Sunday, December 30, 2012

Banana Cranberry Bread

Good morning!  I can't believe how fast the weekend flies by but it's another short work week with a holiday so that will be nice.  I made this bread yesterday afternoon since I had two bananas that I needed to do something with.  I enjoyed it then and even more for breakfast this morning.

Banana Cranberry Bread

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
6 oz Greek yogurt
2 bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup Craisins (coated in 1 tsp flour)

Cream together butter and sugar.  Stir in eggs, yogurt, vanilla and bananas.  Gradually mix in dry ingredients.  At last, fold in flour coated Craisins.  

Place in a greased loaf pan or 6 mini pans filling slightly over half full.  For mini pans, bake for 30 minutes at 325°.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Monte Cristo Rolls

Sunny day with the temperature hovering around 0 and not wanting to warm up.  I needed a side for soup and a quick inventory of the refrigerator and freezer early this morning brought these rolls together.  

Monte Cristo rolls

Thaw a loaf of frozen bread dough (white or wheat) in a plastic wrapped and greased bread pan.  Allow to rise until 1" above the pan.

Spread out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it's 12" long and 6" wide.  

Place good quality sliced deli ham and turkey on top and sprinkle 1 cup of your favorite shredded cheese on top (or swiss for a true Monte Cristo flavor).  Roll up with your fingertips and seal the edge with your fingers.  Cut into 16 equal pieces and place in a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Allow dough to double in size and then bake for 30 minutes at 350°.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes and serve with strawberry jam.  I used my Strawberry Lemon Preserves ~

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Creamy Chicken Orzo Soup

I'm surrounded at work by sick people.  Don't get me wrong, they are very lovely people but two types of flu and colds are working their way through the building.  I made soup tonight to help my hand sanitizer and the one multi-vitamin that I took to ward off the evil.  

Creamy Chicken Orzo Soup

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 chicken breasts, cubed
1/8 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced and diced
1 tbsp celery flakes
1 bay leaf
2 dashes hot sauce
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup peas
1 cup orzo pasta
1 tbsp parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large pot or dutch oven.  Add in chicken and heat until no longer pink (do not cook long enough to get a crust).  When almost cooked through, add in onions and garlic and cook until translucent.  Pour in chicken broth and add in carrots, celery flakes, bay leaf and hot sauce.    Cook over medium heat until carrots are tender and add in milk, orzo, peas and parsley and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ham & Potatoes Hash

The best ham are always the biggest ones it seems.  You know the ones that it's possible to eat from for the entire next year.  I'm working my way through what is a quarter of the tasty beast.   I made a hash with it today.  

Ham & Potatoes Hash

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cubed

Boil the potato cubes until they are slightly tender.  Drain and place in a frying pan with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.

Season potatoes with ~

1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

When lightly golden browned, add in ~

1 cup ham, cubed
1 tsp parsley

Cook until ham is heated.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Orange Bread & Cranberry Orange Jam

Merry Christmas everyone ~

Today I'm posting two recipes because they go so well together.  A few weeks ago I created this cranberry orange jam for gift giving.  It's a perfect compliment for orange bread which you could also give away loaves of at the same time.

Cranberry Orange Jam

2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup strawberries
3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp orange zest
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin

Place cranberries in a food processor to break down into small bits.  Combine in medium saucepan with orange juice, strawberries, sugar, zest and liquid pectin and cook over medium heat until thickened.  Pour into clean canning jars and seal in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Orange Bread

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 orange - 1 tsp zest from the orange and then use all the juice
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream together sugar and butter.  Add in eggs, yogurt and juice from your orange. Gradually stir in dry ingredients.  Pour into a greased bread pan and bake for 50 minutes at 350°.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gingerbread Biscotti

This is my final baked goods that I'm making for Christmas (I think) ~ Gingerbread biscotti for my mom.  I wish I would have had some raisins to add in but it seems I have every type of chocolate but no dried fruits.

