October 7, 2012

Hot Caramel Cinnamon Apple Cider

Hot Apple Cider

Fall, fall, fall! Have I mentioned how much I love fall? This morning we woke up to crisp fall air, leaves changing color and a lovely, eery fog that just made me want to snuggle up in my big squishy chair, with my sweater throw, a good book and a hot cup of apple cider!

This is the perfect time of year to find local apple ciders everywhere you go. You can't go wrong with a fresh apple cider and the better the cider, the better the finish product of this drink. Hot Caramel Cinnamon Apple Cider is very similar to Starbuck's Caramel Apple Spice, but I think it takes it to a whole other level. These are obviously sometimes drinks because they're sinful, but once you've had a taste you'll want sometimes to come around much faster the next time around!

What You'll Need to Make the Hot Caramel Cinnamon Apple Cider:
1/2 gallon of apple cider
Cinnamon syrup (see recipe below)
Caramel syrup
Whipped Cream
Caramel sauce
Cinnamon sugar

First you want to make your cinnamon syrup (or if you want you can buy cinnamon syrup instead, but I really like the flavor of the one I make myself. You can store the syrup in the fridge for up to six weeks.

Hot Apple Cider: Cinnamon Syrup

What You'll Need to Make the Cinnamon Syrup:
2 cups of water
2 cups of organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons of Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon

In a large pot whisk together water, sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until the sugar melts. Set aside.

Now let's start the base of the drinks!

Add apple cider to a large stockpot over medium heat and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and then add mulling spices.

Now let's talk a minute about mulling spices. You can usually find them easily this time of year and my favorite are the ones that come packaged like tea bags:

Hot Apple Cider: Mulling Bags

You'll love this type of bag type deal because it means you don't have to strain out the spices later! Best. Invention. Ever. Or well maybe not ever, but best thing I've come across in a while...you get the picture!

Anyway...

I use 3 mulling spice bags per half gallon of cider. I like to wrap the strings from the bag around the handle so they stay in one place and the paper end doesn't get in the cider itself or on the hot stove eye:

Hot Apple Cider: Cider

Steep while simmering for 20-30 minutes.

Now it's time to put the drinks together!

Hot Apple Cider

I like to have everything in one place to make the drinks:

Hot Apple Cider: Ingredients

It means you aren't rushing around grabbing this and that, when everything is simply right there at your fingertips.

Fill each cup 3/4ths of the way full. Add a generous splash of cinnamon and caramel syrups. I like to use a large mouth funnel for adding the cider and syrups...it keeps things from splashing around. Give it a quick stir to mix the cider and syrups

Next you want to to top the cider with a big dollop of whipped cream. You can make your own whipped cream. (I recommend this. I usually use 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of heavy cream.) Or you can use the stuff in the can if you just must.

Drizzle the top of the whipped cream with melted caramel sauce and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. (I make my own using 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to 1 cup of sugar.) Serve immediately:

Hot Apple Cider

A perfect bight of autumn right in your cup!

Notes: If you wanted to make an 'Adults Only' cider you could add in some rum, mead or whiskey to give it a little kick.

Posted by Dianne at 1:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 3, 2012

Strawberry Punch

Strawberry Punch

At our house birthday's are a big thing. Jamison could take or leave a birthday and ignore the day all together and it wouldn't phase him, but Alexis and I take our birthday's seriously and we celebrate the entire day.

Alexis turned nine on June 24th. Nine. How is that even possible? How could she possibly be nine already? It seems like just yesterday she was born! Due to my class schedule we had to wait to have her friend birthday party on the 30th and I wanted a new punch to try.

A while back I saw something like this on Pinterest, but I couldn't find the exact recipe so I just went out on a limb as I often do. I got several compliments on how good this punch was, and as an added bonus Alexis thought it was cool because it was somewhat pink.

This is a good birthday punch or party punch. It's festive and has a nice sweet/tart ratio. If you want something that is sure to be a hit, look no further, you've found it right here!

What You'll Need:
2 cans of frozen pineapple juice concentrate
1 cup of powdered pink lemonade mix
1 half gallon container of strawberry ice cream
3 bottles of ginger ale

Strawberry Punch

In a large punch bowl mix together frozen pineapple juice, pink lemonade powder, 1/2 of the container of strawberry ice cream and one bottle of ginger ale. Stir until well mixed and the ice cream and pineapple juice have melted.

Stir the punch occasionally while serving. Add more ginger ale as needed. Add the other half of the strawberry ice cream after you've used 1/2 to 3/4ths of the second bottle of ginger ale. Stir until ice cream melts and you can continue to add ginger ale as needed.

And the most important thing about a birthday party?

IMG_1130

Anything that makes her giggle with glee like she is above is a very good thing.

Notes: There are so many possibilities for this punch. To make it an adult type punch, add a bit of rum or vodka. You could also add in a couple of cups of strawberry puree if you wanted a bit more of a strawberry punch.

Posted by Dianne at 6:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 6, 2012

Easter Fun: Chocolate Covered Peeps and Kool-Aid Dyed Eggs!

Chocolate Covered Peeps

It's that time of year again, I'm not sure how we're back here but we are, it's Easter! Today I'm sharing a couple of fun little things to do, that aren't complicated, and the kids will love. So break out the Peeps and get ready to color some eggs. It's time to have some fun!

Oh and don't forget to check out a few links at the bottom for egg salad and deviled eggs so you'll have something to do with those eggs after you're done dying them.

Let's get our Easter on!

What You'll Need for the Chocolate Covered Peeps:
Peeps (Note: Preferably bunnies)
Bamboo skewers
1 package of chocolate chips (Note: I used semi-sweet, but you could use dark or milk chocolate instead.)
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
Sprinkles

Place chocolate chips and coconut oil in a glass bowl. Microwave for one minute and then stir. Next microwave on 20 second intervals, stirring between each round, until chocolate is melted and completely smooth.

Place a Peep on a bamboo skewer. You want to push the skewer all the way up in to the bunny to its ears. When you put chocolate on the Peep it's going to get heavy and if you don't push the skewer all the way in it will fall off in to your chocolate with the weight.

Chocolate Covered Peeps: Bunny!

Dip the Peep in Chocolate and use a spoon to cover the bunny completely with chocolate:

Chocolate Covered Peeps: Dipped in Chocolate

Hold chocolate covered Peep over a plate and sprinkle with your choice of sprinkles.

Carefully lay the chocolate/sprinkled Peep on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking mat, or wax paper and let chocolate harden.

Then eat!

Notes: These are good as is, or you can dip them into hot chocolate. Yum!

Kool-Aid Dyed Easter Eggs

What You'll Need for the Kool-Aid Dyed Eggs:
White eggs, boiled and cooled
Kool-aid packets (Note: We use Tropical Punch, Pink Lemonade, Grape, Orange, Lemon Lime and Lemonade. They all worked except for the Lemonade. There isn't enough color in the mix to work.)
1/2 cup of water for each packet of Kool-Aide
Narrow glasses (Note: You want them to be narrow enough so that the liquid will cover an egg entirely, but not too narrow or the egg won't fit.)

First you want to boil your eggs. You've probably boiled eggs before, but I'm going to tell you right now how to boil the perfect egg.

Gently place eggs in a pot and cover with water until there is 2 inches of water above the top of the pile of eggs. Add in two tablespoons of sea salt, cover the pot and bring eggs to a boil. As soon as the pot begins a rapid boil turn off the heat and let the pot sit for ten minutes covered.

At the end of 10 minutes gently drain the pot and cover the eggs with cool/cold water. Let eggs sit for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove eggs from the cool water and let them cool completely to room temperature. At least an hour. (Note: This is only for coloring eggs. If you're using the eggs to cook with once they've had the cool water bath they're ready to go, or you can store them in the fridge for up to a week.)

When you're ready to dye your Easter eggs here's what you do...

Add Kool-Aid Powders to separate glasses (see note above about glasses) and then pour 1/2 cup of water in each glass. Stir to mix.

Using a spoon gently lower eggs down in the glass. Make sure to let the spoon rest under the egg so it won't get stuck in the glass. Let the eggs sit for a few minutes, or as long as you like, until the egg reaches the desired color.

Place eggs in a carton to dry. The eggs with darken in color as they dry.

Repeat the process until all the eggs are dyed.

Store in the fridge after dying. The eggs can still be used for deviled eggs or egg salad if you don't use them to hunt.

Notes: The Kool-Aid has citric acid in it so that is why you don't need to add that or vinegar in to the glasses.

Posted by Dianne at 3:28 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 29, 2011

Triple Bread Stuffing...It's Not Just For The Holidays!

Triple Bread Stuffing

One of the main reasons the holidays are my favorite time of the year is stuffing! Stuffing (or dressing, depending on what you want to call it) is often neglected during other times of the year and it really is a fabulous side dish no matter what the season.

There are many different ways to make stuffing. My mom makes a really fabulous corn bread stuffing that brings back memories of my childhood. As I've gotten older I've come to like one made with various types of bread instead. Some people add oysters, some people add fruit...In short there is no wrong or right way to make stuffing. What matters is whether YOU like it or not!

To me stuffing needs some basic ingredients and you can't forget the sage! Lots of sage is key! This stuffing is a very simple, yet fabulous side dish that is perfect for any meal. Stuffing...It's not just for the holidays anymore!

What You'll Need:
1/2 loaf of French bread, cut into cubes
1/2 loaf of Callah bread, cut into cubes
12 buttermilk biscuits, cut into cubes (Note: I make these. See below.)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
6 stalks of celery, chopped
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 large carrots, shredded
2 tablespoons of crushed dry sage
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 quart of chicken broth, at room temperature (Note: I make my own, but store bought is fine.)
2 eggs

I usually buy the Callah and French bread, but I make the biscuits. They're simple. In a large bowl mix 2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1 tablespoon of baking power and 1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar until completely incorporated. Using a pastry blender or a fork cut in 1 stick of softened butter until mixture is pebbly. Add 1+ cups of buttermilk to this mixture and stir to make your biscuit dough. Sometimes you need more buttermilk, sometimes less. It all has to do with humidity and such. You want a dough that you can handle without sticking to your hands. Roll dough out on a floured surface and cut into biscuits. Bake in a preheated 425 F oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Simple and delicious! If you don't want to make the biscuits you and purchase them at the store. Most freezer sections have frozen buttermilk biscuits these days.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cut all three breads into bite sized cubes. Toss with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and bake for 4-6 minutes until golden brown and crouton like.

Remove bread from the oven and let the cubes cool to room temperature.

When you're ready to make the stuffing preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large stock pot saute onion and celery in a little extra virgin olive oil with the sea salt and pepper until just tender. Add the carrots and cook for an additional 1 minute and then remove from heat.

Once the vegetable mixture is off of the heat add the chicken broth, sage and thyme and stir to mix. Slowly add egg and stir until incorporated.

Place cooled bread cubes in a very large bowl and pour the liquid mixture over them and toss to coat.

Pour coated mixture into a 13 X 9 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Serve immediately or you can let it cool and freeze for use later.

Notes: You could add mushrooms in to this for an added treat. You could also use other kinds of bread. It's a mix and match sort of dish.

Posted by Dianne at 1:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Dulce de Leche Swirl Brownies with Chocolate Chips

Pumpkin Dulce de Leche Swirl Brownies with Chocolate Chips

I love pumpkin! It's one of my all time favorite things and this time of year I love to make sweets and treats, not to mention savory dishes like soup or ravioli with pumpkin. It seems in the fall I always have pumpkin on the brain and these brownies popped in to my mind when I saw a recipe for a chocolate/caramel type brownie and my imagination just went crazy from there!

These brownies are brownie like, all while having a slight essence and texture of pumpkin pie. The caramel gives the brownie a subtle hint of something wonderful, without overpowering the whole and the chocolate chips give it just the right oomph to finish off the dish. It's an all around perfect combination!

What You'll Need:
1 - 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1 - 15 ounce can of pumpkin
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar
6 tablespoons of butter, softened
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3 eggs
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 of a bag of semisweet chocolate chips1 teaspoon of cinnamon

First you want to make your dulce de leche. There are a few ways to do this with a can of sweetened condensed milk. You can boil a can of sweetened condensed milk in a large stock pot for an hour and a half to two hours (the longer you boil it the thicker it is), making sure the can stays covered with water the whole time, or you can empty a can of sweetened condensed milk into a double boiler and simmer for up to 2 hours until the milk becomes caramely. I chose the double boiler method this go around. Once your dulce de leche is made you mix up the brownies.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large mixing bowl beat together pumpkin, sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs until smooth. Add baking powder, salt, cinnamon and flour and mix until incorporated.

Pour mixture into an 12 X 8 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Add dollops of the dulce de leche to the top of the pumpkin mixture in the dish and use a spoon or knife to swirl into the brownie batter. Finally sprinkle the top of the brownies with the chocolate chips.

Bake for 22-25 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Notes: You can use a different kind of chocolate chips if you like, white chocolate chips especially would be good with this. You can also purchase dulce de leche to use in this recipe if you don't want to make it yourself.

Posted by Dianne at 1:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 13, 2011

Pumpkin Trifle

Pumpkin Trifle

Every October my mom and my best friend Darlene come to visit for a week around my birthday. This year that week happened to be last week. We spend the week goofing off, laughing and generally having a fabulous time. Some years they are here on my actual birthday, other years like this year, they are not, but it's a lot of fun and something I look forward to all year long.

The day after Mom and Darlene arrived I had a little lunch party after church so that a friend of mine here could meet Darlene and my sister could come pick up my mom to spend a few days with her in Virginia. Given it was fall I decided I wanted to make a pumpkin pound cake that I love to make around this time of year.

I mixed up my pound cake, put it in the oven and baked it. I left it turned upside down in the pan on a plate after it cooled, so that it wouldn't dry out overnight. When I removed the pan it stripped the sides of the cake with it. My OCD couldn't handle serving my guests something that looked like someone, or something, had torn in to the sides of the cake, so my mind started working on an alternative and a few minutes later I had the perfect solution...A Trifle!

This is a very simple thing to put together, but it's impressive all by itself. I decided to spice up the whipped cream a bit too and this really turned out to be the quintessential autumn dessert!

First Step: Bake your pumpkin pound cake and let cool.

Next Step: Make your Cinnamon Brown Sugar Maple Whipped Cream!

What You'll Need for the Cinnamon Brown Sugar Maple Whipped Cream:
2 cups of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/3 cup natural brown sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup

Dump all ingredients in to the bowl of a mixer. Beat on high until soft peaks form.

Set aside to use for your Pumpkin Trifle. (See below.)

And Then: Assemble your trifle!

What You'll Need to make the Pumpkin Trifle:
Pumpkin pound cake
Cinnamon Brown Sugar Maple Whipped Cream (see above) Caramel sauce (Note: You can make your own or use pre-made from the store. I used store bought this go around, but you could use the caramel sauce from this recipe instead.)

Once cake is cooled cut it into chunks. (Note: You might not need all of the cake, depending on the size of bowl you put your trifle in. I like to cut the chunks for each layer as I go.)

Place a layer of pound cake chunks in the bottom of a clear glass trifle dish or bowl. Once you have your layer of pound cake add a layer of your whipped cream and spread it out evenly over the pound cake chunks. Repeat these steps until you reach the top of your bowl

Top the last layer of pound cake with a generous mound of whipped cream. Drizzle the top generously with caramel sauce and let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving so the flavors meld a bit.

Last Step: Eat and enjoy!

Store unused portions of the dessert in the fridge.

Notes: You could use this method with regular pounds cake and top it with any number of topping/whipped cream varieties of your choice. I have a blueberry version floating around in my head that you may see soon.

Posted by Dianne at 11:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 8, 2011

Party Punch

Party Punch

It appears it's becoming drink central around here with the last two beverage entries!

Alexis turned 8 a few weeks ago. I don't know how it's possible that she's already 8! It seems like it was only yesterday that I held that little glow worm all wrapped up in the hospital. Other days? Well others it feels like decades, but luckily those days are few and far between! ;oP

This year Alexis wanted a Harry Potter party. I thought about being all Super Mom and making her a Hogwarts cake, which is what she kind of wanted, but decided in the end to order a cake and save my sanity. Maybe I'll make her cake next year.....

Anyway....

Usually for her birthday I make some variation of Banana Punch, but I wanted something different. I asked on Twitter and FaceBook if anyone had a good fruit punch recipe that didn't require gingerale or Sprite. If you've read for a while, you know my opinion on HFCS so I won't go there again, but I was determined to get around that little problem.

I got several interesting recipes sent to me, but I knew that they weren't Lex's cup of tea. So I went out on my own as I often do and took clearer type juices that were 100% juice and an organic lemonade that was made with sugar. I used the Pomegranate for "color" and I ended up with a really fabulous punch that everyone seemed to enjoy. I'll definitely be making this again!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of organic cane sugar
4 cups of water
64 ounces of white grape juice
2 - 46 ounce bottle of pineapple juice
64 ounces of lemonade
32 ounces of pomegranate juice
Juice of 6 lemons
Juice of 4 limes
Club soda

First you want to make a simple syrup. Dissolve sugar in water over a medium heat until the sugar is melted. Remove from heat and let cool.

Next you're going to need a big, big and did I mention BIG, bowl! Or you can divide it between two large bowls. That's what I did, putting half of all the ingredients in one bowl and the other half in another bowl.

Mix together simple syrup, juices, lemonade and lemon and lime juice in a big bowl or half and half in to separate bowls as mentioned above. Stir to mix. Place in freezer safe containers that are the size that will fit into a punch bowl and freeze until solid.

Right before serving take one of the frozen containers and empty it out in to your punch bowl. Cover with club soda and stir to mix. The frozen juice combo will start melting and you end up with a really fabulous punch!

Add more frozen mix and club soda as needed.

Party Punch

Notes: You could use different types of juices if you wanted, but as I said above you want juices that are relatively pale, with the pomegranate for "color". Red grape juice could be used instead of the pomegranate for a darker punch. Next time I want to try a pineapple/coconut combo instead of plain pineapple juice. For an adult kick add some rum or vodka.

Posted by Dianne at 3:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2011

My Take On A Few Irish Classics and A Few New Ideas Thrown in for Fun!

Irish Spirits

This Thursday is Saint Patrick's Day! One of my favorite all time holidays. I am a big fan of all things Irish: food, tradition, the whole country itself. As strange as it may seem I am drawn to Ireland in a big way. My one planned trip to the Emerald Isle came to a screeching halt before I ever set out on the adventure, but I still hope to make it across the pond to dear old Ireland within the next few years. Another plan is forming, but it isn't complete yet. I'll tell you more as it happens, but for now let's talk some Irish inspired food!

A few years ago I had an Irish feast filled with my take on several Irish Classics and a few Irish inspired dishes. With Saint Patrick's knocking on our door, today I am going to share some of those recipes with you, for those of you who are looking for Irish recipes for later this week.

