Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year's Eve

I hope that you all have a safe and Happy New Year's Eve!!  See you next year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Chili-Lime Chicken Quesadillas

When you walk through Williams-Sonoma, you can always find recipes cards for different types of food.  A couple months ago, I found one for chili-lime chicken quesadillas and salsa.  I picked a copy up and forgot about it for a while until I was cleaning my cookbook shelf last month.  I had some left-over chicken so I thought that I would give the recipe a try for lunch.  I really enjoy this and it is very simple to make.

I don't have a grill for my stove, so I made this in a 10 inch frying pan.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halvess
  • 4 Tbs. Chili-Lime Rub *
  • 6 flour tortillas,each about 9 inches
  • canola oil for brushing
  • 14 oz. cheddar cheese, preferably sharp
  • Sour cream for serving
  • Diced red onion for serving
  • Rub the chicken breasts on both sides with the chili-lim erub.  Place the chicken on the grill and cook, turning once, until nicely grill-marked and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side.  transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into slices 1/4 inche thick.
  • Reduce the heat on the grill to 400 degrees.  Brush one side of each tortilla with oil.  Place the tortillas, oiled side down, on a work surface.  
  • Divide half of the cheese among the tortillas, sprinkling it onto half of each tortilla.  Arrange the chicken on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  • Fold the tortillas in half and enclose the filling.
  • Place quesadillas on the grill.  Cook, turning once, until the tortillas are lightly browned and crisp and the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a cutting board.  Repeat as needed until all of the quesadillas are cooked.
  • Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve immediately with salsa, sour cream and red onion alongside.
* Available at Williams-Sonoma stores.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese

I love homemade macaroni and cheese especially in the winter.  I found this recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and love to make it on a cold day.  There is hardly any leftovers when I make it.

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (7 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard (dry)
  • 1/4 teaspoonWorcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded or cubed sharp Cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook macaroni as directed on the package.
  • While macaroni is cooking, melt margarine in 3-quart saucepan over low heat.  Stir in flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly, remove from heat.  Stir in milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Stir in cheese.  cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted.
  • Drain macaroni.  gently stir macaroni into cheese sauce.  Pour into ungreased 2-quart casserole.  Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Virtual Advent Tour 2009 - Christmas Memories

Christmas has always been a very special time of year for me.  I have so many wonderful memories of this time of year from when I was growing up.  From the music that we would listen to starting the day after Thanksgiving to caroling to putting up the tree and platform to the large amount of baking that was done every year.

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, the only music in the house was Christmas carols.  My dad would pull out the old 78 records from when he was growing up and we would play them throughout the holiday season.  As we got older, my sister, brother and I would be allowed to change the records on the stereo.  Since these were old records, everyone took care in how they were handled.  My dad still has them and we still play them on the stereo during the Christmas season.  I grew up listening to the original recordings of Bing Crosby singing "Silent Night" and "White Christmas" and Gene Autry singing about "When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter". 

Saturday mornings during the Christmas season always began with the kids piling onto my parents bed and singing Christmas carols.  We'd go through all of the "oldies" that my parents taught us before we got up.  Sometimes, we'd sing something two or three times.  Everyone had their favorites. 

We'd listen to the carols while we helped our dad put the train platform up every year and while we decorated the Christmas tree.  Instead of having the TV on while we got the house ready for the season and any gatherings that we might be hosting that year, we'd listen to music and sing.  About halfway through December, there was a group of families in the neighborhood who would go Christmas caroling down by the pond where I grew up.  We would get a fire going and everyone would sing for an hour or so, then we would all head to someone's house to warm up with hot chocolate and cookies for the kids and wine and beer for the adults.  Sometimes, we would go caroling through the neighborhood instead of down at the pond but we always went.  If we went caroling through the neighborhood and collected any money, we would take it downtown the KDKA window and donate it to Children's Hospital.  Any donation to Children's got you a Farkleberry cookie.  How many Pittsburghers remember those?  For those who are wondering what a Farkleberry cookie is, here is a link to Albrecht's Pittsburgh Blog - Whatever Happened to the Farkleberry Cookie?

I mentioned trains earlier.  My dad has a number of old trains that he has been collecting for years.  Some of them are almost as old as he is but every one of them is in very good condition.  My dad always puts up a platform at Christmas under the Christmas tree.  Getting the platform wired for the track and the lights for the houses usually would take us a day to do.  Oh, what fun we had getting the platform ready.  The houses had to be brought out and put together.  All of the people, trees and other pieces needed to be checked and readied for the platform.  All of this was time consuming, but in the end, so worth it.

Sometimes, there was only one train out on one platform, under the Christmas tree in the family room.  There were several years where we had 2 platforms up, one under the tree and one that was about 4 feet off the floor and had 3 to 5 trains running on it.  This is the platform that would always take the most time to put together since the whole thing had to be laid out and each train had to be tested as we put it on the platform to make sure that all of the wires were properly connected.  While my dad, siblings and I would be putting up the platform(s) and the trees, Mom would be in the kitchen baking, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, peanut blossoms, and whatever else she decided to make that year.  The house always smelled wonderful on the weekends.  Sometimes, my mom would take us to our grandparents and my sister and I would help Gran bake cookies and make hard tack candy.

