Saturday, March 31, 2012

dried cranberry vinaigrette


















This was the dressing Kiana brought to dress her green salad for gourmet club.  I am ordinarily not a huge fan of fruity dressings but this was an exception.  It has a distinct fruity flavor yet the herbs stood out making it savory too.  Paired with spiced nuts, this salad was definitely gourmet.

dried cranberry vinaigrette (my friend Kiana)
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar (or you can substitute with red wine vinegar)
1 shallot, peeled
1 small garlic clove, peeled
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Rehydrate cranberries by combining cranberry juice and dried cranberries in microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until hot, about 1 minute.
Process hot cranberry mixture, vinegar, shallot, garlic, thyme, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in blender until shallot and garlic are finely chopped, about 15 seconds.  With blender running, add oil and continue to process until smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds. 


What I have to say- for the salad Kiana mixed greens with carrot, red cabbage, red bell pepper, cucumber and snow peas.   It all worked great together.

spiced nuts for salads









At gourmet club earlier this month Kiana made a green salad with a dried cranberry vinaigrette and spiced nuts.  The combination was delicious.  The original recipe calls for pecans but Kiana used walnuts which were equally delightful.

spiced nuts for salads (my friend Kiana)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups pecan or walnut halves
1 tablespoon sugar

Melt butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cinnamon, cloves and allspice then stir in nuts.  Toast nuts, stirring often until the color of nuts depens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer to bowl, toss with sugar then spread out on plate to cool.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

chicken ceasar wraps









I came to a sudden realization recently that I am no longer in my 20's.  I've sort of clung to the age of 27 but I have been 27 for quite some time now.  How does that happen?!  Anyways, I realized recently that I need to do one of two things.  I either need to exercise more or I need to cut back on my calories.  It's a very sad realization because honestly I don't want to do either one because I don't like to eat "skinny" food and I don't want to exercise more than I do (6 days a week) but let's face it- we all have to do things we don't want to do.  I decided to make these wraps for dinner because I wanted something delicious and I thought back to all the wraps my husband used to bring home from a little sandwich place before we moved.  They were soooo good and such a treat.

chicken ceasar wraps
4 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning 
onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
several extra large garlic and herb wraps (I used whole wheat for mine, the above was my husbands)
1 head romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Ken's lite creamy ceasar (you will not know the difference between lite and full fat! it's my favorite)
tomato, thinly sliced

Heat oil in a skillet.  Add chicken breasts and sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Let the chicken cook on one side until browned then flip.  When cooked through, turn off heat.
Place lettuce in a large bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Pour a good amount of dressing over the "salad".  Combine really well.
Spread out a wrap and place a mound (about a cup) of "salad" on the wrap.  Lay a few sliced tomatoes on top then top with chicken.  Place a little more "salad" on top.
Fold up like a giant burrito.  If you want to wrap it in parchment paper before cutting in half you can for a deli style sandwich.
Enjoy!

What I have to say- if you aren't as concerned as I am about your metabolism pooping out then add some crumbled bacon to your sandwich!

beef barley vegetable soup









I really, really, really enjoyed this soup.  I made this soup for the sister missionaries and another guest along with fresh baked whole wheat bread (Rhodes!), a salad and butterscotch bundt cake with fresh whipped cream.  I love a good soup so I will be making this again without a doubt.  One of my kids ate three bowls of it!

beef barley vegetable soup (adapted from allrecipes.com)
1 (3 pound) beef chuck roast
1/2 cup barley (next time I will use a full cup- it was yummy!)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon oil
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 (16 ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables
5 cups water
5 cubes beef bouillon
1 tablespoon white sugar (I think I forgot to add that; can't remember!)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (28 ounce) can Italian style tomato puree
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

In a slow cooker, cook roast until very tender (usually 4-5 hours on high) with 1 cup water and 1 beef bouillon cube.  Add barley and bay leaf during the last hour of cooking.  Remove meat and chop into bite-size pieces.  Discard bay leaf.  Set beef, broth and barley aside.
Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Saute carrots, celery, onion and frozen mixed vegetables until tender.  Add water, beef bouillon cubes, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, tomato puree and beef/barley mixture.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10-20 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, March 26, 2012

fresh pinwheel sandwiches









Saturday was a gorgeous day.  The kind of day you'd dream about after a cold weather.  Our winter has been worse than the east coast, believe it or not!  Not complaining just bummed that we missed such a great east coast winter!  These sandwiches were a huge hit in this family and perfect after laboring in our yard all day.  My girls liked how fancy they appeared and I loved how simple they were to make and no pots and pans to clean!  We'll be enjoying these again and again all spring/summer long.

