Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sparkling Punch

As someone who doesn't drink alcohol, I am always on the hunt for non-alcoholic drinks for special occasions.  Growing up the standard 'party' drink around my house was lemon-lime flavored soda with lime sherbet floating around in the punch bowl.  While that recipe is tasty, it's nice to have other options available.  This is a light and refreshing drink; bubbly, not too sweet and a pretty color to boot.


1 (6 oz) can lemonade concentrate, defrosted (can use pink or yellow depending on what color punch you are aiming for)
1 liter club soda, chilled
2 (750 millimeter) bottles sparkling apple cider, chilled
1 Tbsp. white sugar, optional (I didn't add the extra sugar, taste your punch beforehand to decide if you would like it sweeter)

2 lemons, chilled
3 large oranges, chilled
2 trays ice (I made ice cubes with premade lemonade so it wouldn't dilute the punch.  I read online that other people made ice cubes with maraschino cherries for added color.  Other people sliced their citrus fruits and froze them instead of adding ice cubes.)

1.  Thinly slice the lemons and oranges and place in a large punch bowl.  Pour in the thawed lemonade.  Gently stir in the club soda and sparkling apple cider.  Add sugar to taste.  Stir in ice.

Yield: 20 servings

Creamed Corn

I know what you're thinking: Creamed Corn?  Really Creamed Corn?!  Creamed corn is slimy and sticky, and gross.  
Not this creamed corn folks.  If your experiences with creamed corn have always been with the stuff in the can, then of course you think that creamed corn is gross.  My neighbor sent me this recipe that she swore would change my outlook on creamed corn.  She was right.  This is sweet, and corny, and creamy, and good.  The cayenne pepper adds just a tiny bit of heat, and the use of butter and heavy cream make it rich and delicious.  
I made this the first time for our Thanksgiving dinner and everyone liked it.  It even reheated well.  The next time I made it was for our annual Christmas party.  With 26 people eating I had to get as much done early in the day as possible.  I made the creamed corn in the early afternoon, put it in a slow cooker on the 'warm' setting and it stayed the right consistency for the party.  


2 (20 oz) pkg. frozen kernel corn (I use white corn, but yellow is fine)
8 oz. (1/2 pint) heavy cream (whipping cream)
8 oz. (1/2 pint) milk - I've used fat free and half-and-half on separate occasions, obviously, the half-and-half made the corn much creamier but the fat free milk was also very good, so feel free to use whatever percentage of fat milk you have on hand.
1 tsp. salt
pinch of white pepper or cayenne according to taste
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. flour

1.  Combine all ingredients except the last two in a medium pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer 5 minutes (if corn is frozen hard it will take longer).  In a separate small bowl, blend the butter and flour; stir into the simmering corn, mix well until corn is thickened to your liking.  Remove from heat.

Yield: 8 servings.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Apple Pie Cookie Bars

Oh, dear reader, this is quite possibly my new favorite dessert.  I know, I have a lot of 'favorite' foods, but honestly.  I know I could eat the entire pan of these bars and be quite content with life.  I know this because I, in fact, just about did that.  When I made them for the first time I texted my neighbor to tell her I had a tasty treat to bring her and then never ended up taking her any.  They all found their way into my happy stomach (over the period of a few days, not all in one sitting).  I normally am a very generous person with my treats, but this one is special.  Short bread is amazing.  Very slightly salty short bread with a caramel apple pie filling and a cinnamony crumble topping? MAGICAL!  Go ahead - share the pan - I dare you.  Or not, just eat it.  I'm not here to tell you how to live your life. 
By the way: your house will smell incredible while this is baking. 

3/4 c. butter at room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt

3 1/2 Tbsp. butter
3 granny smith apples - peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, tossed in a squeeze of lemon juice to coat
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
dash salt

1/2 c. reserved short bread dough
1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9X9" baking pan with parchment (I have skipped this and just sprayed the pan with cooking spray, worked just as well).
2.  Cream together the 3/4 c. butter and 1/2 c. sugar until smooth.  Add vanilla and egg yolk.  Mix well.  Add the 1 1/2 c. flour and 1/4 tsp. salt just until combined, do not overmix.  Reserve 1/2 c. of the dough for the crumble topping.  Press remaining dough into the prepared pan, press as flat as possible.  Bake 16-22 minutes until the edges are just starting to brown.  Remove pan from oven and set aside.
3.  Over low heat, melt butter in a medium saucepan.  In a medium bowl combine the brown sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. flour, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and dash of salt.  Toss the apples in this mixture to coat.  Add all to melted butter in the pan.  Increase the heat to medium; stir 3 minutes until this mixture simmers.  Continue simmering an additional 4 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
4.  Add reserved dough back to the mixing bowl.  Add 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. flour, 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Mix until crumbs formed.
5.  Pour apples over the base crust, spread to the edges of the pan.  Sprinkle with the crumb topping.  Bake 32-27 minutes until the topping is a light-medium brown.  Cool completely before serving (if you can wait that long).

