A Little Southern Comfort

|
Happy almost Turkey Day!

I can't believe my favorite holiday is nearly here.  Just one more day, my friends.  It's one of the few holidays that are entirely about food, family, and fellowship- three lovely things indeed.  It is also one of the only holidays that commercialism hasn't overtaken...yet. 

Let's hope it never gets to that point.  Good grief.

Okay- this one'll be short because this girl has much to do before the big day but I just couldn't pass up sharing this one.  I decided to embark on another endeavor with the lonely berry.  This little crimson beauty is so versatile- and adds pizzazz to everything it encounters.  I just love it.  LOVE it, I tell you. 

As if you couldn't tell.

So...the other day I came across THIS recipe and fell in love.  I still had a bag of cranberries in my fridge and thought, well why not?  And then I read down the recipe list and noticed that this little fine ingredient was included:




Uh-huh.  I was sold. 

Thus I went about making these lovely little things:


 


Delish I tell you.  And incredibly easy.

Just crush some graham crackers, mix 'em with sugar and melted butter and press into a greased 12 cup muffin pan.


Then mix up some fresh cranberries, toasted pecans, light corn syrup, flour, Southern Comfort (mmmhmm), and cinnamon.


Fill up those graham cracker crusts


Bake 'em off at 350 for 25 minutes or so.  Cool them before removing from pan.

*I did tweak the recipe at this point.  After they're cooled, I mixed 1/2 cup of light corn syrup with 1/4 tsp maple flavoring, nuked 'em together for 20 seconds (just long enough to make the corn syrup loose) and brushed the glaze overtop each mini pie.  This helps take the edge off the tartness a bit more and adds a further depth of flavor with the hint of maple.


They slide right out, easy.  A slide just as easy down the hatchet.


How adorable (and decadent) do these look?


Mmm, delightful.

Go enjoy your holiday, will you?
And gear up for the abundance of holiday posts to come...

Happy eating!

The Lonely Berry

|
I did a little dance yesterday when I stepped into the produce section of my local grocery store. 

Not literally, but you know, in my heart.

My favorite berry, THE best of it's kind in my opinion, was perched smack between the oranges and grapefruits (don't ask me why- it isn't of the citrus variety, but possibly because it pairs so well with 'em).

The Cranberry.

Oh yes, the lonely berry.  The one that only comes out once a year in canned form (while maintaining it's canned form, mind you, after you suction it out of it's sorry said-can and plop it on a plate or into a bowl).  The obligatory canned glop that sits on the table for few to partake in- because, let's be honest, not many people actually partake.

I mean, who would want to?  The stuff looks like bright crimson gelatinous goo that's been sitting far too long in it's canned state for anyone to really enjoy, let alone crave.  Plus, it's so jacked up with sugar that you can hardly discern the real cranberry tang of it's original form.

No- I don't blame those averse to the canned variety.  However the real stuff?  THAT is what I love.  Whole berry cranberry sauce.  Made yourself, at home, with a bit of orange juice, zest, and ginger.  Oh yes.  This is what I long for.

And it's so. darn. easy to make.  Really.   I mean, yes, it's much easier to open a can and suck out goo with a spoon- but really, trust me on this- the made-yourself kind is better.

Much better.

Many people, not just myself, actually love these little guys.  So much that the great state of Wisconsin has devoted an entire festival to them.  And I actually know a faithful family that has attended for years (yes, Hoards, I'm referring to you!).  In addition, the cranberry has it's own institute- fully devoted to seeking research on the many health benefits of this little fruit. 

Speaking of health benefits, the little guy is stocked with good-for-you perks.  Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs) that can prevent certain bacteria, including E. coli, from sticking urinary tract wall and thus preventing infection. The cranberry may also inhibit bacteria associated with gum disease AND stomach ulcers.  In addition, cranberries contain large amounts of antioxidants and other nutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases.  Joe Vinson, a doctor and research chemist at the University of Scranton, states,


Cranberries [contain] the most antioxidant phenols compared to 19 other commonly eaten fruits.  Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants and should be eaten more often. 

(Source: http://www.cranberryinstitute.org/healthresearch.htm)


Well thanks, Joe- I'll take your word for it!

So let's, shall we?

