Monday, January 31, 2011

Chocolate Nut Loaf - Chocolate With Francois

Most of the recipes we've made so far from Chocolate With Francois have been shall we say a little challenging. I was thrilled when I read this month's recipe. The recipe read like a basic quick bread recipe and except for the almond paste, I had all of the ingredients on hand.

I decided to make my own almond paste, of sorts. I combined the "dust" from the almonds I had chopped for the bread, with a teaspoon of almond extract and a little powdered sugar. As well, I substituted macadamia nuts for the hazelnuts. The baking time for this recipe is 50 - 60 minutes. When I checked my bread at 45 minutes, the butter was bubbling around the sides of the pan and had run over in the oven. Fortunately, I use an oven liner. If you don't have one, I strongly recommend buying one!!! After the bread cooled, most of the butter seemed to absorb back into the bread. It did create an interesting crisp edge around the bread. I decided to skip glazing the bread. The bread was moist and the combination of nuts were delicious.

Thanks to Leslie of Lethally Delicious for hosting this month. You can find the recipe on her blog. The links to the other Chocolate With Francois Bakers can be found here!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pink Saturday - Vacation Anticipation

I am not very good at taking pictures to have on hand for Pink Saturday posts. Instead of borrowing one from the internet, I try to find one in my own picture library. There's lots of shades of pink and many interpretations of color. To me these buildings have pink roofs, so work with me on this one! This picture was taken from our cabin, before we sailed away from St. Martin on our 2008 Caribbean cruise.

There's nothing better than a warm weather winter vacation, it helps the long winter seem a little more bearable and go a little faster. We leave in a week for warm weather and sunshine. I can't wait!

I am linking this to Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tomato Chickpea Soup

Do you watch Doctor Oz? He's one of those television figures like Oprah or Dr. Phil that everyone has an opinion about. I work with a girl who's a die hard Dr. Oz fan, almost every day she says you know Dr. Oz says you should have this or that. Last week she told me he had a show on Super Foods, funny I was thinking I'd just watched a Dr. Oz show on Super Foods. So I said, he said blueberries, right? I know that's what he said on the show I watched. She said, no he said Chickpeas!

This was a day or two after I bookmarked this recipe. Regardless of whether or not you like or believe Dr. Oz, give this soup a try. It's a delicious version of tomato soup. The rosemary adds a nice earthy fragrance to the tomatoes and the chickpeas give it some substance. I brought my rosemary plant in for the winter and so far it's doing pretty well. I've found the fastest way to chop rosemary is to snip it with kitchen shears, much quicker than trying to chop with a knife. I almost always have some homemade chicken stock in the freezer, so I used it in place of the veggie stock.

I loved this soup and will be making it again, for me. Much as I tried to convince Tim the chickpeas were the "meat" in this soup, he said the chickpeas just weren't working for him.

Tomato Chickpea Soup with Rosemary

Courtesy of the Taste Space

3 cups cooked chickpeas (around 2 15-ounce cans, rinsed)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 3-inch sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed from stem and finely chopped (dried rosemary would be fine, too – 1 tsp or so)
2 cans tomatoes (whole, diced, or crushed, with juice), one 28-ounce and one 14.5-ounce
A pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2.5 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)

1. Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat, and add the garlic and rosemary. Cook for a minute or two, and then add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, a few grinds of pepper, roughly half of the chickpeas, and the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat; then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

2. Remove the soup from the heat to purée. If using an immersion blender, purée the soup directly in the pot. Otherwise, wait a few minutes, until the soup cools; then purée it in batches in a blender or food processor and return it to the pot. Add the remaining chickpeas, and warm the soup over medium heat. Serve warm.

Serves 6.

I am linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs By Gollum and Souper Sunday's at Kahakai Kitchen!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

From The Good Life - Snow Ice Cream

Last winter in Omaha, we had at least an inch of snow on the ground for almost 90 days. We had some amazing snow storms (snow "events" as the forecasters call them) and a total snowfall of 45 inches. The amazing thing, I never made Snow Ice Cream.

