Recipe: Cheese Puffs

Tired of all the sweets from Christmas? I know I am. I'm sure that won't last long but until then, here are some delicious treats that won't hit your sweet tooth. These tasty little bites are made with Swiss cheese which gives them a nice little bite. They are perfect as a side dish with dinner, or as hors d'oeuvres if you're having a little New Year's Party. And they're easy to make too!

Cheese Puffs
makes about 2 dozen

1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups Swiss cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried parsley

In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and pepper to a boil. Quickly add the flour and stir until it all comes together and forms a ball. Set aside and cool for 5 minutes. Add eggs, one a time and mix well after each one. Continue beating until mixture is smooth. Stir in Swiss cheese, mustard and parlsey. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

I hope you enjoy them! Happy New Year!


holiday: New Year's Resolutions

I love making New Year's Resolutions. I will admit, though- I'm like so many others out there who aren't very good at keeping their resolutions. But last year, I made a food related resolution to make and blog about at least one recipe from each of my cookbooks, and I'm glad to say that I am one post away from finishing that resolution.

This upcoming year, I plan to eat more seasonally and to try new ingredients, cuisines and techniques in the kitchen. I'm also going to keep up on cooking from my cookbooks. What are some of your "foodie" resolutions for the new year?



test kitchen: manhattan clam chowder

There's nothing like a steaming hot bowl of clam chowder in the winter months. In the Zupas Test Kitchen we decided to mix things up a bit and give a good ole' classic a twist. Our Manhattan Clam Chowder is the perfect remedy for a cold day.

We really placed an emphasis on using fresh vegetables for this featured recipe. The chowder starts with a classic mirepoix and is full of fresh tomatoes and loaded with an array of spices. It took testing over and over again to find the perfect combination of 9 spices to make this recipe a winner. The texture and vibrant color of our Manhattan Clam Chowder make it unique and oh so satisfying. Now serving....at all Zupas locations.



celebrate: holiday traditions

One thing about starting a new family is coming up with new holiday traditions to celebrate. With our first child coming early next year, my husband and I have been having fun combining the traditions of our families, along with thinking of new traditions that we'd like to do throughout the holiday season.

One tradition that we started last year is having German Scones on Christmas morning. I think my husband has been looking forward to Christmas just so that he'll get scones!! These are super easy - the dough can even be prepared the night before and refrigerated so all that you have to do on Christmas morning - once the presents are unwrapped of course - is to fry the dough. Your family will be begging for them again until next Christmas!

German Scones

2 packages dry yeast
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, beaten
4 1/2 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the 1 tablespoon of sugar; set aside.

Pour the boiling water over the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the butter, and the salt. Add the eggs, mix well. Add in the yeast mixture and 2 cups of the flour. Beat with a mixer until smooth. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups flour and mix in. Let this rise for 1 hour (I just kept it in the mixing bowl) and then refrigerate until cold.

Roll out very thin (about 1/4 inch) on a floured surface, and cut into 3 inch squares. Fry in hot oil until brown, then flip and fry until both sides are browned and puffy.

Serve with butter and honey, cinnamon honey butter, jam, or coat them with granulated sugar.

Cinnamon Honey Butter

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and whip with mixer until light and fluffy.



Recipe: Gingerbread Biscotti

Biscotti is always in season, but Gingerbread Biscotti is perfect for the holidays. It fills your home with the most amazing aroma, you'll want to bottle it up and make it last all year long! Biscotti is simply a twice-baked cookie. It is simple to make and perfect for dunking in hot cocoa or coffee.

To make it extra special, dip half in melted chocolate and you'll have an amazing treat!

Gingerbread Biscotti

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3 large eggs
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and cloves. Set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add molasses and eggs and mix until smooth and blended. Slowly add flour mixture until incorporated. Stir in almonds. Divide dough in half and shape into 2 loaves on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Loaves should be about 12 inches long, 3 inches wide and about 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. Slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces on the diagonal. Place back on the cookie sheet and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until crispy.

