Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homemade Pasta and Ravioli's

I have wanted a pasta machine for years…a long time…forever!  I finally got one for Christmas and it sat in its box for almost a month.  I have been waiting for the right time to "break it in".  I was so busy during the holidays with the blog that I found I was a little bit burned out that first week of January.
I find that I need time off from the blog on occasion.   It gives me a chance to reload, recharge and review what I have done, want to do and will ,without question, attempt over the next few months.

My new toy.

Pasta, that is a glorious word in our home!  We love it almost as much as we like rice.  I have a fantastic recipe for gluten free pasta that I use all the time.  It's easy because there is no kneading..NONE.  The one draw back that I find with it, is,  the recipe uses all starches.  I find these to have very little nutritional value and cringe some times if we eat it too much.  I have slowly been adding gluten back into my diet.  VERY SLOWLY.   If I make something from scratch, I have little to no problems, but if I eat some thing that is store bought or in a box it messes with my system.  I can't figure it out.  So I avoid it and feel much better.

My family would eat pasta daily if I was diligent in producing the dough every day.  I would probably have really nice biceps and nothing "swinging" (If, your over 40 you might know what I am referring too…LOLOL)  

Isabella could not wait to get her hands on the pasta roller.  I had to help her change the widths but other than that she did just fin.

Sunday, I was feeling refreshed and got the goods out of their boxes.  It was red, my favorite color.  Shiny, so beautiful.  I immediately told my oldest daughter that, down the road, she will probably inherit the pasta roller and it could be in our family for years.  It made me smile.  I was determined to use it often so that I could instill in the pasta roller a sense of use, love and family tradition.  

Isabella made her own spaghetti…she was so happy.  A trick I learned when using the small spaghetti maker, is let the sheet of pasta dry for a few minutes.  The strands of spaghetti will be perfect.

I started the dough like all pasta makers do…flour with a well in the middle filled with egg.  I can't tell you how I felt to watch the transformation that the dough goes through as it transorms from a stiff, hard to handle mix to this smooth and silky bundle of yumminess.  Just when you think you can't knead for another minute…it changes right before your eyes.  You become one, you don't want to stop, you smile.  SUCCESS!

The recipe for the dough is just a standard flour/egg mixture that I have used in the past.  I got it from a friend.  The ravioli filling is made up of what I have on hand.  It's never the same.  Tonight I had spinach and zucchini, always a wonderful combination in my opinion.  
I can't wait to get another batch of pasta whipped up so that I can experiment with other types of noodles, sheet pasta and filled shapes.  Oh, the options are limitless.

Recipe: Pasta (filling ingredients listed below)

3 cups of flour
4 large eggs
1 tsp salt
3 T. water (possibly more depending on dough)

Mix the salt and flour together and dump on your table.  Make a well in center of the flour and add your eggs and 3T. water.  With a fork, start mixing the eggs into the flour.  I also like to have a metal pastry scrapper so that with one hand I am mixing and the other one I am keeping my flour from going all over the place.  Work the dough into a ball.

I will be honest and tell you I thought this was never going to work.  The dough is stiff and brittle.  I keep a bowl of water nearby.  As I start to knead the dough and if it feels too dry I wet my hands and go back to kneading.  I might do this 3 or 4 times.  The dough should not be dry.

Kneading time will be about 10 minutes.  Around 8 minutes into the kneading you will notice the dough  start to become softer and it will get more and more so as you get to the 10 minute mark.

After you have kneaded you dough, cut the ball into 4 sections.  I wrap each section in saran wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Each wrapped section will make two sheets for the ravioli tray.

You will need to follow the directions for your specific pasta machine.  I do believe they are all pretty much the same but just to be sure, read your manual.

With the ravioli, you will need to take one of the four wrapped doughs and cut in half.  Set your machine to 0, the widest and roll your dough through 2 or 3 times.  Each time it comes out, fold it into thirds and re-roll.

