Monday, December 29, 2008


My husband and I were in the kitchen this morning when I opened the fridge, noticing how many left over ingredients we had from Thanksgiving and Christmas fixings. I hate a cramped fridge so my first thought was, "What can we make with oranges and cool whip or whipped cream?" My husband's eyes lit up as he exclaimed, "Crepes!" Brilliant idea, honey!

So we'll start with the crepe batter and then discuss some sweet and savory fillings.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 egg
a pinch of salt

Mix ingredients thoroughly then cover and place batter in the fridge overnight (if you planned far enough in advance). By morning all those little lumps of flour and air bubbles will have dissolved and you'll have a smooth batter. Remove from fridge and let come to room temperature, you may need to add a touch of milk to thin the batter. You're looking for a very thin batter (slightly thicker than water) so it will quickly and easily coat the bottom of your skillet or crepe pan if you own one.

Some prefer to add sugar and vanilla to their batter if they are making sweet crepes, but I like this recipe for both sweet and savory.

Once batter is at room temperature and the correct consistency, heat a medium-sized, nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray lightly with cooking spray. You'll have to play with the next step a bit to adjust for your pan size but start with 1/4 cup of batter. Hold pan in one hand and batter in the other. Pour batter to one side of the pan and at the same time begin to rotate pan to cover the bottom with batter...this may take practice.

You can see in this picture that I did not wait for the batter to settle overnight, there are lumps but you would never know once it's cooked.

Let cook for 30 seconds - 1 minute. Using the edge of a spatula, lift the edge of the crepe to check for doneness...a tiny hint of brown is good, then flip. Cook for another 30 seconds - 1 minute or so and remove from the pan.

Now is the fun part...dressing your crepe. Here are some of my favorite ways to dress up a crepe:

Orange and Sugar - this is a very simple topping but by far a fave! Lightly sprinkle crepe with granulated white sugar then squeeze a fresh orange wedge all over the sugar...not too much or it will feel soggy and dribble. Fold in half then fold in half again to resemble a pie wedge. These don't last very long, we just pick up and eat by hand :) These are equally as delicious with fresh lemon juice.

Strawberry, Pomegranate and Balsamic - I made a lovely strawberry preserve mixture out of frozen strawberries, balsamic vinegar and pomegranate syrup. Slather the preserves onto the crepe and top with fresh whipped cream, roll and eat! Sooo yummy.

Lemon Curd, Mascarpone and Fresh Fruit - Mix equal parts lemon curd and mascarpone cheese, thinly slice apples, pears or strawberries. Slather on lemon cheese mixture, stack on fruit and top with whipped cream. This is particularly lovely because of the textures if using apples or pears. You get a nice crisp bite from the fruit, a slightly tart taste of lemon with a silky, creamy feel from the mascarpone....mmmmmmm.

Chicken, Baby Spinach and Feta - Sweat onions and garlic in olive oil, add chicken strips cut from the breast meat and some red pepper, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. You can add your spinach in this mixture to wilt it or layer it on the crepe if you prefer more texture. Put chicken mix on crepe, sprinkle with crumbled feta and roll.

Tonight we're having a Hawaiian inspired pork crepe. I sweated some onion and garlic then added pork chunks...I only had bone in pork chops in my freezer so I cut the meat from the bone before cooking. Seared the pork, then added soy sauce, brown sugar and crushed pineapple. Top with grated cheddar and viola!

Get creative with your toppings. Try bananas and chocolate, blueberries and whipped cream, the sky is the limit!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Orange Balsamic Chicken

We're not fancy schmancy people so no goose or duck for our Christmas feast just basic everyday chicken for us, please. Well, not everyday chicken, this chicken was truly tasty and a surprise to every one's taste buds.

I've been watching more TV than normal (normally I watch none) since I have hours each day to sit around and nurse my new baby. So I turn on the TV to entertain myself while I'm forced to sit still for so long. I'm not normally a Rachel Ray fan and avoid watching the show, but on Christmas Eve I was positioned in a manner that I could not reach the remote without disturbing the nursing I suffered through. Turns out I found this lovely recipe while being,, stuck watching Rachel Ray.

Here is the original recipe for Orange Balsamic Rock Cornish Game Hens but I altered it a bit and here's my version:


1 cup orange juice concentrate
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cracked whole cloves
1 whole chicken, butterflied
1 oven stuffer roaster (see note below)

I mixed all ingredients, except the chickens, in a bowl and then poured the mix over the chickens in a plastic bag. I marinaded the chickens overnight, then butterflied the whole chicken and placed on baking racks over sheet pans. Sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

I baked on 425 for 15 minutes then reduced to 375 until chickens were done according to my thermometer.

So here are my notes:

The oven stuffer roaster appeared to be really large bone-in breasts, I believe it probably had some sort of salt solution injected into it to create moister chicken...not my favorite choice in chicken, but it was what I had in the freezer and I was too sick to head to the grocery on Christmas Eve to get anything different.

To butterfly a chicken, use kitchen shears and cut right up the back of the chicken then flip it over, press lightly on the breast bone to flatten and tuck the wings back to secure them.