Happy holidays!!



in season: secret ingredient ham

ham is sure to be on the menu this season for many of you. if you are at a loss on how to prepare it, look no further. i have worked to perfect this recipe over the years, and i'm even willing to share with you my secret ingredient, Coca Cola.

{secret ingredient ham}

3-7 lb ham [i don't get the pre-cut kind, because it doesn't seem come out as moist]
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cups coca cola
1 cup crushed pinapple and juice
1 tbsp dijon mustard

-place all ingredients but the ham in a bowl and whisk.

for crockpot: place ham in crockpot and pour mixture on top. cook on low for 4-8 hours or high for 2-4 hours.

for baking in the oven: bake in oven covered in a roasting pan, 18-24 minutes per pound of ham at 350 degrees.
pour juice over the ham every so often.

*more tips on cooking ham here.




recipe: cranberry orange bread

the taste of cranberries and oranges always reminds me of the holidays. this sweet cranberry orange bread has amazing flavor, and could definitely be a last minute christmas treat for friends and neighbors.

{cranberry orange bread}


2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger, Ground
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, Ground
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons frozen orange concentrate
2 eggs
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cranberries
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons flour [to mix with cranberries to keep them from sinking in batter]


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl; set aside.

2. Beat butter, sugar and almond extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add orange peel, orange juice, concentrate, and eggs; mix well. Gradually add to flour mixture, mixing just until moistened. Mix cranberries with 2 tbsps of flour. Gently fold in cranberries and almonds. Divide batter evenly among 3 greased 5 1/2x3-inch mini-loaf pans.

3. Bake 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack.

To use dried cranberries: Place 1 cup dried cranberries in 2 cups boiling water. Cover. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain.

To prepare in 9x5-inch loaf pan: Pour batter into 1 greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Slicing Tip: For easier slicing, wrap bread in plastic wrap and store overnight before slicing.





test kitchen: roasted red pepper

We are so crazy about our Roasted Red Pepper soup that we're contemplating sticking it on the permanent menu. We spent hours in the test kitchen perfecting the flavor & texture of this soup.

My personal favorite way to enjoy this featured recipe is with a big dollop of sour cream or a handful of tortilla strips. In addition to the fabulous flavor of this creation, it looks as good as it tastes. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with a vibrant RED soup.

Merry Christmas!



last chance

Don't miss your last chance to celebrate the chilly season with a warm bowl of our Featured Recipe of the week...

3 Bean & Beef Chili



spices: star anise

This spice, native to China and Vietnam, brings a licorice flavor to dishes and is a bit stronger than regular anise. It is used in traditional Chinese cooking, as well as Chinese medicine. Although it may seem unrelated to Christmas and the holidays, there are many traditional holiday recipes that debut this robust spice. Regardless of it's festive shape, I'm sure you didn't realize the taste of black licorice was so merry.

here are just a few:
pistachio anise wafers
Christopsomo - Christ's bread greece
bizcochitos new nexico
springerle germany
anise tuiles french-ish
teebroedchen - christmas tea biscuits germany
pizelles italy
cranberry asian pear star anise cake
chräbeli switzerland

and did you know...

...star anise is the seed pod of an evergreen tree (Illicium Verum) grown in southwestern China and Japan.
...star anise is one of the spices in five spice powder.
...in traditional Chinese medicine, star anise is prescribed as a digestive aid, and to remedy rheumatism.
...Shikimic Acid, extracted from star anise, is one of the chief ingredients in the antiviral Tamiflu drug used to fight avian influenza.
...star anise can replace regular anise in western recipes.
...it is a 'secret ingredient' in many curry recipes.

thanks to about.com



holiday: festive hot cocoa

There is just something about a cold, snowy day and sitting down with a big mug of hot cocoa. And here's a way to "fancy up" your hot cocoa, whether serving it to company or wanting a moment to spoil yourself!!

