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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Baked Potato Soup & Salad with Easy Buttermilk Garlic Dressing


I used to make Baked Potato Soup constantly when I was catering - lunch meetings for clients, or ladies luncheon showers.  It is so satisfying and filling - in a decadent sort of way.  It is definitely something fabulous to serve for a special occasion.  Therefore... it is not something that I make often.  It is just hard for me to serve for dinner during the week because it really has no nutritional value.  I'm not anti-potato/carb like many people are, I just like to have some sort of healthy balance to a meal.  But, it is such a yummy soup...



Which brings me to this salad.  I somehow feel better about serving this rich soup with a large platter of fresh greens and veggies in the form of a salad.  I modeled the dressing off of one of our favorite comfort food restaurants, Houston's.  The recipe is so easy - you probably have everything you need, (except buttermilk) and it takes seconds to stir together.  Again, I understand that a mayo/sour cream dressing topped salad isn't necessarily "health food" but it is fresh, homemade, crunchy and full of nutrients.

Emma decided that it was her "new favorite snack" - as she told Mike when he got home.  Of course, I think she was just dipping the chopped bacon in dressing, so who wouldn't like that?

Traditional Salad

4 cups of greens (I used romaine, arugula, shaved brussels sprouts, and red leaf)
carrots
cherry tomatoes
boiled egg, chopped
crispy bacon, chopped


Buttermilk Garlic Dressing

1/2 cup of sour cream
2/3 cup of mayo
1 clove of garlic, crushed/pressed
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of paprika
1/2 teaspoon of cracked pepper
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 cup of buttermilk
3 green onions, minced

Whisk together sour cream and mayo.  Mince garlic finely, or push through a garlic press.  Add salt, paprika, pepper and sugar to the mixture.  Whisk in buttermilk.  Add green onions. Keep refrigerated.  





Baked Potato Soup


1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of flour
6 cups of whole milk
1 cup of half and half
salt & pepper
5 cups of red potatoes, 1/4 inch cubes

Cut potatoes into 1/4 inch cubes, then cook in salted water until tender - about 8 minutes.  Drain potatoes and set aside.

In a medium/large sauce pan, melt butter, then add flour over low heat and whisk until smooth.  Let the flour cook for just a minute - be careful not to burn!  Whisk in a cup or two of milk.  Whisk until smooth, then add in cream.  Bring the soup to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Add potatoes just before serving.  Keep the heat on low and be careful not to scorch the bottom.

Optional garnish :
smoked sausage, cubed & browned
cheddar cheese
bacon
green onions

Monday, September 29, 2014

This Week's Menu & Fall Fun with Cousins



We had a fall fun-packed weekend with my Sister and her family in town.  In two and a half days we went to a pumpkin patch, a train station, we stumbled upon a parade, had a craft day at kaleidoscope, ran around in a hotel (since we don't have a house...) and went to the Fall Festival in our neighborhood.  I love this photo of the 5 of us at the pumpkin patch!


Here Emma and Sam are running for the Corn Maze.


And running through the Corn Maze.  Pink cowgirl boots, of course.



Yeehaw!


Emma in the tunnel, 2014, age 2


Kate in the tunnel, 2014, age 1


Flashback : Sam in a tunnel 3 years ago, 2011, age 1
*You might remember my post of Sam in a similar tunnel at a pumpkin patch and some Halloween gifts I made for friends - 3 years ago!

I love this photo from our neighborhood fall festival - Emma's 2nd horse ride of the weekend.  One of our friends took this photo of her daughter and caught Emma and me in the background : )

After being in survival mode for the last couple of weeks - packing, moving, unpacking, hosting family - we are settling into our new routine.  I still have some organizing to do this afternoon so I am no longer digger through boxes to access my work things, but we're feeling a little more settled.  The house is moving right along - the digging starts today!  I'm headed over this afternoon to look at the progress before I pick Emma up from school.  I'm a little cautious of exposing her to too much of the ugly part of the construction, because I don't want her to be worried about her house being torn apart.  I'll take her there more when the fun, building part of the process begins.

