Festive Cranberry, Pecan and Feta Salad

I recently attended a daylong training in Indianapolis.  A soup and salad lunch was was served mid-day.  One of the local restaurants was asked to provide a bounty of fresh rolls, piping hot turkey chili and a fabulous cranberry and feta salad.  I passed on the rolls and chili but piled a healthy portion of the salad on my festive plate.  As I munched on the salad, I was reminded of a recipe that I used to make years ago and made a note to look through my cookbook collection to remake the dish for the Thanksgiving table (for some lighter fare.) Here is the version that I made… I don’t recall where the recipe originated, I have a handwritten note with the dressing ingredients loosely estimated.  We sure enjoyed this recipe. To save time, I’ve used a bottled raspberry vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing.  I have also added some freshly sliced pears to the mix. Super easy and delicious! Great for the upcoming holidays.

Festive Cranberry Feta and Pecan Salad

2 tablespoons raspberry or apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sugar or the equivalent sweetener

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

6 cups mixed salad greens, rinsed and dried

3/4 cup dried cranberries

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted

In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper; mix until sugar and salt dissolve. Slowly whisk in olive oil.  In a chilled  glass salad bowl, toss together the greens, cranberries, pecans, and cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette, and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Lemon Christmas Cake

A couple of years ago, I was invited to an afternoon luncheon where a gathering of friends would celebrate the coming of Christmas. When I arrived, several women were happily chatting as they placed holiday favors at each place setting.  An assortment of Christmas chocolates, candy canes, and holiday ornaments were individually wrapped for each guest.  One woman had made at least 3 dozen mini-quick bread loaves, each beautifully bundled in festive cellophane wrap. She had baked lots of different flavored loaves; pumpkin nut, cranberry orange, banana, and lemon pound cake.  I was tickled to receive the lemon flavored loaf for the glaze glistened through the cellophane and looked absolutely delicious.
Arriving home, I promptly put on the kettle and sliced the loaf to share with the family. A quick bite had me rummaging through my recipe files as the taste reminded me of an old recipe I had tucked away years before.  The lemony flavor is perfect and the texture is incredibly moist.   This recipe makes a beautiful bundt cake that is baked for about 1 hour.  (I often pour the batter in two 8X4″ loaf pans and bake for 40-45 minutes.) The zesty glaze adds a boost of flavor that soaks into the cake and makes it a wonderful addition to the holiday dessert table.

Lemon Christmas Cake

For the cake:

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

4 eggs

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

 1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1 teaspoon lemon extract

For the glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest

For the cake: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Beat sugar and butter together in a bowl until light and fluffy, nearly 10 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, thoroughly beating after each addition into the butter and sugar mixture. Stir in lemon extract.  In a medium bowl, sift flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture; mix well. Pour in half the buttermilk and beat until combined. Continue adding the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, beating well after each addition, and ending with the flour mixture. Evenly pour batter into prepared pan. Before baking, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 60 to 75 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

For the glaze:

Beat confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons butter, and lemon zest together in a bowl until glaze is smooth. Pour about half the glaze over the cake; let cool. Pour remaining glaze over the cake.

Low-Carb Peanut Butter Mini Loaf

As we move into mid November/December, the holiday season ushers in a plethora of tempting chocolatey treats, sweetly seasoned baked goods, and a bounty of party trays that seem to line the expanse of grocery store isles all over the country.  As the season of eating (and over-eating) begins, I am forever looking for recipes that will help me to stay away from the carb-laden sweet treats that show up everywhere. Yesterday, while I was shopping for a few pantry staples, my neighborhood grocery store shared with customers an array of cakes, pies, and pastry samples.  Turning every corner of each isle offered a new taste of tempting delicacies including shrimp cocktail, hot sugary beverages, hors d’oeuvres, and various sweet treats.  Store owners even offered a full Thanksgiving lunch with all the trimmings so that customers could sample the items and entice them to place early dinner orders for upcoming holiday gatherings.  Food, food, and more food…Yikes!

As an alternative, this Peanut Butter Mini-Loaf is one of the recipes that I turn to for a small sample of low-carb deliciousness that has no flour, a slight bit of sweetener, and a portion size that is certainly doable.  I use peanut butter with ingredients that include only peanuts and less than 1% of salt.  (I use the Smucker’s brand in the glass jar.)  Sometimes I mix a 1/2 cup of cinnamon with a packet of sweeter to make my own version of cinnamon sugar.  I store it in an airtight container and sprinkle a bit of it over the top of a buttered slice. Oh my, simply delicious…



Low Carb Peanut Butter Mini Loaf

1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy 

3 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vinegar

1/2 teaspoon  baking soda

2 individual packets sweetener 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 1 quart mini loaf pan or 2-3X5″ loaf pans.  In a medium bowl, combine beaten eggs and peanut butter.  With a spatula, mix until smooth.  Add vinegar, baking soda and sweetener.  Hand whisk until smooth and creamy. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan(s).   Bake for 30-35 minutes until bread is fully cooked and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before slicing into thin slices with a sharp knife.

 

Refreshing Whipped Jello Dessert



I was looking for a refreshing, lite dessert this past Halloween weekend and I remembered this four-ingredient, low-sugar treat that everyone seems to enjoy.  I usually store the finished product in the fridge for a grab-and-go snack, but it’s also crazy delicious frozen. 

If freezing this treat, dump the mixture into a 13X9 baking dish, spread evenly and freeze.  Then, slice it into squares before serving.  (I use the sugar-free ingredients to assemble this recipe but using the “regular”  ingredients will work just as well.)

Refreshing Whipped Jello Dessert (low-sugar)

1 (8 ounce) container Cool Whip, sugar free

1 (16 ounce) container cottage cheese

2 (3 ounce) packages orange sugar-free Jello

1 can Del Monte Mandarin Oranges (no sugar added), drain well


In the order provided, mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

Saturday Morning Apple Crumble

This is one of my most favorite times of the year.  The morning temperatures are a bit brisk but not too overwhelming and the afternoon sun shines across the fields of trees bearing copper, red, and gold leaves.  As I sip on my first cup of morning coffee, I enjoy nature’s beauty and feel blessed to live on a hilly country road away from the hustle and bustle of city life.  The comforting quiet of the weekend morning is something I will never take for granted as I plan my day and bake/cook for the upcoming week.

Yesterday, my daughter headed to a local orchard to pick up some piping hot apple donuts and a variety of crisp, ripe apples for a weeks worth of lunches.  I slipped a few of the apples out of the bag to assemble this tasty, crisp dessert. If I’m in a hurry, I often use homemade apple sauce as the base for this recipe but it’s quite quick to pull together which ever way you choose to make it.  Serve with a cup of coffee or a scoop of vanilla ice cream… It doesn’t get any better than this.

 

Saturday Morning Apple Crumble

10 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 13X9″ pan by spraying with a non-stick baking spray. Place apples in a large bowl, mix sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and ground cinnamon together, and sprinkle over apples. Let stand so the mixture becomes juicy as water is released from the fruit.

Meanwhile, combine oats, remaining flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda.  Mix in the egg; stir until combined.  Evenly pour apple mixture into baking dish.  Crumble oat and flour mixture evenly over the apples.  Pour melted butter evenly over the top of the assembled dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

 

Toffee and Coffee Brownies



This is one of my family’s favorite brownie recipes.  When my twins were headed back to Purdue after a short fall break, I decided to send along a special “study” treat.  The addition of coffee and chocolate in the recipe are sure to inject a bit of a caffeine boost needed for long study and homework sessions.  

Due to the use of a traditional boxed brownie mix, these chocolatey treats come together quickly.  Adding three eggs to the batter makes for a moist and chewy texture, while the toffee bits contribute to the sweet and crunchy topping for this dessert.  I guarantee these treats won’t last long after you cool and frost them!  They are super rich and delicious! 

By the way, finals week for college students isn’t far off…  Wouldn’t every student love to receive a batch of these gems in a care package? Simply bake the brownies, then cool and wrap.  Next, place a jar of pre-made frosting and a bag of toffee bits into a shipping box along with the brownies.  Your student can frost and sprinkle the toffee mixture over the batch after the package has arrived. Don’t forget to encourage your student to share with friends and floor mates.   Oh, yah… You’ll be one popular parent!

Toffee and Coffee Brownies

1 package brownie mix for 13 X 9″ pan

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 cup brewed coffee

1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter, slightly cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 cup milk chocolate chips, optional

For Topping

1 16 ounce container of rich and creamy pre-made milk chocolate frosting

2 cups Heath Toffee Bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13″ pan with non-stick baking spray and set aside. 

In a large bowl, combine brownie mix with eggs, coffee, butter, and extract.  Stir in optional chocolate chips.  Continue to stir until thoroughly combined, about 50 strokes. Evenly pour and spread brownie batter into prepared pan.  Bake according to package directions, usually 20 – 28 minutes. 

Allow to cool completely.  Spread a thick layer of pre-made milk chocolate frosting over brownies; sprinkle liberally with Heath Toffee Bits. Serve and store in an air-tight container.

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers




The first day of fall has hit the Midwestern region and it seems that gardens are producing a bounty of veggies that need to be picked and processed before the cooler temperatures set in.  Once again, a few local growers were kind enough to share an abundance of beautiful produce that was beyond what they could consume.  I was thrilled to see a small bag of assorted hot peppers in the mix.  The orange, red, and green, color combination would make for a beautiful display in canning jars. Because I would only have enough to fill one large jar, I decided to make refrigerator pickled peppers rather than canning them with a water bath method.  This is a quick and simple way to make the great tasting flavor of the peppers last as they sit on the refrigerator shelf and marinate in the sweet and spicy vinegar solution.  Use these peppers to top an Italian salad or to add some flavor to a grilled sandwich. Simply delicious!






Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers

2-4 cups sliced peppers

2 cups white vinegar

1⅓ cup water

1 tablespoon canning salt

2 tsp sugar

Canning jar(s) with tight fitting lid(s)

Wash jar(s) with warm soapy water; air dry.  Pack the sliced peppers in jar(s).  Set jar(s) aside.

In a saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar completely.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Pour mixture over the peppers making sure they are completely covered. Twist on a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. As the peppers sit, the flavors will develop. Store refrigerated for 4-6 weeks.