Thursday, May 31, 2012

the harvest table: we have a winner!

We have a winner!!!
Congratulations to - you've won a free copy of The Harvest Table!  I hope the rest of you will look for this cookbook in stores - it is amazing.
Our winner wanted to see the recipe for Campfire Stew, but most of the rest of you wanted me to reveal either the sweet potatoes or the cornbread dressing.  It was close, but the winning recipe was...drum roll please...Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes!!!  
Cut two sweet potatoes in half and lay cut-side down on a foil-lined baking dish.  Bake these for about 30 minutes or until they get nice and tender.

Scoop the pulp from the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch thick potato shells.  Be careful not to tear the skins (I was guilty of this...).

Place the pulp in a bowl and mash with cream cheese, milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Yum!

Spoon the mixture back into the potato shells and then sprinkle with chopped pecans.  I think coconut would also be a good addition.

Bake for another 8 minutes, and you've got yourself a beautiful side dish!

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
from Gooseberry Patch's The Harvest Table
 2 sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup Neufchatel or cream cheese, cubed
2 T. milk
1 T. brown sugar, packed
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans 

Place sweet potatoes cut-side down in an aluminum foil-lined 9"x9" baking pan.  Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender and potatoes are pulling away from potato skins.  Scoop potato pulp into a bowl, leaving 1/4-inch thick potato shells.  Arrange potato shells in pan; set aside.  Add cheese, milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon to potato pulp; mash until blended.  Spoon potato mixture into shells; top with nuts.  Bake, uncovered, for 8 minutes, or until potatoes are heated through and nuts are toasted.  Serves 4.

Monday, May 21, 2012

chocolate bit meringues

When I was in college, my roommate Lauren would get these amazing care packages.  Huge boxes would come in the mail, and there was always homemade food inside.  She was generally pretty possessive of these gifts (who wouldn't be?), but on occasion she let me have a taste of whatever treat happened to be in the box that month.  One of my favorites was these chocolate bit meringues.

What makes these little cookies so special?'s what's inside.

That's right.  Inside that beautiful white meringue are huge chunks of chocolate (and cornflakes for an added crunch).  They are delicious!

I talked Lauren into giving me the recipe, and now I'm sharing it with you.  So treat yourself (or a loved one) to a huge care package full of these...they'll definitely brighten up your day. :)

To make, add some salt and vanilla to egg whites.

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites until they get frothy.

Gradually, sprinkle in sugar while beating until the meringue gets glossy and forms very stiff peaks.

Then, dump in your chocolate and corn flakes.  You can use chocolate chunks or chocolate chips.  And you could even use other cereals.  I think next time I make these, I'm going to try them with rice crispies...yum!  Ooooh, and what about butterscotch chips?  Dark chocolate?

Lol...anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Pick your add-ins (in this case, chocolate chips and cornflakes) and carefully fold them into your egg whites.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto greased parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

When you pull them out of the oven, they should be slightly browned and have a hard, cracking shell.

Chocolate Bit Meringues
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 cups cornflakes
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate bits

Add salt and vanilla to egg whites; beat until frothy.  Sprinkle in sugar while beating to a very stiff and glossy meringue.  Fold in chocolate bits and corn flakes.  Drop onto well-greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Friday, May 18, 2012

the harvest table: review and giveaway

I've done Gooseberry Patch reviews for a while now...I've been a fan of the books for years...and I have to say that this book is one of the best I've ever cooked from.

The Harvest Table is such a delight to read.  I got myself a cup of hot cocoa (who cares that it's 90 degrees outside!), curled up on the couch, and read it straight through!  Like other Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, it's got kitchen tips and ideas for fall activities and decor on every page.  It also features those heartwarming fall memories from Gooseberry Patch readers.  I just love those...they give me such great ideas for how to make the season a special time for my family.

But the focus of the book is the recipes!  There are over 225 recipes, and they all look fabulous.  I had such a hard time deciding which ones to review, simply because I wanted to try them all!  There are recipes specifically for the holidays, for tailgating at those autumn football games, for chilly nights sitting around the fire, for quick dinners at home, and for entertaining groups of friends.  The desserts chapter alone will blow your mind!  Gooseberry Patch (and all of the readers who submitted recipes) really outdid themselves with this's one I'm going to go back to time and again.
Once again, we picked a recipe from each chapter to try out and share with you.  Here they are, each given its own "reward"!

