Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Two non-recipes

I didn't plan on making either of these things but I found some vanilla coating that I actually liked (I really don't care for white chocolate much) so I ended up throwing these recipes together. You can Google for more specific recipes if you wish.

The Oreo Truffles were just 1 package of Oreos minus 7 cookies, pulverized in the food processor, then blended with 8 oz of cream cheese. I chilled the mixture then formed it into balls, chilled it again (I read that freezing them would be better to keep the crumbs out of the coating but I didn't have the freezer space), then I dipped them in vanilla coating and sprinkled them with colored sprinkles. Store in the refrigerator. You could use any type of chocolate or coating that you like for these but I think the white coating looks more festive.

The Peppermint Bark was just one layer of chocolate coating sprinkled with chopped candy canes , topped with a layer of vanilla coating topped with chopped candy canes. Let the bottom layer set before adding the top layer. If you want nice cuts, cut it just after the candy sets. If you chill it too long, you'll have to break it into random pieces, it won't cut as nicely. I used two different types of candy canes - Spangler (the one on the bottom in the picture) have better color than Bob's (on top). Oh, I used a small toaster oven tray lined with foil to make this in. It was the perfect size.

The Oreo truffles taste like Oreos. I liked them better than Oreos (I'm not a huge Oreo fan except for the Candy Cane version they had out at Christmas). I liked the creaminess. The peppermint bark was my son's favorite out of all of my holiday treats this year. You can't beat these (non) recipes for simplicity, especially the peppermint bark.

Tonight is New Year's Eve which mean appetizers for us but I still haven't finalized the menu. I really ought to do an appetizer night more than just one night each year. There are just too many to choose from.

Question of the Day: What are your plans for ringing in the new year? I plan to be sleeping at midnight. I'm severely sleep-deprived.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wrapping up Christmas

Rum Balls
Martha Stewart’s Cookies Copyright 2008

Vegetable oil cooking spray
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark rum
Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling I had white and red sugars. Green would be great for Christmas too, of course.


1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. Melt butter and chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Set aside. I used the microwave - I cooked it on high for one minute, then stirred it until smooth.
2. Whisk together eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in chocolate mixture, then fold in flour. Pour batter into prepared baking sheet. Spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake until top is shiny and a cake tester inserted into center comes out with some crumbs attached, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
3. Break up brownie into small pieces; transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With machine on low speed, pour in rum, and mix until crumbs start to come together to form a ball.
4. Shape into 1-inch balls, and roll in sanding sugar to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet; refrigerate, uncovered, until cold, about 2 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Rum balls can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week.

My old rum ball recipe called for nuts (nuts, vanilla wafers, powdered sugar, etc) so I stopped making it when we went nut-free. Some recipes I simply removed the nuts but I wasn't that keen on making that particular recipe without the nuts. I've been on the hunt for a nut-free rum ball recipe and when I saw this one in Martha's lovely Cookies cookbook, I knew I just had to make it.

This will definitely be added to my Christmas cookie line permanently. I might experiment with using bourbon in these too. They're fudgy little bites that just scream Christmas to me. I loved that I got to use up some of the decorative sugars that I had building up in my cupboard. I used a lot more sprinkles and sugars in my Christmas baking this year.

Even though these require a bit of baking, the recipe comes together very quickly (especially if you use the microwave for the chocolate and butter) and there's only a short baking time. The cake cools pretty quickly too so these weren't very labor intensive.

I've had a crazy week so far - lost keys, ignored alarm clocks, etc but I figured I'd better start posting again. I didn't really want to start the new year off posting Christmas recipes so I wanted to get them out of the way.

Question of the Day: Rum balls, bourbon balls or neither?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Not ready to come back yet

I'm still recovering from Christmas. I ended up making about 16 different things this year which might be a record for me.

The baby has been fussy since Christmas so I haven't had a chance to formulate any blog posts but I do have a few things to tell you about so stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful holiday! I'll be back soon.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's going to be quiet around here

There's so much to do and so little time. I probably won't be posting much for the next few weeks. If I happen to make something new, I'll try to report on it but otherwise I'm on a blogging vacation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Baking, Third Recap

This will be the last of the holiday baking recaps. There are probably a few other recipes on this blog that would also be good to make and share this time of the year but after three years of blogging, there are just too many recipes to name every single one.

