Monday, December 27, 2010

Cracker Bread Bites


Have you ever had a grand plan and just plan forgot to do it?  Doesn't sound too grand if one can forget it though.  My sister-in-law's birthday is just before Christmas so I decided to have the family over for a birthday dinner celebration.  Since I was also cooking on Christmas I knew I had to make myself keep it simple!  My plan was to have an elegant appetizer and a main course that was fairly easy and could be made ahead.  I succeeded with everything except that I forgot to make the elegant appetizer!  There was plenty of food and it didn't even dawn on me that we didn't have an appetizer until we were just about to sit down to dinner.  So much for grand plans!

That left me with the ingredients for a special appetizer and in need of a reason to make it...

When my friend gave me the recipe I raised an eyebrow at the numerous layers and ingredients but my friend assured me that this appetizer had been a hit at every gathering...who was I to question it....just go for it!  These little morsels are delicious and were consumed (inhaled) by the group.  One bite is just not enough.


Cracker Bread Bites

Lavash Cracker Bread
Pesto
Prosciutto
Gorgonzola Cheese
Blueberry/Merlot jam
Arugula

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cut the cracker bread into rectangles (1 inch X 3 inches).
Place the pieces on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, or until crisp.  (Watch carefully so as not to burn.)  The crackers when cool, can be placed in a ziplock bag until ready to use.

Spread a little pesto on the cracker.
Top with a roll of prosciutto.  (I quartered the slice of prosciutto and rolled it.)
Add a small piece of Gorgonzola, drop/spread some of the jam, top with arugula leaves.

Place on a platter and serve!

Note:  The original recipe suggested fig jam.  I will be trying these with fig jam but I could not find any at the time and our Italian Deli was closed so I couldn't check there.  I am anxious to make these again!

PRINTABLE RECIPE


These were simple, easy and elegant!  A real hit and perfect for the New Year!

I am participating in Sharing Sundays at Everyday Sisters!  Today is their sweet and savory share day!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Wish


From my Christmas kitchen I would like to wish each of you a very happy holiday and thank you for the wonderful stories and recipes that you have shared during the last year.  I have learned so much from you...I have laughed out loud, I have teared up, and I have eaten wonderful food because of the great recipes that you have shared.  


Each of you is important to me and I also want to thank you for your visits and the comments you leave.  I have really enjoyed reading your thoughts about the posts.


I hope that each of you has time to cook a little and enjoy family a lot!


And that you take time for reflection...


Blessings and Happy Holidays!




Thank you Michael for graciously hosting Foodie Friday as Designs by Gollum.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Potato Cheese (and a spot of ale) Soup!


It has rained day and night for the last three days.  There has been over three inches at this point and that is sometimes our yearly total!  We live in the foothills so we haven't had to launch the kayak or build an ark.  Those living in the flatland are breaking out the sandbags and for the most part, staying home.  The streets look like rivers and in some places it is two feet high!  Compared to what happens to the folks who live in the midwest, this isn't really a flood...just very slow drains!

Soup sounded just right for a day like this and I had a very large bag of potatoes...so, Potato Cheese (and  a spot of ale) Soup!  To me, a spot of ale means a bottle or mug of ale. So, that is what I used.
The Kitchen Gnome said I shouldn't mess with an already good potato cheese soup recipe...he was a sport though and gave me the only ale in the frig.  It was a bottle of Blue Moon which is a wheat ale.

Potato Cheese (and a spot of ale) Soup

Serves 6

1/4 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 baking potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 bottle (12 oz) ale
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups cheddar, grated
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chopped chives or scallion tops for garnish

In a large saucepan, cook the bacon over moderate hear until crisp.  Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.  Retain about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.  If there isn't enough, add enough oil to equal the amount.  Reduce heat to low.

Add the onion and cook, stirring until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.

Add the potatoes and brown them a little.  Then add the stock, beer, and water, and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes.

