Thursday, December 31, 2009

Individual Beef Wellingtons

Beef wellington is hands down my favorite food ever. Well, after Escargots but I don't consider escargots a real "meal" so I think Beef Wellington can take the prize (in this post at least). After I first tried Beef Wellington at a very nice local restaurant in my early teens I soon became addicted and ordered it whenever it was on the menu at whatever restaurant I went to. I still do, actually. But for the longest time it was never something I thought of to make at home. I always thought of it as a very special meal that I'd order out. However, last year for Christmas I said enough's enough and decided to try my hand at making it myself and it came out great! Last year I made it with venison and this year I made it with beef and really the beef is better in my opinion, but both versions were just wonderful.

So here is the recipe I use. I've made some changes to it. Mainly because I can't bring myself to buy mushrooms for the top. When they are already in there at the restaurant that's fine because I honestly can't taste them, but when I actually cook, cut or even touch them and have to smell them it makes me want to vomit so I just don't bring mushrooms into my home. Period.

Also, the first year I made this I used the pate but for some reason this year I couldn't find it at the store so I just left it out. I liked it with the pate but honestly I didn't really miss not having it either. So it's up to you whether you want to use it or not.

The reason I chose to make this recipe in the first place is because I love beef wellington when the pastry wraps the whole filet of beef. I am most definitely a puff pastry fan so the more pastry you give me the better! So even though I made some changes to this recipe, I do like it as a starting point and it really is a simple recipe to follow and one that will surly wow your guests.

Adapted from Rachel Ray

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan, plus extra for drizzling
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (I add this)
3-4 springs flat leave parsley, finely chopped (I add this)
2 slices of bacon, chopped (I add this)
1/2 pound button mushrooms and stems, cleaned and finely chopped in food processor (I omit these)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dry cooking sherry, 2 splashes (I omit this)
4 tournedos of beef filet mignon, 1-inch thick
8 ounces mousse pate, available in specialty cheese and appetizer cases of larger markets (Optional)
1 sheet frozen prepared puff pastry, 11 by 17, defrosted
1 egg, beaten with a splash of water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add oil, butter, shallot and chopped mushrooms. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper and saute 5 minutes. Add sherry to the mushrooms and let the liquid evaporate. Remove mushrooms from the heat. (I skip this step entirely)

In a small pan over medium heat, add bacon and cook until crispy. Put cooked bacon on a paper towl to drain off the fat, and put the bacon in a small bowl. Add shallots, garlic and parsely. Mix together and set aside (This can be done in advance and put in the refrigerator). This is a step that I add.

In a nonstick skillet over high heat, sear meat 2 minutes on each side in a drizzle of oil. Remove skillet from the heat and season meat with salt and pepper.

Cut mousse into 4 pieces, 2 ounces each sliced in 1/2 horizontally. Spread the puff pastry sheet out on to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Quarter the dough with a sharp knife. Roll each piece of dough into a 10 by 6-inch rectangle. On each rectangle of dough, place 1/4 of the cooked mushrooms. I omit the mushrooms but add the bacon and shallot mixture instead. Top mushrooms (or shallot mixture) with 2 ounces pate (if using) and 1 tournedo of beef. Wrap dough up and over the meat. Seal the dough with egg wash and trim excess. Use leftover dough bits to make decorative garnishes for the tops of your Wellingtons. Turn the wrapped Wellingtons over and cover with egg wash using a pastry brush. Affix dough garnishes with egg wash. For a simple decoration, roll dough bits into a long, thin spaghetti like string and make swirls on each Wellington. Bake beef Wellingtons 10 minutes or until golden (I usually keep it in the oven longer then 10 minutes...more like 15-20). Let stand 5 minutes, then serve with au jus or gravy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Candied Carrots

I saw Tyler Florence make this on TV recently and knew I really wanted to try it. I love carrots...especially when they have a nice and spicy sweet glaze on them!

My husband and I totally loved this. It's a great vegetable side dish and would work well with many different kinds of food. His comment was, "The only thing I don't like about these is that you haven't been making them for years." So I guess he liked them!