Saturday night when the snow started to fall, I said to Tim we should make Snow Ice Cream. Tim said he'd never had it before. Seriously, he's from snowy Minnesota and he's never had Snow Ice Cream? Snow Ice Cream is such a fun childhood memory for me. I am not sure the recipe we used but I am pretty sure it involved raw eggs. Like most people today, I am a little leery of using raw eggs. I searched and found a couple of recipes for snow ice cream. Most recipes used either regular milk or a can of sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and sugar. Here's my recipe. Next time, I'd like to try making it with honey.

What's your favorite recipe for snow ice cream?

Julie's Snow Ice Cream

8 cups of fresh snow
1/2 cup of milk or cream
1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste
1/3 cup sugar

When it starts snowing, place a large bowl out in the snow. When the bowl is full, you can make ice cream, using whatever quantities you need. Before bringing in the snow, mix together the milk, sugar and vanilla. Stir in the snow a cup or two at a time. Add more milk to create the texture of ice cream you prefer. You can also mix in some cocoa with the sugar for chocolate ice cream.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Madame's Chicken

Do you own a Le Creuset Dutch Oven or as they call it a French Oven? I've been eying them for a year or so but couldn't bring myself to spend the money for one. I found a Kirkland brand one at Costco. The reviews were very good and it was one fourth the price. I love the beautiful red color , it browns and cooks meats perfectly. Since my purchase, I've been watching for recipes just so I can use it more. When I saw this recipe over at one of my favorite blogs, There's Always Thyme to Cook, I bookmarked it for a Sunday dinner sometime soon!

I am giving you the recipe as Carol posted it. I used all thighs. Also, so I would have a one pot meal, I added potatoes and carrots.

Mme. Lascourrèges Chicken with Shallots
Source: The French Farmhouse Cookbook by Susan Herrmann Loomis
posted by bubbeskitchen (Renee Ascher)
Courtesy of There's Always Time in the Kitchen

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds; 1 3/4 to 2 kg), cut into 8 pieces (2 breast pieces, 2 wings with portion of breast attached, 2 legs, 2 thighs)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 large shallots, peeled and minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 425°F

Drizzle the oil into an ovenproof baking dish that is large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Add the chicken pieces and turn them so they are thoroughly coated with oil. Drizzle the vinegar over the chicken, and sprinkle with the shallots. Turn the chicken so the shallots are evenly distributed over and under the pieces. With all the pieces skin side up, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Place the dish in the center of the oven and roast until the chicken begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven, turn the chicken pieces over, and season with salt and pepper. Return the dish to the oven and continue roasting until the chicken is thoroughly cooked ( the juices should run clear when the flesh is pricked with the tip of a sharp knife), 17 to 20 minutes. Mince the parsley.

Remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle the parsley over it, and turn the pieces so the parsley is mixed evenly throughout. Let sit for 10 minutes, and then serve.

I am linking this Tasty Tuesday's, Tuesday's at the Table and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Speakeasy - Sweet Melissa Sunday's

It seems like forever since I've baked with Sweet Melissa Sunday's. We took December off and I skipped our first recipe of January. I really enjoy the SMS gals and have missed baking with them.

I did some searching to try and figure out why this is called a Speakeasy Cake. I didn't find anything, so I guess it's because the cake has brandy it in. I made a half recipe and baked it in large muffin tins. I'd hoped to be able to use half of the cakes for our Sacher Torte, a version of this recipe, on February 6th. Notice I said I'd hoped to be able use half of them. I think where I went wrong was probably somewhere around the mixing or folding of the egg whites. My cakes didn't rise very much and then sunk in the middle. Melissa's instructions say if you open the oven too soon, the cake will fall. The baking time for the full size recipe is 70 minutes. Unsure of just how long to bake them in this size pan, I checked them at 35 minutes and they were overdone! So much for cutting them in half and using them for the Sacher Torte. Not sure they were tall enough anyway to cut in half but for sure they were too crunchy. :)

Deciding to make the best of it, I made the ganache and frosted the cakes. Seriously chocolate ganache makes even the most overdone cakes taste great!!