First up what's an Irish meal without a little Irish Brown Bread also called Irish Soda Bread?

Irish Soda Bread

This is one of my all time favorite breads! It's soft, delicious and just perfect warm with a little Irish Butter!

Another Irish favorite is Dingle Pies, which are small meat filled pies served at fairs and on special occasions and holidays. For my take on this dish I actually made a vegetarian version stuffed full of potatoes, carrots and button mushrooms:

Vegetarian Dingle Pie

These turned out really good! The little pies are savory, warm and really hit the spot. You could always add meat in to these little bites. It's just a matter of taste.

Speaking of vegetarian, how about a nice vegetarian version of Irish Stew?

Vegetarian Irish Stew

I am really a stew/soup kind of person and this was really, really good. It's hearty enough to make a meal of its own. Pair it with a salad and/or Irish Brown Bread and you'll be set! If you wanted a meatier version why not throw in some beef?

A popular Irish side dish in many places is called Champ, which is basically a kicked up mashed potato dish.

Champ

Potatoes? Check! Heavy cream? Check! Butter? Check! Scallions? Check! Seriously what's not to like about this dish?

Another potato side dish is called Boxty, which is basically a type of potato pancake.

Boxty

There is an old Irish proverb that says if you can make a decent Boxty then you will have no problem getting a man. I guess it's the same as the old saying "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach"! Regardless it's a potato pancake...I'm not a man and it still had me at potato!

For a bit more of a fancy Irish dish why not try Dublin Lawyer, which is a creamy lobster dish made with a bit of Irish Whiskey.

Dublin Lawyer

Not only is this delicious, but the fun part? You get to set it on fire!

Dublin Lawyer Flame

What's a celebration without a little flaming food? ;oP

And what would an Irish Dinner be without something made with Guinness? How about Beef with Guinness?

Beef With Guinness

This is really hearty, tender and filling. It would be fabulous paired with a salad and that good old Irish Brown Bread.

And now let's jump in to dessert!

I am a big fan of Irish Cream and when I discovered the caramel variety I decided I wanted to try my hand at a variation of Irish Cream cheesecake and these little Mini Caramel Irish Cream Cheesecakes were born!

Caramel Irish Cream Mini Cheesecake

You know me and cheesecake! It should be a food group in an of itself I'm telling you. These little gems are just the perfect bite of fabulousness in a small little package.

Another dessert if you're a fan of apples is Irish Apple Duff.

Irish Apple Duff

From the moment I saw the term "Irish Apple Duff" I was always intrigued. I don't know why, but it just rolls off the tongue. Try it....Irish Apple Duff...See! My take on this isn't quite as wrapped as the original, but sugary puff pastry is good no matter where it slides, even if down the side of the apple!

Another regional apple dessert is Kerry Apple Cake, which I paired with a Caramel Irish Cream Sauce and Whipped Cream.

Kerry Apple Cake With Caramel Irish Cream Sauce And Whipped Cream

You can't go wrong with apples and caramel and I couldn't resist adding in the Caramel Bailey's to accompany this cake. This cake is good at room temperature, but it's even better served a bit warm! You could also served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

And last but not least, my favorite perhaps, how about some Chocolate Guinness Cake With Ganache And Cherries?

Chocolate Guinness Cake With Ganache And Cherries

It's no secret I love chocolate and I'm a big fan of cherries as well. This modern dessert may not be considered completely Irish by some, but trust me you can't go wrong with this cake!

So how many of you out there celebrate Saint Patrick's day? Have you ever had, or will you have an Irish Feast? Do you have Irish heritage? Or perhaps a favorite Irish Recipe of your own? Talk to me...I'm curious.

Posted by Dianne at 11:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Let's take a trip back in time. Let's go back about four months ago to one of my most favorite holidays of the year....Thanksgiving! (When I said I had a backlog of recipes to share with you I wasn't joking! ;oP)

I love pumpkin. Canned, frozen, fresh, I'm not picky! In the fall I usually buy several pumpkins and roast them and then freeze the roasted pumpkin for use later. If I run out I've been know to grab a can at the store. There are just so many things you can do with pumpkin!

One of my favorite things to do with pumpkin in a simple, yet classic pumpkin pie. This pie can be made with three different forms of pumpkin as I'll show you below, but whichever path you choose you can be sure you'll end up with a fabulous dessert that most people will appreciate.

What's better than that?

What You'll Need:
1 - 15 ounce can of pumpkin pie mix
OR
1 - 15 ounce can of mashed pumpkin
OR
2 cups of freshly roasted or thawed frozen mashed pumpkin
And then
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (Note: If you're using either variety of simply mashed pumpkin.)
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg (Note: If you're using either variety of simply mashed pumpkin.)
1/4 teaspoon of ginger (Note: If you're using either variety of simply mashed pumpkin.)
1/4 teaspoon of cloves (Note: If you're using either variety of simply mashed pumpkin.)
1/8 teaspoon of all-spice (Note: If you're using either variety of simply mashed pumpkin.)
1/2 cup of brown sugar (Note: If you're using either variety of simply mashed pumpkin.)
1/2 cup of organic cane sugar (Note: If you're using either variety of simply mashed pumpkin.)
3/4 cup of heavy cream
2 eggs
1 pie shell (Note: You can make your own our use one you buy from the store.)

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat pumpkin until slightly fluffy. If you're using the pumpkin pie mix then simply add the heavy cream and eggs and beat until completely incorporated.

If you're using either variety of the mashed pumpkin you need to sweeten and spice it up a bit! Once the pumpkin is slightly fluffy add the spices and the sugar and stir to mix. Then add the heavy cream and eggs and beat until incorporated.

Pour your prepared batter into a prepared pie shell or place pie dough in a pie plate and crimp then place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 F and then reduce the temperature to 375 F and bake for another 30-40 minutes until pie is set.

Remove from oven and let sit until completely cool before serving.

Pumpkin Pie

Notes: I like to serve the pie with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I also add in a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup to the pie mixture from time to time before baking. You could also use maple syrup in your whipped cream to give it a nice little flavor kick.

Posted by Dianne at 12:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 30, 2010

Happy Third Blogaversary To Me! Let's Celebrate With Blueberry Cake!

Happy Third Blogaversary to Me: Let's Celebrate With Blueberry Cake

Three years ago today I started Dianne's Dishes! It's been a fun ride and I've really enjoyed the past three years. I don't usually post recipes on the weekends, but given the occasion I just couldn't resist! We were supposed to have dinner guests this evening, but we got snowed out and had to reschedule. I had already made dessert, so I thought I'd share that with you today to celebrate the big day! So sit back, relax and have a piece of cake...It's on me! ;oP

What You'll Need:
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
1 - 11 ounce container of blue berries
1/3 cup of water
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 heaping tablespoons baking powder
1 cup of buttermilk
2 eggs

Melt butter and set aside to cool.

Wash blueberries and place in a medium sized pot:

Blueberry Cake: Blueberries

I actually used some blueberries I had frozen. I like frozen blueberries as a treat and often buy containers, wash them, let them dry and then freeze them to pull out for a sweet, yet healthy snack. They worked perfectly for this! Fresh or home frozen blueberries either will work.

Add sugar to blueberries:

Blueberry Cake: Blueberries and Sugar

And then water:

Blueberry Cake: Blueberries, Sugar and Water

Stir to coat the blueberries:

Blueberry Cake: Ready to Cook

Cook blueberries over medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes stirring often. Your blueberries will form a syrup and the berries themselves will turn soft:

Blueberry Cake: Blueberry Sauce

Remove the blueberry sauce from heat and let sit and cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large glass bowl mix together flour, salt and baking powder and stir to incorporate:

Blueberry Cake: Flour Mixture

Add melted butter, blueberry sauce, buttermilk and eggs to flour mixture:

Blueberry Cake: Ready to Stir

Stir to mix:

Blueberry Cake: Batter

Pour batter into a 13 X 9 inch dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray:

Blueberry Cake: Ready to Bake

Bake for 25-30 minutes until cake is slightly golden and done through:

Blueberry Cake: Baked

Let cool to room temperature and then frost. (See below)

Blueberry Cake: Cream Cheese Frosting

What You'll Need for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 - 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
3 cups of powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and butter. Slowly add sugar and mix until smooth. Spread the frosting on the cooled blueberry cake.

Notes: If I had had a lemon I probably would have added lemon juice/zest to the cake and/or the frosting.

Posted by Dianne at 5:07 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 4, 2010

2009 Recipe Round Up

Before we jump in to 2010 I always like to round up the year before with a little recipe round up and share my favorite recipes from each month. This year I couldn't come up with just one for each month because there were so many I loved! So you're getting three for the price of one!

Overall 2009 was MUCH better than 2008 around our house. What was it with 2008 that was just so horrible for so many people? That is not a year I want to relive! Here's hoping that 2010 is even better than even 2009!

Now let's get started with that round up!

January:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Bars:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Bars

So this obviously isn't something you would want to make every day because seriously...Calories! But oh my these are good! If you're looking for something a little bad and oh so good, then look no further...You've found it!

Blueberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Blueberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love blueberries and white chocolate. We had cookie Sunday at church and I wanted to make something just a little bit different and this is what I came up with. These are familiar and comforting, yet not your standard cookie. They are just perfect to share!

Do It Yourself Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate:

Do It Yourself Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

What is better than a big cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day? If you want hot chocolate with a twist then this is the cocoa for you! Why venture out in the cold to Starbucks when you can make it at home yourself?

February:

Beggar's Stew:

Beggar's Stew

I love soups and stews. They are a nice, hearty, yet mostly healthy way to enjoy a meal, especially when it's cold outside. This stew was something I had been thinking about for a while and it came together very nicely.

Baked Maryland Crab Cakes:

Better Bites: Baked Maryland Crabcakes

When you think of Maryland you often think of crabs. And more often than not crab cakes are what pop in to view. This version is just as good as the deep fried variety with a healthier twist. Who says you can't make something better for you and keep the taste?

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese:

Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese

This one was a hit even with Jamison, who obviously it was designed for. People automatically assume that gluten free is dull, but trust me on this one...This is anything but!

March:

Cinnamon Buns:

Cinnamon Buns: Yummy Bite

Who doesn't like a good, ooey, gooey, cinnamon bun? I certainly do! Another sometimes treat, but oh so good when that sometimes rolls around.

Swedish Meatballs With A Twist:

Swedish Meatball With A Twist

So what's the twist you ask? I made them with ground chicken instead of beef and let me tell you I think I liked them better that way!

Irish Brown Bread:

Irish Brown Bread

What's Saint Patrick's Day without a little brown bread? Trust me...This one is good! Serve with a little Irish butter and you're set!

April:

Nachos:

Nachos

I'm a huge fan of Mexican food and one of my favorite things to do is whip up some loaded nachos. They are easy, quick and delicious. Perfect!

Chocolate Sheet Cake:

Chocolate Sheet Cake

A childhood favorite. My one change though is no cinnamon. I think it tastes better without that addition.

Yeast Rolls à la Dianne:

Yeast Rolls

I don't make yeast rolls that often now that Jamison can't have gluten but once in a while when we have company I do like to whip up a batch. This version is just perfect. It's too bad Jamison can't enjoy them too.

May:

Blueberry Cashew Granola:

Blueberry Cashew Granola

Homemade granola is extremely easy to make. I love it because you can control exactly what goes in to the mix and as far as I'm concerned it's always nice to know what you're eating! This version utilizes dried blueberries to make a very satisfying mix. What's better than that?

Spicy Black Beans and Shrimp:

Spicy Black Beans and Shrimp

There is a common misconception that something that is good for you has to taste bad, but that is definitely not the case! This dish is a hearty, yet healthy meal that is just perfect all by itself or paired with a tossed salad. Yum!

Strawberry Asparagus Salad:

Strawberry Asparagus Salad

When we started getting weekly bundles from our CSA last season I had some really fabulous, fresh, organic produce to work with! I love asparagus, it's one of my all time favorite vegetables and there is nothing like a fresh, ripe strawberry. This salad is a simple, healthy dish that makes a fabulous side dish.

June:

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt:

Ice Cream Week Meets Better Bites: Frozen Strawberry Yogurt

This was my first attempt at frozen yogurt and I must say I was very pleased with the result. My sister was too, since I shared it with her and all! ;oP

Stir Fry:

Better Bites: Stir Fry Two Ways: Shrimp

Stir Fry is a very versatile, healthy alternative for dinner. Throw in the vegetables and/or meat that you like and pair with some brown rice and you've got the perfect meal!

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies:

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

These are a fabulous little gluten free cookie that come together quite easily. Trust me...You'll never miss the gluten!

July:

No Cook Blueberry Jam:

No Cook Blueberry Jam

Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits. Actually they probably are just straight up my favorite fruit and over the past few years I've developed an affinity for blueberry jam. This jam takes fresh blueberries and allows you to make a fabulous jam without even cooking the fruit. How simple is that?

Two For One: Gazpacho Salad or Gazpacho Soup:

Soup:

Gazpacho Soup

Salad:

Gazpacho Salad: You Can Stop Here or Proceed to Make Soup!

This was my first attempt at gazpacho and I have to say I'm hooked! It's the perfect summer treat in soup or salad form! It's also the perfect way to use up abundant vegetables in the summer. The soup also freezes well.

Bread Salad:

Bread Salad

This is a slightly sinful, yet really delicious salad. It's another way to use those summer vegetables when the harvest is bountiful.

August:

Squash and Zucchini Fritters:

Squash and Zucchini Fritters

Another instance of playing around with my summer vegetables. These would be perfect as an appetizer or used in place of hush puppies. They are fabulous!

Frozen Blueberry Margaritas:

Cocktail Time! Frozen Blueberry Margarita

Margaritas are one of my favorite drinks, and blueberries are as I've mentioned before a favorite too, so I decided to combine them. Loved this creation! I'll definitely be making them again.

Pan Seared Salmon With Tomato Avocado Relish:

Better Bites: Pan Seared Salmon With Tomato Avocado Relish

Growing up I was not a fan of salmon. The only instance of it I had tasted was canned salmon and I have to say I just wasn't a fan. A few years ago I tried a salmon fillet and fell in love immediately! This version pairs salmon with a relish that just blends together perfectly.

September:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans:

Pumpkin Mousse With Honeyed Sugar Pecans

Pumpkin is another all time favorite. I decided this fall it would be fun to take some roasted pumpkin and make mousse and loved the result! This is relatively simple, yet very impressive and delicious. That's my idea of a fabulous dish!

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip:

Eggplant "Fries" with Creamy Onion Dip

Eggplant is also a recent addition to my diet. A few years ago I bought one just because I couldn't ever remember ever actually eating one other than possibly an eggplant Parmesan in the far distant past. This summer we got several eggplant in our CSA bundles and I wanted to try something new. This is the resulting dish and I will definitely be making them again come summer.

Chocolate Cake à la Alexis:

Chocolate Cake à la Alexis

If you've been around Dianne's Dishes for a while you know I'm a huge fan of kids in the kitchen. It teaches them valuable life skills that they will use as they grow. It also encourages creativity. This cake came about one day when Alexis told me she wanted to make a cake and told me what we should put in the cake itself. I figured out the amounts and the cake was born! It's really good too.

October:

Caramel Apple Cider:

Caramel Apple Cider

What's October without a little cider? I love it when the local farms start putting out their yearly batches! This is my take on Starbucks Caramel Apple Spice and it's delicious!

Cheese Fondue:

Cheese Fondue

Fondue is a blast to play around with and cheese fondue is one of my all time favorites! It's easy to make and fun and delicious to eat.

Baked Apples:

Baked Apples

Another thing I love about Fall are all the local apples! This is a very simple, yet delicious twist on the classic baked apple. What's not to like?

November:

Creamy Spinach Noodles:

Creamy Spinach Noodles

This is a fast, easy, comforting pasta dish that you can throw together in no time. It's just perfect for a busy day!

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls:

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

This is another one I've had dancing around in my head for a while. I really liked how they turned out! A definite make again sort of thing. I mean pumpkin...What's not to like??

Broccoli Cheese Soup:

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I always assumed that Broccoli Cheese Soup would be hard to make and thus didn't attempt the feat. In fact though it's really easy. This is a delicious, hearty soup that is just perfect for that cold winter day!

December:

Pumpkin Pound Cake:

Pumpkin Pound Cake

Another pumpkin creation for Thanksgiving because I seriously just can't get enough pumpkin! This was really fabulous!

Classic Pecan Pie:

Classic Pecan Pie

This was my first time making a pecan pie. Yet another thing I assumed was complicated when in fact it wasn't. Another very sometimes food, but very good none the less!

And last but not least possibly my favorite creation of the year....

Gingerbread Fangtasia!:

Gingerbread Fangtasia

A good gingerbread recipe, some candy and a little imagination ends up with a fabulous result! Throw in Eric, Sookie and Bill and you've got a little gingerbread vampire bar of your very own! ;oP

And so that sums up 2009. Bring on 2010! Happy New Year everyone! May it be a blessed year for you all. I'll be back tomorrow with a new recipe. Until then...

Posted by Dianne at 11:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 16, 2009

Let's Make A Gingerbread House (Fangtasia!)

Gingerbread Fangtasia

If you follow me on Twitter or FaceBook you've probably figured out I'm a HUGE fan of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I like the show ok too for the most part, but we won't get in to my issues about the show here. If you're really interested you can peruse the Musings category over at Daffodil Lane and see my thoughts on that subject, but the books are definitely my first love when it comes to this set of characters.

I also should tell you I'm firmly on Team Eric. I was from the very first book. My first thoughts when Eric came on the page were "Why the heck isn't Sookie with him?" Bill is ok and he has grown on me, but I just don't care for him with Sookie. I keep hoping he'll find a nice girl elsewhere, but sadly my wants and desires aren't figured in to the story! ;oP The little tidbit of my preference for Eric will become important in a moment when I explain my choice in gingerbread houses.

Most years I make a gingerbread house. It's fun. One year I even made one for my friends as gifts. I took a few years off on the gingerbread front when Lex was smaller, but the past few years it has been fun to add her in to the mix and let her make her own gingerbread house too. It's a fun tradition and one that we both look forward to.

Gingerbread True Blood Style: Fangtasia, Bill, Sookie and Eric

Alexis of course just made your standard gingerbread house, but a few days ago I had a fleeting thought that it would be fun to turn my gingerbread house into Fangtasia. I decided that it would be easy to add a Fangtasia sign and even make a gingerbread Eric, Sookie and Bill. I also decided to make a bite out of Bill's head as if Eric had gotten fed up with him and taken a little nibble:

Gingerbread: Bill

Poor Bill! ;oP He looks a little emo here, but that's ok too!

For Sookie I didn't have the talent to make a Merlotte's outfit, so she just got a dress, but I combined book Eric (pink spandex pants), with TV Eric (and his black tank top a la Skarsgård) even though I have to admit the tank was not one of my favorite outfits.

