Sunday, December 30, 2018

Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs

 When you're planning a party, one of the most important things to consider is your time management. With cooking and cleaning, shopping for food and liquor, and setting everything up so that it's just so, it can be a little overwhelming. So when you're choosing your menu, a slow cooker is definitely your best friend! You just turn it on earlier in the day, and by the time your guests arrive, everything is already ready already. This was exactly what I had in mind when I was searching for party food recipes. I wanted something that you could do ahead and save you time, and of course it also needed to be easy to prepare and absolutely delicious!
 This recipe is so easy, any non-cooker can do it. If you are the type of person who never cooks anything because "it never turns out", then THIS is the recipe for you. I found it on a blog called It's fool proof! You literally just dump everything into the slow cooker and turn it on. It's just that simple. You can also mix up the sauce ingredients ahead of time so that it's one less thing you have to worry about. Your guests will surely devour them, so you should probably make a double batch.
Just sayin!

1 cup cranberry sauce, homemade or store-bought
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (32-ounce) package frozen, fully cooked, meatballs, homemade or store-bought
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

 In a medium bowl, whisk together cranberry sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, Dijon, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire and cinnamon; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place meatballs into a 3-qt slow cooker. Stir in cranberry mixture. Cover and cook on low heat for 3-4 hours, or until bubbly and the meatballs are heated through. Serve immediately, garnished with chives, if desired.

Instead of mixing everything in a bowl, I just mixed it right in the slow cooker, then added the meatballs. One less dish to wash!
To be quite honest, I didn't really measure anything. I used the whole can of jellied cranberry sauce instead of just one cup, and I eyeballed the rest of the ingredients. I went a little heavy with the mustard, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Why? Because I like 'em! Oh, and don't forget to add the cinnamon! I think that's one of the key ingredients here. It brings quite a bit to the party!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Philadelphia Cinnamon Buns

 OK, so here's a pretty amazing story....
 Once upon a time, my sister Reen discovered a recipe for sticky buns in a newspaper. So she decided to clip the article, and give it a try. Long story short, it was a huge hit, and she even won a baking contest with it! (The running joke was that everyone said she had the best buns. But I digress..) Cut to literally 42 years later, my sisters and I were talking on Thanksgiving night, and somehow the topic of the recipe popped up. Even though we had just finished our fabulous family feast, Cathy and I were probably discussing what we would have for Christmas Breakfast, and this recipe became my focus.
 But how on earth would I be able to find it??? It was printed in some newspaper in 1976 and there was no way I was gonna be able to google it or find it anywhere. But wait! Patty said she thinks she has it scribbled down somewhere! Great! But wait, even better, Reen still has the actual newspaper clipping!! WHAT??? Can you stand it??? She had saved it in a binder and kept it all these years. We are ABSOLUTELY having cinnamon buns for Christmas Breakfast!!
 And then I read the recipe. WHOA. OK this is gonna take a minute. Admittedly, I'm not the most experienced when it comes to making breads and doughs and such, and actually, it has always seemed a little daunting to me. But I figured, well, how hard can it be?? I'll just follow the recipe! Also, I had just binged several episodes of The Great British Baking Show, and I was inspired by Paul Hollywood, one of the show's judges, who just happens to be an expert in bread baking.
  My only concern was that this NEEDED to come out perfectly because it had to be special enough for CHRISTMAS. No pressure. No pressure. I'll just to do a test run. Great. I also needed to see how long it would take for all the rising, etc. So I gave it a go, and guess what?!?! It turned out perfectly!! Honestly, I really wasn't sure what I was doing through half of it, but I just followed the recipe, and just look at my buns! Wait, that came out wrong. LOL I was shocked and amazed and delighted because this was authentic good old fashioned BAKING. No can of store bought dough here. This is the real deal! And if I'm being completely honest, I think I conquered a little bit of that fear of baking breads. Suddenly it's not so difficult! It's just a recipe like any other. It just needs a little extra time, that's all. And they are absolutely 100% delicious enough for Christmas Breakfast. Yes there are several steps, yes this takes a lot of time, yes this is a splurge, and yes this is not something you'd make every day, but for a special occasion or holiday, this is definitely worth the time and effort!
Btw, one last note, I don't even know whose recipe this is. I believe the paper was called The Evening Bulletin, and the recipe is called Philadelphia Cinnamon Buns because that's how it was titled in print. That's as much as I know about it. Thanx again to Reen for clipping and saving it all these years!
Clearly this recipe is still a keeper!