The only thing I would do different next time is reduce the cumin by just a bit. I definitely liked it in there, I just wish it were more subtle. But overall, this recipe is most certainly a keeper!

Source: Tyler Florence

1 bunch young carrots, with tops
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 orange, halved (I didn't have an orange so I used about an 1/8 - 1/4 cup of orange juice) 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut off all but 1-inch of the carrot tops, leaving a little green. Put the carrots in a large shallow pan, add the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Turn to coat the carrots. Stick them in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the carrots are fork-tender.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan around and cook until the butter begins to become brown and nutty. Squeeze in the juice from the orange halves, add the brown sugar and cumin, and continue to cook for 2 minutes or until syrupy.

Remove the carrots from the oven and arrange them on a platter. Drizzle the orange brown butter over the carrots and serve.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding

I chose to make this dish for Christmas dinner this year. My in laws and brother in law came over, and I was really brainstorming for a meal that would be impressive without being too time consuming so I wouldn't have to be a slave to the kitchen. I found this in a cookbook and thought it would be perfect and it truly was.

The beef was incredible...tender, flavorful and delicious. The Yorkshire pudding came out great...perfect texture and flavor and it rose nice and high in the oven like a big popover which made for a lovely presentation.

The introduction to this recipe in my cookbook truly says it best... "This is the perfect recipe for the first holiday feast you host as a married couple. It's impressive, but it's also extremely easy to prepare..."

This was definitely a winner in my book and truly impressed my husband and guests.

(Oh and I apologize for the quality of the photos...people were ready to eat!)

Source: Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook, page 98

For the roast beef:
5 lb beef rip or sirloin tip roast (I used a 6 lb. rib roast, bone in)
2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

For the Yorkshire pudding:
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. flour
pinch of kosher salt

One day before serving, season the roast with the salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Let the roast sit at room temperature to temper for 1-2 hours before roasting. This will help the meat cook more evenly.

To roast the beef, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place beef in a large roasting pan and place in oven (I placed my beef on a wire rack in the roasting pan so I'd have better access to the pan juices while basting). Roast for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to 375 degrees. Continue roasting, basting the meat frequently with the pan juices, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the roast away from the bone registers 135 degrees for medium rare (we left it in until it reached about 145 degrees as all of our guests preferred their meat to be medium), about 1 1/4 hours (for a 5lb roast). Also remember that the temperature of the meat will continue to rise outside of the oven. If using a boneless roast, start checking temperature a little earlier. When the roast reaches the desired temperature, transfer it to a carving board and let rest, loosely covered with foil, for 30 minutes. This allows time for the juices to distribute evenly throughout the meat and makes carving easier. Reserve the roasting pan with the drippings and keep the oven on. While the roast rests, make the Yorkshire pudding.

To make the Yorkshire pudding, place a 9 inch cast iron frying pan or Pyrex pie dish (I used the pie dish) in the oven to preheat. Meanwhile in a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together until well blended. Add the flour a little at a time and continue to whisk constantly until smooth. The batter should have the consistency of heavy cream. Add the salt. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer 2 tbsp of beef fat from the roasting pan into the frying pan. To do this, tilt the roasting pan and spoon off the clear fat from the brown drippings. Pour the batter into the pan with the fat and place the pan in the oven (keeping the oven temperature at 375 degrees). Bake until the pudding is puffy and crisp, about 25 minutes. Cut the pudding into wedges and serve at once with slices of roast beef.

Haricots Verts with Herb Butter

Well it's hard for me to believe that Christmas has come and gone for another year. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday that was filled with family, friends and of course, really good food!

I actually hosted two Christmas dinners this year (one for my parents and one for my in-laws), so in the next few days I will be posting some of the recipes I made.

I for one am VERY happy to not be posting a sweet recipe today. I have really found a love of baking but boy am I getting sick of Christmas Cookies, candies, bars, I'm glad to say that this recipe for haricots verts was simply wonderful. I trimmed and cleaned the green beans two days before serving, and kept them in a zip top bag with a damp paper towel. I also made the herb butter two days before as well. This worked perfectly, as the beans were fresh and crisp when I served them and the butter of course kept well in the fridge.