fresh pinwheel sandwiches
1 package extra large garlic and herb tortillas (I used Pancho brand)
1 (8 ounce) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/2 envelope Ranch dressing mix
few teaspoons milk
smoked ham
smoked turkey
sliced Swiss cheese
sliced tomato
lettuce leaves

Mix the cream cheese with half a package of Ranch dressing mix (you want to flavor the cream cheese but don't want it too "ranchy").  Add milk as necessary to create a smooth consistency.  Spread the cream cheese onto the tortillas (you'll have enough to make 6-8).  Lay the meat all over the tortilla.  Add a "stripe" of Swiss cheese.  Add a "stripe" of sliced tomato.  Put lettuce over half the tortilla.  Starting at the bulkiest side of the tortilla, roll up into a pinwheel.  Place the tight pinwheel into plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes so the pinwheel retain their shape when you unwrap them.  When ready to serve, cut into 1-inch slices.  Delicious!
These are great to make in advance and have on hand for quick lunches or snacks.  They can be stored in the fridge unsliced for several days.

coffee cake in a jiffy









I have always loved this coffee cake made from Jiffy Baking Mix.  When I was a kid the recipe was on the box but when I went to make it the recipe was not on the box so I felt lucky to find the recipe online.  This coffee cake reminds me of the little round Hostess coffee cakes my friend Tammy and I used to eat in first grade when we'd go to her house for a play date.  Everyone in the family loved it.  The cake is sooo soft and the topping is perfect.
P.S.  Jiffy works just as well as Bisquick in most recipes that call for it and is much less expensive.

coffee cake in a jiffy (Jiffy)
2 cups JIFFY baking mix
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted

topping
1 tablespoon JIFFY baking mix
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup brow sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I've never made it with nuts) 

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and 8-inch square pan.
Blend together batter ingredients and spread into prepared pan.  Combine topping ingredients and "sprinkle" over batter (it's hard to sprinkle so I plop it all over).  Bake 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

cold asparagus vinaigrette









I love asparagus and it doesn't hurt that asparagus is an aphrodisiac (at least that's what my husband insists).  I love it roasted and I love it this way, especially as spring is approaching.  I am already planning on serving a lot of marinated veggies, salads and wraps.  Yum!

cold asparagus vinaigrette (adapted from my friend Katie B.'s cookbook Greene on Greens)
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 green onion, minced
1/2 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Blanch the asparagus and drain it on paper towels.  Arrange the spears in a shallow serving dish and sprinkle with the minced green onion.  Place the garlic and salt in a small bowl and stir together.  Add the mustard and lemon juice.  Add the oil, vinegar and pepper.  Spoon this dressing over the asparagus.  Chill thoroughly before serving.

lemon poppyseed cream cheese cookies

















I love citrus.  I love it so much I bought a bar of lemon soap at Trader Joe's so I can shower with lemon (I highly recommend this!).  These cookies are soft and subtle and definitely have a creamy flavor.  Of course the poppyseeds make them fancy. 

lemon poppyseed cream cheese cookies (blog: Heather's Dish)
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
juice and zest from 1 lemon
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Add the sugars, egg, extract and lemon juice.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated.  Add the zest and the poppy seeds, mix until evenly distributed.  Spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat (I used cooking spray directly on the cookie sheet).  Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.  The cookies will not really change color except on the bottom so be sure to check they're not burning.  Let cool on a rack then they are ready to eat.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

buffalo chicken soup









Yesterday I needed some hot soup.  Not just hot in temperature but spicy hot and I wanted it to be good.  New recipes are always a tad risky but I had faith in this one.  Maybe it's because I trust Frank.  This soup did turn out to be mighty good.

buffalo chicken soup (adapted slightly from blog: How Sweet It Is)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I used a crock pot)
4 tablespoons oil (I omitted and used a little chicken broth)
1 small sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
64 ounces chicken stock
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
sliced whole wheat baguettes, toasted with parmesan cheese
sliced green onions, crumbled gorgonzola and cilantro for topping

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add a couple tablespoons chicken broth.  Add onions with a sprinkle of salt to the pot, stirring to coat, then cook for about 5 minutes until soft.  Add in garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more.  Sprinkle in flour and stir for another 1-2 minutes.  Add stock, Frank's Red Hot, chicken and grated cheeses, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil, then reduce and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring every so often.
Serve soup topped with toasted baguettes, cilantro, green onions and gorgonzola.

