Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stroganoff Meatballs

Comfort food, comfort food, comfort food.

That's the name of the game around this time of year....at least, as far as we're concerned!! Nothing warms up your belly quite like a dish such as this! We found this recipe in one of our favorite cookbooks..."The Best of Bridge", and once again, we were not disappointed. Not in the least. We've seen the kids try to lick their plates when we serve this! Of course, anything with the word stroganoff in it is alllllll goooood according to us!

The recipe goes together quickly, and the sauce is AMAZINGLY yummy! Your kids will like it, and it makes enough for leftovers. What's not to like? Serve it with a big leafy salad or some lightly steamed broccoli and you've got yourself a nice, solid meal!

Stroganoff Meatballs

Meatballs:
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
2 eggs, beaten
salt & pepper to taste

Sour Cream Sauce
1 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. ketchup
(2) 10 oz. cans consomme, undiluted
2 c. sour cream

To make the meatballs, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well and roll into balls of desired size. Place on edged cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven, drain, and set aside.

To make the sauce, brown onion in butter. Add the flour and mix well. Add ketchup and comsomme, cooking slowly until thickened. Add sour cream, then meatballs. Place in a casserole dish and keep warm in a 250 degree oven until serving time. Serve over broad egg noodles.
So, so, soooooo gooooooood!!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rosemary Skewers

It's that wonderful time of year...the time of year when you can bust out all of your "extra-special" recipes for all the fun parties you'll be attending. Every year, we look for a new, special appetizer because we get bored easily. Yes...sad but true. We don't like to make the same things over and over again, no matter how amazing they might be. There are just too many recipes out there that need their time in the spotlight, and we figure we're just the gals to do it.

This appetizer made it's debut for our Bunco holiday party. I came across it in a BHG special holiday edition featuring appetizers and drinks for holiday parties. It had everything I was looking for...simple ingredients, quick to put together, wonderfully festive-looking, and cheese. You will never disappoint people with cheese. (Well, unless they have a dairy intolerance...but that's beside the point!)

Needless to say, these babies were a hit! And even better...they look like you really fussed over them, when really they went together in no time! Try these out for an upcoming party, folks...and watch your guests mentally RSVP to your next party before you've even planned it!


Olive-Pepperoni Kabobs

(12 ) 5-inch rosemary stems
(12) 4x1 inch rectangles of thinly sliced provolone
(12) 2-inch diameter rounds of thinly sliced pepperoni
(12) pitted kalmata olives


Begin by stripping the leaves from the rosemary stems, leaving 1 inch of foliage at one end of each stem. Fold a piece of provolone and thread it onto the skewer, then a piece of pepperoni, then an olive on the end. Serve on a decorative plate...that's it! How's that for easy?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How to Make Food Disappear


It's Christmastime, which means lots of parties and lots of food. Here is your quick reminder on how to make the food you bring to a party or serve at your own magically disappears. Learn how to bring an empty plate home every time!

If you were at a party and a waiter approached you with a tray of Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake slices in the typical, triangular shape, like the one pictured above and right behind him was another waiter with a tray of single-bite square pieces of that same cheesecake, like the one pictured below, which would you choose?


Seriously.

I'll answer for you. You would choose the bite-size portion. You many want the whole slice, but you most likely will not commit or indulge in a whole slice. Now, if the choice had been between a normal slice and no slice at all, then you may have deliberated a bit...

"Omigosh.. That looks amazing! I would really love a piece of that cheesecake, but I don't know that I should. I'm not really hungry, but it's calling out to me. It looks soooo delicious... If I could just have a bite or two........"

Don't tell me you haven't had this conversation with yourself at a gala or family gathering or holiday party, because we've all been there. But, once a small, bite-sized piece of something divine is placed in front of us, our first thought is, "I'll just have one." And then we have two!

If you want your food to disappear at a party, make the food petite. Whether it's cookies, brownies, carrot sticks, zucchini bread slices, meatballs, or cheese on a tray - Shrink. It. Down!
Whatever it is you're selling, make it a size no one can say no to. No one wants to make a commitment to eating another large meatball or monster cookie, but I challenge you to find a live, breathing human - or dog - who can pass up that last little runt of a brownie on the plate.

What you really want is for people to be disappointed when your culinary "creation" is all gone. Actually, I personally prefer that they're a little devastated. If they only got one taste of the indescribable goodness, they'll dream of the next time they can experience that goodness again. You will have created a fiery frenzy around your food that will still be blazing long after the party is over.

Sure, it may blow up your ego - everybody raving about your culinary wizardry, but the real winners here are the ones you are cooking for. When you give them just one morsel of something delicious, you are helping them to treasure the moment, savor the flavor, and appreciate the magic.

Save them from overindulging because nobody ever feels good about that! Help your family and friends get the most enjoyment from your food by creating the best possible experience for them.

Apply the same theory when hosting a dinner party at your home. When it comes to the dessert, NEVER, EVER serve anyone - especially the person you most want to impress - a second piece of dessert. Even if they beg - don't do it. It's not as if you're letting them go hungry - they're just wanting more of the Deelish-Dish. Let them go home, crawl into bed, and dream sweet, sinful dreams about the wonderful experience they just had. Leave them wanting more and they'll be back. And when they do sit down at your table again, they'll be primed and ready to savor every single, magnificent bite, because NOW they know the magic is only for a moment - and then it's gone!

Poof!



Monday, December 14, 2009

Key Lime Cheesecake Bites with Raspberry Drizzle


I, Sheri love Key Lime! I love it almost as much as I love lemon! But the flavor is so fabulously intense that "less is more." I choose to serve this cheesecake as mini-bites because the single bite demands that you stand up and take notice of it's marvelous flavor. If you had an entire slice on your plate you would be thinking of the next bite and the next.........but this way, each and every sinful bite gets the oo's and ahh's it deserves! And remember, you can eat as many bites as you want!

The whipped cream and raspberry drizzle not only adds beauty to this cake, but it's the delicate sweetness that soothes the wickedly, wonderful sour of the key lime.

Are you feeling wicked today?!!


