Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Ever Pancakes

On movie nights my family and I like to do breakfast for dinner.  Tonight I whipped up these delicious pancakes.  I pour them free-hand into shapes on the griddle (mickey mouse, initials, an unsucessful lightning bolt) just like my Grandma used to do for me.   Even if they don't look very pretty, the kids love it.  Don't let the vinegar in the recipe throw you off.  It mixes with the milk to make a sort of buttermilk.  It also reacts with the baking soda in the recipe so you get nice fluffy pancakes.  We usually have some leftovers whenever we make pancakes. I just put them in the fridge and pop them in the toaster the next morning. If you've never tried a toasted pancake before, you should. They get crispy on the outside like a waffle and are delicious! 


1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
cooking spray

Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to turn to "buttermilk". 

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg, vanilla and butter into milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.     

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.  This makes enough to feed 4-6 hungry folks.  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Moroccan Meatballs

Warm spices and bright mint come together in bite sized meatballs.  These would be delicious as an appetizer with a warm chutney dipping sauce, folded into warm flatbread or served over a bed of couscous.

1 lb. extra lean ground beef
1 egg white
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. oatmeal
1 T. ground coriander
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
a few grinds of pepper
1 T. olive oil

In a large bowl combine all ingredients, exept oil.  Form into 1 inch meatballs.  Heat a large pan over medium heat.  Add oil and cook meatballs in batches, shaking pan often to cook them on all sides.  Don't overcrowd your pan.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Spiced Cider Caramels

This is one of the three types of candy I made this Christmas to bring on our trip with us.  I wanted to have a little care package for each of my sisters and my parents to have in their hotel rooms.  I found this recipe on Pinterest via Blondie's Cakes.  She's got a great blog!  Be sure you have a large pot, because as the sugar boils it rises up quite a bit.  This is not something you want boiling over on your stove top!  You'll also need an acurate candy thermometer.

2 c. good quality apple cider
1 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
pinch nutmeg
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. real butter, cubed

Pour the cider into a saucepan and boil 20 minutes until it's reduced to 1/3 cup.  This is where that concentrated apple flavor comes from.

Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment making sure to leave some paper hanging over the edges for easier removal.  Coat with oil.

In a small bowl, combine 2/3 c. of the cream, the reduced cider and your spices.

Pour the remaining cream into a cup measure and add enough water for it to reach the 1/2 c. line.

In a large pot, combine sugar, corn syrup and cream/water mixture over medium heat.  Stir until sugar dissolves and the temperature reaches 234 degrees (soft ball stage) on your candy thermometer.

Remove pot from heat and whisk in the cream/cider mixture.  Add in the butter and stir until fully incorporated.  Cook again until it reaches 248 degrees (firm ball stage).

Remove from the heat and pour into prepared pan.  Let cool completely.  Then remove from pan, cut into desired sized pieces and wrap individually in waxed paper. I  made mine about tootsie roll sized.  Blondie's Cakes makes hers into cut-your-own sized logs. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Two Applesauce Variations

My family and I are leaving for the Bahamas for Christmas (I still can't believe it!) and I had a box of apples that I knew wouldn't keep until we got home.  So, I decided to break out the apple-peeler-corer-slicer and make some homemade applesauce!  If you like to cook with apples and don't have one of these tools you've gotta get one!  I literally peeled, cored and sliced 24 apples in less than 10 minutes.  You can find one here.

worth its weight in gold!

Little Brother, my helper today in the kitchen ♥

I made two variations of my basic applesauce recipe which you will  find below.  The kids and I ate some warm right out of the pot, and the rest went into freezer bags for later. 

 You'll need:

4 lbs. apples, peeled, cored and sliced (about 12 apples)
1 c. water
1-2 cinnamon sticks (if desired)
1/2-1 c. sugar (brown sugar is nice, too!)

