Sunday, November 25, 2007

Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Marshmallow Filling

This is a recipe I clipped from a magazine back when fat-free diets were the new, cutting edge way to lose weight (circa 1991). I kept the recipe, not because of the fact that these cookies are fat-free, but because they are absolutely chewy delicious. A basic baking mix is prepared first, and is the base for the cookies. They can be eaten plain, or filled with marshmallow creme, which is, in my opinion, the best way to eat them.

Basic Baking Mix

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp salt

Sift all ingredients together. Store in tightly covered container at cool room temperature. Stir before using.

Chocolate Cookies

2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups basic baking mix
1/4 cup sugar
marshmallow creme

Preheat oven to 350. Stir together the egg whites, corn syrup, water, and vanilla. Add baking mix and stir or beat until well-blended. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. (This part is really sticky and messy). Spread sugar into a shallow bowl. Roll balls in sugar to coat. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Sandwich 2 cookies together with marshmallow creme. (The cookies tend to slide apart after they are sandwiched together. Wrap individual cookie-wiches with plastic wrap to help prevent this. Otherwise, just add the marshmallow creme right before serving).

The yield is about 18 cookies. I usually double the recipe, which ends up making about 18 cookie-wiches.

Sift the ingredients for the basic baking mix:

Stir together the egg whites, corn syrup, water, and vanilla:

After blending, roll into balls and then roll each ball in sugar.

Bake at 350 and cool on wire rack after baking:

Spread with marshmallow creme:

Wrap with plastic wrap and tuck into someone's lunch box, or stash one away for yourself. They are, after all, fat-free.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pasta Pomodoro

This is a wonderful recipe that my friend Mimi and her daughter, Ginny gave me. Ginny prepared it for us when we were all at the beach together last summer, so it brings back happy memories for me whenever I make it. It has a very fresh, authentic Italian flavor. The original recipe calls for tomato juice, but I changed it to tomato sauce, just to thicken it a little. I also added red wine. I served it with a salad and Three Cheese muffins. (I didn't make only three muffins. I used three kinds of cheese). I will include the muffin recipe as well.

Pasta Pomodoro

3/4 lb angel hair pasta (I like whole wheat)
3 - 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 - 1/2 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in boiling water until tender. Meanwhile, heat the oil with the garlic in a skillet. Add the tomatoes and basil and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and wine and continue to cook. Drain pasta. Pour sauce over pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Three Cheese Muffins

2 1/2 cups Bisquick
2 eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
poppy seeds

Combine ingredients. Spoon into a greased muffin tin and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Yield:12 muffins

The cheese muffins were really tasty with the pasta:

As you can see, the sauce is still not really thick. The fresh tomatoes and basil give it an amazing flavor.
Top with fresh grated Parmesan:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shrimp Pomegranate Salad

The pomegranate a very interesting fruit which is available from September until November. It is filled with tiny seeds which are covered with a deliciously tart pulp. These seeds are called arils, and are actually considered to be berries. Up until recently, I was quite confused by the pomegranate, as I am about time travel, but that is another post altogether. What I didn't understand was that the seeds are EDIBLE. Yes, I had an "Aha" moment. I did not know what value the pomegranate had if one had to somehow extract a seed from one's mouth with each bite of tasty pulp. The seeds, as well as the pulp, are very nutritious; high in antioxidants and nutrients.

I researched how to cut a pomegranate and extract the seeds efficiently, and I have included these instructions with the recipe. You should be able to find pomegranates at the grocery store in abundance this time of year.

Shrimp Pomegranate Salad

2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp coriander
1 tbsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled
3/4 cup POM pomegranate juice
3-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
mixed greens
1/2 cup POM Wonderful pomegranate arils

In a large skillet, combine oils and spices. Cook over medium heat and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes.

Add shrimp and cook and stir until shrimp are pink. Stir in pomegranate juice and vinegar. Cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes.

