Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fresh Orange Guacamole

I love Guacamole. My husband, on the other hand won't go near it, so if I make it, I need to make sure company is coming. If not, I get to eat the whole thing! That was the case this time so I made half a batch of this recipe from the December issue of Southern Living magazine. I ate the whole thing!
I was enamoured as soon as I saw the photo of this Fresh Orange Guacamole, so I had to try it. The avocado is mixed with onion, jalapeno, orange, and orange juice. It can be topped with a few pomegranate seeds for extra color if desired. It is a very pretty presentation. It is different, but I liked the burst of orange flavor with each bite of orange I took. I did miss the lime juice that I normally use though. Lime gives this dip some punch, something that the orange juice didn't. I couldn't taste the orange juice at all, and the jalapeno I used had very little flavor. I am going to make this again, and try using lime juice instead of the orange juice. But, I'd still love to find this guacamole at any food event, and certainly it would be a wonderful addition to a New Years celebration. So give it a try if you are looking for a new way to serve your guacamole.

Fresh Orange Guacamole
adapted slightly from Southern Living - 1/2 recipe
2 ripe avocados
1/2 of a navel orange, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1 tablespoon finely diced red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1/2  jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced- I did not use this
salt and pepper to taste
fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish- optional

Scoop avocado pulp into a bowl and mash with a fork until chunky. Stir in the orange and the rest of the ingredients, except the pomegranate seeds. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Garnish with pomegranate seed if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

White Bean and Ham Soup

 Christmas is over for another year. It takes so long to get ready for Christmas, and then it's over so quickly. And the meals take hours of  preparation, and then we eat and you have a ton of leftovers. It's a good thing we like leftovers.But we'll do it all agin next year, and enjoy every minute of it.
 We always bake a bone-in ham for our Christmas dinner. No other kind will do, and that gives me a ham bone to use for cooking a pot of bean soup. I make sure to leave some meat on the bone so that the beans will have some meat in them too.
 I chop up some vegetables to add to the pot and let it all cook into a delicious and hearty soup. And of course there must be corn bread. I used Great Northern Beans for this soup, but you could also use navy, or cannellini beans. Sometimes I make Pinto Beans and Ham, which are also delicious. So leftover ham is a good problem to have. I always soak the beans in water overnight, or else I use a quick soak method, where you bring the beans to a boil, then cover and remove from the heat to let them soak for 1 hour. Then pour off the water. Add more water to the pot, then begin to cook. After wards you'll have a pot of delicious comfort food, White Bean and Ham Soup.
White Bean and Ham Soup

2 pounds dried white beans, I used Great Northerns
1 ham bone with meat
1 large onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
2 stalks of celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 dried bay leaves
1 can of low sodium chicken broth, or about 2 cups chicken stock
about 6 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
fresh minced parsley- optional

1. Sort the beans and then soak the beans. I pour part of the beans on the counter and go through them to remove any dirt or small particles of rock that may have snuck in the bag. Repeat until all the beans have been sorted. Rinse the beans well under water. Place in a soup pot. Add water to cover. I gave the beans a quick soak by bringing the pot to a boil, then turning off the burner, cover and let them soak for 1 hour. Pour off the water. Place the beans back in the soup pot on the burner. Add the ham bone, the chicken broth and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover.
2. While the beans are cooking, dice the onion, celery and carrots. Add to the pot with the bay leaves. Cook, covered for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender. Beans will smash easily against the side of the pan when they are done.
3 Remove the ham bone from the beans and cool until cool enough to handle. Now, I like the bean soup to be a bit creamy with a thick broth, so I take a big spoon and smash some beans against the side of the pan  and stir them back in. I do this several times until the soup begins to look creamy. I guess you could use an immersion blender, but I haven't tried that.
4. After the ham bone has cooled enough, take the meat off the bone and discard any fat. Put the ham into the soup and season well with salt and pepper. I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in this soup, but it will depend on how salty the ham is as to how much you have to add. Serve this soup with a huge chuck of corn bread and enjoy!

NOTE: Dried beans will take longer to cook in high altitudes. Also if the beans are older, they will also take longer to cook, so plan plenty of time when cooking dried beans.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tortilla Pinwheel Appetizers

 I know, Tortilla Pinwheels have been around for years, but they are still a great appetizer to have in your arsenal. I've been making them for years and these pinwheels are always devoured. Cream cheese with sour cream, cheese, chilies, olives and green onions - whats not to love? They are a wonderful holiday appetizer and best served the day they are made. Here's my recipe.

Tortilla Pinwheel Appetizers
slightly adapted from and old Taste of Home recipe
Note: These should be made several hours before they are served. While they can be made a day ahead, the tortillas get really soft on the second day.