Prepare apples being sure to remove any seed bits that your corer might have missed.  Combine with all other ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to simmer for about 30 min. till apples are tender.  The thinner your slices the faster it will cook.  Remove from heat and using a hand blender, blend until you reach your desired texture, being sure to remove any cinnamon sticks first.  If you don't have a hand blender, you can press the pulp through a sieve or food mill.  I've even used a potato masher which produces a nice, chunky sauce.

Enjoy warm, pop in the fridge, freeze or pack into sterilized jars and process in a boiling-water canner for 15 mins. for pint-sized jars.  You'll get about 3 pints of sauce.


Browned Butter and Cinnamon:
tastes like apple pie!
In a small saucepan heat 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) over low heat until melted.  Continue cooking until it turns a golden brown.  Add to apples along with the sugar and cinnamon sticks (you could probably use ground cinnamon as well.)

perfect for pancakes!
Prepare as in basic recipe, substituting real maple syrup for the sugar.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Slow Cooked Pork & Sweet Potato Stew

This stew has all the flavors of fall and is perfect on a chilly winter evening. 

3 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 lbs. lean pork tenderloin cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 c.  white wine*
12 oz. sweet potatoes or yams peeled and cut into 1 1/2 in. cubes
1/2 c. chicken stock
2 T. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 T. of the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onions until they begin to turn brown.  Transfer to your slow cooker.  Add remaining oil to pan and brown the pork over high heat in 2-3 batches, adding more oil if necessary.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to dislodge any browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Pour the wine over the pork.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Cook on low 7-9 hours.  Serve over a bed of rice or pasta.

*Note: Often I'll replace wine with chicken broth in recipes, but you don't want to skimp on the wine here. If you aren't a wine drinker you can get a bottle of inexpensive white wine for less than $10 and keep it in the back of your fridge. Then you'll always have it on hand for recipes. I don't recommend the "cooking wine" that you sometimes see in the store.  It tends to be salty and bitter.  I used a sweet wine because it's what I had on hand, but it doesn't really matter. Use what you've got!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


These are one of my favorite holiday cookies.  They are simple, made with stuff I always have on hand and a nice change of pace from the typical Christmas cookie.  The butter and sugar combine to make an ooey gooey caramely bar.  These are fabulous with a cup of tea.

2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. chopped walnuts
5 T. flour
1/8 tsp. baking soda
2 T. butter
powdered sugar to sift on top

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a 9x9 baking pan.  Beat eggs and vanilla extract together in a medium sized bowl.  In another bowl mix together the dry ingredients except for the powdered sugar.  Then add to egg mixture.  Mix well.  Pour into pan over the butter.  The butter will pool up around the edges a bit.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack, then turn upside down onto waxed paper.  Be sure to run a knife around the edge.  I also very carefully run a spatula under the cookies to separate them from the bottom of the pan becaus the middle tends to stick a bit.  Just be careful not to break the cookies apart.  Once you've flipped them upside down, cut into 16 pieces and dust with powdered sugar.  Joyeux Noel!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poppyseed Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is an absolute essential to me when eating any kind of Italian food.  I'd be just fine skipping the pasta all together and just dunking soft chewy garlic bread into sauce.  I prefer to make my own garlic bread rather than buy the store-made ones in the aluminum wrapper.  In my opinion they put WAY to much "butter" on those and they become a soggy, greasy mess.  This recipe is super quick and easy, using a store-bought loaf of bread which often times is cheaper than the pre-made loaves.  I hope you like it!

1 loaf bakery Italian bread
Garlic powder
Italian Seasoning
Parmesan Cheese

Slice the loaf of bread longways, so you end up with two long halves and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Spread each half with butter.  Sprinkle with garlic powder, Italian seasoning, poppyseeds and parmesan cheese.  Place under the broiler till toasty.  Be sure and WATCH IT!  If you walk away it will burn. Guaranteed.  It only takes a couple minutes.  Around here, we like to cut ours into breadstick sized slices, perfect for dunking.

For an extra fancy loaf you can skip the garlic powder and spread with a mixture of butter and roasted garlic.  I'll show you my super easy way to roast garlic in another post!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Candy Cane Blossoms

This recipe comes from Hershey's.  It's a new one for me, and what I'll be bringing to our annual cookie exchange this year.  The kids discovered that they are delicious warm, especially since the kisses melt if you touch them and form a sort of gooey icing. 