tostadas









Yesterday we had a snow day and ended up will a house full of kids around lunch time.  Lucky for me I was able to throw a few ingredients together for some yummy tostadas.  My kids love tostadas.  Two of the kids had never had one.  What?!  I remember visiting Taco Bell with my mom and she would always order me a Tostada.  I loved them and still do only now I prefer to make them at home so we can layer them 3-4 inches high!  This time we didn't have ground beef or refried beans so we used a can of chili.  I passed this time but the kids went nuts.

toastadas
1 pound ground beef cooked with some taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
shredded cheese
shredded lettuce
diced tomatoes or pico de gallo
a dozen tostada shells
for tostadas supreme add: sour cream, guacamole, taco sauce, olives, etc.

Start with a tostada on your plate then start piling on!  Start with refried beans followed by ground beef or shredded chicken, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

scandinavian cherry balls

















We're enjoying a real honest to goodness snow day today!  This is not typical for our town in Oregon but I think when our family moved here we brought some PA snow vibes with us.  We were told to expect a dusting once a year but we've had a handful of dustings and now a real snow day (in fact, this might be our second this year)!  I have had this recipe for years- I learned it during a Foreign Foods class at Ricks College (yes, way back when it was Ricks and not BYU-Idaho).  I wasn't sure what to do with all the leftover maraschino cherries from my daughter's birthday party until I recalled this fun recipe.

scandinavian cherry balls (Foreign Foods Class at Ricks College)
1/2 cup soft butter
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
pinch salt
13-15 maraschino cherries
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix butter and 1/4 cup sugar until creamy.  Add flour, salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Fold dough around 1 cherry at a time making small balls (it helps if you take about a tablespoon of dough,  make a ball and then flatten with your fingers before folding it around the cherry).  Bake 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool.  Roll cookies in remaining sugar.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

rice and sage stuffed pork chops









Angeli hosted this month's gourmet club and prepared these mouth-watering rice and sage stuffed pork chops.  They were sooooo good.  I know I will make these for my family soon.

rice and sage stuffed pork chops (Angeli got the recipe from her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook)
1 cup cooked rice (Angeli used jasmine rice)
1/3 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 pork loin rib chops, cut 1 1/4 inches thick
dash pepper
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
2 teaspoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt or dairy sour cream
1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley, crushed

For stuffing, in a small bowl stir together rice, carrot, green onions, sage, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Trim fat from chops.  Cut a pocket in each chop by cutting from the fat side almost to the bone.  Spoon stuffing into chops.  If necessary, secure pockets with wooden toothpicks.  Place chops on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Bake in a 375 oven for 35 to 45 minutes or till no pink remains and juices run clear.
Meanwhile, for sauce, in a small saucepan cook mushrooms in hot butter till tender.  Stir in flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and dash pepper.  Gradually stir in milk.  Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly.  Cook and stir for 1 minute more.  Remove from heat.  Stir in yogurt or sour cream and parsley.  Heat through but do not boil.  To serve, remove wooden toothpicks.  Spoon sauce atop chops.  Makes 4 servings.

mint brownie pie









The theme for gourmet club this month was GREEN.  What's better than green mint and chocolate for dessert?!  The brownie part of this pie was more like a fudge.  Wow!  Thanks Dee Anna!

mint brownie pie (my friend Dee Anna made this pie)
6 tablespoons butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour

filling
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
green food coloring, optional
1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
additional whipped topping and chocolate chips, optional

In a large saucepan, melt butter and chocolate.  Stir in sugar until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Stir in flour until well blended.
Pour into a greased 9-inch springform pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in extract and food coloring if desired.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spread evenly over brownie layer.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Remove sides of pan just before serving.  Melt chocolate chips; drizzle over the top.  Garnish with whipped topping and additional chocolate chips if desired.

cucumber cups stuffed with crab, bacon and scallions













I made these cucumber cups for gourmet club this month.  I began with a recipe that is all over the internet but wasn't happy with the results so decided to go my own way.  I had to do something with cucumber cups because I thought the presentation was pretty neat.

cucumber cups stuffed with crab, bacon and scallions
3 english cucumbers
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup reduced fat cream cheese, softened
2 (6 ounce) cans crab meat, excess water removed
3 tablespoons cooked, crumbled bacon
1 teaspoon Red Hot
3 tablespoons minced green onion
few dashes Creole seasoning or Old Bay seasoning 

