Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cheese Ball

Can you tell what this is?

It's a snowman cheese ball of course!

I know, I know. What good is a snowman cheese ball recipe 3 days after Christmas?! But I know that some of you Pinners out there will save this for next year; or, if you're like me and you like to celebrate all 12 Days of Christmas, there is still room on your New Year's Eve table for this guy. And, heck, snowmen aren't just for Christmas! I think this definitely falls under the category of winter ;)

The idea came from here (Martha, you are truly a god!) and here is my favorite cheese ball recipe, but you could certainly use any white-ish colored cheese ball recipe that you like.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

There comes a time when just plain 'ole no more can be done. The presents go under the tree, perfectly wrapped or not. The food is made and served, perfect or not. The house is as clean as it's gonna get and all those millions of little extras that you intended on making happen just vanish into thin air. I find a peace in that.

There were a million and one recipes I wanted to blog about, but I'm just going to leave you with a glimpse of what's been going on in our kitchen. And I know that when Christmas has come and gone, I won't remember a single one of those things I was going to do, only the people I spent it with :)

Merry Christmas, friends

 Candy Cane Cookies


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snow Globe Cake Pops

This post is all about keeping it real. I know these probably appear to be all fine and well but were you to inspect them closer you would see glaring flaws, craftily covered with mass amounts of sprinkles.

You may be familiar with the very talented, Bakerella, and the cake pop craze she started. When I saw these snowglobe cake pops on her site in July made by one of her Pop Stars, I knew I had, had, had to make them this Christmas.

Let's just say, the cake pop mojo was not with me this time.

Many of them fell off the stick and the coating was hard to work with and well, I could go on and on about the negatives but I'm going to narrow it down to the possibilities of what might have happened this time:

1. I used Candy Melts, not White Bark like I did the first time, and the Candy Melts were much thicker, thereby pulling the cake ball off the stick.

2. The addition of the gumdrop to the stick did not allow for enough stick to be poked into the cake ball. Also, note to self, the gumdrops need to be a lot bigger to make the snowglobe effect.

3. I used a cake mix this time but not the exact cake mix I used last time (but same flavor) and cream cheese frosting this time instead of vanilla. The cake balls seemed softer and held their shape less. I think I used Duncan Hines Butter recipe last time.

So, you win some, you lose some. I'm pretty sure the kiddos will enjoy these at Friday's party anyway :)

(and thank you to my lovely aunt, Bernice, for sticking out the whole thing and masterfully camouflaging the pops while listening to me cuss like a sailor chatter on about things)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Club

I love book club. I never miss it, even if I haven't read the book. I love the company of the women in my group and well, I'm never going to pass up the opportunity for adult conversation! We take turns picking the book and hosting the discussion. This month was my turn and I picked, If It Was Easy, They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married, which I can't imagine any woman not enjoying if she has a husband. or has ever lived with a man. or talked to a man. or stood in line next to a man.

For me, planning the food is almost as important as reading the book, so without further ado, here are the yummy things we chowed down on ate delicately with pinkies up while we discussed literahture.

Bon Appetit, December 2003

I thought these were delicious! They tasted just like the Ferrero-Rocher Hazelnut chocolates. I found the hazelnut butter at Natural Grocers and it was so separated that I had to whir it up in the food processor to get it back together again. Many of the reviews for this recipe cited problems with crumbliness that I didn't experience, I did increase the cooking time to 14-15 minutes but that may just be my oven so start at 12 minutes and go from there.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy unsalted hazelnut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce package semisweet mini chocolate chips (2 cups)

Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, hazelnut butter, and both sugars in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Soften dough slightly at room temperature before shaping.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 1 level tablespoon for each cookie, roll dough between palms of hands into 1-inch balls. Arrange 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature.)

Little Gingerbread Scones with Lemon Glaze
adapted from Christmas with Southern Living 2011

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbls. baking powder
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbls. whipping cream, divided
3 Tbls. molasses
1 Tbls. vanilla

Preheat oven to 425'. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in crystallized ginger. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly. Combine 3/4 cup plus 1Tbls. whipping cream, vanilla, and molasses. Add to dry ingredients, stirring with a fork just until dry ingredients are moistened. Knead dough in bowl 4-5 times just until it holds together.

