Mulled Cranberry and Orange Punch

Sunday, November 29, 2009

One of my favorite parts about the onset of cooler weather each year is the perfect excuse I have to get warmed back up again with a  comforting mug of hot cider.  I love the flavor of this recipe I got from my friend Heather--it's not too sweet and not too sour and looks so festive with its red/pink color!  We served this up as part of our Thanksgiving dinner and the kids liked it just as much as the adults. 

Click here for printable recipe

The ingredients:

2 cups water
4 cups cranberry juice
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. whole cloves

Combine everything together and heat until boiling.  Simmer on stovetop or mull in crockpot for 1 hour.  If desired, strain punch before serving to remove cloves and cinnamon sticks.  Serve hot. 


M&M Coconut Cookies

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

  Whenever I start to feel stressed and overwhelmed I tend to crave cookies.  They're easy to make and oh so comforting.  So when my friend Clarinda posted this recipe on her awesome new food blog  right in the middle of some big stressors in my life, I started obsessing about these cookies.  I literally saw the recipe, started drooling, and within 24 hours had gone to the store for the missing ingredients.  With coconut and chocolate it was just the stress relieving pleasure I was looking for and my kids loved the fun, bright colors.     Hope you have a happy and relaxing Thanksgiving! 

The ingredients: 

3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1-3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 cups coconut
2 cups  plain M & M's

Preheat oven to 350° .  Cream shortening, sugar and brown sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients together and add to shortening mixture.  Stir in coconut and M&Ms.

Be careful...the dough is addicting!

Spoon dough on to ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 350°  for 7-10 minutes.   Enjoy!


Layered Chicken and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The last few weeks I have found myself neck deep in way too many projects.  One of the things I've been missing out on while I've been so busy is trying out new recipes.  My old favorite recipes have been gracing our table  more and more lately and I am thankful to my "sisters" who have stepped up in publishing their own recipes, so this blog doesn't fall by the wayside.  It's honestly how I envisioned this blog in the first place--all four of us sisters, two sisters-in-law, a cousin, and my mom all taking turns sharing their favorite recipes--and how I hope it to stay in the future.  

This recipe encapsulates well what my family likes to eat on a daily basis.  It's Mexican, oozing with cheese and cilantro, and easy to make.  I envision this one becoming one of those old favorites in the future!
Click here for printable recipe.  

The ingredients:
2 cups chicken breast, cooked and diced (out of sheer laziness I used a can of Costco chicken)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 can (15-oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (4.5-oz.) diced green chili peppers
1 can (10-oz.) red enchilada sauce
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas (no substitutions)
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 container (8-oz.) low-fat sour cream

Preheat the oven to 375°. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and spray with vegetable cooking spray. Saute chicken with cumin and coriander until chicken is cooked through. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the cilantro, black beans, and green chili peppers.

Spread half of the enchilada sauce over the bottom of an 11x7-inch baking dish. Place 4 tortillas over the sauce, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half of the chicken mixture over the tortillas, and sprinkle with half of the cheese and half of the sour cream. Spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the cheese, and make another layer of tortillas. Layer the remaining chicken mixture over the tortillas.

Cover dish with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven.
Remove the cover, and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and dot with sour cream. Continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.



Avocado Smash

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I heard about this recipe from my sister-in-law, Karey. I tried it and loved it! Karey told me she found it on the Food Network website.  (Note from Lara:  AnnaLisa made this for our family and it was gobbled up in no time flat. I was also impressed with how quick and easy to make it was. )

Click here for Printable Recipe.

Avocado Smash
from AnnaLisa

1 avocado
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves
3 scallions - thinly sliced
1 lime - juiced
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1 plum tomato - finely chopped

Remove one avocado flesh to a bowl. Add the cilantro and scallions. Pop the lime in the microwave for a few seconds. Add the juice of one lime, the sour cream and season with salt and pepper. With a fork or spoon smash up the mixture, leaving chunks for a good consistency. Chop and seed the plum tomato and fold into avocado. Serve with chips or crackers. Enjoy!


Cooking with Kids (Thanksgiving): Turkey Cupcakes

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My kids truly believe that there is a cute treat to go with every holiday and I have no one to blame than myself for this holiday sugar fixation.   It wasn't enough for me to stick with Valentines, Easter, birthdays, and Christmas---no I had to go ahead and throw in Groundhog's Day, April Fools' Day, and even "Pi" Day.   So with all that precedent, of course I'm always on the look-out for more fun ideas to throw into the mix.  This is an idea I got from my friend Andie and knew instantly that my kids would love it, which they did of course!   Click here for my other Thanksgiving recipes. 

