Monday, December 31, 2012

Easy Veggie Side

So lately, the posts are just quickies - but whatever works, right?  

I was making kind of a bland chicken/rice/veg dinner for the recovering sickie.  I needed something different for the veg side, and I needed it quick.  Here's what I came up with (and believe it or not, the kids ATE it):

Quick Roasted Veggies

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 any kind of onion, sliced thin
1-2 crowns of broccoli, sliced thin (leave the stems on)
a handful of asparagus stalks, trimmed
a handful of carrots, sliced thin lengthwise
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Throw all of your veggies in a bowl (or skip it and just mix it up on the baking sheet), drizzle with a little EVOO, sprinkle with some salt & pepper, and toss to coat.  Spread the veggies on a baking sheet. Roast the veggies, turning every 10 minutes or so, until they start to take on some nice color and soften, maybe about 30-40 minutes, or if you need to fast forward things a bit, throw the oven into Broil mode, and broil, turning the veggies every 5 minutes or so, for about 15-20 minutes (that's what I did).  Yum.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Steak, Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onion Flatbreads

These. were. so. good.

For Christmas Day this year, we were HOME.  TOGETHER.  WITH NO PLANS.  It was great!  We had spent time with one side of the family at Thanksgiving, a few days before Christmas we had 2 days of fun with the other side, and on Christmas Day, it was just us.  We slept in, stayed in our jammies for too long, went sledding, watched Christmas movies (and NBA basketball, of course), and enjoyed a couple of apps.  We did meatball sliders, pizza dip, and these amazing flatbreads.  

We grabbed some Cybros sprouted pizza dough (check out their awesome products - we're huge fans!), and I stretched it out into some "rustic" shapes, and baked them for a few minutes - maybe 5 or so -  at 425 degrees.  Before they were totally done, I pulled them out, rubbed a little garlic on the tops of each flatbread, spread on some caramelized onions, some thinly sliced NY strip steak and of course a liberal sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles.  Then I put them back in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese was melted.  We sliced them up, put them on a platter, and within minutes, they were history.  

It's easy to caramelize onions - just put a little EVOO into a pan, and add in about 2 whole sliced onions - I had one yellow onion and one sweet onion, so I used a combination.  I sprinkled a little salt and pepper on, and then you need to stir them frequently, so they brown, but do not burn.  Burned onions are bad.  I'm guessing it took about 15-20 minutes, but it was worth it!

Meatball Sliders

These are too easy!

You can make these great little sliders for dinner, appetizers, or even just a hearty snack.  I made a big batch of meatballs a few weeks ago, and froze half.  This week, I took out a few, tossed them in some sauce, and simmered them until they were heated through.  Try them on Hawaiian bread dinner rolls (you can find them in the deli) - we love the soft, sweet rolls with the hearty meatballs, with a little extra dab of sauce and some mozzarella cheese.  Good stuff!  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Cookies

In a good year, I usually make about 10 different kinds of Christmas cookies.

I didn't bake much this year - there wasn't time, it seemed, but mostly the motivation wasn't quite there. I made banket, and I made some sugar cookie cut-outs with the little Baker, and today we whipped up a batch of the classic Peanut Blossoms.

Here are a few of the recipes I had WANTED to make, but didn't get to this year:

Cranberry Walnut Pinwheels 
Wisconsin Electric Cookie Book (2002)

Dough1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
In a small bowl, combine cranberries, walnuts and marmalade.

In a medium size bowl, combine flour, baking power and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; continue to beat until well mixed. Gradually add the reserved flour mixture, beating until the dry ingredients are moistened. Shape into a ball, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or until easy to handle. Make Filling.

On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough into a 15 x 9-inch rectangle. Spread filling to within 1/2 inch of edges. Roll up tightly, beginning with the long side. Cut roll in half; wrap each half in plastic wrap. Chill several hours or overnight.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Slice cookies 1/2-inch thick; place on parchment lined or lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes 4 to 5 dozen. Great recipe for the holidays.

Cherry Almond Surprises 
Wisconsin Electric Cookie Book (1952)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almonds, finely chopped
1 pound candied cherries
Powdered sugar to coat

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sift flour, powdered sugar and salt together. In a separate bowl, cream butter. Add evaporated milk to butter a little at a time; mix until smooth. Add almond extract, vanilla, sifted dry ingredients and nuts. Blend well. Flatten a level teaspoonful of dough in palm of hand. Place cherry in center. Bring dough around cherry to form a ball. Roll between palms until smooth. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 400 degrees about 10 to 12 minutes. Roll cookies in powdered sugar while hot. Makes 4 to 5 dozen.