Here is my dinner plan for the week... I'm not really sure what order they will happen!

French Onion Soup & Salad

This is Emma's favorite soup... who would've guessed?!  I have to say it is one of mine, too.  I'll be making a really yummy salad with greens, chopped egg, bacon and veggies with buttermilk garlic dressing, too.





Roasted Beat & Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese & Chicken

This will be a new recipe - sort of like the one pictured, but more of a salad, without olives or rosemary... so verry different, I guess.  My plan is to roast beets, carrots and brussel sprouts, along with chicken breasts.  Then cut into large pieces, toss with arugula and lemon shallot vinaigrette and add goat cheese.










Meatball Lasagna

If this doesn't happen on Wednesday, it will happen on Sunday.


Braised Short Ribs

A popular one!  Again, this might happen Sunday instead, we'll see how the week goes.  Sometimes by Thursday we are having Chinese takeout : )



















Friday, September 26, 2014

Chestnut & Fig Candle | Autumn Sugar Cookies with Simple Butter Icing



Chestnut & Fig Candles and Acorn Copper Cookie Cutters are back!

Last year for Thanksgiving I offered this candle, Chestnut & Fig ($12.50-18.00), and I've been getting requests for it ever since.  This year I'm bringing it out a little early because it is the perfect Fall harvest scent - toasted chestnut, orange oil, clove, oak, cedar & fig.  The wax is tinted in a warm, butternut hue that is the perfect compliment to the harvest essential oils.

I've also created an accompanying Dish Soap ($8) in the same scent and coordinating creamy butternut color.  As all of you know, I love everyday luxuries - just little things that make normal day-to-day a little more special.  One of the things I look forward to doing every season is finding a dish soap that is perfectly suited for the time of year.  For this season, I've added a touch of the Chestnut & Fig harvest blend of essential oils to even make washing dishes seem like a fallish activity. 

On another store note, the very popular Acorn Copper Cookie Cutter is back in stock... just in time for my step-by-step decorating photos you'll find below.


I'm offering the Chestnut & Fig candles in a Gold Tin and my signature Mini Latte Bowl.  You can find them here.




On to the cookies, and more importantly our new old favorite - Butter Icing.

As promised, I'm sharing some step-by-step photos of how I decorated our Autumn Sugar Cookies this year.  You all know that sugar cookies are a seasonal staple at our house.  For a long time, I only used Royal Icing - especially when I was catering because it hardened nicely for packaging and looked shiny and professional.

Now that our cookies are mostly for eating and giving, I have switched back to my first love - butter icing.  It was what my Mom made when we were little and decorated cookies every Valentine's, Halloween & Christmas.  In the spring, I shared another version of a butter icing that was more of a glaze.  This is a little more buttery.  Not only does it have an amazing creamy flavor, but the butter keeps the cookies soft.  It is hardly a recipe, but here you go : )

Butter Icing

1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of milk
3-4 cups of confectioners sugar

Melt butter and milk together in the microwave.  Stir in confectioners sugar.  Add more milk to thin, or more confectioners sugar to thicken.
 

Here are our Acorn cookies ready for decorating.


Start with the tops - I used a dark green, but you can use the same color as the body of the acorn, too.


And, here I sort of skipped a step - do the Chocolate Sprinkles on the still wet tops, then fill in with the light brown on the bottom and stem.  I've packaged the Chocolate Sprinkles ($10) in my Large Glass Spice Jars, just as I have done for my other sugars and sprinkles.


For the pumpkin, I try to make the spreading lines follow that of a pumpkin to give it some natural looking texture.


The leaves are simple - I used a gold color, then piped on the same brown I used for the Acorns.


We invited some of Emma's friends over for cookie decorating in the afternoon, so we spent the morning rolling, cutting and and baking.


I set up the table for their decorating station.  I laid out parchment paper sheets to give them a work surface, and had all of the icings ready to go in bags for easy decorating and clean up.