Place desired amount of lettuce onto each plate. Top with shrimp and sprinkle with seeds. Drizzle sauce on top. Add a couple of extra dashes of balsamic vinegar, if desired.

Cutting Instructions:
First, cut across the top of the pomegranate with a sharp knife:

Then score all the way around without cutting all the way through:

Break open each scored wedge and extract the seeds. I did it with my fingers. (The extraction process can be done under water in a large bowl because the seeds will sink to the bottom and make separation easier).

Here are the seeds I extracted from 1/2 of my pomegranate:

Heat the oils and spices:

Cook the shrimp until pink. Add the POM pomegranate juice and vinegar.

Serve over lettuce. Sprinkle with the seeds:

This is a refreshing salad, a mixture of tart, sweet, and spicy. The crunch of the pomegranate seeds was a great touch.

I am very excited to enter this recipe in the POM Wonderful Pomegranate recipe contest! Go to their website for more delicious recipes!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Baked Beans

When you order baked beans in a restaurant or fast food place, they can come in a variety of flavors. Some taste like pork and beans from a can. Some taste like the secret ingredient is kerosene. When I make baked beans, I want them to be hearty and flavorful, a side dish that greatly complements the main dish, which is usually some type of barbeque. I have made baked beans this way for many years, just adding what I wanted in them without measuring. I did, however, measure for the purpose of this post. I like Bush's Barbeque Baked Beans, but any kind of pork and beans is fine.

Baked Beans

8-10 slices of bacon
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
2- 28 oz cans pork and beans
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup barbeque sauce (my favorite is Kraft Hickory Smoke)

Cut bacon into small pieces and saute. Remove from pan when done and drain on paper towels. Add onion and bell pepper to the bacon drippings and saute until tender. Combine ingredients and pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, or until bubbly.

Saute bacon until crisply done:

Then saute onion and bell pepper in bacon drippings until tender:

Add other ingredients. I did it this way to show the approximate proportions:

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.

These are great with grilled chicken, pork, or hamburgers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

An Autumn Hostess Gift

Gil and I were invited over to dinner last night by some good friends that we had not seen in quite a while and I wanted to take them something special. I decided to bake them my favorite muffins, Morning Glorious Muffins, but I wanted to give them in something that was a little out of the ordinary. So, I found a silicone muffin baker that I thought would be fun to use as my container.

It came with a "sled" that keeps it stable for baking and transporting:

I found a really pretty autumn dish towel at Tuesday Morning. It had nice embroidery on it. I found coordinating ribbon at Smith's in Mountain Brook:

I actually baked the muffins in my own muffin tin and used paper liners:

Then I doubled the liners and placed the muffins in the silicone baker:

I covered them with plastic wrap and folded the dish towel over them like this:

Than I tied the ribbon around it. I tied on some tiny wired pine cones for an added fall touch:

The dish towel can be used in other ways, also. It could be wrapped around a loaf of homemade bread, or used as a liner for a basket filled with muffins or cookies. It is also great to include the recipe, which I actually forgot to do.

This is yet another way to enjoy autumn and all its cozy comforts.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Autumn Touches and Tablescapes

There are many fun projects to do around your home which use the beautiful autumn elements that nature provides right in your own back yard. What I enjoyed most about these projects was the actual collection process itself. I felt like a kid tromping all over my yard collecting things. When I was little, I actually used to collect rocks, scrub them with an old toothbrush, and then paint them with clear nail polish. Maybe I should not have shared that. Anyway, for this I used leaves, pine cones, acorns, and a few sweet gum balls. I think the acorns look better with their caps on and many had fallen off. I remedied that with a little glue.

Just the leaves alone can create a nice touch:

If you use them to decorate for company, lay them out fresh that day:

For a centerpiece for my kitchen table, I purchased this cool square vase at Davis Wholesale. I placed another container on the inside to use as a vase, then filled in between with pine cones, acorns, and sweet gum balls.

