Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

Stephanie from Macaroni and Cheesecake tagged me in her blog to share 7 interesting facts about myself. I don't usually do these things, but I thought this was a fun way to share things with my here it goes!

1. I think my love for cooking started with my Easy Bake Oven when I was a kid. Actually, as embarrassing as this is to share, my sister (who is younger than me) enjoyed the Easy Bake Oven just as much a I did. So I was able to play with it well into my late teens!!! Sometimes having a younger sister has its perks!!!

2. My name comes from The Sound Of Music. I seriously could watch this movie over and over and it would never get old to me! Many people say that I actually resemble Charmian Carr (the character who played Liesl).

3. Growing up, I always had a strong passion for computers. I know boring right!! I actually thought I was going to go into Computer Programming for the longest time. In high school, I got involved in Theater and pursued trying to learn as much backstage technical knowledge as I could. That inspired me and I began to get a passion for Theater/Television and learning all the details that go into making a Production/Show happen. Today I am a Video Editor and love being a part of what goes on Television!!

4. I studied Sign Language in High School and on into College. I hold a special place in my heart for the deaf community. They are amazing people!

5. My husband and I love to travel. We make it a point to plan at least one trip a year to somewhere new and exciting! We love exploring new places and cultures! Especially the food! I swear in my next life I will be a Travel Agent! I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I plan a pretty mean trip! I work really hard to find places that make me feel like a local...not a tourist!! If you ever need tips let me know!!

6. One of my favorite things to eat (when it comes to dessert at least) in this world is S'mores!!! I love them!!! There is nothing better than sitting in front of a fire with a warm S'more in my hand!!

7. I really enjoy drinking wine! I am not really a drinker, but when it comes to wine, I can't resist. My passion started when I was in College...I took a Wine Tasting course (and yes I got credit for getting tipsy!). It was great because it taught me how to appreciate wine. I knew at a young age how to pair things and what to look for in a good bottle of wine!

And now comes the part where I get to tag other people! I can't imagine all of you will do it, but I enjoyed sharing my facts so maybe you will too!

1. Erin of Erin's Food Files
2. Julie of Peanut Butter and Julie
3. Nicole of Baking Bites
4. Marcie of America's Little Germany
5. Leslie of The Hungry Housewife
6. Nicole of Pinch My Salt
7. Dani of Sweet Treats

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strawberry Stuffed Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting!

So I cheated a little bit with these cupcakes by using a box mix. But my reason for that was mainly because I had this new idea for a cupcake, and I wanted to try to master making a Buttercream Frosting! I actually went to a party last night where someone made a chocolate cake covered with Strawberry Buttercream...the frosting was so yummy! So being a freak about baking, I came home last night thinking about how good that frosting was! I started trying to think of a way I could use that frosting, and that is when I decided to try a Strawberry Stuffed Cupcake with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting! THEY TURNED OUT AMAZING!!!! I will definitely be making these again, but maybe next time I will actually make the cake myself!!
Strawberry Stuffed Cupcake
(recipe from Liesl)
1 Box White Cake Mix
1 Cup Strawberry Jam

Prepare Cake mix according to back of the box. Bake Cupcakes, again according to the back of the box. I made 24 Cupcakes total. Once cupcakes have finished baking, cool completely on a wire rack. While Cupcakes are cooling, fill a resealable zip lock bag with the 1 cup Strawberry Jam. Once Cupcakes are completely cooled, poke a hole in the center of each cupcake. I used the end of a wooden spoon to do this. Take the zip lock bag filled with Strawberry Jam, cut a small hole in the corner of the bag, and pipe the Jam carefully into each Cupcake.

(These are my cupcakes filled with jam, just waiting for that yummy Strawberry Buttercream Frosting!) I filled my Cupcakes and then prepared the Frosting, but you could always make the Frosting first so it would be ready to spread once the Cupcakes cooled.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
(from Joy of Cooking, with a few additions of my own)

1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup water
1/4 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
5 Large Egg Yolks
3 Sticks Unsalted Butter Softened
2 Tablespoons Strawberry Extract
2 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar (used this just to thicken it a little more)

Combine Sugar, Water and Cream of Tartar in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the mixture begins to simmer. Stop stirring and cover for 2 minutes. (this allows the sugar to dissolve) Uncover and cook until the syrup registers 238 degrees (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Meanwhile, fill a wide, deep skillet with 1 inch of water and bring it to a simmer. In a medium heat proof bowl, be 5 Large Egg Yolks on high speed until thick and pale yellow in color.