At this point you can start changing the number to make the pasta roller thinner and thinner.  For the ravioli, I stopped at 7. (see pictures below)  Use your hand to guide the pasta into the machine and use your hands to help it stretch out.  The dough is very durable.  If it starts to stick in the machine or tear, then you may need to add a dusting of flour.

Recipe: Ravioli Filling

1/2 cup of Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup of diced green onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg
1/3 cup of shredded zucchini (optional)
1 cup of spinach, cut coarsely (optional)
 1/4 tsp of pepper
1/2 tsp of salt
10 leaves of fresh Oregano or 1/2 tsp. or dried oregano (you can use any combination of your favorite spices)

Mix the filling ingredients together and use the required amount to fill your particular ravioli tray.  Mine happens to be a square tray with smaller raviolis.  The amount used will change with each type of tray.

I learned that with my tray, it helped to slightly dust the inside with flour.  The ravioli's pulled out much easier.  In a large pot you will want to bring 8-10 cups of water to a boil.  Add the ravioli's and cook for 4-6 minutes.

Serve immediately with your favorite sauce.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rack of Lamb

 I have a list of things that I have never made because, in my mind, they have an aurora around them that denotes "chef's only"…Rack of Lamb is on this list.  I have made a leg of lamb without hesitation and it always turns out well.  So what was the hang-up for me with a rack?

I honestly don't know other than I think that they look so dainty and delicate.  I did not want to ruin them in the cooking process and have a failure on my resume.  I am laughing out loud at that thought.  I have a long list of things that have been made through the years that have not turned out "to my standard".

This year is about "action" for me.  I want to be more of a doer than I have been in the past.  In order to accomplish this goal, I will be forced to tackle and try new things.  Mind over matter.  My mind tells me sometimes that I can't, but no matter what, I need to push through the doubt, fear and task.  Go for the gold!

I purchased this lamb on a whim and took it home.  We had a few stare downs as I pondered what I was going to do with it.  I studied a few pages, cookbooks and such to find the best method for cooking this dainty rack.

It seemed much easier than I thought it would.  The main concern is overcooking it.  Lamb should be enjoyed medium-rare or medium.  I knew this would be a concern for my son.  He does not like rare meat of any kind.

It turned out to not be a problem because once the lamb was done and I was able to cut the rack into baby chops, I found the outer chops to be medium and the center was rare….the best of both worlds.

I will definitely make this again.  The texture is so buttery that the meat actually melts in your mouth.  I like to have lamb with mint jelly.  Last night I did not have any around and decided to make a reduction with what I had leftover from searing the meat…it was perfect (another first for me).

ACTION.  I am doing instead of talking about it.

 SIMPLE.  Maybe and maybe not.  LOL

RESOLUTION:  Actions speak louder than words.  I must become more in tune with my ability to do and not just talk about the things I want to learn.  I must take the first step to success, which I have learned is sometimes the hardest…baby steps are still steps.  In the kitchen, I still have a few things to tackle on my "bucket list".  You're never too old to learn and I am hoping this year it will be filled with new skills, recipes, and action.

Recipe:  Rack of Lamb

7-9 rib rack of lamb
2 T. Olive Oil
1/4 cup of chopped green onion
1 T. minced garlic
1 cup of bread crumbs (I used crumbs with Italian flavorings)


2 cups red wine (You may also use a combination of brandy and wine)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425

I preheated a separate cast iron skillet while I was searing the lamb on the stovetop.

In a cast-iron pan, I added the olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Once the oil was hot enough, I seared the lamb on both sides for 4 minutes.

I put the bread crumbs in a shallow dish and rolled the rack in the crumbs to make sure that all sides were covered with a thick layer of the breadcrumbs.

I transferred the lamb to the second skillet that was preheating in the oven.  I laid the lamb with the ribs down into the pan.  I inserted a meat thermometer.

I set the timer for 15 minutes.  A rack of lamb can cook very fast and it will continue to cook after it is removed from the oven.

I removed the lamb when the temperature read 125, some people like it much rarer than this and will remove the lamb at 115.  This allowed for the outer edges to be medium and the center to be rare. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and then sliced them into individual cuts.  If the meat on the very center is too rare still, you can sear them quickly in the cast iron pan that you used to cook them in.  You don't want to overcook the meat so take your time.

While the lamb was cooking, I added the wine and balsamic vinegar to the cast iron pan on the stovetop.  I set the temperature to medium-high and stirred constantly until the ingredients were a rich, dark color.  This provided me with about 2/3 of a cup of reduced liquid.   I drizzled this on the plate that the lamb was served on and a bit on top.  It was just enough to add some flavor but not take away the lamb flavor.  I also added the rest to a small bowl and served on the table in case more was wanted by my family.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Prime Rib and Creamy Onion Gravy

Every year I make a prime rib dinner on the years that this meal is at my house.  Some years we have gone to family or friends and we enjoy turkey or ham dinners.  We love all three but the Prime Rib is different and so I think my family likes the change.  We have turkey for Thanksgiving, Prime Rib for Christmas and Ham for New Year's Day…this way no one gets left out and we don't get too tired of one thing.

This year I experimented with two new recipes.  Thanks to the suggestions of a friend, I aged my prime rib.  I was a bit scared because I had spent a hefty price on this piece of meat and I did not want to see it ruined.  I studied lots of recipes and suggestions and took from each of the best parts and did my own thing.

These are the steps that I took to prepare, age and roast my prime rib.

1.  I wrapped the prime rib in cheesecloth and bought enough to change the wrapping once in a 9 day period.

2.  I found a cookie sheet with a drip rack that I could place in my fridge to collecting any drippings from the prime rib.

3.  I let the prime rib sit for 24 hours undisturbed and checked on the wrapping of cheesecloth. I changed it this one time.

4.  I used our refrigerator downstairs that has very little use.  This allowed the temperature in the fridge to stay constant.  I did not return to check on the meat until Saturday.

5.  On Sunday, I removed the roast from the fridge, unwrapped the meat, carved off the hard exterior meat and fat, cut the meat out of the bones (see picture above) and trimmed some of the fat. I added salt, pepper, and some fresh thyme.

6.  I preheated my oven to 450 degrees.  Let the roast cook inside for 30 minutes.

7. Lowered the temperature of the oven to 325, inserted my thermometer and set the timer for 1 hour.  The time to cook your prime rib will vary based on its size.  A rough estimate is 15-18 minutes per pound.

8.  Once my roast reached 130 degrees, I removed it to the counter, tented it with foil and let it sit for 35 minutes while I finished the other dinner items.

The meat was tender and very flavorful.  I will definitely be doing this again with the other cuts of red meat that I get from the butcher.

There are other resources for the aging process for a prime rib in the refrigerator.  I will list a few here so that you can understand the process and this may answer any questions I did not cover in the above instructions.

Guy Fieri has this one  HERE from the Food Network.

Fine Cooking as this one HERE with some reasons as to why aged is better.

This is a great link to all things prime rib with excellent pictures, go HERE.

Recipe:  Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Garlic

1 large bag of brussel sprouts or a stalk (they sell them like this in my grocery store)
1/4 cup of EVOO
1 T. minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
7 pieces of crispy bacon.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Toss the sprouts, EVOO, garlic, salt and pepper.  Bake the sprouts for 20-25 minutes until charred.  Do not over cook or they will be mushy and most people do not like them this way.  They should be like biting a nectarine…not hard like an apple and not soft like an overripe peach.

Remove from oven and mix with bacon pieces.  Serve immediately.

French Fries were not on the menu.  But things change.  I got a really cool device that takes a fresh potato and cuts it into french fries.  My son loves sweet potato fries and regular fries so he thought this tool would come in handy. It has!  LOVE IT!  I used to eat french fries in Texas with brown gravy and thought why not do this instead of a roasted potato.  I cut the potatoes and fried them in oil for 10 minutes.  I let them drain on a piece of brown paper bag, salted and peppered them and wallah…easy peasy.

 Yorkshire Puddings are something that my family absolutely would duel over, if we still practiced such a thing…LOl  I can never make too many.  Especially when served with gravy.  YUM
I used this recipe from British & Irish Food, it was submitted by Elaine Lemm.  The directions and ingredient list can be found here.

 Recipe:  Creamy Beef Onion Gravy

Trimmings from the aged prime rib, I used about 1 cup full, very  little fat
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of chopped carrot
1/4 cup of chopped celery
1 small onion, cut into pieces
1 tsp. of beef flavoring (boullion, paste, etc…)
3 T. flour
1 cup of cream

I placed the first 6 ingredients in a medium size pot.  Brought to a boil, then let simmer for about 3 hours.  The broth reduced to about 2.5 cups and was a very rich brown.  In a small bowl I mixed the flour and cream together and added it to the broth.  I slowly brought it back to a boil and then turned off the heat.  We like our gravy runny…if you want it thicker you can always add more flour and cream and repeat the process to thicken your gravy.  (see picture below for gravy)

So there it is…our Christmas dinner and Prime Rib Feast.  We ate like kings, remembered our English and Scottish roots, celebrated with family and had the best day ever.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken enchiladas have been a Watson staple for as long as we can remember.  When I married into the family almost 24 years ago, this was a favorite dinner.  We would have it served with pea salad and bread rolls.  Oh, we all clamored to get a seat up front and we always wanted leftovers.

I can't count the number of times I have made these for our family over the years.  I have shared this recipe with lots of friends along the way too.  I am shocked that I have not shared or posted this recipe in the past.

You can tell from the title that I changed one of the main ingredients…we wanted to try something different and so we did.  We took our beloved chicken enchiladas and made them into turkey enchiladas.

Oh, they were very good and we will make these again.  The turkey does have a stronger flavor than the chicken.  I don't mind this change.  I served the enchiladas with the yummy breadsticks from The Pizza Factory.  I make them myself and they are always an extra bonus for my family.

I will tell you though, I do not use store-bought Cream of Chicken soup anymore.  It has a funky flavor to me and I would rather eat something with fewer ingredients too.  I make my own cream soup and add this to the enchilada mix.  You can use mine or the canned version of cream of chicken soup.

For the cream of chicken soup:

6 T. butter
1/4-1/2 cup of flour (more for a thicker soup)  FOR GF- use white or brown rice flour
1 tsp. minced garlic or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 cups of milk
2 cups of chicken broth
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of chicken pieces ( I don't add this when making it for the chicken enchiladas though)

Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the garlic, onion powder and flour; cook for 2 minutes.  Slowly add milk and broth. Stir often and bring to a boil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  As the soup sits it will also thicken a bit more.  This will make 4 cups.  Always taste it before you use it to see if it might need a dash more seasoning.

Chicken or Turkey Enchiladas

2-3 cups of chicken or turkey pieces
1/2 cup of green onion
2 cups of cream of chicken soup OR 2 cans of soup, like Campbell's
2 cups of sour cream
3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (save 1 cup for the top of the enchiladas)
20-24 corn tortillas
oil to cook tortillas in

NOTE:  If you don't want to roll the corn shells into enchiladas the alternative is to make it like a lasagna...layer the chicken sauce with the tortillas.  It turns out just as good and takes less time.  Cook time is the same.

In a large bowl combine the first 5 ingredients.  Stir until well blended.  Try to save about 1.5 cups of mix for the top of your enchiladas (see picture below).

*If using the homemade cream of chicken soup, your sauce will be thinner then if you used the can.  If you used the can and you feel it's too thick, you can add milk to thin it a bit.

Prepare your corn tortillas by cooking them in oil for a few minutes and cooling in between paper towels to soak up any extra oil.

Once your mix is made and the tortillas are cooked, you can start preparing the enchiladas.  I use a scoop and add about 2 T. of mix to each corn tortilla and line them up in a baking pan.  I can fit 10-12 in each of my smaller pans or 20-22 in a 9X13 pan.

