Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve Dinner

We started this tradition when my oldest was a young girl so she could feel a part of the New Years festivities. She would never make it to midnight and would be upset about it the next day. We then started to have a New Years dinner where we ate nothing but appetizers, crab, and shrimp.  Happy New Year to all of you and I hope you enjoy this day with your family:)

Now years and years later, my oldest is at her girl friends house, my hubby has to work 3rd shift, and I myself may not be able to keep my eyes open til the clock strikes midnight! I used to be such a party animal!

The plan for dinner tonight is a bit reserved since it will only be the three of us. In the crock pot I have some cranberry meatballs with chili sauce going, we will have peel and eat shrimp, and ground sirloin, onions and crackers for the hubby and I. This will more than fill us up!

Cranberry Meatballs

1 can Oceanspray Jellied Cranberries
1 jar Heinz Chili Sauce
1 package frozen Meatballs

Place all the above ingredients in a crock pot and let simmer on high for four hours.  Stir halfway through. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Favorite Egg Salad Sandwich

I love deviled eggs and use this same recipe for those and my egg salad sandwiches. The egg salad recipe has one addition, sweet pickle relish. This recipe is great for those times when you want something filling but don't want to eat a meaty sandwich. Six eggs can feed a family of four at two sandwiches each. My preference is Miracle Whip but this recipe isn't bad with regular Mayo either.

The Perfect Egg Salad Sandwich
6 eggs (boiled, peeled, and chopped)
3 TBSP Miracle Whip
1 dash mustard powder
1 squirt Dijon mustard
1 TBSP sweet pickle relish
1 pinch Cayenne
salt and pepper
toasted white bread

After the eggs have been shelled, add them to a bowl and use a knife to cut into fine pieces. I chop the knife through the bowl and then use a fork to get any of the big remaining pieces. Add the Miracle Whip, mustard powder, Dijon, Cayenne, and salt and pepper. Stir and taste for salt. Lastly add the relish and stir. Serve on toasted white bread.

*This is my fool proof way for getting perfect boiled eggs. Place eggs in cold water and bring up to a rolling boil. Set an egg timer to 12 minutes. At the twelve minute mark turn off the heat and let sit in the warm water for 20 minutes. Drain water and cover eggs with cold water. Older eggs also peel easier. Use eggs that are a week old at least.

Friday, December 28, 2012

No More Ham!... For A While! Split Pea Soup

I wrapped up the last of our 14lb ham last night and tucked it safely away in the freezer. Not before making one last ham dish, Split Pea Soup. Our ham was ginormous and way too much for a family of four.

The weather has been so cold here. I am in Wisconsin and this is winter after all. We have had a mild winter so far so I really can't complain! Nothing sounds better to me on one of those days than a nice warm bowl of soup. Split Pea is one of those soups you can make really cheaply. The 16 ounce bag of dried peas was less than a dollar. It made a huge kettle of soup. I also use this soup base. It comes in a huge container for under $4.00 and I use it in everything including Arroz con Pollo.

Back to the soup... I save my ham bone if I have one. If you don't have one you can also used a ham hock. These are very inexpensive in the meat department but give amazing flavor. You will also need 3 carrots cleaned and cut into coins, one peeled whole onion,  two potatoes pealed and diced, 3-4 TBSP chicken soup base, and 6-8 cups of water. Season with one TBSP salt and a dash pepper. Don't forget to add two whole bay leaves.

Wash and sort the split peas and get rid of any ones that catch your eye, Add the peas, diced ham, ham hock, or ham bone,  and the water along with the salt. Let boil for one hour on medium low heat. At this time you can add the veggies. The veggies are very hearty and will hold up to long cooking. Continue to boil for another hour. Mix occasionally so the peas won't stick to the bottom of the pot. Then add the chicken soup base and taste for flavoring. At this time you can also add the pepper and more soup base if you need it. The soup will thicken when it sits. If you have a ham bone or hock remove and let cool and pick the ham off and add it back to the soup. Be sure to remove the Bay leaves and serve with your favorite crusty bread made into croutons or a bunch of crackers. This is one of the soups that really is better on the second day!