Not only did this side dish taste great, it was a lovely accompaniment to my Beef Wellington and really dressed up the plate. This is one that I will most certainly make again.


Source: Epicurious - Orignially from Gourmet, November 2007

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 lb haricots verts or other green beans, trimmed


Stir together all ingredients except haricots verts with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl until combined well.

Cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt for 6 quarts water), uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes, then drain. Toss with herb butter.

Notes: Herb butter can be made ahead and chilled, covered, 3 days or frozen, rolled into a cylinder in plastic wrap and kept in a sealed bag, 1 week. Haricots verts can be trimmed 1 day ahead and chilled in a sealed bag lined with paper towel (I did this two days ahead with no problems).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Chocolate Covered Snow Peaks

When my friend Julie sent me this recipe I was really excited! I love working with meringue...I think it's so fun. These were a great addition to my cookie tray. They were light and airy in contrast to most of the other decadent treats I've made this year. They pair perfectly with a hot cup of tea and are just a great little addition to a cookie tray.
Source: Tyler Florence

4 large egg whites at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar (I used regular granulated...not superfine. This worked fine)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used clear)
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites on low-medium speed with the whisk attachment until the whites become foamy. Add the cream of tartar and turn speed up to medium, beating until just fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, so it incorporates into the whites slowly without collapsing them. Once all the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and increase the speed to high, whisking until the meringue is firm and glossy, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Place meringue mixture into a piping bag with a medium-sized nozzle attached (I used a large star tip...I'm quite sure it was #32) Pipe 24 bite-sized "kiss"-shaped meringues onto the trays and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour undisturbed then turn off heat and leave in the oven overnight to really dry out.

Melt chocolate over a double-boiler or in the microwave on medium power for 30 seconds. Holding each meringue by the peak dip the bases in chocolate so the bottom half of the meringue is coated. Let any excess chocolate drop off before placing on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Allow to set at room temperature - do not put in the fridge. Once set, store in an airtight container.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Eggnog Truffles

Last year I saw this recipe on Good Things Catered and wanted to try it as soon as it was posted. But I had already made my cookie trays and decided to put it on hold until next year. Well next year is here and I was so excited to try these. I absolutely love eggnog and truffles so how could I pass these up?

These are absolutely fabulous truffles. I was worried that the eggnog flavor wouldn't be strong enough but it totally was. It's the first flavor you taste when biting into it. And trust me, I know. I've bitten into (more than) a few of these since I made them!

These are the perfect truffles for your Holiday cookie tray as they bring all the delicious and reminiscent flavors of Christmas into a sweet little candy that no one can resist.

Source: Good Things Catered

14 oz. white candy melts (I used vanilla flavored)
1/3 c. eggnog (must be the full fat kind)
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
splash good bourbon (I omitted)
6 oz. dark chocolate

-In large (shallow and wide) bowl over pan of boiling water over medium low heat, combine white chocolate, eggnog, cinnamon and nutmeg.
-Stir until completely melted and smooth.
-Remove from heat, add bourbon, stir well to incorporate and place bowl in the fridge overnight (or until completely firmed, this will depend on temperature of fridge and deepness of bowl you placed mixture in)
-Remove bowl from fridge and roll tsp of truffle filling into balls.
-Place formed balls onto wax paper lined baking sheet and place in freezer.
-Meanwhile, melt dark chocolate, stirring until smooth.
-Remove truffles from freezer, roll to make sure evenness then dip into chocolate and sprinkle with decoration if using.
-Place finished truffle back onto wax paper lined baking tray and repeat with remaining truffles.
-Let stand for 1 hour or until completely dry and serve or package in airtight container for up to a week.

Yields about 50 truffles

Peppermint Bark

So I know there has been an influx of peppermint bark recipes these past few weeks. It seems like every food blog I look at has a recipe for peppermint bark. But alas, I made this anyways and wanted to share the recipe I used with you all.

To be honest, I haven't even tasted this. I don't like peppermint desserts and candies at all. But I know people do and I LOVE the pretty color it brings to the cookie tray. Plus, this could not be an easier recipe. From start to finish I had this done in less then 10 minutes which is very nice around the Holidays!
Source: McCormick

1 package (12 ounces) white chocolate chips

1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Peppermint Extract (optional)

8 to 10 drops McCormick® Red Food Color or 8 to 10 drops McCormick® Green Food Color

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes

1. Microwave chocolate chips in large microwavable bowl on HIGH for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until almost melted, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in peppermint extract, if desired. (I melted the chocolate over a double boiler. I used 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract and it made the chocolate seize up a bit...although I knew it would do this before I even tried. I don't think it affected the quality of the chocolate, just keep this in mind.)

2. Spread on large foil-lined baking sheet to 1/4-inch thickness. Add food color, drop by drop, over mixture. Using a wooden skewer, swirl color through chocolate. Sprinkle with crushed candies, pressing lightly into chocolate with spatula.

3. Refrigerate about 10 minutes or until firm. Break into irregular pieces to serve. Store in covered container at cool room temperature or in refrigerator up to 5 days.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chocolate Covered Cherries

When my friend Julie sent me the link to this recipe...I was admittedly hesitant. I have never liked chocolate covered cherries but then again I've never had a homemade one either. Needless to say, I was intrigued by the recipe and decided to try it because I know many people do like these little treats for the holidays.

I am SO glad I tried it! These are really fantastic. After you let them sit for a week or so the filling gets all mushy and delicious. That combined with the dark chocolate shell just makes for a fabulous little treat.

I actually made this recipe two ways. One with regular maraschino cherries out of the jar, and the other with maraschino cherries that I soaked in a cherry liqueur for the adults. I haven't tried the ones with alcohol yet since they are still soaking, but I know we will just love those too!

Adapted from: AllRecipes

60 maraschino cherries with stems (I used stemless)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons corn syrup (I used about 4 tbsp...3 wasn't enough for me as the mixture was still very dry)
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 lb. chocolate confectioners coating (I used dark chocolate candy melts)


Drain cherries and set on paper towels to dry thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, combine butter and corn syrup until smooth. Stir in confectioners' sugar and knead to form a dough. Chill to stiffen if necessary. Wrap each cherry in about 1 teaspoon of dough. Chill until firm.

Melt confectioners' coating in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Dip each cherry in by its stem, and place on waxed paper lined sheets. Chill until completely set. Store in an airtight container in a cool place. Best after 1 or 2 weeks.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gingerbread Cake with Creamy Gingerbread Frosting

When looking for the perfect cake recipe for a holiday brunch, I found this Gingerbread Cake and thought it would be great and it certainly was. This was a great recipe. It was mildly spicy and the frosting was creamy and delicious with just a hint of ginger and spice.

Some things I found when making this recipe though, was that I probably shouldn't have covered the cake in fondant. The frosting was too smooth and sort of squished out the bottom of the cake. Also, I served this cake two days after I made it and while my guests thought it was great, I thought it was a bit on the dry side...but that was my fault.

Overall I thought this was a great recipe and one that I will definitely make again!

Source: McCormick

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons Ginger, Ground

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon Cinnamon, Ground

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup molasses

2 eggs

1 cup boiling water

Creamy Gingerbread Frosting (recipe follows)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Mix flour, baking powder, ginger, baking soda and cinnamon in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Beat butter, brown sugar and molasses in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Add eggs; beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with boiling water, beating on low speed after each addition until smooth. Pour into prepared pans.

3. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack.

4. Fill and frost with Creamy Gingerbread Frosting. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve.


Creamy Gingerbread Frosting: Pour 1 cup milk into medium bowl. Add 1 package (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding mix, 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Ginger and 1/8 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Cinnamon . Beat with wire whisk 2 minutes. Gently stir in 1 tub (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Snowflake Cake

This past weekend I hosted a holiday brunch for some close family and friends. And of course, I had to make a cake. This was a gingerbread cake with creamy gingerbread frosting. The whole thing was topped in homemade fondant and the snowflakes were piped on the cake freehand with royal icing. I chose to use the rope boarder for the bottom, which I also did in royal icing.

