Alice Springs Chicken

Alice Springs Chicken

Alice Springs Chicken

One time when we were at Outback Steakhouse, I ordered Alice Springs Chicken.  The name of the dish, first of all, made me curious, but the description said it was boneless chicken breast in a honey-mustard marinade with bacon, mushrooms and melted cheese on it.  Well, with all those good things on one piece of chicken how could it not be good?  So, I ordered it;  and I was not disappointed in the least.  It was moist, a complex blend of flavors, crispy around the edges, and gooey with melted cheese.

I’ve thought about that chicken often and wished I could have it again.  And although I kinda remembered all the ingredients and how it tasted I didn’t know the proportions, or exactly how it was prepared.  Then just last week I saw a recipe for it on Zip List.  It claimed to taste just like the version served at Outback Steakhouse.  You know I had to try it!

People, you will love it.  It looks a little messy, but believe me, it is fantastic.  It tastes just like the one I remember having at OBSH.

Bacon, Mushrooms, Melted Cheese.  What's not to love?

Bacon, Mushrooms, Melted Cheese. What’s not to love?

ALICE SPRINGS CHICKEN

SERVES   4

INGREDIENTS

Honey Mustard Marinade:

A simple marinade locks in the flavor.

A simple marinade locks in the flavor.

  • 1 cup Dijon Mustard
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Chicken:

  • 4  skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
  • paprika
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked (I used precooked bacon)
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.  Combine the mustard, honey, 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Whisk for about 30 seconds.  Pour half of the mixture into a zip-top bag.  Add the chicken breasts and marinate them in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.  My pieces of chicken were very thick, so I cut them in half lengthwise.

2.  Chill and save the remainder of the marinade for later.

3.  When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375*F.   Using an ovenproof frying pan large enough to hold all the chicken, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over medium heat.  If you don’t have an ovenproof frying pan, you will transfer the chicken to a baking dish.

4.  Sear the chicken for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown on all sides.  Remove from the heat, but keep in the pan.  (Here’s where you may need to transfer to a baking dish.)

Browned chicken in a baking dish.

Browned chicken in a baking dish.

5.  In another smaller frying pan, melt the butter and saute the mushrooms just till they start to give up some of their liquid.  Remove from the heat.

Sauteing the mushrooms.

Sauteing the mushrooms.

6.  Brush the seared chicken breasts with a little of the reserved honey-mustard marinade.  (Not the portion the chicken soaked in.) Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika.  Lay two strips of bacon crisscross on top of each piece of chicken.  Spoon the mushrooms onto the bacon, being sure to distribute them evenly over all the chicken.

Bacon and mushrooms on top of the chicken.

Bacon and mushrooms on top of the chicken.

Sprinkle the Monterey Jack cheese evenly onto each chicken breast followed by the cheddar cheese.

7.  Bake for 7 – 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Sprinkle each piece with the chopped parsley before serving.  Put extra honey mustard marinade into a small bowl to serve on the side.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Served with herbed rice pilaf and a salad, this was a great dinner.

Served with herbed rice pilaf and a salad, this was a great dinner.

An idea for leftover chicken .  The next day, I made a sandwich from one of the pieces of chicken:  on a “sub” roll, spread both cut sides of the roll with Honey Mustard Mayonnaise,  lay a chicken piece on the bottom half of the roll, top with sliced tomatoes and lettuce.  This made a “man-sized” sandwich that my husband raved about..

SOURCE:   Family Favorite Recipes

Pecan Sour Cream Sandies

Pecan Sour Cream Sandies for Valentines Day

Pecan Sour Cream Sandies for Valentines Day

When I was young my favorite cookies were Keebler’s Pecan Sandies.  What I loved about them was the thickness of the cookie, and how rich and crunchy they were.  That was my after school snack with a glass of milk.  I don’t know if they even exist anymore.   I no longer look for them because I don’t buy packaged cookies at the grocery store  when I bake so frequently at home.

