Tuesday, December 30, 2008

OK, so here’s another best-kept secret. This time, my friend Heidi’s, but apparently, my sister Regina has claimed it for her own:
“Hi, do you have ‘my’ champagne punch recipe? I want to make it tomorrow, forgot my recipe in PA.”
Lucky for Regina, Heidi’s recipe is actually epicurious.com’s recipe, and luckier for Regina, Heidi actually shared that fact with me and didn’t claim it for her own, otherwise I would’ve had trouble putting my fingers on it tonight.

Reg, enjoy your punch tomorrow, and more, enjoy your friends at “home”. You deserve a very fun night with them, for sure!

Champagne Punch
1 c Triple Sec
1 c brandy
½ c Chambord
2 c unsweetened pineapple juice
1 qt chilled ginger ale
2 chilled 750-ml bottles dry champagne
In a bowl combine Triple Sec, brandy, Chambord, and pineapple juice, and chill the mixture, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight. In a large punch bowl combine the Triple Sec mixture, ginger ale, champagne, and ice cubes.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I know Brendan will be mad at me for divulging this long-held family secret (and probably this picture), but I can’t find my copy of the recipe, and I’d like you all to tell me if my memory is correct.

Irish cream

4 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 c heavy cream
2 T chocolate syrup
2 t instant coffee
1 t pure vanilla extract
¼ t pure almond extract
¾ c Irish whiskey (I think the original recipe called for 1½ cups, but I usually use less)
Combine in blender. Chill. Serve in a pretty bottle. Makes great gifts!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

File under: You gotta try this! It's the simplest, nicest, chocolate treat ever!

Now, if you ask my kids what my favorite candy is, they'll tell y0u it's Junior Mints or maybe Mounds or Almond Joy. And I do love those, don’ get me wrong. But my favorite candy is Chunky. I’m just generally unwilling to pay $1 for a 1½" square of chocolate with raisins and nuts. Enter: Chocolate, Fruit, and Nut Clusters that arrived in my e-mailbox this week, as if from Santa, but really from Health.com Healthy Holiday Postcard ... Healthy Holiday?! This just got better! The sidebar on the recipe says it’s healthy because dark chocolate offers stress-busting (really?! no wonder I like it so much!) antioxidants, while cranberries may help fend off winter colds and fight stomach bugs.

The other thing I love about it is it’s a half-cup of everything. That, I can remember when I’m walking through the store with no idea where I left my shopping list (usually on the passenger seat of the car).

I tried it as written, but I’d like a little more dark chocolate and a little less sweet, so I might substitute darker bittersweet or more semisweet chocolate for the milk chocolate next time.

Chocolate, Fruit, and Nut Clusters
½ c (3 oz) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped baking bar, such as Ghirardelli
½ c (3 oz) milk chocolate chips or chopped milk chocolate bar
½ c dried cranberries
½ c coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
Place the semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water; make sure the water is not actually touching the inner pan. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Stir in the cranberries and pecans. Immediately drop by level teaspoonfuls onto a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. Clusters will keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Brandini Toffee

This Toffee recipe from Martha Stewart makes me think of Aunt Margo's toffee. It is pretty easy to make and really comes out great.

Makes about 2 pounds1/4 pound whole almonds3 cups (6 sticks) salted butter3 cups sugar1 pound Guittard French vanilla dark chocolate

DirectionsPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almonds evenly on a baking sheet and transfer to oven. Roast until almonds are dark and fragrant, but not burned, about 15 minutes. Remove nuts from oven and let cool completely. Transfer cooled nuts to a large resealable plastic bag. Using a mallet or other heavy object, pound nuts until coarsely ground.
Melt butter in an 8-quart pot over medium-low heat; stir in sugar. Continue stirring until toffee reaches 305 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes.
Pour toffee onto an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet, spreading evenly to cover. Let cool until toffee is slightly hardened, but still tacky. Run a knife along the edges of the baking sheet to make toffee easier to remove.
Meanwhile, in a bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water, melt chocolate. Remove chocolate from heat and let cool slightly until it reaches about 95 degrees on a candy thermometer. Immediately pour melted chocolate over toffee, spreading evenly to cover. Sprinkle over coarsely ground almonds, pressing down with offset spatula. Transfer to refrigerator until toffee is set, about 1 hour.
To remove toffee from pan, run a sharp knife along the edges and lift toffee from the bottom. Using your hands, break toffee into large pieces; keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What are your favorite appetizers this season?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Menu

