Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fresh Mozarella Bruchetta



Fresh Mozzarella Bruschetta
With the holidays fast approaching, we will be needing lots of appetizers and special dishes.  So I wanted to post this awesome bruschetta.  It's the perfect appetizer but I also enjoy it as a light dinner served with a soup and salad.  It's just so healthy and fresh, I could eat it all the time!  You can make this with or without the fresh mozzarella, for a vegan version, either way it’s really excellent.  Here I’ve combined the best ingredients from two friends recipes, Carrie Spencer's and Teresa Boswell's.  I love to use homemade baguettes for this recipe.  Whenever I make baguettes I freeze a few to make bruschetta with.  Of course you can use a store bought baguette as well. 

1 ½ cups chopped Roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
handful fresh basil chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoons garlic salt
several grounds fresh ground pepper

Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least an hour if possible. 
 
1 baguette or crusty Italian bread, sliced ½ inch thick
8 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Combine olive oil and garlic salt and brush surface of both sides of bread.  Place bread on baking sheets and place under broiler for 1 ½ minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Watch the browning process closely, so they don't burn.

 ½ -1 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced ¼ inch thick

Place a slice of mozzarella on each piece of bread and place under broiler until cheese is melted slightly, about 45 seconds.  Remove from oven and place a spoonful of tomato mixture on top of each slice of bread. Place bruschetta on large serving platter and garnish with a handful of fresh basil leaves.   Serve immediately, although you can serve it cold if necessary.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fettuccini With Seared Scallops and Tomatoes

Fettuccini with Seared Scallops and Tomatoes 
I am crazy about this incredibly flavorful dish!  Best of all, it's super fast, and fresh.  You can make it in the amount of time that it takes your pasta to boil!  Serve with plenty of crusty bread because you’ll want to sop up every last bit of the scallop sauce.

1 lb. fettuccine, cooked according to package directions, reserve 1 cup pasta water
¼ cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
scant ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 lb. fresh scallops
2 cups grape, cherry or plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 cup boiling pasta water
1-2 teaspoons chicken or vegetable bouillon
fresh ground pepper
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese
fresh parsley for garnish

 First, mince garlic and cut tomatoes cut in half lengthwise.  Chop some fresh parsley.  Bring large pot of water to a boil.  Add a little olive oil and salt.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup of hot pasta water before draining.  While water comes to a boil, place a heavy sauté pan on the heat and add olive oil.  When oil shimmers add garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley and sauté for a few minutes.   Add scallops and season with a pinch salt and fresh ground pepper, sauté 2-3 minutes until cooked through.   Remove scallops to a plate and cover with tented foil to keep them warm.   Add tomatoes to sauté pan and sauté 2 minutes.  Add pasta water and bouillon.  Season with fresh ground pepper and let simmer for a few minutes.  Remove pasta to pasta bowl and toss with a little butter, parsley and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Serve sauce over individual servings of hot fettuccine, top with scallops and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.  Garnish with fresh parsley.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fresh Cranberry and Orange Smoothie

Fresh Cranberry and Orange Smoothie
I LOVE having a smoothie for breakfast every morning.  And with all the cranberries in season I thought I would combine the two loves. This smoothie is full of probiotics, antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium!  In other words...it's good for you!

2 cups plain yogurt
8 ounces frozen orange juice
a couple handfuls fresh cranberries
1 banana

Blend all ingredients until smooth and enjoy!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Salted Caramel Cupcakes


12 Salted Caramel Cupcakes
My four year old, Liam, and I were out shopping together and we came upon a little cupcake shop in historic Frederick, Maryland.  Liam was very distraught over the fact that we can’t buy EVERY toy we like, when we caught sight of the perfect thing to lift our spirits…Cupcakes!  We bought two.  Liam wanted chocolate on chocolate and I went for their most popular cupcake, Sea Salt and Caramel.  One word, WOW!  Well, I went to the kitchen the next morning and got busy!

 Home Made Caramel:
      ¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
½ cup water
1 teaspoon white vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter
Combine sugars, corn syrup, water, vinegar and salt in a small heavy pot.  Heat mixture to a boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Continue boiling and cook to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Turn heat to low and stir in butter. Set aside and cool.

