Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Christmas & Merry Birthday

Every Christmas Eve I go with my Grandma, Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother-in-law, and Hubby to the service at the church I grew up in.  We hear the Christmas Story, sing carols, and light candles.  It is one of my favorite things to do all year.  But most of all, I look forward to going to the 11pm service wherever that may be to be awake and in a state of praise when Christmas Day greets us.  After the early service with the family we went back to my parents' house and had snacks and cookies.  With no avail, I'd begged my mom to go with me to the 11pm service at the church up the street since our church decided against it this year.  I'd even asked my hubby to go with me and his response was "Two services?!? That's too much Jesus for one day". I'd convinced myself that I'd have to wait until next year to restart my 11pm service tradition.  Then, at 10:45, my sister and her mother-in-law said they had to go if they were going to make it to service.  I was so excited and quickly invited myself and was the first one ready to go out the door.  Christmas Eve Candlelight service at 11pm is honestly my favorite service all year.  I love seeing the Churches all decorated with lights, trees, Nativities, poinsettias, banners, and filled with other lovers of the Christmas Season. I love the silence in the night as we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Jesus.

Christmas has always been a special time for me.  Being a Christmas Baby isn't a common thing {although it's probably just as common as being a Halloween Baby, Valentine's Day Baby, or 4th of July Baby}. I haven't always been as grateful as I am this year of having my Birthday on Christmas.  My whole life, my parents have done the best they could to make me feel special.   When I was younger, they separated Christmas and Birthday by having my party on the 15th.  As I got older and didn't do so many parties, Christmas was in the morning then we'd break out the balloons and banners in the after noon.  Still, I always felt a little bit 'jipped' when it came to presents.  It seemed to me that others got to open just as many as I did when it was MY birthday!  This year's big milestone of 25 was no different.  The morning started out with slight jealousy, like most years.  I made an escape just after presents to think quietly for just a few minutes and I quickly realized that for all these years I've been taking the best gift for granted!  The gift of family.  For 25 years now, I have been shifting from praising God on Christmas Eve to thinking only about material things on my Birthday/Christmas.  I'm not sure why today was different.  Maybe I gained some magical wisdom I gained at that moment 25 years after my birth {not very realistic, but just go with it....}.  Most people get cards in the mail from aunts and uncles, phone calls from parents and siblings, or text messages and facebook wall posts from friends.  Not many get the privilege of seeing their faces and receiving hugs from them to celebrate a birthday.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to see this but it was the best gift I've ever gotten.  I am more grateful than ever to share my Birthday with the most gracious human to set foot on earth.

Merry Christmas to all!
Happy Birthday Jesus!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

dijon-crusted chicken breasts

My mom gave me a subscription to Taste of Home magazine which I usually end up stealing from here house when I go visit.  Joe and I tried out a recipe from our 1st issue!  It turned out fantastic!  We ate our dijon-crusted chicken breasts with some leftover homemade mashed potatoes from the weekend.  Yum!

dijon-crusted chicken breasts
from: tasteofhome magazine December & January 2011 issue

Prep/Total Time: 25 min.
Yield: 4 servings

1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. reduced-fat margarine

Place the first six ingredients in a shallow bowl. Brush chicken with mustard; roll in crumb mixture.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook chicken in oil and margarine over medium heat for 5-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees.

Nutrition Facts: 1 chicken breast half equals 169 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 63 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 24 g protein.
Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1/2 starch, 1/2 fat

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chocolate Rolo Pretzels

These are my favorite treat to make any time of the year.  They are delicious with pecans on top and even taste like turtles.

Chocolate Rolo Pretzels
Source: I got the recipe from my mom who got it from someone else


• Bag of Mini twist pretzels
• Bag of Rolo
• M&Ms or Pecans

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Place the pretzels flat onto a cookie sheet
3. Unwrap rolo candies and place one in the center of each pretzel
4. Place in preheated oven 1 to 2 minutes, until rolos are solf. Remove from oven and place one candy-coated chocolate in the center of each pretzel.
5. Chill until set. Store in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Raspberry Pinwheels

Raspberry Pinwheels

Makes 54 cookies
Hands-On Time: 30m
Total Time: 2hr 30m
Note: Total time includes cooling.

• 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 8-ounce bar cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
• 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar or coarse sanding sugar

1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated.
2. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and gently knead it 2 to 3 times, just to bring it together. Form the dough into two 1-inch-thick squares. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll one of the dough squares into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread half the jam over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into thirds, making three 9-by-4-inch rectangles. Starting from a long side of each rectangle, roll into logs. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.
4. Heat oven to 350° F. Slice the logs into 1-inch pieces and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1½ inches apart. Brush with the egg and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
5. Store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Cookies: Palmiers

Source: The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Cookbook - Good Housekeeping
Active: 35 min
Refrigerate: Overnight then 2 hours
Bake: 15 min per batch
Serves: 112 cookies

• 1-1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), cut into pieces
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup sour cream
• 1 cup sugar


