Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mama's Ultimate Sweet Potato Casserole

Let me introduce to you my mom's "famous" sweet potato casserole recipe!  

This holiday dish is the best there is!  The sweet potato filling is sweet and smooth while the cinnamon-brown sugar topping is adorned with delicious pecans.  As if that's not enough, butter is poured over the top of it all to give it a praline-like crust.

Mom has made this as long as I can remember Thanksgiving, and once I introduced it to my other family (Mr. Cozy's) it's become a tradition there as well!!  It's served on the savory table with dinner, but it can just as likely be a dessert-cobbler.  

This one is hot out of the oven.  I made it ahead of time and baked it halfway.  I'll refrigerate it tonight and bake it the rest of the way just before Thanksgiving dinner.  I love making things ahead of time to make the day go smoother.  We have 3 Thanksgiving get-together starting tonight at my parents, and we love them all!!! This is such a wonderful holiday.

Before I share the recipe, I have to tell you that God has overwhelmed us with His goodness this year!!!  He answered our prayers and brought us together with our two precious children.  

He showed us first hand what redemption looks like.  4 years ago we were still grieving the baby girl we lost in my 2nd trimester, but I was clinging to Hope.  This year we doubled our family all through His grace and providence in our lives!!!

All good things I have-- big or little-- are from the Lord.  I can't forget to be thankful for the fact that I was born in (1st. world) America, and that I've never seen a hungry day in my life.

That I just lived to celebrate my 30th (wowza!) birthday last Sunday.  Here I am with my chocolate chip cake with chocolate chip icing and chocolate cherries at the celebration my parents had for me.  (Thank you!!)

I'm so thankful my husband really treated me with the perfect, romantic get-away to a bed & breakfast nestled in in the beautiful countryside and quaint hamlet of Augusta, Mo.  We went shopping in historic St. Charles, and everything was decorated for Christmas!  It was so wonderful!!!

Here is a gorgeous Christmas shop in historic Kimmswick.

The inviting Lindenhof Bed & Breakfast.

Historic St. Charles, MO. is a treat to visit!

So thankful for an exceptional and beautiful coffee at Picasso Coffee Shop.

Of course there are countless things I thank God for...

I get so happy thinking about Thanksgiving and sharing delicious food and fun fellowship with family, but that pales in comparison to the bigger picture of thanks I hold inside.  Thanksgiving is a state of mind and heart for what all Jesus has done for me, and that something more satisfying that any meal, as delicious as it may be!

Mama's Ultimate Sweet Potato Casserole 

2 cans of Sweet potatoes (yams)
3 Eggs, beaten
1/2-3/4 c. Sugar
3/4 c. Butter, melted
3 Tbsp. Evaporated milk
2 dashes of Salt
Dash of cinnamon
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

1 c. Brown sugar
1/3 c. All purpose flour
1 c. Pecans (half chopped, half left halves)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
6 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mash the potatoes well.  Add all of the filling ingredients together and mix together with a wooden spoon.  Pour into a 3 quart dish.

Make the topping by mixing together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans. Spread all over the top of the sweet potato mixture.

Decorate around the edges with the pecans halves and pour melted butter evenly all over the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until bubbly and pecans are toasted!

            Happy Thanksgiving!

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  

For The Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."
Psalm 100:4-5

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Moist Cranberry Orange Bread

This is the perfect quick bread for the holiday season to wake up to, have with a sip of afternoon tea or a midnight snack with a glass of frosty milk!  I've been wanting to make fresh cranberry-orange bread for a few years, and I've finally done it.  Gosh, have I been missing out!  This is unbelievably moist and the flavor is wonderful!!

You would think that fresh cranberries would make this bread too tart, but it's not like that at all.  The sugar added and orange zest and juice all balance this bread making it an aromatic and delicious holiday treat!  The cinnamon struesel on top is amazing, but you can also add a quick glaze to give this already scrumptious loaf even more richness.  This time I couldn't wait to let it cool for add the glaze before I had to have a slice. :D 

Consider using fresh cranberries for more than just your Christmas cranberry sauce, and please give this yummy quick bread a try.  This beautiful bread will be a new favorite!

Cranberry Orange Bread
Sally's Baking Addiction

1/4 c. All purpose flour
2 Tbsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. Butter, cold

2 c. All purpose flour
1 tsp. Baking  soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 c. Chopped Fresh Cranberries, not frozen
1/2 c. Pecans (toasted tastes best*)
1 large Egg 
1/2 c. Brown sugar
1 c. White sugar
1 c. Buttermilk
1/3 c. Canola oil
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. Orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray 9x5 loaf pan (or 3 mini loaf pans) with non stick spray.

Make the streusel first: toss together flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Cut the cold butter with 2 forks or a pastry cutter.  Large crumbs are okay.  Set aside in the fridge.

Make the bread: In a large bowl, toss the flour, baking soda, salt, cranberries and pecans until combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk egg, brown and white sugar and stir together well.  Make sure there are no lumps from the brown sugar.  Whisk in the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and orange zest.  (Here I used half buttermilk and half orange juice from a bottle to make more orange flavored.

Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently whisk until there are no more lumps.  Try not to overmix in order to keep the bread light.

Pour evenly into prepared pans.

Top with streusel.

Bake the bread, covered loosely with foil. Bake for about 45 minutes to one hour.  Mini loaves bake about 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

To make a glaze, just mix powdered sugar with orange juice and drizzle after they've cooled.  I didn't do that this time, but it's delicious both ways!  Wrap well with plastic wrap or consume the bread goodness at once! :)

* To toast pecans, spread out pecans on an ungreased pan and bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes stirring once.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cozy Morning Chocolate Croissants

Coffee and croissants?  Yes, please!

Mr. Cozy is on vacation starting today!  That certainly calls for celebration!!  Our family (of 4!) woke to a cloudy day that was perfect to sleep in a bit.  Last night I put some frozen puff pastry in the fridge to thaw overnight, because I knew that I would be up to no- good in the kitchen this morning. ;). After all, Thankgiving is upon us, as is my birthday and with my hubby on vacation I was in a very decadent kind of mood!

Chocolate & pastry.  Yes friends... It's really that easy to whisk your family away to a Parisian cafe with a sweet confection like this.  Down-home decadence is what I like to call recipes like this one!

There are a few days of the year where eating basically dessert for breakfast is ok, right?

I  whipped up the croissants in a few minutes and you would've thought I went to an authentic Patisserie this morning.  Not only does the house smell amazing as they bake, but there is no wrong in chocolate that's warm and melted oozing out of crispy, flaky, buttery pastry dusted in sugar... 
Just let your mind wander...

Making the kids excited and parents happy doesn't take too much in our house.  

A special morning around here starts with a fire in the fireplace, or lighting my favorite candle, while something delicious bakes the oven, soon with the merry sound of Christmas music filling the air!  Snuggles and kisses are my reward to waking up earlier to surprise my family with a decadent treat like delicious chocolate croissants!  

Cozy Morning Chocolate Croissants
Nigella Lawson recipe.  Makes 12 small croissants

1 sheet of (frozen) Puff Pastry, thawed but cold
1/2 c. Milk or Dark chocolate chips or 1 chocolate bar
1 Egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Unroll the puff pastry and cut into 6 pieces.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the squares in half diagonally making 12 triangles.  About 1/2 inch from the wide end, place about 6-7 chocolate chips.  Roll from the wide end to the small as you would any croissant.

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and space evenly.  Brush the beaten egg onto each croissant to make them glossy and place in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. 

As you can see here, a couple squares softened too much before I cut them in half, so I made those pillows instead of croissants:)

Once golden and puffed, take out of the oven and shower with powdered sugar for an easy and elegant finish!  Another way to dress them up would be to drizzle melted chocolate over the top or a vanilla glaze using milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.

However you finish chocolate croissants, they will taste decadent and delicious!  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Easy Pizza Pockets

Our family loves pizza!  I try not to eat it too often since it's a splurge, but I think making it at home is always a little healthier than going out for it.  At least I know what ingredients go into what my family eats!  Why am I even mentioning health in the same blog as pizza pockets, anyways!? 

These pizza pockets are fast and simple to make, depending on the ingredients you use.  Here I simply used shredded mozzerella cheese and turkey pepperoni. Yuuummmmy!  I added lots of extra cheese to a few for the cheese lovers... ME!  My little secret ingredient to make them easy to make and taste so good is frozen bread dough.  It thaws and rises in just a few hours, but once it's ready these pizza pockets can be assembled and baked in no time at all!  I also like making calzones filled with a parm, mozz, ricotta mixture with turkey Italian sausage, onions and peppers, but that's for another post.  I got the idea for all of these delicious things from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, who is very familiar with pleasing her sweet family with easy meals.  I love watching her cooking show, because it feels so real and heartwarming.  The farm life and the way she cooks reminds me of my childhood.  Amazing memories of a simpler time.

The inside of the pockets are filled with gooey cheese, pepperonis, and dried oregano.   The pockets are made of golden, crisp crust with a shower of herbs & spices that make them delicious!  Everyone has their own bowl of luscious, zesty semi-homemade marinara sauce that we dip them in, and it's what makes them taste that like your favorite pizzeria!  Complete the meal with an yummy Italian salad and everybody will be asking for this meal again very soon.  Friday night pizza just got a lot more fun!!

Easy Pizza Pockets
Serves 2-3**

1 loaf frozen bread dough, such as Rhodes
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzerella cheese
21 turkey pepperonis 
Dried oregano
Garlic salt
Pizza Seasoning**
1 egg
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Crack the egg into a small bowl and add about a teaspoon of water.  Whisk together with a fork and set aside.

Allow the frozen bread dough to thaw and rise as if you were about to make bread. Once risen, divide the loaf into thirds by pulling it apart.  Pat into a round shape and place on a floured surface.  Roll,out into a circle(ish) shape.

On one side, sprinkle 1/2 c. Mozzerella cheese, a dash of Oregano, and 6-7 pepperonis, keeping the edge of the dough exposed.  Take the egg wash, and using a brush or your finger, brush the egg around the edge of the dough to help the pocket glue together when folded.

Carefully fold over making a pocket.  Press the edges together, fold them up, and roll or crimp as you would pie crust.  You want the edges to be sealed, but it doesn't have to look pretty.

Place the pizza pockets on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Brush the pizza pocket with olive oil, and generously shower with garlic salt and pizza seasoning.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until light golden brown.

Allow the pizza pockets to cool for a few minutes before slicing. Or serve whole with a side of zesty marinara sauce.

** I bought my pizza seasoning in the food section at T. J. Maxx.  It has yummy spices like garlic, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, salt, etc.  You can always substitute pizza seasoning by sprinkling some Italian seasoning and crushed pepper instead. :)

**This recipe can easily be doubled for a bigger family.

Marinara Sauce

1/2 Jar of Marinara Sauce, I used Tomato-Basil
2 Tbsp.Extra Virgin Olive Oil (a couple swirls around the pan)
1 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
1 tsp. Dried Oregano
Black Pepper

Set a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil.  Once hot, add the garlic and oregano (crushing in your hand with your fingers as you add it in).  Cook for a couple minutes and then add the marinara sauce and a black pepper to taste.  Stir everything together a let simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavor together.  Pour into small bowls for each person to dip their pizzas pockets in.  Yum!