We are having Christmas with Kate (and fam), Bridge (and fam) and my parents at our house in New Hope. That will be 8 adults and 10 kids, ranging from 16 (that day, Happy Birthday, Will!) - 17 months.  We thought we'd do our menu planning here, so we'd love to hear what everyone else is making and you can weigh in on what we are thinking about. Let the planning begin!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Create a Cookbook

I was with Katie at Book Group last night (neither of us had read the book…), and we got to talking about food – surprise!

We ended up talking about all of our favorite recipes: Katie’s Mom’s Clam Chowder, Lynne’s “Great-Grandmother’s” Italian Peasant Soup, our friend Marilyn’s Delta Shrimp, our friend Lisa’s Crockpot Ground Turkey 3 Bean Soup, etc. I told them all about this cool website that my cousin Betteanne sent to me -- http://www.tastebook.com/.

Check it out – you create a hardcover, spiral-bound cookbook of your favorite recipes that you can then order. You either type in new recipes or import from other websites. It's a great, easy way to organize your recipes.

I’ve created a cookbook citing Katie, Lynne, Marilyn, Lisa and others as sources and am thinking of creating one with all my mom’s old recipes as a gift for my sisters. Let me know and I can send you the link to my cookbook if you’re interested.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Second (or third or fourth) time around

Bridget asked:
What are you doing/did you do with the leftover turkey? I tried some different recipes, I'll post them later. Thanksgiving Strata for Brunch on Sunday, it was tasty, a good change. Turkey Enchiladas and of course Turkey Divan.
I just made the best—and one of the easiest & quickest!—leftover turkey meals I've ever made! I served it with white rice—to which I added leftover mashed butternut squash & a can of drained, rinsed black beans just before serving. It was adapted from www.cookinglight.com.

(BTW, I still have more turkey & a great stock (for this, I just put the carcass in my crockpot Thanksgiving night, fill with water & let it simmer for 12-24 hours), any ideas for a different soup or stew?)

Turkey Picadillo
Turkey matches well with the flavorful ingredients of this Cuban dish: tomato, chiles, cinnamon, and cumin. Serve with baked tortilla chips.
1 t olive oil
¼ c finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c chopped tomato
2 T chopped jalapenos
1 T dark brown sugar
½ t ground cinnamon
½ t ground cumin
½ t black pepper
¼ t salt
2 T golden raisins
2 T capers
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T dry sherry
2 c chopped skinned cooked turkey
8 flour tortillas
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chopped tomato and green chiles; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, and salt; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to low. Stir in raisins, capers, vinegar, and sherry; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often. Add turkey, stirring to combine. Remove from heat.

Warm tortillas wrapped in foil in oven. Spoon about 1/3 cup turkey mixture onto each tortilla; roll up.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bake sale

I have to bake for a bake sale on Friday.  I'm thinking of a loaf bread.   Maybe a pumpkin or banana? What do you do for a bake sale?  Katie I know you mentioned Orange bugs the other day, I didn't write down the recipe. If you have a chance  please post it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fresh Pasta

Does anyone make their own pasta? Is it worth it? What do you need?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's for Thanksgiving?

What are you cooking for Thanksgiving? Are you sticking with the classics? Does your family have traditions? I'm always interested in hearing new yummy recipes. This is an awesome holiday, one focusing on food, family, what we are thankful for and football:)

Dinner help

As I tend to do, I go through phases where I am very motivated about making up my menus and trying new recipes, and then when I am not so motivated. I am in the down phase, and am having trouble putting ideas together for some new dinners to try. I need to get shopping and would love some great ideas. I did a pork stir-fry last night. I was feeling uninspired and just threw it together. It didn't look great and I wasn't thrilled about it, but it actually tasted really good. 