Chocolate-Peppermint Snaps:

The problem with these mint cookies is that they tend to overpower a cookie tray with their mintiness but they're delicious.

Chocolate Orange Dreams:

I only made these once but I liked them. I think I'd prefer them made with butter but I loved that glossy glaze.


I liked this dough but I didn't care for the fillings I used. This dough would be great with a nut filling.

Five-Grain Cinnamon Bread:

Breads make great gifts and this bread was one of my favorite things ever that I've made on this blog.

Sour Cream Banana Bread:

I've given this banana bread as teacher's gifts and it was well-received.

Pineapple Banana Bread:

I took a loaf of this bread that I had frozen to work one day and it disappeared very quickly. I appreciated it a lot more than when I had just made it. It freezes very well. It stayed nice and moist.

Sour Cream Raspberry Swirl Loaf:

That's a Cooking Light recipe but it was as good as any full-fat recipe.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Experimenting with wings

Silver Spoon Wings
American Profile Hometown Cookbook Copyright 2006

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2-3 pounds chicken wings, cut at the joints and tips discarded

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, except the wings. Whisk marinade ingredients until well blended. Add wings and coat them well. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate for at least one day. Stir occasionally. Place wings on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Baste wings with marinate mixture several times while baking.

I'm always on the lookout for baked chicken wing recipes yet I rarely get around to making them. When I saw this recipe I thought about the pineapple juice I had in the fridge but then I forgot about it. When I saw that they had wings on sale in the grocery store, that jogged my memory.

I usually keep wings whole but I took the time to cut these up. My husband and I make perfect wing partners - he likes the drummy part and I prefer the wingy part. My son likes the meat picked off of them, no matter what part of the wing.

These were good, I think. I was baking and sampling all day and by the time I made these wings, my appetite wasn't what it could have been. I might have been totally gah-gah over these if I had been hungry. Marinating the wings gave them good flavor all the way through. The skin wasn't as crispy as fried but I probably could have baked them a tad bit longer.

This was successful enough that I don't think I'll be forgetting about wings from now on. I'm going to try more wing recipes. I might make it a Saturday night tradition.

This is my contribution to the Weekend Cookbook Challenge that Sara at I Like To Cook is hosting this month. The theme is appetizers. We ate these as a meal but they're technically an appetizer.

Question of the Day: Do you like chicken wings? Do you prefer drummies or wingies? (And does anyone know the proper terms for those parts of the wings?)

Monday, December 15, 2008

For the boy

Gingerbread Men
The Ugly Binder, from

1 (3.5 ounce) package cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. In a medium bowl, cream together the dry butterscotch pudding mix, butter, and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon; stir into the pudding mixture. Cover, and chill dough until firm, about 1 hour. I didn't chill the dough. I immediately rolled it out between sheets of parchment paper.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease baking sheets. On a floured board, roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness, and cut into man shapes using a cookie cutter. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets (they do spread a tad bit). I used cinnamon candies for the buttons, added before baking.
3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks.

I got 22 men but it will depend on the size of your cookie cutter.

My son asked me to make gingerbread men. I said yes but I really didn't want to make them. I really, really didn't want to make them. I've made them before and they were a lot of work and while gingerbread cookies are edible, they are way down on the bottom of my list as far as cookies go.

I wondered if he would even like the taste of gingerbread. I had my doubts so I went looking for something a little less traditional. I found this recipe on It wasn't a traditional gingerbread cookie with molasses but it still had ginger so it wasn't like I was just making sugarcookie men.

I loved these cookies. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED them. They were crisp and a bit spicy. You know I'm a big fan of butterscotch so the butterscotch undertones really worked for me. My son loved them too.

I made these for his teachers and I'll make more for the rest of my cookie trays right before Christmas. I don't usually do cut-out cookies at Christmas but this dough was easy to work with and these were easy to decorate.

I usually only give the teachers one baked good each year since I give them gift cards (and this year I got chocolate figurines in Costco for them too) but yesterday I felt compelled to make these cookies, sugar cookies and brownies. I jazzed everything up for Christmas. I don't know why I can never make things easy on myself.

