Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pecans Roasting Near an Open Fire...

It is COLD out there today.  The weather this year has been so unpredictable.  I don't like this cold weather without any snow.  Feels like a waste!

To heat the house up, I first lit the kitchen fireplace.  Next, I decided to make Spiced Pecans for my Hubby to take to work tomorrow.  The smell of them roasting in the oven is quite festive, and having the oven on for a while will help heat the house up.  I always leave the oven wide open after I have turned it off, because it helps keep your heating bill down by warming the room.

To make yummy Spiced Pecans, we first need to get all the ingredients together.

Next we mix the sugar, spices, and salt to combine.

We then whisk our egg white until it is foamy (we aren't talking meringue here, just frothy), and add some good vanilla extract to it.

Next we fold in our pecans.

Then we sprinkle our sugar and spice mixture over the pecans, and give it another good fold.

Put the pecans on a jelly roll sheet that has either aluminum foil or a silpat in the bottom.

Bake them up in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes.

Try not to eat them all before they cool!

Spiced Pecans

1/2 c. Sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 t. sea salt
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups of pecan halves or pieces (may cook a little faster if using pieces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and sea salt making sure that all the ingredients get evenly mixed through.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg white until it is all foamy, but not to soft peaks.  Whisk in the vanilla extract.

Fold in the pecans, making sure that they get the egg mixture all over and none of the pecans are dry.

Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture over the pecans, and fold the mixture once again to be sure that you have evenly distributed the mixture.

Pour the pecans on to a jelly roll sheet pan with either a silpat or aluminim foil in the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 15minutes, and stir.  Continue baking another 10 - 15 minutes, until the pecans are fragrant and toasty.

***These are great gifts to take to the neighbors or for a hostess present, and they also make for a tasty salad topping.  If you were going to a Christmas potluck, you could make a Winter Salad with mixed greens, and pomegranate perils, your favorite cheese, and some of these pecans, and then take a bag of the pecans to the hostess!***

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sunday Dinner

I didn't really grow up eating a special meal on Sundays.  My Great-Grandmother always made from scratch meals, so Sunday was just another day of wonderful food.  When my husband and I started dating, his family ALWAYS ate Sunday dinner together.  They didn't spend a lot of time together during the week (his brother was already out of the house and my hubby was working full time and going to school full time), so it made sense that they would have that meal together.  One weekend my nephew asked my Mother-in-Law if she knew why they came for dinner on Sunday.  And of course expecting some classically sweet line she would be able to share with her friends, she said, "No, why?"  My nephew's simple reply was, "Free food!"  Gotta love the honesty of children!

I would like to think that one day when Marcus is grown and married, maybe if he lives near by we can have Sunday Dinners that bring us all back together for the evening, but I guess that is something that I will never know until that day comes.  With the way the child loves to travel, I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up living half way around the world.

Right now, I try to make something a little more special on Sunday for dinner.  Sometimes it is because I am recipe experimenting, and sometimes I just want to make something that is labor intensive.  Then there are Sundays like this week, where I want dinner to look fancy, but I am not in the mood to devote all afternoon to making dinner.

One of my go to meals for this kind of week is Ina's Chicken Piccata with my own Roasted Potatoes, and steamed green beans.  Chicken Piccata makes it seem like you made something really fancy, but it couldn't be easier.  I didn't take pictures as I was making this meal, because I have made this so many times, I didn't even think about it, I just made it.  As we were sitting down, I remembered that I should take a pic, so here you go!

Ina's Chicken Piccata is really simple to make.  My only word of advice is that you need to adjust the amount of lemon based on your personal taste.  Some people like it really tart, and some people don't.  There is also the issue of some lemons being more tart than others.  Taste as you go, that is the best way to cook!

As for my roasted potatoes, they are divine, even if I do say so myself.  I think it takes the cast iron skillet to get the deep brown on these potatoes that make them so tasty.  If you don't own a cast iron skillet, go ahead and make them in an oven safe skillet of your choosing, but if you do have a cast iron skillet give it some love and make these potatoes in it.  It will love you back!

Wannabe's Famous Oven Roasted Potatoes

2 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced in to small pieces
1 sprig of rosemary leaves chopped
1 small bag of baby Yukon gold potatoes, cut in half longways
1 t. sea salt
black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium.  Add olive oil.  Once the oil is warm, add your garlic and rosemary, and allow to sizzle until garlic begins to brown.  Add potatoes, salt and pepper.  Give it a quick stir to make sure all the potatoes have been coated in the garlic and rosemary infused oil.  Place the cast iron skillet in the oven.  Roast potatoes for 20 minutes, stirring them about half way through cooking.  FYI- the garlic chips that get leftover in the oil are delicious, and you should eat them with your potatoes!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Joe is such a Trader!