Meat Lover's Dream
Wilderness Breakfast from the chapter "Hearty Autumn Brunch"

I wasn't shocked when my husband picked out this recipe to try (what man wouldn't want a casserole filled with cheese, sausage and bacon?), but I wasn't all that excited either.  I've had breakfast casseroles before, and they're usually nothing to write home about.  I changed my tune after trying this.  It was SO GOOD!  The sausage and bacon give it such an amazing flavor, and it's incredibly easy to make.  It's a recipe that is basic enough to be made on a camping trip and can also be assembled the night before serving, refrigerated, and then baked the next morning.  The possibilities are endless!

Most Versatile
Slow-Cooked Campfire Stew from the chapter "Soup Supper with Friends"

I love barbecue, so I had to try this stew.  The primary ingredients are pre-prepared shredded BBQ beef and pork (I used the containers of Lloyd's BBQ in the refrigerator section of my grocery store).  Add beans, corn, potatoes, onion, and tomatoes, and you've got yourself a "stick-to-your-ribs" kind of meal.  We gave this the "most versatile" award because you can do so much with it.  You can add or delete the additional vegetables, vary the types of barbecue you use, and serve with cornbread or dolloped on top of a baked potato.  We really enjoyed this one.

Most Subtly Delicious
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes from the chapter "Simple Harvest Supper"

We love sweet potatoes in our house, so we had to try this recipe.  (In fact, if you love sweet potatoes, this book is for you!  There are tons of great-looking sweet potato recipes.)  This was an easy side dish to prepare, and it looked beautiful on the plate.  My husband said it was one of those subtle dishes - it doesn't outshine the main entree but yet it is utterly enjoyable.  There are lots of great flavors with each bite that keep you coming back for more and more!

Most Likely to Appear at Our Next Holiday Meal
Granny's Cornbread Dressing from the chapter "Thanksgiving with All the Trimmings"

Every year at Thanksgiving, we have stuffing.  Every year at Christmas, we have stuffing.  We've been missing out!  This cornbread dressing is absolutely delicious.  Who knew that such a simple mix of cornbread, broth, onion, and celery could be so good?  I'm so glad that my facebook readers talked me into trying this one.  This recipe is completely traditional and the perfect accompaniment to a holiday meal (or any meal, for that matter).  There's not much to say except that we loved it!

Most Complimentary
Feisty Red Pepper-Bacon Dip from the chapter "Festive Fall Flavors"

We chose to try this dip because the mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, horseradish, red peppers, and bacon sounded absolutely divine.  In the end, it was tasty but not quite what we expected.  While it tastes good as a dip, we've decided that it works best as a condiment.  This is why we awarded it "most complimentary".  In our minds, it's meant to compliment other foods rather than stand alone.  Our favorite use for it - as a dressing on paninis!

Most Successful Flop
Double Chocolate Tiramisu from the chapter "Save Room for Dessert"

We have never been tiramisu people because we're not all that into coffee, but I decided to try this dessert because there was no coffee in the ingredient list...just chocolate!  Turns out, we're still not tiramisu people because we don't love the texture of the dessert (soggy ladyfingers aren't really our thing), but the taste was amazing.  My husband told me to just leave out the ladyfingers and serve it as a pudding! :)  If you love chocolate, this is definitely a dessert to try.  The reason I called it a "flop" is because I couldn't quite get it to hold it's shape...when I served it, it just flopped on the plate!  No biggie, though - still tasted good!

My sweetheart picked which one of the above recipes I shared with you.  Being a self-proclaimed meat lover, of course he picked the breakfast casserole!

In a large bowl, beat together 6-8 eggs.

Add milk, cream of chicken soup, dried minced onion, dry mustard, salt, and pepper.

Line a baking pan with croutons and cheddar cheese (I know...who would have thought croutons?!).

Pour the egg mixture over the croutons and cheese.  Don't worry about stirring it or mixing things together.  This is a no-fuss breakfast!

Sprinkle bacon and sausage over the top.

