Category Archives: Christmas

BLT Bites

Last month my brother-in-law and his fiancée got married.  I’m sure Michelle got lots of advice on wedding related things, but I told her my most important piece of advice is to make sure she gets a plate of food set aside for her to bring home!  I didn’t get to eat anything at my wedding reception, though I hear the food was fabulous!

Well this time I wasn’t the bride, just a bridesmaid.  So I got to eat!  There were many yummy things but there was one thing that stood out.  It was so unassuming, these little tomatoes on a platter.  I didn’t get one because I wasn’t sure what they were stuffed with and my plate was already full!  My mom got a few though and she told me to try one.  Heavenly! They taste exactly like little bite-sized BLTs, full of creamy bacon flavor.  I went back for more for myself and they were all gone 😦  A few days later I went off in search of a recipe to make them and found it on Taste of Home’s website.   It was a huge hit at a jewelry party I had, I can’t wait to make them (and eat them!) again!

BLT Bites

BLT Bites
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients:
1 package grape or cherry tomatoes, washed
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

  • Carefully cut off the tops of the tomatoes and very carefully scoop out the insides.  Give a little thought beforehand to how you’re going to scoop them out – I used the round part on a jalapeno corer.  You don’t want to tear the outside of the tomato and you don’t want to scoop all the way through.
  • Place all the tomatoes on a plate and put the rest of the ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped and mixed.  If the filling is too “firm” then add a little more mayonnaise and mix well.
  • Scoop into a ziploc bag fitted with an icing piping attachment (or just make a small hole in the tip of the bag) and gently squeeze the filling into the tomatoes.
  • Cover the tray and place in the refrigerator a few hours to firm up.
  • Serve cold.

Scooped-out tomatoes

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Praline Coated Oreos

Happy Mardi Gras, ya’ll!  🙂  Today is Fat Tuesday and in its’ honor I bring you a special treat – praline coated oreos.  I spotted this on Pinterest recently and after checking out the attached recipe, I decided to do it my own way.

I’m kind of weird about my pralines.  I don’t like those hard, dark-colored ones.  The pralines we (my mom and I) make are soft and creamy.  So rather than try someone else’s recipe and risk being disappointed, I stuck with what I know.  These were pretty simple to make, just make sure you let your praline “sauce” (for lack of a better word) thicken some.  I did some before it really thickened and they were a sticky mess.  Still tasted good though!  But the ones I did once it thickened were perfect.  So make sure to reach that soft ball stage and beat a little!

Note:  do not attempt pralines on a rainy day!

Praline Coated Oreos

Praline Coated Oreos

Ingredients:
1 stick butter
3 cups white sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 pkg oreos
chopped pecans for topping – I used honey sugared pecans for a little extra fun

Method:

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, bring the butter, sugar and evaporated milk to a boil, stirring well to incorporate.  Continue stirring often until it gets to the soft ball stage, then remove from heat and add the vanilla.  Start whipping the liquid until it thickens some, then quickly begin dipping the oreos and placing them on waxed paper.  Make sure no kids are around because this stuff is HOT!

Before they start to harden, sprinkle the chopped pecans on top of each cookie.

Praline Coated Oreos

 

Toffee Crunch Cookies

I just love holiday baking!  While I’m not a big sweets eater, I love baking cookies, fudge, bark, etc. for friends and neighbors.  There is just something about baking that puts me in the mood for Christmas, if I don’t bake it doesn’t seem right!

I was invited to a cookie swap with the moms group I’m in, so naturally I was very excited to go.  I brought some mint chocolate cookies, which is actually the first recipe ever to appear on my blog and one I got at another cookie swap!  All of the cookies at the recent swap were great, but there was one in particular I knew my husband would go gaga over, Kim’s Toffee Crunch Cookies.  The hubs LOVES anything toffee and these were pretty knock your socks off good.  And they’re really REALLY easy to make.  I think I know what Santa is getting this year!

Toffee Crunch Cookies
Recipe from Kim B., originally from Secret Ingredients

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine, softened
1 package yellow butter cake mix WITH pudding (she says to make sure to get the one with pudding, it makes a difference)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1.5 cups Heath candy pieces with chocolate
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the margarine, cake mix and eggs in a bowl and mix well.  Stir in the Heath candy and pecans.
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on a parchment paper or silicone mat lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

Toffee Crunch Cookies

Sugar Crusted Vanilla French Toast

The local moms club I’m in is always doing fun activities.  I hosted one at my house last week that was really different.  We had a pajama party potluck brunch.  Of course nobody spent the night, everyone just came in their pjs (I’m sure my neighbors were wondering what was going on!) that morning.

We joked around that we should call it the pinterest party, since more than half of the dishes were “found” on pinterest, including mine.  Sugar crusted vanilla French toast seemed like it would be just right, and even better that it could be prepared the night before with only minimal work the next morning.  The ingredients consisted mostly of things you would have on hand, so it’s really inexpensive to make.

Sugar Crusted Vanilla French Toast

Everyone seemed to really love it.  I made a double batch but it wasn’t necessary, I ended up with a good bit left over.  But the leftovers are great, that was no problem! 🙂  The crust is really, well…crusty when it’s leftover but it softens in the microwave, have no fear.

Sugar Crusted Vanilla French Toast (Single Batch)
Recipe from:  Phenomenon

Ingredients:
1 loaf french bread, about 1lb. (plain, of course)

Custard:
3 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 – 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
pinch of sea salt

Sugar Coating:
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  • Slice the bread into 1 inch slices.  Spray a casserole (just big enough to fit the bread) with nonstick spray and arrange the slices in the dish.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the custard ingredients.  Pour evenly over the bread in the dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight.
  • The next morning, remove the dish from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter just till melted.  Add the brown sugar and corn syrup and whisk well to combine.  Microwave again in thirty-second bursts, whisking after each time until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is bubbly and hot.  Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  • Pour evenly over the top of the bread and bake about 40-45 minutes, until golden.

Sugar Crusted Vanilla French Toast

Pasta holiday gifts

A few months ago my mom gave me the most amazing kitchen gadget.  The Fasta Pasta cooker from QVC.  It cooks pasta in the microwave and then you put the lid on it to drain.  So you don’t have to bring a huge pot of water to boil or use a big colander.  Much less mess.  Of course it doesn’t cook a TON of pasta, so it’s good for a couple or a single person. 

I loved it so much I decided to get some as holiday gifts for some of my friends and family.  But I didn’t want to give JUST that so I paired it with a package of pasta, some parmesan cheese and a jar of my homemade marinara sauce.  I hope they all love theirs as much as I love mine!

Marinara Sauce

Pasta Gift Set

Peppermint Bark

My grandpa is one of the hardest people to buy Christmas gifts for, so when I asked my mom for some ideas, she suggested I make a goody bag for him.  She said that he loves peanut butter fudge, fig preserves and peppermint bark.  I already had a bunch of jars of fig preserves put up that I was planning to give neighbors as gifts, so that was no problem.  And peanut butter fudge is so easy to make (most of the time – one of my batches DID flop due to weather!), so that just left the peppermint bark.  Which I had never made before.  But it looked really easy!

In this case, looks were not deceiving.  It was REALLY easy and so delicious, I will now be adding this to my Christmas goody bags each year!  I feel a little silly even posting the recipe because it is so easy, but what the heck.  Someone might want to try it that never has before!

Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:
1 pkg chocolate bark
1 pkg vanilla flavored (or white chocolate) almond bark
peppermints, crushed

Method:
Crush a bunch of peppermints.  How you do this is up to you.  Be creative.  Then spread out some newspaper on your counters and put wax paper over it.  Melt the “brown chocolate bark” according to package directions, then spread out over the wax paper.  You can use your own preferences as to how thickly to spread it, I like my bark kind of thin though. Give this a few minutes to harden, it doesn’t take long.

Once it’s hardened, melt the “white chocolate bark” according to package directions.  Quickly spread it over the chocolate, be quick though because you don’t want your white and brown chocolates to mix together and if you’re too slow, they will.  Sprinkle the peppermint pieces over the top and allow to harden completely.  You can then either break it by hand for a more rustic look (which I did) or cut it into pieces.

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Kisses

There’s just something about baking that will always put me in the holiday mood.  And having a two-year old, it is a MUST that we bake cookies for Santa.  I wanted to do something a little different and the idea came to me while crushing peppermints for peppermint bark.  Peppermint Kisses.

I spotted this recipe a couple of weeks ago on Sing for Your Supper, which is one of my favorite blogs to follow.  She had an absolutely genius idea!  She made what she calls “candy cane flour.”  Basically what it is, is peppermints or candy canes crushed really fine so it’s a fine powder.  I achieved this with my mortar and pestle, but you could do it with a food processor or something.  This was a really fun recipe to make, it makes a great presentation AND it’s really yummy!  It’s just a light taste of peppermint, hence her name for the recipe.  Now if I could only find where I put my “Cookies for Santa” plate!

Peppermint Kisses
Recipe from:  Sing for your Supper

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup candy cane flour (see note above)
10 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk (in addition to the other egg)
1 tsp vanilla
crushed peppermints for garnish
1 cup white chocolate chips, to be melted and drizzled over the cookies

Method:

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and candy cane flour.  In the bowl of  a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you could use a hand mixer with a large bowl, it’ll just give it a workout!), cream the butter until smooth, beat in the sugar until light and fluffy and pale (about two minutes).  Add the whole egg and egg yolk and beat for one to two minutes before adding the vanilla and mixing well.  Add the flour mixture slowly, but steadily and continue mixing until well incorporated.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls (I made balls) onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  Bake 9-11 minutes, or until they seem done.  They won’t (shouldn’t) turn color, so you can’t do it till they’re golden!

Cool completely before decorating.  To decorate, melt the chocolate:  I put 1 cup white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heated at 70% power for 1 minute, then stirred well until it was smooth.  Then put the chocolate in a small ziploc bag, close it and snip off one of the bottom corners (snip it small so it’s not a huge glob that comes out).  Drizzle over the cookies, then sprinkle the crushed peppermints over the top.

Peppermint Kisses