Key Lime Cheesecake Bites with Raspberry Sauce

Crust:
1-1/4 Cups Fine Crumbs Graham Crackers
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter

Filling:
2 (8 ounce) Cream Cheese, room temperature
One Cup and 2 Tablespoons Sugar
3/4 Cup Fresh Key Lime Juice (about 1-1/2 lb Key limes) or bottled (we use Nellie and Joe’s)
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
One Teaspoon Vanilla
2 -1/2 Tablespoons Flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs

Whipped Cream:
One Cup Whipping Cream
One Envelope Whip It
One Teaspoon Vanilla
Sugar to sweeten to your liking

Raspberry Drizzle:
One Bag Frozen Raspberries
1/4 Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
4 Tablespoons Sugar
One Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Making the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F and butter bottom of springform pan.

Stir together crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well or just use a food processor, then press evenly onto the bottom of pan. Bake crust in the middle of the oven for 8 minutes and cool in pan on a rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Making the Filling: Beat cream cheese at medium speed until fluffy, then beat in sugar. Add lime juice, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Mix in flour and salt at low speed, scraping down the sides as needed, until just incorporated. Then add eggs all at once and mix just until incorporated.

Pour filling into crust and set springform pan in a shallow baking pan. Bake cake in middle of oven until set in center, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool completely in springform pan on rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.)

From here you could treat this as a normal cheesecake - running a knife around edge of the cake and removing the sides of the pan - OR you could let it cool in fridge over night, then remove the sides of the pan and cut cheesecake into little square, bite-size pieces and place on a serving plate.

Then in a mixing bowl, beat one cup whipping cream, an envelope of Whip It, and some sugar and vanilla extract to taste. Using an icing doohickey thing or just a sandwich bag with a hole cut in the bottom, give each "bite" a generous dollop of cream.

Yesterday: Make a raspberry sauce by placing a frozen bag of raspberries in a pan. Take a glass with about 1/4 cup of water, add 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and 4 tablespoons sugar - mix until mixed and add to raspberries. Cover and heat over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally until raspberries break down and sauce thickens.

Then remove from heat and push sauce through a sieve to remove all the seeds. You are left with a beautiful, tasty, and smooth raspberry sauce.

Let cool overnight!

Take the raspberry sauce from yesterday and place in plastic sandwich bag. Cut a teeny tiny hole in the bottom corner. Squeeze the bag, letting the sauce drizzle over the dollop of cream.

Ta-Da!




Thursday, December 10, 2009

Taco and Salsa Dip


Everybody has a 'recipe' for Taco Dip, don't they?

But we believe that this is the Best Taco Dip there is and that's why we want to share it with you!

This recipe came together one day when I wanted to make a taco dip for a party in December, and unfortunately, tomatoes are completely tasteless during winter in Ohio. So, I decided to use Salsa as a tomato substitute - but not just any salsa - raspberry salsa.

I chose raspberry because this dip has the 'Oh' so wonderful, but strong flavors of taco seasoning and sharp cheddar cheese and I wanted something hot and sweet to bounce off the intensity and spice of the cheese and seasonings.

My favorite salsa brand is Jose Madrid and it used to only be sold at the North Market downtown, but now Whole Foods and Andersons carries it also - wahoo! Choose your own favorite brand, but know that using a sweeter salsa, even if you don't typically like the fruit salsas, is a huge part of the fabulous contrast that makes this taco dip the best!


One of the other key ingredients used is the beloved herb, cilantro. Nothing smells more like summer than cilantro. The cilantro adds the sunshine!


Taco Dip with Raspberry Salsa

8 Ounces Cream Cheese
1/2 Envelope Taco Seasoning
One Tablespoon Mayonnaise

Beat cheese, seasoning, and mayo until smooth. Spread evenly over one large plate or platter or two regular sized plates.


Generously layer the following ingredients in the order given:

2 Green Onions, cut into tiny pieces
Cilantro, cut into tiny pieces
(I place these two items on top of the cream cheese to help it to stick. If there's too many items layered on the lettuce it just falls off the chip - and that's a crime!)
Raspberry Salsa
1/2-3/4 Cup Sharp Cheddar, shredded - then shredded even smaller
(I place the first layer of cheese over the salsa to keep it from wilting the lettuce)
Finely Shredded Lettuce, preferably field greens with radicchio
One Red Pepper, chopped tiny
One Cup Taco Cheese, shredded - then shredded even further

Serve with Blue Corn Chips

Note: Did you happen to notice the terms and phrases, "tiny" "shred smaller" and "finely shredded"? If you want your guests to swoon all over this dip, you've got to shred and dice and chop everything tiny because there's nothing better than every ingredient that you've stacked on this dip to be collected on each and every chip and each and every bite!

Nothing worse than scooping some dip onto your chip and big pieces of lettuce and friends falling by the wayside and leaving you with half the dip in your mouth and half still on the plate for the next lucky dipper. Chop everything small and your guests will get to enjoy all the dynamite flavor you've created for them.

Note: You may have also noticed that some of the ingredients are missing their recommended quantities - that is not an oversight. We would hate to limit your creativity in the kitchen by giving you precise measurements on this one. Feel your way to the dynamite flavor and make it your own!

Monday, December 7, 2009

White Chocolate Cookies with Pomegranate Jam


Cookie, cookie, cookie! Everybody loves cookies! It's the number one thing baking in ovens all around the world at Christmas time. Let's see.....there's chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and probably the most popular - the decorated sugar cookie. But if you're one of those plucky bakers always in search of something unique and exciting that will raise a few eyebrows and please a few palates, then you're in luck, because we have the perfect cookie for you!

BUT! If we're going to think outside the cookie box, we want to do it in style, which means cutting no corners. This festive cookie will undoubtedly please the eye, but in the end, it's the palate we most want to impress.

This is a white chocolate cookie...and we know there's no such thing as "white" chocolate, but yet there is such a thing as white chocolate. We've tasted some lousy ones and we've tasted some outstanding ones. We suggest you choose the best one for this cookie. And one of our favorite white chocolates, that in our book, achieves stellar status is Callebaut. We normally find it at Whole Foods, sold in big chunks. It's not cheap, but remember, it's worth it! Just take a walk on over to the cheese counter and kindly request that they cut it down to your size. No problem!

You may have your own favorite brand of white chocolate, but we ask that you don't assume they're all the same - they're not! Choose a delicious white chocolate and you will have a delicious new cookie that kids and adults will love!


White Chocolate Cookies with Pomegranate Jam

1/2 Cup Butter
One Cup Sugar
One Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
8 Ounces and 3 Ounces White Chocolate, Chopped
2 Eggs
2-3/4 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup Pomegranate Jam

Melt just 4 ounces of the white chocolate over a double boiler. In a separate bowl, beat butter, sugar, baking soda, and salt. When combined, beat in eggs and melted white chocolate.

