Fruity Avocado & Chicken Couscous Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette


Hello all–  How is your summer rolling along??  We’re trying to keep cool and our ice cream consumption is definitely on the rise!  And if we can manage dinner without turning on the oven, all the better.

So here’s a cool, fresh, filling salad that’s just right for a hot summer evening. Add something cold to drink and a bit of crusty bread.  Perfect. I think you’d like it.

FRUITY AVOCADO & CHICKEN COUSCOUS SALAD WITH HONEY MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

Salad:
1 cup couscous
14 oz. can chicken broth
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 avocado, peeled & cut to chunks
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup green onion, chopped

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey
1 tsp. seedy mustard
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring the chicken broth to a boil on the stovetop.  Pour in the cup of couscous. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Scoop the couscous into an ample bowl and let it cool to room temperature.  Drop all the salad ingredients into the bowl and stir them up.

To make the dressing, put all the dressing ingredients into a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake the container until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.  Mix it into the salad and refrigerate it until you are ready to eat.  Enjoy!

 

Cranberry Eggnog Cheesecake

Hello all — It makes my heart happy when I wheel my cart down the market aisle and see the cranberries are back in town!!  Cranberry bread (my favorite!!), cranberry relish, cranberry coffee cake– and this cranberry eggnog cheesecake. Made this to celebrate Grandma Honey’s 88th birthday!!

It’s really best to make this the day before the party– that’s helpful when you have a lot to do!!  It needs to set up nice and firm in the fridge. Add the topping just before you serve it up.   I think you’ll love this rich, creamy, flavorful cake.  We have one slice left in the fridge and it’s calling my name!

CRANBERRY EGGNOG CHEESECAKE

Crust:
8 chocolate graham crackers, crushed to a small crumbs
1/2 cup butter melted (1 stick)
1/4 cup sugar

Cheesecake Filling:
4  8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, room temperature!!
1 cup sugar
3 tab. flour
5 eggs
1 cup eggnog
1 tab. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Sour Cream Topping:
1  1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup eggnog
1/4 cup sugar

Cranberry Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tab. cornstarch
1/3 cup water
2 cups cranberries

To make the crust, put the graham crackers in a plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin until they are crushed fine.  In a small mixing bowl, combine them with the melted butter and 1/4 cup sugar.  Press them into a 10″ springform pan.  Put the pan in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes only.

To make the cheese cake layer, beat the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and flour with an electric mixer for 3 or 4 minutes until it’s smooth and creamy.  Then beat in the eggs, eggnog, vanilla and cinnamon.

Spoon the cream cheese mixture over the crust and put it into a 325 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes.  (to avoid cracking as the cheesecake cools, put a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack under the cheesecake to keep the oven moist).

While that is baking stir together the sour cream layer– the sour cream, 1/2 cup eggnog and 1/4 cup sugar.  Set into the fridge until the cheese cake is baked.

When the cheese cake comes out of the oven the sides should be firm, but the center will be slightly wobbly.  Carefully spoon the sour cream topping onto the cheesecake and return it to the oven for 15 minutes more.

When the baking time is done, turn off the heat, open the door just a crack and let the cheese cake sit in the oven for 60 minutes.  Then take it out and run a sharp knife around the edge to separate the cheesecake from the pan.  Let it continue to cool another hour out on a rack and then store it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it–cover the top with foil, but be careful to tent up the foil so it doesn’t touch the top of the cake!

To make the cranberry filling, mix the 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in a sauce pan until there are no lumps of cornstarch.  Then add in the cranberries and water.  Turn the heat to medium high and stir the mixture until the cranberries pop!!  (takes about 3 or 4 minutes after it starts to simmer).  Set this aside and let it cool completely before you spoon it on to the cheesecake.  So pretty!

Apple Cranberry Slab Pie

Hello there–  This is one of those recipes where the effort to result ratio is happily very low.  Aside from peeling and chunking apples, you could do it in a few minutes!

Took the idea from the new Magnolia magazine. You know.  Joanna Gaines from “Fixer Upper” fame?!  That show is on regular rotation at our house.

Also, it is such a homey pretty dessert– and sitting warm on a plate with a scoop of ice cream is darn irresistible– i.e.  I served it to friends on Wednesday night and leftovers for breakfast Thursday morning.  I think you might really like it!

APPLE CRANBERRY SLAB PIE
2 large apples
1/3 cup dried cranberries (snipped to bits)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tab. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 sheet puff pastry (half of a 17 oz. box)
milk or half & half for brushing
coarse sugar for sprinkling*
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
dash salt
2 or 3 tsp. milk

Peel and core the apples.  Cut them into thin slices.  Chop the cranberries to bits.  Then in a bowl mix together the apples, cranberries, sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Set aside.