Salted Caramel Butter Bars

Salted Caramel is kind of the rage right now.  A rage that I whole heartedly embrace.  This recipe is not at all for the diet minded.  It uses and entire POUND of butter.  Whatever, I don't care.  I will eat it anyway.

4 sticks (1 lbs.) butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla
4 c. flour
14 oz. bag caramels, unwrapped
1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. coarse sea salt

1.  Preheat oven to 325.  Spray a 9X13" baking dish with cooking spray.
2.  In a large bowl combine the butter and sugars with an electric mixer.  Beat until creamy.  Add vanilla and beat until combined.  Sift the flour into the butter & beat until dough forms.
3.  Press half of the dough evenly onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Refrigerate the other half of the dough.  Bake the bottom crust for 20 minutes until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes.
4.  Place the caramels and the cream in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on HIGH  for 1 minute.  Remove from microwave and stir.  If the caramels aren't melted, return to microwave and heat at 30 second intervals, stirring between each heating until caramels melt.
5.  Pour caramel over slightly cooled bottom crust.  Sprinkle with coarse salt.  Crumble the remaining dough over the top of the caramel.  Bake 25-30 until filling is bubbly and the crumble topping is lightly golden brown.  Cool completely before serving.

Turkey and Quinoa Meatloaf

I love meatloaf.  It is one of favorite comfort foods.  It's so basic and family pleasing and, for me, a quick go to when I run out of ideas for what to make for dinner.  Occasionally ground turkey is less expensive than beef and in a few dishes it is pretty interchangeable.  I happened to have the hankering for meatloaf, but no ground beef, instead there were a few pounds of ground turkey in the freezer.  I found this recipe and have to say it was quite successful.  My kids were not crazy about the sweet 'glaze' that is on top, but I likes how it make it almost teriyaki-like.  

1/4 c. quinoa - well rinsed
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
20 oz. ground turkey
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. hot pepper sauce
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. water

1.  Bring quinoa and 1/2 water to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water has been absorbed, 15-20.  Set aside to cool.
2.  Preheat oven to 350.  Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes; add garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Remove from pan to cool.
3.  Stir the turkey, quinoa, onions, tomato paste, pepper sauce, 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, egg and salt and pepper.
4.  Shape into a loaf and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce and 1 tsp. water.  Rub over the top of the meat.
5.  Bake about 50 minutes until no longer pink in the center, and an instant read thermometer registers 160.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Lasagna Soup

Fall food is some of my very favorite food around.  Comforting, warm, and filling.  This soup is so full of the classic goodness of lasagna, complete with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.  Without all of the fuss of a classic lasagna.

8 oz small shaped pasta such as small shells, bowties, or elbows, cooked according to package directions, drained and set aside.
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lbs. Italian sausage, casing removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
6 c. chicken broth
1 twenty-eight oz can fired roasted diced tomatoes
1 c. shredded zucchini
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1 c. shredded mozzarealla cheese
1/4 c. fresh basil chiffonade, optional, for garnish

8 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese 
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a small bowl combine the ricotta, parmesan and salt and pepper, set aside.
2.  Heat oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the sausage, cook and crumble until no longer pink.  Drain off excess fat drippings.  Add the garlic, onions, oregano and pepper flakes.  Cook stirring frequently until onions are cooked.  Stir in the tomato paste for 1 minute until combined.  
3.  Stir in the stock, tomatoes zucchini, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.  Stir in pasta.  Remove bay leaves.  Serve immediately with a heaping spoonful of the ricotta mixture.  Sprinkle with mozzarella and basil.

Dutch Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze

It is fall.  Fall means wonderful things like apples at their peak of deliciousness.  Fall means things like warm desserts that are taken from the oven and smothered with something buttery, caramely, delicious.  Fall means I'd better step up my work out if I plan to eat things as gooey and sweet and satisfying as this.  And I will be eating things just like this, many, many times this Fall.

7 small to medium baking apples, such as granny smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 16 slices each (I used 3 medium and 4 large and I think it was too many)
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 eggs
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. chopped pecans

6 Tbsp. butter
1/3 c. dark brown sugar
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

1.  Preheat oven to 325.  Butter and flour a 9X13" baking dish.
2.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl combine the eggs, sugars, oil and vanilla.
3.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Fold in the apples and the pecans just until coated (the batter will be very thick).
4.  Spread batter into prepared baking pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
5.  While cake is cooling prepared the caramel glaze:  Over medium heat melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the sugars, cream and a pinch of salt.  Lower the heat to medium-low; cook and stir until blended for about 2 minutes.  Increase the heat back to medium and boil the caramel 2 more minutes stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  Drizzle over cake.