Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Elusive Blackberry Cake

When our husbands were in business school, my friend JoAnna McAllister and I used to bring each others family dinner once a week--just to give each other one night off from cooking. She brought me this cake one night. I have since made it for brunch, too. It's especially good with fresh picked berries!

Elusive Blackberry Cake
(thanks to JoAnna McAllister)

1 stick butter
1 c. sugar (reserve 1 Tblspn. for sprinkling on berries)
2 eggs
1 tsp. lemon extract
Sift together:
1 c. flour
1 tsp. Baking powder
2 baskets blackberries (raspberries are good, too!)

Beat together butter and sugar until light.
Add eggs and extract and mix well.
Add flour and baking powder—mix lightly.
Turn into buttered 8 inch square pan.
Top with berries and sprinkle with remaining 1 Tblspn. sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes.
Garnish with powdered sugar.

**The cake will rise up and bake around the berries, so there is no need to push them down in the batter. Just lay them on top and sprinkle the sugar. Guess that's why it's called "elusive"!

Chicken Piccata

I love chicken piccata. My favorite version can be found at Cheesecake Factory. Ever since Marc and I went there when we were dating, I have been trying to copy their recipe, but it is just never quite as good. I found this recipe in Cuisine At Home and decided to try it. I think it is the closest I've come to Cheesecake Factory and the best version yet!

Chicken Piccata

4 chicken cutlets
2 T. vegetable oil
1/4 c. dry white wine
1 t. garlic, minced
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. capers, drained
2 T. unsalted butter
fresh lemon slices
chopped fresh parsley

Season cutlets with salt and pepper, then dust with flour.
Coat saute pan with nonstick spray, add 2 T. vegetable oil, nad hear over medium-high heat.
Saute cutlets 2-3 minutes on one side, flip over and saute another 1-2 minutes on the other side.
Transfer cutlets to a warm plate; pour off fat from the pan.
Deglaze pan with wine and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic is slightly brown and liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Add broth, lemon juice, and capers.
Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for 1 minute.
Transfer cutlets to warm plate.
Finish sauce with butter and lemons. Once butter is melted, pour sauce over cutlets, garnish with parsley and serve.

**I made this for 4 adults and 6 kids--I used 15 chicken tenders and 4X everything else. I also skipped the "return cutlets to pan and cook for 1 momre minute" step and just added the butter to the sauce and poured the sauce over all the chicken and let it sit a few minutes before serving. I LOVED it!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tastes like candy!

A few weeks after Soren was born, Marc took the girls away for the long Easter weekend. My girlfriend was kind enough to bring me a full plate of Easter dinner. On it, was a serving of mashed sweet potatoes. I am not a yam fan--I don't even carry on the Skidmore tradition of "sweet potato souffle" for Thanksgiving--so I was reluctant to even try these. But having just had a baby, my appetite was out of control, so I dug in. WOW! They were awesome! They tasted just like candy....seriously. I immediately asked for the recipe (which originally came from Joy's sister-in-law). So when Marc came home from his trip, I told him about these, and since he didn't like sweet potatoes either, his lack of excitement kind of burst my enthusiasm for these. Needless to say, the recipe stayed in my "recipe folder" on my email, never being printed, and never being made--until this Christmas, that is. We had my inlaws and neighbors over for dinner, so I figured it would be a good time to make these--because even if Marc wouldn't eat them, at least someone would. Well, to make this long story short, he LOVED them, and even made the comment "they're just like candy!"

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
(thanks to Joy, and her sister-in-law Natalie)

3 c. cooked mashed yams (about 2-3 yams)
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick of softened butter

Peel, cut and boil yams until soft. After they are cooked, mash them together with the above ingredients, making a mashed potato consistency. Spoon into a casserole dish and top with topping:

1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. butter

Mix together to form a crumble and spread over mashed yams. Top with pecan bits--the more, the better.

