Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions

Making this dish last night the kids asked what's for dinner.  I replied "Pork chaaaps and apple shaaauuusssse".  They looked at me like I had finally gone over the edge (they've been expecting it for years) as I laughed and told them that they just didn't get it.  Close your eyes and say it... Pork chaaaps and apple shaaauce.  If you are a girl in my age range the phrase will take you back about 35 years.

Did you guess it?

In any case... our Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Onions is an updated version of Alice's recipe.  Seared on the stove, then topped with mustard and a few herbs and finished off in the oven along with the sautéed apples and onions, this easy dinner is a good choice on those busy school nights.  Add a quick salad and a slice of bread and you are set!  Now if only we had Alice to do the dishes....  =)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Puffed Apple Pancake

My fairly short food blogging stint has been more amazing than I ever could have imagined.  I have made friends and contacts from around the world, been exposed to endless fresh recipes and ideas, and had more heartwarming comments than I can count.  Tracy, of Tracy's Living Cookbook has recently added to the heartwarming comments by awarding me the Stylish Blogger Award!  Thank you Tracy, you made my day and I am most certainly honored to be among those on your list.

In receiving this award I am to list 7 things about myself and forward the award on to 7 recently discovered (to me!) bloggers.  So here it goes!
  1. I was a Girl Scout Leader for 5 years during Liv's elementary school days.  I had over 25 girls pass through our troop over the years and watching these girls grow up has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I've ever had!
  2. I am originally from San Rafael, just north of San Francisco.  My dad had a restaurant, the Windjammer, in Tiburon while I was growing up and I have wonderful memories of being treated as a princess by the waiters when we visited.  (Maybe that's where my foodie roots started!)
  3. I don't like cold weather or the snow... it's OK for a quick visit, but given the choice I'd rather live in Hawaii.
  4. I don't ski or surf very well, but based on the prior comment, I'd rather surf (so long as the water is not too cold!).  I paddle around on my board every year here along our San Diego coast and love the feeling of "catching a wave", but I have yet to actually "hang 10"!  =)
  5. I love to read and am having anxiety at changing over to a Kindle.
  6. I love the smell of garlic on my fingers after I chop it.
  7.  I recently purchased my first jar of Nutella and I am totally addicted!!!

Now to pass this award on.  The following 7 blogs have been recently discovered by me and I've truly enjoyed getting to know the writers:

Colleen from Souffle Bombay. Colleen has a wonderful sense of humor that shows through in her writing.  I look forward to her witty posts and mouthwatering recipes.

Letizia from Letizia Golosa.  Letizia's recipes are simply amazing and her photos are stunning.  Her homemade Nutella recipe made me swoon!

Sophia & Suri's Place.  While this is not a food blog, I have truly enjoyed reading about the adventures of these adorable little girls.  Now that my kids are getting older I'm having to live vicariously through others...  The story about the Disney box had me laughing out loud!

Kim of Kimba's Kitchen.  What a wonderful blog!!  Kim is living in Australia and is torturing me with her fresh, beautiful summer recipes!  Her recent and stunning Mixed Red Berry Mascarpone Cheesecake dessert left me breathless.

While this blog is not really new to me, the word "Stylish" more than applies.  Amber at Sprinkled with Flour exemplifies style when it comes to her lovely recipes and well written posts.  She recently passed me the "One Lovely Blog Award" and I couldn't have been more honored.

Another blog that exemplifies style is Sweet Pea's Kitchen.  Beautiful photos to go with her tempting recipes.  I found her recent Pumpkin Roll simply amazing!

Felice at All That's Left are the Crumbs is another blog with style.  Living in Hawaii I'm totally envious of her and she has some amazing recipes to boot!  Most recently the Chai Snickerdoodles... amazing!

And last but not least, I'd like to also pass this award on to Hester at "Comida es me vida Y my vida es comida!"  Hester always leaves me the most wonderful comments and always makes me smile.  She has some absolutely wonderful recipes on her blog, one of my most recent favorites being her Fritata Papa, my mouth waters just thinking about it!