If you're wondering why there is a big space at the top of the cake, that's because there was *supposed* to be a cake topper up there. I made a snowflake out of royal using the color flow technique however it was just too delicate and fell apart as I was taking it off the wax paper. Ahhh well, live and learn.

Besides the cake topper incident I was very pleased with the cake and had SO much fun making the snowflakes. After all, I am one of those rare breed of people who LOVES the snow and loved making my cake look all snowy! And, as I served this cake, snow started falling from the sky in droves which made for quite the conversation starter!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chocolate Crinkles

These cookies were a delicious addition to my Christmas Cookie tray this year. They have just the right amount of sweetness and a lovely look with the crinkled top. They were also easy to make which is always important to me this time of year when everything is so hectic.

This is a great little cookie that is perfect for the holidays or any time of year

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

4 eggs
cups granulated sugar
ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
cup cooking oil
teaspoons baking powder
teaspoons vanilla
cups all-purpose flour
cup demerara sugar or turbinado sugar (I used granulated)


1. In a large bowl, combine eggs, granulated sugar, melted chocolate, oil, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Gradually beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours or until dough is easy to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet; set aside (I didn't grease a cookie sheet but instead lined it with parchment paper). Place demerara sugar in a small bowl. Shape one portion of dough into 1/2-inch balls. Shape the remaining portion of dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in demerara sugar to coat generously. Place balls 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet. (I did not make two difference sized cookies. I did them all the same size, about 1 inch, which worked great for me.)

3. Bake small cookies in the preheated oven about 8 minutes or until edges are set and tops are dry. Bake large cookies about 10 minutes or until edges are set and tops are dry. Do not overbake cookies. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool. (Cookies will deflate slightly upon cooling.) Makes about about 72 small and 36 large cookies.

4. To Store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Since taking the Wilton class this past year, I've become much more comfortable with royal icing. So this year, I decided to decorate my Christmas cookie cut-outs in royal. For the snowflake design, I was totally inspired by these Gingerbread Snowflakes on Good Things Catered which are stunning. Overall I am pleased with the results, but doing so many different shapes and using so many different colors made this project very time consuming. Next year I still plan on using royal, but I think I will cut down on the quantity of different shapes and will allow more time for decorating. For my sugar cookies, I used this recipe which really has turned into my favorite in terms of taste and texture. They also freeze really well.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Cream Cheese

This is a recipe I came up with when I felt totally uninspired for dinner one night. I had bacon and cream cheese on the verge of going bad in the fridge and wanted to use them up. My husband and I were happily surprised with how this came out. The bacon added so much flavor to the chicken breasts while the creamy cheese in the center was a wonderful addition. This is a meal I'm definitely making again.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded thin
3 oz light cream cheese
4-6 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 small shallot, minced
4-6 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a baking dish with non stick spray. In a small bowl, add the cream cheese and warm in microwave for 30 second intervals. After each 30 seconds, stir the cream cheese until it's completely smooth. Add sage, shallots, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. On the bottom of both chicken breasts, spread a liberal amount of the cream cheese mixture and "roll" chicken up and secure with toothpicks. Wrap 2-3 slices of bacon around each chicken breasts and secure bacon to chicken in necessary. Place in baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour, removing foil after 45 minutes. Remove toothpicks and serve.

Candy Cane Cookies

When I saw these cookies on Good Things Catered, I knew I had to make them for my cookie tray this year.

While they were a bit on the time consuming side, I thought that they were totally worth it. They were nice and light with the perfect amount of peppermint. Not to mention they are totally adorable and add beautiful color and whimsy to any cookie tray.

