Monthly Archives: December 2012

Cranberry Bliss Bars

The holidays are over, my waistline is a tiny bit bigger and now that I’m watching what I eat again I thought I would wistfully post about the wonderful goodies I made for Christmas.  Luckily, there are always occasions where you need a little treat, so I’m sure these will appear sometime again before next Christmas.

I love the Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks.  They are only found around this time of year so I was thrilled to spot a recipe for them on Pinterest so I can make them whenever the mood strikes.  While these are not exactly the same, I thought they were quite similar and every bit as wonderful.  Maybe a little fluffier, less dense in the bar part, but I liked it.  Crystallized ginger was an odd ingredient that I hadn’t used before.  You may find it with the dried fruits (at my store it was in the natural foods section).  I took these to two parties and they were a huge hit.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Cranberry Bliss Bars
( from Your Home Based Mom – http://www.yourhomebasedmom.com/)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground powdered ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup minced dried cranberries
1/4 cup quality white chocolate (I used Baker’s, 1-2 squares chopped up)
1/4 cup minced candied (or crystallized) ginger

Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup minced dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.  Beat together butter and brown sugar, then add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add flour, powdered ginger and salt.  Beat well.  Fold in the cranberries, white chocolate, and candied ginger.  Spread batter in pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.

Cranberry Bliss Bars - bottom layer

Cranberry Bliss Bars – bottom layer

After cake cools, mix all frosting ingredients (except cranberries) and spread over the top of cake.  Sprinkle with cranberries.  Cut into squares or triangles.

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Cranberry Bliss Bars, all ready to slice up into fancy triangles.

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Shepherd’s Pie Goes Veggie

Yesterday I posted about an amazing Shepherd’s Pie I made with pulled pork.  It was delicious.  But what I didn’t tell you is that I made a vegetarian version at the same time since I had a friend over who doesn’t eat pork (or anything else with a face).  It was easy enough to layer things in two dishes instead of one.  This is one of the things that I really like about this recipe.  Since you prepare the ingredients separately, it’s very easy to customize to different tastes.  You could even do individual servings if you wanted to really go crazy.

I have to say, I love the vegetarian version just as much as the meat version.  But then, there ARE mashed potatoes involved, and how can you go wrong there?  Want the meaty version?  Click here for the recipe.

Shepherd's Pie Goes Veggie

Shepherd’s Pie Goes Veggie

Shepherd’s Pie Goes Veggie

8 oz. (or more) sliced mushrooms (I used a mix of button mushrooms and shiitake)
1/2 cup pearl onions (I use the frozen, peeled ones because I hate peeling these things)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1-2 inch pieces
2-3 medium red potatoes, with skin on
1-2 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper
1-2 tbsp. butter
1/4- 1/2 cup milk
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Quarter the potatoes and cover with water in a large sauce pan.  Throw in the whole, peeled cloves of garlic.  Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes or so until fork tender.  Drain the water.  Add butter, milk and salt & pepper to taste and mash with a potato masher.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a skillet saute mushrooms in a little butter or olive oil with fresh thyme and a pinch of salt & pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes until softened and set aside.  Put green beans and pearl onions in a glass bowl with a little water, cover with a plate or plastic wrap (undone a bit to let steam escape) and microwave for a 2-3 minutes.  Drain water.  (You could alternatively boil these on the stove for 3-4 minutes if you prefer).

Preheat oven to 375˚. Assemble your pie by mushrooms in the bottom of a casserole dish.  Top with green beans and onions.  Pile on the mashed potatoes and spread out to cover everything evenly.  Sprinkle with green onions and parmesan.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Pop it in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until everything is hot and mashed potatoes are starting to brown on top.  Dig in!  Makes 2-3 servings.

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One Pork Roast, 3 Dinners. Day 3: Shepherd’s Pie

The grand finale of pork week was Shepherd’s Pie.  While it’s a humble dish at heart, the presentation is beautiful and it was oh, so delicious.  I’ve never made it before, but having eaten it I knew that the basic recipe was a meat something, topped with a veggie something (usually peas) and then lots of yummy mashed potatoes.  Could you go wrong with that?  I didn’t think so, and it seemed simple enough that I decided to wing it without a recipe.  I already had leftover pulled pork and it was the perfect base for my pie.  And you thought pork pies were just an English thing, didn’t you?

Interested in Day One and Two of my pork roast saga?  Click here for BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Shredded Pork & Black Bean Tacos.  If you’re stretching the dollars, these are three easy meals that were very nice to my food budget.

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Shepherd’s Pie. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Shepherd’s Pie

2 cups (or so) Basic Pulled Pork
4-6 oz. mushrooms (I used a mix of button mushrooms and shiitake)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1-2 inch pieces
4-5 medium red potatoes, with skin on
3-4 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. butter
1/4- 1/2 cup milk
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Quarter the potatoes and cover with water in a large sauce pan.  Throw in the whole, peeled cloves of garlic.  Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes or so until fork tender.  Drain the water.  Add butter, milk and salt & pepper to taste and mash with a potato masher.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a skillet saute mushrooms in a little butter or olive oil with fresh thyme and a pinch of salt & pepper. Cook 2-3 minutes until softened and set aside.  Put green beans in a glass bowl with a little water, cover with a plate or plastic wrap (undone a bit to let steam escape) and microwave for a 2-3 minutes.  Drain water.  (You could alternatively boil these on the stove for 3-4 minutes if you prefer).  If your pork is cooled in the fridge, warm it up slightly in the microwave.

Preheat oven to 375˚. Assemble your pie by spreading pork (and any pork juices there might be) in the bottom of a casserole dish.  Top with mushrooms.  Then spread green beans over the top.  Pile on the mashed potatoes and spread out to cover everything evenly.  Sprinkle with green onions and parmesan.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Pop it in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until everything is hot and mashed potatoes are starting to brown on top.  Dig in!  Makes 4-6 servings.

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Cutaway View of Shepherd’s Pie. Also known as my lunch the next day.

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One Pork Roast, 3 Dinners. Day 2: Shredded Pork & Black Bean Tacos

For my second installment of the Pork Roast saga, I give you tacos.  Now yes, you can make tacos out of just about anything, but boy were these yummy.  Pulled pork is not something I usually have lying around, so it was a treat.  And these particular tacos had the added benefit of using pretty much all ingredients in my cupboards so I didn’t have to go to the store.

If you missed chapter one of my pork roast week, click here to see directions for the basic pork recipe and BBQ pork sandwiches.  Or skip ahead to part 3 for Shepherd’s Pie.

porkroast-burritos

Shredded Pork and Black Bean Tacos

2 cups (approx.) Basic Pulled Pork
1 can diced green chiles
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Salt & pepper to taste
Flour or corn tortillas
Lettuce, cheese or other taco toppings (optional)

In a skillet on medium heat, add pulled pork, green chiles, black beans and seasonings.  Stir and cook until well combined and heated through.  Warm tortillas in the oven, pile filling in the tortilla, top with lettuce or whatever else you like on your taco and eat!

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One Pork Roast, 3 Dinners. Day 1: BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I don’t usually think of kitchen equipment as seasonal, but it’s a fact that during the summer my crock pot is seldom, if ever, used but come winter, that baby is out of hibernation and parked on my kitchen counter.  I’m not really sure why that is but there you have it.

Taking the laziness (or brilliance!) of crock pot cooking one step further, I made a pork roast one day and turned it into three completely separate meals last week.  It worked out so well I think this will be part of my regular winter rotation from now on.  I see no reason you couldn’t replicate any or all of these recipes using a beef roast instead of pork if you have a preference.

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Basic Pulled Pork

Basic Pulled Pork Recipe

One 2-3 pound pork butt or shoulder roast
Sea salt & coarsely ground pepper
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 onion, chopped

Rub seasonings all over roast.

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Pork shoulder roast, all rubbed down and ready to go. (Mine came with a little meat thermometer already in it, but you are going to cook it til it’s falling apart so it’s not really necessary.)

Cover with onions.

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Turn slow cooker on high for an hour, and then reduce to low and cook until dinnertime (I cooked mine about 6-7 hours total).  When tender, use two forks to pull pork apart into shreds (…and that’s where you get the whole “pulled” pork thing).

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BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. Simple and delicious!

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Pulled pork (about 2 cups)
1/2 – 3/4 cup of bottled BBQ sauce
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. pepper
Swiss cheese
Kaiser rolls

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce, honey and pepper.  Add pork and toss until all the pork is well coated.

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BBQ Pulled Pork

Toast buns under the broiler, adding the cheese right before you take them out so it melts.  Pile on the BBQ pork and eat.  This is awesome served with a crisp coleslaw or green salad.

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Blueberry Bacon Swiss Burgers

The best burger I have ever eaten was at a little place in Missouri called Agrario.  There my taste buds drowned in delight as I dug into a wonderful concoction of grass-fed beef, bacon, swiss cheese and the most surprising ingredient of all time…blueberries!  I’m no longer in Missouri, and unfortunately Agrario isn’t there anymore either. Coincidence?  Maybe not. Even after many years I have been having a mad craving for this burger so I decided to try to recreate it.  Judging from the enthusiastic yummy noises in my house, I call this a resounding success!

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Blueberry Bacon Swiss Burger

Blueberry Bacon Swiss Burgers

1 pound ground sirloin
Bacon
Swiss cheese
Kaiser rolls
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, pureed
Splash of red wine (about 1/4 cup)
Salt & pepper
Tiny pinch of sage
1-2 tsp. butter, cut into pieces

Fry bacon until crisp.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Discard bacon grease and wipe out pan. Form ground beef into 3 or 4 patties.  Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Set aside.  Heat pan over medium high and add patties to the pan.  Cook about 4 minutes per side until burgers are done to your liking.  Slice rolls in half and toast under the broiler in the oven until lightly browned.  Add cheese to tops of burgers and set aside.

If there is a lot of grease in the pan, discard almost all of it.  If you’ve used lean beef there probably won’t be much.  In hot pan, add pureed blueberries and wine to hamburger drippings, scraping up any little bits as you go.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Add salt, pepper and a little pinch of dried sage.

Making sauce.

Making incredible blueberry sauce.

Boil and stir a few minutes until thickened and reduced.  Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.  Build burgers by putting a little sauce on the bottom bun, then placing burgers on the bun cheese side down, top with more blueberry sauce and bacon.

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Sweet and savory blueberry sauce. An unexpected twist that is soooo good!

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Paprika Chicken

Long before I owned any cookbooks of my own, I borrowed them from the library and copied recipes by the dozens.  Every once in a while I pull out my little black recipe box and grab an oldie but goodie.  You can always tell it was a good one if the little card is all splattered and gross and hard to read.  I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I had made Paprika Chicken until my daughter told me she didn’t remember ever eating it before.  But it was so delicious that we’ll be making it again soon!

Paprika Chicken

Paprika Chicken

Paprika Chicken

2-3 strips bacon
1 pound chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup pearl onions (fresh or frozen)
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. paprika
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup sour cream

Cook bacon until crisp.  Set aside on paper towels to drain and cool.  Discard excess bacon grease.  Add chicken to the pan and saute until browned.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add onions and mushrooms to pan and saute a few minutes until onions are tender.  Add 2-3 tbsp. water to the pan and scrape up the browned bits.  Return chicken to the pan and add paprika, salt & pepper.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for about 10 minutes until chicken is completely cooked through.  Stir in sour cream and cook on low 1 minute longer until heated through.  Do not boil.  Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.  Serve over rice if desired.

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