1. In large bowl, with pastry blender or two knives used scissor-fashion, cut butter into flour until mixture resembles course crumbs. Stir in sour cream. On lightly floured surface, knead dough just until it holds together; flatten into 8" by 6" rectangle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 400° F. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar evenly over work surface. Cut dough in half. With lightly floured rolling pin, on sugared surface, roll 1 piece of dough into 14-inch square; keep remaining dough refrigerated. Using side of your hand, make indentation along center of dough. Starting at one side, tightly roll up dough to indentation. Roll up other side of dough until it meets first roll, incorporating as much sugar as possible into dough; refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 3 days. Repeat with remaining piece of dough and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.
3. With serrated knife, cut one dough scroll crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Refrigerate if too soft to slice.) Place slices, 2 inches apart, on two ungreased large cookie sheets.
4. Bake 10 minutes. With wide metal spatula, carefully turn cookies over. Rotate cookie sheets between upper and lower racks and bake until cookies are deep golden, about 5 minutes longer. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets, then, with wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat slicing, baking, and cooling with the remaining dough scroll.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Makes: about 54 cookies
Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 10 minutes

• 1/2  cup  shortening
• 1/2  cup  peanut butter
• 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
• 1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
• 1  teaspoon  baking powder
• 1/8  teaspoon  baking soda
• 1    egg
• 2  tablespoons  milk
• 1  teaspoon  vanilla
• 1-3/4  cup  all-purpose flour
• 1/4  cup  granulated sugar
• 54    milk chocolate kisses or stars

1. In a large mixing bowl beat the shortening and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium speed 30 seconds. Add the 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of bowl. Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.
2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree F oven 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie's center. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Creme de Menthe Cheesecake

I have spent almost every moment the past few weeks in the kitchen.  I prepared treats for our Holiday Party that we had on December 11th and made enough to take home for Christmas to share with our families.  I got up really early one Saturday morning and  baked the Creme de Menthe Cheesecake.  This is only the 2nd cheesecake I've ever made.  It was pretty easy but next time I'll probably crush the creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies a bit more.  My crust didn't seem very solid before I put the filling in but it turned out really good. I'll be sharing my other baking recipes in the next week or so.  Enjoy!

Creme de Menthe Cheesecake
from the Pampered Chef, Ltd.

Crust and Filling
14-16 creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (1 1/4 cups finely crushed)
4 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp Double-Strength Vanilla
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
8-12 drops green food coloring (optional)
2 pkg (4.67 oz each) crème de menthe chocolate candies, unwrapped, divided (about 56 candies total)

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 1/2 cups thawed frozen whipped topping
7 crème de menthe chocolate candies (reserved from filling)

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. For crust, lightly spray sides of a springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line sides of pan with two 3 x 15-in. pieces of parchment paper. Press cookie crumbs onto bottom and slightly up sides of pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove pan from oven to a cooling rack.
2. For filling, place cream cheese, sugar, 3 tbsp of the flour and vanilla into 4-qt. mixing bowl; beat on medium speed of electric hand mixer 3 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs; mix on low speed 2 minutes. Add sour cream and food coloring, if desired; mix until smooth.
3. Set aside seven of the candies for topping. Cut remaining candies in half crosswise and toss with remaining 1 tbsp flour. Pour half of the filling into crust. Arrange candies, slightly overlapping, over filling; gently spoon remaining filling on top. Bake 55-60 minutes or until center appears nearly set when gently shaken (center will firm as it cools). Remove from oven to cooling rack; cool completely, about 3 hours.
4. For topping, place chocolate morsels, whipped topping and reserved candies into a microwave safe bowl on HIGH 1 1/2-2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring after each 30-second interval. Spread topping over center of cheesecake using Small Spreader. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Yield: 16 servings

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Our Holiday Party Menu

Since we finally got our living room painted and removed the 'wonderful' painters-tape blue color from the wall, we're having people over.  We haven't really had people over for a party yet.  The only people who've seen our house have been the visitors we've invited from out of town and a few of our friends who have briefly stopped by.  So a 1.5 years later....a party.  The holidays are a great time for celebration so I'm in no way complaining about this delayed open house.  We're expecting 20-25 people and we'll have plenty of food to fill everyone!  Below is the menu we're planning.  In the coming days I'll post about my time spent in the kitchen in preparation.

~ Meatballs & Little Smokies
~ Buffalo Chicken Dip
~ Cracker & Cheese Tray
~ Rotel & Velvetta

~ Creme de Menthe Cheesecake
~ Christmas Cookies Trays including:
     ~ Chocolate Chip Cookies
     ~ Sugar Cookies
     ~ Peppermint Bark
     ~ Chocolate and Caramel Pretzels
     ~ White Ting-A-Lings
     ~ Raspberry Pinwheels
     ~ Palmiers
     ~ Christmas Crack
     ~ Fudge
     ~ Peanut Butter Blossoms
     ~ Meringues

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Zesty Ravioli Skillet

So I posted yesterday about my recipe desaster.  Hubby asked me to "make that ravioli thing for dinner that had spinach and was kinda spicy".  After much searching I found the recipe in one of my beloved Pampered Chef Seasons Best Cookbooks.   It yet again turned out delicious.  This is definately going to be a more regular dish on our table.   There was even enough for us to have for lunch today *bonus!*.

