Cranberry Pecan Baked Brie

A couple weeks ago, I hosted a Noonday Party. It was a fun evening of trying on jewelry, catching up with friends, and noshing on some goodies I had prepared. One appetizer I introduced to the group is my Cranberry Pecan Baked Brie. Let’s just say that there were no crumbs left on the plate.

The way the cranberry pecan topping plays with the brie truly makes happiness. I served the brie with a sliced baguette and crackers. And now this little number will be added to other upcoming festivities this season.

Super easy, great presentation, and a crowd pleasure for sure.

Keep Singing and Dancing during the Holidays,
Amanda

What you Need:

For Brie
1 (8-ounce) wheel brie cheese, rind trimmed
2 T brown sugar, packed

For Cranberry Pecan Drizzle

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 T honey
2 T maple syrup
1 T unsalted butter
1/4 t ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place brie on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Place into oven and bake until softened. This should take about 12-15 minutes. Remove brie from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer. Occasionally stir, until foamy. Then stir in pecans and cranberries.

Serve brie warm topped with pecan mixture. I like to serve with crackers or a baguette.

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

I recently discovered Natasha’s Kitchen. She has tons of great recipes that have awesome pictures, easy to follow directions, and a fun sense of humor. The other night I made her Pumpkin Creme Brûlée for dessert. Oh my goodness! It was a hit. Plus my hubby got to play with the torch to make the caramelized topping. He actually let Whitaker take a turn with the torch. This dessert is a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dessert bar or any fall time meal. Enjoy and check out Natasha’s site!

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

3 large whole eggs

1/2 cup sugar (plus extra for caramelizing)

1 cup pumpkin puree (make your own or use the can stuff)

1/4 t ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 whole eggs and 1/2 cup sugar until well blended. Heat 1 and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream in a sauce pan, almost to a simmer; stirring frequently. You don’t want to burn the bottom. Slowly add hot cream into the egg & sugar mix. You need to pour & whisk slowly as you are combining the hot cream with egg & sugar mix. Or you will end up with scrambled mess!

Next, strain the mixture through a small mess strainer into a bowl. Whisk in 1 cup pumpkin puree and 1/4 tsp cinnamon.

Divide the mixture into 8 (4 oz) cups and place in a large casserole baking dish. You might need more than one baking dish. Fill the baking dish with boiling water about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake at 300 degrees for 35-40 minutes. The centers of the creme brûlée should barely move when you wiggle the pan.

Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate creme brûlée until ready to serve; you can refrigerate them even a week before your event.

When you are ready to serve, you can caramelize the top. Put 1 teaspoon of sugar on top. I used Vanilla Sugar from Beautiful Briny Sea made right here in Atlanta, Georgia. Spread sugar evenly over each custard. Heat the top with your torch. (This is my husband’s favorite part. Guys just love fire.) Keep torching until you have a caramelized top.

Once you have caramelized the top, do not refrigerate. This will cause your topping to not be crisp.

How Do I Pick Out My Thanksgiving Turkey?

Whether this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, the turkey situation can be scary and daunting. As soon as you enter the grocery store, you are hit with multiple options like fresh, frozen, organic, heritage, free-range…and Butterball. I mean, what does it all mean? How big of a turkey do I need?

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A Beautiful Turkey Cooked by Williams & Sonoma

Today, I will try to help with the decision of picking out the turkey. I have researched several types of turkeys so that you are armed when you enter the store. This does not have to be hard.

How BIG of a Turkey Do I Buy?
To make sure you feed all your guest well, your biggest decision should be the size of turkey. An easy rule is 1 pound for every person at your table. If you want leftovers, 2 pounds per person will be perfect. IF you want lots of leftovers, well, you get the idea.

Where is this Bird Going to Cook?
Now, you need to consider where you are cooking this turkey! In your oven, in a roaster oven, and the neighbor’s. You need to size-up the area you have to work with. You can see the problem on Thanksgiving day when your turkey is TOO BIG and you have nowhere to cook it. Big Fail!

Do you have a Pan to Cook your Turkey in?
This is like a dress rehearsal. I like to (days before) establish what pans and dishes I will be using for Thanksgiving. Go ahead and pull out the pan you will be cooking your turkey in. You might need to purchase one or borrow from a friend. If you are using a roaster oven, make sure your bird fits before the big day.

Heritage, Free-Range, Organic, Oh My!
When you arrive to the grocery store, you will be hit with several choices. I consulted my friends over at Food & Wine to break it down for us.
Heritage: One of the most popular birds in the past few years because of their superior flavor, heritage turkeys are purebred and generally older than other turkeys you may find at the store. They tend to be smaller, have more bone and darker leg meat. Life outdoors gives these turkeys a gamier taste than the regular store-bought varieties.

