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