Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cocktail Wienie Wreath

No matter what kind of party I'm having Pigs in a Blanket are always on the table - they are universally loved! (well, unless you are a vegetarian, but you get my point!)  That is why I loved this idea for a Cocktail Wienie Wreath!  Besides the tube of Pillsbury crescent rolls and a package of mini-hot dogs, you only need a red pepper and some garnish, like parsley, to make things look festive.

To assemble, cut a piece of parchment paper out to cover your baking sheet.  Wrap each mini-dog in the dough and then arrange on the parchment paper. You can free hand it; or use a bowl or plate to trace a circle on the parchment paper like I did below as a guide.  Just flip over the paper so the pencil marks don't touch the food - you'll still be able to see the circle through the paper.  The dough wrapped dogs should be touching, but not totally squished together.

Make an egg wash and lightly brush it over the tops and sprinkle with poppy and sesame seeds.  You can totally skip this step if you want to!  Once you are done preparing your wreath, put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes or until they are golden brown.  Carefully slide the cooked wreath onto a serving platter.
Arranging the wienie's on the
parchment paper

For the garnish, I cut off the side of a red bell pepper and used a paring knife to cut it into a bow, stuffed a few parsley leaves around the side and served this up with condiments.

You will mostly likely have leftover mini-dogs and dough, depending on how big your wreath is, so make another one!  They go fast!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Tree Crudités

Pinterest has been supplying me with fun food ideas this time of year!

We had a small holiday gathering this past weekend and I wanted to make my vegetable platter a little more festive and it think this tree-shaped arrangment does the job!

For the tree, I used baby carrots, zucchini, broccoli and celery. For the 'garland' I used sliced red and yellow peppers and used a small piece of the yellow pepper for the tree topper. I reserved a small piece of the zucchini for the stump.

There really wasn't any 'plan' in mind when I started to assemble the vegetables. I trimmed the broccoli to florets and then cut the zucchini and celery to about and an inch and a half and then started arranging in a tree and it just all came together! Don't forget the dip!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pretzel Kisses

I was on Pinterest looking for an easy holiday treat to add to the cookie making - one that didn't involve baking and came across these little treats. I love the salty-sweet mix of chocolate and pretzels and the M&M on top was a bonus! These could be made with regular Hershey kisses, Hugs, regular or peanut M&M's and in any color for the occasion.  You could even make these for a party snack, a girls night, last minute guests coming over or even a movie night.

All you need are some pretzel snaps, M&M's and Hershey kisses. Preheat the oven 275, place a kiss on top of each pretzel snap and put in the oven for 3 minutes. Once they come, out press an M&M in the center. The chocolate will be really soft so let them cool to harden - if you can wait that long - and enjoy!

Before the oven

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gearing up for holiday baking

On this weekends trip to the grocery store I picked up *some* stuff for my holiday baking.

I'm planning on making Chocolate Chocolate Chip Mint cookies, one variation with Andes candies and another with Peppermint crunch chips; Cranberry Macadamia Nut cookies; Macaroon Trees; dipped Pretzel Rods and French Chocolate Bark.

What are your holiday baking plans?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Meatless Monday

In an effort to eat less meat and to keep our waistlines in check, I’m going to try to go meatless at least once a week, if not more. However, vegetable anything in this house takes some creativity! Chili may not be the most creative recipes, but what this lacks in creativity it made up for in taste and healthfulness. The original recipe is listed below, but I made a few changes. I used a red bell pepper instead of the green, used only one jalapeno and used vegetable broth instead of water for more flavor. Even though there is a jalapeno in this chili, it barely had any heat. This is not the type of chili that is going to make your nose run and eyes tear up! I served this with some brown rice and homemade cornbread.

Here is a cute joke for you before you get cooking:

Q: What does a nosey pepper do?
A: Gets jalapeño in your business!!

I know, I know! It’s totally corny but it made me laugh.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 or 2 fresh jalapeño or serrano chiles, seeded, finely chopped
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans, drained, rinsed
2 cans (14.5 oz each) organic fire roasted or plain diced tomatoes, undrained
1 ½ cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
1 cup frozen organic sweet corn

Sour cream or plain yogurt
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro

In 4-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and chiles; cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender.

Stir in black beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, cumin and salt. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 5 minutes longer.

Top each serving with any optional ingredients you like. And for health's sake, the nutritional information is listed below.

1 Serving (1 Serving= 1 1/3 cups)
  •  Calories 280 (calories from Fat 35)
  • Total Fat 3 1/2g (Saturated Fat 1/2g, Trans Fat 0g),
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 390mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 48g (Dietary Fiber 11g, Sugars 10g)
  • Protein 13g

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Fall is the time of year when pumpkin makes it's appearance in all things food and also when Starbucks fans look forward to the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte!

I myself never knew how good it was until last year, however I don't want to pay that much for a coffee drink as often as I want to drink it. Well, I found an alternative that is pretty close. I'm on my second bottle so I'm not sick of it yet!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Easiest Ribs Ever!