Beat in flour and add remaining 4 ounces of chopped white chocolate.

Drop 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 7-9 minutes. Let cookies cool.

Over stove, melt the jam. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon jam on top of each cookie.

Over stove, melt 3 ounces white chocolate. Drizzle over each cookie.

Enjoy!

Note: Any jam of your liking can be substituted in this recipe....raspberry, strawberry, blueberry......In fact, you could arrange a variety of different colors of "jammed" cookies and have yourself a dazzling display of flavors.

Note: Once the jam and white chocolate is set, these cookies freeze very well. When removed from the freezer, they can stack on top of one another without sticking to each other.

Bragging Note: Recently, when served at a party alongside five other magnificent desserts, such as Tiramisu, Chocolate Brownies, Chocolate Mousse Cups with Raspberries, Pecan Pie, and Key Lime Cheesecake, these little White Chocolate Cookies were the only dessert that completely disappeared. I brought home an empty plate!

Ta-da!

Mission Accomplished!


Friday, December 4, 2009

Penne with Gorgonzola & Walnuts


Do you go ga-ga over gorgonzola?

Just this morning, did you say to yourself, "Screw dieting!"?

If you answered "Yes!" and "Yes!" then we have just the dish for you!

This pasta tastes best when served in a super-sized soup bowl while it's still steaming hot with a few apple slices on the side for contrast, while you curl up in a blanket in front of a roaring fire, sipping on a fine glass of wine. Are you seeing the picture we're drawing here? Of course, eating it on a simple plate at the kitchen table is perfectly acceptable too - this dish will impress however it's dressed.

So, if you have gorgonzola and brandy in your house right now, this mouth-watering pasta can be yours for the low, low prep-time of fifteen minutes!

And just so we're clear......Mr. Gorgo and Mr. Brandy are the superstars of this show.

Enjoy!!!


Penne with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

14 Ounces Penne (or Rigatoni)
4 Tablespoons Butter
One Cup Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled
2 Tablespoons Brandy
One Cup Heavy Cream
2/3 Cup Walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
One Tablespoon Freshly Chopped Basil
One Cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook Pasta - we all know how to do that, right? Well, while that's cooking......

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or wok over medium heat. Add the gorgonzola cheese and stir until melted. Add the Brandy and cook for 30 seconds, then pour in the cream and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring until the sauce is smooth.

Stir in the walnut pieces, basil, and half the Parmesan Cheese, then add the pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to heat, stirring frequently, until heated through. Divide the pasta among 4 warmed bowls, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan Cheese.

Take your seat in front of the fire. Smile! Enjoy! Worry about where this delicious bowl of heaven is going to take up residence on your body... tomorrow!

Stay in THIS moment!

Ahhhhhhh....that's goooood....

Monday, November 30, 2009

Minestrone!!!



Minestrone is ALL about "hodgepodge". In fact, there's no specific recipe for minestrone and barely any rules that need to be followed when making it - and that is music to our ears! Minestrone is all about throwing things together - chunky things, like hearty vegetables - and creating a wonderful flavor one might slurp up with a large spoon on a cold, blustery, winter day.

Sometimes though, in our attempt to create the best flavor we can, we may be tempted to use substances, like MSG, that enhance the flavor of certain foods. The jury is still out on exactly how unhealthy MSG is, but we'll let you google the word and decide for yourself.

We personally prefer to avoid it whenever possible because of the controversy surrounding it's effect on one's body, but even more than that, it feels like cheating when you use it in the kitchen. With today's fancy additives you can make food taste like anything...ANY THING! (Don't even get us started on that subject..) but taking vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts, seeds, spices, etc. and combining them to create a delicious cuisine is the best kind of art there is!

We like to create flavors in the kitchen that come from the actual food themselves - after all, there are thousands of different foods and spices just waiting to show off their "talent". Don't deny them their time in the spotlight!

So, when it came time to serve up some Minestrone, we discovered a very tasty recipe, and it's flavor was off the charts, but three of the ingredients suggested contained high levels of MSG. What?! We felt duped. Anybody can create monstrous flavor with flavor enhancers, but can it be done with real food?

And the answer is YES!

Our soup gets much of it's pizazz from the Italian sausage and crushed red pepper, so choose your sausage carefully, or make your own - just make it super flavorful. As far as beans go, I hate beans - I really hate beans - so the first time I made this soup I did add them, but only because I wanted to feel like a grown-up. I do not, however, find them a necessary ingredient in this soup, but if you're a bean lover, go crazy, bean it up! Add pasta if you want more carbs, but we're pretty wild about the idea of meat and vegetables going it alone.

Our favorite way to make this soup is in the crockpot because you can make it in the morning and it will be ready to eat by dinner, but the stovetop works just as well. As with most soups, this minestrone tastes best on day two and three. Make it tonight, and you'll have a hearty bowl of heaven by tomorrow!


Minestrone!!!

One Pound Italian Sausage
4-5 Strips Bacon, cooked (Oink or Gobble)
One Medium Onion, Diced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 Cups Water
One Medium-Large Zucchini, chopped
2 Stalks Celery, diced
2 Large Carrots, diced
2 Cups Beef Broth
One Can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed (OPTIONAL)
One 28-Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes
One Tablespoon Sugar
One Teaspoon Oregano
One Teaspoon Italian Seasonings
One Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/8 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

In a skillet cook sausage with garlic and onion. Drain if necessary, then place in crockpot. Add all other ingredients and let the crockpot do it's thing.

