Monday, December 29, 2008

Menu Mondays

Last week was a little insane with Christmas and my husband's sudden determination to demolish our dining area and re-do it.
But we're surviving (under a layer of drywall dust).

Hopefully I can get back into my kitchen (get it cleaned) and get to cooking this week.

Saturday: Staying in tonight since it's a "home repair day". Breakfast for dinner: leftover ham, eggs, and skillet potatoes, with homemade bread from my Christmas-present Breadmaker
Sunday: Ordering out for dinner while we watch football (and DH wears his Christmas-present jersey!)
Monday: Steak (My dad hooked us up with free Omaha steaks again -- sweet), steamed broccoli, pasta or leftover scalloped potatoes
Tuesday: King Ranch Casserole
Wednesday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, yeast rolls
Thursday: New Years -- I think we're going out late-evening to see a friend's band, so we'll eat at home: Sausage sandwiches with green peppers and onions
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Need to make either an appetizer or a dessert for a neighborhood get-together. After all those Christmas cookies -- I'm leaning towards appetizer!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monkey Bread...

...pull apart loaf....sticky roll...

Whatever you call it, it's delicious.

This item is one of my family's Christmas traditions -- we always serve it Christmas morning for breakfast after opening gifts.

Even though we celebrated Christmas with my family a week early, we still had our breakfast!

I've discovered our recipe is a bit different than most, because of the inclusion of the cook-and-serve vanilla pudding. But personally, I love the vanilla undertones in the ooey goodness.

Monkey Bread
(Family Recipe)
2 loaves frozen bread, thawed )but don't let them raise)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 small cook-and-serve vanilla pudding (NOT instant!)
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired
- Grease a bundt pan
- Pull 1 loaf of thawed bread into bite-sized pieces, and place in the bundt pan
- On the stovetop in a small saucepan, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla pudding, milk, cinnamon, and nuts (if desired
- Once everything is mixed and the consistency is smooth, pour over the bite-sized pieces of bread loaf in the bundt pan
- Pull the other loaf apart into bite sized pieces and place on top of the brown sugar/pudding mixture in the bundt pan
- Let raise on the countertop for 2-3 hours, or until bread reaches the top of the bundt pan
- To make the night before and bake in the a.m.: cover the bundt pan with saran wrap after it rises, and place in the refrigerator. Remove in the a.m., remove the saran, and place in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes
- To make right away: once bread reaches the top of the bundt pan, bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes, then invert it and "dump" it onto a platter.
- Serve immediately.

Oh-My-God-It's-Good Baked Oatmeal

This is delicious! I made it on Sunday, and took a piece of it to work each day for breakfast. My co-workers were nearly crazy by the end of the week from smelling it!

Highly, highly reccommend making this -- it'd be great if you had a small crowd to feed, OR if you just want to eat it all week long like me :-)

I ate it warmed in the microwave, with cold milk down over it. Mmm...

Baked Oatmeal

*This is a doubled recipe version of Swistle's, because I didn't want to deal with 1/2 fruits. It made a 9x9 square baking pan full of baked oatmeal goodness as the doubled recipe.

1 1/2 cups (or slightly more) milk
2 tbsp butter
1 cup regular oats (if you're using steel cut, you'll probably need more milk. no idea how much)
1 apple, peeled and chopped small
1 banana, cut into pieces
10-12 pieces of chunk canned pineapple (chopped up rings or crushed pineapple is fine too)
4 tbsp brown sugar (it was really sweet -- you could probably make this amount smaller)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt (DON'T forget this, or it's very bland!)

1-2 tbsp additional brown sugar
1/2 - 1 cup of nuts (walnuts, pecans, whatever), chopped (optional)

- Boil the milk and butter together on the stovetop
- Add the oats, stirring in slowly
- Stir in the chopped fruit, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt
- Cook and stir 1 minute
- Pour into a greased casserole dish (I used a 9x9 baking pan)
- Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes
- Remove from oven, sprinkle more brown sugar and nuts (if desired)
- Bake for another 5 minutes, or until bubbly

Menu Monday -- late

Sorry so late, folks! We celebrated Christmas with my family near Pittsburgh this past weekend, so we've been super busy.

Add to that, DH decided to renovate our dining room -- this week! -- so evenings are packed as well!

Monday: steak, steamed broccoli, pasta
Tuesday: homemade mac and cheese, leftover ham, green beans
Wednesday: spaghetti with meat sauce
Thursday: we've already done christmas, so a relaxing leftovers meal
Friday: unsure -- the dining room project will be in full swing!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Cookies 2008: Cut Out Sugar Cookies

Katie and Ashlee are right -- these ARE the best sugar cookies! They were super-duper easy to work with, roll out, cut, etc, and they're very tasty as well!

