Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cashew Chicken

A few days ago, one of my pregnant friends had a hankering for this.  Though I'm far away from her and can't whip it up for her to eat in person, I put this recipe together for her. 

I miss you, lady.

Anyhow, I made it and it was good.  It even got a thumbs up from the biggest food critic in the house, which is saying a lot.  Tom said it's as good as Panda Express, though I was hoping to shoot a little higher. 

Cashew Chicken
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
- 1 cup salted roasted cashews
- 1 green bell pepper cut into thin slices
- 1 medium onion, cut into larger pieces, layers separated
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups sugar snap peas
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh minced ginger (or 1/2 tsp ground)
- 1/2 cup sherry
- steamed rice to serve

Combine soy sauce and corn starch in a larger shallow bowl until fully dissolved, then soak the chicken in the mixture.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in large, deep skillet on medium high and cook cashews until they brown, stirring constantly.  Remove from pan, reserving oil. 

Add another tbsp oil to pan.  Take chicken pieces from soy sauce mixture, reserving it for later.  Cook chicken until done, then remove from pan, leaving oil in pan.

If needed, add a little bit more oil and cook the vegetables  (and ginger)  until crisp tender.  Mix sherry in with reserved soy sauce blend and add to pan, cooking until thickened. 

Return chicken and cashews to pan, tossing and heating through.   Serve over rice. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

White Chocolate Cranberry Bars

These are almost exactly like the cranberry bliss bar from everyone's favorite addictive coffee shop.  They are basically blondies with white chocolate chips and cranberries, topped with frosting and awesomeness. 

I made them in a 9x13 pan, and next time I will definitely use a bigger pan.  They are so rich that you really just need a little piece. 

I found several versions of this recipe online and combined them into what you see here. 

White Chocolate Cranberry Bars
- 2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp baking powder (high alt, use 1 1/2 at lower elevations)
- 2 tsp vanilla 
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup craisins
- 1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugars.  Beat in eggs one at a time until light and fluffy.  Add baking powder, vanilla and ginger and combine thoroughly.  Add flour a cup at a time.  Fold in chips and craisins until just combined.

Pour into greased pan and spread so it is even.  If using 9x13 it will take about 28 min.  If using a larger pan, check at about 22 minutes.  You don't want to overcook them, they are done when toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

- 1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 cups powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla.  Add sugar a cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.  Frost cooled bars.

- 1 cup chopped craisins
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 tsp vegetable oil

Sprinkle craisins over frosted bars.  Melt chips in microwave and blend with oil.  Drizzle over bars and let set before cutting. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shortbread Cookies

I must confess that I don't love shortbread.  Or cookies in general really.  I bake them out of habit, tradition, expectation and love.  This recipe is one that I've made only once before.  It is simple and easy and stores well.

There are, however, two things that I love the very most about this recipe.  One, it is written in my grandmother's handwriting.  Two, it is written on notepaper from my grandfather's drapery store. 

My grandmother passed when Aidan was a baby, and I miss her handwriting so much.  My grandfather has been gone for a very long time now.  I miss having them around, especially this time of the year.  This right here...this is a little piece of them both. 

Make this recipe with your children, share it with your family.  Make those memories and hang on to those little scraps of paper.  Someday you will be glad you did.

Scratch Shortbread Cookies
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

Sift flour and sugar together.  Cut butter in until mixture is crumbly.  Knead dough ten minutes. 

Pat dough into an ungreased cookie sheet, then cut into 2 inch squares.  Bake at 300 for 45 minutes.  Recut when slightly cooled.  Store in tin with waxed paper between layers. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Easiest Cranberry Sugar Cookies Ever

These are super easy because you use a boxed quick bread mix.  If you are in a time pinch and need something home baked, it doesn't get much easier than this.

This recipe would probably work with any flavor of the quick bread box mixes.  Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you took the easy way out.  Shhhh...

Easiest Cranberry Sugar Cookies Ever
- 1 box cranberry quick bread mix (I use Pillsbury)
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar

Combine mix and butter, roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet.  Flatten with a glass dipped in sugar.   Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes. 

Told ya they were easy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peanut Butter Balls

Only because I love you all so much I will share this recipe. 

It's one of the things that makes me awesome.  People request these every year.  I always end up needing to double, if not triple this recipe.   It's always amused me how many people ask me for these because they are so easy to make and require so few ingredients. 

