Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crustless Quiche

I shared this recipe in November's Baby Shower Fun Recap post but think that it needs a post of its own, now that I have photos to accompany it. We served this Christmas morning. With spinach and tomato, it looks really festive for the holiday. Here it is about to be baked:

And here it is, ready to come out of the oven:


Crustless Quiche
Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients
1 8-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed with all the liquid squeezed out
3 large tomatoes (I like Ugly Ripe tomatoes), seeded and chopped
2 1/2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup Gruy√®re cheese, grated
3 cups milk
2/3 cup flour
8 eggs
1 teaspoon salt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Prep chopped tomatoes by laying them in a single layer on a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture.
3. Butter a 9"x13" baking dish.
4. Place flour in a large bowl and add 1/2 a cup of milk at a time, stirring completely after each addition to guard against lumps. When the mixture is smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, whisking each in completely.
5. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well.
6. Pour into the buttered 9x13 baking dish.
7. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
8. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fall in Tallahassee

It's officially winter now, I know, but the trees this fall (and all through December) in Tallahassee have been the most beautiful I've seen them in the nine autumns we've enjoyed here:





Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cleveland Botanical Gardens Holiday Displays

T and I visited the Cleveland Botanical Garden while we were up north early in December to see what is billed as the "best holiday display" in town. Here are some of the highlights.

I have long been a fan of (what used to be the Garden Center) this place. The design of the original building (partly seen in the photo below) is so aesthetically pleasing. I love the large windows that bring the outdoors in. Thomas loved the train sets, of course.

It was a snowy day but we didn't have any trouble getting a spot in the underground parking garage. I didn't take a picture, but T loved that they had a fully decorated Christmas tree in the garage near the entrance to the building!

We loved the life-sized topiaries of animals:



The gingerbread houses ran the gamut from simple to amazingly complex. Here are a few of our favorites:


so cute inside the igloo!!
We also enjoyed the butterfly garden, and the new design of the cafe and gift shop. Definitely worth a stop if you're in Cleveland.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cut Butter Cookies

This is a nice crisp, not too sweet rolled sugar cookie. It came with a lyre cookie cutter I bought at Alpha Chi Omega Convention in 1994. We usually frost these with chocolate frosting - the flavor of the cookie does not complete with the chocolate unlike some of our other favorite sugar cookie recipes.

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk or cream
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or rum flavoring
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Cream the butter. Add sugar and cream until well-combined. Add egg, then milk, stirring to combine between each addition. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients; mix well. Chill for 4 hours or over night.

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out the dough (in sections; usually 1/3 to 1/4 at a time) to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters. Bake 8-10 minutes or until just starting to turn golden brown.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bleu Cheese Dip

Credit for this recipe goes to Rachel and Aurora (and Twitter!) :) We made this Wednesday afternoon and have had enough to enjoy for 3 days! The figs really make the dip "sing" - we found them in the dried fruit section of the Produce department at Publix.


Bleu Cheese Dip (Source)

8 oz Bleu cheese (we used Danish Delph), crumbled
8 oz Cream cheese 
1/3 cup Dry white wine*
5/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (a heaping 1/2 teaspoon)
5/8 teaspoon Paprika (again, a heaping 1/2 teaspoon)
1/3 teaspoon Garlic powder 
4 drops Hot pepper sauce (Tabasco) 

Garnish with
Paprika 
Parsley 

Serve with
California dried figs -- sliced in rounds 
Crackers 

Directions:
In food processor or mixing bowl, blend cheeses. Blend in wine, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, garlic powder and hot pepper sauce. If made ahead of time, refrigerate and bring to room temperature when ready to serve. Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with parsley. Serve with fig slices and crackers. 

Source: CALIFORNIA FIGS The Fabulous Fitness Fruit, The California Fig Advisory Board

* ok maybe this isn't the driest white wine but it was a lovely and very drinkable Pinot Grigio!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Vanilla Train Cake

This is the recipe that came with the cute train cake pan we bought from Williams-Sonoma in 2006. The pan makes 9 little train cars. The recipe makes enough for 2 batches of trains. We're serving the cake for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dessert this year.
the train's coal car with vanilla whipped cream on the side.
Vanilla Train Cake

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs
1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Directions:
Have all ingredients at room temperature.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350. Grease the wells of the railway train cake pan and dust with Wondra flour. (I found the cake pan was fine without the greasing and flouring - it is non-stick after all).

