Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mini Quiche Bites!

I started cooking as a little girl. I absorbed the info in cookbooks. I had subscriptions to cooking magazines as young as 11 years old. I made menus for fun, then created a mock shopping list for all the ingredients I would need. Occasionally, mom actually let me shop for and cook one of my researched recipes. I specifically remember making homemade meatballs, double layered banana cake, and lemon pies very early on in my cooking undertakings. I lived for meal planning during holidays when lots of family and friends would be together so I could share my dishes.  This all holds true today, and my passion has grown even more -- just ask my family who I pester for weeks prior to a holiday about what they are bringing for dinner so I can make my decisions about what I should whip up!

This is why my heart just warmed over tonight when a 5th grader from one of my work events came up and told me she loved this little bite I had prepared as a snack and then proceeded to ask me how she could make it at home for her family! Ya'll. I almost cried. Her enthusiasm reminded me of being young and eager to try new recipes. I'm a sensitive little lady and this young lady hit a soft spot in me. So here is the recipe she will be experimenting with for her family. I hope you'll try it too!





Mini Quiche Bites
2 packages mini fillo shells (15 shells per box)
1/2 cup chopped ham (I just use sandwich meat)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
salt
pepper
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Place shells on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet, being sure not to let shells touch.
2. Drop a couple bits of ham, onion, red pepper, and cheese into each shell. Just eyeball it.
3. Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper together. Slowly pour a bit of the egg mixture into each shell, on top of the other ingredients, until the shell is full. I used a plastic cup that I could bend to do this, so I could make sure not to spill it everywhere!
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until set. Serve warm.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Chocolate Truffles!

Today was a long day. I hand-wrote approximately 200 Christmas cards and I still have lots more to finish. Unfortunately, my vocabulary only consists of Hallmark-style greetings and well wishes, so I apologize for not being able to think of something witty or educational to say to you. If you'll accept these festive, super easy, chocolate truffles as an expression of my regret I would realllllly appreciate it.





















Chocolate Truffles

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
assorted sprinkles

Directions:

1. Put chocolate chips and unsalted butter in a medium sized mixing bowl. 
2. Put heavy whipping cream into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as cream starts to boil, pour it over top of chocolate chips and butter. Let sit for about 3 minutes then whisk until all ingredients are incorporated.
3. Pour chocolate into a large baking dish, spreading evenly. Stick in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. 
4. While chocolate is setting, prepare your working space. You will need to pour a few sprinkles onto a saucer and prepare a place to put your truffles after you roll them, I used waxed paper spread onto a baking sheet or serving tray.
5. Once you are prepared to roll the truffles, use a teaspoon to scrap some of the chocolate out of the baking dish. Roll into a ball, then roll through the sprinkles and set on waxed paper. 
6. Once rolled, put in freezer at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Store leftovers in freezer.

Note: It is important to handle these for as short of a time as possible as the chocolate can melt quickly while you are rolling them. I like to keep a few ice cubes out so that I can cool my hands down while rolling them into balls to prevent the chocolate from sticking. 


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cheeseburger Soup with Hamburger Bun Croutons!

This soup was created on one of those lazy weekends. You know, the kind that follows a work week that seems to consist of days that are way over 8 hours, nights that sleep is anything but restful, and Fridays that drag by while you stare at the clock watching every minute tick by. Even if you absolutely adore your job (I am thankful that I do), sometimes those lazy weekends are priceless. Pure gold weekends. 

I got out of bed early, strictly to make it to the grocery before normal people went so that I could shop in my pajamas without being noticed. I gathered up these ingredients and some Christmas cards (the only productive thing that came out of lazy weekend), and went straight home to start this soup so I would have it ready just in time for lunch. And dinner. And lunch Sunday. And so on. 

I didn't intend to make the croutons with this, but the bakery just happened to have some day old sesame buns marked down, so I tossed them in my buggy knowing they would make a tasty topper for the soup. 



