Christmas Cookies

My mom, sister and I have a tradition of always making Christmas cookies together.  It started when we were little girls and would make them with our grandmother and godmother.  Unfortunately the two of them are no longer with us, so my mom has carried on the tradition with her two girls. Well, this past Christmas we weren’t able to spend together, so I was on my own with the cookies.

I visit the What’s Cooking board on The Nest quite often.  We usually do a gift exchange for every season.  Well, my secret exchange person (tiff0803) just happened to send me a box of sugar cookie mix from King Arthur (along with sprinkles, cookie cutters and a cookie scoop) as my gift.  I was thrilled to receive the box of goodies!  I normally make homemade sugar cookies for the cutouts, but since my schedule was crazy and I had this box mix, I decided to go in that direction instead this year.

Since I was on my own, Greg decided to join in on the fun of decorating.  He is Jewish, so Christmas cookie making is not one of his past times, lol.  It was quite humorous because I think he reverted back to a 5 year old while decorating.  We both enjoyed ourselves so much!  This will definitely be something I do together with him again and one day with our children.

Here are our masterpieces, lol.




Cookies n’ Cream Cake

As I mentioned in my last entry, we hosted a birthday dinner for my dad. I really wanted to make it special since not only was it his birthday, but it was the first time I had that side of my family over for a real dinner. I love to bake, so that is usually my favorite part of a meal. I was so excited about making him a cake.

I had seen a few posts on the What’s Cooking board for a Cookies n’ Cream Cake. When I originally saw it I bookmarked it because I didn’t really have a reason to bake a cake at the time. When I decided to host the birthday dinner I knew that the Cookies n’ Cream cake would be THE cake.

Greg admitted after the fact that he never thought I could pull it off. HA, I guess I showed him! He was very impressed, not to mention the reaction I got out of my family. Everyone loved it!


Cookies n’ Cream Cake

courtesy of Just2Good, cake and frosting originally from Hershey’s.
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/8 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
10 chocolate sandwich cookies, chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9 inch round baking pans.

In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be very thin). Pour batter into round baking pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Once removed place on baking racks until completely cooled.

To make the filling, combine cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low until sugar is incorporated, then beat on high until stiff peaks form (do not over beat). Gently fold in chopped cookie pieces.

To make the frosting, melt butter in a medium bowl. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add confectioners’ sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. If needed, add additional amount of milk. Stir in vanilla.

To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cardboard circle. Pipe a border of frosting along th rim of the cake. Spread a thick layer of cookies n’ cream filling inside the circle. Top with the other layer of cake. Frost the side of the cake with the frosting. Pipe a decorative border of chocolate frosting along the border of the cake. Fill the inside of the decorative border with a thick layer of cookies n’ cream filling. Garnish with cookies and frosting as desired.

Delish Appetizer!

Rachael Ray, you either love her or you hate her. I just so happen to love her. I will admit that I am not always a fan of her recipes, as they can be a bit out there. I guess I should say that Greg isn’t always a big fan, since he can be somewhat of a picky eater at times. Her combinations can be a bit too much for him. I still love getting ideas from her and I love her magazine. I feel that although I don’t always use her recipes religiously, she inspires me to think outside of the box.

We hosted a birthday dinner for my dad back in December. I had actually never had anyone from my dad’s side of the family, including him and my stepmom, over for dinner before. I know it sounds strange, but this is the first time we have lived close to them since I graduated college back in 2005. So, I really wanted to wow them. I am pleased to say that Greg and I did just that! They didn’t stop talking about that dinner for weeks. I made a few more time consuming appetizers, so I was looking for another one that was simple. While flipping through the December issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray I found a section of little finger sandwiches. This Pesto-Prosciutto Sandwich was one that was mentioned. It sounded like a winner, tasty and simple. That it was!

Pesto-Prosciutto Sandwiches

courtesy of Everyday with Rachael Ray
Frozen Puff Pastry (I actually used crescent roll dough)
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Store bought pesto

Thaw dough if necessary and then roll out. Cut into the desired shape. Mine were more of a triangle since I used crescent roll dough. Bake in a 400 degree oven until golden brown. Let cool and then split (if necessary). Spread the bottoms with store bought pesto, top with prosciutto slices and cover with pastry tops if desired.  I chose to keep mine open faced.

Jelly Roll

While my mom and stapdad were visiting over Thanksgiving weekend, there was a lot of cooking going on! I was determined to make a Pumpkin Roll since my mom and I love pumpkin and I saw it so many times on the What’s Cooking board. I made that for Thanksgiving day and to my happiness, it was a success. The thing is, my stepdad and Greg do not like pumpkin; I know what a shame. My stepdad had mentioned how he loved jelly rolls. So one evening I decided to find a jelly roll recipe and make him a dessert he would eat.

My stepdad is a southern boy so when I came across a recipe by Paula Dean, I knew I couldn’t go wrong. I just happened to have all of the ingredients, so I threw it together. It was quite delicious and everyone loved it.



Old South Jelly Roll Cake

courtesy of Paul Dean and Food Network
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs. vanilla
3/4 cup cake flour, sifted
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup jam or jelly, stirred well
whipped cream (for topping)
confectioners’ sugar (for dusting)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff but not dry and set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks until light. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla, and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the sifted flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture. Fold the egg whites into the egg mixture and pour the batter into a 15 x 10 x 1 inch jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cake is golden brown.

Loosen edges of cake, invert cake onto a towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel parchment paper off cake. Trim 1/4 inch of hard crust off each long side of the jelly roll cake. Begin with the narrow side and roll the cake and towel up together. Cool cake on rack, seam side down, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Once cake has cooled, gently unroll and spread cake with jam or jelly and re-roll (without the towel). Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar or cover with whipped cream.

Yields 8 to 10 servings.

Chicken and Dumpling Yumminess

I want to begin by saying that the October issue of Cooking Light was a real winner. There were tons of great recipes!

On that note, while browsing through my magazine, I found a recipe for Herbed Chicken and Dumplings. The dish was very easy to make and tasted great. Greg and I both loved it and and were completely satisfied from it. It doesn’t seem like a lot when you cook it, but it is actually very filling. I highly recommend this dish to anyone (up north) suffering with the winter blues.


Herbed Chicken and Dumplings

courtesy of Cooking Light, October 2008
cooking spray
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces (I used chicken breast)
3/4 cup (1/4 in) diagonally cut celery
1/2 cup (1/4 in) diagonally cut carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
3 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk (I used skim)

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coast pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, browning all sides. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add celery and next 5 ingredients (through bay leaf) to pan; saute 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Return chicken to pan; cook 1 minute. Add broth to pan; bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with knife. Combine flour, chopped parsley, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk, stirring just until moist. Spoon by heaping teaspoonfuls into broth mixture; cover and simmer 10 minutes or until dumplings are done. Discard parsley sprigs and bay leaf.

Yields 2 servings. Serving Size: 2 cups

Fresh Twist on Pork Chops

Growing up I was never a big fan of pork chops. I would eat them but they weren’t high on my list of favorites. Luckily, as I have gotten older and found my love of cooking I have discovered some ways to cook pork chops and really enjoy them. I mean how much chicken can someone really eat?!

I was excited when I found this great sounding recipe for Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with Creamy Herb Dressing. It just gives a fresh twist on your everyday pork chop dish. I also love that it is low in calories because with the crispiness of the coating and the creamy dressing, it doesn’t feel like you’re eating healthy. It’s a comforting meal that you don’t have to feel guilty about. It is also a pretty neutral dish, so it is easy to change up the side dishes that you serve with it each time.



Panko-Crusted Pork Chops with Creamy Herb Dressing

courtesy of Cooking Light, October 2008
2 tsp. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 large egg white
1/3 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1 tsp. olive oil
cooking spray

1 tbs. chopped green onion
1 tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbs. fat-free sour cream
1 tbs. fat-free milk
1 tbs. reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

To prepare pork, preheat oven to 450 degree.

Combine first 6 ingredients in a shallow dish. combine soy sauce and egg white in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place panko in a shallow dish.

Dredge pork in flour mixture; dip in egg mixture. Dredge in panko. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 1 minute on each side. Place pork on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 6 minutes or until done.

To prepare dressing, combine onions and the remaining ingredients. Serve dressing with pork.

Yields 2 servings. Serving Size: 1 pork chop and about 2 tbs. dressing.

NYC = Yummy Eats

Back in November Greg and I made a trip to NYC. Although I spent a lot of time in upstate NY, since that is where my mom is from, I had never been to the city. I was so excited to say the least!

The reason we were there was for Greg’s best childhood friend’s wedding. The rehearsal dinner was hosted at Friend of a Farmer, which was delicious. The wedding took place at the Ritz Carlton Battery Park, weren’t we lucky?! They had a HUGE cocktail hour (which I think was more like 1 1/2 hours). I think they had every food imaginable just during that time; we were full before we even went into the reception. Needless to say, the dinner course was amazing as well. I wish I had pictures but I forgot to bring the camera while rushing to the wedding. Greg had to be at the venue in the afternoon for pictures and such. No, unfortunately we did not stay at the Ritz with a nightly rate starting at around $600. This meant I had to get myself to the venue on my own. I have to admit that I was quite impressed with myself after hailing a cab by myself (in a cocktail dress) and getting to the venue on time. Anyway, the wedding was amazing as you can probably imagine.

We decided to make a vacation out of our stay there since I had never been and Greg hadn’t been since a child. We also wanted to visit friends in Long Island while we were there so we didn’t get to see quite as much of the city as we hoped to, but we did manage a visit to Chelsea Market of course. There were some great little shops, an incredible fish market, cute restaurants and a few adorable bakeries. We definitely want to make another trip back so we can experience more of the city, especially the culinary treats!

Here are a few pictures:

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market

Adorable treats at one of the bakeries.

Adorable treats at one of the bakeries.

Super cute cupcakes at another bakery in Chelsea Market.

Super cute cupcakes at another bakery in Chelsea Market.

I am pretty sure this is Emeril and Rachael Ray.

I am pretty sure this is Emeril and Rachael Ray.

Central Park

Central Park

View of city from Central Park & Trump's skating rink.

View of city from Central Park & Trump's skating rink.

Skyline from the Top of the Rock.

Skyline from the Top of the Rock.

Amazing Brussels Sprouts!

I have never been a fan of Brussels sprouts. I tried and tried to like them since they are a favorite of Greg’s, but I just couldn’t acquire a taste for them. At least I couldn’t until I came across this recipe. I not only converted myself to loving these Brussels sprouts, but I also converted my mother, who absolutely hated them in the past. I have made them two or three times and can’t get tired of them.

If you are looking for a great veggie side dish, look no further. These Caramelized Shallots and Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta will wow you and your guests.


Caramelized Shallots and Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

adapted from Cooking Light, October 2008
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved (I prefer to use fresh)
cooking spray
1 tbs. olive oil
2/3 cups thinly sliced shallots
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 ounce finely chopped prosciutto
4 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange Brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Add shallots, pepper, salt, and prosciutto to pan; toss well. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Add sugar and white wine vinegar; toss to coat. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until caramelized.