Dump out onto a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 4 equal parts. Lightly pat each piece into a round about 1/2" thick. Cut each round into fourths and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush tops of scones with remaining tablespoon of whipping cream.

Bake for 16 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly, then glaze (if you put the glaze on while the scones are too hot, it will just slide off).

These scones could easily be frozen, unglazed, in a plastic freezer bag up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature in bag, then warm slightly in the oven and proceed with the glaze.

Lemon Glaze
1 Tbls. butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tbls. lemon juice

Whisk everything together in a mixing bowl, adding more lemon juice if not thin enough. This should be the consistency of a cinnamon roll icing.

This was not really a "recipe", so please visit Baked Bree to see how she made this. It was ridiculously easy with a big wow factor. I used Beemster Classic Aged Gouda which I was able to find at my regular grocery store in the specialty cheeses. I probably used a generous 1/2 pound of cheese.

Ham-Wrapped Olive Shrimp
adapted from Christmas with Southern Living 2011

I think this was the hit of the night! They were gone so quick I didn't even get a picture (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).

1 pound large shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
3 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
10 thin slices deli ham
30 pimento-stuffed olives

Stir together oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add shrimp, toss to coat. Chill in fridge 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler 5 1/2 inches from heat. Cut each ham slice into thirds. Wrap each strip of ham around 1 shrimp and 1 olive; secure with a wooden toothpick. Place shrimp on lightly greased baking sheet and broil about 3 minutes per side. Serve hot.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Chicken Parmesan Bake

I have wanted to share this recipe with you for a few days now but keep putting it off because I don't have a good picture to go with it. You can forgive that if I tell you that this was tasty, easy, required no chopping, and everyone ate it, right? Ok. {waiting for the other shoe to drop} BUT the recipe does need a few tweaks in my opinion.

I agree with the creator of this recipe that the yumminess of this dish is the crispy croutons on top and the gooey underside of the crouton that bakes in the sauce but the whole chicken breasts left portions that were too big, didn't cook evenly, and only the down-in-the-valley-of-tomato-sauce croutons got the aforementioned gooey goodness. I think this could be remedied by using chicken tenders or cutting the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make a more level dish that would cook more evenly.

I also didn't have Parmesan cheese (because, ya know, I was literally just at the store before I made this. I need a webcam in my fridge so I can check it when I am at the store). I did have a packet of this which I had never used before but it was a really tasty substitute given that I am normally against pre-packaged seasoning thingies but I'm not going to let that come between me and another call to the pizza man--lesser of two evils :). As a result, I omitted the red pepper and the fresh basil since the mix was already seasoned.

I am also going to use more sauce next time because 1 cup (I halved the recipe) was not enough sauce.

UPDATE 1/9/12: I tried this tonight with twice the amount of sauce and much thinner chicken breasts and no Parmesan seasoning packet thingie and it turned out fantastic. Baked in 35 minutes.
Parmesan Chicken Bake
adapted from Food Wishes

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
hot red pepper flakes, to taste
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, split in half horizontally or lightly pounded to an even thickness; or 2-3 pounds chicken tenders
2-3 cups marinara sauce (I used Barilla)
1/4 cup chopped basil  
8 oz mozzarella, shredded
4 oz Parmesan, grated; or 2 packets Kraft Parmesan Tuscan Herbs Blend
1 (5-oz) package garlic croutons (the bigger ones work best here)

Preheat oven to 350. Put olive oil and garlic in a 9 x 13 dish and swish it around with a spoon to make an even layer. Sprinkle with red pepper. Place chicken in dish in one layer, pour sauce evenly over top. Sprinkle basil over sauce. Put half the mozzarella and half of the Parmesan over the basil, then top with croutons and remaining cheese. Remember, evenness is the name of the game here. Bake for 35-45 minutes until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 155'.