Remove half the soup from the pan and puree it in a food processor or blender.  Use a masher to mash some of the potatoes remaining in the pan.  Return the puree to the pan.  Over low heat, add the cheese and stir until melted.  Add the paprika and apple cider vinegar.  Stir until well combined.  At this point the bacon may be added to the mix or it may be reserved to use as a garnish with the chives.  (This time, I added mine to the pot!) Remove the pan from the heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve the soup topped with the bacon and chives.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


The soup was delicious and hit the spot on a cold, wet day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Spiced Nuts and Pretzel Mix


Another hit from Cathy at Wives with Knives!  She seems to be on my wavelength this year.  I was looking for a mixture that would be great to munch on in the evenings and to give as gifts.   She raved about this mixture and I must concur....in fact, my neighbor has called me three times to tell me how wonderful it is and to say thank you.  It is definitely a hit!

The snack is one that David Lebovitz created.  It is the best holiday mix ever!



Spiced Nuts and Pretzel Mix

  • 2 cups mixed raw nuts (I used almonds, cashews and pecans)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt such as fleur de sel
  • 2 cups mini pretzel twists
Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, stirring once for even toasting.

In a medium bowl mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, pepper and maple syrup.

Add warm nuts and stir until the nuts are completely coated. Then stir in the salt.

Mix in the pretzels, then spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring several times during cooking to make sure the brown sugar isn't clumping. The exact baking time will vary, but the nuts are done when they are nice and toasty, and the mixture is nicely glazed.

Remove from the oven and cool completely, separating the nuts and pretzels as they cool. Store in an airtight container.

PRINTABLE RECIPE




I love the salty, sweet, spicy flavor of this mix.  It is one of the best snacks around!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies


Just one look, that's all it took....
Just one look, that's all it took...
Just one look, that's all it took...
and I knew I would be making these darling, little Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies mine!  

Cathy at Wives with Knives posted the cutest little Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies this week.  There wasn't a question about whether or not I would be making them.  She posted Sunday.  I made them Monday!  I was really excited to give them a try but it was a change from the usual cookie cutter sugar cookies.  Change doesn't always come without question....When I mentioned the change, my daughter's face told the story..."no frosting!?  Well, I hope they are going to be sweet!"  Hmmm...me too!

I compared my sugar cookie recipe to Cathy's and noticed only two slight differences.  She used 1/4 cup of sugar more than me, she used baking soda, and a different baking temperature and time.  So, after mixing it about in my mind for a few minutes I decided to increase the sugar on my recipe and I adjusted the baking temperature and time.


The process is one of dividing the dough and adding color.  Then the dough is layered in a loaf pan which is lined with parchment.  One thing to remember is that the depth of the layers will equal the size of the cookies. Cathy explains the process in detail, here.  A quarter inch slice is taken from the slab of dough.  Triangles are then cut from the slice.  A red base is added to each triangle tree.

They are then dipped into sanding sugar and baked.



Christmas Tree Sugar Cookies

Preheat oven:  375°
Bake time:  7-9 minutes

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, (2 sticks) at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp cream/milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Sift flour with baking powder and salt and set aside.

Cream butter, gradually add sugar, creaming well.  Stir in egg, cream, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients.  Chill if necessary.

Divide dough in half. Add green food coloring to one of the halves.  Blend well.
Divide the second half into two parts.  Leave one part plain.  Add red food coloring to the other and blend well.  Use enough food coloring to make vibrant colors.  The colors tend to fade during baking.

Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake the cookies at 375° for 7-9 minutes.

PRINTABLE RECIPE



The cookies are heavenly little morsels that are fun to make and a great addition to Christmas cookie platter!


I am sending this over to Michael at Designs by Gollum for the weekly Foodie Friday!  


Thank you for being such a gracious hostess, Michael!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ginger Sugar Cookies


I tried a new type of cookie this week, a Ginger Sugar Cookie.  This time of year I want ginger...anything with ginger will do.  My memory of ginger is from I was a little girl.  I remember the first time I tasted ginger cookie.  It was chewy and moist.  My mom makes the best!  I also remember coming home from school and having ginger snaps and a glass of milk.  I loved dipping the cookie into the milk to soften it...I remember disappointment when I dipped it too long and the piece fell off making a mess and sinking to the bottom of my glass.  I didn't like that much so I became a master at cookie dunking!

