Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Eve Appetizer Round-Up

New Year's Eve is a time for celebrating the end of a year and the beginning of a bright new one.  A time to socialize with family and friends.

Appetizers are great items to serve allowing you to mingle with people, grabbing a small bite.  They are easy to carry, fit on a small plate, and are often finger food.  Clean up is a cinch, and you don't have to prepare a sit down dinner with all the dishes to wash!

Here is a display of some great appetizers that would be perfect to ring in the New Year!

Happy New Year!!!

Spinach and Feta Cheese Bundles

Sausage Mushroom Quiche Appetizers

Cheesy Garlic Herb Bread

Garlicky Lima Bean Spread

Cheesy Italian Bread

Sweet Onion Salsa

Seeded Breadsticks

Mini Pizzas

Salsa Roja

Chicken Pot Pie Pockets

2012 Update:

Plum and Mascarpone Crostini

Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Flatbread

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mini Pizzas

How many of you had to take Home Economics in Junior High School?  

I'm kinda dating myself, although it really wasn't all that long ago!  It was a class girls could take that combined cooking and sewing skills.  Boy, times have changed and I don't think that they even offer a course like this any longer.  We also had International Cooking courses as an elective in High School.  Maybe they should bring them back?  Seems like the art of cooking is getting lost in a world of electronics.  

That's why I love blogs.  It's so great to see so many of the younger generation of men and women cooking.  The talent out there...OMG amazing!! It's heartwarming to see that the interest is there because cooking is actually fun!  I love that people are passing down family recipes and teaching their young children how to cook.  Sharing family treasures is the best way to keep traditions and memories alive.

This super simple easy dish is a great memory for me.  I've been making these Mini Pizzas since Junior High where I learned them.  They are a knock off of a "real" pizza.  They are great for kids, an afternoon snack, or as adults that love them too, you can serve these as appetizers.  Say...New Year's Eve is coming up...what a great idea! hehe!

The best part is that you can create any type of pizza that you want.  The toppings are all up to you, so create to your hearts content. Keep them simple...or make them elegant.   I'll provide you with the basic recipe and you can take it from there, the variations are endless!

Here you go....step by step pics.

Making the sauce...simple.  Just a can of tomato sauce with some Italian seasoning added, stir and heat it up to blend the flavors.  You can jazz it up if you want!.

Shaping the pizzas...simple.  Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Spread them out with your fingers to form the pizzas.  Note:  don't use the flaky layered biscuits for this, they don't work so well.  The buttermilk old time regular biscuits work the best!

Add the sauce...

Add your toppings...


Pop them in the oven and let them bake at 450 fro about 8 to 10 min.  They should puff a little and turn golden brown. pizzas!  Dig in!

Mini Pizzas

serves 10

1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 tsp. Italian seasoning 
1 small can of biscuits (not the flaky layered kind)

shredded cheese
turkey pepperoni, sausage, olives, peppers, diced ham, etc.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Open the can of tomato sauce and put it in a small saucepan.  Add the Italian seasoning.  Place over medium heat and bring the sauce to a bubble.  Turn the heat down to a simmer.

Open the can of biscuits and place them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Using your fingers spread out each biscuit to flatten the dough just a bit.  Add some warm sauce to each biscuit, leaving a small edge around the biscuit.  Top with shredded cheese and any other toppings.

Bake at 450 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Seeded Breadsticks

New Year's is upon us already.

The year has gone by so fast!  What happened?  It's been like a whirlwind of activity since October!  Onward and upward...and I'm looking forward to a bright and shiny 2012.   For New Year's Eve I love to make an array of appetizers, or finger foods that people can munch on while socializing.

One easy dish is my Seeded Breadsticks.  They are perfect with soup, salad, or along side your lunch or dinner.  Cut cut these babies in half and your have "mini" breadsticks...perfect for appetizers!  The best part, they are easy and quick to make!



Try my seeded breadsticks and let me know what your favorite appetizer to serve is.

Seeded Breadsticks

Serves 12

1  14 ounce can refrigerated pizza dough
1 ½ teaspoons each: pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds, plain sesame seeds, and black sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.  Unroll pizza dough on a lightly floured surface.  Gently roll dough into a 12x9-inch rectangle. Sprinkle with seeds.  Using a pizza cutter cut dough crosswise into 12 strips.  
Twist dough several times and place strips on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 breadsticks.  Note:  As an appetizer cut breadsticks in half before baking, making 24 mini breadsticks.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Candy Cane Joe Joe’s Cheesecake

Merry Christmas
a Happy 1 year anniversary
 to the start of my blog!

I'm amazed that a year has gone by since the start of my blog.  It's been an amazing experience, cooking so many tasty dishes, meeting so many bloggers, and having you as my audience!  I am truly honored to be able to bring my family's recipes to life and to share them all with you.

I think this calls for a celebration and the best celebrate is with a decadent dessert!

I got this idea talking to my mom about cheesecakes, and the recipe that she used for years.  Since it's holiday time I wanted to make one that had a hint of peppermint.  I love peppermint, it's so refreshing in a dessert!  Mom and I discussed peppermint options, and both of us mentioned the ice cream in the stores this time of year that has the chunks of hard peppermint candies in it.  Neither of us like that...nope.  One thing I don't like is to bite into a hard piece of candy in a soft ice cream, or cake.  Nope, can't do it.