Cheeseburger Soup

1 lb ground beef 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp spicy brown mustard
3 tbsp tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
3 cups potatoes, diced
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup cold water
2 cups milk
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
optional toppings: bacon bits, chopped pickles, sour cream, croutons (see below)

Directions:
1. Cook ground beef in a large soup pot until browned. Drain grease and remove ground beef from soup pot. Set aside.
2. Saute onion and carrot in olive oil until tender. Add basil, dill, mustard, and tomato paste. Cook 2 minutes stirring continuously.
3. Add beef back to the soup pot, with onion and carrot mixture. Add beef broth and potatoes, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. 
4. In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch into cold water. Add cornstarch mixture to soup. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
5. Add milk, cheese, salt, and pepper.  

I like mine served with chopped pickles on top. They are actually my most favorite part about this soup and I highly recommend them along with the croutons below!



Hamburger Bun Croutons

3 hamburger buns, stale or day old work best
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut bread into cubes. Toss bread cubes and all ingredients together in a ziploc or tupperware bowl with lid and shake. 
2. Dump seasoned bread cubes onto a cookie sheet and bake about 8 minutes, stirring halfway through. 
3.Store in airtight container for up to a week. 




Friday, December 5, 2014

No Bake Coconut Candy!

I'm really excited to share this recipe because it is sooooo simple. Mix together 3 ingredients, roll into a ball, poke a little hole in the middle, fill with chocolate. The end. That's all ya do.

I really adored Almond Joy candy when I was a kid. When my parents would go the the grocery, I requested they pick me up one of these treats. I'd unwrap it, and I would eat my way around the almond in the middle, then throw the almond in the garbage. I was not a fan of Mr. Almond. Then one day, I realized there were Mounds. The same thing as an Almond Joy, without that pesky almond in the middle. Ya'll, my life changed.

These little candies are similar to a Mounds candy bar, just inside-out and in tiny little bite sizes. Of course, you can make them bigger if you prefer but I enjoy the itty bitty baby sizes.


No Bake Coconut Candy (Recipe from Cookies and Cups)

1/2 cup salted butter, melted but cooled to room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 cups flakes, sweetened coconut
1/2 cup Hershey's chocolate spread 

Directions:
1. Using your hands, mix melted butter, sugar, and coconut until combined. 
2. Form mixture into 1 inch balls. Using your index finger, press a little indent into the center. 
3. Fill a ziploc bag with chocolate spread. Cut the corner out of the bag and squeeze a bit (about 1/4 tsp) of chocolate into center of the candy. 

Store in air tight container up to 1 week. Makes about 36 candies. 



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Turtle Cookies!

December sure showed up quick this year, didn't it?? I'm still in a whiplash from fall! I do adore the holiday season though, so I am happy to welcome colder weather and all things festive. As a child, my mom always made sure that we had lots of activities to keep us busy during the break from school. Many of those activities are still traditions that we carry out to this day. Decorating the tree, making a paper chain to count down the days until Santa comes, baking cookies... these are just a few of the happenings from my childhood that have stuck with me throughout the years!

One of our most special traditions is baking cookies on Christmas Eve! When I was younger, it started out as just decorated sugar cookies and maybe some peanut butter cookies (those were Santa Dad's favorite). Over the years, our cookie list has grown and grown. We now spend the ENTIRE day baking, sometimes up to 10 different cookies each year!

This recipe is one I got from America's Test Kitchen, so you know they are tasty!! I was on a caramel kick and wanted to incorporate caramel into a cookie in some way, so these caught my eye. They are also very pretty and would make a nice addition to any of  your little festive parties you will be attending this holiday season.


Turtle Cookies

Cookie:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated plus 1 additional egg white
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Caramel Filling:
14 soft caramel candies (Kraft Traditional Caramels is what I used)
3 tbsp heavy cream

Directions:
For the cookies:
1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside. 
2. With electric mixer on medium, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla. Mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture until just combined. 
3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about an hour. 
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk egg whites in a bowl until light and frothy. Place chopped pecans in another bowl. Roll chilled dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg white, and then roll in pecans. Place balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Make an indentation in the center of each dough ball, I used my thumb but you could use a teaspoon to do this. 
5. Bake until set, about 12 minutes.

For the caramel filling:
6. Microwave caramels and cream together in a small bowl, stirring occasionally until smooth, about 2 minutes. 
7. Once cookies are removed from the oven, gently re-press the indentations. Fill each indentation with about 1/2 tsp of the caramel mixture. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. 