This year, my daughter "helped" me to bake cookies.  Really she just watched and asked if she could have a cookie when I took them off the cookie sheet to cool, although there were a couple of trays where she actually helped me to take them off and counted each cookie as it went onto the rack.  We listened to Christmas carols or watched "The Polar Express" while I baked.  I put our tree up Thanksgiving weekend and ever since, she asks at least once a day about when Santa Claus is coming and if there are any presents for her.  I can only hope that when she is older, she will have as many good memories of Christmas as I have.

Hard Tack Candy Recipe
  • 3 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar for dusting the candy
  • 1/2 teaspoon red or green food coloring (optional)
  • Flavor oil *
  • In a medium saucepan, stir the first three ingredients together. Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved**, then bring the mixture to a boil.  Stop stirring and all the mixture to heat to 300 degrees. 
  • Remove the mixture from the stove and stir in the food coloring and a few drops of the flavor oil of your choice.  Pour the candy mixture onto a foiled and greased cookie sheet and lightly dust with the confectioners' sugar.  Allow the candy to cool completely before breaking it into pieces.  Store in an airtight container.
* While flavored extract works with this recipe, it is not very strong.  The flavored oils that can be purchased at the drug store produce the best flavor for hard tack candy and only require a few drops.

** One of the hardest things that I've found making hard tack candy is waiting for the sugar to reach the proper temperature. If you are patient and use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature of the mixture, you will get perfect candy every time.

Egg Nog French Toast

I got this simple french toast recipe from a sorority sister and love it! I think that I'm going to have to make this for Christmas morning while we open presents.

Happy Holidays!

  • 1/2 cup egg nog
  • 1 egg
  • some cinnamon
  • Mix egg nog, egg and cinnamon in a bowl.
  • Soak bread slices in the egg nog mixture until saturated.
  • Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Brown slices on both sides and serve hot. 
Another option would be to only mix the egg nog and egg and then sprinkle with the cinnamon when serving.  

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Candy Cane Cookies

My husband loves these cookies!  If there is one cookie that he wants me to make at Christmas, it's these.  He had his mother give me the recipe so that I could make them when we first started dating.

  • 1 cup shortening (half butter or margarine)
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
Topping ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Mix shortening, sugar, egg and flavorings thoroughly.
  • Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting.  Mix flour and salt.  Stir into shortening mixture.  Divide dough in half.  Blend food coloring into one half.
  • Roll a 4" strip (using 1 teaspoon of dough) from each color.  For smooth, even strips, roll them back and forth on lightly floured board.  Place strips side by side, press lightly together and twist like rope.  For best results, complete cookies one at a time - if all the dough for one color is shaped first, strips become too dry to twist.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Curve top down to form handle of the candy cane.
  • Bake about 9 minutes, until lightly browned.  While still warm, remove from baking sheet with a spatula and sprinkle with topping mixture of candy and sugar.
  • Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Spicy Glazed Pecans

I can't remember where I got this recipe from.  I found it in the pile of recipes for my family cookbook.  I decided to make this with the leftover pecans from my Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cheesecake.  These are addictive!

  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 cups pecans (about a 1-lb. bag)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  • Place nuts in a large bowl.
  • Coat with egg whites and stir until pecans are sticky.
  • Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over the pecans.
  • Stir until the pecans are completely coated.
  • Spread pecans on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  • During baking, stir/flip pecans occasionally (once every 10 minutes works well).
  • Cool and separate into pieces.  Store in an airtight container.

Peanut Blossoms

These can be made with Hershey's Kisses or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (minis).  This year, I did half of them with Hershey's Kisses and half with the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Hershey's Kisses
  • Thoroughly cream the butter, peanut butter, sugars, egg and vanilla together.
  • In a small bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
  • Blend ths into the creamed mixture.
  • Shape into 1 inch balls; roll in granulated sugar.
  • Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 6 - 8 minutes.
  • Place chocolate kisses on and return to the oven for 2 - 4 minutes.
Makes 3 - 4 dozen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fool Proof Pie Crust

My mom and aunt gave me this recipe for a pie crust for when I am baking the Winter Peach Pie recipe that they make every year.

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups Crisco
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt.
  2. Cut in the Crisco.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the remaining ingredients.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture.  Refrigerate for 1/2 hour before using.
  5. Roll on a lightly floured board or between waxed paper.
  6. The crust is very short and will melt if placed in a pie plate and baked alone.  Best used when it is filled.
This pie crust mixture can be frozen and thawed for later use.

Winter Peach Pie

Every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, my mom makes this pie.  Last Christmas, I made it.  It's super easy and delicious!

I use the Fool Proof Pie Crust for my pie shell.

  • 3 cans of drained canned peaches (cut into pieces or slices, reserve the juice for later)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon flour
  • 2 heaping tablespoons butter (can be eliminated)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup peach juice
  1. Fill a nine or ten inch pie shell with the 3 cans of drained peaches.
  2. Cream together the sugar, flour, butter and lemon juice.
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix together.
  4. Pour the mixture over the peaches.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes at 475 degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 325 and bake for another 50 minutes.
  6. Top with whipped cream and serve.