My favorite cranberry concoction is a simple whole berry sauce.  You can spoon this stuff onto your turkey, sure, but you can also put it atop ice cream, slathered on your morning muffin or toast (my fav way to eat it), or mixed in Greek yogurt.  Your choice!  The possibilities are endless.

Gingery Orange Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:
- 1/2 C water
- 1/2 C freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 C sugar
- 4 C fresh cranberries or one 12oz package fresh or frozen
- Zest of one orange
- 1 tsp ground ginger or freshly grated

Instructions:
- Bring water, orange juice, and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add cranberries and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Crush some with a potato masher, if desired (I like some crushed, some whole).  Mix in zest and ginger, stir to combine.  Pour sauce into a bowl, cover, and cool completely to room temperature.  Refrigerate once cooled (or freeze/can in individual containers).  Makes 2 1/4 cups.

How lovely are these colors?

 

Gorgeous, I tell you.

 

Once the liquid is boiling, add those crimson beauties.


Boil together at a reduced heat for 10 min.

Slowly reducing...


Mix in your zest and ginger

Stir it all together and let cool completely.



Then portion it into your choice jars/containers

And enjoy for months to come :)

What's your favorite way to eat cranberries?
I urge you to try 'em on more than just the seasonal bird.
They deserve far more recognition than the once-a-year obligatory placement on the dinner table.

Trust me.

Stewing at Home

|
Whew.  It's hot in here.  Literally- I think my oven and range have been on since mid-October creating all sorts of autumny concoctions.

Remember my recent post

Baking has increased a hundredfold around these parts and isn't appearing to ease up.  All by choice, of course.  I have an affinity for baked goods and their subsequent aromas.  While I adore cooking, it isn't my forte- nor do I like it as well as baking.  Sugary, buttery, chocolatey, yeasty, carby...those are my specialties.

Cooking, though, is a must.  As a wife and mother it's really inevitable.  Thus I've made it my goal to attempt most things and try my hand at an array of intimidating tasks.  One I haven't tried?  Roasting a bird.  It terrifies me.  However this weekend I purchased a 13lb turkey and plan to go about teaching myself how to roast that sucker sometime in the next few weeks.
I'll keep you posted on how THAT goes.  {Shaking in my boots}.

I also want to become better at grilling.  I'm not bad at it- it's simply not one of my favorite things to do, nor do I feel I have the ample knowledge required to know when a piece of meat is cooked to a specified "doneness".  Someday.  Maybe next summer.

However baking I can do.  And HAVE been doing.

These have been perpetually been on my counter lately:



Yes.  Butter and eggs.  We've gone through way too many batches of 'em.  I should really just buy a cow and some chickens. 

It's in the 10 year plan. 

That, and a greenhouse.  And a garden.  And more counterspace.  And a convection oven with an induction range and a porcelain farmhouse sink, and distressed wood floors, and all stainless steel/cast iron cookware, and a walk-in pantry, and a butcher block as a kitchen island, and a gig as Ina's sous chef... well, a girl can dream, right?  :)

Moving on.

Anyway- this has also been the state of my counters lately:


Putting that butter n' eggs to good use I made some chocolate chip cookies for my cousin and his girlfriend who were so sweet to come babysit for us the other night.  Date nights have become rare around these parts.  We treat them like gold (date nights and sitters!).

Also baked up four dozen rolls for meal swap this month.
Rolls, along with Bacon Lentil Stew.
Mmm, stew.  Hold that thought!

In addition, we were invited by a sweet college friend of mine to dine at their house Saturday evening.  So, of course not being able to come empty-handed, a French silk pie was a must.  I made two.  Because if one is good, two is better, right?
We ended up taking the second to our bi-monthly small group gathering Sunday evening.


Then, my friends, today I made something I've been craving for weeks.

It's a must during the winter months.  A MUST, I tell you.  I mean, what's chilly weather without some hearty beef stew?  Really, I don't think there is such a thing.  The two go hand-in-hand.  In fact, at least three of my blogger friends have posted on beef stew this week so I'm pretty certain it isn't just me.  We foodies (and non-foodies alike) just know it's about that time. 