What they do require is time and patience.  And a lot of your willingness to get dirty.

Peanut Butter Balls
- 1 lb. (4 sticks) butter, softened
- 2 cups smooth peanut butter
- 6-10 cups powdered sugar (get extra, it's not a perfect science)
- chocolate candy coating (sold in baking aisle, in a tray for melting)

Blend butter and peanut butter fully, then add sugar a cup at a time.  Towards the end, it will be hard to mix and you most likely will have to use your hands.  It isn't a precise science as far as how much sugar you will need to add...when it forms into a dough that is easy to roll, it is done.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls, then coat evenly with melted chocolate.  Place on large cookie sheets covered with wax paper.  Chill until set.  Store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Swedish Tea Cookies

This is a recipe that has been passed down for at least three generations in my family.  They are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies for anyone who has tried those.  Little balls of simple dough rolled in powdered sugar.  They look like tiny snowballs when done.

Swedish Tea Cookies
- 2 sticks butter (1 cup), room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup finely minced nuts
- 1-2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream sugar and butter together, then add salt and vanilla.  Add flour a cup at a time and stir together until it forms a fairly dense crumbly dough.  Fold in nuts. (I use walnuts in this recipe). 

Roll dough into balls using about 1 1/2-2 tbsp dough per ball.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes.  They are done when they start to brown just the slightest bit. Cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar when still warm.  Place on cooling racks to cool the rest of the way.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Trivia Giveaway Contest!

Okay everyone, here is your chance to win the Christmas Pig!  I just might be throwing some mystery goodies in as well!

Later this week, I will post a picture of Mr. Pig!

Here are the rules....

1. You have to find the answers to the Christmas Trivia questions posted below.
2. Email your answers to by Friday, December 10th at noon MST.
3. Those with the most correct answers will be entered into a drawing and a winner will be chosen at random.  Winner to be announced at 6:00 PM MST on the 10th!
4.  If a new follower emails me and tells me you referred them, you will get a bonus entry!

MANY thanks to Kari at Primitives with Luv for this fantastic prize! You can follow her on Facebook here!

Alright, ready for some questions?

1. What movie contains a prop commonly referred to as the Major Award?

2. What does Aunt Bethany wrap up and bring to Christmas?

3. What's the name of the Grinch's dog?

4. What is the full name of the 8 year old boy left by his family?

5. What is the name of the elf played by Will Ferrell?

6. What does the Ghost of Christmas Present hit Frank Cross over the head with?

7. Why WAS the carpet all wet, Todd?  Hint: Margo asked him this question in a silver track suit.

8. What does Buddy say when he gets hit by a snowball?

9. What is the name of the band that finally gets Mrs. McAllister home?

10. What does Little Orphan Annie's Decoder Ring tell Ralphie to do?

11. What insect is rumored to live in the Grinch's smile?

12. What is the only thing worse than a triple dare?

13. What does Cousin Eddie wear underneath his sweater?  I need the correct name!

14. Who is the little girl that inspires the Grinch to change his ways?

15. What happens if you "put on the suit"?

Congratulations to our  winner, Joanna!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Matzo Ball Soup

With sunset today comes the end of Hanukkah.  I've been saving this recipe for last since it's the kind of thing you just might need to make any time of the year.  There's a reason this is also known as Jewish penicillin.  Magic powers, I tell you.  Magic powers.

Matzo Ball Soup
For the broth:
- whole chicken
- celery
- onion
- carrots
- thyme
- salt
- pepper

Add 5 quarts of water to a stock pot. Add 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, two legs, and two thighs. I leave the skin on the legs and thighs. Add two stalks of celery, one onion cut into quarters, 1 tbsp thyme leaves, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper. Bring to a boil and then turn to medium to cook for at least 45 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken from the broth and cut into bite sized pieces. Strain all of the veggies out of the broth and discard the veggies.

Cut up 4 stalks of celery, one onion, and three carrots into bite sized pieces and cook in the strained broth until just soft. Refrigerate broth until you are ready to serve.

You can also put soup noodles in the broth, but I stick to matzo balls only.

