Friday, December 18, 2009

Holidays

The Baking Bookworm is going to be taking a break for the next 2 weeks. So, if you're in need of a recipe you'll have to look through the recipes already posted. I'm sure the 160 postings I've done will keep you all busy. Once the holidays are over I will definitely have more books to review as well as some new recipes to share with you all.

Wishing you happy holidays filled with lots of time to read some new books as well as feasts of turkey, stuffing , oodles of holiday cookies/squares/cakes ....!!

I'll be back in 2010!

The Baking Bookworm

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spaghetti Squares

This recipe comes from my favourite SIL (sister-in-law) -- OK, she's my only SIL but she's still pretty awesome! You can easily play with this recipe by adding the toppings that you love or omitting the ones you don't like. I've added some oregano, basil and fresh garlic since I'm a huge fan of all three in Italian cooking.

I think this is an easy way to 'hide' spinach in a dish ... just make sure to chop it up finely and call it 'spices'. This technique works equally well with both picky kids and husbands. :)

1/3 pkg spaghetti noodles, uncooked
1lb ground beef
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1 (680mL) can pasta sauce
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
3 tbsp water
1/2 cup black olives, sliced (optional)
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
1 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tbsp parsley (optional garnish)


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13" pan and set aside.

Cook spaghetti noodles according to package directions.

In a large skillet, cook ground beef, mushrooms and garlic until beef is no longer pink. Drain excess grease. Add oregano, basil and tomato sauce to meat mixture.

Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, put the fresh spinach leaves with the water. Cook on high for about 1 minute or until the leaves look all wet and are very soft (they'll look like a big pill of green mess - yum!) put them on a few layers of paper towel and squeeze out the excess water). Add spinach and black olives (if using) to meat mixture.

Drain noodles and toss with 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, butter and eggs. Add noodles mixture to prepared pan.

Mix cottage cheese with remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and 3/4 cup Mozzarella cheese. Top noodle mixture with the cottage cheese mixture.

Pour meat and sauce mixture over top. Sprinkle with remaining Mozzarella over the top. Sprinkle with parsley over top, if desired.

Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.

Tip: For a quick meal you can make this casserole ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until ready to use. You'll just have to heat it up longer (45-60 minutes, covered).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Banana Cranberry Muffins

Cranberries are one of my favourite things. In the Fall I scour the food stores for fresh cranberrries then freeze bags of them for future use. I also put whole ripe bananas in my freezer so when I make these muffins they sure do clean out the freezer!

I love the combination of the tart cranberries and the sweet bananas in this moist muffin.

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
1 cup water
1/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup mashed, ripe bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease or paper-line muffin cups. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring cranberries, 1 cup sugar and water to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes or until berries begin to pop. Drain and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and remaining sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with the bananas. Fold in cranberry mixture and the walnuts (if using).

Fill muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Tip: Try adding 1-2 tsp orange zest.

Originally from: allrecipes.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kitchen Sink Chili



Don't feel daunted by the gigantic list of ingredients in this chili. It's simple to put together and is one of the best chili's I've ever tasted. Simmer it as long as you can to blend the flavours together. I made it the night before then put it in my crockpot for 4 hours on low. Perfect for a large crowd!

2lbs ground beef
1lb bulk Italian sausage
3/4 lb bacon, diced
1 (28oz) can beans in tomato sauce (ie Libby's)
1 (19oz) can kidney beans
1 (14oz) can beans in BBQ sauce
2 (28oz) cans diced tomatoes with juice
2 (10oz) cans sliced mushrooms
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped (optional)
4 cubes beef bouillion
1/2 cup beer
1/8 cup chili powder
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp hot pepper sauce (ie Tabasco)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar
1 (10.5oz) bag corn chips
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (garnish)
1 (16oz) container sour cream (garnish)

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble ground beef and sausage into the hot pan. Add bacon. Cook until evenly browned. Drain off excess grease.

To the meat mixture add: beans, kidney beans, beans in BBQ sauce, diced tomatoes, mushrooms and tomato paste. Add the onion, green and red peppers, chile pepper (if using), bouillion and beer.