This recipe came to my attention one year around the holidays  when I was lining up the cookies I planned to bake for Christmas.  It has since become a favorite, and if I don’t make it for the holidays, I usually make it at some other time during the year.  The dough is easy to make and although initially a little sticky, after chilling a while it firms up and becomes a very forgiving and manageable dough for cut-out cookies.  Since there are all sorts of cookie cutters available for just about any occasion, this dough is a good one to have in your recipe box as a dependable go-to when you want to make a cookie that will always come out good.  If you bake for someone who is nut-sensitive, just leave out the nuts, they will still be a delicious butter cookie.

On a side note:  I used to wonder what it was about pecans that makes them so expensive, when they are widely grown in the South, and used lavishly in southern cuisine.  During my vacation in North Carolina last fall, I think I learned the answer.  The folks we visited have a large pecan tree on their property–see photo below–and it was laden with pecans that hung in clusters.  I thought the tree was beautifully shaped and so I took a picture of it.   I did not realize that a pecan tree can grow to such a large size.

A pecan tree.

A pecan tree.

Not quite ripe pecans in their pods.

Not quite ripe pecans in their pods.

When the nuts are ripe the pods which hold them crack open and the pecan in its shell falls to the ground where they are picked up.  The quantity of nuts a tree will produce in any one year varies,  some years are “good’ and other years “not so good”. Weather and rainfall play a big part.  The pecan is one really protected little nut.  It resides inside the tan-brown shell that we recognize, but that shell is covered by another outer green shell or pod.  If you have ever shelled pecans you know how difficult that can be especially if you want perfect halves.  I don’t know how they are harvested commercially, but for folks who have a pecan tree, harvesting and cracking pecans is a lot of work.  Knowing this helps me to understand and appreciate their price.

Here is the recipe for the pecan sandies.  I made these as part of my cookie packages for Valentines Day this year.  I like to give gifts of home-baked treats to close friends and family for V-Day, a day for love, hearts and all things frilly!

PECAN AND SOUR CREAM SANDIES

Decorated treats!

Decorated treats!

YIELD:   Makes about 5 dozen cookies, depending on size of cutter used.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 recipe Royal Icing (recipe below)

1.  Grind the 1/2 cup pecans in a nut grinder or food processor.  Stir together the nuts, flour and baking powder in a bowl.

Mix finely chopped nuts with flour.

Mix finely chopped nuts with flour.

2.  In large mixer bowl beat butter about 30 seconds.  Add sugar;  beat till fluffy.  Add egg, sour cream, and vanilla; beat well.

Creaming butter, sugar, egg, sour cream and vanilla.

Creaming butter, sugar, egg, sour cream and vanilla.

3.  Add dry ingredients, beating till well combined.  Divide dough in half, cover and chill at least 3 hours, or overnight.

An easy to work with dough.

An easy to work with dough.

4.  Working with half the dough at a time, on a lightly floured surface, roll to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut with desired cookie cutters.  (Or dough may be shaped into 1-inch balls).  Place on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets.  Chill each pan of cookies while you cut the next batch.  Bake cutout cookies in 375*F oven for 7 – 8 minutes,  shaped cookies for about 10 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Cookies cooling before frosting.

Cookies cooling before frosting.

5.  Spread with Royal Icing, sprinkle with nuts, decorative sugars, or other kinds of trims.

Royal Icing, tinted pink

Royal Icing, tinted pink

IMG_3054Royal Icing is a smooth fluid icing that holds its shape well and sets hard.  Once it is set you can carefully write on it with gel-food pens.

ROYAL ICING

In a mixer bowl, beat 1 egg white till frothy.  Add 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, and a dash of salt.  Beat well.  Add a drop or two of food coloring (optional) to all or part of the glaze.  Decorate as desired.

Various sizes of square cookies.

Various sizes of square cookies.

I cut my cookies with several sizes of square cutters, divided the icing and tinted half of it pink, then stacked some of them, sprinkled some of them, and wrote on others with food-gel pens.  Simply done, but pretty.  Oh, the large cookie with the heart on it (a one of a kind) I will put into Mr. D’s lunch as a surprise!

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SOURCE:  Better Homes and Gardens Special Edition, Baking for the Holidays

Nutella Crackles

Nutella Crackle Cookies

Nutella Crackle Cookies

Does the thought of Nutella make you swoon?  It does me.  I love the stuff, but I tend to forget about it hiding there in the back of the cupboard.  Then when I see the jar it’s like meeting up with an old friend, picking up just where we left off.  You might say we have an “on and off” relationship.

