November 30, 2011

Simple Cranberry Sauce

My husband is one of those people who loves that canned jelly style cranberry sauce.  In fact he requested it for Thanksgiving and like the dutiful wife I simply said "no".  Don't get me wrong, I eat it, I will eat it, I have eaten it.  Here's the thing.  Why on earth would I make a completely homemade Thanksgiving dinner and then buy canned cranberry sauce?

OK, so now that I've politely told my husband he can't have his canned cranberry sauce I was nice enough to include him in the picking out of the perfect recipe.  He wanted simple. Check.  He didn't want any chunks of other fruits other than cranberry. Check.  He didn't want any strange spices. Check. 

Here's how you make it.  It's very complicated so pay close attention.

Dump 1 Cup of orange juice in a sauce pan with 1/2 Cup of sugar. Cook until the sugar has dissolved.

Add one bag of fresh or frozen cranberries.

Cook over medium low heat for about 15 minutes until the cranberries have popped and the liquid begins to thicken.  Turn the heat off and add up to another 1/2 Cup of sugar.  Start with just a little (or non at all) and keep adding until you reach your level of desired sweetness.

Let cool in the sauce pan.  The sauce will thicken as it cools. You can either serve while warm or refrigerate.

I'm really happy with this recipe.  You can taste the slight orange background but it's very mild.  Perfect amount of sweetness/tartness.  Just delish. 

Cranberry Sauce


1 C orange juice
1/2 C sugar
1 bag cranberries - fresh or frozen

Heat the orange juice and 1/2 Cup sugar over medium low until the sugar has dissolved.  Add a whole bag of cranberries and cook until all the cranberries have popped.  About 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add up to another 1/2 Cup of sugar until you've reached your desired sweetness level.  Serve warm or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

November 28, 2011

Chocolate Swiss Roll with Marshmallow Frosting

I was having some difficulties trying to pick just one dessert to make for Thanksgiving this year.  I have LOTS ear marked but none seemed exactly right.  I knew I wanted to avoid traditional items like pumpkin pie because everyone does that and I like to be different. 

I turned to the Internet to get some new ideas and finally settled on a Swiss Roll.  You know the Little Debbie variety? But bigger!

I used a combination of two different sources to put this together and I think it turned out pretty good.  The cake itself wasn't very sweet, but the filling was so I think it worked out.  I know you might think this looks complicated but it's really not, and it comes together pretty quickly.

Begin by spraying a jelly roll pan with non-stick spray, then line it with parchment paper and spray it again. A jelly roll pan is sort of like a cookie sheet, but with sides.  The sides are important for this.

Now dust the top with the same Dutch processed cocoa powder you'll use in the recipe. Just sprinkle some on the sheet, then roll it around to cover all areas - dump off the excess.

Combine the eggs and sugar in a heat proof bowl and place it over a pot of simmering water (double boiler).
Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl and use your electric mixer to beat on medium high speed for 2 minutes. Turn the mixture on high and beat for another 4 minutes until the mixture is fluffy and pale in color.

Pour the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and use a spatula to blend them together.  Once almost completely incorporated...

Pour the mixture into your prepared jelly roll pan. Bake at 450 for 6-7 minutes or until the cake is springy when touched.

Let this sit for a minute while you prepare the next step.

Use a clean kitchen towel and sprinkle it with Cocoa powder.

Now invert the cake onto the dish towel and peel away the parchment paper.

Mine stuck slightly but not too bad.

Roll the cake up in the towel and let it sit until cool.

When cool, unroll the towel and spread the filling onto the cake

Leave about 1/4 inch on all sides.

Now re-roll the cake.

Place the cake seam side down on a serving dish.  I kept mine in the refrigerator, it made for a nicer looking piece when cut.

The piece above was cut before refrigeration and it wasn't as pretty.

