Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cabernet Cranberry Sauce

Blasphemy: I do not like Thanksgiving turkey- at all. I am a ham and sides gal... have been my whole life, and cranberry sauce from a can?? That does NOTHING to improve my odds of enjoying a piece of lovingly roasted and hand carved turkey. I do not relish in the prospects of next day leftover turkey sandwiches either-- I know I am a freak! All of that changed this year... and we can give all credit to- the. best. cranberry. sauce. ever. I didn't even think I liked loved cranberry sauce, but I do! This recipe makes a TON, but can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two months. We were going to THREE Thanksgivings, so we made this larger batch... you could easily half  or quarter the recipe to fit your own needs.

  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup Cabernet 
  • zest of one tangerine
  • juice of one tangering
  • 12 ounce package of cranberries 
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root (or more-- add based on your own taste)
  1. In a medium sauce pan on medium low heat, bring sugar and cabernet to a boil (stir constantly).
  2. Once the sugar mixture has come to a boil, add cranberries, cinnamon stick, tangerine zest, tangerine juice, and grated ginger. 
  3. Partially cover and allow to reduce for 10 minutes or so. Skins of cranberries will burst when they are done.
Serve warm or cold! I have eaten it three times in the past two days-- with TURKEY! Yum :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cranberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding

While I am waiting for noon to come around so we can head across the street to my MIL's house for Thanksgiving #1, I thought I would share a recipe for a tasty little treat my husband and I whipped up this morning. My husband LOVES bread pudding, but I was not a fan until last year when he made Paula Deen's "The Best Bread Pudding".  As you can imagine, since it is a Paula Deen recipe, the amount of butter in this recipe will make your arteries tremble in fear. This year we decided to give her recipe a Thanksgiving themed improvement makeover.

Cranberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding with a Cranberry Brandy Drizzle

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 beaten large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cubed Italian bread (cube the night before and allow to stale overnight)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips
Ingredients for the drizzle:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • leftover 1/4 bag of cranberries 
  1. Preheat oven to 350, and grease and flour pan(s). We used two square pans (8x8 and 6x6) because we are taking them to two separate dinners.
  2. Mix together granulated sugar, milk, and eggs in a large bowl. Add vanilla. 
  3. Pour egg mixture over cubed bread; add cranberries and white chocolate and let sit for 10 minutes. 
  4. In a small bowl crumble together softened butter, brown sugar, and chopped walnuts.
  5. Pour bread mixture into prepared pan(s).
  6. Sprinkle brown sugar crumble over the top, and bake for 35-45 minutes. 
Directions for Drizzle:
  1.  Whisk together melted butter, granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla. 
  2. Heat mixture in a sauce pan (stirring constantly) over medium heat until sugar is melted. 
  3. Add cranberries and brandy and cook until the skins of the cranberries pop.
  4. Transfer mixture into a blender, and pulse until all ingredients are incorporated. 
  5. Drizzle over top of bread pudding for decoration. We also put the remainder in a squeeze bottle to allow each person to add the amount of drizzle they desire. 
Serve warm or cold!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's beginning to smell a lot like Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving baking commences... This year we will be celebrating two Thanksgivings on Thanksgiving day... let's just say that even if our pants don't agree, we have a great deal to be thankful for this year. My husband and I are both incredibly lucky to have our parents and many family members living in town, and this year we are extra blessed because my sisters are going to be in town as well. My MIL is usually very kind and invites my small family to join hers, but this year there will be too many Lynskeys to fit in the O'Brien home! So... two Thanksgivings it will have to be!

Our mothers are in charge of the majority of the cooking, but I have volunteered to bring the dessert. One dessert I will bring is a Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle. Here is how I made it-- very simple and semi-homemade.

Bake two boxes of gingerbread and set aside to cool. Once cool, break the gingerbread into crumbles.

Prepare one large box of vanilla instant pudding (takes 3 cups of milk) and let sit in the refrigerator to firm up. Once pudding is set, mix in one 29 ounce can of pumpkin puree. Add 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon all spice and stir together. Refrigerate mixture until ready to assemble trifle.

Evenly layer half of the gingerbread, then 1/2 of the pudding, and then 1/2 of the cool whip (repeat). Garnished with chopped pecans and a heart made of cranberries.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Desserts, oh the choices!

Okay, so I MAY be on a personal sabbatical from the kitchen and my trusty stand mixer, but that doesn't keep me off Pinterest, or stop me from gathering ideas for Thanksgiving desserts. My MIL will be cooking the dinner at her house, and then everyone will walk across the street to our home for dessert. I think it's safe to say that though I can bake, I am NO cook.