Cupcakes:  
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup caramel (preferably homemade recipe from above)
1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
In bowl of electric mixer whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter, sour cream, caramel, egg, yolks and vanilla.  Wisk on medium speed for about 30 seconds.   Scrape down sides and stir by hand until no flour remains.  Prepare muffin tin with papers liners and spray with baking spray and fill with about ¼ cup batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes.  Testing center of cupcakes with a toothpick to check for doneness before removing from oven.  Cool completely before frosting with Caramel Buttercream Frosting.

                       Caramel Buttercream Frosting
6 cups powdered sugar
¾ cup softened butter
1 cup caramel (preferably homemade)
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In bowl of electric mixer, cream sugar, butter, caramel, milk and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Fill decorators bag fitted with a I inch mouth or round tip.  Pipe one dollop of frosting in center of the cupcake.  Now start winding a big thick strip of frosting around the outside of the cupcake. Swirl frosting towards the center overlapping as you go.  Finish frosting off in the middle of the cupcake.  Sprinkle wet frosting with a pinch of really coarse sea salt.  Let set uncovered in a cool location until ready to serve, even overnight if needed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Filled Chocolate Cupcakes



Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Ok, I admit to buying a Hostess fruit pie everyday after riding my bike to school at the University of Utah.  But now it's been years since I've bought one of those things!  My kids would LOVE it if I bought anything Hostess.  However, that goes against all good judgment I've (hopefully) gained since then!  Ever heard of Michael Pollan?  He's this awesome food/history/science writer... and I'm a huge fan.  I heard him say in an interview recently..."Hey, you can eat all the junk food you want!  Just make sure you make it yourself."  Well, since I do have a habit of making highly delicious sweets I have to agree with Michael.  Just think, if we all cut out all the fast food, processed foods and packaged foods I think we'd all be A LOT happier, healthier, fitter and more beautiful.  We can eat a homemade burger and home fries, homemade potato chips, and yes even a filled chocolate  cupcake or two, after we've labored to create them. Enjoy them!
I had been thinking about making these for a long time!  I finally created them for Liam’s family birthday party.  The kids were so excited when they saw these cupcakes, you’d have thought they'd won the lottery!  The kids loved taking extras in their lunch boxes.  I even sent some extras for them to share with friends...they loved that!
2 cups flour
2 ½ cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare 30 muffin cups with paper liners.  In bowl of electric mixer add all of the dry ingredients and whisk together with a hand held whisk.  Add all of the wet ingredients, including peanut butter.  Beat on medium with electric mixer until thoroughly combined, for about 3 minutes.  Pour ¼ cup of batter into each muffin cup.  You may be able to get 31 cupcakes from the batter if you scrape your bowl really well.  Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  Remove cupcakes from pans. 

                                Filling
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
3 large egg whites

 Separate eggs and place whites in bowl of electric mixer.  Whip egg whites with whisk attachment until soft peaks form.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar and set aside.  In small saucepan, combine sugar, syrup and 2 tablespoons water.  Heat gently over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  This may take 5 minutes.  Raise heat and bring to a low boil.  Wash sugar crystals down sides of pan with wet pastry brush.  Put candy thermometer in place and bring to 230 degrees...NOT ANY HIGHER!!!  This will just take a minute or two, so no multitasking right now!  Remove pan from heat and with mixer on LOW begin whisking egg whites.  With mixer running on LOW speed, pour hot syrup into egg whites.  When syrup in all incorporated into egg whites, whisk on MEDIUM speed for 5-10 minutes.  Frosting will be thick and shiny.  Spoon into decorator’s bag with ¼ inch mouth.  Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Turn all the cupcakes upside down on parchment paper.  Cut a small slit through the paper baking cup on bottom of every cupcake.  Pipe about 1-2 tablespoons of filling into each cupcake.  You will feel the cupcake expand slightly.  Be careful not to overfill cupcakes, causing them to crack and burst.  Turn cupcake right side up after filling.

