Monday, December 15, 2014

Raspberry Pear Crisp


The Christmas season is upon us! This really is the most wonderful time of year to gather with friends and family to share special treats and memories. One of my favorite winter desserts is a fruit crisp. A crisp usually has oatmeal on the top and cooks up to be like a crumbly cookie eaten with a pie like filling.

Not only is this a delicious way to eat fruit and stay warm, this is a terribly easy dessert to make for any potluck or occasion. The most important thing is having fruit that goes together nicely. I really love pears and raspberries. The fruit layer of the crisp creates a nice sauce that is perfectly sweet and tart to make your taste buds dance the Nutcracker. 

When looking at the crisp layer ingredients you may think there will be far too much of it for the amount of fruit you have, but do not worry! The crisp layer really sets up nicely over the fruit and it creates a nice balance. This is an adaptation of the Barefoot Contessa's crisp recipe. It is perfectly buttery, sweet and chewy from the oatmeal. I know you and your friends will just love it.

Ingredients

Fruit filling
12 ounces of raspberries, fresh or frozen
5 green or red pears, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 lemon juiced
1/4 cup flour

Crisp
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold butter, diced


First, combine the pears, raspberries, lemon juice and zest, sugar and flour. Stir this well. You can peel the pears if you like, but I don't find it to be needed once the crisp has baked up.


Mix the flour, sugar, salt, and oats for the crisp in a large bowl. Make sure this is well combined before the butter is added.


Using a fork or pastry cutter, combine the butter into the dry ingredients. This takes some muscle and a few minutes of your time. You could also use a food processor to make this. When the crumbly topping is ready, it will look like wet sand. The goal is to have the butter mixed evenly in small pearls through out the dry ingredients. You should be able to squeeze these ingredients into a ball and have it hold a loose shape.


Sprinkle the crispy topping over the fruit. 


You will see there is a generous amount of the crisp topping, but you will not mind. Trust me.


Bake the crisp for 50 minutes to an hour in a 350 degree oven. You will know this is ready when the top is golden brown and the fruit in the center should be bubbling.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Salt Dough Ornaments



 

 Today is December first. That means Christmas decoration lovers can no longer feel guilty about having their trees and snowmen out for the last month. I love Christmas and the decorations that go along with it, but anytime before Thanksgiving is just too soon for me.

But now it is time!

I am adding a new decoration this year: salt sough ornaments. This is one of the first things from Gingerlocks' Kitchen that you cannot eat. I suppose you could eat them, but they would be gross. The addition of so much salt makes them shelf stable and not very tasty.

 This year was the first time I made these myself, but I did grow up having a few on the tree. They are super easy to make and you can cut out, color and decorate them however you choose. 

Many people like to add dye to the dough, but I made a "red" batch that never looked quite right. I would recommend putting some acrylic paint on the ornaments once they have been baked and cooled to get the look you really want.

Ingredients

2 cups flour, plus more for rolling out
3/4 cup salt
1 cup of water


Combine the flour and salt. Then add the water slowly. Add half and mix well before adding the rest of the water. This should look like cookie dough when you are ready to let it rest in the refrigerator.


When the dough is able to come together in a ball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 20 minutes in the fridge to let the dough firm up.


 After letting the dough chill, sprinkle the counter with a good amount of flour. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch width. If the dough is too thick, your ornaments will be crazy heavy and will not stay on the tree.


 Once the dough is rolled out, choose the cookie cutter of your choice and cut out the shapes. Keep re rolling the dough until all of it is used up. Make sure you poke a hole is a sturdy corner to hang these pretty things.


Place the cut out dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake these in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes at 300 degrees. Make sure the ornaments are firm, but do not brown. 


Once these are cooled, paint them with acrylic paint or you can add glitter or other sparkly adornments of your choice with some craft glue. 

I hope you try these out and have so much fun with them!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Orange Mustard Pork



I know I post a lot of pork recipes. I am aware of this trend. It's not really my fault, though. You should blame the pork for being so delicious. Ignoring such deliciousness would just be wrong on my part. Not to mention yours. 

Another thing I should mention is the tasty glaze I have been putting on pork these days. It's sweet, savory and adds so much flavor to the pork it is crazy.  It also creates a sticky, crust on the outside of the pork and traps all the juices on the insides. 

It's also super easy to make. 

Ingredients

4 pork chops or boneless pork ribs
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup orange marmalade 

Season the pork with salt and pepper to your liking. Combine the orange marmalade and mustard well. If it seems too thick to spread, add a few drops of water. Brush the mixture over the pork.

Bake the pork in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the insides are just no longer pink.

I told you it was super easy.
 