1/4 cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
5 cups flour
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs

brown sugar
Karo or pancake syrup
raisin and/or pecans

  Measure warm water into a cup and stir in yeast and 1 tbs sugar. Set aside until the yeast blooms and it becomes bubbly. Meanwhile, prepare the pans. Use 3 9" round or square pans, or you can also use a sheet pan. Butter them generously and pour in your syrup. Make the syrup about 1/8-1/4 inch deep over the bottom of the pans. Sprinkle in raisins and/or chopped pecans, if desired. Set pans aside.
 Now make the dough. Add salt to milk, and gently warm (either on the stove or in the microwave) just until it feels neither hot nor cold to a testing finger. Stir the yeast mixture, add it to the lukewarm milk, and gradually add 2 cups of the flour. Beat well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until it gets bubbly. (The inside of an unheated oven is a good place for this.) Meanwhile, beat shortening, 3/4 cup sugar, and eggs, until very creamy, light, and smooth. When the yeast mixture is bubbly, add the sugar-egg mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition. When it is thoroughly blended, add the remaining 3 cups of flour. Don't beat hard, just begin adding a little at a time and mix well before adding the next. The dough will be quite sticky. Cover dough and let rise in a cozy place until double in size. Punch it down, and then turn it out onto a floured work surface, knead a time or two with floured hands then roll out to make a rectangle. Spread with softened butter, leaving a 1/2" edge around all sides. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins and/or pecans, then drizzle a track of syrup along the whole thing.
 Beginning with the long side of the rectangle, roll up the dough jelly roll style, and press the outer edge firmly to keep in place. With a very sharp knife, cut off short lengths (1-2 inches) and place in prepared pans, barely touching each other. Cover and let rise until doubled again. Place pans in preheated 350ºF oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until beautifully browned. Turn out of pans immediately.

This dough is VERY sticky. RESIST the urge to keep adding more flour! If you happen to have a bench scraper, use it! It definitely turned out to be the most valued tool here.
If you need to, you can do the first half of this recipe the day before. I went as far as mixing up the dough and letting it double in size. Then I punched it down, placed it in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and left it in the fridge until the next morning. Then all I needed to do was to roll them out, let them rise again, and bake them. Every time you punch it down and let it rise again, the rise happens more quickly, so I think the last rise only took about 1/2 hour, as opposed to the first rise, which took about 2 hours.
Definitely do NOT wait to turn the buns out after they bake. The syrup will begin to set up like caramel and you'll never get the buns out of the pan. There's a reason they are also called STICKY buns!
Be VERY careful when turning out the buns after baking. That syrup is LAVA HOT. Be sure to use a plate or platter with extra room around the edges for the extra syrup. Then you can scoop up some of the extra syrup and drizzle it back over the top of the buns.
For more generous sized buns, cut them thicker, at least two inches wide.
I've made this with Karo syrup and pancake syrup. The pancake syrup wins. It just tastes better!