I thought this was a very good combination of cake and filling.  Not too sweet cake with a very sweet marshmallow filling.  I got the cake recipe from Martha Stewart although hers was drizzled with Rum - which I'm sure was delish.  Her recipe also had more of a whipped cream filling.  I would definitely make this again, it wasn't difficult and it was yummy.  I think I'd like to experiment with other flavors and recipes before I decided what my favorite is.

Cake recipe found here

Marshmallow filling recipe found here

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1/4 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for pan
Pinch of salt
3 large whole eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled completely

Heat your oven to 450 degrees.  Prepare your jelly roll pan by spraying it with non-stick spray, then line it with parchment paper and spray again.
In a small bowl, sift together the cocoa, cake flour and salt. Set aside.
In another heat proof bowl add the egg's, egg yolks and sugar. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture becomes warm to the touch.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and beat for 2 minutes on medium high speed. Now turn the mixture on high and beat for about 4 more minutes until the mixture is light and pale.  Add the melted butter by pouring it down the side of the mixing bowl and then incorporate by hand with a spatula.  Add the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and fold in by hand using a spatula until combined.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and using an off set spatula spread it out so the entire surface is covered. Bake for 6-7 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched.
Remove from the oven and prepare a clean kitchen towel by laying it out and sprinkling cocoa powder on it.  Next, invert the cake onto the towel and roll it (with the towel) starting at one of the short ends.  Let the cake cool. 
When cool, unroll the cake and spread the top with frosting up until about 1/4 inch from all sides.  Next, roll the cake up again (not with the towel) and place it seam side down onto a dish.  Cover and refrigerate until cool. 
Cut into about 1 inch pieces and serve.
Marshmallow Frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
One jar Marshmallow Creme (I used Jet-Puffed 13oz) - I only used about 2/3's of the tub.  Keep tasting it until you find the desired flavor you like best.

Mix the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy and add the confectioners' sugar 1/4 cup at a time until mixed thoroughly. Add the vanilla extract and marshmallow cream in a bowl until well combined. 

November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you all enjoy your families, friends and your feasts!  Don't drive home in a turkey food coma!

To those in our Military that cannot be home with your loved ones; you are in my thoughts today. 
Thank you for all that you do!

November 23, 2011

Hot Fudge Sauce

I made this during the summer and just recently stumbled on it again (wrong folder, oops).  I knew if I tried to wait until next summer to post it I might lose it forever and it's WAY to good to be forgotten.  Plus, it's the holiday season and I can think of lots of things you can use fudge sauce for.

This recipe is so simple; you won't even believe it when it comes together.  Five ingredients and you're done!  This would make a fantastic homemade gift....just sayin.

I found this recipe here

1 cup butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups white sugar
1 (12 ounce can) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the first four ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour the hot mixture into a blender and blend for 2-4 minutes. Serve right away or store in the refrigerator.  This makes quite a bit and it will only keep in the refrigerator for about 1-2 weeks so you might want to gift some of it if you don't think you can finish it. :)

November 21, 2011


My neighbor and I share our enthusiasm over appetizers; in fact we would be perfectly happy to have an assortment of appetizers for dinner every night vs. a traditional dinner.  One night not long ago we decided to have a little appetizer get-together. Any excuse to let our kids play together while we eat. I made several appetizers and so did she.  We loved this Bruschetta.  It's full of ripe fresh tomatoes that have been soaking in a vinaigrette.  It gives the illusion of healthy eating and the satisfaction of yumminess.

I started with Plum tomato's and chopped them into tiny pieces - I seeded them too.  You can just cut them in half and then give them a squeeze over the sink to remove the seeds.

1/2 a cup of sun dried tomatoes, diced.

In a bowl combine the fresh tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, Olive Oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, salt and pepper and let sit for 10 minutes.

Cut a french baguette into 3/4 inch slices and lay cut side down on a cookie sheet; broil for a couple of minutes until they begin to turn golden brown. 

Add the tomato mixture to each slices of baguette and top with cheese. Broil until the cheese melts; about 5 minutes.

