Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Eve Brunch 2010

It's time again for our annual Christmas Eve Brunch with our families. Last year Abbie was just a month and a half old and we were still getting used to a newborn in the house. This year she is a walking, talking toddler who gets excited to see the tree lit up and loves every Santa and snowman she comes across.

My menu contains some old favorites as well as new recipes I want to try out. Happy Holidays everyone!

Christmas Eve Brunch 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parmesan Rosemary Breadsticks

This is a nice little appetizer to put with an antipasto platter or a nice little side dish to put with soup or salad. It's very easy and quick since it uses refrigerated breadstick dough and develops a nice flavor from the rosemary and Parmesan.

I got this recipe at a cooking class I attended a few years ago so I have no way to cite this or give credit for this recipe. Just know that it's not mine but I use it a lot!

Parmesan Rosemary Breadsticks
from unknown source
Makes about 24 breadsticks

1 package Pillsbury breadstick dough (12 breadsticks)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
Olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a two heavy baking sheets with nonstick foil, parchment paper, or cooking spray.

Combine the grated cheese and rosemary on a large, shallow plate. Set aside.

Lay the breadsticks out on a work surface and cut each in half lengthwise, to make 24 long strips. Lightly brush olive oil over the strips; place strips in cheese mixture and turn to coat both sides. Then roll the strips with your palms on the work surface or between your hands to incorporate the cheese mixture into the dough. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all strips (12 on each baking sheet).

Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately. If you need to make these ahead, prepare through placing them on the baking sheet and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chocolate Toffee Delights

These delicious bars received rave reviews from everyone who ate them. The most frequent comment is that they taste like Girl Scout Samoa cookies. So if you like caramel, chocolate, and shortbread, you must make these cookies soon! I kept them in the fridge so the base held together better and it was a crisper bite.

The original recipe called for almonds mixed with the coconut, but I am not a huge fan, so my changes are below. To see the original recipe, you must become a member of the Taste of Home website.

Chocolate Toffee Delights
slightly adapted from Taste of Home
Makes 24-30 bars

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup flaked coconut
1 jar (12.25-ounce) caramel ice cream topping
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips or chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish.
Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in extracts.

Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; gradually add to the butter mixture and mix well.

Press into prepared baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. Prick crust with a fork all over; sprinkle with remaining sugar and bake 15 minutes more or until set.

Combine caramel topping and coconut in small bowl. Spread over warm crust. Bake 5-10 minutes or until edges are bubbly. Cool.

Melt chocolate chips in microwave at 1-minute increments until smooth. Drizzle over cooler bars. Let stand until chocolate is set and cut into bars.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mexican Rice and Bean Casserole

Ahh, it must be the holiday season because the only things on my blog these days are menus and slow cooker meals. Meaning that I am cooking so much for parties on the weekends that weeknight meals must be simple and quick to throw together.

Chuck picked this recipe out for me to try and we both liked it. I didn't even miss the meat but Chuck said it needs some sort of crunch for texture. Maybe crushed up tortilla chips sprinkled over the top? I used black beans instead of the chili beans and probably added a leeeeetle more cheese than it called for. :)

Also, if you are using anything other than regular rice, adjust the cooking time. For instance, I bought converted rice for some reason, which takes the half the time to cook normally as regular rice. So I adjusted the time and added my rice after 2 1/2 hours to the slow cooker with everything else - halfway through the cooking time. If I had added it at the beginning, it would have been gummy and mushy by the end.

Mexican Rice and Bean Casserole
Makes about 4 servings

1 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice
2/3 cup frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) spicy chili beans or black beans, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies, lightly drained
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Spray large skillet with cooking spray or heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add rice, cook and stir 5 to 7 minutes until light golden brown.

Combine browned rice and all remaining ingredients except cheese in 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker. Mix well. Cover; cook on low setting at least 5 hours.

After 5 hours, stir mixture and sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Cover and cook 15 minutes more or until cheese is melted.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Slow-Cooked Asian-Style Pork

This was another simple, tasty weeknight dish; pretty much just browning the meat and then combining all of the ingredients in the slow cooker. It uses a jar of sweet and sour sauce, which I have talked about before as being very salty, but I feel like this recipe made a lot more food (and some for the freezer, of course!) so that made it ok in my mind.

Also, this recipe rightly called for adding the frozen vegetables about an hour before cooking time is finished, instead of at the beginning. That keeps them crisper and brighter, as you can see in the picture above. I served this over brown rice.

Slow-Cooked Asian-Style Pork
Makes 6-8 servings

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 (10-ounce) jar sweet and sour sauce
1 (16-ounce) package frozen broccoli stir-fry vegetables (broccoli, carrots, onions, red peppers, celery, water chestnuts, and mushrooms)
3 cups hot cooked rice or rice noodles

Light coat a large skillet with cooking spray (or vegetable oil); heat skillet over medium heat. Brown pork, half at a time, in a hot skillet. Do not crowd the pork in the skillet or it will steam, not brown. Drain off fat.

Place pork into 3 1/2-4 quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with tapioca; pour sweet and sour sauce over pork in cooker.

Cover and cook on low heat for 7 to 8 hours or high heat for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. At the end of 7 to 8 hours, turn to high heat setting and stir in frozen vegetables. Cover and cook for additional 30 to 60 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve over hot cooked rice.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sunday Funday Menu

I know, there are a lot of teams happening in this photo, some not even football.

This Sunday we are having some good friends over to watch the Giants game. I wanted to plan a menu that allowed us to snack heartily while the game was on and eat a casual, yet still delicious meal afterwards. This menu is not complete - my friends are bringing two more appetizers as well as a dessert.

Sunday Funday Menu



  • Baked rigatoni with eggplant and sausage
  • Mixed greens with mandarin orange slices, dried cranberries and goat cheese crumbles tossed with raspberry vinaigrette
  • Parmesan-rosemary bread twists


  • Chocolate toffee delights