Sides · Special Occasions

The 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along, Day 10: New England Holiday Dressing

I couldn’t post this yesterday because I was having complications. Every once in a while, though thankfully much less often than it used to be, my body reminds me that I have limitations, that I have done too much and need to slow down. My best friend in the world counseled me, “The most important part about being a domestic goddess is knowing that sometimes life happens and you can’t beat yourself up about it.” So I gave myself a pass, took some extra fast acting calcium and put my feet up.

Another one of my favorite recipes I learned while living in New England was dressing to accompany the holiday meal. It is aromatic, flavorful, and unique, highlighting many of the best flavors possible in what is usually portrayed as an overtired, underappreciated side dish. It’s a nice way to class up the traditional box mix, or you can go all the way and use your own bread crumbs as well.

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You’ll need:

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 McIntosh apples, diced

1/2 pound chopped carrots

1/2 pound celery

1/4 pound sliced mushrooms

1 pound ground sausage (use your favorite kind– I used sage pork sausage)

2 sticks of butter, cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (be sure to use a lot of the mace also)

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme

1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary

1/2 teaspoon sage

Olive oil, salt, pepper

6-8 cups of your favorite dried bread crumb blend. (Depending on time, either go the easy route and use a blend from the store, or whatever you have on hand.) I used equal amounts of marble rye, pumpernickel, and sourdough breads.

4 cups chicken broth

Directions: Cook and crumble sausage. Drain and set aside. In olive oil, saute all vegetables and fruit until everything is tender but not mushy. Be sure to season every layer with salt and pepper. Add seasonings and herbs, add sausage, and mix. Slice all bread into relatively equal sized cubes. I did half to three-quarter inch pieces. It doesn’t have to be precise. Toss the aromatic blend into the bread crumbs.

Boil chicken broth and butter. Pour over dressing mixture and fluff with a fork. Serve immediately.

Breads · Special Occasions

The 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along, Day 8: New England Apple Cake

I’ve been late in the day posting my lovely recipes these past few days because of kids holiday and school activities. Last night, two of my children had to choose between two different singing gigs on opposite sides of the valley. They opted for Christmas caroling. The thing is that one of the people who helped plan it ended up having emergency gall bladder surgery, couldn’t attend, and the group needed an extra driver. They saw me pull up in my minivan and I couldn’t say no. It turned out to be an extremely enjoyable evening and I feel blessed that I could be part of it. At the end, one of my new friends gave me a bag of gorgeous hand picked apples which she picked up from an orchard in Santaquin, Utah last week. They’re so beautiful, aren’t they?

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I was delighted. I’m not sure what kind these are, but they apples are fragrant, firm, delicate in flavor, and super sweet. They brought back fond memories of when I lived in New England, surrounded by apple orchards and farms, and you could pick your own apples and pay by the bag full. Out there those were McIntosh apples, which are my absolute favorite, followed closely by Granny Smith. In fact, I have both kinds in my kitchen right now. I bought them for today’s featured recipe, but these gift apples were so pleasing, I could not resist honoring them by featuring them in my special apple cake.

Over a decade ago now, I served a mission for my church to Hartford, Connecticut. It was one of the best experiences of my life and some of my fondest friends live there. During my first few months, my trainer and I visited a dear woman every week. She would tell us stories and make us dinner and care for us almost like we were her own daughters. One of my best recipes is one she taught me, and this one came from her grandmother. I miss her and think of her every time I make it. She simply called it apple cake, but I call it New England Apple Cake. The only difference I have made is that I changed the oil to butter and increased the quantity and variety of spices because it reminds me even more so of New England this time of year.

New England Apple Cake

4 cups of apples, peeled and chopped (Pick your favorite kind. I usually choose between McIntosh, Granny Smith, or Honeycrisp, depending on availability.)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp dried ginger

1/2 tsp cardamom

1/4 tsp cloves

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Liberally grease a 9×13 pan.

Mix apples, sugar, spices, and butter. Allow to sit for a couple minutes to draw the water out of the apples. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Fold in the salt, baking soda, and flour. Fold in nuts if desired. Spoon mixture into pan and gently spread evenly. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Baking · Special Occasions

The 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along, Day 7: Ohhhhhhh Fffuuuuuuuuuuuudddgggge!

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I’m talking about candy fudge. Not “the f-dash-dash-dash word.”
Most people, at least here in the US, make fudge for Christmas. Usually chocolate, sometimes peanut butter, because you know how much Americans love peanut butter, and occasionally some other random flavor. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told, “My family uses the original See’s fudge recipe.” Even my husband’s grandmother said that to me once. Which is funny because my family fudge recipe is titled “See’s Fudge.” But you know what? They are different recipes. I could do a blind taste test and tell you whose fudge recipe is whose.

This was over 10 years ago now, and at the time it amused me enough that I decided to do some digging. I ought to preface this by telling you straight off the bat that what I learned is that this popular American fudge recipe is not true fudge to begin with. It’s not the same cooking process/ingredient list.

What is the difference between real fudge and “See’s Fudge? And why is it called See’s fudge? Old fashioned fudge consists primarily of dairy, butter, sugar, and cocoa powder with a couple little extras depending on personal preference. The ingredients are the biggest difference and require a tad more skills in the kitchen. We will have to visit this fun recipe another time. Let’s play with the easier version for now.

See’s fudge is called that because of a well known candy chain who made this simplified fudge recipe famous decades ago. Approximately the same time, it was called Wonder Fudge. A well known marshmallow manufacturer then took it a step further and called it Fantasy Fudge. Brilliant on their part, to alter the name and recipe so that they could put it on the back of their products, no? For purposes of clarification, let’s call it Simplified Fudge to differentiate it from Old Fashioned Fudge.

Simplified fudge is awesome, almost as much as Traditional Fudge. The difference– the KEY is that is uses marshmallows! (I know, I gave that spoiler above.) Long story made very short, the reason this is helpful is because marshmallows have cut down the cooking time, simplified the cooking process, and best yet, significantly decreased the risk of accidentally crystallizing the entire batch of candy. (Although it’s still a possibility if you’re careless. But don’t let that deter you!) This is seriously worthwhile for any intermediate baker to attempt as long as you know how to follow instructions. Once you master this, there’s no telling what you can accomplish in your kitchen!

Simplified Fudge

3 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup evaporated milk

3/4 cup butter (cut into cubes)

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

10 oz. mini marshmallows

1 cup chopped nuts

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Liberally butter a 9×9 baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, layer the ingredients in order: chopped nuts, chocolate chips, marshmallows, butter, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring sugar and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. (Don’t scrape the sides– this would cause it to crystallize and you don’t want that!) Continue boiling for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. (Don’t scrape the sides.) Pour the milk mixture over the remaining ingredients. (Don’t scrape the sides!) Stir vigorously until fully incorporated. Pour into the greased baking dish and let cool. When ready to serve, cut into 1-inch squares.

Special Occasions

12 Days of Christmas Bake Along, Day 3: Party Cheeseball

We are going to switch gears to a savory note today.  It just wouldnt be the holidays without this essential holiday staple. My aunt gave a variation of this recipe to my mother decades ago.  I think she received it from a friend before that.  My family has enjoyed this cheeseball during the holiday season every single year of my life, or pretty close to it.

I’ve tweaked the family recipe to my own family’s liking.  With notes of green onion, lemon juice, garlic, and more, you’ll find it has a wonderful balance between tangy and salty, smoothness and crunch.  I can’t imagine a Christmas or a New Years Eve without this gorgeous cheeseball in the party spread.  Serve it with a classic Ritz Crackers or Wheat Thins and you wont be disappointed.

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All of these measurements are for 2 good sized cheeseballs: one for Christmas and one for New Years Eve, although it is doubtful that the second one will last that long.  (We always end up making multiple batches of this throughout the month of December.  It makes wonderful gifts, too!)

Easy Party Cheeseball

2 8oz. boxes of full fat cream cheese

1 large bunch of scallions (green onions)

4-6 ounces corned beef sandwich slices (such as Buddig)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

1-2 teaspoons minced garlic

1-2 cups toasted pecan pieces

Toast the pecan pieces and lightly chop, then set aside to cool.  Take the corned beef and slice into small confetti pieces.  In the warm pan, quickly warm the minced garlic and corned beef.  Put room temperature cream cheese into a medium mixing bowl.  Wash the scallions and remove the roots.  Slice them lengthwise first, and then finely slice into little pieces.  Use at least 2 thirds of the scallions so that you get some of the delicious green into it.  Toss it on top of the cream cheese.  (Don’t discard the rest of the scallion tops! Put them into a baggie into your fridge for tomorrow’s wonderful recipe.)  Add the corned beef and garlic, mayonnaise, and lemon juice.

20171214_2156421545247555.jpgHere comes my favorite part– with super clean hands, get in there and squish it all together  for.a couple minutes until it is evenly combined.  Taste it and see if it needs anymore lemon juice or garlic powder.  Once it is to your liking, form it into two balls and roll them in the toasted chopped pecan pieces (or leave plain if you don’t care for nuts).  Grab a kitchen buddy and have them help you wrap these in plastic wrap.  Chill in the fridge overnight so that the flavors intensify.
Be sure to come back here and tell me how you like this recipe. And tune in tomorrow for the next installment of the 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along.

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Baking · Special Occasions

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking, Day 2: Peppermint Syrup 

Peppermint Simple Syrup (Skill Level: Easy)

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Some may argue that this is not baking or is so simple that it should not count.  The purpose of this Bake Along, however, is to accommodate people of all skill levels because everyone started at the beginning once upon a time.  For those of you who think you cannot bake, you’re safe giving this one a try.

20171213_2117071427883362.jpgHere’s what you’ll need:

1 clean bottle to store it in

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons peppermint extract or 10 drops peppermint essential oil (food grade, please)

Funnel, silicone spatula, and small saucepan

20171213_204746798100359.jpgIn a small saucepan, pour water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir it with a silicone spatula occasionally so the sugar doesn’t caramelize.  Be careful not to let it burn you with splashing.  It is unlikely if you’re watching it closely (as you should be), but be watchful all the same.  Once it has reached a rolling boil, remove pan from heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.  Gently pour in your peppermint extract and stir.

20171213_205443841796231.jpgIt’s that simple!  Now just use a funnel to carefully pour it into your container of choice.  This produces a strong syrup, so you’ll only need a splash in your cocoa or hot chocolate.  Enjoy!

PS,

Spider Man is awesome.

Baking · Cookies · Special Occasions

The 12 Days of Christmas Baking, Day 1: Shortbread Snowballs

First, I owe a shout out to all of my faithful friends and family who constantly stick with me and have shown support to me all these years.  This new chapter is dedicated to you.  I love you.

I’m just barely getting this blog back up and running after a 3-4 year hiatus.  It was rough getting through cancer treatment/recovery and resuming a normal life, but I think I am there (“normal,” hah!) and stronger than I have been in years.  I would like to believe that my thyroid and I once had a happy, non-toxic relationship when I was much younger.  I do miss it and life without the constant medical appointments or meds, but who cares when it is such a blessing just to be alive?  I’m counting my blessings, and they are plentiful.  That being said, I have plenty to be grateful for, and what better way than showcasing some of my favorite things to do in my favorite season of the year?

I give you The 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along

Many years ago, a friend of mine brought something similar to these to my sister’s cookie exchange.  I loved them so much that I sought out a similar recipe, tweaked it just a smidge, and a family favorite was born.  My husband gives these as gifts at work, and I now bring them to my own cookie exchanges whenever I have the opportunity.  I hope you get a chance to enjoy them as much as I do.  They’re so easy to make, I’ll give you the recipe.  😉

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for Day 2 of my 12 Days of Christmas Bake Along.  Post pics of your own Sublime Shortbread Snowballs on the Modern Domestic Goddess community page.

Day 1: Sublime Shortbread Snowballs (Skill level: Easy)

Ingredients

1 cup salted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar (plus more for rolling later)

2 cups all purpose flour

1.5 teaspoons almond extract

1 cup miniature chocolate chips

1 cup blanched, slivered almonds

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together butter, 1 cup powdered sugar, and almond extract with an electric mixer. Gradually add flour, and mix until the dough comes together like chunky sand. Using a wooden spoon, fold in mini chocolate chips and slivered almonds.  Scoop cookie dough into 1 tablespoon sized portions. Squeeze/roll together in hand to make round balls. Space two inches apart on tray. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until bottoms are just slightly browned. Prepare a large bowl or platter with a generous layer of powdered sugar.

Remove cookies from heat and place directly in powdered sugar. Roll until evenly coated. Allow to cool and roll once more in powdered sugar.

Yields approximately 2 dozen cookies.

For a printable version, click here.

Baking · Breads · Cakes · Soups · Special Occasions · Supper

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
For all you last-minuters like myself, I just have one piece of advice:

DOWN WITH CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE!

Okay, not really. It’s yummy, and I appreciate corned beef at least once a year, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: (whispers: It’s not reeeeally Irish.) It’s totally Americanized Irish food faire. Granted, my ancestors left blessed Ireland a couple hundred years ago, but we still love our heritage. (I’m more English and Scottish, but my husband has loads more Irish than I do, so we’re covered.)

I digress…

Back to the point then. If you want to celebrate tomorrow with something delicious and slightly more authentic, I’ve got some recipes for you to try. Our dinner menu tomorrow will include Beef Stew, Soda Bread, and Apple Cake. These are all adaptations from recipes I have collected from friends and internet over the years. I’ll make them into .pdf and printable versions later when I am up to photographing the yumminess. For now, enjoy!!

Irish Beef Stew
2lbs beef stew chunks
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bag of pearl onions
3 cloves minced garlic
a healthy dollop of tomato paste (About 2-4 oz…what, you don’t know what a dollop is?)
1 large chopped potato
2 medium peeled and chopped parsnips
2 medium peeled and chopped carrots
1 small to medium turnip, peeled and chopped
1 small to medium rutabaga, peeled and chopped
4 cups low sodium beef broth
12 oz Guinness (I do a non-alcoholic substitution with usually apple or juice and a shot of malt vinegar because we don’t consume alcohol in our home- or you could add more broth and some sautéed mushrooms)
A few shots of Worcestershire sauce to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish

Use an enamel stew pot or dutch oven and coat the bottom with oil. Brown the stew meat on all sides in small batches on medium-high heat. Each time a small batch of the meat has been browned, just remove it and leave on a plate on the side. In the same pan, sweat onions and garlic, salt and pepper, and tomato paste. Be sure to scrape up all those yummy browned bits from the bottom of the pan and also let some of that tomato paste brown a little from the heat of the pan. Add beef chunks and any remaining juices back to the pan now and deglaze the pan with the stock, your beer or beer alternative, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 1-2 hours.
In a separate pan, sauté with olive oil all the chopped veggies to give them a nice brown exterior. Don’t fully cook and especially do not burn them! This is just to give them extra flavor. After your stew meat has simmered for 1-2 hours, add in the veggies. Simmer for 30 or so more minutes. (Adjust the salt and pepper as needed before finishing.) Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy!

It’s excellent with Irish cheddar scones. However, I like to skip the cheese scones and go for the sweet Irish soda bread. Truthfully, it’s because I only have so many calories I can spare in one day, so tomorrow I’m going for the soda bread. Leave a comment on this blog post if you want me to share my scone recipe later.

Irish Apple Cake
4 granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced, about 2 cups (extra is fine)
1 c granulated sugar
4 T butter, softened (room temperature)
1 egg, beaten (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves (optional)
1 c all-purpose flour
¼ c chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F
Chop apples and macerate in sugar, salt, and spices while preparing other ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix butter, egg, and vanilla. Add apple mixture and gently mix. Add baking powder, baking soda, flour, and nuts. Mix well.
The dear woman who shared this recipe with me used to make it in a large bread pan, so that’s what I do. Although, you could just as easily pour it into a charming little cake pan or dish and serve it that way after baking. (Prepare the pan with your favorite method: butter, baking spray, etc.)
Bake for 45min until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is lightly browned. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes before removing it from the pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or dusted with powdered sugar. (I’m in heaven with just the cake and a glass of milk.)

Here’s a fun tip- I also make this recipe in a muffin tin for quick breakfasts. Skip the muffin liners and just spray the tin directly with baking spray.

Sweet Irish Soda Bread
5 c flour
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ c (1 stick) butter
2 1/2 c raisins, soaked in water for 15-20 minutes and drained
3 T caraway seeds (I don’t always have these and it tastes fine without)
2 1/2 cups buttermilk (I don’t often have buttermilk on hand, so I do that milk and lemon juice trick. If I don’t feel like doing that, I just use normal milk. Whatever you have on hand will work fine.)
1 large egg
Milk for brushing tops of bread
Raw sugar for sprinkling tops of bread before baking

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter 2 (9 by 5-inch) bread pans.
Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the butter and mix very thoroughly with your hands until it gets grainy. Stir in the plump raisins and caraway seeds.
Add the buttermilk (or milk) and egg (beaten) to the flour mixture. Stir until well moistened. The “dough” should resemble thick cake batter like a standard quick bread. Equally fill 2 loaf pans. Lightly brush just a little bit of extra milk on the tops of the bread, then sprinkle the top of each with raw sugar to make it shimmery! Bake for 60-70 minutes. A toothpick in the center will come out clean when it is done. Cool in the pans for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Another fun tip- Slice it and leave it out overnight to dry a bit and then make French toast with it in the morning. It’s YUM-AZING! (Haha… Sorry, couldn’t help myself– don’t worry, I don’t actually say that in real life.) It’s the best!

And if these holiday meal ideas still don’t appeal to you, despite how Irish they may or may not be, then here’s one more interesting tidbit. Saint Patrick wasn’t Irish either, so just make what sounds good and celebrate however you wish. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day and Éirinn go Brach!

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Baking · Cakes · Special Occasions

Grain Free Chocolate Macaroon Cake

Grain Free Chocolate Macaroon Cake

My mother has determined that a grain free lifestyle is easiest for her to maintain in order to feel comfortable and healthy in her life. Having birthdays and special occasions doesn’t always make that the easiest, but it is doable. For her birthday I took a traditional chocolate cake recipe and made a few changes. (I can also add that with only a couple other adjustments you could turn this into a dairy free or sugar free cake, too.) I’m happy to say that this was one of the most decadent and pleasing cakes I’ve tasted in a very long time. It’s a definite keeper in my book. Here’s the recipe:

Grain Free Chocolate Macaroon Cake
Cake:
1 ½ c. coconut flour
¾ c. coconut sugar
¾ c. raw sugar
1 c. finely shredded coconut
1 c. cocoa powder
1 c. butter, softened
1 T. vanilla
3 eggs
3 t. baking soda
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Spray two 8” round cake pans and line with parchment.
Cream together butter and sugars, add eggs, vanilla, gradually coconut milk, and water.
Carefully add baking soda, cocoa powder, coconut flour, and shredded coconut. Mix well.
Divide between the two cake pans and bake for 30 minutes. Edges of the cake will pull away from the pan slightly and when tapping the center of the cake it will be firm but not hard.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
(For the frosting I wanted something cool, creamy, and sweet to compliment the dense richness of the cake. I whipped this like a buttercream frosting to give it a great consistency and hold up against the weight of the cake.)

4 oz. butter, cubed
8 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 T. vanilla
1/8 to ¼ cup of cocoa powder (depends on how decadent you want it)
Powdered Sugar

Directions:
Whip air into the cool butter, add cream cheese, add a splash of vanilla, then gradually add powdered sugar until thick enough to spread as frosting.

Assemble and enjoy the sweet decadence.

Grain Free Chocolate Macaroon Cake