Remove the peel from the cucumbers.  Cut the cucumbers into 2-inch slices.  Using a small melon baller, scoop out most of the inside.
In a bowl combine the mayo, cream cheese, crab, bacon, Red Hot, minced green onion and a couple dashes of seasoning.  Fill each of the cucumber cups with the crab mixture.  Refrigerate until ready to serve then sprinkle with a little more seasoning before serving.

creamy artichoke soup









My friend Kris made this creamy artichoke soup for our gourmet club today and it was absolutely delicious and when I read the recipe I realized I shouldn't have felt as guilty as I did eating it- I love that!  I will be making this recipe again for sure!

creamy artichoke soup (my friend Kris found this recipe at Food Network)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, washed and well chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 (8 ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish

Heat oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat.  Add the leeks and the garlic and stir.  Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the artichokes, stock, salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.  
Using a handheld immersion blender or in a blender in batches, puree the soup.  Add the 2 tablespoons mascarpone and blend again to combine.  In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/3 cup mascarpone to soften.
Ladle the soup into serving bowls.  Dollop the top of each of the soups with a spoonful of the softened mascarpone cheese and to the cheese with chives.

gourmet club march 2012 (theme: green)










Gourmet club this month was a success.  It was delicious!  Here's what we enjoyed:

cucumber cups stuffed with crab, bacon and scallions
creamy artichoke soup
salad with cranberry vinaigrette and spiced nuts
sage and rice stuffed pork chops
mint brownie pie
disneyland mint juleps

Monday, March 19, 2012

store bought favorites: green and red thai curry sauces





























Dinner tonight was exceptional considering it came from two bottles.  My husband came home from work earlier than usual and couldn't resist trying a bite or two.  He was disappointed that tonight he is going out to dinner.  He's right though, these dishes are wonderful and perfectly satisfying.  My husband took me out to a Thai restaurant a couple weeks ago and I have to say we should've stayed home and made Trader Joe's curries.  My entire family ate it right up and we could not decide which sauce we liked better.  The green has more of a kick to it and the red is a bit sweeter but the flavors are so different it's hard to choose.

trader joe's curry sauces
You simply cook your meat and vegetables then add the sauce and simmer.  You can simmer until it is heated through or simmer longer like I did. 
For the green curry simmer sauce I cooked steak with asparagus and green bell pepper.
For the red curry sauce I cooked chicken and steak with carrots and white onion.
You can't go wrong! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

four layer dessert









This evening my youngest daughter asked me how to celebrate St. Patrick's Day tomorrow.  I told her we'd celebrate by eating leftovers of our four layer dessert.  That's my best idea so far and it's a pretty good idea because this dessert is good.  The crust is yummy and I especially liked the cream cheese layer.  I'm pretty sure this was the first time my kids have ever tried pistachio pudding and they liked it.  You can also make this desert with lemon pudding, chocolate, vanilla, etc.

four layer dessert (slightly adapted from blog: Brown Paper Packages)
3/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted)
1 1/2 cups flour

layer 2
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 large container Cool Whip 

layer 3
2 (3 ounce) packages instant pudding
3 cups cold milk

layer 4
1/2 large container Cool Whip (original recipe calls that you make your own from whipping cream with a little powdered sugar and vanilla

Combine crust ingredients and press into a buttered 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes then let cool.  Beat the cream cheese until smooth and then add the powdered sugar.  Fold in the Cool Whip until  it's completely incorporated, then spread the mixture on top of the cooled crust.  Mix pudding and milk until thick then spread on top of the cream cheese layer.  Spread the rest of the Cool Whip on top.  Sprinkle with nuts or sprinkles.  Refrigerate until time to serve.

Monday, March 12, 2012

cinnamon crescent rolls









Need cinnamon rolls in a pinch?  Here's your answer.  They're simple and quick to make.  This was our family home evening treat and a treat it was!

cinnamon crescent rolls (jennifercooks.com)
2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup white or brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
milk as needed (I did not need to add any) 

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine butter, sugar and cinnamon; mix until smooth.
Separate dough into triangles.  Spread each triangle with about 2 tablespoons cinnamon butter mixture.  Roll up each, starting at the widest end.
Place each cinnamon filled crescent roll onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  In a small bowl, blend all glaze ingredients.  Drizzle over warm rolls.