Try this out and you will love it!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cheesecake

 


 When thinking about cheesecake, the phrase "mother knows best" comes to my mind. My mother is a terribly funny lady. One of the best things my mother knows and loves to share with me is a theory about a beloved dessert. She does not work for any medical association or have any medical practice, but she is certain that cheesecake will settle your stomach. 

Seriously.

Have you had a very large meal? You must need just a few bites of cheesecake. The very last thing you would expect to settle your stomach would be a large and fatty brick of dairy. 

I am not sure if I have heard and practiced the theory too often, but I must say that cheesecake does make a tummy happy, even if you think you couldn't swallow another bite.

This cheesecake is the perfect recipe to test the theory out for yourself. It is creamy and very rich, just like a cheesecake should be. I really do love plain cheesecake, but this is delicious served with some fruit or chocolate sauce.

Ingredients

1 sleeve of graham crackers
1/4 cup white sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
4 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream



First, crush the graham crackers in a well sealed plastic bag until the crumbs are like pieces of wet sand. I like to use a rolling pin for this. Crush the crackers, but don't be too violent about it. The goal is to have your crumbs fully crushed before the bag rips. Thankfully mine were ready at about the breaking point.


Combine the graham crackers with the melted butter and sugar. 
 

In a large spring form pan, sprinkle about 1/3 of the crumbs over the bottom. Press this gently into the pan to form the crust.
 

Tilt the pan onto its side and sprinkle a small handful of the crumbs.Then press these gently into the side of the pan. This is probably the hardest part of the cheesecake.Just make sure you have an even layer and keep pressing gently. 


Work your way all around the edge of the pan until the crust is completed. Make sure there aren't gaps in the crust, otherwise the filling goes places it shouldn't. 

Bake the crust at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. This gives it a nice golden color and sets up for the filling. 


While the crust is baking, combine the remaining ingredients one by one. Mix these very will with an upright mixer or a hand held one. This will give the mixture a chance to work some air into the cheesecake. This may seem odd, but the sound of cheesecake filling being mixed is one of my favorites. Listen to it for a second. Doesn't it just sound nice? Once all the ingredients are added together, mix on high for at least one minute.

 
Take the beautifully browned crust out of the oven.


Pour the delightful filling into the center. If your filling goes above the crust, it's not really a problem.


This is a good time to talk about a water bath for your cheesecake. Many people cry over a split or cracked cheesecake. Using a water bath helps prevent this from happening. However, it does increase and almost promise water seeping into the pan. Ew.

I do not care to use a water bath. If the cheesecake cracks, put some sauce on it to cover it up. I have bathed my cheesecakes in water before only to find the water had ruined the crust. Not to mention, it was still cracked on the top. Grrr!



 Bake the cheesecake in a 350 degree oven for 90 minutes. After an hour and a half, turn off the oven and open the door like this. This method helps the cheesecake cool slowly. Let it sit here for about an hour


Let the cheesecake cool completely after you take it out of the oven. 


After the cheesecake has cooled, cover it and refrigerate it for at least 4 to 6 hours. This is such an easy and delicious dessert even if it doesn't really settle your stomach. 


Monday, November 3, 2014

Citrus Chicken and Broccoli


 There are few things more disgusting that a picture of raw chicken. You just can't really make that pink flesh look like something you would want to eat. People have emailed me to ask why I don't show more pictures of chicken in its raw state. My simple answer is because it looks foul. 

What is not foul is chicken after it has been cooked. Especially a chicken thigh. You have probably noticed it is the chicken piece I use most on this silly little blog. Thighs are just so tender, flavorful and juicy. Any meat that is next to the bone will have more flavor. I am not a scientist, but that is a fancy science proven thing.

Don't get me wrong, I like white meat chicken. However, it will never be a thigh. Thighs are even more superior after a trip through the slow cooker. Chicken breasts can get very dry and almost sawdust like if they are not taken out of a slow cooker promptly. That is why I chose thighs for this super delicious slow cooker meal.

This dish is so flavorful and easy. The lemon and orange added give this such a brightness to the sauce that develops as the chicken cooks. The broccoli is also nice since it soaks up a lot of the flavor as it cooks. Savory and tart, this chicken dinner is perfect for any night of the week.

Ingredients

2 chicken thighs
1 teaspoon season salt
1 orange
1 lemon
1 head of fresh broccoli, chopped into florets
2 Tablespoons butter


First, season the chicken with the season salt very well on both sides. Zest the lemon and the orange over the chicken.Then slice the lemon and orange in half. Take one half of the lemon and juice this over the pieces of chicken and do the same with the orange.


 Take the remaining halves of the lemon and orange. Make thick slices out of these and place them over the chicken pieces.

Let this cook over low heat for 6 to 8 hours. In the last hour of cooking, add the broccoli in and stir well into the sauce. 