Thank you again to Tracy for passing this award to me!


Now on the our Puffed Apple Pancake!

With Thanksgiving break almost over, Liv and I decided to try something new and a little special this morning.  Her eyes lit up as she discovered a recipe for an Apple Puffed Pancake.  We altered ingredients to suit our tastes, and came up with a lovely last day of Thanksgiving Break treat!

Flavored with pure maple syrup and cinnamon, this clafoutis-like treat is somewhat reminiscent of Apple Pie.  With such a small amount of flour added this recipe was almost almost custard-like in texture, the tender slices of cinnamon apple giving a wonderful flavor addition.  A dusting of powdered sugar mixed with a dash of cinnamon was the perfect topping to this fresh from the oven treat!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake

A puppy quietly snoring in my lap, excited laughter as Liv and her grandfather win another round of Sequence and a belly full of holiday treats are providing a beautiful sense of contentedness on this day after Thanksgiving.  This day is always one of my favorites... today leftover treats from our baking and cooking marathon gave endless options after a quick trip to the Apple Store where we unfortunately came home empty handed (but not without a whole new wish list!). 

Thanksgiving once again provided a wonderful day with family and friends.  Our house guests were up early with Fran helping me in the kitchen from 7 AM until the last dish was washed at 9 PM.  She and her husband Tom brought several bottles of absolutely divine wine that they bottled themselves.  An impressive '08 Zin was my favorite of the evening, beating out our 92 point Cab with its beautifully balanced fruity flavors, lovely long legs and gorgeous garnet color.  WhoDog is not available on the market and we feel extremely lucky to be on the receiving end of the bottle!

Mom and Dad arrived early with big smiles and appetizers in hand.  Neighbors from up the street visited for a bit and then my husband's parents arrived to complete our guest list.

Liv, my Dad and Kona

Mom has made our Thanksgiving gravy ever since I can remember.  I have never mastered her technique, and I'm not sure I ever will, but luckily, Liv was paying attention.  She got her first gravy-making lesson this year and says that she has it down.  The recipe and technique are in safe hands and appear to have made it to another generation.

Gravy making techniques passed through the generations!
My husband says that the half hour before we sit down to the Thanksgiving table is his favorite.  Not that he's much help, but he loves watching the bustle of the kitchen and the stress as we worry about getting all the dishes on the table warm and at the same time, Mom grumbling that the gravy is not working out, me yelling at him to get to cutting the turkey, then him casually pointing out that the water glasses have yet to be filled.  He talks about it all year long, always with a slight smirk and a chuckle.

Dessert is always something to look forward to with one never being enough.  Mom supplied the popular Pumpkin and Pecan Pies this year and I fulfilled my husband's special request of his favorite Cappuccino-Fudge Cheesecake, once again with help from Liv.  As our master decorator, she provided us with a gorgeous array of beautifully adorned mini cheesecakes bringing smiles not only to the cakes but to everyone's faces as well.

Cappuccino-Fudge Cheesecake is a pleasure that one doesn't easily forget.  Its luscious, creamy texture combines with the coffee enhanced flavors layered with Kahlua laced ganache and a crunchy chocolaty crust to produce a dessert worthy of any and all special occasions.  Oft requested by not only my husband, but other friends and family for special occasions, this exquisite indulgence will be the hit of your event.

Decorated with reserved ganache and topped with chocolate covered espresso beans the cheesecake is visually appealing as well as scrumptious.  For years I used a 10 inch springform pan for the cake, but recently switched to using mini Panettone paper molds for individual servings.  Far easier than making those perfect cuts while everyone is eagerly waiting for their piece!

Luckily we have leftovers... and I've come to the conclusion that cheesecake for breakfast is not all bad!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Garlicky Tortellini Turkey Soup

As I review my Thanksgiving menu I've realized that our special meal is in good shape.  The Grand Marnier Cranberries are prepped and chilling, my son's favorite Golden Bread Braid is par-baked and ready to be finished just before dinner is served, the Orange Streusel Sweet Potatoes are baked, mashed and resting in their serving dish just waiting for the Streusel to be added, the Cappuccino Fudge Cheesecake is cooked and looking lovely, and the turkey is dressed and roasting away.  My husband is enjoying a quick light lunch with our guests and we have a couple of hours before the festivities begin.

With most of the work done I have a few minutes to just sit and be thankful.  And thankful I am!  I'm thankful for my family all living so close, thankful that our parents are relatively healthy and able to join us every Thanksgiving.  I'm thankful for our lovely friends, who we have come to consider family who are always a part of our Thanksgiving as well.  They were the first people we met when we moved into our home some 13 years ago and have been special to us ever since.  I'm thankful my husband flew his plane home safely and that he is not spending his Thanksgiving in a hotel like he did last year.  I'm thankful for my kids who still give me hugs (but not in public!).  

And I'm thankful for my new blog friends who have quickly become a big part of my life.  Thank you all for your wonderful support as I started writing this blog.  When I began I simply had intentions of recording recipes in an organized manner, but I quickly came to understand that Liv Life is so much more than that.  It's a connection to people all over the world, people I have come to look forward to touching base with several times a week, people who I don't actually know what they look like, yet I think and talk about during my day.  I wish you all a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving Day!  And for those in other countries, I wish you a wonderful day as well in whatever you may be doing.  

With many of us here in America cooking Turkey, leftovers are another thing to be thankful for!  Garlicky Tortellini Soup is a perfect vehicle for some of your spare turkey, and a simple, satisfying meal to toss together when you may not really feel like cooking.  Filled with ingredients that you most likely have in your pantry or freezer, this fragrant soup goes together in record time, and if you make enough, will provide its own leftovers for another day.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Orange Butter Cookies with Grand Marnier Glaze

Nearly a week has passed since I whisked my whisk and filled my baking sheets.  Liv and I had a few days in Pasadena for a dance convention and then her not so lovely stomach bug kept my duties more nurse-like than chef-like.  However, my girl on the mend and guests arriving this evening presented the perfect excuse to kick off my Thanksgiving baking/cooking/eating extravaganza!

With Tortellini Soup on the stove and salad prepped and ready to be dressed, a fairly simple, but tasty dessert was in order.  Orange seems to be my flavor of preference for this holiday, and Fine Cooking's Orange Butter Cookies with Grand Marnier Glaze fit the bill to perfection.

Delicate orange flavored butter cookies are topped with a delightful orange and Grand Marnier enhanced glaze.  Visually appealing with specks of orange zest, these little guys make a perfect light dessert or a nice addition to any cookie tray!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Southwestern Turkey with Garlic-Ancho Chili Paste, and our Giveaway Winner!

Our Guest Baker Duo is working on another kind of duo this weekend at the Coastal Dance Rage dance convention in Pasadena.  For six hours a day Liv, Molly and their dance team have been learning hip hop, contemporary, tap, jazz and ballet from some of the big names in the industry.  tWitch and Nappy Tabs (Napolean & Tabitha) seem to top the list in popularity with their So You Think You Can Dance status, but the level of instruction has been overwhelmingly impressive and both girls worked hard enough to get noticed and received scholarships to the convention next year.  Luckily we had a fresh batch of Liv & Molly's Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins to help fuel their energy starved bodies.  This afternoon they worked together to come up with a random equation to pick our Giveaway winner!  Seems that 6 random numbers added together divided by 2 and then divided by 4 comes to the winning number 9, which equates to Taylor at Greens and Chocolate.  Congratulations Taylor!

Liv & Molly pose with SYTYCD star tWitch!  Quite a presence in the class.  His energy was absolutely contagious.  Watching him get out on the dance floor and simply dance among the girls was amazing!

Liv gets a squeeze from Napolean (of Nappy Tabs - Napolean & Tabitha!)
Napolean's other half, Tabitha (Tabs).  Both choreograph for SYTYCD. 

Molly receives her scholarship from Ian Eastwood (ICON)! 

Almost done with our weekend we are headed home in preparation for our Thanksgiving week.  This year is a traditional menu for us, however we have done alternative menus in the past - one including a Southwestern Turkey with a Garlic-Ancho Chili Paste which provided an extraordinarily tasty bird.  In combination with our Chipotle Lime Sweet Potatoes, cornbread and a Southwestern salad we had a non-traditional but wonderful holiday.  Unfortunately I don't have photos of my non-traditional bird, but I wanted to share the recipe for anyone who may be looking for something a bit different this holiday.  Found on Epicurious, I have only used the paste portion of the recipe, but we liked it so much we have used it numerous times, always with perfect results.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Golden Bread Braid

My teenage son doesn't ask for much in the way of food.  Lately he has been extremely satisfied with Trader Joe's Black Bean & Chicken Burritos and Rolled Chicken Tacos.  However, holiday time brings out a special request for his favorite Golden Bread Braid!  

My gushingly positive notes show that this bread first made its appearance on our Thanksgiving table in 2001 and it has been a guest ever since.  Words like, "Excellent" and "Best Ever" have been written by myself as well as family and friends who have enjoyed this tender loaf with us.  My favorite note though is written in crayon by my then 6 year old son reading, "Mom, I love it!".  

Asking everyone in the family what they would like for our holiday meal I had requests for varying items, but my son just looked at me and said, "You know what I want.".  Our challenge this year, with his recent intolerance to lactose, is to make this recipe without the called for milk and butter so he can enjoy to his heart's content.  

Our first experiment with a butter alternative and soy milk proved to be the only experiment we needed!  A heavenly scent permeated the house as our loaves baked away, and the same soft, tender crumb that we have come to expect was present as we buttered our warm slices.  The first loaf lasted all of 10 minutes with all of us reaching for seconds and thirds as dinner was getting to the table.

Simply tossing 1/2 of a recipe in the bread machine on the dough cycle makes getting this bread onto the table easy.  Removing the dough and shaping it into the lovely braid makes it look like it's not so easy!  Best the day it is made, but it is still possible to make the bread a day earlier and reheat for wonderful, nearly fresh from the oven results.  Left overs make wonderful toast, or even a tasty French Toast.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grand Marnier Cranberries and Holiday Thumbprint Jewels

Sugared Cranberries ready for the oven!
Life has most definitely gotten in the way of my blogging, baking and cooking this week.  About a week ago the dishwasher stopped working.  I opened it to find standing water in the bottom and nothing we did could get it out.  Easy enough to fix with quick trip to the appliance store after "the dishwasher guy" said it was the control panel.  A very nice man arrived within days with our shiny new Bosch to install, but when his eyes grew wide upon peeking under my sink we were a little concerned.  His question of,  "How long have you been having water issues under here?" raised our concern even higher!  A bit of exploration showed the bottom of the garbage disposal leaking.  Still, no worries!  My husband popped into his car and Home Depot provided the perfect, not too expensive (but WAY better than or original), new garbage disposal that the installer kindly installed for us and we luckily cleaned the water before it caused any damage.

Thinking that we were set, we called to carpet people to see if they could get a carpet cleaning in before Thanksgiving.  "Perfect timing!" the kind lady exclaimed as she informed us that she had just had a cancellation and that they were available the next day at 8 AM!  OK... we got to work, 6 hours later we had the furniture in every room moved to the tile areas, the kid's rooms cleaner than they have been in months, and the entire house dusted and vacumed.  With tired backs and aching heads I began dinner and we opened a nice bottle of red wine to ease our pains.  As we clinked glasses in a quick toast, the fridge joined in as it belched out a loud cracking sound with some sort of piece continuing to slap away.  

Knowing that the fridge is a 15 year old floor model we were fairly certain it was the compressor belt that had snapped.  Back into action, the freezer contents were quickly transferred to the garage freezer and the fridge contents carefully packed on ice in a couple of coolers.  I was extremely thankful that I had not done my big Thanksgiving shopping yet!  The photos and magnets were removed from the sides and as we made plans to visit our new friends at the appliance store my husband pulled the fridge away from the wall and unplugged our family workhorse.  Figuring that he couldn't make matters any worse he took the back piece off and noticed a small piece of plastic wrapping (kind of like what comes on the cord of something new) wrapped around the fan.  Easily removing the piece and plugging our old friend back in, my husband looked at me in surprise and relief and said, "I think I fixed it!"  And sure enough he did!!!  As the fridge was completely empty, we took this opportunity to clean her from head to toe, and a mere 3 hours after the first clank, the contents were neatly replaced and we reached for our forgotten wine glasses.

Dishwasher installed, garbage disposal installed and water cleaned up, fridge cleaned, and carpets cleaned and now dried, this morning I looked around at everything that needed to be replaced to its proper home.   Then I gave in to my baking need and put together some of our favorite Holiday Jewels!  A simple orange flavored thumbprint cookie is filled with our favorite Grand Marnier Cranberry sauce for a lovely sweet/tart treat.

Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce has graced our Thanksgiving table for more years than I can remember.  Usually a doubling of the recipe gives enough for Thanksgiving and leaves just the right amount left over for the next day, or for cookies!  A simple combo of cranberries, orange peel and juice, sugar and a touch of luscious Grand Marnier gives an ideal side for your roast turkey.

Friday, November 12, 2010

White Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Cups

I'm not usually one to gush.  My emotions usually stay fairly well in check with the occasional real high or the incidental low, but for the most part I'm pretty darn straight and even.  However... today I'm going to gush!!!  WOW!  Wow!! Wow!!!  White Chocolate Pumpkin Pie Cups are amazing!  Awesome!  Spectacular!  Dazzling!  Fabulous!  Magnificent!!!  And I could go on!

What a treat these little packages are.  Pumpkin Pie spiced filling surrounded with a crisp outer white chocolate shell and topped with decorative, seasonal sprinkles.  A bit labor intensive, but most definitely worth the effort.

Searching numerous stores for "foil lined" mini muffin cups proved unsuccessful, and I ended up experimenting with a last minute find of mini silicone cups.  The little cups worked like a charm and actually brought me around to appreciating the reusable factor as I'm thinking these treats will be oft repeated.  A dollop of melted white chocolate is spooned into the cup and swirled, then painted up the sides.  I rested mine in the freezer for about 10 minutes and the hardened shells popped out like a charm.

The filling whisks together in a flash, but actually filling the cups takes a bit of time and some care is needed with the fragile chocolate.  A little bit of a learning curve had some of my cups a bit lumpy on top or filling showing due to incorrect coverage, but now that I've got my groove down I know the next batch, which will grace our Thanksgiving table, will be beautiful in addition to delicious.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, Guest Duo Bakers and a Giveaway!

I don't win things very often.  Try as I might that lotto ticket has never had more than 2 matching numbers and someone else is living in my dream house in French Polynesia.  I did however hit the right number in Jean's, Lemons and Anchovies, recent CSN Store giveaway for a $50 gift card!
Our Giveaway
(giveaway is closed) 
As thrilled as I was to win Jean's giveaway, I'm even more thrilled to announce that the CSN stores have offered a $45 giftcard for us to give away!  With easy online access and thousands of items to choose form, the CSN Stores is a perfect place to get a head start on your holiday gift shopping without having to leave the comforts of your own home.  Have guests coming in town for the holidays?  You can easily spruce up your guest rooms with new upholstered headboards.  Need a new mixer?  The CSN Stores have it!  Or how about treating yourself to a new Nespresso Coffee and Espresso Machine?

Molly & Liv's giveaway rules:
  • You must be from the United States or Canada (actually that's CSN's rule)
  • To enter the giveaway we are not asking for anything other than a comment letting us know what activity helps you to Liv Life in a better way!
  • The contest will close as of noon, Pacific Standard Time, Sunday, November 21, 2010.
  • Liv and Molly will work an elaborate math equation to generate a winning number
  • We will then send your contact information to Jamie at CSN and he will send you a $45 giftcard!

My winning gift card in hand, I immediately hit the CSN stores (online, in my pj's!) and found the perfect Cuisinart hand mixer, and I was thrilled that the stores even offered free shipping on this item!  I already have a stand mixer, but sometimes it's just too bulky to take out for a smaller job.  On these smaller occasions I turn to my whisk collection.  They work perfectly for mixing eggs for French toast to making Meringues and Angel Food Cakes.  However, Liv usually rolls her eyes as we begin a big project, but I keep telling her that this is how we keep our arms in shape and really, how do you think they did it 100 years ago?  Even still, a hand mixer is a plus to any kitchen, and this one is a true pleasure to work with.  I will just have to hit the gym to work those arms...

With our new hand mixer ready to go, Liv and her friend Molly decided to put together a healthy snack.  As dancers, they know the importance of getting the proper nutrients into their bodies to keep up stamina, build muscles and to stay healthy during their intense competition dance season.  Still, they were wanting a treat, so we found something in the middle.  Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins have been a neighborhood favorite for nearly 10 years.  The little mini muffins have made appearances at birthday parties, Girl Scout meetings and sleepovers.  Gobbled up in minutes, the kids have no idea that these special treats are actually Mom approved!
Liv and Molly are ready to hit the stage!
Made with whole wheat flour, a few tablespoons of ground flax meal and packed with bananas, these popular muffins give much needed fiber as well as potassium and other important vitamins and minerals.  Combined with protein-rich peanut butter, the bananas and their "healthy sugars" give the dancers a lasting energy boost to get them through their rehearsals.  Dark chocolate chips are added, first, because they taste good, second, because they lend a dose of healthy antioxidants to the mix.  Vanilla flavored Almond Milk is used to make these dairy free for Liv's lactose intolerant brother - regular milk or any milk alternative are also options.

Here are some baking tips from our Guest Baker Duo:

Make sure to have all ingredients and equipment ready, and don't forget to preheat your oven!
Don't throw away those yucky, brown bananas!  They are super sweet and flavorful.

Make sure to measure carefully...
Don't put the mixer on too high when you start or you will splatter your friend!
Try not to overfill the muffin cups
Remember to have fun!  But don't let your mom catch you throwing flour...
That's it!  Thanks for participating.  Liv, Molly and I are looking forward to your comments!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Since our discovery with Ellie Krieger's Vanilla Spice Oatmeal that our heart healthy oatmeal breakfast doesn't have to be boring, we have  opened our minds to new recipes.  As last week's heatwave has vanished, our mornings have turned a bit chilly and a toasty bowl of steaming, flavored oatmeal really hits the spot.  Thanksgiving's pumpkin theme turned us to pumpkin for breakfast in the form of a delightful, pumpkin pie reminiscent oatmeal.

Two versions of the spice laden oats have graced our tables this past week.  Both were popular and somewhat similar, but different enough to give you both versions.  Liv preferred the oven baked version, slightly sweeter and enhanced with a touch of orange peel while my son preferred the stove-top, more porridge-like version, made dairy free.  

With the ability to bake the oven version in advance, it makes a nice early morning alternative.  Simply mix and bake the evening prior, store in the fridge overnight and reheat quickly in the microwave for a quick, flavorful and heart healthy start to your day.  The Walnut Streusel gives a nice crunch and an additional flavor boost.  This being our first experience with baked oatmeal, we were a little surprised with the denser, almost muffin-like texture.  I'm thinking that if I tipped the oatmeal out of the ramekin it would most definitely hold it's shape - not the usual "porridge-like" texture that I'm used to, but wonderful nonetheless.  The small amount of freshly grated orange peel added a wonderful layer of flavor.

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal with Walnut Streusel
The stove-top version gives a nice steaming bowl of hearty goodness in about 10 minutes.  Flavored with the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, studded with plumped raisins and dried cranberries and topped with generous scoop of walnut pieces, this steaming bowl is sure to warm you from head to toe.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rachel Ray's Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Soup is a meal my husband would eat every day.  Me?  I'm only an occasional soup fan, and then only certain kinds of soups fit the bill.  To make the cut, the soup must be thick, no mostly broth brews that really don't fill you up.  I actually love the term "stoup", a thick, chunky soup - almost like a stew.  I don't really like strained, smooth as silk soups, tending to prefer bits and pieces of the main ingredients (just how I like my mashed potatoes!) to give a hearty texture.  A generous amount of flavor, not just salt, but actual ingredient flavor is also a must.

Rachel Ray's Spicy Sweet Potato Soup met all the above requirements and had the added benefit of being a cinch to put together!  High in fiber and vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes provide a healthy base for this flavorful conglomeration.  Spicy with chipotle peppers and flavored with orange, the soup obtains even more depth with the addition of a generous dose of bacon.  Usually I cut down on bacon in my recipes, but this one really benefits from the smoky, salty addition.

About 30 minutes from start to finish, this soup is perfect for that short on time weeknight, and is even more flavorful reheated the next day.  My husband felt that the orange flavor was a bit too pronounced, but with that generous does of bacon, all became balanced.  The flavors very much resembled our Chipotle Lime Mashed Sweet Potatoes, and will bring a welcome freshness to your table!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shortbread Bars

With the amazing amount of peanut butter recipes that I come across in my blog perusing, I'm guessing that much of the world loves the PB/Chocolate combo as much as I do.  Needless to say, when Fine Cooking delivered Peanut Butter and Chocolate Shortbread Bars to my inbox yesterday an immediate craving set in.  

Filled with pantry friendly ingredients the bars are easy to make without much forethought.  Peanut Butter, flour, sugar, butter, chocolate... what could be easier?  A crunchy shortbread crust is layered with sweetened peanut butter and spread with a luscious chocolate ganache to finish off the ensemble.  Chilled to set, the bars are ready to eat in about an hour spreading smiles across everyone's face.

After forgetting our bars in the freezer I put them on the counter to thaw this morning and headed out for a few errands.  Returning home (not having taken any photos) I found a smiling Daddy and son munching away saying, "You weren't saving these for anything special, were you??"  Luckily, no... a Sunday afternoon treat, just for us that worked its magic.

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Scones

Cranberry and orange... a match made in heaven.  Combine the two with flour, sugar, butter and a sweet glaze and you actually have heaven in the shape of a scone!   While a dose of oatmeal doesn't exactly make these scones "healthy", it does add some fiber and it's cholesterol lowering benefits with every bite make me feel a bit better as I reach for my second.

I have long since forgotten the source of this favorite recipe, it's scribbled directions splattered with juice and glaze in the 10 years that it has been gracing our kitchen.  Even my "I don't really like baked goods" husband reached for a second serving of these tender, light scones and Liv immediately proclaimed them "One of the best ever!" as my teenage son sampled his with a smile.

My handwritten note to "plump" the cranberries and raisins is a step that I have forgotten in the past.  Not really a big deal, but worth mentioning that "plumping" is preferable, providing a scone with rounded berries and raisins simply bursting with flavor.

If you are a cranberry/orange fan you may enjoy our Cranberry Orange Bread for the bread machine!   Thick slices turn into the most divine french toast!  Also perfect for left over turkey sandwiches.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia with Feta

Focaccia's light texture topped with a touch of olive oil and coarse salt provides a perfect side for nearly every meal.  Filled with savory goodies, the plain dough it an empty palette just waiting to be adorned... Garlic, caramelized onions, fresh herbs or simply shredded Parmesan all come to mind.  Our classic Herb Focaccia has been a staple for nearly 15 years, but when my husband pulled a batch of his home made (by him!) spaghetti sauce from the freezer last night, I wanted something a little more substantial.

Short on time I combined 4 different recipes into an excellent flat bread that will enter our regular rotation.  Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia with Feta met my time requirements as a no-knead bread, though the rising time will still take about an hour.  The addition of a handful of beautiful sun dried tomatoes and a few tablespoons of Trader Joe's Mediterranean Feta provided an entirely new layer of flavors to the garlic and herb base.  Baked in a hot oven for about 20 minutes, the slightly crisp crust was drizzled with a garlic olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese for the perfect savory/salty side to our sauce.