Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Tradition

For my family, Christmas Eve isn't complete without a true Tex-Mex meal. Christmas Eve means tamales, and good old fashioned Tex-Mex comfort food, past years have included tamales, guacamole, shrimp poblano pepper soup and of course, the staple for tonight, enchiladas.

The recipe for the enchiladas will be found on my mother's blog,, they are a family favorite!

The tamales aren't homemade but darn close to! Our favorite Mexican bakery/eatery (the finest breakfast tacos you'll ever eat!) is called Juarez and is located on Mays in Round Rock, Texas...

Juarez always has a line for their breakfast and bakery items on the weekends (and some weekdays) - tamale orders typically have to be placed early for Christmas. One of our favorite traditions that I wanted to share. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cookie Double Play

With a few extra sets of hands (i.e. my mother) I got to pull a double on my cookie making last night...finishing Gingerbread (via Martha Stewart's Cookies Book) snowflakes and making Chocolate Truffle Cookies as posted by Savory Bites on Foodbuzz. Both smell amazing in the oven but the Chocolate Truffle Cookies are wwaaaayyy easier than the Gingerbread!

Martha Stewart's Gingerbread Recipe:

6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing
Fine sanding sugar for decorating

1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. 3. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into snowflakes with a 7- inch snowflake-shape cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
5. Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
6. Put icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #7). Pipe designs on snowflakes; immediately sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand 5 minutes; tap off excess sugar. 7. Let icing set completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. Store cookies between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.

To see the recipe for the Chocolate Truffle Cookies, visit Chocolate Truffle Cookies as posted on Foodbuzz by Savory Bites.

We enjoyed putting these together and had more fun decorating them. Merry Christmas to All!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Family arrives, and Christmas (sort of) begins!

My parents have driven all day and are about twenty minutes out and the quiche in the oven is about ten minutes from done...mmmm, warm dinner, cold night, family, how much better does it get?

Leek, Ham & Swiss Quiche
Crust (Quick n Easy Quiche Crust borrowed from RecipeZaar)
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/4 Cup Ice Cold Water
1/4 Cup Olive Oil

Quiche Filling
3 Eggs
2 Cups Milk (or Half and Half)
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Nutmeg
1 Tsp White Pepper
1 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 Cup Sliced Leeks
1 1/2 Cup Cubed Ham
6 oz Swiss Cheese

1. To make crust, whisk salt and flour together; mix oil and water together. Pour oil mixture in with flour and mix with fork. Press into greased 9 inch pie plate. Pre-heat oven to 400.
2. Beat eggs, add milk and seasoning.
3. Place sliced leeks and cubed ham into pie plate.
4. Add 1/2 of cheese to milk and egg mixture; mix and pour over leeks and ham.
5. Add remaining cheese to top of pie plate.
6. Bake for appx 45 minutes, or until it has set and is browned.
I love quiche as dinner and the next day for breakfast...hope you all enjoy this too.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cold Pizza and Christmas Presents...turns into Roasted Garlic and Tomato Pasta Sauce

Last night was a "bad*" food night here -- we ordered two big pizzas, watched some D-I AA College Football and veged. So naturally this morning breakfast was pretty much unhealthy too, some yummy cold pizza and more tv.

Made it out to pick up the last of the Christmas presents, now they just have to get wrapped....if only I could hire that out to someone!

To make up for the cold pizza breakfast dinner was a bit fresher and substantially more healthy than the pizza. One of my last gifting stops was to purchase a gift card from our local Randall's (grocery store), I needed leaks for dinner tomorrow night and in the process of getting to produce I was lured by the pre-made pasta in the deli case...they had a tasty looking Prosciutto and Roasted Chicken Borsetti that called my name. I am a pretty big fan of the fresh pasta, it's easy and tasty after a long day at work, but I like to give it some kind of sauce that's not premade when I use it. Tonight's sauce was a roasted garlic and tomato sauce with baby artichoke hearts, mmmm mmmmm good.
*"bad" is about health/nutritional content - not flavor :)

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Sauce with Baby Artichokes

5 Large Ripe Tomatoes
2 Cloves Peeled Garlic
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2 Cups Artichoke Quarters (I used a frozen, unmarinated artichoke but marinated ones would taste great too)
1 1/2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (a sweeter balsamic is best)
Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Margarine or Butter

1. Preheat oven to 450. Cut an "x" into the top of each tomato, peel garlic. Place garlic and tomatoes in oven safe dish/jelly roll pan. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Place in heated oven to roast for 30 minutes.

2. Once tomatoes are ready, remove them from the oven, allow to cool a few minutes. After they are able to be touched, slice them into chunks with knife. Coarsely mince garlic.

3. Heat sauce pan with butter in it. Once butter has melted, saute artichokes (season with salt and pepper) three minutes.

4. Add tomatoes, balsamic and garlic, heat another three minutes. Add pasta and serve.

My baby dog, Jack, wishing that he could have some pasta too!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The tree is up and cookie test #4 is here...

While Colt may not have won the Heisman, Christmas is always an opportunity to show off my UT spirit...yes, that's right the UT Christmas Tree is is UT Santa! So here is my beloved Xmas tree and the matching that the tree is trimmed I really need to wrap gifts but instead I tested yet another cookie recipe. A favorite of mine is a recipe my mother has made since I was a kid, Candy Cane Crips Cookies....this year I added semi-sweet chocolate chips to the mix and I'm quite happy with the results!

Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Crisp Cookies

1 Cup Butter
1 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar (reserve 1/4 Cup)
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla
1 1/3 Cup Flour
1 1/4 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Rolled Oats
3/4 Cup Chopped, Coarsly Crushed Candy Canes
1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Cream butter, vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar; add in flour, salt and oats until evenly mixed. Stir in crushed candy and chocolate chips. Roll cookie dough into 1 inch balls and roll in reserved powdered sugar. Then flatten with a fork onto a greased, flour dusted baking sheet. Bake at 325 for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool on sheet for 3-4 minutes before moving to rack to continue cooling.

To crush the candy canes, I put them in a freezer ziploc and beat them with a rolling great stress reliever!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sweet Saturday Morning German Apple Pancake

As we slide towards the Christmas holiday things get more and more hectic, family is here (for Thanksgiving), family is gone, family is back...friends have parties, work gets ready to shut down for a little while and present buying is in full swing. Today, Mom and Dad are planning to drive home (back to Mexico) and since Mom and I are the early risers in the house we start thinking about breakfast (and COFFEE) much earlier than everyone else. This morning is no exception to that, today we shard one of my favorites, and hers too (I made it for her b-day in August), a German Apple Pancake. This originally came from the August 08 Cooking Light, one of my favorite magazines, but has been used more times than I can count since then. I've used this as a family dish and for a brunch I hosted for friends, it's sweet, light, fluffy and delicious...I highly recommend it.

German Apple Pancake

1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1/8 Tsp Salt
1/8 Tsp Grated Whole Nutmeg
1 Cup Egg Substitute (I usually just use 2 eggs)
1 Cup Fat Free Milk
2 Tbsp Butter, Melted
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Apple Mixture:

Cooking Spray
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Grated Whole Nutmeg
1 Cup Thinly Sliced Granny Smith Apples

Remaining Ingredient:
1 Tbsp Powdered Sugar

1. Combine flour, baking powder, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, salt and 1/8 tsp nutmeg in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine egg, milk, butter and vanilla in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir with whisk. Let stand 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 425.

3. To prepare apple mixture, coat bottom and sides of skillet with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg; sprinkle evenly over bottom and sides of pan. Arrange apple in an even, spokelike pattern in pan. Sprinkle apple with remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Slowly pour batter over apple mixture.

4. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. reduce oven temperature to 375 (do not remove pancake from oven); bake additional 13 minutes or until center is set. Carefully loosen pancake with a spatula. Gently slide pancake onto a serving platter. Sift powdered sugar over top. Cut into 6 wedges; serve immediately.

This pancake is a great way to start the morning - especially since Saturdays are time to kick back and enjoy! A bit of fresh coffee, some crunchy bacon and a piece of German Apple Pancake is close to perfection.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's the Great Christmas Pumpkin Charlie Brown....

Ok so that's not really how it goes but I'm a pumpkin fanatic, in food, in their whole form and ps...the color, it's great!

I'm pretty partial to orange in it's varied shades. - I know, shocking!

Anyway, my random note for the evening, since it's usually cool enough in my house my pumpkins (the uncarved ones) last pretty long each year, this year I sprayed them metallic gold (pumpkins and spray paint, more fun than a barrel of monkeys!) and will put them under the tree.

As soon as I get a spare moment to put up my tree I'll photo them under it but I couldn't help but take photos of my recently gilded pumpkins to share.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapenos

Many varieties of this exist here in Texas where we love our bacon and we love our hot peppers, but this is my "fancy" version that we served as a Thanksgiving appetizer. Tonight, this augmented a spaghetti and meatball dinner (which, yes these items do not suit each other, but we didn't care!).

*8 Seeded Jalapenos, sliced in half length-wise (If you don't know how to seed them, here is one link, you'll want to seed them or they will be super hot!)
*1 Tablespoon of goat cheese per Jalapeno half
*Chopped walnuts (no more than 1/4 Cup, just enough to sprinkle over the goat cheese)
*8 Slices of Bacon

1. Slice and seed the jalapenos.
2. Using a small spoon, spread goat cheese liberally inside the cleaned jalapeno halves.
3. Place walnuts over the goat cheese (I press them in so they don't come loose).
4. Cut bacon in half and use 1/2 a slice to wrap around one jalapeno.
5. Finish remaining jalapenos - arrange in an oven safe dish or on a foil lined baking dish and bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes (or until bacon is crisp), turn once.
6. As an added flavor, I drizzled them with a honey-balsalmic vinegar reduction before they went in the oven, it helps off-set the spicy-ness of some of the smaller/hotter peppers.

**Side note: to seed these peppers we used a tool my mom picked up at Market Days in Fredericksburg, TX, called the "Pepper Whipper" -check out her foodbuzz for more info. PPS - I was asked to "thank" the Pepper's my mom (some of you know her as Texas to Mexico)...yes folks she's humble to boot!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cookie Test # 3 and a Heisman Nod...

Tonight, in honor of the official nod to Colt McCoy as a Heisman Trophy Finalist, I made my third "test" batch of cookies -- these are pretty tasty ones too...similar to the last batch, the recipe for these came out of Texas Co-op Power Magazine's November 2008 issue....

Rolo Cookies

1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup White Sugar
1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 1/8 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
2/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
24 Unwrapped Rolos Candies
Powdered Sugar

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy, add sugars; beat well. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and cocoa. Gradually combine dry ingredients with butter mixture. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

**Below is where my instructions diverge from the original - first, the original instructions, then mine changes are in blue.

Preheat oven to 375. Divide dough into four parts (use these one at a time and refrigerate unused portions until needed). Divide one part dough into 12 pieces. Flatten each between your hands. Place one Rolo in the middle and wrap dough around the Rolo. Make sure to cover candy with dough. Place on baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool 1 minute, then remove to rack to cool. Repeat for all cookies. When all are cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Instead of following the instructions (and because I'm pretty much impatient), I used an ice cream scoop to ball the dough, then pushed a Rolo into the center and covered it up with the dough, which is a bit of a big fat mess, gooey and chocolaty! After they came out of the oven and cooled for a minute (enough time to successfully come away from the baking sheet without crumbling), I dusted them with powdered sugar and set them on a rack to cool. Again, I'm impatient so this was my shortcut...this makes appx. 24 cookies.

These cookies taste to me like a Chocolate Crinkle Cookie with a Rolo in the center, they are sinfully good! I raise my cookie to Colt tonight and wish him the best on Heisman selection night!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mourning the loss of the Championship game...

So after watching Mizzou get slaughtered last night, and thinking that somewhere, someone who votes for the BCS rankings would think clearly and give Texas the credit they are due I was once more sorely disappointed! I guess the Fiesta Bowl will have to do, but in my time of mourning a lost Championship Bowl I need some good old fashioned comfort food. Tonight we feast on ham, homemade mac 'n cheese and lemon pepper steamed broccoli.

My confession, the ham was store bought, HEB makes some pretty killer pre-cooked meats (the smoked brisket and hams are yummy), so my laziness got the best of me and I bought (and reheated) an HEB spiral sliced honey baked ham....mmmm....cured salty sweet pork goodness! The rest however was made from scratch.

One pot (+ one pan) Mac 'n Cheese:

1LB Elbow Macaroni
4 Cups Milk
1 Stick Margarine
6 TBSP Flour
1 Tsp Paprika
1 Tsp White Pepper
1 Tsp (or more if you like it) Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
16 oz shredded regular cheddar cheese
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz shredded swiss cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse and set aside, to keep the number of dishes down, I left it in the strainer.
2. Preheat oven to 350.
3. Bring milk just to a boil in sauce pan.
4. Melt butter in a heavy sauce pan (to keep this in one pan, I used the pasta pan to make the roux). Add flour and whisk over low heat for 5 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat.
5. Add the milk slowly to flour mixture and whisk well. Add salt, black and white pepper, swiss cheese and paprika to mixture, return pan to heat. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. Appx. 5 minutes. Add to pasta, mix well.
6. Grease a 13 x 9 baking pan, fill it evenly with pasta mix.
7. Distribute remaining cheeses over top of pasta mix, add cayenne, paprika, salt and black pepper to top.
8. Place dish on baking sheet, cook in oven until hot (appx 20-25 minutes).
9. Place dish under broiler, appx 4 inches from heat source, until the top is slightly golden brown and bubbly (3-4 minutes). Serve immediately.

Lemon Pepper Broccoli:

This one is really easy but I still feel obligated to write it down...

Appx 1LB Broccoli Florets
1 Large Lemon
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to Taste
Lemon Pepper

1. Clean broccoli - place in skillet with appx 3 TBSP of water.
2. Slice lemon into rounds (appx 1 inch thick); squeeze juice over broccoli and then place rounds in skillet with broccoli.
3. Season with salt, pepper and lemon pepper. Heat on medium-high (covered) until tender.

Easier than using the steamer (mainly because I couldn't find it) and it is easy to control how crispy the broccoli is, at my house we like to keep it pretty crisp.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I hate OU

11:00 PM Central UPDATE: I really hate OU and now I'm upset that Mizzou can't deliver on any kind of an actual defeat to the Sooners, that first half I don't think they knew they were actually playing. To quote a great line I saw tonight on the Barking Carnival, "End of the first, Sooners up 10-0. I’m honestly not sure which of these two teams should be more ashamed. Sooners have been taking things that aren’t theirs for centuries, though."

Photo at right/above - Molly (Austrialian Shephard), Jack (Lab-Whippet Mix), Katarina (Calico Persian) and my sister Jacqueline watching in horror as OU gets raised on an even higher pedestal...what is the world coming to?

Cookie Test # 2 - Sugar Cookies

Since my Longhorn football team has been cheated by the BCS, who feels an OU team we beat head to head should be ranked ahead of us, I am shifting my focus to things slightly more enjoyable, COOKIES! (And yes, I'm wishing that by some stroke of sheer luck Mizzou will stun OU - but since that game is currently going on and the score is not looking like an OU shocker I'm probably not going to get that wish!)

Peppercorn Press posted an excellent sugar cookie recipe; it inspired my second "test" cookie of the season (I will continue to call these "test" as saying I wanted to make cookies makes me feel slightly bad about it...who really needs cookies after all?). The recipe originally calls for orange oil and orange zest but since I didn't want to leave the house, I pulled items I had and used lemon zest and lemon oil -- it made a good substitution.

Here is the recipe with my substitution:

¼ cup butter
½ cup butter flavor shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt


In a large mixing bowl cream together butter, shortening, eggs, vanilla, orange oil and orange peel. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in small amounts until blended well. Refrigerate 1 hour or over night.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with cutters. Baked on an ungreased cookie sheet for 7-10 minutes or until cookies a lightly brown on the edges. Makes approximately 24 cookies.

I used my new snowflake cookie cutters and some colored sugar I had in the pantry to next "test" is yet to be determined but for now I'll sure enjoy these!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How did I make it to the USPS most hated list?

Usually government agencies don't make it to my blog but this is so ridiculous I had to post it. I got home today after a particularly long day at work to find that one of the books I have ordered for a friend for Christmas was waiting for me....little did I know that someone at the USPS has it in for me (or my Christmas presents) because it looks like someone ran over it with a truck, tried to open it and then finally just squished it...thank God it was a hardcover book!

Christmas cookie recipe testing - or an excuse to make comfort food

Earlier in November while visiting with my Grandmother and Great Grandmother I ran across this recipe in Texas Co-op Power magazine (November 08 Issue) and decided it might be worth messing with as a test for Chistmas. It was part of a trio of contest winning "cookie swap" recipes...I cut it in half (and that's how it's shown here) for my test.

Anna's Morsels

1 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Butter
3/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/2 Tbsp Vanilla
1 Egg (At Room Temperature)
1/2 Tsp Water
1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans
4 oz Toffee Bits (Heath is good)
4 oz Milk Chocolate Chips
4 oz Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 325; whisk flor, baking powder and salt together. Beat butter with mixer at meduim high until light and fluffy. Add brown sugar and vanilla; mix well.

Whisk eggs and water. Add butter to mixture; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in pecans, toffee and chocolate chips. Chill 1 hour or until dough is firm. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes, until lightly browned on edges only. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2.5 dozen cookies.