You can find this week's recipe and Jeannette's beautiful cake at The Whimsical Cupcake. If you want to check out some of the other SMS baker's cakes, you can find the links here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pink Saturday

Happy Pink Saturday! As most of us have snow on the ground, how about a beautiful water lily to remind us all of warmer weather! I am linking this to Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

I get home late two nights a week and try to do slow cooker meals on those nights. It's been really cold here, perfect soup weather. I was thumbing through Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker cookbook looking for a new soup to try. When I saw the French Onion Soup, I was hooked. French Onion Soup in the slow cooker, seriously?

If you've made French Onion Soup you know it's an afternoon project. I was excited to think I might be able to make French Onion Soup while I was at work. I did some searching on the internet and found a few other slow cooker French Onion Soup recipes. With the recipe from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker cookbook recipe as my inspiration, I created my own version. Most recipes call for dry white wine, cognac or brandy, I decided to use leftover champagne. I think it added a wonderful depth of flavor. The recipe in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker cookbook cooks the onions for 10 - 12 hours, adds the wine and broth and cooks 1 -2 additional hours. I felt the soup would have a better flavor if the broth cooked longer. I also thought the original recipe was lacking in some spices, so I chose to add bay leaves and thyme.

Give this soup a try! It is almost, if not as good, as French Onion Soup cooked on the stove.

French Onion Soup
Adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook
Serves 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon flavorful olive oil
2 large onions
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 - 3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons dry white wine (I used champagne)
2 cups beef broth
Thick slices of French bread, small enough to fit inside the rim of the soup bowl, for each serving
2 teaspoons cognac or white wine (I used champagne)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Approximately 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese for each serving

1. Combine the butter and oil in the slow cooker and cover. Turn the slow cooker on low and allow the butter melt and the oil to heat which you slice the onions.
2. Peel the onions, slice in half lengthwise, slice thinly into half moons. You should have about 4 cups of onion slices. Add them to the cooker. Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the onions. Toss with oil, butter, sugar and salt to coat them. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour, stir. Turn the temperature down to LOW and cook until they are dark brown and caramelized, but not burned. (I cooked mine about 5 hours.) They will have cooked down to a fraction of their original volume and most of the liquid will be evaporated. If you are home, stir the onions once or twice during the cooking time to help them cook evenly. (I didn't stir mine after the first hour and they browned nicely.)
3. When the onions are done, add the wine, broth, bay leaves and thyme. Cover and continue to cook on LOW 4 -5 hours.
4. When you are ready to serve the soup, stir in the cognac. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toast the bread. Preheat the oven to 350. Put the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, 10 - 15 minutes. Increase the temperature to 400.
5. Pour the soup into 2 ovenproof soup bowls; place on a baking sheet. Drop a bit of the cheese into the soup. Top each bowl with bread. Pile the rest of the cheese on top of the bread. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and browned, about 10 minutes. You can also put it under the broiler for a minute or two to help brown the cheese. Serve immediately.

I am linking this to Foodie Friday and Souper Sundays!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From The Good Life

You know how it's still okay to send a thank you note within a certain amount of time? Is there a certain amount of time when it's too late to be posting about a past event? I am going to say as long as it is within a month you're still good, okay?

Our friends Karen and Larry came to visit for New Year's. On Friday afternoon, we went to see Little Fockers. My son Justin and his girlfriend Lily worked on the movie. When Tim and I were in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving in 2009 we were lucky enough to see the heart attack scene being filmed. It was fun to see the scene on the big screen!

We decided to be safe and stay in on New Year's Eve. The final step in our main course was grilling for 10 - 15 minutes. Tim, being a Minnesotan who will grill in cold weather, agreed to grill for me! He scooped out a path and brushed the snow off the grill. Thanks, Tim! You helped make our New Year's dinner special! Here's our menu!

