Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Traeger Salmon and A Taste of Alaska Bacon Jam

You know those families that you always see every year on the Hallmark channel or at the movies during the holiday cinema time...the families that are all dressed up in their beautiful Ralph Lauren ensembles, carrying a carafe of hot cocoa and they are out getting their tree.  When they return home, the fireplace is going with their perfectly behaved golden retriever waiting for them and they decorate the most amazing Macy's store tree.  You know these families that I speak of?  As much as every Pinterest wife and mother would like to have that...yeah, that just never seems to happen for us.

This year was no different.  Now mind you we have tried every tree option out there - tree lots, home improvement store, the fake/pre-lit, grocery store supplied fresh stock and the ever memorable going into the actual forest to the allotted area and cutting down your own tree in the wind storm.

Our front entrance greeters.
This year after our Friday night family dinner date, we were overstuffed with enchiladas, tacos and salsa and decided to search out for out tree.  It was late, we were tired and some of us were getting cranky.  We did a drive by at our favorite grocery store and saw one special very tall tree still tied up.
We got out, gave it a once over and for $39.95 for an 8 foot fresh cut tree, I was willing to take a leap of faith that once we untied the tree, it would be perfect.  My tree searching instinct was right - the perfect Macy's tree (well in our minds it is anyway).  Now, if I could just get my dogs to behave, like the Hallmark channel movies.
This year's finished product.
This dinner is a perfect meal to serve your Ralph Lauren lined guests that you may have over this holiday season.  The bacon jam is from my friend Toni in Alaska.  You can find the recipe at A Taste Of Alaska.  Mine did not turn out as pretty as hers, but it was unbelievably delicious on our salmon.  We even served it round 2, later in the week with our mushroom and blue cheese burgers. YUM!!

A Taste of Alaska Bacon Jam

Easy Glazed Salmon Fillets
Adapted from Traeger Grills

1 side of salmon or 4 center-cut salmon fillets with skin on, each 6 to 8-ounces
Traeger Salmon Shake, or salt and freshly ground black pepper (or your favorite fish seasoning
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably Hellmann’s
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or dill, or 1 teaspoon dried

Lemon wedges and fresh chopped dill for garnish (optional)

Round 1 - over mustard glazed salmon.
Season fillets with salt and pepper or seasoning and set aside. To make the glaze, combine the mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl.  Stir in the lemon juice and dill.

Spread the flesh-side of the fillets with the glaze. (Keep the glazed side facing up).

**Grill or bake your fillets (skin side down) at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the salmon is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Transfer to your plates and garnish with sliced lemons, chopped dill and bacon jam.

* Served over a rice pilaf.

Round 2 over burgers.
One Year Ago: Cranberry Bliss Bars

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Muffins and My Elves

We are of course in the throws of a whirlwind week for the entire family.  Action packed with sports practices, company parties, concession commitments, school finals and assignments and my husband's birthday tomorrow. Thank goodness though, the holiday decorating is complete and I didn't have to lift one box.

Last weekend I was receiving a verbal reprimand from my girls as to why the house had not been decorated yet, as it was way past December 1st.  I simply explained that they were now old enough to take over the duties and I was passing my torch on to them and they had full reigns to decorate as they wish.  They had plenty years of experience with helping me in the past and I shared I was fully confident that they would do a beautiful job.

On that note, I went upstairs, closed the blinds, curled up in a comfy blanket and took a nap (still trying to shake this terrible head cold).  An hour later I woke, opened up my bedroom door and saw a sea of red, green, silver garland and wreaths everywhere while listening to their favorite holiday hits.  In that one hour, they proceeded to pack up Thanksgiving, pull out all the Christmas bins from the basement and decorate away.  My little elves took over the house and I couldn't be happier.

To thank them, the next day I tried out a new muffin experiment.  I still have an abundance of pantry items from the family visit and am determined to use everything up before I do another major grocery store venture.

These taste like Christmas morning to me... a little of that cinnamon/sugar coffee cake we all grew up with and a touch of chocolate that brings back those hot coco memories.

Christmas Muffins

1 package plain yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly mist a regular size (12 count) muffin pan with non-stick baking spray and set aside.

Put the light brown sugar and ground cinnamon in a bowl and stir well.  Set aside.

Put the yellow cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, canola oil, water, eggs and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed for about 1 minute.  Stop and scrape the bowl sides.  Mix again on medium speed for another 2 minutes.  Pour the mini chocolate chips in the batter and fold in to get it fully mixed.

Pour approximately 1/3 cup of batter into each muffin tin until all 12 tins are full.  Spoon approximately 1 Tablespoon of the sugar/cinnamon mixture on top of each muffin.  Swirl the mixture into the batter with a toothpick so there is cinnamon/sugar in both the batter and on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-18 minutes.

Makes 18-20 muffins.

One Year Ago:  Zens Master Meatlovers Chili

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pecan Pie Bites

I'm back...after a week of Thanksgiving time with our family, I have been taking this past week to recover...emotionally and physically.  The little darlings were nice enough to give Nana Suzie a departing gift.  Upon their departure day, they gave me the most awful head cold and sore throat. That being said though, I am still having baby withdrawals and missing their precious faces. I have even woke up two times this past week at 3 am, thinking I am hearing a baby cry.  I guess that motherly instinct never goes away.

The good news of the week is that I was able to curl up in a cozy blanket and watch my favorite Polar Express movie all by myself the other night.  I smiled, cried, laughed and then took a deep sigh knowing that Christmas is here once again.

I always cry at the end of the movie when he finally hears the bell and he says "I Believe".  It is always tears of joy though and makes my heart feel happy and spiritual at the innocence and hope in the children.

These little desserts have absolutely nothing to do with the movie, but would be great to serve holiday party guests instead of a heavy full size pecan pie.  I made them on Thanksgiving Eve for our dinner guests and they really hit the spot for a bit of an after dinner sugar fix.  The best part was they were so easy and super fast to make while I was chasing toddlers around our house.

Pecan Pie Bites
Courtesy of Plain Chicken

1 egg
1 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup Karo syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
3 boxes mini phyllo tarts (45 tart shells)

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk together egg, butter, syrup, sugar and vanilla. Stir in pecans. Spoon filling into tart shells.

Bake for 15-18 minutes.

One Year Ago: World's Best Lasagna

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Apple Pie Martini and Nana's Sippy Cup

Well all our family arrived safely Sunday night for the Thanksgiving week and we have been getting everyone settled in.

I have to say it has been very surreal buying pack'n play portable cribs, diapers, baby wipes, high chairs and sippy cups again.  It's been 15 years since I have shopped any of those aisles, and took me a bit to get my bearings and try to remember everything that little ones need.

Rock'n her cowgirl boots for the afternoon.
Yesterday my daughters and I had girl time with our daughter-in-law and oldest granddaughter.  We battled the chilly fall air and hit downtown Main Street.  We started with pottery painting at Crackpots where she made a Christmas gift for her dad and finished up with some amazing cupcakes and more girl time at Happy Cakes...perfect end to our afternoon.

Pretty little painter.
Upon our return home, we were all thirsty from our cupcake adventure.  Babies had their sippy cups of juice and Nana Suzie, broke out her own "sippy cup".

Apple Pie Martini

1 part Vodka
2 parts Ginger Ale
2 parts Apple Cider

Pour all ingredients over ice in a martini shaker.  Shake well and serve in a chilled martini glass.

One Year Ago: Whipped Feta Crostini

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Hobbit's Famous French Sandwich

A few years ago, I was fortunate to first have this "sandwich" at a company event and experience  The Hobbit Restaurant in Orange County, California.

ACT I Begins in the wine cellar

All guests are invited into the wine cellar to begin the evening. You are handed the evening’s menu and a flute of Hobbit Champagne, which is truly amazing. Hot and cold hors d’oeuvres are placed throughout the cellar for you to enjoy while selecting your wine for dinner. (This is where I ever so enjoyed their French Sandwich)

ACT II Guests are invited upstairs to their own table.

Act II includes a shellfish or fish course, followed by a fowl or light meat, and then a salad course. You are then invited to enjoy “intermission” – take a walk, relax on the patios or visit the kitchen to speak with the chefs (Of course, I loved visiting the chefs in their kitchen, while they prepared dinners).

ACT III A return to the table

Ten to fifteen minutes later you are invited to return to your reset table for Act III. A flavorful sorbet is next as a palate-cleanser. The main entrée is served complete with accompanying vegetables. Dessert arrives next, always available with an after dinner list of coffee drinks, liqueurs and fine cognacs.

I had been wanting to recreate this for years, but was just too intimidated.  I am so glad I did because it brought back wonderful memories of The Hobbit experience and was actually very easy to make.

Before our fall frost hit, I made this for lunch and we enjoyed it out on our patio one sunny weekend. This sandwich makes a wonderful lunch for guests or equally great to cut it up in small diamond shapes and serve as an appetizer for your upcoming holiday events.

The Hobbit's Famous French Sandwich
Adapted from The Hobbit Restaurant

1 package puff pastry dough (Pepperidge Farm)
Dijon Mustard
1/2 lb., Monterrey Jack shredded cheese (or Swiss cheese)
4 ounces, deli Salami or Ham slices
(1) egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw pastry by leaving it out at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out thawed puff pastry sheet.
Spread mustard over pastry, leaving about 1/2" border around edges.

Add ham or salami slices on top of the mustard.

Cover with shredded monterey jack or swiss cheese.

Cover with second sheet of pastry and seal the edges.
Brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbl. water)
Score top of pastry lightly with a sharp knife, careful not to
pierce the to layer.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes,
or until golden brown.
Once baked, serve warm.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

I can now check one event off my list...Volleyball Season Banquet - done.  After two months of planning and preparation, it is now over and I can breathe a sigh of relief.  The next morning, I felt like I had been hit by a train... all the anticipation and work, had finally kicked my butt, but it was definitely well worth it.

Personalized Gift Bags
 for all 44 players and coaches.

Floral team centerpiece at buffet table.

Custom monogram lollipops, bubbles and mini volleyballs.

Lighted centerpieces for each table.

I needed a quick, easy breakfast for the weekend and these little beauties were perfect!  I cannot believe how easy they were and I really cannot believe (being the semi-homemade baker) that I had never heard of these two ingredient muffins.  If you go on Pinterest, you can find countless combination possibilities.

Two Ingredient Pumpkin Muffins

1 (18.25 oz) pkg yellow cake mix
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan or line with paper liners.

In a large bowl mix together the cake mix and canned pumpkin until smooth.  Batter will be really thick.

Spoon equal amounts of batter into the prepared muffin cups.

** At this point, we sprinkled half of the muffins with mini chocolate chips and the other half with our family cinnamon/sugar blend...both additions were equally terrific.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sweet Shrimp and Spicy Sausage Skewers and No Sense

It's official, winter is here.  Yesterday in the city we saw our first snow.  One thing is for sure, never a dull moment around here.

I left for work at 7 am and it was 63 degrees, sun shining and a beautiful morning.  In less than 4 hours, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees, gail force winds, snow dumping everywhere...and there I was at work...no coat, no gloves, no boots and obviously no sense.  After being here for 2-1/2 years you think I would learn to always leave the house prepared and keep my car packed with the winter essentials because we truly never know when a surprise blizzard is going to set in here.

This photo below, which was posted on Instagram tells the story perfectly of how yesterday went down.  That is the exact location on University of Colorado Boulder campus at 4 different times throughout the day...amazing!

Well, the good news is we had an opportunity to make this dish before we put the grills in hibernation and covered them up before yesterday's downpour of snow.  If you have a stove top grill pan it can also easily be made inside and keep you toasty warm for the winter.

Sweet Shrimp and Spicy Sausage Skewers
Courtesy of Traeger

21-24 Shrimp cleaned, peeled, & de-veined
8 spicy sausage links
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons honey
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon dry thyme
Salt, pepper to taste

12-15 metal skewers

Mix together the vinegar, mustard, onion powder, garlic, honey, thyme, salt, pepper, and canola oil. Toss in shrimp, let marinade for 30 minutes.

Cut sausage links in half length wise, and then cut into 2 inch pieces.

Start the Traeger grill on smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4-5) minutes. Set the temperature to 450 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Alternate the sausage and shrimp on the skewers (about 2 shrimp and 3 sausages per skewer). Place on grill, cook about 8-10 minutes until shrimp is cooked. 

*** You can also do this dish on your own grill, bbq or stove top grill pan.

One Year Ago: Pear Tart