Cuisinart Classic Stockpot - 8-QUART - Cuisinart Chef's Classic (Google Affiliate Ad)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and Peppermint Pie for Dessert

We had grilled cheese sandwiches this afternoon and I froze a large amount of ham tonight. It looks like a week of ham. We had a 14 pounder and will be using it for the next few days. One of the easiest ways is Scalloped potatoes with ham. I use this versatile cheese sauce for everything from Mac and Cheese to cheesy chili fries.

Peel and cut 8-10 potatoes into uniform circles. Otherwise they won't bake evenly. Par boil them in salted  boiling water for 5-10 minutes. While they are boiling start the cheese sauce in a medium sauce pan. Firstly turn the heat on medium low and use two table spoons butter to 2 TBSP flour. Use a whisk and stir until medium brown. Add the milk and continue to stir until there are no lumps. Keep the heat on low and begin adding the cheese while stirring. Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining cheese. Bring to just below a boil and make sure the cheese is melted. Pour over the drained par boiled potatoes and add diced ham. Stir and season the whole casserole with salt and pepper. Bake for 35-45 minutes uncovered or until potatoes are fork tender.

Cheese Sauce for the scalloped potatoes:
1 cup milk (we use skim)
2 TBSP flour
2 TBSP butter
1 cup cheddar cheese or taco cheese
salt and pepper
1 cup diced ham

Bobby Deens' Peppermint Pie

I saw this on the Cooking Channels' Christmas show. Bobby Deen made this delicious looking Peppermint Pie. I had wanted to make it yesterday for Christmas but didn't have the marsh mellow fluff. I shortened a few of the steps. Here is how I made it.

1 Oreo pre made pie crust
15 peppermints crushed (great for taking out aggression with a rolling pin)
1 7oz container of marsh mellow cream
2 TBSP milk
1 8oz container lite cool whip
1 small package clear gelatin
1/4 cup warm water

Crush the peppermints and mix into a medium sauce pan the marsh mellow fluff and milk. Continue stirring over low heat until the peppermints have melted as well as the marsh mellow. Remove from the heat and bring to room temperature. In a separate bowl stir the packet of gelatin and the warm water. Stir until dissolved. Add to the cooling marsh mellow mixture. When fully cooled fold in the container of Cool-Whip. Pour into the pre-made pie crust and refrigerate for 4 hours. (mine didn't make it in the fridge so long)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Ham Dinner...

I hope all of you are having a Merry Christmas! I started my ham at 9:30 AM with a dinner time of around 2:30 PM. I got a huge ham this year (14lbs) so there will be plenty for left overs for my family. I glaze it about every half hour with pineapple juice, ginger ale, and orange juice.  I like to use the ham bone for split pea soup or potato soup.

I am making all of the usuals. My Mom makes this wonderful coleslaw that she has passed down to me. I am putting the finishing touches on it. It has crushed pineapple, mini marsh mellows, Miracle Whip, sugar, and a head of cabbage. This is a must at every holiday. Along with the deviled eggs.

I am also roasting some yams with the ham. I will be mashing them with some brown sugar and heavy cream to make whipped sweet potatoes. I top them with marsh mellows and bake until they are melted. Sometimes I add brown sugar or Karo syrup to the mix.

For the veg we are having a simple mixed vegetable. I made a Bechemel sauce this morning and will be pouring that over the veggies. The ham is glazed with my favorite glaze: ginger ale, pineapple juice (I reserved this from the coleslaw), and orange juice. I baste my ham about every half hour.

Finally are my to die for mashed potatoes. I use cream cheese and heavy cream to give the perfect creaminess.

Something new I am trying this year is Parm-spinich pinwheels. It was my first time making these. Some things you need to remember are: you have to drain and squeeze the spinach to get out the excess water and you have to make sure you make the cut all the way through the dough. I think I made mine really thick. It says you are supposed to get 20 out of one roll. I got about 9 maybe 10.