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl of an electric mixer. In a separate bowl whisk together the melted butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla until combined. Fit the mixer with a flat beater. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and beat on the lowest speed until the dry ingredients are moistened, 15 to 20 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

Divide the batter in half and set half of it aside. Spoon the remaining batter evenly among the prepared wells. Tap the pan firmly on the countertop to release any air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto the rack let cool for at least 1 hour before decorating or serving.

Number Of Servings: makes 18 "cakes"

Preparation Time: about an hour and a half if you bake both batches of cake

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays.... from our yard to yours!

This post is for Susan who asked just how many inflatables we have in our front yard... :) From left to right, here is a report on the lawn.

I love that T sets this one up so it looks like Santa is just coming in for a landing:

Hello penguins! These are the holiday carolers:

The snowman is new this year. Tigger pulling Pooh out of the honey pot is T's favorite. It has a second fan that turns on to push Pooh up and out (as shown here):

The fan turns off, and Pooh sinks back down into the honey pot:

More Tigger, shown here with Santa in the side yard. You'll see a flat one to the left of Tigger. It's one of my favorites - Santa in an airplane with a spinning propeller. 

Coming soon, a photo of that cute airplane Santa. In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake

We make this every year for our next door neighbors, but originally it was our friend Kellee's birthday "cake." The recipe, printed in Bon Appetit January 2005, is from Zoom, a restaurant in Park City, Utah.
Caramel Cheesecake with Toffee Topping

Ingredients:
Gingersnap Crust
nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies (about 7 1/4 ounces)
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar

Cheesecake
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel topping
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream

4 1.4 ounce English toffee candy bars (such as Heath or Skor), chopped

Directions:
For crust: Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray bottom of 9-inch springform pan with 2 1/2 inch high sides with nonstick spray. Stir ground cookies, butter and sugar in medium bowl until moist clumps form. Press cookie mixture firmly onto bottom of prepared pan. Wrap outside of pan with 3 layers of heavy-duty foil (I do this step first before putting the crust in the pan.) Bake crust until firm and beginning to darken, about 14 minutes. Cool crust. Maintain oven temperature.

For cheesecake: Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in butter, then eggs, one at a time, until just blended. Beat in vanilla. Pour batter over crust in pan. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake cake uncovered until filling is puffed around edges and moves slightly in center when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove pan from water; remove foil. Place hot cheesecake uncovered in refrigerator overnight.

For caramel topping: Stir sugar, water, and lemon juice in large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Add cream (mixture will bubble). Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Chill until thickened but still pourable, about 15 minutes.

Spoon caramel over top of cake just to edges (do not allow caramel to drip down sides). Garnish top edges with chopped English toffee. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides.

Number Of Servings:10-12

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Solstice Recap

We started celebrating Solstice when T was a year old. In part it was to add more festiveness to the holiday season, and in part it was to take the focus off of presents and put it on activities. Over the years our Solstice celebration has evolved into a night that we all look forward to. Here's our 2010 recap:

The first thing you need is a big Yule log:

It turned out this year's Yule log was too big, so C & T split it into two: one for this year; one for next. Thomas said, "Mom, we saved Solstice!"

The next step is to make that big log into a big fire. Here's a shot with the flash

... and one without:

We then spend the evening hanging out in front of the fire with all the lights turned off (except for the holiday lights - the tree stays on, as does the lit garland on the mantle). We eat homemade pizza and hobo pies. This year for pizza we had Hawaiian (ham, pineapple and (on half) jalapeno) and Greek (olive oil, hummus, ground lamb, tomato, banana peppers). Hobo pies are simple pastries, made of crescent roll dough, filled with (this year) peach pie filling or chocolate chips. We went through a few years where we tried to cook them in the fireplace in pie irons, but the fire is just too hot, and they would end up scorched. 

To complete the Solstice fun, we camp out in the living room over night. We even drag out mattresses so we can be comfortable. It's nice (and toasty!) to fall asleep in front of the fire!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cookie Party 2010 Recap

The Cookie Party Friday was a big success. We all had a great time with good friends. Unluckily most of my pictures are of cookies rather than friends (whoops) but here are the photos, followed by some notes that are mostly for me so I can remember the details for next year!

sour cream sugar cookies
Abby and her Mom


Over the course of the evening, we had 16 guests (plus the 3 of us) for a total of 19. I made a quadruple batch of Cheddar Chicken Chowder (see new notes on that post on making it in large volume). That was just about the right amount - there was enough to send home 4 cups each with Jenn and Britain for their men who weren't feeling well and have a little leftover for us. We also had 6 batches of sloppy Joe's (3 large cans of sauce and 6 pounds of ground meat, half turkey and half lean ground beef). At the party, we ate 17 sloppy Joe's. Chris, T and I also had it for dinner Thursday night, and had leftovers for the weekend. We also served it Saturday at our little Cookie Party encore. While I clearly made too much, it was not more than we could eat.