Wouldn't you like to taste one?

Wouldn’t you like to taste one?

I had that same reaction when I saw George Clooney recently in the movie, The Descendants.  He was so good in that role.  I had forgotten how much I like him, until I saw him again.  The same for Rosemary Clooney,  she is one of my all-time favorite singers.  There is nobody who can make you feel a song like she could, and I love to dance to her music.  It’s so romantic, dreamy, jazzy, and cool.  Isn’t it odd that I have such strong feelings for the two of them?  They both make me swoon. You could say that I get swooney for Clooney.  Did you know that Rosemary was George’s aunt?  Yes, his father’s sister.  Such a talented family.

Likewise, just a taste of Nutella is all it takes to make me swoon for it and want to create something sinfully delicious.  I think this recipe for Nutella Crackles has what it takes on all counts:  crispy sugary exterior, crunchy with nuts;  a surprisingly chewy interior, the perfect blend of hazelnuts and chocolate.  Try them, you might get “swooney”, too.

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NUTELLA CRACKLES

YIELD:   about 4 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

Beat up the Nutella, butter and sugar.

Beat up the Nutella, butter and sugar.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 – 1/4 cup Nutella spread
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 – 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon instant expresso powder
  • 2 large eggs,
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 – 1/2 cups hazelnuts, chopped fine
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

2.  With electric mixer on medium speed, beat Nutella, butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add vanilla, expresso powder, and eggs and mix until incorporated.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture and milk, and mix until just combined.  Fold in 2/3 cup hazelnuts.   Refrigerate dough until firm, about 1 hour.

3.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  Line baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

4.  Place remaining hazelnuts in a shallow bowl. Place confectioners’ sugar in another shallow bowl.   One at a time, roll dough into 1-inch balls, roll in nuts, then in confectioners’ sugar.  Place balls 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Refrigerate the first sheet while preparing the next sheet.  Bake the first sheet and all others for approximately 8 minutes.  As each sheet is baking, chill one while you make up the next.

Cooling Cookies.

Cooling Cookies.

5.  Transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely.  Repeat with all dough.

Crispy, chewy, deliciousness

Crispy, chewy, deliciousness

SOURCE:  Taste of Home Baking

A Blizzard and a Bowl of Soup

Charlotte, not-so-sweet Charlotte!  She’s been here and gone, but not without leaving her mark. I saw a cartoon that was a map of the state of Ct. with these words written across it:  “CLOSED,  come back later.”  Many roads are still not plowed, businesses that are open have only a few people who can get in, the rest are still snowbound.  Thousands of people have no power.  Thankfully we are not one of them.

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We are homebound, snowbound, and almost but not quite bored.  There are tons of things I could do, but somehow nothing I can think of appeals to me. Mr. D. is home because his office is closed, and of course we need to eat.  So in spite of having a “bucket of books” to read and many issues of magazines to catch up on, knitting and other projects to work on, the one thing I can really get in to is to cook something.

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This is a picture of our deck.  The snow is at least 3 feet deep.  We cannot open the back door out onto the deck.

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This is our lower patio.  What looks like a giant marshmallow is a table with that much snow on it.

Storms days usually make me think of soup and today is no exception.  Today’s soup is a beef and barley combination.

Hearty Beef Barley Soup

Hearty Beef Barley Soup

It is only in recent years that I have begun to use barley.  I don’t recall ever having it in my growing up years, and so when I began to cook for my family it is not one of the ingredients I used.  Then one day a soup recipe caught my eye but it contained barley.  I purchased some knowing it is a good source of fiber and low on the glycemic scale, so I gave it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised by its nutty flavor and how much it thickened the soup.  Now I would not make a beef soup without it, and sometimes I include mushrooms with it.  Not today, though, since I didn’t have any on hand, and I couldn’t go out to get some  if I wanted to.

As I assembled all the ingredients and began to prep the vegetables, and brown the meat, it occurred to me that I was following the very same steps you take when you make a braise.  Braising is a technique that is used on tougher cuts of meat to produce great flavor and tenderness.  Its a cook’s secret weapon and one that I use frequently to prepare the basic ingredients for soup, or to slow cook a piece of meat that will become fork tender and falling off the bone.  It is very easy to do if you remember four simple steps that I describe in the recipe below.

