Monday, December 30, 2013

Cranberry Jalapeno Cheese Spread

 Having a party? Here's the perfect appy for you! It's sort of like the same sweet and spicy vibe as Jezebel, but just slightly different and equally as delicious! It's also one of those new and different fun things that makes people say "really??" when you tell them what's in it. It's a snap to make, and it's a total do-ahead, so you'll have plenty of time for all of your last minute running. Better make a double batch because it'll disappear in no time flat!

1 8oz pkg cream cheese
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
a few shakes crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Place the cream cheese in the center of a large serving plate. (you can use a spatula to spread it out a bit, if you like). Generously sprinkle freshly cracked black pepper over the cheese.
In a mixing bowl, stir together all remaining ingredients. Pour cranberry mixture over cream cheese. Serve as a spread with crackers. That's all there is to it! Simple, huh?

It's best to make the cranberry mixture ahead of time so that the flavors can mingle. I like to make it the day before, (if possible) or at least a few hours. Store in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
Adjust the amounts to suit your own tastes! If you like a lot of any one ingredient, go for it! And if you're all about the heat, try adding another kind of hot pepper such as Serrano in addition to the Jalapeno peppers.
I think its best served with a slightly salty cracker, such as original Wheat Thins or Triscuits.
This recipe can easily be doubled if you're feeding a crowd!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Warm and Creamy Bacon Dip

It seems to me that I always get a bigger response from a warm dip than a cold one. It's true! I can serve a cold appy that took several ingredients and lots of time to chill only to get a mediocre response. But if I just stir together a few ingredients and pop it in the oven, suddenly everyone is giving OOOOOs and AAAHHHs.
 This dip clearly falls into the latter category. It's really simple to make. While the bacon is cooking, you just stir everything together! You can even do it in advance and then bake it right before your guests arrive. Easy, right? Serve it in a bread bowl, and use the hollowed out bread cubes as dippers. I guarantee your guests will love it!

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups sour cream
8 slices bacon(or more)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped green onion
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. 
In a skillet, brown bacon slices until crispy. Crumble or chop into bits. 
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Place the mixture in a 1-quart baking dish. Cover. Heat the dip for 25-30 minutes or until hot. Serve with assorted fresh vegetables, crackers and/or chips. Dip may also be placed in hollowed round sourdough loaf, wrapped in foil and heated in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

If you like a lot, add a lot! More bacon, more onions, go for it!
Instead of veggies or bread cubes, trying using broken soft pretzels as dippers. HEAVEN!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hamburger Broccoli Dip

Here's a recipe that falls into the "how can this not be good?" category. Lots of gooey cheesy deliciousness melted with beef and broccoli and served with chips. Sounds good to me! It's an easy do-ahead that you can just pop into the oven right before your guests to arrive. It's perfect for a casual hang with friends, or an elegant soiree as you ring in the new year. Mix up a batch of your signature drink, and boom, there's your party!

3 cups frozen chopped broccoli
1/2 small onion, minced
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound Velveeta, cubed
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
Corn chips

Cook broccoli according to package directions; drain and set aside.
In a small skillet, cook beef, onions, and salt over medium heat until onions are soft and meat is no longer pink; drain. Add cheese; cook and stir until cheese is melted. Add tomatoes and broccoli; mix well. Serve with chips.

I like to serve this with "scoops" chips because then you can really dig in and get all the chunky goodness with each dip.
You can also add just regular diced tomatoes, but also add a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes, just to give it a little poke.
If you'd like to add MORE heat, go for it! Add a chopped jalapeno or any favorite chopped chilies.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole

 With everyone's crazy busy schedules, it's sometimes hard to get everything done. So when it comes to cooking for a holiday breakfast or brunch, it's always a good thing to do as much as you can in advance. And that brings us to today's casserole. This is a hearty one dish meal that is a great do ahead the night before, and then all you need to do is pop it in the oven in the morning. Easy, right? It also feeds a crowd, so it's perfect for the whole family, or you can even bring it to your holiday brunch. This is a tweaked version of a Paula Deen recipe, so I can't take all the credit for it, but I did make a few changes. A little more of this, a little less of that, a few additions, and here we are! Serve it up with something light, like a fresh fruit salad, and you have a perfect holiday breakfast!

3 tablespoons butter (or a few glugs of oil)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large bag frozen hash browns
1 pound bulk sausage, mild, hot or sage
1 lb diced ham
2 1/4 cups whole milk
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons mustard (any kind)
8 slices of bread, cubed
2 cups  shredded Cheddar (or any other good melting cheese)

Spray a deep 13 by 9-inch casserole dish with vegetable oil cooking spray.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and saute over medium-low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the hash browns and break apart. Saute until golden.
In a second frying pan, saute the sausage, breaking apart large clumps. Add the diced ham. When the sausage is cooked through and the ham is lightly browned, remove from heat and set aside.. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, eggs, salt, pepper, and mustard.
To assemble, spread the onions and hash browns evenly at the bottom of the greased dish. Place the bread cubes evenly on top of hash browns. With a slotted spoon distribute sausage and ham as the third layer. Pour the milk and egg mixture over these layers. Top with Cheddar cheese. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, take the casserole out of the fridge about a half hour before you bake it.
Bake the casserole, in a preheated 350º oven, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the eggs are set and everything is melted and bubbly.

 You don't have to make this the night before. You can assemble it and then let it sit for a little while so the bread soaks up the eggs, then bake as directed.
 I think, perhaps, the next time I make this I'll just fry up some potatoes instead of using the hash browns. I found myself wanting bigger chunks of potato. I bet tater tots would work really well here too.
 Feel free to switch this up as much as you like. Use any combination of meats or veggies you like.  Add bacon, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, red or green bell peppers, mushrooms, or whatever you like! Basically, anything you would throw into an omelet will work here. Come to think of it, adding red bell pepper and a green veggie would make this casserole oh so festive if you're making it for Christmas morning!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pecan Pie Muffins

Here's a quick throw-together that is as delicious as it is easy. Basically, if a pecan pie and a muffin had a baby, this would be it. It's a little gooey in the middle, but it holds up like a muffin. And it's SO amazingly good! As soon as I saw Trisha Yearwood making them on her show, I wanted to try 'em. If you like pecan pie, you MUST give them a try. You'll LOVE them! They're perfect for a holiday breakfast or brunch, or just because you're feeling a little nutty. See what I did there...

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 1/3 sticks butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners in 9 muffin cups and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the pecans, sugar and flour. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Pour the egg mixture into the well in the dry ingredients, stirring until moistened.
Spoon the batter into the cups, filling each almost full. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in a muffin, about 20 minutes. 
I added a little vanilla extract and a big pinch of salt. I think that's just what they needed! 
Be sure to spray the muffin liners, otherwise the paper will stick to the muffin when you go to eat it. I used baking spray that has flour in it, and it turned out perfectly.
This recipe also makes great mini-muffins; just shorten the baking time by 5 minutes.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spiced Pecans

 Once upon a long long time ago, I was helping my friend Eleanor decorate for Christmas. She had this wonderful Santa Claus collection and I was helping her display them. She also had these little gems of pecan deliciousness that were SO hard to resist... I couldn't stop eating them and asked her to quickly jot down the recipe for me.
 Well, cut to about a million years later when Neil, Lea, Katie, and Aniell came over to help me decorate my tree. Neil brought me a little gift bag filled with spiced pecans from his Mom, Mary Beth, (who is a fabulous cook, btw) and I immediately thought of Eleanor and our little Santa decorating night. I quickly looked in my old recipe box, and lo and behold, there was the little scrap of paper that Eleanor gave me that night. How could I have forgotten about this? One taste and you'll be making them every year during your holiday season. They're SO delicious and SO SO easy. You could even make a few batches and fill up little cellophane bags tied with ribbons and give them as gifts, just like Mary Beth does. Thanx to Eleanor for giving me the recipe, and thanx to Mary Beth for the gift! People always love when you give them a home made gift, dontcha think?
They'll love this one too!!

1 lb pecan halves
1 egg white
1 tbs water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Set aside.
Mix sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
Pour pecans into egg white. Stir to coat well.
Add sugar mixture and stir carefully until the pecans are covered,
Spread pecans on a cookie sheet.
Bake 40 minutes at 275ºF, stirring every 15 minutes.
Remove from sheet to cool. Store in an airtight container.

As far as I'm concerned, the first rule of cinnamon is that there's no such thing as too much. I was about to add more cinnamon to the sugar mixture but decided to go even further and added a tsp of apple pie spice blend. What's not to love?? Also, don't forget the salt. That makes all the difference!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Eggnog Spritz Cookies

Here's an old timey spritz cookie recipe that was originally from the 50's, specifically from the makers of the Mirro Cookie Press. If you read my post about Mom's Butter Cookies, you already know that my Mom used to use a really old cookie press to make her cookies. As I stumbled across this recipe, I realized that THIS was the kind of press she used! I guess you can't go wrong with the tried and true, right? If you've never tried spritz (or pressed) cookies, you really must. They're not as difficult as you might think, and they SCREAM Christmas. They're also SO delicious!
 You seriously need to make them!