So then I light bulb went off...Trader Joe's sells peppermint flavored Oreos, called Candy Cane Joe Joe's. Yippee!  Have you had them?  They are awesome.

So this was my inspiration to make an oreo type of cheesecake that is peppermint in flavor.  It is a chocolate lover dream, with a chocolate crust, and topped with a chocolate ganache. decadent!



For those that want a more lower carb cheesecake or to just reduce the carb count you can substitute the sugar for Splenda, and you can use Sugar free oreos for the crust.  You will still have some carbs with the Joe Joe's and the chocolate, however, the overall count will be reduced.  I've also added neufchatel cheese instead of the cream cheese to keep the fat grams down as well.  But trust me, this is still a very rich dessert!

Enjoy your holiday season and try a slice of my cheesecake!

Candy Cane Joe Joe’s Cheesecake
A Slice of Southern original

2  cups Oreo cookies, crushed
2  tablespoons butter, melted

4 (8-oz.) pkg neufchatel cheese, softened
1 ½ cups sugar or Splenda equivalent
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 T flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2  cups coarsely chopped Candy Cane Joe Joe’s cookies
1/3 cup whipping cream

1 ¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the crushed cookies and melted butter.   Firmly press the mixture (use the base of a glass) evenly in bottom and up the sides of a lightly greased 9-inch spring form pan. Bake for 12 minutes and set aside.

In a large bowl beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating well. Add the whipping cream, flour and 1 tsp. vanilla beating well. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.

Pour 3 1/2/c. of batter onto prepared crust. Top with coarsely chopped cookies. Pour in remaining batter. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn oven off, and leave cheesecake in oven with door closed 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill for 8 hours. Run a knife along the edges of the pan.  Remove sides of pan.

For ganache topping, combine whipping cream and chocolate morsels in a small saucepan.  Stir over low heat until chocolate melts. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat. Carefully spread mixture over cheesecake, allowing it to drip down sides. Store the cheesecake in refrigerator. Top with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Dinner Menu

Have you planned your Christmas Dinner Menu yet?
I sure hope so...

The stores are crowded and everyone is buying up the various cuts of meats like crazy.
Are you having a pork roast, or perhaps, a beef tenderloin, or maybe it's prime rib, turkey, or ham for you?

Typically I make a beef tenderloin, yum yum, but this year I'm going to change it up a bit with a different cut of beef.

So in planning my menu I kept some family favorites, and added a couple of new recipes as well.  It's a great tip to cook some items you know well and only add 1 or 2 new ones.  Keeps the stress down, and you don't want to experiment to much on a day where you want the food to shine!

Tips for Meat Portions for Parties:  
Whether casual or elegant the culinary centerpiece is usually the meat you serve.  Sometimes a selection of several.  Here's a great tip for determining meat quantities.  If you are serving one kind of meat, purchase 8 to 10 oz. of raw meat per person, or 6 to 8 oz of fish or chicken.  If you are serving two kinds, cut the amount to 5 oz of each per person.

Here's my Christmas Menu.  I hope you find some items you'd like to try.  Happy Holidays!

Christmas Menu

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Assorted Crackers
Seeded Breadsticks (recipe coming!)
Orange, Avocado and Fennel Salad (recipe below)
Homemade Egg Noodles (a family recipe)
Roasted Red Potatoes & Baby Portabella Mushrooms with Green Beans and Onions
Cheese Topped Acorn Squash (recipe below)
Grilled Flank Steak with a Shallot and Red Wine Reduction (recipe below)
Candy Cane Joe Joe's Cheesecake (recipe coming!)

Orange, Avocado and Fennel Salad

adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Serves 6 - 8

2 fennel bulbs
3 avocados
3 large navel oranges
2 t orange zest
3 T olive oil
2 T fresh orange juice
2 T white balsamic vinegar or champagne vinegar
1/2 t sea salt
1/2t fresh ground black pepper

Cut off the stems of the fennel bulbs.  Remove the outer layer and then finely slice the bulb crosswise into thin pieces.  Halve and pit the avocados.  Cut into slices or dice.  Peel the oranges and cut out the sections.  Cut sections in half.

In a large salad bowl mix together the orange zest, olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add the fennel slices, orange segments, avocados and toss gently.

Cheese Topped Acorn Squash 

serves 6
2 medium acorn squashes, halved and seeded
1 Tbsp margarine
1 Tbsp fresh sage, minced or 1 tsp dried sage, crumbled
1/4 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese 1 oz.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place squash halves, cut side down in dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine margarine, sage, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Carefully cut each squash half into three wedges and set in baking dish, skin side down. Brush mixture on all fleshy sides of squash. Cover and bake about 20 more minutes or until squash is tender.
Transfer to a serving platter.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve. 