One of my food blogging goals for 2011 is to entertain more. This is the perfect menu for entertaining! I will be making these recipes again soon!

When I read the recipe for the mixed grill sauce and saw it contained 3 tablespoons of chili spice, I was concerned. No need for concern, it wasn't spicy at all. I am sure whatever chili sauce you use makes a difference in the spice level, too. I halved the recipe but ended up making a full recipe of sauce. I am glad I did, it was so delicious.

Since there were only four of us, I made the gratin in a 7" springform pan, the size was perfect. The flavors of the two potatoes and gruyere cheese were perfect together.

Not much to say about the honey glazed carrots except they were melt in your mouth delicious. (In the rush to get photos and serve dinner before it was cold, I thought we snapped a shot of the carrots but apparently not.)

After a fairly heavy dinner, the lemon pots de creme were the perfect light finale! I thought the amount of lemon in these was just right. Tim said he thought they were too lemony. I think it depends on whether or not you are a big fan of lemon desserts.

What's your favorite menu for entertaining?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's In the Bag

When Ashley at A Hasty Life contacted me about participating in "It's In The Bag", I wasn't sure whether or not I should participate. Really how interesting is my purse? As I thought about it more, I decided it would be fun to participate. After all my friends tease me that my purse would come in handy on "Let's Make a Deal". My purse is a lot like my blog title, (A) Little Bit of Everything!

I love this purse! How many times a day are you digging in your purse trying to find something? My Isaac Mizrahi purse (from QVC) helps eliminate the digging. It has three divided compartments, as well as two outside zippered compartments and two pouch pockets for cell phones. As long as I can remember how I divided up things between compartments, I can find things pretty easily.

So what actually is in my purse? A lot more than I am showing you in this post. You don't really want to see my rubber band, safety pins, post it notes, dental floss, tide pen, benadryl pen, Advil, Tums, Bayer aspirin, hand sanitizer, wipes and Kleenex, do you? I didn't think so. See it is (A) Little Bit of Everything! I decided to highlight a few of my favorite things in my purse!

1. My filofax - I can't quite make the transition to keep my calendar and notes on my iPhone.

2. My rewards cards - I am working on getting these into my iPhone.

3. My credit cards - I love the holder, it fits in any purse and holds all of my credit cards.

4. My make up bag - Actually there's no make up in here. This is the carry all for the long list of things above.

5. My favorite lip gloss - Pure Illuminations - It lights up and has a built in mirror on the side.

6. Lano Lip Gloss - Perfect for these cold winter days.

7. Burt's Bees Lip Balm - Heals chapped lips almost instantly.

8. L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Lotion - The best hand lotion. Thanks to Justin and Lily who gave me a gift box of things from L'Occitane for Christmas.

9. Amazing Grace Roll On Cologne - I love Amazing Grace. It's a such a soft and clean fragrance.

10. My iPhone - We're joined at the hip. I am never far from my phone. I use it for everything. (Except the things mentioned above.) My newest iPhone obsessions are my countdown to Cabo and Angry Birds.

11. My work Blackberry - It's in the bag, Monday through Friday and an occasional Saturday.

Thanks to Ashley for hosting It's In the Bag and giving me the opportunity to show you my bag. You can find links to all of the participants in It's in the Bag on Ashley's blog. Be sure to check out the other blogger's in my group, Postcards and Pretties and MG Style Mix.

Pot Roast Carbonnade

Are you ready for a perfect winter recipe that isn't soup. Who's your favorite Next Food Network Star winner? Mine is Melissa d'Arabian. Although, I question how she can make some of these dinners for ten dollars, I love the her show Ten Dollar Dinners. I saved this recipe after watching her prepare this dish on an episode last winter.

I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe. I omitted the prunes, mainly because I didn't have any. I added potatoes, so as to have a complete meal when I took it out of the oven. If you have an afternoon to devote to making a fabulous dish, give this one a try, you won't be sorry.