Gingerbread Biscotti

1/2 cup rolled oats, ground in a food processor
1/2 cup rolled oats, unground
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

Mix all dry ingredients together and add in ~

2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp extra light olive oil

Mix together and add if desired ~

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins

Spread the dough out evenly on a 14" sheet of plastic wrap.  Roll the plastic wrap around the dough on your counter to make a 2" log.  Remove plastic wrap and place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 350°.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.  Cut at a diagonal in 3/4" slices.  Place back on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 300°.  Turn biscotti over and bake another 10 minutes.  Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas

A creamy sauce, cheesy chicken with a bite of green chilie's all combine to make these enchiladas.  Plus I love it when I have all the ingredients in my refrigerator...I still can't remember quite why I had the small flour tortillas but I'm glad that I did.  

Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp green chilie's, diced
3/4 cup Marble Jack shredded cheese
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup Mexican shredded cheese
8 small flour tortillas

In a medium sized bowl, combined chicken cream cheese and green chilie's.  Scoop out into the center of a flour tortilla, sprinkle on Marble Jack cheese, roll up and place seam down in a greased pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  When completed melted, whisk in flour and then chicken broth.  Allow to thicken and then stir in sour cream.  Pour over enchiladas and top with Mexican cheese.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Snowflake Soap

One part of making soap that I love is how good your house always smells with the current scent that you're working with.  The other part is how easy it is to make.  The expense depends on how overboard you get with scents and molds.

Snowflake Soap

2 cups melted melt and pour soap
1 tsp Liquid Shea (butter)
1 tsp scent - you may need more depending on the scent
soap color - I use GelTone colors
rubbing alcohol

In a large microwave safe measuring cup, melt down the melt and pour soap base.  Stir in Liquid Shea (this is optional but it does make your hands feel soft).  I use chop sticks when stirring my soap and additives.  They are disposable and I also just keep one measuring cup designated for soap making.  Stir in color one drop at a time until you get the color that you like for your soap.  Pour into a mold sprayed with cooking oil and spritz soap with rubbing alcohol to remove any bubbles.  Allow to set at least an hour and then remove from the mold and wrap in plastic wrap.  This made 5 bars with the mold that I used.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tomato Tortellini Soup

Ward off the cold weather with this soup that can be made in the crock pot or on the stovetop.

Tomato Tortellini Soup

4 cups chicken broth
14.5 oz diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tbsp whiskey
16 oz cheese tortellini

Over a medium heat, combine all the ingredients except for the cream, hot sauce, whiskey and cheese tortellini. When the vegetables have softened, blend preferably with a stick blender. Stir in cream. Add in hot sauce and whiskey ~ amounts to your taste. Finally add in the cheese tortellini and cook for another 12 to 15 minutes.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Raspberry Sour Cream Pancakes

Sometimes cold days call for little bursts of fruit to make you feel like you're back enjoying summer days.

Raspberry Sour Cream Pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 dash cinnamon
1 cup raspberries
1 tsp sugar

Place raspberries in a small bowl with 1 tsp sugar and let sit.  Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Add in sour cream, eggs and milk.  Let sit 5 minutes before cooking on a griddle.  When the pancakes are bubbling on the first side, place raspberries in the batter.  Flip and finish cooking.  

I recommend serving with a raspberry syrup.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mint M & M Cookies

I love the candy creations that only come out at Christmas.  Mint is one of those and I try to stock up.  Too bad they're in Christmas colors but white and red work for Valentine's day and the green are a tip for the cook.  Today I made cookies and with a little experimenting with when to add on the is the recipe ~ 

Mint M & M Cookies 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
6 oz Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup white chips (I used Ghirardhelli)
Mint M & M's

Cream butter and sugars.  Beat in vanilla, eggs and Greek yogurt.  Mix in dry ingredients and then fold in white chips.