 My husband loves to cook, and that man can cook circles around me! This is the same man that ate pizza every night for dinner during his first few years of teaching and bachelor living. He ate off paper plates and drank from solo cups because he didn't want to break out the dishes and turn on the sink. How did he transform into a kitchen mastermind? Well all I can say is that one wonderful aspect of Doodle Bug's constant fussiness during the hours of 5-9 PM each night was that the husband had to learn how to prepare the meals. I was stuck on the couch with a nursling that would only calm down when I fed her. He began with making curries (a staple in our home), and slowly started to branch out to pastas with homemade sauces, stuffed squash, roasted garlic asparagus, etc. I have become one lucky lady... and 16 months later I still love to sit back and watch him create new dishes.

So, today my mission was securing Thanksgiving desserts to please each palate. My husband, SIL, and MIL LOVE dark chocolate, my FIL and myself prefer white chocolate, and of course... PUMPKIN needs to make an appearance!

Narrowed down choices include:
  1. Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle (Gingerbread cake, pumpkin butterscotch pudding, toffee, whipped cream)
  2. Cranberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding (WOW!)
  3.  Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Pumpkin Pie Frosting
I may not want to bake just yet, but MAN-- these sound delicious!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Post Bake Sale Baking Haitus

Last week I spent 6 days in Virginia visiting my family. My Grandmother passed away on Thursday the 25th, and I flew out with Doodle Bug and my dad on Friday the 26th to celebrate her life with my mom's family. While I was in Courtland (a tiny town with the population of about 2,000 at most) I was able to flip through some of my Grandmother's cookbooks. I came home with many different southern recipes and my Great-Grandmother's recipe for caramel icing (I can't wait to try). My Grandfather gave me a rolling pin and one of my Grandmother's 8x8 baking dishes as well. I know that every time I roll out my cookies she will be smiling down at me.

When I returned to work on November 1st, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I had grading, recording, and organizing of papers that would take days to complete. I was overwhelmed before the first bell even rang. All of my anxiety quickly melted away as my 6th graders began to enter the classroom. They smiled, ran over, and hugged me (the real genuine kind). I felt so blessed to have such a wonderful class to come "home" to. They made me card,s and throughout the day different students would randomly place them on my desk. I think they must have known that I needed their love and encouragement to get through my first day back in one piece. This is the kind of class that career teachers will teach for 20 years just waiting for. It's the kind of class that one dreams of having... and I am beyond appreciative of them.

After returning to school on Thursday, I had to rush home and start up a baking storm. I signed up in September to be the co-chair of our MOMS (Ministry of Mothers Sharing) Group Bake Sale. We needed to raise close to $1,000 in one weekend in order to obtain our goal of buying Christmas gifts for multiple children from two local charities. I offered to bake for many different people and was planning to bake all the items over the course of a week. Considering I had spent my baking week in Virginia, I knew I had to kick in full gear in order to complete the task at hand. I stayed up until midnight on Thursday night baking S'mores Bars, Cinnamon Walnut Oat Bars, Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brownie Cookies, Lemon Sugar Cookies, and Cinnamon Walnut Cookies.

On Friday after school I had to rush home to bake it up a little more. I made White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies, and then went to my friend's home (who has the most AMAZING DOUBLE OVEN) to work with other MOMS friends to finish our baking. We made bread, muffins, pies, cookies, mini pies, etc. She also had these little nifty contraptions that made mini pies, cake pops, and muffins!

Over the course of the weekend Masses at church we were able to sell about $800 with of baked goods. We were happy to come so close to our goal and were very impressed with the generosity of our fellow parishioners. We know now that next time we need to bake more pies, bread, and larger cakes-- we were blown away by how many requests there were for these items.

Okay, so enough rambling... here's a recipe that I tried for the first time during my baking frenzy. After this past weekend the whisk, stand mixer, my recipe books are locked in the pantry for at least a week... I need to regain a little sanity and stop the dreams of cupcakes that overflow their wrappers... Darn muffin tops-- We women and bakers hate them for SO many reasons.

Cinnamon Walnut Oat Bars
I got the base of  the recipe off the back of the bag of cinnamon chips with a little One Smart Cookie rendition
  • 1 cup butter softened 
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 dash cinnamon 
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins and craisins mixed
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 package 12 oz Hershey's cinnamon chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease and flour a 9x11 inch pan.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars.
  3. Add eggs one at a time mixing well between each addition. 
  4. Add vanilla and mix until all ingredients are incorporated. 
  5. In a large mixing bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and pp spice.
  6. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixing well between each addition.
  7. Stir in cinnamon chips, walnuts, and raisins/crasins. 
  8. Add oats last.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until inserted tooth pick comes out clean.
These are SUPER yummy! Enjoy :)