I wasn't thrilled with the icing recipe I arbitrarily chose for these if you have a royal icing recipe that's tried-and-true, please pass it my way.

You'll also notice I have no patience for decorating. I like to BAKE. Not DECORATE. This results in my sugar cookies looking like a 4 year old probably iced them :-)

I'm okay with that.

The Most Fabulous Sugar Cookies
(Good Things Catered by way of Ashlee)

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp lemon zest
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
-Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes.
-Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
-Add vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
-Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time.
-Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
-Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.
-Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies for 7-8 minutes.
-Wait until cookies are cooled before icing.

Ashlee says this makes 80, and Katie got about 30 on the recipe I saw on her blog. I did small-ish cut-outs and got about 50. It really depends on your thickness and the size of your cookie.

Funfetti Cookies

I made these because I was pressed for time, but needed a dessert to take to a gathering.
I don't normally cheat with the frosting/cake mix, but ironically enough, the people I was feeding are so used to 'store bought' sweetness, they gobbled these right up! They loved them!

And they only took me 45 minutes from start until dishes washed and dried, to make!

Funfetti Cookies

1 (18.9-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury Funfetti Cake Mix
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 (15.6-oz.) can Pillsbury Funfetti Vanilla Frosting

- Heat oven to 375°F.
- In large bowl, combine cake mix, oil and eggs; stir with spoon until thoroughly moistened.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. With bottom of glass dipped in flour, flatten to 1/4-inch thickness.
- Bake at 375°F. for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.
- Spread frosting over warm cookies. Immediately sprinkle each with candy bits from frosting.
- Let frosting set before storing. Store in tightly covered container.

Christmas Cookies 2008: Peanut Butter Blossoms

These are a traditional Christmas cookie -- but my family and friends LOOOOOOVE them :-)

They're very easy to put together, and there's just something incredibly satisfying about squishing that Hershey's Kiss into the hot cookie fresh from the oven!

Hershey's Peanut Butter Blossoms
48 Herhsey's Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar

- Heat oven to 375°F.
- Remove wrappers from chocolates.
- Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.
- Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
- Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges.
- Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

*This recipe says it makes 4 dozen -- but I got more like 3 dozen.

"Lighter" General Tsao's

DH loves General Tsao's (I'm positive I'm spelling that wrong...) so I thought we'd try this recipe at home.
But -- like every time I try Asian-anything at home -- it just isn't as good as getting it at a restaurant. DH liked this, but I could've passed on it.

I'm not a big fan of ginger, and it's a prevalent flavor in the dish, so that may be why.

"Lighter" General Tsao's Chicken
(Martha Stewart)

1 ¼ cups long-grain rice
¼ cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise (I used steamed broccoli instead for DH)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (I used regular vegetable oil)

- Cook rice according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and ½ cup cold water until smooth. Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).
- Add snow-pea mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat.
- Serve with rice.

Completed Italian Cookies


Menu Mondays

I've got lots of updates to make -- and no time to make them! Hopefully soon!

Saturday: Baked off peanut butter blossoms, funfetti cookies, and cut-out sugar cookies, went to friends for dinner
Sunday: Baked oatmeal (oh my GOD is this stuff good), iced cut-out sugar cookies, Subway rescued dinner
Monday: steak, broccoli, pasta for dinner
Tuesday: stuffed shells, rolls, salad (?)
Wednesday: dinner out with DH for his work christmas party
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: on the road to spend the weekend with my family for early Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Menu Mondays

Cookie baking for Christmas started this weekend -- however you won't get to see some of them as finished product until next week (I don't like to ice or glaze my cookies in advance -- they keep longer if you don't).

That's okay -- it'll give you an excuse to make yummy cookies in the new year :-)

Saturday: Italian lemon cookies, russian tea cakes, and spritz cookies
Sunday: Cinnamon-Roasted Almonds for DH to take to work, Meatballs for meatball subs
Monday: Movie night with the ILs -- they're bringing pizza
Tuesday: Steak and steamed broccoli
Wednesday: "Lighter" General Tsao's Chicken with Broccoli (or green beans if it's ok w/ DH) and rice
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: Spaghetti with leftover meatballs

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Meatball Subs

I'm always trying new meatball recipes -- I just can't quite find one I really like.

This is this week's version. It's tasty, but it's still not quite what I'm looking for.

Meatballs always end up tasting like meatloaf to me...which leads me to believe they need more spice in them. Anybody have one to reccommend for my next trial run?

