Saturday, December 29, 2012

Polenta-Sausage Triangles

Last Christmas my aunt gave my mother and I a subscription to Cooking Light. In this last November's issue there was a recipe for Polenta and Sausage triangles. It sounded so delicious we had to try it for the family holiday party (which was a brunch).

We didn't have the best at cutting them into triangles - whether it was because we added too much sausage so the polenta didn't firm up enough, or if it was because my mother tried to fry them rather than just toast the triangles... either way we ended up just crumbling it all up in a bowl but it was still gobbled up real quick.

Polenta Sausage Triangles

8 ounces pork sausage
3/4 C finely chopped yellow onions
3/4 C finely chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 C water
1 1/4 C milk
1 C instant polenta
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB olive oil, divided

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage; cook 2 minutes or until sausage begins to brown, stirring to crumble. Add onions, celery and garlic; saute 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 

2. Add 1 1/2 C water and milk to sausage mixture in pan, and bring to a boil. Gradually add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in salt. Cook for 3 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Spoon polenta into a 11x7 inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cool to room temperature; cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. 

3. Cut the chilled polenta into 8 squares, and cut each polenta square diagonally into triangles. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil; swirl to coat. Place 8 triangles in pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Repeat procedure with remaining olive oil and polenta triangles. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

Original photo found here.
A few weeks ago I was browsing Pinterest and stumbled across the Minimalist Baker's version of Pumpkin French Toast Bake and it sounded like the best thing to serve on Christmas morning.

It's basically a bread pudding and you can use any flavors of bread you want. You make it the night before and just slip it into the oven when you wake up in the morning. So I did a few variations and tweaks (listed below) but in the end it was a KILLER breakfast!! I had to share.

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

1 loaf Gingerbread Streusel bread (Franz brand) (approx 4 1/2 cups)
7 lg eggs
2 C milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/4 C pumpkin butter
1/2 C brown sugar (for topping)
Cool Whip or Maple syrup, optional

Instructions:

Cut any kind of bread into 1-inch cubes. Just use enough slice to fill a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish quite full (I used a 9in round deep corningware dish)

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and pumpkin butter well combined. Pour over bread and push down with a spoon or your hands until it’s all soaked and mostly covered. Cover with saran wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees, uncover and top with brown sugar. Bake for 45-55 minutes or golden brown and no longer wet.

Serve immediately with maple syrup, or cool whip. Store leftovers in the refrigerator covered for up to a couple days.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Buckeyes

Candy Buckeyes
My boss brought these little delights into the office earlier this week, and I'll be honest for as big a fan of chocolate/peanut butter combination as I am - I'd never heard of Buckeyes (outside of "Ohio the Buckeye state").


Real Buckeye nut
I wasn't even sure what a "buckeye" was let alone how these little sweets looked like one. So I went on google and looked it up of course. :) 

Anyway. I knew my family would be a HUGE fan of these peanut butter balls of yumminess so I asked her for the recipe and have about three dozen of them in the freezer waiting for the family party on Saturday. They were so easy and really pretty quick to make.

Buckeyes

1 C creamy peanut butter
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 C confectioner's sugar
2 C semi-sweet chocolate

1. Line baking sheet(s) with wax paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat peanut butter, butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheets. If mixture is sticky, wet hands with cold water and continue rolling. Place baking sheets in freezer for 30 minutes or until balls are firm.
3. Microwave chips in a glass bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring midway.
4. Pierce each ball with a toothpick and dip into chocolate 3/4 of the way deep, wiping excess chocolate on rim of bowl. Place on waxed paper; repeat with remaining balls. Return undipped buckeyes to freezer for 10 minutes if they get too soft.
5. Chill in fridge for 45 minutes, until set.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Penuche Fudge

One thing I make every year at Christmas is fudge...this year though we tried a new recipe. This year we made Penuche Fudge (basically brown sugar candy instead of chocolate based). Seems to be the year for "variation". It was so delicious. It's a family tradition to give Maple Sugar candy and this was almost like a homemade version.

Penuche Fudge

10 Tbsp butter, plus more for pan
1 1/2 C dark brown sugar
1 (5-oz) can evaporated milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C confectioners' sugar

1. Coat bottom and sides of an 8x4 inch loaf pan (I used an 8x8 pan and it was just easier to cut) with butter. In a medium sauce-pan, cook butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes (or until butter is lightly browned and has a nutty aroma). Immediately remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. 

