Monday, December 27, 2010

Pumpkin Butter Bars

This recipe is another reason that pumpkin should be eaten year-round. These are DELICIOUS! AMAZING. I've never had a baked good disappear so fast at work. I had to set one aside to take home to the bf so he could try them too. These are also easy, and you can make them too! The original recipe is from Williams Sonoma (found on the jar of their Pecan Pumpkin butter), but I grabbed it from Bakerella. I couldn't find the WS butter, so I grabbed this version of Maple Pumpkin Butter from the grocery store.

Worked like a charm! :)

Something about the yellow cake base and the cinnamon and the crumble makes these almost like a coffee cake. I brought them for a breakfast potluck last week, but they would work well as a dessert bar too. Or really any meal. :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The bf and I are on our way back to New Orleans for a visit with the fam! Don't get too excited. I don't think we'll see any snow this year...Can't wait to see my baby Jackson though!

...and my mom, dad and brother of course!

Just wanted to wish everyone a joyous holiday season, wherever you are!

More exciting recipes to talk about when I get back. :)


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to Make Peppermint Bark (and impress your neighbors)

I found this recipe last year after I discovered the world of blogs and all the wonderful things they had to offer! I made a bunch to hand out to people at G's office as well as some friends and maybe some for myself too... :)

It's SO good. No really- its THAT good. In case you think I'm just bragging, here is one of about 10 comments I got after passing this out at work:

"So- I have to tell you...I went to a Christmas party and it was held by a professional baker. She made peppermint bark too, and yours is a million times better!"

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Yarn Christmas Trees

OK. So I figured maybe I should hurry up and post this since MAYBE someone might want to make this BEFORE Christmas this year. I still have the supplies to make 3 MORE trees, but honestly I'm not sure if I will be able to finish this year. We're leaving for New Orleans on Wednesday and there is no room in my suitcase for Styrofoam trees. I know its no excuse, but I've been a little intimidated by the stockpile of posts I've had lining up- including recipes from Thanksgiving still! Hey, I'm sure some of you are still waiting for a post with England pictures, but I can't promise that will happen anytime soon....

Last year I made these cuties.

This year I added the adorable cupcake ornament for me and the London bus for G (each less than $5 from Marshalls).

I wanted to make some more! This year I was inspired to make a "Land of Sweets" tree by these sweet mini ornaments from Target.

I picked up all of the other supplies at Joanne's, but I have since found that Hobby Lobby is a lot cheaper. I'm not sure if they have all the same little "toppers" though...

Here's what you will need:
  • Different size Styrofoam trees, I recommend 3 (You can use the green floral trees, but they tend to crumble more and are harder to cover)
  • small pins with heads
  • 1-2 skeins fuzzy yarn (you can layer the colors if you want to go for a different look)
  • variety of little holly/berry bunches
  • variety of "toppers" that you can insert into the top of the tree
  • anything else you want to decorate with

Starting at the bottom of your tree, use several pins to secure the yarn around the base.

Continue wrapping around, keeping the lines as close together as possible, securing where needed. I just pinned at the bottom and the top though.

I had a hard time seeing where the Styrofoam was peeking through since I was using white yarn this time, but do your best!

Carefully wrap around the top and secure with as many pins as needed to cover the top before wrapping the yarn back down again to the bottom- making sure to cover any Styrofoam patches you missed before.

Secure at the bottom with several pins and cut the yarn. You're almost done!

Cut the" berries" you want to use off of the little bunches. I got these bunches for like $0.50 each and each one has more than enough ornaments" for one tree.

Carefully poke in where desired.

I was able to use them to secure my ornaments too! :)

Place your topper in the top and TADA!

Now you're ready to impress! :)

If you make these, please send me some photos/let me know how they turned out! :)


Friday, December 17, 2010

World's Best Lasagna

I didn't make up that name- it came with this recipe. :) You may remember me discussing this recipe a long time ago here. The first time I made this recipe it was seriously AMAZING. I bought all organic/fresh (i.e. EXPENSIVE) ingredients from Central Market. The second time I went to the other end of the spectrum with bargain ingredients from H-E-B- no bueno. This time I bought everything from H-E-B but with slightly higher quality. It turned out a lot better than last time, but according to the bf, it was still not up to par with the first version..sigh. :( I think it may also need MORE CHEESE and more spices (maybe a bay leaf?). Next time I'll try to change it up.... The sauce is also yummy on its own though with some pasta!

Everyone says lasagnas are better the second day, and I do have to say it has provided several tasty lunches for me last week! It also freezes well.

World's Best Lasagna
Makes about 12 servings
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
  • 3/4 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced white onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
  • 2 (8oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 TBSP white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil (fresh is better!)
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 TBSP salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 TBSP fresh parsley chopped
  • 8-12 lasagna noodles (fresh pasta is best if you can find it)
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In large pot or dutch oven, cook meat, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat is browned.

Drain grease, if desired. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and water. Season with basil, sugar, fennel, Italian seasoning, 1/2 TBSP salt pepper and 2 TBSP parsley.

Simmer on low, covered, at least 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. If you have time, leave it on for longer. While sauce is simmering, soak lasagna noodles (only if using dried noodles) in large bowl of hot water for 20-30 minutes, until soft. drain and set aside.

In a bowl mix ricotta cheese, 1/2 tsp salt, dash nutmeg, egg and remaining 2 TBSP parsley- set in fridge until ready to use.

You can also use this time to slice your cheese, if it did not come pre-sliced. It's a lot cheaper to buy a block- and hey, what do you know? I happen to have a handy-dandy cheese slicer volunteering for the job!

Preheat oven to 375 when the sauce is almost ready. To assemble lasagna, use a 13x9 dish and layer as follows:
  1. Scoop 1 1/2 cups meat sauce into bottom of pan
  2. Arrange 4-6 noodles lengthwise across pan (Mine were thin and fit kinda weird)
  3. Spread with 1/2 ricotta cheese mixture
  4. Top with 1/3 mozzarella cheese slices
  5. Top with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Repeat layers and top with remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil (spray underside with cooking spray to avoid sticking) and bake 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 25 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

If you make this, please let me know how it turns out for you! :) Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Filthy Rich Au Gratin Potatoes

These potatoes are just so creamy, so delicious and so rich. They were a big hit this year with our pre-Thanksgiving ham dinner. See them next to the cinnamon applesauce?

Although really a very simple dish, you will surprise people with how tasty and fancy these potatoes seem. ;) The original recipe is from Fine Cooking, and I've made them many times since they're the bf's favorite. The only negative is that they do take a little time to bake. Slicing the potatoes can also take a lot of time if you don't have a mandolin (I do, but I made these at my parents' house).

You don't have to serve a big fancy dinner to enjoy these though- sometimes I halve and bake in an 8x8 dish as a special side for a regular dinner. :)

Filthy Rich Au Gratin Potatoes
Serves 6-8
  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 3 cups whipping or heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • generous pinch of nutmeg (fresh is best)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese (You will probably have to buy in a block and grate yourself)

Heat oven to 400. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice potatoes into 1/8" thick slices. I did this early in the day while I had the motivation; then I let them soak in water until I was ready to make them.

Put potatoes in large, heavy-based saucepan. Add cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and garlic.

Cook over medium-high heat until mixture boils, stirring occasionally (gently using a plastic spatula or wooden spoon so you don't break the slices).

When your mixture boils, carefully pour into 13x9 baking dish. If you don't want a tender garlicky surprise, remove garlic cloves. Gently tap dish on counter to settle. Sprinkle cheese over top.

Bake 40-50 minutes- until top is deep golden-brown, cream is thickened and potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.

The mixture will continue to set up as it cools. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.


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