Anyone have some great, easy, family-friendly ideas?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Green bean casserole

Ok here it is, I like green bean casserole. A few years ago our news paper ran an article on it and had some updated one. I tried one of them.   Am thinking of another one this year.  Do people make it? Do you like it? Why? or Why not? Which one would you make?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sour-Cream Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

Anyone have the recipe handy? I can't find mine and am having a coffee/playdate tomorrow morning.

Update: Eileen shared the recipe with me, so I am adding here on the front page so it is nice and easy to find. A family favorite!

Chocolate Chip coffee cake
!/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs 
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp Vanilia
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 tsp cinnamon

Cream together butter,sugar,eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine 2 mixes. 
Spoon 1/2 batter into pan. Top with 1/2 chip mixture. Cover with rest of batter. Top with rest of chip mixture.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
Mom always does her in a fluted pan but I have trouble getting it to cook through in that pan so I do a 9x13. So you may need to adjust baking time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cool-weather Soups

I always love to have soups during this time of year. It makes me feel warm and toasty, add salad and a bread, and I am in heaven!

Last night, I made a butternut squash soup. I roasted the squash with a little olive oil, s&p at 400 for about 45 minutes, until it was tender. Then, sauteed a little onion and garlic, added the squash pulp and some chicken stock, nutmeg and sage. Brought the soup to a boil and let it simmer. Then, pureed in the blender until smooth. Drizzled a little molasses on top before serving. It is good, but I would be more than welcome to trying other butternut squash soup recipes, as well as other soup recipes in general. 

I will come back shortly and post a few of our favorites.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Food for a family at a difficult time

We have a family that the Mom just had open heart surgery. I am signed up to bring dinner one night next week.   Any suggestions?  I tend to resort to Lasagna when bringing food for others.  What are some other good options? 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Yes, great company recipes

This is a really versatile idea. You can make it with beef tenderloin, chicken breast, or salmon or other firm-fleshed fish. Basically, you pair the protein with cheese and something else sweet or savory, and wrap it in puff pastry. They can be made ahead and frozen, then just baked off when you need them. Perfect for a dinner party or house guests.

Last week or the week before, Rachael Ray did chicken breasts with fontina cheese and fig preserves, seasoned with rosemary. I used to have a client that loved chicken breasts with goat cheese, spinach, toasted pine nuts, and sundried tomatoes, seasoned with basil and garlic.

The very first meal I ever cooked for my husband was chicken cordon bleu (with gruyérè and black forest ham). I’ve changed it up over the years to make it with fontina and prosciutto or imported provolone and prosciutto for an Italian flavor or manchego and parma for a Spanish flair. These little rolls are also great en croute (enclosed in puff pastry).

You can also do individual beef wellingtons this way. Use individual servings of beef tenderloin and top with sautéed mushrooms or pate (or both, if you prefer).

Necessity is the mother of invention. Use whatever you have on hand or want to use up. Or make it seasonal: Cranberries or apple butter and blue cheese in the fall, spinach and goat cheese in the spring. Keep some of the staples for your favorites in the pantry and freezer and you’ve always got a company-ready meal on hand. You can make it as fancy or as mundane as you like.

I roll the flattened chicken breast around the fillings, Rachael Ray layers them on the pastry; I might try her way next time, it seems easier. Rachael Ray browns the chicken breasts before layering and wrapping, I don’t; who needs an extra step?

Chicken (or beef or salmon) en croute
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (if you’re having a large dinner party/buffet, cut the breasts in half, people don’t eat as large servings at a larger party)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 sheet puff pastry (11 by 17-inch)
8 slices cheese
something sweet or savory
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Preheat oven to 475°. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and spice. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 4 pieces (8 for dinner-party-sized pieces). Place a piece of cheese on each pastry square and top with spoonfuls of sweet or savory and chicken breast. Pinch and seal the dough up and over the meat and cheese, seal with egg wash, flip the pastry packets over and brush the tops with remaining egg wash. You can roll the puff pastry scraps and use cookie cutters to decorate the bundles with seasonal shapes or simple decorations. (Bundles can be frozen at this point: Freeze on baking sheet without wrapping to set the egg wash and puff pastry. Wrap bundles individually in foil and store in a zipper freezer bag until you’re ready to use them. May be frozen up to three months.)

(If frozen, defrost in refrigerator the day before you plan to eat. Preheat oven to 475°. Unwrap the thawed bundles and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.) Put the pastries in oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 400°. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and the juices run clear.
Chicken with fontina and fig preserves variation: Season chicken with ½ t rosemary along with salt and pepper. Use 8 slices of fontina and ½ c fig preserves.
Chicken cordon bleu variation: Season chicken with ½ thyme along with salt and pepper. Use 8 slices of gruyérè and 8 slices black forest ham. Serve with mornay sauce.
Chicken marsala variation: Season chicken with ½ t sage along with salt and pepper. Use 4 oz sautéed mushrooms, 8 slices of provolone, and 8 slices of prosciutto.
Chicken fontina variation: Season chicken with ½ t Italian seasoning along with salt and pepper. Use 8 slices of fontina and 8 slices of prosciutto.
Chicken manchego variation: Season chicken with ½ oregano along with salt and pepper. Use 8 slices manchego and 8 slices of parma ham.
Chicken with goat cheese and spinach variation: Season chicken with ½ t basil along with salt and pepper. Use 4 oz goat cheese and 10 oz frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed), mixed with 2 T toasted pine nuts, 2 T chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and ¼ t minced garlic.
Chicken with blue cheese and caramelized onion variation: Season chicken with ½ t thyme along with salt and pepper. Use 4 oz blue cheese and ½ c caramelized onions.
Individual beef wellington variation: Substitute 4 6-oz beef tenderloins for the chicken breasts. Season with ½ t rosemary along with salt and pepper. Use 8 oz sautéed mushrooms (or 4 oz mushrooms and 4 oz paté of your choice). Sear the tenderloins before you layer and wrap them.
Individual beef wellington with spinach and blue cheese variation: Substitute 4 6-oz beef tenderloins for the chicken breasts. Season with ½ t rosemary along with salt and pepper. Use 4 oz blue cheese and 10 oz frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed). Sear the tenderloins before you layer and wrap them.
Salmon en croute variation: Substitute 4 6-oz salmon fillets (skin removed) for the chicken breasts. Season with 1 T dill weed along with salt and pepper. Use 4 oz neufchatel cheese (light cream cheese) combined with 2 T dijon mustard and & 4 oz sautéed mushrooms.
Salmon with lemon-spinach variation: Substitute 4 6-oz salmon fillets (skin removed) for the chicken breasts. Season with lemon pepper and salt. Use 10 oz frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed).
Chicken or salmon and asparagus variation: Use chicken breasts or substitute 4 6-oz salmon fillets (skin removed) for the chicken breasts. Season with garlic salt and pepper. Use 4 oz havarti and 8 asparagus stalks.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Any great entertaining recipes?

My mother-in-law and brother-in-law are coming for a few days, and then after they leave, my parents are coming for a few days. Any great recipes to share.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween fun food

Growing up, we always had Sloppy Joe's on Halloween night before going out Trick or Treating.

Is anyone doing anything fun for Halloween Dinner?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today Regina had asked me for my bread bowl recipe.  I live in Minnesota, we eat lots of soup. I can't serve soup with out bread. 
I used to make bread bowls where I shaped the dough around an upside down bowl and bake. It was good but often unsteady, the dough wouldn't rise evenly.  Last week I found a recipe where you make a roll and cut off the top scoop out the middle and fill it with soup. It sat flat on the plate but mine had holes where the soup dripped out. We ate it in bowls so not too big an issue but I'd love to find a great bread bowl recipe or fixes for my problems with the recipes I have.
Any advice?
Who doesn’t love a dinner that makes the whole family happy? Tonight we’re having meatloaf. I have to double the recipe now, for my family of six, and yes, I know that’s not good portion control, but for one evening, everyone is truly happy. And anyone who has teenagers, a tween, and a toddler, or any combination thereof, knows that’s a tall order.

By the way, “fancy” meatloaf doesn’t cut it. It has to be the plain old Lipton’s recipe, with mashed potatoes. My brother-in-law, George, likes his meatloaf with gravy (his comfort-food-of-choice, I believe), but my family goes with ketchup and hot sauce (thank you, PopPop, for that addition to my kids’ culinary repertoire). Except me, I like mine sans condiments.

Also, it has to be served with mashed potatoes. My mom used to make the best browned potatoes with her meatloaf, and I really love those, but for meatloaf, my family really wants mashed potatoes paired with it.

And added bonus: This is quick prep. Just mix and bake. The individual muffin tins or mini loaf pans make great presentation for kids.

To make this recipe healthier, use ground turkey rather than ground beef. Also, substitute wheat germ for ½ of the bread crumbs and/or substitute baby carrots or sweet potatoes or green vegetables for ½ of the ketchup. For Southwestern meatloaf, substitute barbecue sauce for the ketchup. Finally, if you like a glaze, spread ketchup or barbecue sauce on top of the meatloaf before baking.

Souperior meatloaf

1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
2 lb lean ground beef
1½ c bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/3 c ketchup
¾ c water, if needed
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients in large bowl.

Bake 350° for about one hour in 9x13 pan, or about 40 minutes in muffin tins for individual servings or mini loaf pans for 2 servings each.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What's for dinner tonight?

I am always looking for inspiration in what I want to make for dinner and would love to hear what others are doing. So, what is your family having for dinner tonight?

We're having stuffed shells and salad tonight. If I get motivated, maybe I'll let my little ones help me make some bread dough and we'll have fresh bread and a salad with it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bars

I thought I'd add the first recipe. My husband and I, our girls too, love chocolate and peanut butter treats. My Mom always made a chocolate, peanut butter bar with graham cracker. I was looking for a new recipe. And found this one below on allrecipes.com. The girls and I enjoyed it. Brad said "Why mess with a good thing" and requested the original. I'm saving the recipe for a little bit of a dressed up bar, if I'm bringing them somewhere. I've been meaning to share it with my sister since I tried it last weekend. So here it is. 

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bars  
1½ c all-purpose flour 
2/3 c brown sugar 
½ c melted butter 
2 egg yolks 
2/3 c chocolate chips 
1¼ c confectioners sugar 
1 c peanut butter 
¼ c butter melted 
1 t vanilla 
1/3 c chocolate chips 
1 T butter 
Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl combine flour, brown sugar, ½ cup butter, and the egg yolks. Mix together by hand. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until light gold. As soon as it comes out of the oven sprinkle 2/3 cup of chocolate chips. return to oven for 2-3 minutes. In a large bowl mix together confectioners sugar, peanut butter, ¼ cup of butter and vanilla. Stir in the milk. Crumble the peanut butter mix over the chocolate layer. Press down lightly. Melt 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and 1 tbsp of butter. Drizzle over the peanut butter mixture and refrigerate 2-3 hours. Cut into bars. I ended up using a little extra chocolate chips and spreading it on top. 


Welcome to the virtual dinner group

I’ve had a dinner group with my neighborhood friends for several years now, and my sisters (far-flung across the U.S.) have often said they wished they could join us.

A few years ago, my sister, Maureen and her friend, Jenner started up an email list of friends and family with whom they’ve often shared recipes, and gone to for the answers to everything from “How do you feed your family at night when you don’t walk in the door until 5:30 and you have a soccer game at 6 and piano lessons at 6:15 ... on opposite ends of town?” to “What’s your Thanksgiving menu this year?"rdquo; to “Remember that punch you made for the kids at Mom & Dad’s anniversary? What was the recipe?” That email list grew as friends and family added more people to the distribution (they told two people and they told two people and they told two people and so on and so on).

From that email list, this blog was born. We want to share our recipes with one another in a more interactive forum, and we want to share them with you. We hope you'll share with us too. So come on in to our virtual dinner group, pour yourself a glass of wine and let’s start cooking together.