Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Peanut-Butter/ Chocolate Covered ritz crackers

My daughter, Stacy, discovered these while she was at Baylor. She came home one Christmas and made them for us.  We have been hooked ever since.  Warning--they are adictive.  We make them in milk chocolate and white chocolate bark. You can find the bark in microwavable containers on the baking isle.
1 container of white chocolate bark
and/or 1 container of milk chocolate bark
ritz crackers ( as many as you want to make)
peanut butter
First, you spread peanut butter between two crackers. I make these up before I start dipping in chocolate. Second, you melt the bark in the microwave or in a double boiler.  Then you dip the ritz cracker, both sides, in the chocolate.  Jud says there is a trick to it.  After he puts them on the wax paper to harden, he lets the next cookie drip over the top of any holes that weren't completely covered. He uses tongs when dipping. Hope your family enjoys these as much as we do.

Peppermint Bark

I have made this for the last 2-3 years for Christmas. It didn't go over that well this year, so I will probably stick with the peanut-butter/chocolate covered ritz crackers and the Heath Bar candy.  But here is the recipe
white and milk chocolate bark or chips
Crushed peppermint candy canes to yield 2 cups- divided use
1/2 t. Peppermint flavoring, optional ( divided use)
Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into pieces. Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave for 1 min. and then 15 second intervals until melted. Combine 1/2 cup of the peppermint chips to the chocolate mix. Stir until melted into the chocolate. Add peppermint flavoring if desired. Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator about 25 min.
Second layer - Melt the white chocolate and 1/2 cup of the peppermint as desired.  Add peppermint flavoring if desired. Pour the melted white chocolate over the milk chocolate and spread evenly over the dark chocolate.  Sprinkle rest of the crushed peppermint over the white chocolate. Let harden for about 45 min. and then break into pieces ( like peanut brittle.)

Heath Bars

I have been making this for Christmas for the past 30 years.  I taught kindergarten at a private school in Round Rock and one of my students gave this to me for Christmas. I fell in love at first bite. Hope you enjoy it as well.
2 stick butter (no substitute)
1 cup blanched slivered almonds (to be added later)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon white Karo syrup
Mix all ingredients except the almonds in a small saucepan. Over a high flame, stir constantly until the mixture is a shade darker than brown sugar. At least 6 minutes. Spread quickly on an ungreased cookie sheet. Use a spatula to spread about 1/8" thick. Put 3 extra-large hershey bars on top and spread over mixture. When chocolate is melted, add small crushed almonds over top. Press lightly into chocolate. When cool break into pieces. Top with more blanched almonds if desired.

Chicken, Ham, and Vegetable Chowder

This is our soup for the week.  We had a salt cured Virginia ham given to us for Christmas dinner. We had it for dinner, but still had a bunch left on the bone. I boiled it last night to get as much of the ham off the bone as I could. I just had a taste and it is great without adding any salt. The ham salts the whole soup.

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup cooked, cubed ham
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken stock
1 zucchini, unpeeled, and cubed
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
chopped parsley for topping
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, warm oil. Add onions and bell pepper. Saute' until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in ham and chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add zucchini, corn, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook, covered, until vegetables are tender and chicken turns white, about 10 min. longer. 
In a cup, blend flour and milk. Add to soup and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vegetable Bars

The first time I had these was at a shower and Shirley Hartley brought them.  I loved them so got the recipe and have been making them often.  They have a beautiful presentation because they are so colorful with all the vegetables.
2 tubes of refrigerated Crescent Rolls
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2- 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 envelope Ranch dressing mix
3/4 cup of te following:
chopped green peppers (red and greeen would be nice for Christmas)
grated carrots
chopped broccoli
sliced cauliflower
siced scallions
diced tomato--peeled and seeded
3/4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
Cover bottom of 11" X 17" pan with unrolled sheets of crescent dough (pat and stretch to fit). Bake 350 degree oven until lightly browned (7-8 min) Let cool.
First layer:
In a mixing bowl combine mayonnaise, sour cream cream cheese, and ranch dressing mix. Spread on colled crust in pan.
Second layer:
Combine the veggies and toss to mix with cheese. Spread over the first layer in pan. Cover with plstic wrap and press the vegetable/cheese mixture into the first layer.
Refrigerate (still covered) at least 3-4 hours. Can be prepared the day before. Cut into small bars just before serving. Makes 5 dozen bars.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Gumbo

We eat on a pot of soup all week during the winter months. This is a good one.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour                                      1 lb. reduced-fat smoked sausage, sliced
Cooking spray                                                     1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped                                         1 small bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced                                        1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper                          2 boneless chicken breast, chopped -if you cut while
1 and 1/2- 32oz container chicken broth                           partially frozen,it is easier      
1-14 oz can diced tomatoes                                 1/2 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp   
1- 10oz. package  frozen okra (optional)              Hot cooked rice
Cook flour in a dutch oven over medium heat, stirring constantly, 10 min. (It will burn if you don't watch it. Remove from heat. Saute sausage in a dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic cloves, thyme , and red pepper.  Saute for 5 min. Add chicken, and saute 3 min. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually add broth and tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 min. Add shrimp and, if desired, okra. Simmer 20 min. Serve with cooked rice.                  

Peppermint Patties

This recipe calls to coarsely crush peppermint candies to adorn these ice cream sandwiches. I took the easy way out and used peppermint ice cream. It is in the grocery stores this time of year, and it is so refreshing after a meal, but I will write the recipe like it is in the book.
1/2 cup flour                                      1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda                  1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, soft                            1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed            1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla                              30 peppermint candies
4 cups vanilla ice cream
Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and set aside. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until blended. Add flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time to sugar mixture. Lightly grease hands with cooking spray. Divide dough in half. Shape into six inch log and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze for 1 hour. Working with 1 log at a time, cut into 12- 1/2 inch thick pieces. Place 1" apart and bake at 350 degrees for 11 min. Let cool 2 min and remove to wire rack to cool completely. Spread ice cream on bottom 1/2 of cookie. Top with the other cooled cookie and roll sides in peppermint candy. Wrap each cookie in plastic wrap and freeze at least 4 hours.