 Chocolate Glaze

 11 ounce bag milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

 On lowest heat possible place a small pot.  Add chocolate chips and shortening and melt. Stirring until smooth.  This will take a few minutes.  Be really careful not to let the chocolate sit on too high of temperature because this will scorch and ruin your chocolate.  Once chocolate is melted and smooth, dip tops of each cupcake in chocolate and place back on rimmed baking sheet to dry.  Once chocolate glaze is set add a tiny round tip to your decorator’s bag and pipe some cursive “e” shape across the top of each cupcake.  These will taste even BETTER the next day!




Roasted Broccoli and Cheese Soup



Roasted Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Don't you just love soup this time of year?  I just can't get enough of it!  I think I could have it for dinner almost every night!  I came up with this recipe after enjoying a bowl of a similar soup in a favorite restaurant.   Roasting the broccoli and onion lends a superior flavor to this delicious soup.  This method also uses the WHOLE broccoli head, which adds more flavor to the soup and makes me feel better about using the all the edible parts of the broccoli. All you need is some broccoli, cheddar cheese and some staples...how simple is that? This recipe serves about 6 people. 

 1 large head broccoli, cut into florets, trunk reserved
1 onion, chopped
½ cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable bouillon granules
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 cups milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Toss broccoli florets and onion with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 12-15 minutes.  While broccoli roasts, cut up trunk of broccoli and place in small pot with water to cover.  Boil for 15 minutes, adding water if needed, until broccoli is tender.  There should be a little water left.  Cool a minute and puree broccoli stems in food processor.  Place a dish towel over the lid of the blender when you puree hot liquids to prevent any spills.  When hot liquids are pureed the will burst through the lid.  It's important only to fill a blender 1/4 full and place a towel over the lid for safety.  In a large pot, melt butter.  Stir in flour, bouillon, dry mustard and pepper.  Stir in pureed broccoli.  Stir in milk and cook 5 minutes or so until thickened, stirring often.  When nicely thickened add 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese.  Stir constantly until melted and incorporated.  Roughly chop roasted broccoli and onions and stir into soup.  Thin with a little milk if needed. 

Purple Broccoli from the farm

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy Holidays from Lucketts, Virginia


Happy Holidays from Lucketts, Virginia!

My friend Tracy and I went out for a day full of Christmas inspiration in Lucketts, Virginia. These are my favorite "snap shops" of our trip.  Antiques are big out here on the East coast and Lucketts is one of my favorite places to hit for ideas, fabulous finds and inspiration.  I love the restored furniture retailers here in this part of the country.  The pieces end up with a beautiful patina.  After a coat of chalk paint and a dyed or clear wax have been hand rubbed into the piece, they are transformed into something really amazing.  I am just finishing restoring a china cabinet that will be my "wrapping room," or rather "wrapping station."  It's not exactly an ENTIRE ROOM dedicated to the art gift giving but a place to keep my papers, ribbons, scissors, tape and gifts. I'll be sharing that project with you soon!  For now, I hope you get some great ideas for some of your upcoming projects and holiday decorating from our trip to Lucketts and enjoy a taste of my "neck of the woods!"

Wreaths hung by ribbon


Silver and Green table setting





Wrap wreaths and garlands up in burlap

Add lights and hanging snowflakes



Burlap stockings with lace edging

Fresh boxwood wreaths hung by ribbons





Fresh boughs woven in chandeliers

Candle and Sled Centerpieces
Love these burlap chairs!


Beautiful centerpiece!
Love the wreaths hung on the backs of chairs!
 
 



Happy Trails!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Peppermint Marshmallows with French Hot Chocolate




Peppermint Marshmallows with
French Hot Chocolate

Love hot coco and marshmallows!  No Christmas party is complete with out them!  We are putting on a Polar Express Christmas Party in our ward (church congregation) in December.  We've planned a Hot Coco Bar as part of the après meal, complete with homemade marshmallows, peppermint stirrers, whipped cream and sprinkles among some of the toppings.  It was so fun coming up with this recipe for the peppermint marshmallows.  I loved how they turned out!  Marshmallows are usually rolled in powdered sugar, I thought they would look adorable rolled in the crushed peppermint.  And they did look adorable!  No need to flavor the marshmallow with anything but vanilla, or flavor your cocoa, the crushed peppermint marshmallow gives just the right amount of peppermint to brighten your cup of cocoa! 

