Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cucumber Finger Sandwiches

A couple of years ago a co-worker brought these to work and I thought they were wonderful.  I have made these for a few different gatherings and they always get gobbled up.  They are very simple to make.   I talked with my mom today and she asked for the recipe to take to a Christmas party that they are going to.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

1 loaf cocktail rye bread
1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 pkg. ranch dressing mix
1 long English cucumber, sliced 1/4 inch thick
dried dillweed

Soften cream cheese and mix with ranch dressing mix.  Spread a T. on each slice of rye bread.  Top with cucumber slice and sprinkle with dillweed.

These are best made a couple of hours ahead and covered tightly with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate.  The moisture from the cucumber moistens the bread just a bit for a better texture.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lil Smokies

Here is another family favorite.  Very easy to make and a hit with everyone.

Lil Smokies

16 oz. pkg Lil Smokies, sausages
12 oz. chili sauce
10 oz. grape jelly

Combine all in crockpot and cook 1-2 hours on high then turn to low to keep warm for serving.
You could use slices of smoked sausage if you can't find the Lil Smokies.

Hot Artichoke Dip

As I mentioned on an earlier post that we make lots of appetizers to feast on for Christmas Eve.  We love snacking in place of a meal and my kids always felt it was such a special treat when we did "meals" like this.  We have done this for several years now and have several favorites each year and add a new one or two that we come upon.  Here is a new one that I will make this year.  I had it at a party and it was delicious!  I comes from the Fix-It-And-Forget-It for Entertaining cookbook.

Hot Artichoke Dip

2 14 3/4 jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. sour cream
1 c. water chestnuts, chopped
2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. finely chopped scallions

Cut artichoke hearts into small pieces.  Add mayonnaise, sour cream, water chestnuts, cheese and scallions.  Pour into slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high 1-2 hours or on low 3-4 hours.  Serve with crackers or crusty French Bread.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Beverages

Christmas Eve tradition at our house consists of an hor'duerves meal.  We sit and sip punch, egg nog and/or slush, play games and exchange gifts. We enjoy this type of casual meal, feasting all evening on herring, shrimp, ham and pickle roll-ups, chex mix, taco dip, cheese and crackers, little smokies in a chili/grape jelly concoction in the crockpot, crab dip, homemade cookies and candies. The punch my daughter requests every year has become a family tradition and we look forward to it each and every year.

Pina Colada Punch

1 12 oz. can pineapple juice concentrate
1 juice can pina colada mix (use pineapple juice can)
Mix the above ingredients together in punch bowl or pitcher.  At serving time add chilled 2 liter bottle 50/50.

Amaretto Slush

12 oz can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
12 oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 c. sugar
2 c. Amaretto
9 c. water

Mix all well; freeze in 5 quart container (ice cream pail works well).  At serving time scoop out 1/2 glass slush mixture and 1/2 glass 50/50. Stir until mixed.

This slush recipe comes from my longtime friend Laurel. Every holiday season she and her husband Wally invite us over and she serves this slush.  It is delicious and we have taken on this tradition and enjoy it in our household every year as well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Janet's Sour Cream Cookies

My friend Janet is a wonderful cook and baker.  We have traded many recipes over the years.  The recipes we have traded bring a lifetime of memories of our families getting together. This is a great soft cookie with a terrific frosting to match.

Janet's Sour Cream Cookies

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. shortening (can use 1/2 butter/1/2 shortening)
2 eggs
3 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
3/4 t. baking soda
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract

Cream sugar and butter; add eggs and beat well; add sour cream and extracts.  Sift together dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Chill dough.  Roll our 1/4 inch thick on floured surface, flouring rolling pin as you go.  Cut out.  I usually just cut rounds using my biscuit cutter.  Bake in preheated 400 degree oven a few minutes then lower to 375 and bake approx. 8 minutes more.  As soon as you see a hint of golden, remove from oven and cool.  Frost.

Frosting for Sour Cream Cookies

2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/4 c. cream cheese
1 1/2 t. almond extract

Cream butter and cream cheese.  Add almond extract and powdered sugar.  Add enough milk if needed to make spreading consistency.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies

These are a must on my cookie platter each year.  Chocolate and mint are a great compliment to each other and the pairing in this crisp-chewy cookie make for a holiday treat.  They are also very pretty topped with half of a red candied cherry.

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies

3/4 c. butter
1 1/2 c brown sugar
2 T. water
2 c. chocloate chips
2 eggs
2 1/1 c. flour
1 1/4t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 pkg. Andes Chocolate Mints
Red candied cherries

Melt butter, brown sugar, water and chocolate chips in microwave on medium heat 2-3 minutes till all melted. Add  eggs one at a time.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Refrigerate 1 hour.  Scoop balls with teaspoon and roll into 1 inch balls.  Bake on ungreased baking sheet at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes. Top with half of Andes Mint and remove to cooling rack and after a minute or so spread the melted mint with the back of a spoon.  Top with half of candied cherry.

Tip:  This cookie dough is quite sticky so I use latex gloves to aid clean up of hands.

Marinated Fish Steaks

Here is the recipe I used last night to go along with the Potatoes and Kale side dish I posted yesterday.  I used salmon and marinated for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  I did not use fresh herbs because I did not have any available, so I used dried oregano.  I used the juice of 2 limes in the marinade and squeezed a third one at serving time.
This was great peared with the Potatoes and Kale.

Marinated Fish Steaks

1 pound fresh or frozen salmon, swordfish or halibut steaks, 1 inch thick
2 T fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 T. fresh oregano or thyme or 1/2 t. dried oregano or thyme, crushed
2 t. olive oil
1 t. lemon-pepper seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 lime wedges

Thaw fish, if frozen.  Rinse fish and pat dry. Cut into 4 serving size pieces.  For marinade, in ziploc bag, combine lime juice, oregano, lemon-pepper and garlic.  Add fish; turn to coat.  Cover and marinate in frig 30 min to 1 1/2 hours turning occasionally.  Drain, reserving marinade.

Place fish on the greased unheated rack of a broiler pan.  Broil 4 inches from the heat for 8-10 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork, turning once and brushing with reserved marinade halfway through cooking.  Discard any remaining marinade.  Before serving, squeeze lime wedge over each piece.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pecan Pie

My mother was a terrific cook.  Many of my recipes are ones passed down from her.  There are many memories that go along with these recipes.  This is one of my favorites passed on by her.

Pecan Pie

1 unbaked 9" pastry shell
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
2T. butter, melted
1 c. dark Karo syrup
1 c. coarsly chopped pecans
1 t. pure vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
1/2 t. rum extract

Beat eggs slightly, add sugar, butter, salt and flavorings.  Stir in syrup and nuts only until mixed.  Pour into prepared unbaked pastry shell.  Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees.  Reduce heat to 325-350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Simple Kale & Mashed Potatoes - 147686 - Recipezaar

We have a really great friend, Wally, who had the blessing of going to Alaska on a fishing trip twice in the last few years and when he goes he brings home lots of salmon and halibut. We are the lucky recipients of some of his catch. I am always looking for new ways with salmon and came upon a new version that I am trying tonight. I will share that with you tomorrow if it is worth sharing after giving it a test run by the family tonight. However, as I was deciding what to make to accompany this new recipe I remembered a great recipe that I have made a couple of times this past summer with the abundance of kale from my garden. I have frozen some of the bounty and thought to use it in this again tonight. My family will grumble when I serve kale unless they find they enjoy the concoction I put together. This is a version that they like pretty well. I add about 1/3c.  freshly grated Parmesan and some garlic powder or garlic salt to this as well.   I love the crunch of the kale along with the smoothness of the potatoes. It also looks pretty mixed together like this. I think next time that instead of  Parm. and garlic salt, I will try adding a couple T. of ranch dressing mix.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I love biscotti.  I don't know why I only make these at holiday time.  I suppose I should make a note to myself to make them on a regular basis.  I love to try new variations of these as well.  This one is one of our favorites.  You can dip half of each into melted chocolate, semi-sweet or milk chocolate, which gives somewhat of a gourmet touch for a cookie platter or in a cellophane bag tied with holiday ribbon.  They are also very good just the way they are.  I got this recipe from Tightwad Gazette quite a few years ago.


1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter
2 eggs
1 t. almond extract
1/4 t. anise extract
1 3/4 c. flour, divided
1/2 c. almond meal (ground almonds)
1/4 t. salt
1t. baking powder

Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and extracts; mix well.  Add dry ingredients using only 1 1/2 c. flour and mix well.  Stir in remaining 1/4 c. flour.  Cover and chill dough at least 2 hours.  Divide dough in half and shape int 12 inch log, using plastic wrap.  Flatten to 3/4" thickness.  Bake 350 degrees 20 minutes,  Put logs on wire rack to cool.  Slice diagonally into 1/4 inch slices.  Bake 300 degrees 15 minutes, turn over and bake 15 minutes more.  Remove back to wire rack to cool.  Store in covered container.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Favorite Fudge

Our family loves fudge!  Who doesn't?!!!  I have tried different fudge recipes over the years and some have turned out grainy in texture, some haven't tasted so great, but this one is tried and true and always turns out year after year.  This is our family's favorite fudge recipe.


12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
7 oz. marshmallow cream
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. sugar
10 oz. evaporated milk
1 stick butter, no substitutions please
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, optional

Combine first 3 ingredients in large glass bowl; add nuts at this point too if using.  In heavy 3 quart saucepan, combine sugar, milk and 1 T. butter over medium-high heat stirring constantly to 233 degrees.  Add remaining butter and bring back to boiling.  Immediately pour over ingredients in bowl.  Mix until well blended.  Pour into 9x9 buttered pan.  Cool to room temp. until firm and cut int squares.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Caramels are a wonderful gift to give away at Christmastime. I usually make them every year.  They are delicious, most people love them, and are quite impressive all wrapped in paper.  I usually put them into a holiday cellophane gift bag tied with a festive ribbon.  They make great gifts for teachers, co-workers, paper carriers etc.  This recipe I got from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.


1 cup butter, no substitutes!
1 16 oz. pkg. (2 1/4 c. packed) brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. walnuts, (my addition and optional)
Wax paper cut into 5" x 3" pieces

Generously butter a 9x9x2 inch pan; set aside.  In a heaby 3 quart saucepan melt the 1 cup butter.  Add sugar and dash of salt; stir thoroughly.  Stir in corn syrup.  Gradually add condensed milk; stir constantly.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to 245 degrees (firm ball stage), for 15-20 minutes (mixture should boil gently over entire surface).  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Stir in nuts, if desired.  Pour into buttered pan.  When cool, cut into  1 x 1 1/2 inch rectangles with a wet, sharp knife.  Wrap each piece in wax paper, twisting each end of paper to hold caramel in.  

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion

I like to incorporate more fruits and veggies into our meals as I am sure many people do.  Spinach seems to be a staple in my kitchen throughout the winter months when the garden is covered in snow and the wonderful summer season of veggies has come to an end. Spinach makes a pretty winter salad and I have many variations to the spinach salads that I make and am always looking to find more.  This is one that is one of my favorite variations. I got it from 30 Minute Meals, a couple of years ago and have entertained with it a few times and have gotten rave reviews.

Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion

1 pound baby spinach, pre-washed
1 small Golden Delicious Apple, quartered, cored and sliced
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. olive oil (I use only 2T.)
1 1/2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 t. grainy brown mustard
1 T. honey
coarse salt and black pepper

Place spinach, apple and onion in salad bowl.  Place oil, vinegar, mustard and honey in a small container with tight fitting lid.  Shake dressing to combine, 1 minute.  Pour dressing over salad and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Here is what I do:  I whisk dressing ingredients in small bowl and add apples and onions: let sit about 30 minutes to an hour to soften apples and onions.  I then divide spinach into individual salad bowls and top with dressing at serving time.  I also add a pinch of salt to the dressing and do not sprinkle salad with s&p.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Pizza

When I was growing up, our family had pizza night every Sunday.  Back then it was quite a treat for us kids.  We only had frozen pizza, not homemade, but we loved it.  Sundays were the only time we ever had it.  Sundays were Mom's day off from her work in the kitchen.  All the rest of the week Mom made all our food from scratch.  She made all our breads, dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls,(she had a knack for yeast breads) Every meal was pretty much homemade.  When she and Dad would go to a wedding or just out for the night she would treat us with t.v. dinners or frozen pot pies which we thought were the best.  We looked forward to these rare meals because we didn't get them too often. I have carried the tradition of Sunday "pizza night" down to our family as well.  We make the pizza, put in a movie and eat while watching t.v.  It is the only time we eat in front of the t.v.  All other meals are eaten at the table together as a family.  Here is a recipe I use when I make homemade pizza. The dough for the crust I make in my bread machine.

