Sunday, December 21, 2014

Weekly Menu 12/21 - 12/25

How do you know you need a break? When you sit down to meal plan for the week and what items you still need for Christmas dinner, then realize 2 days later when you're at the store that you only actually wrote down what you'll need for Christmas dinner. Oops?

So instead of sitting back down to do my usual planning I decided to shop my own freezer and pantry to come up with meals for the week.

Sunday: banana nutella french toast, bacon, fruit 

Monday: cranberry turkey meatballs, baked potatoes, corn

Tuesday: pizza

Wednesday: crock pot honey spare ribs, baked beans, green beans 

Thursday: Christmas menu 

Friday: leftovers

For breakfast I'm making cranberry cream cheese muffins and lunch will be spicy basil chicken bowls. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chocolate Butterscotch Pretzels

In my holiday baking frenzy, I've ended up with odd amounts of leftover items here and there. A few square marshmallows from a dish, a handful or two of holiday shaped pretzels, half a cup pf butterscotch chips, etc. Not wanting to hold onto these ingredients for an undetermined amount of time, I headed on over to the lifesaver of leftover ingredients, otherwise known as Pinterest. A quick search for butterscotch and pretzels led me to this recipe and I decided to change it up from a truffle or a bite and not do a complete coating of the chocolate on top.

Chocolate Butterscotch Pretzels
Slightly Adapted from: Lemons for Lulu
Servings: 15
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    • 15 round or holiday-shaped pretzels 
    • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
    • 1/2 tbsp. shortening
    • 15 marshmallows (if regular marshmallows, cut in half)
    • 1/2 cup chocolate almond bark 
    • sprinkles
1. Arrange pretzels in a single layer on a parchment or wax lined baking sheet.
2. Combine butterscotch chips and shortening together in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute, then stir. Continue to microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each until the mixture is smooth.
3. Using two forks, dip each marshmallow into the melted butterscotch, toss to coat and then place on top of the pretzel.
4. Repeat with remaining marshmallows, then let set for 20 minutes.
5. Microwave the almond bar in 30 second intervals until smooth, then pick up the marshmallow by its pretzel bottom, flip over and dip the marshmallow part into the chocolate. Arrange sprinkles on top. Repeat with remaining marshmallow topped pretzels.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Improv Challenge: Who Pudding

The theme for the Improv Challenge this month is red and green. I had thought about making red and green decorated cookies or a red punch with frozen green grapes floating in it or even a fruit salad, but when it came down to it, I wanted to share a holiday recipe that made me happy.

Tom and I are obsessed with all things Grinch. How The Grinch Stole Christmas is both of our favorite holiday movies (cartoon or Jim Carrey version, it doesn't matter) and our Christmas tree is almost entirely decorated with Grinch ornaments.

If they come out with a new ornament of the Grinch, we buy it. We frequently have to set budgets for ourselves when standing in front of Grinch items otherwise I can say with some degree of certainty we'd buy absolutely everything and spend every penny we had. I'm not even joking.

For the most part we're responsible adults when it comes to money but when standing in front of Grinch decor, its like we're taken over by some type of Grinch magic and all logic flies out the door. You know that part in the Jim Carrey movie where the alarm sounds because Lou Who has maxed out another credit card? Yeah, that could totally be us without that budget.

This year we actually went as far as to discuss that next year we wouldn't buy each other gifts and instead spend all of that money on new Grinch stuff. So if you ever hear about two people winning the lottery in Maryland then spending a large fraction of their winnings on Grinch items, you'll know it was us.

Who Pudding
Servings: 4-6
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    • 2/3 cup long-grain rice
    • 3 cups milk
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 4 egg yolks
    • 1/8 cup red and green M&M's
1. Fill the bottom saucepan of a double boiler with one inch of water and bring to a simmer.
2. In the top saucepan of the double boiler, combine rice and milk and cook for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.
3. Preheat the oven to 325. Grease an 8x8 baking dish.
4. Beat egg yolks with a whisk until frothy, then stir into the milk mixture, along with the sugar, vanilla, butter and salt.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes or until set.
6. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours.
7. Before serving, decorate with red and green m&m candies.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Microwave Sugar Cookie Fudge

If you are scared of making fudge because of candy thermometers and temperamental ovens, you should totally try making fudge in the microwave first.