With the remaining chicken/turkey mixture, top cover all of the tortillas.  It does not have to be a thick amount, just enough so the corn tortillas do not get hard when baked.

Top the enchiladas with the remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Fudge

I grew up with my Grandmother making fudge for every Christmas.  She shared it with her neighbors and friends and family.  When she passed away a year ago, we went through her things and I found this recipe that I had hand written for her.  I must have been 9 or 10 years old at the time and I vividly remember making it often.

The recipe on the left is one that my grandmother had written out in her "short-hand" method, but it was a recipe for Pecan Balls that I had given to her years ago.
With time and many moves, I had misplaced the original recipe and soon forgot about this once treasured treat.  Finding this mixed in with her hand written recipes was very special to me.  I must have learned my short hand approach to cooking from her too, because the recipe with came with only a few instructions.

I thought, what the heck, I am going to make it and see if it is as good as I remembered it to be.  I followed along and supplemented techniques that I had learned along the way and the fudge turned out perfect.

We gave this out this year in our neighbor baskets.  Today I heard a knock on my door and to my surprise there stood Rick, our next door neighbor.  He loved the treats but especially named the peanut butter fudge as being "the best they had ever had".  This made me smile.  He continued to say theat the plate reminded him of his grandmother and something that she would have baked.  I seriously thought I would cry at that moment.

Recipes and food tie families together forever.  Something as simple as a few cookies can easily flood your mind with memories of time gone by…this is a treasured gift to each of us.  I am thankful that my grandmother saved this recipe and that I was able to share it with a friend to remind him of his grandmother.  I hope that in the years to come that my own kids will make this peanut butter fudge with their kids and they will remember me.

Recipe:  Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups of sugar
1 cup of milk
dash of salt

Cook the above ingredients to a soft ball stage.

Cool and add:

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup of peanut butter
1 T. vanilla

Beat until thick…it will be very thick and crumbly looking.

Line your baking dish with parchment paper and butter the inside of the paper.

Pour into a baking dish.  Mine is 7x11.  If you use one that is smaller or larger, this will affect the thickness of the fudge but not the flavor.

Pat down the fudge into the dish.  Use the parchment paper to cover the top and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours before cutting and serving.

Written by Sherron Watson

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Crescent Dough

 I love being inspired by the foodie friends that I have on my facebook page.  They remind me of the recipes I used to make, inspire me to try new things and motivate me to think outside the box.  Last week while perusing through my home page I saw this beautiful Chicken and Broccoli Bread Braid from Pampered Chef Consultant-Carol's Corner and just had to give it a try.

I used to make these braids a while ago but just forgot about them.  In fact, my family was thrilled when it arrived to the table.  They too remembered those days from long ago.  My only issue with why I don't make them as often is buying the crescent dough in the cans.  To me it's insanely expensive.  This coming from a woman who spends $20 a pound for great salami.  It's not the price it's the markup.  It blows me away that a company can charge $4 a can when it's bread dough.  I guess it's the principal of the thing…LOL

Honestly, it never occurred to me to try and make it myself.  I figured it was some deep secret recipe and the market was taken and you just BUY your dough.  I was wrong.  YEP, I said it…WRONG.  In my desire to make Carol's yummy braid I did a search and found a recipe on that had 5 stars and excellent reviews.  I proceeded to print, make and eat a very good homemade version of the crescent roll dough from a can.

It was easy, felt very similar to the original and tasted like the dough in a can.  The flavor is what got me…it was that same "crescent dough" flavor that is so familiar with this product.  I can only assume that the flavor is from the Crisco.

I will make this recipe again in the future.  A few notes before I share the recipe.  It makes a lot.  9 cups of flour should be your first clue…it should have been mine…LOL  I easily could have divided the dough into fourths and froze 3 for future uses. You can also make up the dough, make the crescent shaped rolls, freeze and have them for a later meal.  I found the original recipe to be a little bit weak in the salt department, so I have changed the amount of salt added to the recipe (shown in red).  I also changed Carol's recipe just a scosh (that's a little) because my family would not like the dill blend for the spread and I did not have sharp cheddar on hand.  Her recipe inspired me to begin, but based on what I had and what my family likes, it has been changed to fit our palette.