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Best Chewy Sugar Cookies

   Ok, so, my plan was to share this fabulous sugar cookie recipe that I found on a website called Add A Pinch, (which really lives up to its name, btw). But then I realized I already have an Easy Sugar Cookies recipe on my website.... hmmmm... What is a blogger to do? Do I not share this remarkably tasty cookie recipe since both recipes are quite similar? Or do I just share it anyway, because more is more?????
 Um HELLO..... OF COURSE more is more!! So here we are. And I wasn't kidding when I said that these cookies are remarkably tasty! They are EXACTLY everything you want in a sugar cookie. Sweet, buttery, chewy, crispy, and very vanilla forward (that's how the trendy foodies say things these days. heehee). When my sister Jeanie tasted them, she said that they taste just like the sugar cookies my grandfather used to make. They're just simply perfect! Oh, and they're super easy too.
 So if you're looking for the right cookie that is good enough to set by the tree for a certain overnight visitor, this is the one! I'm sure he would also love an ice-cold glass of milk to go with 'em!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies

 Preheat oven to 350º F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Cream together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and mix until well-combined. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. Scoop cookie dough by the tablespoon full and roll into a ball. Add granulated sugar to a large bowl for rolling cookie dough in before baking. Place each ball of cookie dough into the bowl of granulated sugar and roll to coat well. Place cookie dough onto baking sheet, spacing about 1½-inches to 2 inches apart. Lightly press each cookie down. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

I know everyone always says to use unsalted butter for making, and then you add salt according to the recipe, but I always use salted butter for everything. It just tastes better!
Since vanilla is the main flavor of the cookie, do yourself a favor and NEVER use anything other than pure vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla flavoring is just that. A cheap imitation. Always go for the good stuff! Another option would be to add half vanilla and half almond extract. For a citrus hit, try add a little grated zest of orange or lemon! That would be delish!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Bailey's Irish Cream Cookies

 Here's a cookie recipe idea that was born out of a conversation about cupcakes. I had shared the Mini Egg Nog Cupcakes recipe on FB, and some friends wanted to know if I had a recipe for Bailey's Cupcakes too. Absolutely! So after I shared that recipe as well, I thought "wait, what if I do Bailey's COOKIES instead of cupcakes???" I immediately went on a search, and was VERY surprised at how many recipes I found! Great! The only thing was that many of the recipes had chocolate chips in them. I mean, I guess that's fine, I love chocolate chips and all, but it seemed to me that chocolate chips would overpower the flavor of the Bailey's, no?
  Then I found this recipe on a blog called Kirbie's Cravings, and she kinda said the same thing about not wanting to overpower the Bailey's flavor. Instead of chocolate, she used cappuccino chips, which I wasn't able to find without ordering online. So I decided to go with butterscotch chips, instead. They were DELISH! Not that you really need any chips at all, but why not? She also said she wanted to keep the cookies glaze free, but I decided to include a glaze, just to bump up the flavor even more. The results were amazing! The flavor is absolutely there, and the cookies are chewy and delicious! The recipe is super easy too! They're equally as perfect for St Patrick's Day as for Christmas, or just any day you feel like having some Bailey's! And if you're doing a cookie swap, this will be something new and different to bring to the party! I love that. Enjoy!

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1 cup unsalted butter softened 
1 1/2 cups white sugar 
1 egg 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
3/4 cups baileys 
1 1/2 cup cappuccino chips (or other chips of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper.
In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
 In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg, Bailey's, and vanilla. Add in flour mixture at low speed until dough is formed. Add chips and mix on low speed until they are mixed into dough. Roll dough into balls about 1 1/2 inch in diameter and place onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Press palm of hand down on each cookie, so that they form round discs. Bake about 11 minutes in the preheated oven, or until light brown around the edges. Cookies will be slightly puffy when taken out from oven and will flatten after they cool.

