Friday, November 30, 2012

taste of home giveaway (and christmas sandwich cremes)

Congratulations to Steffani Kerr!  You won the Taste of Home holiday gift pack!  Steffani said in her comment that her favorite holiday is Egg Nog French Toast...hmmmm....I just might have to get her recipe!


You want to know something awesome?  This is my 300th post!

You want to know something more awesome?  I'm celebrating with a giveaway. :)   

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the post for entry information.

I was ecstatic when Taste of Home contacted me to review their three special edition holiday magazines out on news-stands right now.  Since receiving them a week ago, I have literally read them cover to cover several times.  They are fantastic!

"Best Holiday Recipes" includes everything you would need to throw a fabulous holiday dinner.  The recipes are fancy-schmancy and yet simple enough for the home cook.  "Best-Loved Cookies and Candies" has some of the most exciting cookie recipes I've seen to date.  It took us forever to decide which recipe we were going to try first, and I think you'll agree - we picked a winner. "Food Gifts" is my favorite of the three.  It includes recipes for jams and butters, savory snacks, cookies, breads, beverages, muffins, condiments, candies, cupcakes, and more!  It's one that I'll be pulling out every holiday season for years to come.


We tried three different recipes - one from each book.  Cookie Bandit and I had a ton of fun picking them out and even more fun tasting them.  I'll be sharing each one with you over the course of the week.

From "Best Holiday Recipes," we tried the Alpine Cheese Melts.  These are basically souped-up grilled cheese sandwiches...but so much better!  We've enjoyed them several times this week, and I love how festive they look.

From "Best-Loved Cookies and Candies," we made these Whoopie Pies.  And oh. my. word.  I don't think I can even describe how good they are.  Cookie Bandit keeps sneaking them for himself, and I keep sneaking them for the neighbors.  After all...if you have something this good, you shouldn't keep it to yourself!  Am I right?

Finally, from "Food Gifts," I made these adorable Christmas Sandwich Cremes.  I've eaten more of these little beauties in the past several days than I care to admit, and I haven't gotten tired of them yet.  :)

To make the sandwich cremes, you begin by mixing up the simple dough - butter, whipping cream, and flour!  I love it when something delicious requires so few ingredients.  Refrigerate the dough for about 2 hours, or until it's easy to handle.  Note - these cookies aren't hard to make as long as your dough is the right temperature.  If it's too soft, put it back in the fridge.  If it's too hard, work it with your hands for a few minutes until it's pliable.

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and cut circles with a small, round cookie cutter.

Drop the circle of dough into a bowl of sugar and turn to coat.  You may have to lightly press the sugar into the dough with your fingers.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet - I covered mine with parchment paper - and then poke holes into the dough with a fork.  Bake until set (just a few minutes), and then let the cookies completely cool.

Once the cookies are cool, whip up the frosting and divide into two bowls.  Color one bowl red and one bowl green - Christmas colors! :)  Spread the frosting on top of the half of the cookies.

As you can see, I found it easiest to put the frosting into a ziplock bag and then cut a corner off the bag to make a sort-of pastry bag.  I then piped the frosting into the center of each cookie.

Place the remaining cookies on top of the frosted cookies, pressing down to spread frosting evenly in between.  Aren't they cute?

These would make a great gift for anyone or a perfect addition to any party.  And they require so few ingredients that they are highly economical.  I'm keeping this recipe around for future baby showers (think pink and blue fillings) or other special occasions.  

Christmas Sandwich Cremes
from Taste of Home's "Food Gifts"
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
sugar for coating
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
food coloring

In a small bowl, combine the butter, cream, and flour.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

Divide into thirds; let one portion stand at room temperature for 15 minutes (keep remaining dough refrigerated until ready to roll out).  On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-in. thickness.  Cut with a 1-1/2-in. round cookie cutter.  Place cutouts in a shallow dish filled with sugar; turn to coat.  Place on ungreased baking sheets.  Prick with a fork several times.  Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until set.  Cool on wire racks.

For filling, in a small bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Tint with food coloring.  Spread about 1 teaspoon filling over half of the cookies; top with remaining cookies.

To enter the giveaway for the THREE Taste of Home holiday magazines, just leave a comment telling me what your favorite holiday food is!  Yes, it really is that simple.  The giveaway will run until December 7, and then I'll announce the winner on December 8 (my birthday!).  Be sure to provide an e-mail address where you can be reached so that I can contact the winner.  GIVEAWAY OVER.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

shepherd's pie

'Tis the season!

'Tis the season for Christmas music.  'Tis the season for space heaters, hot cocoa, pajama pants, and fuzzy socks. 'Tis the season for comfort food, cookies, and candy canes.

And, when you are a food blogger, 'tis the season for bad photography. :)  Alas, I always have mixed feelings about this time of year.  It's really my favorite - I love the cool weather, warm food, holiday music, and my birthday is in a matter of days!  But I hate the fact that the days get shorter, leaving me less natural light and causing my pictures to look less than ideal.

When this time of year rolls around, I still do my cooking in the evenings, so you'll notice a drastic downward shift in the quality of my step-by-step photos.  To capture the cover shots of the finished dishes, I actually have to plate them at about 2:00pm and go outside to my porch, rain or shine.  More than once, my lunch has been rained on.

But that's okay.  What's important is not so much the image, right?

The important thing is the dish...the care that went into selecting the ingredients...the creativity that inspired the actual recipe...the execution of the meal while also holding a 9-month-old baby!  Oh, and the taste!