Emma had to do a couple of samples before her friends arrived.


And taste a couple of samples.







You might remember her signature squiggle pile of icing from her birthday party!



So, are you a royal icing fan or a butter icing?  Our local bakery does a really soft and creamy cream cheese frosting on their sugar cookies... I think I'll have to try to recreate those too.  Hope you are all enjoying some beautiful mild weather.  We're heading to the pumpkin patch this morning with Emma's "Best Cousins" Sam and Kate.  Happy early weekend!  Let the Fall festivities begin : )

Jenny

Products Featured :

Chestnut & Fig Candle ($12.50-18.00)
Chestnut & Fig Dish Soap ($8)
Autumn Copper Cookie Cutters $15
Chocolate Sprinkles $10
Parchment Paper Sheets $8
Disposable Pastry Bags $12.50
Cookie Boxes $10.50
Acorn Tags $6
Orange Linen Tea Towels 2 for $24

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Toffee Topped Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting




In an effort to be 100% transparent, I used a cake mix to make these cupcakes.  I think it was a Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix, to be exact.  If you have read this blog for a while, you know that I'm not afraid of or embarrassed by a cake mix.  I use them all of the time for shortcuts - especially when I'm making cupcakes.  Maybe it is just me, but I think that homemade cupcake batter can be a little finicky... it can roll over the sides, it can deflate, etc., and I wanted these to look just perfect in my new Gold Striped Cupcake Papers.  And it was easy.  I was really in the mood for a Fall-ish spice cake topped with creamy, cream cheese frosting and these were everything (and more!) than I had hoped.





People tend to not think about texture as much as they should.  I had a gourmet ice cream sundae at a fancy restaurant this summer, and the combination of textures was unbelievable.  I can still taste (feel it?) right now.  This cupcake combination of creamy frosting, moist cake and crunchy toffee has the same effect - in a very fall way.

Aren't these little Acorn Folded Tags so sweet?  I've been using them all month - attached to gifts as cards, as display signs (like this) and as place cards.

Even though I used a mix, I thought I should provide you with some sort of recipe if you want to make some from scratch.  Here is my favorite, very dense and delicious spice cake recipe.  If you are making them from a box like me, just follow the baking directions and the frosting instructions.  Enjoy!

Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Toffee
makes about 12 cupcakes



1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
2 eggs
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
....
4 ounces of cream cheese (1/2 block), room temperature
1 stick of butter
2 cups of powdered sugar (or more)
toffee candies (I used Werther's Original, which are caramel candies), chopped

In a mixer, combine sugar, flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.  Stir to combine.  Add egg, milk, melted butter and vanilla.  Mix on low until combined.  Beat for 1 minute on medium high. 



Scoop into cupcake papers, I used Gold Striped Papers ($6.50) for a little festive touch.  



Bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes, until tester comes out clean, or cupcakes spring back to touch.  



Because I used a box mix, I had enough to make 12 cupcakes and some loaf-style cakes, too, in my Kraft Loaf Pans for gifts.



For cream cheese frosting, combine cream cheese and butter in a mixer until blended together.  Add powdered sugar and mix for 3 minutes on low.  Frost using an 18" Piping Bag with the tip cut off.   I did a basic, easy swirl - you can just scrape it off and start over if you need some practice.  I try not to do toooo much frosting, just a good ratio.  



I used Werther's Original caramel candies, because my grocery store didn't have toffee, except with milk chocolate.  So, I just chopped up the candies with my knife - it worked great.  



These were so tasty and perfect for breakfast, I mean an afternoon snack with coffee.  What are your favorite Fall desserts?  The next on my list is soft pumpkin spice pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies with a cream cheese butter icing.  That will have to wait until next week... when I can find my rolling pin!



Products Used :

Orange Linen Tea Towel, 2 for $24
Gold Striped Cupcake Papers, 100 for $6.50
Kraft Loaf Pan, 10 for $12.50
Disposable Pastry Bags, 20 for $14.50
Acorn Folded Card, 10 for $6

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