Cookies and Bars · Family · My Roots · New Favorite · New Traditions

Cherry Bars

Cherry desserts are one of my favorites and I had to try this Cherry Bars recipe from my late Aunt Joyce’s recipe box.  While I don’t recall ever having these, they are wonderful. The combination of almond and cherry…yum!

Leafing through old, handwritten recipe cards is such a treasure…a lost tradition in today’s world.

CHERRY BARS

1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, beat after addition of each egg
3 cups flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 can cherry pie filling

  • Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease 10×15″ pan.
  • Cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition.
  • Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
  • Slowly add flour mixture to batter.  Then add vanilla and almond extract.
  • Spread 1/2 of batter into pan.  Spool filling on top and spread to cover. Drop the remaining batter by spoonfuls over the top.
  • Bake for about 40 minutes.  Watch it to just golden brown.
  • Drizzle with glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar, 4 or more tsp. milk, a few drops of almond extract.  Add milk until the drizzle consistency is reached.
Breakfast · Family Favorites · New Traditions

Big Country Breakfast Bread Pudding

Breakfast casseroles are always a treat and easy peasy when you make it the night before.  This casserole has a wonderful cream cheese surprise in many bites.  Why have I never thought of that?

Serve this dish with a wonderful fruit bowl, a cup of hot coffee (or tea), and great conversation.

BIG COUNTRY BREAKFAST BREAD PUDDING

1 loaf Brioche bread, cubed (I used French Bread)
1 cup heavy cream (I used half & half)
1 /2 cup milk
9 eggs
4 oz. can chopped green chiles
2 c. + 1 c. shredded sharp white cheddar (or any shredded cheese of your liking)
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
10 oz. browned breakfast sausage (optional)
5 strips of applewood smoked bacon, cooked until crisp, chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt & 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or 1 tsp. McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning)

  • Spray a 9×13″ extra deep baking dish and place 1/2 to 2/3 of the bread cubes in the dish.
  • Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl, add cream, milk, salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth.  Reserve 1 to 1.5 cups of mixture and pour remaining over the bread cubes.
  • Spread green chiles on top of bread. Sprinkle with 2 cups of shredded cheese.  Lightly press the bread down to aid in absorption of the egg mixture.  Top with cream cheese, sausage and bacon, if desired.
  • Top with remaining bread and pour reserved egg mixture over the bread. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper, if desired.
  • The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Bake on middle rack for 45-55 minutes or until the center is firm. Cover the bread pudding with foil about halfway through the cooking time and remove for the last 5 minutes or so.
  • Serves 12.

Recipe adapted from foodforayear.com

 

 

Cookies and Bars · Family Favorites · Holidays · New Traditions

Sugar Cookies for Valentine’s Day

Sugar cookies for Valentine’s Day is such a treat. I’m usually not a big fan of actually making them (but always a fan of eating them) because of the work involved.  This year, however, I was motivated and found the process fun…walk down memory lane. The cookie recipe came from my sister, Carolyn.  She made these when her kids were younger and I loved them.

 

My kids and I started a tradition last year of gathering around Valentine’s Day for a group dinner and, this year, the cookies will be our dessert.  I loved cutting out the smaller hearts for the little ones.  We need to enjoy it because who knows when I’ll be motivated once again!

SUGAR COOKIES

3 cup sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup shortening (butter, Crisco, etc.)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg in a bowl.  Cut in shortening.
  • In a separate bowl beat eggs.  Add sugar, milk and vanilla.  Beat well.
  • Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and mix well.
  • Chill dough for at least one hour (I chilled overnight).
  • Roll out 1/2 dough on floured surface and return remaining dough to refrigerator until ready to roll out.  (I found the dough a bit sticky so used quite a bit of flour while rolling out).  Cut into desired shapes.
  • Optional:  At this point you can sprinkle with decorative colored sugar if you don’t want to ice the cookies. I did this for half of the recipe.
  • Bake cookies on ungreased baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes or until a light brown on the edges.

CREAMY ICING:

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4-6 tablespoons cream (or half and half)
drop or two of red food coloring (to reach the desired color of pink or red)

  • Blend ingredients together to make an icing with a thin consistency.  This will be enough icing for the entire cookie recipe.  I made half of the icing recipe and iced half of the batch.

 

Book Club · Casseroles · New Traditions · Vegetables

Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pine Nuts, Feta

Quinoa with roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, pine nuts and feta…what’s not to like! I often try new recipes to share with others so my Book Club buddies were once again Guinea Pigs.  This recipe takes a while to prepare but well worth the effort!

