Beef Potato Bake

 
Bret made a wonderful brisket in December and I froze half of it since we can’t eat that much meat before it goes south.  This Beef Potato Bake originally called for ground beef, but I really wanted to use that tasty brisket.  It has the basics – beef, onion, potatoes, cheese, so I knew it would make a quick, hearty lunch.


I haven’t cooked with canned cream of mushroom soup in a long time.  It seems like everything from my early cooking years had some sort of cream soup in it – mainly because it made a good gravy.  After looking at the ingredients (wow – that sodium!), I put it aside for years and make most everything from scratch.  This recipe, though, blends the soup nicely with the other ingredients and makes a nice creamy binder for the meat and potatoes.


Bret and I both had two helpings, so I guess it was a successful new recipe!  Besides slicing the potatoes, it was a fairly quick throw-together dish.  Since it uses on-hand ingredients, I’ll keep this recipe handy to make with ground beef or leftover brisket.


Beef Potato Bake
***1/2 Very good, hearty dish for a quick meal. Add peas, or celery, or whatever you like.

1 tsp. oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 lb. cooked brisket, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 C. chicken broth
1/4 C. milk
1/2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. regular or smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
3 C. thinly sliced potatoes (2 to 3 large baking potatoes)
1 C. shredded cheddar/Monterrey Jack blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small pan, saute the onions in the oil til almost tender. Add the brisket and stir till warm. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the soup, broth, milk, mozzarella cheese, garlic salt, paprika and pepper until well blended.

Lightly spray a casserole dish and place an overlapping layer of potatoes on the bottom of it (half of the potatoes). Pour half of the soup mixture over the potatoes, then half of the brisket/onion mixture over the soup layer. Sprinkle half of the cheese over that layer. Repeat with the rest of the potato, soup, brisket, cheese. Cover the dish with lightly sprayed aluminum foil (so the cheese won’t stick to it) and cook for 1 hour. Remove the aluminum foil and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving – it will firm up some.

Tips and Stuff
You could use ground beef instead of cooked brisket. Just brown the beef with the onions (without adding the oil) and drain the grease.

Lemon Glazed Scones

 
Winter time means great citrus fruit time.  A friend gave us some beautiful homegrown lemons and there was no way I was going to let them go bad.  They’re bright yellow with a rather thin skin and were bursting with juice.  These Lemon Glazed Scones are just perfect to really showcase the bright, fresh flavor.


The scone is barely sweet and the amazing lemon glaze really complemented the flavor.  I had a hard time not licking the glaze bowl.  It was tart, sweet, and lemony and the addition of the butter made it creamy and buttery, too.  What a combination!


These were divine with coffee.  It makes me want to go out and get one of those greenhouse lemon trees.  If only I had somewhere to grow them!


Lemon Glazed Scones
****Outstanding. Barely sweet scone with a creamy, tart-sweet glaze. Makes 8 scones.

Scones:
1/3 C., plus 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
lemon zest from one large lemon
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
8 tbsp. (one stick) frozen butter
1 egg
1/2 C. evaporated milk

Glaze:
1 C. powdered sugar
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest.  In another medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and soda.  Stir into sugar/lemon mixture until combined.  Grate the butter into the flour mixture and mix quickly with your hands until it resembles coarse meal.  In a small bowl, combine the egg and milk.  Pour into the flour mixture and stir all together until thoroughly combined.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly flour surface and form into a smooth ball.  Shape into a 7 or 8″ circle, about 3/4″ thick and cut into 8 even triangles.  Place the scones onto a parchment covered baking sheet with a little room between each.  Bake for approximately 15 minutes until very lightly golden brown – don’t over bake.  Allow the scones to cool on a rack.  When completely cool, whisk together the glaze ingredients and brush onto scones. Let set before storing.

Tips and Stuff
I sprinkled a little turbinado sugar on each scone before baking.  I loved the crunch it gave them after baked.
I also sprinkled a little more lemon zest on each scone after they were glazed.

Sausage Bean Soup

 
It’s getting cold outside (finally) and thoughts go to warm, comforting soup.  Bret bought some great Italian sausage last week and I’ve been looking for something to make with it.  This Sausage Bean Soup looked perfect.  I could tell it was going to be good!