I was skeptical to begin with. How in the world could you possibly make a tasty fudge in the microwave of all places? Well, I was quickly proven wrong and I'm happy to say so. With just a few ingredients, a large microwave-safe bowl, a foil or parchment lined pan and some time in the fridge, you have fudge worthy of sharing with your friends and family. 

And I bet none of them will know you didn't even break out the candy thermometer! 

Microwave Sugar Cookie Fudge
Servings: 24

    • 2 cups sugar cookie mix 
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
    • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 1/4 cup sugar cookie coffee creamer*
    • sprinkles 
1. Line an 8x8 baking dish with foil or parchment paper. 
2. Combine sugar cookie mix, powdered sugar, butter, white chocolate chips and vanilla together in a large microwave safe bowl. Pour coffee creamer on top. Microwave for 2 minutes then stir until combined. Microwave in additional 30 second intervals until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. 
3. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread flat with a spatula. Cover with sprinkles. 
4. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow to chill until fully set, at least 2 hours. 
5. Remove from the refrigerator and use the foil or parchment paper to lift the fudge out of the pan. Cut into 24 pieces.

* If you can't find sugar cookie flavored coffee creamer; french vanilla or sweet cream varieties will work.

This is so good and so pretty with the Christmas sprinkles on it! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Funfetti Cookie Sandwiches

My goal for this year was to make as many cookies unlike ones I have previously made before. I didn't think this would be all that difficult of a task since gazillions of cookie recipes are out there.

When I found these, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to show off their pretty holiday colors.

Funfetti Cookie Sandwiches
Source: Crazy for Crust
Servings: 2 dozen
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for the cookies:
    • 1 box yellow cake mix 
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 tbsp. oil
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • sprinkles 
    for the filling:
    • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In the box of your stand mixer, combine cake mix, butter, oil, eggs and vanilla until dough has formed.
3. Turn out dough onto a piece of wax paper and shape into a log.
4. Pour sprinkles on a shallow plate. Roll the dough log through the sprinkles until all sides are coated.
5. Slice 1/2 inch thick pieces from the log and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until just golden brown on the bottoms. Allow to cool completely before filling.
6. Make the filling by beating the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer on medium high speed until creamy. Add in the marshmallow fluff and beat until combined.
7. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, then vanilla and heavy whipping cream until a thick frosting forms.
8. Flip half of the cookies over and spread frosting on each. Top with the remaining cookies.

Monday, December 15, 2014

SRC Cookie Carnival: Boozy Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies

A few weeks ago I was reorganizing the pantry and I found a tiny bottle of Buttershots. I'm not even quite sure when or why I bought it, but I can only assume it was for a recipe since that's what 90% of my purchases are based around. (The other 10% are clothing related, in case you were curious.) I filed away a note in the back of my mind to look for a recipe where I could use this up, especially with the holidays coming.

Then I received the email for the SRC Cookie Carnival. While many of us typically share a holiday recipe in our usual reveals, the great idea to swap blogs and make only cookie recipes was shared and lots of people were on board. As a fellow cookie addict myself, I quickly signed up.

Our assignments went out and I received The Vanderbilt Wife which is written by Jessie. I've had her blog before and there are lots and lots of tasty things you should try of hers and not just cookies either. She even has a gluten-free tag which is super helpful when coming off a Whole 30 without introducing gluten and starches again. Jessie also contacted me a few months back and asked if I would mind one of my recipes being shared in a magazine. Definitely not! (My smoky corn salad recipe will be in the February 2015 issue of HomeLife magazine!)

Now that I've rambled, I'll get to the point where I tell you that I found a cookie recipe on Jessie's blog called A Bit Boozy Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies and without even clicking on the link I immediately wondered if they included Buttershots. As luck would have it, they did! How awesome was that!?