Today, though, I was looking for something else.  I wasn't certain what but it had to be a cookie and it had to have ginger!  I saw a recipe on Heather Christo's blog.  Heather is a chef who "hung up her chef coat for motherhood."  She includes a recipe for Ginger Sugar Cookies on her site.  I wanted to put a twist on the sugar cookie and so this appealed to me.  I made the cookies as listed on her blog.

Ginger Sugar Cookies

Yield: 2 dozen
Preheat oven:  325°

2 sticks unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven.
Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and salt, and whip until creamy.
Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the yolks and mix to combine.
Add the flour, ginger and cinnamon until just barely combined (over mixing will make them tough).
Separate the dough and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until the dough is firm and chilled enough to handle, about 1 hour.

Roll the dough out with powdered sugar so the dough doesn't toughen from additional flour.
Cut shapes with cookie cutters and place them on the covered cookie sheets.  Bake for 2-12 minutes.

They should remain very pale and should NOT turn golden brown.  If they start to color around the edges, remove from oven immediately.  You are looking for them to be firm to the touch.  They will continue to firm up as they cool.  Leave them on the pan until just about cool..they will be less likely to break.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


The cookies have a very subtle ginger flavor....make way for the frosting....I tried the Royal Icing.  Never having done it before, it ended up going down the drain.  I had the frosting too stiff...I used almond extract...it was "yucky" to use a child's description.  Make way for buttercream frosting...the stand-by! My daughter and I spent part of the afternoon playing in the frosting.  It was fun...the cookies, are however, very fragile.  We ate quite a few of our disasters!

With the buttercream the cookies had the sweetness that we were craving.  Subtle ginger combined with sweet frosting...worked.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Spicy Southwestern Turkey Soup



I think we over did it on turkey this year.  I knew earlier in the week when the family informed me that they were not eating any more dishes made with turkey, that enough was enough.  That message was the indicator that, just maybe, two turkeys and a short guest list for Thanksgiving was a bad combination.  We had one turkey for the oven and smoked one, also.  Both were delicious!

Among the many turkey-leftover dishes I prepared was a turkey soup recipe.   It was adapted from one at Laura's Best Recipes.  Laura's site has a wonderful collection of recipes that are her own, those of friends, and some recipes from restaurants and chefs who have shared with her.  It is a wonderful collection if you are looking for a new blog to visit that is filled with recipes and ideas!

The recipe, Spicy Southwestern Turkey Soup, is very quick and easy to make.  It is on the spicy side so, if you do not like spicy-hot, I would suggest reducing the amount of cayenne pepper.  What I enjoyed the most, were all of the goodies on top!  The goodies combined with the soup made a great combo.   Don't omit them!



Spicy Southwestern Turkey Soup
adapted from Laura's Best Recipes

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, chopped 
2 carrots, chopped into small chunks
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, with liquid
4 cups organic chicken broth
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, diced
1 tsp adobo sauce
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
3 cups cooked turkey (both white and dark), shredded 
1 small bag white corn chips
4 Tbsp cilantro
1 cup shredded Queso Fresco cheese
1-2 avocados, sliced
1-2 limes, cut into wedges
1/4 cup pickled jalapenos or 2 roasted and chopped

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Cook the carrots and onions, stirring often, 8-10 minutes, until translucent.  Add garlic to onions and cook until fragrant.  Stir in the tomatoes, broth, oregano, cayenne, chipotle pepper and chipotle sauce, cumin, black pepper, bay leaf and turkey.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.  Simmer 15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

To serve, break corn chips (about 6 per serving) into bite-size pieces and place in bowls.  Ladle soup over chips.  Sprinkle with cilantro and cheese.  Garnish with avocado slices, lime wedges, and jalapenos (if you like it hot!)

PRINTABLE RECIPE


Today is Foodie Friday so I am sending this recipe over to our hostess, Michael, at Designs by Gollum.  Each week bloggers share their best recipes.  Be sure to stop by Michaels blog for great ideas and food!!



I am also sharing Laura's recipe as part of The Weekend Saturday Blog Showcase being hosted by Ann at Thibeault's Table.  

You may wish to stop by Ann's blog to see what wonderful dishes she is sharing as well as the dishes that bloggers have posted highlighting another blogger's recipe that has been tried!  It is fun.  Join in!