1 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons rum flavoring
2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar well. Beat in egg and rum flavoring.
Gradually blend in sifted dry ingredients.
Form cookies with a cookie press onto ungreased cookie sheets.*
Bake at 375ºF for 10-12 minutes.

Ok, I know these are eggnog cookies, and there is no eggnog in them. That isn't a typo. But seriously, they ABSOLUTELY taste like eggnog when you add the nutmeg and the rum flavoring. That's the key!! Have I ever lied to you before?? Just trust me on this!! And btw, I always go a little heavy on the rum flavoring. Just sayin'.
The other key to this recipe's success is to make sure you don't over bake them. I know it says 10-12 minutes, but I always do the minimum and take them out right at the 10 minute mark.
Also, they spread out a bit when they bake, so your more intricate press designs don't really go as well.
*If you don't have a cookie press, you can still make them by dropping rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased sheet and baking as directed. They'll still be delish!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Glazed Lemon Cookies

 I know I've said this a million times, but it's true! My BIGGEST recipe request is always for anything lemon. So when I was trying to think of different ideas for cookies, I thought "let's see if I can find a really good lemon cookie." And here it is! No, it's not my own. It's from Everyday Food from a few years ago, but it's FABULOUS. It's the perfect texture. Light and fluffy on the inside, a little crispy around the edge, and just the right chew. It also has a HUGE lemon flavor with just the right amount of vanilla to balance. This recipe only makes about 2 dozen, so you might want to think about making several batches. They go quickly!! Serious yum.

2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled) 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 cup granulated sugar 
1 large egg 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat until combined. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture.
 Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 1 inch apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool 2 minutes on sheets, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle cookies with Lemon Glaze and let set.

Lemon Glaze

 2 cups confectioners' sugar 
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest 
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice until smooth.

Always zest the lemons (preferably with a Microplane tool) before juicing them. For orange- or lime-flavored cookies, substitute the zest and juice of those fruits.
I used more lemon zest in both the cookies and the glaze, just because I always like a bigger punch of lemon. I also used a little less sugar in the glaze because I wanted to be able to pour it rather than spread it over the cookies. I placed the rack of cookies over a tray, and then let the glaze drip through.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Brownie Batter Cookies

  If you like chocolate, (and I mean SERIOUS CHOCOLATE), then this is the cookie for you! It's DEEPLY rich and and it's the perfect cross between a brownie and a cookie. Like, if a brownie and a cookie had a baby, it would be this cookie. SO chocolatey! It's a simple drop cookie recipe from Trisha Yearwood, and it really couldn't be any easier to make. And did I mention how rich and chocolatey they are???? They SCREAM for a tall ice cold glass of milk. Better make a double batch because they won't last long!

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer with the beater blade attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and chocolate until smooth. Add the eggs and mix until fully combined. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl and add slowly to the batter until mixed. Add the vanilla and fold in the chocolate chips.
Drop by generous spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I used a silicone baking mat instead of parchment paper. Just sayin'.
For an easy variation, try swapping out a different kind of chips, such as white chocolate, butterscotch, caramel, peanut butter, or even mint chips!
I think they are better after you let them cool for a bit because they become chewier. YUM.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Potato Chip Cookies

 Ladies and Gents, I'd like to introduce you to my new favorite cookie!  Yes, potato chip cookies!!  They're just what they sound like. Cookies that have crushed potato chips in them! How fabulous is that??? They have that sweet and salty thing going on, which I absolutely LOVE, they're buttery and chewy and I bet you can't eat just one! (See what I did there?) And they're easy to make! I also love that they're new and different and they make people say "Huh?" when you tell them what they are. This a Martha Stewart recipe, and I've listed it just as it was published, but I did mine just a little differently, which I'll explain in the tips following the recipe.  Oh btw.. big thanx to Neil and Lea for the baking assist!
I PROMISE that you'll love them if you give them a try!

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
4 cups coarsely crushed salted potato chips (from a 7-ounce bag), divided
1 cup pecans (3 3/4 ounces), toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Beat together butter and sugars with a mixer on high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add vanilla and eggs, and beat on medium speed until just combined.
Add flour, baking soda, and salt, and beat on low speed until just combined.
Stir in 2 cups potato chips and the nuts.
Roll dough into balls using 1/4 c dough per ball, and then roll balls in remaining potato chips to coat. Place cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake until golden, 18 minutes. Let cool completely on baking sheet.

I made smaller cookies, I didn't add the pecans, and I didn't roll them in the crushed chips. Basically I just added all 4 cups of chips to the batter, dropped rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and baked them for about 12 minutes. I'd much rather have smaller cookies than such a giant size that you'd get if you use 1/4 cup of cookie dough per ball as the recipe directs. If you'd like the giant cookies, and if you love pecans, GO for it!