Zesty Ravioli Skillet
adapted from The Pampered Chef, Ltd.

4 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves
6 oz shredded Motzerella cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded
4 garlic cloves, pressed
2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes with onions, undrained
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 pkg (24 oz) small frozen cheese ravioli (about 65)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Wash spinach; drain. Set aside spinach and cheese.
2. Add oil to a 12-in. skillet; heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until shimmering. Finely chop jalapeño. Add jalapeño to Skillet; cook and stir 1 minute or until crisp-tender. Press garlic into Skillet; cook and stir 15-20 seconds or until fragrant.
3. Add tomatoes, salt and black pepper to skillet; cook and stir with spatula 1-2 minutes or until simmering. Add ravioli; stir to coat. Cook, uncovered, 4-5 minutes or until tender. Stir cream into skillet. Cook, uncovered, 1-2 minutes or until simmering. Sprinkle spinach over ravioli; cook, covered, 1 minute or until spinach starts to wilt.
4. Remove skillet from heat. Top with cheese; cover skillet and let stand 1-2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 8 servings

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top 10: My Christmas & Birthday List

Well, it's that time of year again.  Time to make wish lists for the 'rents, in-laws and siblings.  Every year this list game becomes more challenging.  It makes me think about things I wouldn't normally buy myself but I would like.  Things on my list typically include sewing or baking items.  These are things I enjoy doing and wish I had more time for.  Since my birthday falls on Christmas, I typically need to begin writing things down in October in order to have enough options to split the list for Birthday AND Christmas. 

This year, I've come up with the Top 10 things I'd love to get.

1. Baby Lock: Sophia2
My poor little Brother machine that I got for Christmas a few years ago just isn't quite cutting it anymore.  After making all those aprons for my "bride-to-be" friends, it's not sounding so great anymore.  Poor thing.  I'd love to start dabbling in embroidery so this little machine would be the perfect starter.

2. Sonia Kashuk Make-up Brushes
In college I bought a set of Sonia Kashuk brushes and LOVE them.  However, I have pretty much warn them out.  Lately, I've noticed a lot of bristles coming out and I just think that the past 6 years has finally taken a toll on them. 

3. Wine Decanter and Journal
My BFF Kelly and I got into wine when we lived together that summer.  We'd go to the store and just pick the bottles that had great labels.  I know, so juvenile of us.  These days I forget which wines I've had and which I should get.  A journal would really help out in this department.  I was visiting Crate & Barrel a few months ago and saw they used a wine decanter to store their wine corks.  I love the look and can't wait to replicate it to decorate the bar cabinet Joe just refinished.

4. Cookie Press
Because I love the spritz cookies my mom makes at the holidays and I'd love to have my own press to make some that are just as delicious.

5. Indoor Weather Station
I'm not quite sure that I would have survived college with out one of these.  Mine happened to die after about 4 years.  I really would love to know the outside temperature before I leave the house in the morning so standing at the bus stop isn't as shocking.

6. Pampered Chef Double Boiler
I have this slight obsession with Pampered Chef products.  Just about everything in my kitchen is from Pampered Chef.  I'm pretty much a walking sales woman for them (even though I'm not a Consultant).  I just LOVE their products.  I have the pot & pans set that this will be perfect for.  I do lots of baking that would be much easier if I had this around.  Yes, there are probably some double boilers out there that aren't as expensive but I'm very much a minimalist and this would take up less storage since I've already got the bottom half.

7. Fiskars Easy Action Pinking Shears
I have a set of scissors in the Easy Action series.  I love the set.  They work so well and are easy on my hands.  They also lock closed so I don't have to to worry too much about them.  Pinking shears would be the perfect addition to my set.

8. Electric Tooth Brush
Well, lets just say I really need one.  I have always taken care of my teeth, so I thought.  Honestly, I try.  Probably even harder than others and still I have too many problems to count.  I just can't seem to get my teeth healthy again.  It all started with a bike ride turned disastrous when I was 6.  Lets just say that one should never face plant into concrete especially one with bad jeans to begin with.  I'm not quite 25 and I've gotten 2 root canals, 1 crown, and 1 crown on the books for next year.  Yikes!

9. Crock Pot Carrier
I saw this when searching for an inexpensive 1.5-3 quart crock pot to add to my appliances.  It just seems so genius.  They're pretty inexpensive and definitely a must if you go to a lot of pot-lucks or parties. 

10. Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks
Can someone really have too many cookbooks?  I think not! Especially if they are ones that have delicious concoctions in them.

Recipe Disaster

Well, it's official, I must blog more.

I need to do a better job at keeping track of the recipes I make.  Espeically if we like them!  Hubby just asked me to make "that spinach ravioli dish that's kinda spicy" for dinner tonight.  I guess I know what I'm going to be doing after work today....tearing apart my cookbook cabinet in search of the recipe. 

Note to self:  if the recipe is posted on this blog like intended to be, it won't be hard to find next time Hubby wants to eat it.