4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups water, divided
3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
drop of red food coloring
4 boxes full size candy canes, crushed in heavy zip lock bag

Oil a 9x13 inch baking dish with vegetable oil.  Line the dish with aluminum foil and oil foil with vegetable oil.  In the bowl of electric mixer, add gelatin and 3/4 cup water.  In small pot stir together sugar, corn syrup, 3/4 cup water and salt.  Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until the syrup reaches 234 to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Stir in vanilla and food coloring.  Using the whisk on the electric mixer at full speed, pour the hot syrup into gelatin mixture and whip for 15 minutes.  Pour out into prepared dish and smooth the top of marshmallow with an oiled spatula.  Let stand at room temperature for 10 hours uncovered.  Sprinkle crushed candy canes onto  countertop or large cutting board.  Turn out marshmallows onto crushed candy canes.  Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top of marshmallow block and rub in with hands to prevent marshmallows from sticking.  Cut marshmallows with oiled cookie cutters and roll in crushed candy canes.  Makes 64  large square marshmallows.
                    French Hot Chocolate

You can’t find a smoother, richer or creamier hot chocolate than this. Well, maybe somewhere along the Champs-Elysees!   My friend Andrea Hamilton gave me this family recipe, and we love it.  My husband likes to tease that it’s not really how the French make their hot chocolate!  


2 cups whipping cream
1 cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cups milk


In medium bowl whip the cream with a hand mixer. As it begins to thicken, alternate adding chocolate syrup and sugar until all ingredients are combined. Chill chocolate cream in airtight container in refrigerator until ready to use.  Heat milk in a tea pot or crock pot and stir in all of the whipped chocolate cream.  Heat until hot and serve or fill mugs about 1/3 full of chocolate cream, add hot milk.  Stir and serve.  Top off each mug  with a peppermint marshmallow.   

 
                               

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sweet Potato Biscuits with Molasses Butter



Sweet Potato Biscuits with Molasses Butter
Upon entering a favorite Southern restaurant in historic Buckeystown, Maryland, we were greeted with a plate hot sweet potato biscuits served with molasses butter.  We quickly devoured them while musing over the menu.  What a nice surprise to try something the chef had made for his guests just to be nice!  I was so intrigued with the beautiful color and flavors of the biscuits, I recreated them at home, or as my husband likes to say “reverse engineered” them at home for a get together with friends.  These are a great addition to your holiday table. 

2 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup cold butter, cut into bits
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes, you could use canned if needed
2 tablespoons cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover two large baking sheets with parchment and spray with baking spray.  In electric mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar.  Add cut up butter and toss in flour with hands.   Beginning with mixer on low, cut in butter.  Build up speed with mixer to a medium speed until mixture resembles a coarse meal.  Stir in sweet potato until a soft dough is formed.   Toss a couple of handfuls of flour on the counter top.  With floured hands remove dough onto floured counter and roll out to 1 inch thickness.  Cut out biscuits with a 3 inch round cutter and place on prepared baking sheets.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Serve hot with Molasses Butter.  Makes about 15 3 inch biscuits.
Molasses  Butter
 
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup molasses

In electric mixer whip butter and molasses together until light and fluffy.  Scrape into a small serving dish or ramekin.  Serve with hot Sweet Potato Biscuits.



Saturday, November 16, 2013

All Day Sunday Roast Chciken




All Day Sunday Roast Chicken
This is the perfect meal for a Sunday or any day where you need dinner ready the second you walk in the door.  Just throw it all together in the morning and 5 hours later your meal will be ready and waiting.  If you have time, you can make the gravy or you can just spoon the pan juices over the chicken and vegetables.  You can always add some sweet potatoes or other root vegetables to the pan for some variation.  This is one of our favorite "go-to" Sunday meals.  It's fast, easy, fresh and delicious and so economical!  This is such a great meal for everyone to have under their belt.  It's just one of those meals that makes everyone happy!   
 