It's been. that. time. in my stomach for weeks and I simply haven't gotten around to making it but then I saw a recipe in Gina and Pat Neely's cookbook and knew I had to partake.  Then I read THIS book, a very broody English generational tale with ample amounts of romanticism, mystery, and intrigue.  At one point in the story the main character is entertained by a British countryman and his daughter.  While discussing the mystery of an ill-fated family they partake in beef stew for supper.  I had visions of sitting in an ivy-laden little cottage on the moors, sipping tea and eating stew while the rain pattered outside.  That was it.  Done and done.  I had to make it.

Thus, this weekend we picked up our 100 lbs of beef from a locker a few hours away (did I mention we bought a portion of cow this year- yes, THAT'S a story in itself).  The minute that beef entered my house I knew it was meant to become my coveted stew.

So enough preamble already.

Hearty Beef Stew

Ingredients:

- 3lbs trimmed boneless beef chuck, cubed
- salt & pepper
- 6 T butter
- 3 T all-purpose flour
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1/4 C tomato paste
- 3 C dry red wine
- Two 14oz cans beef broth (or 3 C homemade)
- 1 T brown sugar
- 1.5lbs baby red-skinned potatoes, quartered
- One 10oz package baby carrots
- 1lb fresh cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (optional- Mr. K isn't a fan)
- Two cans dark red kidney beans (optional- I like the added fiber)
- 3 T whole-grain mustard
- 3 T chopped fresh parsley

Instructions:

1. Place the meat in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.  Melt 4 T of the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, toss the meat with the flour; add to the pot, and brown on all sides.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate.

2. Melt the remaining 2 T butter in the same pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until tender, about 6 minutes.  Mix in the tomato paste and then the red wine.  Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.  Add the broth and sugar, then the browned beef.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, 1.5 hours, until the beef is very tender.

3. Add the potatoes and carrots, and simmer, uncovered, until the veggies are tender, about 25 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, beans, mustard, and parsley; simmer until the mushrooms are tender, another 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (though if you are using regular sodium beef broth, you may not need to add salt- commercial broths are generally very salty).

Sorry, no step-by-step pics a la Pioneer Woman.
I've decided those take way too much time.  No idea how she does it!
I chose to double the recipe and thus needed a hefty stock pot (seen below).
Half of the stew went to a couple of dear friends who just had a sweet baby girl.  Hope they enjoyed it!



Like Rachael Ray always says, "I wish they'd just invent smell-o-vision!"
The aroma of this stuff is to. die. for.  I'm convinced it's the red wine.
Plus, you can pour yourself a glass while it cooks.
Bonus!



Pour a heaping bowl of stew over some multigrain egg noodles (or eat it plain), 
with some homemade bread,
and you have yourself a fabulously filling fall meal.


Yes, this is exactly what I needed this week.



Now I'll go continue on in my broody English novel,
all the while envisioning myself on the moors.
Cheers and happy stewing...

Happy Halloween!

|
This one will be short and sweet (ha! pun intended) but just want to say Happy Halloween and enjoy a cookie or two, on me.

Well, if you lived nearby you could.

Our family always finds occasion to make sugar cookies and this was one of 'em. 


I love to break out the cookie cutters- there are so many cute ones to choose from, especially around this time of year.


  How cute are these?


Or these?





Oh, whoops, how did those get in there?  :)

Have a great day, be safe, and enjoy the autumn weather!

Just call me Betty...

|
Crocker, that is ;)

I've been baking like cuh-razy.  Not sure why.  Cold weather perhaps?  Something about fall gets me in the mood to break out my oven mitts.  Not that they were ever dormant...but this time of year just beckons for standing in front of a warm oven and filling the home with aromas of bread, cinnamon, roasts, pies, and the like.

Don't you agree?

For example.  Today.  JUST today, my seasonal baking fetish led me to produce these:




Yeah.  Two loaves of bread, a pan of cinnamon rolls, a 9x13 Pyrex dish of monster bars, and three dozen pumpkin gingersnap cookies

And don't get me started on tonight's supper (quiche with homemade pie crust and the aforementioned cinnamon rolls...we love our breakfast-for-dinner nights!). 

So yes, baking is in full swing around these parts.

In addition to the above items procured today, this week I also made another pan of monster bars for a friend, another three dozen pumpkin gingersnap cookies (those things are, ahem, addicting), brownies...for...umm, my husband (not me, oh no, I had no part in those...), a bazillion frosted Halloween sugar cookies (stay tuned for that post!), and THE most adorable button peanut butter cookies.

