Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

In this Season there is Reason to Celebrate!
From our "Packed Table" to yours! We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

“But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:10-14

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pecan Praline Cookie Triangles

Any type of confection with the word praline in it and I am all over it! When my husband and I first got married we found an ice cream–Pralines and Cream made by Frusen Glädjé. (Whatever happened to that ice cream anyway?) It was a Friday night treat for us and it may have been one of the best ice creams ever made! Consequently, I am a huge praline fan!

This would be a great cookie to add to any goodie plate. Buttery, rich and full of pecans. I caught my hubby sneaking one last night and he said something to the effect that they were out-of-this-world good. Yes, I have to agree!

Pecan Praline Cookie Triangles


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups pecan halves, divided
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the crust, combine flour, powdered sugar and baking soda. Add the butter and mix until crumbly. Lightly press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 10 x 15 1/2 inch cookie sheet (9x13 will work as well, cooking times may be a bit longer). Bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the filling, reserve 1 cup of the pecans for garnish; chop the remaining pecans. Combine the chopped pecans, brown sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Pour filling over the warm crust, spreading to the edges of the pan.
Arrange the remaining pecan halves over the filling.
Bake 17-19 minutes or until filling is set in the center.
Remove from oven, cool completely.
Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar, if desired.
Cut into 32 squares. Cut each square in half diagonally.

Yield: 64 triangles (if using 10 x 15 1/2 inch pan)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

M & M Cookies

I am going to try to post as many cookies, treats, and desserts as possible between now and Christmas. Since
I like to have goodies on hand between Christmas and New Years,I don't like to get my baking done too far in advance. My plans are to freeze some, give some away, and still have plenty to go around.

This particular cookie recipe was given to me when I first got married, almost 30 years ago, gasp! There was a sweet older woman in the church my Dad pastored that made these and I had to have the recipe. That same year I made them for a cookie swap and it won first prize! I'm happy to share it with you today.

Our family began a tradition years ago that includes having hot apple cider and cookies—right out of the oven—while we put up the Christmas tree. It's always a real tree, of course! Usually we put it up around the 10th of December. This year we had a bit of trouble finding a tree so we went to a tree farm and cut our own for the very first time. Had so much fun! Our only regret is that that we forgot to take the camera.

This cookie is a great alternative to chocolate chip cookies–its wonderful counterpart. I love the addition of oatmeal—Yum!

M & M Cookies
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups oatmeal (quick cooking or old fashioned)
  • 1 1/2 cups m&m's
Preheat oven to 375.
In a mixing bowl combine the shortening, butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Beat until creamy. Add eggs, one at at time. Beat well. Add vanilla, mix.
In a separate bowl combine flour, soda and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, beat until incorporated. Add oatmeal and chocolate chips. Stir until mixed.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Note: This makes a lot of cookies (6-7 dozen). You can bake some right away and freeze the rest of the dough. Frozen cookie dough will need more time in the oven.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

White Chocolate Latte

Rich, creamy and delicious. Perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or an after dinner dessert drink. What is also completely refreshing about this beverage is that it costs so little compared to the $4.00 drinks you might purchase at your local coffee shop. For me, the ambiance is hard to turn down at these little shops (I LOVE walking into a Starbucks and having all my senses awaken). But, oh the possibilities with that $4.00 you don't spend. Save for a trip to Europe (hey, it could happen), start a college fund, or pay off your debt–Dave Ramsey would be so proud!

I'll be honest, I was hesitant about one ingredient in particular. Can you guess what it is? Instant Coffee! I do believe that some family members would disown me. However in this drink with the vanilla and almond extracts, and lots of luxurious richness, I really didn't miss the "real" coffee. To quote my skeptical coffee-snob husband "You can't tell that it's instant—only that it's good."

Have I mentioned this is a rich drink? For a lighter version, I would definitely mix and match different milks, perhaps using 2 cups skim milk and 1 cup whole. And although an optional ingredient, I used real whipping cream for the topping and next time I will simply use Ready Whip.

This was quite a treat–enjoy!