Return hours and hours later to taste your new favorite Minestrone!

~~~~~

As you can see in the photo above, we like to eat our Minestrone with blue corn chips - soooo good together!

Note: In case you were wondering what the 3 ingredients were that contained the unwanted MSG, it was Campbells Bean and Bacon Soup, Bob Evans Italian Sausage, and Swanson's Beef Broth. You can find organic beef broth in the health food section at your local grocery store.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mini Pumpkin Cakes


Are you really searching blogs on Thanksgiving morning looking for ideas on what to serve your guests today? Seriously?!

That's okay, we're procrastinators too! We love the thrill, the rush, and the panic of making something totally new, last minute, and hoping it turns out fabulous the first time out of the kitchen. It makes us feel ALIVE!

Well, in case you need a stellar dessert this Thanksgiving weekend, we have a great idea for you - one we came up with at the last minute too. Not long ago, we shared with you our Pumpkin and Spice Muffins that we think taste just like pumpkin roll. BUT, muffins can't be your dessert on a holiday as big and wonderful as Thanksgiving, so this is our idea.......wait for it..........

Little Pumpkin Cakes!

Make a single batch of Pumpkin Muffin batter. Pour half the batter- about 2-1/2 cups worth - into a greased and lightly floured 9x13 pan. Pour the other half into another 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for........um......gee, I don't remember. I know I set the timer for 10 minutes, then a couple more......wow! I can't tell you exactly how long I baked it, but I know I kept a close eye on it. I was thinking it didn't take as long as the muffins did. Sorry! But I'm making these the night before Thanksgiving for Pete's sake - I'm under a lot of pressure here!

Moving on......When they are perfectly baked, remove from the oven and let cool. Using a 79 cent circular cookie cutter, 3 inches in diameter, cut out 12 circles from each pan.

Set one circle on a plate. Top with cream cheese frosting. Lay another circle on top and smear with more cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle crushed graham crackers on top for fun. Repeat 12 times!

How fantastic is that?!

Happy Thanksgiving from our kitchens to yours!!!


Monday, November 23, 2009

Maple Roasted Pumpkin Salad


When's the last time you put pumpkin in your salad?

Yesterday? Really?

Wow! Until we ate it at the Squash Tasting, we never thought about adding pumpkin to our salad before, but that's exactly what makes this salad unique. There are a lot of wonderful flavors in this salad that makes it superb, but pumpkin is definitely the most unusual ingredient of them all!

Even though the pumpkin appears to take the spotlight in this salad, ALL the other flavors blend together beautifully to create the most peculiar, yet spectacular rainbow of flavors.

Not convinced? You don't like pumpkin??! Here's a crazy idea - leave out the pumpkin altogether and substitute apple instead...fresh cut apples. Apples would mingle perfectly with the feta, arugula, toasted pumpkin seeds and toasted garlic and lime dressing. AND... leaving out the whole "roasting the pumpkin" step would make this a quickie in the kitchen. Of course, you may have to rename the salad, but we don't want you missing out on this salad altogether if you have an issue with pumpkins - the dressing is soooo good!

Whichever way you go, go to the kitchen and create this salad for your next dinner - you'll fall in love with the rainbow!


Maple Roasted Pumpkin Salad

1/4 Cup Pumpkins Seeds
One Pumpkin (3-4 pounds) peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
6 Garlic Cloves, unpeeled
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
Course Ground Salt and Pepper
2 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon Pure Maple Syrup
3 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
One Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1-1/2 Pounds Arugula
6 Ounces Feta Cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread pumpkin seeds on rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until fragrant and starting to brown, 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

On that same baking sheet (lined with foil - trust us!) toss the pumpkin with 2 tablespoons olive oil, unpeeled garlic, red pepper, salt, and pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender - about 30-40 minutes.


Remove garlic cloves from sheet pan. Set aside. Drizzle pumpkin with 2 tablespoons Maple Syrup; toss to coat. Return to oven and roast, tossing occasionally until glazed, about 5-10 minutes more. Let cool.

Squeeze out roasted garlic and mash to a paste. Transfer to large bowl. Add lime juice, mustard, and remaining one teaspoon maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk constantly as you add remaining oil. Set dressing aside.


Add arugula and pumpkin and toss to combine to combine. Serve salad sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds and crumbled feta.

Serve it up and eat it up and be prepared to be impressed!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Butternut Squash Polenta

Doesn't look like much, does it? A simple bowl of polenta with a splash of butternut squash? True, it doesn't grab your eye or incite the ever-embarrassing drooling process like a four-layered chocolate cake shamelessly dripping in rich, fudge-like icing does, but this humble side dish promises to warm your belly and soothe your soul with it's very first bite. Don't misunderstand, drooling is a good thing - embarrassing or not, but a soothed soul - now that's something to write about!

When this Polenta was served at the party, it came on the heels of the Maple Pumpkin Salad and the Chile-Roasted Acorn Squash. Both of these fantastic wonders had touches of sweetness and fire, which is what made them ROCK, but it's also what made this charming little polenta number so well-received at the table. It was like a warm, soothing, bubble bath after a night of sassy salsa dancing. Ahhhhhhh.......

So, warm that belly tonight and soothe your soul with this quick and easy Squash Polenta - your family will love you for it. And Hey, no one's stopping you from serving a rich, four-tiered, double chocolate, fudge cake, dripping in icing for dessert - certainly not us! NEVER US!


Butternut Squash Polenta

3/4 Cup Finely Chopped Onion
5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1-1/2 Cups Cooked, Pureed, Winter Squash
2-1/2 Cups Water
2 Cups Milk
1-1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
3/4 Cup Instant Polenta
1/2 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook onion in 3 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat until very soft. Stir in squash and stir occasionally for 2 minutes.

Bring water, milk, salt and pepper to a boil in a heavy 4 quart-pot. Add polenta in a thin stream, whisking. Cook at a bare simmer, stirring with a long handled whisk. Turn down heat as needed to avoid spatter. Cook 5 minutes.

Stir in squash mixture and cook another 3 minutes, stirring now and again.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Eat immediately and SMILE, because it's deliciously fabulous!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's A Squash Party!!!


So, does that photo get you in the mood for a squash tasting or what? Totally part of Teri's plan, I'm sure. She sent this as a postcard all the way from Carmel, CA to remind us that squash was the superstar flavor of the month...and YES, that is her in the photo.

And THEN, she emailed us this beautiful fall-like photo of her loaded cart at Lynd's Fruit Farms just to raise the level of excitement!

Mission Accomplished!



With these Food Tasting Parties we have, each food we taste presents a different set of challenges. How one decides to go about setting up their party is completely the hostess's choice. Apples were easy because you just slice them up and take a bite - same with tomatoes - but squash wasn't going to be as cut and dry.