Then season the with chili powder, Worchestershire, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

After 2 hours, taste and adjust the salt, pepper and chili powder, if necessary. The longer the chili simmers, the better it will taste. Remove from heat and serve or refrigerate and serve the next day.

To serve: Ladle into bowls and top with corn chips, shredded Cheddar cheese and dollops of sour cream.

Originally from: Allrecipes.com (Boilermaker Tailgate Chili)

Cross


Title: Cross

Author: James Patterson

Type: Suspense/Mystery

Pages: 393

Year Published: 2006


Synopsis: Alex Cross decides to make drastic changes in his life. He quits the FBI and goes into private practice as a psychologist to make his life a little less chaotic (not to mention safer). Things are looking good for Alex ... he gets to spend more time with his three kids and Nana Mama and feels like his life is getting back into a normal rhythm.


But, then his oldest friend, John Sampson, calls in a favour. He is tracking a serial rapist in the area and needs Alex's help. The rapist is targeting women in the D.C area and threatening them with terrifying photos of his former victims. Seeing these photos is all those women need to convince them to not utter a word about the identity of their attacker.


When the case triggers a connection with the decade old murder of Alex's wife, Maria Alex can't help but get totally involved. Will Alex be able to catch his wife's murderer 10 years after the fact? Will catching the murderer finally enable Alex to fully get on with his life?


My Thoughts: As usual, Patterson gives the reader a non-stop suspense novel. Well written, lots of action and I adore Cross as a main character. I love the fact that Patterson is able, after so many Cross books, to bring up the cause of Maria's death (something that readers have wondered about).


Patterson remains one of the few authors whom I can go to when I need a great read (with the exception of "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas" which, in my honest opinion, tanked ... badly). The books in the Alex Cross series (there are currently 16 books in the series) are always hard to put down. Patterson's short chapters (2-3 pages) keep me reading "just one more, then I'll put the book down" -- which always leads to me reading much too late at night!


My Rating: 4.5/5 (awesome read)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sugar and Spice


Title: Sugar and Spice

Author: Keith Lee Johnson

Type: Suspense/Mystery

Pages: 241


Synopsis: When a set of twins is released from jail their only thoughts are to get back at the people who wronged them. Their deadly and savage rampage starts in Washington, DC and continues on to California. FBI agent Phoenix Perry is assigned to the case which starts to hit too close to home.


My Thoughts: I think the author meant to have this one big 'ta da' moment/twist in the book. I figured it out in less than 30 pages. :( The storyline was OK but definitely took a back seat to the sex scenes that permeated this book.


My Rating: 1/5 (I'm not lovin' it)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tempted



Title: Tempted (6th book in the "House of Night" series)

Authors: P.C and Kristin Cast

Type: Supernatural/Young Adult

Pages: 318



Synopsis: In the last book Zoey Redbird banished immortal, Kalona, and defeated an evil High Priestess. After dealing with all of that you'd think that things would calm down. Not for Zoey and her friends. Z starts to doubt her best friend, Stevie Rae, and thinks she's hiding things from her. Add to the fact that Z is also juggling three guys (one human, one warrior and one vamp) -- Zoey has her hands full. Through Aphrodite's visions, Z learns that she will have to confront Kalona in order to destroy him.

My Thoughts: This wasn't my favourite book of this series but it was still a decent read. My favourite part was the ending so chances are I'll read the 7th installment which is due out in 2010 just to find out what happens to Zoey.

I find lately in this series that the 'teen speak' is starting to get to me as well as the fact that the storyline in this book takes place in only 2 days. Just too much happening in such a short amount of time. It felt like the storyline in this book could have been completed in a few chapters instead of an entire book.

My Rating: 2.5/5 (aka just an ok read)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

BOOK DISCUSSION: Finding new reads

There are often times when I'm at a loss about what to read. I sometimes get bored of reading the same old authors or get stuck in a rut with some books that I don't enjoy.

If this happens to you, check out the Book Forum on Today's Parent (www.todaysparent.com/community/forums?book_club). I cannot tell you how often I've gone on there and received wonderful book recommendations. If it weren't for the people on that forum I never would have found Kelley Armstrong's book (nor would I ever have thought that I'd enjoy the supernatural genre) or Diana Gabaldon and Susanna Kearsley's books (all of whom are some of my favourite authors now).

