Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chocolate Pear Tart

We had a little get together after work the other night and I brought this for a dessert. It combines yummy chocolate, almonds and sweet pears in a rich, gooey brownie like dessert. I used a tart pan without a removable bottom, but they recommend one with a removable bottom or you could use a springform pan.

Chocolate Pear Tart From Everyday Food
8 T unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 cup whole blanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
2-3 firm ripe Bartlett pears
lemon juice
2 T apple jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9" removable bottom tart pan heavily with butter; set aside.

In a food processor, combine almonds and sugar; process until very finely ground. Add butter, eggs, cocoa, vanilla, salt and almond extract, if using; process until combined. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan.

Peel, halve and core pears; cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices, rubbing them with lemon as you work to prevent discoloration (I sliced them into a bowl and tossed them in lemon juice). Arrange slices on chocolate mixture, slightly overlapping, without pressing in in a single ring around the edge of the tart.

Place pan on baking sheet; bake until top is puffed and a toothpick inserted in center of chocolate mixture comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Briefly heat jelly in the microwave or on the stove until liquefied. Gently brush pears with jelly; let set at least 20 minutes. Remove from pan and serve.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pear Zucchini Bread

Even though it is just me at home for a few months, I still enjoy baking bread for something quick and yummy to eat in the morning while I drink my coffee. I stashed some shredded zucchini in the freezer from my summer harvest and I recently purchased some pears from a high school student in the FFA. I found this recipe and since I had all the ingredients on hand, I decided I should give it a try. These loaves turned out moist and delicious! A tasty change from regular zucchini bread.

Pear Zucchini Bread From Taste of Home's Quick Cooking
2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I substituted canola oil)
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped peeled ripe pears (2-3 medium)
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts

In a large bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. In another bowl, beat eggs, oil and vanilla. Add the pears and zucchini. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in nuts. Pour into 2 greased 9 x5" loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Traditional Chex Mix

I don't know why, but I always feel like Christmas just isn't going to be the same if I don't make Chex mix. The ingredients are available all year and would be delicious anytime of year, but it always seems like this is a treat that I need to make for the holidays. I tend to use this simple recipe every year and I've used it for so long I don't even remember where it came from. It is delicious!

Traditional Chex Mix
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 1/4 tsp seasoned salt
4 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 2/3 cup corn chex
2 2/3 cup rice chex
2 2/3 cup wheat chex
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup pretzels

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In open roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Remove. Stir in seasoned salt and Worcestershire sauce. Gradually add cereals, nuts and pretzels, stirring until all pieces are evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in air tight container. Makes 9 cups.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Potato Soup

I'm cooking for one right now, for the next few months anyway. I still like to make a good meal, even just for myself. I don't go all out everyday since there are a lot more leftovers feeding just myself, but I do enjoy eating good food and making a yummy meal, even for 1. With the cold weather we've been having, I love a nice hot soup and that's what I made tonight for dinner. This potato soup recipe comes from my Simply in Season book and luckily I still have potatoes and carrots from my garden to include in this delicious soup. I love using the veggies that I grew this summer in the middle of a cold winter!

Potato Soup From Simply in Season

2 T butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 cups potatoes, diced
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, diced or shredded
1/8 to 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, dried majoram, celery salt, dill weed or paprika (I used a mix of a couple of these spices)
2 cups milk
3 T flour
1 cup diced ham, optional
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add onion. Saute until translucent. Add veggies and spices, cover and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Mix the milk and flour together until smooth. Add to soup and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add ham and cheese if desired.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Chocolate Cookies

I tried a new holiday cookie recipe this year and was pretty pleased with it. These chocolate shortbread cookies are so buttery, flaky and chocolaty. They were easy to make using the food processor and look really cute. These are definitely going to be included in my Christmas goodie boxes this year!

Christmas Chocolate Cookies From Reader's Digest
2 1/4 sticks of butter (18 T)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tsp vanilla extract
colored sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Put all cookie ingredients into food processor and mix. Or, if you prefer, cream butter and sugar in bowl; when you have a light, soft, whipped mixture, beat in 1/3 cup cocoa powder. Beat in flour with baking soda and powder. Pinch off about 1 T batter at a time (batter will be soft and sticky). Roll into ball, then slightly flatten into fat disks as you place them, well spaced, on cookie sheet; about 12 should fit.

Bake each batch 15 minutes; cookies will appear underdone but will continue to bake while cooling. Tops will be slightly cracked.

For topping, whisk cocoa powder, powdered sugar, water and vanilla extract in small saucepan over low heat until combined. Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes. When cookies are cool, drizzle with 1 T chocolate glaze, using back of spoon to help spread mixture. After you've iced 6 cookies, scatter with sprinkles before icing dries. Continue icing in batches until all cookies are topped.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

I was ambitious the other night and made the Italian Venison, mashed potatoes and corn and I even made these bars for dessert. I love desserts, but don't make them too often since I'm busy preparing the rest of dinner and hubby doesn't have a huge sweet tooth. I know I shouldn't be eating the whole pan myself!

These bars were pretty easy to put together and were very yummy. We each ate a few of them and I sent the remaining 2/3 of the pan with my husband to work. They will finish anything there! This is a great recipe if you're looking for a quick, throw together dessert for dinner or a bake sale or unexpected company.

Chocolate Oatmeal Bars From Taste of Home's Quick Cooking
2/3 cup butter softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups quick cooking oats
1 pkg (11 1/2 oz) milk chocolate chips (I used semisweet)
2/3 cup peanut butter
4 Heath candy bars, crushed (I had some toffee bits that I sprinkled on instead, about 1/2 cup)

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Add corn syrup and vanilla; beat well. Stir in oats; press into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

In a microwave or heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter; stir until blended. Spread over cooled bars. Sprinkle with crushed candy bars. Refrigerate until set before cutting.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beer Bread

I love the Tastefully Simple beer bread mixes, but I don't like the $5 or so that it costs to buy the mix. I found this recipe on recipezaar.com and it turned out great! This bread is so yummy hot out of the oven and just as tasty after it has cooled. Such an easy, quick bread to make and it would be a great addition to some piping hot chili or other great soup.

Beer Bread From recipezaar.com
3 cups all purpose flour (use a spoon to measure flour into measuring cup)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
12 oz can of beer
1/4 cup melted butter

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients together and add the beer. Stir until all the flour is mixed in. Pour the batter into a greased 8x4 loaf pan and pour the melted butter over the top. Bake for about 1 hour until the bread tests done.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Italian Beef or Venison

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We had a wonderful time in WI at my parents house. We had a great time with family and puppy dogs (since we had to bring our 3 with us last minute-thanks mom and dad for not kicking us all to the curb:)! Back to cooking and baking as soon as we got home. My husband is a big deer hunter and he worked on filling the freezer this fall with venison. I pulled out one of the roasts the other night and made this recipe with it. It was frozen solid when I put it in, but after about 2 1/2 hours it was tender and delicious. The gravy was awesome over some mashed potatoes.

Italian Beef (or Venison) Modified from Cooking for a Cure
3 to 5 pound boneless rump roast or venison roast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp fennel
1 1/8 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp anise seed
1 1/2 tsp sweet basil
1 1/2 tsp accent
1 1/8 tsp paprika
2 1/2 tsp salt
1-2 pkg brown gravy mix (I used 1 pkg and that was enough gravy with a smaller roast)

Sprinkle spices over roast and roast meat for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Add gravy mix with water and continue to cook for another 2-3 hours until tender. You can combine everything in a slow cooker and cook 6 to 8 hours. Slice and serve on buns or over mashed potatoes.