Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fried Egg Sandwiches with Peanut M&Ms

Not to worry. I'm not eating fried egg sandwiches with melted peanut M&Ms on top. It's just that the only things I seem to be craving this week after Christmas are fried egg sandwiches and peanut M&Ms, ergo the absence of new postings on the Other Side of 50. Post holiday blues? Perhaps. However, it probably has much more to do with the fact that I quit smoking three weeks ago and I'm devoting most of my energy to that effort. Please don't judge me if this is your first knowledge that I had such an enormous flaw. I only ask you bear with me as I make my way through this journey, one day at a time. For now, I'm finding much comfort eating my egg sandwiches and munching on M&M's while sitting in my favorite recliner, petting my dog and reading some really trashy romance novels.

I just wanted you all to know that I'm still here, just in my own mini-rehab. I hope to have an intense desire to cook something special next week. Until then, Happy New Year!

love,
Mags

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a warm and blessed Christmas. Thank you for your friendship and patronage throughout this past year. My love to you all!

Christmas hugs and kisses,
Mags

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tortilla Roll-up Christmas Tree

I've had this tortilla roll-up tree on my list of things to make for the past two Christmases, but it kept getting put on the back burner due to other recipes, time constraints, etc. When hubby came home from work and gave me short notice on a Christmas potluck this week however, I knew I had all the ingredients for this and decided to see if I could make it work. I have no idea how it actually looked when it was unwrapped from its thousand of layers of plastic wrap, but I thought it looked rather festive when I was actually photographing it.

I'll give you the dip recipe I used to spread on the tortillas but feel free to use your own favorite roll-up combination. The tortillas I used were Mission Garden Spinach Herb and I chose to use spinach leaves between the layers (because I had them,) but you could use curly parsley or even romaine lettuce leaves. A finely chopped roasted red pepper from a jar adds a touch of holiday red, and a piece of yellow pepper cut into a star adorns the top of the tree. The entire project from the start of making the dip to finishing the tree took me less than an hour. However, on a side note to the co-irkers, please bypass hubby and start sending the emails directly to me for future events. It keeps him out of the doghouse, if you know what I mean.

Judy's Cheese Spread (This also makes a fantastic cracker dip)

2 (8-oz) packages of light cream cheese, room temperature
2 (3-oz) packages dried beef, finely diced (I do mine in the food processor)
1 (5 oz) jar of Kraft pimento cheese spread
1 (5 oz) jar of Kraft Old English cheese spread
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine all of the above and mix thoroughly.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Krisp Kringles

Can your teeth handle one more holiday sweet before they start to hurt? If so, here's the sweet you need to include on your holiday cookie platter. They're quick and easy to make, and they're no bake! And if you're like me, you most likely have some leftover melted chocolate from some other holiday goodie that you've saved and here's the perfect time to use it.

Krisp Kringles

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups smooth peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
2 cups rice cereal
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup mini-chocolate chips
2 (12 ounce) packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 TBSP food grade cocoa butter or 1 TBSP shortening

In large bowl, cream together the butter, peanut butter and vanilla. I just used a spatula to do this.

Add the graham cracker crumbs, rice cereal, powdered sugar and mini-chocolate chips.

Take off your rings and get your hands dirty. Combine all ingredients well, then roll into 1 inch balls. Place on wax paper and freeze for a half hour or so while you melt the remaining chocolate.

In double boiler, melt chocolate chips and cocoa butter or shortening. Stir until smooth. Dip balls into chocolate and place on wax paper to set chocolate. Let chocolate harden and store balls in airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cheesy Chorizo Chowder

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT! INDIANA WOMAN SAVES HERSELF FROM HOLIDAY INSANITY BY MAKING SOUP!! When asked what led up to the pot-filling event, the lady simply replied, "When I found that I'd put a hook through my dog's collar and hung him on the tree, and then discovered that I'd stuffed my husband's Christmas stocking with Midol, toenail clippings and Hello Kitty stickers, I knew I was suffering from pre-traumatic holiday stress syndrome. The only known cure is making soup, so that's what I did."

There you have it folks. It's beginning to look a lot like soup isn't just a cure for the common cold anymore.