If you’re looking for a way to dial up your cooking skills, braising is a secret you need to be in on.  In my opinion there is no other technique that requires so little of you and yet gives so much back.  Just don’t tell everyone, OK?

BEEF and BARLEY SOUP

SERVINGS:    About 8

Assemble and prep the meat and vegetables in advance.

Assemble and prep the meat and vegetables in advance.

  • 1 pound beef stew meat
  • 2 Tablespoons olive or canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cans beef broth
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 – 3 carrots
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms, optional

1. Sear the meat: In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Season the meat  with salt and pepper and brown the beef, in batches if necessary. Don’t crowd the pan, take the time to get good browning all over. Transfer to a large soup kettle.

Sear the meat in small batches.  That's where the good flavor comes from.


Sear the meat in small batches. That’s where the good flavor comes from.

2. Saute the mirepoix.  This is a French term meaning the classic onion, carrots, and celery combo.   Add chopped onions and celery to drippings left in the skillet, and brown them, aiming for a caramel-y brown color.

Add onion and celery and get everything browned.

Add onion and celery and get everything browned.

Add in the minced garlic, and the flour.  Cook for 1 minute, then transfer to the soup kettle. In this recipe the carrots are added later as they are part of the main ingredients of the soup.

3. Deglaze the pan. Pour a small amount of the beef broth into the skillet to deglaze the pan and scrape up all the browned bits. These bits are flavor bombs. When they dissolve in the cooking liquid, they enrich the whole dish.

Deglaze the pan with some of the beef broth.

Deglaze the pan with some of the beef broth.

Add this to the soup kettle with the remaining beef broth, the 5 cups of water, salt, thyme and pepper.

4. Braise it. Bring to a boil.  Meanwhile peel and slice the carrots.  Add them to the soup kettle with the barley.

Add carrots and barley.

Add carrots and barley.

When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover with tipped cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

5.  In the last half hour of cooking, I like to add some fresh mushrooms.  They seem to add to the deep beefy flavor of this hearty soup.

A warming bowl of soup.  So Good!

A warming bowl of soup. So Good!

SOURCE:  Cook’s Illustrated

Coeur de Creme au Chocolat

Chocolate cream hearts.  Arn't they pretty?

Chocolate cream hearts. Aren’t they pretty?

Don’t let the French title of this dessert send you into a tizzy.  It means chocolate cream hearts and it’s really easy to make. The oohs and aahs you get when you serve it, will make it all  worthwhile.

This recipe is one that I clipped from a magazine ages ago because it looked so pretty and sounded easy to make.  But then,  I never made it.  Each time I flipped through my recipe notebook looking for something to make I passed this one by.  How could I?   What was the matter with me?  I think I saw it so often that I no longer saw it.   Know what I mean?   But suddenly this year I SAW IT, because I was searching for  things to make for Valentine’s Day, and these hearts jumped out at me and said, “Here we are, make us”.   OK,  all right,  I will!

I am so glad I did.  They are smooth, creamy-dreamy, a little chocolaty, very decadent, and unbelievably good.  And, all it takes to make them is four, count them, four ingredients.

Only four ingredients.

Only four ingredients.

GET THESE:

  • 6   6-inch squares of cheesecloth.  Not an ingredient, but you need this.
  • 1  8-ounce package cream cheese, cut up
  • 2  Tablespoons bottled fudge sauce   I used Dove Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Sauce by Smucker’s.
  • 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream

DO THIS:

1.  Moisten the cheesecloth squares.  Line six 1/2 cup molds or custard cups with the cheesecloth, overlapping it so it fits into the mold or cup with an overhang.

Molds lined with cheesecloth.

Molds lined with cheesecloth.

2.  Beat the cheese and the fudge sauce with an electric mixer till well combined.  Add the sugar, beat on high speed till fluffy.

Beat cream cheese with fudge sauce and sugar.

Beat cream cheese with fudge sauce and sugar.

3.  Wash beaters.  In another bowl beat cream till soft peaks form;  fold into the fudge mixture.

Fold in whipped cream.

Fold in whipped cream.

