December 30, 2005

Black Bean Dip

Black Bean Dip
28 oz canned black beans, drained
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon plain yogurt (optional*)
1 tablespoon lime juice*
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Pour all ingredients into a food processor (or blender) and pulse until you achieve your desired consistency. Pretty smooth but with the odd whole bean is nice.

Excellent on: pita, tortilla chips, raw veggies or used in place of refried beans.

*Leave this out for a thicker dip or if you are vegan or just don't like yogurt! It adds a nice tang though.

**I used key limes I had leftover from making pie, but juice from a regular lime is fine

My thoughts:
I saw a jar of prepared black bean dip at Wegman's and I thought I could probably make a better version at home using fresher ingredients, i.e. fresh garlic instead of the garlic powder in the ingredients list, fresh onion instead of dehydrated. So I came up with this recipe. It came out well, and it's low fat. Fat free if you don't add the yogurt. I think it would be good with a little fresh corn stirred in after you blend it for some texture interest. Unfortunately it's the depths of Winter here so I'll have to make it again in Spring to find out.

December 28, 2005

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk (fat free is fine)
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup key lime juice*
2 1/2 teaspoons key lime zest
9 inch round graham cracker crust

Preheat oven to 300. In a large mixing bowl, using your electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and zest until the eggs are creamy. Slowly add condensed milk and mix until well combined. Add key lime juice and mix to combine thoroughly. Pour into crust and bake 15 minutes or until the pie is "set" and no longer feels liquid to the touch. Cool on wire rack, refrigerate.

*Note: For an authentic pie, you need the juice of fresh key limes. Using a juicer is the most efficient way to extract the most amount of juice from tiny key limes limes. I was able to yield 1/3 cup of juice from only 10 (2 inch diameter) limes using my juicer. If you have to use bottled juice, make sure it is from actual key limes (the juice will be a pale yellow) and not just (Persian) lime juice with citric acid added to make it tart.

My thoughts:
Who knew key lime pie was so easy to make? It's one of my husband's favorites so when I saw fresh key limes in the store, I couldn't resist. The bag came with a recipe, but I upped the amount of zest and juice it called for to yield a more tart pie. It came out as well if not better than the pies I've had from places that specialize in key lime pies.

December 27, 2005

Roast Beef with Garlic (in the slow cooker)

Roast Beef with Garlic (in the slow cooker)

3 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed
10 oz mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
24 cloves garlic, chopped
2 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 cup hot water
12 ounces lager beer
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
black pepper


In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil and brown roast on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a plate and loosely cover. If needed, add the remaining oil to the pan. Saute the onions 2-3 minutes or until just softening.
Add the garlic and mushrooms, cook until onion and garlic are tender. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine the boullion cubes and the hot water. Stir. Add to pan and stir again. Add the beer, brown sugar, mustard, and vinegar. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into the bottom of the slow cooker. Place roast on top of the sauce. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. After 7-8 hours, add the dissolved corn starch and stir to combine. Sauce should begin to thicken, cook an additional 15-30 minutes as needed.

December 26, 2005

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls (Cinnamon Buns)


4 cups flour
1/2 oz yeast
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, creamed
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon


In a large mixing bowl, dissolve 2 packages of yeast in 1/2 cup of very warm (not more than about 100F) water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Let sit. In a small saucepan, warm butter and milk to about 100F. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook combine dissolved yeast and the butter mixture on low. Slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar, then the egg. Add salt and 2 cups of flour on low, mix until smooth. Slowly mix in the remaining 2 cups of flour. The mixture should become a sticky dough at this time. Scrape out the dough onto floured counter top. Knead dough until it doesn't stick to your hands, adding small amounts of flour (up to 1/2 cup) as needed.
Place in a greased bowl. Cover with damp cloth and let rise for about 45 minutes or until it doubles in size. Preheat oven to 350. Remove dough from bowl and place on a floured counter. Roll out in a 12 by 24 inch rectangle. The dough should be about an inch thick. Using your fingers or a spatula, spread 1/2 cup of the very soft, creamed butter over dough. In small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling. Sprinkle evenly over the buttered dough. Roll dough into a tight log. Cut into 1 inch thick slices. Place in 2 ungreased, 9 inch round cake pans, forming a circle with one roll in the middle. Allow to rise about 1/2 hour until they are about level to the top of the cake pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, then test for doneness. Pay careful attention to the creases where the rolls touch each other. Return to oven 5-10 additional minutes as needed. Remove to a wire rack or invert on a plate and ice.

Excellent with cream cheese icing.

My thoughts:
A homemade version of my favorite Amish market treat. I have been trying hard to develop a recipe that comes close and I think this one does. My sweet husband made them for me as a special holiday treat.

Cream Cheese Icing for Sweet Rolls

Cream Cheese Icing for Sweet Rolls
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients thoroughly. Spread over warm sweet rolls.

Excellent on cinnamon rolls.

My thoughts:
I love the cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing found at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. So much so that on more than on occasion I have driven the almost 2 hours just to satisfy my craving. This icing is the closest to my beloved rolls that I have been able to develop. It doesn't get hard or dried out and has a nice, tart cream cheese flavor.

December 25, 2005

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies


1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
18 oz miniature Reese's Peanut Butter cups, unwrapped (I used the dark chocolate variety but they can be difficult to find) OR homemade


In a large bowl, cream together both sugars, the peanut butter, eggs and butter. Add the flour and baking soda and mix throughly. Shape in to one inch balls and drop into a ungreased mini-muffin pan, one to a section. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove pans from oven and immediately press one miniature peanut butter cups into each warm cookie. The candy should be fairly level with the top of the cookie. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes then remove to a wire rack.

Yield: approximately 5 dozen cookies.

Note: cookies can be frozen for up to 6 months.

My thoughts:
These are some of my favorite cookies. I had made them with the traditional milk chocolate Reese's miniatures years ago and always thought that they would be even better with dark chocolate. When my mom spotted the dark chocolate variety she snatched them up and made me these cookies again. Yum!

December 19, 2005

How to Host a Cookie Swap

How to Host a Cookie Swap

I hosted my first cookie swap party this weekend and I think it went pretty well. Some tips I have come up with are:

  • Send out invitations early-the holiday time is busy for everyone.
  • Decide how many cookies each person will bring. 1 dozen for each person is traditional
  • Decide how many people you want to invite. I kept it to 5 couples so we only ended up with 5 dozen cookies. Since it's just us, we didn't think we could handle any more!
  • Have lots of snacks. I made: spinach rolls, spinach-artichoke dip, hummus, peppermint bark, peppermint marshmallows, hot chocolate and had a lot of pita, celery and carrots and tortilla chips. Some of the guests also brought snacks so we had more than enough.
  • Have tons of beverages on hand, we drank way more than we expected.
  • Have a table set up to put all of the arriving cookies on. Even with just 5 of us swapping, we filled a whole table with plates and tins.
  • Have everyone package their cookies on plates or in tins at home so they are ready to go.
  • Have everyone bring a copy of the recipe they used to go along with the cookies.
  • Try to be prepared. I made everything we served ahead of time. I even had cut the carrot and celery up and had it in water in the refrigerator. The day of the event, all I had to do was heat up the dip, roll up the spinach rolls (they baked at the same time/temperature) and set out the food.
  • Have fun!

Chocolate-Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

Chocolate-Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

4 1/2 teaspoons butter , melted
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

WARNING: this needs to be done the day before you want to bake the cookies.
In a large bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, combine thoroughly. Remove half the dough to medium bowl. Add cocoa and melted butter to remaining dough. Mix thoroughly. Divide the dough in half. Divide the vanilla dough in half as well. You should now have 4 sets of dough, two vanilla and two chocolate. Dough should be firm. If not, refrigerate ½- 1 hour until firm. Sandwiched between 2 pieces of wax paper, roll one portion vanilla dough into 8-inch square. Repeat procedure with one portion chocolate dough. If the dough is warm and soft, you may need to chill it again at this point. Remove top sheets of wax paper; invert vanilla dough onto chocolate dough. Remove the top sheet of wax paper. Roll carefully. Wrap in wax paper. Repeat procedure with remaining dough. Refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut rolls into 1/4-inch slices; place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 6-7 minutes or until just set. Careful, the cookies do not brown on top and it is difficult to visually tell if they are done. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

My thoughts:
I came up with this recipe for a cookie swap I am hosting tomorrow. They are pretty easy to make but the dough is really soft. My husband and I ended up having to refrigerate it in between each step and it was still tricky to roll the two doughs together without ripping. We also made a double batch so that slowed us down as well, we had twice as much dough to work with than the recipe I posted here. It wasn't a difficult cookie to make but we were left with a lot of "down time" waiting for the dough to cool down between each step. All in all, they turned out very well, not too difficult and very chocolatey. I am happy my first refrigerator cookie recipe turned out so well. I have always been interested in refrigerator cookies but I had never made some myself.

December 18, 2005

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

14 oz semisweet chocolate chips
12 candy canes

In a medium bowl, microwave chocolate 2 1/2 minutes*. Meanwhile, using the back of a spoon or a measuring cup, break the candy canes still in their plastic wrappers. Remove wrappers and dump into a bowl. Use a sieve to sift out the "peppermint dust". Check on the chocolate. Some chips may retain their shape but the chocolate should be basically melted. Stir. Pour chocolate on to a foil-line cookie sheet. Press candy canes into the chocolate. Chill 1 hour. Remove from foil. Break into pieces.

*You could also use a double boiler to melt the chips.

Spring this recipe!
My thoughts:

Just as easy but so much tastier than that icky white chocolate.

Spinach Ricotta Phyllo Rolls

Spinach Ricotta Phyllo Rolls

12 oz spinach, drained
8 oz frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
4 tablespoons butter, melted
8 oz ricotta
1/2 cup roasted pinenuts

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine spinach, ricotta and pinenuts thoroughly. Unroll the phyllo onto a cookie sheet. Spread spinach mixture over phyllo, leaving a 2 inch border. Roll into a log and brush on melted butter to seal. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through. Slice and serve.

My thoughts:

I made this as an appetizer for a cookie swap I am hosting. I made the spinach mixture the day before. The day of, I let it warm up a little then rolled it into the phyllo and baked it.

How to Roast Pinenuts

how to roast pinenuts

Preheat oven to 350. Place pinenuts on a cookie sheet or cake pan. Roast for 5-8 minutes in oven. Pinenuts should be slightly browned and fragrant.

Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate
14 oz sweetened condensed fat free milk
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 cups hot water

In a large pot on the stove, stir together condensed milk, cocoa, vanilla and salt. Turn on the heat to medium. Slowly add in water. Cook over gentle heat until warmed through but do not boil.

Good with Peppermint Marshmallows.

My thoughts:

This recipe makes a lot of hot chocolate, cheaply. It is even fat free. It can also be stored in the fridge for about 5 days and heated up when needed.

December 17, 2005

Peppermint Marshmallows

3 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
Confectioners' sugar for dredging


In a large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water. Allow to seep for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a vigorous boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatin and mix at high speed for 1 minute. Add the salt and beat for 11 minutes. Add peppermint and beat for 1 minute. Oil your hands and a spatula and scrape into a 9 x 9 pan lined with oiled plastic wrap and spread evenly. After pouring marshmallow mixture into the pan, take another piece of oiled plastic wrap and press firmly on the top, oil side down, to smooth the marshmallow. Allow to rest 3 hours. Invert the pan into plate full of confectioners’ sugar and dredge the marshmallow through. Remove and cut into pieces with kitchen sheers or a knife. Dredge each piece of marshmallow in confectioners' sugar. Store in an air tight container.

My thoughts:
Who knew making marshmallow was so easy? It was really sticky though, I had to spray my hands more than once in order to get it out of the mixing bowl and spread out.

December 16, 2005

Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork with Garlic)

Pernil (Puerto Rican Roast Pork with Garlic)

1 head garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons oregano (fresh or dried)
2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 lb boneless pork loin


WARNING: This part needs to be done the day before you plan on serving the roast. In a food processor, blender or using a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic, oregano, peppercorns and olive oil to form a thick paste. If the mixture looks dry, add more oil, one tablespoon at a time. Place the pork loin in a glass roasting pan. Using the point of a sharp knife, stab the pork on all sides to a depth of about one inch. Rub the pork with the garlic paste. Cover and refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 450. Make sure the roast is fat side up. Bake 30 minutes then reduce temperature to 350. Periodically baste the meat with its own juices. Cook for another 45-60 minutes or until the internal temperature is 150. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

My thoughts: When I saw a version of this recipe in my local paper, I had to try it. My husband and I were in San Juan on our honeymoon and I thought it would be fun have a Puerto Rico themed dinner. Traditionally, Pernil is made using a bone-in pork shoulder. Using the boneless pork loin shortens the cooking time and is easier to slice for serving. Even though prepping the meat the night before is kind of a pain (I hate waiting to eat anything!) the flavor is much better than it would be if you just rubbed it on before roasting.

December 12, 2005

Coconut-Lime Rice Pudding

Coconut-Lime Rice Pudding


1/3 cup white basmati rice
14 oz can coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lime zest*
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 lime, quartered (optional)

In a small bowl soak rice in about 2/3 cup of cold water for 30 minutes. Drain rice. In a medium sized saucepan bring coconut milk, milk, rice, sugar, and salt to a boil, Reduce heat to low and simmer, for about 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should have cooked down to a thick, creamy texture. Remove from heat and stir in lime zest. Serve with lime wedges. Delicious warm or chilled.

*For plain coconut rice pudding omit lime zest

December 08, 2005

Coconut-Lime Macaroons

Coconut-Lime Macaroons


3 egg whites
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients thoroughly. Form into small balls and place 1/2 inch apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

Lime juice often loses some of its flavor during baking due to high heat. These macaroons, however, bake for such a small amount of time, it's not an issue.

December 04, 2005

Spicy Chicken Soup with Rice and Beans

Spicy Chicken Soup with Rice and Beans

4 cups chicken broth
10 oz canned tomatoes with chiles
1/4 cup white rice
15 oz canned black beans
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup cooked, cubed chicken breast
2 tablespoons salsa
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon chile powder

In a large pot, bring broth, spices, rice and tomatoes to boil. Reduce and cover until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and return to boil. Serve.

December 01, 2005

How to use up Leftover Turkey


  • Turkey Chili
  • Turkey Stock
  • Turkey Gumbo
  • Chopped Turkey Liver
  • Turkey Kasha Varniska
  • Turkey Salad
  • Turkey Enchiladas
  • There are more choices out there than just sandwiches. Although they're good too, especially with cranberry sauce!

    Bonus: Make this cake and use up any leftover cranberry sauce!