Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Recap - Happy New Year

Are you ready for 2012? I hope so, because its only a few hours away! 2011 was an interesting year. It wasn't great and it wasn't horrible; it just was. So, I'm not sad to see the year go and I'm looking forward to 2012 being a better year.

In typical blogger fashion I decided to do a recap of the most popular recipes for each month in 2011. Those 12 recipes looked kind of lonely so I decided to include a second and third runner up as well as my favorite recipe for the month. Here's what you thought was the most interesting:

Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Garlic Rosemary Focaccia

Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Cream of Mushroom Soup

Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Strawberry Lemonade

Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Fruit Trifle

Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Maryland Crab Cakes

Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Sesame Green Beans


Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Sriracha Burgers


Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Maryland Crab Soup

Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda
*Special Mention: Apparently many of you were pretty interested in finding out About Me. *

December ~ Peanut Butter Cups
Cookaholic Wife Favorite: Cinnamon Roll Cookies 

I hope you've all enjoyed this little trip down recipe lane and have found a recipe to try out! :)

Here's to a safe and happy new year for all!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Recipe Swap: Filet with Onion-Bleu Cheese Sauce

I had to laugh when I saw that my recipe for the Special Occasion Recipe Swap was from Ashley of Cheesecurd in Paradise because I've become pretty familiar with her blog recently. First, I mentioned that she was how I found the Improv Challenge and then I had her peanut butter cups for the last recipe swap.

At first I was a bit hesitant of this recipe because of the bleu cheese. I'm not a bleu cheese fan and either is Tom. The taste is just too pungent for me. But since I already knew I'd be changing the way to cook the steaks, I didn't want to stray too far from the original recipe and managed to find a super small piece of bleu cheese at the Farmer's Market.

I'm pretty sure the first thing you're going to wonder after reading this recipe is why don't I grill the steaks? Or pan sear them? Well, I'm great with grilled steaks. If, you know, I had a grill and it wasn't 40-some degrees and extremely windy outside. But since we live in an apartment the closest thing I have to a grill is a George Foreman. I guess I could use that, but I don't for the same reason I don't pan sear the steaks. It's the one thing I'm scared to break out of my comfort zone on. My mom has always made steaks this way and it's the only way I've tried it. I love steak and refuse to possibly ruin a good piece of meat. So the broiler it is.



Filet with Onion-Bleu Cheese Sauce
Slightly Adapted from: Cheesecurd in Paradise
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Servings: 2

Ingredients:
    • 2 4-5 oz. each filet mignon steaks
    • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup Bleu cheese, crumbled
    • 1/2 tsp. Montreal Steak Seasoning
    • 1/2 tsp. Garlic powder
    • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to broil. Spray a 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, add the onions and butter and cook 20-25 minutes or until the onions have caramelized.
3. Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel, then place in the baking dish. Season with the Montreal Steak Seasoning, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce. Place in the oven and broil for approximately 20 minutes, flipping the steaks over once, halfway through.
4. Once the onions have caramelized, pour the heavy cream into the saucepan and increase the heat to medium. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until the cream has reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
5. Remove the steaks from the oven and transfer to a plate. Let rest for 3-5 minutes.
6. Stir the bleu cheese into the cream and onion mixture until melted. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Spoon a ladle-full of the sauce onto a plate and serve the rested steak on top.

I would have never thought to combine caramelized onions, cream and bleu cheese but boy am I glad I didn't change up that part of the recipe. The sweetness of the onions and richness of the cream do wonders to mask that strong bleu cheese flavor. The sauce is absolutely delicious and if it wasn't so rich, I guarantee I would have doubled the amount on my plate.

This sauce would also be wonderful over pasta or with chicken. I'm sure there are a ton of other things you could do with it too.   

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spicy Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Have you tried quinoa yet? It's a grain-like crop that's more related to beets or spinach than rice or barley, although it has a barley-like look about it and is often used as rice substitutions in recipes. If you haven't tried it yet, the first thing you need to do is figure out how to pronounce it. It's Keen-wa. When I saw it the first time I immediately assumed it was Quin-oh-a. Good thing I didn't go to the grocery store asking what aisle the Quin-oh-a was in, right? :-)

Quinoa has become pretty popular in the blogging world recently. Everyone wants to try it out and see what its like. Of course I hopped on the bandwagon. Well, kinda. One particular week when the grocery cart was already pretty full, I slipped in a box of quinoa. I knew if Tom saw it he'd ask me why I was buying something else that would just join the 10 or so current boxes of different types of pasta in the pantry. Ironically, he would have been correct because that small teal box of Ancient Harvest Quinoa sat in the pantry for quite a long time. Every time I'd open the pantry door, there it would be, sitting on the shelf right at eye level taunting me. "You spent $6 on me. What are you afraid to cook with me?" 

