Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Baked Eggnog French Toast

This was a new addition to our Christmas food traditions list this year. Last year I did cinnamon rolls, but it just took too long and with everything else I had going on, I wanted something easy, but still special for this year. You prep this the night before and then stick it in the oven the next morning! It's amazing.

Baked Eggnog French Toast
  • 1.5 cups eggnog
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 12 slices French bread - 1 inch slices
--Place bread slices in a greased 9x13 pan.
--Mix/beat everything else together and pour over the top of the bread.
--Cover and refrigerate over night.
--Bake for 40 minutes @ 350

Serve it with what ever you'd like! We did scrambled eggs and maple brown sugar sausages! YUM!! We had syrup on the table, but it didn't even get used.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

This is another 'standard' to our Christmas dinner spread. There is no 'heritage' reason here, just plain desire. That, and it goes really well with the Tourtiere. This is simple and so good. Everyone loves it - even Jared, my brother, who hates sweet potatoes likes it. (The funny story here is that when I made it one year, I told him it was a vegetable soup and he ate it. When he came back to the table with a second bowl-full, I released the secret and he made a big deal about it. The next year he actually spooned some into his bowl knowing what it was...and ate it all!) All that to say, this is also one of the dishes I like to make ahead of time so that all the flavors can meld together. It freezes really well, too!

Over time, I've wanted this soup on normal nights, but I also wanted to "bulk" it up a bit.  So the option is yours.  Leave it as the simple and elegant vegetables-only soup, or add in some beans or lentils and have a more filling bowl!

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 6 main. 8 side. (9 cups without protein.  11 cups with beans/lentils)
Active time: 20 minutes
Simmer time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Serving suggestions:  If using as a side dish, serve it alongside lentil.  If using as a main dish, enjoy over a handful of chopped kale with some crusty bread on the side.

What you'll need:

  • 1 TBLS olive oil
  • 2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 TBLS minced garlic
  • 8 cups 1-inch cubed sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 TBLS minced fresh ginger OR 3/4 tsp powdered ginger
  • 3/4 tsp tarragon OR 1 1/2 tsp cumin (if using lentils)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 TBLS lime juice
  • 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained OR 3 cups cooked lentils (OPT)
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you'll do:

  • In a large stock pot, heat oil.  Once hot, add onions and garlic and saute 5-7 minutes until tender.
  • Add potatoes, ginger, spices, stock, and water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over med-low heat for 30 minutes (until the potatoes are soft).
  • Add lime juice and puree soup in a food processor/blender (in batches!) or, use a hand/submersion blender.
  • Return to pot, stir in beans or lentils if using, and heat through.  For a creamier texture, blend beans/lentils with the soup.

Flavor note: If using the cannellini beans, up the tarragon to 1 tsp.
Time tip:
You can make this ahead of time (up to 48 hrs ahead), transferring to the refrigerator once pureed.  Once ready to serve, transfer back to pot, add beans or lentils if using, and heat through.

Nutrition Facts (per serving, 1/8 recipe, no added beans/lentils):
Calories 122 (Calories from fat 6); Total Fat 1g (Saturated <0 .5g="" span=""> Cholesterol 3mg; Sodium 289mg; Potassium 450mg; Total Carbohydrate 26g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Sugars 9g; Protein 4g; Vitamins/Minerals - Vitamin A 14,375 IU; Vitamin C 4mg; Calcium 109mg; Iron 1mg; Folate 17mcg

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Traditional French Canadian Tourtiere

This is the main meat dish I make every year for Christmas. I make a secondary meat dish just in case no one likes this one, but for the last 2 years, I've had no left-overs to speak of. The reason I make this dish is because my grandmother and her family are all French Canadian, so it's in honor of my heritage. This year was extra special as she was able to eat it herself and she gave it a big thumbs up! This is a very easy meal to prep - as in, I made the meat Wednesday morning, but didn't assemble the pie until Christmas day - it's actually better if the meat just sits for at least an overnight just to let all the amazing spices mix together! This is a very easy pie to double, or even quadruple if you wanted to!!