Makes about 30 cookies. 

Bonus!! Here are a few of the newer traditions that I have gotten to take part in as an adult!! When I was little, my mom and all her sisters would go shopping on Black Friday, then again 2 weeks later. She always told me she was going to visit Santa during these trips and I totally believed her!! She even came home with stories all about the North Pole!! Now that I am older, I get to tag along on the trip to see Santa too!


We have also begun the tradition of going to a paint party to paint a holiday-themed masterpiece together. We are some talented ladies. 


And finally, my Christmas tree. My sweet fella helped me decorate it this year. He didn't even complain when I was being super particular about the perfect placement of each individual ornament!




Now go do something festive, would ya?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Festive Turkey Pinwheels!

It has recently been brought to my attention that I have neglected my blog. Ya'll, so sorry. Life happened. Cooking is truly my passion and I am at my happiest when I am making meals and sharing them with loved ones. I started this blog when I lived in Nashville, to share a piece of my life with my family back home. I wasn't able to cook for them, so this was the next best thing!

I have officially moved back to Martin, my hometown, as of almost exactly 1 year ago today!! What better way to celebrate this milestone than jump back on my blogging train? It is actually exciting to me, and I am so thrilled to have people who actually READ this and make the dishes that I share. So thank you, friends, for lighting a fire under my butt! Lots of love.

After a long hiatus, I give you Turkey Pinwheels. Just in time for Thanksgiving. Hopefully you have plenty of time to run to the grocery and pick up these ingredients so these little bites can be added to your spread. They are perfect for snacking on while you wait for that bird to finish roasting away. They are also really easy to make the day before you need them, then just slice them up and stick on a serving platter moments before you need them! Also, they are realllll pretty, ya'll.


Festive Turkey Pinwheels

8 Flour Tortillas (whole wheat pictured)
2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp + 1 tsp horseradish (add more to taste)
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup green onions, chopped 
3/4 cup craisins
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
32 slices turkey (I used Pepperidge Farm oven roasted turkey breast)

saran wrap or cling wrap

Directions:

1. Mix cream cheese, horseradish, milk and black pepper, onions, craisins, and walnuts until all ingredients are incorporated. Add more horseradish if you like.
2. Gently spread about 4 tbsp of cream cheese mixture onto flattened tortilla as close to edges as you can being careful not to tear tortilla.


3. Arrange 4 slices of turkey on top of cream cheese. 


4. Gently roll the tortilla up, like a burrito. Wrap tightly in saran wrap. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Slice and serve!

I have made these up to 3 days in advance and just kept them refrigerated until ready to serve. They are perfect to grab out of the fridge and slice up during the holidays if you need a small treat for guests! 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Salt & Vinegar Potato Salad!

Plan on having a barbeque party this summer? Attending one? Eating a meal outside? Memorial Day is quickly approaching... that means summer is here! Summertime in Tennessee is, despite the crazy heat & humidity, one of the times of year that I look most forward to.

I love getting my grill out and getting creative with all the different variations of marinades and sauces. One problem I often run into, however, is what sides are "outdoor-worthy." When you think of bbq, you think pasta salad, beans, potato salad. The problem with potato salad is this: mayo. Nobody wants a side that has been souring in its mayo bath all day. That's just yucky.

For an outdoor potato salad solution, try this vinegar-based dish.



Salt & Vinegar Potato Salad
slightly adapted from Gourmet by Maggie Ruggiero

1 batch Pickled Onions
5 lbs yukon gold potatoes, skin removed and cut into 1/2-inch wide wedges
2 tsps Old Bay seasoning
2 tsps granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Cover potatoes with salted cold water in a 5 qt pot, simmering uncovered about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water.
2. Whisk together Old Bay with sugar, salt, and vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. Combine potatoes and pickled onions in a large bowl. Drizzle with Old Bay mixture. Let marinate at least 1 hour.
4. Before serving, stir in olive oil. Serve cold or at room temperature.

*Note:  I made the pickled onions the day before serving and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight. I also boiled the potatoes and added Old Bay mixture to them the day before and let them marinate overnight as well. Right before serving, I stirred in the pickled onions and olive oil.

**Note: I think this would be wonderful with bacon bits added in as well.