Use aluminum foil to line your sheet pan, this sauce is sticky and I may end up throwing away one of my pans rather than continuing to try to scrap and soak it. When I turned the heat of the oven down after 15 minutes, I transferred the chickens to a new pan because the drippings had burnt so severely in the first pan after only 15 minutes. In the new pan, I added all the marinade over the chicken and let it pool in the bottom of the pan. Once the chicken was done, I poured the drippings into a sauce pan and reduced to make a sauce. My brother-in-law really liked the strong flavor of the sauce whereas I found the balsamic too overpowering in the sauce. If I had felt better, I would have doctored the sauce with some honey to sweeten it or maybe even more orange juice concentrate and orange zest to bring out the orange flavor that was sort of lost in the balsamic.

My husband, who won't eat chicken breast because it's dry, found the marinade kept the breast very moist and he really enjoyed the flavor of the chicken...he nibbled a lot as he was cutting up the chicken breast :) I used the chicken on a salad and found the meat to be moist and flavorful without being too overpowering.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


My Aunt June use to make these when I was a young girl; these may have started my love for all things peanut butter and chocolate! I don't know that a more perfect combination of flavors exists, peanut butter was just made to go with chocolate...mmm I can taste these already! Buckeyes are small round balls of sweetened peanut butter dipped in melted chocolate with the top of the peanut butter ball exposed so it resembles a buckeye.

2 cups peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners' sugar
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners' sugar. The dough will look dry. Roll into 1 inch balls and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet.
Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping) and chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.

2. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until smooth.

3. Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeyes. Put back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until serving.

I have used the ghiradelli dipping chocolate you can pick up at Sam's during the holidays. I've also used Kron that has been given to us in holiday themed forms, I just chop it up and melt it down. The ghiradelli and Kron are superior to toll house chocolate chips and defintiely enhance the quality of the candy, but there's nothing wrong with toll house, either.

You can take the toothpick or skewer used for dipping and smooth over the hole for a more finished appearance.
NOTE: I increased the amount of peanut butter from the original recipe. I used a full 18oz jar of creamy peanut butter which is just over 2 cups.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

This is another long-standing favorite Christmas cookie around our house. These take a little bit of time, but are really worth it in taste and presentation. The recipe suggests several nut options, but I use almonds. I love the toasted almond flavor in this cookie and I must insist you take the time to toast the almonds. The cookie itself has a bit of crispness for texture combined with a silky feel from the powder sugar coating. Enjoy!

The original recipe and photo come from Joy of Baking.

2/3 cup (65 grams) toasted nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts)
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon (2 grams) pure vanilla extract
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Topping: 1 cup (110 grams) powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar, sifted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Toast Nuts: Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 5- 8 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool. Once the nuts have cooled completely place them, along with 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of the flour from the recipe, into your food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and process until they are finely ground (but not a paste). Set aside.

3. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the remaining flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour or until firm.

4. Form the dough into 1 inch (2.54 cm) balls and place them 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.

5. Line another baking pan or tray with parchment or wax paper. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar on the bottom of the pan and then place the slightly cooled cookies on top of the sugar. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a fine strainer or sieve and then sprinkle the tops of the cookies (or you can just roll the cookies in the sugar).

Store in an airtight container. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Gooey Butter Cookies

I decided I had the energy to do some baking this Christmas and asked my husband what he would like me to make. His response was, "MMMM...the butter cookies!" We first had these cookies when I was investigating the LDS church and a set of sister missionaries were coming over for regular visits. The sisters made these cookies for us and my husband was hooked! These cookies have become his favorite!


8oz cream cheese

1 stick of butter, softened

1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow or butter cake mix

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Add cake mix, and stir until well blended.

3. Roll into 1 inch balls and roll the balls in the confectioners' sugar. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks.

I have one cookie sheet that gets really hot so I only cook them for 9 minutes on this particular pan. Watch them closely as they're best if you get them just as they start to barely turn brown.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ham and Beans

Sorry for the long stretch with no posts...I've not been cooking since having the baby. Last night was my first official meal post-partum. We had a spiral cut ham in the freezer so I stuck it in the oven, made honey carrots and oven crisped potatoes (dicedwhite potato, Lipton onion soup mix packet and a little olive oil baked in the oven) for my husband and father-in-law who adore white potatoes. The real treat of this meal was the ham bone, which I saved for tonight's dinner!

So on to my ham and beans! I don't measure, sorry. But I've found it always comes out delicious so I can't imagine being able to mess this one up.
I quick soak my beans - 1 lbs navy beans (or small white beans) in a pot covered with water. Bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes. Turn heat off, put tight fitting lid on pot and let sit for one hour. Drain the beans, add to a large pot with the ham bone, several hands full of baby carrots, 1-2 tbsp dried minced onions, garlic powder, salt and coriander (2 tsp or so). Add enough water to cover the beans by an inch (does not have to cover the ham bone). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until ham is falling off bone and beans and carrots are tender; 3-4 hours. Remove lid to boil out any excess liquid and remove bone and any unwanted miscellaneous pieces from the bone.
UPDATE: I've been usuing Goya's Salvadorian Red Beans instead of white and I like it soooo much better!

Over-used Recipes Swap

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sugar Cookies

We love this recipe for sugar cookies. My husband found it a couple years ago and it's perfect for our tastes! These are great for rolling out and using fun cookie cutters with the kids. Our kids most enjoy decorating them with icing and sprinkles when they come out of the oven. A confectioner sugar and milk icing tinted food coloring is quick and easy or you can use a can of premade vanilla icing as a quick topping.

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt


1.In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.