Boozy Chocolate Butterscotch Cookies
Source: The Vanderbilt Wife
Servings: around 2 1/2 dozen
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    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. salt 
    • 1 cup light brown sugar
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 tbsp. Buttershots
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter 
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Combine flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the brown sugar, eggs, Buttershots and vanilla and mix until combined.
4. In a medium microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and butter. Microwave for 1 minute then stir. Microwave in 30 second intervals thereafter, stirring after each, until butter and chocolate combine and mixture is smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes.
5. Add the flour mixture to the stand mixer and combine, then add in the slightly cooled chocolate mixture. Mix until just combined and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to firm up.
6. After 10 minutes it should be a batter with a pudding-like consistency, not a dough.
7. Quickly scoop 1-tablespoon sized dollops of dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Space at least 2 inches apart. The batter may run. (On a 17x11 baking sheet I made 12 cookies. On a 15x11, I made 8.)
8. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until crumbly on top. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to continue cooling.

The tiny amount of baking powder in this recipe means your cookies will be flat. Be careful not to overcook them and burn the bottoms. My oven had been on for a while before making these so 9 minutes was perfect not to burn the bottoms.

While they look flaky they are very moist cookies and the butterscotch flavor comes through just enough to let you know they're not regular old chocolate cookies. Butterscotch has never been my favorite flavor by any means (butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter aside) but it's just the perfect amount in these cookies! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Weekly Menu 12/14 - 12/18 & Holiday Printables

Sunday already? The weekends keep going by too quickly. I can't believe this coming Saturday and Sunday is the last weekend before Christmas. I'm not ready! Usually I've at least started to purchase the non-perishable stuff we need and I think I've gone as far as buying crackers.

I will tell you though, one thing I have learned in hosting holidays for this many years is to just go with the flow. I am a list-making perfectionist most of my life. I spent many a holiday completely stressed out when my food prep ran over its allotted time or the living room needed to be vacuumed again before the guests were to arrive. And now, with almost 5 years under my belt (and really this only happened in the last year or so) I've decided not to worry so much. So what if we're supposed to eat at three but the ham is still in the oven then. Surely no one is going to starve, we always have more than enough food!

Anyway, because last week I strayed from my usual perfectionist self, I totally forgot to update yesterday's Christmas Menu post with the new printables that Bound for Keeps made for you. This time she made you name cards!

Find them here: Christmas Name Cards by Bound for Keeps

Isn't that little sprig of holly adorable? I thought so too!

Moving onto the menu for this week, Tom suggested that we have breakfast for dinner once a week. This shouldn't be too difficult, seeing as for the past few weeks, when our dinner plans didn't work out, the standby became bacon and egg sandwiches.

Sunday: cranberry-rosemary stuffed pork tenderloin, roasted red potatoes, garlicky green beans 

Monday: chicken breasts with pancetta cream and peas over pasta

Tuesday: seared steak with cherry wine sauce, smashed potatoes and green beans 

Wednesday: chicken basil rice bowls 

Thursday: banana nutella french toast, bacon, fruit 

For breakfast this week, I'm trying out a bacon, egg and cheese roll up and for lunch I'm having a root vegetable minestrone.

Now I need to get my butt into the kitchen to get those items prepared as well as some cookie dough that needs to be whipped up. (You should see my counter. Paula Deen would be proud at the amount of butter I have softening on it!)

And don't forget to print out your weekly menu planner! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas 2014 Menu

One thing I have learned in trying to plan a Christmas menu each year is that I need to be prepared for it to change. Even though I host and I tell my family what I want them to make, it never fails that they decide to make other things as well and then we end up with 6 appetizers and 5 different types of dessert for less than 10 people.

I went through the previous menus I'd shared with you and found there were a decent amount of things I never actually blogged. The intent for this year is to get them blogged, finally! And possibly even update some pictures on the items I'm told I need to make every year.