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

White Chocolate Latte
From Southern Living

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate morsels
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Garnish: cinnamon sticks

Stir first 4 ingredients together in a small saucepan over low heat until white chocolate morsels are melted. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts; pour evenly into 4 mugs. Top with whipped cream, if desired. Garnish, if desired, and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, November 14, 2011

My First Half Marathon - I Run for the Party!!

Just a short diversion from my regular food posts to share what I did this past weekend! Stay tuned for more yummy food to come!

I did it! I did it! I did it! I completed my first half marathon!

This was downtown Nashville about 7:00 am this past Saturday morning November 12. I'm somewhere in this sea of people, nervous but excited about what lay ahead!

We awakened early, about 5:30 local time after not so much sleep. But it was okay, we were pumped up and ready to go! My oldest son and daughter-in-law were running with me. My husband and brother-in-law came along for support and picture taking!

I started the race strong and felt really good. Unfortunately, because of a long wait, I was unable to take restroom break before the race started, so around mile 6 I finally stopped at one that didn't have a line! The hills were fairly manageable, with the exception of mile 10 which presented a challenging incline! The above picture was taken shortly after that, around mile 11.

I crossed the finish line and I was happy with my time which was 2:14 and 8 seconds! My only goal was to run the whole thing and be able to finish! When I was almost to the finish line I was screaming "I did it, I did it!! What an incredible feeling of relief and accomplishment. All those miles and hours of training and now I'm crossing the finish line. I was elated!! Even some tears of joy? Yes, it felt so good!

My husband didn't get back in time to see me cross the finish line (bummer), so he took the above picture shortly after I had crossed.

My son and daughter-in-law were elated too! They crossed the finish line and immediately started talking about what half they would do next!

We were celebrating and high fiving and having the best time right next to the Hard Rock! Since I'm a city girl, I was thrilled to run through the streets of Nashville and take it all in!

Anyone who finished received this medal. We thought they were really cool. The guitar actually spins around!

If you are thinking about running a half, I strongly encourage you to do it! It was a great experience and I'm already getting the itch to plan for another one.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Creamy Parmesan Portobello Pasta

Every year around August-October, Olive Garden has their "Never Ending Pasta Bowl." You choose any kind of pasta with any kind of sauce and you can "refill" as many times as you like, choosing different pastas and sauces, if you so desire. I am all too familiar with this as I worked as a server there, what seems like eons past. Actually, it wasn't too long ago.

One of my favorite creations they serve up during this time is a creamy portobello sauce. I have attempted to recreate it at home and I must say —YUM!! Is it exactly like their sauce? I'm not sure, but it is quite delicious!

This is a vegetarian dish, yet it's oh so "meaty" with these plump mushrooms paired beautifully with the rich sauce.

I start by removing the gills and breaking off the stem. You can cut up the stems and use those with the rest of the cut mushrooms.

All sliced and ready to be sautéed. You can also grill or roast the mushrooms if you prefer.

Adding minced garlic to the mushrooms just before sautéing. My garlic press is looking a bit rugged. No wonder—I use it all the time!

I had just added the grated fresh parmesan cheese. Looking creamy and mouthwatering.

You can choose whatever pasta you like (just like Olive Garden). I used vermicelli this time. Whole wheat pasta is my preference with this sauce but my family likes linguini or fettucini, which also works very well in this recipe. This is not a "light" dish, but so worth it for a splurge!

Creamy Parmesan Portobello Pasta

  • 4-5 large portobello mushroom caps (I ended up using 5)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced (divided)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 ounces grated fresh parmesan cheese (extra for serving)
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 12-16 ounce pasta
Remove gills and break off stems from the mushrooms. Rinse mushrooms. Slice the mushrooms and stems about 1/2 inch thick. Heat Olive Oil in skillet on medium. Add mushrooms and 1 clove garlic. Sauté until tender. Slowly stir in cream, half and half, remaining garlic, butter, cheeses and pepper. Heat just to a light boil and turn heat down to simmer 5 - 10 minutes stirring, until sauce thickens.
Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta. Serve. Sprinkle more parmesan cheese on top.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I had never made whoopie pies before. I see them all the time, and was anxious to try them. A pumpkin variety seemed perfect for my first attempt. The ingredients were a bit surprising to me, 1 whole cup of vegetable oil and no butter? I wasn't too sure about that, but these cookies do have more of a cake like texture. The addition of the molasses contributed to a deep rich pumpkin flavor.

The other surprise was that the batter was more on the runny side, again, more like a cake batter. They spread out nicely and yet not too thin at all.

These were a lot of fun to make and I am looking forward to trying many varieties of this yummy treat!

They're filling enough to make a great dessert or to just have on hand as a sweet treat for the holidays.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

  • Parchment paper
  • 1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups flour

  • 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the cookies: Preheat oven to 375. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using
an electric mixer, blend the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar , oil and molasses together on
medium speed until well combined - approximately 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the
bowl, and add the salt, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, and baking soda.
Mix until incorporated. Add the flour to the wet ingredients and beat until well combined,
approximately 1 minute. Drop batter onto baking sheets 2 inches apart making 28 cookies.
Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to rack to cool.

For the filling: Using an electric mixer, whip together butter and cream cheese on high
speed until fluffy - approximately 3 minutes. Add sugar a cup at a time and vanilla, beat
until smooth.

To assemble: Spread flat side of the cookies with approximately 2 tablespoons of filling.
Top with remaining cookie, flat side touching the filling. Serve.

Note: For best storage, wrap each pie individually in plastic wrap.

Yield: approximately 14 pies

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple Bran Spice Muffins

When it comes to baking, I'm usually not brave enough to try my own recipes. This morning however I felt courageous. I knew I wanted to make healthy muffins and I almost opted for pumpkin muffins, but have other pumpkin recipes coming. I had some very yummy apples just screaming to be used so, my recipe was born.

I cut up two small golden delicious apples. These particular ones are so sweet. But of course, you could use any good cooking apple.

After assembling the recipe, I added this oat topping. I added no butter, so it's a bit crumbly and completely optional. I thought they gave the muffins lots of character!

Fresh out of the oven, and smelling lovely!

Ready to be cut, buttered, and enjoyed.

I asked my family to be completely honest about the taste. My husband said that he liked them very much, but wouldn't mind them being a little sweeter. You can of course add more sugar, for me the amount of sweetness was perfect, especially with the sweetness in the topping. My niece who was with us said they were yummy. And my youngest rated them very high on the muffin scale.

Apple Bran Spice Muffins

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon clove
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 small cooking apples chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
Oat topping: (optional)
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease muffin pan.
In a bowl combine the first nine ingredients (white flour through clove). In a separate mixing bowl lightly beat eggs. Add both white and brown sugar, beat until combined. Add oil, applesauce and yogurt, beat until mixed well.
Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and beat slowly until combined, scraping down the sides as you go. Stir in apples and pecans.
Pour batter into well greased muffin pan and fill 2/3 full. If using oat topping mix oats, sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle on top of muffins. Press oats lightly into the top of the muffins. Bake for 15 minutes.

Yield: 11-12 muffins

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

One might begin to wonder if I'm getting carried away with pumpkin recipes. Yes, I guess I am, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. I was really wanting to make some homemade mac and cheese and in particular, I wanted to try it with pumpkin. I found this particular recipe over at Healthy Food for Living, it looked so creamy and delicious! I was excited to try it and it did not disappoint.

You begin the sauce by heating the pumpkin and milk.

Next comes the combination of cheeses. I used sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack and cream cheese.

You can choose just about any kind of pasta, I went with the mini-penne.

After you add the sauce to the pasta it's really creamy. If you like it that way—go ahead and enjoy! Or…

…you may decide to add a bit of cheese to the top and bake it in the oven. Here's where you have to be careful. Over-baked mac and cheese gets very dry. I put it in the oven for about 5 minutes.

This dish is great as a vegetarian main dish or served as a side. I like to serve it up with pork tenderloin or ham.

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Healthy Food for a Living

8 oz uncooked macaroni or other pasta, (I used mini-penne)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup milk
2 oz (about 4 Tbsp) 1/3-less-fat neufchatel cream cheese
1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese (can use reduced fat cheese)
1/2 cup freshly grated gruyere cheese (can sub in any good melting cheese, such as monterey jack)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or more depending on heat preference
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, whisk together and heat pumpkin puree and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot.
Reduce stove heat to low. Whisk in cheeses until fully melted.
Stir in nutmeg and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir drained pasta into the pumpkin-cheese sauce and mix until thoroughly combined.
You can eat and enjoy after mixing pasta with the sauce or you can put it all in a casserole dish, sprinkle with more cheese and put it in the oven at 375, for about 5 minutes or until cheese has melted.
Serve with an extra dusting of nutmeg, if desired.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin-Pecan Coffee Cake

Of all the breakfast type breads there are to enjoy, coffee cake would be among my very favorite! It may even rival cinnamon rolls! When I growing up my mom would sometimes make the Bisquick version of coffee cake. I always loved it, although I'm sure I wasn't as wild about the "cake" part of it, so I mostly consumed the streusel topping - yum! To me, coffee cake is just pure comfort food!

Here is a great coffee cake with the twist of pumpkin added to the mix! This is a "lighter" recipe as it does not have a ton of butter added. The streusel topping, however, more than makes up for it. With the added pecans, it is bursting with flavor! The "cake" part is a winner because of the explosion of pumpkin flavor.

Start by melting butter in a cake pan, then adding a mixture of oats, brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon.

Pouring the pumpkin mixture on top and ready for the oven.

Out of the oven, now comes the fun! Flip it over on your serving plate...

And here you have the finished product! I had no trouble getting it out of the pan.

This post has been linked to Eat at Home.

Pumpkin-Pecan Coffee Cake
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light

  • 1 teaspoon butter or stick margarine
  • 1/4 cup regular oats
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°.
Melt 1 teaspoon butter in bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Combine oats, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Sprinkle oat mixture over bottom of pan, and set aside.
Beat 3 tablespoons butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup brown sugar at medium speed of a mixer until mixture is well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add the egg, and beat well. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, pumpkin-pie spice, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the pumpkin and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Spoon batter evenly over oat mixture. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, and invert cake onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings

Friday, October 14, 2011

Homemade Sports Drink

My faithful running companions

After I had all my kids I thought I would never run again. In junior high and high school I had been very active. Even through all my years of having and raising babies I tried to keep fit with aerobics. Once my youngest was weaned and not attached to my hip anymore I started walking. But running? Nope—out of the question! Until one day…. My oldest son was home from college, my next oldest was on the cross-country team and they both encouraged me to run with them. I told them they were nuts, but they prevailed at last. I went running! I went about a mile without stopping! Eight years later, I'm still going strong and am just four weeks away from running my first half-marathon! I never thought it would come to this.

We all know how important it is to stay hydrated and replenished while in such intense training. I was not comfortable drinking your typical sports drinks, you find everywhere. So a friend of mine told me about the wonders of coconut water, (not to be confused with coconut milk), it is the clear liquid inside immature coconuts. The benefits of this liquid are many; all natural, only 43 calories per cup, more potassium than a banana, and a preventative for dehydration (to name just a few).

I have also added some cherry juice to this drink. When I went to purchase the juice at the health food store there was a great article on the benefits of cherry juice after a work out. The article stated that it was great for replenishing the body after work outs and it also keeps muscle pain to a minimum!

Coconut water is pricey, and works out to be a little more than the sports drink you see in the photo above. I typically make this drink after one of my longer runs.

I have found this drink to be a huge help in my post work out time. If I'm not careful, my energy level will really dive if I don't have the proper hydration, potassium, minerals, and salts after my runs.

Homemade Sports Drink

  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 4 teaspoons black cherry concentrate or to taste* (see note at bottom)
  • splash of lime concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (more or less to taste)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2/3 cup purified water

Stir all ingredients together until salt and sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate until cold.

Yield: 1 serving (about 14 ounces)

*Note: Feel free to substitute any juice for the cherry. If using juice that is not a concentrate, you needn't add water.