Chicken:
7 lb. roasting chicken
1 orange or lemon quartered
1/2 onion quartered
handful of fresh garden herbs if available
salt and fresh ground pepper
pinch or two of favorite herb blend
 Glaze:
(If you have time constraints you can skip the glaze.  Just salt and pepper the chicken and add a sprinkle of dried herbs)
 
3 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons honey
   Vegetables:

               2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut half, then into 2 inch pieces
                 12 red potatoes, cut into quarters or large bite sized pieces
  1 onion roughly sliced
 1/2 cup water, added to bottom of pam
 
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place cut vegetables in bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan.  Remove giblets and rinse chicken inside and out and place breast side up on top of vegetables.  Squeeze orange inside and over chicken and stuff orange rind inside chicken with onion and handful of fresh garden herbs.  Brush chicken with the glaze and season with salt and fresh ground pepper.  Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan, cover with foil and roast at 300 degrees for 5-6 hours.  Test vegetables and chicken at 5 hours if possible. Remove foil and let chicken brown for 10-20 minutes if needed.
                                                
                                   Pan Gravy

            This is how my mother and grandmother taught me how to make gravy...the old-fashioned way!  It 's made with ingredients you will already have on hand and it always turns out delicious. 

2 cups milk
4 tablespoons flour
½-1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Drippings (juices in bottom of roasting pan) from roasted chicken and vegetables

Remove chicken from roasting pan.  Place roasting pan on burner or drain drippings from roasting pan into large skillet.  Heat skillet or roasting pan over low heat and bring drippings to a simmer.  In medium bowl, or in a jar with a lid, make a slurry by whisking together milk and flour until smooth. Pour into simmering chicken drippings. Add coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Simmer gently, whisking all the while, until gravy thickens. Thin with more milk and thicken with a little more slurry if needed to reach desired consistency.  Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve with roast chicken and vegetables.

 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles

Chicken Noodle Soup with Homemade Egg Noodles
My children's most frequently asked question..."Mom what's for dinner?"  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  It's always the big question.  What IS for dinner tonight?  Well this is one dinner that always pleases and it's the best comfort food, ever.  It's really easy and amazingly flavorful. All you need is a roaster chicken, onion, carrots, celery and a few staples from the cupboard and fridge.  Serving this for dinner will ensure you have one happy family tonight.  My kids want to eat this all the time!  My son just looked at this picture and said,"  Oh can we have that tonight?"  (Never mind we just had it a few nights ago!) Don't be afraid of making the homemade noodles!  They "make" the soup!  They are really easy and fast!  I like to serve this soup with my Crusty Herb Bread.  This recipe will make a large batch for a gathering of family or friends.  Freeze half of the soup or take some to neighbor if you are not serving this to a big bunch.  Of course having left overs for the next day is always helpful.


                                           



                         Homemade Egg Noodles:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
4 tablespoons milk

On clean counter top mix flour and salt in a pile.  Make a hole at the top of the pile and pour eggs into hole.  Mash eggs inside hole with finger tips and add milk into hole. Now work in flour with your fingertips until dough forms.  Knead a bit.  There will be some extra flour, spread it out and roll dough out on counter top to 1/8 inch thick.  With pizza cutter, cut into strips.  Leave straight or roll into twisty cords.  Let dry on counter top for an hour or two while making the soup.  If however you don't have time to let the noodles dry, you can throw them in the soup a few minutes after making them and it still turns out fantastic.  My friend Rebecca Bateman shared this recipe for homemade noodles with me, it's a fun one to let your kids help you with. 

                                           Chicken and broth:

1 fryer or roaster chicken or a cooked rotisserie chicken
1 cup celery leaves
1 onion quartered
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
4 quarts water or 16 cups

In large stock pot place water, chicken, vegetables and seasonings.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes.  Strain chicken stock into another large pot.  You will use this as the base for the soup.  Remove chicken from bones.  Set meat aside and chop.  Discard vegetable scraps.   Note: If you are using a precooked roaster chicken from the market, simply remove meat from bones and set meat aside.  Place chicken bones and skin in the water with the vegetables and seasonings and simmer into a broth for 45 minutes to an hour. 

                                           Soup:

1 onion, chopped
5 large carrots, sliced into thin rounds
1 cup celery chopped
16 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules, powder or cubes

Add chopped onion, carrots, celery and bouillon to the pot of broth and simmer for 15-30 minutes.  Stir in the Homemade Egg Noodles and chopped chicken. Simmer another 15 minutes or until the noodles are done.   Season with salt and pepper.    



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