For the glaze, just add a few tbs of Bailey's to about a cup of powdered sugar, just until it's the perfect drizzling consistency. Only add 1 tbs of Bailey's at a time, because a little bit of liquid goes a long way when it comes to powdered sugar. Once the cookies are completely cooled, leave them on cooling racks, and then thinly drizzle the cookies. Let them sit for a few minutes until the glaze sets.
To make the cookies extra pretty, place 3 chips on top of each ball of cookie dough just before you put the tray in the oven. Then you can really see what you're getting! 
Are you a chocolate fanatic?? Then by all means, use chocolate chips! You can also do white chips, cinnamon chips, or even salted caramel chips. They would all work, but I think I'll still stick with butterscotch!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Joey's Cranberry Pulled Pork Sliders

   Since this is the time of year when many people are attending or hosting holiday parties, I figured it would be a good idea to come up with something fun and yummy that you can serve to your guests, or to bring with you to your next party. Lets make sliders! They're the perfect little picky-uppy holiday party food! (yes, picky-uppy is a technical term.) And since they're just little, you now have the option of sampling many more food items from the table, instead of filling up on a big honkin' sandwich. Know what I mean? More is more!
 We all know how easy it is to make a pulled pork in a crock pot, but the twist here is making it with cranberries instead of just your basic BBQ sauce. Doesn't that sound yummy? Tbh, I had been looking for a cranberry pork recipe for a while and they all seemed to be very BBQ, with just a hint of cranberry. Well, frankly, I wanted it to be the other way around! I wanted sweet and tart cranberries with just a little hint of BBQ, and that's what we have here! The other thing I wanted was to use FRESH cranberries. Every year, when cranberries are available, I stock up my freezer with bags and bags. They freeze REALLY well, and will last me an entire year! It's nothing to take a bag of cranberries out of the freezer and stir up a quick cranberry sauce, and that's exactly what I've done! The good news is you can also just use a can of cranberry sauce, just in case you forgot to stock your freezer with fresh ones! This would also be a really great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce from your big holiday dinner! Are you having turkey for Christmas? Now you can serve leftover cranberry pork sliders for your New Year's Eve Party! Look at me, always thinking ahead! And even if you're not making this for a party, it's an easy weekday meal! Just mix up the sauce the night before, turn your crock pot on before you leave for work in the morning, and then let it cook all day. Dinner is ready when you get home! It really is SO easy! And I'll say this once more.. if you don't have a slow cooker, NOW is the time to get one! I have several, and I use all of them ALL the time. Who knows? Maybe you'll get one for Christmas?? It could happen! But only if you're on the Nice list!

4 or 5 lb pork roast (shoulder or butt)
1 large sweet onion, sliced

1 12oz bag fresh cranberries plus 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 tbs butter
OR 1 can of whole berry cranberry sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup honey
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbs lemon juice

Place pork and onions in a 5 quart slow cooker.
If using fresh cranberries, place them in a small sauce pot with sugar, water, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let it simmer until the berries start to pop, about 10-15 minutes. Mash slightly. Let it cool for a bit, then add to mixing bowl. If using canned cranberries, just add a can of whole berry sauce to the mixing bowl. Add remaining sauce ingredients. Stir until well blended. Pour half of the sauce over the pork and onions. Cook on low for 9 or 10 hours or on high for 5 hours, or until the meat is falling apart. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, remove all the meat and onions from the cooker. Using two forks, shred the meat, discarding any bones and large pieces of fat. Add the other half of the sauce to the shredded meat. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serve on fresh bakery rolls with pickles and cole slaw on the side.

 To serve as sliders:
Using a big serrated knife, slice a package of King's Hawaiian sweet rolls in half horizontally, and remove the top layer in one piece. Spread a layer of the pulled pork over the bottom layer of bread. Next cover the pork with several slices of deli provolone cheese. Place the top layer of rolls on top. Cover loosely with foil. Bake at 350ºF for about 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Then use a big knife to cut into individual sliders.

When serving as sliders, you have a rectangle of rolls, but the provolone cheese is round, so what do you do to make them fit? Simply cut the slices of cheese in half! Now you have a flat edge on the slices of cheese to place up against the flat sides of your rectangle of rolls. Simple!
 Btw, the liquid that is left in the cooker is REALLY tasty. You could add it to a small pot, stir in a slurry of flour/water, and simmer until thickened  to turn it into some fantabulous gravy, perfect for mashed potatoes or for dipping your sliders!