December 20, 2011

Mmm pie

This is the second installment of my holiday food blogs: Pie

I love making pie, it is one of my favorite things to bake. During Thanksgiving I made three different pies. All of these recipes were new to me but now I know what to do next time. My mom recently TOLD me I was making the pie for Christmas. I guess I take that as a compliment? So I thought if they were good enough to be demanded they be made then I guess it is good enough to share.

Sweet Potato - This was inspired by Paula Deen, I figure if anyone knows good sweet potato pie it should be her.

3 Large Yams (not really sweet potatoes)
1/2 C Soften Butter
1 T Vanilla
2 1/2 C Sugar
1/2 t Nutmeg
4 Eggs Beaten
3/4 C Evaporated Milk
2 - 9" pie shells (See my blog for "Gimme beef....and beer" for my recipe)

Peel and cut potatoes then boil until tender but not mushy. Puree all ingredients until smooth. Pour into pie shells then bake at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes or until done in middle.

*Hint...NEVER use canned yams/sweet potatoes, they just do not taste right*

Apple Tart  -
 I got this idea from Martha Stewart...or one of her minions, not really sure who coined the original recipe. This is an open faced dish, not so much a pie, but you could do the same thing but put into a pie dish if you are a traditionalist.

1 Sheet of Puff Pastry
2-3 Peeled and sliced apples (tart are best)
1/3 C Granulated sugar
2 T Cinnamon

1 Egg yolk mixed with 1 T water for wash on crust.

For glaze warm 2 T butter and 2 T jelly (apricot or apple is best)

Pastry will come frozen (unless you make your own of course) let sit at room temperature until pliable but not too soft. Leave folded in thirds  or you can cut and stack then roll out. If it is not perfect don't worry because you can trim then edges to be even. Score your pastry all the way around about a 1/2 inch in from the edge. On the outside half inch brush with the egg wash.

In bowl toss apples with cinnamon and sugar. Once all slices are coated evenly lay out onto inner rectangle. Sprinkle any remaining cinnamon and sugar over apples. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. you will want your pastry to be golden and the apples to be tender. Drizzle or brush the jelly and butter over your tart. You can serve hot or cold, it taste grate either way.

Pumpkin Cream Pie - I thought this would be a good option instead of plain pumpkin pie. It is more the consistency of a cheese cake.

1 12oz can of pumpkin                    1/2 t Vanilla
2 Eggs                                              1/2 t Salt
3/4 C Packed light Brown sugar      1 C Heavy cream
1 t Cinnamon
1 t Pumpkin Pie spice                      1- 9" pie shell

Blend all ingredients together then pour into pie shell and bake for about an hour at 350 degrees.
Once done let cool completely in refrigerator. While it is cooling you can prepare the topping.

Dissolve 1 t gelatin in a sauce pan with 3 T water. In a bowl whip 1/4 C granulated sugar and 1 1/2 C heavy cream and add gelatin mixture. You will want it to be thick and be able to make stiff peaks.

Spread on top of cooled pie then dust with pumpkin pie spice. You may want to chill again to let completely set up. It works well to make a day ahead.

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Quilling and Juicing

I am always trying to learn new techniques when it comes to crafting and what not. I have been interested in quilling but have never actually sat down to try it. The concept is simple, coil a thin strip of paper then squeeze into a shape that makes up a bigger picture. Here was my first attempt.

 For the flower I used 7 strips of teal paper cut
1/8" X 9"

For each petal coil paper then pinch at one end. used glue to hold tail of paper. I then glued each one to the one next to it with them meeting at the narrow point in the middle.

For the stem I used 1 1/2 strips of dark green paper.

After it was coiled I loosened the coil and stretched on end out then pinched in an oval like shape then glued the tail down. I then coiled the 1/2 piece a loosened it then glues the straight tail down to the first piece.

Once finished I glued the entire thing to a card front then added the center gem. Next time I will try something more complex. Stay tuned!

While I was busy making this card my husband and I juiced some fruit and veggies, but as with many of my projects I got carried away and left my juice sitting for too long. So it separated into this festive layered cocktail.

This one was made with kale, apples, spinach and beets. Tasted good and pretty too!

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Christmas Cookies

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year, not really weather wise because we get more rain than snow, but because of the lights and decorations, time spent with family and friends, and most importantly a time for remembrance. With each holiday get together the one thing that is consistent no matter where you are is food.
This is the first of two holiday food blogs : Cookies

I have a couple recipes that I make year after year. One of them only make once a year much to my husband's disappointment. Don't get me wrong, I love it but it just has so much butter in it I have a hard time justifying it more than once a year. But never the less this is one recipe I plan to make every year as long as I can. It is tradition and a recipe I want to pass onto my kids.

Shortbread - Courtesy of my Grandmother
2 C Butter soften ( Yes one pound!)
1 C Powder Sugar
1/2 C Corn Starch
3 C Flour
1 t Vanilla

Mix all ingredients together on a low speed or by hand then roll into balls about the size of a golf ball, you can also you a mini scoop if you have one. The dough will be pretty smooth and soft. If it is hard to work with just pop it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. You can also make it the day before and just refrigerate until you are ready to use.
I like to press down with a fork so they cook more evenly. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 325 degrees. The color will not change much when baking so check around the edges for a little darkening. The bottoms will be a nice light golden color. You can also place candied cherries in the middle before baking for some color.

Oatmeal Raisin -
I did not have a recipe for this so I just found one in my handy everything cookbook.