Cheesy Chorizo Chowder

1/2 lb chorizo
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
kosher salt and pepper
1 quart chicken stock
3 medium potatoes, peeled, small cubed
2 cups frozen corn kernels
2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves, chopped
4-6 ounces shredded Queso Chihuahua (could substitute Velveeta)

In soup pot brown chorizo until fat is rendered. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, cumin, oregano and a little kosher salt and pepper. Saute vegetables for 6-8 minutes and then add the chicken both and cubed potatoes. Bring to a boil, season with kosher salt, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are nearly tender, about 10-12 minutes. Add the corn kernels and spinach and simmer for another 3-5 minutes. Remove pot from heat and gradually add the shredded cheese and stir until smooth.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Apps

I'm not talking about holiday apps for the iPhone, although it will be interesting to see the number of Google hits I get from people looking for snow globe apps or an app that makes your phone jingle every time you shake it. I'm referring to holiday appetizers and hors d'oeuvres (or horses ovaries, as we like to refer to them in this hilljack neck of the woods.)

If you're still struggling to come up with some appetizers for your holiday parties, here is a list of some of my favorites:

Sweet Chicken Bacon Wraps

Buffalo Chicken Balls

Hanky Pankies

Sesame Peanut Chicken Appetizer Pizza

Cheesy Potato Tots

Sweet and Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Anaheim Chili Peppers

Risotto Balls

Reuben Dip

Spicy Deviled Eggs

Cheesy Pepperoni Bites

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins (and a product review)

I was fortunate enough to receive a large package of NuNaturals baking products to try. To know me is to not only know that I love freebies, but to also know that I love to experiment in the kitchen. And it's a double whammy when I get to experiment with freebies because if the recipe turns out to be a flop, I'm not out a lot of dough. And that's cash baby, not dough in the culinary sense.

NuNaturals makes NuStevia, a complete line of natural sweeteners based on the herb Stevia, a plant widely grown for its sweet leaves. I'll admit to trying Stevia when it first hit my local grocery store years ago and found it difficult to work with because it is so concentrated and I also thought it had a bitter aftertaste. I think if I dug deep into my lazy susan I would probably find the remainder of the bottle that I bought.

I guess this would be a good time to explain why I'm constantly on the lookout for artificial sweeteners and why I typically only use regular sugar for sweets that I give away. You see, it's because I care about my own health, but not yours. (HEE!) Of course, I'm kidding. Hubby and I are both borderline pre-diabetics, which is the driving force behind my development of recipes that contain whole grains and as little sugar as possible. That's why you find so many Splenda recipes on my blog. At least up until today. These muffins that I made with NuStevia Baking Blend were out of this world! No bitter aftertaste and they were incredibly moist without the addition of a lot of fat. Upon reading the literature that accompanied my box of goodies, I discovered that the NuStevia actually binds with the fat in a recipe to create a product with better texture and taste. NuStevia Sweetener also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which keeps life moving in a pleasant direction, as well as helping stabilize blood sugar. It's all good!

I'm excited to experiment with the rest of the products I was sent and to fill you in on my successes. The failures I always keep to myself though, remember. Success #1: Whole grain banana chocolate chip muffins.

Whole Grain Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 cup plain yogurt
2 TBSP canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups mashed very ripe bananas (this was three medium sized bananas for me)
1 cup NuStevia Baking Blend (sugar, or Splenda would work here also)
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl whisk together the egg, egg white, yogurt, oil, vanilla, bananas and sweetener.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until all is incorporated. Do not over mix. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Distribute batter between muffins cups. Bake for 23-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for a few minutes before removing from pan to cool completely on cooling rack.

*Disclaimer* Other than receiving the free products to try, I was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Perfect Spritz Cookies

Am I the only one who thinks that spritz cookie dough is amongst the most difficult cookie dough to work with? I've tried numerous times in the past to make pressed cookies using various dough recipes but my end results either looked like hockey pucks or tasted like them. What? You've never taken a hockey puck to the mouth?

Anyway, my son Kellen gave me this cookie press kit as a gift awhile back and I made up my mind to try to make pressed cookies one last time, just to prove that I would always be a failure in this arena.

Guess what? I'm not a failure! I made some (dare I say) perfect cookies this year! A couple of key things I discovered. All ingredients should be at room temperature before making the dough. Make sure you use cookie sheets that ARE NOT non-stick and I also think that insulated cookies sheets work best because they allow the top of the cookies to set before the bottoms get too brown.

Perfect Spritz Cookies

2 sticks (one cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg (room temperature)
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift first, then measure)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl and beaters occasionally. Add the egg, vanilla, almond extract and salt and continue beating until thoroughly mixed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour. Mix just until flour is completely incorporated, scraping down the bowl and beaters occasionally.

Fill a cookie press with the dough according to the manufacturer's directions and fit with desired cookie disc. Press the dough onto ungreased baking sheets about one inch apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to cooling rack and let cookies cool for several minutes before removing from the baking sheet to cooking rack to cool completely.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"500"

500 AD: Theodora, the empress of Byzantium was born. (this folks, is knowledge that you NEEDED to know, but never knew how to ask for without sounding like an idiot.)

500: The number of pounds I've gained and lost in 52 years.

500: Some sort of car race in Indianapolis, maybe?

500: The number of bottles of beer on the wall before you take one down and pass it around....

500: The number of times I confessed to Father Reinhart that I'd disobeyed my parents in one month's time (Short explanation.. I was told by my parents to not crack my knuckles. I couldn't help it and kept cracking so I figured I'd just pick a high number and confess it. Father Reinhart probably thinks I was a LOT more rotten than I really was.)

500: The square root of 22.360679774997898 (this is important knowledge to tuck away for when your preschooler runs into trouble with math problems)

500: The total number of posts on "The Other Side of 50" (as of today).... which was the real reason for this blog post. I'm actually kind of proud of this accomplishment, considering that I rarely stick with any new project for more than a couple of months.

HOWEVER..... there is one more 500 I'm even more proud of.

500: the number of dollars raised by The Other Side of 50 so far this year for donation to Gleaner's Food Bank of Indianapolis. Thank you all for your continued support by your regular visits to my blog. Together, we're doing what we can to feed the hungry. I love you all so freakin' much!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snow Peas With Sesame-Cream Cheese Dip

I'll admit that I'm an ambitious person by nature, but I hesitate to claim stupidity as a characteristic, so after attempting for over 5 minutes to delicately slice open one pea pod to stuff with this sesame cream cheese, I quickly gave up so as not to add "slow learner" to my resume.

I opted to simply place the sesame-cream cheese dip in a serving bowl, stick two pea pods in it so that people would know what it was for, and sat it along side the pea pods which started out arranged like a Christmas tree. The star on top was cut from a yellow bell pepper and the garland was fashioned from red bell pepper strips. I then sprinkled sesame seeds over all (it's the snow!!)

This comes together very quickly (if you skip the part where you think you're going to slice the pods and stuff them, that is.) Festive also, yes?

Sesame-Cream Cheese Dip

3 green onions, green part only
2 (8 ounce) packages of reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature
2 TBSP reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 TBSP sesame oil
3/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp hot sauce (I used sriracha )
sesame seeds (optional) as garnish

In food processor fitted with blade, process green onions until finely minced. Add cream cheese, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder and hot sauce. Process until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Coach's Banana Oatmeal Surprise

I had to pull out my Maxine mug this morning just to keep me focused.

With Christmas approaching at a scary rate and my preparedness not at equal speed, I shall keep today's post short, sweet and to the point. (Like my eighth grade math teacher minus the short and sweet and add a paddle the size of a big pizza pi r squared.)

Oatmeal. It's good for you. It's actually great for you. You all know it so make some during these cold winter mornings. It'll stick to your ribs like a static filled sweater and keep hunger at bay for hours.

This particular oatmeal recipe uses Coach's Oats but you may use regular quick cooking, old fashioned, or even steel cut oats. Just vary the water and oats ratio and cooking time per package directions. Then just follow the rest of the recipe to include the add-ins.

Coach's Banana Oatmeal Surprise (3 regular or 4 smaller servings)

3 cups water
1 cup Coach's Oats
pinch of salt
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed well or pureed in blender or food processor
2 TBSP Splenda (or sugar)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP peanut butter
chocolate syrup (optional)
milk or half & half (optional)

In a large sauce pan heat water to boiling. Add Coach's Oats and a pinch of salt. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 1 minute.)

Stir in bananas, sweetener and vanilla. Spoon oatmeal into bowls and top with 2 tsp of peanut butter each.


Stir peanut butter into oatmeal and if you're feeling particularly amorous or just wanting chocolate, squirt some sugar free chocolate syrup on top. Pour a little milk around the edges to round out the perfection. That's healthy love.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mexican Ravioli

Mexican ravioli made with won ton wraps? Really Mags? Are you legally allowed to callously cross so many countries and cultures without a culinary passport? Seriously girl.... where is your head?

Well, I guess it must be in my stomach because these Mexican refried bean ravioli with enchilada sauce were out of this world, or at least this country, and they're so quick and easy to make that you'll be traveling around the world in a matter of minutes!

Mexican Ravioli (makes about 18 ravioli)

2 tsp olive oil
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
3 green onions, diced
kosher salt and pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup refried beans
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a combination of Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar.)
36 won ton wraps
1 egg plus 1 TBSP water
cornmeal
Jarred or canned enchilada sauce (or make your own!)
sour cream
diced tomatoes
diced avocado
sliced green onions

Heat olive oil in small skillet over medium heat. Add peppers and onions. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano and garlic powder. Saute for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and add refried beans. Stir well to combine. When mixture is cool add in the shredded cheese and mix well.

To make the ravioli:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and sprinkle lightly with corn meal. Set aside.

Whisk egg and water until froth. If you don't have a Buckeye mug to do this in, you'll probably have to forfeit this recipe and go find another.

Working with two won ton wraps at a time and keeping the rest covered, brush one won ton with egg wash and place about a teaspoon of filling mixture in the middle.

Cover with the other won ton and seal filling in the middle, pressing out air as you seal.

Cut the ravioli in circles

or squares

and place on prepared baking sheet.

At this point, if you want to freeze the ravioli for future use, simply cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in freezer. Freeze ravioli for an hour or two and then place in a freezer storage bag.

To use ravioli immediately, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season water generously with salt. Place ravioli into boiling water and reducing heat slightly, boil gently for 4-5 minutes. Remove ravioli from pot with a slotted spoon.

Top with warm enchilada sauce, sour cream, and diced tomatoes, avocado and green onions if desired.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Whole Grain Cranberry Cream Cheese Bars (Treats for Co-Irkers)

No one, and I mean no one, escapes "leftover week," not even the co-irkers. After all, before we can move on to Christmas goodies, we have to completely rid ourselves of all that is Thanksgiving. It's the holiday law. (And if it is broken, I might be subject to hard lumps of brown sugar in my Christmas stocking.)

You know that cranberry sauce that everyone said they wanted but nobody ate? Well, it was the last of my Thanksgiving leftovers and I decided to make it into these delicious cranberry cream cheese bars. Made with whole grains, these little bars pair puckery plus perfectly sweetened components to make them all around yummy. I think you'll enjoy them!

Whole Grain Cranberry Cream Cheese Bars

Crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup oat flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2-3 TBSP orange juice

Cream cheese filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 (14 oz) can sweetened, condensed milk (I used fat free)
2 TBSP lemon juice

Cranberry layer:
1 1/2 cups cranberry sauce
1 1/2 TBSP cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X13 pan with cooking spray.

For the crust:
In bowl of mixer combine the cream cheese and brown sugar. Beat until mixture is creamy. In a separate bowl whisk together the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, oats, oat flour and whole wheat flour. Add to the mixer and mix to combine. Slowly add the orange juice and mix just until mixture starts to clump. Do not over mix.

Take half of the crust mixture (about 3 1/2 cups) and press firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Reserve remaining crust for topping.

For the cream cheese layer:
In medium bowl beat cream cheese until fluffy. Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk and beat until creamy. Add in the lemon juice.

Pour cream cheese layer evenly over crust layer.

For the cranberry layer:
Stir the cornstarch into the cranberry sauce. Dollop the mixture over top of the cream cheese layer as evenly as possible.

Top with remaining crust mixture. Bake until light, golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and set on a rack to cool. After about 10 minutes, loosen the edges of the squares with a knife. Refrigerate overnight, covered, before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mini Ham, Cheese and Egg Casseroles

We were fortunate to be gifted with a smoked turkey and a Honey Baked ham the week before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I had already purchased our bird and had it thawing in the fridge. I froze the smoked turkey and decided it would be great for Christmas and I dealt with the spiral sliced ham by making half of it into ham spread and keeping the rest for sandwiches. After all, man can only live on turkey leftovers for so long before he craves a pig. Since the kids were here for four days, most of the ham was eaten and I had just enough leftover to make these little souffles. (I have a boatload of ham spread leftover however, if anyone is interested.)

Mini Ham, Cheese and Egg Casseroles

1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 green onions, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chopped ham
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
5 large eggs
2/3 cup half & half or whole milk
couples of splashes of Tabasco
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place four (8 ounce) ramekins on a baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In saute pan heat olive oil. Add the bell pepper and onions and saute for 6-7 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Remove from heat and let cool.

Add the ham and the shredded cheese to the vegetable mixture and divide the mixture between the four prepared ramekins.

Combine eggs, half & half or milk and Tabasco sauce in a bowl. Whisk until frothy. Season with salt and pepper. Distribute egg mixture between the ramekins.

Place baking sheet in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until puffed and browned.