December 31, 2009

Penne With Chicken, Spinach and Parmesan Cheese Sauce

I really can't even tell you how many chicken and pasta dishes I have made. It seems like those two items are our trusty dinner go-tos. We really never seem to get tired of the rotation though...ok so never say never, but there's enough variety to keep us happy. It's a very rare occasion that neither of us will be in the mood for a hearty chicken parmesan with spaghetti or lemony chicken francese over linguini. The truth is that there is just so much variety amongst those two ingredients alone that the possibilities are endless.

Truth be told, I'm a sucker for pasta and I'm not picky. I've mentioned before that I'm not a big meat-eater, I could eat pasta every night and be wonderfully happy. I have this mental security that as long as pasta is served along with dinner I know I'll like it -- and if not I can always pick around everything and just eat the noodles! So when I found this recipe I had absolutely no reservations about adding another chicken and pasta dish to our kitchen. And I have definitively concluded that anything with the phrase 'parmesan cheese sauce' just has to be good!

December 24, 2009

Cocoa Spritz Cookies

We can't forget about Santa this fine Christmas Eve. My Perfect Little Helper and I whipped up these super simple, super yummy spritz cookies for the jolly ol' fella tonight. I was suuuure Santa didn't want another plain old sugar cookie (not that there's anything wrong with them)... change is nice. Last year (seriously a year ago) hubby got me a Martha Stewart cookie press on clearance at K-Mart. I don't know people, I have no reason why it sat in the baking cupboard for an entire 11 months, it escapes me. But tonight that puppy got broken in, I imagine the whole technique takes a little getting used to, but for my first whirl it wasn't too bad.

December 23, 2009

My Fancy Challah Grilled Cheese

Not too long ago I decided to make my own homemade challah bread. I was the happiest girl on the block with my fresh fluffy loaf! So after devouring ohhhhh, half the loaf on my own -- I kid you not -- I was determined to find other uses for my bread. Of course you can go the baked french toast route, and why wouldn't you, but I wanted something different. Yes I have to be that difficult.

I prodded around my fridge, looking for inspiration for dinner. I have to tell you, there was little to work with folks, utterly pitiful. I had some sliced baby bella mushrooms, yum, the tail end of a smoked Gouda ball, double yum, and a few remaining slices of Havarti. Separately these things are mmmmmm in my book, but I questioned whether it would be a harmonious marriage. Eh, what did I have to lose?

December 19, 2009

How To Make An Easy Pie Crust

I have a confession, I have never really been much of a pie person. The Thanksgiving dessert display of 9 different fruit pies held little appeal to me growing up. For a long time I was repulsed by the thought of soggy fruit soaking in sugary syrup. Soooo I avoided pies for as long a I possibly could. It was only under the persuasive powers of my husband that I ever even thought about baking my own.

December 18, 2009

How To Make Challah Bread, My Experiment!

When I lived in New Jersey, challah bread was always on the shelf at Shop Rite. When I wanted baked french toast on a whim I'd pick up a loaf on the way home from work and be half way to breakfast Heaven. Ahhhh the simple things we take for granted. Since I moved to South Carolina (2 yrs ago) I have yet to see it front and center...or anywhere for that matter, on any shelf. I yearn for the soft, chewy goodness I once enjoyed. Buuut instead I settled for the okay looking honey wheat bread for my latest batch of french toast <>.

It wasn't until I noticed the limp layers of leftovers sitting in the fridge this morning that I realized I do NOT have to settle! I put my foot down and set to researching. I headed over to my oh-so-trusty and threw challah into the search box. Of course I received ohhhh about a kajillion hits, ok 94 - same thing, but I wanted simplicity. Teach me how to bake a loaf and I'm a happy girl, and there it was - a simple, straight forward recipe that wasn't daunting at all. Thanks to Cyrano I had a game plan for tonight.

December 12, 2009

Sausage & Pasta In Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

When I think of pumpkin I immediately day dream about autumn. Flavorful pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins - all of them scream autumn to me. Even though canned pumpkin is so easily accessible throughout the entire year I rarely break out a can outside the months of October and November. This year, even though it seems autumn has skipped right by us and we're sitting here under layers of blankets, I cannot let go of my pumpkin. With Christmas marathon baking in full swing I wanted anything but another cupcake, muffin or cookie.

That's why I decided that with my last half a can of Libby's I would make something like no other pumpkin dish I have ever made. A savory plate of creamy pumpkin goodness. And even better, it will have cheese, mmmm sweet and silky cream cheese and a nice nutty parmesan, that's it - I can't wait any longer. So I figured a creamy pumpkin cheese sauce over pasta was just what my tummy ordered...but then I remembered I had some Italian sausage hanging around. Hmmm, pumpkin and sausage (oh yes, it works my friends) perfect. So I browned up some sausage with diced onion, starting off on the right foot if I do say so!

December 9, 2009

Eggnog Candy Cane Cookies For Santa

I bought these Candy Cane Hershey Kisses about a month ago just because they were so darn cute. I had no idea what I was going to do with them but I knew it would involve cookies. Not wanting to go with the recipe on the back of the package (nothing against it I promise) I tucked them aside in the pantry until I decided their fate, and oh what a sweet one it was.

Last weekend I bought my first ever bottle of eggnog. I had never tried this concoction before, I've admittedly been too afraid but I was ready to take that step. I love it, well I love the flavor of it...the thickness though is just a little off putting. My thoughts immediately following the first glass was this would be perfect in some sort of baked good. It's thick and creamy and so flavorful...cookies, perfect.

December 8, 2009

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

A while back I got to do my very first Daring Cooks' Challenge, I know - so exciting! In October the Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. I was nervous at first, having never attempted a Vietnamese dish before - not to mention I'd never used any of the spices on the ingredient list (yes...I'm stunned too but I've come to terms with it).

I opted to go with the longer variation, making my own chicken broth from scratch, another first for me (I know can you believe it?!). I used Jaden's recipe at the Steamy Kitchen and it was really just a time consuming a piece of cake, nothing to it - I promise.

December 2, 2009

Peppermint Candy Cane Scones

So the season is upon us - the candy cane and gingerbread season that is. While I'm not entirely nuts over eating candy canes the traditional way I love adding them to baked goods. I never thought of it really until a couple of years ago when I saw Alton Brown make some chocolate peppermint pinwheel cookies (yum by the way). After making them every year since I found the recipe, I have finally decided that it's time to expand my peppermint baking. My thought for this year was to make a peppermint scone, think about how wonderful that would be dipped in some cocoa or coffee! I googled, and I googled and had a hard time finding something to match my idea. I was just about to give up when I stumbled upon The Good Neighbor (love her).

I've always been a little intimidated by scones, imagining a dry and crumbly disaster. Really, I think this is a rational fear for many others who are curious about making scones for the first time. I couldn't have been more wrong, they're not daunting at all - in fact they may possibly be one of the easiest baked goods to throw together. Best of all, I don't have to chill the dough, whoop whoop! Inspired by the easy recipe and pack of candy canes fresh from the grocer I got out my bowl and set to work. I had My Perfect Little Helper pound the candy canes to tiny little bits (she loves crushing things for me!) while I cut the butter into the flour mix. Before I knew it we had a batch of little scones heading into a toasty oven. And before we could even clear the counter and get out of the kitchen they were done.