Monday, December 31, 2012

Nature Walk, Blog Plans and A Happy New Year!

The Beauty Of Nature
I took a walk through my neighborhood with my camera... to practice some different skills. You know, different from the ones I use in the kitchen. I enjoyed it immensely!
I've been thinking of using my blog for more of a personal space about life in general and not about food alone. Although food will still be a part of it. :)
I would love to hone some photography skills and concentrate on a few other things that feel more important just now but still would love to stay in touch with all of you.
I promise, I'll bake something yummy for you now and then :)
So I'm hoping you'll stick around and come "see" me when you have a spare moment.
I would like to spend more time noticing things, no matter how small, that remind me of who I am and why I'm here.

May your New Year be filled with Blessings and meaningful encounters with God that will fill you with Wonder and Joy and Peace and make you thirsty for more.

♥♥♥ ♥♥♥

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wintery Afternoon & Homemade Doughnuts

Yesterday we had a perfect winter day. It snowed. It was COLD. My work was done, well at least nothing was screaming for attention.  We were still enjoying a few leftovers from Christmas night so no major cooking was called for. The boys and Lin were in and out of the house, working, hunting, and cutting wood. Serena was out with her pony 'Lightening' for a while. So I decided to treat them with a few Homemade, made-from-scratch doughnuts. The boys have been reminding me that I used to do this when they were little. I remembered how much fun it was when I was young and my Mom made this treat for us, so I set to work. I kept it at a fairly small batch because I didn't want to have them lurking and they are always best fresh anyway. The recipe I used was from All Recipes. To which I made a few slight changes to fit my preference.
½ cup warm water
2 Tablespoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
¾ cup milk
5½ Tablespoons butter
¼ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
2 quarts (approx.)
Peanut Oil for frying
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
warm water or milk
Yield: 19 doughnuts and doughnut holes
Combine warm water, yeast, and 1 tsp. sugar in a small bowl. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan combine the milk and butter and heat (medium low heat) until butter is melted. Remove from heat.
In a mixer bowl combine the ¼ cup sugar and salt and pour the milk/butter mixture over this. Stir to dissolve the sugar then allow to cool to lukewarm.
Add the yeast mixture, eggs, and 1 cup sifted flour and beat until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the flour to form a soft dough.
Knead dough several minutes with the dough hook until it no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.
Turn onto a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic.
Place dough ball into a greased bowl, grease the top of the ball and cover with a clean cloth and place somewhere warm. (I put it into the oven with the oven light on.) Let rise till double in size, about 1-1½ hrs.
Punch down and roll out on a floured surface. About a ½ inch thick. Cut out the size you prefer (I used a clean large can ring) cut a hole out of the center and place on a parchment paper (non stick sprayed) cookie sheet and place back into the oven to rise again. About 40 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Heat oil to 350 degrees and fry each doughnut (a few at a time) until light brown, flipping once.
Drain on paper towels.
Drizzle with glaze.
For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and vanilla and enough water to make it the right consistency.
As a young girl I always loved the doughnut holes so I fried those too and covered them in powdered sugar.
♥Blessings to you!♥

Friday, December 28, 2012

Oatmeal Peppermint Crunch Cookies

I made almost no extra goodies for the holiday season this year and really liked it that way. But these have been burning a hole in my mind for a while and I figured the kids would be happy if I'd treat them at least a little with something seasonal so I set out to make these today. Yum!
I took a basic Oatmeal Cookie recipe that I use a lot and changed it up a bit. The end result is a cookie with crunch but also a bit of chewy goodness. And who can resist a little white chocolate and peppermint?
Here it is:
1½ cups Organic Vegetable Shortening
½ cup Butter, softened
1½ cups White Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
3 Eggs
1½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1½ teaspoons Baking Powder
1½ teaspoons Baking Soda
¾ teaspoon Salt
4½ cups Quick Oats
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup Peppermint Crunch Candies

