Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Shitake Mushrooms

This is a really nice make ahead meal.  Even if you dont prepare everything ahead of time, just having the cooked pasta ready to go makes this a meal you can pull together in a snap.  Great for holiday time.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 pound noodles, cooked ( I am not particularly fond of egg noodles so I used this curly pasta)*
2 cans of tuna, drained and flaked with a fork
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup hot water, reserving liquid
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
fresh grated parmesan cheese***

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, stir together first seven ingredients until well combined, including mushroom broth.  Spread into a small greased casserole dish.  Spread Parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Bake covered in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Take off cover and let cook 15 more minutes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


When I was a kid, I hated these cookies.  Hated them, bleghk, tooey, yuck. Now, I love them.  But I really love them because they are home made and they are the best Italian fig cookie I have ever made or eaten.  And the pastry dough for these babies is amazing.  I will use it ins ome other applications I think.  It is so tender and delicious.

My Mother prefers them without icing.  Me, well, it has to have icing! 

Italian Fig Cookie recipe followed almost perfectly from this recipe at Epicurious.

1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
3/4 cup raisins (3 3/4 oz)
3/4 cup mild honey
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup whole almonds (4 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup walnuts (3 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
For pastry dough
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon zest
For icing
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Make filling:
Roast nuts until lightly golden.  Let cool and pulse until chopped in food processor.  Remove from processor   Pulse figs and raisins in a food processor until finely chopped, then stir together with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Chill, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and zest and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Halve dough and gather each half into a ball, then flatten each half into a rough 6- by 4-inch rectangle between sheets of plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 8 hours.

Form cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out 1 rectangle of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into a 15- by 14-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin.  Trim away rough edges and cut dough horizontally every three inches.  Make logs of fillings and place on dough sheets. Carefully fold up a side and roll over filling to enclose it, pinching edges together to seal. Turn rolls seam-sides down and press gently to flatten seams. Cut logs crosswise with a floured knife into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices and arrange 1/2 inch apart on buttered large baking sheets.

Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 14 to 18 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool until warm, about 10 minutes.

Make icing while first batch of cookies bake:
Whisk together confectioners sugar, vanilla, and enough orange juice to make a runny icing.  Either pour icing over top or spread icing quickly with a knife.  Make sure you stop frequently to put on nonpareils because the icing dries fast.  Let cool completely before storing.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pumpkin Soup

After it is all gone I discovered that the picture does not look so appetizing.  But this soup is awesome.  A friend of mine gave me the recipe.  Thanks Adele!  She had brought the soup to a potluck that I went to.  I was going crazy over it.

Those lumps are me being in a hurry to get this soup on the table.  Blend it in a food processor and you can make it thinner with chicken broth.  I don't mind it being thick but thin it to your desire.

Pumpkin Soup with Sage
The step of roasting the pumpkin is VERY important to the taste of this soup.  Whether it's canned pumpkin or fresh- it does not matter- roast it.

15 oz can or about 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (no spices- just puree)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
1 large onion
1 to 2 quarts chicken broth
1 teaspoon sage
2 cups cream ( I used half and half)

Roast pumpkin in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  I turned the oven off and left it in there.  Mine was fresh pumpkin. 

Saute onions and carrots in butter until translucent   Add in apple and continue to saute.  When apple is a bit tender add in pumpkin, sage and broth.  Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes.  Puree the soup and add the cream.  Heat the soup just enough to warm it back up again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Egg Nog Cookies

I dont know about you but Christmas has snuck up on me.  I spent many weeks not feeling well because of some respriatory infection.  It set me way back on Christmas preparations.  Geez I have so much to do.  I think I need to take a step back, relax and say to myself, "whatever gets done, gets done, and what does not, just let it go."

I have my family and they have me.  The presents are just extra.  So what if I don't get everything they wanted.  I will do my best.  Same for donations.  If I don't get everything done.  There is always tomorrow and really donation centers always appreciate things no matter what time of year.

And the one thing I did this year is, not put every stinkin' Christmas decoration up.  I put about a 1/3 of what I have.  Its all good.  

I also haven't been charmed by every cute Christmas project at every blog I go to.  Sometimes I just get so enamored that I have to make all these cute little things.  It takes up a lot of time.  Time that I could just be enjoying my children instead. 

One thing we did do this year was make cookies with Granny.  The kids and I went over to my Mothers house and made ginger snap cookies, peanut butter cookies and these egg nog cookies.  The kids really like making the tine marks in the peanut butter cookies.

I was a bit skeptical about how these cookies would turn out. I thought for the amount of eggnog that is in these cookies, you just won't taste it. Well, I was wrong. Seriously wrong.
These cookies are the bomb! Great flavor, rich, creamy and delicious. A fantastic addition to your holiday cookies.

Eggnog Cookies
adapted from this recipe at Taste of Home

1-1/3 cups butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons eggnog
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 to 3 tablespoons eggnog

Additional ground nutmeg for garnish

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. About five minutes of mixing. Beat in egg yolks, eggnog and extract. Gradually beat in flour. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.

Shape into 1-in. balls; place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 325° for 13-16 minutes or until bottoms are brown. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together for frosting.  Very slowly beat in enough eggnog to reach desired consistency. Spread over cookies; sprinkle with additional nutmeg. Let stand until set. Store in airtight containers.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Granola Bars

I am always looking at and trying recipes for granola bars.  I mean I like the one I make now but sometimes I am looking for more crunch or sometimes more sweetness, I want to change it up a  little so I keep trying them.  This last one was pretty good.  Though not crunchy, it had wonderful chewiness and the kids sure liked it.

Stir in whatever pleases you. We had leftover Halloween candy so I asked the girls if I could use their M and M's. They gladly offered them up as they really like them in the granola bars.

3 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raisins
3/4 cups M and M's
2 tablespoons crushed flax seed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 - cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325. Spray a 9x13 inch glass pan with cooking spray.

Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into prepared pan and spread out the mixture. Press down to make it even. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes in the pan then cut into bars. Place the bars on a wire rack and cool completely. Store loosely covered at room temperature.