Just before Syrup is ready, begin beating the eggs again on medium speed. While beating the eggs, pour the hots syrup in a thin steady stream into the eggs. Set the heatproof bowl in the skillet of simmer hot water and stir egg mixture constantly with a whisk until the mixture registers 160 degrees. Remove from heat. Wash beaters and beat the hot mixture until it cools to room temperature.

Once cool, beat in 1 Tablespoon at a time of the Unsalted Butter. Beat each Tablespoon of butter into the buttercream until it is smooth and spreadable. Continue process until you have incorporated all your butter. Once all your butter is incorporated, mix in the 2 Tablespoons of Strawberry Extract (or any other flavor you like). If it gets too soupy when you are adding the butter just stop and refrigerate it for a little bit. I also went ahead and put my frosting in the refrigerator for about 2 hours after making it, to let it set better. When I pulled it out it was still just a little to thin for my liking so that is when I added the 2 Tablespoons of Powdered Sugar...just to thicken it up. It didn't really effect the flavor at all.
Fill a resealable zip lock bag with Frosting. Cut a small hole in one corner. Pipe Frosting on top of each cupcake. I placed mine in the refrigerator after frosting to keep the Frosting set.

Sunday afternoon treat

So this year I actually decided NOT to make all my traditional Christmas Cookies. I wanted to just take a break and not worry about getting all my cookies baked in time to pass out; since I am still recovering from my accident. Of course that really hasn't happened! AND as it turns out, I haven't made any of "MY" cookies LOL, but I am making all sorts of other goodies I have seen recipes to on other's food blogs! I found this recipe on Beantown Baker's Blog. I knew it wasn't really a "Christmas" cookie, but I love pumpkin and white chocolate and I really wanted to make these cookies just because! They turned out amazing!!!! They were really easy to throw together and really made a lot of cookies! They are so moist and the white chocolate chips add just the perfect touch!
Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Cookies
(original recipe found here)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars. Beat in egg, then vanilla, then pumpkin. Add flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans, if using.
Drop by tablespoons and bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees. Bake them until they’re lightly browned at the edges, but not dark. Remove from oven, cool for 2 minutes then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack.

What do you call it?

It's funny because all the memories I have of this delicious snack all seem to revolve around what the heck people call it!! I have heard every thing from Puppy Chow (which my family calls it), to white trash, to even reindeer poop!! What do you call it?!? I have always loved Puppy Chow. It is one of those comfort foods that just always hits the spot! I actually brought this to a party this weekend thinking no one would bring it and sure enough someone did!! Go figure!! It is so easy to make and goes over really well as a party snack!

Puppy Chow
9 Cups Rice Chex Cereal
1 Cup Milk Chocolate Chips (I like milk better than semi sweet)
1/2 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 Cup Butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Cups Powdered Sugar (some recipes only call for 1 1/2 cups, but I just add it to my liking)
In a large bowl measure Rice Chex and set aside. In a microwave bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter until melted and smooth. Add vanilla and stir to combine. Pour mixture over Rice Chex carefully stirring to coat the cereal. Pour covered cereal into a resealable bag. Add powdered sugar a little at a time. Make sure bag is sealed well, and then shake to coat the cereal. Keep adding Powdered Sugar until all cereal is coated. Spread cereal onto a baking sheet to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Toffee Shortbread Delights

I took the day off work today to get stuff with my car taken car of, and I also decided to do a little baking! I found these cookies on Dragon's Kitchen. I have been wanting to make shortbread for a while and thought that Toffee Shortbread sounded like a great combination! I always thought shortbread was more challenging, but really discovered just how easy it is to prepare and bake! I made my cookies a little smaller than the original recipe, that way if I ate 5 I didn't feel so bad!! hehe
Toffee Shortbread Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I actually used a whole teaspoon)
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 salt
1/2 cup toffee bits
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Cream the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Sift the cornstarch, salt and flour together. Add to the butter mixture. Stir until dough forms. Mix in the toffee bits. I always find that refrigerating any cookie dough helps the cookie turn out better, so I refrigerated these for a couple of hours before baking. (just put the mixing bowl full of dough right in your fridge) Scoop dough and shape into 1 inch balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 12-14 minutes just until set and the bottoms begin to turn a light golden brown. Cool cookies on the tray for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mmmmm Cheesecake

I happened to come across this when I was looking for pizza recipes. I actually found it on the same blog as the Spinach Turkey Alfredo Pizza. I was needing to make a dessert for my Holiday Party at work and this looked simple and delicious!!! It was a HUGE hit, everyone at my party really loved! I think I am going to make another one today just so my husband can take it to work!!!

White Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

12 Oreo cookies
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 ounces finely chopped white chocolate, divided
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1/3 cup raspberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.In a food processor, add Oreo's and process until finely ground. Add butter and pulse until combined. Scoop mixture into an 8" baking pan coated with nonstick spray - evenly press mixture to form a crust over the bottom. Place into the oven and back just until firm, about 4 to 6 minutes.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, add 2 ounces white chocolate and heat on medium power, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth and melted. In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well combined. Mix in melted white chocolate. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing just until combined after each. Pour filling over the crust and spread smooth.

Place into the oven and bake until the center is almost set, about 24 to 28 minutes. Meanwhile, add preserves to a small microwave-safe bowl and heat briefly until warmed. Press preserves through a small sieve to remove seeds (this is optional - if you don't mind the seeds, skip this).

When cheesecake is done, remove and place pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Add preserves and spread evenly over the top. Melt remaining ounce of white chocolate - drizzle over the top and allow cheesecake to cool completely. Cover and place into the refrigerator to cool for at least 4 hours before serving.

Spinach Turkey Alfredo Pizza

I was so excited when I found this recipe on Culinary in the Desert! I have been on this kick lately of finding new recipes/ideas for pizzas! I didn't have time to make my own crust, but I did make my own Alfredo sauce!!! My husband loves Olive Garden, and especially their Alfredo sauce. I finally have been able to come up with something that is similar enough that we don't have to frequent the restaurant as often!! :o) This pizza was really a lot better than I expected it to be! And it reminded me how much I love Spinach on pizza!!

Turkey Alfredo Pizza
(adapted from Culinary in the Desert)
12 ounces whole-wheat pizza crust
1 garlic clove, halved
1 cup shredded cooked turkey
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup Alfredo sauce - homemade or store bought will do (I used a bit more than 1/2 a cup)
3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese (I also sprinkled a little Mozzarella on top)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 450. Rub cut sides of garlic all over the pizza crust. In a medium bowl, toss together turkey, spinach, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spread Alfredo sauce evenly over crust - top evenly with turkey mixture. Scatter the top with the cheese and crushed red pepper. Slide pizza back onto the stone and bake until the cheese has melted and the crust is crisp, about 8 to 12 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly before serving.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

First of all...I really hate this camera I have. My camera broke so I had to go out and get something to just get me by. So I bought this cheap ($60) point and shoot camera...clearly it is worth ONLY $60!!! LOL I hope to get a better one soon, so just bare with me! However, I did notice on this first picture you can see the smoke from my omelet!!! hehe

Anyhow, this blog is about breakfast...not my crappy camera!! :o) I love breakfast, and I love waking up Saturday morning and making new things for my husband and I to enjoy. I have been thinking about trying to perfect a Sweet Potato Patty of sorts, but haven't quite "perfected" it yet, so I will just keep trying and when I get it I will blog about it!!! In the mean time just think ... sweet potatoes with a slight crunchy outside, a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, topped with honey!! I know sounds delicious right!?! I promise to get this right soon...the omelet on the other hand was amazing!

Saturday Morning Omelet
(Kitchen of Liesl)
2 Eggs and 1 Egg white
Garlic Salt
Diced Ham
Cheddar Cheese
Combine eggs, milk (I usually add just a couple of Tablespoons), pepper and garlic salt together with a whisk. In a skillet of Medium heat, melt 1 Tablespoon butter. Add diced ham to skillet. Cook ham until it browns slightly. Pour egg mixture into pan over ham and cover with a lid. Cook until eggs are almost done. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on one side of omelet and fold over the other side on top of the cheese side. Let sit for a minute to melt cheese. Serve with cheese on top!

Pamper Yourself With A Little Party!

I have always wanted to have a Pampered Chef Party and the perfect opportunity finally came up. A friend of mine told me that her cousin was getting into Pampered Chef, so I decided to host her first party! I figured it was great for her and even better for me!! I love Pampered Chef! They have great kitchen gadgets and are fairly reasonable in price. Check their stuff out here! I would have to say the best thing about having a Pampered Chef party is the fact that you get to cook (and eat!)!!! And actually, you now prepare the meals yourself so you get to use their products and get a sense for how great they really are!!! I wanted to share the recipes that we made with all of you because they are very easy and VERY DELICIOUS!!!

Club House Chicken Squares
(from All The Best Pampered Chef Cookbook)
2 packages (8 oz.) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp mayo
1 small clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp All Purpose Dill Mix (optional)
1 can (10 oz.) chunk white chicken, drained and flaked (I just boiled 1 chicken breast and cubed it myself)
1/2 small cucumber, sliced and then quartered
2 plum tomatoes diced
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
Preheat oven to 375° F. Unroll one package of crescent rolls across one end of the Stoneware Bar Pan with longest sides of dough across the width of the pan. Repeat with other package, filling the pan. Use the baker's roller, roll to seal the perforations and press up the sides to form a crust. Bake 12-15 minutes, till golden, then remove to stackable cooling rack and cool completely.
In Classic Batter Bowl, mix mayonnaise, cream cheese, garlic and dill mix until smooth. Spread over crust. Top with Chicken. Sprinkle cucumber, tomatoes, cheese and bacon over chicken. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut and serve.

Banana Cream Supreme
(from All The Best Pampered Chef Cookbook)

16 (2 1/2 inch) Graham Cracker Squares (about 1 1/4 cups crushed)
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 (12 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 container (8 ounces) sour cream
1 (3.4 ounce) box vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
3 medium bananas, sliced
2 tablespoons pecans, grated
Chop graham crackers using Food Chopper. Place in 1 quart Batter Bowl. Add butter and sugar; mix well with Skinny Scraper. Press crumb mixture onto flat bottom of Springform Pan.
In Classic 2 quart Batter Bowl, whisk sour cream and milk until blended. Add pudding mix; whisk until pudding is dissolved. Add whipped topping, mixing until well blended. Spread half of filling over crust.
Slice bananas using Egg Slicer Plus; arrange over filling. Spread remaining filling over bananas. Grate pecans over top using Deluxe Cheese Grater. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. To serve, remove collar from pan; cut into 12 wedges.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Calling all you leftovers!

I was trying to figure out ways to use up all these Thanksgiving leftovers, when I came across this blog. There was a recipe for Broccoli, Ham, Mac and Cheese Soup...I know right...YUMMO (as Rachael puts it so well!). I changed a few things in the recipe just so it wasn't AS unhealthy, but the soup turned out delicious! It was so easy to throw together too! My husband loved it as well, which is always a good thing! :o)

Broccoli, Ham, Mac and Cheese Soup
(adapted from Culinary in the Desert)
4 ounces dry medium pasta shells
1 1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cup skim milk
8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded sharp white cheddar
1 cup diced ham (I used a little more than 1 cup)
fresh ground black pepper
garlic salt
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Cook pasta according to package directions. A minute or two before the pasta is done, add broccoli - drain well when done and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium. Whisk in flour and mustard - cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth, and milk. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium-high until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
Gradually stir in cheese until melted and smooth. Stir in ham, cooked macaroni and pasta - cook, stirring, until thoroughly heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste. I saved some cheese to put on top of the soup along with some fresh cracked pepper. ENJOY!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Idea for that leftover Turkey!

So I know I have yet to blog about my turkey, but I promise it is coming!!! :o) I wanted to get this out there so you all could have an idea for all those turkey leftovers!! This is something that my husband's family has always made with leftover turkey and I thought I would give it a whirl this year. It turned out so won't believe how good it tasted over Amish biscuits!!! LOL
Creamed Turkey
(per Gram, but kinda a little of Liesl!)
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream (I used this because I had it leftover from a cake I made! You could just use 2 cups of milk though, but I think the whipping cream is what made it so creamy and delicious!)
3/4 Cup Chicken Stock (may want to add more if you want it thinner)
4 Tablespoons Smart Balance 50/50 Butter
Fresh Cracked Pepper
Garlic Salt
4 Tablespoons Flour
Leftover Turkey Chopped up (I just kept adding Turkey until it looked like it was enough...I would say it was several cups though)
Leftover Biscuits to serve Creamed Turkey on
In a large skillet, heat the Milk, Heavy Whipping Cream, Butter and Chicken Stock. Whisk in the flour, eliminating any lumps as you add it. Bring to a boil. This mixture will thicken up as it boils, but be sure you continue to stir/whisk. Add Salt, Fresh Cracked Pepper and Garlic Salt to taste. Continue stirring as you add your Chopped Turkey. If it is too thick just add more Chicken Stock. Continue heating until Turkey is warm. Serve over leftover Biscuits! ENJOY!

Craving Something Healthy!

I was craving something healthy for dinner tonight since I have eaten like crap for the last couple of weeks! I was actually going to make this salad for Thanksgiving dinner but totally forgot!! It came out of Rachael Ray's magazine (of course). I changed it up a little though with ingredients that I thought would make the salad better!! If you want the original recipe it can be found here.

Autumn Greens and Apple Salad
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ small onion finely chopped
Fresh Ground Pepper
Garlic Powder
3 ribs celery finely chopped
2 crisp Gala Apples sliced thine;y
1 small head red leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces (about 8 cups)
1/2 small head green leaf lettuce, torn into small pieces (about 4 cups)
Feta Cheese for topping

In a large salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, shallot, salt, fresh ground pepper and garlic powder (I just added the salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste). Add the celery and apples and toss. Add the lettuces and toss again. Top with Feta cheese.