I apologize that I don't have a better picture to post of these ribs but they were gone before I realized they were blog worthy! And then people started asking about them and I knew I should include them in the blog.

At the family reunion last month we planned to serve ribs along with our usual assortment of barbecue-type foods. Well, one of the grills crapped out earlier in the day and we needed to find a way to get everything cooked...ribs take up a lot of grill real estate!  So I took to the oven!

These ribs are by far the best I've ever had homemade and I think I'll continue to make them like this even if there is a grill around! There is minimal prep time and mess and they come out juicy, flavorful and fall-off-the bone tender. This is a case of less is more in terms of ingredients and never underestimating the flavor of some pork fat! All you need is kosher salt, fresh black pepper, and your favorite BBQ sauce-jarred or homemade, and a rack or two of ribs.


Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Salt and pepper both sides of ribs-be generous. Wrap each rack in a foil packet with the top (or meaty) side of ribs facing down (use two pieces of foil crimped together around the edges). Place on sheet pan and in the oven for one hour. After time is up, carefully unwrap the ribs and turn over. The tops should be nicely browned. Slather them with some BBQ sauce and put them back in the oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes for the sauce to cook into them and they are done!  Slice into individual ribs, slap on a rib bib and enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bar Nuts

If you ever happened to walk into the Union Square Cafe in New York City at the start of happy hour, you may have been lucky enough to enjoy this delicious bar snack.

Giada de Laurentiis was on Food Network recently gushing about them and how they are her favorite bar snack.  I got a craving for them and so I wanted to whip up a batch once it was cool enough to turn the oven on.

All this entails is tossing lightly toasted nuts with a mixture of brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, chopped rosemary and melted butter. They are so good you might eat the entire bowl!


2 1/4 cups of assorted, unsalted nuts
2 T coarsley chopped rosemary
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 t dark brown sugar
2 t sea salt
1 T unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread nuts out onto a sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes.  In a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, sea salt and butter.

Transfer the hot nuts into the bowl with the other ingredients and mix to combine well.  Keep mixing for a minute or two so that as everything cools a little the spiced butter mixture sticks to the nuts.   Serve warm.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homemade Pesto

Well, it's been a long time (eight months, but who's counting?) and I'm back in the blogosphere!  This year I made a resolution to get back into running and I've kept it, which is why I wasn't here much.  I'm almost to the end of Syrathon which is a series of races all around the area in which you accumulate 26.2 miles.  So that has been a fun way to keep motivated all year long.  That along with summer holidays, traveling and visitors and I have been M.I.A.

The temps are dropping upstate and I wanted to make use of the last of my basil plants before they whither and die in the cold - so sad!  Pesto is super easy to make and has lots of uses: a sandwich spread, a base for a pizza instead of red sauce, sauce for grilled chicken, noodles and pasta.  Tonight I mixed it into some vegetable ravioli with some peas!  Homemade tastes so much better than the store bought stuff in a jar.  The color alone shows you how fresh it is!  Here is what you'll need, along with a food processor or a blender.  

2 cups basil (packed)
2 garlic cloves (smashed)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese
3/4 cup good virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In your food processor add in everything but the olive oil and pulse it a few times until everything gets chopped up into really fine bits. Then with the food processor or blender running, add in the olive oil in a steady slow stream stopping once everything emulisifies and becomes a smooth paste. You may not need to use all of it.

There you go! You'll be amazed at how good it tastes! If you're not using all of it, or have made a double batch you can freeze it in ice cube trays for later use (after the cubes freeze, pop them out into a freezer bag to store in the fridge.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies

Somehow I managed to keep these little cuties around long enough to snap some photos!

Over the MLK weekend earlier this month I was busy in the kitchen with a few things on my 'To Cook' list. One was an Italian Beef Stew from Cooking Light which came out great! A perfect meal for the cold and snowy weekend that we had. I had also just received a new issue of Food Network magazine in the mail with the recipe for these Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies. They were pretty easy to make but have a step in which you need to freeze the dough for an hour, so that adds to the preparation time.

The recipe calls for softened butter, but it should be really, really soft - almost to the point were it melts. The dough will be very dry, like a pie crust dough, and won't hold together until you turn it out on the counter and knead it a few times.  Another tip is to use a ruler when rolling the dough into a log, and then again when making the 1/4 inch slices.  I eyeballed it and my cookies were a little on the thick side and took longer to cook.


For the cookies:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon red food coloring

For the filling:

3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Make the cookies: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture in 2 additions. Add the food coloring and beat until combined. Transfer the dough to a clean surface and knead a few times. Roll into a 10-inch-long, 1-inch-diameter log; wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Pulse the coconut, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, salt and vanilla in a food processor until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the freezer and unwrap. Slice the dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and arrange about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are firm around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Spread about 1 teaspoon of the filling on the flat side of half of the cookies, then sandwich with the remaining cookies.  Enjoy and try not to eat them all in one sitting!