QUINOA WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, PINE NUTS & FETA

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2 large onions, sliced
2 pounds cubed butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar
salt
French Vinaigrette salad dressing (add generous amounts of dressing to individual portions)
1/2 cup Feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Peel the squash and slice it into 3/4 inch cubes, about 2 pounds. Toss the squash cubes in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt.
  • Put butternut squash on the greased baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, until soft. Flip the squash cubes over midway through baking. Cool slightly before adding to the salad.
Caramelize the Onions:  
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on high heat in a large skillet.  When oil is heated, add onions and cook on high heat for about 10 minutes, constantly string with wooden spoon. The onions will start to brown, but not brown.
  • Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 10 additional minutes, continuing to stir as onions brown even more. Add a pinch of salt over the onions.
  • Continue cooking the onions for 10 more minutes on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the onions don’t stick to the pan.  Add a bit of water if the onions begin o stick.  Total cooking time is 30 minutes.
  • Remove the onions from the heat and sprinkle onions with a small amount of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Using the wooden spoon, mix the onions scraping the bottom of the pan and coating onions with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.
Assembling the salad:
  • In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, and mix with the dressing. Add the dressing only before the serving, and add as much as you want to individual portions, as both quinoa and butternut squash tend to be on a dry side, and this dressing (when generously applied) fixes this beautifully!
  • Top each individual serving with Feta cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Note: This salad keeps very well refrigerated for up to a week, but only without dressing. Add the dressing before serving.

New Favorite · New Traditions · Vegetables

Roasted Stuffed Kobacha Squash (or Pumpkin)

Stuffed pumpkin (or in my case Kobacha Squash) was a novel idea I heard about from friends. I found this wonderful recipe and adapted it to use the Kobacha squash I’d recently purchased from Trader Joe’s.

It was a fun, and delicious, experiment and one I’ll try again, shaking it up with different ingredients. This is a great way to use leftover pumpkins from Halloween or Thanksgiving. A new tradition perhaps.

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ROASTED STUFFED KOBACHA (OR PUMPKIN)

1 pumpkin (I used Kobacha squash), about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, shredded
2-4 garlic cloves (to taste) coarsely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment, or find a Dutch oven with a diameter that’s just a tiny bit larger than your pumpkin. If you bake the pumpkin in a casserole, it will keep its shape, but it might stick to the casserole, so you’ll have to serve it from the pot—which is an appealingly homey way to serve it. If you bake it on a baking sheet, you can present it freestanding, but maneuvering a heavy stuffed pumpkin with a softened shell isn’t so easy. However, since I love the way the unencumbered pumpkin looks in the center of the table, I’ve always taken my chances with the baked-on-a-sheet method, and so far, I’ve been lucky. (Note: I baked my squash in a round Pyrex casserole lined with parchment paper)

IMG_7561

  • Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.
  • Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper—you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure—and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little—you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It’s hard to go wrong here.)

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  • Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.
  • When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

IMG_7579

  • You have a choice—you can either spoon out portions of the filling, making sure to get a generous amount of pumpkin into the spoonful, or you can dig into the pumpkin with a big spoon, pull the pumpkin meat into the filling, and then mix everything up. I’m a fan of the pull-and-mix option. Served in hearty portions followed by a salad, the pumpkin is a perfect cold-weather main course; served in generous spoonfuls, it’s just right alongside the Thanksgiving turkey.
  • It’s really best to eat this as soon as it’s ready. However, if you’ve got leftovers, you can scoop them out of the pumpkin, mix them up, cover, and chill them; reheat them the next day.

Recipe Adapted from Epicurious.com

Appetizers · Family Favorites · Garden · Gluten Free · New Traditions · Vegan · Vegetarian

Tomatillo Salsa Fresh from the Garden

Last year was the first time I ever planted tomatillos plants in my garden. While my tomatoes struggled last year, the tomatillos went crazy and they are even crazier this year given all of the summer rain in Colorado.

My first try at tomatillos salsa went the easy – route and it was delicious. I froze a few bags for winter enjoyment, too! I plan to branch out this year and try a few other recipes, too!

GREEN TOMATILLO SALSA

8 ounces (5-6 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 jalapeno (or 2 serranos), stemmed
5-6 sprigs fresh cilantro (thick stemmed removed), roughly chopped
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
salt to taste

  • Chop the tomatillos and the jalapeño.
  • In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos, jalapeño, cilantro and 1/4 cup water. Process to puree, then scrape into a serving dish.
  • Stir in the chopped onion and salt.
Desserts · Gluten Free · Holidays · New Traditions

Patriotic Brownie Fruit Dessert…Gluten Free or Not

Krusteaz’s Double Chocolate Gluten-Free Brownie mix is an absolute favorite of mine, first discovered at Costco many moons ago.  It’s delicious and even lovers of gluten will love them.

This mix was the perfect base for a patriot, 4th of July dessert with fresh berries and a cream cheese base.  This recipe can easily be cut in half and baked in a round or square pan.

The dessert is best served the day it is made but leftovers brownies can be good for 1-2 days.

PATRIOTIC BROWNIE FRUIT DESSERT

2 packages Double Chocolate Krusteaz gluten-free brownie mix (I bought a large box at Costco) and ingredients stated on the box (water, vegetable oil, egg)
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh red raspberries
1 cup apple jelly

  • Make brownies according to package directions and bake in greased jelly roll or sheet pan as directed. Let cool completely.
  • Beat together softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  • Spread mixture over cooled, baked brownies.
  • Top with berries.
  • Still jelly until smooth and brush over berries
  • Refrigerate dessert until ready to serve.
Desserts · New Favorite · New Traditions · Vegan · Vegetarian

Cherry Granita

Sour Pie Cherries are one of my favorite summer finds.  In the late summer, the Farmer’s Market has frozen tubs of cherries and I hoard them until Christmas when I make Cherry Kolaches. I froze the extra cherry juice to make  Cherry Granita. What a delightful, refreshing treat from extra juice.

CHERRY GRANITA

3 cups sour cherry juice
1 lemon, juice of
1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • Put the cherry juice in the saucepan over a medium heat, along with the sugar.
  • Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.  Cool.
  • Pour the cherry mixture into a shallow container and freeze, stirring about once every hour, bringing ice crystals from the edge into the center.
  • It will take about 5 hours to freeze completely.
  • To serve:  Remove from freezer 5-10 minutes before serving.
Breakfast · Family Favorites · New Favorite · New Traditions

Egg and Bacon Cups

Let me send a huge compliment to one of my favorite blogs, Iowa Girls Eats. Not only is she from Iowa but she eats gluten-free and has many great ideas.  While browsing for egg recipes I saw that she had tried bacon egg cups and I decided to give my own version a whirl. Most of the recipes on the web show that you use a whole egg in each cup but I decided to scramble the eggs and add ingredients.

Next time, I would either cook the bacon even longer or I would precook the bacon and crumble it in the bottom of each cup.  I like my bacon crispy so I’d prefer my bacon slices to be the same.  You’ll also see that the bacon was not on the outside of the eggs cups since the bacon shrinks while precooking but they come out beautifully as cups just the same!

BACON EGG CUPS

6 slices of bacon
6 eggs
1/4 cup cheese (I used cheddar)
pinch of Herbs de Provence
salt & pepper

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Wrap a slice of bacon around each of six muffin tins.  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until almost done to your liking.
  • While the baking is cooking, beat eggs and add cheese, herbs and salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  • Remove muffin tins from oven and carefully pour or remove the bacon fat.
  • Carefully pour egg mixture into each of the six muffin tins.
  • Bake another 15+ minutes or until eggs are completely cooked through.

 

 

Family · New Favorite · New Traditions · Skinny · Vegan · Vegetables · Vegetarian

Roasted Fennel…another new love!

Fennel was a target buy at Trader Joe’s for daughter Megan and I this week. My husband, Karl, used to love to cook Fennel as was prepared for him on business trips to Italy.  It’s been years since I’ve prepared it. Megan suggested we roast it and it was fantastic. I have to say that eating it raw was delicious, too.

The fennel was prepared the same evening as the Zuppa Tuscana (recipe to post next week).  We decided to put some of the fennel in our soup and loved the addition.  I even added cold roasted fennel to a roast pork and goat cheese sandwich…love it!

Next time I’ll try roasting the fennel with other vegetable, perhaps white and sweet potatoes and a bit of rosemary?

 ROASTED FENNEL

2 heads fresh fennel
olive oil
salt & pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Rinse fennel.  Slightly trim bottom and top of fennel bulb.
  • Cut each bulb in half lengthwise.  Cut out core and set aside.
  • Slice fennel thinly and place on baking sheet.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 15-20 or until brown on edges and tender.