Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

This was the moistest and delicious pound cake I’ve ever had in my mouth. It is fantastic on its own, but would also be great as a base to strawberry shortcake, topped with a warm chocolate or berry sauce, an addition to an ice cream sundae, or even as a special French toast treat. The possibilities are endless!

1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened 
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 T vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare a 10-inch Bundt pan with cooking spray and flour.

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add butter, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined. (Tip: Try cracking eggs into a bowl or cup before adding them to the cake mix to avoid getting shells in the mix.) Sift flour and salt into a separate bowl. Gradually add to the wet mixture, beating on low speed with each addition. After mixture is completely combined, stir in vanilla. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and cake is golden brown. Allow to cool, upside down in pan for about 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Serve on its own or with any preferred toppings.

Paula Dean's Slow-Cooked Roast with Herb Sauce

I love me some Paula Dean. Not only are her recipes attainable and delicious, I just can’t get enough of her vibrant personality and familial affection. This Christmas was the first that we’d ever been away from family, and therefore, the first Christmas dinner I’d ever prepared on my own. (Usually I get Thanksgiving) My husband and I caught one of Paula’s Christmas episodes and decided to try out this roast for our family. We modified a bit for portions and taste, but kept the heart of Ms. Dean’s moist, tasty beef.

Herb Sauce: 
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp sugar

1 cup beef broth
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2-lb. top loin roast, trimmed
3 T olive oil

In a small bowl, combine ingredients for herb sauce. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pour beef broth into the bottom of a roasting pan. Spray rack with cooking spray and place atop the roasting pan.

In a small bowl, combine rosemary, salt, and pepper; rub evenly over the roast, completely covering.

Preheat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the roast and brown on each side, about 2-3 minutes per side. Place the roast on the pan rack and cover securely with foil. Bake 45 minutes - 1 ½ hours (depending on the size and thickness of the roast), until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees.

Remove from the oven and let stand 20 minutes before slicing. Serve with herb sauce.

*Recipe modified from Food Network

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sausage Balls

In my family, there is a breakfast duo even more famous than bacon and eggs: the Christmas morning pairing of Monkey Bread and Sausage Balls.

12 oz breakfast sausage 
2 cups baking mix (Bisquick)
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl. (Tip: Try breaking up the sausage as you add it for easier mixing) Use an electric mixer to thoroughly combine. Roll mixture into 1 ½ -inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Serve warm and refrigerate leftovers.

Monkey Bread

There are some dishes that are more than just food: they are memories. For me, this gooey breakfast treat is laughter and Christmas morning, family time and wrapping paper.

2 cans refrigerator biscuits (like Grands or Hungry Jack) 
½ cup margarine
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 cup brown sugar
2 T. water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt margarine. Add 2 T of the melted butter and 3 T of pecans (if using) to the bottom of a tube pan. Add remaining pecans, brown sugar, and water to saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Divide each biscuit into thirds and roll into balls. Place half of the balled biscuits into the tube pan; pour half of the sugar mixture over the biscuits, and then add the other half of the rolled biscuits and pour the rest of the mixture over the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Immediately turn over onto wax paper-covered plate. Serve warm.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


My husband is not a big sweets person, but when it comes to these tasty goodies, even he just can’t resist. Add them to your holiday baking repertoire!

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar, plus 2 T, divided
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 cup of sugar with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar; slowly mix into the sugar mixture until a soft dough forms.

In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and remaining sugar. Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll in cinnamon-sugar. (Hint: Make sure dough is well-chilled or it becomes sticky) Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool completely.

*Recipe from Taste of Home

Chocolate Pretzel Bites

I might be the last person in the world to discover these tasty treats, but my daughter and I had such a fun time making them together, I just had to share. Kid-friendly, budget-easy, addictively-tasty.

 Small twist or round pretzels
Hershey’s kisses

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Spread pretzels onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Unwrap kisses and place one atop each pretzel. Bake for about 3 minutes, until chocolate is just melted, but still kiss-shaped. Carefully press one M&M into each kiss, pressing hard enough so that the chocolate spreads onto the pretzel. Allow to set up at room temperature or by placing in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cold-Day Wassail

Wassail, a warm, spiced cider drink, has a long tradition of providing holiday comfort. According to some accounts, wassail was once an Old English luxury – not many could afford the concoction of expensive spices and wine. During the holiday season, rich landowners would prepare large quantities of the drink and the poor townspeople would come “a-wassailing” for a Christmastime treat.
        Other accounts describe a wassailing ceremony wherein crowds would gather around cider-producing trees, singing and drinking to the health of the trees to ensure a plentiful autumn harvest.
        While wassail is typically associated with the yuletide season, I find the aromatic flavors soothing on any cold day. Of course, it’s best when shared with friends and accompanied by laughter.