I loved this recipe! I love the tang the vinegar gives to the tomatoes and the sun dried tomatoes add a nice chewy texture.  One of my favorites for sure.

I found the recipe here.

6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 French baguette
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze to get rid of some of the moisture and seeds.  Dice them and put into a medium bowl. Dice the sun dried tomatoes; mince the garlic and add everything together with the tomatoes. Add the oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper and set aside for about 10 minutes.

Cut the baguette and put the slices onto a cookies sheet.  Broil for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.  Scoop about a tablespoon of the tomato mixture onto the toasted baguette slices and top with some cheese.  Broil for about 5 more minutes or until the cheese has melted.

Serve immediately.

November 16, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies

I realized something about myself while make these cookies.  I don't have any patience.  I need to work on that. Luckily my daughter helped me make them and decorate them.  I feel like she and I have equal decorating skills.

The good news is; these are excellent.  I like soft and chewy cookies and these fit the bill.  I tested several different thicknesses and I think the 1/4 inch thickness is perfect. You certainly don't have to get your decorator's tip out just because you make these ginger bread cookies.  At the end of this recipe you will see a frosting that you can just dip the tops into and swirl around or decorate them or just leave them alone and don't frost at all. I did add the frosting recipe that I used below as well. This recipe is a keeper for sure.

We had a little assembly line going.  I'd place the cookie cutters and she'd press down and then move them to the cookie sheet. My cookie cutters came in a set of 4 different sizes so we kept going with no problems.  Quite the system.

I didn't line the cookies sheets with anything nor did I spray them and I didn't have any problems removing the cookies.

They baked up perfectly after 12 minutes.

Decorating was fun!  This recipes makes an awful lot of cookies so be prepared. I brought the majority of them to work and they were completely gone by the end of the day.

I found this recipe in the "TasteofHome Cookies" book.  Called Molasses Spice Cutouts on page 23 by Doris Heinen, St. Cloud, Minnesota

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light molasses
  • 1/2 cup cold coffee
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
In a large bowl; cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the molasses and coffee.  In a separate bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix well.  Chill the dough for 1-2 hours.  You can add more flour if the dough seems sticky while you're working with it. Lightly flour your work surface and then roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut shapes with cookie cutters and then place on a ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.  Cool on racks.

Decorator's Frosting: (I used this above)

  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 4 drops red food coloring

Mix the butter and confectioners' sugar and milk until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and food coloring if desired.  I put the frosting in a zip lock bag and cut a very small corner of the bad off to decorate with.

Icing (optional) - (I didn't use this recipe for the cookies above; I used this one)

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

combine gelatin and water in a small saucepan.  Let stand for 5 minutes to soften.  Add the sugar and heat while stirring over very low heat until the sugar and gelatin dissolve.  Transfer to a bowl and add the confectioners sugar; beat until foamy.  Add the baking powder and vanilla and beat until very thick - about 10 minutes.

November 14, 2011

Sausage Gravy

I volunteered to make breakfast for my co-workers a week ago.  Every Friday someone brings breakfast and it was my turn.  I should have learned my lesson by now but clearly I haven't.  Cooking for a crowd is a difficult task and yes I could have just gotten bagels like everyone else does but that's not really my style.  I like people to ooooh and ahhhh over a homemade breakfast; so I torture myself every so often.  For them.  Because I'm thoughtful and giving.

And nuts.

I needed a plan.  I've done a lot of breakfasts for my job over the years but it's a whole different story when you have a toddler in the house. I didn't want to make something that required me getting up at the crack of dawn.  I wanted something I could make the night before and then just re-heat when I got it to work.  There is no oven at work, just microwaves so I needed a good plan.  I did use some store bought help with this one.  I bought frozen biscuits so that helped tremendously.  The star of this show was the gravy anyway; not the biscuits.

I was totally shocked to learn that some people hadn't ever had biscuits and gravy before.  Seriously.  I thought everyone had had them at some point in their lives; especially in the South!  Whatever, everyone seemed to like them.