Button peanut butter cookies?

Yes, another Pinterest endeavor- the inspiration came from Bakerella's Coraline Cookies. They are adorable. A-dorable. Mine were made for a sweet little boy's birthday party I'm attending this weekend. I will post photos later of the actual gathering- his mama is a decorating goddess- this party is bound to be crazy-cute. The button cookies are a part of the theme, of which is entirely focused around classic children's books.

The button cookies allude to Corduroy, a sweet book if there ever was one. Please tell me you know of it. If not, for shame. Go check it out! It's lovely. And precious. All children should be aware of it's value. It makes a bibliophile cringe when classic children's books are abandoned for things like Nintendo gaming systems and crass cartoons/comics/etc. Such a waste.

Anyway. 

Back to baking.

These cookies are cute as can be. And SO easy to make. Really.

Like I mentioned above, the original idea came from Pinterest- that place is a mine field of inspiration.  The blogger who created these adorable cookies didn't have a partiality to any peanut butter cookie recipe.  In fact, I think she used a bagged mix- which you can totally do to save time.  However because peanut butter cookies are ridiculously easy to make and generally all the ingredients are found in the cupboard, I decided to make my own and went with my Grandma's famous pb cookie recipe.  I've loved it for years; it's one of my very favorite items at our family Christmas gatherings.



Make up your choice peanut butter cookie dough and roll into little, 1" balls.
Place on a greased cookie sheet.


Bake according to recipe instructions. 
They come out looking like this:



Find yourself a soda bottle cap, like this:




Immediately after cookies leave the oven,
press flat side of the cap slightly into each cookie,
forming an indentation.



Then grab a straw, or in my case- a chopstick. 
Whatever you have lying around that can produce a small hole.
Puncture four little holes in each indentation to create a cute button-esque cookie.



How CUTE are these? 
I mean, really.





Go ahead and make yourself a good three dozen, while you're at it.



I did.
Obviously.

I'm considering dipping them in white and dark chocolate next time
and possibly weaving twizzlers pull n' peel through the button holes for maximum button-like cuteness.

What Betty-like creations have you made lately?
Any favorite baked goods this time of year?

I have many.

Be prepared!

Lunch Today: Takeout and an Autumn Treat

|
Onto lunch post #2, for today's installment I decided to highlight not a leftover or a sandwich, but takeout.

Our family rarely eats out, let alone for quickie meals.  If we go out, it's usually once/month and we tend to hit local restaurants we love.  Our favorite is Red's Alehouse.  Their food is fabulous and they have quite the brewery fare as well- very yum and reasonably priced.  It's often our Sunday-for-lunch go to.

However that's a different post altogether.

This morning I happened to be getting a few groceries at my local co-op and wandered by their grab-n-go section.  Normally I avoid this area because everything always looks so darn good and I generally can't hold myself back.  Today I didn't have the fight in me to turn away.  I was not in the mood for leftovers and haven't made bread this week yet (thus a sandwich was a no-go) so opted to treat myself to whatever looked good.

Hmm, do I want the curried tofu w/quinoa?  No.  The fresh mozzarella n' tomato caprese?  Mmm, no.  The basil pesto pasta salad with artichokes?  Not really.  Then I noticed the brown rice edamame salad with roasted red pepper, green onion, sesame oil, and chili paste.  Ooooh, that sounds enticing.  I grabbed it and made my way over to the single-serving smoked goods section. 

The co-op's smoked meat-selection is phenomenal.  They boast a variety of choices but today the smoked chicken breast looked fab so I grabbed it (though almost, ALMOST opted for the smoked turkey leg, just to feel carnivorous and caveman-like). 

Happy with my lunch, I purchased my items and made my way home. 

Voila, lunch is served (love when I don't have to do the preparing!):



And I generally can't have a meal without some greenery involved:



A simple spinach salad with broccoli, cauliflower, and basalmic vinaigrette,
along with my delicious grab n' go.  Perfect.



So good.

After eating, I played with my boys a while then put 'em down for naps.  During naptime I always scan Pinterest and food blogs to see what else trips my trigger.  I noticed a recipe on one of my boards from yesterday's perusing, Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies.  Somehow I couldn't get 'em out of my brain.  I scanned the ingredient list and, shock and awe, I had all the necessary items.