Organic: Certified organic by the USDA, these turkeys are now more easily found in grocery stores, and are Weening’s top choice. They are fed an all-organic vegetarian diet, never given antibiotics and are raised on organic pastures. They tend to be a little more expensive because the feed the birds eat is more expensive.

Free Range: No antibiotics or hormones are given to these turkeys and they have access to the outdoors (at least part of the time, according to the USDA).

Pastured Turkey: This type of turkey is raised outdoors and is pretty much free to do and eat what it wants, although they are also given feed to ensure they get the proper levels of nutrients.

Kosher: Kosher turkeys are raised and processed according to strict rabbinical guidelines. Before they are packaged they are rubbed with Kosher salt, which also acts as a brine.

Brine: Some turkeys are one step ahead of you and have been brined already. Various juices, oils, seasonings, sugar and/or salt are injected into the turkey. Brining is beneficial because it can provide extra moisture and flavor to the turkey in addition to saving you some prep time, but it can dictate the flavor of your turkey and take the seasoning out of your hands. Butterball turkeys are usually brined.

Fresh vs. Frozen: Basically fresh turkeys are kept at a temperature of 27 degrees. When the temperature drops below that, the meat begins to freeze. If you’re buying a fresh turkey, buy it NO more than two days before you plan to cook it; you can usually reserve one at markets and farmers’ markets way in advance.

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Check Out Local Restaurants and Grocery Stores For Cooked

Many local restaurants offer Thanksgiving Turkeys for your convenience. This is a great option and one I have used before. You usually need to order a week before. Your turkey is prepped and cooked by a professional. Then when you pick up, you are given specific directions of how to cook your turkey. This is a great option to take some pressure off the big day.

It Will All Be Fine….
In the end it comes down to what you want to pay. Turkeys can get pricey, so know how many you are buying for and be sure to take into account the leftovers you want to eat for days to come. Otherwise you got this. Feel confident in the purchase of your turkey. Your guest will LOVE it.
Looking Forward,
Amanda

Shaving Cream Decorated Easter Eggs

Each year it is fun to experiment with different ways to decorate your Easter Eggs.  There are so many fun options out there.  This year we used shaving cream.  Not shaving gel or shaving butter, good ole’ shaving cream.

Whitaker and I had so much fun picking out colors for our designs.  He also loved rolling the eggs around in the shaving cream.

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It is so basic and easy!

You need:
Hard Boiled Eggs
Shaving Cream (we used )
Assorted Food Gel or Food Coloring
Rubber Gloves (my PSA- I got a little carried away with the color and had stained hands for 3 days!)

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Spray a 1″ layer of shaving cream in the bottom of the glass or metal casserole pan. If you want no clean up, use a disposable aluminum pan. Spread the shaving cream to make a smooth top.

Then using your selected colors, beginning adding small, random dots of food gel to the shaving cream.  We used 2-3 on each design.  If you use too many you will end up with a nasty brown or green color.  (that does not say “Happy Easter!”)

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Then using a wooden skewer or popsicle stick, drag the skewer through the shaving cream making lines.  You can make swirls, loops, zigzag, whatever!

Once you have the design the way you like, place an egg in the shaving cream on one end.

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Gently roll the egg in a straight line from one side to the other.  My little guy liked using a spoon to roll his egg.  Then carefully pick up the egg and place it on some paper towels. Leave the egg there until the shaving cream starts to dry up. Usually 10 minutes. Then you can rinse off the extra shaving cream under water or clean off with a wet paper towel.

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Each Easter Egg will have its own personality based on colors and swirl designs.

Happy Easter!
Amanda

Ooey Gooey Butter Leprechaun Cookies

I  wanted to created some cookies to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  We combined a few recipes to get this final result.  This recipe allows for different extract flavors to achieve the flavor you want.  Also you can use a different food coloring gel to match whatever you need.  These cookies live up to their name.  They are ooey and gooey.  If you like a crisp, crunchy cookie, keep on moving.  Add a little fun to your St. Patrick’s Day celebration!

Looking Forward,
Amanda

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Ooey Gooey Butter Leprechaun Cookies

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 t baking powder

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese,  softened

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups granulated sugar

2 t  vanilla extract (I used Mexican vanilla)

1 t  almond extract (you can use mint extract if you want to give that edge.  A good friend of mine said she might use Key Lime extract)

Green food coloring, gel based (this is where you can change colors for other celebrations)

1 t kosher salt

1  egg plus 1  egg yolk

1 cup powdered sugar for rolling & dusting cookies

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder until well blended. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer cream together cream cheese and butter until creamy and smooth. Beat in granulated sugar, extracts, salt, and desired amount of green food coloring.   Mix until well combined. Be sure to scrape sides of the bowl to make sure all gets mixed in. Add egg and egg yolk and beat until creamy and light.

On low-speed, gradually add flour mixture and mix until just fully incorporated. Dough will be very sticky. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place powdered sugar in a pie plate; set aside.

Use cookie dough scoop to measure dough.  Then roll dough in hands to create 1-inch balls.  (your hand will turn a little green if you used a lot of green food coloring you can live with it or use disposable rubber gloves)

Then roll in confectioners’ sugar to lightly coat. Place dough balls on prepared baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes.  Cookies should look puffy and crackly.  The cookies will still be soft in the centers. If they start to brown around the edges, they have baked too long. The underside of the cookies should be only very lightly browned.

Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheet.  Then move cookies to a wire rack.

Keep cookies in airtight container.  Then can stored at room temperature or in your refrigerator.  

 

Chocolate Corn Flakes Chocolate Chip Cookies (It’s a Yummy Mouthful)

It should be pretty clear by now that my boys LOVE cookies.  I am raising actual Cookie Monsters!  We have a glass cookie jar that sits on the counter.  Usually that cookie jar displays the recent cookie that have been made in our kitchen.  I love hearing the sound of the jar being opened up.  A slight clang of glass and you know someone is in the cookie jar.  I love hearing my oldest and his friends getting into the cookie jar.  There is something magical about boys gathering around for a snack after shooting hoops or a long day at school.

As the cookies start getting low, I am quickly reminded that we will need more soon. We have several recipes that are always classics in this home.  The Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie and  M&M Cookies are our usual standbys because the ingredients are simple and always on hand.

My soon-to-be four year old was eager to make cookies last week.  I told him we were going to mix it up and add one of his favorite cereal- Kellogg’s Chocolate Frosted Flakes. He was beyond thrilled to help with the process.  The cookies were super easy to make and turned out perfect.  You can always use plain corn flakes for your cookies.

Looking Forward,
Amanda

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Chocolate Corn Flakes Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 eggs

1 1/2 t vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 cup regular oats, uncooked

1 cup chocolate corn flakes cereal (picture below)

1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips and additional 1/2 cup for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat shortening and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars.  Beat until all combined.  Add eggs one at a time.  Then add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and soda.  Gradually add to butter mixture.  Mix well.  Stir in oats, chocolate corn flakes, and chocolate chips.

Using a cookie dough scoop, drop dough 2 inches apart on your baking sheet.

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I always add extra chocolate chips to the top of my cookies before baking. It adds more chocolate and makes your cookies look good too!

Add additional chocolate chips to top off cookies.  Gently press in the chocolate chips. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  You want the cookies to be lightly browned.  Remove cookies and place on a wire rack for cooling.

And yes, this is Whitaker’s current favorite cereal:

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Our Valentine’s Rice Krispie Treats- On Mission in My Kitchen

I’m always looking for ways to get my boys in the kitchen. Simple recipes like this one help get my little guy involved.

I began getting him involved at the grocery store. I showed him what ingredients were on our shopping list. He helped me find Rice Krispie cereal, large marshmallows, butter, and sprinkles. Letting your child make fun decisions like, “What sprinkles would you like to use?” allows them to have ownership in the process.

In the kitchen, we took time to count out the marshmallows. We are working on counting to ten so we counted five different times. Yes, I’m very intentional when “teaching” in the kitchen. It is natural learning and having fun at the same time.

While standing on a stool beside me, he watched while we adding heat.  We watched as the butter melted and then the marshmallows melted. He smelled the yummy vanilla. And he added the food coloring and was excited when the color began to transform the marshmallow mixture.

He scooped up the cereal using a measuring cup. You can’t mess this recipe up so it’s okay if the cup is overflowing.

I think his favorite part was using the sprinkles he picked out. Lots of sprinkles were added.

As we waited for the treats to cool, I asked him “Who should be share these treats with?”. I’m trying to working with my boys to be outward focused. It is a daily conversation. “How can we bless someone today?” “Who’s day could be brighten?” “How can we show the love of Jesus today?”

He quickly decided that some neighbor friends might like these treats. We packaged them up in disposable aluminum pan. (I try to keep these on hand. The Dollar Tree always has the best assortment and they are one dollar.)

I loved that before he even tried his treat, he was skipping out the door with his brother to deliver the goodies.

It is the simplest recipes and experiences in the kitchen that can get your child involved. Yes, it will take longer and there might be more messes. I believe the quality and intentional time together makes it so worth it.

On Mission in the Kitchen,
Amanda

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3 T butter and additional unsalted butter to grease pan

4 1/2 cups of large marshmallows (we use 50 large marsmallows)

Red food coloring or gel

1 t vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla)

6 cups Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® cereal

Assorted Valentine’s sprinkles

 

Prepare your 13×9 pan or whatever shape and size you desire by coating the pan with butter.  Set pan aside.

In large saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted.  Remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla.  Then add red food coloring to achieve the desired color.

Add Kellogg’s Rice Krispie cereal.  Stir until well coated.

Using a buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into your prepared pan.

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Sprinkle the mixture with sprinkles.  Press in sprinkles.  Allow time to cool.

Using a knife, cut your treats to desired shapes.  Rice Krispie Treats are always best if served the same day.

Slow-Cooker Pork Tacos with Fresh Tomato Salsa

I love meals that I can prep and forget about for the day.  This recipe came out of Southern Living magazine.  I have tweaked it to fit our style.  The key is browning the pork prior to placing it in the slow cooker for the day.  It seals in the flavors and is delicious.  Your home will smell delicious and you will be so happy at dinner time.  The meat is so yummy and makes great leftovers.

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1 (4 to 5 lb) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
1 T chile powder
1 T black pepper
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t granulated sugar
1 T plus 1/2 t kosher salt, divided
2 T Canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider
4 oregano springs
1 cup chopped tomato
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and finely chopped (about 2 T)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 T fresh lime juice
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas
1 T smoked paprika
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cut pork shoulder into 2 pieces.  Combine chile powder, black pepper, cumin, cloves, sugar and 1 T of salt in a small bowl.  Sprinkle mixture over all sides of pork pieces.

Heat oil in a large skillet over high.  Add pork pieces, and cook until deep golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Place pork in a slow cooker; add vinegar and oregano.

Cover and cook on LOW until pork falls apart easily with shredded with a fork, 8 to 10 hours.

Stir together tomato, red onion, lime juice, jalapeno, and remaining 1/2 t salt in a bowl. Chill at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

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Shred pork in slow cooker with 2 forks; stir in paprika and cayenne.

Toast individual tortillas in a skillet.

Serve pork on tortillas topped with salsa, cilantro, and sour cream.  We like to add black beans to our tacos.  And of course we like to have our chips and salsa.

Looking Forward,
Amanda

 

 

Leftover Turkey- Salsa Verde Enchiladas

You have made it to the other side. You survived Thanksgiving. Memories were made. Food was yummy. And now you have leftovers. Don’t get me wrong. I love Thanksgiving leftovers but there is only so many turkey cranberry sandwiches one person can eat. My Texas roots always have me turn to Turkey Salsa Verde Enchiladas. You can use white or dark turkey meat. Add in some chips and salsa and you have a great meal.

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Turkey Salsa Verde Enchiladas

Flour Tortillas, 8 medium

3 cups Cheddar Cheese, shredded

3 cups Turkey, shredded

2 cups Salsa Verde

2 avocados, diced

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro, minced

I T olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small pan, add olive oil and onions. Cook onions until translucent.

In a medium bowl combine salsa verde and cream cheese until well blended.

In a 13×9 baking dish, cover the bottom with salsa verde.

Now begin assembling your enchiladas- lay tortilla flat and fill with turkey, cheese, red onion, avocado, cilantro and 2 tablespoon of salsa verde mix. Roll enchilada and place into baking dish with seam down. Continue until all tortillas are complete. Top enchiladas with remaining salsa verde and shredded cheese.

Bake enchiladas for 30 minutes. Then top cooked enchiladas with additional red onions, avocados, and cilantro.

You Have Everything You Need Chocolate Chip Cookies

It was a rainy Monday and Whitaker realized we were out of cookies.  In a house of boys, running out of cookies is a bad thing.  Whitaker is a problem solver and quickly declared, “Mommy, we can just make some cookies.”  I had several other ideas on my to-do list for the afternoon.  But I was quickly reminded that checking off boxes on my list could wait, I need to make cookies with Whitaker.

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He loves using the mixer.

This chocolate chip cookie recipe is so easy and you will probably have everything you need to create them right in your kitchen.  It is a great recipe to have a young chef to help you with because the measurements are easy and they love scooping the cookie dough on to the cookie sheet.

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Simple Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
3 cup quick oats
2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a mixer, stir together, butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Then add flour and baking soda. Add oats and stir until well combine. Lastly, add in chocolate chips.  Mix all well.
Scoop into 1″ balls & place on greased cookie sheet or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Add additional chocolate chips on top of scooped cookies.  (This makes your cookies look even better after they are baked.)
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges start to turn a light golden brown.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.