It's simple - just take a bit of powdered sugar and mix in a little bit of milk until a fairly thick paste consistency is reached. Break up some candy canes and place them in a bowl. Dip the bottom of a marshmallow in the powdered sugar mixture, then roll in the candy cane pieces. Let it rest on a sheet of waxed or parchment paper until fairly dry. Serve with your favorite hot cocoa. Your guests will be impressed!



in season: cookies

I guess I'm being a bit facetious in saying that cookies are in season here in Utah, or that they even have one. But honestly, cookies do have a certain window of time when they are found in abundance. The holidays are that time. I want to share with you one of my favorites.

andes mint cookies

¾ c. butter (1½ stick)
1½ cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
12 oz. (2 cups) chocolate chips (I do 1 cup bittersweet, 1 cup semi)
2 eggs
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

In a large bowl melt together the butter, brown sugar, water and chocolate chips. *I microwave it for a minute at a time stirring after each until melted.

Beat in eggs, add in sifted remaining dry ingredients until blended. Chill 1 hour or overnight. Shape into 1 inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake @ 325°F for 8-10 minutes. Place mint on top, you may want to place back in the oven for a second or two. Spread when melted. Let cool completely; or not.

This year I paired these with my mom's snickerdoodles and a bag of muddy buddies. Of all the cookies I make, these are the only ones I'll be making more than one batch of.

Here are a few more delicious cookie recipes from local bloggers:
ginger snaps
oatmeal chocolate chip
peanut butter
molten chocolate lava
lemon ricotta

happy {baking} holidays - Jj


celebrate: the aroma of christmas

what do all these ingredients have it common? well, they make the aroma of christmas. i walked into my neighbors home the other day, only to be greeted by an amazing smell. it really smelled like christmas. and, the best part is, it is simple to make.

recipe: {the aroma of christmas}
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup of whole cloves
2 orange peels
2 sections of lemon
1 quart [4 cups] water

place all ingredients in a pot and simmer on low. add water as needed.
can use for a few days.


caroline "the curious cook"



Herbs: Cilantro

There are so many uses for this herb. Cilantro is a perfect addition to Mexican dishes; add Cilantro to salsas and bean dips. Mix crushed Cilantro into sour cream and use it as a topping for chili, tacos, or enchiladas. Sprinkle Cilantro over stir fried vegetables for color and Asian flavor. Add Cilantro to sesame ginger dressing when making Chinese chicken salad.
Cilantro is traditionally used in Middle Eastern, Mexican and Asian cooking. It's taste is a fragrant mix of parsley and citrus.

Here are a few helpful hints about Cilantro:

Season: available year-round
How to select: Easily confused with flat-leaf parsley in appearance, so be sure to sniff carefully. Look for a bunch with unwilted leaves in medium green. Found fresh year round in most markets.
How to store: Store in refrigerator with cut ends in a jar of water and leaves loosely covered with a plastic bag for several days. Change water every 2 days. Or store in a plastic bag for a week.
How to prepare: Wash and pat dry before using, as the leaves attract sand.
Matches well with: avocado, chicken, fish, ice cream, lamb, lentils, mayonnaise, peppers, pork, rice, salads, salsas, shellfish, tomatoes, yogurt

Click here for a delicious salsa recipe using Cilantro.

Hope you enjoy it!



in season: parsnips

With the end of the year in sight, I always start thinking about New Year's resolutions. One thing I want to do more of this upcoming year is to eat seasonally and to try new foods. And even though the year is not over, I thought I'd get a head start on my resolution and give parsnips a try!

I'm sure not everyone is unfamiliar with the parsnip, but it's not a vegetable I grew up eating. The parsnip is a relative to the carrot, and looks quite similar besides it's pale color. But that's about where the similarities end. The flavor is much stronger, and it benefits from being roasted, mashed, or used in soups and stews. For my first try, I went with this recipe for pureed roasted parsnips. It was delicious, and now I won't be as scared of these white root vegetables anymore!!

For some great information on the parsnip, visit this blog post at What's For Lunch, Honey.



destination: puerto rico

Anywhere in the Caribbean is worth the trip, but if you've never been to Puerto Rico, you haven't seen the best of the best. It's a beautiful island with incredible people, scenery, food and of course, fabulous beaches. Ponce, Rincon, El Yunque, and La Fortaleza are only a few of the places you should be sure to visit. Don't forget to keep your eyes open to spot a coqui frog.