Just before serving, take the chicken out and add the two tablespoons of butter to make the sauce rich and delicious. Add more season salt to taste. and serve with the sauce poured over the top.

Easy and delicious!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pumpkin Dump Cake

 

 Pumpkin is one of my very favorite ingredients. I would cook with it year round if people didn't look at me like I was crazy. It just lends itself so well to almost any baking recipe. For instance, dump cake. Dump cakes are known for being truly delicious and easy since all you need to do is dump everything in the pan and bake. 

This recipe is really, really good. It's like a three course dessert in one pan. The bottom is a rich pumpkin pie filling custard. It has lots of cinnamon with a creamy pumpkin pie texture. The next layer is a thin ribbon of cream cheese adding some richness to the dessert. And finally, the top is a crunchy and flavorful yellow cake crumble layer. 

Why, yes. This is almost a rainbow of pumpkin joy. 

I adapted this recipe from a really cute blog called Your Cup of Cake. She has really cute stories and greate recipies like this one. I didn't change too much, just the explination a bit. Her recipe is so delicious, you will want to make this again and again.

Dare I say it, this could replace the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. 

Seriously, it's that good. 

Ingredients
Pumpkin Pie Layer
1 29 ounce can of pumpkin puree 
1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice

Cream Cheese Layer
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake Layer
1 yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
2 Tablespoons cinnamon sugar


First, combine all the pumpkin pie layer ingredients very well. Then pour the whole thing into a greased 9 X13 pan.
 

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese layer ingredients. 
 

With a very technical swirling motion, evenly spread the cream cheese over the pumpkin custard. Lizzy at Your Cup of Cake put this into a pastry bag to spread it evenly over the cake, but this works just fine, too.

I felt the need to swirl. It's not really necessary. 


Sprinkle the cake mix over the pumpkin and cream cheese mixtures in an even layer. 
 

Next, pour the butter over the whole cake mix.  It will look very strange, but you need to know there is magic working.


Before you add the cinnamon sugar, take the end of a spatula and poke holes evenly over the whole pan. It will seem weird, but trust me, it works. 
 

Lastly, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the whole cake in an even layer. 
 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 to 50 minutes. Allow this to cool completely and serve.


This is delicious at any temperature, but I like to serve this cold with a nice glass of milk.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Green Chile Cheese Chicken



Pinterest is one of the greatest websites of all time. It is incredibly useful, entertaining and makes life easier in so many ways. This is especially true when deciding what to make for dinner. You can enter just one ingredient and thousands of options are at your fingertips.

Green chile and chicken are ingredients I often search for. There is one recipe always popping up that seems very tempting. This chicken appears to be slathered in a cheese sauce of sorts with spicy little flecks in it and covered with more cheese. 

This looks like something I would just love and adore. It also looks like something that would make me want to lay on the floor for the next hour. This would most likely include the dramatic phrase "I'm so full I could die." A few eye rolls from my husband would follow as well. 

So instead of looking and longing after this recipe yet again, I decided to make my own less rich version of it. It meets all of the same requirements: tender chicken, green chile and some delicious cheese. However, this also includes really good flavor from all the veggies in it. It's almost like a thick and chunky salsa warmed up. This is perfect with rice, in a tortilla or even scooped up with some crunchy corn chips. 

Ingredients

3 - 4 chicken breasts or thighs
2 teaspoons taco seasoning, separated
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup or 1 small can diced green chilies
1 cup of grated cheddar cheese


For the chicken, season each piece very well with 1 teaspoon of the taco seasoning while the oil heats up in a large sauce pan. Brown each side of the chicken over medium heat. The chicken is not done on the inside, but should have a nice crusty outside.


 Throw the bell pepper and onion in the remaining oil and season with the taco seasoning you have left. Let this cook for about 2 to 3 minutes to get some nice color on the veggies. 


 After the peppers and onions have cooked for a few minutes, add the diced tomatoes, green chile and honey into the pan. Anytime I use canned tomatoes, I like to balance the acid with a little sweetness. Don't worry, you won't taste the honey, but you will notice if it is missing. Also, pardon my disgusting stove.


Add the browned pieces of chicken back to the pan along with any juices they may have produced. Cover this with a lid and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is done on the inside.
 

You will know this is ready for some cheese (yay!) when the chicken is very tender and the vegetables are pretty soft. 


Take the chicken out of the pan (again) and shred this into bite sized pieces. Add this back to the pan and watch it drink up all the  spicy and flavorful sauce. 


Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the whole pan and let this melt for a few seconds. 


My favorite way to eat this is over a bowl of steamy rice with a sprinkle of extra cheese on the top. You will love this super flavorful, juicy and cheesy chicken dinner!