Monday, December 17, 2007

My 2nd Annual Cookie Swap!

This year we had our second annual Cookie Swap and we received some quite impressive cookies. My only complaint was we didn't make enough! The recipes below are some appetizers and drinks I made for the cookie swap. Each year I want to make a festive, non-ordinary cookie and I kept seeing this recipe in my magazine. I thought they came out pretty well. Be careful not to overcook them...they are very chocolately and make a perfect pair with a glass of milk.

Peppermint Bonbon Cookies

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup finely crushed hard peppermint candies
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
Additional coarsely crushed hard peppermint candies, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar (optional)
2 1/2 teaspoons milk (optional)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels, melted (optional)

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 cup crushed peppermint and 6 Tbsp. sugar. Let cool 30 minutes.

Add eggs to melted chocolate, 1 at a time, stirring well. Stir in extracts.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to chocolate mixture, stirring until combined. Stir in chocolate morsels. Cover and chill dough 2 hours or until firm enough to shape.

Shape dough into 1 1/2" balls; place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 325° for 12 to 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and cracked on top. Sprinkle coarsely crushed peppermints onto cookies; press candy lightly into cookies. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on baking sheets. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Whisk together powdered sugar and milk; drizzle over cooled cookies, if desired. Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired. Sprinkle cookies again with chopped peppermint, if desired. Let cookies stand until glaze and chocolate are firm.

These shrimp cups are my mom's new favorite thing to make. She brought then for the cookie swap and has made them several times since. Don't let the Chipolte scare you, they really are not spicy and it only adds to the flavor. The mixture can be made the night before and added the wonton wrappers in a muffin tin right before baking. I would not suggest prepareing the cups until right before baking as the wontons may get soggy.

Chipolte Shrimp Cups (Cooking Light)

36 wonton wrappers
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped cooked shrimp
1 cup chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers
1 cup bottled chipotle salsa
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Preheat oven to 350º.

Fit 1 wonton wrapper into each of 36 mini muffin cups coated with cooking spray, pressing the wrappers into sides of cups. Bake at 350º for 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Keep wontons in muffin cups.

Combine cheese and remaining ingredients, and spoon about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture into each wonton cup. Bake at 350º for 6 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from muffin cups. Serve immediately.

No Holiday Party is Complete Without...

Last year for our cookie swap we made Chocolate Peppermint Martinis. This year we thought we'd still do something festive, but have punch instead. It was a huge hit...I thought I'd be drinking punch for days as leftovers, but everyone loved it and I made it for our big family Christmas get together too. It calls for Blood Orange juice and I never found it and subsituted ruby red grapefruit instead. I adapted it from Southern Living, so feel free to add what ever you have on hand. Our first round was made with cranberry vodka and the second was made with regular non-flavored vodka...both were very tasty.

Sparkling Holiday Punch (Southern Living)

7 cups blood orange juice, chilled*
2 cup pomegranate juice, chilled
1 liter club soda, chilled
1 1/2 cup vodka, chilled
2 cup orange liqueur, chilled
2 oranges, thinly sliced

Stir together blood orange juice and pomegranate juice in a large serving bowl. Chill at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Stir in liquor, club soda and orange slices. Serve immediately.

*Sweet red grapefruit juice may be substituted.

Non-alcoholic version: Substitue 2 liters ginger-ale for the liquor and club soda.

A Delightful Sammy...

This is another recipe I got from a NC Nestie...Elizabeth! These sandwiches are addicting and delicous. I could not stop eating them! Beware they are a special treat with 2 sticks of butter, but I'm sure that's what makes them taste so good. Apparently they are a popular Christmas snack. A few notes...I wasn't sure what type of roll, so I used sub rolls. I only made 2 packages, but used all the "spread" for them and then cut the sandwiches in thirds.

Ham & Cheese Delights

3 packs of Pepperidge Farm rolls
1/2 lb butter or margarine
3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons Poppy Seeds
3 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 lb boiled ham, sliced
3/4 lb Swiss Cheese

Slice rolls down middle to make two halves. Cream margarine, poppy seeds, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and onion. Spread top and bottom half of rolls with mixture. Add ham and cheese, put foil over and bake at 350 deg for 10 min. Can be frozen.
This appetizer has been on my list of things to make for a party since it has over 1,200 reviews on and a perfect 5 stars! It does take a while to chop everything up, but its well worth the effort. I suggest using a hand chopper. I didn't want to use my food processor since I wanted the salsa to be rather chunky. I does get really juicy over a few hours. The leftovers would be awesome on pound cake or ice cream. The cinnamon chips are really easy to make and are a perfect dessert all on their own.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips (Allrecipes)

2 kiwis, peeled and diced
2 Golden Delicious apples - peeled, cored and diced
8 ounces raspberries
1 pound strawberries
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor
10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
butter flavored cooking spray
2 cups cinnamon sugar

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, Golden Delicious apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Coat one side of each flour tortilla with butter flavored cooking spray. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Spray again with cooking spray.

Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit and spice mixture.

The most addicting cheeseball

At my Nestie Cookie Swap, Mrs. Hughes bought this cheeseball to share on the same snowman plate I have. I'm a sucker for cheeseball and had to have this recipe. I've made it twice and everyone has asked for the recipe. I accidentally left out the onion and worcestershire sauce, but it tasted great anyways. I suggest using only 3/4 the package of ranch seasoning unless you like it more salty.

