Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ina's Holiday Sticky Buns

  My fabulous, gorgeous, talented, youthful, vibrant, funny, caring and all-around wonderful sister, Cathy, was nice enough to invite me for Christmas breakfast. Of course, I wanted to make something to bring to the table, but couldn't think of anything. Then I saw Ina Garten making these little gems, and I immediately knew they'd be PERFECT! They're special enough for holiday, but simple enough for any day of the year. And they're SO tasty! Try e'm!
 Btw, when I told Cathy that I was bringing a little baked something, she said "You didn't need to do that!" And to that I replied, "Well, actually, yes, I did. Thanx." I don't think she'll ever know how much her invitation meant to me. Thanx, Sister. And Merry Christmas :)

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

For the filling:
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup white raisins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees f. Place
a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 12
tablespoons of butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the
mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12
muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with
the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with 1 tablespoon of the melted
butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup
of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, 1/4 cup of the cranberries and 1/4
cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like
a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam-side down. Trim the
ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, about 1
1/2 inches each. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat
with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to
the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper, (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.

If you're not a fan of pecans, just swap them out for any other nuts that you like, or simply omit them altogether. The same thing goes for the raisins and cranberries. If you're not a fan, just leave 'em out!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paula's Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese

So, true story...
I recently posted a question on Facebook, wondering who, if anyone, likes to include macaroni and cheese as part of a holiday turkey dinner. I was AMAZED at the response! Some people, like my friend Kyrus, said that "in his house this is not even a question." Susan said that it's a staple in all of her family's holiday meals. CJ simply stated that there's no wrong time for mac n cheese. Debbie was just amazed at the amount of comments that this question generated. I guess people are very passionate when it comes to macaroni and cheese!
  Now, I know I already have a few recipes for macaroni and cheese, but more is more, right? And since I recently saw Paula Deen making this on her show, I figured, why not?? It's really simple to make, and it always hits the spot if you're looking for some comfort food, or for a holiday meal!
Try it! 

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 tbs butter
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (10 3/4 oz) can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Boil the macaroni in water for six minutes. Drain.
In a medium saucepan, mix butter and cheese. Stir until the cheese melts.
In slow cooker, combine cheese mixture and add the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and pepper. Add the drained macaroni and stir again.
Cook on low for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

I used regular brown mustard instead of the dry mustard, just because it's what I had on hand. The main point is to add some kind of mustard because it makes it taste cheesier. 
If you're not a fan of adding eggs to your mac n cheese, you can simply omit them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shrimp Dip

 Here's a fabulous recipe from my fabulous sister-in-law, Marianne. Serve it the next time you're having a party, whether it's an elegant holiday gathering or a summer beef 'n' beer. It's SO yummy! Actually, I think ADDICTIVE is a better word. There. I said it.
Thanx Mare!

Hi, Joe, here is the recipe. No exact measurements for most of it,  just keep adding until you like the way it tastes!  This is actually Janet's recipe but it's tweaked up a bit.

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1-2 tbs mayonnaise
Half bottle of Heinz chili sauce (about 6 oz.)
1 lb. shrimp, unpeeled
dash Worcestershire sauce
garlic powder
horse radish (start with about a teaspoon and go from there)
black pepper
Old Bay Seasoning
Peppercorns (or black pepper)

Bring water,  A LOT of Old Bay Seasoning  and black pepper to a boil in a pot. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook until pink. Take out and lay on a cookie sheet to cool. Meanwhile, mix the softened cream cheese with the mayo, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and horse radish. When the shrimp are cooled, peel and if necessary, clean. Set aside about 7 shrimp.  Take the remaining shrimp and in batches pulse in a small food processor. (Pulse 3-4 times). Add to cream cheese mixture. Take the remaining shrimp and chop them into bigger pieces and add them to the cream cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Taste - if you like more garlic or any of the other spices, add it. Sometimes I add a little extra Old Bay. Cover and put in fridge until chilled. Serve with crackers or veggies.

If your shrimp are large, it's usually a good idea to devein them: After you remove the shell, just run the tip of a very sharp knife down the back of the shrimp, and then carefully remove the vein. You really don't have to, but I always do. On the other hand, if you don't feel like going to all of that trouble, you can simply buy them already peeled and deveined. Problem solved!
I like to serve this with Wheat Thins, but clearly you can choose any favorite cracker.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Simple Strata

Have you ever made a strata? Do you know what a strata is? If not, then you seriously need to try this recipe! A strata is sort of like a savory bread pudding. The word strata literally means "layers", so the elements of the casserole are layered in the baking dish and then baked until bubbly and yummy. What's not to love? And it's super convenient because you can make it the night before and then just pop it in the oven first thing in the morning. It's the perfect dish for a holiday morning, or any morning where you might like to have an extra special breakfast or brunch. Everyone will think you went to a lot of trouble but it's really very simple! (Hence the name!)
I hope you'll give it a try!

1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 lb button mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
 12 eggs
4 cups milk
salt and pepper
1 loaf Italian bread, cut into cubes
12 oz shredded Swiss cheese

Add a little oil or butter to a saute pan and saute the onions, mushrooms, and spinach until soft.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with the milk and S&P.
Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter or nonstick spray.
 Now it's time to assemble.
Place half of the bread cubes in the casserole dish in an even layer, then half of the spinach mixture, then half of the cheese.
Repeat with the other half of each ingredient except the cheese.
Pour the egg mixture over everything, taking time to let everything sink in as you pour. Press down any pieces of bread that are not immersed. Cover with foil.
If you're making it ahead, place in the fridge overnight, or until you're ready to bake. Remove from the fridge about 15 minutes before you place it in the oven.
Bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Remove foil. Top with the other half of the cheese. Bake for 15 minutes longer.

If you're really pressed for time, no one will condemn you if you just toss the bread cubes, spinach mixture, and cheese in a big bowl and then dump it into the casserole dish instead of taking the time to make layers. It'll still be delish!
If you've made it the night before, turn the oven on when you take the casserole out of fridge. Then the oven will be nicely preheated by the time you're ready to bake!
If Swiss cheese, mushrooms and spinach are not your favorite things, then change it up however you like! Asparagus, broccoli, cheddar cheese, diced ham, sauteed sausage or bacon, diced red bell peppers... all good! There's really no right or wrong. You can basically use any kind of omelette ingredients and it will work perfectly!