Thursday, December 30, 2010

Swedish Thursday Pea Soup

Pea soup is a staple throughout Scandinavia.  It's not unusual for people all over Sweden to eat pea soup on Thursday's.  I remember hearing a story of why pea soup is a staple on Thursday's while we were living in Toronto.  The story is about a Swedish King named Erik who was given a serving of pea soup after he was imprisoned for being violent.  Unfortunately the soup was laced with arsenic and this ended his life.  Apparently this happened on a Thursday, which is why pea soup is now a staple.  Humm... not the kind of warm and fuzzy story I was hoping for and I'm not so sure this is true, but it makes for a interesting story!  Maybe this is why pea soup isn't well received in America???
2 cups dried split peas, washed
6 cups water
1 lb. diced ham (I used leftovers)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced very fine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method

1)  Rinse peas
2)  Heat olive oil in pan and saute onions until translucent.
3)  Place onions, peas, water, thyme, and marjoram, and diced ham (bones to if you have them)in crock pot.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours, depending on your crock pot.  Remove the bones, season with salt and pepper and serve.  This is wonderful on a cold winter's night.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cranberry Walnut Cheese Ball

This is so easy and yummy I just needed to share!  If you are going somewhere for New Years Eve bring this!  It's really good with any type of cracker...


1 8oz package of cream cheese
1/4 cup finely diced red pepper
1/4 cup finely diced green pepper
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoning salt
3/4 cup craisins

Method:

1) Mix together the cream cheese with red and green pepper, Lawry's seasoning, and 1/4 cup of the walnut's and the craisins.  Make into a ball shape.  Roll in the remaining walnuts to coat and serve!  Every easy and tasty! 

Christmas Eve Table

In my opinion a beautiful table setting can even make the food taste better!  Well, not really but subconsciously it just might have an effect.  I should do research on this and I'll get back with you all:)  But, in all seriousness it is important!  Below is the menu I served and some pictures of this years table setting on a budget!  Hope your holiday was wonderful.

Christmas Eve Dinner Menu

Appetizers:
Shrimp Cocktail
Cranberry Walnut Cheese Ball

Main Meal:
French Ginger Liqueur Toast with Pear
Butter Lettuce served with Holly Brie
Barb's Aged Beef Rib Roast
Cauliflower with Melted Sweet Onions
Herbed Fingerling Potatoes
Layered Jello (kids speciality)
Kosher Pareve Challah Bread

Dessert:
Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Assorted Christmas Cookies

The Centerpiece

A quick view before adding all the food and lighting the candles!
Instead of adding name tags at each plate I typed up a menu, rolled the paper and tied with a red ribbon! Clean, useful and beautiful!
The Chandelier above the table was dressed with cedar and a simple ribbon tied in a bow at each light!

Herbed Fingerling Potatoes

Are you wondering if I fell off the planet?  Well, something like that!  Our family has been praying for over a year for a job for my husband and one 'finally' came through!  Yea haw!!!  It seemed everything this Christmas turned out wonderful!  So here is one of the potato recipes I made Christmas Eve night...this one is yummy!

2 lbs small fingerling potatoes
6 rosemary sprigs
1 tablespoon dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher Salt to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

1) Preheat oven to 425.  Put potatoes in pot and cover with water.  Add 3 sprigs rosemary, 2 teaspoons thyme, 1 clove garlic, and season with salt.  Boil until the potatoes are tender but not soft.  Drain, discard the herbs you boiled the potatoes in.  Place the potatoes in a oven safe dish you can serve in.
2) Mix together in a separate boil the remaining rosemary, thyme, garlic and salt.  Also, the olive oil, and red pepper flakes.  Pour this mixture over the boiled potatoes and place in the oven for 20 minutes.  Take potatoes out of the oven, sprinkle with parsley and serve at once! Enjoy these smell wonderful!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Snicker Doodles