Recipe:  Crescent Roll Dough


2 cups milk
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 cup sugar (2 T. in yeast/water and the remaining sugar used in the creaming process)
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon of salt
6 eggs, beaten
9 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

 Heat milk to 110 degrees .

Add yeast and 2 T. of sugar; stir until dissolved.

Let set for 3-5 minutes until frothy on top.

In large mixing bowl ( I used my kitchenaid) , cream sugar, shortening and salt. Add eggs; mix well.

Alternate the flour and milk until all combined.

 Knead ( I used my Kitchenaid to do the kneading) until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.

Place dough in greased bowl; cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours.

Divide dough into 4 parts. Roll each into a circle and brush with melted butter.

Cut each circle into 16 pie-shaped pieces.

Roll each piece into a crescent, starting at wide end.
I used the remaining dough and rolled them into the standard crescent shape and baked them.  My family loved the rolls.

To bake, place on greased baking sheet and cover; let rise until doubled.

 Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes.

Recipe: Chicken Broccoli Braid


2 cups  chopped cooked chicken breasts

1 cup  chopped broccoli florets

1/4 cup of chopped red onion

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup ranch dressing (recipe below)

8-10 slices of Jack or Cheddar cheese

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 of the dough from above

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375°F .   I used my round pizza stone.  You can have that pre heating in the oven while you are preparing your braid.

Prepare your filling.  Cook and chop your chicken into small pieces.  Steam your broccoli.  Chop your red onion and bell pepper.  Combine the chicken, broccoli, onion and bell pepper into a small bowl.

Make your ranch dressing (recipe below) and set aside.

Take your dough and roll into a rectangle on a slightly floured surface. If you use a piece of parchment paper then you can just slide the braid onto your cookie sheet or stoneware. I measured my stoneware and rolled the dough according to what would fit.  NOTE:  I noticed the dough doubles when cooked, keep this in mind when rolling out your dough.  If you want a thick crust, roll dough to 1/4 inch.  If you want a thinner crust roll the dough as thin as you can.

Start your braid by layering your ingredients.  I did mine this way: Ranch, Broc/Chicken mixture, salt and then cheese.

I used a pizza cutter to cut the slices on the side of my rectangle of dough.  I spaced the slices about every 1.5 inches apart.

My son said that I needed to be less stingy with the cheese..I thought this was a lot, but it would have been cheesier with a lot more and that is what they want next time.

To Braid:  Start on one end and pull the end up over the beginning of the braid (on your left).  Take the left side and the right side and fold over each other in a criss-cross pattern.  USE water if your dough is not staying in place.  Just dab a little bit where the dough touches and it should stay.  As you near the end, trim off any extra dough that might be too "thick" and fold the right end to look pretty.

Take the egg white and beat until frothy.  Using a pastry brush, spread the egg white on the top of the braid.  This gives it a nice golden and shiny crust.

Transfer the braid to the cookie sheet or stoneware and bake for 20-25 minutes.   Watch the top so that it does not get too dark…you can use a piece of foil towards the end so that you are sure to not over brown the top.

Recipe:  Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Combine all of the ingredients together and store in refrigerator.  Taste to make sure the spices are how you and your family like your ranch.  You may need to add a bit more garlic or salt.

Written by Sherron Watson

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

3 Easy Peppermint Recipes for Christmas

We love peppermint in our home.  We like to drink peppermint tea, especially Iced Tea.  We enjoy peppermint candy canes, peppermint truffles and mints and peppermint dairy creamer (this is our new favorite).  The creamer mixed with your coffee first thing in the morning is like having a jubilee chorus singing "hallelujah"... it's that tasty.  LOL

Over the last week I have played around with a few peppermint, easy and kid friendly recipes for the holidays.

I recently had peppermint bark and was immediately in love.  Why had it taken me so long to find this yummy candy.  I was having a moment and decided to make my own.  Super easy and what a fun gift for the neighbors.

Our next yummy treat is a Peppermint Pretzel Bite.   I first had these at a cute hotdog haus in a neighboring town.  I originally had them the pretzel dipped in cinnamon and sugar.  I thought I had taken a bite out of a piece of french toast, it was really good.  This was my original plan when I set out to make these last week.  As I was preparing the ingredients, I found the baggie of left over crushed candy canes…an IDEA popped into my head.  I could dip them into the candy cane and have a pretty treat.  It worked and they are so more-ish.

Finally, a cookie was to be made.  I saw these cute pink cookies dipped in white chocolate with peppermint sprinkles on them.  They sounded good, but they also looked so pretty!  I set out to make these and discovered that I did not have some of the ingredients and had to improvise.  I was so happy with the result that I will share them with you  too.  Cranberry Pomegranate Shortbread cookies are the perfect blend of sweet and tart….with a snap of peppermint sugar crystals…so good and yummy!

Recipe:   Peppermint Bark

1 cup of dark chocolate chips
2 cups of white chocolate chips or Baker cubes (2 boxes)
candy canes

Have a cookies sheet, lined with parchment paper, ready.  Crush your candy canes by placing 4 in a baggie and using a rolling pin, roll back and forth using your body weight.  You should be able to get very fine or chunky pieces, this is up to you.  I chose to have chunky pieces

Melt your chocolates in two different bowls.  You can microwave the chips in 30 second intervals, stirring each time OR use a bowl onto of a sauce pan with boiling water.  The water only needs to be an inch  and the chocolate should be stirred until melted.  Do not over cook or you will ruin your candy.

Spread the chocolate layer to a thin layer and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until hard.

Melt the white chocolate using the same method above.  Carefully pour the white chocolate over the dark chocolate trying not to melt and swirl the two together.

Sprinkle your candy cane pieces over the white chocolate and gently using your palms, push the pieces into the white chocolate.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until hard.

Remove from fridge and let the chocolate set for an hour.  The candy should peel away from the parchment paper and broken into bite size pieces.

Recipe:  Peppermint Pretzel Bites

1 Bag of Snyder's square pretzels
3 cubes of Baker's white chocolate or 1/2 cup of chips
4 candy canes
cinnamon and sugar mix (option)

Select a shallow bowl to melt your candy in so that when you dip your pretzels, you hands do not get messy. Melt white chocolate by using the microwave method or stovetop.

Crush the candy canes using the baggie and rolling pin method.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Dip a pretzel in to the white chocolate, half way, and then dip pretzel into cinnamon and sugar OR the crushed candy cane.

Place the pretzel on the cookie sheet and place in fridge when full.  Remove after 15 minutes.  These can be stored in a baggie.

Recipe:  Cranberry Pomegranate Shortbread Cookies w/ peppermint sprinkles

Original recipe can be found here by Better Homes and Garden.  I changed the ingredients, but the technique used in the original recipe is the same for both.

1/2 cup dried cranberries, minced finely
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup of fresh pomegranate juice
2 drops red food coloring (optional)

To decorate:

12 ounces white chocolate baking squares
Peppermint sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in cranberries and pomegranate juice. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.

3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

5. Melt chocolate by using the microwave method or stovetop. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off.  Roll edges in peppermint sprinkles. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. 

Written by Sherron Watson

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cinnamon Pull-a-parts

Update 2-6-2014:  I recently visited a site that I have this recipe listed. I was a bit concerned with some of the comments suggesting the recipe did not work. Well, I am here to say that it does.  I made a fresh batch today and the recipe is spot on.  I don't know why some have had a difficult time getting this to work.  With that said, please keep in mind that we all cook differently, with a different skill set and different available ingredients.  Here is a picture of the batch I made this morning:  This picture has the full 2 cups of sugar and cinnamon (I noted below that the other pictures were made with half of this).

I will add that they are best fresh!  If they sit, they will get a bit firm but they can be microwaved for a few seconds to soften again.   Do not over bake them.

The recipe also works well to halve the ingredients to make one pie plate.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

What is a pull-a-part?  It's a goofy name you give to something that doesn't fit the title of Monkey Bread or Cinnamon Rolls…LOL

Yesterday, I woke up thinking I needed something warm, gooey and doughy.  My kids have been asking for Monkey Bread for..well…EVER.  I keep forgetting to buy a Bundt pan and so I thought that maybe I could use a large Stoneware bowl that I own and put something in the middle, like a canning jar, and create my own Bundt pan.  WRONG.  I don't own any canning jars either.  I know, right, what is wrong with this woman who professes to be a cook and is missing two important things in her kitchen…LOL  This week that will be fixed. PROMISE.

So I did the next best thing, and decided that I would take a moment and create something that tasted the same as a cinnamon roll and pulled apart similar to Monkey Bread.  I will have to admit the Monkey Bread and all of it's gooey-ness is what I was craving but I endured the tasting and sampling of the pull-a-parts and did just fine.

I have been wanting to try my roll recipe that can be made in under an hour for this type of recipe.  I don't believe that one bread recipe is good for all things, but when your in a hurry and time is of the essence, I think this particular recipe worked great for rolls and cinnamon pull-a-parts.  It was airy, light, fluffy, and yet, dense enough to hold its shape to be pulled apart.  That was a good thing.

The next time I make these I will experiment more with adding cinnamon and sugar with a freer hand.  I was a little bit stingy because I did not want to over do it with the sugar.  I could have used 3x's as much and had them taste "really, really" cinnamony (is this a word?…lol)  That is next time though.  Yes, we will make these again because my family devoured them in no time.  I love surprising my family with these types of Sunday mornings.  Cooking is fun because I have a captive audience and they always make me feel like I know what I am doing, even if some of the time I am flying by the seat of my pants…like a monkey.

Recipe:  Cinnamon Pull-a-parts

Makes two 10 inch pie plates full of cinnamon balls

1/3 cup of sugar
2 T. yeast
2 cups of warm water
2 tsp. salt
6 eggs
6-8 cups of flour (the dough should pull from the bowl and knead without sticking)

2 stick of butter

1-2 cups of cinnamon/sugar mixture ( I used a cup, but if you like a lot of cinnamon/sugar…add more) To make the cinnamon-sugar mixture for each cup of sugar I would add 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.

1.  Heat your oven to 400.  Preheat pans in oven while dough is rising.  Stoneware and glass pans work great.

2.  In a small bowl or 2 cup measuring device, add sugar and yeast to the warm water.  Let set for 5 minutes until frothy.

3.  In a LARGE bowl or large mixer, add your salt, eggs and water/yeast mixture.  Mix together.  Slowly start adding your 6-8 cups of flour.  The dough should pull away from the side of your bowl and combine all the ingredients together well.  Knead for 3 minutes.

4.  Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.   Melt 1 stick of butter in  a small bowl.  Combine sugar and cinnamon.

5.  Take preheated pans out of the oven and melt 4 T. of butter in each.  Sprinkle a 1/2 cup of cinnamon sugar on the bottom of the pan.  Start pinching of sections of dough and rolling them into a ball.   Coat each ball with melted butter and then the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

6.  Place each ball in the pan close to each other.  The heat from the pan will cause the dough to start rising.  Place your pan in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. The rolls should be golden brown on top.  

**NOTE:  My dough sections when rolled, where the size of walnuts and this made for a 3.5 inch raised pull-a-part.  If you would like them to not be so tall, then make your rolled dough pieces smaller.  This may alter the cooking time a bit so keep an eye on them while they cook.

I served the pull-a-parts with a simple cream cheese frosting.

In a small bowl, I mixed equal parts butter and cream cheese, added a touch of vanilla.  With the powdered sugar, I continued to add enough until the consistency and flavor was what I wanted.  I have a small whip that comes in handy for this task.  ENJOY!

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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