1 can orange juice concentrate, thawed
½ can lemonade concentrate, thawed
3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cloves
½ gal. apple cider
4 c. water

Combine all ingredients in a large pot or crock pot until heated through. Simmer slowly for a deeper flavor. 

Chicken Piccata

You’ve probably figured out by now that I often challenge myself to recreate or top restaurant favorites in my own kitchen. This was the result of one such attempt, inspired by my favorite Italian restaurant.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed then cut in half 
Sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder, seasoned to taste
¼ cup flour
4 T. butter, divided
2 T. olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, plus zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 T. capers
1 box angel hair pasta, prepared per package instructions

Trim chicken and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Dredge chicken in flour until completely coated.

In a large skillet, preheat 2 T. of butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, about 5 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Prepare angel hair pasta per package instructions.

Add lemon juice (and zest), broth, and wine to the pan to deglaze; bring to a boil. Add capers and return chicken to the pan. Cover and simmer 5-7 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and place over prepared angel hair. Whisk remaining butter into the sauce; pour sauce over chicken and pasta. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore Risotto

1 lb skinless chicken thighs, washed and trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
salt & pepper
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup arborio rice
3/4 cup Merlot
Grated Parmeasan cheese 

1. Combine all spices in small dish. Add olive oil and chicken to skillet. Sprinkle spice mixture on chicken, coating each piece evenly. Cook on medium low 10 minutes per side. After 20 minutes, add chopped onions and cover, cooking on low until chicken is no longer pink and completely cooked. Remove chicken from pan.

2. In a medium size saucepan, combine chicken broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer.

3. Meanwhile, add arborio rice to skillet and cook on medium until translucent, stirring constantly. Decrease heat to medium low and add wine, stirring constantly until wine is almost absorbed. Add 2 ladles of chicken broth/tomato mixture to rice mixture. Stir constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continuing adding ladles of chicken broth, 1 or 2 at a time until rice is al dente.

4. Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Recipe adapted from Pink Parsley

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soft Pretzels

A benefit of being a stay at home, pregnant wife who cooks is you usually have the basic baking needs at hand so when I random craving comes along you can make it. This is what happened to me last week. I was going to go nuts if I didn't get a pretzel so I decided to make my own! It was fairly easy and between my husband and I, the six pretzels were gone before they got cold.

1 cup milk

1 package active dry yeast

3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

1 teaspoon fine salt

1/3 cup baking soda

2 tablespoons coarse salt

Warm milk in a sauce pan until it is 110 degrees. Pour milk into a mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast on top and let it sit for two minutes. Add brown sugar and one cup of flour. Mix until combined. Soften two tablespoons of butter and add that to the mix. Stir together and add the rest of the flour. When the mixture is combined, place on a floured surface and knead for five minutes. Let the dough rise for an hour in a greased bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a cookie sheet. When dough is ready, punch it down to deflate it and then divide it into six pieces. Roll and stretch each piece into a 30 inch rope and then form into a pretzel.

In a shallow bowl dissolve baking soda in two cups of water. Dip each pretzel in the water and place on the greased pan.  Add salt on top of the pretzel if desired.

Bake for 12 minutes.

Optional: Melt the rest of the butter and dip hot pretzels in it.

Recipe from Food Network

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chili's Copycat Salsa

I have a serious problem when it comes to Chili’s: I can’t stop eating their salsa. It has the chunk-free texture that I love, with just the right amount of heat. Who knew mimicking it could be so easy?!

1 can (15-oz) whole tomatoes 
1 can (15-oz) Rotel tomatoes
¼ onion, chopped
1 small can (4-oz) jalapenos (not pickled)
1 T lime juice
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp cumin

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Blend until puréed to desired consistency. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Modified from Deals to Meals

Foam Christmas Tree

Sometimes the best ideas result from trial and error. My husband and I had the idea to create a foam Christmas tree together for a holiday craft. We cruised the aisles of Hobby Lobby until we came home with a collection of goodies that complimented each other. Our first attempts, however, were unsuccessful, and it took a lot of shifting and brainstorming to finally come up with a product that we both loved. Now, we have a beautiful addition to our holiday décor.

Styrofoam cone
Dowel rod
Wooden base
Green spray paint
30 feet of large ribbon
Decorative rope
Star ornament or small tree topper
Small decorative gifts
Hot glue gun

1.       Spray paint Styrofoam cone, dowel rod, and wooden base with green spray paint (or color of your choice). Allow to dry overnight.
2.       Measure out about 9-10 pieces of folded over ribbon to create the first ribbon layer. Hot glue the loose ends of the ribbon together and then attach to the cone, overlapping each piece to cover the Styrofoam.
3.       Continue layering ribbon, moving up the tree. Be sure to overlap ribbon so that foam cannot be seen beneath.
4.       Once layers reach the top, attach a single piece of ribbon to cover the tip of the cone. Cover by wrapping an additional piece of ribbon around the top layer.
5.       Use hot glue to attach star to the tip. (Or use attached wire to screw the star into the top)
6.       Drill a hole into the wooden base to fit the dowel rod. Fill hole with hot glue and insert the dowel. Allow to dry and then gently screw the rod into the base of the foam cone.
7.       Attach rope to the top of the tree and wrap it downwards, attaching the end with hot glue.
8.       Arrange gifts on the wooden base in desired array. Attach using hot glue.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

JOY Fabric Canvas

Add this simple and easy project to your Christmas decor. 


3 Art Canvases of the same size ( You could also use wood boards) (I used 6 by 8's) 
1/3 yard Christmas fabric 
  3 Wooden Letters J, O, & Y 
Acrylic Paint & a foam brush 
Glue gun 
Fabric Scissors

1. On large surface or table, lay fabric face down. Place canvas on fabric and cut fabric  around 2 inches extra per side. That way, you will be able to stretch the fabric around the canvas. Staple and stretch fabric around canvas. Repeat with remaining two canvases. 

2. Paint wooden letters and allow to dry. Once dry, align letters on fabric covered canvas, placing them in the center of the canvas. To do this, I used my sewing ruler and laid it on the canvas while gluing enabling me to be able to make sure it was straight and in the right place each time. Repeat with remaining two letters.


Pepperoni Pizza Bread

On Friday night, my husband & I went to the commissary in search of something for dinner. What should of been a quick in and out stop turned into about an hour long shopping experience as the lines at the commissary were outrageous! The base that we are currently at is much bigger than the one we just moved from. It's great to have such a large selection of food but at the same time, I miss the convenience of a small store.

This dinner can be quickly thrown together and takes around 10 minutes from start to finish! Perfect when you are in a rush or just want to make something easy for dinner!

6 slices of semolina bread, around 3/4 to 1 inch thick
1 can organic pizza sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
18 slices pepperoni

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place bread slices on aluminum foil and bake for 4 minutes. Remove from oven.

2. Spread pizza sauce on bread, around 2 tablespoons of sauce on each slice. (You will not use the entire can of pizza sauce unless you have a small can) Top with cheese and pepporoni.

3. Bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven and enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pork Stir Fry

This recipe for pork stir fry was super easy and I even made my own sauce!

1-2 lbs pork chops
sugar snap peas

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp garlic powder
5 tbsp brown sugar
1-2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water

In a deep skillet, mix soy sauce and one cup of water plus the ginger, garlic, sugar and honey. Heat on medium until the sugar and honey are melted and combined.  Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water in a separate bowl then add to the skillet.  Mix quickly until thick. Pour sauce into a clean bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet, cook sliced pork until cooked through. About half way through cooking add the carrots and snap peas. Once pork is almost done, add the broccoli. You may need to add water to the skillet as your cook to keep the excess sauce from burning on the pan. When the pork and veggies are cooked add a small amount of the sauce so that it coats the meat and veggies.

Cook the rice as directed.  Serve stir fry over rice and add extra sauce as desired.

Sauce recipe from: The Basic Cook

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thai Chicken-Noodle Salad

This simple Thai dish is great cold or warm and is perfect for lunch or dinner!

1 pkg spaghetti or yakisoba noodles 
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup sesame oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
6 T honey
6 T soy sauce
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 T roasted sesame seeds

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
¼ cup lime juice
Salt and pepper

Prepare noodles per package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together oils, red pepper flakes, honey, and soy sauce. Pour sauce over noodles and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate.