Why?

Because none of us were prepared to bring our own chainsaws and cut up each squash and eat it raw, which meant Teri had to roast them, steam them, or bake them. Of course, had men been invited to this swanky affair, they would have been more than happy to drop pumpkins off Teri's roof and eat the pulp with their bare hands - which is exactly why we leave them at home.

To be certain that each squash's unique flavor was tasted fairly from one squash to the next, Teri added just a teeny tiny pad of butter and a simple sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg to each bowl, so we could get a true taste of each one. With that said, let's get tasting, shall we?

The bowl taking center stage in the photo below, is the ever-popular Spaghetti Squash. As much as we all love using Spaghetti squash as a pasta impersonator, it most definitely got the least amount attention on this day - "Spaghetti who?" It's flavor is mucho-mild and brutally bland, which is how it disguises itself so well as pasta. Pasta's not bursting with flavor - it simply serves as a backdrop to whatever you're serving with it, on it, or tossed all up in it.

Today, the rich, earthy flavor of the other squashes overshadowed this simple, yet normally stellar vegetable. It's okay, Spaghetti, we still love you!!!


Then there was the Butternut Squash, which was a big winner among us girls - especially Teri, who blushed every time she even spoke of the fiery, orange mush - she had it bad. That's okay, we all loved the Butternut too - it was unanimous! We loved it even more, when Teri used it in a Polenta dish she served up later - YUM. MEE!


And then there was the Hubbard. Yeah, we've never heard of it either! But let me tell you this, Miss Carrie's world will never be the same after tasting this funky squash. We thought Teri loved the Butternut with enthusiasm, but our Carrie found True, True Love with the Hubbard. I've never seen her so happy about food....except for when she's eating cheese....we all look happy when we eat cheese though, right?

So, the deal with the Hubbard seemed to be that it kind of tasted like a sweet potato, which right away threatened to eliminate Jen and I as supporters, because we do NOT like sweet potatoes, (so don't go looking for any recipes for them on this blog...), but the taste was considerably milder than the sweet potato, and it actually, kind of, sort of tasted like an everyday white potato too. It was somewhat confusing, really. It had this gentle sweetness with a dense and starchy punch.

Anyway, we liked it. In fact, Teri put it in a pie, and made it face off against the All-American Pumpkin Pie.....we'll get to the results of that "pie-off" later.


And then there was my surprise favorite - the Delicata. I'm not a squash lover by nature - it's a texture thing...I can't help it - but I liked this squash. It had a mild, yet very pleasing flavor. I was very excited to discover the Delicata, and even more excited about it's supercool name, "Delicata". We all seriously liked this 'delicate' wonder!


Last but not least, was the Golden Acorn Squash, which Teri, being the hostess had already tasted and given it the two thumbs down, but Jen liked it. She doesn't like sweet vegetables, so she appreciated the mild flavor of the Golden Acorn, as did Patty. I don't know that any of us fell in love with the Acorn, but we most definitely respect him.


So, the squashes have been tasted so party over, right?

WRONG!!!

The party was just getting started. After all, there was more great wine to be sipped and slurped and we were going to stay until we were all slurped out!

So, now we move on AND start with a salad. I think it's safe to say, no one in the room had ever had a salad like this one. All I'll say is, roasted maple pumpkin bites, roasted pumpkin seeds, and feta on arugula, with lime dressing. Go ahead, take a peak - feta not included - and yes, the recipe will be coming.


OH! And then the Butternut Polenta was served and "Oh my!" heaven in a bowl! That first taste took us back to the best dressed Cream of Wheat we ever had! Can you say, "comfort food?" Jen knew for sure that her kids would inhale this in seconds, which makes it a double winner. And yes, the recipe will be coming.....

It was Patty's birthday the day before our party- I can't remember which one...probably because she paid me to forget, but she did NOT pay me to NOT post the pictures of us surprising her with a goofy birthday hat, bubbles, and banners, but I chose not to post them because she is my friend and the pictures were taken at less than flattering angles with a multitude of oddball expressions, so they'll be for her enjoyment only.

Anyway, Teri decided there must be Birthday Pie, which was a perfect opportunity to have a bake-off. The pie on the left is Pumpkin and the pie on the right is Hubbard. I would love to tell you there was a clear winner, but there was not. We know which pie Carrie chose - Hubba, Hubba! - and Jen liked the Pumpkin, but after that, it was pretty even. Personal taste is what this Pie bake-off came down to...personal taste.

Sidenote: Teri advises eating the Hubbard pie pronto, because if it sits a day or two, it tends to dry out a little bit, and no one likes dried up Hubbard. Just be prepared to eat the whole pie!


And of course, there was wine. Teri wowed us with her substantial wine collection, and being the friends we are, we offered to drink some of it. Jen and I started with a swig of the Azur, until Teri assured us the Hawley was a much better choice...and she was right.


Each wine we tasted was better than the last and each had it's own distinct flavor, so it was fantastic to enjoy all the squashes and entrees with the compliments of each new wine.

Sooooooo, Thank you Teri for a fabulous party, and Happy Birthday Patty!


Until next time!..........




Before we go though, I must tell you that when Jen went to this party, she thought she disliked squash - except for the spaghetti variety - but she happily went with hopeful optimism, as did I. ( I don't love squash myself) When the party was over and we got in the car to leave, the first thing Jen said to me was, "I am so excited. I thought I didn't like squash, but I really liked them all!"


"I. Like. Squash!"



And THAT is why we have these parties....... :)

Roasted Veggie Quesadillas


I found this recipe in a cookbook by the Moosewood Collective. Funny story about this book...I was a member of a book club called One Spirit at the time, and I had forgotten to send in my little card that says, "Hey, I don't want you to send me that book!"
I hate those little cards. They just don't gel with my habit of procrastination.

Anyway, I usually remembered to send them in, albeit at the last minute, so I thought it interesting that I had forgotten this time around. I didn't even know what that month's selection was, for pity's sake! So I thought I'd just ride it out and see what book the universe thought I needed so badly that it would make me forget to send my card in.
How's that for justification?

When the book finally showed up on my doorstep, I was intrigued that it was a cookbook...because, as you may or may not know, I LOVE cookbooks. It's a sickness, I tell you! I started flipping through it, just to see if there was anything good. Well, I hadn't realized it was a vegetarian cookbook! And although I am NOT a vegetarian, I like veggies. A LOT. Long story short, the book never went back. And most everything I've tried out of it has been deeeee-lish! Keeping in mind, of course, that I have no desire to try any of the tofu recipes. Tofu creeps me out. I'm just being honest here...and you do want honesty, don't you?

So one fine evening, Sheri, Sarah and Torben came out for dinner and we decided to keep it easy and try this yummy recipe. It had all the things we were looking for at the time...relatively healthy, easy, made enough for a group, and it had cheese. Cheese is good...VERY GOOD. And though we assumed they would be good, we were not prepared for how VERY GOOD they were. None of us could quit talking about them! And they've been a staple around these parts ever since....