Monday, December 24, 2012

More Cookie Making...Almond Joy Balls and

I have been so busy with finals that I didn't have time to share the different cookies I make. (and I had the flu for the entire past week) I cannot make the cookies fast enough! I make them and usually they are gone within a day or two. I made three different types to hand out as gifts. Money is tight this year. The spritz cookie dough turned out perfect, unfortunately, they didn't make it. My cheap cookie press broke and I burnt the only batch that turned out!

Peanut Brittle
Good thing I made these Almond Joy type cookies from Alton Brown and Trisha Yearwoods' Pecan Tassies and Peanut Brittle. They both were a big hit! Last night I also made my first Cashew brittle. Not everything turns out perfect! It was a bit thick. I know I need two jelly roll pans next time.

I think Trisha Yearwood is a genus! I was very nervous about making my own brittle. I had cashews on hand and decided to use those. One thing that's essential is a candy thermometer. I started out with 3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of light corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water in a medium stock pot. I attached the candy thermometer to the side and let the temp. come up to 240 degrees. You need a long spoon because it gets very hot. In a separate bowl mix 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. baking soda and reserve. Once the mixture comes up to 240, stir in the nuts. I used cashews. (Trisha used about 3 cups, I used about 1 cup) Then let the caramel go up to 300 degrees in temperature. Remove from the heat and add the baking soda, salt, and the stick of butter. Stir until the butter is melted and pour onto two buttered jelly roll pans. Make sure the mixture is spread thinly. Mine was a bit thick but still tastes good! Let cool and brake into pieces. 
Next up are Alton Brown's Almond Joy Balls. I can't think of what else to call them except for that lol
They are very easy to make and the result is fantastic! I used the Macadamia nuts per the recipe last time and Hazelnut nuts this time. You can use Almonds for the complete Almond Joy experience.
this is right after they were dipped in chocolate
Santa is going to love these treats. I made these very easily. Use one whole bag of coconut shreds, nearly an entire can of sweetened condensed milk, and one small bag of nuts of your choice (about 8 ounces.) Mix the coconut, milk, and nuts together and use a small mellon baller to make the balls. I placed them on parchment paper, but you can also use tin foil. They are very sticky and need to sit in the fridge for a about a hour. Next use a double boiler to melt a bag of Nestle chocolate chips. I used a glass bowl with a pot that had enough water in it but wasn't touching the bowl. If the chocolate wasn't melting enough, I added a bit of water to make it more liquid.

After the chips have melted, turn off the heat and begin adding the balls into the chocolate. Use two forks to get the excess chocolate off. Return to the parchment paper and refrigerate. Then hide them from your family!

I gave them out as gifts and they went over pretty well!  I will be posting the Pecan Tassie recipe at a later date. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Joyful Holiday! I will be posting pictures of the food tomorrow!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Our First Fondue Experience

It was the absolute last day to use our Groupon for The Melting Pot. I have always wanted to go here and decided to celebrate my hubby's and my Birthdays. We are always incredibly early for everything and made it up to Brookfield a hour before our ressie. Luckily, the drinks were half price. Normally they run about $10.00. We were called pretty close to our 7:15PM time. Neither my hubby or I had ever fondued before. I am sorry we haven't.

The tables come with a electric burner in the middle. We started out with the Wisconsin Cheese and Beer fondue. The server brings the ingredients and makes the fondue table side. We were given veggies and bread to dip.
The fondue was delicious! We then ordered our entrees. My hubby had the Surf and Turf and I had the Surf and Turf plus chicken. The portions of the entree were smaller than I expected but they have to be small to cook fastly. We chose the Bourgionne style which was in canola oil. We were also given two different types of batter, veggies, and 6 types of dipping sauces.

The prices were very expensive. The cheese fondue was $16.00 for the two of us and our entrees were $23 and $25.00 each. We passed on the dessert.