Pizza Crust:

1 1/4 c. warm water
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 T. soy flour (optional)
2 T. ground flaxseed
2 t. sugar
1 t. salt
1/4 c. olive oil
2 envelopes active dry yeast

Put in bread machine pan in order given.  Make on dough cycle.  When cycle is done, punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes.  Roll out and place into oiled jelly roll pan, pulling and stretching to edge of pan and up sides.  Let rest in pan 15 minutes, until slightly puffy.  Bake in pre-heated 375 degree oven 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Spread sauce onto hot crust; then top with desired pizza toppings.  Bake an additional 12-20 minutes till cheese is bubbly and browned.

Pizza Sauce

1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. Italian seasoning
1 T. oregano
6 oz. tomato paste
28 oz. crushed tomatoes
7 oz. water
2 T. burgundy wine
1 t. salt
1-2 t. sugar

Saute onion 2-3 minutes; add garlic and saute 2 minutes more.  Add remaining ingredients; cook 35 minutes more.  Top pizza with desired amount of sauce and cool and refrigerate or freeze remaining sauce.

Add pizza toppings.  Choose your favorites.  We like diced 99% fat-free ham, fresh mushrooms, red onions, black olives and 2 c. mozzarella cheese.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nutella Frosted Chocolate Cookies

Today I decided to treat our co-workers with a new recipe that I wanted to try.  I had seen this in a book in a store, memorized the recipe and wrote down.  The  thought of these wouldn't leave my mind until I finally decided I needed to make these.  Got lots of compliments and they all disappeared so I believe they were a success.  The only thing about these is that of course Nutella does not harden or dry, so storage could be tricky, oh never mind, they won't last long enough to worry about that.

Nutella Frosted Chocolate Cookies

1 box Devil's food cake mix
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 jar Nutella, chocolate hazelnut spread

Cream butter and cream cheese.  Beat in egg and then cake mix.  Mix until just combined.  Stir in nuts.  Roll in 1 inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven 8-10 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack and when cool frost with Nutella.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Banana Cream Pie

Haven't had Banana Cream Pie in quite a while so I thought I would make one today.  At work we were talking about pies and a coworker mentioned that Banana Cream was her favorite.  That sounded good as I don't ever think to make it anymore.  I just so happened to have a couple of ripe bananas in the house that had a couple of spots on them...perfectly ripe to add the right sweetness and flavor to the pie.  You can make your own crust, whether it be baked pastry shell or graham cracker crust, either homemade or ready made.  I chose the ready made graham cracker crust as I happened to have one in the house.

Banana Cream Pie
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
3 cups milk
4 eggs
3 T. butter
1 l/2 t. vanilla
1 9-inch baked pastry shell or graham cracker crust
Meringue (recipe follows)

For filling, in medium saucepan combine sugar, flour and salt; gradually stir in milk.  Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and bubbly.  Reduce heat: cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat.  Separate egg yolks from whites; set aside whites for meringue.  Beat egg yolks slightly.  Gradually stir 1 cup of the hot mixture into yolks.  Return yolk mixture to saucepan; bring to a gentle boil.  Cook and stir 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat.  Stir in butter and vanilla.  Slice 2-3 bananas in bottom of baked crust.  Pour hot pudding mixture into baked pie shell. Pour meringue over top and spread to seal edge.  Bake 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes till golden.  Cool.  Cover; chill to store.  Best to eat room temperature or preferably chilled.

4 egg whites
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. sugar

In a small mixer bowl, beat the egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar at medium speed of electric mixer about 1 minute or till soft peaks form.  Gradually add sugar 1 T. at a time, beating at high about 4 minutes more until stiff glossy peaks form.