I highly suggest you try them. Even the kiddos like them...but we call them "Mexican grilled cheese". Enjoy, peeps!


Roasted Veggie Quesadillas

1/2 Cup Sliced Onions
3/4 Cup Sliced Red or Green Peppers
1-1/2 Cup Sliced Zucchini
2 Cups Sliced Portabellas
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
4 (8") Tortillas
Grated Cheddar

First off, let's get that oven going...425*!! Chop all of those yummy veggies and throw them in a big bowl with the olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper until everything in there is nice and coated in spices. One thing to note here...please don't feel fenced in with this selection of veggies! You can add asparagus, eggplant, broccoli, or anything else that tickles your fancy. This is just the way we like them! Now, spread them all out on a cookie sheet or a 9X13 pan to let them have a little space. Pop those babies in the oven and roast 'em for about 25-30 minutes. You'll know the time is right when the potatoes begin to get tender. Now, take a deep breath and smell all those wonderful smells coming from your oven...delightful!!!

Now the fun starts! Pile about 1/4 of the roasted veggies onto one half of each of the tortillas, making sure to leave 1/2" border around the edge. I know you'll be tempted to really fill 'em up, but trust me, less is better! We don't want them exploding! Now top the filling with about 1/4 cup of that yummy cheese we talked about, and fold the tortilla in half to form a half-moon shape.

Oil your skillet lightly and get it going over medium heat. Cook two quesadillas at a time, for 1-2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Slice them in half and serve with sour cream. Go ahead and oooh and ahhhh over how comforting this dish is. And feel free to check out the Moosewood Collective...even if you're not a vegetarian...they ROCK!!!

And besides, we could all use some more veggies, couldn't we???? :)



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pumpkin Bars

Have we made it clear yet how much we love pumpkin? I mean, it's pretty obvious by now, isn't it? We've got pumpkin recipes coming out of our ears! But in the midst of all the autumn baking, we would be never be so remiss as to forget a treat as wonderful as pumpkin bars, smothered in cream cheese frosting, of course!

These have been a staple in our house for years, as well as in our house when I was a kid. Mom never lets a year go by without making at least one pan of them. We prefer to make them with our own homemade pumpkin puree (which is ridiculously easy, by the way), as opposed to the canned stuff you buy at the store...but either one will do just fine! And if you have non-nut eaters in your house like I do, just leave 'em out, or pour the batter into the jellyroll pan and then sprinkle half with nuts...that's what I do! Just don't forget which half has nuts once you frost them! I suppose you could sprinkle some toasted nuts on top of the frosting for a nice little effect, as well as to remind you...maybe I'll try that next time instead of playing the guessing game! Nah...the guessing game is much more fun!

Pumpkin Bars


4 eggs, beaten
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 c. flour
1 c. nuts (I prefer pecans)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a jelly roll pan with sides. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Let cool. Frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with additional toasted pecans.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. milk

Mix together and spread.

Make sure you have a big glass of ice cold milk ready...you're going to need it!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sweet & Savory Popcorn

Yes, we know it looks like your everyday non-microwave popcorn, but trust us...it's not!

This popcorn is special, but not so special that you only want to save it for special occasions...it's special in the way that your friends get really excited to be invited over to watch a movie because they're hoping deep down inside that you'll make some Sweet & Savory Popcorn for them when they get there! It's a cheap, easy snack that's healthier than a lot of the alternatives. Don't be put off by the Chinese Five Spice powder, folks...it's found in the spice aisle in your local grocery and is the star of this tasty treat...you don't want to skip it!

Heat up your stove and let's get poppin'!!!

Sweet & Savory Popcorn

1/2 c. unpopped popcorn
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Put popcorn, oil and salt in a large kettle or saucepan. Cover with a tight lid and cook over medium heat. When corn starts popping, shake the pot in a back-and-forth motion. As soon as popping slows, remove from heat and add sesame seeds. Sprinkle 5-spice powder and sugar onto the popcorn and toss to coat. Sit back and watch all the eyes in the room light up when they taste your new treat!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rachael Ray's Vodka Cream Pasta!

This dish is actually called "You-Won't-Be-Single-For-Long Vodka Cream Pasta", and according to Rachael, a fan of her show wrote in to say that she made this for her boyfriend who ate it just seconds before he proposed. Really! He said it was the second helping that did it. Well, in our quest to find Sheri's Prince Charming ASAP, how could we NOT give this recipe a try?? I mean, really...what did we have to lose? The vodka cream sauce is fantastic, and we've made it a few times since that first night, always groaning with pleasure as we take the first bite. Although Prince Charming still hasn't made his appearance yet, I think we've figured out the problem...we always make it for ourselves!! Yeah, that must be it...Sheri, you're going to need to invite a special someone over and make it for HIM!!!

So ladies, if you're out to get your boyfriend to take the "next big step", break out the vodka and cream and get to cookin'! We can't wait to hear your results!

Rachael Ray's Vodka Cream Pasta


1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves minced
2 shallots minced
1 c. vodka

1 c. chicken stock

1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. heavy cream
12 oz. pasta, such as penne rigate
20 leaves fresh basil, torn
Crusty Bread


Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. Heat a large skillet over moderate heat, and add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently sautee garlic and shallots 3-5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka and simmer until reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes. Add chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble, then reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt & pepper. While the sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes. Stir the cream into the vodka sauce. When the sauce returns to a bubble, remove from the heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with the sauce and basil leaves. Serve immediately, along with crusty bread.

**We like to sprinkle shredded parmesan cheese on top as well...it's tasty!**

Monday, October 26, 2009

Caramel Corn Puffs

You know when you go to a party where there are lots of different snack foods sitting around, and you don't really want to commit to anything, so you just mingle and pick at all the tasty treats you find? Usually in this situation, you find yourself going back to one certain bowl of goodies again and again until you realize that if you don't stop soon, you might embarrass yourself. Well, that's how we found these little gems...one of our friends brought them to Bunco one chilly autumn evening, and we were all hooked. Everyone was talking about them. In fact, these corn puffs are so addictive that we refer to them as CRACK, and that is a title reserved for only the most dangerous of foods, because man oh man, if you make these, you're going to eat them.