I can see coming here on a special event. Overall we thought the experience was fun. It's just something we wouldn't do without a Groupon or discount of some type. This is also not a place you want to bring small children..

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Croque Madame Muffins Special Breakfast Day

I am love with this new Cooking Channel show " Little Paris Kitchen" with Rachael Khoo. She made this awesome breakfast Croque Madame Muffins. I made them this morning with some fried potatoes for our "Special Breakfast Day." I think this would make the perfect Christmas morning meal! I made mine with regular store bought bread and instead of making a standard Bechemel white sauce, I made mine with cheddar cheese. It's the same sauce I make for my mac and cheese.
The sauce:
In a sauce pan mix 2 TBSP butter and flour. Mix with a whisk over medium low heat until it becomes light brown. Add 1 cup milk (we use skim), and bring just to under a boil. Stir to get out all the lumps. Also, if you let the sauce sit it will get lumps. Add 1/4 cup grated cheese *I used cheddar. Mix with the whisk until the cheese is melted. You want the sauce to thicken. Remove from the heat and add a pinch of Dijon mustard and nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
While that is going, take six slices of bread and butter both sides. I left the browned crusts on. Fit into muffin tins and be careful not to rip the bottom.
Add a slice of  ham to the bottom. To that place a egg over. Lastly top with a TBSP of the cheese sauce.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. We like our eggs a little more done so I increased the heat to 400 after 15 minutes and let it bake for another 5 minutes. We made two per person. You could easily make the whole 12. They were delicious!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Soda Stream Houseparty and 7 Layer Taco Dip

Today was my party for the Soda Stream system brought to me by I have done about 5 different parties for them but couldn't be more excited to get this party! I got my system on the 4th and it came with a ton of goodies. I got about 30 different flavors for us to sample. My family was instantly hooked! I am taking the money I was wasting weekly on buying soda and putting it towards Disney!
My guests needed something to eat. Houseparty gave me popcorn but I made this delicious 7 layer taco dip. It's sure to be a hit in your house!

Layer 1 and 2
Mix one package cream cheese(room temp_ and 1 container sour cream together with a package of taco seasoning. I also add 3-4 packets of Taco Bell hot sauce.  Spread over the bottom of a disposable platter or tray. Over that spread one can of refried beans. This makes two trays.
Layer 3 Guac.
Take two ripe avocados, a tsp of lemon juice, and a dash of Adobo(found in the Hispanic section of the grocery)and smash with a fork. The lemon juice will prevent the avocado from browning. Spread over the beans and cream cheese.

Layers 4-7 are the veggies of your choice and cheese. I used black olives, tomatoes, and cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and serve with your favorite chips.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark

This will make the perfect homemade Christmas gift, White Chocolate Peppermint Bark. Wrap it in a cellophane bag and that's one gift down! I like this recipe because you can also take out your aggression with  a rolling pin. I also waited until my hubby was ready to go to sleep from 3rd shift. Payback!

First line a baking sheet with tin foil. Spray a medium sized glass/ microwave safe bowl with Pam. Add two bags of white Toll House chocolate chips. In a plastic bag, add 20 peppermints or Starlight mints. Pound them out within a inch of their lives with a rolling pin.

Microwave the 2 bags of chips in 25 second intervals  stir in between  I had to do this about 4-5 times. Don't burn or the mixture will get lumpy. It's ok to have a few whole chips. They will melt from the residual heat. Add 1/2 of the crushed mints and stir. Pour out onto the covered baking sheet. Top with the remaining mints. Chill in the fridge and fold over the tin foil to break the bark into pieces. Next, hide it from your family and enjoy!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Let the Cookie Making Begin! Peanut Butter Blossom and Mexican Cake Cookie

Here in Wisconsin it's been unseasonably warm. I just can't get into the holiday spirit without snow! Either the world is going to end in 20 days or we will make it to Christmas. I am betting on Christmas! One way to jump start my Christmas spirit is to begin baking Xmas cookies.

