Cranberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese

I have always loved Christmas!  I love everything about it…shopping, baking, decorating, spending time with family & friends and sending & receiving Christmas cards.  This year, I’m changing tradition though.  For the first time in our 25 year marriage I’m not going to send Christmas cards.  For years I have loved getting the perfect photo of my kids for our Christmas card.  However, they’ve gotten a little too old for this tradition, especially Wes.  I know, life goes on, but knowing that this part of my Christmas tradition has changed forever really makes me sad.

So, from that sad note on to a happier one.  This salad is to die for.  It is “lick the the bowl clean” good.  Not that I would do that…especially in front of people!  You could change it up to your liking.  Just because it calls for dried cranberries doesn’t mean you have to use them.  You could substitute the goat cheese for something like a feta if you like or completely leave the cheese out.  Change up the almonds by using pecans.  Use a spring mix instead of the spinach if you prefer.  Either way, this is a great dressing that I just happen to think works great with the cranberry, almond, goat cheese, & spinach combination.  This would be great to serve at a holiday party!

 

Cranberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ¾ c. slivered almonds
  • 1 lb. spinach
  • 1 c. dried cranberries
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. finely minced onion
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • ¼ c. white wine vinegar
  • ¼ c. cider vinegar
  • ½ c. canola oil
  • crumbled goat cheese
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Cook and stir almonds in butter until lightly toasted. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. In a quart jar with lid (or medium bowl) add sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, and canola oil. Close jar and shake to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, toasted almonds and cranberries. Toss with dressing just before serving. Crumble goat cheese over top.
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Italian Sausage and Cheese Tortellini Soup

italian sausage soup 1

 

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  Did you shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?  We had a great Thanksgiving, spending the day with family.  Then we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on Saturday in Savannah.  We had dinner at The Olde Pink House, YUM!  I was even able to pick up a few Christmas gifts over the weekend.  Now, I just need to decorate the house.

This is a new soup to me.  My friend, Loretta, gave me this flavorful recipe.  It was really simple and very hearty.  We served ours with garlic bread and a salad.  It was delicious!

Italian Sausage and Cheese Tortellini Soup
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 5 c. beef broth
  • ½ c. water
  • ½ c. red wine
  • 2 (14½-oz.) cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 1 c. thinly diced carrots
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1½ c. diced zucchini
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 8 to 9-oz. fresh cheese tortellini pasta
  • fresh basil
  • grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Remove casing from sausage and brown sausage. Drain and set aside. Saute onions and garlic in same pan. Stir in beef broth, water, red wine, diced tomatoes, carrots, oregano, tomato sauce, and zucchini. Add cooked sausage. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Skim any fat from top. Stir in zucchini and parsley and simmer 20 minutes. Add tortellini and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese to serve.
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Field Peas

The definition of matriarch is a highly respected woman who is a mother.  I would define all the mothers who have come before me in this catagory.  The mothers who have taught me much about God, life, love, and so much more.  I know many matriarch’s who aren’t related to me, but to whom I look up to with much respect and love.

Many of the matriarch’s in my life are no longer with us, however I am blessed to still have my mother and mother-in-law.  My mother had a stroke 3 years ago and although she still lives by herself, drives to church, the grocery store, and a few other places, she is limited in what she can do.  She no longer cooks the meals that I remember her cooking for so many years.  My mother-in-law still cooks, but because of everyones busy schedule we rarely sit down to eat at her table except on holidays.

Savannah said it perfect a few weeks ago when she told me, “you are a good cook, but Nan and Grammy cook everything better.”  I think most of us feel this way.  What Savannah don’t know yet is that there’s hope for me yet.  Mothers join that list once you’re older and cooking for yourself.

These peas are so simple, but they will remind you of Sunday lunch at Grandma’s table.  Black-eyed peas or pink-eyes work in this recipe.  Also, I buy thick cut (1/4-inch thick) bacon at the meat market and keep it in the freezer for things like this.

I have decided to take Thanksgiving week off to spend with family.  Greg and I will also be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary the week of Thanksgiving.  I’ll be back November 26, 2012 to start bringing you special Christmas recipes.  What fun that is going to be!  Take a moment to count your blessings.  My wish for you is a Thanksgiving filled with love, peace and happiness.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Field Peas
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 (4-inch) thick cut bacon
  • 4 c. frozen field peas
  • 32-oz. beef broth
  • 2 beef bouillion cubes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, on top of stove, brown the bacon on both sides in a little oil. Transfer to a crockpot. Add peas, broth, beef bouillion cubes, chopped onion, salt and pepper to crockpot. Cook on low for 2 - 3 hours.
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Baked Zucchini with Parmesan

I am really hitting a brick wall when it comes to finding new and exciting veggies and side dishes that also have a low glycemic load.  Turn to the vegetable or side dish section of any cookbook you pick up, and the number of recipes that do not include potatoes, rice, or starch are few and far between.

Here is a recipe that I saw on Pinterest and decided to try.  The recipe was called Zucchini Crisps.  I’m changing that because the zucchini wasn’t really crispy.  Nevertheless, it was delicious.  Make sure you get the crispy cheese on the foil too.  This is a suggestion and something I will try the next time I make these…sprinkle the sliced zucchini with a little salt and put into a strainer, over a bowl, for about 30 minutes.  Rinse with water and blot dry with paper towels, then proceed with recipe.  This may possibly make the zucchini crispier.  Either way, it was yummy.  (Please forgive the photo…I had to take it with my phone, and rather quickly since everyone was starved.)

 

Baked Zucchini with Parmesan
 
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Ingredients
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into 2-inch pieces, sliced thin lengthwise
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a baking pan with foil.
  3. Lay zucchini pieces on foil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and cheese.
  4. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until cheese has melted and is lightly browned. Cool on pan a few minutes before moving to a serving dish.
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Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting

The year was 1942…the average cost of a car was $1,100, gas cost 19 cents/gallon, minimum wage was 30 cents/hour, the United States was engaged in World War II, Bambi, Casablanca & Yankee Doodle Dandy were in the theaters, White Christmas by Bing Crosby was a top hit record, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Muhammad Ali & my father-in-law, John, were all born.  Wow, what a year!

I made these cupcakes for John’s birthday.  He typically likes a pecan pie, but I wanted to do something a little different this year.  After all, 70 deserves something special, and these cupcakes were.

I used Savannah’s Perfect Chocolate Cake for the cupcakes.  The recipe made 24 cupcakes and is a wonderfully moist cake.  The frosting was a first for me.  I love salted caramel and this frosting is no exception, it was FABULOUS!!  Click here to view the recipe for Savannah’s Perfect Chocolate Cake with her wonderful Chocolate Frosting.

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
 
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Ingredients
  • Cupcakes:
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1¾ c. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ c. cocoa
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting:
  • ½ c. heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp. water
  • 1 c. salted butter, softened
  • ½ c. vegetable shortening
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. meringue powder
  • Mix the heavy cream and vanilla and set aside.
  • Mix the sugar and water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 - 10 minutes until sugar dissolves. Do not stir. Increase heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown color (about 5 - 7 minutes), gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Watch very carefully because it will burn quickly! Turn off the heat and slowly add the heavy cream/vanilla mixture. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  • Cream butter, vegetable shortening and salt with electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and meringue powder and beat until combined. Add the caramel sauce and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Frost cupcakes.
Instructions
  1. Cupcakes:
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners, set aside.
  3. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. With an electric mixer, beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Fill each cupcake liner with approximately ¼ c. of batter.
  4. Bake in preheated oven, 20 - 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan; remove to wire racks and cool completely. Frost when completely cool.
  5. Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting:
  6. Mix the heavy cream and vanilla and set aside.
  7. Mix the sugar and water in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 - 10 minutes until sugar dissolves. Do not stir. Increase heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown color (about 5 - 7 minutes), gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Watch very carefully because it will burn quickly! Turn off the heat and slowly add the heavy cream/vanilla mixture. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  8. Cream butter, vegetable shortening and salt with electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar and meringue powder and beat until combined. Add the caramel sauce and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Frost cupcakes.
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