A-baking-I-shall-go.

I made them, of course.


Wow.  These things may have just surpassed my family's recipe.
That's not an easy feat. 
Plus, I like knowing there's produce in my dessert.
Makes me feel better about partaking in a half dozen few of these bad boys :)
They're small.  Don't think about it.



What's your favorite grab and go-to item/s?
Have you tried Pinterest yet?
Have a favorite fall treat?

As always, eager to hear.

What's in a name?

|
Every once in a while I find a recipe in a magazine or elsewhere that intrigues me.

Generally it is something I wouldn't normally try, or just plain sounds interesting and unlike anything I normally create.  Recently while looking through Cooking Light, one of the many food mags I subscribe to, I noticed one that seemed quirky.

For our family, anyway.

However it had relatively few ingredients, all of which I had on hand, and could be made simply.  I like that combo.

I decided to try it.  Though it's one of those recipes I believe could use a more worthy title.  The name of the recipe itself sounds, well, gross. 

Ham Bread Pudding. 

Yeah.  Does that sounds disgusting to anyone else?  Maybe it's just me.  I'm normally very anti-bread pudding.  It's mushy and goopy and often  has bloated raisins somewhere inside.  NOT my dessert item of choice.    Yet the photo of this savory (not sweet) "pudding" revealed a very tasty-looking dish.  I decided to forgive the recipe's name-founder and give it a shot.  It deserved a chance.

I'm glad I did. 

This stuff is amazing.  SO amazing.  Like, melt-in-your-mouth incredible.  No goop, no mush, perfect blend of savory ham, green onion, and hearty multi-grain bread- not to mention it's nicely portioned out in individual ramekins.

I love ramekins.  Does anyone else?  I have a bit of infatuation with them.  Shh, don't tell.

Anyway.

This was a great find, loved by both my husband and two year old son (not a frequent occurrence these days) and nicely re-heated as a leftover meal.  I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.  Let's get started, shall we?

Savory Ham n' Cheddar Bread Pudding

Ingredients
-8 oz multigrain bread with seeds, cut in 3/4" cubes (it's VERY important that this is good bread, very grainy & seedy.  Please, please, do not use commercial white or wheat bread- if you do, your final product will. be. mush.!).
-cooking spray
- 3/4 Cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1/4 Cup chopped green onions, divided
- 3/4 Cup milk
- 1/4 Cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 oz ham steak, minced
- 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 3 large egg whites
- 4 tsp sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Place bread cubes on a sheet pan; coat with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted, turning once.  Remove from oven; cool.
3. Combine bread, 1/2 cup cheese, 3 Tbsp onions, and the next 5 ingredients (through egg yolks) in a large bowl.  Place egg whites in a small bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy (about 30 seconds).  Gently fold egg whites into bread mixture.
4.  Spoon about 1 cup bread mixture into each of 4 (7oz) ramekins coated with cooking spray.  Divide the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and green onions evenly among the ramekins.  Bake at 375 for 20 min or until lightly browned.  Top each serving with 1 tsp sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.  Serve it up alongside some veggies and you're good to go!


Cube up your hearty, grainy bread:


 I adore grainy bread.  Adore it.


Get all your ingredients ready, cooking-show style.
Did you know the French call this "mise en place"? 
Your fact bite for the day :)


Chop up your ham.
I again used Beeler's Farm ham steak.
I love that place.  Pork from a few miles down the road.
Nothin' beats that!



 Mix up all your ingredients in a bowl.



 Portion the mixture out into your adorable ramekins.
I love ramekins.
Even the name is cute.
Okay, I'm done.



Top with cheese and more green onion.
Doesn't that look good?
It's not even baked off yet.
Wait for it...



Ahhh there she is. 
Perfect with a side of garden fresh green beans and a big ol' sweet potato w/butter and a touch of maple syrup.
 


Trust me on this one, folks.
It's an incredibly satisfying, tasty meal.
The stick-to-yer-ribs kind.

I'm glad I didn't judge the dish by the name.
What a sad loss that would have been.
Though I think they should pay me to name their dishes...
Just a thought.

Cooking Light, are you out there?
I'm available for hire.