I have an affection for Reese's peanut butter cups and this recipe incorporates plenty of peanut butter flavor along with the delicious milk chocolate of the peanut butter cup. I use a mini muffin tin to make the perfect cookie. Not everyone may look perfect but those can be cooks treat! I store both my flour and cookies in a huge Tupperware "Thatsabowl." The cookies will keep for about 3 weeks in a sealed container if your family doesn't eat them all!
kinda looks like snow?

Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Blossoms Yields: 3 dozen cookies

You can either make this recipe the traditional way, with Hershey's Kisses smooched into the middle or this way.

1 pkg. Reece's mini peanut butter cups unwrapped
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 stick softened butter or 1/2 c.
1 tsp vanilla (or one cap full)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar reserved for dusting.

Cream the butter, peanut butter, sugar,along with the vanilla and egg using an electric mixer. Gradually add in the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar into the butter and mix until incorporated.

Roll a teaspoon of the dough into balls and roll into the reserved sugar. Place the balls  into greased mini muffin tins.(no need to press down) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and  push one peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie. You may have to push them down more than once. Use a spoon to help you remove the cookies from the tins.

Next I made the Mexican Wedding Cake Recipes. I prefer the Paula Deen recipe. It's the closest to what my Grandmother made. I like that she uses Pecans rather than walnuts.(walnuts make me itchy) I get my love of cookie making from my Grandmother. Each year she would spend weeks making cookies. I only wish she would have left me the recipes. She would make spritz cookies in the shape of Christmas trees and other shapes. That is my next task. I also plan on making peppermint bark. I will post that as soon as I make it.

Paula Deens' Mexican Wedding Cookies Yields 3 dozen      

1 cup of unsalted butter softened (2 sticks)
1/2 c. confectioners sugar plus extra for dusting the cookies in
1 tsp vanilla extract (or one cap full)
1 3/4 c. all purpose flour *plus extra for dusting hands
1 cup pecans * I hit mine with a rolling pin a few times in a Zip loc

Preheat oven to 275. Baking time is 40 minutes.
Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together along with the vanilla. Add in the flour little by little. You may have to pull the mixer out of the dough and spin a few times to clear the beaters. Fold in the pecans with a spoon.
 Flour your hands and take one teaspoon of the dough. I roll mine into a circle first and then form into crescents. Try to keep the size consistent so they bake evenly. You don't need much room between each cookie since they will not rise. I use one baking sheet for all of them. Be sure to flour your hands between each cookie. After the 40 minutes sacrifice one of the cookies to check for doneness. *The dough is also safe to eat raw because there are no raw eggs in it! Let cool for a few minutes and roll in the reserved confectioners sugar.The cookies should still be warm, but not hot! Store in an air tight container.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Turkey Soup

The onion is cooks' treat
I like to make soup at least once a week during winter. Today I started a pot of turkey soup right before I had to go to school. Right after we carved our turkey, I put the carcass in some tin foil and off to the freezer. This morning I put about 8 cups water, the carcass, one onion whole, 2 stalks of celery, 2 carrots cut into coins, and one potato diced. It's ok to put in these veggies because they will retain their shape.

I let the pot boil on medium heat for about a hour and a half. I then remove the carcass and let it cool down so I could pick the meat off. I added 1 tsp salt and about 2 TBSP chicken soup base to the soup. I checked it for seasoning and added the meat back in. I added more water because of the turkey carcass being taken out. I then let the soup cool and put it in the fridge for my hubby to heat up for dinner. If I were home I probably would have made some dumplings to go in it. This soup is a holiday favorite.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Next Day Dinner

We have been eating left over today starting with lunch. There wasn't much turkey left over from our 13 pounder. For dinner I decided to use the left overs to make a feast. Still the same ingredients, but it tasted different. I saw this cool recipe on Foodnetwork for coquettes. They are little potato pancakes that are dipped in bread crumbs and fried until golden. I adapted the recipe a bit because I am out of ingredients but they still turned out fantastic!

Potato Coquettes

Let me preface this and tell you how I make my smashed potatoes. This year I used yellow potatoes. Normally I use red. I peeled and cut them into 4th and boiled them in water until fork tender. I then mixed them with 1/4 package cream cheese and started to mix them with 1/4 heavy cream, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

3 cups cold mashed potatoes
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup Canola oil
salt and pepper
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg for dipping
a splash of milk

Mix the egg yolk in with the potatoes. Take a handful of mashed potatoes and make a patty with your hands. Set on a foiled tray and repeat until you have exhausted all of your mashed potatoes. I got about 9 patties out of this.
 Put the tray in the fridge to harden the mashed potatoes for about 5 minutes. Next dip the patties in the beaten egg and into the bread crumbs. Move into a frying pan and oil that has been heated. The oil should go mid way up the patties.
Fry for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Let drain on paper towels and serve!

I then used the left over gravy and turkey and served that with the potatoes. It was delicious!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Coming Out of a Turkey Coma...

I hope you are enjoying your Thanksgiving with your family! I have been stuck sitting in the recliner for the past two hours trying to digest the huge dinner I laid out. I haven't roasted a turkey in the oven for about 8 years. My hubby had been deep frying it. Times are tough this season so I bit the bullet and decided to forgo the fryer this year.

I started out about 7:30A.M.  with the bird in the sink. I had had it in the freezer since Saturday but it was still a bit frozen. I finally got it thawed out and into the oven around 9. I rubbed it down with some softened butter, Rosemary, Thyme, and salt. I covered the breast and drumsticks with a foil triangle.

The next item on my list was to make the Deviled eggs. You can make these the night before, but they will not make it to the table in my house. These are a must in our house for any special occasion. I either have to hid them or not make them until right before the event. Older eggs work better in this recipe. They peel easier.

Easy Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 pinch Cayenne
salt and pepper
mayonnaise (start out with 3 TBSPs)
A pinch of Paprika for the top

Add the eggs to a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil for 11 minutes and shut off heat. Let them sit on the stove for 10 minutes more and cool by running cold water over them. Once cooled peel the shells and cut eggs down the middle. Use a fork to smash the yolks. Add mayonnaise, mustard powder, Dijon, and Cayenne. Use a teaspoon to fill the egg whites. Refrigerate until ready to serve in a well  hidden place.

While the turkey was roasting in the oven, I basted it every hour with melted butter. I also roasted my own sweet potatoes. I poked holes in them and rolled them in some oil on a baking sheet. I added them to the bottom rack and roasted them until fork tender for about a hour. I then used a beater to mash them. I normally would add about 2 TBSP brown sugar but was out. I added 2 TBSP syrup instead along with butter, salt and pepper. I used a spoon to lay them out into the casserole dish. I topped them with marshmallows  I didn't heat them until the last half hour when the turkey was out of the oven.
Lastly my favorite thing on the menu. To die for stuffing. This recipe came from my Grandmother Virginia, was passe on to my Mom, and I have been making it for the last 16 years. I tweaked it a bit and always make two huge baking dishes full. This is even better the next day for left over dinner! Save the giblets from the turkey for this one. I make my stuffing separate from the bird.

The Best Ever Stuffing!

2 Bags Stuffing with sage
2 stalks celery cut into 3rd s and diced
1 onion diced
1 apple cored and diced
1 stick of butter
1 carton chicken broth
the giblets cut into bite sized pieces and sauteed in butter

In a small stock pot add the chicken broth, celery, onion, and apple. Bring to just below a boil to soften. In a small frying pan saute the giblets. Add the stuffing cubes to a large bowl and begin stirring in the chicken broth. You may need to add a bit of water if you run out of broth. Add the giblets and continue stirring and adding broth until you get the consistency you are looking for.  It fills 2 9x13 pans. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 325 degrees. Serve with gravy.