Scoop onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 325° for about 12 minutes (until lightly brown around edges).  Press mint M & M's into cookie.  If you try doing this earlier, the colors will bleed onto the cookies.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Italian Chicken Stew with Parmesan Dumplings

Cold weather has returned to the valley unfortunately.  It's about 40 degrees colder than it was a week ago so it's time for a comforting dinner.  

Italian Chicken Stew with Parmesan Dumplings

Stew ~

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup onions, diced
7 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups carrots, sliced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
19 oz Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf

Dumplings ~

2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 tsp parsley

Cook chicken in heated olive oil in a dutch oven.  Add in onions and garlic and cook until translucent.  Pour in chicken broth and add in oregano, bay leaf, tomato paste, carrots and potatoes.    Cook until carrots and potatoes are cooked through.  Add in Cannellini beans.  

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and butter.  Blend in milk with a fork.  Gently fold in Parmesan and parsley.  Drop by large spoonfuls onto top of stew, cover and allow to cook for 15 minutes without lifting lid.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Another holiday favorite that has been around forever and always well received.


1/2 cup natural peanut butter
11 oz butterscotch chips
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups chow mein noodles

Melt peanut butter and butterscotch chips in a large saucepan, stirring constantly so it doesn't scorch.  Stir in noodles until well coated.  Add in marshmallows and drop by onto a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.  Chill until set.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chocolate Caramels

These caramels are another treat that I haven't made in years that I revisited this Christmas season. These are very soft so you do not have to worry about losing a filling.

Chocolate Caramels

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
5 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli)
1 tsp vanilla

Cook everything in a large saucepan except for the vanilla. Continue to stir until it reaches 245°, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into a foil lined 8" square pan and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Wrap in wax paper.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Popcorn Balls

Every holiday is a reason to make popcorn balls.  I asked a co-worker a few years ago for her recipe.  She laughed and said it was from the Betty Crocker's Boys and Girls Cookbook - my very first cookbook, as it probably was for quite a few people.  I used to love flipping through the pages and selecting which recipe I wanted to try next.  In the end, I think I used my mother's cookbook more which worked quite well too.

Popcorn Balls

16 cups popped popcorn
6 cups marshmallows
4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup holiday sprinkles

Melt the butter, salt and marshmallows together in the large saucepan over a low heat.  Stir frequently.  Pour over popcorn in a large roaster pan.  Stir so all of the popcorn is covered.  Butter hands and roll into balls.  Roll in sprinkles and then wrap in plastic wrap.

Here's my cookbook ~ as you can see it was used some and definitely splattered on.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Pickles & Pickled Snowmen

I learned about the legend of the Christmas pickle around 10 years ago. Never had one growing up but then again, since I was an only child it would have been kind of silly to put an item on the tree for me to find to get an extra gift or treat from St. Nicholas. There were plenty of gifts already. And to continue on with the legend, good luck for a year is what will happen if an adult finds the pickle. Now finding the pickle attached to a Powerball ticket may be the way to go. These were fairly easy to make and every pickle face came out different. Plus if you don't like how it looks, you can remold it and start over.

Supplies Needed

2 bars green polymer clay
1 bar yellow polymer clay
seed beads (pickle)
1 eye hook (pickle)
branches (snowman)
plastic hat (snowman)
glass jar (optional)
round toothpicks

Knead together the green and yellow clays until completely blended. For snowman, roll into 3 balls and hold together with toothpicks in the middle. Use toothpick point to place seed beads for (black) eyes and (orange) nose. Press small branches into middle ball for arms and then glue hat on. Prick small holes in using the toothpick point.

For pickle, shape into a pickle shape.  Roll a small ball for the nose.  Apply seed beads for eyes and I used my pinkie fingernail to create the mouth. Prick small holes with the toothpick point and attach the eye hook at the top.