According to the Puerto Rico Culture website, Puerto Rican cuisine "is a unique tasty blend of Spanish, African, Taíno, and American influences, using such indigenous seasonings and ingredients as coriander, papaya, cacao, nispero, apio, plantains, and yampee. Locals call their cuisine 'cocina criolla'." During the short time I was there, every meal included fresh tropical fruits, plantains, and always rice and beans.

This is one place I would hope everyone visits sometime in their life; and not only for the beaches, snorkeling and food. Talk to the locals to find the best places to visit, and the best beaches. Some of our friends told us of a place people call 'the ugly beach'; it was the most beautiful beach I've ever been to.

click here for a recipe using plantains that comes straight from the caribbean.



Holiday: Chocolate Oreo Fudge

The bird has been devoured and now it is on to Christmas. The holidays are filled with sweets, treats and all things delicious. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without my Mom's fudge. This recipe has been in my family for generations. It is a simple classic fudge recipe but I like to add in extra yummy treats. This time - crushed Oreo cookies. This fudge is exceptionally rich but so smooth and delectable. The pan will be devoured in no time at all! This is also perfect for neighbor gifts this holiday season.

Chocolate Oreo Fudge

1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 12 ounce package semi sweet chocolate chips
1 13 ounce jar marshmallow cream
4- 1.55 ounce Hershey's milk chocolate bars, chopped
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups crushed Oreo cookies

1. In a large saucepan, heat the evaporated milk and sugar until boiling. Continue heating over medium-high heat and at a low boil for about 10-12 minutes, or until it has reached the soft ball stage. (Check this by adding a small drop to a bowl of cold water. If you can roll it into a soft ball, it is ready.)
2. In a mixer, add the butter, chocolate chips, marshmallow cream, and chocolate bar chunks. Pour in the milk and sugar mixture and whip until all the ingredients are melted and smooth. Add in vanilla extract. Stir in the Oreo's.
3. Pour directly into a greased 9X13 pan and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

I hope you enjoy these treats! Happy Holidays!


destination: las vegas

Las Vegas is a favorite vacation destination for my husband and I. Not only is it close enough to drive down for a quick weekend vacation, but the choices for dining are growing all the time. It may be hard to find the $5.99 steak special these days, but some big names are now in Vegas.

The choices are endless, and it can be a bit overwhelming with so many restaurants to choose from. Here are a few that I have been to and loved:

Located in the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, the Strip House had the best steak that I have ever eaten! You have to get a steak - it is a steak house after all, but make sure and order the black truffle creamed spinach. You'll be thinking about it and craving it for months to come!!

Also located at Planet Hollywood, and a bit more on the casual side, is the cafe Planet Dallies. The menu was large, but my favorite has been the Kobe Beef Sliders. Delicious!!

If you are looking for a pastry for breakfast, or for a quick snack, try Lenotre at the Paris Hotel and Casino. I originally sought out this cafe because I heard they sold the infamous macarons there, but even though they didn't have any when I visited, I wasn't disappointed by the other delicious pastries I tried. But be aware that there will be quite a line in the mornings, although it does move quickly.

On our last trip, we really wanted to visit Tom
Colicchio's (of Top Chef fame) restaurant- Craftsteak. We actually went to the MGM Grand where it is located and put our name on the list, but they weren't seating yet and we were hungry and impatient. So we ended up going next door to Emeril's Fish House. And while we were at a fish house, we ordered steak. (I guess that's what we were in the mood for!!) I didn't think the steak quite lived up to the one at The Strip House, but my husband thought it was equally good. My favorite, though - were the smashed potatoes. I could have lived on those!

There are so many choices that I want to make a yearly trip down, just to indulge in the different restaurants for a weekend!!



recipe: beef + broccoli...

if you are like me, you are done with any kind of turkey or mash potatoes for a little while. this beef and broccoli recipe will surely rejuvenate your taste buds. the fresh ginger slices make this dish, and bring it amazing flavor!

{beef + broccoli}

1 lb lean beef [top sirloin flank]
3 green onions [cut up 1" long]
15 slices of fresh ginger [cut about a quarter size]
marinade for beef
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp soysauce
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
seasoning sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sesame oil

4 cups oil
1/2 lb broccoli
for broccoli
1/2 tbsp rice wine
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

slice the beef very thin into 1" squares. mix the beef marinate, all but 2 tbsps oil in a bowl and add beef. marinate for 1/2 hour at least [longer is better]. then add 2 tbsps oil and mix well.
steam the broccoli in a steamer. remove from steamer after broccolli is semi-soft then stir fry brocolli with 2 tbps oil and season with the rice wine, slat, and sugar just for a few minutes. lay broccoli out on a serving plate.

heat 4 cups oil in a fry pan, medium to medium high heat. [i only use a few tablespoons because i didn't want to deep fry it] and fry until it turns a light brown [done].
remove beef and drain off oil from the pan.

add another 2 tbsp oil to fry green onions and ginger for a few minutes. add cooked beef and stir quickly over high heat next add the seasoning sauce. stir until sauce thickens and meat is heated through. pour over broccoli and serve over rice.

**tips: this serves about 4 people just fine, you can double it for guests.



celebrate: thanksgiving and 'the bird'

Looking for a last minute way to dress that turkey? This recipe is the most simple recipe for a moist, delicious turkey to serve at your big feast. My husband learned this technique from a Jewish friend of his. Apparently, he doesn't exactly eat kosher.

Hermele's turkey

A Turkey
1 large onion, halved
1 large potato, halved
strips of bacon, enough to cover the top of the bird

Put the potato and onion halves inside the turkey (I like to add a few cloves of garlic), truss it, and lay the bacon on top. Bake according to suggested time. Using a dutch oven is optional, but makes a delicious turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.



Recipe: Fried Ravioli

If you are looking for a delicious restaurant style meal but don't want to spend the money or wait in the lines, look no further. I am a fan of all Italian food.  I could eat it for every meal, every single day without complaint.  This ravioli is one of my favorites.

This dish can be made with any type of ravioli.  Just buy your favorite at the store, or if you have the time, make it from scratch.  I just buy mine frozen and cook it off for just a couple of minutes before coating them in buttermilk and breadcrumbs.  It takes just a couple of minutes to fry up and then you have a meal you can take pride in.  If you want to mix it up a bit, use these for appetizers or add them to a salad. Delicious!

Fried Ravioli

1 bag frozen cheese ravioli (about 24 pieces)
1 1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup buttermilk
Oil for frying

1. Cook ravioli until al dente. Cool.
2. Heat oil to approximately 350 degrees.  
3. Dredge ravioli in buttermilk and then bread crumbs.  Gently place into hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.  
4. Once ravioli are browned, sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan cheese and I hope you enjoy these!


Holiday: Time to Donate

So many of us are blessed to be able to eat delicious and healthy meals every night. But did you know that one in every five Utah children go hungry for one week out of every month? And with Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, it's time to think about those who may have to go without if we don't step up. This time of year is the perfect time to donate your time, money or goods.

According to the Utah Food Bank, Utah is ranked #4 in the nation for the highest rate of food insecurity. That means that over 340,000 Utahns are at risk of missing a meal today because they don't have the resources.

Most schools hold food drives this time of year, as well as your local grocery store. Look for the food bank closest to you, or donate to one of the resources listed below. We have a lot to be thankful for - now it's our turn to help others to find reasons to be thankful!

Utah Food Bank - www.utahfoodbank.org - (801) 978-2452
United Way - www.untiedway.org
Community Action Services and Food Bank - http://www.communityactionprovo.org/



Recipe: Roasted Turkey Risotto

What is the most important thing that comes from Thanksgiving? Leftovers. The turkey is not even in the oven yet and I am already thinking of ways to use up that leftover turkey. Give this Roasted Turkey Risotto a try, you won't be disappointed!

Roasted Turkey Risotto
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups leftover turkey, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

1. Heat the chicken stock in a medium saucepan just until lightly simmering.
2. In a large skillet, heat the butter, olive oil, and onions over medium-high heat until onions are soft. Add rice and heat until lightly toasted. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and let simmer until stock has been absorbed by the rice. Be sure to stir the risotto often. Add more broth as each cup is absorbed. Continue until all the broth is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.
3. Stir in the turkey, peas, lemon, parsley, salt and pepper. Heat through.



recipe: seasonal thanksgiving side dish

Looking for another side dish that would be perfect for your Thanksgiving meal? Here's one that pairs a winter squash with an all time Thanksgiving original, rice.

buttercup squash risotto

2 Tablespoons olive oil
4-5 medium-large sized shallots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped
1½ washed arborio rice
6-7 cups of stock, plus more if needed
1/2 cup white wine - substitute with: ½ cup of stock with 1 teaspoon of lemon or lime juice added
1 Tablespoons butter
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup cream, or half and half
2 cups buttercup pureé
2½ Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

one of my favorite parts of risotto

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat. Add the shallots, salt, and pepper cooking until the shallots are clear. Add the garlic and thyme, until aromatic. Add the rice, stirring well so it's all incorporated.

Cook for a few minutes until the rice becomes clear in color, be sure to stir constantly so the kernels do not brown. Add in the white wine, and stir until it is completely absorbed. Add ½ cup of the broth and stir until it is almost absorbed entirely. Keep adding ½ cup of the broth at a time, continually stirring after each addition and repeating until the rice is tender, but slightly firm when you bite it. Also referred to as al dente. Add in the cream, and parmesan cheese until combined, and remove from heat. Stir in the butter until melted, then add the puree and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

You can garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, a pinch of ground cloves, or fresh parsley.




how to: almond bark

{chocolate covered strawberries using almond bark coating}

until recently i couldn't tell you what almond bark was. i would have guessed some kind of a tree, but almond bark is actually a great chocolate-like candy coating that melts amazingly well, and is great to use to make homemade candy coated yummies.

picture found here
a few almond bark facts:

  • almond bark is sold in large blocks that look like white or milk chocolate.
  • it does not contain almonds or any nuts at all.

  • it is call almond bark, because that is the "chocolate you use to make almond bark, which is kind of like peanut brittle, but with almonds and chocolate.

  • you can find almond bark in your grocery store near the baking chocolate. some stores have it year round, some just at christmas time.

  • it comes in either chocolate or vanilla

  • it is made from: sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (palm kernel, vegetable palm), whey (milk), soy lecithin, artificial color, artificial flavor.

a few recipes that use almond bark: {all are great recipes for the holidays}

and last my favorite way to use almond bark. like zupas, i share a love for chocolate covered strawberries.
they make quite a statement and are actually quite simple to make. they would also make great neighbor gifts for the upcoming holidays, if they last long enough to get them out the door, that is.

{chocolate covered strawberries}

1 lb strawberries
1/2 brick of almond bark in white chocolate or chocolate


wash strawberries with stems still attached, and dry thoroughly to make sure there is no water on them. set aside.

using a double boiler, place chocolate in a heat proof pan over boiling water in a pot.
slowly mix chocolate until it is melted smooth.

*this also melts well in a glass bowl in the microwave in 30 second increments. put in the microwave for 30 seconds, mix chocolate, put back in. repeat until melted smooth. be careful not to overheat as it can burn and caramelize.

dip and coat strawberries and place on parchment paper to cool.

if you would like another chocolate to go on top, melt chocolate and place in squeeze bottle for candy making or place in ziplock back and cut a small opening in corner. drizzle other chocolate over the top zig-zagged. let chocolate set and serve. store in the refrigerator.

* can also dip strawberries in other toppings immediately after coating in chocolate.
recommended toppings: crushed toffee, mini-chocolate chips, coconut shavings, and sprinkles.



celebrate: Holidays and the Sweet Potato

As much as I love the Thanksgiving turkey and the Christmas ham, it's usually all about the side dishes for me. One thing I have grown to love in the last year is the sweet potato. But have you ever been confused about the difference between a sweet potato and a yam, or have you wanted new ideas for your holiday side dish?

According to this website,

Although yams and sweet potatoes are both angiosperms (flowering plants), they are not related botanically. Yams are a monocot (a plant having one embryonic seed leaf) and from teh Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet potatoes, often called 'yams', are a dicot (a plant having two embryonic seed leaves) and are from the Convolvulacea or morning glory family.

In fact, after reading several things, I have learned that it is very rare to even find yams in the grocery store. If you are looking for a yam, you will most likely find them in a Carribean or Asian specialty store. I think the biggest reason for the confusion is that 1) the grocery stores call them yams when they are not, and 2) there are many different types of sweet potatoes, and the colors can vary, so not all sweet potatoes will look the same.

No matter what you call them, I love them! And here are a few ways to prepare them that are sure to satisfy!

The Pioneer Woman's Sweet Potatoes
at Serious Eats
Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping at Simply Recipes
Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes at 101 Cookbooks
Sweet Potato Bread Pudding at The Kitchn
Sweet Potato Biscuits with Bacon and Thyme at Pinch My Salt



Holiday Recipe: Homemade Cranberry Sauce

The holidays are approaching fast. The easiest recipe in the world, but often not used, is homemade cranberry sauce. Once you make if from scratch, you'll never want to open a can again! And it only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish.

You can use this sauce as a traditional side or use as a sandwich spread. It also makes a delicious topping for cheesecake!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
1 12 ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

1. In a saucepan, mix water and sugar and heat on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and bring to a low boil. Stir frequently and reduce heat to keep the sauce at a low boil for about 10 minutes. When the sauce begins to thicken and the cranberries begin to burst remove from heat. The sauce will thicken as it cools.



will you be ready?

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” A. A. Milne

The holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving, a holiday all about food, is in two weeks. It's time to start thinking about preparations. Think it's too early? Well, I assure you the sooner you prepare and plan, the more relaxed and enjoyable your holiday will be. Here are a few tips and ideas for a wonderful holiday feast with family and friends.

1 to 2 weeks before thanksgiving

...begin planning your menu, and know how many people will be coming as well as any allergies and food preferences you'll want to remember.
keep it simple, and of course delicious. maybe ask guests to bring something making it a little more like a potluck, and take something off your hands.

...if you can, why not order your turkey ahead of time? it saves the last minute turkey rush, and if you can get it fresh from a local butcher, you're supporting local business which is always a wonderful idea.

this photo from the library of congress

...this may seem silly, but read your recipes thoroughly from start to finish. this will assure that no nasty surprises come up at the last minute and you realize you can't get the ingredients because the market is closed. {shudder}

...make your shopping and to-do lists, and maybe even starting your cooking timeline.

a few days before thanksgiving

...solidify your timeline for the actual day. here is a great example, and of course, don't sweat it if you don't have as many ovens as this example shows. You know your kitchen and really it's just important to have it all on paper so you know how much time things will need to take, and what will be in the oven when.

...start your food shopping

...if you have the time, prepare any food that can be done ahead of time, such as pie pastry, gravy, thawing the turkey.

...organize serving dishes and plan your table settings.

day before thanksgiving

...if you ordered a turkey, pick it up.

...finish any shopping for food, buying extras of certain things you may need, just in case.

...review and adjust your cooking timeline, being sure you know how long you will need to cook the turkey for (turkey times at bottom).

...prepare anything you can make before hand, pies, gravy, stuffing, sides (potatoes, vegetable casseroles, etc.), breads, prep the turkey (brine, etc.).

...set the table

...look over your timeline one last time.

thanksgiving day

... wake up early, have a good breakfast, and follow your timeline.

...tell your family and friends why you're grateful for them.

...have fun.

...take a nap.

...watch some football, totally optional

all other images by norman rockwell

Turkey Times:
allow 13-15 minutes per pound.

Turkey: Approximate time:
10-12 lbs. 2½ - 3 hours
12-14 lbs. 2¾ - 3¼ hours
14-16 lbs. 3 – 3¾ hours
16-18 lbs. 3¼ - 4 hours
18-20 lbs. 3½ - 4¼ hours
20+ lbs. 3¾ - 4½ hours

here are a few links for more info and tips:
do it like martha
entertainment ideas
how to stay sane on turkey day

have a wonderful holiday