Matzo Balls (I almost always double this recipe!)
- 1/2 cup matzo meal
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp chicken stock (water will do, but if you have your stock you should use it)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- very small amounts (pinches) of salt, pepper, celery salt, or garlic powder to taste if you wish.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Put in refrigerator for about 30 minutes before cooking. Bring a large stock pot with about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Roll the matzo ball dough into small-ish balls. About 1 inch. Place in the boiling water. Cover and let boil on medium high heat for about 25 minutes. Strain the matzo balls and then you can serve them in soup. They're also delicious the next day cold from the fridge with a little salt and pepper! YUM!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I must admit the only way I've ever cooked brisket is as corned beef.  I've eaten brisket cooked other ways, yes, but not tried it myself.  This is yet another recipe from Robyn, the one she traditionally makes for Hanukkah.  As an extra bonus, it's a slow cooker recipe!

- 1 flat, trimmed beef brisket about 4-5 pounds (make sure it is a plain cut of brisket, not the pre-brined corned beef brisket)
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 4 stalks celery, sliced into chunks
- 4 russet potatoes peeled and sliced into large pieces
- 1 medium can diced tomatoes
- 1 bottle of amber beer
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup dijon mustard
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste

Place all sauce ingredients (everything except brisket, celery, carrots and potatoes) into a large saucepan over medium heat until incorporated and fully combined. Place potatoes in the bottom of the crock pot. Put brisket on top of the potatoes. Pour the sauce over the brisket. Cover and cook for 4-5 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Here is another pancake style recipe, this is a sweet ricotta based one.

- 1 lb. ricotta cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 5 eggs
- 2 tbsp oil (peanut oil is recommended)

Blend ricotta and sugar with eggs in a food processor.

Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan and then turn heat to low.

Pour by heaping tablespoons into pan and cook on low heat until the bottom of the pancake sets up firmly. Flip pancakes until set through.

Turn up heat to medium to allow the cassola to lightly brown before removing from pan to serving platter.

Serve warm or cold with Orange Poached in Honey Rose Syrup.

(This recipe is traditionally made in one large pancake, but can be made into smaller pancakes for ease of serving and flipping)

Honey and Rose Syrup with Poached Oranges
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cups honey
- 1 tablespoon rose water (totally worth seeking out!)
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 oranges supremed (segmented with all skin and pith removed)

Place a one quart saucepan over medium to low heat. Dump in sugar and 1/2 cup water, stir slowly to dissolve. Allow simple sugar to come to a boil and then immediately turn temperature to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add oranges and rose water and allow to come back to simmer and cook for one minute more. Stir in honey, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before serving

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken

Here is a great main dish!  One my friend, Robyn, often makes for Hanukkah.

Mediterranean Chicken
- Whole chicken, in pieces, with the skin on
- 4-5 Lemons
- 2 large Shallots
- 1-2 heads Garlic
- Olive oil
- Salt
- Pepper
- Kalamata olives -pitted 1 large jar

Place chicken in a roasting dish. Drizzle olive oil over chicken skin. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the chicken. Salt and pepper the chicken. Add the whole cloves of 1-2 heads of garlic, peeled. Slice 3 lemons and add the slices on top of the chicken. Thinly slice the shallots and place them on top. Roughly chop olives and put them on top. Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes or until skin is crisp and juices run clear. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing

I went to bunco last night and was assigned the responsibility of baking a birthday cake.  I wanted to try something a little different than the normal cakes, so I came up with this one.  The icing was an accident....I ran out of powdered sugar and improvised.  I think you will enjoy my mistake.  :)

Spice Cake
- 2 sticks butter, room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 4 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinammon

Cream sugar and butter together, then add eggs one at a time and beat into mixture.  Add buttermilk and beat for one minute.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add a little at a time to butter mixture.  Blend until smooth and light. 

Pour batter into 2 greased 9 inch round cake pans and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, checking for doneness at 30.  Let cool completely before icing the cake.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 tbsp butter, room temperature
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2-3 cups powdered sugar

Add brown sugar and stir completely.  Add powdered sugar a cup at a time and mix until icing reaches desired consistency.  It will set after frosting, but you need it thick enough that it won't run off the sides of the cake.  This should make enough to frost between the layers and the entire cake, but if you choose you may fill it with something else.  I used a pumpkin spice mousse as my filling. 

Thank you to all my bunco ladies....I needed you guys last night.  xoxo

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Apple Raisin Latke Dipping Sauce

Here is a recipe for a latke dipping sauce.  Yum!

