Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter White Cosmopolitan

"Baby It's Cold Outside"...that's all I'm going to say about that!



Even my poor little snowman and lantern took the frigid blast and are frozen over!


The good news is this little glass of festivity will warm you right up!  I sampled (a few) this drink when we discovered Bonefish Grill last year for our girls' birthday.  Their signature cocktail special for the night was the "Winter White Cosmopolitan" and I have been craving it ever since.

So, thanks to the modern day internet, I was able to hack the ingredients and recipe!  Enjoy and stay warm!


Winter White Cosmopolitan
Courtesy of Bonefish Grill
(makes 1 drink)

2 oz. Reyka Vodka
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
2 oz. white cranberry juice
1 oz. fresh lime juice
3 fresh cranberries (as garnish)

Combine ingredients over ice in a shaker tin.
shake and strain into a well chilled martini glass.
Garnish with 3 frozen cranberries.

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Bark
Two Years Ago: GGMa's Lemon Shrimp
Three Years Ago: Steak Marsala


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Whipped Shortbread Cookies

To be blessed by having great neighbors is an invaluable gift that can never be taken lightly.  Case and point...my husband is in week three of recuperating from surgery and still cannot do anything too strenuous.  This weekend's blizzard came and went, but not without leaving its mark.

We opened the large garage door so I could get my course in snow blowing 101 and before the door was even completely open, our neighbor across the street was already blowing out our driveway.  Our neighbor to the left was clearing off our shared sidewalk, and the neighbor to the right was doing the same on the other side.  I was so taken back by the generosity that they all helped in our time of need, knowing that my husband could not shovel the snow and that it would probably be a disaster putting me in the "driver's seat" of our snowblower...not my forte.


I had planned on doing some baking to send in a care package to family, but knew that I needed to step it up and get our neighbors taken care of too.  So, 6 desserts and 9 hours later, my mission was done. 

I put my husband to work which really helped in the timeline.  As soon as I had a batter done, I had him start rolling.  He rolled the Snowballs in powdered sugar, Shortbread into balls for baking, and took care of the Snickerdoodles in the cinnamon/sugar blend. 

We had quite the assembly line going...and I had quite the sugar coma by the end of the day. Definitely did not feel well after all the taste testing.  As you can see in all the photos, there are a few missing.  We did a few his and hers taste testing...I mean after all, I couldn't possibly put together neighbor's care packages without trying them first...ugh!!


I always strive to try a new holiday dessert recipe each year.  These shortbread cookies were so easy to make and melt in your mouth delicious!


Whipped Shortbread Recipe
Courtesy of Taste of Home

Yield: 102 cookies

3 cups butter, softened
1-1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1-1/2 cups cornstarch, sifted
Nonpareils and/or halved candied cherries

** Cook's note...I cut this recipe in half...did not need 102 cookies today.

In a large bowl, cream butter and confections sugar until light and fluffy.  Gradually add flour and cornstarch, beating until well blended.

With hands lightly dusted with additional cornstarch (or use food prep gloves like we do), roll dough into 1-inch balls.  Place apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Press lightly with a floured fork.  Top with nonpareils or cherry halves.

Bake at 300 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Bark
Two Years Ago: Traeger Salmon and Bacon Jam
Three Years Ago: Almond Joy Cookies







Snowballs



Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Tree Waffles

Our polar blizzard came in with a vengeance last night...we woke up to a very large blanket of white draped everywhere!...and since it is the weekend, that means one thing...waffles!

My daughter always has one request every weekend...homemade waffles, pancakes or french toast.  I know before she even wakes up that I need to have mixers ready to go on Saturday morning.


In celebration of our morning snowfall, I decided to have some fun with her weekend breakfast and make Christmas tree waffles...they almost even match the snow covered tree in our backyard!




These sweet little trees are so super cute!  They would be perfect (and so easy) to make for your little ones on Christmas morning.  Enjoy!


Christmas Tree Waffles

Waffle mix (your favorite) made according to package directions
green food coloring
sausage links, cooked (tree trunk)
Star fruit, cut in slices (Christmas Star topper)
Trix cereal (tree ornaments)
powder sugar (the snow)

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Bark
Two Years Ago: Traeger Salmon and Bacon Jam
Three Years Ago: Almond Joy Cookies



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mediterranean Flatbread and Defining A Future

Four years ago, the summer before my girls started their Freshman year of high school, they applied, interviewed and submitted a resume to commit the next 4 years to the Silver Creek Leadership Academy.


