Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cookie Exchange: Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookies

The fabulous holiday food is only one reason that Christmas is my favorite special occaision- but it's a big one. The cookies are a delicious bit of the holiday spirit. This year, they are my contribution to a cookie exchange with friends. We each bring 4 dozen cookies, and we each walk away with 4 dozen (different) cookies, several recipes and some good times.

makes 4 dozen cookies
you can freeze the dough portion or the baked cookies (I love cookies I can mix the dough ahead and freeze)

2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 c oats (not instant)
1 c dried cranberries
6 ozs white chocolate, coarsely chopped (I've liked Ghiradelli)

Preheat oven to 350, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Stir flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl, set aside.

Cream butter, both sugars, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture, stir with a rubber scraper or wooden spoon until completely blended.

Fold the oats, cranberries and white chocolate into the dough until evenly distributed.

Drop dough in 3 tbsp mounds onto prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 in apart

Bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden but still a little moist. Let Cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack.

For a more decorative cookie, dip half of each cookie into melted white chocolate.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

30 minute Chicken Corn Chowder

Chicken Corn Chowder


2 tbsp butter
1 med onion, chopped
2 celery, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp flour
1 c chicken or vegetable stock
3 c milk
2 cooked chicken breast halves, chopped
1 can cream style corn
2 red potatoes, diced
1 1/2 c frozen corn
1/4 tsp thyme (or 1 tsp fresh)
about 1/4 tsp ground red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Melt butter in a large Dutch Oven or stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, celery, and jalapeno and cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.
  3. Add flour, cooking 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add chicken stock to deglaze pan, stirring up any bits of flour stuck to the bottom.
  5. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients.
  6. Bring to a boil, cook until thick (about 5 minutes).

**the creamed corn isn't necessary. If I don't have it in the pantry, I just add a little more corn and maybe some cornstarch in the stock if I want it thicker. This chowder has a little bit of a bite from the jalapeno. If you don't have a fresh pepper, you can also used canned green chilies (I used these last night). This soup does require a good bit of salt to really taste fresh and "bright".

I've served this soup when I had friends over for lunch and topped it with a couple tortilla chips and a little sharp cheddar cheese. For a more decorative serving, I'd make multi-colored tortilla strips to garnish. This Chicken Corn Chowder is incredibly filling and satisfying for such a quick meal, taking me about 30 minutes from start to finish. Less if I use onion and celery that I've already chopped and thrown in the freezer.

Spaghetti and Crockpot Meatballs

Yesterday, I had the little monkey's 4 month well baby check (read: shots!) so I knew that dinner would have to be either made ahead or very quick as I would have one fussy young'un by dinnertime. I ended up deciding on a combination of make ahead and quick. Spaghetti is a favorite around here, although we've had to compromise a bit on sauce. The husband likes a plain meat sauce. I like a more seasoned roasted tomato sauce without meat. Our compromise is meat balls :)

CrockPot Meatballs

1 lb lean ground beef (I prefer sirloin)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c fresh bread crumbs
2 cloves finely diced garlic
1/2 med onion, chopped
3-4 sundried tomatoes, very finely chopped
28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 c prepared tomato sauce/marinara
Onion powder*
Garlic powder*
Salt and Pepper*
Garlic Olive Oil

* to taste

  1. Combine ground beef, beaten egg, bread crums, sun-dried tomatoes, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper. I use my hands for this part. It takes less pounding to get everything combined, keeping the meat more tender.
  2. Form ground beef into large balls, I try for slightly larger than golf balls. The large size helps keep the meatballs from becoming dry.
  3. Brown meatballs in a hot pan.
  4. Once meatballs are mostly brown, add a tbsp or 2 of garlic olive oil, onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
  5. Place meatballs in slow cooker and add olive oil, onion and garlic.
  6. Cover meatballs with diced tomatoes and prepared marinara. Season as needed.
  7. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

I served these over spaghetti, making for a quick dinner I could do in the brief moments little man would let me set him down.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sicilian Chicken

I saw a really interesting looking seasoning blend in a specialty market a few months ago, but it was quite pricey. So I wrote down the ingredients and put it together myself. I've found it to be versatile and useful, especially with chicken and pasta dishes.

Sicilian Chicken


Chicken breasts, naked
2 c Cheese (of choice)
1 c diced tomatoes, drained
Sicilian Blend
1 box Pasta of choice

  1. chop and brown chicken breasts, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and Sicilian Blend
  2. Prepare Pasta al dente
  3. In a greased casserole dish, combine cooked chicken, pasta, tomatoes, 1 tsp Sicilian Blend and cheese.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Bake at 375 for approx 20 minutes or until bubbling.

I modified this recipe to use up some leftovers and to use in the slow cooker. I substituted about 1 cup of left over queso for the cheese. I layered frozen chicken breasts, the tomatoes, and the queso dip in the slow cooker. This I seasoned with salt, pepper, and the Sicilian Blend. I set this on Low and let it cook for about four hours, stirring in cooked pasta at serving time.


Sicilian Blend
***Combine equal parts garlic, onion powder, oregano and basil.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Twist with Cream of Wheat

Cream of Wheat is a childhood favorite. We ate it sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, always risking a burned mouth from not waiting until it cooled. I wanted something warm for lunch today and pulled out the box (which has a permanent place in my pantry) and noticed a suggestion on the side to mix in Polaner All Fruit Spread. Since I happened to have some, I gave it a try. favorite. I also stirred in some natural sliced almonds to add some protein.

Slow Cooker Split Pea and Ham Soup

Kevin loooves Split Pea Soup. I prefer a chicken version I adapted from a clean eating cookbook. Since I had a ham bone and leftover cooked ham in the freezer, he's getting his version- perfect for the frosty weather we're having. I enjoy having soups on the weekends when we're usually working on things around the house or outside or running errands. Makes for a stressfree dinner whenever we happen to get hungry.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

1 package (16 oz) dried split peas
2 c diced fully cooked ham
1 c diced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
5 c boiling water
1 c hot milk

  1. In a 5 qt slow cooker, layer the first nine ingredients in order listed (without stirring).
  2. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Stir in milk.
  4. Discard bay leaves before serving.

How easy is that! Since I had the ham bone, I threw that in too :-)

Whirl of Holiday Projects

Between traveling for thanksgiving and cramming holiday projects before traveling for Christmas, I've maintained a mile long to do list. :) This one time of year that generally enjoy my to do's.

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday. Going to a Catholic school as a kid, Advent and Christmas meant gorgeous decorations, my favorite church music and a ton of great food.

This week I made sure to change my table over to more season appropriate colors :)

Santa Mozart even got into the holiday action, although a bit reluctantly:

When I need a break from the holiday swirl, I'm working on planning our 2010 garden calendar. Our veggies were pretty successful in 09, despite the moving and a late start so I'm excited about this year's plan!