Italian Meatballs
(Brown Eyed Baker)

1 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1 teaspoon dried Italian parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, divided
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Combine 1/4 cup breadcrumbs with milk and let soak for 10 minutes
- Combine with all remaining ingredients and shape into balls
- Bake for 30 minutes, then add to sauce. If you want to cook them the whole way in the oven, cook for 40-45 minutes, depending on size.

Christmas Cookies: Spritz Cookies

I'd never made -- never HEARD of spritz cookies until I got married.

I received a cookie press at my bridal shower, and quickly discovered the only "cookies" I could make with it were apparently something called spritz cookies.

Well, we got married in November of 2007 -- and just now, this weekend, the cookie press made it's debut. Surprisingly, it worked really well! I had the dough stick a couple of times, but all-in-all it worked out.

The cookies have a nice buttery/almond-y flavor to them. I like them and they're easy to make!

Spritz Cookies
(Lovestoeat, by way of Wilton)

9 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
- Thoroughly cream the butter and sugar
- Add the egg, milk, vanilla and almond extracts and beat well
- Stir together flour and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing to make a smooth dough
- Do not chill your dough!
- Place the dough in a cookie press and press cookies onto an ungreased cookie sheet (I added sprinkles to mine at this point before I baked them)
- Bake for 5-7 minutes, remove cookies from sheet, cool on rack

Christmas Cookies: Italian Cookies

I saw these and they were so cute, I had to have them. I admit it -- I was swayed by good pictures!

But luckily, these little devils are delicious.

You'll get non-glazed pictures for now -- I always wait to glaze my cookies until closer to their serving date, so they stay fresh and delicious longer.

Italian Cookies
(Noble Pig by way of Bunny's Warm Oven)

Approximately 100 cookies (this is according to the Noble Pig page -- I only got 60 or so? I guess mine are bigger!)

For the cookies:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons lemon extract (okay to use anise or vanilla too!)

Directions for cookies:
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
- In the microwave melt butter and shortening (make sure the shortening is fresh or it will taste bad) together in a bowl.
- Beat the melted butter and shortening together until it is completely incorporated, about 2 minutes.
- Add granulated sugar and mix well.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, about 1 minute each.
- Mix in lemon extract.
- Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture slowly, until fully incorporated. Don't overmix.
- If the cookie dough is too sticky to roll in the palm of your hand, add a bit of flour. However, the dough should remain very soft, so don't add too much.
- Roll the cookie dough in small balls (they puff up quite nicely) and place them on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes (mine took 8 minutes). The bottoms of the cookies should be lightly browned but the tops of should remain light in color.
- Remove cookies from the cookie sheet immediately and move to a wire rack. Cool completely before glazing.

For the glaze:
3-4 Tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract (okay to use anise or vanilla)

Directions for the glaze:
- Slowly mix milk with powdered sugar and lemon extract.
- The glaze needs to be thick to adhere to the cookie.
- Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze.
- Sprinkle each cookie with nonpareils and leave them to completely dry.

Christmas Cookies: Russian Tea Cakes

Do you know the difference between Russian Tea Cakes and Mexican Wedding Cookies?

Most people think the names are interchangeable, but actually, Russian Tea Cakes generally contain walnuts, while Mexican Wedding Cookies generally contain almonds.

See? Now you've learned something. :-)

Russian Tea Cakes

24 cookies

1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration

- Cream butter and sugar together
- Slowly add the flour until combined
- Stir walnuts in by hand until mixed
- Refrigerate the dough until chilled ( I don't reccommend leaving this dough in the fridge long -- maybe 1/2 hour. If you leave it in, it gets hard and is impossible to work with)
- Roll the dough into 1" balls and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven
- Once baked, roll while still hot in confectioners' sugar until coated
- Let cool, then roll in more confectioners' sugar before serving/storing.

Christmas Cookies 2008

Since my mom and I are 250 miles apart, and we can't bake together, we're both baking select types of cookies, and we'll exchange some of each when we celebrate Christmas.

We're celebrating the weekend before Christmas this year -- I'm completely tired of fighting the traffic to make the drive for the actual holiday.

Anyway, here's this year's line-up -- I'll try to get them all posted soon!

- chocolate chip cookies
- pizelles (orange and vanilla i think -- i hate anise!)
- soft sugar cookies
- peanut butter cookies

- russian tea cakes
- italian cookies (i made mine lemon. again. hate anise.)
- spritz cookies
- peanut butter blossoms
- cut-out sugar cookies

Monday, December 1, 2008

Menu Mondays

Another whirlwind week...I really love seeing my family for the holidays, but hate having to rush home and try to get everything done before work starts again. *sigh*

Monday: steak, broccoli
Tuesday: leftover turkey, stuffing, etc
Wednesday: rigatoni with meat sauce
Thursday: turkey and wild rice soup
Friday: leftovers?