Ranch & Herb Cream Cheeseball

2 packages of cream cheese, softened
1 package dry Hidden Valley Ranch mix
1 8oz package of shredded sharp cheddar
1/4-1/2 cup minced onion
a dash (about a teaspoon or so) of Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Shape into a ball, and wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for a few hours, until it's not as soft. Sprinkle with parsley, or roll in chopped pecans.

Perfect Christmas Pasta

In the December Cooking Light there is a recipe for each day in December and it has a caption about how great the dish would be after specific December chores such as trimming the tree, writing Christmas cards, shopping, etc. I wanted to make every recipe for every day, but I don't have enough mouths to feed here. This sounded like an excellent Christmas pasta dish after wrapping gifts. It doesn't have a lot of sauce and it's quite rustic, but it got 5 stars from Ben and a request to move it into the regular dinner rotation. Normally, I don't make too many recipes twice, but this one we definitely will have again soon.

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cheese (Cooking Light)

1 (1-pound) package uncooked ziti (short tube-shaped pasta)
1 pound hot turkey Italian sausage links
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 (14.5-ounce) cans petite-diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Cooking spray
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain the pasta, and set aside.
Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage, onion, and garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Combine cooked pasta, sausage mixture, and basil. Place half of the pasta mixture in a 4-quart casserole coated with cooking spray. Top with half of mozzarella and half of Parmesan. Repeat layers. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Cookie Swap #1

I made these cookies for my first cookie swap that I just attending with my Nestie friends. We had a blast and even got more festive and wore our tackiest Christmas sweaters. These cookies weren't only delicous, but quick and easy to make. Ben was quite sad I was giving most of them away and I think would have rather eaten an entire batch of these than to get an assortment of everyone elses. The tartness of the cranberry makes a great combination to the sweetness of the white chocolate chips and sugar cookie base. For drop cookies, these are pretty enough for a gift too.
Cranberry White-Chocolate Cookies (Southern Living)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups white chocolate morsels
1 (6-ounce) package sweetened dried cranberries

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; set aside.

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
Add flour mixture to butter mixture gradually, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in white chocolate morsels and cranberries.

Drop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes approximately 3 dozen.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

On Top of Spaghetti...

And covered in cheese...This is a slight variation on Chicken Parm, but a good way to sneak in a veggies. The chicken is stuffed with a spinach and cheese mixture, "breaded" in ritz crackers and parmesan cheese then baked. We wanted a more Chicken Parm meal, so I served it with spaghetti and extra sauce, but any side will work well too.

Chicken Parmesan Bundles (Kraft Foods)

4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) cream cheese, softened
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
1-1/4 cups Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese, divided
6 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
6 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lb.), pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
1 egg
10 Ritz Crackers, crushed (about 1/2 cup)
1-1/2 cups spaghetti sauce, heated

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Mix cream cheese, spinach, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and 3 Tbsp. of the Parmesan cheese until well blended; spread evenly onto chicken breasts. Starting at one of the short ends of each breast, roll up chicken tightly. Secure with wooden toothpicks, if desired. Set aside.

Beat egg in shallow bowl or pie plate. Mix remaining 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese and the cracker crumbs in separate shallow bowl or pie plate. Dip chicken bundles in egg, then roll in crumb mixture. Place, seam-sides down, in 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake 30 min. or until chicken is cooked through (165ºF). Remove and discard toothpicks, if using. Serve topped with the spaghetti sauce and remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese.

A Real Taste of the South...

I've been craving shrimp and grits forever now...something must have jogged my taste buds for the ones at Noisy Oyster in Charleston. While this isn't traditional shrimp and grits and doesn't include sausage, it is a casserole that's pretty easy to make. The recipe calls for yellow stone ground grits, which aren't instant or quick cooking grits and quite difficult to find. However, they take 30 minutes to cook and taste very similar to the quick cooking kind. Next time I'll use those. This dish would also be great served as an appetizer at a cocktail party.

Shrimp and Grits Casserole (Cooking Light)

4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup uncooked yellow stone-ground grits
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp, each cut into 3 pieces
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
3 large egg whites
Cooking spray

Bring chicken broth and salt to a boil in a large saucepan; add grits, stirring with a whisk. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, and mushrooms to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Sprinkle shrimp with black pepper, and add to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in rind, juice, Worcestershire, and hot pepper sauce; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Place grits and shrimp mixture in a large bowl; stir gently. Beat egg whites with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into shrimp mixture. Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Another Perfect Dessert for the Holidays!

Ben also made a dessert for Thanksgiving...Chocolate Drizzled Bourbon Pecan Tart! This was delish...I guess he was trying to compete with my cheesecake! I think he won when we left with half the cheesecake and only 2 slices were left of his dessert. We finally used a wedding gift...our Pampered Chef Tart's had an awesome tool to make the crinkles of the crust. While, I'm a little late after Thanksgiving, it'll make an awesome Christmas dinner dessert.

Chocolate Drizzled Bourbon Pecan Pie (Cooking Light)

1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
2/3 cup pecan halves
1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
Cooking spray
1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 10 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in pecans. Roll dough into a 13-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Trim excess crust using a sharp knife. Spoon sugar mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Drizzle chocolate over tart.