These are now officially on my yearly Christmas cookie recipe list!
Source: Good Things Catered

1 1/4 c. sugar
1 c. butter, room temperature
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint extract
3 ½ c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp red food color (plus more to the color you desire) (I used gel color)

- Cream together sugar and butter
- Add egg, then milk, vanilla, and peppermint extract.
- Stir in flour, baking powder and salt.
- Divide dough in half.
- Stir food color into one half.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. (I chilled overnight)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- For each candy cane, shape one rounded tsp dough from each half into 4-inch rope by rolling back and forth on clean surface. (don’t use flour or it won’t stick to the other half) (I had to work on a very lightly floured surface because the dough kept sticking to my counter. This worked fine.)
- Place one red and white rope side by side; press together lightly and twist.
- Place on prepared cookie sheet; curve top of cookie down to form handle of cane.
- Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until set and very light brown.
- Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack and cool completely.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pheasant Braised in Red Wine

First of all I want to wish my readers a very happy belated Thanksgiving! Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to get to post during the holiday since I was busy making a full Thanksgiving feast for about 30 people but I want you all to know that I was thinking about how blessed I am to have readers of my little blog! So thank you and I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

So recently my dad went hunting for pheasant and did very well. As a result, he gave me a beautiful fresh pheasant to make for dinner. I wasn't sure what to do with it in all honesty, but pheasant is just such a comforting meat to me so I wanted to make a really hearty meal of it. So I decided to braise it using red wine.

The pheasant came out great. Every piece was very tender and flavorful. If you've never had pheasant I urge you to try it, however it really doesn't taste much different from chicken and if you needed to sub out chicken that would obviously be fine. But this was a great variation from braised chicken and I really enjoyed it. Perfect for those cold winter days that lie ahead!
Adapted from this recipe by Good Things Catered, originally from Williams-Sonoma

1/3 c. all-purpose flour plus 2 Tbsp, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pheasant, broken down
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 c. red wine
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 bay leaf
About 5-6 small/medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
-Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.
-In a large bowl, combine 1/3 c. flour, salt and pepper. Add the phesant and toss to coat evenly.
-In a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil to almost smoking.
-Add half of the chicken and brown on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes total.
-Transfer to a plate.
-Brown the remaining pheasant and transfer to the plate.
-Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes.
-Remove the pan from the heat and add the wine.
-Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, to reduce, about 5 minutes.
-Return the pheasant to the pan and add the garlic, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and potatoes.
-Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to the oven.
-Cook until the chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes.
-Season with salt and pepper and remove the bay leaf, pheasant and potatoes.
-Place Dutch oven over medium high heat.
-Add flour and whisk to combine, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
-Pour thickened braising sauce over chicken and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Bites

My husband loves buffalo chicken bites, but I've never made them for him before! So one night I decided to take a crack at it and found a Rachel Ray recipe that looked good. I was intrigued that it called for pancake mix for the breading portion.

My husband and I both loved these. They were super easy to make and tasted great. I thought they had plenty of heat, but my husband said if I were making them just for him he'd like to add more hot sauce since he likes things more spicy then I do. We've made these twice so far and really love them. A perfect addition to our Friday night pizza!

Source: Rachel Ray

Vegetable oil (11/2 quarts), for frying
2 1/2 cups plain pancake mix
1 1/4 cups water
8 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Tabasco
11/4 pounds chicken tenders or skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
2 scallions, finely chopped (I omitted)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper (one-third palmful)
1 cup good-quality refrigerated blue cheese dressing, such as Marie’s brand
Store-bought celery sticks (I omitted)


In a deep skillet, heat 11/2 inches of oil over medium heat.

While the oil is heating, make the batter: In a wide mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of the pancake mix, the water and 6 teaspoons of hot sauce. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of pancake mix in another wide mixing bowl. Arrange the batter and the bowl of pancake mix near the stove. Line a plate with a few paper towels and keep within reach.

Once the oil is heated, toss the chicken pieces with the remaining 2 teaspoons of hot sauce, then toss them in the dry pancake mix, coat evenly and shake off the excess. (The dry pancake mix will help the batter stick to the chicken pieces.) Add some of the chicken to the batter (you’re going to batter and fry in 3 to 4 batches) and toss with your fingers or a fork. Remove the first batch from the batter, shaking off the excess, and carefully add the chicken to the hot oil. Fry the chicken for 2 minutes on each side, flipping once, until deep golden brown. Remove the fried chicken from the oil and drain on the paper towel–lined plate, then season with salt. Repeat until all the popcorn chicken bites are fried.

Stir the chopped scallions and pepper into the blue cheese dressing. Serve the chicken immediately with the dressing on the side. Garnish the platter with the celery sticks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cranberry Pear Crisp

After impulsively buying some beautiful Bosc pears at the farmers market, I got home and realized I had no idea what to do with them. So I asked my friend Julie for some suggestions (and because she is awesome at finding recipes) and decided to start with Ina Garten's Pear and Apple crisp as a starting point, but I forgot to print the recipe. So when I got home I just winged it and ended up with a surprisingly delicious crisp.

This is a great modification of a traditional apple crisp. The pear is a very welcome change, both texturally and taste wise. The cranberries add beautiful color and the thick topping is always a favorite. This crisp is great straight out of the oven or the day after. This would be a lovely dessert to display on your Thanksgiving dessert table.

Adapted from Ina Garten

6-8 Ripe Bosc Pears
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup Crasins
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 11x7 baking dish.

Peel, core and cut the pears into medium sized wedges. Add pears to a large bowl. Sprinkle the vanilla extract over the pears and toss to coat. Add sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and crasins. Pour into baking dish and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, oatmeal and cold butter. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the pear mixture.

Place the crisp on a baking sheet and bake for one hour until the pears are bubbly. If the topping starts to get too brown, place a large baking sheet on a rack over the crisp to prevent burning.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

As soon as I told my husband we were having "Spaghetti Squash Casserole" for a side dish that night, I instantly knew what he was thinking before he could say a thing.

Spaghetti and squash? in a casserole? Yuck!

I let him stew for a minute to ponder this idea before I told him Spaghetti Squash is a type of squash. I wasn't going to be combining spaghetti and butternut. He instantly looked relieved.

This was my first time using a spaghetti squash and I was definitely impressed. We both liked this casserole as a side dish very much and I loved how easy it was to make. This was a great weeknight side dish that is perfect for this time of year. I'll definitely make this again.

Adapted from All

3 pounds spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (8 ounce) can sliced mushrooms (I omitted as I don't like mushrooms)
1 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 slices bread, cubed (I used a few handfuls of plain stuffing bread that I had left over)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

Cook squash on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until tender. Shred with a fork once cooled slightly, then transfer to a lightly oiled casserole dish, discarding shell. Do not turn off the oven.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir the onions, mushrooms, and basil until onions are translucent and tender. Stir onion mixture and sour cream into the squash until well mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and cover with bread cubes.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until warmed through and top is lightly browned and toasted. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Raspberry Crumb Brownie Bars

It seems like all I'm posting lately are sweets, but 'tis the season I suppose!

I've had this recipe for a while but never found an opportunity to make it. But last week we had a small party at work and I thought this would be great to bring in. I'm not usually one to used boxed mixes (cake, brownie, etc.) for anything, but I loved how simple the boxed mix made this recipe. It's a perfect recipe to make when you're in a time crunch. Plus, the boxed mix makes for a super-fudgy brownie which I just love!

Everyone loved these little bars because, let's be honest, who doesn't like chocolate and raspberry?! After I made these I also realized that I'm sure I've had them before, I just don't know where or when. But I knew I liked them so I'm glad I finally found a recipe!

This is a great dessert that is a crowd pleaser and easy to make. Additional, these will be making an appearance on my Christmas Cookie tray this year!

Adapted from The Noshery

1 box of brownie mix and however much oil, eggs and water the box calls for)
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
2 cups flour
1/2 light brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup seedless red raspberry jam
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour a 13x9 baking dish.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light in color. Next add in sugar until combined. Slowly add in flour and salt just until combined and still crumbly.

Add half of this mixture into your greased baking dish and, with your fingers, push down the dough until it completely covers the bottom and a little ways up the sides. Place into preheated oven for 10 minutes.

White the crust is baking, make the brownies in a large bowl according to package directions.

In a small microwave safe bowl, add raspberry jam and melt in the microwave at 30 second intervals (stirring each time) until very smooth.

Remove the crust from the oven after 10 minutes. Pour brownie batter over crust, and sprinkle remaining crust over the brownies. Drizzle with melted raspberry jam and top with coconut.