Click here for printable recipe. 
(My kids were debating amongst themselves at which way the wings went.  I very nobly decided not to get involved, but if you look at the group picture at the end of the post  you'll see that they never did decide! If you have an opinion, you'll have to let me know. )

The ingredients:
Cupcakes, baked
White frosting
Nutter Butters (for turkey bodies)

Black decorating gel  (for eyes)
 Red fruit roll-ups, cut into small wedge shapes (for wattles)
Vanilla wafers, halved (for wings)
Candy corn (for back feathers)

Frost each cupcake with white frosting; set aside.   Using the black decorating gel, make the eyes and stick the fruit roll-up wedge shaped down (either with the black gel or a bit of the white frosting) to be the wattle.  Push the Nutter Butter "turkey body" down into the center of the cupcake.  Place two vanilla wafer halves on either side of the turkey to be the wings and finally making two rows, place several candy corns upside down back behind the turkey to be the tail feathers. 

Cute, cute!
NOTE:  If you  have food allergies which prevent you from using the Nutter Butter cookies, I have found that Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies work well as a nut-free, although slightly more expensive substitute .    



Spicy Mole Pork Burritos

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This is a recipe I found in the Washington Post food section after it was named a finalist in the 2008 Pillsbury Bake-Off. I was intrigued by the description and by the unique mix of ingredients, so I decided to give it a try.  Because of the long prep time, I don't think I'll be making them often, but it was fun to sample a recipe worthy of being a bake-off  finalist.

(Please forgive the boring picture.  I could have sworn I took one with it unrolled, but somehow it never quite made it from the camera to the computer.)

Click here for printable recipe.  

The ingredients:
1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1 cup water
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 medium clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 Tbs. apricot preserves
2 Tbs. chopped green chili peppers, drained (from a 4.5-oz. can)
1/4 cup raisins
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbs. finely ground almonds
1 pound lean ground pork
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (10-oz.) enchilada sauce
1 can (15-oz.) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
8 flour tortillas (8-inch) {red or green tortillas would make for a more interesting color combo}
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-1/2 cups sour cream, for garnish
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Cook the rice in the water according to package directions. When it is ready, remove it from the heat.

Meanwhile, combine the onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the chipotle pepper, apricot preserves, green chili peppers, raisins, cocoa, and ground almonds.

Lightly grease a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and place over medium high heat. When hot, add the pork and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no pink remains. Drain.

Add the onion mixture to the drained ground pork; reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the preserves mixture, broth, and enchilada sauce; increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes until it turns a rich mahogany color and is aromatic. Add the beans and cooked rice; cook for 2-3 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Meanwhile, heat the tortillas according to package directions.

To assemble, spoon about 1/3 cup of the pork filling down center of tortilla; there may be filling left over (reserve for another use). Sprinkle the cheese over the filling of each burrito. Fold sides toward center, overlapping edges. To serve, place the burrito, folded sides down, on individual plates. Garnish each serving with dollops of sour cream and the cilantro. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.



Ice Cream Cake Trifle

Monday, November 16, 2009

(NOTE from Lara:  This is my cousin Trish's first post ever!  Let's give her a warm welcome to the Recipe Shoebox and to the world of blogging.  They've made this divine dessert for our family before and it was as beautiful as it was sinfully delicious!)

Click here for printable recipe


Ice cream sandwiches
caramel topping
hot fudge topping
crushed almonds (actually, I prefer Heath Candy bars here)
whipped cream

(Try out different toppings, nuts or candies to determine your own favorite variation on this dessert)!

This layered dessert can be assembled in a trifle bowl or a 9x13 dish depending on how you'd like to see it displayed ( I suggest using glass so that you can show off the pretty layers)!

Begin by using the ice cream sandwiches as your first layer. Fit them closely and tight, cut to fit if needed.

Cover that layer with whipped cream and drizzle with caramel topping.

Sprinkle crushed almonds, and then top that with another layer of ice cream sandwiches and whipped cream, only this time drizzle with hot fudge before sprinkling the almonds. Continue to layer in this manner until you run out of room or ingredients!

Put in freezer to set up until ready to slice and serve serve... don't eat too much, it can be addicting ;-)


Gingersnaps with Pumpkin Dip

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm a real sucker for falltime desserts, which is why this combination caught my eye at a wedding reception I attended recently. This sweet pumpkin dip is a perfect complement to the soft, spicy gingersnap. It's also great on apples, graham crackers, and Wheat Thins.


Gingersnaps with Pumpkin Dip
from Karey

For Gingersnaps:
3/4 c. butter or shortening, or a combination
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (optional, but encouraged!)
1/2 c. sugar, for rolling

For the dip:
1/2 c. pumpkin
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 - 1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream butter/shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg. Beat until smooth. Add sifted dry ingredients. Roll into 1-inch balls, then roll in sugar. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 min.

Place all ingredients for the dip in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth.

Dip to your heart's content!


Cooking with Kids (Thanksgiving): Oreo Turkey Treats

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

After all those fun Halloween treats we made a few weeks ago, my kids were getting the itch to try something fun for Thanksgiving too.  One of the kids' teachers made these last year with their class and I thought they were just adorable, so we decided to try it at home.  My younger kids needed some help with the details, but my older ones (6+) had no problems and totally enjoyed themselves in the process. They're fun, cute, festive, and easy to make. Can't beat that!  

(Click here for another version of Oreo Turkeys and some cute Turkey Cupcakes). 

Click here for printable recipe.

The ingredients:
(per turkey)
2 double stuffed Oreo cookies
7 candy corn
1 Whopper candy
1 pkg. squeezable white icing (with a fine tip)
1 pkg. squeezable red icing/gel (with a fine tip)

Place a little stripe of frosting about half way around the Oreo, between the cookies.
Gently wiggle the candy corns down in between the chocolate layers to create the "feathers".
Remove the top chocolate layer off the other Oreo. Put a little stripe of white icing and place the Oreo filled with the candy corn feathers upright into it pushing down slightly.
 Decorate the whopper with eyes and a wattle...

Place a tiny dab of frosting in front to hold the whopper "head".
Total Thanksgiving cuteness!


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Pear Frangipane Tart

Monday, November 9, 2009

Did you know that you are a pastry chef? You are! Or at least you will be, once you make this tart. Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it! This one's sure to wow your Thanksgiving guests!

I found this recipe in the back of a recent Family Fun magazine, and I was instantly drooling over the combination of pear and almond flavors. Weeks later, I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I finally dove in despite my fear of the process. I was surprised to find that the recipe had such perfect instructions that everything was incredibly easy! I will type up the instructions verbatim, so I don't mess things up for you!

It's also a very forgiving recipe. I don't have a food processor (just a little chopper), I didn't have unsalted butter (just omitted the pinches of salt), I don't stock unbleached flour in my pantry (subbed half all-purpose, half whole wheat pie and pastry flour - which was divine!), and I always forget to buy parchment paper (the egg wash stuck a little bit, but the crust was fine). Be prepared to put this one in the keeper file once you try it! By the way, a little Googling taught me that it's pronounced "fran-juh-pan".

Click here for printable recipe.

Pear Frangipane Tart
from Family Fun Magazine, November 2009

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
*be sure to spoon the flour into the measuring cup, rather than using the cup as a scoop!
9 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup ice water

For the frangipane:

1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
Pinch of salt

For the pear filling:

3 ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 1.5 lbs.) peeled, cored, and each cut into about 12 slices
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Pinch of salt

For finishing the tart:

1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
Sugar for sprinkling
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional)

1. Make the dough. In a food processor, pulse the chilled flour and butter with the salt, until the butter is reduced to pea-size pieces, about 7 or 8 times. Pour the ice water in a steady stream through the lid opening, pulsing the processor 6-8 times as you do so. Do not pulse the mixture after all the water has been added (the dough should be dry and crumbly).

2. Place the mixture on a cool work surface. With the heel of your hand, mash it against the counter until it comes together and forms a rough dough. Shape it into a 1/2-inch-thick disk and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

3. Next, make the frangipane. In a food processor, grind the almonds and sugar into a fine meal. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse in short bursts until well blended. Set the mixture aside.

4. For the filling, toss the pears with the sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Taste the filling, add more sugar if desired, and set it aside.

5. Heat the oven to 425° F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough into a 16-inch round, rotating it after each roll to prevent sticking. If needed lightly dust with flour as you roll. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 15 minutes if at any time it becomes warm and hard to handle. Fold the dough in half twice (quarters) and transfer it to a parchment lined cookie sheet.

6. Unfold the dough and spread the frangipane in an 8-inch circle in the center. Add the pears, arranging them in an even layer on top of the frangipane. Fold the sides of the dough over the pears, pleating and tucking the edges as you go.

7. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle it with sugar. Cut the tablespoon of butter into small pieces, then scatter them over the entire tart. Reduce the oven temperature to 400° and bake the tart in the lower third of the oven until the bottom is brown and crispy and the top is golden, about 40 minutes. Cool the tart for about 30 minutes before serving it warm, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if you like. Serves 8 (or four if you're feeling indulgent!).


Cheddar Dill Bread

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sometimes I get so focused on making the main dish of a meal, that everything else just goes by the wayside. As a result, I'm always on the lookout for simple, easy side dishes to accompany my simple, easy main dishes. This is one I found that whipped up quickly, had the light flaky texture of biscuits, with the robust flavor of dill and cheddar. It rounded out our meal just perfectly!

The ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tsp. dill weed
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly; stir in cheddar and dill. In a small bowl, beat egg and milk; pour into dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. (Batter will be very thick--similar to a biscuit dough). Don't overwork the dough.

Place dough into greased 8-in. x 4-in. x 2-in. loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Makes 1 loaf.



Buttermilk Pecan Waffles

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I have always felt that eating dinner together as a family is a powerful way to reconnect and stay in touch with our kids. After all, we all have to eat anyway and sitting down is the most convenient way to do it, so why not make it a family affair? But lately it's getting harder and harder. My kids are at four different schools this year, have sports and music practices, church activities, and homework. Suddenly our "easy" way to reconnect isn't so easy anymore. Anyone who is home will join in for family dinner, but it's becoming less and less common that all seven of us are home at one time in the evening.

So, what do we do?

The next best thing to dinner----Breakfast! Most school days breakfast is still a hurried affair with all the different schedules, but on the weekends we like to slow down and savor our breakfasts a little more. Toast and cereal make way for pancakes, waffles, muffins, and eggs. I love the extra time we get to gather all together as a family around the table and I love that after a good hearty breakfast we buy an extra hour or two before everyone's hungry for lunch.

These buttermilk pecan waffles were a little heartier and a lot more flavorful than most waffles and with the "Secret" Buttermilk Syrup recipe were yum, yum, yum and a great way to start the day with your loved ones!

Click here for printable recipe.

The ingredients:
2 cups flour (I used half white, half whole wheat)
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted ( I reduced it to 1/3 cup)
3 Tbs. chopped pecans

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs until light. Add buttermilk; mix well. Add dry ingredients and beat until batter is smooth. Stir in butter.

Pour about 3/4 cup batter onto a lightly greased preheated waffle iron. Sprinkle with a few pecans (if desired). Bake according to manufacturer's directions until golden brown. Repeat until batter and pecans are gone. Serve hot with fresh fruit and "Secret" Buttermilk Syrup. Make about 7 waffles.



Pretzel Rolls

Monday, November 2, 2009

A couple of months ago my sister-in-law Karey brought these lovely looking rolls to our monthly family dinner....

Not only were they beautiful to look at, but they were also reminiscent in texture, taste, and chewiness to the soft pretzels of my youth. Ever since then I've been obsessed with making them myself. I've tried a few recipes now and found this one to be the best of the bunch. It seems the secret is the baking soda, sugar, and water bath before baking. The boiling water gives it the chewy texture and the baking soda and sugar give it the distinctive pretzel-y flavor.

These are definitely better the first day and you don't want to save them in a plastic bag if you do have leftovers, since they'll get soggy after a while. Wrapping them in a towel to save overnight seems to be the best way to store them overnight. I did make one of the batches with whole wheat flour and they didn't have quite the right chewy texture, but were definitely still delicious!

Click here for printable recipe.

The ingredients:

(coarse salt and cornmeal not pictured)

5-1/2 cups flour
2 Tbs. quick rising yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
up to 2-1/2 cups hot water (125°-130°) (probably will not need all of this)
8 cups water (for boiling)
1/4 cup baking soda
2 Tbs. sugar
1 egg white, beaten
Coarse salt

Combine flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in stand mixer and blend together. While machine is still running, gradually add hot water until a smooth elastic dough consistency is reached (you may not need all of the water, so be sure to add slowly).

Knead for 3-4 minutes. Add dough to large greased bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

When dough is doubled, punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide dough into 3 equal sections. Take one of the thirds and form into six equal sized dough balls. Using serrated knife (or cooking shears), cut X in top center of each dough ball. Repeat with the other two thirds of the dough. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 25 minutes.

Preheat oven 375°. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal, set aside. Bring 8 cups of water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam). Add 4-6 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Brush rolls with egg white glaze.
Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt.

Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly on wire rack. Serve warm or room temperature. Makes 18 rolls.

Look at that perfect texture!



About This Blog

My name is Lara and while I'm definitely not a gourmet cook, I do love preparing tasty, healthy meals for my family. Finding new recipes to try and sharing the ones we've already fallen in love with is a passion I've had since college and the reason why I've started this blog! With five kids, I'm usually in a hurry, so you'll find most of these recipes kid friendly and simple to make.

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