Grilled Flank Steak with a Shallot and Red Wine Reduction

Serves 6-8

2 1/2 lb flank steak
1 t dried thyme
1/2 t lemon zest
4 T olive oil
salt & pepper
3 T butter, divided
2 T minced shallots
1 c red wine

Place flank steak in a gallon sized plastic storage bag.  Add the thyme, zest, and olive oil.  Let marinate on the counter for 30 min while meat comes to room temperature.  Remove steak from bag and discard the remaining marinade.  Salt & pepper your steak.  Grill steak on a heated grill (indoor or outdoors) on medium high heat, 8 minutes per side for medium doneness.  Remove steak to a cutting board.  Tent with foil and allow to rest 10 min.

While the steak is resting, place butter and shallots in a separate small skillet over medium heat.  Saute shallots about 5 minutes, until translucent.  Add the wine and continue to cook until the wine is reduced by half.  Add 1 T of butter.  When butter has melted remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Slice beef against the grain in thin, long angled slices.  Serve with wine reduction.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fireside Feast Menu

I ran across a couple of recipes from Williams-Sonoma for a Fireside Feast, and just had to share them with you.

They would be perfect during the holiday season, perhaps on Christmas Eve, or while entertaining through New Year's.  This menu is a perfect casual meal to share with friends.  

I haven't made them yet, but I intend to soon.  Once I do I'll report back to you with some comments and pictures.  If you make them, (and I hope you do!) come back and let me know in the comments so everyone can see your views.

Happy Holidays!

Fireside Feast Menu:

Short Rib Wellington Potpie
Mesclun Salad with Radishes, Avocado, and Blood Oranges
Bread Pudding

(All recipes and pictures courtesy of Williams-Sonoma)

Short Rib Wellington Potpie
Inspired by classic beef Wellington, which features a beef tenderloin encased in puff pastry, we created this recipe for a homey potpie. Beef short ribs are braised with mushrooms and pearl onions in a savory stock-wine mixture. Then the dish is topped with puff pastry and baked until golden brown. It makes an impressive main course for a casual gathering with friends.

·         2 1/4 lb. boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1-inch dice
·         Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
·         2 Tbs. olive oil
·         1/4 lb. prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch squares
·         3/4 lb. cremini mushrooms, quartered
·         8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
·         1/2 cup all-purpose flour
·         1/2 cup red wine
·         1 1/2 Tbs. beef demi-glace
·         3 cups beef stock
·         1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
·         1 bay leaf
·         1 1/2 cups pearl onions
·         1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
·         1 sheet puff pastry, 10 to 11 inches square
·         1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water

Preheat an oven to 325°F.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a 3 1/2-quart wide Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a bowl.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Add to the bowl with the beef. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add to the bowl with the beef.

Pour off the excess fat in the pot. Return the pot to medium heat and melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the wine and demi-glace and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the thyme, bay leaf, pearl onions, beef, prosciutto and mushrooms. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven and cook until the beef is fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Discard the bay leaf and spoon the excess fat off the cooking liquid. Stir in the parsley.

Mesclun Salad with Radishes Avocado and Blood Oranges
The mix of gourmet salad greens called mesclun may include oakleaf lettuce, arugula, frisée, mizuna, mâche, radicchio and sorrel. Here, it is brightened with the red flesh of blood oranges.

·         2 small blood oranges or other oranges
·         1 Tbs. rice vinegar
·         1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
·         1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
·         1/4 tsp. salt
·         1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
·         6 cups mesclun or mixed young salad greens
·         4 red radishes, trimmed and very thinly sliced
·         1/2 small avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
·         2 Tbs. crumbled blue cheese

Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a thin slice off the top and the bottom, exposing the flesh. Stand the orange upright and, using a sharp knife, thickly cut off the peel, following the contour of the fruit and removing all the white pith and membrane. Holding the orange over a small bowl, carefully cut along both sides of each section to free it from the membrane. As you work, discard any seeds and let the sections and any juice fall into the bowl. Repeat with the second orange. When both oranges are sectioned, squeeze the membranes into the bowl to extract all of the juice.

To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs. of the captured blood orange juice, the vinegar and mustard. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified. Whisk in the salt and pepper. Reserve any remaining orange juice for another use.

In a large bowl, combine the mesclun, radishes and orange sections. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently to mix well and coat evenly.

To serve, divide the salad among individual plates. Top each portion with slices of avocado and sprinkle with the cheese.

Adapted from The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook, by Cheryl Forberg, R.D., and Maureen Callahan, R.D. (Oxmoor House, 2004).

Bread Pudding

·         12 slices day-old baguette, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
·         4 eggs, at room temperature
·         1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
·         3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
·         1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
·         Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
·         Pinch of salt
·         4 cups milk
·         1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
·         Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Spread the bread cubes in it.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until well blended. Pour in the milk and whisk until combined. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Let stand, pressing down on the bread occasionally, until it is evenly soaked, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 350°F.

Scatter the cranberries evenly over the surface of the soaked bread and press to submerge the fruit. Set the baking dish in a large, shallow roasting pan. Add very hot tap water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

Bake the pudding until a knife inserted near the center comes out almost clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Generously dust the top of each slice with confectioners' sugar. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Dessert, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Simon & Schuster, 2002).


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