Friday, December 31, 2010

A perfect Christmas

Okay, I know it's "time" for the new years resolution posts and everyone is over Christmas, but I had to post about our wonderful Christmas day because I never want to forget it!

For the first time in quite a while, my parents did not host their sides of the family in town.  Instead the plan was to (as usual) spend Christmas eve w/hubs family, my family was going to Paducah on Christmas day, and then to Owensboro on the day after Christmas.  It's always a whirlwind, and I know that we should be thankful that we have all our family within a three hour or so drive, but this year after having so little time together, hubs & I really needed some "us" time.  So we decided to stay home on Christmas day, just the two of us :).

On Christmas eve we did the normal movie, dinner, and presents w/hubs' family.  We saw the Voyage of the Dawn Treader and then came home for a dinner of ham, turkey, and finger foods :).  Tons of presents as always, but the best surprise of all came right as we were about to leave.  We knew that there was a chance of snow the next day, but hubs opened the door to start loading up our car and there was lready an inch or two on the ground!!! We were so surpised and giddy--and all the kids had gotten snow boots & sleds from hubs' mom--it was great!  And then we got on the road...eep!  Apparently our city had not planned on snow so soon and winthin those 2 hours of accumulation the roads were covered and slick w/ice.  We slipped and slid and our normal 15 minute drive just about doubled in time before we made it safely.  I was really worried about my sister in law though, she had to drive to Smiths Grove, which is normally at least half an hour away...with 5 kids in the car!  Thankfully everyone made it safely and we came home to this:
And then on Christmas morning:
We don't get much snow in Bowling Green, and haven't had a white Christmas in years!  It was perfect!!
My parents came by the next morning to do presents at our house before they headed to Paducah, and then it was just the two of us (and Butch of course)!  I've got to say it was the best Christmas of our marraige :).   We laid around and watched movies, played some board games & Wii and just enjoyed the day together.  We had more time together that day than we'd  had probably in the past 6 months combined!  It was lovely.  For dinner I decided to conquer one of my cooking fears: steak!  I had seen the filet au poivre recipe on the Pioneer woman's website and decided that I could do it.  I made some yeast rolls & baked potatoes, then I set up a candle-lit dinner at the dining room table and we had sparkling grape juice (not really alcohol drinkers).  It was as good as a date out!  I used ribeyes for the steak and they were okay, but then I tried it again later in the week w/sirloins and oh. my. goodness.  AMAZING!  that's hubs' favorite cut of steak anyway so it was quite the hit.  Sadly, I forgot to take any pictures during any of our Christmas festivities, but here is a picture of the repeated steak dinner--you should definitely try the recipe!
I got some very special Christmas presents as well hubs surprised me w/my own GPS (because I get lost and often borrow his and don't give it back) and this beautiful necklace!
I got several things to help w/the baking including new airbake cookie sheets and best of all, the glass kitchenaid mixing bowl for my mixer!!  (from my mom).  Also extremely special was a gift from my dad: the Oswald Chambers devotional journal "My Utmost for His Highest" but the best thing about it is that he had gone through and wrote a message to me on every day of the year!  There were definitely lots of tears at that one, and just knowing that my dad had dedicated time every single day of the year to write something to I am so blessed!

The day after Christmas was spent at my Aunt's in Owensboro.  Another wonderful time w/family, food, and presents, but the best part was really celebrating the "reason for the season."  We did our family's traditional advent with the candles and read Luke 2:8-14 with teh Christmas story and talked about the things that God has done in the last year.  It was wonderful!
This was such a great Christmas, and I hope we will always remember it!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Red Velvet Cheesecake

When time came for our Bible study Christmas party I wanted something festive and delicious for our dessert.  Several of the girls had told me that Red Velvet cake is their favorite dessert, and of course they all love cheesecake, so this was a perfect fit!  Once again, I made myself search my cookbook collection for a recipe before going to the internet and found a perfect one in the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook from 2008. 

It cracked me up--my cheesecake cracked like a face!  I thought about decorating it with the topping around the edges so it looked like Santa Claus...

This was really good--the only thing I would change is the topping--it was too sweet for my taste, more of a cream cheese American buttercream.  I would definitely choose a sour cream based topping next time.

Red Velvet Cheesecake
from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
2 (1 oz) bottles red food coloring

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional Garnish: colored sparkling sugars

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of a 9-in. springform pan.

Beat 3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese & 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at medium-low speed with an elextred mixer 1 minute.  Add eggs & next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined.  Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake at 325 F. for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300 F, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is firm.  Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake.  Turn oven off.  Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes.  Remove cheesecake from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Cover & chill 8 hours. 

Beat 1 (3 oz) package cream cheese & 1/4 cup butter at medium speed w/an electric mixer until smoooth; gradually add powered sugar & vanilla, beating until smooth.  Spread evenly over top of cheesecake.  Remove sides of springform pan. Garnish, if desired.  Yield 8-10 servings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

I've made this one a few times for the students--once for a leadership dinner for about 15 people, then again for my own Bible study.  I usually double the recipe since I have so many people to feed and make it in my large crock pot, and it's always wonderful!!  Sorry that I don't have a picture, but honestly, beef stroganoff doesn't look so appetizing...  Just imagine a creamy sauce w/beef &; mushrooms--and don't forget the egg noodles!

Garlic Beef Stroganoff
adapted from Taste of Home Casseroles, Slow cooker, & Soups cookbook

2 tsp. beef bouillon granules
1 cup boiling water
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
2 jars (4 1/2 oz. each) sliced mushrooms, drained
1/2  large onion, chopped
1.5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless round, skirt, or flank steak, trimmed & cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, cubed

Hot cooked egg noodles

In a 3-qt slow cooker, dissolve bouillon in water.  Add the soup, mushrooms, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce.  In a skillet, brown beef w/onions in oil.  Transfer beef & onions to slow cooker.  (I usually go through all these steps the night before, then refrigerate the mixture covered in the pot overnight and it comes out great)

Cover & cook on low for 7-8 hours or until meat is tender.  Stir in cream cheese until smooth.  Serve over noodles.  Serves 6-8.

You should definitely make this--it's wonderful!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

recent happenings and a new favorite christmas cookie

I have been the most absent blogger ever--nearly a full month since my last post!  And I have about 6 drafts started where I started a recipe but never got around to actually finishing.  So sorry to any of you who may be curious as to where I am!

Life has just been crazy.  I thought that this year--my first year since the age of 16 not working at the doctor's office--I would have all kinds of time to read my Christmas baking magazines, make treats, and get things done in a leisurely manner.  Well...I was wrong. I'm not sure exactly why things have been so crazy.  I've hosted a few Christmas parties & had several cookie tray & cake orders, but I guess it has been the meetings w/college students that takes the most time.  Crazy as it is--I ADORE what I'm doing now!

Here are some pictures from the past month or so:

 me with my fabulous Bible study after our group Christmas party

I also hosted the CRU women's Christmas party at my house--about 25 college ladies packed into my living room!!
 we made ornaments (yes...that's 25 girls shaking paint-filled ornaments in my living room...)
 then played dirty santa

and of course I've made tons of food:
for the Christmas parties

and all those cookies yesterday for orders:

It's been wonderful, but definitely enough to make me exhausted!
i'm feeling a bit jealous of this lazy one:


But I know that you are interested in the cookies right??  I made these for the first time right before the CRU party and love them!  If you don't like peppermint, these aren't for you, but I think they're wonderful! They are not too sweet which is really during the holidays.  They actually have a bit of a delicious saltiness.  My favorite way to make them is to crush the candy canes in my food processor, then pour the crushed candy out, and mix the dough in the food processor.  Doing it this way means less uniform chunks of peppermint--some of it is powdery, so your dough will be more pink, but it also incorporates more peppermint flavor into the cookies and I think it's easier. 

Peppermint cookies
adapted from Taste of Home magazine.
yield: approx 7 dozen

1 1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes (about 1 regular box of candy canes)

-in a mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture.  Fold in the candy.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 F for 10-12 min. or until cookie edges just begin to brown.  Cool on wire racks.