Finally, a craving for stuffed peppers came around and while I was checking the pantry to see if we needed rice, the box of quinoa jumped out at me. I picked it up and looked at it for a few seconds before turning it over and realizing there was a recipe for stuffed peppers right on the back. Obviously this was a recipe meant to be.

Spicy Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Yield: 3-4 servings
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Ingredients:
    • 4-5 green peppers
    • 2 cups quinoa
    • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
    • 1 lb. ground beef
    • 8 oz. mushrooms
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
    • 1 can diced tomatoes
    • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
    • 2 tbs. Sriracha
    • 1 tsp. olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the chicken broth and quinoa to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the quinoa is fluffy. You'll see the little rings on the quinoa look like they have popped.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Drain the grease and transfer the ground beef to a plate. Add the olive oil to the skillet and once hot, add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes or just until the mushrooms are slightly soft and the garlic is fragrant. Remove from the heat and add the corn and tomatoes.
4. Once the quinoa has cooked, add that to the skillet as well as the ground beef and Sriracha sauce. Stir to combine.
5. Slice off the tops of the green peppers and remove the insides. Place the peppers into the baking dish and spoon the mixture into the peppers. Add any remaining mixture around the peppers. Sprinkle the cheese over the peppers and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is lightly golden.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this recipe since I just used most of the ingredients we had on hand but it ended up being pretty tasty! Some people like to steam the green peppers first so they're as soft as everything else, but since the rest of the ingredients are soft, I've always like a bit of crunch. The Sriracha sauce gave the peppers just the right amount of heat.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brown Sugar and Pineapple Pork

I always have a hard time figuring out how to make a pork tenderloin. I have no idea why, considering there are tons and tons of recipes out there but it never fails that every time I come across a pork recipe that I think would be amazing, its always for a different cut of pork.

I've been working on emptying out our freezer for a while now. I like to use up practically everything in there before making a trip to Costco to restock it entirely. We've run out of chicken breasts and ground beef, so I finally decided to come up with something to do for this poor pork tenderloin that has been hanging out in my freezer for at least a month now.

A long time ago I remember seeing a recipe for pork tenderloin that involved pineapple preserves. Of course when I went to search for it, I couldn't find anything so I decided to come up with my own recipe and see what would happen.

Brown Sugar and Pineapple Pork
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 2-3
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Ingredients:
    • 1 pork tenderloin
    • 3 tbs. brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. basil
    • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
    • 4 tbsp. pineapple preserves
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
3. Trim the pork of any visible fat. Spread the brown sugar mixture over the pork. Place on the foil-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pork is cooked through. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Spoon pineapple preserves over the pork and serve immediately.

We thought this was pretty tasty. The brown sugar and pineapple go great together and the red pepper flakes add just enough heat to break up the sweetness. I served this with roasted potatoes and steamed green beans. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chicken Chimichangas with Creamy Salsa Verde

Have I ever mentioned that I have internet friends? A lot of people (as in those without internet friends) find this to be really strange. Haha, you know you're really talking to a 60 year old dirty man in his underwear and tube socks, right? Uh, no I'm not.

Anyway, back at the end of September a huge group of us got together. I'm talking 20 some ladies from ALL over the United States and even some from Canada. As far as internet-friend get-togethers go, I'd call this one epic. We took over a restaurant in D.C. called Rosa Mexicana. Well, we didn't really take over the restaurant but can you imagine 20-some women in a room who either haven't met before or haven't seen each other in a long time? I'm pretty sure the other restaurant patrons thought we were crazy.

So what do internet friends have to do with this meal? At Rosa Mexicana two of our lunch choices were Enchiladas Suizas and Enchiladas Rancheras. I (stupidly) didn't order either but as soon as the waiters brought out the meals I saw just how good both entrees looked and became extremely jealous. I definitely wanted to make either recipe at home again.