Pot Roast Carbonnade
Recipe courtesy of Melissa d'Arabian Ten Dollar Dinners

1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into large lardons
2 medium onions, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into large cubes
5 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
Generous tablespoon all-purpose flour
12 ounces beer (dark or light, depending on your preference)
6 prunes
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 cup beef stock

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, add the bacon and cook until it renders its fat and almost becomes crispy. Remove it with a slotted spoon to a plate. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and cook over low heat until they are deep in color and caramelized, about 30 minutes.

Remove the onions to a plate, leaving as much fat in the pot as possible. Add the vegetable oil and mix it with the bacon fat. Raise the heat to high. Season the beef liberally with salt and pepper and sear, in batches, until nicely browned on both sides.

Once the meat is browned, add the first batch of meat back to the pan along with the onions, carrots and bacon. Sprinkle in the flour and stir. Cook for 1 minute before deglazing the pan with the beer. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot and put it in the oven to braise until the beef is tender, about 2 hours. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pot roast to a serving dish.

I am linking this to Tasty Tuesday's, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday and Tuesday's at the Table.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pink Saturday

Lauritzen Gardens, our local botanical garden has a beautiful poinsettia show every winter. They grow all of their own pointsettias in the greenhouses at the gardens. They feature many varieties of poinsettias not normally seen at your local nursery.

I am linking this to Pink Saturday at How Sweet The Sound.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Slow Cooker Italian Soup

Soup seems to be my theme of the week but since we've all determine it's soup weather. Why not! Soup is perfect for the slow cooker. Cooking all day gives the flavors the opportunity to meld together perfectly. Nothing is better than walking in the house after a long day at work to the smell of a hearty soup!

I am giving you this recipe as it was written. I used white beans instead of garbanzo beans and omitted the kale/cabbage. This is one of those flexible recipes where ingredients can be added or deleted depending on what you have in the kitchen.

Slow Cooker Italian Sausage Vegetable Soup
Courtesy of An Oregon Cottage
•1 lb. Italian sausage (any kind-ground, links, or precooked)
•4 c. beef broth
•1/2 c. dry red wine (or more broth)
•1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
•1 med. onion, chopped
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•1 15-oz can garbanzo beans (or freezer beans- and I use whatever type I have)
•2 c. chopped green cabbage, chard, kale, or spinach
•1-2 c. chopped green beans (if using frozen, thaw a bit and add with pasta)
•2 carrots, peeled and diced
•1 tsp. Italian seasoning
•1/2 tsp. black pepper
•1 c. small pasta (macaroni, orzo, ditalini, broken spaghetti, etc.)
•salt to taste
•Parmesan for serving (grated or shaved)
•Parsley for serving (optional)
1.If using uncooked sausage, cook it in a skillet until brown, drain and transfer to the bowl of a large slow cooker.
2.Combine the broth and the wine (if using) and pour over the meat.
3.Add the remaining ingredients except the last four. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours or high for 3-1/2 to 4 hours.
4.Add the noodles (turn cooker to high if you used the low setting) and cook for another 45 minutes until the noodles are done. Salt to taste, if needed.
5.Serve with Parmesan and parsley.
Makes 8 servings

I am linking this to Foodie Friday, Souper Sunday and Fat Camp Friday!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

From The Good Life

Last year by this time we had who knows how many inches of snow. We went over three months with at least an inch of snow on the ground. This year we've been so lucky, our first significant snowfall of the season just occurred this past weekend. This snowfall is a beautiful, glistening snow. Unlike many of your who are enduring your second or third snowfall of the year, it's our first snowfall, so I can say it's pretty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crock Pot Taco Soup

Is it soup weather where you live? Much of the country is in the midst of winter weather! We've been lucky so far this winter. Just yesterday in Omaha we received our first major snowfall of the season in the form of about 8 inches of snow. How much snow do you have on the ground?