Start by browning 1 pound of sausage.  The picture above is actually 2 pounds; I had to multiply this recipe by 8 in order to have enough for my co-workers.

Once brown, move the sausage to a bowl and keep the grease in the pan. Did I mention this is NOT a diet meal? Sorry.

Melt some butter in with the grease.  Again - the picture above is for a crowd; hopefully you won't use almost an entire stick in your gravy at home.

Add the flour to the butter and grease mixture and cook for about 2 minutes.

After the flour has been incorporated you want the mixture to cook until it begins to get Amber in color.

Now it's time to add the milk. Slowly add the milk while whisking so that there aren't any clumps.

Once thickened; add the reserved sausage back into the pan.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve over biscuits or toast or whatever floats your boat.

Recipe found Sausage Gravy

1 (12 ounce) package sausage
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once brown; remove the meat to a separate bowl and keep the grease in the pan.  Add the butter and melt.  Add the flour and whisk in until smooth; cook until light brown.  Add the milk while whisking and cook until thick.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Return the meat to the gravy, reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.

November 11, 2011

Pasta and Lentil Soup

It's getting colder and I'm so glad!  I'm ready for soup and chili and sweats, big sweatshirts and fuzzy socks.  Bring it on!

In an effort to add to my soup arsenal I found this recipe and decided to try Lentils for the first time.  I can't believe it either. I mean Lentils are fairly common so what's taken me so long to try them?  I have no idea.  This falls into that "Better late than never" category.

This recipe was super easy to make and I loved it!  My husband and daughter....not so much.  It's a texture thing with my husband (he doesn't like split pea soup either) and my daughter is completely hopeless. :)
This came together pretty quickly and the plus side for dry Lentils is that you don't have to soak them overnight.  You can cook them for 20 minutes and they're nice and tender.  Easy. This recipe calls for canned Lentils but I only had dried so just use what's easiest. I only added the minimum amount of hot pepper flakes because I'm sort of a wuss when it comes to spicy but you could certainly spice this up as much as you can handle.

Start by cooking some onions, garlic and red pepper flakes in some oil.

I pre-cooked my lentils so they'd be ready.  The recipe called for canned however so you can use whatever you have.

You'll want to remove about a tablespoon of the flavored oil before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Next add some tomato paste.

Then add the chicken broth and water.

If you have a block of Parmesan cheese, add some of the rind.  If you don't; don't worry about it.

Add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes. Now add the Lentils and simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes until the pasta is cooked.

In the dish that you've got your flavored oil in, mix in 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp parsley (I used a little less dry parsley - if fresh use 1 Tbsp.)

In the soup add 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and the remaining parsley (again, if using dry add a little less).

Remove the cheese rind and salt to taste.

When serving pour a little bit of the reserved oil/water/parsley mixture on top with a little additional Parmesan cheese.

This recipe was found in "Food Network Magazine" October 2011

5 Tbsp Olive Oil plus more for drizzling
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus 1 rind (if using)
8 ounces Orecchiette or other small pasta
2 14-ounce cans of lentils (1 undrained, 1 drained and rinsed) I used dry lentils that I pre-cooked and then guessed at how much liquid to add.
1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley (I used about 1/4 cup dry)
Kosher salt to taste

In a large pan, heat the oil, onions, garlic and red pepper flakes until the onions begin to soften.  About 2 minutes. Remove 1 Tbsp of oil and set aside.
Add the tomato paste and cook for another two minutes. Add the chicken broth and the water and mix well to break up the tomato paste. Bring up to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the lentils. Cook on low for 10-15 minutes so the pasta can soften.

Meanwhile, add 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp fresh parsley to the reserved oil.  Set aside for garnishing the soup before serving.

Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and the remaining parsley and stir to incorporate. Remove the cheese rind (if using) and salt to taste.

Serve with a drizzle of the reserved flavored oil mixture and some additional cheese. Crusty bread would be delish with this.