I began looking through blogs and websites at different enchiladas recipes and none looked anything like the ones at the restaurant. Then I found this recipe I had marked in my Google reader. No, it wasn't an enchilada, but it looked similar to what Rosa Mexicana served so I had to make it.

Chicken Chimichangas with Creamy Salsa Verde
Source: Cassie Craves, adapted from A Taste of Home Cooking
Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
    • 14 oz. diced tomatoes
    • 4 oz. green chiles
    • 2 tsp. cumin
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. cornstarch
    • 10 tortilla shells (or 4 burrito size)
    • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
    • 16 oz. salsa verde
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 tbs. honey
    • juice of 1/2 lime

Directions:
1. Place the chicken in the crock pot. Add the green chiles, tomatoes (reserving the juice), cumin, onion powder and garlic powder.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the reserved juice from the tomatoes. Pour over the chicken. Cook the chicken on low for 6-8 hours, then shred the chicken.
3. Transfer the contents of the crock pot to a large bowl. Add the cheese and stir until combined.
4. Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
5. Fill each tortilla with the chicken and cheese mixture. Roll up the tortilla shell, tucking in the ends and place seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortilla shells.
6. Spray the tops of the shells with cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes.
7. In a medium saucepan, combine the salsa verde, sour cream, honey and lime juice. Stir until combine and heat over medium heat until warmed through.
8. Serve the chimichangas with the salsa verde on top.

As I was preparing this recipe Tom didn't think he would like it at all but he ended up really enjoying it. I thought it was pretty tasty too, but when I make it again there will be some tweaking.
Tweaking? A project that needs tweaking? 
Yes. 
T-w-e-a-k-i-n-g.
-i-n-g. That's what he said.
(If you know what movie this is from, I may just send you cookies)

Maybe I just had a really potent lime, but all I could taste in the salsa was the lime juice. Next time, I'll either reduce the amount of lime juice or increase the amount of honey. I may also drain the salsa verde so it's thicker. Using salsa with the chicken instead of the tomatoes and chiles could also be a nice touch.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!


Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
was singing! Without any presents at all! 
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or another, it came just the same.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled for hours, till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
"Maybe Christmas" he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more."

And what happened then? Well...in Who-ville they say,
the Grinch's heart small heart grew three sizes that day. 
                                    ~How the Grinch Stole Christmas
 
I thought it was only appropriate to share my favorite Christmas story with you today. I remember being as young as four years old sitting in front of the television when the cartoon of How The Grinch Stole Christmas would come on and how I'd be instantly mesmerized.  It quickly became a tradition that the Christmas season didn't officially start for me until I'd watched the Grinch. 

So today, I ask of you: forget to refill a few wine glasses, let the dog clean up the crumbs on the floor and sit back and enjoy the time you can spend with friends and family. 
I hope you have an amazing Christmas day full of happiness, great food and funny stories. May you eat too many cookies, drink too many glasses of wine and enjoy yourself fully. 

Merry Christmas everyone!
 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Updated Christmas Menu

Nothing like a last minute change to your holiday menu, right? Granted it wasn't that last minute, as I talked to my mom on the 18th, but still that's cutting it pretty close.

First, it didn't matter which day because we weren't sure if we were going to visit Tom's family for the day or an overnight trip. Then when I talked to my mom she thought that she was hosting Christmas at her house. I thought we were having it since its closer to my aunt and cousin. Then aunt says she has to work 12/26 and cousin says her and boyfriend have to go into work Christmas night (can you guess what store they work for?) so now we're all confuzzled. Finally, we agree for everyone to get together on Christmas day at noon.

Here's what we came up with for the new menu:

Appetizers
Cherry Jam, Prosciutto and Goat Cheese Crostini
Caprese Salad
Deviled Eggs

Main
Ham (not sure if we're doing the cherry/peach I had planned)
Baked Ziti 

Side Dishes
Macaroni Salad
Green Bean Bundles
Green Salad 
Corn 

Bread
Honey Yeast Rolls
Dinner Rolls
Italian Bread

Desserts
Molten Chocolate Cake with Caramel Pecan Filling
Apple, Pear and Cranberry Crisp 
Cheesecake  

We're going to see Tom's family on Christmas eve so all of my prep will be done on Friday.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Smore's Cookies

These cookies should be renamed "Crack Cookies". As soon as these came out of the oven Tom was hovering around the kitchen waiting to steal one. Not only did they smell wonderful while baking, but renaming them Crack Cookies wouldn't be such a bad thing either. I'm not going to admit how many of these I ate. I'll just tell you that I'm sure Santa would really appreciate these next to a tall glass of milk on Christmas Eve.