While I was growing up my Grandmother Evelyn was my savior when I would cook dinners for our small family of three.  My Dad worked three jobs and would run home to eat quickly and then would head off to another job.  My Mother was doing the same thing.  I remember her working two jobs at one point as well.  They were really hard workers so it was my job to get my homework done and cook the dinners.  Now, with this being said you can only image all the mistakes I made!  One time in particular, I decided to boil the water for the pasta as the directions on the back of the box suggested.  But, instead of draining the pasta when it was al dente, (I'm SURE this word was NOT in my vocabulary at the time) I let the pasta sit in the water until my dear old Dad got home from work.  To my surprise, it was like a brick!  I called my Grandmother of course who, first laughed and then told me I needed to start over.  Oh well, I guess we sometimes learn things the hard way!  With all of this being said my Grandmother gave me this easy cookie recipe.  I'm sure she was secretly thinking, "I sure hope she can't mess this one up?"
These are wonderful with a cup of hot tea on a cold winter's day!
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Method:

1)  Mix the first 3 ingredients until creamy.
2)  Mix the rest of the ingredients
3)  Roll the dough into 1/2 inch balls and roll the balls into a mixture of Cinnamon and sugar (I use 1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, but adjust this to your liking)!
4) Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.
 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Hostess Gift Idea's

Chances are sometime this month you will need a hostess gift!  It seems we all get invited to someones house unexpectedly or it's planned, but we forget about it until the last minute!  Does this sound familiar? A thoughtful little gift is always a nice surprise.  It can be a more personal gift, something for the house or the classic bottle of wine.  These gifts can be funny, simple, or extravagant... you choose!  Here are a few I have given over the years!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

SNOWED IN...Creamy Tomato Soup!

Living in Minnesota the weather can always be exciting.  Today is proof !  The snow is not stopping with over 12 inches on the ground now and more still coming, I guess I'm not going anywhere!   Did I mention the family is hungry after being outside snowplowing and shoveling?  Hummm, what should I make?  The boys wanted tomato soup, but I have none in the house!  That's it!  I'll make a creamy tomato soup.

First some pictures of the SNOW:)

Looking out into the backyard we are unable to see the fire pit!
Anyone want to grill???  I guess NOT!
Our dog laying in the house next to the window which is completely covering our back entrance to the house!
Now to the soup...
Creamy Tomato Soup

1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

The can of Tomatoes I used!

Method:

1) Saute onion in olive oil.
2) Next, add both the tomato ingredients on medium heat until blended.
3) Add the milk and basil and continue to cook.
4) Pour the mixture into a blender or cuitinart food processor and blend until well combined.  Pour back into cooking pan and continue to warm until ready to eat.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stuffed Butternut Squash with Chicken and Apple Risotto

I was at work a couple of weeks ago when the nurse surprised me with a bag full of squash from her farm.  It contained butternut and acorn squash galore.  I was so happy because I love squash!  We have been eating this squash for weeks now in a bunch of different concoctions I have made, but none of which were worthy of the blog except for this one.  The Chicken and Apple Risotto is worthy of eating on its own accord, so if you don't have the squash you can still make the risotto and eat it as the main course. Enjoy!

Squash

2 butternut squash, cut in two and seeded

1)  Place squash upside down on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper (so the squash doesn't stick). 
2)  Place in a preheated 350 oven for 1 hour.

 Chicken

2  boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lightly salt and pepper

1)  Lightly salt and pepper the chicken breasts and saute in olive oil on medium high heat until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
2)  Set breasts on a plate to allow to cool.  Once cooled you can dice into 1/2 inch cubes.

Risotto

1 small yellow onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth

1) Saute onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until golden brown. 
2) Next, add the Arborio rice and saute with the onions until opaque (add the extra tablespoon of olive oil if the pan seems dry.
3) Next, add the white wine and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute until reduced.
4) Next, add the chicken broth 1/4 cup at a time until the Arborio rice is at a creamy texture- this should take 20-25 minutes.
5) Meanwhile, make the mixture below and add to the risotto before it is finished and also add the cut up sauted chicken.
Mixture to add to Risotto

1 Granny Smith apple, diced
1/4 cup oats
4 Tablespoons Earth Balance butter, (you can use regular butter if you wish)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground Cinnamon

1) Place diced apples in small oven proof container.
2) Place the following ingredients in a food processor and blend,  Place this mixture on top of the apples.

3) Bake this until mixture melts and begins to blend with the apples (10 minutes).

4) When completed take out of oven and mix into the risotto.

Lastly:

Optional:
Add walnut pieces to the risotto at this point if you have no nut alergies.