Bake it at 325 degrees for an hour, and voila...breakfast!  We love it served with bacon-fried spiced apples, (another recipe from The Harvest Table that I'll be sharing in a few days, so stay tuned!).

Wilderness Breakfast
from Gooseberry Patch's The Harvest Table
3 cups croutons
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
6 to 8 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk
10 3/4 oz. can cream of chicken soup
3/4 t. dried, minced onion
3/4 t. dry mustard
3/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1 lb. bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
1 lb. ground pork sausage, browned and drained

Line a greased 13"x9" baking pan with croutons and cheese; set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together eggs, milk, soup, onion, mustard, salt and pepper.  Pour mixture over croutons and cheese; sprinkle with bacon and sausage.  Bake, uncovered, for one hour at 325 degrees.  Serves 6-8. can YOU win a free copy of The Harvest Table?  Just leave me a comment answering the following question - which of the other recipes featured above would you like me to share?  I'll tally up the answers and share that recipe when I announce the winner!  (Please also make sure I have access to a valid e-mail so that I can contact you if you win.  No contact info, no entry!)  Giveaway ends May 30 at midnight (Central time).  Winner announced May 31.

PS - Gooseberry Patch gave me a free book to review as well as another to give away, but the views and opinions (and pictures!) presented in this post are entirely my own!   Disclosure...check!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

easy chicken and dumplings

I know it's hot outside, but I can only go so long without warm comfort food.  (I've never been one of those people who could live on salads all summer long.)  So, despite the fact that it's 90 degrees outside here in Dallas, I cranked up the air conditioner and made some delicious chicken and dumplings.

This recipe is from Gooseberry Patch's Simple Shortcut Recipes.  This is a fantastic book of recipes, each featuring a shortcut to speed up your cooking time.  It's even got a recipe from me in there! :)  If you see it in stores, definitely check it out.

To make the chicken and dumplings, start by combining chicken broth, cooked chicken, cream of chicken soup, and seasonings in a large pot.  Bring this all to a boil.

Add a stick of butter (I actually think the soup would taste just fine without this if you wanted to cut the fat) and some delicious veggies.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Here's where the shortcut comes in...two tubes of biscuits!  Flatten out each biscuit and cut into strips.

Add the biscuit strips one at a time to the pot.  Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

The result is a hearty and satisfying soup (even in 90 degree weather). :)

Easy Chicken & Dumpling Soup
From Gooseberry Patch's Simple Shortcut Recipes
64-oz. can chicken broth
6 cups cooked chicken, diced  
2 cans (10 3/4 oz. each) cream of chicken soup
1/2 t. poultry seasoning, or salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup butter
6 carrots, peeled and diced
6 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 tubes (10.2 oz. each) refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, combine broth, chicken, soup and seasonings; bring to a boil.  Add butter and vegetables.  Cover; reduce heat to low.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high; return to a low boil.  Place biscuits on a lightly floured surface.  Flatten each biscuit to 1/8-inch thick; cut into 1/2-inch wide strips.  Drop strips, one at a time, into the boiling broth mixture.  Cover and reduce heat to low; simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent dumplings from sticking.  Serves 6 to 8.

Monday, May 14, 2012

sprite bread

I love, love, love beer bread.  But, I don't love beer.  As you can imagine, this poses a problem.  Since we don't like beer, we never buy it.  And since we never buy it, I never make beer bread. :(

 I finally came up with a solution.  I like Sprite...we buy Sprite...why not make Sprite bread?

I love making this bread to go alongside soups or salads, and I think it actually tastes better than beer bread.  You can technically use any soda (once I used Dr. Pepper to make it look more like whole, but we think Sprite is hands-down the best.

In a large bowl, mix self-rising flour, sugar, an egg, and some Sprite.  Notice how everything fizzes up when you add the Sprite in - it's like a science experiment!

Put the mixture into a greased loaf pan and top with a tablespoon of melted butter.

Bake it for 45 minutes and voila!

For a really hearty meal, enjoy it with a large bowl of chili.  It's the perfect thing to warm up a cool night or to fill you up when you don't have much time for cooking.

Sprite Bread
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz. Sprite
  • 1 T. butter, melted

Mix flour, sugar, egg, and Sprite; pour into greased loaf pan.  Pour butter over top of batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until top is cracked and golden.
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