S'Mores Cookies
Source: Glorious Treats, adapted from Always with Butter
Yield: ~ 6 dozen cookies
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Ingredients:
    • 1 box honey graham crackers
    • 2 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 stick + 5 1/2 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 cup mini-chocolate chips, plus extra for decorating
    • 1 cup mini-marshmallows, plus extra for decorating

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
2. Break each graham cracker in half and lay each piece next to each other until the baking sheets are full. Bake for 4 minutes then set aside to cool.
3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and then slowly add in the flour mixture.
5. Once combined, add the mini-chocolate chips and marshmallows.
6. Scoop teaspoon sized balls of dough onto the center of the graham crackers. Bake for 5 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and add more marshmallows and chocolate chips. Return to the oven and cook for 5-7 minutes more.
8. Let cool completely and then break the graham crackers apart.

The original recipes call for little pieces of Hershey bars broken in half, which definitely would have given this more of s'mores look, but I completely forgot about them. The mini-chocolate chips worked just fine though! Now good luck trying not to eat them all!
 



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

When I was a kid, I loved the Pilsbury cinnamon rolls that came in the can. Okay, fine, I loved the icing more, but that's besides the point. There's just something the smell and taste of cinnamon and sugar that's comforting and relaxing so when I saw these cookies, I knew I needed to make them right away.

The best thing about them is how easy they are to make since they used pre-made sugar cookie mix. Granted, you could make the dough yourself, but aren't you busy enough around the holidays that a shortcut would be nice? I thought so.

Cinnamon Roll Cookies
Source: Feeeed Me Seymour, as seen on In Katrina's Kitchen, adapted from The Country Cook
Yield: ~ 4 dozen cookies
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Cookie Ingredients:
    • 1 package sugar cookie mix
    • 1 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 tbs. cinnamon
    Icing Ingredients:
    • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tbs. milk 
Directions:
1. Prepare the sugar cookie mix as directed on the package. Then roll out the dough into a rectangle.
2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.
3. Brush the melted butter over the dough and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over it. Roll up the dough into a log and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 375. Line baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and slice into 1/2" logs.
5. Place the cookies onto the baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
6. While the cookies are cooling, mix together the powdered sugar and milk together in a small bowl to form a glaze.
7. Place the baking sheets or foil under the wire racks to catch any drips. Drizzle the glaze over the cookies on the rack.

Wow. Just WOW. I strongly suggest that you immediately run to your kitchen and make these now. They are absolutely delicious. They taste just like little mini-cinnamon rolls. I'm pretty sure I'll never made a Snickerdoodle cookie again now that I have this recipe. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Orange Drop Cookies

I was 16 or 17 the first time I decided to go on a holiday baking spree. I made chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal and sugar cookies. While I was waiting for my sugar cookie dough to cool in the refrigerator, I spotted an orange sitting on the counter and wondered if it was possible to make orange cookies. I don't know why I didn't look up a recipe but I tried to just incorporate orange pieces and juice into sugar cookie dough. It didn't work out very well.

While searching for cookies to make, I came across this Orange Drop Cookie recipe and it immediately reminded me of my attempts and I decided I should definitely try making orange cookies again.

Orange Drop Cookies
Source: www.allrecipes.com
Yield: 4 dozen cookies
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Ingredients:
    • 4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • zest of one orange
    • 1/3 cup orange juice
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 3 eggs
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time.
4. Add the orange zest and orange juice and mix until combined. Then add in the flour mixture slowly until a dough forms.
5. Transfer the dough to a piece of wax paper, wrap it up and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. 
6. Drop teaspoon sized pieces of dough onto the baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to continue cooking.

These cookies don't have a very strong in-your-face orange flavor but there is a nice hint of orange once you start chewing the cookie. If you're looking for a stronger flavor, I'd suggest substituting the orange juice for a teaspoon of orange extract. And hey, if you're feeling extra creative, why not toss in a drop of orange food coloring to make them really orange cookies! :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nutella Cookies

I think I may have been one of the last people on the planet to try Nutella. The first time I heard of it was in some British chick lit book where the main character had a bit of an obsession with it when her dates didn't go well. Which, considering it was a chick lit book, happened pretty often. It was a few years later before I ever saw Nutella in the grocery store. Of course, I immediately bought some of it and then subsequently, fell in love with it.

Let's not talk about the bag of pretzels and the jar of Nutella that disappeared in a weekend, okay?

Nutella Cookies
Source: Our Best Bites from Two Peas in their Pod
Yield: ~3 dozen cookies
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Ingredients:
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
    • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 1/3 cup Nutella

Directions:
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar and brown sugar.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture, then add the vanilla extract, milk and Nutella. Mix until well combined.
4. Turn out the dough onto a sheet of wax paper, wrap up and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 325. Line baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets and press down with a glass. Bake for 12 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Oh yummy Nutella deliciousness. These cookies are amazing. My only complaint is that I didn't double the recipe. The cookies are rich so I recommend a nice cold glass of milk to go along side them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Orange Cranberry Muffins

When Dunkin Donuts introduced their Cranberry Orange Muffins I instantly fell in love with them. I don't want to admit to the number of times per week I stopped and picked up a coffee and muffin. When DD failed to make these muffins again the next year, I did what any blogger does, I made them myself!

Orange Cranberry Muffins
Source: Adapted from Whipped
Servings: 12-15 muffins
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Ingredients:
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 large orange, zested and juiced
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1 stick butter
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line muffin cups with paper liners.  
2. Melt the butter and let cool to room temperature.
3. In a large bowl, combine the butter, buttermilk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest and orange juice. Whisk together.
4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir until just combined. Fold in the cranberries.
5. Fill each muffin cup three quarters of the way full and bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean/
6. Let cool in the muffin cups for 5 minutes and then remove and transfer the muffins to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These muffins are pretty tasty. The cranberry flavor is stronger than the orange, so if you want more orange flavor, I'd add the zest of another orange or maybe some orange extract. If you're not a fan of tart cranberries, I'd suggest using dried ones.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekly Menu 12/18 - 12/30

Oh my. There is only one week left until Christmas. I'm not ready! I still have gifts to wrap and I haven't watched one holiday movie! I hope to spend this week getting it all done or who knows what will happen.

If you're still looking for holiday treats to make, check back each day. I have goodies scheduled to post right on up until Friday. They're REALLY good too!

Since Christmas is a Sunday and I won't be posting a menu that week, this one covers both weeks.

Sunday 12/18 - Cheddar Ale Soup in Pretzel Bowls

Monday 12/19 - Chili with Jalapeno Cornbread 

Tuesday 12/20 - Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic Wine Sauce

Wednesday 12/21 - Dinner out for Work

Thursday 12/22 - Leftovers

Friday 12/23 - Fend for Yourself 

Saturday 12/24 - at Tom's parents 

Sunday 12/25 - Christmas Menu 

Monday 12/26 - Christmas leftovers

Tuesday 12/27 - Italian Chicken over Pasta with Tomatoes and Zucchini

Wednesday 12/28 - Pizza

Thursday 12/29 - Super Unhealthy Casserole 

Friday 12/30 - Fend for Yourself 

I talked to my mom today and we finally finalized some plans for Christmas. We're also adding lasagna, salad and macaroni salad to the menu.

I hope you all have an amazing Christmas filled with family, friends and good times. And because I just can't resist sharing, here is a Christmas kitty for you.


She wasn't a fan, if you couldn't tell.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recipe Swap: Peanut Butter Cups

The recipe swap for this month is holiday treats! While you can obviously make cookies or other desserts throughout the year, its just different to me to make them around the holidays. Maybe its being able to look a the pretty decorations or the tree while the cookies are baking in the oven. Or maybe its just that its cold outside and the cookies in the oven heat up the house. Anyway, for this swap, I was given Peanut Butter Cups from Ashley at Cheese Curd in Paradise.

Ashley has a lot of tasty looking meals on her blog which all make me think of comfort food and sitting down to a nice hot dinner in a warm house while its freezing outside. Which probably is pretty realistic, considering she lives in Wisconsin.

My first thought when I saw this recipe was "Damn!" Not because I have anything against chocolate or peanut butter (I'm actually a big fan) but because the recipe says to use a mini muffin pan. Guess who currently does not have a mini muffin pan and is getting one for Christmas? Yep, this girl.

I thought for a few minutes about just going out and buying a mini muffin pan since having two of them definitely wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. But then I realized that if I did that, it would be an open invitation to my brain to eat more peanut butter cups because the chocoholic part of my brain would rationalize smaller candy = eat more candy. Since I decide to start think strongly about consider exercising and watching what I eat, I figured that probably wasn't in the best interest for my inner chocoholic.

Peanut Butter Cups
Slightly Adapted from: Cheese Curd in Paradise, originally from JessintheKitchen
Servings: 12
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Ingredients:
    • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, divided in half and chopped
    • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup honey

Directions:
1. Line a cupcake or muffin pan with paper liners and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Fill the bottom pot of a double boiler with about one inch of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place the second pot of the double boiler on top. Add half of the chocolate. Stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has melted and is glossy.
3. Spoon the melted chocolate into each of the paper liners, making sure to get some up the sides of the liner. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to let the chocolate set, about 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter and honey. Stir until everything is incorporated. Bring the water in the double boiler back to a simmer. Add the remaining chocolate to the top pan and stir until smooth and glossy.
5. Remove the pan from the refrigerator. Scoop the peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate. Spread the melted chocolate over the peanut butter and return to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

To store, leave the peanut butter cups in their paper liners. Peanut butter cups can be stacked in a plastic container with pieces of wax paper between each level. Keep refrigerated.

These were really good and much better than the kind you can buy at the store! Since I used a regular sized pan, I needed to increase the amount of chocolate. I did use the original amount of the remaining ingredients but since I had more than half left over, I halved the recipe.

The peanut butter cups are definitely a quick dessert you can whip up if company unexpectedly stops by or a just a great dessert you can easily make ahead of time!

If you're curious to see what other holiday treats were part of this recipe swap, Sarah of Taste of Home Cooking does a recap of all the recipes each swap!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Improv Cooking Challenge: Cranberry and Eggnog Scones

Me: "Hi, my name is Nichole and I'm a cooking challenge addict." 
Chorus of People: "Hi, Nichole."

It's true. I am addicted to cooking challenges. As you know, I already participate in the Recipe Swap's on the What's Cooking? board and I'm a member of the Secret Recipe Club. For most people, you'd think this would be enough. But I'm not most people. 

Back in November, I was looking around on Ashley's blog and saw that she had posted a recipe for Heath Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cake as part of the Improv Cooking Challenge hosted by Kristen. I was immediately intrigued and clicked on Kristen's blog, Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. 

Here I found out about the Improv Cooking Challenge. For each challenge there are two ingredients and every participant gets to make anything they want as long as it includes those two ingredients. Now I was really curious. Two ingredients do whatever I wanted with them? Now that sounded like fun. Kristen had already posted the ingredients for December so before I even emailed her to ask if I could join for this month, I immediately began searching for recipes with these ingredients. 

After finding out that there really was an endless list of recipes I could make, I quickly emailed Kristen asking her if I could join in time for December. She responded right away saying that I could! The recipe hunt was on!

If you haven't figured it out from the title of this post yet, the two ingredients for December are cranberries and eggnog. Would you believe I've only had eggnog once? The name alone always scared me. I assumed it was nothing but raw eggs and milk and for some crazy reason people added alcohol to it and drank it. Granted, I wasn't that far off in my assumption, but it took me a long time to even consider trying it. 

Cranberry Eggnog Cornbread Scones
Slightly Adapted from: www.allrecipes.com
Yield: ~12 scones, depending on the size

Ingredients:
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup cornmeal
    • 1 tbsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt 
    • 5 1/3 tbs. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 3/4 cup eggnog, plus 1 tsp.
    • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease two baking sheets or use silpats. 
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Stir until combined. 
3. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, add the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
4. Add the cranberries and 3/4 cup of eggnog and mix together until a slightly sticky dough forms. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough 10 times. 
5. Roll the dough into a half inch thick circle. Using a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter or glass, cut out rings of dough and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Brush the remaining teaspoon of eggnog on the tops of the scones. 
6. Bake scones for 15 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden brown. Serve warm. 

Cranberry Eggnog scones just weren't enough for me so I also decided to make a Cranberry Butter to go along with the scones. 

Cranberry Butter
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation 
Yield: ~6 tablespoons 

Ingredients:
    • 4 tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature 
    • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce, homemade or canned
    • 1/2 tsp. sugar

Directions:
1. Using your stand mixer or a handheld mixture, combine the ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

I wasn't sure if I was going to like scones. I'm not a huge fan of biscuits so I had my hesitations, but these were pretty tasty, especially with the cranberry butter. Now that would also be delicious on a bagel!

Stay tuned to see what the challenge ingredients are for January. The posts will air on January 19th! I already have a few ideas of what I'd like to make!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Plain Oatmeal Cookies

I'm an oatmeal cookie naturalist. There is absolutely no reason to add raisins, chocolate or anything else you can think of to an oatmeal cookie. It's quite delicious on its own. Luckily for me, Tom agrees. At the absolute most, I guess I could understand adding honey or cinnamon to give them more of a granola flavor, but I still believe the best oatmeal cookie is a plain oatmeal cookie.

I don't have some super-secret oatmeal cookie recipe either. I've always just made whatever recipe came on the container of oatmeal and omitted any additions. I did the same for this recipe.

 Plain Oatmeal Cookies
Slightly Adapted from: Great Value*
Yield: 3+ dozen cookies
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 4 cups whole grain old-fashioned oats
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup light brown sugar
    • 1 cup vegetable shortening
    • 2 tbsp. milk
    • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 2 eggs
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt together.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the sugar, light brown sugar and shortening. Mix together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time until completely incorporated.
4. Add the milk and vanilla. Slowly pour the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Once combined, add in the oats, one cup at a time until fully incorporated.
5. Drop rounded tablespoon sized pieces of dough onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2" inches of space between each cookie. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until lightly golden.
6. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Are you one of those people who swears by your silpat? I am, especially when it comes to baking. My first baking sheet of these cookies didn't go onto a silpat and they burned somewhere around 7 minutes. My second cookie sheet, which had a silpat, and was on the same oven rack as the first, was perfectly done in 14 minutes. So I'd definitely advise using one or parchment paper to make these cookies.

As an oatmeal cookie naturalist, these were great. They had just enough crunch and oatmeal flavor!

*Walmart apparently does not include their Great Value brand recipes anywhere on the internet, so I just linked to their recipe area on their website*

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shortbread Cookies

Back in November when Tom and I were at the grocery store he added a container of TastyKake holiday cookies to the cart. Even though I've learned that TastyKake's are quite the luxury for people living outside of Maryland and Pennsylvania, I've never been a big fan. Their crumb cakes are the only baked good of theirs I like. So I was a bit hesitant to try these cookies, but after reading that they were shortbread cookies, I figured they couldn't be all that bad.

They turned out to be pretty tasty and since I'd one day love to never buy anything packaged and processed from the grocery store, I decided to give it a shot and make my own. When I searched for recipes, I couldn't believe just how simple it was to make these cookies. And why hadn't I made them before!?

Shortbread Cookies
Source: www.allrecipes.com
Yield: about 5 dozen cookies
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • powdered sugar or sprinkles (optional)

Directions:
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.
2. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Add the flour one cup at a time until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
3. Transfer the dough to a large piece of wax paper. Pat into a log and refrigerate for at least one hour.
4. Preheat the oven 350. If using cookie cutters, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. If not, pat the dough into a 2" in diameter log and cut into 1/4" slices. Add any optional toppings.
5. Place the cookies onto un-greased baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

Oh these were good cookies! Tom said they were definitely as good as the TastyKake ones which makes me happy. They've definitely been added to my standard Christmas cookie baking list!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies

When I decided to do two weeks of cookies and desserts before Christmas I started searching for different cookies to make. I came across quite a few recipes for pinwheel cookies but none of them had very good reviews. Slightly hesitant, I tried a few different recipes and realized that the reviews were correct. There was just something wrong with the recipe or the directions that made these cookies not work out. So I saw that Heather of Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks blogged pinwheel cookies and they were successful, I knew I needed to give these cookies another shot.

Chocolate Pinwheel Cookies
Source: Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks, adapted from the Charlotte Observer
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
Printer Friendly 

Ingredients:
    • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Directions:
1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar egg and vanilla until fluffy.
3. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined.
4. Remove half of the dough and place on a large piece of wax paper. Add the cocoa powder to the other half of the dough still in the mixer and mix on low speed until combined.
5. Transfer the chocolate dough to another large piece of wax paper.
6. Roll out each piece of dough into equally sized rectangles on the wax paper. Place the vanilla dough onto the chocolate dough and cut the edges to make an even rectangle. Press down on the edges of the dough to seal them together.
6. Starting at the long end, roll the dough into a long tube. Press the edges again to seal. Wrap the dough in the wax paper and refrigerate for at least one hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 350. Unwrap the dough and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Place the cookies onto ungreased baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to continue cooling. Once cool, transfer the cookies into an airtight container.   

With the amount of powdered sugar that goes into these cookies I expected them to be really sweet but found that the sweetness is just perfect. They're really tasty! And they look cute, so that's always a bonus!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekly Menu 12/11-12/16

The menu for this week is a short one because Tom and I are spending Tuesday and Wednesday at the corporate office in New Jersey. We're going up for the planning and budgeting meetings we have every year. I found out they're doing a Christmas dinner for us at a hibachi place so that should be interesting.

How are your Christmas plans going? Have you bought and decorated your tree? Are you still shopping? Do you have cookies in the oven while you're reading this? It's later than usual for me, but we finally have all of the decorations up and the shopping is complete. I still have a few more presents that I'm waiting to arrive in the mail, but I'm 99% done. Oh, speaking of cookies...

Back in the summer I had intended to do a a play off ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas and have almost the whole month of December dedicated to as many different baked goodies as I could create, but the timing just didn't work out. I hope to do it for next year. But, I did manage to bake just enough goodies that the next two weeks will be dedicated solely to sweets. As a sugar-lover, I'm excited!
Have I ever mentioned Tom and I are OBSESSED with The Grinch?
Sunday - Crock Pot Asian Pork with Mushrooms 

Monday - Shrimp Scampi (I didn't make it last week)

Wednesday - French Onion Soup 

Thursday - Beef Au Jus Sandwiches

Friday - to be determined 

Tom and I won't get home from New Jersey until late Wednesday night. Since I knew I wouldn't have enough time to plan out a full meal, I made the French onion soup this morning and it's currently hanging out in the fridge. The day after a trip to New Jersey is almost as exhausting as the time spent up there. I know it's only two working days I'll miss from the office, but I know a ton of work will be waiting for me. So to make my life easier, on Thursday, I'm using the remaining French onion soup as the au jus for the sandwiches.

Friday's meal all depends on how I feel. Tom is supposed to cook on Friday's but he's gotten out of it for quite a few weeks now. Either he'll make something or we'll do something simple like a homemade pizza since we haven't had it in a while.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Menu

Have you finalized your Christmas plans yet? If not, you better get on that! It's only 16 days until Christmas!

When I created the menu for Thanksgiving, I couldn't help but think about the menu for Christmas too. There's barely enough time to get over being stuffed from turkey and sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving before Christmas comes barreling around the corner.

For some reason, the Christmas menu is never nearly as daunting to me as Thanksgiving. Maybe its because I associate Christmas with presents and cookies not time in the kitchen the day of or because after all of that planning and prep for Thanksgiving, Christmas just comes naturally. I also tend to just wing with recipes instead of rushing around to prepare them before the actual day. Maybe its because my sugar-high from cookies starts somewhere around the first of December and ends sometime in early January that I just don't have the patience. Who knows?

I haven't talked to my family yet, so nothing is set is stone, but here's my 99% sure Christmas menu.

Cookaholic Wife's Christmas Menu 

Appetizers
Prosciutto, Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostinis
Caprese Salad Skewers
Deviled Eggs

Main
Cherry & Peach Stuffed Ham
Sides
Garlic Potato Gratin
Green Bean Bundles
Corn

Bread & Butter
Cranberry Butter 

Desserts
Chocolate Mocha Cake with Caramel Pecan Filling


There will also be little goodie bags of cookies for my family to take home. Lets just say I'm making an absolute ton of cookies this year. Curious as to which ones? Almost every (week)day leading up to Christmas there will be a new cookie recipe. So "y'all come back now, ya hear?" 

As for the preparations, it's all going to be the day before. I'll make the skewers, slice the potatoes, trim the green beans, make the rolls and butter and make both desserts.