All of them.

Cross our hearts and hope to die, stick a needle in our eyes.

This is serious stuff here.

So if you're looking for a seriously addictive snack to take to a Halloween or Harvest party, this here is the one you need. Try it out and see what we mean!

Caramel Corn Puffs


2 sticks butter
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. Karo syrup (light)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 pkgs. corn puffs
nuts, optional

Pour corn puffs into a large baking dish or a deep 9x13 dish. In a heavy saucepan, boil butter, brown sugar and Karo for 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and baking soda (this will bubble up). Pour over corn puffs and stir until well coated. Add nuts if you wish. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Laugh your evil laugh as you realize the addiction you've just unleashed upon your friends!!

**For a healthier version, we use brown rice syrup in place of the Karo**

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pumpkin and Spice Muffins

We insanely looooove the ever popular fall dessert that is the pumpkin roll, but we both admit that we're a little shy about the whole funky process of making one. Which is why, when I took my first bite of this simply-made muffin, I seriously moaned with delight as I couldn't help but close my eyes and smile, because in that moment, in my world, I had just taken a bite from a real, live, authentic pumpkin roll. BUT, in reality, it was just a little old muffin with some killer cream cheese frosting smeared all over it's head.

Muffin or not, whenever you are able to create a reality that actually feels like a dream, life is good.

Life is definitely good when these babies are baking in your oven. They are super-duper moist, and wonderfully flavored, and Oh, the cream cheese frosting takes it so far over the edge of goodness, that it's dangerous!

We like danger in the kitchen!

Not out-of-control oven fires or crazy, sharp, flying knives danger, but........more like the danger of entering the forbidden world of gluttony.

Ooh, gluttony......

So save yourself from the madness of rolling the classic pumpkin roll and take the easy way out for once - whip up two dozen of these marvelous muffins instead!


Pumpkin and Spice Muffins

One Cup Oat Flour
One Cup Pastry Flour
One Cup Sugar
4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1/8 Teaspoon Allspice
One Teaspoon Nutmeg
One Teaspoon Salt
One Stick Butter, Melted
One 15-oz. can Pumpkin Puree
3/4 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
3 Teaspoons Vanilla

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Pour pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture. Fold gently until mixture is combined. Pour into greased or paper-lined muffin pan, filling 3/4 full. Sprinkle each top with a little cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Once cooled, ice with the following cream cheese frosting, OR eat them plain!


Cream Cheese Frosting

8 Ounces Cream Cheese
2 Tablespoons Melted Butter
3/4 to One Cup Powdered Sugar
Two Teaspoons Vanilla

Mix all the above ingredients on high until soft and whipped. Spread onto each cooled muffin, then EAT!

Note: I brought a plate of these to my friend to thank him for some work he did for me, and he later told me that he ate five of them in one day because he just couldn't stop himself! That's Right!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mac & Cheese - The Real Good Stuff

Oh, how we love Mac and Cheese. It IS the ultimate comfort food in our world. And ALL children love Mac and Cheese.....don't they? Seriously, who doesn't like Mac and Cheese? Mac and cheese is the ultimate partner for any meat entree' on a chilly, rainy, or snowy day.

The problem is, when you say Mac and Cheese, people think of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese out of the box - or in our families - Annie's Mac and Cheese out of the box. And as guilty as we all can be sometimes of eating this childhood food favorite from a box, we only cheat ourselves out of a stellar eating experience by not making authentic Mac and Cheese with REAL cheese!

We've searched the earth for homemade recipes, but many times, are left stunned and overwhelmed by the amount of cheese they suggest using. We want the warm cheesy flavor, but we also want some flair, and that's what this recipe has - flair.

Using the bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, and cayenne to compliment the cheesy sauce is brilliant, because it warms the belly in the most interesting way. Oh, and don't try to convince us you don't have time, because the sauce can be made in the same time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. If you were super short on time, you could skip the phenomenal topping we suggest and bypass the whole bake-it-in-the-oven step, and serve the Mac and Cheese immediately, but we feel you would be selling this recipe short. It is, however, doable.

If you truly love Mac and Cheese, then honor that love by making the real deal tonight.

Honor the love.....


Real Good Mac & Cheese

16 Ounces Macaroni
6 Tablespoons Butter
One Onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 Cup Flour
4-1/4 Cups Milk
1-2 Dried Bay Leaves
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
Sprinkles of Salt, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Nutmeg
One Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
3 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
2 Tablespoons Dried Bread Crumbs
1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, ten minutes before cooking. Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, or until cooked, but still firm. Drain. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy based saucepan, add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes, or until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the milk, return to the heat, and cook, stirring until a smooth sauce has formed.

Add the bay leaf and thyme to the sauce and season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened and smooth.

Remove the sauce from the heat. Add the mustard and cheddar cheese, stir until the cheese has melted. Stir in the pasta. Then pour cheesy pasta into a lightly oiled baking dish.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese over the pasta. Dot with the remaining butter, then bake in the preheated oven for one hour, or until golden. Serve immediately.

Note: If your children don't appreciate a little spicy in their macaroni and cheese, then leaving out the cayenne might be a good idea.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Popovers!

Sometimes you just need a little bread with your meal, you know?

We're not big on having bread at every meal, mind you...though that is something we see consistently with our parents and grandparents. Growing up, there was rarely a meal at our table that didn't include a plate of sliced bread and a stick of butter. Dinner was all about filling bellies, folks, not watching carbs! But things are different now, and we prefer to only eat bread when it enhances our meal...not as a filler. Unless it's a really good sourdough or asiago...

I have a love/hate relationship with bread, biscuits, and rolls. I love having them around for dinners of stews, roasts, and pasta...but I hate making them. I don't know why...maybe it's the kneading. Or the waiting.

I definitely hate any recipe that calls for me cutting butter into flour. For some reason, I can't do it! Yes, I know it seems relatively easy, but mine always turns out in a weird consistency, so maybe that's my deal with biscuits. Who knows? They sure do taste good though!

I'll tell you what I do know, though. When I need some kind of bread (like I did last night) to go along with a nice hearty soup (like the rabbit gumbo my brother made), popovers are just the ticket! They could not be easier, or quicker, or YUMMIER!!! They are so light and airy, you won't be able to eat just one! Try them soon, folks...it's soup weather!!