Traditional French Canadian Tourtiere
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 onion - chopped fine
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1/4 t allspice
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1/8 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 T liquid chicken stock
  • A top and bottom crust - pre-bought or home made...doesn't matter. :)
--In a large pot, combine everything. Bring it to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
--Drain the liquid into a bowl. Transfer the meat into a bowl and chill until ready to use.
--Place liquid in the fridge for about an hour, and then scrape and discard the fat the rises tot he top. Gross, I know, but it's healthier, I promise. Keep the reserved liquid until you're ready to assemble the pie.
--Spoon the meat into the pie crust (deep dish pie plate!) and add 1 T of reserved liquid to the pie (this prevents the pie from drying when being baked)
--Place top crust on - seal and vent.
--Bake for 50 minutes at 400.
--Serve immediately or you can freeze them until you're ready!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Simmer

So this is NOT edible, but I thought I would put it up here since I did tell you all to save your orange peels for it! This is simple and easy, and oh so rewarding! Your house will smell like Christmas and it's hardly any cost to you. Just save your orange peels a couple weeks before you want to do this!

Christmas Simmer
  • Dried out orange peels
  • A cinnamon stick
  • 1 T whole cloves
--In a small sauce pan, put about a cups worth or dried orange peels, the cinnamon stick, and cloves.
--Cover with water and bring to boil. Simmer all day long and enjoy the scent!

!!!Always check the water level so you don't burn the oranges and start a fire!!!

Old Fashioned Glass Candy

This is one of the items I made this year to go in the goody bag I give to friends and family as stocking stuffers. Everyone LOVED it. The other item was my Cinnamon Roasted Almonds. This is a very versatile recipe and can be made to suit any holiday you'd like. I wanted it to be Christmas-y, so I used green food coloring, with some red swirls, and mint extract. You could be very creative, using almond extract with orange food coloring. Some people even do 2 packs of sugar-free kool-aid instead of messing with food coloring and flavor! I haven't tried it, but it seems pretty easy! Here's what I did.

Old Fashioned Glass Candy

  • 1 cup water
  • 3.5 cups white sugar
  • 1.5 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 T of any extract
  • Food coloring (the original recipe said 1 T, but that's A LOT and will make the candy very dark color-wise.)
--Lightly grease one 12x18 inch or larger baking sheet. I would recommend using parchment paper that has been greased, much easier to brake apart at the end.
--In a large heavy saucepan, combine the water, sugar and corn syrup. Heat over high, stirring constantly with a heat resistant spoon, until all sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and bring to a boil, you'll hear the change, it's neat. Boil until a candy thermometer reads 310 degrees F (154 degrees C). This happens after about 13 minutes, but watch it closely the last few minutes, it shoots from 275 to 310 like that! Remove from heat.

--When bubbling has ceased, stir in the flavoring and a food coloring. Watch out, it splatters! Spread into the prepared pan so that the candy is no more than 1/4 inch thick. Cool for 45 minutes in the refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator, crack into pieces and enjoy!

For me, I did green food coloring as the base color, and then as soon as I poured it into the pan I dripped some red food coloring and with a skewer made swirls. Pretty neat, but you have to be fast as it starts to harden almost immediately!

This is what it looked like before I cracked it and broke it all apart! Pretty, huh?

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

This is what I brought to a ladies Christmas function and it went over really well. As always, I tweaked it a little, but it turned out great. Perfect for a festive event, or just a pretty dessert after dinner. I definitely recommend using whipped cream to top it once it's served! I got this recipe from my Everyday Food cookbook, so I'm mostly just pulling the info from the internet since it's right there and saves me the time of typing everything out!