Fill each baked butternut squash with the completed risotto mixture and place in oven (the temprature should be on broil).  Allow to brown slightly (about 3-5 minutes) and serve at once. 


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Homemade Baked French Fries

This recipe is really not a recipe at all, but rather something we all tend to overlook when we want to add a starch to a meal.  Or maybe I should rephrase this and say, "I" forget about making them.  I usually think about rice, Quinoa (pronouced, keen-wa), egg noodles, baked potatoes or mashed potatoes or quite frankly, anything along these lines.  However, baked homemade french fries are a healthy alternative to the others with little "bad" fat added if you don't deep fry them!  Here is a simple way to enjoy a french fry without the guilty feeling after you eat them!


3-4 large baking potatoes, washed and sliced perpendicular to the length of the potato (the fries should be
       long and slender in shape).
1-2 tablespoons olive oil or a mixture of flax seed oil and olive oil (remember I'm thinking healthy)
Salt & Pepper to taste (sometimes I add garlic salt if we are 'in' the mood)
1 sheet of parchment paper

Method:

1) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to keep the potatoes from sticking, preheat the oven to 425.
2) Next, place the potatoes on the baking sheet not allowing them to over lap.  Brush (using a pastry brush) the potatoes with your choice of oil and salt and pepper to your liking.  Place in the preheated oven for up to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of your potatoes and serve at once.  This should serve 4-5 people depending on the size of the potatoes!  Enjoy, these are easy and good!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Best Butter Cookies

My friend Anne is known as the 'Cookie Lady" in our neighborhood.  Every Friday (without fail) she brings homemade cookies down to the bus stop for all the children (Parents too)!  All the kids in the neighborhood and those that just are lucky enough to ride this bus get a fresh, hot and gooey, chocolate chip cookie.  As the bus rounds the bend you can see the children's faces waiting in anticipation.  This really is down home Minnesota living at it's best!  I tell you this story because I'm not the 'Cookie Lady' but, once a year (Christmas time) I break out the rolling pin and make what we think are the BEST BUTTER COOKIES EVER!
2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 350.  With as electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add egg yolks and vanilla and continue to mix.  Mix flour and salt together and add to the wet ingredients.  When ready to bake roll out the cookie dough, cut into desired shape and place on a cookie sheet which is covered with parchment paper.  Bake for about 10 minutes (depending on your oven).  Do not allow to brown in the oven.  Once cool decorate with the below Cream Cheese Frosting!

Evelyn's Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/2 cup butter
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 pound powder sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

Method:

Mix all ingredients together and apply to cookies.  Use any food coloring you wish!
These cookies also freeze nicely!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Spinach Salad with Warm Dressing

This is a great warm salad to have with dinner.   Here is the quick recipe!


1 bag fresh spinach
1 cup pomegranate craisins
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
4 slices bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Method:

1) Place spinach leaves in 4 bowls equally.  Divide the pomegranate craisins equally between the bowls as well.
2) Next, toast walnuts in dry skillet on the stove top around 2 minutes.  Sprinkle over the bowls equally. 
3) In the same pan brown the bacon and move to a paper towel when finished frying.  Keep 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pan.  Add the sugar, vinegar, oil and salt and pepper and stir to dissove the sugar.  Meanwhile, crumble the bacon over the salad and pour hot dressing over and serve.  Serves 4.

Stocking Stuffers

This morning when I woke up I was thinking of 'stocking stuffers'!  I know... I could have been thinking about important world events, or a better job, but it's just NOT as FUN!  So...during this same thought it occurred to me you might want some suggestions as well.  Here is the list I made!

*** It's your turn to add to the list, go ahead and leave a comment!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Minty Minnesota Morning Tea

I don't know about you but, I love a cup of hot tea or coffee in the morning!  It's an extra bonus if it wakes me up!  Here is a quick tea that is sure to warm cold Minnesota mornings without having to leave the house. Enjoy!
1 Tazo "Awake" black tea bag (Makes 1 cup extra hot tea)
1 cup skim milk (Warmed and frothed)
1 tablespoon mint syrup

Method:

Place mint syrup in cup, next add the hot tea and top off with milk and froth.  Enjoy, this will surely get you going!

Clean up the kitchen with...Bar Keeper's Friend...click below!