Gingerbread: Eric and Sookie

So basically you start out with a really good gingerbread recipe and then you just let your imagination go wild! And imagination is something I've never had a problem with! ;oP

Construction is always fun! This go around I used small cookie cutters to make a relatively small gingerbread house. In the past I've made them as big at 8-12 inches for each piece, but these were more like 4-5 inches.

The first step was putting the walls up:

Gingerbread: Constructing

The walls are the easiest part. Gravity sort of makes them support each other. I like to let them dry 20-30 minutes before putting the roof on, because the roof can (and will!) cause the walls to collapse if you aren't very careful.

This time the walls were square, with no triangular part for the roof to rest on and it just didn't work. The roof kept falling down and taking the walls with it, so Alexis and I decided to make flat roofs instead. As you can see we added a chimney to hers and left mine flat:

Gingerbread: Ready to Decorate

And then you decorate!

Gingerbread: Creating

Royal icing works best to stick on all the candy and such. I put a row of peppermint kisses on the roof so I'd have something to rest the Fangtasia sign on and keep it upright:

Gingerbread: Creating

And considering we are talking icing here the Fangtasia sign didn't turn out half bad either!

Gingerbread: Fangtasia

And Lex's house turned out really cute too!

Lex's Gingerbread House

Should you wonder her gingerbread people are her and Jamison. Uncanny resemblance those! ;oP

If you've never made a gingerbread house do try...It's so much fun! It's messy, but such a fabulous time that you won't mind the mess...Much! ;oP

You can eat your creation or you can leave it around to enjoy just looking at throughout the season, which is usually my choice. I make extra gingerbread to enjoy instead of the houses (or in this case vampire bar! ;oP)

Gingerbread Fangtasia

Now speaking of messes...If you'll excuse me it looks like a gingerbread house exploded in my kitchen and I must remedy that situation. ;oP

Posted by Dianne at 4:31 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Yummies and Blessings

Roast Turkey Breast

How is it possible that it is already November? I mean seriously, it seems like just yesterday the New Year rolled in and now here we are almost back to that very spot a whole year later! This year truly has flown, but I have to say this year, though not perfect in any way, was MUCH better than last year! Let's hope that trend continues and that is yet one more thing to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving has always been a big holiday in my family. Growing up it involved my mom's family all coming to our house and spending the day together. It was a lot of fun, and an opportunity to spend time with people we didn't get so see all that often. Not to mention all the yummy food!

Growing up my favorite holiday was always Christmas, and don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of Christmas itself, but as I've gotten older I have to say that Thanksgiving has rapidly slid in to the number one spot. It's still a time of family, though now it is spent with Jamison's family, but it is a nice day to come together, be as one and just enjoy good food and good times. That in my opinion is the perfect holiday!

Brining a Turkey 101

Everyone has their own family traditions, but there are normally some basics that come along like turkey! This year I'll be doing my normal brining of the turkey because it really does make a delicious bird. If you've never tried brining before, give it a shot, I promise you won't be disappointed! I also got a small boneless ham to go along with the turkey, because I was in a ham sort of mood.

Cranberry Sauce

For side dishes I make a Southern cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, peas, gravy, deviled eggs, salad and yeast rolls. I normally make corn casserole and cranberry sauce, but I decided to skip the first one this year, and I only make the cranberry sauce when my sister is here and this year she's in Tennessee with Mom.

Coconut Pie: Baked

Dessert this year will consist of a gluten free yellow cake with milk chocolate icing, a pecan pie, a coconut pie, chocolate fudge and a pumpkin sour cream pound cake. It's nice to have a mix of things to share and I think it's about time I make my way in to the kitchen to start baking!

So as Thanksgiving makes its way to us on Thursday I want to wish you all a blessed day filled with food, family and fun. Be thankful and remember your blessings. May the holiday season begin!

Posted by Dianne at 3:53 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 28, 2009

Penguin Party Bash

Pegnuin Cake

Whew! The penguin party is over and I'm sitting down and still for the first time in days. Man do my feet hurt, but it was all worth it! Miss G had a fabulous birthday party, with family and friends and a grand old time was had by all. That's my kind of party!

Last year, the afternoon of her Tinkerbell birthday party, just after everyone had gone home, Alexis turned to me and said "Next year I want a penguin birthday party!" When I told people about this they assumed she would change her mind sometime during the year, but Alexis much like me, is all about making a decision well in advance and keeping to it, so a penguin party it was!

This year the cake was very simple. It wasn't anything difficult, but Alexis loved it and it took me next to no time to decorate. That my friends is my kind of cake!

Pegnuin Cake

I baked 4 - 13 X 9 inch cakes to make the ice shelf, 1 - 8 X 8 inch cake to sculpt into the hill the igloo was going to sit on and 1 cake in a heat proof round Pyrex bowl to make the igloo. I used the pieces that I shaved off the "hill" to make the terrain more "natural" and bumpy for the ice shelf. I placed the cake on a big board covered with blue cello paper to make the water.

I also cheated a bit. When I realized how many cakes I was going to have to bake to make the ice shelf and igloo and calculated that the recipe I was going to use was going to need 30 cups of cocoa powder I decided that I was going to go the cake mix route. I normally make all cakes from scratch, but you figure out how much 30 cups of cocoa is going to cost and you can see how expensive it was going to be to make this cake! I ended up using the chocolate variety from Dr. Oetker and it was really fabulous!

Pegnuin Cake

I also used the Wilton Buttercream icing recipe that I normally use. I used a 3/4ths to 1/4th cup ratio of shortening to butter since I'm not a fan of an overpowering butter flavor in my icing. I also use vanilla and almond flavoring in my icing. I sprinkled the top of the cake with a silvery sanding sugar to help the icing have that sparkly snow/ice look to the surface and it worked fabulously!

The penguins are all resin figures. I briefly thought about making fondant or marzipan penguins and then rapidly talked myself out of it. I treasure my sanity after all! ;oP

Penguin Cookies

I made penguin sugar cookies too. These were some of the best sugar cookies I have every had! I ordered some black sprinkles and things from Fancy Flours and they included some recipe cards in my order. One of them was for a "No Fail Sugar Cookie" and let me tell you these lived up to their title!

Penguin Army

I also made a little army of penguin appetizers! Black olives (jumbo and small), pearl mozzarella and carrots. They took bout 20 minutes to make and I got a lot of compliments about them! Someone I follow on Twitter recommended that I Google penguin appetizers and these were just too cute! I used mozzarella instead of cream cheese because Alexis isn't a fan of cream cheese. Black olives are also one of her all time favorite foods, not to mention an adoration of "white cheese" as she calls it, so it worked out nicely!

Overall it was a very nice party. The kids ran around in circles and generally did their kid things, the adults sat/stood around and chatted, ate some food and enjoyed each other's company. You can't ask for better than that.

So now I'm going to take a few days off. I'm seriously wiped out! My parents have been at my sister's house and are coming to stay with us for a few days. I'll probably post What's For Dinner between now and then but most likely I won't post a recipe until Thursday. I'm going to sit (which I haven't done in days!), relax and enjoy spending some time with my Mom.

Hope you all have a good week!

Posted by Dianne at 11:34 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 14, 2009

What's Easter Without An Easter Bunny Cake?

Easter Bunny Cake

This is another one from childhood. My mom used to make Easter Bunny cakes with my sister and me when we were children. It's so much fun I decided to do it with Alexis this year!

Alexis wanted a chocolate cake. Normally I think it would be fun to do this with a carrot cake since it's Easter and all, but chocolate it was! She also was adamant that there had to be some "M's" on the cake too! Not hard either! As you can see it turned out great and was delicious to boot!

This cake is really simple and a lot of fun! You could do this process with any shape...Turkey, reindeer, Santa, heart, pumpkin etc! The possibilities are endless!

What You'll Need:
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 - 8 ounce container of cocoa
2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder
1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
1/2 cup of safflower oil
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 1/2 cups of buttermilk
4 eggs
Icing or frosting
Candy for decoration

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Spray 2 - 11 inch round pans with non-stick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl stir together flour, cocoa, sea salt, baking powder and sugar until mixed. Add oil, vanilla, buttermilk and eggs and stir until batter is completely incorporated. Pour batter evenly into the two prepared pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake sticks done. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Using a serrated knife cut a bot tie shape out of the middle of one of the cake rounds:

Easter Bunny Cake: Ready for Frosting

As you can see above the cut outs become the ears. Place bow tie on the bottom of the other cake round and the "ears" at the top.

Once your shape is in place frost the cake:

Easter Bunny Cake: Ready to Decorate

You can use whatever type of frosting or icing you like. I used Wilton's classic minus the butter, but you could use cream cheese frosting instead if you liked.

Now it's time to decorate!

Use M&M's, jelly beans, licorice, etc. Whatever you want to decorate with is fine! Decorate his bow tie, his ears and put on a happy face! Once you're decorated then serve!

Easter Bunny Cake: A Slice

Notes: Traditionally this kind of cake has coconut on it for the "fur". Alexis didn't want coconut so we omitted it, but you can cover the cake in coconut if you prefer.

Posted by Dianne at 11:03 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 17, 2009

Irish Brown Bread

Irish Brown Bread

When I think of Saint Patrick's Day one of the first things I think of is brown bread. I've had this recipe for years. I don't remember who gave it to me, or where they got it, but it's been a favorite of mine since I first tried it and everyone I have served it to has loved it as well. It's a simple, no kneading, quick, has a fabulous texture and is perfect hot or cold rustic loaf of bread.

This is also the perfect bread to introduce whole wheat flour to someone that might not be a fan (or think they aren't anyway) because the over all texture is so nice. If you're looking for an easy brown bread, then look no further...You've found it!

If you'd like some ideas about other Saint Patrick's Day type dishes then visit my Saint Patrick's Day set on Flickr from 2007 when we were celebrating our trip to Ireland, which later was canceled when life got in the way, but we had fun with the feast none the less!

ddspd2009

Now let's get down to some brown bread!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of whole wheat flour (Note: I like the King Arthur Flour version.)
1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 3/4 cups of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large glass bowl stir together flours, baking powder and salt until mixed. Add buttermilk and stir until dough forms. (Note: You may need slightly less than the amount of buttermilk listed above or slightly more. It all depends on humidity and such.)

Form dough into a ball and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper. You don't need to knead the dough, (isn't that a mouthful! ;oP) just shape it and go.

Irish Brown Bread: Ready to Bake

Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

Irish Brown Bread: Baked

Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Notes: No notes for this one. It's pretty straight forward!

Posted by Dianne at 8:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 30, 2009

Happy Two Year Blogaversary To Me! Let's Celebrate With Some Triple Chocolate Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting!

Happy Two Year Blogaversary To Me! Let's Celebrate With Some Triple Chocolate Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting!

Two years ago today I started Dianne's Dishes with a welcome and then promptly posted a recipe for sushi. That was quickly followed by the first installment of What's For Dinner?! From there I've had many comments, tens of thousands of visitors and a whole lot of fun cooking and sharing with you what I've been up to in the kitchen! I've made some fabulous blog friends along the way and I've enjoyed getting to know you as you come and spend part of your day here at my humble abode on the web. So today it's time to celebrate and how better to celebrate than by making some cupcakes!

When we made these cupcakes earlier this week Alexis' first comment was "I want these for my penguin birthday party!" She turns six in June and last year when we had her Tinkerbell party as soon as the party was over and the guests had ventured home she turned to me and said "OK, next year I want a penguin party!" Surprisingly (or maybe not so much in her case if you know her very well) once she makes up her mind she sticks with it and that's all she's talked about since then! I have to admit these cupcakes would be just perfect for a birthday party, so she may just get her wish! ;oP

Anyway, that is neither here nor there. What I would like to say thank you for visiting and I really have enjoyed getting to know so many of you! If you haven't left me a comment or stopped by to say hello, then feel free! I love getting to know those who are a part of Dianne's Dishes and my readers are an integral part of what this blog has become!

Here's to two more wonderful years!

Happy Two Year Blogaversary To Me! Let's Celebrate With Some Triple Chocolate Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting!: Ready to Frost

What You'll Need for the Cupcakes:
1 - 4 ounce package of Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate Bar
1 stick of butter
3 cups of cake flour
2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of cocoa
1 cup of organic cane sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk
3/4 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 - 12 ounce package of mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a medium sized bowl melt Baker's chocolate and butter in the microwave at half power until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl stir together cake flour, sea salt, baking powder, cocoa and sugar until completely mixed. (Note: If you want to sift this together you could, but I have a strict don't sift if not necessary rule! ;oP) Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add eggs, buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla and slightly cooled melted chocolate/butter mixture. Stir until all ingredients are just mixed. Next add mini chocolate chips and stir until incorporated.

Line cupcake pan with liners and fill each cup 3/4ths of the way full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cupcakes stick done. Let cool and then remove from pan and frost or ice as desired. I used Cream Cheese Frosting (see below).

Happy Two Year Blogaversary To Me! Let's Celebrate With Some Triple Chocolate Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting!: The Inside

Notes: Makes around 3 dozen or so cupcakes. I also baked a small layer to see how it would hold up as a cake to be decorated and it worked well!

Happy Two Year Blogaversary To Me! Let's Celebrate With Some Triple Chocolate Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting!

What You'll Need for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
2 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
2 sticks of butter, softened
4 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of cold water

Cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar and water and beat until smooth. Use immediately.

Notes: If you wanted to you could add in vanilla flavoring or you could use mint extract for a twist instead.

Posted by Dianne at 12:43 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 19, 2008

Chocolate Cheesecake

Chocolate Cheesecake

I LOVE cheesecake! Seriously it deserves be a food group all on its own as far as I'm concerned! I make many varieties and this has to be one of my all time favorites. This is just perfect if you have someone on your list who is a cheesecake lover too! You can top it any way you like, or it's even spectacular just plain.

For the recipe go here.

Posted by Dianne at 7:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 18, 2008

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Swirl Bread: A Slice

This bread would be just perfect for someone on your list that loves cinnamon. You could eat it plain, use it to make toast, or even use it to make French toast! It's good at room temperature or heated...Who doesn't love a gift that is versatile! ;oP

To see the recipe go here.

Posted by Dianne at 8:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 17, 2008

Double Layer Peppermint Chip Bark

Double Layer Peppermint Chip Bark: Setting Up

What are the holidays without a little peppermint? This combo not only gives you peppermint, it also gives you white chocolate and milk chocolate! What's not to like about that? So if you have a mint lover on your list and they like their mint paired with a little chocolate, look no further...This one is for you!

To find out how to make the bark go here.

Posted by Dianne at 9:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 16, 2008

White Chocolate and Blueberry Fudge

White Chocolate Blueberry Fudge

This was one of my creations last Christmas and I have to say I still think it's one of my all time favorites! This fudge wows them with surprise! You've got white chocolate, you've got blueberries...It's just perfect for someone that might not be a full fledged chocolate lover, but likes things a little fruity!

To find out how to make the fudge go here.

Posted by Dianne at 8:03 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 15, 2008

Gingerbread Ornaments or Cookies

Pissy Gingerbread Boy and Christmas Tree

You can go two ways with these little gems...You can make them edible cookies to share OR you can paint them and turn them into gingerbread ornaments! This gingerbread is one of the best I've ever tasted, but if you just want to make ornaments either way they'll definitely make an impression! These are just perfect if you have someone on your list that requires a bit of whimsy!

To find out how to make them go here.

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December 12, 2008

Brown Sugar Cashew Brittle

Brown Sugar Peanut Cashew Brittle

I love cashews! When I make brittle nine times out of ten I usually use cashews over any other nut. This combo of the cashews and brown sugar is just fabulous! If you have a nut lover on your list then this is the recipe for you!

To see the recipe go here.

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December 11, 2008

Rocky Road Bark

Rocky Road Bark

This "bark" is a little different twist on the classic Rocky Road. It's perfect for an ice cream lover and is sure to satisfy a chocolate and/or marshmallow lover as well! The flavors meld so perfectly and it's a wonderful thing to share with others!

To find out how to make the bark go here.

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December 10, 2008

Marshmallows

Easter Marshmallows

Who doesn't love a good marshmallow? There are so many kinds you can make...How about chocolate? Or Pumpkin or even just plain? These are perfect to eat just by themselves or as always you can throw them into a big cup of hot chocolate too!

For chocolate marshmallows go here. Pumpkin more your thing? Take this link. If you want just a basic marshmallow then this is the one for you!

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December 9, 2008

Sausage Balls

Vegetarian "Sausage" Balls

So you've done sweet and then you've done a little more sweet, what about baking up something a little savory? You can go two ways with these sausage balls...You can make a vegetarian version or you can make one with actual sausage, but either way they are extremely delicious and sometimes it's nice to have a little break from all the sweets this time of year!

To make the vegetarian version go here and to make the sausage version go here.

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December 8, 2008

Turtle Cake

Turtle Cake

Last week we took a look at gift jars...This week we're going to take a look at treats you actually make in their entirety!

Turtle cake has always been a favorite in my family around the holidays...I mean what's not to like? Chocolate, nuts, caramel...Yum! This one is bound to become one of your favorites too, especially if you like chocolate turtles! It's extremely easy to make, but it's definitely a wower! It's just perfect with a bit glass of milk, or if you want to go into chocolate overload how about pairing it with a big cup of hot chocolate? Trust me...Santa would love this one! ;oP

To find out how to make the Turtle Cake go here.

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December 5, 2008

Bean and Pea Soup Gift Jar

Bean  and Pea Soup

This gift jar is just perfect for the traditionalist on your list! You end up with a healthy, hearty soup that really warms the heart. Another perfect soup for a cold winter day!

Find out how to put together the Bean and Pea Soup gift jar and what you'll need to make the actual soup here.

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December 4, 2008

Hot Chocolate Gift Jar

Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate is another thing that automatically makes you think of the holidays and cold winter days! This is also a good gift for the chocolate lover on your list. It would be perfect with cookies or brownies, or even just a treat in and of itself. Why not leave out a cup for Santa...I'm sure he'd like it too! ;oP

Find out how to put together the Hot Chocolate gift jar and what you'll need to make the actual cocoa here.

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December 3, 2008

Three Bean Chili Gift Jar

Three Bean Chili Gift Jar

Chili is the perfect cold weather treat, so what better way to celebrate the holidays than with a Three Bean Chili gift jar! Just imagine a big pot of chili with some cheddar, scallions and sour cream along with some hot corn bread on a cold winter day when it's snowing outside. This is just perfect for someone that likes a little spice!

Find out how to put together the Three Bean Chili gift jar and what you'll need to make the actual chili here.

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December 2, 2008

Chocolate Chip Brownies Gift Jar

Chocolate Chip Brownies Gift Jar

Have a chocolate lover on your list? Everyone seems to know one of those (pick me! pick me! ;oP), but sometimes just plain chocolate can be a bit boring. This gift jar is just perfect for those chocolate lovers and far from boring! It's also a quick and easy gift, and always with a bit of wow that shows people you really cared enough to give them something from the heart. After all isn't that what the holidays are for? ;oP

Find out how to put together the Chocolate Chip Brownies gift jar and what you'll need to make the actual brownies here.