I've learned to have grace for myself this time of enjoy all that is wonderful about the fall and winter and leave behind my yearnings for photographic perfection.  I hope you can have grace for me, too.

After all, you know that when a dish has this much cheese on it, it's got to be good. :)

And on that note, I leave you with shepherd's pie.  It's never really a looker of a dish, but it's always delicious.  Thank goodness for that!

 Shepherd's Pie
1 onion, diced
1 lb. ground beef
1 1/2 cups peas
10 3/4 oz. cream of mushroom soup
1 cup corn
4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup milk
1 T. butter
salt, pepper, and rosemary to taste
shredded cheddar cheese or Velveeta slices to top

In a skillet over medium heat, brown beef and onion; drain.  Add peas, soup, corn, and rosemary; combine and pour into greased 8"x8" baking pan.  Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water.  Boil over medium-high heat until tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain; add milk, butter, and seasonings to pan.  Mash potatoes and spread over beef mixture.  Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake, uncovered, another 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.  Serves 4.

Note: For this post, I used shredded Cheddar cheese, but my husband and I both agree that Velveeta is our hands-down favorite topping.  You can find Velveeta slices alongside other sliced cheese in your local grocery store.

Monday, November 19, 2012

tuna noodle casserole

I'm visiting family right now as part of the Thanksgiving holiday, and coming home always makes me nostalgic about the recipes I enjoyed growing up.  One of those classic comfort food classics at our house was tuna noodle casserole.  My mom's was always so creamy and delicious, and it was always topped with crushed potato chips.  The best part was that she could whip up the entire recipe in under half an hour.

I opted for a cheesy topping instead of potato chips (simply because I didn't have chips in the pantry), but this recipe reminded me a lot of my mom's classic.  It was so good, I didn't even miss the potato chips! :)

Begin by sauteing mushrooms and onion in butter until tender.

Add tuna, peas, cream of mushroom soup, milk, and salt and pepper.  Stir to combine and heat until warmed.

Add cooked noodles.  I chose to use homemade noodles, but ordinarily Mom would cook up a package of egg noodles.  Either way, you'll get great results.

Top with shredded cheddar cheese (and, if you have them, crushed potato chips!).

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the filling is hot and bubbly.

Can you say yum?

Serve up with a side salad for the perfect quick meal.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
1 onion, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 T. butter

12 oz. tuna, drained
1 cup peas
10 3/4 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk

salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
8 oz. pkg. egg noodles, cooked

Saute onion and mushrooms in butter until tender.  Add tuna, soup, peas, milk, and seasonings; mix well.  Transfer to a greased casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes at 375 degrees, until hot and bubbly.  Serves 6.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

butterscotch muffins

My dad and I share one love (besides my mother)...butterscotch.  When I was a kid, we would always buy pudding cups to take on picnics, and Dad always made sure that butterscotch was one of our options.  My mom and sister would chow down on the chocolate pudding, but - for possibly the only time in my life - I would choose butterscotch.  I just love the stuff!

It occurred to me the other day that I haven't ever seen a recipe for butterscotch muffins.  In fact, I've never seen a butterscotch muffin.  What a travesty!  I mean, what could be better with that giant mug of hot chocolate or mocha than a delicious butterscotch muffin?

I began experimenting in the kitchen and came up with what I think is a real winner.  These muffins have a delicious hint of brown sugar and are simply studded with butterscotch chips.  If you are a butterscotch lover, you will absolutely love these.

Begin by combining flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder.

Add vegetable oil, milk, and eggs, and then mix well.  Then, stir in an entire 11-oz. bag of butterscotch chips.

Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full with batter.  I suggest using cupcake liners for this particular recipe, but if you opt to omit those, be sure to grease your muffin tin really well.  Bake at 375 for 14-16 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.

 Butterscotch Muffins
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 t. salt
4 t. baking powder
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
11 oz. bag butterscotch chips

Combine flour, sugars, salt, and baking powder.  Add oil, milk, and eggs; mix well.  Stir in butterscotch chips.  Prepare muffin tin with liners.  Fill liners about 2/3 full with batter.  Bake at 375 for 14-16 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Makes 20-22 muffins.

Monday, November 12, 2012

banana nog bread

I was looking around my kitchen the other day, and look what I found...

Yes...two very ripe bananas and a jug of egg nog.  I'm sure somebody is thinking, "Isn't it a little early for egg nog?"  No no no no no no no NO!  (Can you see me shaking my head emphatically?  I am.)  I just love the stuff.  I happened to be shopping at my favorite local dairy on the first day they had it stocked on the shelves.  Of course I had to buy some!

When I saw the egg nog and the ripe bananas, I knew I had to experiment with the two.  One of my favorite snacks this time of year is warm banana bread with a glass of egg nog.  I thought...why not combine the two?

First, cream together butter and sugar.

Add eggs, mashed banana, egg nog, and vanilla.  Mix until smooth.

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir until smooth and pour into a greased loaf pan or three greased mini loaf pans.  Sprinkle some nutmeg over top for that perfect holiday touch.

Bake at 350 for 50-55 degrees or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Slice and enjoy warm with butter (and a glass of egg nog, of course!).

Banana Nog Bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup smashed very-ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
1/4 cup egg nog
1 t. vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. baking soda
nutmeg to taste

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, bananas, egg nog, and vanilla; mix well.  Add flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; mix well.  Pour into a greased loaf pan; sprinkle nutmeg over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Makes 1 loaf or 3 mini loaves.
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