Spoon into molds.  Cover with overhanging cheesecloth.  Quick chill in freezer 30 – 45 minutes or chill in refrigerator 3 – 24 hours.

Fill molds and cover with cheesecloth.

Fill molds and cover with cheesecloth.

4.  To serve:  spoon additional fudge sauce onto serving plates.  Unmold, remove cheesecloth, and drizzle additional fudge sauce over the top.

Unmold heart onto a puddle of chocolate sauce, and drizzle with more chocolate.

Unmold heart onto a puddle of chocolate sauce, and drizzle with more chocolate.

5.  To take this showy dessert one step further,  place a  heart-shaped chocolate on top.

Cap off a special meal with your sweetie by serving this dessert.

Cap off a special meal with your sweetie by serving this dessert.

I never said it was low in calories, but sometimes you just gotta splurge.  If you are feeling really guilty about all this use reduced fat cream cheese like I did.   🙂

The amount you get from this recipe is ample for 6 molds plus more.  I made an additional serving in a custard cup, and I probably could have made another one if I hadn’t licked so much off my fingers, the beaters, the bowl, the spoon, the spatula—–while making it.

Creamy, dreamy, and chocolaty!

Creamy, dreamy, and chocolaty!  Julia would be proud.

Pork Tenderloin with Cheesy Polenta

Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Sauce

Pork Tenderloin and Mushroom Sauce

With a name like pork tender loin you would expect this cut of meat to be tender, right?   I may be in the minority here, but I’ve had the experience where it wasn’t tender at all;  more like dry, stringy, tough.  Did I do something wrong that ruined it,  or was it the cut of meat?   Most of the recipes I see for pork tenderloin have you cooking it (in the oven) at a very hot temperature, for a short time.  This may be the method of choice, but it doesn’t give me the results I want.

One thing I know about cooking most meats, is that the outside of it needs to be sealed in some way in order to contain its juices within.  This is what makes a cut juicy.  Without this step, cooking it at a high temperature will only dry it out,  and that equals tough!

So, with that in mind, I experimented with a pork tenderloin that weighed about a pound.  The recipe that follows describes what I did, and I’ll tell you right now that I got the results  I wanted:  a juicy, tender piece of meat with the added benefit of deep umami flavor thanks to the browning of the meat and the mushrooms used in the sauce.  Served with a cheesy polenta to spoon the sauce over,  this meal was outstanding.  In the words of my husband, it was “plate-licking good”.

A moist cut of pork with mushroom sauce to spoon over polenta.

A moist cut of pork with mushroom sauce to spoon over polenta.

PORK TENDERLOIN with CHEESY POLENTA

SERVINGS:   about 4

  • 3 Tablespoons EVOO, divided
  • 1 pork tenderloin, about 1 pound weight
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 small – medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1  8-ounce pkg. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cream, light cream or half and half
  • 1 cup polenta ( cornmeal that cooks in 3 minutes)
  • 6 ounces shredded semisoft cheese, such as fontina, gouda, or jarlsburg
  • chopped flat-leaf parsley, or dried parsley, for garnish

1.  Preheat the oven to 375*F, and lightly spray a baking dish appropriately sized to the meat.

2.  In a large skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over medium heat.  Season the meat all over with salt and pepper, and cook in the skillet, turning until browned, about 10 minutes.  Do not skimp on this step, it’s what produces the sear to keep the juices inside.

3.Transfer meat to the prepared baking dish.  Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.  Put into the oven and roast until the temperature registers 145*—-about 12 – 15 minutes.  When temperature has been reached, remove from the oven, cover with foil to keep warm and let rest while you continue.

4.  In the skillet, add the remaining 2 Tablespoons oil, and over medium heat cook the shallots and mushrooms until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and simmer until reduced, about 3 minutes.  Cover and remove from heat.

5.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring 3 1/4 cups water and the cream to a boil.  Whisk in the polenta.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking, until thick, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese;  season with salt and pepper.  Cover and keep warm.

6.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board and slice on an angle.  Arrange on a serving dish, top with mushroom sauce and garnish with parsley.  Serve with polenta.

Slice pork, pour mushroom sauce over top.

Slice pork, pour mushroom sauce over top.