Put back in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until brownie is completely cooked.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

If you are looking for the easiest dessert on the planet, look no further.

I had to make a sweet treat for a work party, but the night before I was SO busy and knew I wouldn't have time to make much. So I found this recipe online and thought it looked like a great, easy dessert. And it was. It only took about 15 minutes to make and what I liked was that it made enough to serve a decent size crowd (or a really hungry small crowd, like my office!). This ended up being a treat that everyone loved and one that I will definitely make again!

So if you are in a hurry and want to make something quick, this is a great recipe to try.

Source: Nestle Toll House

2 cups peanut butter, divided
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (next time I would use 2 1/2 cups, my bars ended up being a little crumbly)
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips, divided


Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Beat 1 1/4 cups peanut butter and butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in 1 cup powdered sugar. With hands or wooden spoon, work in remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, graham cracker crumbs and 1/2 cup morsels. Press evenly into prepared baking pan. Smooth top with spatula.

Melt remaining 3/4 cup peanut butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups morsels in a bowl over a double boiler. Stir constantly, until smooth. Spread over graham cracker crust in pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until chocolate is firm. Cut into bars. Store in covered container in refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Autumn Sugar Cookies

After making 95 cookies for a baby shower, I had some dough left over so I decided to make some cookies for work. Don't mind my shaky lines, but after doing 95 cookies I was a little beat.

However, my coworkers ate them all up with their morning coffee so I was definitely glad I made them!

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Cookies were decorated in Royal Icing. Here is a great tutorial on how to decorate beautiful sugar cookies: Good Things Catered

Monday, November 2, 2009

Penne Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

I've literally had this recipe in my drawer for over a year. I wanted to make it last year but my husband hates pumpkin everything (and he's not that when he doesn't like something I try to avoid it) and I just never got around to making it.

However, a few weekends ago he went up to hunting camp so that was the perfect opportunity for me to make this.

This was an easy dish to put together, and came out great. The pumpkin flavor was so nice and the creamy sauce just lent itself so nicely to the penne pasta. And honestly, the leftovers tasted almost better then the day I made this. It might take me another year to make this, but I will definitely make it again!

Source: Martha Stewart

12 ounces penne rigate (ridged), or other short pasta
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (I used dried)
3-4 leaves fresh sage, minced (I added)
1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar (I omitted)
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish (optional) (I omitted)


Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 2 cups pasta water; drain pasta and set aside.

In pasta pot, heat oil over medium. Add rosemary and fry, stirring, until starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rosemary to a paper towel, leaving oil in pot.

Carefully (oil is hot and will spatter) add pumpkin puree, garlic, half-and-half, Parmesan, vinegar, red-pepper flakes, and 1 cup reserved pasta water to pot. Stir sauce until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add pasta to sauce, and toss to coat. If sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water. Season generously with salt. Serve pasta sprinkled with fried rosemary and, if desired, more red-pepper flakes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

I had a mass of butternut squash from my garden this year, which is good because my husband and I just love it. So I've been trying to find new things to do with it that we can enjoy before my harvest is up. And since risotto is another one of our favorite things, I thought this would be perfect.

I cannot even begin to describe how much we both loved this risotto. Not only is it perfect for this time of the years, the flavors are just exceptional. The creamy risotto combined with the smokey bacon and earthiness of the squash is just a combination that cannot be beat. We absolutely loved this recipe and will certainly be making it again and again. Like my husband said last night, "Bacon, squash and risotto. How can this be bad?!"

And posting this amazing recipe today ended up being perfect because today's post is my 200th! I still can't believe I've posted over 200 recipes in less then a year...again I am reminded how glad I am that I started this blog to keep track of my recipes and share with you all some of our favorites!
Adapted from: Ina Garten

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I used low sodium)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced (I had to use thick cut American bacon since my store didn't carry pancetta)
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I omitted and substituted with chicken stock)
1 teaspoon saffron threads (I omitted)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
3 fresh sage leaves, minced (I added this)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (I completely omitted salt from the risotto because of the bacon and since I salted the squash itself. It was perfectly seasoned without any additional salt). Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes, sage and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.


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