Question of the Day: Do you like gingerbread cookies?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Baking, Second Recap

Here are more holiday recipes:

Chocolate-Dipped Caramels:

The year I took these picture, I cooked the caramels a bit too long. Last year I didn't and they were lighter in color and softer. This recipe is a PITA since it makes so much but it's delicious.

Peanut Butter Fudge:

It figures that after I finally find the perfect peanut butter fudge recipe, my son was diagnosed as allergic to peanuts. Oh well, you can still enjoy this recipe.

Four Chip Fudge:

This is another recipe that you can enjoy without me. This recipe makes a lot of fudge and it's pretty easy to make except for a bit of elbow grease. It's great for gifts if you're not worried about nuts. It's extremely good too.

Five-Minute Fudge:

I haven't found any nut-free fudge recipes that knock my socks off but this one, with mini marshmallows mixed in, is about the best one I've found so far.

Ruth Wakefield’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars:
I used Christmas colored Kissables last year for these. The nice thing about these (and other bar cookies) is that you just stick the pan in the oven and you're basically done instead of scooping out and baking sheet after sheet of cookies.

All-Purpose Cutout Cookies:

I don't do cut-outs at Christmas due to time and energy restraints but this is a good cut-out cookie recipe, if you're looking for one.

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies:

I've never made these for the holidays but they're really good.

Graham Cracker Chewies:

I miss this nut recipe a lot. I've seen this exact recipe in several cookbooks and it always calls for nuts but I was thinking making I could try some chocolate or on their own without the nuts or any substitutes.

Weekly Recap

I'm going to post more holiday recipes in a second but I wanted to do the weekly recap first. I've been using this to keep track of what we're eating so I don't want to skip it.

Monday: Garlic-Sage-Marinated Beef Pot Roast

Tuesday: Turkey Bolognese made with leftover turkey and chicken from the freezer. I used Smart Taste spaghetti and we had garlic-cheese bread with it.

Wednesday: Big Game Baked Round Steak, made with venison chops. This wasn't bad. I think it's my favorite venison recipe so far. I might try chili sauce instead of ketchup next time for an extra kick. I soaked the meat in buttermilk for a day and a half which helped a lot, I'm sure. We had corn and one of those packaged pasta side dishes with it.

Thursday: Chicken with Vegetable Sauce. I love this sauce. I don't really think it does much for the chicken though. Next time I'll cut the chicken into small pieces so the sauce can penetrate the meat a bit more.

Salad was available every day.

Tonight: Take out pizza. My son has his Christmas party this afternoon so I'm not rushing home to make pizza from scratch. Well, he has his Holiday party. Well, actually the kids are calling it a Penguin party this year since they're dressing up like penguins and singing a penguin song (not because political correctness has gone that far).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Baking, First Recap

I didn't have anything new ready to post today so I thought I would provide a rundown of some of the recipes I like to make around the holidays. There are too many to list all at once so I'll start with these:

Sugar Cookies:

These are an easy drop cookie version. An easy way to add color to your cookie trays - and they're delicious.

Coconut Butterballs:
These buttery cookies are always a hit.

My 'signature cookie', Welsh Cookies (or Cakes):

I think this is the only cookie that will never be phased out of the rotation. They're very tasty for such a basic cookie.

Spritz Cookies (yes, I have to get a picture of the Christmas tree version this year):

I love my Wilton cookie press. It makes making festive spritz cookies a breeze.

These are one of my son's favorites. Everyone likes the Snickerdoodle.

Ricotta Cookies:

I love these cookies but they do not play well with others. They're so moist, the frosting gets squished if you put them on cookies trays. They are great if you want a festive plate of one type of cookie.

Apricot Cream Cheese Thumbprints:
I love these cookies but the powdered sugar doesn't hold up well.

Cherry Cherry Cookies:
I don't make these anymore because of the nuts but they were one of my favorites.

Raspberry (Peach) Kisses:

These are so delicate and delicious. I tried making them smaller for Christmas last year and they were a bit of a pain (getting the dough out of the small scoop). I prefer them larger.

Fruit and Cheese Bread:

My mom's recipe. I still make it but without the nuts. It's much better with the nuts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pot roast is pot roast


Garlic-Sage-Marinated Beef Pot Roast
Better Homes and Gardens Low-Fat & Luscious Italian Copyright 1997

1 2- to 2 1/2-pound boneless beef chuck pot roast
3/4 cup dry red wine or tomato juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste tomato paste
1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
2 teaspoons instant beef bouillon granules
1/4 teaspoon pepper
10 cloves garlic, halved
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 1/4 pounds whole tiny new potatoes or 4 medium potatoes
4 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 small onions, cut into wedges
2 stalks celery, bias-sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1. Trim fat from roast; place meat in a heavy plastic bag set in a bowl. Combine the wine or tomato juice, tomato paste, sage, bouillon granules, pepper, and garlic. Pour over meat. Close bag and marinate in refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours, turning occasionally. Remove meat from marinade, reserving marinade.

2. In a kettle or pot, brown the roast on both sides in hot oil. Drain well. Pour reserved marinade over roast. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

3. Remove a narrow strip of peel from around the center of each new potato. (Or, peel and quarter each medium potato.) Add potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery to meat. Cover and simmer 45 to 60 minutes or until tender, adding some water if necessary. Transfer meat and vegetables to a serving platter; cover to keep warm while preparing gravy.
I didn't thicken the gravy.
4. For gravy, measure pan juices; skim fat. If necessary, add water to equal 1 3/4 cups liquid; return to pan. Combine the 1/2 cup cold water and the flour. Stir into juices. Cook and stir until bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with meat and vegetables. If desired, garnish with additional fresh sage.

Servings Per Recipe 8 servings Calories 321, Total Fat (g) 8, Saturated Fat (g) 3, Cholesterol (mg) 78, Sodium (mg) 345, Carbohydrate (g) 28, Fiber (g) 3, Protein (g) 29, Starch (d.e.) 1.5, Vegetables (d.e.) 1, Lean Meat (d.e.) 3, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Pot roast isn't very photogenic, is it? Not this one anyway. It was very good but pot roast is pot roast. It always seems to taste basically the same no matter what recipe I use. My son loves pot roast. It's one of his favorite things.

I didn't thicken this gravy and I don't think the recipe in the book called for thickening the gravy, since it was a 'light' cookbook but maybe it did and I just missed it. I copied this recipe from the BHG site.

Tonight I'm making deer meat. Woo hoo. Our venison supply has been replenished and hopefully the new stuff tastes better than last year's deer (which we still haven't finished up). The guys don't mind it so it does help stretch the grocery budget.

No Question of the Day. I can't think of one and it's been pretty quiet around here anyway.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Easy and good

Chocomallow Brownies
Home Cooking 2005 Recipe Annual Copyright 2005

1 (19-ounce) box brownie mix
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.

Prepare brownie mix as directed on box and pour into pan. Bake as directed.

While brownies are baking, make frosting. In medium saucepan, melt butter and cocoa powder. Remove from heat, add confectioners' sugar and vanilla, and slowly add milk, stirring until smooth.

Top baked brownies with mini marshmallows and return to oven just until marshmallows are slightly puffed. Remove from oven and pour chocolate frosting on hot brownies, spreading evenly. Cool before cutting.

Serving quantity: Makes 24 brownies.

I like making brownies from scratch but I still love brownies out of a box. I had a box of brownies in the cupboard (Pillsbury, Milk Chocolate, 99 cents) and I wanted to do something with it. I saw this recipe and I remembered how much I liked a similar recipe, Heavenly Hash, so I decided to make it as a treat for my coworkers.

They were gooey and delicious. They were still a bit warm when I cut them so I couldn't get a clean cut but no one cared. They were well received.

I still remember the day I bought this cookbook. I was killing time in a Tuesday Morning store, before taking my son to a birthday party next door. I've never heard of Home Cooking but this is one of my favorite cookbooks. Good, basic recipes that are consistently good. They have a website too and you can see a more appetizing picture of these brownies there.

A little over two weeks until Christmas and I'm starting to panic!

Question of the Day: Do you like store-bought marshmallows? I can't stand them out of the bag but melt them a little bit like this and I love them.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Getting in the holiday spirit

Elfin Bites
Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications Christmas Cookies 1998

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)
2 tablespoons colored sprinkles I used about 3 tbsp.

STIR together flour and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in butter till mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. Stir in sprinkles. Form mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.

ROLL OR PAT dough on an ungreased cookie sheet into an 8x5" rectangle. Cut into 1/2 inch squares. I used my pizza cutter. Separate the squares on the cookie sheet.

BAKE in a 325°F oven for 12-14 minutes or till bottoms just start to brown. Transfer to wire racks covered with wax paper to cool. Makes about 160.

I don't usually test run my Christmas cookie recipes but I won't have time to experiment this year so I gave this recipe a whirl yesterday.

I'm always looking for festive recipes that taste good and don't require a lot of work. I'm not into cookies that are cute just for the sake of being cute. Taste is most important but I still want my cookie trays to look Christmas-y. These little cookies are a nice way to add some pop to a cookie tray. The recipe only makes about enough cookies to fill a cereal bowl but it's so easy, you can quickly whip up a few batches, especially if you use your food processor (I used mine to cut in the butter, then I added the sprinkles and continued by hand.)

My dough was a little dry which was likely my fault. I might have been a bit heavy-handed with the flour. Because it was a tad dry, my edges were a bit rougher than they should have been so I made a note to be more careful measuring my flour next time.

I used to eagerly look forward to the cookie magazines that come out around the holidays. When I started baking Christmas cookies after I was out on my own, those magazines are where I found most of my recipes. After a while I didn't seem to be finding many new recipes in them so I stopped buying them but I kept the old ones and had fun going through them this weekend. Some of them are quite stained.

Question of the Day: Are you ready for the holidays? I'm getting closer but I don't think I'm ever 100% ready.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Meat + sauce + cheese = delicious
---Triple Cheese Patties

Triple Cheese Patties
Betty Crocker's 4-in-1 Cookbook Collection Copyright 1980
Betty Crocker's Hamburger Cookbook Copyright 1977,1973

1 1/2 lb ground beef
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp basil leaves
1/8 tsp garlic salt
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 tsp Pepper
6 Tbsp creamed cottage cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz Tomato Sauce
6 cheese slices*

* You can use either Mozzarella or Swiss cheese slices. I used mozzarella.

Mix the meat, bread crumbs, onion, egg and seasonings together.
Shape the mixture into 12 thin patties, each about 4-inches in diameter.
Top each of 6 patties with 1 Tbls of the cottage cheese, spreading to within 1/2-inch of the edge, sprinkle on 2 tsp of the Parmesan cheese, and top each patty with one of the remaining patties sealing the edges firmly.
Brown the patties in a large skillet over medium-high heat, turning once.
Drain off the fat and pour the tomato sauce over the patties. I also added about 1/4 cup of water.
Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Place a cheese slice on each patty, cover, and heat until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.
Serve with the remaining sauce in the skillet poured over them.

I meant to make these ahead of time but I never got around to it. I do have a little bit more time in the evenings these days and these were surprisingly quick to put together so it worked out.

I really liked these but I think I would leave out the cottage cheese if I made them again. The cottage cheese wasn't bad but it didn't really add anything. I'd prefer the taste and texture of ricotta cheese, I think. These reminded me of Beef Patties With Tomato Cheese Topping which I also really liked. I loved the meat, I loved the sauce and cheese on top. The cottage cheese did leak out a bit and make the sauce a bit creamy, which was nice, but otherwise, I could have lived without it.

I tried to remove the evidence of the cottage cheese from my son's portion but he still wanted to know what 'that white stuff' was. He wasn't interested in eating this. He's not been big on anything made with ground beef lately. He's funny like that. He'll love something for a while and then he won't have anything to do it with. Eventually he'll get into it again. I'm sort of like that too.

I was surprised that when I checked the web to see if this recipe was out there already (to save me from typing it over), I found it on several recipe sites. Obviously I'm not the only one who enjoyed it.

Okay, weekly recap. I'll be honest, it was a rushed week.

Monday: cubed steak sandwiches. I really wanted to make something else with the cubed steak I picked up on sale but I was desperate for a quick meal on Monday.

Tuesday: Rosemary Chuck, on the Griddler. It's better on the grill but it was too cold and yucky outside to grill. We had corn too. Again, I wanted to do something else with this chuck but I was pressed for time. Too bad I didn't find this nice chuck on sale in time to make the Chunky Beef Chili last week.

Wednesday: Honey-Glazed Spiced Pork Tenderloin, mashed potatoes and green beans.

Thursday: Triple Cheese Patties, Smart Taste pasta, buttered with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Salad every night.

Tonight: Pizza, one with canadian bacon and pineapple, one with pepperoni and onions.

Grocery shopping has almost been fun again lately. I've been finding some good deals. So many, I've had to pass things up. They had a beautiful ribeye roast on sale last week for $2.99/lb! I'm still kicking myself for passing it up but it was a 6-pound roast so it was $18. Even though it was a great deal (the ribeye steaks were $8.99/lb), I resisted and I regret it. There were just so many marked down meats after the holidays, I had to be choosey. They had a 10-pound crown roast of pork for 99 cents/lb that I passed up too. My freezer space if very limited right now. One freezer is packed with breast milk and we have venison coming tonight that I have no idea where it will go. I hope my husband has room in his freezer.

Are the grocery stores getting desperate? They had triple coupons on coupons up to $1 this week (maximum of 4 coupons). Combined with a BOGO free sale, I was able to get four packages of Hillshire Farms Lil' Smokies for under $5. They're regularly $3.99 each. We like to have appetizers on New Year's Eve so I'll use some of them then.

Question of the Day: Are you noticing better sales than usual in your grocery stores?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pretty good but not the ultimate chili recipe
--Chunky Beef Chili

Chunky Beef Chili
The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook Copyright 2006

4 pounds boneless chuck roast, cut into ½-inch pieces I used round steak
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
1 (32-ounce) container beef broth
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper

Cornbread sticks (optional)
Toppings (optional) : crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, onion

Brown meat, in batches, in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove meat, reserve drippings in Dutch oven; cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cook 5 minutes.

Return beef to Dutch oven. Stir in beef broth and next 9 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 1 ½ hours or until beef is tender. Serve chili with cornbread sticks, if desired, and desired toppings. I served it over some Smart Taste rotini and topped it with chopped sweet onion and shredded cheddar cheese.

Yield: 9 cups Per cup: 394 calories, 18.2 g fat, 42.7 g protein, 13.2 g carbs, 3.1 g fiber, 125 mg chol, 1478 mg sodium

I've always wanted to make chili using small cubes of meat other than ground beef. I always thought it would be tedious but it took no time at all to cut up the meat. I did halve the recipe so it would take a bit longer to do 4 pounds.

I really did want to make this with chuck but, of course, when I went to buy it, it didn't look good. The one roast they had left was fatty with too much gristle. It was on sale and I should have learned by now not to get my hopes up when I see that meat is on sale in the weekly ad, for this particular store. I don't know if I'm shopping on a bad night or what but if I'm lucky enough to even find the meat that's supposed to be on sale, it usually doesn't look worth the sale price when I finally see it.

So I bought round steak. I've seen chili recipes call for round steak. I didn't think it was ideal but it wasn't bad. I'll keep trying. I probably would have preferred ground beef but my son really went to town on this and he would not have if I had used ground beef.

I definitely need to invest in a better chili powder next time I make chili. The cheap stuff isn't cutting it.

I always serve chili over pasta, macaroni in this case. That's just the way we roll. In this economy we can't be eating our chili straight! Refer to yesterday's post to see my current stance on beans, in case you're wondering why I just don't stretch it out with beans.

Question of the Day: What brand of chili powder do you use? I have some cheap stuff, not sure of the brand. I'm sure I got what I paid for but I've never minded it in other recipes.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Soup for one
--Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup
Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook Copyright 2000

4 chicken breast halves
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. margarine
2 14 ½- oz. cans chicken broth I used some homemade broth
2 14 ½- oz cans chopped stewed tomatoes I used diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 cup salsa I used medium - the soup had some kick
½ cup chopped cilantro I omitted this but there was cilantro in the diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. or more ground cumin
8-oz Monterey Jack cheese, cubed
Sour cream
Tortilla chips

1. Cook, debone, and shred chicken.
2. Add minced garlic to margarine in slow cooker. Sauté. I sautéed it lightly in a small pan before adding it to the slow cooker.
3. Combine all ingredients, except cheese, sour cream and chips.
4. Cover. Cook on LOW 8-10 hours. You could definitely simmer this on the stove for not too long and have good soup. Everything in there is cooked.
5. Divide cubed cheese among 6 individual soup bowls. Ladle soup over cheese. Sprinkle with tortilla chips and top each bowl with a dollop of sour cream.

I've wanted to make tortilla soup for some time but most recipes call for some sort of bean and I fear the bean. I don't know why. My son eats other legumes - green beans, peas, soy (incidentally - he doesn't eat any soy-intensive foods besides soy sauce in recipes but it hides in many things) - yet I've been hesitant to feed him other beans. Some kids with peanut allergies react to other legumes.

So this recipe was perfect. I really liked it although I might have liked it even more if there was cheese melted right in it, maybe a few cubes of Velveeta (yes, I said Velveeta).

I was the only one who tried it (so I could have made one with beans afterall). No one refused it exactly but my husband decided to get pizza since his nephew was staying over and well, pizza trumps soup with kids and men apparently. I've been enjoying the leftovers for lunch and will end up eating the entire batch.

Speaking of food allergies, we got the results of my son's latest blood test. I was thinking last night that we hadn't heard anything and I should call but I really didn't want to. They retested peanut and I didn't want to bring all of the emotions associated with that diagnosis to the surface. Then I checked the mail and there was a letter from his allergist. I took a deep breath and opened it.

They only tested for dogs (he's had a few hive incidents involving dogs), peanuts, and egg. I wish I had asked for some add'l things (shellfish, other legumes if possible) but I wasn't thinking clearly and I really didn't have any reasons besides being paranoid to ask for other tests.

He is definitely allergic to dogs. He loves dogs and can pet them and be around them but if he gets licked, hives pop right up. I'm not happy about the diagnosis, especially adding a new allergy, but I can live with it. My husband was pushing for a dog but I was against it. I love dogs but I don't think we're home enough and the dog would be lonely. It was a large bone of contention between us and well, the argument is over!

His peanut allergy 'remains about the same'. I'm grateful for that choice of wording since I have no idea if it went up at all and I really don't want to know. It really doesn't matter, allergic is allergic, but I certainly didn't want to see the numbers jump a great deal. I am of course disappointed that they haven't dropped, yet not surprised. He doesn't fit the profile of someone likely to outgrow the allergy.

The good news - he tested negative for egg! He's always eaten foods with eggs cooked in them but not scrambled eggs, quiche or other egg-centric recipes, not since he tested slightly positive for egg allergy. We still need to do an egg challenge but that will have to wait until early next year.

Question of the Day: Pizza or soup? My answer is pizza AND soup!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Another version of French Silk
--French Silk Pie

French Silk Pie
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook Copyright 1999

2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup butter or margarine
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whipping cream, divided
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 baked 9-inch pastry shell
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Garnish chocolate shavings I would have liked to do this but I didn't have the time or energy

Place chocolate and butter in top of a double boiler; bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook until chocolate and butter melt.

Add sugar and flour; stir well. Gradually stir in 2 cups of whipping cream. Cook, stirring constantly, 20 minutes or until mixture thickens. Gradually add one-fourth of hot mixture into egg yolks. Add to remaining hot mixture, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture thickens and reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap; cool to room temperature, and spoon mixture into pastry shell. Cover and chill 2 hours.

Beat remaining 1 cup whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Spread whip cream on pie. Garnish, if desired.

I've made the more traditional version of French Silk pie (although I used pasteurized egg product and I'm sure it wasn't as good as the raw egg version). It wasn't the ultimate chocolate pie. I can never find my ultimate chocolate pie, perhaps because I'm not really sure what that is. I'll know it when I have it.

This year I really wasn't searching for THE pie. I just wanted a tasty chocolate pie, something other than chocolate pudding and whipped cream. I saw this cooked version of French Silk and decided to give it a try.

As I was making it I thought, I'm just making chocolate pudding verrrrry slowly (over a double boiler). The components seemed about the same. Then I worried that it wouldn't set. It seemed runny even as it cooled. Well that was a laugh since this turned out to be a very firm pie. It reminded me of a truffle filling. It was THE ULTIMATE chocolate pie but it was very good, I thought.