Sugar Cookies - After years of trial and error I think I figured out the perfect combo of cookie and frosting for best taste.
3/4 C Sugar
10 T Softened Butter
1 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt
2 T Milk
2 t Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
2 C Flour

Beat sugar, butter, baking powder and salt on high till creamy. Add milk, egg & vanilla on low until well blended. Stir in flour by hand. Divided dough in 2 halves then refrigerate for one hour.
Roll out on floured surface about 1/4-1/2 inch thick then cut out with desired cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheet or baking mat. Bake for 6-8 minutes at 350 degrees. These cookies will also be pretty light colored when done.

Frosting -
2 C Powdered Sugar
1 T Soften Butter
1/2 t Vanilla
2-4 t Milk

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Mix together until smooth (add in milk a teaspoon at a time). You can then separate into small bowls and add food coloring of choice.

So those are a couple of my go to cookies for the holidays. As always please let me know if you have any questions or comments. If you try them out let me know how you liked them.

December 06, 2011

Chicken Parmesan and Whole Wheat Pasta with Squash

Chicken Parmesan is one of my favorite Italian dishes, I realized I have never made it before and was dumbstruck as to why it took me so long to try it out. A lot if recipes I was seeing called for flour or bread crumbs but I wanted to try something different. So this recipe is a Kristen original! Since every well balanced meal needs something from the garden I am serving Acorn Squash courtesy of my husband's aunt’s garden. I also opted for a light green salad with the veggies we just got from our farm fresh delivery service. Which I LOVE by the way. Local, organic and delivered… can’t go wrong.
Acorn Squash

Wash one squash outside thoroughly. Cut in half and scoop out seeds. In baking dish add ½ inch of water. Place squash cut side down. Bake at 400 Degrees for 40 minutes.

You can add butter, cinnamon, brown sugar or other spices before eating. While this is cooking you can prepare the chicken to be baked.

Chicken Parmesan with Whole Grain Pasta

       Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
    ¼   C Olive Oil for Frying and 2 Tablespoons for the baking dish
2 - 3  C Marinara Sauce or Pasta Sauce

Cut chicken in half and trim off any fat. Cover with plastic wrap or place in large plastic bag then pound so it becomes an evenly thick piece. You can use a rolling pin or a bacon press if you do not have a mallet. Set aside on parchment paper.

In baking dish add 2 T Olive Oil and Marinara Sauce, you may want to save some for the top of the chicken. Set dish aside.

Prepare your dredging station with the following:
Station one –
½ C flour

Station two –
3     Eggs beaten
1 T Milk

Station three –
1 ½ C Panko
1/3 C Parmesan Cheese
1 ½ T Italian Seasoning (you can make your own with Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, Basil)
1 t Black Pepper
1T Salt

In large frying pan add ¼ C olive oil and the warm on med-high heat. Once oil is ready coat chicken in flour, then egg, then panko mixture. Let chicken brown then place in baking dish.

Lay slice of cheese over each piece of chicken.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees then serve over pasta.

I was so please with how this turned out, I will definitely be making this more often! Give it a try and let me know what you think or if you have any suggestions.

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December 02, 2011

Christmas Decorations

Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming! I love the holiday season, and to start it of right I wanted to make my own decorations. Not only for the creative outlet but also to make something with my own hands instead of buying it. I am a true believer in home is where you make it and to me Christmas is a time to share with your family. I would much rather be at home with my husband and son making decorations for our house and gifts for our loved ones then spending time with strangers in a hectic store scene.

A few years after searching for a black Christmas tree we came up empty handed. We could find foil blue and green and even pink but no black...I did used to have an awesome red table top one when I was in college though, but anyway we ended up breaking down and just buying a cheap fake one then painting it our selves. NEVER AGAIN! It was so messy and to this day still smells like paint. Not so warm and cozy. This year we have decided to get rid of the black tree and go back to real. But since our apartment is not very big we are opting for a table friendly size. Hopefully a little more then just a Charlie Brown tree, which I saw a fake version of the other day. I honestly thought about getting it for a second but my husband vetoed that idea. So since we will be having a small tree this year, I have felt the need to decorate the rest of the house more to make up for the size of the tree.

Paper Chain

I have always loved making paper chains, I remember making them in school and at home when I was little. Some people make them like a day count to Christmas and others make them a countdown to how many days are left. Either way you do it is really easy and great thing to do with kids.

You'll need...
Paper (25 strips of paper of choice, I used strips cut to 2" X 9")
Glue Stick / Glue dots / double side tape
Numbers (Optional)

Cut paper into strips. You can then add number or pictures. I used numbers cut by my Cricut machine but any premade sticker or cut number would work just fine. You could also use a glitter glue pen or metallic paint pen to write it on.

***Hint - Make sure your numbers all face the same direction other wise when you hang it up some of the numbers maybe upside down***

While I had my Cricut out I also made snowflakes which I dressed up with pearl accents. You can make your own snowflakes the old fashion way by folding your paper in a wedge then cutting out your pattern.

Candle holders

Candle holders are so simple but can make any area look a little classier and you can personalize them to be exactly what you want instead of settling for the decorations that store has.

You'll need...
Candle holders (Any color or size)
Rhinestones or other decorative embellishment
Glue dots / craft glue/ hot glue
Tea light candles

Make sure you candle holder surface is clean so adhesive can stick well. Measure the circumference of the surface of your candle holder. Cut ribbon to just barely overlap the ends. Glue ends down to surface of holder then add the embellishments to hide the seem.

With either of these projects you can customize to whatever your style is or color of your decorations are. And these are great and simple decorations anyone can make for any of the winter holidays. This is also a fun project to do with kids. One thing I have learned is that kids will remember things like this more then some shopping trip or toy. Personally I like to trick kids into learning. I feel good about it, you can't make me think otherwise! Hey, baking is a real world application for fractions.

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