Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Too Pooped To Party

It's been a long season of holiday overindulgence. Too much food, too much alcohol, and staying up too late have us all pooped out, Sloopy included. Molly and I returned to our Curves workout yesterday and I'll admit that it was tough to get back into the groove. There were quite a few heads hanging, and more than one lady admitted she'd gotten into a fight with a cheesecake and lost. One poor woman was even scheduled for her monthly weigh-in yesterday! Glutton for punishment? Or just incredibly bad timing, I'm guessing.

Anyway, we've decided to stay in for New Year's Eve this year. And that hasn't happened since the turn of the millennium, when I decided I wanted to be at home with my family when the world ended...lol



Just when I thought I was finished with the holiday baking, I happened to remember that we still have one more party to go to and I realized that I had no gift for my best friend's husband. He's notorious for being able to down a dozen cookies in one sitting, therefore I knew what the perfect gift for him might be! Evidently when he was a child, his mother kept a tight rule over the cookie jar, and he feels that traumatized him into wanting to overindulge as an adult. Hmmmm.... must be why I like my wine so much (see Mom, you shouldn't have held it from me when I was growing up...lol)

Snickerdoodles are Chris' favorite cookie, so I knew I'd end up baking them. However, I usually have little luck in that they end up all flat and crunchy. After doing much research, I ended up with this recipe from the Betty Crocker website. I think the answer to a great Snickerdoodle lies in baking it at a higher temperature than what most other cookies are baked at. Also, I used air-bake pans, which are basically just doubled up cookie sheets. The end result was a beautifully shaped cookie, buttery crisp on the outside, and wonderfully chewy on the inside.


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With mixer, cream butter and shortening until combined. Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs, one and a time and mix until combined well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add this mixture to above mixture and mix well.

In a small bowl combine sugar and ground cinnamon.

Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon/sugar mixture and place on cold or room-temperature ungreased baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for a minute or two before removing to cooling rack.

And just because they were so purdy, here's another picture!

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Smoked Turkey Soup

Again with the smoked turkey! I promise not to post another recipe using it (well, at least not until next Christmas.)

The best part of leftover turkey is the carcass. Once I get the majority of the meat carved, I bag the leftover bird and refrigerate it until the next day when I have time to make a big pot of stock. You can easily get a gallon of stock from a large bird. Just cover the bones with water and toss in any leftover veggies you'd like to flavor the stock with. I threw in onions, carrots, garlic, celery leaves and some rosemary. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add more water if the level falls below the top of the bones. Strain to remove vegetables, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Remove solidified fat once the broth has completely cooled.

Smoked Turkey Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced (I used a poblano)
6 medium white mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper
1 quart chicken broth (I used my turkey broth)
1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce, diced
2 cups diced smoked turkey
2 cups frozen corn kernels

In soup pot saute onions, celery, carrot, pepper, mushrooms and garlic. Season with cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, black beans, and chipotle. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Place one half of soup in blender and puree. Return puree to pot and add in turkey and corn. Heat through.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Smoked Turkey Chimichangas

The holiday meals had already been planned and shopped for when hubby brought home a 16 pound smoked turkey from work. It was frozen, but he'd let it in his car for the better part of a work day, so by the time it was delivered into my hands, it was partially thawed. I sliced some of it up and added it to the munchies buffet we enjoyed while playing cards last night, but I was really worried about how I was going to use up the rest of it. Enter Google, God's gift to recipe hunters. I came across Rachael Ray's recipe for smoked turkey baked chimichangas on the Food Network website and I noticed that I had all of the key ingredients already on hand. As I often do, I changed it up just a bit to suit my own tastes and this recipe was the result. It got RAVE reviews from the fam. I'll definitely be making these again.

1 lb smoked turkey, diced (I think regular turkey or chicken (cooked) would also work well here)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1-2 chipotles in adobo sauce (depending on how hot you like it!) chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
3 green onions, chopped
2 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
salt and pepper
4 (12 inch) flour tortillas
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
olive oil
your favorite creamy cole slaw

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease baking sheet with olive oil.