I don't know if my thermometer was off or what but it took me a long time to reach 160 degrees. So long, I'm not completely sure that I didn't screw this up somehow so hopefully if anyone tries this recipe, the results will be the same.

This year was light on pies. I made two Libby's Pumpkin Pies. It was my first year making the pumpkin pies and I decided why vary from what I know works? I don't think I can much improve on Libby's recipe or Mrs. Smith's frozen pumpkin pie, which is also very good but my family is used to the Libby's.

I made the Belgium Rice Custard Pie and Butterscotch Pie, which becomes more popular around our table every year. It turned out so beautifully this year that I regret not getting a new picture. There were no saran wrap scars and the graham cracker crust was perfectly shaped.

It's Tuesday and I'm already stressed out. December is definitely the most stressful month of the year for me. I don't get to relax until after my son's birthday in January.

Question of the Day: Have you started getting ready for the holidays yet? I've shopped for the boys, that's about it. That's fun. I realized that I won't have much time to bake this year since Christmas is on a Thursday and I have only a few vacation days left that will probably be spent on sick kids or bad weather. I have a list of things I want to make but will I have time to make them? I have to do Christmas cards. We have to take our annual trek to Candylane at Hersheypark for Santa pictures. I have to finish shopping. I have to decorate! That is usually done by now. Arghhh!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

I think I liked it
--Grandpa Boyen’s Famous Belgium Rice Custard Pie

Grandpa Boyen’s Famous Belgium Rice Custard Pie
America’s Best Lost Recipes Copyright 2007

1 cup pitted prunes
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons brandy
½ cup medium-grain or Arborio rice I used medium-grain
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 recipe Single-Crust Pie dough fit into a deep dish pie plate

1. Place the prunes, ½ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon brandy and 3 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat and cook until the prunes are fully softened and the syrup is thick and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of brandy, and process until smooth. I bought jarred lekvar and added some brandy.
2. Bring 1 ½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the rice and salt, reduce the heat to medium-low; and cook, covered, until the rice is tender and the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Stir in the milk, remaining 1 cup sugar, and cinnamon, return to a simmer, and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is thickened and very soft, 40 to 50 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl until blended. Add 1 cup of the hot rice mixture to the eggs and stir vigorously until incorporated. Add the egg and rice mixture back to the saucepan and cookm stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 1 minute.
4. Spread the prune puree in an even layer over the bottom and sides of the unbaked pie shell. Pour the custard over the prune mixture and bake until the center of the custard has set, about 1 hour. Transfer the pie to a wire rack, cool slightly, then refrigerate until fully chilled, at least 2 hours. Serve. (The pie can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

I copied this recipe out of a library book a few weeks ago thinking it would be perfect for Thanksgiving. Most of my family enjoys a rice custard my mom makes for Christmas and we eat breads and cookies with prune filling around the holidays. Still, I classified it as 'experimental'.

It started off okay. I decided not to make the prunes from scratch. I bought a nice bottled brand of lekvar (prune puree) and added brandy. I tasted it on it's own and I thought it was good.

The rice cooked in 20 minutes just as it should. I added the milk and it thickened nicely in 50 minutes as it should. I added the eggs and it thickened in about a minute as it should. At that point I was like, wait a minute, I'm putting fully cooked rice pudding into the oven and it's supposed to take an hour to set? It was set in just a few minutes yet the crust wasn't cooked so I had to keep cooking it. The filling was quite firm by the time it came out of the oven. Extremely firm.

When I tasted it I was immediately turned off by the prune layer. I liked it on it's own but I didn't care for it in the pie. It was the brandy more than the prunes. I proclaimed it yucky and no one else even tried this pie while I was there.

I took home some of the leftovers and I decided that I really enjoyed the rice part. It was firmer than I expected but I'm not sure that it was firmer than it was supposed to be. I'll have to check the book out again and look at the picture once more and compare it to my pie.

It was certainly different than anything I've had before, pie-wise. I'd leave out the prune filling next time. Although, since no one else ate it there probably won't be a next time but I wouldn't mind eating it again.

Question of the Day: Have you ever seen a pie like this?