½ cup White Chocolate Chips
Vegetable Oil
additional Peppermint Crunch Candies,
In a mixer combine the first five ingredients and beat well with paddle attachment. Add the baking powder, soda, and salt and mix again. Add quick oats, flour, and peppermint crunch candies separately, mixing well after each addition.
With a size 40 cookie scoop, drop cookie dough onto a Silpat lined cookie sheet and press down till they are about half the height as before. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Longer for cookies sheets lined with parchment paper. Remove from oven when they begin to brown and allow to rest on the pan for several minutes till set. Remove to a wire rack (covered with parchment paper for easy clean up) and allow to cool. Melt (in the microwave 30 seconds at a time) white chocolate chips with just a smidgen of oil and stir with a fork until smooth. Place into a sandwich sized Ziploc baggie and snip off just a tiny corner and drizzle over the cookies. Sprinkle with additional peppermint crunch candies. I did because I had some left over. :)


♥Be Blessed!♥

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bird Suet Repost

Back in January 2011 I posted a recipe for suet that the birds always "look forward to". I know this because when it's out there they can't seem to get enough of it. :) It is also the only way the bluebirds stay around in the winter. So today I made some of this and am looking forward to seeing those beautiful blue jewels adorning our deck again. Oh and here's the recipe... again... in case you would like to lure the birds to your house too!

2 cups lard
2 cups chunky peanut butter
2/3 cup white sugar
4 cups rolled oats
4 cups cornmeal
2 cups flour
Birds Seed (optional)

Melt the Lard and Chunky Peanut Butter over medium heat (in a large kettle). Add the White Sugar, Oats, Corn Meal, and Flour. I normally feed the birds a mixture with nuts and/or fruits in it and sometimes I add some of that to the suet. Stir well. Line a large cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper and pour the suet mixture in and smooth it out. Cut according to your suet feeder size and allow to set/harden. I place mine outside where it's cold. When it's hard run the knife through the previous cuts again and fill the feeder. Store the rest in a Ziploc bag and freeze.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Green Smoothie

Right now I have lots of Kale, Spinach and other green things in my fridge along with fruits galore so for breakfast this morning I decided to mix a bunch of these together for a great start. Still fairly new at this but actually enjoyed this one without a lot of mind-over-matter drama.
First off I put this through the juicer:
1 handful Kale
1 handful Spinach
1 handful Italian Parsley
1 Apple
3 small Kiwi
4 large Strawberries
½ cup Fresh Pineapple
½ cup Red Seedless Grapes
I then put the juice into the blender and added
1 small Avocado
Blend until smooth. The Avocado thickened it to smoothie consistency. With a few Almonds I was on track for the day. For a girl that made friends with flour and sugar a long time ago a green breakfast that I enjoy is really saying something! haha
Hope you try it, and enjoy it too!
Have a wonderful day! The snow is falling and the kids are happy. What more could I ask for?!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Blessings...

from my house to yours!

Wishing for all of you Peace and Joy!
Tonight... just in time for Christmas Eve the beautiful snow began to fall! We were so excited!

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Healthy Options and Randomness

I'm enjoying my simple healthier lunches right now. They often look like this or slight variations of this. Lots of spinach, sometimes lettuce, a bit of onion, blueberries or craisins, feta cheese, almonds or pecans, and sometimes the crunchy ramen noodles. The Dressing is a simple, equal amounts mixture of Red Wine Vinegar and Olive Oil with a bit of Stevia Powder to sweeten it up a bit.

Sometimes they look like this:

I've had a juicer for several years but would only juice sporadically. I've been juicing more regularly and I'm hoping somehow I can turn the kids on to this. Wish me luck? haha  I'm still learning what it is that my taste buds will accept and I'm not planning to abandon my love for baking cheesecakes any time soon :) but for now this has me intrigued and I'm enjoying experimenting of a different kind.
I juiced: 1 small red beet
4-5 carrots
1 lemon
a handful of spinach
I wasn't brave enough to just chug it down so I mixed it with an equal amount of red orange juice (from blood oranges) and can honestly say it was yummy! And It's such a pretty color too! :)
It's all about the baby steps. :)
Blueberries and Pomegranate Seeds - Yum!
I asked two of the boys to cuts some greens for me recently and mentioned they should get some of the higher branches thinking they would simply reach as high as they could but the minds of Mothers and Boys don't always work the same. My son called my cell phone and asked me to come outside and I found that they had taken me literally. haha such characters!