Combine first six ingredients in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Wrap tortillas in a kitchen towel and microwave on high for one minute.

To build, place a generous handful of cheese near one edge of the tortilla. Pile 1/4 of your filling in the tortilla. Tuck sides up and roll tortilla tightly. Repeat to make 4 large stuffed tortilla wraps. Brush the wraps with oil and bake until deep golden all over, 15 to 17 minutes.

Serve topped with a generous helping of creamy cole slaw.

by the way... that photo is not my own, it's from the Food Network website

Christmas has gone to the dogs...

The move to Indiana brought changes to our traditional Christmas celebration. I knew this would happen, and I thought I was prepared for it, but this Christmas Eve was the most depressing I've ever spent. The boys had obligations with their girls' families, which meant our own family celebration couldn't begin until Christmas Day evening. Once the entire family was assembled, however, we had the most wonderful Christmas! I'm so blessed, I really am. I have an awesome family.

I haven't yet been blessed with grandchildren though. Vanity as it relates to age helps me accept the fact that I'm just not old enough to be a grandma!!..lol While I wait to age to the acceptable grandmotherly stage, I've got the "grand-dogs" to keep me hopping. Both boys brought their dogs along, and combined with our own dog, it made for a hectic yet enjoyable two days. Kellen's dog Chloe has a nervous bladder... and I don't think I even need to go into detail regarding how many rolls of paper towels and cans of carpet cleaner we went through. Wes' dog Macy likes to each mulch during the day, and throw it back up during the night, so she had her own name on a roll of paper towels as well. And our Sloopy, the littlest of the three, just tends to fight for his life until they all finally leave and he can take his rightful place on my lap for a full day's snooze.

I kept my camera close at hand while the gang was all here, and I've got lots of pictures to help me remember this year's Christmas celebration. But this picture of Macy, caught peeking through the little heart cut-out on my kitchen bench, really melted my heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Almost Healthy" Wheat Snacks

It's nearly impossible to stay true to a healthy diet this time of year. Not only are the number of occasions and events at which we're tempted increased, but the culinary fare offered at each and every one of these events is typically laden with fat and sugar. And I'm as guilty as the rest in my own holiday cooking. My family teases me about having a refrigerator drawer set aside strictly for Philadelphia Cream Cheese from Thanksgiving through Christmas, and I'm known to buy chocolate chips in bulk at this time of year.

I stumbled upon this recipe for a sweet treat that uses Shredded Wheat as its base. While I realize that it still is heavy with sugar and fat, at least it incorporates a whole grain. Good enough for me.

This recipe is from the Feb/March 2007 issue of Taste Of Home Magazine.

Chocolate Wheat Cereal Snacks

6 cups frosted bite-size Shredded Wheat
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (original recipe called for milk chocolate chips)
1/4 creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar

Place cereal in a large bowl; set aside. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter; stir until smooth. Pour over cereal and stir gently to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and toss to coat. Cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cheesy Tomato Soup

On wintry days such as this, it seems that the only way to get and stay warm is by starting from the inside out. A nice warm bowl of soup seemed like the perfect way to accomplish this today. I was thankful that I had the ingredients for this recipe and didn't have to venture out into the ice and snow.

Cheesy Tomato Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup uncooked whole grain brown rice
1 cup onions, diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart chicken broth
1 1/2 cups V-8 juice
1 cup fat-free half-and-half
4 oz 2% Velveeta cheese, cubed

In soup pot heat olive oil, add rice, onion, sweet potato and pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until veggies and rice are tender. Working in batches, puree mixture in blender and return to pan. Add in the V-8 juice and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in half-and-half and Velveeta. Stir until cheese is melted and soup is smooth.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy 90th Mom!

Queen Bea....

Every ounce of self esteem that I have, I've acquired from my Mother. She didn't build up false hopes in me by attempting to make me feel that I was exceptionally smart.. or pretty... or unique.... but she showed me by her unconditional love that I was very worthy of being loved. She also taught me the value of humility, which I consider to be one of the the most virtuous qualities one can possess.

