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Archive for January, 2009

A few years ago, my sisters and I were asked to bring a cheese ball to a bridal shower. We threw a few things together, tasting as we went along, until the flavors were just right. It was a great success, and to our pleasure, a lady asked for our recipe.

We have tried other cheese ball recipes, but none can compare to this one. Simple, yet very tasty. Dad complains if we try any other recipe.

The original recipe contained cranberries. We generally leave these out, but it is quite good with them. We have also tried it with a few drops of liquid smoke with excellent results. If you prefer a spicier cheese ball, simply increase the amount of cayenne, pepper, or onion. Or decrease the amounts if you like your cheese ball mild.

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:: Favorite Cheese Ball ::

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Ingredients:

  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • a pinch of cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, optional
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped coarse, optional

Directions:

1) Place all ingredients except pecans in a large bowl. Beat with a hand mixer on medium-low speed until well combines.

2) Scrape the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap. Cover with the plastic wrap and shape into a ball or log. Put the cheese ball on a plate and place in the refrigerator to harden, about 30 minutes – 1 hour.

3) Roll the cheese ball in the chopped pecans and place on a serving plate. Serve with crackers.

Note: This cheese is best if allowed to sit for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend. The flavors a best if allowed to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving.

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1-20-09n9

A while back, when I was serving bean soup for lunch, I realized that there was absolutely no bread to be had. That’s a big no no in our house. If you have soup, you eat bread in some shape or form.

I looked at the clock – nearly 11:30. Dad would be home in half an hour. I decided to make lunch wait a while, and whipped up a batch of muffins.

Isn’t it funny how the recipes you don’t expect much from often times turn out the best? That’s what happened with these muffins. I knew that since they would be 100% whole wheat, they would most likely turn out tough and dry. Not so! To my surprise and delight, they were tender and full of flavor.

1-20-09n1

Okay, I admit it. This recipe comes from Betty Crocker. That old, tattered, well used book with a broken spine and the pages falling out. When pressed for time, I do refer to this seasoned cook.

The surprise in these muffins lies in the center: a dab of jam nestled in the muffin batter. Use whatever jam is your favorite. Raspberry works very well.

The original recipe makes 12 muffins. I like my muffins a little larger, so I made just eight. Enough for everyone to have one and fight over the last.

1-20-09n7

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:: Surprise Muffins ::

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Adapted from Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups (6 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour (aka soft white wheat)
  • 1/2 cup sucanat, rapadura or demerara sugar.
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Jam of choice

Directions:

1) Heat oven to 400° F. Grease or line with paper muffin cups 12 medium muffin cups.

2) In a large bowl, combine the egg, milk, butter, and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredient to the egg mixture and stir just until the flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy.

3) Fill muffin cups 1/2 full with batter. Drop 1 teaspoon of jelly into the center of each muffin and top with remaining batter to fill 2/3 full.

4) Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan onto a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm with butter.

Makes 8-12 muffins

P.S. It’s Kitchen Tip Tuesday…


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When I first discovered the world of online recipes, The Joy of Baking was a big influence. It provided clear, detailed recipes that even a novice could pull off successfully.

I spotted her recipe for homemade granola, and decided to give it a whirl. It was a daunting task. My impression of homemade granola was not quite crisp oatmeal filled with burnt raisins.

This recipe was a success from the first. I have tried several different granola recipes, but I always return to this one. For some reason, it no longer appears on the Joy of Baking website. I feel very fortunate to have printed it out before it disappeared!

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:: Homemade Granola ::

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Note: I usually make a double batch as one recipe will only get us through one breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (400 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup (50 grams) shredded or chipped coconut
  • 1 cup nuts of choice, chopped coarse
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, apricots, raisins, etc.) optional

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 300° F and place rack in center of oven. Either grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) In a large bowl combine the rolled oats, coconut, nuts, and salt.

3) In a small saucepan set over medium low heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat. Stir in the honey, maple syrup, and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and toss together, making sure all the dry ingredients are coated with the butter mixture.

4) Spread onto the prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every five minutes. Do not over bake.

5) Place on a wire rack to cool. You will notice that the granola is still sticky when you remove it from the oven but it will become crisp and dry as it cools. Once the granola has completely cooled stir in your choice of dried fruits if desired. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag. It will keep for several weeks.

Makes about five cups of Granola

Edited on 2/19/08: The correct oven temperature is 300° F, not 350° F.

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Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

This soup is a blend of sweet and savory.  Make it spicy by garnishing with freshly grated nutmeg. Or give it a little extra kick with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

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:: Cream Butternut Squash Soup ::

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Adapted from The New Best Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • Freshly grated nutmeg or balsamic vinegar, optional

Directions:

1) Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and strings; reserve the scrapings.

2) Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the scrapings from the squash and cook until the butter turns a saffron color, about 4 minutes.

3) Add the water and salt and increase to high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the squash halves, reduce the heat to medium low, and cover. Cook until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

4) When squash is tender, transfer to a baking sheet and cool slightly. Strain the liquid in the pot through a fine mesh seive and reserve the liquid.  When the squash is cool enough to touch,  scrape the flesh from the skin.

5) Puree the squash in a blender, adding a little of the reserved liquid to achieve a smooth consistency.  Return this mixture to the now empty pot and stir in the cream and maple syrup. Stir in enough of the remaining liquid to achieve desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

6) Warm the soup over medium-low heat until hot. Do not boil. Serve immediately. Garnish with nutmeg or balsamic vinegar.

Makes 4-6 servings


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