When it's cold and snowy, there's nothing better than a warm bowl of soup. If you like tacos, give this one a try. It's a delicious hearty soup that can be made without without the meat!

2 cans of kindey beans
--2 cans of pinto beans
--2 cans of corn
--1 large can of diced tomatoes
--1 can tomatoes and chiles
--1 packet taco seasoning
--1 packet ranch dressing mix
--1 lb browned ground turkey or hamburger (optional.)
--shredded cheese and sour cream for embelishment
The Directions:
--brown meat if you are going to use it
--drain fat and add to crockpot stoneware insert (the meat. not the fat.)
--sprinkle seasoning packets on top of meat
--drain and rinse the beans and add
--add the ENTIRE contents of the corn and tomato cans

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5. I think the longer you cook soup, the better, so if you have the time, opt for cooking on low. Stir well, and serve with a handful of shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream

I am linking this to Tasty Tuesday's and Tuesday's at the Table.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sweet Melissa Sunday's & A New Mac

I wonder how many years I've been using a computer? Maybe 30 and I've always been a PC user. It's time for a new computer! As much as I wanted an iPad, I needed a computer to do everything and that just wasn't the iPad. I'll continue to have iPad envy and occasionally borrow Tim's.

I wanted to find a computer that was really portable, light and easy to take along on vacation or wherever I go. The Apple MacBook Air seemed to fit the bill, perfectly! My concern was could I make the switch from a PC to a Mac? I called my son and asked his opinion since he'd been a PC user until a few years ago and he knows his mom. He was confident I could do it! I asked Tim to be honest and let me know what he thought. After all, he was going to have to deal with the fallout from my decision. He too said he thought I could do it and was willing to help me. I decided to take the plunge!!

So I bet you want to know two things, how am I doing and what does this have to do with my SMS post? First, how am I doing?'s been a bit of a struggle, learning a new way to navigate. Thanks Justin for letting me know how to right click on the Mac. No Internet Explorer, where I've read all of your blog posts for two years? After a painful few hours, I think we've (really Tim) figured out how to set up the RSS Feeds in Firefox so they're similar to how I had them in IE.

I was looking so forward to this week's SMS. The SMS bakers took December off and I've missed baking with my SMS friends. I bought all of the ingredients. The Hazelnut Raspberry Layer Cake looks delicious and it's my favorite color, pink! I just don't have the energy to bake! Candy Girl is our host this month, you can find the recipe and her beautiful cake here! The links to the other talented SMS bakers can be found here!

Are you a Mac user? Any hints for me, I'd welcome them!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

French Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup is one of the dishes my son Justin says he remembers from childhood. I was happy to hear this is a dish he often cooks now as an adult. I haven't made lentil soup in years. As I think back on it, I think the last time probably was when Justin was still living at home.

When I mentioned to Tim I was going to make lentil soup, I received the look. The look that says, where's the meat? I said it's okay, lentils are a great substitute for meat.

I found this recipe over at Tomatoes on the Vine. Velva has a great blog. If you haven't been there, stop by. You'll find some great recipes and an occasional special cocktail! I love the spice combinations in this soup. Lentils need spice or the soup can be too bland. This is a perfect soup for cold winter day.

French Lentil Rice Soup
Courtesy of Tomatoes on the Vine
Serves 4
6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely diced
3 tablespoons uncooked white rice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence or dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream or sour cream, divided (optional)
1/4 cup chopped parsley, divided (optional)

Stir together broth, lentils, carrots, onion, celery, rice, garlic, herbs de provence, salt and pepper in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.

Remove 1-1/2 cups soup and puree in a food processor or blender until almost smooth. Stir pureed soup back into the slow cooker.

Divide soup evenly among 4 serving bowls, garnishing each with 1 tablespoon cream and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, if desired.