Popovers

4 eggs
2 c. milk
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 450. Beat eggs just slightly and add the remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth, but DO NOT OVERBEAT!!!

Fill 16 oiled medium sized muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 25 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350. Bake 15-20 minutes longer. Serve with butter and/or jam. We love ours with strawberry!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Orange Zucchini Muffins



I don't know what more we can say about zucchini that hasn't already been said. What can we say? We're in the love with zucchini! WE LOOOOOVE ZUCCHINI! And because we love it, we've added it to another great recipe - a muffin one no less.

These muffins are moist and tasty and children LOVE them!


Orange Zucchini Muffins

One Cup Shredded Zucchini
Salt
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup Sugar (could replace 1/4 cup with Sucanat)
1/2 Cup Oil
(we like canola, safflower, coconut, or butter)
2 Tablespoons Orange Juice Concentrate
One Tablespoon Vanilla
1- 1/4 Cup Flour
One Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
One Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

One Tablespoon Sugar mixed w/1 Teaspoon Nutmeg

Place zucchini in a colander and set over the sink. Sprinkle with one tablespoon salt, mix with your fingers, and let stand for 3o minutes. The salt will help pull the moisture out of the zucchini. Gently squeeze the zucchini to release all of the moisture and pat dry with a paper towel.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 regular-size muffin tin wells. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl until lemon-colored. Add sugar, oil, orange juice, zest, and vanilla. Beat until thick and smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Fold dry mixture into the egg mixture, stirring just until well-blended. Fold in drained zucchini.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full, and sprinkle with sugar-nutmeg mixture. Bake about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center tests clean. Cool for 3 minutes before turning out.

**Can also be made as a loaf of bread**

Monday, October 12, 2009

Italian Tortellini Soup


If you haven't noticed, we've jumped right into comfort foods around here. The weather has been unseasonably gray, rainy, and a bit on the chilly side for the past two weeks or so, so all of the warm and nourishing foods we love most are being whipped up in our kitchens lately.

It's no wonder then, that this little number came to mind. This soup is fabulously flavored as you would imagine from scanning the ingredient list. It was an award winner in a local cookbook years ago, but it will always be a winner in our book!

Beware!

This is no broth-sipping soup, this is a nice hearty meal swimming in the broth.

If you're Italian, you'll feel right at home with this soup. If you're not, but you're a wanna-be-Italian like me, then this soup just might make you feel like an Italian for a day - maybe two!

Ciao!


Italian Tortellini Soup

3 Slices Bacon (optional) (we like Oscar Meyer turkey)
One Pound Mild Italian Sausage (seasoned hamburger works too!)
One Medium Onion
3 Cloves Minced Garlic
8 Ounces Thinly Sliced Mushrooms (we love Baby Bellas)
2 Quarts Chicken Stock
10 Ounces Cheese-filled Tortellini
2 - 15 Ounce Cans Diced Tomatoes
2 Teaspoons Italian Herbs
or one teaspoon thyme, one teaspoon oregano
One 10-Ounce Package Spinach, chopped
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan

Fry bacon, reserve drippings. Fry sausage, drain. Saute onion, garlic, and mushrooms; set aside. In large pot, bring stock to a boil, add tortellini and cook 5-7 minutes. Add tomatoes and herbs; reduce heat to low. Add spinach, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic mixture to pot. Simmer 5 minutes. Add sausage, bacon, and Parmesan.

As with most soups, it tastes best the second day!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cookies...who doesn't love them?

I mean, there are so many different flavors and textures, what's not to love? From plain, unfrosted sugar cookies to double chocolate chip to oatmeal raisin, and especially all those wonderful creations that only make their way out of the kitchen at Christmastime, cookies are as American to us as baseball and apple pie!! It's easy to get stuck in a rut of making the same cookies every time, and we're no different...but we're trying to break out of our norm and give all those new potentially awesome recipes out there a try. We love our Sweet Pumpkin Chippers first and foremost - because we make them with Ghiradelli chips, of course - but this recipe was sent to me by my friend Anita last fall, and we decided we had to try it. If one pumpkin cookie recipe is good, two can only be better, right?

Give these a try, folks!! You won't be disappointed. When I first made them, my dog stole seven of them off the counter and left two with the frosting licked off...no joke. Of course, I blamed my 3 year old son, who vehemently proclaimed his innocence...until I saw the cream cheese frosting on Scout's whiskers. So from ALL of us (even Scout), these are definitely worth the trouble!!

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt

Frosting:

1 tbsp. vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 stick butter
8 oz. cream cheese

Heat oven to 375. Cream butter, sugar, and pumpkin. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and mix in with the creamed ingredients. Drop from spoon onto cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Beat frosting ingredients until smooth, and frost cookies after they have cooled.

**Note: This is the original recipe, but I like to use 1/2 oat flour and 1/2 white flour, and I also add 1-2 tsp. of flax meal. You know what we always say..."just wing it!!"


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pronto Pasta Bake

Fall is in the air, folks...and we don't know about you, but we are ready for some good "warm your belly" type of meals. We all have a couple of those that we make over and over through the chillier months...recipes that everyone likes and that take just the basic ingredients that you almost always have in your pantry. This pasta bake is at the top of that list around here! It goes together quickly, and is pretty versatile - we often add extra veggies, just whatever we have in the fridge at the time. Not only that, but it makes a pretty good sized amount...a whole 9x13 pan of pasta. That's good for a meal or two, and lunch the next day!

Pronto Pasta Bake


12 oz. rotini pasta (use whole grain if you can!)
2 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped (approx. 2 cups)
1 c. torn spinach leaves (or more, if you want!)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (48 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 c. grated fresh parmesan cheese
2 c. shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta and drain.

Chop zucchini and tear spinach leaves to desired size. We like them bigger, but the kids pick them out if they aren't too small to be worth their time, so do what works for you! Press the garlic into a bowl, or if you don't own a garlic press, chop finely. Add zucchini, spinach, spaghetti sauce, and basil.

In a 9x13 pan, layer 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce mixture, 1/2 of the pasta, 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce mixture, and 1/2 of each of the cheeses. Repeat the layers with the remaining pasta, sauce, and cheeses. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 more minutes until the cheese is nice and gooey. Whatever you do, restrain yourself from digging right in and taking a bite...it's HOT!!! Let it sit for 5-10 minutes so you don't have blisters all over the roof of your mouth. Trust us on this one!! We've learned the hard way!!