Lately, I have read a lot of nasty talk on various blogs about shopping at Trader Joe's.  It's not the bloggers themselves, but the sister-better-than-yous that leave comments on those blogs.  It is a store people.  Of course not all of the food there is going to be healthy.  It's not Trader Joe's Health Emporium!  And by the way, not everyone is striving for 100% healthy all the time!

That said, there is plenty of good stuff there, if you are willing to look for it.  Where else can you get a butternut squash for $1.19 or a huge stalk of Brussels sprouts for $3.19?  Some of my favorite picks at Trader Joe's are in season produce, grass fed beef, nuts and dried fruits, cheeses (full-fat please), and lets don't forget wine.

So here is what I got today at Trader Joe's!

That would be two boxes of beef broth because I have been too lazy to make it from scratch, a bottle of tempranillo (my favorite wine right now), a bottle of chardonnay (my go to cooking wine), a bag of white raisins, a bag of cranberries, a jar of coconut oil, a bottle of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, a container of mushrooms, a container of blueberries, a bunch of bananas, and a nice hunk of brie (wish I had had this for the turkey quesadillas earlier in the week).  Let's not forget the fearless flyer in the background!  I love these, and especially around the Holidays, they have some great tips in them, and are just a funny read for a few moments of decompression.

Did you hit your local Trader Joe's this week?  What are your can't live without Trader Joe's products?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday Three-way - Turkey Lurkey

Have you seen this product where you are?

It is a Butterball Turkey Breast Roast, which is basically a half turkey breast minus the bone that has been brined and herbed.  These showed up at our costco about a week before Thanksgiving, and I went ahead and bought a few of them to put in the freezer, thinking about all the wonderful things that I could do with them.

I didn't follow the package directions for preparing the roast.  I preheated the oven to 450 degrees.  Then I got my biggest cast iron skillet out, and heated it on medium high heat.  Once it was hot, I added a little coconut oil (you could use whatever oil you like), and placed the turkey breast in the pan skin side down.  I let it go for about 5 minutes, after which I gave it a flip.  At this point the skin was dark golden brown and well on it's way to blackened, but that was fine, in fact that was what I wanted.  Once I flipped the breast, I inserted a digital probe thermometer, tented the breast with aluminium foil, and put it in the oven.

It just so happened that I had frozen some dressing over Thanksgiving (I always freeze dressing raw in a pyrex container to cook later on).  From the freezer to the oven it went alongside the turkey lurkey.  They both were just perfect at right at an hour of cooking time.  I think that you could also prepare this in the crock pot.  If that were your plan, I would completely thaw the dressing, and put it in the bottom of the pot, and then still brown the turkey breast on the stove top, and then set it on top of the dressing to cook.  5 hours on low should do the trick.

Our first meal that we had from it was just good old turkey slices with dressing and green beans.  We decided that we liked it even better than Thanksgiving dinner.

Our next meal was Turkey Quesadillas!

For these I took whole grain uncooked tortillas (cooked ones would be fine), added two slices of muenster cheese, and a few slices of turkey, along with a dab or two of cranberry sauce.  Toasted it up in my cast iron pan (he is getting a lot of love lately), and it was my favorite of the three recipes here today.

Our third meal was a very tasty Turkey and Biscuits.  

This was inspired by Ina's Chicken Stew with Biscuits.

I started with 2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet.  To that I added two thinly sliced carrots, 1/2 of a small onion diced, one celery stalk diced, and a handful of green beans (leftover from the previous dinner).  I seasoned with the mixture with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, and sage, and let the veggies sweat for about 10 minutes. Next I added about 3 cups of turkey breast leftover that I cut into 3/4 inch cubes.  I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of flour over the mixture and let it cook for a few minutes so that it wouldn't taste like raw flour, and then added 2 cups of chicken stock.  I let this bubble away on the stove top over low heat, while I made biscuits to top it with.

The biscuits were made in the food processor with three simple ingredients, self-rising flour, ice cold butter, and buttermilk.  I cut them with a fluted round cutter (because I just know that is what Ina would do), and then I placed them on top of the bubbling turkey goodness, and put them in the over at 475 for 20 minutes.  It was awesome, and even my 5 year old went crazy for it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Well, Helllloooo Dolly!

I really love that because I am a coupon queen, when it comes time for Holiday baking I generally have all the ingredients needed for our favorite treats in my pantry or freezer.  Knowing that I didn't spend a lot of money but I am able to make treats that make people special always adds to my Holiday cheer!

Today's Treat:  Hello Dolly Bars

I start with Graham Cracker Crumbs, Butter, Dark Chocolate Chips, Butterscotch Chips, Shredded Coconut, Walnuts, and Sweetened Condensed Milk.

I mix the Graham Cracker Crumbs with the Butter.

Then I press the mixture in to the bottom of a parchment lined 9x13 pan.

Next, I sprinkle on the Chocolate and Butterscotch Chips, then the Coconut, and last the Walnuts.

Once that is all spread out evenly, I drizzle on a can of Sweetened Condensed Milk, and put it all in the oven for 20 or so minutes at 350 degrees.

This is what the pan of finished Dollies looks like.

The torture is the hour that you have to wait for them to cool before you remove them from the pan and cut and enjoy!

Hello Dolly Bars-

2 1/2 c. Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 stick of butter, melted
1 cup of Dark Chocolate Chips
1 cup of Butterscotch Chips
1 cup of Sweetened Shredded Coconut
1 cup of Chopped Walnut or Pecans
1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk (14 0z)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  

Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper (I use a parchment liner for all of my bar cookies).

Combine the Graham Cracker Crumbs with the melted Butter.  Dump mixture into the bottom of the 9x13 pan, and press evenly for a uniform crust.

Next scatter the Dark Chocolate Chips, Butterscotch Chips, Shredded Coconut, and Walnuts or Pecans evenly over the crust.  Don't fret about making sure they are perfect just dump the ingredients on making sure they spread out a bit.

Last pour the whole can of Sweetened Condensed Milk over the other ingredients.  It will spread out more as it bakes so again, try to spread it evenly, but don't fuss over it.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until everything is bubbling and golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 1 hour.  Lift from the pan and out onto a cutting board and cut into desired size squares.

Monday, December 3, 2012

New Cookbook from Ina

Ok, I know I am late talking about this, but Ina did release a new cookbook on October 30th called, Barefoot Contessa FOOLPROOF.  

I would have ran right out to get this book except that it is close to the holidays, and I know that Santa likes to bring me autographed copies of Ina's cookbooks, so I really did not want to make Santa mad!

As soon as I get the book, I will give it a review and start making the dishes that are in the book to let you all know how they are (I am sure they are fabulous as always).  Until then, if you want to get your own autographed copy of Ina's latest cookbook go here.

Please note that I am in no way affiliated with Ina Garten or the the Barefoot Contessa line of cookbooks.  I just want you all to know where you can get a copy of the book signed by the author!

Ladies...Start Your Ovens

Over the weekend my hubby informed me that his employees were walking by his desk last week asking where the treats were.  Apparently I made an impression on them last year when I did 25 days of baking, and they were expecting to see those same platters of treats showing up again this year.

Problem is, I have not been in much of a Holiday mood this year.  I don't even have a tree up yet, which is completely out of character for me.  I don't have the holiday blues or anything like that, I simply haven't been in the mood for it yet.  One day it will hit all of the sudden and red and green pandemonium will ensue.

But for now, I have decided to take this Paula Deen recipe and adapt it so that I can get some quick and easy treats over to hubby's work before they break in to a state of sugar deprived anarchy.

We start off with Cream Cheese, Butter, an Egg, Vanilla Extract, Espresso Powder (which I forgot to put in the pic) and your favorite Chocolate Cake Mix.

We mix that all together and add a bag of Peanut Butter Morsels, and about a half bag of Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.

Then we put the dough in the fridge to firm up for about 2 hours.

Then we put them on a baking sheet and bake them.

Lastly, we consume them with a glass of ice cold milk!

Gooey Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

1 stick of salted butter, softened
1 8 oz package of cream cheese at room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 tsp. instant espresso powder (opt)
1 bag of peanut butter morsels
1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Mix butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well blended.  Add egg, vanilla extract and espresso powder (if you are using it), and mix again until all ingredients are well combined.

Add the complete package of cake mix to the mixture and mix on medium until it all comes together into a fudgy chocolatey dough.  Add the peanut butter morsels and chocolate chips and mix on low til just combined (you could also mix the morsels and chips in by hand).

Now cover the dough and let it chill in the fridge for about 2 hours so that the dough stiffens up.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line your baking sheets with a silpat or parchment paper.  Scoop cookie dough by the tablespoon full onto the baking sheets leaving at least two inches between each cookie (they spread a good bit).  Bake for 12 minutes until the inside of the cookie is still gooey, but the outside of the cookie is dry looking.  Allow to cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Yields 60 cookies.

Note:  The espresso powder makes the cookies taste even more chocolatey, but they are still wonderful with out it.

These are not the type of cookies I would regularly make, and I really detest the fact that I caved to using a cake mix recipe.  This recipe would not be Ina approved at all (I don't think).  However, for these purposes they will do just fine. ;)