Friday, November 25, 2011

Refilling the Cookie Jar

When the cold wind is howling outside there is nothing better than cranking up the oven and baking something yummy.  Tonight's dessert was an easy choice- the Chef loves cookies but other sweets not so much, so just for him......

Original Toll House Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar,  packed
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
12 oz package chocolate chips (I used half milk and half semi-sweet)

Combine flour, baking soda and salt, set aside. Beat butter with mixer until fluffy. Add sugars and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs. Add dry indredients. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoons onto cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degree 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are just browning. Cool on rack.

Chocolate chip cookies remind me of being a kid. You can eat em while they're hot and gooey, dip em in your glass of milk, and be a kid again.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gobble gobble !! In other words- EAT !!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone !! When it comes to holidays, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite. I love everything about fall, the food (long simmering stews, roasts that cook all day, apples baking....), the smells (leaves burning, crisp fall rain, and the food....) and my birthday.

Sometimes the best part of a big holiday celebration is dessert !!! The Chef and I had to split our celebrating between two families this year- not uncommon for lots of families, but totally new for me ! And as always with my family, they knew exactly what the wanted me to bring- cheesecake. I considered all the different flavors and varieties.....and decided to go with a citrusy cheesecake paired with bright red raspberries, which I love.

Sunny Citrus Cheesecake

1/2 box vanilla wafers, finely crushed
2 tb sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
4 8 oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 lemon
1 orange

In small bowl combine crushed cookies, sugar and melted butter. Press onto bottom of 8 or 9 inch springform pan. Set aside.

Beat softened cream cheese with mixer until fluffy. Gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Zest the orange and the lemon, mix into cheese mixture. Juice one half of the lemon and one half of the orange and add to mixture (about 1 tb lemon and 2 tb orange).

Pour filling into pan. Bake in a 325 degree oven for one hour until almost firm (still a little jiggly- will firm as it cools).

*NOTE* I always bake cheesecake with a pan of hot water underneath it. It helps prevent the top from cracking. Also, you can switch this one up with your favorite citrus zest and juice and of course, whatever fruit topping you like, or skip the fruit and serve as is.

Let cool, then refrigerate. Serve with fruit topping if desired (I used raspberry sauce).

The Chef's family had recently seen some of the photos of food that he and I make around the house- and of course, they saw the for their Thanksgiving dinner, pies were the requested dessert. You can't have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, so that was a definite must have.

The Old Standby Pumpkin Pie

1 unbaked pastry shell
1 can Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs

Combine filling ingredients and pour into crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce to 350 degrees and bake 50-60 minutes or until just set. Cool before serving.

But I had a terrible time deciding on a second pie !! But most people love apple pie, and with a cranberry twist it seemed to fit the bill for Thanksgiving.

Apple Cranberry Pie

pastry for 2 crust pie or 1 crust with crumb topping
5 or 6 Granny Smith apples (about 2 lb)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, quartered
3 tb flour
3/4 c sugar, divided

In small bowl combine cranberries with 2 tb sugar- add about 2 tb water, cook in microwave for 1 minute. set aside to cool (can also cook on stovetop just for a minute or so until berries barely soften). Peel, core and slice apples into large bowl. Toss with flour, remaining sugar and cinnamon. Mix in cranberries. Pile into pastry-line pie plate. Dot with butter.

Add top crust, seal and flute. Vent crust. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar if desired. (Instead of top crust you can follow recipe for your favorite crumb topping such as Dutch apple).

Bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour until crust is golden brown and apples are tender. Cover edges of crust with foil for half the baking time to prevent burning.

It was a wonderful holiday, spent with family, good food and fun stories, football, grandkids and dogs and cats. Happy memories.....

My lovely mother-in-law enjoyed the apple cranberry pie !!

And that my friends, is another Thanksgiving in the history books. For me and the Chef, the start of new traditions perhaps ? I hope so.... I hope we have many more holidays together in our future.  And now..... the Christmas madness begins....................

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

It's almost that time of the year.Turkey Day !! Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday of all. Why? Well, lots of reasons. First, my birthday always seems to land on Thanksgiving weekend. Sometimes even on Thanksgiving Day ! Gotta love that ! Second, who wouldn't love the one day a year when EATING is the national pastime, not working out, obsessively counting points/calories and elastic pants are all the rage? And third, it's a chance to get together with people you love, be thankful, and NOT have to fall into the commercialized trap of buying expensive gifts (well, except for my birthday !! I kid....I kid....)

This year Thanksgiving is giving me a new set of challenges. Not only is my family divided by divorce, but yet still wants to do the "one big happy family holiday",  but now that I have a life with my Chef, his family and their traditions must find a place in our lives as well. So this year for the first time ever, we have two dinners to fit into one day.

And also new this year, I have been asked to provide dessert for the Chef's family's dinner. Ohhhhh....they have seen pictures from my pie-baking days for the restaurant earlier this year. That's what did it. So it's going to be a pumpkin pie and an apple cranberry pie with crumb topping for Thanksgiving Day at their home. And my family will be having their dinner at my son's house, and well, they grew up with me. They KNOW what to ask me to make. Cheesecake. So......lemon and orange cheesecake with raspberries is on the menu at their dinner. Yes, recipes will be coming. Pie baking starts tonight.

So, what are your family's traditions ? Favorite holidays ? Favorite foods ? And most importantly, what are you thankful for ?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Beating the Weather Blahs with Cheese

I'm so glad fall has finally arrived. I even hear there is rain/snow mix up near the Iowa/Minnesota border- I'm slightly jealous !! Around the lake the garden has truly died for the year. Oh sure, we have a few pea plants that are still alive and vibrant green, but it's been far too cold and they are just stalled at their young stage, never to bloom or produce any peas. Darnit.

I think the marigolds and basil were the first things to go.

And our little (well, not really LITTLE) cherry tomato snack plant that sat right next to the table on the deck, and yes, we sat out there on gorgeous evenings and ate tomatoes right off the plant, has also given up the ghost. Next year a new cherry tomato plant with take its place.

All around the lake, autumn has taken a firm hold. Leaves blown away, bare branches rustle against eachother in the brisk wind. Most of the summer birds are gone now, but the deer are everywhere !!  Every once in a while we still see a stray fisherman or two braving the cold wind out on the fishing piers across the street.

It may be cold outside, but it's warm and toasty inside, and The Chef has been busy in the kitchen again today working his magic on a couple of boneless chicken breasts, crafting his magnificent Chicken Parmesan.

No need for a detailed recipe here, this one is easy. He made his usual red sauce, pounded out a couple chicken breasts, coated them with a mix of breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan cheese. Sauteed in a little butter and olive oil until nicely browned, he loaded them with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and popped em in the oven til melty, browned and cooked through.

Served alongside a little spaghetti with red sauce, it was absolutely perfect and soooo delicious !!!

And even though today isn't Thanksgiving, and we didn't even have turkey for dinner, I still think about how much I have to be thankful for........

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Goin' Bananas !!!!

It's not even WINTER yet and this girl has a serious case of cabin fever !!! I wanted to do some exploring in the area- partly because we haven't explored much at all, and I have a map of ghost towns in Guthrie County, and partly because our part of the state is so important to my new job- I need to get out and see the counties and towns.

But, alas, it wasn't meant to be this weekend and Sunday was spent mostly in jammies on the couch watching football. No Vikings this week so I just cheered for the Saints, Chiefs and Packers instead.

I haven't cooked much lately, haven't posted much, and was feeling a little neglectful of that. Plus, everytime I walked through the kitchen I could feel the sad eyes of two brown, overly ripe, sad bananas just BEGGING me to do something with them. So I knew I needed to do SOMETHING today.

So I went into the Room of Doom to try and find a loaf pan. Banana bread sounds good, right ? Ha !! Which box has the loaf pans ? Who knows...... so banana nut muffins then ? But where is the muffin pan ? the Room of Doom I'm sure. But then I remembered- I had been at a garage sale earlier this summer !! I bought a mini muffin pan (didn't NEED it but it was a quarter !!) and I KNEW that was in the kitchen. So, Banana Nut Mini Muffins it is.

Banana Nut Mini Muffins

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup chopped nuts

In large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Mash bananas in a small bowl.

Chop nuts and toss in bowl with flour. Combine beaten egg, oil and milk in small bowl. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened, batter should be lumpy. Add banana. Prepare muffin cups, fill 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degree about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

How did they turn out ?? Yummy !!!!

How did the day of football turn out ? The Saints won, the Packers won and the Chiefs let me come on Ravens !!!!