With three boys in the house there's rarely a dull moment. This is generally how they feel about each other :) with the occasional, uh, shall we say, disagreement? haha  Lots of wrestling, football and refrigerator raids. But I love them to pieces and would do just about anything for them. They have taught me SO much about life. And to think, I thought I knew it all when I was 17! Please tell me I'm not the only one!
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 17, 2012

White Chocolate Peppermint Butter Cream Icing

m-m-mminty ☺

I was asked to bake a cake for someone recently and decided on a simple chocolate cake with icing that fits the season. Butter Cream is my current favorite, I'm a bit obsessed with White Chocolate at present and Peppermint seems to be the theme everywhere so I combined the three for a sugary treat.

One word. Yum!

I was recently introduced to Andes Peppermint Crunch. Perfect. And so yummy in cheesecakes and icing, etc. Perfect also as a special little after dinner treat.

1 cup Butter
1 cup Crisco
½-¾ cup White Chocolate Chips, melted
4 cups Powdered Sugar
Peppermint Extract
Andes Peppermint Crunch Candies, chopped

Cream butter and Crisco until smooth. melt white chocolate chips and allow to cool a bit. The butter, Crisco, and chocolate should be about the same temperature so the chocolate doesn't harden when it touches the other ingredients. Beat well. Add extract until it suits your taste and then add powdered sugar until it reaches the right consistency. If it gets too thick add a bit of milk till it's right. Chop the candies and add to the icing and blend together. Spread onto cake, cupcakes, etc. and sprinkle with additional chopped candies if desired.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bacon Horseradish and Cheddar Cheeseball

Ever since this summer when I discovered the bacon horseradish spread at the local grocery store I've had in mind to make this cheese ball for the holidays. It's a very simple concoction with just a few ingredients that is best made at least 3 days ahead of time so the flavors have time to "marry". It can be rolled in whatever you choose like nuts, finely shredded cheddar, or parsley etc. I chose the cheddar because I knew I would have help to eat it if that is what I used. My husband and I have been enjoying little bits of it for a snack or as part of a light meal.
12 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
½ cup Bacon Bits
½ teaspoon Smoked Sea Salt
½ c. finely shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 Tablespoons Horseradish, drained
½ Tablespoon sugar
Mix together well. Form into a ball and roll into whatever you choose.(nuts, parsley, or cheese)Refrigerate. Best if made 3-4 days in advance. Serve with crackers of your choice.

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, December 10, 2012

White Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake with Almond Shortbread Crust

Decadent Deliciousness

Recently while eating a Lindor White Chocolate Truffle I got to thinking that I should recreate the decadent experience in cheesecake form. White Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is nothing new but I had not tasted one before this.
It. Is. A.m.a.z.i.n.g!

I wanted it to be white from the bottom up and had some Almond Meal Flour in the cupboard waiting for a purpose so I decided on Almond Shortbread for a crust. I think it goes very well with the cake. I also eliminated some of the egg yolks to keep the cake white.

For the Crust:
¾ cup All Purpose Flour
6 Tablespoons Almond Meal
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
6 Tablespoons White Sugar
¼ teaspoon Salt
Mix together in a food processor or by hand until small crumbs form. Press into the bottom of a 6 inch Spring Form Pan (lined with parchment paper and sprayed). Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Place a small pan of hot water onto the bottom oven rack.

For the Cheesecake:
20 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
¾ cup White Sugar
¼ cup Sour Cream
2 Whole Eggs + 2 Egg Whites
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2/3 cup Ghiradelli White
Chocolate Chips, divided

In a mixer bowl combine the sugar and cream cheese and beat for several minutes, scraping down sides as needed. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and beat to combine.
In a separate bowl combine eggs and egg whites and beat. Add to cheesecake and beat to combine. DO NOT OVER BEAT!

Spread a 1/3 cup of chocolate chips over the cooled crust, being careful to keep them from touching the side of the pan. Pour half of the cheesecake mixture over them and sprinkle another 1/3 cup of chocolate chips over top of this. Then pour the rest of the cheesecake batter over top. Place pan onto a baking sheet and bake for 60 minutes or until sides look puffy and dry. Turn heat off and prop door open with a wooden spoon handle for an additional 30-45 minutes or until cheesecake is set. (Jiggles just a bit in the center when shook). Watch for cracks in the center, if one starts to form remove cheesecake immediately. Run a sharp knife along the edge and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight before removing from the pan.

Garnish and serve with fresh berries.