**I doubled this, of course!!!

Christmas Eve Appetizer

Marc's family tradition is for everyone to bring an appetizer for Christmas Eve dinner. Even though we weren't with family the past two years, we have gotten together with friends who carry on this tradition. This year, I made these:

Cheesy Spinach Pinwheels
(thanks to

1 can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
6 Tblspn. garlic herb spreadable cheese (I found this in the deli section)
6 slices cooked deli ham
24-30 fresh spinach leaves
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Separate dough into 4 rectangles; press perforation to seal.
Spread rectangles with cheese to within 1/4" of edges; top with ham and spinach.
Starting at shortest side, roll up each rectangle; press edges to seal.
Cut each roll into 6 slices.
Place cut side down on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 12-18 minutes, until golden brown.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Farmhouse Ham Chowder

Yesterday was a great day for soup; cold, windy, and home from church. I tried this new recipe, courtesy of Taste of Home's Simple & Delicious. The soup base is milk & dry Ranch dressing, so I was a bit concerned that it would just taste like Ranch with stuff in it--but it didn't. In fact, I would never have guessed it had that seasoning in it at all. Super easy, went together really fast, and hearty enough to fill us up. Perfect for a cold day!

Farmhouse Ham Chowder
(Simple & Delicious, March/April 2008)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
4-1/4 cups milk
2 cups frozen cubed hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, shredded

In a large saucepan, saute the onion, celery and red pepper in butter until vegetables are crisp-tender.
Stir in flour and dressing mix until smooth; gradually stir in milk.
Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
Add the potatoes, corn, ham and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until heated through.
Sprinkle with cheese before serving.
Yield: 8 servings (2 quarts).

My new favorite holiday cookie!

My friend Joy has made these cookies every year for my cookie exchange party. Every year, I hoard them to myself and try not to share them. This year, when Marc and I were in the kitchen arguing over who got the last one, I decided it was time to just get the recipe. Funny thing, it is already a recipe I have, and have posted on here, too! Joy uses Janet's Chunky Chocolate Chip cookie recipe and just adds 2 cups of crushed candy canes (or other peppermint candy). SO good!

Peppermint Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(thanks to Joy & Janet!)

3 sticks butter
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tblspn vanilla
Cream together the above ingredients.

Then add:
3 1/4 c. flour
1 c. cake flour OR 1c. + 2 Tblspn regular flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
When well mixed, add 2 c. chocolate chunks (one small bag)
2 c. crushed peppermint (candy canes or starlight mints)

Drop by LARGE spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10-14 minutes.

(I cooked them about 10-11min.--then they are still chewy)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peppermint Snowballs

I was trying to figure out what cookie to make for my annual cookie exchange party, so I perused one of those emails I am sure you have all gotten with the hundreds and hundreds of cookie recipes. This one caught my eye. I didn't make them for the party, but I've still had rave reviews! So here's the recipe:

Peppermint Snowballs (although they look nothing like a snowball)
(thanks to

1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 1/4 c. butter, softened
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanillla
1 egg
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. finely crushed peppermint candy (divided)
granulated sugar, as needed

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the powdered sugar, butter, peppermint extract, vanilla and egg.
Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy (2-3 minutes).
Reduce speed to low and add flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat, scraping bowl often, until well blended (1-2 minutes).
By hand, stir in 1/2 c. candy.
Shape dough into 3/4" balls; roll in granulated sugar; place 1" apart on cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set.
Cool completely.

Combine 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar and enough milk (2-3 T.) for desired consistency. Drizzle cooled cookies with glaze. Immediately sprinkle with the remaining peppermint candy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Easy Crockpot Roast

Easy Crockpot Roast
(I have no idea where I got this recipe)

1 beef roast, any kind, sized to fit your crockpot
1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 pkg. brown gravy mix
1 pkg. Italian dressing mix
½ c. or more water

Place roast in crockpot. Mix all 3 envelopes of seasonings together and sprinkle in top of roast. Pour ½ c. warm water in bottom of crockpot. Cook on low for 6-7 hours (or until it falls apart--all depends on the size roast).

Great because it makes its own gravy!!!!

White Chicken Chili

This is a delicious soup. I got the recipe from my sister-in-law, Lonni and have passed it on to a few people already. My other sister-in-law (on the other side of the family) made it this year for her ward "chili cook-off" and won 1st you know it's gotta be good!
P.S. She also won 1st place for her cornbread--which is a recipe of mine that I posted a while back! Together, they make a great meal!

White Chicken Chili
(thanks Lonni!)

2 cans white navy beans (rinsed and drained)
4 large poblano chilies or 8 anaheim chilies (roasted, peeled and cut and diced)
1/4 cup butter
2 large onions chopped1/3 cup flour
4 c low salt chicken broth
3 c half and half
4 c cooked and shredded chicken
1 T chili powder
1 T hot pepper sauce
1 T ground cumin
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
(can add more spiced for hotter taste)
1 1/2 c grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 c sour cream

Melt butter in a large stock pot over med. heat.
Add onions and saute until tender, about 15min.
Add flour and stir 5 min. (do not brown).
Gradually whisk in chicken broth and half and half.
Simmer gently until thickened, about 10 min.
Add reserved white beans and roasted chilies, shredded chicken and spices.
Simmer gently to blend flavors, about 20 min.
Add sour cream and most of your cheese (save some to go on top)-- heat until heated through and cheese melts (do not boil).
Top with cilantro and cheese.

**To roast chilies: you can either throw them on the BBQ on medium heat and turn frequently until browned or roast them over an open gas flame on your stovetop (which is what I did this time). Honestly, I didn't peel them, just diced them small. I also only put in about 1/2 this time because my parents were in town and they don't like hot stuff--and this can get quite spicy depending on how many peppers you put in.

Bethlehem Pork & Tzatziki Sauce

I made about 50lbs. of pork roast for our ward Christmas party Saturday night, which was a reinactment of Bethlehem. Because of our theme, we tried to keep our meal somewhat authentic (even though the biggest faux paux was that Jewish people don't eat pork!). We had pita bread stuffed with shredded pork with tzatziki sauce, deviled eggs, olives, cheese, nuts, olives, and fruit.
I got this seasoning recipe from my friend JoAnna, who also used this recipe for her ward party last year, but she used beef. It was a huge hit in both wards!

Bethlehem Pork (or beef)
(thanks JoAnna!)

about 4lb. pork loin roast (or chuck roast)
2 t. garlic powder
1 t. rosemary
1 t. caraway (this is the one seasoning I couldn't find, so I just left it out)
1 T. minced onion
1 1/2 t. salt
2 t. oregano
1 t. marjoram
1 t. celery seed
1/2 t. red pepper

Mix all the seasoning together. Sprinkle over meat & gently rub in. Cook meat in crockpot (with just a little broth/water to cover the bottom) on LOW for 8-9 hours, or until meat pulls apart easily. Shred and stuff in pita pocket & serve with tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce
(thanks again to JoAnna!)

2 c. plain yogurt
2 t. garlic
1 t. salt
2 cucumbers, peeled & seeded
1/2 t. pepper
2 t. olive oil
1 t. dill weed

Put all ingredients in Cuisinart until mixed well. Keep in refrigerator.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pecan Tassies

A friend from Rochester, NY made these for a farewell luncheon she put on for me when we moved to Boston. I am not a pecan pie fan, but I fell in love with these. They are so easy, I don't know why I wait until Thanksgiving to make them. I think I ate 90% of them myself--I was just so easy to pop one in my mouth while on the go with the kids! :) (FYI: they taste even better with a dollop of whipping cream on top, but do that just before serving!)

Pecan Tassies
(thanks to Emily Owsley!)

3 oz. cream cheese
½ c. butter
1 c. flour

1 egg
¾ c. brown sugar
1 Tblspn. softened butter
1 tsp. Vanilla
dash of salt
2/3 c. finely chopped pecans

Combine cream cheese, butter, and flour.
Form into ball, wrap and chill for 1 hour.
Mix together egg, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt and finely chopped pecans.
Roll out dough 1/8” thick and use 3-inch circle cutter.
Place circle of dough in mini-muffin cups.
Fill with brown sugar-pecan filling.
Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Garnish with whipping cream.