Prepare chicken and brown over medium-high heat; season with salt and pepper. Once chicken is browned, add lime juice. Allow chicken to cool and toss with pasta mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, add cilantro and sesame seeds to cold pasta.

*Inspired by A Small Snippet

Brown Sugar Pie

So I was doing some pinning the other day (surprise, surprise) when I came across this recipe for a Southern-style pie. I decided to give it a shot. The rich, custardy concoction reminded me a lot of pecan pie, minus the pecans (which is how I eat mine anyway!) and led me to 2 conclusions: 1) The world is a better place with this pie in it; and 2) If I keep having such success with experimental baked goods I’m going to have to stop referring to myself as a non-baker.
3 cups brown sugar 
1 T flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
2 regular 9-inch pie crusts

Prepare pie crusts per package directions (or make your own). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, and salt, breaking up any clumps. In a separate bowl, mix together melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and milk. Slowly pour egg mixture into sugar mixture while blending with a handheld mixer; mix until well combined. Pour into pie crusts and place onto a cookie sheet. Bake for about 30-45 minutes until center is mostly solidified. Let cool before slicing.

*Recipe from A Southern Grace

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas

1 lb chicken breast, cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 small green bell peppers, cut into strips
1/2 large onion, cut into strips
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Pepper
Olive Oil
Tortilla Shells

Toppings: Guacamole, Sour Cream, Cheese, & Salsa

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 9 by 13 pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick spray. In small bowl, combine all spices.

2. Place chicken at the bottom of the pan and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Cover chicken with 1/2 of spice mixture. Add vegetables on top of chicken and cover with remaining spice mixture.

3. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender; stirring half way through.

4. Enjoy on tortillas covered with your favorite toppings!

Recipe adapted from Real Mom Kitchen

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Snowflake Votives

Using some left over snowflakes from my wreath in the previous post and some battery powered votive candles, I made some cute little accents to go with my snow theme for some easy Winter decorations.

Hot glue
battery powered votive candles
Snowflake ornaments from Walmart

Simply glue the votive to the snowflake so it sits evenly on a table. I left my hanging loops on the snowflakes in case I decided to hang the votive candles in the window or from the ceiling!

Snowflake Wreath

For less than $2 you can make this pretty snowflake wreath to add to your winter decor.

Package of 20 3-4 inch snowflake ornaments (I found mine at Walmart)
Hot glue
Ribbon (optional)

My wreath used 14 snowflakes. I simply laid them out into a circle that looked fairly even and glued them together with hot glue.  Be sure you cut off the hanging strings from each snowflake! This wreath is probably best kept indoors. How easy is that??

Monday, December 5, 2011

Balsamic Honey-Glazed Baby Carrots

Looking for a new side to impress the holiday guests? Try these deliciously sweet and savory carrots for an elegant and simple dish.

2 lbs baby carrots 
1 tsp Italian seasoning
4 T olive oil, divided
3 T honey
1 T balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread carrots onto a large cookie sheet or baking dish. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and drizzle with 2 T olive oil. Bake about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and drizzle with remaining olive oil, honey, and vinegar. Bake for about 5 more minutes, until carrots are tender but still crunchy.

Black & Blue Berry Jell-O Salad

Many moons ago my mom found this recipe in an old church cookbook. It was such a hit that for 30+ years it has been a permanent feature at every family holiday or potluck. It’s, by far, my favorite of all side dishes and so tasty I usually sneak some for breakfast the next day (if there’s any left!).

2 small packages berry Jell-O (raspberry or blackberry are good too) 
3 cups boiling water
1 can (15-oz) blueberries
1 can (15-oz) blackberries
1 small can crushed pineapple

1 (8-oz) package cream cheese
1 small Cool Whip
1 cup powdered sugar

Mix Jell-O with 3 cups of boiling water. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add berries and pineapple with juice. Refrigerate until Jell-O is completely set (overnight works well).

Blend topping ingredients together with a mixer. Spread over congealed salad. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cross-stich Hoop Snowman

While browsing on Pinterest for different Christmas decoration ideas, I ran across the cutest snowman craft blogged by PitterAndGlink. She made this snowman using 3 different size cross-stitching hoops, white fabric, felt, thread, buttons, etc. I decided to make one myself to hang by our window as I hope for the first snowfall of the year. It was super simple and turned out so cute!

Check out PitterAndGlink for directions!