Season’s Greetings

We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

May you have a wonderful day full of great food, beautiful memories,
and sweet family and friends!

Alaina, Andrew, & boys

Stephanie & Jeremy

We are so thankful for the chance to share recipes and photos with you. Thank you for making us excited to blog.

We look forward to continuing to bring you great food in 2012!

We will sneak back in this next week with a few new recipes, so stay tuned!

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Overnight Coffee Cake

In case you still haven’t set your Christmas breakfast menu, let me offer this delicious coffee cake! My favorite part is that you make it the night before and refrigerate it overnight before baking. In the morning you can stick it in the oven and hit snooze a couple more times or send your significant other down to stick it in while you stay asleep – I would, of course, never  do that (hehehe). This recipe is delicious and you are a total rockstar for effortlessly serving a warm cake.

I like to pair this with egg casserole which can also be made the night before AND they can be baked at the same time. WIN! Now you will actually need to accept an award for your fabulous, organized, awesome breakfast – I promise I’ll keep the easiness a secret from your admirers… 🙂 The awesome thing about this egg casserole is that you can customize it for your taste – you can add veggies, herbs, different meats, or various kinds of cheese – it is an all-time family favorite!

You will thank your self for getting it done the night before and you will love the results! I serve with coffee and tea and with fruit juice and/or fruit salad. Since it’s the holidays, sometimes we will sneak in some of our favorite(!) eggnog from the local creamery or a wonderful champagne cocktail or sparkling wine. Delish!

OVERNIGHT COFFEE CAKE
Print This Recipe

3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. yogurt (or sour cream)
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons milk

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with yogurt. Pour into a greased 9×13 in. baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon; sprinkle over coffee cake. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes. Combine confectioners’ sugar and milk; drizzle over warm coffee cake.

Champagne Cranberry Cocktail

These lovely cocktails will be making an appearance at our Christmas Brunch. They are beautiful and festive. If you like them sweeter (as my husband prefers), I think you could add a sugar cube in the bottom. These are quick and easy and lovely!

Oh and you can easily serve them to all of your guests by substituting sparkling white grape juice!

CRANBERRY CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL
adapted slightly from Food Network
Print This Recipe

1-ounce cranberry juice (sweetened)
1 wedge lime
Chilled Champagne or sparkling white grape juice
Cranberries (frozen)

In a Champagne flute add cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime. Top off the glass with Champagne or sparkling white grape juice. Garnish with 3 or 4 cranberries or sparkling white grape juice. Makes 1 cocktail.

Cocoa Chocolate Chip Meringues

I’m going to squeeze in one more chocolate treat recipe for you. Made with whipped egg whites and sugar, meringues are much lower in fat than the average Christmas cookie or candy. This particular recipe is flavored with cocoa powder and chocolate chips and the chocolate flavor certainly shines through. These aren’t overly sweet, making them a nice change. And, as an added bonus, they are naturally gluten-free.

My husband and I both enjoyed these crispy little cookies. I know they’ll become a regular holiday treat in our house.

COCOA CHOCOLATE CHIP MERINGUES
(from Gluten-Free Christmas Cookies by Ellen Brown)
Print This Recipe

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. miniature chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 275°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place egg whites in a grease-free mixing bowl and beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and salt, raise the speed to high, and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is glossy. Beat in cocoa and vanilla. Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop meringue into either a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, or into a ziploc bag with the corner cut off. Pipe the meringue through bag of choice by heaping 1-Tablespoon portions onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, and allow meringues to stay in the oven for an additional 30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes 3 to 4 dozen depending on size.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles

Have you been on pinterest? It’s this amazing site that is really like an online scrapbook of ideas. It makes you feel completely inadequate and empowered all at the same time. There are so many categories like cool crafts, awesome looking recipes, fashion ideas, and even fitness plans. Anyway this is actually not a commercial for pinterest but it is where I found this recipe. They were called Chubby Hubby Truffles (after some rather well known ice cream) or Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles.

These are quick, very easy, and they look really nice. They are a wonderful combination of salt and sweet and the creamy peanut butter is a nice texture with the crunch of the pretzels. In full disclosure – I was not thrilled with how big I accidentally made them. These are really good!

Peanut Butter-Pretzel Truffles
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Makes About 18-24 truffles

1½ c. pretzel pieces
½ c. creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy)
1 Tb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tb. light brown sugar
3 Tb. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c.  milk or semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tb. vegetable shortening

Put the pretzel pieces into a resealable plastic bag and crush into very small bits – I used my food processor.

In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and salt. Stir until all of the ingredients are completely blended and smooth. Add the pretzel bits to the peanut butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the powdered sugar and mix until completely combined.

Line a small baking sheet or plate with wax paper. Using a small cookie scoop, or about 2 teaspoons worth of peanut butter mixture, gently roll  into a ball (I put a little butter on my hand to reduce sticking and had to wash my hands after every 5 or so). Place the ball on the wax paper-lined cookie sheet and repeat with the remaining peanut butter mixture. Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to dip the truffles, microwave the chocolate chips and vegetable shortening together in a small bowl at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth.

Dip each peanut butter-pretzel ball into the melted chocolate and use a fork or spoon to roll it around, ensuring that it is completely coated with chocolate. Let any extra chocolate drip off and place back on the wax paper-lined sheet. Repeat with all of the peanut butter-pretzel balls.

Return the baking sheet to the refrigerator and again chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with a drizzle of melted peanut butter (melt the peanut butter for 30 seconds in the microwave and use a fork to drizzle) and crushed pretzels, if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Cinnamon-Honey Truffles

Any chocolate loving person is bound to enjoy truffles. They are so deeply rich and chocolatey. I was intrigued by this particular recipe (which I found in some cookbook or other and promptly forgot the name) because the cream is steeped in spices and honey. I loved the idea; however, the spices were very subtle in the end result. If you want more of the cinnamon to shine through, I’d try doubling the amount of cinnamon stick. Or, you can do like I did and sprinkle a little cinnamon into the cocoa powder that you roll the truffles in. Either way, these are delicious drops of chocolate, perfect for a holiday goody tray.

CINNAMON-HONEY TRUFFLES
Print This Recipe

8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cacao), very finely chopped
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2-1 cinnamon stick, 1 1/2-3 inches long (depending on the depth of spice you want)
2 whole cloves
pinch of sea salt
2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c. unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted

Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. (It is very important to chop the chocolate very finely to allow it to melt properly.)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, honey, vanilla, cinnamon stick, cloves, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour the cream through a fine-mesh sieve held over the chocolate, discarding the contents of the sieve, and let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the chocolate mixture in a circular motion until it has completely melted. Add the butter and stir until incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to set the chocolate. Then refrigerate the chocolate for 30 minutes, or until the chocolate is able to be scooped and rolled into balls.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Using a small spoon or scoop, scoop out 1-inch balls of chocolate and gently roll them into irregularly shaped truffles. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Return the truffles to the refrigerator and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Place the sifted cocoa powder in a shallow bowl. One at a time, roll the truffles in the cocoa, coating evenly. Makes about 30 truffles.

Cook’s Note: The truffles will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

These were so quick to put together! They were very simple and went perfectly with the soup and salad I had made for dinner. They were light and fluffy and had terrific flavor.

I think these would be wonderful for Thanksgiving. You could change them up by adding maple syrup instead of sugar or by adding a little cinnamon. They bake for less than 15 minutes which makes them ideal to pop in right as people are gathering (and the oven is finally empty) and then pull them out warm as everyone is filling their plate. I served them with just butter but a maple butter or orange butter would also be good or a drizzle of honey.  

SWEET POTATO BISCUITS
(Food Network Magazine, November 2011, Paula Deen)
Print This Recipe

3/4 c. cooked mashed sweet potato (about 1 large sweet potato)
1/3 to 1/2 c. whole milk, as needed
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tb. sugar (I think maple syrup would be delish – you would not need quite as much milk)
1 Tb. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 Tb. cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet (with butter, oil or cooking spray).

In a small bowl, whisk together the sweet potato and 1/3 cup milk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with your hands, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the sweet potato mixture and fold gently to combine. Add the remaining milk a little at a time until all the flour is moistened. The amount of milk you will need will depend on the moisture of the sweet potato.

Sprinkle a small handful of flour on a work surface. Turn the dough out onto the surface and knead lightly 2 to 3 times with the palm of your hand until the mixture comes together. Pat the dough out into a 1/2-inch-thick round.