Happy Birthday Mom... I love you

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chocolate Chip Ball Surprise

If you don't like recipes that combine peanut butter and chocolate, read no further. Also, you might want to have your head examined. I think that as God created Adam and Eve, He also created the peanut and the cacao bean to become one. And, while I'm very familiar with the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup advertisement that supposedly chronicles the union of the two aforementioned ingredients, I really do wonder about the REAL truth regarding the union of these two decadent flavors.

I've made Buckeye candies for years, that little ball of chocolate and peanut butter goodness not only satisfying my sweet tooth, but also signifying a tribute to the state that I will always call home... OHIO. The addition of the Rice Krispies in this recipe is really the only thing that truly separates this from the original Buckeye recipe, but O...OH...OHI....OHIO .. what a difference that snap, crackle, and pop does make.

This recipe is from the 2007 Food Network's Cookie Challenge, invented by Theresa Cannavo. I've modified it only by adding the paraffin wax.

Chocolate Chip Ball Surprise

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups creamy peanut butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup semisweet mini chocolate morsels
2 (12-ounce) packages semisweet chocolate morsels, plus 1/3 block paraffin

In a large mixing bowl, using your hand, combine butter, peanut butter, sugar, rice cereal and mini chocolate morsels. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls and place onto a parchment lined sheet pan in the freezer. In a double boiler, over simmering water, melt semisweet morsels and paraffin. Stir constantly until melted and smooth. With a fork, dip the frozen balls in melted chocolate. Place on a cool cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in freezer for 5 to10 minutes until the chocolate has set. Store the balls in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

That's What Christmas Is All About, Charlie Brown

"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid ... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord."

"And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men."

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." - Linus Van Pelt

I can remember as a young child watching A Charlie Brown Christmas for the very first time. Forty-plus years later it still remains my favorite Christmas program. When Linus steps into the spotlight and gives his famous "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown" speech, I'm suddenly propelled back to my youth and experiencing the same warm fuzzies that I felt back then. The solemnity of Christmas was never the issue; my parents made sure that I was taught adequate adoration with simultaneous fear of the Lord. But way back when I first heard Linus recite the Bible verse that showed me the true meaning of Christmas, I learned that the babe in swaddling clothes was going to grow up to love and save me. I remember feelings of peace and awe, and an excitement that had nothing to do with those presents under my Christmas tree. So much inspiration from a half-hour cartoon. Who could have known way back in 1965 that this one single program would touch so many hearts so many years later.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Potato Crust Quiche

Real men do eat quiche, but only if you don't call it quiche. I've found that by renaming this quiche "ESPN Pie," my husband will readily devour it. Serve it up with a side of Playboy Peas and you've got yourself a meal he can't refuse. Some women have little black dresses. I prefer little white lies.

This is not a figure-friendly recipe. Let's just get that out of the way, only because I typically blog about healthy recipes I enjoy. Around the holidays I'm more apt to experiment with richer and somewhat extravagant fare. From opening day (cream cheese season starts on Thanksgiving) to New Years Day (yes, even I can make sauerkraut fattening,) I tend to cook with a holiday flare that defies all of the healthy rules I abide by during the rest of the year. But, it all balances out in the end. This is the Christmas season after all.

Potato Crust Quiche

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

4 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup diced onion
1 egg, beaten
1 cup all purpose flour
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Mix above ingredients and press into a well-greased 10-inch deep dish pie plate. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from oven.

1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green pepper
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup canadian bacon, diced
1-1/2 cups Monterey jack cheese, divided
3 eggs
1 cup half-and-half (I KNOW I SHOULD HAVE USED FAT-FREE BUT I DIDN'T this time)

While crust is baking, saute onions, peppers, mushrooms and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in canadian bacon.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees after removing crust from oven.

Layer 1 cup of cheese onto potato crust. Then layer vegetable/canadian bacon mixture on top of cheese. Beat eggs, cream and a pinch of salt and pepper together. Pour over all. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and top with remaining cheese. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.