In the cookie department, I made 3 batches of dough for White Velvet Cutouts, 1 for Sour Cream Sugar Cookies and 2 for Cut Butter Cookies. Definitely overkill! We have lots of dough leftover. I think 2/2/1 would have been adequate. But, of course, it won't go to waste. :)

For sprinkles and other extras, we are out of green food color (thank goodness yellow and blue make green!) and out of yellow stars for "tree decorating." This was the second year that I couldn't find mini m&m's. Publix used to carry them in the baking aisle (with the chocolate chips). I haven't been able to find them in the candy aisle either, and I've looked at Publix and Target. The minis make great ornaments on trees and they are just the right size to be Rudolph's red nose too.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Go Browns!

Hope springs eternal... and I have to show off our new inflatable (thanks to Jessica and Matt!!).
looks like he'll be blocking for Santa, our favorite quarterback! (no offense to Colt McCoy)
side view

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

From my Mom. When we were kids we would sneak into the kitchen and eat the dough while it chilled over night!

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup butter, oleo or shortening
2 large or 3 small eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
I cup sour cream
5 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:
Gradually add sugar to butter creaming thoroughly; add eggs and beat till fluffy. Add vanilla and sour cream. Sift dry ingredients together and add mixing to a smooth soft dough. Chill thoroughly ( I do over night as this is important.) Roll out 1/3 thick or a floured board and cut in large (3-4 in) cookies. Place on greased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in moderate hot oven (375-400 degrees) until lightly browned. Makes about 3 dozen fat, soft cookies. Takes about 10-12 minutes.

Updated 12/15/2013 to add photo of the baked cookies.

Cheddar Chicken Chowder

We'll serve this yummy soup Friday night as a counterpoint to all the delicious sweetness of the cookies and frosting. It's from Cooking Light but we came across it when it was printed in the Houston Chronicle in November 2001. The best part is kids love it as much as grown-ups, which is good, because it's hard to compete with cookies and frosting. :)

Ingredients:
2 slices bacon
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 1/2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 3 /4 cups diced peeled red potato
2 1/4 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2 percent low-fat milk
3 /4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:
Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; cool and crumble. Set aside. Add chicken , onion, bell pepper and garlic to drippings in pan; saute 5 minutes. Add broth and potatoes; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender. Add corn; stir well. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a bowl. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended; add to soup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, simmer 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Stir in cheddar cheese, salt and black pepper. Top with bacon.

Makes 7 servings, each 306 calories, 7.5 grams fat, 25 grams protein, 33.7 grams carbohydrates, 2.9 grams fiber, 58 milligrams cholesterol, 1.6 milligrams iron, 376 milligrams sodium, 193 milligrams calcium.

[Note (12/19/10): when making this in large volumes, be sure to minimize the amount of liquid you add. For the 2 double batches I made this week I used 7 cups each of chicken broth (rather than the 9 cups the recipe listed) and 3 cups of milk rather than 4.]

[Note (12/15/11): a 3-pound bag of red potatoes yields just over 7 cups of peeled diced potato. And a 2-pound bag of frozen whole kernel corn is just about 7 cups so you'll need 2.]

[Updated 12/15/13 to add photo.]

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red, White and Brie

A little recap of Britain's 30th birthday party!! The party was last Saturday. Thanks, Ashley and Will for hosting, and thanks Jenn (and Sue and Scottie) for the great theme. We tasted a variety of wines and noshed on some really yummy goodies! Ashley made a great cranberry punch, too, that was a huge hit. Happy Birthday, B!
how cute is the birthday girl in her Elton John glasses? 
wine tasting! these are the reds
one of my favorites
delicious sashimi and love the wasabi 30. 
carrot cake - B's favorite
sorry, B, couldn't resist :)
love the star decorations for the cake (Jenn rocks)
 Many happy returns my friend!!

White Velvet Cutouts

This is a delicious easy-to-work-with cookie dough, and a favorite recipe of ours. We adopted it when it first appeared in the December/January 1997 Taste of Home as a runner-up in a cookie contest. We'll be whipping up a batch or two of dough today to chill in the fridge until the Cookie Party on Friday.

Ingredients:
2 cups butter, softened
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar, cream until smooth. Add egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add flour. Cover and chill 2 hours or until firm. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness (the thinner you get them, the crisper the cookies will be). Cut into 3 inches shapes; place 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet (I never grease cookie sheets and have not had a problem with this recipe). Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until set (not browned). Cool 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool.

When cool, frost and decorate.

Makes about 7 dozen cookies

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lyre Ornaments

A few of my favorites... there may be more to share as we unpack them and decorate the tree




Thursday, December 9, 2010

Triple Orange Pecan Biscotti

(by request for my bff Dawn over at The Flying Chagall)
From Fine Cooking's special issue Holiday Baking winter 2004. "These twice-baked Italian cookies 'smell divine and are delicious eaten by themselves or dunked into hot tea or coffee'. It's the perfect holiday cookie because of its great keeping and shipping qualities." Recipe developed by Susan Betz.

Ingredients:
12 ounces (2 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
finely grated zest of 2 oranges (to yield a scant 1/4 cup lightly packed) (takes me 3 oranges)
4 1/2 ounces (1 cup) coarsely chopped pecans
3 large eggs, at room temperature
5 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 Tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

Directions:
Position oven racks in the middle and top of oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt to combine. Put a bit of the flour mixture in a small bowl, add the orange zest, and rub the zest into the flour to keep it from clumping. Stir the coated zest and the pecans into the rest of the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the olive oil, orange juice, and liqueur until well blended. Pour into the center of the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough is blended. The dough will be very sticky. (she is not kidding about this, I sometimes only use 2 eggs if they are particularly large ones.)

Dump the dough onto a heavily floured work surface and divide into six equal portions. Roll each portion into a log that's 12 inches long, dusting with flour along the way to keep the dough from sticking. Set the logs about 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and then press gently to flatten each log so that it's 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide.

Bake until the logs are golden and the tops are fairly firm near the center, 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the sheets and switching their positions after 10 minutes to ensure even baking. Set the sheets on racks until the logs are cool enough to handle, 20 to 30 minutes. Leave the oven set to 350.

Transfer the logs to a cutting board and using a serrated knife, saw them on a sharp diagonal into slices 1/2 inch thick. Arrange the slices on the baking sheets, laying them flat with a cut side down. Return the baking sheets to the oven and bake the biscotti for about 6 minutes. Turn the biscotti over, rotate the baking sheets and switch their positions, and bake until the biscotti are golden, another 8 to 10 minutes.

Let cool on the sheets on racks for 5 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool completely (the biscotti won't get crisp until then).

Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Number Of Servings:about 60 biscotti

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

An unbelievably delicious treat, especially if you love peanut butter cups!

from Bon Appetit June 1993, introduced to us by hubs’ University of Houston colleague and friend, Coleen

Crust

1 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 5 ½ oz)
½ cup roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped (about 2 ½ oz)
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons firmly packed golden brown sugar
pinch of salt

--OR—

1 pre-made oreo cookie crust

Filling

4 8-oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ cups firmly packed golden brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
¼ cup whipping cream
2 ½ cups ¾-inch pieces Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (about 10 oz)

Topping

2 cups sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Crust: Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter 9-inch diameter springform pan with 2 ¾ inch high sides. Mix chocolate cookie crumbs, chopped peanuts, melted butter, brown sugar and pinch of salt in bowl until well combined. Press mixture evenly onto bottom and ½ inch up sides of pan. Bake until crust is set, about 8 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. (--OR—use the cheater method. Spray the bottom of a springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Dump the contents of a premade oreo cookie crust into the pan. It’ll break into pieces. Press evenly across the bottom and a little way up the side. If it seems a little dry, spray the top lightly with nonstick cooking spray (just a tiny touch!!). Then put it in the oven for just a minute or two until it is set.)

For Filling: Using electric mixer, beat room temperature cream cheese and brown sugar in large bowl until smooth. Add peanut butter and vanilla extract and beat just until blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add whipping cream and beat until smooth. Stir in peanut butter cup pieces.

Pour filling into crust. Bake at 325 until sides of cake are set but center still moves slightly, about 55 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 10 minutes.

For Topping: Blend sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract in medium bowl. Carefully spoon topping over cheesecake. Return cheesecake to oven and bake 5 minutes.

Cool cheesecake in pan on rack. Run small sharp knife around edge of cheesecake to loosen. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated (HA HA, it would NEVER last 3 days untouched in our house.).) Release pan sides. Let stand 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

10 servings, maybe more actually since it is a big tall cheesecake.

[Note (12/23/2010): This year we baked the big cheesecake, on right, but saved some of the batter and made a few mini "tasters" in a muffin tin. T added a chocolate chip to the top of the one at the bottom left. Delicious!!]

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