It has been an incredible journey for my girls and all the SCLA Seniors this year.  They have learned, grown and experienced so much to prepare them for the next chapters of their lives.

Their Senior year is dedicated to a "Capstone Project" that runs the entire year.  They start with creating a need for either the school and/or local community and then prepare a business plan, write grants, implement a marketing plan and run with their project.


One daughter created "Comforting Will".  Her goal is to receive 100 prayer shawls by May and then personally hand them out to Alzheimer patients at our local hospital, memory care centers and senior homes here in the community.  She has been working with local churches, knitting organizations, prayer groups and local yarn shop to meet her goal.  If you or someone you know is interested in donating a shawl, you can find her on Twitter @ComfortingWill or contact Silver Creek High School.


Our other daughter's creation is "Creek Closet".  She is building a room within their high school that will serve as a confidential pantry/closet "Providing general necessities for the students and families of Silver Creek High School". She is reaching out to our local community for donations of non-perishable food items, school supplies, personal hygiene needs and clothing.  In addition to our community, she will be calling to corporate companies such as Kraft Foods, ConAgra, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg's, as well as Sam's Club and Costco for any assistance.  If you or someone you know would like to donate to the "Creek Closet", you can learn more on Twitter @CreekCloset or contact the Silver Creek Leadership Academy directly.


As our big EXPO night was approaching, we have had many, many late nights preparing for this important event.  Our dinners as of late, needed to be quick, easy and not much thought.

Of course, my go to will always be to whip up some type of flatbread meal...luckily I had enough of the right leftovers and ingredients in the refrigerator this week.  This one took us to the Mediterranean, which suited me perfectly!


Mediterranean Flatbread

Naan Flatbread
Alouette Artichoke Cheese spread
green olive and kalamato olive tapenade
chicken breast, sliced (from deli rotisserie chicken)
button mushrooms, sliced
roma tomatoes, sliced
fresh spinach leaves
Feta cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  

Spread Alouette cheese all over flatbread, then a layer of the tapenade.  Build the remaining ingredients, and top with the Feta cheese.  Bake or approximately 8-10 minutes, until cheese starts to melt.

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Bark
Two Years Ago: Traeger Salmon and Bacon Jam
Three Years Ago: Almond Joy (To The World) Cookies



Monday, December 12, 2016

Olive Oil Cake with Orange Coulis and Pistachio Chantilly

Just one of our breathtaking Colorado sunrises...


My husband is now nearing the end of week 2 after his hernia surgery recovery...feels like 2 months! (just saying).  He will be the first to admit (and already has) that men are big babies!  

Surgeon says he cannot pick up anything heavier than a gallon of milk for 6 weeks!...6 weeks!  I have come to appreciate all he does around here..snow shoveling...trash dumpster hauler...vacuumer...but, he still makes my coffee every morning, so I still love him for that!


Given my husband's current condition (or lack thereof), it was us girls that took on the Christmas tree this year.  Well, in all honesty, it was just my two girls taking on the challenge, heaving it into the house and getting it perfectly adjusted into the stand...I just stood around giving directions and irritating them by taking photos of their monumental accomplishment!


If you remember about two years ago, I tried a new Orange Olive Oil Cake recipe that was truly out of this world.  Well, just when I thought that recipe couldn't get any better...I took it to a whole new level with these accoutrements.

Between the Orange Coulis, Pistachio Whipped Cream and Crumble, this dessert will be worthy of any holiday table for the upcoming entertaining or family dinner season these next few weeks.


Orange Coulis

1 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 oranges)
1 Tbl. orange liqueur (like Grand Marnier)
3 Tbls. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine 1 cup sugar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Cook until reduced to about 1 cup (about 15 minutes).  Cool.  Serve over cake.

Pistachio Chantilly Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbls. powder sugar
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean (seeds scraped out - discard skin)
1 tsp. pistachio liqueur (or 1/4 tsp. pistachio extract)



Secret Ingredient:  CHILLED (FROZEN) STAINLESS STEEL BOWL



In a large chilled bowl add all ingredients and whip in a stand up mixer or electric hand mixer, until stiff peaks form.  Reserve and chill until ready to use.

Pistachio Crumble

1 stick butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a bowl, use a hand blender to mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Mix in flour and then stir or knead in the pistachio nuts.  Gather the dough into a ball and flatten to a 1/2 inch disk.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.  Once chilled, remove and bread or cut into small pieces and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Cool completely and break into large crumbles.

