Friday, December 31, 2010

Peppermint Bark

 I made this for my secrete Santa this year, my family really loves it. We like it thin though with a select way of putting in the candy cane pieces. This is something that people always think of before Christmas but what a great thing to do to use up your candy canes from your tree or stocking and would still make a great addition to a New Year's Eve party!
Peppermint Bark
2-3 regular size candy canes
2 cups melty white chocolate (the bigger flat discs of chocolate... I get mine in bulk)





Utensils needed:
Strainer (with somewhat fine mesh)
Wax or parchment paper
Ziploc baggie
microwaveable bowl

Offset cake decorator spatula, if you don't have this than use just a regular spatula (I would recommend getting one though they are very use full and cheap)

Directions:
1. Unwrap candy canes and put them in a Ziploc, and with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin (I prefer the rolling pin) beat up the candy canes. You want some finer crystals and some bigger chunks, make to your liking though.
2. Put out a piece of parchment paper on your counter big enough to hold your chocolate.
3. In a microwaveable bowl microwave the white chocolate for a minute, then stir, and then microwave in 30 second intervals until melted down (should take less than 2 minutes) mine was a minute and a half and it wasn't fully melted but by stirring it I was able to get it nice and smooth without the chocolate freezing up on me.
4. Put the strainer over the bowl of melted white chocolate and pour the candy cane pieces into it, shake the strainer until all the fine crystals of candy cane are through the strainer and into the white chocolate below (this allows you to have a more intense peppermint flavor and the chocolate develops a great little crunchy texture)
5. Remove strainer and pour out white chocolate directly onto counter with wax paper cover. Using the spatula spread it out so it is as thin as you like (I go super thin less than a 1/2 an inch thick) then before the chocolate cools working fairly quickly sprinkle the larger pieces of peppermint candies on top pressing them down slightly to ensure that they stick.
6. Let cool, and when done break into willy-nilly pieces of bark and serve or give as gifts!

*You can buy plastic bags for candies and treats anywhere but you can also use the regular sandwich bags, tie it with a pretty ribbon and it makes a fairly impressive gift. Tasty too!
* Also you could put semi-sweet chocolate underneath and then the white chocolate on top just be careful not to go too thick! Thin layers for both.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

WW Appetizer

I can't take credit for this one, this is one that comes from my mom via an old weight watchers recipe. These utilize those mini pre-baked phyllo cups.
Pear, Brie and Honey Cups
1 pear, diced
2 wee brie, diced
2 tbsp honey, to drizzle
1 tray of phyllo cups
*preheat oven 350
1. Dice pear and brie, assemble cups with a few pieces of pear and brie together and place on a cookie tray.
2. Heat to melt the brie pull out of oven and drizzle each cup with a tiny bit of honey and assemble on tray. Great of can be served warm but also good at room temp.

*Try variations of green apple & blue cheese, maybe even some candied pecans in there. Etc...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Bento's for Molly

So sporadically I will post Bento lunches for Molly. I got a ton of new Bento stuff for Christmas so watch for more Bento posts, it's and obsession! First I got the book Yum-Yum Bento Box... I would HIGHLY recommend it! It is a great tool, they have done a really fantastic job explaining things, giving you templates and ideas as well as resources to get more Bento stuff!

I tried a few new things for this Bento, I got two new egg molds so I had to try those out! The book also talks about coloring the eggs to make them fun colors. So I made a little bunny for Molly and dyed it pink! The book also mentioned little dabs of ketchup for rosy cheeks etc. So that is the little dots on the flowers.

Close up of this tier,. her pink bunny egg, grape tomatoes on a penguin pick, celery with peanut butter and two little candies from her Christmas stocking.










This top tier has cottage cheese in a lettuce cup with pineapple chunks, orange slices, underneath the peperoni and cheese flowers.

Daddy benefited by my experiments his lunch was full of fun stuff too!
Bento Lunch



Yum-Yum Bento Box review: Love this book, I find it very helpful not just in offering great suggestions for places to get bento supplies but also how you can create fun and easy bentos like the pros!
Four Forks!

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

Great tasting quick pasta! See Relish for more recipes like this!

Spaghetti With Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Prep and cook time: 35 minutes
WW+ pts 9
10 ounces spaghetti
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed), julienned, chopped reserving oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
[1] Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until cooked through but still firm to the bite. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water and return the pasta to the pot.
[2] Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil and cook for 1 minute. Add the canned tomatoes (and juices) and the sun-dried tomatoes. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes, for about 15 minutes.
[3] Add the tomato halves and simmer for 10 minutes more.
[4] Add the pasta to the sauce, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add pasta water by the tablespoonful if needed to moisten.
[5] Serve in pasta bowls and garnish with Paremsan.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dinners for Friends

At my work when someone falls ill or needs a little help we all sign up and chip in to create meals for the family. I signed up and made a simple but elegant and healthy meals for two different people at work, one for a person that was in the hospital for a surgery and one for a new mom! Basically I buy the tin foil packing trays, create the meal and then give them print outs not only on how to make the meal itself but also how to reheat. The technique that I tell them to use is called "flashing" it is something that caterer's do to quickly reheat food without overcooking and drying it out. Basically you set your oven to 450 or 475 and then reheat whatever you want (I have done chicken and veggies this way) for 2-10 minutes. This is especially great for meats, I hate chicken reheated in the microwave for example. So to begin for this meal I get the chicken marinating and then I make a big batch of rice, and usually since I am making this for someone else I go ahead and make it for my family too so the rice is for two dinners.
Brown Jasmine Rice
2 cups uncooked rice
4 cups water
1. In a strainer with small holes, wash the rice. Add to a pot (or rice cooker if you have one) I just use a pot on the stove. Add water and a pinch of salt.
2. Heat till boiling, cover and reduce heat to low. Let cook for 20-25 min until done.

Grilled Asian Chicken Breasts

4 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
[1] In a Ziploc bag mix together the soy sauce, honey, orange juice, olive oil, mustard, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and sesame oil and add the chicken. Seal the bag and turn to coat. Marinade while the rice is cooking. If you can remember to make it in the morning that is even better but I never have time for that, believe it or not you get a lot of flavor for even a 20-30 min. marinade.
[2] Grill the chicken (outside BBQ, or inside grill your choice... I convinced my husband to go outside in the cold and plop it on the grill for me :-) ) for about 20-30 minutes.
[3] Place the cooked rice and chicken breast in the tin trays and affix a nice cooking label on top.
*Since this is a Relish recipe I used their note card recipes from their website and just print them out.


Sesame Green Beans

Prep and cook time: 15 minutes
2 pound green beans & carrot pre-trimmed bag from grocer
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
[1] Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add green beans & carrots and cook, uncovered, until crisp tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and since this will be used tomorrow and flash cooked to reheat immediately dunk it in an ice bath. This helps stop the cooking process and keep their colors bright otherwise you might have some dull/discolored green beans.
[2] In a large bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients until well blended. Add green beans and toss to combine.
[3] Add these to a second tin foil tray and affix a cooking label.

*Both of these tin foil trays can be put directly into the oven and flashed at 450 for about 10 minutes to reheat, you might want to put a few drops of water on the rice to help moisten it up a bit.

This was our flashed/reheated dinner the next night. This time I made white jasmine rice instead of brown, but I thought it was very tasty (I especially LOVED the green beans and on weight watchers they are free so I tried to fill up on those). Chicken flashed is 10x's better than in the microwave!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Fresh, Quick, WW Friendly Dinner after meeting

So at this point I have lost 15 lbs with weight watchers, steady as she goes, I am losing a little over 2 lbs a week at this point (I maintained at Thanksgiving, and the week I went to Vegas and the week prior we had a snow storm that cancelled our meeting so I missed two weeks of weigh ins but still lost 6 lbs!). So a couple of weeks ago I came home from a meeting, mine are late on Monday's so Molly and daddy fend for themselves, and I was hungry at this point so I need a quick meal. I created a quick breakfast sandwich and salad. Just a few quick tips on making a perfect, "Why go to the fast food joint anyway?" sandwich.

Breakfast Sandwich (WW friendly)
Prep time: 5 minutes
WW pts: 6 pts
1 whole wheat English Muffin
1 egg
1 slice Canadian Bacon
1-2 slice tomato
1 slice American Cheese (preferably WW brand - low in points)
*Will need baking spray, & ramekin
1. Toast English Muffins (I use a toaster oven... you will see why this is important in a moment)
2. Spray the inside of a fairly large ramekin, and crack an egg into the ramekin. Using a fork, lightly scramble the egg (helps to not explode egg in the microwave) salt & pepper to taste. Pop into the microwave and cook for 30 seconds. If egg is not cooked at this point cook at 5-10 second intervals until done.
3. Slice tomato and unwrap cheese, as toast is almost done add the Canadian bacon right on the rack in the toaster oven to warm through and slightly crisp.
4. Assemble your sandwich, slice of cheese on top of egg, on top of bacon, and a slice of tomato. DONE!

One of my sorority sisters always used to make fun of me because I have ever size ramekin known to man but you wouldn't believe how much they come in handy! I love them!

This salad had a quick and easy dressing with it. Overall it was a lite and tasty meal!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie with homemade biscuits.

This was one of the best homemade chicken pot pie recipes I have used in a long time, besides Paula Dean's recipe but let's face it on weight watchers her butter to actual food ratio does not work! It is damn tasty, but really doesn't work with weight watchers. Not that this recipe was a lot better, but still... so tasty, and with colder weather this is exactly the ticket. So when this recipe came up in the rotation on my favorite meal planning website (click here for Relish), and the fact that it was a slow cooker recipe, I was hooked! I did have to adjust it a bit, but overall it was very tasty!
Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie

WW 10 pts (new points plus calculation)
2 Chicken Breasts, chopped to tiny pieces
1/2 white onion , chopped
1 bay leaf
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 packet of turkey gravy, made
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
Rue
2 tbsp butter
2  tbsp flour
1 tsp chicken stock base
milk, whisk in to your desired thickness
[1] Place the onion, celery, chicken, bay leaf, salt and pepper and gravy in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours.
[2] Thirty minutes before serving, make and bake the biscuits. (recipe below)
[3] Gently stir the frozen vegetables into the chicken mixture and increase the heat setting to high. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
[4] If you need more "juice" I made a quick "white" sauce. Melt butter in a pan, whisk in flour and soup base -cook for a minute or two, then whisk in milk to desired thickness. Then transfer this mixture to the slow cooker and stir to incorporate evenly.
[5] For each serving, split a biscuit and place in a soup bowl. Spoon ¾ cup of the chicken mixture on top of the biscuit, top with the other biscuit and serve.

Easy Biscuits
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
Preheat 450 degrees
1. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt evenly.
2. Cut in butter, use a pastry cutter, till the butter is the size of peas.
3. Add milk till biscuits come together, don't over mix.
4. Flour flat surface and quickly roll out to 1.5 inches and cut with biscuit cutter (or a somewhat straight edged drinking glass, this is what I used).
5. Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes until nicely golden brown.
*So easy, you have all the ingredients on hand and look at how beautiful they look!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Turkey week post #2 SIDES

Side Dishes
*All dishes are for a dinner for 12 (I cut a lot of these recipes in half or more).
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with apple (R)
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes (R)
Candied Carrots (R)
Apple Sausage, Cranberry, and Pecan Stuffing (R)
Pomegranate & Apple Salad with homemade dressing
Cranberry Horseradish Sauce (WS)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apple (Click here for Relish website, original recipe)
Day before: Trim and cut in half, store in a Ziploc bag
4 slices of bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and halved
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 apples, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices, each slice halved crosswise

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
1. Arrange bacon in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake bacon until browned, 10 minutes. Drain off all but two tablespoons bacon grease. Add Brussels sprouts and onions in a single layer tossing with the bacon; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes.
2. Remove from oven, and toss in apple. Return to oven; roast until Brussels sprouts are browned and tender and apple has softened, 10 to 15 minutes. (** The apple is key in this recipe, I thought it was delicious!)

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes (Click here for Relish website, original recipe)
In the morning peel and cut potatoes and keep in their pot, in water on the stove until you are ready to cook them about 30 min. prior to eating.
4 1/2 lbs new potatoes peeled and cut into 1 in chunks
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup buttermilk
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Snipped Chives for garnish, optional

1. Place potatoes in a large pan; add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil; add 1 tbsp salt, and cook until potatoes are very tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Drain; place back into the pot mash with a potato masher, then add buttermilk and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mash until smooth and combined. As you are getting everything on the table transfer to serving bowl, and tent with tin foil to keep the heat. If desired, garnish with snipped chives.

Candied Carrots
Possible prep before peel and cut and store in a Ziploc.
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut at a diagonal 1/2 inch sections
salt and pepper
1 tbsp apricot preserves
1 tsp butter

1. Put carrots with salt and pepper into an oven roasting pan, top with tin foil and bake for 30 min.
2. Right before serving put in preserves and butter, toss until fully covered and serve (keeping it in a nice oven roasted pan will also retain heat!)






Apple Sausage, Cranberry and Pecan Stuffing (adapted from an original Relish Recipe)
1 day ahead make stuff and put into an over proof pan, and store with Saran wrap on the top in the fridge till the next day.
1 storemade stuffing mix bag
2 cups chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups of "Craisins"
1 cup cranberry juice
2 leeks, chopped and cleaned
3 celery ribs, chopped
6 tbsp butter
3 links chicken apple sausage
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a small bowl combine craisins and cranberry juice, let sit for 15 min to plump up and then drain the juice.
2. Halve leeks, chop and then rinse in a colander under water. Chop celery, and in a large skillet cook leeks and celery in butter until tender, salt and pepper to taste.
3. Remove casing from sausage and break/cut sausage add to leaks and celery till it is cooked through.
4. In a large mixing bowl, add the dry stuffing mix (I used the store brand "bag" stuffing mix, I used 3/4 of the bag and half of the seasoning packet that came with it). Add pecans, sausage and leek mixture, drained craisins, parsley, and broth. Mix well, and put in your oven ready pan with Saran wrap. Store in the fridge for the next day. But bring to room temperature before cooking.
TO BAKE
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, cover with foil and bake it for 35-40 minutes. If you like it crispy on top, uncover halfway through baking.


Pomegranate & Apple Salad
1 bag of salad mix (Mediterranean Mix)
1/2 pomegranate seeds
1/2 apple
homemade dressing (to desired "wetness")
1. Toss all ingredients in a bowl and serve.
Homemade dressing:
1/4 veggie oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
pinch of garlic powder
1/4 sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1. put all ingredients into a recycled glass bottle, tighten lid and shake vigorously to mix all.

Cranberry Horseradish Sauce
Make 1 day in advance and put in serving dish with Saran wrap in the fridge until serving.
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup prepared horseradish
1. In a food processor chop finely, put them in a small saucepan with the sugar. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is fully blended. About 5 minutes. Set aside to cool, stir in horseradish.
2. Put in serving dish and set in fridge till dinner is ready. *The natural pectin will come out in the fruit and make it the perfect jelly-like consistancy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Turkey Week Post #1

Our plans fell through at the last minute to go away with family due to weather and I found myself scrambling to get a dinner planned for my little family. I have never cooked a big holiday meal on my own, we are always with family either my parents or my in-laws so needless to say I was really excited to try my hand at all the traditional fixings. Even though it was just us, I still went all out, and there were quite a few dishes and I felt like instead of doing a HUGE post that I would do lots of posts over this post-Turkey day week to get them all out there. I will also be able to finally add a review to one of my cookbooks that I have had for years and never been able to use. The Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner Cookbook (since I have never been able to do a meal on my own go figure I have never used this book before!) I followed their recipe for the cranberry horseradish sauce and loosely followed their directions for a whole roasted Turkey breast.

So the full spread; Roasted Turkey breast, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Brussel Sprouts with bacon, onion and apple, Apple Sausage Stuffing with pecans, Candied Carrots, Gravy from pan drippings and wine, Pomegranate and Apple Mixed Green Salad with a homemade vinaigrette, and rolls. (Which we thought were the worst part of the meal because they didn't fully rise like they were supposed to but they were Molly's favorite, otherwise everything was delicious and totally blew my weight watchers points to hell and back!)

I used some recipes from Relish as well and they have a great feature besides giving you the shopping list and all the recipes they also give you a day by day plan to help alleviate your stress. Two days before I went out a bought a turkey breast, just in case and started it to defrosting in the fridge. Now I just have to say for our family a whole turkey breast was perfect because we don't really like the dark meat, it was the perfect size for us to have enough leftovers of the meat that we all like plus it didn't take too long to cook. Should I ever get a chance at cooking a Thanksgiving dinner again I would like to think that I would do a turkey breast, it just makes sense.

The night before I made the stuffing, and cranberry sauce. I also prepped the Brussel sprouts and kept them in plastic bag in the fridge, I didn't prep the carrots but that would have been a good idea in the future. Then I set the table and got out all my serving dishes. Surprisingly, or not since I have a tiny kitchen, I was able to keep up with the clean up the whole way.


In the morning I peeled and cut the potatoes, and kept them in their pot on the stove in water waiting to go. A couple hours later I prepped the Turkey and carrots, I also took the stuffing out of the fridge to get it to room temperature before putting it in the oven. After all it all came out without a hitch. Even with my one small oven everything came out warm and tasty.
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