What I have to say- this is a great recipe for little helpers!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

green eggs and ham









A little too late for Dr. Seuss's birthday and a little early for St. Patty's Day but right on time for our preschool lesson about eggs.  I made some plain egg salad for the kids (none of the kids ate it, go figure) and these for the moms.  I really liked them and of course I thought of you, Annie (deviled egg maker extraordinaire) and wished I had your egg plate to put them on. :)

green eggs & ham
6 large eggs, hard boiled, peeled and sliced in half lenthwise
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 slices deli ham, chopped
handful of fresh spinach, chopped
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a saucepan set over medium heat and saute the ham for a minute.  Add the spinach and cook for another minute until wilted.
In a medium bowl, mash 3 of the yolks with mayo, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until smooth.  Add the spinach mixture and stir until well blended.
Stuff egg white halves with filling and serve immediately.  Makes 12.

maple snack cake









Sometimes I bake or cook things thinking my kids won't like them and am surprised by how much they really like them after all.  This was one of those recipes.  They loved  this cake, especially the icing.  I love pleasant surprises!  Next time I think I'll add just a touch of cinnamon to the icing.  Mmmm!

maple snack cake (Cooking Light Magazine, March 2008...I've had this recipe in my "to make" binder for 4 years! )
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
cooking spray

maple frosting
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon whipping cream (I used milk)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted 

Preheat oven to 350.  To prepare cake, combine first 5 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour, baking soda, 1/4 cup pecans and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add syrup mixture to flour mixture; stir until well blended.  Pour batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire rack.
To prepare frosting, combine sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons syrup, cream and 1/8 teaspoon salt.  Beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth (I did this with a whisk and needed to add a bit more milk since I used milk).  Spread frosting evenly over cooled cake; sprinkle with pecans.  Yield: 16 servings

What I have to say- I doubled this recipe and baked it in the baking pan that is larger than a 9x13 (not sure of the dimensions).  Baked it for 30 minutes and it turned out great.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

bird's nest cookies




















Tomorrow I am teaching preschool and I'm using the book Chicken's Aren't the Only Ones as our theme.  This will our snack- I think I'm more excited about them than the kids will be tomorrow!  I am really into birds, nests and eggs right now.  Since I decorated my kitchen with teal, yellow and lime green for Spring I printed off the photo above and framed it to coordinate with everything else.  After I made these cookies I placed a few on a white cake plate for a fun kitchen decoration (we'll see how long they last...).  I love Spring (hurry and get here)!

bird's nest cookies (adapted from Tip Junkie)
12 ounce package chow mein noodles
12 ounce package butterscotch morsels
egg-shaped candies

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat or spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large pot over low heat, slowly melt the butterscotch chips, stirring constantly.  When chips are melted, add chow mein noodles and mix to combine.  Use a 1/4 measuring cup to portion out the cookies onto the baking sheet.  Shape into a nest (this is harder than it looks so mine are not as awesome as Tip Junkie's are!).  Place egg-shaped candies in the center of each cookie.  Allow to set for at least 5 minutes before serving or transferring.

Monday, March 5, 2012

mix-in muffins (or layered)









As my girls and I were reading The Friend magazine yesterday we turned to the kitchen crafts page and liked what we saw so we headed on over to the kitchen.  Instead of making "mix-in" muffins we decided to put our goodies in the center of the muffin like a roommate of mine used to do our freshman year of college.  She would put blobs of jelly in the center but we chose to put a combination of homemade blueberry jam and 3-4 large, plump blueberries.  The outcome was very enjoyable.  The muffin was soft and light and not-too-sweet.  The inside was sweet and fresh.

mix-in muffins (slightly adapted from The Friend Magazine, March 2012)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon slat
mix0ins of your choice: dried fruit, chopped bananas, chopped apples, chocolate chips, jelly, berries, chopped nuts, jam, butterscotch chips, shredded coconut, etc.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a muffin pan with 12 liners or grease and flour the pan.
Mix together the egg, milk and oil in a bowl.
Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Mix until just combined.  Batter will have some lumps.
Place 1-2 teaspoons of a mix-in in the bottom of each muffin cup. Fill each cup half full with batter.  Use a toothpick to stir in the mix-in.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes and then remove the muffins from the pan.

What I have to say- we put 1 tablespoon muffin batter in our muffin liner followed by 1 teaspoon blueberry jam and 4 blueberries then covered it up with more muffin batter.