Using a biscuit cutter, cut the dough into biscuits. Gently reroll the scraps and cut out more biscuits. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake until light golden brown and firm to the touch, 12 to 14 minutes. Serve these fluffy biscuits warm or at room temperature. Makes 9-12.

Happy Independence Day!

It’s the Fourth of July! A time for celebrating our country and patriotism! May we never forget the men and women who have sacrificed for our freedom and those who continue to sacrifice and serve!

What are your favorite 4th foods? Our family went camping this weekend and enjoyed way too many s’mores. We traditionally attend a concert and fireworks with a picnic dinner at some point during the holiday weekend! We also love going to our town’s parade and making homemade icecream, eating buttery corn on the cob, and grilling.

HAPPY 4th of JULY! 

Baker’s Delight: Kazakh Cheese Pastries

These savory pastries would be perfect for brunch or a snack or a dinner or any time. They are seriously delicious! They were a hit with children and adults alike. The buttery, flaky crust with the creamy cheese filling was pretty much perfect. I’m think these may be added to the Easter brunch menu this year.

KAZAKH CHEESE PASTRIES
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
Print This Recipe

Pastry:
1 ½ c. flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cream of tartar
8 Tb. butter
¼ c. ice water

Place flour, salt, cream of tartar, and butter in a food processor, Blend until texture is coarse and add water. Blend just until the mixture is combined and begins to mass together (add more water if needed). Place on plastic wrap, flatten to disk and wrap airtight. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll dough on floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out 24 circles with 3 inch water glass or biscuit cutter. Pleat edges of circles and fit in bottom of muffin tins. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cheese filling:
1 egg
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I used sharp & 3-cheese blend)
3 T. grated parmesan cheese
2 Tb. parsley, chopped
2 T. chives, chopped

Beat egg in bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Spoon 2-3 tsp. filling in each pastry shell; spread level. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the filling is golden brown. Cool on rack and serve warm.

*These could be made ahead, refrigerated and warmed in the oven.

Holiday Treats: Chocolate Bark

If you’re looking for a quick, customizable, but festive holiday treat, chocolate bark is a perfect choice. Just start with your favorite kind of chocolate, melt it, and then top with your choice of crunchy and chewy toppings. Voila! A lovely addition to your goodie tray.

White chocolate topped with chopped pistachios and chopped dried cherries.

CHOCOLATE BARK
(from Food Network Magazine, December 2010)
Print This Recipe

1 lb chocolate–bittersweet, semisweet, white, half bittersweet and half white for swirled bark
1/2 c. chopped crunchy toppings–nuts of any kind, peppermint candies, toff, nut brittle, toasted coconut, peanut butter chips, banana chips
1/2 c. chopped chewy toppings–dried fruits of any kind, mini marshmallows, candied orange peel, crystallized ginger
spices (opt.)–red pepper flakes, flaky sea salt, crushed cardamom seeds, toasted fennel seed, crushed pink peppercorns

Line a baking sheet with foil, shiny-side up; smooth out any creases.

Make sure all tools and utensils are dry. Chop chocolate into 1/2-inch pieces with a large knife. Place all but 1 cup of the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. (For swirled bark, put all but 1/2 cup of each chocolate in 2 separate bowls.) Microwave 30 seconds, then stir with a rubber spatula. Continue microwaving and stirring at 30-second intervals until melted, 3 to 5 minutes total. (For swirled bark, microwave each chocolate separately at 15-second intervals.)

Immediately add the reserved chopped chocolate to the bowl; stir vigorously until melted and shiny. Don’t worry if there are a few small unmelted pieces.

Pour the chocolate onto the prepared baking sheet; use the rubber spatula to spread it into a 10 to 12 -inch circle, about 1/4 inch think. (For swirled bark, pour the 2 chocolates side by side on the baking sheet; use the spatula to swirl them together.)

Press your crunchy and chewy toppings into the chocolate, arranging them so each bite has a mix of flavors and textures. Sprinkle with spices, if using. Let the bark harden completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. (If the room is warm, you may need to freeze the bark for a few minutes.) Break into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks.

Bittersweet chocolate topped with toasted coconut, slivered almonds and mini marshmallows.