For both, bake per polymer clay instructions.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


One of my favorite cookbooks is Salt To Taste by Marco Canora.  Everything I've made has turned out to be wonderful and I highly recommend it to be added to everyone's cookbook collection.  I heard a knock on the door when I was in the kitchen the evening before Thanksgiving making my apple &  cranberry sauce.  It was UPS delivering a new cookbook ~ think Santa bringing a present.  This time it was Secrets of the Best Chefs by Adam Roberts, this too is recommended for your collection.  The first recipe I opened the book to was Braciola by none other than Chef Canora.  I made a version of this recipe ~ I didn't have any wine in the house and I used the crock pot but the end result looks similar.


12 round steak sandwich sliced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced with the garlic
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
12 thin slices pancetta
1 1/2 cups red pasta sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Even though my round steak was cut to 1/4" slices, I pounded them (gently of course) to 1/8" thick.  In a small bowl, mix together cheeses and set aside.  On your cutting board, mince together parsley and garlic until it has a paste-like consistency.  Now it's time to layer the meat - place round steak down, apply a thin layer of the garlic/parsley mixture, sprinkle about a tablespoon of the cheese mixture and then top with the pancetta.  Roll up and I tied it with a cooking twine.  Brown in a couple tablespoons in a frying pan before transferring to the crock pot.  When all the steaks have browned, cover with your red sauce and cook over a medium heat for 4 hours.  

It's so tender that you will not need a knife to cut it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rolo Pretzels

This is the easiest candy treat to make and extremely addictive.  It's easier to buy the Rolo's in the roll, not individual so you don't spend a great amount of time unwrapping the candy.

Rolo Pretzels

Place pretzels on a parchment paper lined baking sheet

Top each pretzel with a Rolo candy

Place in a 350° oven for 3 minutes

Remove from oven and press down a pecan half on top

Allow to sit for an hour or so until it hardens

Monday, December 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

This is one of my favorite annual Christmas cookies.  And everyone else's it seems.

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar (for rolling)
1 package Hershey's Kisses

Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars.  Stir in egg and vanilla.  Gradually add in dry ingredients.  Cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

Scoop and shape dough into 1" balls and roll in sugar.  Bake at 325° for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and place a Kiss in the middle.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Apple Sausage Pancakes

Sweet.  Savory.  Tart.  That's the flavors that blend together for breakfast today.  The sweet is from the dark amber organic maple syrup.  The savory is from the small sausage crumbles and finally the tart from the small diced Granny Smith apple.

Apple Sausage Pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup diced apple (I used Granny Smith)
3/4 cup sausage, crumbled

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Add in milk, apple cider, eggs and vanilla.  Gently fold in diced apple and sausage. Heat an oiled griddle and pour 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.  Lightly brown both sides.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Taco Pizza

Ever since my fail last week for not having a crunch factor to make this, today is the day.  It's a beautiful day - 41 degrees, the sun is shining and the snow melting.  

Taco Pizza

Crust ~

1 cup warm water
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups flour
Combine warm water, yeast and sugar and let sit for 10 minutes.  Add in salt and extra virgin olive oil and stir into flour.  When well combined, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

1st layer ~

1 cup refried beans (I used my recipe here that I've frozen in 1 cup containers ~ Crock pot refried beans )
1/4 cup of your favorite salsa
Mix together and set aside as you get the rest of the layers together.

2nd layer ~

1 can tomato paste
3/4 cup water
2 1/2 tbsp taco seasoning (Taco seasoning spice mix)
Mix in a small bowl.

3rd layer ~
1/2# ground beef, browned
1/2 tbsp taco seasoning - add in after beef is cooked

4th layer ~

1 cup Nacho cheese Doritos, crushed

5th layer ~
1 1/2 cup Mexican cheese 

Sprinkle 1 tbsp corn meal on a stone pizza baking dish.  Spread out dough and create a slight lip.  Spread fried bean/salsa mixture evenly on top of dough.  Top with ground beef and then the Doritos and cheese.  Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.  

Toppings to serve with your pizza ~

Diced fresh tomatoes
Sour Cream