Thursday, December 31, 2009

Easy New Year's Eve Appetizer

Who can resist a recipe that:
  • Uses everyday ingredients that you'll likely have on hand?
  • Can be made ahead of time?
  • Tastes good even if you mess it up? (I speak from experience here)
  • Is a big hit wherever you take it?

Well, I'm not sure I've put the last one to the test yet, but this recipe comes from a recent issue of Simple and Delicious and the contributor who shared it says she takes it everywhere and is always asked for the recipe. That's the definition of success for me.

I made this a couple weeks ago, and while it didn't turn out quite right, it was still extremely tasty. I'm making it again tonight for New Year's Eve. Try it. I think you'll love it.

French Quarter Cheese Spread

1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 TB grated onion

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/4 c. butter, cubed

1/4 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp. prepared mustard

1 c. finely chopped pecans, toasted

Assorted crackers

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, onion and garlic. Transfer to a serving plate; shaped into a 6-inch disk. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Cook and stir over medium heat for 4-5 minutes (do not cook this too long...that was my mistake the first time around) or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; stir in pecans. Cool slightly. Spoon over cheese mixture. Serve with crackers.

If you make it ahead of time, just bring to room temperature before serving.

Head over to Life as Mom for other New Year's Eve treats.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pepperoni Cheese Tortellini

I had a hard time deciding what to post for this week's Ultimate Recipe Swap over at Life as Mom. The theme is "Quick Fix Meals", a great idea during this festivity-filled month. However, sometimes my idea of what is quick to fix doesn't necessarily meet others' expectations.

For example, last night I made baked taquitos. And, I really thought that I would share that recipe today. We love it. But, it involves using leftover roast (not so quick if you don't have some of that stashed in the freezer) and rolling each taquito (probably doesn't qualify as speedy prep work).

So, I'm sitting here trying to think of something I make that is truly quick to fix. This easy skillet pasta dish came to mind, just a few simple ingredients and the result is a warm, satisfying meal, especially delicious if you add some garlic bread and a salad.

Pepperoni Cheese Tortellini (from Quick Cooking, years ago)

1 package (20 oz apprx.) frozen cheese tortellini
1 package (3-1/2 ounces) sliced pepperoni, diced
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon butter
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup sour cream

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, saute pepperoni and onion in butter until onion is tender. Stir in tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, basil, oregano and cayenne; heat through. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream. Drain ravioli; toss with cream sauce. Yield: 4 servings

**The original recipe called for mushrooms (add with the pepperoni and onion). It also called for ravioli instead of tortellini. Feel free to substitute if you prefer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Best Biscuits

Biscuits were not a big part of my life or my cooking before I met and married Phil. But, for Phil, biscuits were a staple in their family's diet. I learned early on that breakfast at Phil's parents' house would likely be biscuits, enjoyed with butter and jelly or, his dad's favorite, light corn syrup. They like their biscuits fairly small and barely browned. And that is breakfast.

Well, for most of our marriage I have been on a quest to find a biscuit recipe that I like and that meets Phil's biscuit standards, though I must confess, that I prefer my biscuits a little more golden brown with some crispness to the edges. This summer, I found a recipe on one of my favorite sites, Dine and Dish, that we like a lot and have now enjoyed several times. The buttermilk biscuits are great for biscuits and gravy and flash freeze really well.

But, this morning, I tried Smitten Kitchen's Cream Biscuits, and they are awesome. They're really good with butter and jelly or honey, but with the optional sugar included, they don't even need either one. (They are almost like the biscuits I make for strawberry shortcake, so it's not surprise that they are good plain.)

If you like biscuits, try these!

Cream Biscuits
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt butter in a small pot or microwave dish, and set aside. Sift two cups flour, the baking powder, salt and (if using) sugar into a large bowl. Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little. (I ended up using two additional tablespoons, or half the unused cream.)
Turn dough onto a floured surface, mound it into a ball and, using your hands, press it to a thickness of about 3/4 inch. (I used a rolling pin.) Cut into rounds, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Gather dough scraps and continue to make rounds. Dip the top of each round in melted butter and arrange on the baking sheet or just brush on with a pastry brush. Bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately, or flash freeze for future use. [Biscuits can be baked straight from the freezer, and additional few minutes baking time will be needed, usually around 3 to 5.]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love Christmas. And this year, I actually started everything early, shopping, decorating, etc., in the hope that we would have more time to actually enjoy the season instead of running around like crazy people every weekend in December. We'll see how it turns out.

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is the baking and candy making. In fact, it's definitely become a tradition at our house. It all started the first year we were married. We made a bunch of different Christmas goodies and delivered them to the other couples in our small group. We showed up at their houses singing "Feliz Navidad". It was fun, and we have tried to continue the tradition, though we don't always sing these days.

One year, I made "Cookie Dough Truffles" to include in the goodie bags. We delivered them to a newly married couple in our church, and I think she ate all the truffles before her husband even knew they were there. So, at least in that family, these truffles are a BIG hit! (And now she makes her own.)

Cookie Dough Truffles
1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 c. flour
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 1/2 lbs. semisweet chocolate candy coating, chopped

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flour, milk and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Shape into 1-inch balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm.
In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating (or use a double-boiler), stirring often until smooth. Dip balls in coating; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. If desired, remelt remaining candy coating and drizzle over candies. Store in refrigerator.

Visit Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom for more food gift ideas! I think her granola sounds awesome. Interested in more holiday recipes? Check out this exchange out.