1 8 ounce package cream cheese- softened
1 cup sour cream- I use low fat
1 4 ounce can chopped black olives
1 4 ounce can chopped green chilies
1/2 half a large red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup diced green onions
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
5 large tortillas, (10 inch, burrito size) plain or flavored - I used Missions Jalapeno Cheddar Wraps

In a large bowl, cream the softened cream cheese. I used a mixer for this. Mix in the sour cream, and then the remaining ingredients by hand, except the tortillas. Divide the cream cheese filling evenly among the 5 tortillas and spread over the tortillas. Roll up the tortillas as tightly as possible with out squeezing out the filling. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge, until cold, at least a couple of hours.When ready to serve, cut off the ends of the tortilla wraps. The filling won't be in the very ends, so they aren't needed. Slice the Tortilla Pinwheels into slices with a sharp knife,  and arrange on a serving platter. I cut into about 3/4 inch slices. Serve along side your favorite salsa if desired. For several years we have had appetizers for our Christmas Eve together, and Tortilla Pinwheels are usually there. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Molasses Sugar Cookies

I'm a bit late starting with my Christmas baking, but had to make these wonderful cookies. You will have the spicy aroma of cinnamon, ginger and cloves, with a touch of molasses wafting through your home if you make these Molasses Sugar Cookies. This was my dear Mother-in-Law's recipe and I loved it when she would bring us some of these tasty, spice laden cookies. These delicious cookies will be an addition to my cookie gifts this year, if my husband and I can stay out of them, that is!
My Mother-in-Law passed away about a month ago, but making her cookies made her seem very near and dear yesterday. I put on some Christmas music, turned on the lights on the tree and got busy with cookie making. If you haven't made Molasses Sugar Cookies yet, give them a try. I think you'll like them. Here's the recipe.

Molasses Sugar Cookies
a family recipe

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves- my MIL used 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the shortening in a sauce pan over low heat. Remove from heat and let cool some. Add the sugar, molasses and the egg to the melted shortening and beat well.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and the spices. Mix well. Add the shortening mixture to the flour mixture and mix until all incorporated. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.
To bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and then roll each ball into granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cookies will look crackled. Cool on baking racks. I hope you enjoy our Molasses Sugar Cookies!

For more cookie recipes for your Christmas baking, click here.
NOTE: I have substituted butter for the shortening before, which does work, although the cookies were flatter. But of course the butter tasted good. :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Apricot Almond Bars

 I love bar cookies. They normally require less preparation time than single cookies and that's a plus when you are busy. These Apricot Almond Bars were very rich, from the buttery sweet crust, the sweet but tart apricot jam filling, and the topping which contains not only almonds, but meringue and coconut too. My husband and I loved them, so they didn't last long. I have a weakness for chocolate, so these bars were a nice change, and they would be a good recipe for any Christmas cookie exchange. They are a keeper.
I lined the baking pan with foil and then sprayed it with cooking spray. That way you can lift out the whole pan of bars before cutting them. Using a long, sharp knife I cut them neatly into serving sizes that look great on a serving tray when serving to guests. These cookie bars will be a perfect addition to the upcoming Christmas festivities.
I've been wanting to blog these all week but we've had some computer issues, so I guess it's better late than never. I hope you'll give Apricot Almond Bars a try real soon.

Apricot Almond Bars
Adapted from Taste Of Home

3/4 cup butter, softened- I used salted butter
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup apricot preserves or jam- I needed about 1 more tablespoon
3 egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 cup sliced almonds, divided
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Gradually mix in the flour and blend well. Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch pan. Or, line the pan with foil, grease it well and then press in the crust mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes until golden.
Spread the jam over the crust. In a large bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until incorporated and stiff peaks form. Fold in the coconut and 1/2 cup of the almonds. Gently spread this mixture over the apricot jam. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of almonds. Bake at 350 degree F. for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. We had a lovely day and then went out of town to Branson for several days. Now Christmas preparations are in full swing, but I had to share this appetizer recipe that I made awhile back. If you need a tasty appetizer to feast upon while watching a football game, or something to add to your party repertoire, or even just to feed your kids after school, these Pizza Puffs would be for you.These Pepperoni Pizza Puffs are crisp on the outside, and full of pizza flavor on the inside. Kids and adults both like them, so you might want to make them too. This recipe is quick to stir up, baked in a mini muffin pan, and then dipped in pizza sauce. They go quickly! Here's the recipe.

Pepperoni Pizza Puffs
adapted from Noble Pig
Makes 24 Pizza Puffs

3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk- I use 2 %
1 egg, beaten
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes- about 1 cup
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or Italian seasoning, or about 2 teaspoons fresh basil
1/2 cup pizza sauce warmed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl add the flour and baking powder.. Stir in the milk and the beaten egg, and then the mozzarella, basil and pepperoni. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes. Spray a 24 count mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Stir the batter and then spoon mixture evenly into each muffin cup. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Remove Pepperoni Pizza Puffs to a plate and serve with warmed pizza sauce for dipping. Enjoy!
You may add additional fresh basil to the pizza sauce if desired.