Cheesy Polenta

Cheesy Polenta

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This meal can be completed by the addition of a green vegetable, such as green beans or broccoli.  In the event polenta does not appeal to you,  substitute mashed potatoes or rice to spoon the sauce over.  It will be very good however you serve it.

SOURCE:  A Carolyn Original

Bacon Cheddar Pinwheels

Bacon Cheddar Pinwheels.

Bacon Cheddar Pinwheels.

Yes, it was Super Sunday, and no we didn’t watch the game, go to a party, or cheer for any particular team, but I did use game day as an excuse to make some foods associated with game watching.  I guess I’m more interested in food than football!  Anyway, I made these easy little pinwheels that we enjoyed for lunch with some fresh fruit.  Then I went on to make a chicken quesedilla casserole for dinner.  I’ll be telling you about that in a few days. so stay tuned.

These easy to hold little pinwheels make a great appetizer, combining two flavor favorites; bacon and cheddar cheese, wrapped into crescent roll dough.  You can eat them with your fingers, no utensils required, while in the other hand you hold your favorite beverage.  A neat party food, I think.  One that guys will like–at least my husband did.  In fact, he asked me to make them after seeing them in a picture.  Turns out he was on the right track with that suggestion.  I liked them very much too.

BACON CHEDDAR PINWHEELS

Just a few ingredients, you probably have on hand.

Just a few ingredients, you probably have on hand.

Yield:   Makes 12 – 16, depending on how thick you cut them.

  • 1 roll refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 2 Tablespoons ranch dressing
  • 1/4 cup cooked bacon pieces,  4 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

1.  Preheat oven to 350* F.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper.

2.  Unroll the crescent roll dough;  pressing each section into a 12 x 4 inch rectangle,  firmly pressing the perforations to seal.

3.  Spread 1 Tablespoon dressing over each dough rectangle to the edges.  Sprinkle each with bacon, cheddar cheese, and onions.

Layer on the fillings, then roll up.

Layer on the fillings, then roll up.

4.  Starting at one short side, roll up each rectangle;  press edge to seal.  With serrated knife, cut each roll into 6-8 slices;  place cut side down on prepared baking sheet.

Slice, then bake.

Slice, then bake.

5.  Bake 12 – 17 minutes or until edges are deep golden brown.  Immediately remove from baking sheet.  Serve warm.

Served warm with fruit for a light lunch.

Served warm with fruit for a light lunch.

Bacon Cheddar Pinwheels

Bacon Cheddar Pinwheels, a neat little appetizer.

SOURCE:   Pillsbury Baking

Chocolate Festival, 2013

Visitor are greeted by this cheerful sight on the grand piano.

Visitors are greeted by this cheerful sight on the grand piano.

In the small town of Portland, Ct. the first Saturday of February is now well-known as Chocolate Festival day.  We are “the little church that could”, because we accomplish big things.  There is a spirit of togetherness, cooperation, and fun in all that we do.

This was our sixteenth time producing this annual event, and each time it seems to get better and better.  The people come early and stand in line outside in the cold until the doors open, and then swarm inside trying to get to their favorite booth(s) for baked goods or candy or gifts.  Some folks head right to the “Chocolate Moose Cafe” for a choice seat and first dibs on the mouth-watering desserts being served fresh and warm from the kitchen.

Chocolate Moose Cafe

Chocolate Moose Cafe

If you asked me what my favorite part of it is, I wouldn’t be able to choose.  Just walking into the room makes you smile and you feel happy and warm, because everything is so brightly decorated, and the booths are filled with gifts that are unique, and beautifully presented. The colors of red, pink and white are everywhere, even the people working there are dressed in these colors.

Gifts for all ages.

Gifts for all ages.

Grab bags for children.

Grab bags for children.

Greeting Cards

Greeting Cards

The greeting cards are all hand-made from actual photographs;   a bargain at 3/ 5.00,   centers are blank for your own message.

This event is the main fund-raiser of the year put on by the Women’s Fellowship, but many men also join in and contribute their services by helping with setting-up, taking down, clean-up, parking cars, and other services as needed.  So many people pitch in to create this wonderful day,  a lot of work, but so rewarding.

Over view of the candy booth.

Over view of the candy booth.