48 Hershey's Kisses Candy Cane Candies, wrappers removed.
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. milk
Red or green sugar crystals, granulated sugar or powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a cookie sheet w/ parchment paper.

Remove wrappers from candies.  Be sure to do this ahead of time because you will need to work quickly when adding the candies later on.

Cream butter and sugar together.  Add egg and vanilla.  In another bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to sugar mixture, alternating with the milk.  Beat until well blended. 

Shape dough into 1 in. balls and roll in desired sugar.  Place on cookie sheet. 

Bake 8-9 min. till cookies are set.  Let cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes.  Then, press one kiss into the center of each cookie.  Remove from sheet to a wire rack to cool.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Maggie's Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of those things that I never measure ingredients on so feel free to play around with the measurements to suit your own taste.  I forgot to take a picture of my meatloaf before it got devoured (it doesn't last long around here!) so I borrowed the pic below from Bubblecrumb- it looks just like mine!

2 lbs. ground beef
1 envelope dried onion soup mix
2 T. worchestershire sauce
2 T. ketchup
1 tsp. paprika
5 grinds black pepper
1/4 tsp. seasoned salt
2 eggs
1/2-3/4 c. Italian style bread crumbs


3/4 c. ketchup
2 tsp. mustard
3 tbs. brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all meatloaf ingredients in a large bowl. Remove any rings and get in there with your hands to mix it up.  This is really the only way to ensure that everything is mixed well and has the right texture.  Start with the smaller amount of bread crumbs and add more if needed.  You can always sub crushed crackers, chips, etc.  Get creative!  You want the meat to hold together but not be too dry.  When everything is mixed press it into a regular sized loaf pan.  Press the top so it's nice and flat. 

Combine the sauce ingredients and spread evenly over the top of the meat mixture.  The sauce really makes this recipe so please give it a try!!

Bake for 1-1.5 hours until a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees.  I like to serve w/ mashed potatoes and a veggie.  This is great with homemade ketchup as well.

Tip- I use this same meat mixture when making hamburger patties and meatballs.  A multi-purpose recipe! Love it!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Ketchup

This ketchup is simple, made with ingredients you have on hand, and makes a wonderful gift.  It is excellent on meat loaf.  I hope you try it!

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 onion, chopped
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne to taste
a few grinds black pepper
salt to taste

Combine the tomatoes, tomato paste and onion in a food processor and process until smooth.  If you have a hand blender you can do this step right in your slow cooker.  Add the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and spices.  Pulse to combine.  Add to slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Remove the lid and continue cooking on high for another hour or so until it reaches the desired consistency.  You want it to plop off of the spoon. 

Store in a clean quart sized jar in the fridge.  It will keep for up to 2 months.  Be sure to make something to serve it on the night you make it- it is excellent warm!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cranberry Lemon Nut Bread

Cranberries are one of my favorite fruits this time of year, and I always seem to have some extra lying around after Thanksgiving.  I love their sweet-tart flavor, the health benefits and the festive color they add to any dish.  I also love that they keep so long in the fridge.  Perfect for this most hectic wonderful time of year!  One of my favorite things to do with my leftover cranberries is to make this quick bread.  It is great on a cool afternoon with a cup of tea, or with your morning cup of coffee. Feel free to experiment with the nuts.  I use vanilla extract, but almond might be nice as well.  Heck, you could even throw some golden raisins in there! Happy baking!

1/4 c. softened butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 c. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease one loaf pan.  I like Baker's Joy spray. 

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium sized bowl.  Mix in vanilla, egg and lemon zest until combined.  In a small bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  Add half of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar followed by half of the lemon juice.  Repeat until all lemon juice and flour has been fully incorporated.  Fold in cranberries and nuts.  Batter will be thick!  Pour into loaf pan and bake for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.  Enjoy!
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