I am linking this to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Souper Sunday's at Kahakai Kitchen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Peppermint Whoopie Pies

If you have a Trader Joe's in your area, did you have the Candy Cane Joe Joe's cookies this holiday season? If so, you know how delicious they are. These cookies were my inspiration for Christmas Eve dessert, Peppermint Whoopie Pies. When I shared with people I'd be making Whoppie Pies, most people didn't know what Whoopie Pies were. They'd say are they like Moon Pies? Funny after I decided to make them, I received my Bon Appetit with an article discussing whether Whoopie Pies or Macarons are the new cupcake. My vote would be for Whoopie Pies, Bon Apetite chose Macarons.

These were were fun and easy to put together. I used a medium cookie scoop and it worked perfectly. Although, mine weren't all a unfiform size. These are like little cake tops filled with delicious marshmallow frosting. If you haven't tried Whoopie Pies yet and are looking for a new dessert, give these a try.

Peppermint Crunch Whoopie Pies
Recipe Courtesy of Paula Deen
Prep. Time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes/batch of cookies
Level: Intermediate
Yield: 18-21 large whoopie pies or 33-38 medium

For Cookies
3 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
6.5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two half-sheet pans with Silpats or lightly grease.

In a large (at least 5 quart) bowl of stand mixer, cream sugar and butter with paddle attachment for 3-5 minutes. Add eggs, beating well after each. Add vegetable oil and vanilla and beat.

In a large separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together.

With mixer on very low speed, gradually add half of the dry ingredients to the egg mixture. Blend well. With mixer running on low, add 1 1/2 cups of the milk. Mix until blended. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and milk.

Using a standard 1/4-cup ice cream scoop, place batter on baking sheets, spacing 2-3” apart. Bake 12 minutes, rotating pans (move lower pan to top level and top level to lower level) after the first 6 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and transfer to cooling racks. Repeat with remaining batter. Don’t worry if some are a little cracked on the top – that’s normal! Cool completely prior to filling.

For Filling
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2cups vegetable shortening
9 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 cups marshmallow creme
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 lb hard peppermint candies

Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl of mixer and beat until fluffy with paddle attachment.

Place peppermints in heavy plastic bag and crush with hammer or flat side of meat tenderizer. Sift crushed mints through fine sieve to separate dust from bits of candy. Fold ½ of candy bits plus “dust” into the filling. Reserve other half of candy pieces for garnish.

ASSEMBLY: Place a scoop of filling on the flat side of one cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down on top, pressing down gently. Roll edges of icing in remaining crushed peppermints.

I am linking this to Tasty Tuesday's, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday and Tuesday's at The Table.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Winner and Little Bit of Everything in 2011

Happy New Year!! The winner of my CSN Stores Giveaway is Debbie of Debbie Does Dinner Healthy. Thanks to everyone for entering and congratulations, Debbie!!

As 2010 came to a close, I took a look back at my blogging goals. My goals were to participate in Adopt a Blogger, create more recipes on my own, take a cake decorating class, bake more homemade bread and make better use of my cookbooks and my mom's recipes.

How did I do? Adopt a Blogger, Cake Decoating check! One of my homemade bread recipes produced a funny loaf of bread. Mom's recipe, Dorothy Mackey's Apple Dapple Cake delivered one of my favorite dessert recipes of the year. All in all, not too bad. The only real failure was using my cookbooks more. I really need to work on that one. What do I do? I just keeping buying more cookbooks.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been jotting down my 2011 food and blogging related goals.

Entertain More - I love to entertain. In 2011, in addition to having friends over for dinner, I'd like to host a wine and cheese tasting party.

Read My Recipes Well - I tend to glance over the recipes. I think I understand prep or pre cooking times. When I start preparing, I realize I didn't understand and the recipe takes longer than the time I'd allotted.

Advance Prep - To help reduce the time it takes to cook a recipe and have healthier snacks in the fridge, wash and prep fruits and veggies when I bring them home from the store!

My Top 50 - Continue to focus on the recipes on this list.

What are your 2011 blogging goals?

Saturday, January 1, 2011