After playing with it a little, I opted for a vase that was more narrow because it worked better to hold the leaves in place:

Then I filled the vase with small branches of leaves. I added more pine cones to the top after adding the leaves to hold them in place. I used a few cinnamon pine cones because I love the smell. The leaves can easily be replaced every few days as needed.

The tablecloth in my kitchen is actually a twin comforter that I found at Home Goods. I think that quilted fabric looks cozy on a table and I liked the nice warm autumn colors on it. When I replace this tablecloth with a Christmas one in a few weeks, I will use the comforter on my daybed in my study.

For the table on my back porch, I used 3 clay pots. I placed votive candle holders in each and filled them with water:

Then I placed greenery in each of them This is nandina, which I absolutely love. It is great to use for Christmas, also.

I placed a cinnamon pine cone on top of each one. I found the tiny clay pots at Michael's and they were the perfect size for a votive candle:

It is amazing how simple it is to decorate for autumn. Don't you love this time of year?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Buttermilk Pudding and Pecan Shortbread

Buttermilk is not ever a beverage that I personally want to drink straight from the glass, but I love the flavor it gives when it is blended with other ingredients. This pudding brings out the wonderful essence of buttermilk, while adding cream, sugar, and vanilla to create a rich and refreshingly different dessert. I found this recipe, along with the accompanying Pecan Shortbread recipe, in this month's edition of Better Homes and Gardens. I altered them a bit to suit my personal taste, which I do to almost all recipes. They both turned out wonderfully, each greatly complementing the other.

Buttermilk Pudding

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup milk
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups buttermilk
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
chopped Heath candy bars

In a bowl, combine gelatin with milk and set aside. In a saucepan, combine whipping cream and sugar. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved and cream just comes to a simmer. Remove immediately from heat; stir in softened gelatin until completely dissolved. Set aside; let cool 5 minutes.

Transfer cream mixture to a bowl. Add sour cream; whisk until blended. Whisk in buttermilk, salt, and vanilla. Spoon into 8 serving dishes. Cover with plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours. Top with chopped Heath candy bars.

Pecan Shortbread

2 cups flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and flour until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Squeeze mixture with hands to form a smooth dough. Divide dough into 36 portions and press into greased mini-muffin tins. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool in pans for about 5 minutes. Remove and finish cooling on wire racks.

Blend gelatin and milk and set aside:

Whisk all ingredients until well-blended. Pour into serving dishes and chill.

Combine shortbread ingredients :

Press into mini-muffin tins:

Bake until lightly browned. I baked some of them in my square pan, but I ended up liking the small round ones better.

Top the pudding with chopped Heath bar and serve with Pecan Shortbread:

Both of these recipes have simple ingredients and can be prepared quickly and easily.
This dessert can be used in a casual or a dressy setting, or anything in between, all depending on your serving dish.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Italian Wedding Soup

This is a very tasty soup which features pasta, fresh spinach, and tiny meatballs.

Italian Wedding Soup

3/4 lb ground chuck
1/2 lb ground sausage
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups dry breadcrumbs
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
olive oil

2- 15 oz cans chicken broth
2 cans water
8 oz rotini pasta (I used whole wheat)
2-3 cups fresh spinach leaves, stems removed and torn into pieces
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
fresh or canned mushrooms
1 can drained garbanzo beans (optional- I actually won't add these next time)
1 can artichoke hearts, chopped and drained
fresh Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large bowl, combine ground chuck, sausage, eggs, bread crumbs, oregano, and rosemary. Shape mixture into bite-sized meatballs. (I ended up with 110). Brown the meatballs in olive oil in a skillet. Drain on paper towels. In a large saucepan, combine broth and water and bring to a boil. Add pasta, meatballs, mushrooms, and spinach. Simmer until pasta is tender. You may need to add more water. Add artichoke hearts. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Yield: About 8 servings

Form bite-sized meatballs:

Brown in olive oil. They will finish cooking while they simmer in the soup.

Cook the soup until the pasta is tender:

Serve by candlelight: