Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mini Cranberry Cheesecakes

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have already had my fill of pumpkin this Fall. Needing to make a dessert for tomorrow's meal, and wanting to keep it Thanksgiving-ish, I started searching cranberry recipes. I found a mouth-watering picture of a swirled cranberry cheesecake on cookinglight.com. Check it out...

Did you read it? See how long those directions are? Yeah, I'm much lazier than that. Here's my version which came out fantabulous! I had extra filling leftover (probably 1-1.5 cups), so you can do what I did and make yourself a small little cheesecake in an extra baking dish or freeze it for another time...or crush up extra oreos and keep making minis!

Ingredients & Directions

Cranberry topping:
12 oz bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-6 minutes, remove from heat and cool completely.

1 package reduced fat oreos
1/2 stick melted butter (4 TBSP.)

Grind Oreos in food processor until they become fine crumbs. Mix crumbs in bowl with melted butter. Press a spoonful of crumbs into each muffin in the pan.

16 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
8 oz. fat free cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 cup 1% milk (I'd use fat-free if we had it)
6 egg whites

Beat sugar and cream cheese until combined. Add milk and beat slowly. Add egg whites and mix until smooth.

Using a tablespoon, pour one spoonful of filling into each crust. Top with a few cranberries.

Bake at 325 for about 20-23 minutes.

I only have 2 mini-muffin pans, so I could only make 24 at a time. I kept the filling in the refrigerator as I worked. After each batch, I put the pans into the freezer for 10 minutes before attempting to remove them from the pan. I'm pretty sure I made 72 minis, plus my extra dish.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

Never having had gingerbread before, I was a little leary to make this, but when I saw the picture of this trifle from Paula Deen, I knew I wanted to give it a shot. At least it would look pretty! As I was making this dessert, I tasted the pumpkin filling and was a little nervous because I didn't think it was as amazing as I thought it should be - but it may have been my own fault. I didn't have pumpkin pie filling, just canned pumpkin, so I had to add my own spices and sugar. Not knowing how much to add, I didn't bother measuring, just adding a little, tasting, adding again, etc. until I found something that tasted good. I topped with whipped cream and chopped pecans. I made this Friday night, put it in the fridge to chill overnight for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday.

Fast forward to next day - a big hit come dessert time! Let's think about this, though. Have you ever had a dessert with cool whip that wasn't good? Not me! Definitely try this one!

2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix
1 (5.1-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix (I used sugar-free, made with 1% milk)
1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping
1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional

Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cardamom into the pudding. Crumble 1 batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a large, pretty bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired. Refrigerate overnight. Trifle can be layered in a punch bowl.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Mmmm...spinach dip. Another favorite from Alton Brown, this recipe is simple and delicious. I lightened it up a little by using 1/3 less fat cream cheese, low fat mayo, and fat-free sour cream. I also added extra garlic, minced. Don't skip the red pepper flakes, the amount of spice & heat is perfect. I'm glad we didn't have any leftovers of this dip at our (early) Thanksgiving yesterday. I can't stay out of this stuff!

1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach
1 1/2 cups thawed, chopped frozen artichoke hearts
6 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Boil spinach and artichokes in 1 cup of water until tender and drain. Discard liquid. Heat cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute or until hot and soft. Stir in rest of ingredients and serve hot.

Stove-Top Mac-n-Cheese

My favorite recipe from macaroni and cheese is this one from Alton Brown. I didn't realize until now, as I am posting this, that I used 1 lb. of macaroni instead of 1/2 lb that the recipe calls for. There was still plenty of cheese (I used a 12 oz. bag)! I think the dash of hot sauce is perfect - it's not spicy at all, but does add a really good flavor. If you like your mac-n-cheese with a breadcrumb topping, that would be great to add and place under the broiler for a few minutes until brown.

1/2 pound elbow macaroni (I used 1 lb.)
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard (I left out because I don't have any)
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded (I used 12 oz.)

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

3D Turkey Cookies

Let me start with a disclaimer. These cookies take forever. Make them at your own risk. They are extremely fragile. They take forever.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the fun part. These are probably some of the cutest cookies I have ever seen. I wish I had thought of the idea, but I saw some similar 3D cookies on cakecentral.com and immediately decided I should try it. Plus, I wanted to use my Wilton stuff since I haven't done anything since my 3rd class ended. I love cookie cutters and decorated cookies, but to me, sugar cookies are my least favorite cookie to eat. That's ok because I'm not even sure how you would begin to eat one of these! Look how thick they are:

I made a double batch of Ashlee's Famous Sugar Cookies (night one - mixed batter, night 2- baked cookies and iced with white icing), and got to work with my Royal Icing. Each turkey is 4 cookies. The base and the back row of feathers are from the same size cutter. Each of the feather pieces had the bottom edge trimmed off before baking so there was a flat edge to stand on the base later after decorating. I used 352 leaf tip for the feathers and beak.

I am really good at starting big projects and not finishing them. My intentions were to make lots and lots of turkey cookies. But, I only made 2 batches of royal icing, and part way through I could tell I was getting low. I didn't feel like getting everthing out again, or spending twice as long decorating. So in the end, we have 12 cookies. Did I mention you'll be spending a lot of time on these if you're crazy enough to want to start this insane project?

But aren't they so cute?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mashed Potato Cakes

I would have never guessed my 100th post would be about mashed potato cakes. A cake would make a nice celebration post, but I had another type of cake in mind! Anyway...on to the recipe.

Thanksgiving will be here before we know it and chances are we'll be looking for ideas to use up leftovers from the feast. I found this recipe in the November 2007 issue of CookingLight magazine. I don't know about your Thanksgiving, but we don't usually have many leftover mashed potatoes, so I am making these early.

Below is the original recipe. I deviated slightly. First, I used 3 large leftover baked potatoes to begin with (peeled), since I didn't have mashed. I mashed them up and used the filling I normally use for twice baked potatoes, including milk, butter, low-fat ricotta (I usually use sour cream), and garlic powder. Any kind of mashed potatoes would be fine. Just make sure they are thick enough that you can shape them into patties so they hold their shape. Oh, and I added extra cheese, because 2 TBSP just doesn't cut it. :)

6 servings (serving size: 1 potato cake)

Cooking spray
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 cups mashed potatoes, chilled
2 tablespoons shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 center-cut bacon slice, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add green onions to pan, and cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Place mashed potatoes in a medium bowl. Stir in onions, cheese, salt, pepper, and bacon. Divide potato mixture into 6 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Place panko in a shallow dish. Dredge patties in panko. Place patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Carefully turn patties over; bake an additional 12 minutes or until golden.

Nutritional Information
Calories:122 (16% from fat)
Fat:2.2g (sat 1.1g,mono 0.5g,poly 0.1g)
Maureen Callahan, Cooking

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Coming to you now, the second half of my successful Chinese cooking - Sweet and Sour Chicken. Along with our fried rice, I made this chicken. I know several people have posted about how great this recipe is. I happened to star it in my reader when I saw Shannon's post about it. After tasting it, it went straight to my binder to make again and again.

I made a couple of adjustments. I knew Aaron would be taking this to lunch as leftovers, so I didn't want the chicken sitting in the sauce and getting soggy, so I baked the chicken without the sauce. Also, this meal (along with the rice) took longer to prepare than I expected, so I baked at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. I boiled the sauce in a small saucepan on the stovetop. The sauce is a little thin, next time I might add a pinch of cornstarch to thicken it slightly. This sauce was very good. But, I'm still looking for that pink sweet and sour sauce you get in restaurants. Anyone have that recipe?

In addition to the ingredients below, I also chopped an onion and green pepper and sauteed on the stove while the chicken was baking. Then, I tossed the cooked vegetables with the chicken when it came out of the oven, and threw in some fresh pineapple chunks.

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 4 small chicken breasts)
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch (I only had 3/4 cup and it was plenty)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil

Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish.

Mix sauce ingredients (below) together and pour over chicken. (see my notes above)

¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Turn chicken every 15 minutes. If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stove top. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced - about 6-8 minutes.

Fried Rice

I'm so impressed with myself! Last night I made a break through in my (lack of) ability to make a good Asian style meal. It's not the first time I've tried, but the other times were either pretty bad, or just ok, so I gave up for a while. I was a little afraid to try it again, but after seeing a recipe for sweet and sour chicken multiple times in my Google Reader, and already having all of the ingredients, I couldn't resist the urge to try again. I'm so glad I did! At first, I was just planning on making sweet and sour chicken with white rice and veggies, but since the chicken cooks for an hour, there is plenty of time to go all out with fried rice. This was an excellent recipe. Aaron even said it tasted like real fried rice. I'm glad it didn't taste fake then!

You can never go wrong with one of Joelen's recipes, so here it is...Thanks Joelen!

1 cup leftover meats - pork, chicken, beef, seafood (I made vegetable fried rice, no meat this time)
1-2 eggs
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 onion finely diced
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped vegetables (fresh or frozen)
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons light or dark soy sauce (I used 2 TBSP of lite soy sauce. Next time I will only use 1 TBSP. I had Aaron make the rice ahead of time and he already salted it.)
1-2 cups prepared rice, cold (or day old)

In a hot skillet or wok, heat oil.
Add garlic and onions & stir.
Add leftover meats of your choice, chopped up in bite sized pieces.
Stir fry meats until you get them a bit crispy.
Push the meats aside and crack eggs into the pan.
Scramble the eggs into the pan until cooked.
Add cold rice over the eggs & meat into the pan, making sure to crumble it in your fingers. (Dumping a large chunk of rice is not going to work here. You need to crumble it so it separates nicely).
Add salt, pepper, onion & garlic powders and soy sauce; toss. (I left out the extra salt, the rice was salty enough)
Allow the rice to heat up and absorb the spices and soy sauce, tossing to help it along.
Add the fresh or frozen veggies and toss into the rice.
Continue cooking it all on high heat until rice is heated through and veggies are cooked.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pepperoni Stuffed Mushrooms

Trying to clean out the refrigerator, I needed a recipe to use up some mushrooms. I love the ingredient search on Allrecipes. Look what it found for me! To make these stuffed mushrooms a little healthier, use turkey pepperoni and breadcrumbs instead of buttery crackers. These were easy and really good!

24 large button mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, minced
3/4 cup diced pepperoni
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup crushed buttery round crackers
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
3/4 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Remove and chop the mushroom stems. Set the caps to the side.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushroom stems, onion, pepperoni, and garlic to the butter and cook until the onions are tender. Stir in the cracker crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, salt, pepper, and chicken broth; remove from heat and allow to cool to the touch.

Stuff the mushroom caps with the pepperoni mixture. Arrange the stuffed caps on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until filling is hot and mushrooms are cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.

Nutritional Information
Servings Per Recipe: 12
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 159
Total Fat: 11.4g
Cholesterol: 17mg
Sodium: 515mg
Total Carbs: 8.8g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9g
Protein: 5.7g

Cajun Shrimp Pasta

If you're looking for a quick weeknight meal, this recipe is for you. We had a bag of frozen, cooked shrimp in the freezer to use and I though this recipe sounded great - and it was! Since the shrimp I had was already cooked, I skipped sauteing them in a pan and just seasoned with the cajun seasoning in a bowl and saved until the end to add to the rest of the sauce.

Adapted from: Elly Says Opa!

4 oz. cooked pasta of your choice (I used fettucine)
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled/deveined
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/2 small onion, diced
1 cup sliced bell peppers (I used green and chocolate)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning to taste

Heat the butter over medium heat in a skillet. Sprinkle the shrimp liberally with Cajun seasoning, and then saute in the pan for 1 minute per side (you are not cooking it through here). Remove with a slotted spoon.

To the skillet, add the onions, peppers, mushrooms and garlic. Saute until the vegetables are tender. Add the flour and stir it for a minute or two, to cook off its rawness. Add the cream and stir until thick. Add the shrimp into the skillet to cook through. Season to taste with salt and pepper (and more Cajun seasoning, if desired). Toss with hot pasta and serve.

Serves 2.

Weight Watchers Apple Spice Oatmeal

I really like steel cut oats now that I've finally tried them. I need to make them more often - the time factor is usually the reason we don't have this much. The weather has gotten colder, so this weekend was a good time to have a warm breakfast. This recipe comes from FatFree Vegan Kitchen. I'll be trying the Cherry Pie Oatmeal, too - but probably turn it into blueberry pie since I still have a freezer full of blueberries :)

I ended up cooking the oatmeal for 40 minutes and added a spoonful of brown sugar to my bowl. I needed some kind of sweetness, so I didn't quite make the 3 point bowl.

1/2 c. Steel Cut Oats
2 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 large apple, chopped

Put all ingredients in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to very low. Cover and simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or until oats are tender and water is mostly absorbed. Serve with sweetener of your choice with a little freshly grated nutmeg on top. Serves 2.

Per serving: 204 Calories (kcal); 3g Total Fat; (14% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 541mg Sodium; 10g Fiber.

Weight Watchers Core/3 Flex Points.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sweet Corn Cake

Here is a recipe I have made over and over, from allrecipes.com. I usually use it as a side to go with enchiladas, like we had this week. I've read the reviews and another good idea is to have this on top of chili. I included the nutritional info below, as if you couldn't guess with all of that butter that this may not be the healthiest side. But, it does have corn, so it counts a little, right?

I have never made this recipe exactly as listed below. Some of the changes I have done, although not all at once include: never using masa harina, I usually just put extra corn meal, even though everything I read says it is not a good substitute. I've also used FF, 1%, or 2% milk instead of the heavy cream. I've skimped on the sugar and butter (by as much as half), hoping to shave off a few more calories. I've used canned corn instead of frozen, skipped the food processor step and left it whole, and even skipped the water bath, but always baked it covered. Now you know just how lazy I can be!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup masa harina
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium bowl beat butter until it is creamy. Add the Mexican corn flour and water and beat until well mixed.

Using a food processor, process thawed corn, but leave chunky. Stir into the butter mixture.

In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, sugar, cream, salt, and baking powder. Add to corn flour mixture and stir to combine. Pour batter into an ungreased 8x8 inch baking pan. Smooth batter and cover with aluminum foil. Place pan into a 9x13 inch baking dish that is filled a third of the way with water.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven F (175 degrees C) oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Use an ice cream scoop for easy removal from pan.

Servings Per Recipe: 6
Calories: 273
Total Fat: 18.1g
Cholesterol: 48mg
Sodium: 304mg
Total Carbs: 27.9g
Dietary Fiber: 2.1g
Protein: 2.6g

Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce

Since I haven't been very good about updating my blog lately, I'm going to add a recipe I made over the summer -Pizza Sauce. We planted a LOT of tomatoes in the garden this summer. Too many, really. Not wanting them to go to waste, I made this sauce 2-3 times, as double batches back in August/September. I used ziploc bags and froze the sauce. We've already used quite a few bags, since homemade pizza and calzones are a regular dinner in our house. The recipe came from Cooks.com. The flavor of this sauce is really good and I will definitely be using it again next summer.

One thing to be aware of, and maybe it was just me - when the sauce thaws out, it could be a little too watery from all of the fresh tomatoes. To remedy that, I've been cutting a tiny hole in the bag and set the frozen bag in a bowl to thaw in the refrigerator. Then, I can just dump the water off and have thicker sauce that won't make soggy pizza crust.

1/3 c. olive oil
2 c. finely chopped onions
8 c. peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped tomatoes (put through blender, if desired)
2 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste
2 tbsp. oregano, crumbled
2 tsp. basil, crumbled
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic

Heat oil in large stainless steel pan, 6 to 8 quarts. Add onions and cook over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes until transparent. Add garlic and cook another minute. Stir in tomatoes, paste, oregano, basil, bay leaf, salt, pepper and bring to a boil. Then simmer, uncovered for an hour or until thick. Stir occasionally. When finished the sauce should be thin and fairly smooth. Remove bay leaf. Taste and season. May be canned or frozen. Makes 5 to 6 pints.
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