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 3/4 cups cranberries
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange extract - I added this myself and it was the perfect amount and complimented the cranberries wonderfully
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with 2 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle mixture evenly over bottom of pan; arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.
  2. With an electric mixer, cream remaining 6 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.
  3. Spoon batter over cranberries in pan, and smooth top. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; invert onto a rimmed platter.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

I searched and searched for a baked eggplant Parmesan recipe right after Scot and I got married. I searched and searched to no avail. So I made up my own, using bits and pieces of other recipes, and just omitting the frying step and cooking it for longer. It was a few trial and error type meals, but now, I have this no-fail, easy recipe that takes less time to prep and is healthier than the typical! My dad loves eggplant, and he always enjoys it when I make this for him!

Baked Eggplant Parmesan
serves: 6

Active time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 1 hour
Total time:1 hr 10 minutes
Serving suggestions: A Caesar salad and some garlic bread

What you'll need:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup crushed saltine crackers
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 TBLS oregano
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch slices. You can leave the skin on (healthier) or skin the eggplant before you slice it up.
  • 1 (28 oz) jar full-flavored pasta sauce
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lb thin spaghetti OR linguine

What you'll do:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Grease a 9x13 baking dish.  Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine egg and milk with whisk. On a plate, combine the crushed crackers, Parmesan, and parsley or oregano with a fork.
  • Dip slices of eggplant into egg/milk mixture and then into the crackers, breading well on both sides.
  • Place slices in a greased baking dish. Cover with tomato sauce.
  • Bake covered for 50 minutes. Sprinkle Mozzarella on top of the eggplant, and bake uncovered for 10 minutes or until the eggplant is tender to your liking (if you like it really soft, extend cooking time by 10 minutes).
  • Serve on a bed of pasta.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):
Calories 578 (Calories from fat 116); Total Fat 13g (Saturated 5g); Cholesterol 51mg; Sodium 948mg; Potassium 880mg; Total Carbohydrate 91g (Dietary Fiber 9g); Sugars 17g; Protein 24g; Vitamins/Minerals - Vitamin A 1303 IU; Vitamin C 5mg; Calcium 315mg; Iron 5mg; Folate 242mcg

NOTE:  I typically buy 1 large eggplant and it fills 2 9x13 pans - makes great leftovers. This is a great base recipe. We switch up our sauces, cheeses, and sometimes spices. You could add chunks of onion or garlic if you wanted to - just have fun!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Artichoke Ranch Dip

Sorry for there not being a picture. By the time I thought of it, my camera wasn't around and I didn't bring any home with me. But I did want to post it since it's not only one of my favorite dips, but it was raved about last night and I promised certain people I would post the recipe! :) I serve this with crackers, but it's also really good with Pita chips.

Artichoke Ranch Dip
  • 1 can Artichokes - drained and chopped
  • 1 (8oz) block cream cheese - softened. I use the 1/3 less fat and it's totally fine
  • 1 T of the dry ranch mix - I was heavy handed with the Tablespoon....
  • A spoonful of Mayo. The original recipe calls for an obscene amount of Mayo (3/4 cup!!), but we're not huge Mayo people, so I just put a big spoonful in, probably about 1/4 to 1/3 cup.
--Mix all together.
--Chill in refrigerator until cold.
--Serve with your favorite chip, cracker, or veggie.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Homestyle Mac 'n' Cheese

This recipe is one of my favorite comfort food dishes. I had it for the first time not quite a month ago courtesy of my friend Bethany, and I recreated it tonight for company - and let me tell ya, it was polished off! The recipe says it feeds six, but we all decided it must feed 6 people who don't like mac 'n' cheese! I say it feeds 4 with an itty bitty left over for a certain 17 month old's lunch. I especially like this recipe because it's so easy. I prepped for it big time by cooking and cubing the chicken last night and making my bread crumbs (I use Ritz crackers) and slicing the tomatoes this morning! When I got around to actually making the stuff, it was a cinch!