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December 1, 2008

Veggie Soup Gift Jar

Veggie Soup Gift Jar

Edible gift jars are so much fun to put together and give to others. This week we're going to take a look at some easy jars to put together that make the perfect gifts!

I don't know about you, but as I get older there isn't really anything I NEED. I can think of lots of things I WANT...New computer...New DSLR camera...Blackberry, but I don't really NEED anything! A few years ago I realized that most of the people I know are the same way too. Plus I really like the idea of giving someone something they can use and be done with without causing a landfill back up. You can either recycle the jar or even keep it and use it for something else...I love canning jars for food storage over plastic containers any day! This is the perfect way to share a little something with someone that they'll love and will really show that you cared to make something a bit out of the norm. Plus did I mention how easy this is? You can't go wrong!

Find out how to put together the Veggie Soup gift jar and what you'll need to make the actual soup here.

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July 16, 2008

Strawberry Lemonade Punch

Strawberry Lemonade Punch

Normally for a birthday party or something of that nature I make Banana Punch. Banana punch was the go to recipe when I was growing up for parties, showers, etc. But this year for Alexis' birthday party I had a bunch of lemons and strawberries on hand, and in the spirit of not buying more stuff I decided to make something different and the results were stellar! You could even make this an adult punch by adding a little rum if you liked...The possibilities are endless! ;o)

What You'll Need:
6 cups of frozen strawberries
The juice of 12-14 lemons
4 cups of organic cane sugar
Seltzer water

Strawberry Lemonade Punch: Ready For The Freezer

Place frozen berries in batches of about a cup into a blender and blend until completely chopped. A few larger pieces here and there are not a big deal. Pour into a very large bowl. (Note: It would be MUCH easier in a food processor than a blender, but sadly I still haven't replaced my processor that died horribly. If you have a food processor then by all means use it instead! It will make the process MUCH easier and if you're using a food processor you don't even have to freeze the strawberries!)

Stir in lemon juice and sugar and let sit until sugar dissolves. Place into small airtight containers and freeze until solid.

Strawberry Lemonade Punch: Ready For The Freezer

Thirty minutes before you want to serve pull out one or two of the frozen containers and let thaw a bit. Place the still slightly frozen mixture into a punch bowl and cover with seltzer water and then serve.

Notes: You could do this with blueberries or peaches or pineapple or any other type of fruit that you like!

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July 4, 2008

Patriotic Pie

Patriotic Pie

It's the Fourth of July! And what better way to celebrate than having a dessert that is red, white and blue! This strawberry, blueberry pie with meringue is just the ticket! It's a simple pie to make and it turns out fabulous every time! What's better than that?

Patriotic Pie: A Bite

As a child we always spent the 4th out at the lake. There would be burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, homemade ice cream, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, lots of swimming, fishing, some boating and at the end of the evening fireworks! I was thinking about that yesterday. It was a lot of fun...Sometimes you just get nostalgic...All of that to say I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday! I know we will be despite the less than stellar weather! ;o)

Anyway, what does that have to do with pie? Nothing! Let's get to the recipe shall we?

Patriotic Pie: A Slice

What You'll Need For The Crust:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 1/2 sticks of very cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup of ice water

~OR~

1 store bought single crust

Note: If you are using the store bought crust, make sure it's thawed if it's frozen, but still chilled and proceed to the filling step. If you are making your own see below.

In a bowl stir together flour and salt to mix. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is pebbly. Add water and stir until ball forms. (Note: Depending on the humidity you may need more or less water. Add water slowly and when the ball forms stop. If you need more than a cup don't sweat it.) On a floured surface roll the dough out into a circle. Press into a pie dish, crimping the edges and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to chill.

Patriotic Pie: Ready for Meringue

What You'll Need For The Pie Filling:
3-4 cups of whole strawberries
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1/4 cup of water
1 cup of whole blueberries
1/3 cup of corn starch

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large pot cook strawberries, sugar and water, stirring gently so as not to squash the strawberries until strawberries are just tender and syrup has formed. Add blueberries and corn starch and stir to mix. Remove from heat when the mixture thickens (about 2 minutes).

Pour strawberry/blueberry mixture into your pie shell and bake for 20-30 minutes until pie crust edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

What You'll Need For The Meringue:
4 egg whites
1/3 cup of sugar

Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

In the bowl of a mixer whip egg whites and sugar on high until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue over the top of the pie and bake for 2-3 minutes until meringue is brown. Let pie cool for 30 minutes an serve.

Patriotic Pie

Notes: Meringue not your thing? Whipped cream will work fine too. You could also use another combination of fruit if you liked.

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June 28, 2008

It's Time For A Birthday Party, So Let's Have A Tinkerbelle Cake!

Tinkerbell Cake

So it's not perfect, but here it is! This year Alexis decided that she wanted to have a Tinkerbell birthday party. OK, that sounded good to me, so my mind immediately started thinking. I knew I wanted to do a topsy turvy cake, but I didn't want to make it too topsy turvy because I was worried about it slipping into a cake disaster.

I also knew that ultimately I wanted the top layer to be flat, because my initial plan was to put a Tinkerbell snow globe on top of the cake, but I failed to check the dimensions of the snow globe we purchased and let's just say it was as big as Alexis' head and leave it at that! So obviously without out some serious support that wasn't happening so we went to plan B and we ended up with multiple Tinkerbells, because you know just one is not enough! ;o)

Tinkerbell Cake: Cakes Minus One

So first of all I baked the cakes. I doubled this recipe to make 5 layers and then had to make 1/4 of the recipe to make the last layer after the first five were baked since I only had one pan in the size of the middle layer. So once the first cakes baked, I whipped up 1/4 of the recipe and baked another layer. The layers cooled and then I put them in airtight containers and left them overnight.

Tinkerbell Cake: Ready For Crumb Coat

Yesterday afternoon I began construction. As you can see above I cemented the layers together with icing. Then we proceeded from there with a crumb coat, since this was a crumby cake that was necessary.

Tinkerbell Cake: Ready For Piping and Finishing

Once the crumb coat was on, and the regular layer of icing was added I let it sit for an hour or so while we had dinner and then came back and added the green borders.

Tinkerbell Cake: Tinks In A Row

Who needs just one Tinkerbell when you can have a bazillion instead?

And now the cake is under cover awaiting this afternoon when it can be pulled out and devoured!

Tinkerbell Cake: Resting For The Party

And after all isn't that what a party is all about? I can tell you how I see the icing isn't smooth enough and this didn't turn out well enough and that could have been better, but in the end it's about eating the cake and all about how a certain little girl feels and as long as she likes it then the rest just doesn't matter.

Happy Saturday everyone! I'm off to blow up balloons and make a Tinkerbell fairy wonderland!

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April 4, 2008

The Perfect Sugar Cookie

The Perfect Sugar Cookie

Sugar cookies are the quintessential kid snack. They're fun to make, they're fun to decorate and they're fun to eat...That is if they aren't hard as a rock and taste like cardboard! We've all had that sugar cookie that looks perfect, but then you bite into it and you break a tooth because you could hammer a nail with that sucker! This recipe ends up anything but a hard, projectile like lump of flour and sugar! Time and time again this cookie turns out sweet and tender and that is exactly what a sugar cookie should be!

On a side note I haven't lost track of time. The afternoon before Easter Alexis and I set out to make some cookies for the Easter Bunny. As you can see the shapes are springy and Easter themed I just haven't gotten around to posting them until now. These sugar cookies are perfect for any season though, I mean who doesn't like sugar cookies (other than Jamison of course! ;oP) Next week I've got a recipe coming up that uses that left over Easter ham, which again I made a while back, but I've got a ton of recipes in the back log so stay tuned!

The Perfect Sugar Cookie: Sprinkled and Ready to Go

What You'll Need:
1 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of organic cane sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt

Cream butter until it turns pale yellow. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry mixture to butter mixture and mix until dough forms. Chill dough for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

The Perfect Sugar Cookie: Cookie Cutters

Roll out dough 1/8" thick on a well floured surface. Use cookie cutters and cut out cookies.

The Perfect Sugar Cookie: Cut Out

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet (I always do this on a sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet.) Bake for 5-8 minutes until edges are golden. Cool on a rack.

The Perfect Sugar Cookie: Alexis Adds Sprinkles

Notes: You can ice these cookies with royal icing, use sprinkles or decorate them any way you see fit. You could also add in a few tablespoons of lemon juice and/or zest to make a lemon sugar cookies. The possibilities are endless.

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March 17, 2008

Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes

Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes

Jamison suggested making something to take to work to celebrate St. Patrick's Day so I decided to make a basic cupcake and then kick it up a bit and give them a slightly Irish twist. The result were these Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes and let me tell you, if you like Irish Cream then these are the cupcakes for you!

Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes

What You'll Need for the Cupcakes:
3 cups of cake flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/3 cup of safflower oil (Note: Any clear vegetable oil will work, I just prefer safflower oil.)
4 eggs
1 cup of light sour cream (Note: Any type of sour cream will work...light, fat free, regular.)
1/2 cup of Caramel Irish Cream

Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes

What You'll Need for the Icing: (Note: This is a basic variation of Wilton's buttercream icing.)

2 cups of trans-fat free shortening (Note: I used Spectrum. If you want you can use half butter and half shortening, but the icing will not be as firm and you will need to store the cake in the fridge once you're done. I also don't really like the butter flavor that the butter brings to the icing. Don't get me wrong, I love butter, I am just not a big fan of it in icing. I'll eat it if there is no other choice because after all we're talking icing here, but I prefer not to, plus the butter makes the icing harder to work with in terms of being too soft at times and this may cause your decorations to not hold up, especially in warmer weather.)
1-2 teaspoons almond flavoring (Note: This is optional as some don't like almond flavoring, but it really brings something to the icing!)
1-2 teaspoons of vanilla
7-8 cups of powdered sugar (Note: If you want to sift it you can, but it isn't necessary, although Wilton recommends doing just that. I however skip that step and the icing always turns out great.)
Water

Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes

To Make the Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Stir flour, salt, baking powder and sugar until throughly mixed. Add vanilla, safflower oil, eggs, sour cream and Irish Cream to the flour mixture and stir until there are no lumps. Pour batter into a muffin pan that has been lined with cupcake liners. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cupcakes stick clean with a toothpick. (Note: The cupcakes should not be overly brown and they should be pale. If you overcook them they will be slightly tough. I actually let this batch go about 2 minutes longer than I should have so keep an eye on them!)

Let cool completely and then decorate with icing.

Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes

To Make the Icing:

Cream together shortening, almond and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar slowly one cup at a time and let it incorporate into the shortening mixture. If the icing seems too thick add a little water to thin it out a bit. (Note: Wilton suggests milk, but again I don't like the flavor it brings and it kind of weirds me out to have milk in something sitting out at room temperature.) Mix until completely smooth and then use to ice your cake or cupcakes in this case. (Note: See how to color the icing before decorating in the next paragraph.)

If you want to color the icing add a few drops of food coloring and mix until well blended. If the color isn't to your liking then add a few more and so on and so forth until you get the color you want. (Note: Remember that once the color is in you aren't taking it back out. Also remember that it is very hard to perfectly match a color if you have to remix more icing so it's better to mix a bit more than you might need than not enough if you want an exact color match. Also Wilton claims that half of the recipe I made will ice one cake. I'm not sure what size cake they think that is going to ice, but it's not happening! The batch I made above just covered the 19 cupcakes I decorated, the three generously iced cupcakes Alexis did, with about 1/4 of a cup of icing left over. But then again I'm all about the icing, so maybe it's just me.)

This recipe makes roughly 22 cupcakes. I decorated 19 and I let Alexis decorate 3 in the same time it took me to do mine. She had a ball! As you can see she is quite talented:

Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes: Alexis Decorating

Caramel Irish Cream Cupcakes: Alexis Style

She's an icing girl like her Mom! ;o) I think I have a future cake decorator on my hands!

P.S. Last year we had a big celebration on Saint Patrick's Day. If you'd like to see some of my adapted Irish recipes then hop on over to my Saint Patrick's Day Flickr Set from last year's feast! I hope you have a very Irish, very green day! ;o)

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February 14, 2008

For My Valentine (And His Co-workers Too!): Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

For Valentine's Day Jamison had one request..."Make me some chocolate!" Last year I made him these chocolates, but I wanted to do something a little different this year. I started thinking about it and decided that it would be nice to combine his love for peanut butter with chocolate once again and the idea for Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles was born!

Overall I was very pleased with how this recipe turned out. The peanut butter and chocolate of course complimented each other perfect and the undertone of vanilla gave it just the right touch. I shaped a few of them as hearts as you can see above, but any way you make them they are divine! If you have a truffle lover in your life (in my case me) and a chocolate/peanut butter lover (again here that would be Jamison) this is the recipe for you!

What You'll Need:
1 pint of heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and scraped
3 - 11.5 ounce packages of milk chocolate chips (Note: I used Ghirardelli.)
6 tablespoons of dried peanut butter powder (Note: I found a product called PB2 and heard raves about it so I decided to try it. The product is made from roasted peanuts that have had the oils removed. 2 tablespoons of the powder reliquefied with water makes the equivalent of roughly 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. It has 75% less fat than regular peanut butter, which given this recipe is a moot point, but it's just perfect for truffles because it doesn't really change the consistency of the chocolate! Also this stuff is awesome in and of itself! I highly recommend this product if you like peanut butter and want a lighter option that doesn't taste weird! It makes a mean peanut butter sandwich too!)
Chopped peanuts (optional)
~or~
1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of cocoa mixed, for rolling (optional)

Put the chocolate chips in a large glass bowl and set aside.

Place the heavy cream in a medium sized sauce pan. Cut a vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds into the heavy cream. Put the cut bean into the heavy cream as well and bring to a quick boil. Remove the vanilla bean and pour heated heavy cream over chocolate chips and stir until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is creamy. Stir in the peanut butter powder and mix until completely incorporated. Sit the bowl aside at room temperature and let the chocolate mixture become firm, yet still scoopable. You want to consistency of ice cream at this point. This can take several hours.

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles: First Scoop

Once the chocolate mixture has set up scoop out round balls with a tablespoon or a melon baller. Don't worry when you scoop them out they won't necessarily but round at this point. You'll make them more round in the next step. (See above.) Put on a baking pan that has been lined with waxed paper or a silicone baking sheet. Let them sit for about 30 minutes.

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles: With Chopped Peanuts

At the end of thirty minutes roll the ball briefly between your palms to ensure a mostly round truffle. You aren't looking for a perfect sphere, just a general round shape. If desired roll in chopped peanuts or a powdered sugar/cocoa mixture. Store in the fridge or in a cool dark place.

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles: With Powdered Sugar and Cocoa

Notes: You could roll the truffles in something else if you liked, such as coconut, or even leaven them unadorned.

Dianne's Dishes February Contest: Kids in the Kitchen!

P.S. Don't forget Dianne's Dishes February Contest: Kids In The Kitchen for your chance to win one Pampered Chef "My Safe Cutter" along with one Pampered Chef "Kid's Apron and Chef's Hat Set"! Just leave a comment on this thread with a valid e-mail address (and don't worry, no one will see your e-mail address but me!) before 5:00 PM EST, today Thursday, February 14, 2008. I'll print out the participants and my little sous chef will pull a name out of the hat. I'll e-mail that person for their address and announce the winner tomorrow Friday, February 15, 2008! Anyone anywhere on our little planet earth is eligible to enter so what are you waiting for?

Good luck! It's your last chance to enter! Oh and tell your friends! ;o)

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December 21, 2007

Peppermint Brownies

Peppermint Brownies

Chocolate and peppermint go so well together and what could be better than Peppermint Brownies? With peppermint in the batter itself and peppermint chips throughout these brownies are just the right mix of chocolate and mint. They are the perfect compliment for a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Wouldn't Santa love that? ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 1/2 cups of cocoa
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of peppermint extract
4 eggs
2 sticks of butter, melted
1 - 10 ounce package of Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Whisk or sift together flour through baking powder. Add eggs, butter, peppermint and vanilla and mix until batter is fudgy. Add peppermint chips and stir until completely incorporated. Spread into a 13 X 9 inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray or greased with butter. Bake for 25-30 minutes until brownies are done, but still fudgy. Cool and cut into squares. (Note: I'm still using the toaster oven. They are finally supposed to come out and fix the oven on 12/28 so I divided the dough into two 8 X 8 inch dishes and baked them separately. Hopefully when I come back on 1/2/2008 the oven issues will be over and done! ;o))

Peppermint Brownies

Notes: If you wanted you could add in nuts, but the peppermint really is enough on its own.

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December 20, 2007

Double Layer Peppermint Chip Bark

Double Layer Peppermint Chip Bark

This recipe (and tomorrow's too!) is for the peppermint/chocolate lover on your list. This take on the classic peppermint bark takes it to a whole new level! The best part of this is that it's done completely in the microwave making it simple, yet delicious! Try it and see.

What You'll Need:
2 - 11.5 ounce bags of milk chocolate chips (Note: I used Ghirardelli as always.)
2 - 11 ounce bags of white chocolate chips (Note: Again I like Ghirardelli.)
1 - 10 ounce bag of Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips

In a large bowl melt the milk chocolate chips at 1 minute intervals until smooth. Spread melted chocolate out onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking sheet or wax paper and let cool until hardened (30 minutes to an hour).

Double Layer Peppermint Chip Bark: Chocolate Layer

Once the milk chocolate is hardened melt the white chocolate chips at 1 minute intervals until smooth.

Double Layer Peppermint Chip Bark: White Chocolate Layer

Spread out over the milk chocolate on the cookie sheet and sprinkle the top of the spread out chocolates with Andes Peppermint Crunch chips and let the chocolate harden and then break into pieces.

Double Layer Peppermint Chip Bark: Setting Up

Notes: No notes for this one. It's pretty straight forward. ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 7:20 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 19, 2007

White Chocolate and Blueberry Fudge

White Chocolate Blueberry Fudge

When you think fudge you automatically think rich and chocolatety, but it doesn't have to be that way. Recently we took a jaunt down Peanut Butter Fudge Lane and that made me start thinking about fudge in general. That little journey made me wonder how White Chocolate Fudge would turn out and then I went a step further and thought that some dried blueberries would make the white chocolate taste all the better!

This take on fudge is different, but different doesn't necessarily mean bad. The white chocolate and blueberries meld together and provide a wonderful compliment for each other. If you've got a white chocolate lover and/or fruit lover on your Christmas list this year, then this fudge is the fudge for you!