Linking to:
See Ya In The Gumbo

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Broccoli & Cheddar Gruyere Toasts

Winter's Perfect Comfort Food

If you like broccoli and cauliflower and bacon and delicious cheeses melted on little bites of chewy baguettes, you my friend are in for a treat! I thought I was getting company for lunch yesterday but she was needed elsewhere at the last minute so she didn't come. This is what she missed. :) 
It. Was. Super. Yummy.
I've always enjoyed soup and at the restaurant where I used to work they served both broccoli and cauliflower soups with the cheese melted into the soup. Yummy! But I've grown away from the Velveeta cheese that they used and I have trouble with cheddar not performing well for me IN a soup. I like this recipe because the cheese is NOT in the soup and it doesn't use flour for thickening.

4 Tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
2-3 garlic cloves, fresh pressed
12 oz. cauliflower
10 oz. broccoli, cut into bite sized florets
1 medium Yukon Gold Potato,
peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup heavy cream
Bacon, cooked and crumbled,
approx 1 piece per bowl of soup
Baguette for toasts
Cheddar and Gruyere Cheeses, shredded
1-1½ teaspoon Sea Salt
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
Chopped Parsley, optional

Saute onion and garlic in butter till soft. Add the potato chunks 6-8 oz. of the cauliflower and broth and cook over medium heat until veggies are tender. Allow to cool slightly then blend in the blender until smooth.

In a small saucepan bring water to a boil (enough to cover the veggies) and blanch the cauliflower and broccoli separately just until tender and cool immediately in cold water.

Combine the blended soup and heavy cream in a Dutch Oven (or the saute pan if it's big enough) and heat until very hot. (Don't let it boil). Season with salt and pepper. Add the blanched veggies. Heat through again but without boiling.

Crumble bacon pieces over individual bowls of soup and sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Slice the baguette loaf into desired sized pieces and place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Shred cheeses over top of the bread and broil until cheeses are melted. Serve immediately.

Serves approximately 5-6 people. Unless they have been out in the cold working very hard and are very hungry. Then you will only serve 3-4.

♥Have a wonderful day!♥

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Caramel Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake

I love to bake cheesecakes! I love to experiment with different flavors and dream of baking and selling them someday. Oh! Did I just admit that?! That kind of makes me panic. But fear is a bad thing,  conquering them is good!

Okay that was a sappy way to introduce a really, really good cheesecake! But anyway...

I discovered the Peanut Butter Snickers Squared candy bars. I will never be the same! I thought I loved regular Snickers but these surpass those if you are peanut butter lovers like we are here.!

I got to thinking about a cheesecake with those flavors and decided this was the perfect weekend to bake one because we had a fellowship dinner planned after/at church and we would have plenty of help to eat it. I think our church family kind of enjoys my experiments because the plate is usually empty. :) Today was no exception. The cheesecake is delicious! or so they said :)

Preheat Oven to 300°.

With the Spring Form pan apart, lay a piece of parchment paper across the bottom flat part and then clip the top part of the pan on. Trim the extra parchment paper close to the pan. Spray sides lightly with non stick spray.

For the Crust:
1 pkg. Oreo Cookies, icing removed and crushed
6 Tablespoons butter, melted

Combine and press into the bottom of a prepared 10 inch Spring Form Pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool, at least a little bit.

For the Cheesecake:
5 (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
½ cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1½ cups Brown Sugar
5 eggs, room temperature and beaten
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract, beat with the eggs
6 Peanut Butter Snickers Squares, chopped

Peanut Butter Snickers, chopped (desired amount)

10-15 Caramels
3-4 teaspoons milk

In a large mixer (Bosch) combine the cream cheese, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy.
In a separate bowl beat the eggs and vanilla together. Add to the cream cheese and mix just until combined. Add the chopped snickers and mix again. DO NOT OVER BEAT! Pour over baked and cooled crust and place Spring Form pan onto a cookie baking sheet. (Place a small pan of HOT water on the bottom oven rack). Bake for 60-70 minutes or until the sides rise up and look dry. Turn oven off and prop door open with a wooden spoon handle for another 50-60 minutes. (I use a gas oven to bake all my cheesecakes because the electric oven I have bakes much hotter and faster. You may have to adjust the time and temperature according to your ovens performance). Remove from oven and run a thin, sharp knife around the edge. Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight. Before removing the Spring Form sides run a knife around the edges again. Place on a serving plate and garnish as desired.


Linking to: