Friday, April 18, 2014

Cheese Souffles

Last night I put my teenagers on a plane for their weekend tournament...and then I cried.  Their last words to me before boarding the plane (other than "I Love You"), "mom, please don't cry".  So, I held it together and then the tears came after they went through the doors.  I never understood why my mom always cried (and still does) at the, I completely understand.

Know this now, I am not going to make a great (or even good one, for that matter) empty nester.  I hate the quiet, empty commotion or sounds at all (other than snoring dogs)...I even miss their sibling bickering when they are gone.  Theo was also depressed last night, jumping back and forth from my lap to my husband's lap, looking for love and reassurance that his best friend will be coming home.  I have no doubt that our number of labrador retrievers will double, once my daughters leave me and go off to college.

Since I had an over abundance of cream cheese from all the Easter baking this week, here is a great recipe for a quiet, empty nester, date night...served with grilled tri tip steak and caesar salad.

Easiest Souffle Ever

Courtesy of Kraft Foods

eggs, separated

1 tub   (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread

HEAT oven to 375ºF.

BEAT egg whites in medium bowl with mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Beat cream cheese spread in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add egg yolks; beat until well blended. Gently stir in egg whites until well blended.

POUR into 1-1/2-qt. baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.
** I actually dividided the mixture into 4 ramekin dishes for individual souffles.

BAKE 24 to 26 min. or until top is puffed and golden brown. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter "Cheesecake" Baskets

It is Easter Basket time again for all the little children (and 15 year olds).  We celebrated Easter last weekend, since the girls will be away Easter weekend for volleyball.

We have a tradition at our house that started when the girls were born.  Since we are not really into the overload of candy in the baskets and Easter arrives in the spring, each year the girls get new swimsuits in their baskets to start the summer off.

There is also either a new piece of jewelry, hair accessories, nail polish and lip gloss to top them off.

This year I did bend a bit and put in some extra special candy.  I have become addicted to the television show "The Profit" and saw an episode last month on Sweet Pete's in Jacksonville, Florida.  It was such a charming and touching story of a husband and wife team and the American Dream of owning your own business.

I couldn't resist when I went to their website the next day and saw these darling little gift of course, "Add To Cart" I did.

I also made my traditional Mini Cheesecake Easter Baskets that I have been making since forever.  I love these adorable desserts.  Perfectly proportioned and so festive for the spring season.

Mini Cheesecake Baskets
Courtesy of Kraft Foods

12  NILLA Wafers (I used lemon flavored ones this year - yummy)
2 pkg.  (8 oz. each) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened, room temperature
1/2 cup  sugar
1/2 tsp.  vanilla
2  eggs
1-1/2 cups  BAKER'S ANGEL FLAKE Coconut, tinted green
36 small  jelly beans
12 pieces  red string licorice (4 inch each)

HEAT oven to 350°F.

PLACE 1 wafer in each of 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with mixer until blended. Add eggs; beat just until blended. Spoon over wafers.

BAKE 20 min. or until centers are almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 2 hours.

TOP with coconut and jelly beans just before serving. Bend each licorice piece, then insert both ends into cheesecake to resemble the handle of a basket.

How to Tint Coconut: 
Place coconut and a few drops green food coloring in small resealable plastic bag. Seal bag. Shake bag gently until coconut is evenly tinted. (I recommend using food prep gloves, when putting the coconut on the cakes, to avoid staining your hands).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Carrot Cupcakes

Every year I forget how much I love carrot cake.  It's one of those things like St. Patrick's eat corned beef, cabbage and boiled potatoes once a year and always on that day remember how much you love it.  You swear that you will make it again sometime during the upcoming year...and then you forget again, and never do.

Yep, that's what happens with carrot cake - only remembered at Easter time.  Well, it's that time of year again and I made up a batch of these for both my and husband's offices. I must try to remember to make these more this year - delish.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
Courtesy of Barefoot Contessa

For the cupcakes:
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 extra-large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups grated carrots (less than 1 pound)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

For the frosting:
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar

**Jelly bean designed "carrot" - optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.

Line muffin pans with paper liners. Scoop the batter into 22 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cook for a further 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

For the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.

When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously and serve.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bunny Bundles

Easter is upon us and just less than a week away.  For the past few weeks, our house has been filled with all the colors of spring and bunnies everywhere, amidst the intermittent snow storms we have experienced.

This weekend is supposed to bring sunny skies, perfect for cleaning up the yards, planting flowers and getting ready for summer, all while remembering and treasuring our blessings during this season of Easter.

Wishing you a very "hoppy" week.

I wish I would take credit for these darling gift jars, but I admit that I saw them on Pinterest, my online addiction and just had to make them for the grandkids this year.  These are truly one of the easiest gift ideas you could make.  I love the versatility of them that could be adapted for holidays all year long.

Bunny Bundles

Mason Jar
Your favorite jelly beans
Peeps marshmallow bunnies
Your favorite mini packaged candy (i.e. mini Snickers, Reese's, etc.)
Colorful fabric, cut 6" x 6" 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mixed Berry Pavlova

In ending yesterday's Masters, I paid tribute to last year's winner, Adam Scott.  At this year's Champions Dinner, he did indeed serve his mom's Pavlova dessert.

I have always been very intimidated by this recipe, but after seeing Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) make her version, I decided to conquer it.

*** A word of warning, this one dessert could feed 50 people because you can only take one spoonful of it, as it is sooo sweet!!

Mixed Berry Pavlova
Courtesy of Barefoot Contessa at Home

4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe follows

1 cup cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Triple Raspberry Sauce, recipe follows
1 half-pint fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup seedless raspberry jam (12-ounce jar)
1 tablespoon framboise liqueur

1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 pint fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won't get a pencil mark on the meringue.)

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

Invert the meringue disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream.

Combine the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in a bowl and toss with about 1/2 cup of raspberry sauce, or enough to coat the berries lightly. Spoon the berries carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue. Serve immediately in large scoops with extra raspberry sauce.

Sweetened Whipped Cream:
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don't over beat!

Triple Raspberry Sauce:
Place the raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.

*** I did not have any framboise on hand, so I subsituted with Grand Marnier - worked great.

The Masters Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Today Bubba Watson took home his second green blazer after winning this afternoon's annual Masters tournament.

I caught bits and pieces of the tournament as I have been non-stop in the kitchen all day producing countless sweets for outgoing care packages tomorrow.  My poor oven has worked well into overtime today.
Cute gift idea - the girls made a movie "bouquet"
for their friend's birthday.
Movie passes, popcorn and lots of goodies.
However, there were others in our family that just could not find the drive to do anything...but nap!!  It was a cold, snowy and dreary day which definitely lended itself for a good snooze (especially after the girls pulled an all nighter sleepover at a friends).

I kept to my promise and produced the famous Masters Pimento Cheese Sandwhich for my husband.  
It was awesome!!

Pimento Cheese
Courtesy of Plain Chicken

1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp garlic salt
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup diced pimentos

Whip cream cheese until smooth.  Add in mayonnaise, sour cream, and garlic salt.  Whip until smooth.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.

I turned my Pimento Cheese into a dip for crackers. - Even better!!!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Comforting Creamy Chicken and Noodles

In my continuing quest for comfort last week from not feeling well, I was also feeling very nostalgic.  I have no idea why this dish came to me, but I vividly remembered my mom buying us this canned chicken and creamy noodle dish and for the life of me I cannot remember if it was from Campbell's or Hormel, or some other company... does anyone out there remember this?  It came in the size of a can of soup and was probably the prequel to what is now Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. At any rate, I reinvented it for one of our dinners this past week.

I also love, love this nostalgic sign that I found at a vintage store when we moved here.  It hangs in our dining area and this is my moto whenever someone expresses their feelings in my dinner menu decision.

Speaking of menus we have a very busy weekend.  I have already sent my husband off to his golf tournament after making him blueberry muffins, hash browns, turkey breakfast sausage and cheesy scrambled eggs...yeah, wife of the year award again!  Lots of baking to get accomplished the next couple days for upcoming Easter festivities.

I need to get out of my pajamas at some point this morning (or not) and start a little house cleaning, since my husband took on that role the past couple weekends with me being gone at volleyball tournaments.

Of course The Masters will be watched, unfortunately without my boyfriend Phil, but the pimento cheese spread still needs to be prepped today for tomorrow's lunch.

Getting the Easter care package ready for our grand babies to send out and need to have the girls pack for their upcoming out of town tournament.  I'm exhausted already.....

Creamy Chicken and Noodles

2 cans Campbells Cream of Chicken Soup
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
1 roasted chicken (homemade or from your deli), meat removed and shredded
1/2 - 3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (depending on your taste)
1 bag of regular size egg noodles, cooked per package directions
salt and pepper to taste

Remove all meat from the cooked, roasted chicken and shred to bite size pieces, set aside.

In large sauce/soup pan, heat both cans of Cream of Chicken soup to a soft boil, until heated.  Add the heavy cream and parmesean cheese, until a smooth, creamy consistency.  Add the shredded chicken and let heat through at medium heat setting (approximatley 20 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper, to your taste.

While chicken is heating in the sauce, make egg noodles according to directions and drain.
Serve creamy chicken over hot noodles.

** Makes excellent work day lunch leftovers.