Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving101 - Cranberry Strawberry Compote

You can't have Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce.  This is my version.  I use strawberries to help sweeten it up a little more and add extra texture.  This year I decided to add a little lemon juice and cinnamon and it really came out delicious.

Ingredients:

1 bag fresh cranberries
1 quart strawberries, diced
1 cup sugar
1 cup  water
Lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation:

Place cranberries, water and sugar in a medium saucepan and cook on med/hi until cranberries start to burst.  Stir cranberry mixture and add in diced strawberries.  Let cook on med - med/hi heat stirring occasionally until fruit is cooked down but still a little chunky about 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and cinnamon and cook for an additional minute or two.   Remove from stove and transfer hot mixture into a heat proof bowl and chill in refrigerator until cold, about 1-2 hrs or overnight.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Vanilla Wafer Nut Brittle


I needed a dessert to make on very short notice and I didn't have time to go to the store.  I pulled together half a bag of this and half a bag of that and made this really delicious cookie brittle.  It was a HUGE hit and now I will definitely be making again.  I think the best part is that you really don't need all the exact ingredients.   All you need is butter and brown sugar to make the brittle and everything else you can really wing.  Just add any cookie you like and a combo of nuts and chocolate and you will have a very popular treat.


Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 box Vanilla Wafer cookies
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips (any variety)
1/4-1/2 cup toffee bits (you can buy packaged in the grocery store or break up a toffee bar like a Heath candy bar into small pieces)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

On a lined cookie sheet lay out Vanilla Wafer cookies in a single layer.  Sprinkle almonds and pecans  over top of cookies and set pan aside.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan melt together butter and brown sugar.   Bring mixture to a boil and continue boiling over medium heat for about 2 minutes.

Carefully pour boiling sugar mixture over the top of the cookies and nuts to cover completely.  Place in hot oven and bake for about 20 minutes until pan is hot and bubbling.

Remove from oven and pour chocolate chips over the top and spread into a smooth layer with an off set spatula or the back of a spoon.  Then sprinkle the top of the melted chocolate with toffee bits.  Let brittle cool completely until hardened.  You can put the cookie sheet with the warm brittle in the freezer to speed up the process.  Break into bite size pieces and try to eat just one!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

Susan brought this to our last family brunch.  It was a huge hit especially with the guys.   If you like cinnamon you will LOVE this easy quick bread.  


Ingredients:

2 cups All Purpose / Plain flour 
1 1/2 cups regular sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp cinnamon powder
The Glaze:
1/4 cup powdered / icing sugar
2 tsp milk

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Grease a 9-in loaf pan.  Combine the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, buttermilk, egg, vanilla and oil; stir just until moistened.  In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and remaining sugar. Pour half of the batter into bread pan; sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar. Spread with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar.  Using a skewer or knife, cut through the batter to swirl a few times. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing to wire rack. Cool completely.  For the glaze, combine icing / powdered sugar and enough milk to reach desired consistency; drizzle over loaf.  Allow to cool. 


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wedge Salad with Avocado Ranch Dressing


LOVE this version of  wedge salad.  It combines sweet and salty together for the perfect combination of flavors.  Very easy to whip up and of course delicious!


Ingredients:

1 head of iceberg lettuce, core removed and quartered
1/2 cup cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup glazed pecans, chopped
1/2 cup blue cheese or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

For dressing: 
1/2 avocado
1 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Preparation:

In a blender combine avocado, ranch dressing, milk and herbs.  Blend until smooth. 

To assemble salad place one quarter of lettuce head on a plate.  Sprinkle 1/4 of blue cheese over lettuce wedge.  Next pour on about 1/4 cup of prepared dressing.  Sprinkle 1/4 of the bacon crumbles, and 1/4 of the chopped pecans over the dressing.  Serve immediately.  


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Roasted Chicken Legs



Growing up our Mother always made this oven roasted chicken.  After speaking with my Mother this morning I found out that it was originally our Grandmother's recipe and also that I made it wrong ;).  LOL  Still delicious and I had all the right ingredients but my technique was off.  It is such a simple recipe but the combination of theses spices are not only delicious but look really pretty too.  They are spices that most people always have in their pantry.  So if you are running out of chicken ideas here is a nice, simple and quick recipe to throw together at the last minute.  I used chicken legs when making this recently because they are so super inexpensive and seem to be the part of the chicken my kids like the most.  If you don't like chicken legs feel free to use any other part of the chicken and prepare in the same manner.  You can't mess this one up!

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons Lawry's season salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
(1-2 tablespoons water *optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place chicken in a shallow un-greased roasting pan.  It's best when you leave the skin on to cook because it keeps the chicken really moist and allows you to cook the chicken for a longer time to achieve a nice crispy exterior without drying out the inside.   If desired you can remove the skin before you eat it.  When I made this the other day I made a dry rub of the spices and sprinkled it over the top of the chicken and baked it halfway (about 30 minutes) and then I flipped the chicken over and sprinkled the other side with the spice rub and cooked it about another 30 minutes until it was golden and the skin was crispy.   I found out however, my Mother and Grandmother made this as a wet rub by adding a little water to the spices and then rubbing the chicken with the wet mixture and cooking the same way.  I think it's a matter of preference but I will definitely try the wet rub next time.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Watermelon Cake



I refuse to let the summer end!  
I made this watermelon cake for a friend's block party.  It is such a cute dessert for a BBQ.   All the kids really loved it.  I wanted to use a strawberry cake mix so there was a hint of fruit flavor but my daughter insisted on having just vanilla so I opted to color the white cake mix reddish pink to look like watermelon instead.  Now it's even easier to finish this cake because you can buy pink and green frosting already pre-colored at the market.  (The pink frosting you will need to add a little red food coloring to make it less of a shocking pink color and more "watermelon" colored.)  Overall very simple cake to bake and assemble.  I hope you give it a try.  I originally saw this cake on Pinterest, you can find the original recipe on this cute blog call Bird on a Cake.


Ingredients:

1 white cake mix, prepared as per direction on box
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, divided
red food coloring
pink frosting (or white frosting with red food color)
green frosting (or white frosting with green food color)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl mix white cake mix according to the packaged directions, or of course you can make your favorite white cake from scratch.  Add 5 drops of red food coloring to the prepared batter.  You may add more to get the desired "watermelon" color.  Add about 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips to the colored cake batter to resemble watermelon seeds.  You do not need to measure this out exactly, just eyeball it.  Reserved the remaining chocolate chips for the top of the cake.  Pour cake batter into two 9" cake pans that have been greased generously with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake cakes at 350 degrees F. for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove cakes from oven and leave in pans until completely cooled.

Once cakes have cooled, carefully remove them from the pans.  With a serrated knife carefully slice off a small amount of the top of each cake to make them flat.  Place one cake topside down onto  a cake plate.  Take your reddish/pink frosting and frost the top of the first cake leaving about a 1/4 inch around the cake at the edges. Sprinkle the frosting with some more of the mini chocolate chips.  Now take the second cake and place it topside down on top of the 1st cake.  Using green frosting, frost the sides of the cake and about 1/2 inch of the edge on the top of the cake.  Fill the top of the cake in the middle of the green circle with reddish/pink frosting and sprinkle additional mini chocolate chips on the top of the pink to look like watermelon seeds.  Decorated the bottom edge anyway you like, I just did little balls but putting frosting in a ziploc bag and cutting a tiny corner of the bag and squeezing out a little at time to make balls.  

*Notes:

If you want the cake to taste like watermelon, use the powder of a packet of watermelon flavored jello and sprinkle 3/4 of it into the cake batter and the other 1/4 of the packet into the pink frosting.  You could also use a strawberry cake mix if you don't feel like coloring the cake and you will still get a nice fruit flavor to your cake.

You may want to put a thin layer of frosting on the cake and then refrigerate to firm up the frosting and then add a second layer of frosting so it looks nice and smooth.  This just makes it easier to frost and covers up any imperfections.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cilantro Coleslaw



This is a traditional coleslaw kicked up a notch. I LOVE the addition of cilantro, so delicious and really changes the taste of the usual every day coleslaw.  You can also add any veggies that you want, I like the addition of crispy sweet pepper slices.

Ingredients:

2 - 8oz bags of prepared cole slaw mix,  (It's just easier ;)
1 sweet bell pepper, sliced thinly -  your color choice (red, orange, yellow)
A big bunch of chopped cilantro - who needs to measure??
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation:

Place coleslaw mix (discard the dressing that comes with the slaw if you bought a kit) and sliced peppers in a large bowl, set aside.  In a small mixing bowl coming, milk, mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk together until combined.  Pour milk mixture over coleslaw and mix until throughly coated.  Place in refrigerator to chill.  Chop up a big bunch of cilantro (I don't measure but you want anywhere from 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cilantro) Before serving remove coleslaw from the refrigerator and  mix in cilantro.  Serve cold!