For my part,  since the very first year, I have made truffles for the candy booth and I help to package them in their hand-made decorative boxes. Below are some pictures of our specialty candies and “pops”.

Ice cream cone pops

Ice cream cone pops

Dump truck  pops

Dump truck pops

Rose bud pops

Rose bud pops

Rosebud bouquets

Rosebud bouquets

I also bake several different items for the baked goods booth.

Cardamom Breads

Cardamom Breads

These cardamom breads are one of the earliest baked items to sell out.  They are baked by a gentleman member, who looks forward to making them for us each year.

George's famous chocolate chip cookies.

George’s famous chocolate chip cookies.

Another gentleman provides us with chocolate chip cookies,  recipe closely guarded,  that are out-of-this-world!

Swedish breads and coffeecakes.

Swedish breads and coffeecakes.

Another of our specialties are the Swedish breads and coffeecakes.  Pies and cakes, brownies, cookies, jams, crunchy snacks, etc, etc.  We never know what we will have, but regardless, it all sells out.

This year I made two kinds of cookies.  The pink sandwich hearts that I posted here yesterday, and some cookies made with Nutella that will be coming up on the blog very soon. So watch for them, they are scrumptious!    Compared to what many others do my part is relatively small, but I enjoy the whole event immensely, especially those chocolate desserts that the kitchen crew creates and serves in the cafe.

Team leader in the kitchen, making hot chocolate sauce.

Team leader in the kitchen, making hot chocolate sauce.

Raspberry ripple cheesecake.

Raspberry ripple cheesecake being cut.

Not everything sold or served is chocolate.  This is a raspberry ripple cheesecake being cut with dental floss.  Did you know that dental floss makes nice clean cuts for perfect servings?

Last, but not least, are the raffle baskets.  Many people take on the task of creating a basket of theme-related items, and these baskets are raffled off at the end of the day.  Here are a few of the baskets that were on display.

Go, UCONN Huskies!

Go, UCONN Huskies!

At this time of year, Huskie fever runs high, so we always have a UCONN Huskies basket.

Cupcake in the Kitchen basket.

What’s up, Cupcake?  basket.

All things "Cat"

The Cat’s Meow, devoted to all things “cat”

Over 20 raffle baskets were on display.

Over 20 raffle baskets were on display.

So many baskets to take a chance on.  Which one would you choose if you could?  At the end of the day I received a phone call telling me that I had won the “Bucket of Books” basket.  I was so happy,  I love to read and a BIG bucket filled with books is just great.

I do hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of a wonderful day, and if you live within driving distance perhaps you can think about coming next year.  Remember:  the first Saturday in February.   Mark you calendar, now!   For further information, please e-mail me.  ( see Contact page, above.)     XOXO

Sandwiches, Sweet and Pink!

Now what kind of sandwich is sweet and pink?  I’ll give you some hints:  Valentine’s Day,  hearts, sugar cookies.  You got it!  A heart-shaped sugar cookie sandwich tinted pink and filled with butter cream.  WOW!  Does that sound fabulous or what?  Here’s a first look at how they turned out.

Pink heart sandwich cookies with cream filling.

Pink heart sandwich cookies with cream filling.

This recipe is from the current issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and it met my needs exactly because I am baking cookies for the Chocolate Festival that I mentioned last week in the post on Funfetti Truffles.  These cookies are so cute I just had to make them..  Since I have a set of heart cookie cutters I made them in two sizes;  the small ones are the cookies sandwiched together with cream filling, as the recipe describes, the larger ones I made with a heart cutout “window” in the top cookie with a layer of raspberry jam over the cream.  Then I sifted powdered sugar over all of them.

Jammy heart cookies.

Jammy heart cookies.

I love Valentine’s Day with all the lacy trims, sentiments, and especially vintage valentines.  I have a sizable collection of all things vintage related to V-tines Day and I get them out each year to celebrate and enjoy all month.  I thought you might like to see a few things from the collection.

A small part of my collection of vintage valentine memorabilia.

A small part of my collection of vintage valentine memorabilia.

This display is on a console table in our foyer.  Hanging on the wall is a valentine quilt that I made.

Vintage valentines and an old vase.

Vintage valentines and an old vase.

The heart-shaped vase is just the right size for a bouquet of roses.

Candy box and a February angel.

Candy box and a February angel.

The heart box opens at the top where it is tied, to reveal a pocket for some candy or a handkerchief.  The little angel has such a sweet face, and even though the paint on her heart is half gone, she is no less dear. Her base is printed with the words, “February Angel”.  I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of my valentine treasures from the past.

PINK HEART SANDWICH COOKIES

YIELD:  depends on size of cookies.  I got  44  1 1/2 -inch cookies, and  6   2  1/2-inch cookies.

  • 2  cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out cookiesIMG_2862 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1  stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • red and pink food coloring
  • cream filling—recipe follows

1.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  In mixer bowl, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture beating until just incorporated.

2.  Divide dough into as many pieces as you will color, depending on how many shades of pink you would like your cookies to be. Working with one piece of dough at a time, add food coloring, 1 drop at a time, mixing and kneading to combine until desired shade is reached.  Flatten each piece of dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to over night.  Bring back to room temperature, about 10 minutes, before rolling.

3.  Preheat oven to 325*.    Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment.  Roll out each disc of dough on a lightly floured surface to just under 1/4-inch thick.  Cut out cookies using various sizes of heart cutters ( if you have them), making sure you have an even number of each color and size.   Place cookies 1 – inch apart on prepared baking sheets and freeze until very firm, about 15 minutes.

4.  Bake until barely golden brown around edges, about 8 minutes for 1  1/2- inch cookies, 10-minutes for 2  1/2 inch cookies.  Let cookies cool completely on baking sheets set on wire racks.

Cooling on the baking sheet.

Cooling on the baking sheet.

5.  Spread or pipe filling onto bottom side of half the cookies, and sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing gently.  Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Making the sandwiches with cream filling.

Making the sandwiches with cream filling.

CREAM FILLING

YIELD:  about 1 1/4 cups,  enough to fill one recipe of the above cookies.

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons milk, if needed

1.  Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low, and gradually add the sugars, beating until thoroughly combined.  Beat in vanilla.  Add milk as needed to make mixture a spreading consistency.

IMG_2865

IMG_2875

So pretty and festive,  just  right for a sweet gift.


IMG_2872

SOURCE:   Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Feb. 2013

Slow Cooker Blade Steaks

Slow cooker blade steaks served with noodles and acorn squash.

Today was one of those days when I am very glad that I have a slow-cooker. Busy, Busy, Busy!  But I was still able to put an attractive and very tasty meal together and my husband and I really enjoyed it. The only time I spent on it was to saute the onions before putting everything in the crock pot early in the morning, and as the saying goes “set it and forget it”.

This recipe was originally  written using a pot roast which I often do make, but today I used blade steaks instead and got an extremely tender and flavorful result. You will note that the recipe calls for adding carrots and potato to the slow cooker with the meat, but for today I cooked some wide egg noodles to go with it.  The recipe produces a good quantity of gravy and so its good to have some thing that will go with the gravy like mashed potatoes or noodles.

To produce a successful meat in the slow cooker you need something to give lots of flavor;  in this case sun-dried tomatoes, herbs and garlic. You will also be using less liquid than oven or stovetop versions, but the moisture in the slow-cooker  plus meat juices will contribute to the gravy.

SLOW COOKER BLADE STEAKS

SERVINGS:   6-8

INGREDIENTS

  • 6-8 blade steaks, about 2 pounds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • cooking spray
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup fat-free, less sodium beef broth
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped, drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

DIRECTIONS

1.  To prepare meat: sprinkle steaks evenly with salt and pepper.

2.  Spray the interior of the cooker insert with non-stick spray.  Place the meat in the cooker.

Blade steaks in the slow cooker insert.

3.  In a skillet, add olive oil, then onion and sauté 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned.  Add the broth and next ingredients through bay leaves.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the broth mixture to the slow cooker.  If using vegetables, arrange them around the meat.  Cover and cook 2 hours on HIGH, reduce heat to LOW and cook 4 hours more. Or start on LOW and cook 6-8 hours.

4.  To serve, remove bay leaves and discard,  serve with the gravy.

Blade Steaks with gravy , noodles and stuffed acorn squash.

SOURCE:  adapted from a recipe from  Cooking Light