What You'll Need:
3 cups of organic cane sugar
1 1/2 sticks of butter
2/3 cups of evaporated milk
12 ounces of white chocolate chips (Note: I recommend Ghirardelli.)
1 7.5 ounce jar of marshmallow cream (Note: Look for one with no high fructose corn syrup.)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
2 cups of dried blueberries (Note: If you've never seen these before they are like raisins only made from blueberries instead of grapes.)

Melt butter, sugar and evaporated milk until smooth. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat stirring almost constantly. You want to reach soft ball stage (235 F) and you can gauge this by using a candy thermometer to determine temperature. This process takes roughly 3-5 minutes depending on your stove top. Keep an eye on the mixture. Given you are using white chocolate you don't want the mixture to brown at all. Also anything that is cooked with sugar over heat can scorch quickly so make sure you watch and stir!

Remove pan from heat and stir in marshmallow cream until smooth. (Note: To make the marshmallow cream come out of the jar easier pop it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and it should slide right out.) Next add white chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Add vanilla and blueberries and stir to mix. Pour white chocolate/blueberry mixture into a 13 X 9 inch pan that has been buttered liberally and spread out to the corners of the dish using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. Let cool to room temperature and cut into small squares.

This fudge can be stored in the fridge or even freezer if you want until you are ready to use it, but that isn't necessary. It will last about a week at room temperature.

White Chocolate Blueberry Fudge

Notes: You could add in other dried berries to change it up a bit. Dried cherries or Goji berries would work wonderfully.

Posted by Dianne at 7:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 18, 2007

Gingerbread Ornaments or Cookies

Pissy Gingerbread Boy and Christmas Tree

What's Christmas without a little gingerbread? Gingerbread houses, gingerbread cookies and even just plain old gingerbread! All of those things make you think of a wonderful holiday season! You can make this recipe as cookies or you can paint the gingerbread after it cools and make lasting ornaments. Whichever path you choose, you'll have fun none the less! (We choose the painted path for the ones pictured here.) And the best part is whether you make cookies or you make ornaments this makes the perfect gift!

What You'll Need:
1 cup packed natural brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark molasses
2/3 cup cold water
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Gingerbread Reindeer

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In large bowl cream brown sugar, butter and molasses until smooth. Add water and mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients and stir until well incorporated.

Gingerbread Star

Sprinkle some flour onto the surface you're working on and roll dough out to between 1/4-1/8th of an inch. Cut with the cookie cutters of your choice. If you are going to use the cookies for ornaments remember to make a hole for the string or ribbon to tie them onto your tree. You can do this by using a straw to make a hole at the top of each cookie.

Bake for 9-10 minutes and cool completely on the pan.

Gingerbread Snowman

Decorate with icing, candy, sprinkles, raisins or other embellishments if you're going to cookie route. Whatever you like works. Just let out your inner cookie creator! ;o)

If you're making ornaments paint them with craft or acrylic paints and let dry completely. Once the paint is dry you can "seal" the ornaments by painting or spraying on a coat of polyurethane if you want them to last for many years. If you want to make "Pissy" Gingerbread boys and girls use a fluted cutter to cut a "bite" out of the side of their heads or even their foot if you want, because after all wouldn't you be a little pissy too if someone did that to you? ;o)

Pissy Gingerbread Boy and Girl

Notes: This really is the best gingerbread I've ever tasted. I'm not a huge fan of molasses by itself, but in this recipe it really brings out the flavors of the other elements.

Posted by Dianne at 9:02 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 17, 2007

Brown Sugar Peanut Cashew Brittle

Brown Sugar Peanut Cashew Brittle

Sometimes it's nice to combine a little sweet and salty. Brittle does just that! This take on the classic peanut brittle utilizes brown sugar and even a little maple syrup to add a taste sensation with just the right amount of sweet and salty. Most traditional brittles are made with only white sugar, but the brown sugar gives it a depth of flavor that is very nice. If you've got a hard candy or brittle lover on your list, then this recipe is the one for you!

What You'll Need:
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of natural brown sugar
1 cup of corn syrup (Note: Light or dark works fine. Just make sure it doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup.)
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 cup of water
1 pinch of sea salt
1 cup of raw peanuts
1 cup of raw cashews
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 teaspoons of baking soda

In a very large stock pot melt sugars with corn syrup and maple syrup in water. Add salt once sugar is melted and cook to hard crack stage (Note: There is some debate out there as to where hard crack stage lies. Some say around 290 F and others say closer to 300-301 F. My candy thermometer falls in the latter category so I cooked this to around 301 F.) When the sugar mixture reaches around 245 F then add the nuts and continue to cook, stirring frequently until you reach hard crack stage. (Note: If you don't stir this you'll end up with a scorched mess. Keep a close eye on the mixture!)

Once mixture reaches hard crack stage remove from heat and immediately add butter stirring to melt. When the butter is almost completely melted add the baking soda and stir quickly. Spread mixture out onto two cookie sheets that are covered with silicone baking sheets or buttered using a spatula or wooden spoon until thinly spread. Let cool and harden and break into pieces.

Brown Sugar Peanut Cashew Brittle

Notes: You can use any type of nut that you want. You can use one nut or a mixture. It's completely up to you. I've done this with peanuts and cashews in the past, but almonds, macadamia nuts, etc. would work just as well.

Posted by Dianne at 12:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 14, 2007

Rocky Road Bark

Rocky Road Bark

Chocolate barks make the perfect gift! You can dress them up however you like and this version is a take on Rocky Road ice cream, which I must admit I'm not a big fan of, but I do like this bark! The almonds are crunchy and the marshmallows give it just the right amount of gooey. This is another recipe that is sure to please most chocolate lovers and after all don't we all know one or two of those? ;o)

What You'll Need:
2 - 11.5 ounce packages of milk chocolate chips (Note: I usually use Ghirardelli chips.)
1 - 11 ounce package of white chocolate chips (Note: Again I usually use Ghirardelli chips for the white chocolate too.)
2 tablespoons of butter
At least 1 cup of whole raw almonds
At least 1 cup of miniature marshmallows

Rocky Road Bark: Chocolate Chips for Melting

Melt chocolate in a double boiler until smooth. (Note: If you want to temper the chocolate there are excellent instructions here. I will admit I have a love/hate relationship with tempering...Sometimes I can get it to work, other times not so much. I was watching the Barefoot Contessa the other day and Ina said she couldn't be bothered to take the time to do it and it made me love her all the more! To get around the issue she said she just makes it the day she wants to serve whatever she is making and it takes care of the problem.)

Once the chocolate is melted remove from the heat and stir in two tablespoons of butter until melted. Spread the mixture out onto a cookie sheet that is lined with wax paper or a silicone baking sheet.

Rocky Road Bark: Chocolate Ready for Topping

Next add marshmallows and almonds to the top of the spread out chocolate and gently push them into the mixture. (Note: My little sous chef (AKA Alexis) had a lot of fun with that step! ;))

Rocky Road Bark: Adding the Almonds and Marshmallows

Let the bark set up until it's hard and break or cut into smaller pieces. (Note: I like to use a pizza cutter and cut it into squares when it hardens and is sort of at a fudge like consistency, but isn't completely hard yet.) Store in an airtight container.

Rocky Road Bark

Notes: You can really add anything into chocolate bark that you like as I mentioned above. You can even make a white chocolate bark. Dried cherries, raisins and cocoa nibs make a good combination as do cashews and coconut. If you can think it it can be done! ;o)

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December 13, 2007

Chocolate Marshmallows

Chocolate Marshmallow

Marshmallows...What's not to love? Add in some chocolate and you've got chocolate marshmallowy heaven! These chocolate marshmallows are the perfect gift all by themselves, but why not couple them with a jar of Hot Chocolate Mix and you've got one happy chocolate lover!

What You'll Need:
6 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin
1 cup of water
2 cups of dark corn syrup
2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons of chocolate extract
6 tablespoons of cocoa
Butter to coat your dish
Cocoa to dust your dish

Dissolve gelatin in a cup of water in the bowl of your mixer.

In a very large pot melt sugar, corn syrup and water and the bring to a slow boil. You want to bring the mixture up between soft ball and firm ball (240 F to 248 F), but not actually to firm ball stage. (Note: You want somewhere in the 245 F to 246 F.) Once the mixture has come up to temperature pour the chocolate mixture into the gelatin and beat on high for 10-12 minutes until thick and fluffy.

Chocolate Marshmallow: Soft Ball Stage

While the mixture is heating butter and dust a dish with cocoa.

Chocolate Marshmallow: Dish With Cocoa

Pour marshmallow mixture into the coated dish and let set until completely cool. Once marshmallows set up dust your fingers with cocoa, dip a knife into very hot water and cut into squares. (Note: The cocoa makes it easier to handle the marshmallows as the sides can be a bit sticky.) Store in an airtight container in a single layer.

And as I mentioned above they're perfect in a steaming cup of hot chocolate!

Chocolate Marshmallow in Hot Chocolate

Notes: No notes for this one. The chocolate speaks for itself! ;o)

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December 12, 2007

Sausage Balls

Sausage Balls

Who says a home baked gift has to be sweet? Why not cheesey and savory instead? These sausage balls are just that gift! If you've got a vegetarian on your list this year, you can even make a vegetarian version that is simply wonderful. This is an easy, quick recipe and after all this time of year what's better than just that?

What You'll Need:
1 - 16 ounce package of regular sausage (Note: This would probably work with other types of sausage. You could use Italian or Sage or whatever, but I think they are best with just the your basic breakfast sausage.)
1 - 8 ounce bar of cheddar, shredded
1 - 4 ounce bar of Fontina, shredded
2 cups of baking mix (Note: I like Bob's Red Mill products. I've used Bob's Buttermilk Biscuit Mix in the past and had intended to use that for this go round, but the store I went to didn't carry the mix. I ended up using Bob's Red Mill Wheat Free Biscuit and Baking Mix instead.)

Preheat oven to 350 F. (And yes I'm still using my toaster oven! ;o) But I normally bake these in a conventional oven.)

In the bowl of your mixer mix together the sausage and the cheese until incorporated. Add in baking mix and mix until dough forms. (Note: Depending on the fat content of your sausage and cheese the mix may be crumbly, but that's ok. You're going to form balls with the mixture so it will come together in the end. Don't panic if it looks dry, especially if you decide to go the vegetarian route.)

Sausage Balls Ready to Bake

Form roughly 1 tablespoon of the sausage mixture into a round ball and place on a baking sheet. Repeat that step until dough is gone. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until done through and slightly browned on top.

Sausage Ball

Notes: You could add in 1/3 cup of chives to the mix for an added taste sensation. You can also just use one type of cheese, or mix that up. It's all a matter of personal preference. This is another one of those recipes you can freeze for later too, so you can get a head start if want! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 9:22 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 11, 2007

Turtle Cake

Turtle Cake

Turtle cake makes the perfect gift for the chocolate lover on your list. It's chocolately while having a a caramel surprise in the middle and even a bit more chocolate to go along with that caramel! This cake is ooey gooey and oh so good. It's the perfect compliment to a big glass of milk!

(Note: The recipe is written for a 13 X 9 baking dish, but once again I'm still using the toaster oven. The stove person still hasn't fixed the issue! (Yes I'm more than ticked about that, but that's another story all together.) Anyway...I baked this in two 8 X 8 inch dishes instead.)

What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of cocoa
2 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
2 cups of unsalted peanuts, chopped (Note: Measure out 2 cups of peanuts and then chop them.)
2 sticks of butter, melted and cooled for a few minutes
4 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1 - 11 ounce bags of caramel bits
1 - 11.5 ounce bag of milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix together flour through sugar until incorporated. (Note: You can sift this together if you want, but it's just as easy to put it in a big bowl and mix it well with a whisk or a spoon.) Stir in peanuts until completely incorporated into the dry mixture. Add eggs, butter and vanilla and mix until dough forms. (Note: Sometimes it's easier to just get in there with your hands and mix it by hand.)

Divide the dough in half with one half slightly larger than the other. Take the smaller of the two dough balls and press it into a 13 X 9 inch dish that has been greased or sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven leaving the oven on.

Turtle Cake: 1st Layer

While the crust is baking melt the caramel in a pan over medium heat with heavy cream or in the microwave and set aside.

Once the crust is baked sprinkle the top of the baked crust with chocolate chips.

Turtle Cake: Second Layer

Pour caramel mixture over the chocolate chips and if necessary spread it out to the edges. (Note: Normally it does the spreading by itself.)

Turtle Cake: 3rd Layer

Take remaining dough and press to cover the chocolate chips and caramel mixture.

Turtle Cake: 4th Layer

Put the cake back into the oven and bake for 20 minutes to finish off the cake.

Turtle Cake Baked

Let the cake cool completely and then slice in to squares.

Notes: You can use any type of nut you want and I normally use pecans, but my sous chef (aka Alexis) wanted to use peanuts today so we went with peanuts. The cake is very gooey, so if storing in layers it's best to put down a layer of wax paper or aluminum foil between each layer.

Posted by Dianne at 8:19 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 10, 2007

Banana Carrot Bread

Banana Carrot Bread

Most everyone liked freshly baked breads and that makes them the perfect holiday gift! Bread doesn't have to be your standard white bread either. You can do all sorts of things with various fruits, veggies and grains! Throw in some nuts and you've got a wonderful loaf that makes a gift that bread lovers will love to receive.

This recipe is wonderful in that it makes two loaves, so you have two to share, or one for yourself and one to share. You can even make muffins instead of loaves and have a few dozen muffins to share! This is also one of those breads that freezes beautifully so you can make it now and share it later or pull it out for a special holiday breakfast. No matter what you do if you like bananas and carrots, or know someone that does, then this is the bread for you!

What You'll Need:
5 bananas, mashed
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1/2 cup of natural brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups of flour (Note: You can use whatever type of flour you want. All purpose, white whole wheat, whole wheat, etc.)
2 cups of carrots, shredded
2 cups of pecans, chopped (Note: Measure two cups of pecans and then chop them)
1 cup of raisins

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl mashed bananas. Add sugars, eggs and vanilla and mix until creamed. Stir in sea salt, baking powder and baking soda until just mixed. Next add flour and mix until just incorporated. Stir in carrots, nuts and raisins and pour batter into two loaf pans that have been greased or sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour until bread sticks clean.

Banana Carrot Bread

Notes: If you want you can add in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg to the mix. You could also "frost" the loaves with cream cheese icing for a more cake like gift. The texture of this bread is amazing. It's moist and the bits of fruit and nuts add just the right touch.

Posted by Dianne at 12:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 7, 2007

Bean and Pea Soup Gift Jar

Bean  and Pea Soup

Bean Soup is a basic, healthy, yet oddly satisfying soup that is just perfect on a cold winter day! Who says comfort food has to be bad for you? This soup is all about whole, real goodness and it makes a perfect gift! How wonderful is that? The soup is what you make of it, but it's always a big hit!

(Note: I forgot to soak the beans last night so I don't have a finished product picture right now. I'll make the soup Sunday afternoon and add some pictures to the entry then.)

What You'll Need for the Bean Soup Jar:
1 quart jar
6 types of beans, lentils and/or peas (Note: I used navy white beans, black kabuli chick peas, petite crimson lentils, scarlet runner beans, yellow split peas and black beluga lentils.)

You want to layer the beans,lentils and/or peas you choose so that no two of the same color are next to each other. The jar above has 1/2 cup of navy white beans, 1/2 cup of black chick peas, 1 cup of petite crimson lentils, 1/2 cup scarlet runner beans, 1/2 cup of yellow split peas and the rest of the jar is filled with black beluga lentils. Dress up the jar however you like, but be sure to include the directions for the soup (see below).

What You'll Need to Make the Soup:
1 Bean and Pea Soup Gift Jar (see above)
Extra virgin olive oil
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Broth or water

Dump contents of the Bean and Pea Soup gift jar into a large bowl and cover with water. Let sit overnight. (Note: If you choose only lentils and split pea varieties you can skip this step as they don't need to soak overnight. They can soak, it won't hurt them, but it isn't necessary.)

In a large stockpot sauté celery and onion with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper until just tender.

Drain beans and peas and rinse. Add to the stockpot with the tender celery and onions. Cover beans and peas until just covered with water or broth. (Note: Most of the time I use water. The beans and peas have enough flavor to more than make the soup, but if you want you can use chicken or vegetable broth instead.) Cook for 2-3 hours until beans are tender. Serve warm.

Notes: You could also add in other veggies to the soup such as leeks of carrots. I even add in mushrooms from time to time. It's completely a matter of personal taste.

Update: 12/09/07: 2:29 PM: Now with a picture of the finished product!

Bean and Pea Soup

This soup is warm, hearty and oh so creamy. Who knew healthy could taste so good? I also ended up utilizing my Crock Pot for this soup. All you have to do is dump in the ingredients and cook for 4-5 hours on high and you're good to go!

Posted by Dianne at 9:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 6, 2007

Hot Chocolate Gift Jar

Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate immediately brings to mind snow, warmth and the holidays! What better present to give than a jar of chocolatey goodness? Throw in some cookies and you could even leave out a cup for Santa! He'd really love that! ;o)

Hot Chocolate Gift Jar

What You'll Need for the Jar:
1 quart jar
1 cup of powdered milk
1 cup of powdered cocoa
1 cup of powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of vanilla powder (Note: If you've never used vanilla powder before you use it just as you would the liquid equivalent. Take the link to get more info. You'll have to scroll down until you reach the product.)
4 tablespoons of organic cane sugar

Mix ingredients in a food processor or sift together and stir until completely mixed. Dress up the jar however you like, but be sure to include instructions on how to make the hot chocolate (see below).

To Make the Hot Chocolate:
Add boiling water to 2 or 3 heaping spoonfuls of hot chocolate mix to taste. Top with marshmallows or whipped cream or even just drink it straight up! For an adult kick add in some rum or Irish cream.

Posted by Dianne at 7:53 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 5, 2007

Three Bean Chili Gift Jar

Three Bean Chili

After a little something sweet, what better than to spice things up a bit with the gift of Three Bean Chili! This version is very basic, but basic doesn't have to be a bad thing. This is the perfect meal on a snowy day and it just so happens today is just that! ;o)

Three Bean Chili Gift Jar

What You'll Need for the Jar:
1 quart jar
3-4 tablespoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoon of onion and/or garlic powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 cup of three different types of beans (Note: I used pinto. scarlet runner and navy white beans.)

In the bottom of the jar mix spices and then layer beans on top. Dress up the jar any way you like, with fabric, ribbons and bows, but remember to include the directions for the chili (see below).

What You'll Need to Make the Chilii:
1 Three Bean Chili Gift Jar (see above)
Olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 pint of grape tomatoes, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic minced
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 - 10 ounce can of Rotel
1 potato, peeled and cubed

Scoop beans out of the jar and leave the spices behind. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak over night.

In a large stock pot sauté onion, tomatoes and garlic until onions are tender and tomatoes start to get soft.

Three Bean Chili: Veggies

Add seasonings from the jar and stir to mix.

Three Bean Chili: Veggies and Spices

Next add tomato sauce, Rotel, beans and 1 1/2 jars of water. Stir to mix and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 hours at least. The longer the better. Chili only gets better with time! 20-30 minutes before serving add the potato and cook until tender.

Three Bean Chili

Notes: The potato is a thing my dad does to chili. I think he got it from my grandmother. I don't do it every time I make a pot of chili, but it adds a nice little surprise that most people don't expect so I do it from time to time. You could also add in a cup or two of corn in place of the potato if you wanted. Depending on what type of canned tomato sauce you use you my need to add more salt. Taste the concoction as you go and modify the spices to your liking.

Posted by Dianne at 9:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 4, 2007

Chocolate Chip Brownies Gift Jar

Chocolate Chip Brownies

What's better for a gift than something gooey and chocolatey? That's exactly what you get with Chocolate Chip Brownies! If you have a chocolate lover on your gift list, this is the gift for you. It's simple to put together and even simple to bake! That's very important when you're giving a gift. I'm sending them with Jamison to work tomorrow to share. After all isn't that the fun part?

Chocolate Chip Brownies Gift Jar

What You'll Need for the Gift Jar:
1 quart jar
3/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups of organic cane sugar
1 cup of milk chocolate chips

Mix flour, salt and baking powder and add to the jar. Next add the cocoa powder. After that add the sugar. On top put the chocolate chips.

Dress up the jar however you like...Ribbons, fabric, etc. and be sure to include the directions for how to make the brownies (see below).

Chocolate Chip Brownies

What You'll Need to Make the Brownies:
1 stick of butter melted
1 Chocolate Chip Brownies Gift Jar (See above)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 F. (Note: My oven is still out of commission so these were baked in my good old toaster oven! ;o))

In a large bowl melt butter in the microwave and set aside.

Scoop chocolate chips out of the jar and dump the rest of the ingredients into the bowl with the butter, along with the eggs and the vanilla. Stir mixture until completely incorporated and then stir in chocolate chips until just mixed. Pour brownie mixture into an 8 X 8 inch baking dish that has been greased or sprayed with non-stick spray.

Bake brownies for 25-20 minutes or until fudgy. Remove pan from the oven and let cool. Cut the brownies into squares. (Note: The brownies are very rich so you might want to cut them smaller, rather than larger.) Store in an airtight container.

Notes: I was going to make these Peppermint Chocolate Chip Brownies, but I realized I was out of peppermint extract when I got ready to bake the brownies. If you want to make them peppermint omit the vanilla and add 1 tablespoon of peppermint extract instead.

Posted by Dianne at 1:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 3, 2007

Veggie Soup Gift Jar

Veggie Soup Gift Jar

Tis the season to give gifts, but in reality most of us have plenty of stuff, so why not give a gift that can be enjoyed and then be gone! ;o) This soup mix is a basic vegetable soup that is warm and hearty. It also comes together quickly and cooks up fast as well! What's not to like about that?

What You'll Need for the Jar:
1 quart jar
1 cup of Just Veggies or freeze dried vegetable mix
1 cup of Just Peas or freeze dried peas
1 cup of Just Corn or freeze dried
4-6 tablespoons of Vogue Cuisine Instant Vege Base Soup and Seasoning or vegetable bullion powder

Layer ingredients as listed above into a quart canning jar. Put the lid on the jar and you can dress up the jar any way you want. A nice piece of material on the lid and a ribbon to dress up the jar make a nice addition. You also want to include the directions to make the soup (see below) so that the person you give it to will know how to make the soup.

Veggie Soup

What You'll Need to Make The Soup:
Extra virgin oil
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 leek, chopped
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 Veggie Soup Gift Jar (See above)
3 jars of water

In a large stock pot sauté carrot, onion, celery and leek with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper until onions are tender. Add contents of the Veggie Soup Gift jar and 3 jars full of water. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 35-45 minutes and then serve.

Veggie Soup

Notes: You can add any type of veggies that you like. You could also use veggie broth instead of water. The vegetable bullion powder I use does not have a lot of sodium in it. If you use one that does omit the salt.

Posted by Dianne at 4:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Brining a Turkey 101

Brining a Turkey 101

Years ago I discovered the process of brining a turkey and I was immediately hooked! A brined turkey makes a luscious, juicy bird when cooked and once you go down that path you just don't want to go back! Strangely I've ever tried this with a chicken, though it's supposed to work just as well.

Anyway, up until this year I've always used a big bucket. The only problem with this method is that you're basically taking up half your fridge with a big bucket for 12 to 24 hours and that can be a long time to tie up the fridge when you're trying to prepare for Thanksgiving. A few weeks ago I came across the notion of a brining bag from the Pioneer Woman Cooks and decided to try that method instead.

I thought briefly for a moment today I might have to go back to the bucket method. I ordered brining bags from Williams Sonoma several weeks ago, but they were back ordered. I received an email earlier this week saying they had shipped and would be here in time for Thanksgiving, BUT the UPS man came and went this morning with no bags and it turns out though WS claims they were shipped via 2-day shipping to arrive in time, UPS claims that they haven't received them yet!

So what's a girl to do?

I finally found some very large sealable bags at the store and I am using one of them instead. So whether you use a bucket or a bag, I highly recommend brining a turkey!

What You'll Need:
1 bucket or very large brining bag
1 turkey (Our turkey this year is 22 pounds)
2 cups of sea salt
Water
Sage
Bay leaves
Black peppercorns
Rosemary
Citrus (Note: Lemons, limes, oranges and/or grapefruit, etc. all work fine.)

In the bucket or large brining bag dissolve 2 cups of salt in some water. Add turkey. Add fresh herbs, citrus of your choice and peppercorns.

If you are using a bucket cover the turkey with water. Place in the fridge. Let brine 12-24 hours. Remove from brining solution and discard. Cook turkey as you normally would.

Brining a Turkey 101

If you are using a bag then add enough water to cover the bottom half of the turkey. Seal bag and place in the fridge. Every hour or so go in and turn the turkey and swish the brining solution around so that the entire turkey gets a turn in the brining solution. Remove turkey from the brining solution and discard. Cook turkey as you normally would.

Notes: My version of brining involves cold brining in that I never heat the brining solution. I've seen it done both ways, but I prefer cold brining. Any herb or seasoning you want to toss into the mix will work. Sea salt works better for this solution over table salt. If you're using table salt cut back to 1/2-3/4 a cup as it's a different consistency than sea salt.

Posted by Dianne at 4:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thanksgiving Dessert Yummy: Jamison's Chocolate Pie

Jamison's Chocolate Pie

In Jamison's family each holiday each person gets their own favorite pie. We've carried that tradition over and Jamison's pie of choice is your basic chocolate pie. I came up with this version and few years ago. It is rich, creamy and oh so delicious. If it weren't for the Pumpkin Cheesecake I might just have to make two! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1-9-inch pie shell, pre-baked
1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 cups of evaporated milk
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoon of butter

Pre-bake a pie shell and sit aside. You can use either a store bought crust or make your own. It's completely up to you. I used a store bought version today.

Sift or whisk together flour through salt into a large sauce pan. Slowly add milk and eggs yolks and whisk until smooth. Turn stove one and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture is thick. Remove thickened chocolate mixture from heat and stir vanilla and butter until butter melts and mixture looks glossy. Pour chocolate mixture into your prepared pie shell. Refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings to serve.

Notes: There are no notes for this one, but you knew that already! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 3:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Dessert Yummy: Pumpkin Pie Fudge

Pumpkin Pie Fudge This is a recipe from one of my mom's dear friends Wanda, who we affectionately call "Aunt Wanda". This fudge is creamy, delicious and very pumpkin pie like, but not. (That makes a whole lot of sense now doesn't it? ;o)) This is yet another way to utilize pumpkin and I'm all about the pumpkin! It is Thanksgiving after all! ;o)

(Note: My laptop is in the shop so I'm using Jamison's instead. He doesn't have the same photo software and such that I do so I made due with what he had and because of that the pictures may look a bit different than normal. I'm hoping to have my computer back later this week. Dare I even hope for today? ;o))

What You'll Need for the Fudge:
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2/3 cups of evaporated milk
1/2 cup of pumpkin (Note: Canned or fresh cooked and mashed works fine)
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tsp of salt
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
12 ounces of white chocolate, chopped fine (Note: I use Ghirardelli White Chocolate Baking Bars, but white chocolate chips will work fine.)
2 cups of miniature marshmallows (Note: Look for marshmallows that aren't made with high fructose corn syrup.)
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Place sugar, evaporated milk, pumpkin, butter, salt and pumpkin pie spice in the saucepan. Bring to a low boil. Boil for 12 minutes stirring here and there to ensure that the mixture doesn't burn or stick.

Pumpkin Pie Fudge Boiling

Remove from heat and stir in white chocolate and marshmallows until melted.

Pumpkin Pie Fudge White Chocolate and Marshmallows

Add vanilla and stir to mix.

Pumpkin Pie Fudge Melted

Pour into a 13 X 9 inch pan that has been greased with butter. Chill until set.

Pumpkin Pie Fudge Setting in the Fridge

Cut into small squares to serve. Store covered in the fridge.

Notes: The original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of nuts as an optional addition, which you could easy add. The recipe also called for vanilla baking chips, which I had never heard of or seen. White chocolate works and is delicious to boot, so I don't think I'd change that, though you could.

Posted by Dianne at 9:27 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Dessert Yummy: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This week let's delve into some Thanksgiving dessert yummies! They are a bit harder to freeze so I make them the week of Thanksgiving! On Wednesday I'm going to go all out and post a dessert recipe and my version of brining a turkey! How's that for crazy???!?!? ;o)

Up first Pumpkin Cheesecake!

Within my circle of friends and family I'm somewhat known for my cheesecakes. I've got a ton of different scrumptious variations and people ask for them often! Key Lime, Chocolate, Peppermint, Caramel Irish Cream, Turtle, Peanut Butter, Regular, among many others and one of my favorites is my Pumpkin Cheesecake! Every Thanksgiving I whip one of these gems up and I look forward to it all year! It's a different twist on the standard pumpkin pie, but it will draw raves! Try is and see.

What You'll Need for the Crust:
2 1/2 cups of gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup of sugar
1 stick of butter, melted

Measure 2 1/2 cups of ginger snap cookies and then process them in the food processor until smooth. (Note: If you don't have a food processor then place them in a plastic bag and have fun smashing them! ;o)) Process in sugar and melted butter until a crumbly mixture forms. Press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch spring form pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to the very edges of the pan, without covering the opening. Set aside.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Gingersnap Crust

What You'll Need for the Filling:
3 - 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened (Note: You can use regular, light or even fat free cream cheese.)
1 - 15 ounce can of mashed pumpkin or 1 and 3/4 cups of freshly mashed pumpkin
1 cup of ricotta cheese (Note: You can use the whole milk, part skim or fat free version.)
1 cup of natural brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 F. (Note: This is very important when baking a cheesecake! The oven must be preheated! Do NOT skip this step!!)

Put a pot or kettle on to boil with enough water to cover 1/2-3/4 of the cheesecake pan with water.

Cream together cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, ricotta and eggs until well blended. Mix in pumpkin pie spice and flour until just blended. Pour into prepared crust.

Pumpkin Cheesecake "Help"

Place cheesecake pan into a baking dish. Pour hot water into the dish or pan being careful not to get any water on or in the cake itself. The water depth should be at least 1/2 the way up the side of the spring form pan, but no more than 3/4ths of the way up the side.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ready to Bake

Bake for 1 hour. Turn oven off and open oven door to the broil position and let the cake sit unmoved for 1 more hour.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Resting

After the cheesecake sits for 1 hour carefully remove from the oven and take out of its water bath. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Notes: The water bath helps the cheesecake top to not split as much. If you're making this on a cold day (like today for example), you might have trouble getting the cream cheese to cream completely smooth. Don't worry about this as it will not affect the taste of the cheesecake. You can also use graham cracker crumbs instead of gingersnaps, though I think the gingersnaps give it that extra omph. If you want you can decorate the top of the cheesecake with seasonal shaped cookies (such as leaves, acorns, pumpkins, etc.) and I recommend serving it with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.

Posted by Dianne at 1:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Corn Casserole

Corn Casserole

This is another adaptation of an old family favorite. I don't remember when it was added to the holiday menu, but after it was it was such a hit that it came back on Thanksgiving and Christmas every year after that! This dish has a consistency similar to corn pudding. It's warm, creamy, delicious and oh so comforting! After all holiday meals should be just that! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 – 10 ounce package of frozen corn
1 cup of fat free half and half
2 cups of cornmeal
½ cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
¼ cup of organic cane sugar
1 cup of light mayonnaise (Note: I like Hellmann’s Light)
1 cup of light sour cream
2 eggs
1 – 16 ounce package of frozen corn
8 ounces of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bring the 10 ounce package of frozen corn and half and half to a quick boil. Remove from heat and process in the food processor until slightly smooth. (Basically you’re making creamed corn. By bringing it to a boil you’re just knocking the chill out of the corn to make it easier to process.) Set aside.

While corn is heating, in a very large bowl mix cornmeal through sea salt until mixed thoroughly. Add mayonnaise, sour cream and eggs and stir well. Stir in creamed corn mixture and the 16 ounce bag of frozen corn. Stir ingredients until mixture is completely mixed. Pour mixture into a 13 X 9 inch dish OR a three quart baking dish that has been greased or sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 45-55 minutes until done through. Top with shredded cheddar and bake for another 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted.

Let sit for 10 minutes and serve OR the casserole can be frozen for up to six weeks and thawed and reheat for 20-25 minutes at 350 F until warmed through.

Corn Casserole

Notes: As I mentioned before this is a recipe I adapted from one of my Mom’s holiday favorites. The recipe she uses calls for canned corn, creamed corn and Jiffy cornbread mix. I simply brought together the same components, without using the more processed equivalents. The result is spot on in taste and with a lot less preservatives. It’s a win, win situation all around. ;o)

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November 15, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Maple Pumpkin Bread

Maple Pumpkin Bread

Oh my what a day, what a DAY! I don't think I've made an entry this late in the day (or night as the case may be! ;o)) since I started Dianne's Dishes, but that's neither here nor there. Let's get on to the Thanksgiving recipe instead, shall we? ;o)

Even on Thanksgiving you've simply got to eat breakfast! Why not go with a pumpkin theme? Mmmmm Pumpkin! Maple Pumpkin Bread is just the thing to get the day started off on a holiday note. This bread is simple, quick and delicious! The best part is that you can make it ahead of time and simply enjoy a leisurely breakfast before all the joy and thankfulness! ;o)

What You'll Need:
3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour OR white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice mix
1 1/4 cup of natural brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup of maple syrup
2 eggs
1 cup of buttermilk
1 - 15 ounce can of pumpkin (Note: NOT pumpkin pie mix!)
1 1/2 cups of chopped walnuts
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (Also know as pepitas)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl mix flour through pumpkin pie spice mix, along with 1 cup of brown sugar and stir to mix. Add maple syrup through pumpkin and stir to mix thoroughly. Stir in nuts and pumpkin seeds until incorporated. Pour batter into 2 greased or sprayed loaf pans. Sprinkle the batter with 1/4 cup of brown sugar spread evenly between the two loaves.

Maple Pumpkin Bread Ready for the Oven

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool to the touch before removing the loaves from the pans. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Maple Pumpkin Bread

Notes: You could easily make this batter as muffins. They would most likely bake for 12-15 minutes or until they stick done. You could also add in a cup of raisins or use another type of nut. 2 cups of chopped apple would be a nice addition as well. You can serve it right out of the oven OR you can freeze it for up to six weeks and thaw before using. You can even top a slice with a little peanut butter...It sounds weird, but it's great so what are you waiting for? ;o)

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November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes...Another quintessential dish synonymous with most Thanksgiving and/or Christmas celebrations and much like any other holiday favorite there are countless ways that people make them. Most families have their own favorites and I go back and forth between two versions myself, but none the less Sweet Potatoes help start the holiday season no matter how you like them.

What You'll Need:
6-8 sweet potatoes, cut in half lengthwise (Note: Here in America yams and sweet potatoes are often synonymous, though they are really two different things. Either will work for this dish, but I recommend real sweet potatoes if you can find them.)
1/4 cup of natural brown sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg (Note: I usually use freshly ground nutmeg, but if you're using it out of the bottle go with the measurement given here. If you're grinding it fresh give 4-6 passes over the grater.)
Marshmallows or pecans to top (Optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place sweet potatoes cut side down on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Bake for 30-35 minutes until potatoes stick done with a fork. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Once potatoes have cooled squish or scrape cooked flesh from the skins into a large bowl. Mix with brown sugar, honey and spices until well mixed. Pour mixture into a dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray or buttered. Top with marshmallows or pecans if desired. If you wanted to just go "crazy" you could do both! ;o) If you don't want either they are equally as good plain.

Once the potatoes are topped (or not) you can either bake them immediately in a 350 F oven for 20-25 minutes until heated through OR you can place them in the freezer for up to six weeks. If you choose the freezer method thaw before cooking and reheat the same way.

Sweet Potatoes

Notes: Sweet potatoes are sweet in and of themselves so you need little to no sugar. Just add enough to give a brown sugar flavor, but not enough to make them sickly sweet. You could use maple syrup instead of honey if you prefer as well. This year I decided to add marshmallows to the top. Last year I went with pecans. I usually go with pecans in fact, but I was in a marshmallowly mood this year. If you go the marshmallow route read the label of the marshmallows and make sure they aren't made with high fructose corn syrup. You could even make your own marshmallows if you wanted, minus the sprinkles of course! ;o)

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November 13, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread Dressing

Cornbread dressing (or stuffing...I guess it depends on whether you stuff it into the bird or not! ;o)) is more traditionally a Southern recipe I would say, but regardless it's an essential holiday side dish! The version below is very similar to my Mom's traditional dish, though I've omitted the butter and use the healthier extra virgin olive oil instead. Some people add in meat, some add in other veggies, or you can add whatever you like. It's all up to you, but regardless of how you do it, the end result is delicious!

What You'll Need for the Cornbread:
2 cups of corn meal
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 eggs
2 cups of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs and buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Pour into a 8 x 12 inch dish (or 13 x 9 inch dish if you want) sprayed with non-stick spray and spread out evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

What You'll Need for the Dressing:
One batch of cornbread (See recipe above)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1 bunch of celery, chopped
A pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2-3 heaping tablespoons of sage or poultry seasoning
1 quart of broth (Note: Vegetable, chicken or turkey broth will work fine.)
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Crumble the cornbread into a large bowl and set aside.

Sauté onion and celery until tender and slightly caramelized. Add to cornbread. Add seasonings, broth and eggs. Mix thoroughly and pour mixture into a 13 X 9 inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown.

Serve immediately or freeze for up to six weeks. If frozen thaw and then reheat for 20-25 minutes covered with foil until warm through. If needed add a bit more broth to moisten.

Notes: You can add in 1-1 1/2 cups of shredded carrots, sliced mushrooms or even corn if you like. Some people like to add ground beef or sausage, but I've never tried that. You could even add in oysters or clams if you like. For a more un-Southern version you can use toasted French or white bread instead of cornbread.

Posted by Dianne at 1:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2007

Thanksgiving Yummy: Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

OK, I'll be completely honest here and tell you I detest cranberries. I don't like them dried, I don't like the fresh, I don't like them frozen, I don't like them baked into things, I just plain out do not like them, though I've tried them many ways! My sister however adores them and since I in turn adore her I tolerate them on Thanksgiving and Christmas and whip up a batch of homemade cranberry sauce because my inner chef can't stand the thought of the glop out of the can! ;o)

Originally I saw something similar to this a few years ago on FoodTV, but I don't recall which of their chefs was making it, though I do remember their variation had tarragon in it and I remember thinking "Tarragon and cranberries? Seriously?!!?!" So I took their basic idea and very soon I had deviated from it rather quickly. Surprisingly this isn't half bad and even I, Ms. Cranberries Suck Monumentally, will even eat a bite or two, though it is by no means my favorite Thanksgiving treat and I'll go for sweet potatoes or something pumpkin related over this 9.9 times out of 10, but if I have to eat a cranberry this is how I'd eat one! My sister says it's even good frozen right out of the freezer, but I, and you in turn, will have to take her word for that, though she's an honest girl so I'm sure she knows exactly of which she speaks! ;o)

Anyway now that I'm through picking on my sister...So all you cranberry lovers out there this one is for you. Cranberry Sauce is one of those quintessential dishes that automatically makes you think of Thanksgiving! This version is quick, easy and delicious...If you like cranberries that is, which I mentioned I don't! ;o)

What You'll Need:
3 pints (or roughly 6 cups) of fresh cranberries
The zest of two oranges
The juice of two oranges (Note: This is normally roughly 3/4 to 1 cup of orange juice. It doesn't have to be perfect. The recipe is very versatile.)
1 cup of organic cane sugar

Cranberry Sauce Cooking

Dump ingredients into a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes until cranberries pop (and yes sometimes you can even hear them do just that!) and begin to break down. The mixture will also turn very jelly like.

Chill and serve OR you can freeze the mixture for up to 6 weeks. Take from the freezer and thaw before serving OR if you're like my sister you can just eat it frozen! (She knows that by the way because I send the leftovers home with her and she freezes them! ;o))

Notes: If you end up with oranges that don't have much juice in them, just make up for it by using any unsweetened orange juice out of the fridge. Any type of orange will work. Just get whatever is convenient for you.

Posted by Dianne at 2:20 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 23, 2007

Fun Halloween Recipes

Check out these fun Halloween recipes! What's not to like? <:o)

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October 11, 2007

Let's Celebrate!

It's My Birthday!

Last week I was having one of the conversations you have with yourself in your head and I thought "Self you need to get the Dorie Greenspan cookbook you've been wanting and while you're at it throw in some mini tart pans too!" Low and behold when my birthday present from my best friend Darlene arrived she had psychic mind melded me and got me just that! What can I say...She knows me so well!! Now I'll have to dream up all sorts of new recipes to go in those little tart pans! ;o)

I also got lots of lovely cards and some good old fashioned cash. What's not to like? I think I have almost enough to get that iPod touch I've been wanting! Jamison, Alexis and I will actually celebrate the day on Saturday when we go on a little adventure. The Birthday Fairy might surprise me a few more times between now and then. Overall I've been very blessed, but that's how things normally go. I can't complain.

As I've said before I believe in celebrating the day instead of mourning it and it's another year and there are so many things to do and see! There are adventures to be had, experiences to enjoy, sensations to savor! Goodbye 33, hello 34! It's time to celebrate!

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September 24, 2007

A Birthday Party: Beef Stroganoff and Chocolate Cake with Almond Buttercream Icing

Katherine's Birthday Cake

Saturday was my sister's birthday and I'm a big believer in celebrating a birthday! Some people as they get older don't want to celebrate their life anymore and choose to mourn the day instead, but I think birthdays should be embraced and reveled in. Life is a grand adventure and birthdays simply remind us of our many adventures along the way!

I invited Katherine, Ben and Nelson over for dinner to celebrate. The tradition at our house growing up was that you got to pick what we had for dinner on your birthday and you got to pick your cake. Katherine chose Beef Stroganoff and chocolate cake with almond buttercream icing. Katherine also wanted a salad, some sort of veggie and some yeast rolls, so I made a big spinach salad with a choice of homemade ranch or blue cheese dressing, some roasted asparagus and a batch of Parker House rolls. We broke out the good china and had a grand old time!

Birthday Table

Over all everything came together well. The rolls could have risen a bit longer, but I got side tracked. The Beef Stroganoff was a play on the one my mom used to make as a child, that I adapted into Mushroom Stroganoff over the years. This go around though I skipped the onion soup mix and used all fresh ingredients and instead of ground beef I took a pot roast and sliced it across the grain into somewhat bite sized chunks. The result was wonderful! I highly recommend this if you like this sort of dish!

Beef Stroganoff

What You'll Need For the Beef Stroganoff:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of flour
2 1/2 pounds of beef tips or other type of beef cut into chunks
1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 cup of sour cream
1 package of egg noodles cooked according to package directions

In a large pot or skillet (and I mean LARGE!) sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic until tender with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Once the veggies are tender add two tablespoons of flour and cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add beef and cook for about 15 minutes until it's mostly brown stirring occasionally so it won't stick. (Note: A little red here and there is not a problem as you'll be cooking the dish a while more.) Add tomato sauce and cook for 35-40 minutes to allow the beef to become tender. Add sour cream and cook for 2 minutes or until heated through. Serve over egg noodles.

Notes: In a pinch you could use onion soup mix. Just omit the onion and garlic. You could also use garlic powder or salt if you're out of fresh garlic. Having made it both ways I highly recommend the fresh onion and garlic. Both variations are good, but the fresh version definitely was the best! You can also substitute more mushrooms for the beef to make the vegetarian equivalent.

After dinner we dug into the cake!


Katherine's Birthday Cake

Cake: The Inside

The basket weave wasn't as neat as I would have liked, but the icing was having issues on Saturday so we went with what came out. It turned out ok in the end and it tasted delicious, so that's all you can ask for. :o)

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September 13, 2007

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

One of the best things about getting pumpkins is being able to make roasted pumpkin seeds! There are so many ways to roast them...With herbs...With honey...Or even just with a little sea salt! No matter how you roast them you've got a fun and easy snack. These are one of Alexis' favorite go to snacks...Mine too! ;o)

What You'll Need:
Pumpkin seeds, rinsed and cleaned
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Rinse the pumpkin seeds in water and drain. Make sure the seeds are cleaned and the pumpkin "string" are gone. Spread the seeds onto a large cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 15-20 minutes until seeds are browned. Let cool and store in an air tight container.

Notes: Roasted pumpkin seeds are good as a yogurt or ice cream topping. They are also good in granola. Some people use oil to roast them, but I don't think it's necessary. I think they taste better without the oil.

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August 31, 2007

Chocolate Fudge

Chocolate Fudge

Yesterday where Jamison works they had a pot luck for one of his coworkers to celebrate his retirement so I decided to whip up a batch of fudge to send. It's a decadent treat, but what better for a celebration or holiday! And luckily Jamison took it out of the house because this stuff could be seriously additive! As Cookie Monster nows says it's most definitely a "sometimes food"! ;o)

What You'll Need:
3 cups of organic cane sugar
1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened (Note: If it's soft to begin with it melts faster.)
2/3 cups of evaporated milk
12 ounces of chocolate of your choice (Note: I used two 4 ounce 100% unsweetened Ghirardelli baking bars and one 4 ounce milk chocolate Ghirardelli baking bar.)
1 jar of marshmallow cream (Note: Look for one with no high fructose corn syrup.)
2 teaspoons of vanilla

Melt butter, sugar and evaporated milk until smooth. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat stirring constantly. Bring to soft ball stage (235 F) using a candy thermometer to gauge temperature. Once the boiling begins it will take roughly 3-5 minutes to bring it up to soft ball stage. I can not stress enough STIR CONSTANTLY!! It is very easy to scorch something with sugar in it if you aren't paying complete attention.

Remove pan from heat and stir in marshmallow cream and chocolate until melted and smooth. (Note: To make the marshmallow cream come out of the jar easier pop it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and it should slide right out). Pour mixture into a 13 X 9 inch pan that has been buttered. Let cool to room temperature and cut into small squares.

Fudge can be stored in the fridge or even freezer until ready to use, but it isn't necessary. It will last about a week at room temperature.

Notes: You could add a cup of nuts and/or Goji berries for a nice change of pace. Pumpkin seeds would also be good. The size of the squares are completely up to you, but in my opinion the smaller the better. It's very rich! ;o)

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July 7, 2007

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Jamison loves yellow cake with chocolate frosting and as today is his birthday Alexis and I made him a cake for a surprise when he got home from work last night . This is the ultimate comfort food. Cake, chocolate...What's not to like?

What You'll Need For The Cake:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup of sour cream
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt butter in the microwave in a large bowl. Dump the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and mix well, but not too much or the cake will be tough. Pour into a 13 X 9 inch baking dish or two round or square cake pans for a layer cake that have been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake sticks clean when poked with a toothpick. Let cool completely and then cover with frosting.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

What You'll Need For The Frosting:
4 sticks butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter in a large mixing bowl. Add cream, salt and vanilla to the creamed butter until mixed well. Add cocoa to butter mixture and mix on low speed until completely mixed. Slowly add sugar until completely incorporated and frosting forms. Spread over cooled cake.

Notes: You could always add in mini chocolate chips into the frosting for an extra treat. Or if you wanted to do a German Chocolate type deal you could add chopped pecans and coconut into the frosting and top a chocolate cake.

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July 4, 2007

4th of July Food Fun: Red, White and Blue "Shortcake"

Red, White and Blue "Shortcake"

I use the term "shortcake" here loosely at best, thus the quotes. The topping is constructed more like Baklava, though in truth I've never had, nor made Baklava. This is also my first time using phyllo dough. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but it was a bit of a learning curve! I will be using it again in the future. I have a lot of yummy ideas as to what can be done with phyllo so look for it again in the future! ;o) Regardless this fun little dessert, is delicious and is fun in the 4th of July holiday sense. Try it and see!

What You'll Need:
1 package of phyllo dough, thawed
2 sticks of butter, melted
1 cup of organic cane sugar
1 large star cookie cutter or 1 large star shape cut from aluminum foil and a very sharp knife
1 package of strawberries, sliced
1 package of blueberries
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
Whipped cream

For The Star "Shortcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Lay one layer of phyllo dough flat on a big piece of aluminum foil. Brush entire surface with melted butter and then sprinkle surface with sugar. Add another layer of phyllo dough and place it over the first layer, brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat these steps until you run out of butter and sugar. (Note: Your top layer should be buttered and sugared as well. You may have some left of phyllo dough, but it can be refrozen according to the package.)

Using your cookie cutter or star shape and sharp knife cut out star shapes and place the stars on a baking sheet that has been lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper. Bake stars for 5-10 minutes or until golden browned. Keep an eye on them as they can go from a lovely golden brown to burned in about 2 seconds flat! Remove stars from the oven and let cool completely. (Note: You could easily do this the night before. Also the scraps from the stars can be cooked and eaten too. ;o))

For The Berry Mixture:

In a large bowl mix berries and sugar. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour or until syrup forms.

To Assembled the Dessert:

Layer berries onto a small dessert plate, top with a "Shortcake" Star and a dollop of freshly made whipped cream.

Notes: Again raspberries could be used as they are red too, but if you've read Dianne's Dishes for a while you know my opinion of those! ;o) You could also add a layer of Sabayon or custard on top of the berries and beneath the star, which I think I'm going to try next time. And if you'd like to make it on another occasion any summer fruit would be great! Peaches come to mind immediately. It's an easy recipe to mix up!

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June 18, 2007

Banana Punch

Banana Punch

When I was growing up this was the go to punch for baby showers, bridal showers and parties. It's simple to make and it's delicious. It always gets raves! Try it at your next party and see!

What You'll Need:
5 crushed bananas
The juice of one lemon
4 cups of organic cane sugar
1 – 46 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 – 46 oz unsweetened orange juice
1 – 46 oz unsweetened apple juice
Ginger ale

Squeeze lemon juice over the crushed bananas. Mix together everything but the ginger ale in a very, very large bowl or in batches and freeze until solid. Take out of freezer about 1 hour before needed. Pour ginger ale over mixture in a large punch bowl and mix in a large punch bowl just before serving. As you use the punch you can keep adding more ginger ale and more frozen punch. Quick, easy and delicious!

Notes: If you can't get juices in the exact sizes don't sweat it, it will still taste delicious! As long as you have some amount near the above recommendations of each juice you're fine. You can't mess this one up...it's foolproof! Also don't sweat it if you can't find unsweetened juice. Just take out some or all of the sugar depnding on how sweet you like things.

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How Sleeping Beauty and Han Solo Became a Couple...Otherwise Known As Cake Plan B

The Cake

The cake turned out nothing as I had envisioned, but they rarely do. I had to scrap the fondant plan and go with regular icing (I add in a teaspoon of almond flavoring too), because even though I thought I could figure it out, when push came to shove I didn't have enough time to actually make it work.

For the creatures I decided to use gum paste instead and quickly found out that they were too heavy. The dragon ended up staying in gum paste, but as you can see his head sort of collapsed over onto the fire he was breathing:

Fire Breathing Dragon

I thought he was cute none the less, so I kept him.

The prince and the princess were just too heavy for gum paste and started toppling over. First thing Saturday morning Jamison's mom, Alexis and I set off to Target to get a prince and princess. Alexis chose Sleeping Beauty as the princess, but they don't make a prince doll, so we made due with Han Solo...(It was either him or Captain Jack Sparrow and I decided Han looked more princely! Don't tell Princess Leia though, she might not be too happy about the match up! ;o))

Sleeping Beauty

Han Solo To The Resue!

I ended up going with the old school chocolate cupcakes (Thanks again Garrett!) I mentioned the other day for the actual cupcakes and the middle layer of the cake. (Note: There were going to be two chocolate layers, but one of them committed suicide by jumping into a sink full of dirty dishes/water. What can you do?) The top and bottom layer of the cake are yellow cake.

Up Close

Cupcakes

All in all we had a lovely party. Alexis loved her cake and that's all that mattered in the end and she ended up with a princess and "handsome prince" to play with afterwards. There was food, balloons, bling and Alexis and her friends had fun making merry. What more can you ask for?

Disasembled

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June 14, 2007

Ready For A Princess Party...Almost

Ready For A Princess Party...Almost

It's beginning to look like a princess party around here! Things are coming together quite nicely. The flowers are arranged (I decided to do them a few days early so we could enjoy them and they usually last a week or so anyway...Alexis even made her own little arrangement, which I'll post a picture of later), most everything for the party is purchased except for things we'll have to buy on Saturday (ice, etc.), the banana punch is made and in the freezer and I begin the cake adventure this evening!

I've got a few recipes in the back log that will come up sometime after the big day. Most likely I'll start posting them on Sunday and then post one a day until I get through them so stay tuned! For now I'm off to make gum paste cake creatures! ;o)

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June 11, 2007

Birthday Time!

It's hard to believe, but my little girl is turning four on the 24th of this month. Time just goes by so quickly! Most days anyway! ;o)

This weekend we are celebrating by throwing her her annual birthday bash! We normally do her party the week before her birthday so this weekend is the big day!

For Alexis' first birthday I simply ordered a cake. I was in my last semester of undergrad and had a project due that week so I didn't have time. I was true to form, very disappointed with the cake. The theme for her first birthday was a faerie theme and I ordered a cake with perhaps the most famous faerie of all in the form of Tinkerbelle. The cake itself was ok and the decoration was ok too, but it felt somewhat unbirthday like to me because I bought it and it wasn't stellar. To me birthday's should be stellar and homemade doesn't hurt either!

By the time her second birthday rolled around I was done with undergrad and I had a lot more time on my hands. The theme for her second birthday was ladybugs, so there was no question that she would get a ladybug cake!

Alexis Birthday #2 Lady Bug Cake

A bit dorky looking, but cute none the less. I made the small ladybug for her using an oven safe Pyrex bowl and we served cupcakes for the rest of the crowd.

Last year the theme was a tea party theme and I made her her own little teapot!

Alexis Birthday #3 Tea Pot Cake

I was much happier with how it turned out. I again used oven proof Pyrex bowls, but in this case I used two and put them together to make the round teapot shape. There were also cupcakes for the crowd.

This year the theme as chosen by Alexis is a princess theme. The cake this year will be a castle. I emailed Garrett over at Vanilla Garlic to ask if he had a chocolate cupcake recipe he could recommend since he is after all the cupcake expert and he graciously suggested this recipe. I baked up a test round as a sheet cake and it turned out fabulously! Alexis loved it and so did Jamison and I.

To make the castle I'm going to use layers of the chocolate cake linked above and the angel food recipe that I used last year. The cake will be covered with this marshmallow fondant recipe that I found, which I might add is to die for! The cake will have turrets, a princess, a prince, a moat, a dragon and such and who knows what else I'll dream up or Alexis will ask for between now and then! I'm also going to make a batch of cupcakes.

Needless to say this week is going to be sort of busy. If you don't see me around the blog you'll know why! ;o)

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April 8, 2007

Chocolate Easter Eggs

Chocolate Easter Egg

I got some organic chocolate and made chocolate Easter eggs and Easter bunnies for Jamison and Alexis. The bunnies both lost their ears, but the eggs turned out quite well. If you'd like to see the run down of how it's done check out this entry from Valentine's Day.

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Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

What's Easter without Deviled Eggs? Everyone has their own twist, this is mine.

What You'll Need:
12 boiled eggs, cut in half and remove yolks into the bowl of your food processor
1/4 cup of mayo
1/4 cup of sour cream
1 heaping tablespoon of yellow mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar
A pinch of sea salt
A pinch of black pepper

In the bowl of your food processor mix boiled egg yolks, mayo, sour cream, mustard, vinegar (I sometimes use white vinegar and sometimes apple cider vinegar...today I went with white), salt and black pepper and process until smooth. Place egg mixture into a large pastry bag with a large star tip affixed. Squeeze egg mixture into the boiled egg whites and chill until serving.

Notes: You can add finely chopped blue cheese into the egg mixture or even Parmesan cheese for two nice variations. You can also sprinkle the tops of each egg with paprika and/or chopped parsley if desired.

Happy Easter Everyone!

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April 7, 2007

The Perfect Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

This year I decided to make my own dye instead of buying a kit from the grocery store. Who knew it was this easy?

What You'll Need:
Eggs
Sea salt
Boiling water
White Vinegar
Food Coloring

Boil eggs by bringing your eggs to boil in a large covered pot of water with at least a tablespoon of sea salt. When the water starts a rolling boil turn off the heat and let the eggs remain in the covered pot for 10 minutes. At the end of ten minutes remove the eggs from the pot one at a time and place in a strainer carefully. (Note: When I'm not worried about the eggs cracking I just dump them into the strainer, but since these were Easter eggs, you need to be a bit more careful.) Let the eggs cool to room temperature or you can even put them in the fridge and color them later. The best way to store them is in the carton they came in. This is true after they are boiled and even after they are colored.

When you are ready to color your eggs bring a kettle full of water to a rolling boil. In large cups (I find large coffee mugs work the best...You're looking for containers that will let the egg be completely submered in the dye solution) place 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and as many drops of food coloring as you like. (Note: The more drops you put in the more vivid the colors, so if you want pastel colors stick to 5-10 drops. If you want darker then add as many drops as you like! Have fun with it!) Once the water is boiling add water to fill up each cup leaving enough room so that when you add your egg it won't overflow the top. Leave the eggs in the colored water mixture for 2-3 minutes or however long it takes to get the color you're looking for.

Here at our house we don't actually hunt the colored eggs, we actually make deviled eggs out of them and hunt plastic ones. We just do the egg coloring for fun. But no matter what you choose to do with them, this is a quick, easy and wonderful way to make the perfect Easter Egg!

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Easter Marshmallows

Easter Marshmallows

We set out for the grocery store this morning to procure items for our feast tomorrow and Peeps were on my list since tomorrow is Easter after all. When we got there however there wasn't a single Peep to be found! Never deterred I remember that the Barefoot Contessa made Coconut marshmallows the other day on her show. I decided it wouldn't be hard at all to take her recipe, tweak it, add some sugar sprinkles and make our own Easter marshmallows! This was the end result and they turned out even better than I imagined! ;o)

What You'll Need:
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup of water
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (Read the back of your bottle and make sure it does not have high fructose corn syrup in the syrup.)
1/2 cup of water
Butter to coat your dish
Powdered sugar to dust your dish
Colored sugar sprinkles

Combine the gelatin in 1/2 cup of cold water in your mixer and let sit while you complete the other steps.

In a medium sized pot mix sugar, corn syrup and water over low to medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolves raise the heat and cook until the mixture reaches 240 F. Remove from the heat and pour slowly into your gelatin mixture while the mixer is on low. Once the sugar liquid is all added turn your mixer slowly to high and beat for 10-15 minutes until the mixture is white, thick and creamy.

While the mixer is mixing coat a 13 X 9 inch pan with butter and then dust with powdered sugar. When the mixture is ready pour into prepared pan and spread out to the edge. You can wet your hands to help with the spreading if you like. Sprinkle with colored sugar crystals of your choice and let sit for 2-3 hours until firm. Cut out shapes of your choice with cookie cutters or simply slice the marshmallows into squares. Store marshmallows in an airtight container.

Easter Marshmallows

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Easter Bunny Cupcakes

Bunny Cupcake

Every year for Easter I make a bunny cake. This tradition has become even more fun now that Alexis is here and can help out. This year I decided to make bunny cupcakes after seeing the idea on the Betty Crocker website instead of a big cake. I however made cupcakes from scratch and also my own icing and tweaked their idea more than a little. The resulting creation turned out to be adorable and delicious! What more can you ask for?

Bunny Cupcakes

What You'll Need For The Cake:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup of plain yogurt or sour cream
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt butter in the microwave in a large bowl. Dump the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and mix well. Pour batter into a muffin pan that has been lined with cupcake liners. Bake for 10-15 minutes until cupcakes stick done.

Makes 20-24 cupcakes depending on how big you like your cupcakes

What You'll Need For The Icing:
(This is my variation of Wilton's classic decorating icing.)
2 cup solid vegetable shortening (Buy a variety that is trans-fat free such as Spectrum.)
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of pure almond extract
8 cups confectioners' sugar
2-4 tablespoons water (Optional)
Food coloring for tinting (Optional)

Cream together shortening, vanilla and almond. Slowly add sugar and beat until smooth. If needed add water to smooth out the icing. To tint icing add food coloring one drop at a time and mix thoroughly until desired color is reached. For this recipe remove some white icing before you tint the remaining batch so you will have it for your bunny faces.

What You'll Need For Decorations:
Chocolate chips
Licorice
Candy dots
Chocolate jimmies
Colored jimmies
Marshmallows
Sugar sprinkles
Etc.

Bunny Cupcake

After the cupcakes have cooled coat each cake with a base coat of icing in the color of your choice. Alexis wanted to do purple, and it was purple when we tinted it, but it turned blue as the icing set. After you have each cupcake covered then using a large decorating tip pipe a white area of icing to be the bunnies face. Take large marshmallows and cut into three circles with a pair of scissors. Cut each circle into half and then press into the colored sugar of your choice and affix into the white icing at the top to make ears. Use two chocolate chips for eyes, a candy dot for a nose, jimmies or licorice for whiskers and colored jimmies for the mouth. Voila! Easter bunny cupcakes!

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March 19, 2007

Dublin Lawyer

Dublin Lawyer

And last but not least of our Saint Patrick's Day feast was the Dublin Lawyer! I would guess that it is named thusly since lobster is a bit pricey and lawyers usually make good money, but I'm completely guessing on that front! It's creamy, rich and oh so delicious! A little most definitely goes a long way!

But truly the most fun part about this dish is you get the set it on fire! I've never made a dish you had to do that with before, but I've always wanted to! And on Saturday I finally got to give it a whirl! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1- 1/2 to 1 pound lobster, steamed and meat removed
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2-3/4 cup of Jameson Irish Whiskey
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of unbleached all purpose flour

Melt butter and stir in lobster meat into a skillet. Add whiskey and flame the dish:

Dublin Lawyer Flame

Yes, my friends you're going to light it on fire! (Jamison actually lit it...I think he was afraid I would blow up the kitchen! ;oP Alexis thought it was a hoot that there was a fire burning on the stove top!) Let the flame burn until the alcohol is burned off and the fire extinguishes itself. Add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Mix heavy cream with flour until smooth and pour into the skillet. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened. Serve warm.

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Vegetarian Irish Stew

Vegetarian Irish Stew

Irish Stew is a traditional dish that usually has lamb or beef in it, but I decided that a vegetarian version would be just the thing! It's thick, warm, hearty and delicious! It definitely hits the spot!

What You'll Need:
2 tablespoons of Irish butter (or regular butter)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips chopped
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 large potato, cut into chunks
1 small container of button mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 small container of baby portabella mushrooms, cut into quarters
1-2 teaspoons of dried thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 box container of vegetable broth

In a large stockpot over medium heat melt butter with some olive oil. Stir in onions, leeks and celery and cook until tender. Add the rest of the veggies and seasonings and top with some Irish whiskey and vegetable broth. Cook for at least two hours until veggies start to break down and stew thickens.

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Boxty

Boxty

Apparently there's an old Irish proverb that if you can make Boxty you'll get your man! I guess it's like the old adage here that the way to man's heart is through his stomach! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 cup of grated potato
1 cup of mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon of potato starch
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 tablespoons of melted butter
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1/2-3/4 cups of milk

Mix ingredients and form into patties. Pan fry over medium heat in butter or nonstick spray, until browned on each side. Serve warm.

Posted by Dianne at 9:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Champ

Champ

I had heard of the Camp for years, but had never made it. It's a twist on mashed potatoes, but it's oh so good!

What You'll Need:
6-8 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into circles
Irish butter (or just regular butter if you want)
Heavy cream
Sea salt
Black Pepper
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
More butter for serving

Boil potatoes in a large pot until tender. Remove from heat and drain. Mash with butter, heavy cream, sea salt and pepper.

While potatoes are cooking sauté scallions until just tender and set aside. Once potatoes are mashed, stir cooked scallions into the mashed potatoes until mixed.

To serve place a mound of Champ on your plate and make a small well in the middle to be filled with butter:

Champ

Then eat and enjoy taking a bit of butter with each bite! :o)

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Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

I've always loved Irish Soda Bread and have made it several times over the years. This recipe is adapted from The Little Irish Baking Book by Ruth Isabel Ross. It's warm, hearty and oh so good!

What You'll Need:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
6 cups of whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 quart of buttermilk

Irish Soda Bread

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix all ingredients in a very large bowl until dough forms. Divide dough and shape into two large or 4 small round loaves. Cut an X on the top of each loaf and bake for 40 minutes to an hour, until bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped.

Note: Smaller loaves will take less time. Check them 30 minutes into the baking process and keep an eye on them from there if they aren't done yet. They brown quickly, but the inside takes longer to bake.

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Beef With Guinness

Beef With Guinness

This dish was an attempt to please the meat eaters in the family, since the rest of the dishes (except for the Dublin Lawyer) were meat free. Although I can't vouch for how this actually tasted given I don't eat beef, Katherine and Ben seemed to like it added to the Vegetarian Irish Stew.

What You'll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Roughly 2 pounds of stew meat
1/2 a bottle of Guinness
2 tablespoons of flour
A little more Guinness (about 1/4-1/2 cup) to smooth the flour

In a medium pan brown meat in olive oil. Once browned pour in the first batch of Guinness. In a small bowl mix flour and more Guinness until smooth with no lumps and add to the pot. Stir to mix and simmer for at least two hours, until tender.

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March 18, 2007

Irish Apple Duff

Irish Apple Duff

This was a recipe I found 10+ years ago. I was either living in Huntsville, Alabama or Knoxville, Tennessee at the time. I had never tried it, though it sat in my recipe box all that time and I came across it from time to time when I was searching for other recipes and I would look at it fondly. When I decided to do the Saint Patrick's Day feast I decided it was time to pull it out of the box! I don't remember were it originated, but the end product was delicious, tweaks and all! ;o)

What You'll Need:
1 package of puff pastry, thawed
4 Golden Delicious apples (or apples of your choice)
Natural brown sugar
Raisins
1 egg, beaten
Organic cane sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Take both puff pastry sheets and cut them in half across the middle giving you 4 pieces of puff pastry. Core apples and place an apple in the middle of each piece of puff pastry. Push puff pastry up around the edges of the apple about halfway up each apple. Place about 2 teaspoons of brown sugar in the bottom of each apple core hole. Top with raisins leaving about 1 cm opening at the top of the core hole. Top with more brown sugar and pack tight. (It's probably about 1 tablespoon total for each apple bottom and top. It isn't much in the grand scheme of things. The apple does most of the sweetening.) Brush the outside of the puff pastry with an egg wash and dust with sugar. The pastry will slide down as it bakes, so don't be alarmed. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until apple is soft and pastry is golden brown. Serve plain or with whipped cream.

Note: If you wanted to use 2 packages of puff pastry, you could completely cover each apple in a bundle. It would take roughly one sheet to entirely enclose an apple and it would be good that way too!

I just needed a little break and thought I'd post another recipe. Back to the midterm I go! This thing is seriously kicking my butt! :o(

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Kerry Apple Cake With Caramel Irish Cream Sauce And Whipped Cream

Kerry Apple Cake With Caramel Irish Cream Sauce And Whipped Cream

Here is another one of the Irish recipes I made to try yesterday. The cake itself is an Irish recipe I found a while back (with a few tweaks as always! ;o)) and I came up with the sauce myself. The cake is good warm or cooled and it has a wonderful cinnamon kick!

What You'll Need For The Cake:
1 and 3/4 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup of organic cane sugar
4 eggs
The zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2 apples, chopped into small cubes

Kerry Apple Cake

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and lemon zest until creamy. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add flour and stir until just mixed. Stir in apples and mix until incorporated throughout the batter. Pour into a Bundt pan that has been sprayed with nonstick spray and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until cake is golden brown and sticks clean with a toothpick. Turn cake out onto a plate as soon as you bring it out of the oven. Let cool or eat warm, it's good either way!

Kerry Apple Cake

What You'll Need For The Sauce:
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of organic cane sugar
2 tablespoons of natural brown sugar
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup of Bailey's Irish Cream with a hint of caramel (or regular Bailey's is fine too!)

In a medium sauce pan add ingredients and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes and let cool before serving.

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March 17, 2007

Mini Caramel Irish Cream Cheesecakes

Caramel Irish Cream Mini Cheesecake

When I sent Jamison to get me a bottle of Irish Cream on Friday he called me with the wonderful news that there was a Bailey's Irish Cream with a hint of caramel flavor. I hadn't bought any Irish Cream in years and given I love both caramel and Irish Cream I just had to try the new Bailey's! It's delicious to drink (every good cook worth their salt knows that tasting is essential to the final product! ;o)) and it made a scrumptious cheesecake to boot!

Irish Spirits

What You'll Need For The Crust:
3/4 of a sleeve of chocolate graham crackers
1/2 a stick of butter melted
1/4 a cup of sugar

Crush graham crackers. (I use my food processor.) Stir in butter and sugar. Line a muffin pan with muffin liners (14-15) and place crust in the bottom of each liner and press firmly into place. Set aside.

What You'll Need For The Cheesecake:
2 - 8 ounce packages of light cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of Bailey's Irish Cream with a hint of caramel (or just plain Bailey's...It's completely up to you)
1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
Shaved chocolate (optional)
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cream together cream cheese, eggs, ricotta, sugar and Bailey's. Add flour and mix until just blended. Fill each muffin liner 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cheesecake are set.

Once cooled top with shaved chocolate and homemade whipped cream if desired. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 14-15 mini cheesecakes.

Posted by Dianne at 10:43 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Vegetarian Dingle Pies

Vegetarian Dingle Pie

At the beginning of this year I made a move that I had been flirting with on and off for years, I became a pescatarian. (I eat fish and seafood, eggs and dairy, but not pork, red meat or poultry because they always make me feel a bit ill). So when I see a recipe I like, I adapt it to one that is vegetarian, vegan or substitute fish. Dingle Pies normally have mutton or lamb in them, but even when I ate meat, I didn't eat baby anything, so it wouldn't have worked for me even then. So I decided to play around with it a little and this is what I came up with! They were delicious! My sister and her husband both liked them and my nephew did too!

What You'll Need For The Crust:
2 1/4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
9 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of ice water

Process flour and salt in a food processor to mix. Add butter and process until butter is crumbly. Add water and let crumbly dough form. Pour out onto a floured surface and form into a dough ball. Place in the refrigerator wrapped until filling is ready.

Note: If you don't have a food processor you can make the dough with a pastry cutter or fork. Simply mix flour and salt and then cut in butter until crumbly. Then stir in water until dough forms.

What You'll Need For The Filling:

Vegetarian Dingle Pie: The Inside

1 small potato cut into small cubes
1 carrot grated
4 large or 6 small button mushrooms chopped
1/4 of an onion, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place cut veggies in a glass microwave safe bowl and microwave for 3-6 minutes or until tender. Remove from microwave and season with sea salt and pepper.

Cut pie dough into fourths and roll out flat. Cut circles with a biscuit cutter and place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle. Top with another circle and crimp edges with a fork. Once you have used all of your dough and filling poke each pie a couple of times with a fork to vent. Brush the top of each pie with a beaten egg and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Vegetarian Dingle Pie

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March 16, 2007

Irish Feast

irelandmap.PNG
This week we decided to go to Ireland in October. I've always wanted to go (ok wanted does NOT describe my desire to go to Ireland...I'm drawn there!) and in December is our 10 year anniversary so we wanted to do something special. The other day I called Jamison and told him it was time to throw caution to the wind and get ourselves to Ireland. I expected him to disagree, but he got on board quickly! Once he was on board I emailed Darlene (who loves Ireland just as much as I do...There's a reason we're best friends you know! ;o)) and told her I couldn't imagine going to Ireland without her and she jumped on board too. With that our travel party was complete! So that got me all festive and in the mood to have a Saint Patrick's Day Irish Feast! (Though for the record I planned the feast first and the trip later, but details smetails! ;o)) So tomorrow my sister, her husband and my nephew are coming over and we're going to have a sampling. We're going to have a bit of Irish Stew, Champ, Boxty, Dingle Pies, Irish Soda Bread, Dublin Lawyer, Kerry Apple Cake, Irish Apple Duff and mini Irish Cream Cheesecakes. And as always recipes to come! ;o)

Posted by Dianne at 11:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

Chocolate Valentines

Chocolate Valentines

Jamison loves chocolate peanut butter cups, so I decided to make him some heart shaped chocolate peanut butter "cups" for Valentine's Day. Only one problem since it's supposed to snow tonight and then be followed by ice for the next two days, meaning Jamison will most likely be working from home, I knew I would need to make them today. Add to that that Alexis helped and wouldn't know how to keep a secret given she's 3 1/2, and actually tried to tell him twice on his way home when she was talking to him on the phone, we ended up having to give them to him tonight since Alexis was determined to keep trying to tell them about his chocolates. They turned out great!

What You'll Need:
7 bars of Ghiradhelli milk chocolate
3 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup of powdered sugar

Melt and temper your chocolate. Once chocolate is melted stir in 3 tablespoons of butter until melted. Coat chocolate molds with a layer of chocolate and let harden.

Mix peanut butter and powder sugar and add a dollop of peanut butter to the center of each hardened chocolate mold. Spread out and top with another layer of chocolate. Let harden and pop out of chocolate molds. Store in a dark, cool place.

Simple, easy and delicious!

Chocolate Valentines

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February 10, 2007

Vegetarian "Sausage" Balls

Vegetarian "Sausage" Balls

For the past few years when I've eaten meat (but not fish for some reason) it always has increasingly made me sick to my stomach. So in January I decided to do a little experiment and see if I could go an entire month meat (including fish) free. My experiment worked quite well and I haven't looked back! I have readded fish in the month of February, but the other stuff is gone for good!

When I made this change I was a bit hesitant. I will readily admit I LOVE bacon and sausage, though I didn't eat it very often. But the thought of never having it again was a bit, well, daunting. I've found mock "chicken" and "mock" meat that I like, but up to this point I had not found a "sausage" and still have not found a "bacon" that worked. Today I tried out a sausage substitute and adapted the old sausage ball recipe I used to use and it worked out PERFECTLY! Trust me, you'll never know the meat sausage is not there!

What You'll Need:
1 - 8 ounce bar of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded
2 cups of baking mix (I used Bob's Red Mill Buttermilk Biscuit Mix)
1 package of Gimme Lean Sausage Style
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In the bowl of your mixer dump all the ingredients and mix until crumbly. It looks crumbly, but it will readily stick together when mashed. Form into small balls using roughly 1 tablespoon of crumbles and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Note: The vegetarian sausage does have the fat content that meat sausage does so you have to add a little fat into them to get them to bind together.

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