Creating memories in the kitchen...One meal at a time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spicy Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip

Pinned via Pinterest, and thoroughly enjoyed as a Christmas Dinner appetizer, this dip is delish.

In fact, my husband and I loved it so much, I came home from my sister's and made it again.

Tart, sweet and spicy, all rolled into one and spread on top of silky, smooth cream cheese. This dip is pure heaven. This will be appearing on Superbowl Sunday, no doubt about it.

Serve with ritz crackers, wheat thins or tortilla chips.

Spicy Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip

1 12 oz package fresh cranberries
1/4 C green onion, chopped
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper
1 1/4 C sugar
1/4 t cumin
2 T lemon juice
dash salt
2 8 oz packages cream cheese

1. Put your cranberries in a food processor. You could also, just chop them up.
2. Chop up your green onion, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper into small pieces. Careful of the seeds now. Throw on a pair of rubber gloves or something, please. The seeds are the hot part of the pepper. If you don't like a lot of heat on the old pallet, just leave the jalapeno out.
3. Add all ingredients (but the cream cheese and the wheat thins) into a bowl. Mix them all together, cover and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours. The sugar needs some time to soak in to the cranberries and break up their bitter taste.
4. When you are ready to serve, place your cream cheese bricks on a plate.
5. Spread the cream cheese out as evenly as you can.
6. Pour your cranberry mixture over the cream cheese.
7. Spread it all around.
8. Serve immediately with Wheat Thins, Ritz Crackers or Tortilla Chips.

Recipe Source: Jamie Cooks It Up!  via Pinterest

Posted by: Sallie and Julia
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Friday, January 6, 2012

Classic Italian Lasagna

Like many families, our family takes turns spending Christmas Eve with each side of the family or sometimes both together. Because of this we usually take turns hosting and never have settled on a "Christmas Eve" dinner.

With such large numbers, and a huge Christmas meal the next day, when my turn rolls around I find myself turning to crowd pleasers that feed a large group but won't subject me to hours upon end in the kitchen.

I also  like variety and because we have a traditional Christmas Dinner that includes both ham and turkey, I want something delicious but different.

In past years we've done things like soup with scones, or a hearty beef stew but this year I decided an Italian theme would be fun. I had this recipe bookmarked and because I like 99.9% of Mel's recipes I went out on a limb and made it for Christmas Eve.

The outcome? Total Success!!

Beyond the usual red sauce, noodles and cheese, this " Classic" version incorporates a creamy white sauce  AND browned mushrooms and garlic which are pureed and added the red sauce. I know it sounds a little weird but not one person out of the 25 that ate it, guessed what the secret ingredient was. Great for picky eaters like mine that would run screaming if they knew the truth, so please don't tell them!

Served with Cesar salad, this Christmas Jello, and lots of buttery garlic bread, this Italian Christmas Eve meal will be my tradition for years to come.

Classic Italian Lasagna
adapted slightly from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

*Makes one 9X13-inch pan of lasagna (and requires the use of several pots and skillets…but don’t worry, you can wash those up in a snap while the lasagna is baking)

Red Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced (see garlic tutorial here)
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried oregano and basil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

White Sauce:
3 cups milk (not skim, I used 1%)
5 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

9 lasagna noodles, boiled for half the time on the box (or use 12 of the no-boil noodles, of which I far prefer the Barilla brand)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan with cooking spray or with a napkin dipped lightly in olive oil and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces with a wooden spoon. When turkey is cooked through, drain the grease and set aside.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. When oil/butter is hot, add the garlic, stirring constantly. When the garlic is lightly browned, but NOT burned, add the onion and mushrooms. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft and browned and the fluid has mostly cooked out. Remove from heat and either using a handheld immersion blender or transferring the vegetables to a blender, blend the vegetables to a paste-like mixture. Return the pot to the heat (pour the pureed vegetables back in, if using a stand-alone blender) and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Then add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir. Cover and let the sauce sauce simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna, stir in the reserved ground turkey.

While the red sauce simmers, if using lasagna noodles that need to be boiled, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the noodles for half the time suggested on the box. Once the noodles are cooked, drain, but do not rinse. Add a dab of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. If you are using no-boil noodles, you can skip this step.

Also while the red sauce is cooking, melt the four tablespoons butter and when melted, add the flour, stirring constantly to combine and letting the mixture cook, while stirring, for a minute or two. Gradually add in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the salt and pepper. Slowly whisk the white sauce, ensuring it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan, while cooking it over medium heat. Continue slowly stirring or whisking while the white sauce cooks and thickens quite a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Add a pinch of mozzarella for good luck, if you wish!

To begin layering the lasagna, keep in mind that you’ll have three layers of noodles as well as three layers of the sauces and cheese – so plan on splitting all the sauce and cheese piles into thirds so you don’t run out at the end! On the bottom of your lightly greased baking pan, layer three pre-boiled noodles or four no-boil noodles, slightly overlapping the no-boil noodles. Layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, spreading all to the edges and top with another layer of noodles. Again, layer the red sauce, white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and top with the final layer of noodles. Layer the sauces and cheeses again.

Cover the lasagna with a greased layer of aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sparkly Red Velvet Brownie Bites

Seeing as how my sister and I both  love red velvet, when I came across this recipe,  I knew it would be the perfect addition to our Christmas desserts.

Not only are these brownies beautiful, with the contrast of the rich red velvet and the snowy white cream cheese frosting, they are absolutely divine.

The brownies are dense and rich, although not overpoweringly sweet. The perfect companion for a nice thick layer of cream cheese frosting (my favorite) and a delicate sprinkling of  sparkly white edible glitter.

Not only does their miniature size make them adorable, they're  perfect for holiday platter or parties when you want to sample a little of everything but not go home on sugar overload !

I have a feeling these babies could be making a repeat appearance right around Feb. 14th!!

*Because I was traveling, and like everyone else around the holidays was super busy and making a gazillion other things, I decided to go for it and make these ahead of time and freeze them. I baked them as directed, let them cool completely and then wrapped them in layers of plastic wrap, aluminum foil and a couple of freezer bags. (Can you tell I was a little worried?) The day of I let them defrost and then finished them off with the frosting and glitter. *

Sparkly Red Velvet Brownie Bites
Picture and Recipe from A Farm Girl's Dabbles


for the red velvet brownies:
nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1-1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 oz. liquid red food coloring
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder

for the sparkly cream cheese frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T. butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
white sparkles edible glitter, optional

Preheat oven to 325°. Fold a 16″ long piece of foil to a 9″x16″ strip and place in 9″x9″ metal baking pan, leaving overhang on 2 sides. Repeat with another sheet of foil the same size in the opposite direction, lining pan completely. Spray foil with nonstick spray.
Stir butter and chocolate in heavy large saucepan over very low heat until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar, then eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in vanilla, salt, and food coloring. Sift flour and baking powder over mixture and stir to blend well. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake brownies until puffed and dry-looking and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.
Prepare the frosting by first beating together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix a bit to incorporate. Then add the sifted powdered sugar and beat to combine.
Using the foil as an aid, lift brownies from pan and place on cutting board. Peel foil down away from the sides of brownies. Spread cream cheese frosting evenly over brownies. Sprinkle with edible glitter, if desired. Cut into bites 1-1/4″ x 1-1/4″. To achieve clean cuts, wipe the knife after each slice.

Yield: 50 brownie bites

Posted by: Sallie

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