2. Stir sugar, milk and salt into butter. Return to heat and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until a candy thermometer registers 235 (soft ball stage); about 20-25 minutes

3. Immediately remove from heat and transfer mixture to a medium-size mixing bowl. Beat in confectioners sugar at medium speed with a mixer and continue beating about 4 minutes or until mixture begins to lose its luster. 

4. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Cool completely. Cut into about 40 (3/4 inch) squares. Store in an airtight container about one week (longer if frozen).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Turtle Graham Bark

So (most) everyone is familiar with 7-layer cookies? The graham cracker bottom with chocolate chips, butterscotch and coconut....well here's a variation I found last year and has replaced 7-layer cookie on our Christmas tray. 

Turtle Graham Bark

14 graham crackers
2 sticks of butter
1 C brown sugar
1 C pecan pieces
12 oz Chocolate chips
Pinch of Salt

(and I also added an extra 12 oz of peanut butter chips and about 1 C of coconut)

1. Arrange graham crackers on parchment paper lined cookie tray (with sides). 
2. Melt butter with sugar, pecans and salt. Then allow to reach boil for 2-3 minutes, stir constantly. 
3. Pour over grahams evenly and bake 10-15 minutes (Note: if your house is cold and the mixture seizes before you can spread evenly, it will spread for you in the oven)...do not let burn.
4. Melt chocolate over double boiler. Pour over graham crackers and spread evenly. If it doesn't spread put back into the oven for a few minutes - sprinkle top with coconut/chips/etc and gently press into melted chocolate. 
5. Refrigerate 30 minutes until cool. Break into bark. 


Friday, December 14, 2012

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies

In the past I have made a pumpkin cookie with and eggnog glaze for the holidays. This year I came across a similar recipe for Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies. I love chai so I thought this would be a good recipe to try out. I made them last night and I think the only changes I would be:

1) add more chai flavor - perhaps by adding one bag of loose leaf and then soaking a second bag in the hot butter to infuse the flavoring.
2) Do a spiced glaze, instead of eggnog, to allow for the eggnog to not over power the chai

In the end these are yummy cookies...just not as CHAI as I'd have liked.

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookie:

1 chai tea  bag
1 (17.5-oz) package sugar cookie mix
1/2 C melted butter
1 large egg
4 Tbsp eggnog, divided
Parchment paper
Cinnamon sugar
1 C powdered sugar
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350. Remove tea leaves from tea bag; discard bag.
2. Stir together tea leaves, sugar cookie mix, melted butter, egg and 2 Tbsp eggnog until well blended.
3. Drop dough by tablespoons onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Flatten dough slightly with bottom of glass dipped in cinnamon sugar (I missed this step so sprinkled it over the icing)
4. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes (I did 8-9) or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack and cool completely.
5. Whisk together powdered sugar, nutmeg and remaining 2 Tbsp eggnog until smooth. Spoon over cooled cookies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And the Universe Said "Just Kidding"

I know I've been a little MIA lately. With the holidays here and big events at work things have just been a little chaotic. But today, with students practically nonexistent on campus, when the Universe decided to tell me to "suck it" I figured I'd share it with all of you. 

My 30th birthday is under two months away and I've been wanting to make it something special. You only turn 30 once afterall. So I've been working hard, planning like only I can plan (one word: SPREADSHEET), and organizing a get-away-weekend to Las Vegas with some of my closes friends. I found a house for us to share, put down a deposit, and was getting ready to book my flight. 

Well then today I get this email:

"We regret to inform you that due to the sudden death of Mr. X on December 7, 2012, all reservations and contracts made for this property have become null and void effective immediately."

Apparently he was leasing the property and then renting it out and now that he passed they're contacting everyone who had made reservations and are trying to refund their money:

"We ask for your patience with us during this time as he was truly the only one who knew the ins and outs of the programs and contracts implemented. Therefore, we need to figure out all the monies due the renters."

Now, I never interacted with Mr. X so I'm not sure how he was the "only one" but here I am now with hopes of spending my 30th birthday in a casino sign graveyard and visiting the Erotic History Museum...but with no place to stay. 

I can hear the Universe shouting

 *sigh*

Now what? Well luckily, I kept the spreadsheet of housing options (no I wasn't kidding about having made a spreadsheet) and can contact my other options to see if their homes are still available... but I have to wait for the refund from the dead-guy's house to come through or the raise at work to go into affect to quickly put a large chunk of change down on a somewhere in Vegas. 

I said to a friend earlier today that maybe the Universe is telling me not to go to Vegas. 

Vegas = Death

I could tell from the tone in her instant message she wanted to smack me. haha.

But really. Now what? My goal/hope was to enter into the next decade of my life with friends and not wake up in my own bed or town.

Suggestions are welcomed.