I changed the original Taste of Home recipe slightly by adding a bit of chili sauce because I wanted more of a tomato base to it.  I also like my soup more soupy than chunky, so I added more liquid for that.  The result was a wonderful savory soup full of good stuff like tomatoes, butter beans, black beans and sweet Italian Sausage.

If you don’t have Italian sausage, I’m sure ground beef or ground turkey would be great too. Some of the reviewers used great northern beans instead of the butter beans, but I liked the texture the butter beans added. You could even leave the meat out and add a third kind of bean if that’s more your style. This is a nice addition to my soup recipes and I’ll be using it often!


Sausage Bean Soup
***1/2 – slightly adapted from Taste of Home. Makes 5-6 servings.

3/4 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1/2 C. chopped onion
1 garlic clove minced
1 can (16 oz.) butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tbsp. chili sauce
1 tbsp. minced fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 cans (or about 20 oz.) reduced-sodium beef broth

In a dutch oven or large pan, crumble and cook the sausage along with the onion and garlic over medium heat until no longer pink, 5-7 minutes.  Drain excess grease.

Stir in beans, tomatoes, chili sauce, basil, and beef broth, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes.

Tips and Stuff
I added a teaspoon of olive oil because the sausage didn’t have enough fat to saute the onion and garlic.
Enjoy!

Potato Candy

 
Remember this one?  My mother used to make Potato Candy every year and put it on her three-tier glass stand along with date balls, fudge, molasses cookies and fruitcake.  She probably had fun chasing us three girls around the house after all that sugar, but we sure enjoyed those Christmas sweets!

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My Mom’s recipe was “boil Irish potatoes with jackets on, mix with powdered sugar, add a pinch of salt and some vanilla.  Roll out very thin, add a layer of peanut butter and roll up.  Refrigerate till firm, then slice into 1/4″ slices.”  O.K.  On the first try, I nuked two potatoes and started adding powdered sugar…and kept adding and adding and adding.  It never got to doughy consistency, even after over a box of powdered sugar.  Into the garbage it went.

I decided to try again this year and used one-half of one potato.  I started adding powdered sugar by the cup and finally at about 3 1/2 cups, the the dough was formed and I could roll it out and finish the recipe.  I was amazed at how much liquid the potato added to the batter!

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Making this candy really brought back memories of sneaking into the refrigerator and grabbing a few of these sweet, peanut-buttery candies every time I went by!


Potato Candy
*** Very sweet candy with a peanut butter finish.  Makes 20-25 slices.

1/2 medium baking potato
3 1/2 C. powdered sugar (may need more)
1 C. peanut butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Microwave the potato until soft.  Mix the potato and one cup of the powdered sugar in a medium bowl till smooth.  Add vanilla and salt. Continue adding powdered sugar until it forms a dough consistency that you can pick up (leave it slightly sticky).  Put a little powdered sugar on your counter and knead the dough until proper consistency for rolling.  Add powdered sugar as needed.  Roll out the dough into a 1/4″ thick square and spread the peanut butter evenly.  Roll the dough into a log and cover with saran wrap.  Put in the refrigerator for at least one hour, then cut into 1/4″ slices.  Keep refrigerated when not serving.

Tips and Stuff
You can always use more potato, but remember it takes a ton of powdered sugar per potato!
You can use smooth or crunchy peanut butter. I like to use smooth as it rolls up more easily.
The slices are thin, but the candy is very sweet and doesn’t need to be sliced any thicker.

Caramel and Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows

 
These Caramel and Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows are so clever.  I love all of the components – caramel, chocolate, marshmallows, and you eat them with a stick like a decadent marshmallow pop!  What could better?
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They’re easy to make, but take a little patience dipping the caramel, letting it set, then dipping into the melted chocolate and rolling in whatever floats your boat (my boat was floated by red, white and green nonpareils).  They would be good rolled in chopped pecans, almonds, or even crushed peppermint.  It’s a wonderful two-bite dessert that you’ll love.
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I wished I’d known about this little recipe years ago.  I definitely would have been making them for all kinds of occasions.  They’re easy to grab and go, so are perfect for parties.  I loved the crisp chocolate, gooey caramel and soft marshmallow combination, and the nonpareils gave it a little crunch.  Oh, so good and a little bit addictive.
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Caramel and Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows
****Outstanding little two-bite sized dessert. Will make again and again.

1 bag large marshmallows
1 large bag (16 oz.) caramels
2 tbsp. evaporated milk or half-and-half
1 bag chocolate coating disks (or package of dipping chocolate of your choice)
6″ pop sticks

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper and lightly spray with Pam or a light layer of room temperature butter. Wipe off excess.

Put a pop stick straight down into each marshmallow.  Melt caramel with milk over a double boiler and roll each marshmallow in it.  Place each caramel covered marshmallow on the waxed paper.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes (or in the freezer for about 15 minutes).

Melt the dipping chocolate either in a large bowl in the microwave or over the double boiler.  Dip and roll each marshmallow completely in the chocolate.  Before the chocolate on the marshmallows sets, roll in your choice of coating and place on the waxed paper to set.  Let harden at room temperature.  May be stored at room temperature.

Tips and Stuff
I tipped the caramel pan to the side while I was rolling the marshmallows in the caramel.  It was easier than dipping straight down into the pan. I did the same with the chocolate.
Don’t forget to grease the waxed paper or the caramel will stick badly to it.  Next time I might try it directly on a greased cookie sheet and skip the waxed paper.
Enjoy – these are wonderful!

Oatmeal Lace Cookies

 
Years ago, my sister gave me a gift of lace cookies from Holland.  I’ve never forgotten how good they were and finally found a recipe that tastes just like those I had so long ago.  These Oatmeal Lace Cookies are incredible!  A little crispy, a little chewy, and a layer of chocolate in the middle of it all.  They’re buttery and irresistible.
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Even though the ingredients are simple and it only takes a few minutes to put together, it makes so many cookies that there’s a time investment putting them on the cookie sheets, peeling them off after cooled and then slathering that good chocolate between them. But oh, the return! They’re delicate in a way, but are also rich and substantial. If you can’t tell, I really love these cookies.
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Oatmeal Lace Cookies
**** Outstanding cookies. Makes 70 to 80 2 1/2″ rounds (about 40 when sandwiched with chocolate – highly recommended!)

1 C. butter
2 1/4 C.light brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 C. oatmeal
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Heat butter and brown sugar together in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until smooth (until you don’t have the sugary feel under the spoon; 3-5 minutes). Stir in the oats, flour, salt, egg*, and vanilla.

Drop cookie batter onto the baking sheets by scant teaspoons about 2 1/2″ apart (cookies will spread a lot). Bake for 5-6 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Cool them on the baking sheets while you’re baking the next batch, then remove to cooling rack.

After completely cooled, match up like-sized cookies. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds, stir, then continue at 10 second increments, stirring each time until melted and smooth. Spoon about 1 tsp. of the melted chocolate on one side of the matched cookies and lightly press together with the other one. Let cool on racks until set. Store in a pan with waxed paper between layers so the cookies don’t stick together. (update: do not freeze well. When thawed they got soggy, so eat when fresh)

Tips and Stuff
Don’t over bake these – if they’re dark brown, they’re burnt and not so tasty.
They look incredibly thin after baked, but they’ll come up fine off of the parchment paper if you give them enough time to cool.
*When adding the egg to the hot mixture, stir in quickly and thoroughly so it doesn’t scramble.
Experiment with the first pan – these really do spread a lot and will mush if set too close together.

Pecan Pie Cookies

 
We have seven pecan trees in our yard and about one in five years they make tons of great pecans.  Luckily, this is one of those years!  For weeks I’ve become quite adept at cracking and prodding little pecans out of their shells and have gotten about two and a half quart bags full! Now I get to make those pecan recipes that have been lurking in my “to-try” file all these years.
pecanpie-cookies-long
I’ve been wanting to try these cookies forever.  It’s a cookie, it’s a pecan pie – what a perfect combination!  They were fairly easy to throw together, but take an extra few minutes to spoon the pie filling into the cookie.  Way worth it, though.  This was one good cookie and will be great for the holidays.
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The brown sugar cookie is good by itself, but put that rich pecan pie filling on it and you’ve got one little delectable dessert.  If you and your family like pecan pie, you’ll like this cookie.
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Pecan Pie Cookies
*** 1/2 Yummy little cookie that will be great for the holiday season. Makes about 3 dozen.

1 C. firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 C. butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Filling:
1 C. chopped pecans
1/2 C. firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 C. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the brown sugar, butter, egg and vanilla into a mixing bowl and mix until creamy.  In a small bowl, stir the flour and baking powder together, then add 1/2 C. at a time to the mixing bowl, mixing between each addition (mix on low or you’ll have flour all over you) until well combined.  Refrigerate dough for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on cookie sheets and roll cookies into a 1 1/4″ balls.  Put the filling ingredients into a medium bowl and stir well. Press a round thumbprint well into each cookie and fill each well with about 1 tsp. of filling (it should be fairly  piled up on the cookie).  Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned.  Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet, then move them over to a cooling rack.  Store in an air-tight container with waxed paper between layers.

Tips and Stuff
Don’t skip the refrigerated dough step.  It helps keep the cookies puffy instead of flat.
Don’t over bake the cookies so that they’ll come out soft.  It’s a great contrast between the soft cookie and crunchy pie filling.

Peanut Butter Snowballs and Bonbons

 
These simple peanut butter candies are wonderful and perfect for Christmas (or any time of the year, really).  They come together quickly, although rolling them into balls takes a little time.  The peanut butter center is smooth and creamy and goes perfectly with either the powdered sugar or chocolate covering. Bret preferred the chocolate. I preferred both….

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You’ve probably made similar candies in the past and its time to pull out the recipe and make them again for Christmas! Everyone will appreciate it – definitely.
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Peanut Butter Snowballs (or Bonbons)
****Outstanding smooth peanut butter center. Great with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate!  Makes about 30 candies.

1/4 C. butter (melted)
1 3/4 C. powdered sugar
3/4 C. creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for coating
Melted chocolate chips for dipping, if desired
1/2 tsp. vegetable or canola oil

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter, powdered sugar, peanut butter and vanilla until completely combined.  Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place on the cookie sheet.  Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, then roll each ball in powdered sugar.  Store in airtight container.

For chocolate-dipped bonbons, melt about 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1/2 tsp. of vegetable or canola oil (microwave for 45 seconds, stir, then microwave for 10 second increments, stirring between after each 10 seconds). Dip the dough balls into the melted chocolate, then refrigerate at least 30 minutes to set chocolate.

Tips and Stuff
You can easily double this recipe.
I made half of mine dipped in the chocolate and half rolled in powdered sugar. Both were great!

Chewy Almond Cookies

 
These chewy cookies looked so good at Wilton.com that I just had to make them.  They look like a little bite of Christmas!  I wasn’t sure what to expect since there are only four ingredients along with two decorative items, but they made tasty and chewy little cookies.
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I’ve only worked with almond paste once before and found that you have to manually work with it quite a bit to get it to blend with the other ingredients. It comes in a block and I had to pull it into pieces and mix it into the sugar for quite awhile to break up the chunks.  After the addition of the vanilla and egg white, though, the mixture came together nicely.  It whipped up quickly, but only makes about a dozen and a half cookies. If you’re needing more, be sure and double the recipe.
chewy-almond-cookies
These are pretty little cookies with a great chewy texture after completely cooled.  You could put green maraschino cherries in them too – that would be good for Christmas.  Because they’re made with almond paste and no flour, they’re naturally gluten free if you’re concerned with that.  You’ll know they’re made with almond paste instead of flour because of the texture, but it works with these cookies.  Another good addition to the Christmas cookie list!


Chewy Almond Cookies
***1/2. Very good. Chewy almondy texture. Good little cookie with few ingredients.

8 oz. almond paste
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 egg white
10 maraschino cherries, halved
1/4 C. sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pull apart the almond paste into pieces and place the pieces and the sugar in a food processor.  Pulse till almond paste is separated and blended with the sugar.  Add the vanilla and egg white and blend until smooth. (If you don’t have a food processor, mix the paste and sugar in a stand mixer on low till it’s a sandy mixture. Then add vanilla and egg white and mix till smooth).  It will still have a bit of texture from the almond paste.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and placed on parchment paper-lined pans. Press the middle of each cookie with your thumb and place and cherry in the depression. Press sliced almonds into the side of each cookie.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or until lightly browned, turning the pan once during baking.  Cool the cookies completely on the pan over a rack and then peel the cookies off of the parchment paper.  Store in a tightly sealed container.

Tips and Stuff
Pat the maraschino cherries dry or they’ll bleed onto your cookie.
I didn’t use a food processor, so I made sure and pulled the almond paste into little pieces before mixing.  Be sure it’s on low or it will fly out of the bowl!
I tried the cookies with sliced almonds on the sides, as well as crushed almonds and no almonds at all.  I think it’s prettiest with the sliced almonds. Also, after baked the almonds get a toasty flavor and are very good.
The dough is very sticky, but roll them by hand.
Let them cool completely on the paper or the bottom will pull out when lifted.

Dark Chocolate Sablés

 
It’s time for Christmas cookies!  These Dark Chocolate Sablés (Sah-bless) from Southern Living caught my eye earlier this year and I thought it would be a pretty cookie for the Christmas platters.  They had theirs sprinkled with sea salt, but I liked the look of the red, white and green nonpareils.

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Sablés are classic French cookies and are usually delicate and crumbly and, to be honest, can sometimes end up rather dry.  These, though, ended up wonderfully, deeply chocolate and even though they’re still shortbread textured, they’re not dry at all.  The addition of the finely chopped bittersweet chocolate to the dough and the final dip in the same melted chocolate really added that extra level of goodness.

chocolate-sables

These cookies were easy to put together and the only delay was waiting for them to freeze for thirty minutes. I did discover a way to keep the cookies round. You know the way refrigerator cookies end up kind of oblong because when you refrigerate them the bottom of the dough flattens out? Well, if you take a paper towel tube (after the towels are gone of course…) and cut it length-wise, you can slip the rolled dough into it before refrigerating. It will keep the dough nice and round for perfect cookies!

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I loved these little cookies and found that you could freeze the dough for up to a month before baking. They’ll be a nice addition to the Christmas cookie plates!

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Dark Chocolate Sablés

1 C. salted butter, softened
1 C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 scant tsp. kosher salt
2 1/2, 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bars (they come in 4 oz. bars)
Decorations for the dipped cookies (sea salt, nonpareils, etc.)

Beat butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy.  Add vanilla and beat until combined.  Stir together flour, cocoa, and salt.  Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, about a half-cup at a time and beat on low after each addition.  Finely chop 1 of the 4 oz. chocolate baking bars and stir into the cookie dough until fully mixed in.

Divide dough in half and shape each into an 8-inch-long log.  Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and freeze until firm – about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°.  Cut dough into 1/4-inch thick slices and place about an inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Keep remaining dough refrigerated while baking the batch.  Bake for about 12 minutes, until slightly firm.  Cool on pans for about 5 minutes and then remove cookies to a rack to completely cool.

Chop the remaining 1 1/2 chocolate baking bars and place in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on high, stirring every 30 seconds until chocolate is melted and smooth (about 1 1/2 minutes total).

Dip half of each baked cookie into the melted chocolate and place on waxed paper.  Decorate with sea salt, nonpareils or chopped pecans if desired.   Chill in the refrigerator until the chocolate sets, about 20 minutes.  To store, layer the cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Tips and Stuff
Be sure and use kosher salt for the cookie dough.  If you don’t have any and are using table salt, you’ll end up with a very salty cookie!
I ended up using my hands to mix the chopped chocolate into the cookie dough, as it was very thick and hard to stir with a spoon.
Watch the melting chocolate carefully – if you microwave it too long, it will seize up.
If you’re using sea salt for decoration, you may want to wait until the chocolate on the dipped cookie is firm.  I found that it melted right into the chocolate when applied to it while warm.