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Bark
Two Years Ago: Christmas Muffins
Three Years Ago: Topsy-Turvy Apple Pie


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake

A few weekends ago my husband and I were enjoying our early morning Saturday coffee time at home.  The tv was on and I was in and out of watching Pioneer Woman. Ree was doing a Friendsgiving with her girlfriends.  She proceeded to make this Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake.

My husband recognized the spring form pan she was using and says, "Hey, you have one of those, you should totally make that".  I wanted to say back to him...yes, I also have my own tool box, but you don't see me changing the oil in my car, do you?

I haven't had a lot of experience with cheesecakes made from scratch.  To me, in our altitude, they can get a little tricky.  Some of them have to be "in a bath", and others cook dry in the oven.  Some bake and others just chill out in the refrigerator.   I did conquer Trisha Yearwood's Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce and also played with some "semi-homemade" cheesecake desserts, but never a pumpkin cheesecake.

I'm always up for a good challenge, why not??!!  Until he said..."You can make it on Thanksgiving"!! Really??...yes, let's just throw a completely new recipe at me during the busiest cooking day of the year, because I'm not doing enough that day and using every bowl, mixer, and measuring utensil in the kitchen.  Well, with some very careful planning and scheduling of everything that day I jumped in...and nailed it!!  

So, if you're not completely sick of anything pumpkin right now and looking for a luscious dessert for the holidays to serve your family or guests, I highly recommend this cheesecake..they will be so impressed!!


Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake
Courtesy of Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman)

For the Crust:
12 ounces gingersnaps
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
6 Tbl salted butter, melted
2 Tbl packed brown sugar
dash of kosher salt

For the Filling:
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

To make the crust; in a food processor or blender, grind the gingersnaps until fine.  Pour into a bowl and stir in the pecans, melted butter, brown sugar and salt.  Press into the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling; beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer until soft, scraping the sides once.  Mix in the pumpkin, scraping the sides once or twice.  add the eggs 1 at a time, allowing them to mix in, then add the sour cream and mix.  With the mixer on low, add the granulated sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.  Thoroughly scrape the bowl and mix to ensure everything is smooth and mixed in.

Pour the filling into the chilled springform pan crust, smoothing the top.  Set the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the filling is no longer soupy but still slightly jiggly, about 50 minutes.  Turn off the oven, open the door a little and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 15 more minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow it to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours or overnight (is even better).

Serve with caramel sauce and/or freshly made whipped cream.

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Buckets
Two Years Ago: Pecan Pie Bites
Three Years Ago: Zensational Chili






Monday, December 5, 2016

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Copycat Recipe

Our first big blizzard is due to roll in sometime tomorrow night or early Wednesday morning.  We have removed everything from the patio and are prepared to hunker down for our holiday storm. Snow brushes and ice scrapers have been deposited into everyone's vehicles and inventory of scarves, hats, mittens and gloves have been completed.

I have been in denial for weeks about winter coming.  The weather has been nice, but crisp...sunny, but a breeze and chill in the air.  Yet, I still keep wearing my capri jeans, light sweaters and flats, thinking I am in the middle of July somewhere on vacation.  I come home freezing and yet, still in denial.  

Last night I reorganized my "summer into fall, into now winter wardrobe" preparation.  Dansko shoes are polished up and ready to hit the snow.  Thick sweaters are hung in closet and ready to be wrapped in my favorite pashmina scarves.  Winter coats have been retrieved from the basement storage and replaced with our light rain jackets until next Spring.

Another way to keep toasty warm is this unbelievably awesome soup.  I saw it on Pinterest and thought it looked really good.  I have been to quite a few Olive Gardens and never heard of this soup, which surprised me because I thought I knew their menu fairly well.  Olive Garden is one of my mom's favorite restaurants.  She loves the family style never ending salad and their accompanying dressing.  (I of course, love the unlimited breadsticks...have your tried dipping them in a side dish of their Alfredo sauce? Pure addiction!)


Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Copycat Recipe
Courtesy of www.damndelicious.net

4 slices bacon, diced
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
1 Tbl olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
4 cups chicken broth
3 russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups baby spinach
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

Add Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes.  Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in cooked sausage and fresh spinach until spinach begins to wilt, about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in heavy cream until heated through, about 1 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve immediately, garnished with bacon.  Pairs great with a Pinot Grigio and a  rustic baguette. 
Stay warm my friends!

One Year Ago: Holly Jolly Buckets
Two Years Ago: Pecan Pie Bites
Three Years Ago: World's Best Lasagna