Friday, December 25, 2009

a trio of christmas cookies

We spent a wonderful Christmas Day in Hays, Kansas visiting with my family. The tree was festive and bright, loaded underneath with gifts from Santa (we never get too old!).

Out the window, snow frosted the neighborhood.

And, I was so excited when I opened up Pioneer Woman's cookbook!

All of the Christmas spirit put me in the mood to bake. I just love the smell of fresh baked cookies filling up the house! My family insists that these recipes are all winners...

Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies

My sister made these - she won first prize at the county fair with this recipe! Her secret is to throw in some chocolate chips as well.

  • 1 1/2 cups shortening
  • 1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups old fashioned oats

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 7 oz. jar marshmallow creme
  • 1-3 T. milk

In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; add to creamed mixture. Stir in oats. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

For filling, cream together shortening, confectioner's sugar, and marshmallow creme. Add enough milk to achieve spreading consistency. Spread filling on the bottom half of the cookies; top with remaining cookies. Yield: about 2 dozen.

German Chocolate Toffee Cookies

I made these because my husband loves toffee and chocolate. Instead of walnuts, we used pecans.

  • 1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 package (4 oz) German sweet chocolate, melted
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t. water
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 6 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups English toffee bits or almond brickle chips
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugars. Beat in chocolate. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in water and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in toffee bits and walnuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 13 dozen (according to the recipe).

White Chocolate-Cranberry Biscotti

I saw these and thought of my mom (she loves dried cranberries). She had never had biscotti before and was a little wary - but now she's a convert!

  • 1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup vanilla chips

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in cranberries and vanilla chips. Divide dough into three portions. On ungreased baking sheets, shape each portion into a 10 in. x 2 in. rectangle. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; cut diagonally with a serrated knife into 1-in. slices. Place cut side down on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen.

PS - The recipes for the German Chocolate Toffee Cookies and the White Chocolate-Cranberry Biscotti are from Taste of Home's Best of Country Cookies.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

apple crisp

I just love apple crisp. It's a relatively healthy dessert (considering), and it's incredibly easy to whip up in a hurry. It's the perfect dessert for when company comes over - it tastes great and leaves your home smelling wonderful. This is my mother's recipe, and it's my absolute favorite. Hope you enjoy it, too!

First, peel and chop up about four large apples. The recipe calls for Granny Smith, but my absolute favorite are Gravenstein apples - they just smell so apple-y! Place the chopped up apple in a pie pan or baking dish.

Then, mix together 1 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and one egg (or the equivalent of one egg in egg substitute or egg whites). I find it best to use a fork or pastry cutter to mix the ingredients together - it will end up crumbly.

Sprinkle the topping mixture over the apples. Dot with butter or margarine (use as much or as little as you like) and then sprinkle with cinnamon (I sprinkle with a little more sugar, too). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serves 8.

Apple Crisp
  • 4 lg. Granny Smith apples
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • cinnamon and butter

Peel and cut up apples in a pie pan. Mix remaining ingredients with a fork. Sprinkle over apples. Dot with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Nutrition (assuming 3 T. Smart Balance margarine and whole egg): 222 cal, 4g fat, 1g sat fat, 26mg cholesterol, 248mg sodium, 45g carbs, 2g fiber, 30g sugars, 3g protein, 5% vit A, 4% calcium, 7% vit C, 5% iron.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

brunch bake

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted a recipe! Life has been crazy, what with birthdays, Christmas celebrations, and preparing for travel. Every time I do sit down, I write Christmas cards instead of playing with my blog. But, I'm least for now.

This recipe is a great, easy recipe for a weekend breakfast or brunch. It's pretty, incredibly filling, and a quick fix. It's also low fat!

First, arrange 8 oz. of refrigerated biscuits in a baking dish that's been sprayed with cooking spray. I used Grand's Reduced Fat Buttermilk Biscuits.

Then, mix together the following ingredients: 24 oz. egg substitute, chopped cooked turkey bacon (the recipe calls for about 7 oz., but I used much, much more), 1 cup of shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, 1 cup of shredded reduced-fat  mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of chopped fresh mushrooms, 1/2 cup of finely chopped onion, and 1/4 t. pepper.

Pour the mixture over the top of the biscuits.

Colorful, isn't it! Then, just bake it, uncovered, at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. It's beautiful and delectably delicious!!!

Brunch Bake
8 oz. refrigerated or homemade biscuits
24 oz. egg substitute
7 oz. cooked turkey bacon, chopped
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded reduced-fat (or soy) cheddar cheese
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded reduced-fat (or soy) mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 t. pepper

Arrange biscuits in a 13"x9"x2" baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over biscuits. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serves 12.

Nutrition (see note below): 212 cal, 11g fat, 4g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 24mg cholesterol, 781mg sodium, 10g carbs, 0g fiber, 2g sugar, 18g protein, 5% vit A, 1% vit C, 15% calcium, 12% iron.

Note on nutrition - these numbers were calculated using regular refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (not reduced fat) and reduced-fat mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

crock-pot chocolate covered peanuts

This recipe is great for making and giving (or, as my husband does it, making and eating). It's also super easy with the help of a slow cooker.

All you've got to do is dump the following ingredients in your slow cooker in the following order (don't even need to stir!): 16 oz. salted peanuts, 16 oz. unsalted peanuts, 1 bar German chocolate (you can find this near the chocolate chips in the baking aisle), 1-1/2 package of chocolate almond bark (break into chunks), and 16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Put the lid on your slow cooker and cook on low for 2 hours. Open and stir really good, making sure that all of the chocolate is melted (if you still have chunks, put the lid back on and let it go some more).

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment or wax paper and let cool!

I'm not even going to post the nutritional information for these... :-)

Crock-Pot Chocolate Covered Peanuts
  • 16 oz. salted peanuts 
  • 16 oz. unsalted peanuts
  • 1 bar German chocolate (you can find this near the chocolate chips in the baking aisle)
  • 1-1/2 package of chocolate almond bark (break into chunks)
  • 16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Layer into a slow cooker and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper and allow to dry before serving.

turkey thyme risotto

Are you drowning in leftover turkey? Then, this recipe is for you! This recipe is from Taste of Home's Light and Tasty Annual Recipes 2008, and it's phenomenal. It is the perfect way to eat up leftover turkey.

First, heat up about 3 1/2 cups of reduced-sodium chicken broth (I just heated up an entire 4 cup carton of broth - I ended up using it all anyway!). Keep this broth on the stove at low heat while you cook everything else.

In a nonstick skillet, saute 2 cups of sliced mushrooms (fresh!), a small onion, one clove of minced garlic, and one tablespoon olive oil. Stir until they are tender. One note on this step - you can modify anything above. I used two cloves of garlic, and I think it would taste excellent if the mushrooms were replaced with peas or broccoli. So be creative - use your favorite veggies.

Add 1 cup arborio (short grain) rice and 1/4 t. thyme to the skillet. Cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup of white wine (or additional chicken broth) and cook and stir until the liquid is absorbed.

Start adding your heated broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. You'll want to make sure that all of the liquid has absorbed between additions. Cook just until risotto is creamy and rice is desired tenderness. (Technically, risotto rice should be a bit al dente, but I find that harder to digest. When I made this recipe, I continued to add broth until the rice was tender enough for me. Once I ran out of broth, I added water. I don't think it hurt the flavor one bit.) Total cooking time here is about 20-25 minutes.

Add about 1 1/2 cup of chopped up turkey and about 1/4 teaspoons each of salt and pepper. If you can handle cheese, put in 2 tablespoons of grated Romano. Otherwise, leave it out - still tastes great!

Stir these items in until cooked through and serve immediately! It's amazing (my pictures don't do it justice).

Turkey Thyme Risotto

2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
1 t. minced fresh thyme or 1/4 t. dried thyme
1/2 cup white wine or additional reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey breast
2 T. grated Romano cheese (optional)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

In a small saucepan, heat broth and keep warm. In a large nonstick skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion, and garlic in oil until tender, about 3 minutes. Add rice and thyme; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Stir in wine or additional broth. Cook and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Add heated broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Allow liquid to absorb between additions. Cook just until risotto is creamy and rice is almost tender (or as tender as you want). Continue to add water if you run out of broth. Add the turkey, Romano cheese, salt and pepper; cook and stir until heated through. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings (one cup each).

Nutrition (1 cup): 334 cal, 6g fat (1g saturated fat), 49mg cholesterol, 698mg sodium, 44g carbs, 1g fiber, 24g protein.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

creamy chicken and rice soup

 This masterful creation got a thumbs up from my husband and probably a bigger thumbs up from me. It tastes amazing with a side of cornbread.

First, chop a half of a large onion and one celery rib and dump them in a big pot. Slice a large carrot and dump it in the pot as well along with 2 tablespoons of margarine or butter.

Saute until the veggies are tender.

Stir in 1/2 cup flour and slowly add 8 cups of chicken broth.

Then add 3 cups of cooked white rice, a cup of chopped chicken breast (already cooked), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir until thickened.

Finally, add 1 cup of evaporated milk. (Note: if you are non-dairy, boil 2 cups of soy milk in saucepan until the milk is reduced to 1 cup.). Cook a few minutes longer until heated through.


Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, sliced
1 celery rib, chopped
2 T. butter or margarine
1/2 cup flour
8 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked white rice
1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. poultry seasoning
1 cup evaporated milk (or evaporated soy milk)

In a large saucepan, saute the onion, carrot, and celery in butter until tender. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually add broth. Stir in the rice, chicken, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in milk; cook 3-5 minutes longer. Makes 10 (1 cup) servings.

Nutrition (calculated with soy milk and Smart Balance spread): 191 cal, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 9mg cholesterol, 1014mg sodium, 24g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 8g protein, 29% vit. A, 2% vit. C, 9% calcium, 11% iron.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

calico couscous

This dish is so good, especially served alongside grilled chicken or fish. My husband even loved it (and he's wary of all things with fruit). He went back for seconds before he had finished the rest of his meal. He gave me a look and said, "Don't think I don't know what you are doing...sneaking fruit into my dinner..." - and then he scarfed it down! 

NOTE: If you've never had couscous before, you can find it near the rice in your grocery store.

In a small saucepan, bring a cup of water to boil. Once it's boiling, stir in 3/4 cup couscous.  Immediately, cover the pan and remove it from the heat.  Keep that cover on for a good five minutes.  Then, fluff the couscous with a fork...easy! 

While your couscous is doing its thing, prepare the veggies to go in the dish.  I use 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, 1/2 cup of peppers (I used pre-frozen since I didn't have any fresh ones at the moment), and 1 green onion.

Dice your veggies, and put the carrot, celery, and peppers in a microwavable dish with about a half cup water.  Cover it and cook in the microwave for about 6-8 minutes (or until they get as tender as you want).

While your veggies are in the microwave...and your couscous is doing its thing...quickly whip up the dressing.  Grab a small Tupperware dish with a tight fitting lid and dump in three tablespoons of red wine vinegar, one tablespoon olive oil, one tablespoon Dijon mustard (you can use regular mustard, but it really doesn't taste as good), a quarter teaspoon salt, and a quarter teaspoon pepper.  Plop the lid on...make sure it's good and tight...and shake away!  Voila!

Now it's time to put it all together.  Put your couscous in a large bowl.  Add your microwaved veggies (be sure to drain them first!).  Then toss in your green onion...and don't forget a half cup of dried cranberries (they make this dish)...and then the dressing.

Stir it up and enjoy!  This is a great make-ahead dish...the more time it sits, the more time the flavors have to marry each other.  Marriage is always a good thing...especially with these flavors.

Calico Couscous

1 cup water
3/4 cup uncooked couscous
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup red or yellow pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. olive oil
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

In a small saucepan, bring water to boil. Stir in couscous; cover and remove from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

In the meantime, place celery, carrots, and pepper in a microwave bowl; pour water to cover the vegetables, cover, and microwave for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

In a serving bowl, combine the couscous, cooked vegetables, onion, and cranberries. In a jar or Tupperware dish with tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Serves 6.

Nutrition: 148 cal, 3g fat, og saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 143mg sodium, 28g carbs, 3g fiber, 8g sugars, 3g protein, 54% vit. A, 37% vit. C, 2% calcium, 4% iron.

Monday, November 2, 2009

smothered steak

I decided to experiment for dinner tonight, and the results were amazing! I used to love steak, and I still crave it (even though I'm trying to avoid red meat).  Tonight, I came the closest I have in a long time to enjoying the flavors I used to love - and my husband loved it, too!

In a bowl, mix together 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 T. minced garlic, 1/2 t. black pepper, and 1/4 t. salt. Leave it to sit while working on the next step.

Cut 1/2 of a sweet onion into thin slices (or mince it if you don't do well with sliced onion). Saute with 1 t. olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Lower heat and continue to saute until golden and tender.

Add 1 1/2 cups of slice mushroom. Cook and stir until tender.

Add 2 T. balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 t. sugar, 1/8 t. salt, and 1/8 t. pepper. Cook and stir until liquid is slightly reduced. Remove from skillet and keep warm.

Shape turkey mixture into five patties. Place patties in skillet (no need to clean out any balsamic vinegar remains) and sprinkle liberally with garlic salt and pepper. Cook on each side until done.

Top cooked meat patty with onion and mushroom mixture. And you are done! We had ours with leftover squash casserole and hominy. My mouth is still watering!

Smothered Steak

1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. garlic, minced
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. salt

1 t. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 t. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

Mix turkey, brown sugar, garlic, 1/2 t. pepper, and 1/4 t. salt. Set aside.

Saute onion in olive oil for 5 minutes on medium heat. Lower heat; continue to cook and stir until golden and tender. Add mushrooms; cook and stir until tender. Add balsamic vinegar, sugar, 1/8 t. salt, and 1/8 t. pepper. Cook and stir until liquid is reduced. Remove and keep warm.

Form turkey mixture into patties and place on skillet. Cook over medium heat on each side until done. Top with onion and mushroom mixture. Makes 5 servings.

Nutrition (1 patty with onion and mushroom topping): 218 cal, 10g fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 90mg cholesterol, 346mg sodium, 9g carbs, 1g dietary fiber, 7g sugars, 21g protein, 0% vit. A, 3% calcium, 4% vit. C, 10% iron.
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