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Caramel Pretzel Blondies

If you’re looking for a dessert to bring to a 4th of July picnic this weekend, might I suggest these Caramel Pretzel Blondies?

Yum.  That's a layer of caramel in there!

Yum. That’s a layer of caramel in there!

Sweet and salty, chewy with a pretzel crunch, these things are AWESOME!

It’s not my recipe and I didn’t make any changes to it, so I don’t want to reproduce it.  You can find the recipe here.

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Repost in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day: Irish Soda Bread French Toast

In case you are looking for a yummy Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast, or something to do with all that stale Irish Soda Bread you’ll have a week from now, thought I’d repost my Irish Soda Bread French Toast!

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Read about it here!

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Pumkin Butter Cake

This recipe is another favorite at my house.  However, I’ve only made it twice because it is heart disease in cake form.  It’s a Paula Deen recipe and she calls it BUTTER cake for a reason.

Pumpkin Butter Cake

Pumpkin Butter Cake

It’s nothing pretty look at in the pan, but it is like a soft pumpkin cheesecake because it includes cream cheese.

You can find the recipe here.

I just Googled to find the link to the recipe, and that link about includes variations like peanut butter, banana, and pineapple!  Those sound awesome and I want to try all of them.

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Irish Soda Bread French Toast

A few weeks ago, I randomly tried a new ‘recipe’.  I’m finally getting around to posting it now- and perhaps post-Holidays, others will have breads they could use for this.

We had lots of leftover Irish Soda Bread that my mom had made for Nemo’s Christening.  It was a Saturday morning and I wanted to make breakfast.  I offered Mac French Toast, but when I went to the fridge, I saw the soda bread.  I thought, “Why not?”

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

Irish Soda Bread French Toast

I basically did exactly as you would for french toast- egg, milk (I used half and half), and cinnamon.  Because the soda bread was more dense than regular sliced bread, I had to leave it in to soak for a while.

Then, I sprinkled it with some brown sugar (so it would caramelize and get a little crisp), and cooked it on the griddle.

I had to cook it a little longer than usual because of the thickness.  Overall it came our well.  It was yummy and even Mabel tried some.

If I make it again, , I will wait to sprinkle the brown sugar to prevent it from burning during the longer cooking time.  Also, I’ll soak the bread even longer- perhaps overnight, to allow the bread to really absorb the eggs/milk.

Have you used any ‘different’ breads for French Toast?

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Thanksgiving Recipes 2012: spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, and apple pie

I thought about hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year.  It would force to get my china out of the storage in the attic where it has been since we moved in.  Actually, that china has never been anywhere BUT storage.  When we first got it, we were in a 1BR apartment, so we stored it in the basement.  Then we were in a 1BR basement apartment at my parents house and the china was in  storage elsewhere in said basement while we looked for a house.  Then we bought a house and the china wound up in the attic, still the the storage boxes.  I figured four years was long enough, we should take it out and use it- maybe even display a place setting in the china cabinet!

But then I thought about how much work it would be and decided to let my mom host Thanksgiving.

Still, I offered to contribute.  There was a recipe I’ve been wanting to try that was perfect for Thanksgiving, and then my mom asked me to handle the vegetables.  So it was settled.  I made 4 dishes: a pie, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

Below are the recipes with notes on how they were.

Savory Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Onions

The vegetable bouillon makes this very savory.  Using baby spinach means it’s a lot less bitter.

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Savory Sautéed Spinach with Garlic and Onions

Ingredients:

2 bags of fresh baby spinach

2 medium yellow onions, sliced

3 cloves garlic (I use the jarred stuff)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sugar

1 cube vegetable bouillon

water

Caramelize the onions by cooking for a long time (I got impatient after 30min) in the olive oil.  Add water if necessary to keep them from drying out or burning.  Towards the end, I added a little sugar (to help with the caramelization- I was impatient) and the garlic.

When the onions are nice and brown, lower the heat and empty the two bags of baby spinach on top.  Cover the pan and allow the spinach to wilt.

Once the spinach has wilted a little bit, break up the bouillon cube and sauté everything for a few minutes.

Done.

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Honey Glazed Baby Carrots

I offered my husband honey-glazed or regular (brown sugar) glazed carrots, and he opted for honey glazed.  If you want regular glazed, just substitute 1 tsp brown sugar for the honey below.  This recipe makes tender sweet carrots.

Honey-glazed Carrots

Honey-glazed Baby Carrots

Ingredients:

1 bag baby carrots (1 lb)

1 Tbsp butter or substitute

~1tspn honey

Boil carrots until tender when you pierce with a fork.

Drain and return to pot.

Drizzle with honey (I used about 1tspn) and add butter.

On high heat, sauté while stirring frequently until butter is melted.

Done.

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Sweet Potatoes Anna with Prunes

I saw this recipe in The New York Times last year and really wanted to make it.  I finally attempted it for Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potatoes Anna with Prunes

Sweet Potatoes Anna with Prunes

Recipe can be found here.

In case you can’t tell and didn’t read the recipe, you bake it, then invert it onto a platter for serving.  Below, when I refer to the top- I mean the top while it was baking, not after it was inverted for serving.

Ultimately it turned out well, but I had to improvise on the recipe.  I followed the instructions (I am a scientist!), and after the indicated 40min cooking time, the potatoes on the top were very dried out and some were burned.  Nothing was tender when I stuck a fork in to see if it was finished.  I had to pick off the burned slices of potato, brush with more butter, and cover with tinfoil.  I had to bake it for MUCH longer, like 20-30min additional, until the potatoes were tender.  Covering with tinfoil helped keep the top from drying out and burning, but it also meant more moisture stayed in the dish, and the potatoes didn’t caramelize as well.

It got good reviews from my dinner companions, but it was a hassle that the recipe didn’t work.  Several people said it was more like a pie (maybe because it’s served in wedges) or a dessert (port is a dessert wine).  Also, I’m not a fan of wine, and I felt like all I could taste was the port I had soaked the prunes in.  I’m not sure I’ll ever make this again, but if I do, I’ll make the following changes:

-cover with foil for the first 30min of cooking (so the potatoes cook), remove foil and let it get crisp (so they caramelize)

-soak the prunes in something else (maybe just water or apple juice?), or not at all.  I used the individually wrapped prunes and they weren’t dry, so I’m not sure it was necessary to soak them at all.

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Apple-Sour Cream Crumb Pie

I am not a fan of apple pie.  I generally avoid apple desserts (apple pies, crisps, brown bettys, etc.).  However, this pie I LOVE!  I’m pretty certain it’s because of the crumb topping and the sour cream in the filling.

I found the recipe in Martha Stewart Living and ripped it out to save.  You can find it online here.

I made it for Mac a few weeks ago (actually on the day that Sandy hit- thankfully we didn’t lose power until it was finished cooking, because it takes a long time!).  We both loved it.  So, I agreed to make it for Thanksgiving.

Apple-Sour Cream Crumb Pie, recipe from Martha Stewart Living

Apple-Sour Cream Crumb Pie, recipe from Martha Stewart Living

Recipe can be found here.

The only changes I made to this were that I purchased pre-made pie crusts.  This may be a Martha Stewart recipe, but I’m no Martha!  Also, I threw in one Granny Smith apple because my dad loves them and we were celebrating his birthday in addition to Thanksgiving.  It calls for the apples to be in 1/4″ slices- I think most of mine were less than that, I cut them very thin.  This meant they were easily able to mix with the sour cream filling, and I think made for a better pie.  My dad did comment on how thin the slices were and how great that was- and he’s an apple pie fan, so I took it as a big compliment.

Major Tip:  The crumb topping is full of butter and it WILL SPILL OVER while you cook it!  The recipe says to put a pan on the rack below- this is a MUST unless you want your house full of smoke and your oven a hot mess.  The pan must be rimmed- a cookie sheet or sheet of aluminum foil will not hold the liquid butter that spills over.  Also, once this is out of the oven and cooled, you will have to clean off the outside of the pie plate because it will be crusted with sugar.  You will also have to clean your oven rack, since some stuff will get on it as it drips down.  I don’t recommend putting the pie plate in the larger pan on the same rack, because that would make the pie plate a really huge mess with all the crumb topping melted around it.  It’s easier to just clean the little bit that drips onto the rack.

I am really happy with how this pie turned out.  It’s like something you would pay for at a bakery and think you could never replicate at home.  This is something I will make again and again.  Definitely a family favorite.

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Any great recipes you made for Thanksgiving?

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Cheese-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto

This is a really easy ‘recipe’.  I put ‘recipe’ in quotes, because this requires no cooking, can be made in advance, and it really simple.

I made this when I hosted Christmas Eve for the first time last year.  I was having 20+ people at my house for dinner and I wanted an appetizer that I could make in advance, that didn’t require space in the already full oven.

This recipe from Giada De Laurentiis fit the bill.

I’m linking to it here, because it’s not originally mine, and I didn’t make any changes to it (other than subsisting whatever dates I could find at the food store, since the specified variety weren’t available).

The savory taste of the cheeses, the sweetness of the dates, and the saltiness of the prosciutto was an awesome combination.  I was really happy with how these turned out.

Tip- I skewered mine with a toothpick because some of the prosciutto wasn’t staying around the dates, and because it made it easier for people to pick them up off the platter with their fingers!

Tip #2- When I ran out of prosciutto, I had leftover ingredients.  Since I had some vegetarian guests, I made some cheese-stuffed dates without.  They were still very yummy.

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Crockpotalooza: Slow-cooker Chicken Tangine

I’m linking this post up to Crockpotalooza on Kelly’s Corner.

I found this recipe on Delish, and since I can’t take credit for it, I’m going to link to the recipe on that site instead of posting it here.  Click the image below to go to the recipe.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tangine

A tangine is a dish from North Africa named after the pot it is cooked in.  According to Wikipedia

Tangines are  are slow-cooked stews braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce.

Most tajines involve slow simmering of less-expensive meats. For example, the ideal cuts of lamb are the neck, shoulder or shank cooked until it is falling off the bone. Very few Moroccan tajines require initial browning; if there is to be browning it is invariably done after the lamb has been simmered and the flesh has become butter-tender and very moist. In order to accomplish this, the cooking liquid must contain some fat, which may be skimmed off later.[1]

Moroccan tajines often combine lamb or chicken with a medley of ingredients or seasonings: olives, quinces, apples, pears, apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, with fresh or preserved lemons, with or without honey, with or without a complexity of spices. Traditional spices that are used to flavour tajines include ground cinnamon, saffron, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend Ras el hanout. Some famous tajine dishes are mqualli or mshermel (both are pairings of chicken, olives and citrus fruits, though preparation methods differ), kefta (meatballs in an egg and tomato sauce), and mrouzia (lamb, raisins and almonds).

I really like it because it’s a little atypical- not too heavy, plenty of veggies, a little sweet, and an interesting taste.  I like to serve it over couscous or rice.  While the Wikipedia description sounds exotic, all the ingredients are found in the grocery store.

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