Friday, December 19, 2014

Cheddar Cheese Puffs


With the holidays upon us I thought it would be appropriate to make some home made appetizers. Last year I spent mega dollars at the food warehouse for our holiday party. I wanted something easy to pop in the oven and have ready in 15-20 minutes for our guests so I chose a variety of boxed appetizers and most of them used puff pastry. The result was that they were just okay - not great or fabulous, just okay.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Amazing Mushroom Recipes For The Holidays


The mushroom is one of the most versatile foods you can possibly cook with. I've found a love for the simple white button mushroom, the larger meatier portobello and it's smaller counterpart the crimini. The portobello is just the longer growing version of the crimini mushroom. I just adore the earthiness and meatiness of the portobello and find that it does well with a variety of ingredients.

While the white button mushroom was pretty much king to home cooks and restaurants back in the 1960s, the next craze to come into play was the crimini and portobello. The portobello was at one time considered more of a gourmet mushroom before blossoming into popularity and hence available in any supermarket in the country.

Although the mushroom is neither a plant nor an animal but rather is in it's own class as "fungi", the mushroom is just thought of by many as a "vegetable" and has many uses in cooking.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Shortbread Cherry Bars


Last year I used a brand of cherries in a Black Forest Trifle I made. I was lucky to spot them again in the job lot store I was shopping in. Sometimes in those stores you can find some real bargains when it comes to food items. I picked up a 12 ounce bag of macadamia nuts for $5.99! In our local store that amount costs $10.99.

I decided I wanted to make a layered bar dessert and came up with the idea to use a shortbread crust and this delicious cherry filling, and top it all with some streusel.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tortellini En Brodo con Salsiccia e Spinaci


Does not the Italian translated name for this recipe sound so much better than Tortellini in Broth with Sausage and Spinach? I know I've seen a photograph of an en brodo recipe or have seen it created on a food show because the thoughts of tortellini in a broth was floating around constantly in my brain like sugar plum fairies dancing in there.

Without looking at a recipe the day of my trip to the store I decided I wanted Italian sausage and spinach to be part of the cast along with of course, tortellini and procured those items along with some extra chicken broth which also happened to be on sale making this light, but filling dish right around $11.00 to make.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Shortbread Cookies


These have to be the easiest homemade cookie on the planet to put together. Three ingredients and that's it. The only drawback if you want to call it one is that the flour has to be sifted. I hate sifting so I've come up with a way to get around that. If you have a food processor just chuck the flour in there and hit the power button. Let it whiz around for a minute or so and you should have fine flour as if you used a hand sifter or a fine mesh strainer.

Back to simple ingredients. Flour, butter and confectioners sugar - how much simpler can you get? And a little extra flour when rolling out the cookies. They bake in 15 minutes or less and you have some great tasting cookies that you can leave plain or jazz up with some icing you've made colorful for the holidays. It doesn't matter which holiday you are baking for either; whether it's Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years or Valentine's day these cookies will delight everyone.

The only extra things you need are: 1) various cookie cutters shapes that are about 2 inches and 2) your imagination for decorating if you go that route and 3) some parchment paper to line your baking sheets.
  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 2 cups sifted flour + extra for rolling out the cookies
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  1. Place the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat until it's light and creamy.
  2. Slowly add in the confectioners sugar a little at a time until fully incorporated.
  3. Slowly add in the flour a little at a time until fully incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl to plastic wrap. Form a disc and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
  5. After the dough has chilled, lightly flour your rolling pin and surface and roll the cookies to 1/4" thickness.
  6. Cut out the cookies and re-roll any scraps until you have finished with the dough.
  7. Carefully place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 1 inch apart and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 12-15 minutes.
  8. If you are decorating with holiday colored sugars, sprinkle on the cookies BEFORE you bake them.
  9. If you are decorating with icing allow the cookies to cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

I got thirty five cookies out of this batch using my round and star cutter. These inexpensive cookies cost me approximately $3.60 to make and they are wonderful to give as holiday gifts to co-workers, neighbors, friends and to bring to any holiday gathering. The cookies are light and buttery and I could eat a dozen at one sitting!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Quick and Easy: Creamy Artichoke Dip


In the past I used a recipe my daughter procured for an artichoke dip but today I decided to change it up a bit and create a new one based on what I had available. The recipe is so quick and easy to put together with common pantry ingredients.

If you have mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and spices all you need is a can of artichoke hearts which often go on special during the holiday season. I got mine a while back though at a job lot store for cheap. This whole recipe costs around $4.00 to make. The yield is approximately 3 to 3 1/2 cups.