Apple Raisin Sauce
- 16 oz. applesauce (store bought or homemade, I use unsweetened)
- 4 oz. raisins soaked in red wine for 10 minutes
- 1 tsp. orange flower water (worth finding! It makes the recipe!)
- 1 cup brown sugar

Place all ingredients in saucepan and cook gently until the brown sugar is melted and mixture is slightly reduced. Serve with Sweet Potato Latkes. Delicious either warm or at room temperature.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I must confess that I detest cut out cookies.  I love sugar cookies, don't get me wrong.  But the rolling and rolling of dough...I don't love it.  One of these days I will do something other than make round cookies with this dough, since it is perfect for it.  LOL

Sugar Cookies
- 3 sticks butter, room temperature
- 2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 5 cups of flour, plus flour for rolling

Cream together the sugar and butter, then add eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine salt, baking powder and flour, then add to butter mixture a cup at a time.  Dough will form into a large ball.  Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours to chill.  (Ideally overnight)

Roll out dough onto floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutters.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet at least an inch from one another.  Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.  Check for doneness, may need to bake a few more minutes. 

If you choose to ice the cookies, it is best to make a thin glaze out of powdered sugar and milk and whatever color food coloring you desire.  It will harden as it sets, just make it barely thick enough that it doesn't run off the cookies. 

Happy baking!

Sweet Potato and Scallion Latkes

I made some of the traditional potato latkes last night and they were fantastic!  In keeping with the spirit of Chanukah, here is another latke recipe.  If you've never tried these before, you simply must.  They are amazing!

Sweet Potato and Scallion Latkes

- 2 pounds sweet potatoes - peeled, grated and squeezed through cheesecloth or a strainer.
- 1 bunch scallions - trimmed, sliced to 1/8 inch both greens and whites
- 2 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons matzo meal (you could also use flour)
- Pinch of allspice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Oil for frying

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Heat oil over medium high heat and drop tablespoons of batter into hot oil. Flatten with a spatula. Fry on both sides until gold around the edges. Remove and drain on paper briefly before serving.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Zucchini Basil Latkes with Spicy Garlic Sour Cream Sauce

Another latke recipe from Robyn!  These are less traditional, but super yummy and colorful for Hanukkah!

Zucchini Basil Latkes
-2 pounds zucchini squash thinly julienned
- 4 TBSP matzo meal
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 to 1 bunch of basil in chiffonade
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil for frying

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Slice squash on mandolin or grate using a processor.

Place processed squash in a mixing bowl large enough to hold all ingredients. Add remaining ingredients except oil.  With hands or wooden spoon, mix well.

Heat oil to medium high heat and drop mixture by tablespoons into hot oil. Flatten with spatula and cook until light brown. Serve hot with spicy garlic sour cream sauce.

Spicy Garlic Sour Cream Sauce
- 8 oz. sour cream
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- cayenne to taste

Place sour cream in a mixing bowl. Place the kosher salt and garlic clove(s) on a cutting board. Using the back of a spoon or tines of a fork crush garlic into salt to form a paste.  Add to sour cream. Add black pepper and cayenne to taste. Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl.

Both of these were a huge hit last year. They're delicious and the garlic sour cream is out of this world. It does give you major garlic breath, though, so make sure your significant other has some, too!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Miss Robyn's Chanukah Latkes

When Robyn told me she made these, I told her that she was giving me the recipe.  Period.  I've actually made latkes before, using a recipe not very different than this one, back when I shared the holidays with a Jewish Aunt. 

These things are little disks of salty goodness.  They take a bit of work, but are worth it in the end. 

This recipe makes a ton of latkes.  Literally.  You can half it or quarter it, depending on how many you want to end up with.  They can be stored in the fridge and eaten later's not like you have to eat them all fresh (though they are the best that way).

Chanukah Latkes
- 10 pounds of potatoes, peeled and shredded
- 18 eggs
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1-2 shredded onions
- salt and pepper to taste

Shred the potatoes and squeeze out all the water, then drain over cheesecloth.  You want the shreds to be as dry as possible to make these.  Combine with the eggs, flour, and onions, then add desired amount of salt and pepper.  (If you've never made these before, you can salt and pepper them after cooking as well)

Scoop about a tablespoon and a half of the mixture into large shallow frying pan, smashing down the center to make them uniformly thick.  They are a little fragile, she uses two forks to turn them.  Cook until browned and crisp, then remove to drain on paper towels.

They are traditionally served with a variety of toppings, including applesauce and sour cream. 

Thanks for sharing your recipe, Robyn!  Happy Chanukah!!!!

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