Homestyle Mac 'n' Cheese
  • 1/2 lb spiral pasta
  • 10 oz shredded cheese of choice (I used extra sharp white cheddar and some mild cheddar - so tasty!)
  • 2 c warm milk
  • 3 T butter
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes sliced thin
  • 1/2 c bread crumbs (i used quite a bit more b/c I like them so much)
  • 2 small chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
--Cook pasta just shy of done. Drain and set aside.
--Heat large sauce pan to medium-low and melt butter
--Add flour and whisk
--Whisk in 1 cup of the milk making sure there aren't any lumps. Whisk in the other cup. --Simmer over medium heat until thick.
--Remove from heat, add cheese and stir until melted.
--Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can add Cayenne or paprika here, too)
--Add pasta and chicken. Pour into greased 2 QT baking dish.
--Top with sliced tomatoes and then bread crumbs.
--Bake for 30-35 minutes at 375 or until golden brown on top.

This is what it looked like before we all went back for a small share of seconds...

Sunday, December 6, 2009


After a long, cold day, what's better than chili? This chili recipe has been described as "a chili I could eat every week - it's not seasonal", and as much as I'd love to know exactly what that means, I'm glad that it's enjoyed and raved about by all who eat it. This is a slightly sweet, tasty, hearty chili with lots of texture. I usually serve this with the typical chili toppings and my cornbread.

  • 1-2 lbs beef
  • 1 medium onion - chopped
  • 28 oz canned Italian diced tomatoes
  • 28 oz canned stewed sliced tomatoes
  • 28 oz canned chili beans
  • 14.5 oz can red kidney beans
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 packet chili seasoning
--Brown beef and onion together. Drain.
--While beef is cooking, dump (and I mean dump - don't bother draining anything) everything else into a large stock pot.
--Add the beef when done - heat through

Like most chili, this is better on day 2 once the flavors have had time to mingle. A lot of times, I'll also just put it on low in the crock pot so it's amazing the first time around. Oh yeah - it feeds a ton. I usually get 8-10 servings out of it. And it freezes great!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beef and Orange Stir Fry

This is a brand new recipe for me. As in, I've never, ever, made anything like it before. Sure I've done stir fry before, but I have never cooked beef like this. The only way I've ever cooked beef is when it's ground up, but this was so easy! It was so easy, in fact, that I didn't get into the kitchen to start cooking until 6 and we were sitting and eating at 6:30! The next time I make this, and there will be a next time, I will make a few changes. I'll reflect those changes in the directions or as an 'after note'.

Beef and Orange Stir Fry
  • 3 good sized oranges or 4 smaller ones
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced (I used the minced stuff out of the jar)
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless sirloin or rib eye, cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 2 T oil
  • 6 scallions, green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths
-If you are serving this over rice, and I suggest you do, start that first.
-In a medium bowl, toss meat with cornstarch until coated. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Working in batches (adding more oil if needed), brown beef on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes; transfer to a plate.
-While you're monitoring that and in between batches, zest one orange into a small bowl. Add the juice from that orange, the garlic, and the soy sauce. (Here is where I will do things differently. First of all, I'll double the sauce and use orange juice from the fridge and use the orange instead in the stir fry. I will also add a little more garlic than called for, and maybe even a little ginger!)
With a sharp paring knife, peel remaining 2 oranges. Slice oranges crosswise 1/2 inch thick, then halve slices; push out, and discard any seeds. Set aside.
Pour juice mixture into skillet, and boil until syrupy, about 1 minute. Return beef to skillet; add orange slices and scallions. Toss until coated and heated through! This should all wrap up just as your rice is done!

***Don't throw the orange peels out! If you're going to make this soon (as in before Christmas) lay the peels out, let them dry, and then simmer them in a small sauce pan (never letting the water get too low) with cinnamon sticks or cloves! It'll make the house smell so good. Or, you can just throw them down your garbage disposal and make your sink smell yummy!