There is a weekly book poll where other posters will write down the books that they're read along with a brief book review as well as the books that they're planning on reading the following week. There is also a children's book poll so we can help each other find new reads for our kids too. You can also ask for book recommendations ... just make sure you give the other posters some ideas of the books that you like. The people are very friendly and helpful and range from voracious readers (like moi) to more casual readers.

So check it out. You may be lucky enough to find some new authors and new reads.

Sweet Potato Pie

This pie tastes just like pumpkin pie ... same consistency too. Garnish it with fresh whipped cream around the edges.

1 large sweet potato
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 400F. Prick sweet potato several times with a fork. Place sweet potato in a baking dish and bake it for 50-60 minutes or until done. Make sure you use a baking dish because the natural sugars in the sweet potato will drip out and onto your oven. Run cold water over the sweet potato and remove the skin. Break apart potato in a bowl. Add butter and mix well with a hand mixer. Add sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla; mix well.

Pour filling into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Note: The pie will puff up like a souffle and will later sink down as it cools. You may want to put a cookie sheet under it just in case the filling spills out a bit.

Tip: You may want to cook the sweet potato the night before while you're baking your dinner. It'll save energy and a bit of time. Peel and mash the sweet potato and keep in the fridge until you're ready to put your pie together.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Body in the Kelp


Title: A Body in the Kelp (2nd book in the Faith Fairchild mystery series)

Author: Katherine Hall Page

Type: Mystery

Pages: 264


Synopsis: Faith Fairchild is having a dull vacation on Sanpere Island in Maine until she buys a handmade quilt at a local auction. The quilt was made by the rich and detested old woman, Matilda Prescott. When Faith and her friend Pix look closely at the quilt they start seeing a different kind of pattern and are sure it leads to the rumoured missing gold of the Prescott family. Suddenly bodies start piling up (two of which Faith finds, naturally). Once again Faith (the minister's wife-former NYC caterer/food snob) finds herself in the middle of a mystery and if she's not careful she and her young son may find themselves in hot water again.

My Thoughts: Once again this was a good mystery. Faith is growing on me as a main character although her frequent complaining about various foods that aren't up to her calibre is getting a bit much. The mystery goes along at a good pace and there are plenty of characters to keep you guessing at who's behind all of the murders.

My Rating: 3/5 (a good read)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A is for Alibi


Title: "A is for Alibi" (1st book in the Kinsey Millhone series)

Author: Sue Grafton

Type: Mystery


Synopsis: When divorce attorney, Lawrence Fife, is murdered not many people mourned the ruthless philanderer. A jury believed that his young wife, Nikki, had enough motive and proof to have killed her husband and she was charged with the crime. Eight years later, Nikki has done her time and asks Kinsey Millhone to look into who actually killed her husband.


My Thoughts: This book wasn't nearly as good as I thought it was going to be. Sue Grafton is a big name in the mystery genre and I guess I just expected more. Granted it is the first book in the series but the storyline never really took off. I predicted who was the killer early on ... and I was right. I hate that! Not nearly enough twists and turns for my liking. Kinsey is a decent main character but falls kind of flat and seems even boring at times. I may try to read the next book in the series ("B is for Burglar") and see how I feel. I'm hoping that the next book is better.

My Rating: 2.5/5 (an OK read at best)

Chewy Sugar and Spice Cookies

MY 150TH POSTING! Wow! Who knew in only 3 1/2 months I'd have posted 150 times! :)

This is one of my prized holiday cookie recipes. I received this recipe many years ago at my friend Nancie's wedding. She gave a bag of homemade cookies to each guest along with her grandmother's recipe. These are amazing, chewy spice cookies and I'm very thankful that Nancie shared them with me. There's nothing better than passing along family favourite recipes!

3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
Sugar - to garnish

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg; beat for 30 seconds, then stir in molasses.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend. Roll into 1" balls (or do what I do and use a small melon baller) then roll each ball in sugar. Place on cookie sheet (leave 1 1/2" in between balls) and bake for 10 minutes. Cookies spread quite a bit as they cook. Remove from oven and keep cookies on baking stone or sheet for 2 minutes then remove to rack to cool completely. Keep in an airtight container.

