Friday, December 21, 2012

Twice Baked Potatoes

The Christmas countdown is winding down. Christmas presents are wrapped and menus are planned. In fact, I’ve just completed my grocery list for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Even with all of that done, I’m not sure I’m ready!

I wish we could have done more entertaining this season, but we did manage to have a small dinner party last weekend. Having a Christmas party whether big or small always helps me get more into the mood of the season.

I tried something different with my table this year, using red and brown as the main colors. I liked how the colors worked together to create a old-fashioned feeling table.

I kept the menu simple for this get together. I made Cranberry Salsa to snack on before dinner, and I made a delicious braised brisket, some roasted asparagus and these Twice Baked Potatoes. The Twice Baked potatoes were delicious on their own, but they were really good with the sauce from the brisket!

Twice Baked Potatoes
From HaveRecipes-WillCook
Printable Recipe
12 russet potatoes, washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 sticks of butter
2 cups sour cream
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup chopped green onions
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon white pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub the potatoes with the oil and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for one hour or until baked completely through.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise. Scrape out the inside of the potatoes into a large bowl. Leave a thin rim of the potato intact, so the skins can provide some structure for the filling. Place the potato skins on two rimmed baking sheets.

Add the butter, sour cream, cheese, green onions and salt and pepper to the large bowl with the potato scrapings. Mix the ingredients together until well combined. Fill the potato skins with a heaping amount of the filling, and place filled potatoes on two rimmed baking sheets. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Serve warm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Caramel Heavenlies

Christmas is only five days away! It usually rushes up on me, but this year it seems to have come entirely too quickly!

My daughter came home on Friday from college in Montana, and I’m loving that she’s home.  I usually try not to worry about things I can’t control, but with my daughter flying by herself for the first time, and with a really short layover to her connecting flight, I was a basket case all day Friday. And, the news coming out of Connecticut didn’t help my anxiety. As I was listening in stunned horror to the news, I just wanted to have my children at home where I could hold them. Never mind my oldest is technically an adult now! Having both my children at home has helped my mental state, but I’m still terribly saddened by the loss of all of those beautiful children, and the adults who taught them and tried to protect them. My thoughts and prayers are with their families now.

It almost seems wrong to go about blogging with everything going on, and to be truthful; I’m not enjoying the holidays like I usually do. Missing my dad has a lot to do with my holiday blahs as well, I’m sure.

I’m trying to get into the spirit, so I accepted an invitation to a cookie exchange party. My friend Conny has been hosting this party for years, and I always enjoy myself. This year I’m going with an easy cookie recipe. I saw the recipe for Caramel Heavenlies on Midwest Living’s website. They are similar to Chocolate Toffee Bark, and they are just as easy. They taste a bit like layer cookies without the chocolate. I served the Caramel Heavenlies at a dinner party I had last weekend, and they were very popular. I hope they go over as well at the cookie exchange.

Caramel Heavenlies 
adapted from Midwest Living
Printable Recipe
12 graham cracker rectangles
2 cups mini marshmallows
¾ cup butter, cut up
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cups flaked coconut

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 15x10x1-inch pan with parchment paper. Line the prepared baking sheet with the graham crackers breaking the crackers as necessary to cover the baking sheet completely. Sprinkle the graham crackers with mini marshmallows.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and add the cinnamon and vanilla. Spoon the caramel mixture over the graham crackers, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with almonds and coconut.

Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Cool on wire rack. Using the parchment paper, lift the bars from the pan. Cut into 3-inch squares, and then cut each square diagonally. Store in an airtight container. Makes 30 cookies.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

What do you give to your friends and coworkers for the holidays? Do you buy something or make something? Me? I usually make something to give. I’ve made dozens of cookies, spiced nuts, double-decker fudge and I even gave plum liqueur one year when I had access to a bunch of backyard plums, but this Pumpkin Bread has been a staple of my Christmas giving for at least 20 years. It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been making this bread for so long.  The pumpkin bread is just that good. This quick bread is moist, tender and very flavorful, and it disappears quickly.

The recipe originally calls for baking the pumpkin bread in two 9 x 5 loaf pans, but I like baking them in the mini pans, so I have more to give away.  You can easily double the batch for 10 mini loaves, but be careful because the batter come to nearly the top of my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl.

Pumpkin Bread 
Adapted from Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cookbook
Printable Recipe
2 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
1 14.5 can pumpkin puree
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour five 5¾x3¼ mini loaf pans.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and cloves.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, combine the sugar, cream cheese and butter and mix at medium speed until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg. Mix in the pumpkin. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Fold in the nuts. Pour into the prepared mini loaf pans. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes and then remove from the pans. Serve warm, or cool completely on wire racks and store in an airtight container or wrap in cellophane to give as gifts.


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