Peppermint Bark
1 pound (16 ounces) chopped bittersweet chocolate
½ teaspoon (or more to taste) peppermint extract
1 pound (16 ounces) chopped white chocolate
¾ cup chopped candy canes

Line an 11 x 17-inch baking sheet with foil and set aside.  Melt bittersweet chocolate in the top of a double boiler over lightly boiling water, stirring constantly. Stir in ¼ teaspoon of peppermint extract (or more to taste). Spread chocolate evenly onto the prepared sheet, using an off-set spatula. Chill until set, about 1 hour. Melt white chocolate in the top of a double boiler over lightly boiling water, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining ¼ teaspoon of peppermint extract, (or more to taste) then add candy canes and stir to combine.  Spread white chocolate mixture over chilled dark chocolate, spreading to the edge of the pan with an off-set spatula -wait until it's hard enough, or you'll get a "muddy" white chocolate layer.  Chill until set, about four hours or overnight. Refrigerate until just before serving, then break into pieces and serve or package as gifts. Will keep in fridge for about a month (if it lasts that long!).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Did you ever eat spaghetti & meatballs.....from a CAN?

I admit it, I have I my lifetime - I think I've blocked out the memories, though - ugh!  Those creepy mystery lumps and salty, orange sauce.... Our kids dig spaghetti, so I usually just make a meat sauce and serve with spaghetti noodles, but I was inspired to make some meatballs to change things up a little bit from a piece in the Sunday paper Food section.  I figured I could make meatball subs or little meatball sliders with some, too.

I just made about 1/3 of this recipe, because it made a lot, and well, I was trying it for the first time.  I used a 1:1 ratio of Italian sausage, and based on the feedback of my son, I would likely made it a 2:1 beef to sausage ratio next time.  I also used a jarred sauce, because I thought I had tomatoes to make some sauce, and ended up not having any (time to straighten up the cupboards!).

I baked the meatballs in the oven, then tossed them in a pot of sauce to kind of finish cooking and add a little flavor.  I froze half of the batch, so we can either do another batch of sauce and meatballs over noodles, or do some sliders or subs.  I think this could be a decent freezer meal for a swap, to....

Here's the recipe I used, based on the one in the article (which by the way, says his recipe makes 24-30 meatballs - um, they must have been giant - I filled a whole jelly roll pan with 1/3 of the recipe)!


1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage (bulk or removed from casings)
1 egg
1 c. Panko breadcrumbs
2  tbsp. garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning (I have a rosemary plant, so I minced up some fresh and added it, too)
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands. (I actually added it all to a gallon-sized bag, and kneaded the mixture to avoid gross raw meat hands.  Fashion into small meatballs. (I love the Playtex disposable gloves they sell at the grocery store - they help me dig in to raw meat projects.)  Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven 45 to 50 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with hot cooked spaghetti and spaghetti sauce (or freeze, or make meatball subs).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Go-To Cranberry Sauce

This is not from a can, baby - it's just about as easy, though!  This is my favorite recipe for cranberry sauce - simple, and really tasty.

Simple Cranberry Sauce

16 oz. fresh cranberries
1-1/2 c. granulated sugar (I even go as low as 1 c.)
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, finely chopped (I just use my microplane grater)
Zest from 1 orange (again, breaking out the microplane grater) - be sure to avoid the bitter white stuff

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries pop
open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.  It will smell AMAZING in the kitchen!  If you're creeped out by it, you can skim any foam off the surface with a metal spoon and discard, but I don't usually do that.  Cool to room temperature, and refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 months.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Banket is a traditional Dutch treat that my family has enjoyed for as long as I can remember. 

It takes some work to make it, so you don’t see it around as much as you used to.  This recipe is from a friend at school – the closest I can get to my Grandma Hoekstra’s banket.  It was always out at Christmas, and it was sooooo good!  It can be frozen, but usually it’s totally consumed before there's a chance.   I tend to make this during the holidays, and make 8 sticks at a time.  I'll add some photos when I make it again this year.


1 cup almond paste                                       
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar                                                     
 2 cups flour
1 egg                                                               
1 cup butter
1 egg separated                                              
¼ cup water (ice cold)

Let paste, sugar, egg, egg yolk and cornstarch stand in bowl for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Blend flour, butter and water in bowl like pie crust.  Dough may be refrigerated overnight if desired.  (I usually keep one part chilled in the refrigerator-while working with the other part)  When ready to prepare, divide dough into 2 equal parts.  Roll each part on floured board to 8”x 13” rectangle.  Cut lengthwise into 2 equal strips (4 strips, each 4”x 13”, in all.)

Prepare the filling by mixing the almond paste, sugar, eggs, and cornstarch.  Form into 4 cylinders, each 12” long and the diameter of a dime.  Place filling rolls on length of dough.  Fold over the ends and then the long sides, moistening one side to seal before pressing.

Place with the seam side down on cookie sheet.  Prick holes on top for air.  Beat egg white and brush the top of the rolls.  Bake for 14 minutes, then reduce heat to 325°F and bake for 20 minutes more, or until light brown.  Place each stick on a piece of cardboard cut to the right size, wrapped in foil, and wrap the entire stick tightly in plastic wrap.