready. Easy, right? You can knock out a batch of cookies in no time.
To make perfectly round cookies, let the cookie dough chill in the fridge for a little while, just until it begins to firm up, then roll tablespoonfuls into balls. Bake them up as usual, and you'll wind up with perfectly perfect thin round cookies! Oh! Then you could make ice cream sandwiches with them! Brilliant.
 This recipe lends itself to all kinds of variations. Instead of chocolate chips, use vanilla chips, or white chocolate chips, or milk chocolate chips, or chocolate chunks, or mini chips, or M&Ms candies, or Reese's Pieces, or peanut butter chips, or mint chocolate chips, or caramel chips or butterscotch chips, or crushed Heath bars, or chopped nuts, or mini marshmallows, or crushed candy canes, or Raisinets, or craisins, or dried cherries, or chopped Andes mints.....
I suppose you could bake the cookies without adding anything to them at all, but that just makes no sense to me.....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fluffernutter Cookies

Ah, Fluffernutters, how I love them....
A longtime staple of playgrounds, lunchboxes, after-school snacks, and college dorms, a Fluffernutter is the wonderful combination of marshmallow creme (aka FLUFF!) and peanut butter in a delightfully tasty sandwich!
 So, how about making Fluffernutters in the form of a cookie? Though probably not the first to come up with this idea, my sister, Cathy, was the one who suggested them to me. She was reading my recipe post for Peanut Butter Cake where I added the tip of sandwiching the Fluff between the layers of cake. She thought, "Why not sandwich the Fluff between two peanut butter cookies instead?" Fabulous. So, then I did a little googling and found that there are several versions of Fluffernutter cookies. Some have the Fluff on top, (like a thumbprint cookie), some have the Fluff baked right into the cookie. One of the most popular recipes only has THREE ingredients, two of which are the peanut butter and Fluff! Crazy, huh?
 Well, after several discussions with Fluffernutter enthusiasts, (Denny, Michael, Katie, Kelsie, Jackie, and Joshua, to name a few), I decided that this was the version for me (based, of course, on Cathy's original suggestion and also on how much you could taste the Fluff). Just bake up some of your favorite peanut butter cookies, and then sandwich the Fluff between them.  Its brilliance is in its simplicity. The addition of a chocolate drizzle just sends it over the top! This recipe is from my favorite Mrs. Fields' Cookie Book, but use whichever recipe you like best!
Better make extra!
Your family will devour them!

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Mix dry ingredients and set aside.
On medium speed, in large bowl, blend sugars; add butter, mix till grainy consistency. Add eggs, peanut butter and vanilla extract; beat until fluffy. On low speed, add flour mixture until barely mixed into butter mixture.
Drop by rounded tablespoonsful, 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Use a wet or flour coated fork to gently press a crisscross pattern on top of each cookie, if desired.
Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned, approximately 18 to 20 minutes. Remove to cool on a flat surface.

Chocolate drizzle (optional):
Just melt one or two large Hershey bars with about a tablespoon of plain vegetable shortening in the microwave. Mix until smooth, then drizzle the top or dip one side of the cookies. The chocolate will set up, but it'll still be soft. If you'd like the chocolate to set up to a harder shell, use dipping chocolate, as one would use for making candy.

To save time, you can certainly take a shortcut buy using ready made peanut butter cookie dough, instead of mixing up your own. You really can't go wrong with Pillsbury or Nestle. Just sayin'.
Although the recipe says to drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, I'd suggest making smaller cookies. Instead, use maybe 2 teaspoonfuls for each cookie. Remember, you're using two of them for each serving. Then again, if you'd like gigantic sandwich cookies, go for it!
To make the cookies extra Fluffernutterier, just add peanut butter to the sandwich! Simply place a teaspoon of peanut butter on one cookie and a teaspoon of Fluff on another, then sandwich the two together. More is more!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kathleen's Candy Cane Ice Cream

Well, once again, my high school classmate, Kathleen, has sent me another fabulous recipe. She used a recipe that came with her ice cream maker, and then she added a few things to make it her own. The result? A fabulously festive treat that your family will love!
I love the fact that this recipe uses egg beaters instead of whole eggs so there's no need to cook the eggs into a custard before freezing. And it's so festive! Just imagine a few scoops of this ice cream floating in a punch bowl full of eggnog. Brilliant!
Thanx again Kath! And thanx for taking the beautiful picture too!!


Hope you get to make some and try it for yourself!  
You can have fun with this because you can change up the color and the candies in it.
Try Andes candies, or mini choc chips, or shaved dark choc, or even M&M's in holiday colors!
We love this in our house and hope you love it, too!!!

4 oz egg beaters
1 cup sugar
1 cup half and half (or milk...NOT skim milk!!!)
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
candy canes
a few drops of red food coloring

Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, peppermint extract, red food coloring (to the shade of pink that you want) in a mixing bowl, blender or food processor. Add cream, half and half (or milk). Mix well and chill thoroughly.

Crush the candy canes to the size chunks you prefer. I use about four candy canes and try not to pulverize the crap out of them. Shards are good. Powder...not so much.

**I use a blender. Works beautifully!**

Follow the instructions for your ice cream maker. Mine is a "Deni" ice cream maker and it takes about 25 minutes in my machine to reach soft-serve stage. The last three minutes I pour the candy cane pieces in the top of the machine as it's running.

Once done, pour immediately into a container and freeze for a few hours or overnight, until it reaches the hardness you want.

ENJOY!!!!! Merry Christmas everyone!!!\

Kathleen's Tips:
Be sure to use only REAL vanilla extract, and do NOT buy the "mint" extract. MUST be "peppermint"!!! Unfortunately I found out the hard way this summer that "mint" tastes like toothpaste!! YUCK!!!!!!