Christmas 2014 Menu 

french onion puff pastry bites
cranberry turkey meatballs
cheeseball and crackers

honey ham

crock pot mashed potatoes
macaroni and cheese
brussels sprouts with bacon
thyme roasted carrots and parsnips
corn maque choux
honey pear cranberry sauce

rosemary dinner rolls

eggnog cupcakes
mini bourbon chocolate pecan pies

Christmas Punch

I'm quite sure some deviled eggs and another dessert will magically appear on the list somehow. It always seems to!

What are you making this Christmas?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Alton's Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is one of those classic holiday dishes that you either love or hate. And usually if you hate it, its because you have a serious dislike of either mushrooms or cream of mushroom soup. If you dislike mushrooms, I totally understand but I think you should still try this anyway because it doesn't taste like a mushroom and if you make it, you can be certain that your mushrooms are cleaned properly.

If you dislike green bean casserole because of cream of mushroom soup, than I totally understand. That stuff is kind of scary, coming out of the can all gelatinous in hunks with tidbits of mushrooms mushed in there...yeah I'd skip it too. But this recipe calls for fresh mushrooms and I can promise you there is a complete difference in the taste!

Actually, even the onions on the top of this dish are made from scratch and not from a can or bag, so it's even more of a reason why I think you should make this dish, regardless of if it's for the holidays or not, and see just how much tastier green bean casserole can be using fresh ingredients.

Plus, I think you'd make Alton happy if you liked his recipe since he calls it the best ever.

Alton's Best Ever Green Bean Casserole
Source: Food Network
Servings: 4-6
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for the topping:
    • 2 onions, thinly sliced
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 tbsp. Panko bread crumbs
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • cooking spray
    for the casserole:
    • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed and halved
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 12 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
    • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • 1 cup half-and-half
1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Combine the flour, panko and salt together in  a shallow dish. Toss the onions in the mixture and then place on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the onions with cooking spray.
3. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing the onions every 10 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside until ready to use.
4. Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
5. Prepare the green beans by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and blanch for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander and immediately place in a bowl full of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
6. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the mushrooms have released their liquid. Add the garlic and nutmeg and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
7. Sprinkle the mushroom mixture with flour, salt and pepper, and stir to combine until everything is coated. Add the chicken broth and simmer for 1 minute then add in the half-and-half and stir, allowing the mixture to combine. Simmer until it has thickened, approximately 6-8 minutes.
8. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Layer the green beans and pour the mushroom mixture on top. Stir to combine.
9. Top with the onions and bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Holiday Tip: You can make the onions in advance and let them cool completely before transferring to a sealable bag. The green beans and mushrooms can be prepared and placed into the baking dish the day before and refrigerated. To cook, allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes before placing in the oven.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Brownie Caramel Cheesecake

I don't usually make full cheesecakes because they are just too much for us to eat. And for as much as I love cream cheese, it is usually to sweet in cheesecake form and I find my teeth aching and myself no longer able to take a bite.

Ignoring all of that, I decided I was going to make a cheesecake for Thanksgiving. I wanted something more indulgent than just a regular cheesecake but something that also wasn't going to take forever and ever to make. Usually I'm very wary of making caramel and baking with it, because it tends to run everywhere, but I decided to take my chances and I am so glad I did!

Brownie Caramel Cheesecake
Source: I save A to Z
Servings: 12
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    • 9 oz. packaged brownie mix
    • 1 egg
    • 2 tbsp. cold water
    • 14 oz. individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
    • 5 oz. evaporated milk
    • 2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 eggs
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, then line with parchment paper and spray that. Make sure to spray the ring of the pan as well.
2. Whisk together the brownie mix (just the powdered part), egg and water until smooth. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Batter will just reach the sides. Tap the pan gently on the counter to even the mixture.
3. Place the springform pan on top of a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine the unwrapped caramels and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently until the caramels have melted completely. Reserve 1/3 cup of the mixture.
5. Once the brownie bottom has cooked, spray the sides of the pan again with nonstick spray then pour the remaining caramel on top. Let sit.
6. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla.
7. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the caramel and spread evenly. Tap the pan on the counter again to even the mixture.
8. Return to the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until set. Let cool for 10 minutes then refrigerate until fully chilled.