Citrus Spice Bran Muffins



This recipe makes a tonne but they freeze really well so you can stock up your freezer with snacks for the kids or just half the recipe like I typically do. 

These are also high in fibre which means that if you're looking for a very light, fluffy-type muffin this wouldn't be your first choice.  That said, for a bran muffin I found the citrus flavour combined with the whole cranberries really delish!

You could also try adding diced apple or chopped mandarin oranges to this recipe for a change of pace. 

3 cups wheat bran (see Note)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup flax seed, ground (or substitute with 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour)
1 cup raisins (or my favourite - whole fresh cranberries)
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
Zest of 2 large lemons or two oranges
1 cup applesauce
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup fancy molasses

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease muffin tins or line with papers.

In a large bowl, combine bran, flour, raisins (if using), cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg and zest.

In a medium bowl, beat together applesauce, sugar, oil and eggs until well mixed; stir in milk and molasses. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just enough to moisten. Be careful not to overmix.

Spoon into prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes or until tops are firm to the touch.

Yield: 24+ muffins

Source: This recipe was inspired by a recipe that I received from my friend Allison K waaaay back in 2004.

Note: Wheat bran can usually be found near the oatmeal/oats in your food store. I store mine in an air-tight container in my freezer to make sure it stays fresh since it's something that I don't use very often.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stolen Innocence


Title: Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Author: Elissa Wall

Type: Autobiography

Pages: 448


Synopsis: In 2007 Elissa Wall was one of the people to testify against FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Later Day Saints) leader Warren Jeffs. She detailed to the court how she was forced by Jeffs to marry her first cousin at the age of 14. Now Walls has written a memoir recounting her life growing up in the polygamous cult and how she escaped.


My Thoughts: I read this book back in September of 2008 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Walls vividly describes her youth growing up in the FLDS, her tumultuous youth and strong will which made her parents and Jeffs marry her off at a young age hoping that marriage would reign in her free spirit. Despite her repeated protestations about marrying so young she was forced into an abusive marriage where she was required, according to Jeffs laws, to submit to her husband 'mind, body and soul'.

In the meantime, Jeffs began to warp the church's original, and already very rigid, teachings to suit his own purposes. It was interesting to see into the daily life and the pressures endured by those who began to question Jeff's beliefs.

With little money or knowledge about the real world Walls was forced to endure her loveless and abusive marriage until she finally found a way out. I found it fascinating reading about the daily life inside the FLDS and how isolated their community was made by Jeffs so that his people couldn't be influenced by outside forces.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (really good read)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies


I made these cookies for my kids' classes this past Valentine's Day. These are easy (and had to be since I had to make 60+ cookies in one evening!). You can easily make these festive with Christmas cookie cutters and green and red tinted icing. :)

.
.
.
.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4-1/2-inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1-inch apart on parchment paper on the baking sheet.

Bake for 6-8 minutes. Cool completely.

Tip: While those cookies are baking, you can prepare the next batch of cookies on a new sheet of parchment. Then drag this parchment onto the cookie sheet that comes out of the oven.

Originally from: allrecipes.com

Wonderful Sugar Cookie Icing
1 cup icing sugar
2 tsp milk
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 vanilla
Food colouring or Wilton food tints

In a medium bowl, cream together icing sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and vanilla until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup.
Divide icing into separate bowls and add food colourings to each to desired intensity (remember with Wilton icing tints -- a little bit will do ya!). Paint cookies with icing (I used a knife).
Tip: This icing will harden up a bit so you can put them in bags or containers and not have to worry about the icing coming off. Just make sure you wait until it sets. You also might want to use parchment or waxed paper between the layers just in case.

Shortbread Cookies

These cookies will melt in your mouth. Decorate with coloured sugar.

1/2 lb butter (no substitutes)
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 cups (less 2 tbsp) flour
2 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter and gradually add icing sugar. Blend in dry ingredients. Chill dough for approximately 1 hour. Form into a log and slice 1/3" thickness OR roll out and use cookie cutters. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool on rack.

Yield: 3 dozen
Related Posts with Thumbnails