On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry with a rolling pin– to a 10″ x 15″ rectangle.  Cut it in half.  Put one of the halves on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray– or use a piece of parchment paper under the pastry.

Stack the apple mixture on the half of the pastry on the baking sheet, leaving about an inch uncovered around the edges.  Place the remaining half of the pastry on top and crimp the edges with a fork.  Brush the top with milk and sprinkle it with coarse sugar.

Pop the slab pie into a 375 degree over for 35 to 40 minutes, until it has browned nicely and the filling is bubbly.  (If it starts to overbrown before the time is up, cover the pie loosely with foil the last few minutes.)

For serving, mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla and salt.  Add 2 tsp. of milk and stir.  If it seems too thick to drizzle over the pie, stir in another teaspoon of milk and drizzle away!  Very best eaten hot from the oven!

Chocolate Cranberry Poke Cake

 

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Merry Christmas! — If you’ve read this blog much, you must think all we do around here is sit and eat cake!  It’s kind of true.  Especially at Christmas–so many excuses to pull a good cake out of the oven.

This one is chocolatey and cranberry tart and creamy– all around delicious.  And just about the right way to end a Christmas meal.*

CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY POKE CAKE

Cake Layer:
1 dark chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
water
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Toppings:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tab. cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 heaping cups of cranberries
3 to 4 tab. chocolate ice cream syrup
1 pint whipping cream
2 tsp. powdered sugar
2 tsp. instant vanilla pudding mix**
leaves for garnish

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Make the cake according to the directions on the package (mine used 3 eggs, 1/3 cup canola oil & water).  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Then spoon the batter into two 8″ or 9″ cake pans and bake according the directions.

While the cakes are baking, make the cranberry sauce.  In a saucepan stir together the sugar and cornstarch until there are no cornstarch lumps.  Then mix in the 1/2 cup water and cranberries.  Cook the mixture over medium high heat until it simmers for 2 to 3 minutes while all the cranberries “pop” and the liquid turns a deep red.

With a slotted spoon, lift the cranberries to a heat proof bowl to cool.  Leave the sauce in the pan.

When the cakes and and sauce are cooled, poke holes all over the cakes with the handle end of a wooden spoon. Then drizzle the chocolate sauce into the holes. Next drizzle the cranberry sauce (not the cooked cranberries, just the sauce) into the holes.

Beat the whipping cream with an electric mixer, adding in the powdered sugar and the instant pudding mix.

Heap the whipped cream onto the cake and top with the cooked cranberries and garnish with a few (non poisonous!) leaves from your yard (these are rose geranium leaves).  So pretty!

**The pudding mix stabilizes the cream so it stays whipped even after a couple hours out on the table.

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*I made this recipe into two smaller cakes (8″ cake pans) because sometimes just a small liver of cake is a good way to cap off a meal.

*The cake mix makes two layers of cake.  I did two individual one layer cakes, because sometimes a small little piece of cake is just enough after a big meal.
**The pudding mix stabilizes the cream, so it will hold up out of the fridge for hours.

Family Cranberry Sauce

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Hi all– I don’t know about you, but for me a plate of turkey dinner isn’t complete without cranberries.  I grew up on the kind of sauce that pops out of a can, but when I met Larry, his dad was the master cranberry sauce maker in the family and this is his recipe.

It’s so simple– just 4 ingredients and a food processor and your set.  Over the years with friends, I’ve had fancier cranberry sauces– spiced with ginger or mixed with figs or slightly alcoholic.  But for me this fresh simple sauce is just the best!

FAMILY CRANBERRY SAUCE
12 oz. bag cranberries
2 oranges, include the peel
2 apples, include the skin, remove stem and seeds
1  1/2 cup sugar

With a food processor coarsely grind up the cranberries, then the oranges, then the apples. Mix them all together in a large bowl with the sugar and let the flavors meld in the fridge until you’re ready to eat!

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Here’s Grandpa Stu, the original cranberry sauce maker, along with Grandma Honey and one of their grand grand-kids, a future cranberry sauce maker

Christmas Seven Layer Bars

 

IMG_1776Hello all–  These are my problem cookies!  First of all, they just don’t make a pretty photo so you have no idea how yummy they really are.  And secondly, I have a pan-full in my fridge and just about every single time (which is often) I walk into my kitchen, I stop and eat just one!  If I weigh 15 pounds more by New Years it’s the fault of these cookies (or could the fault be my lack of self control??)

So these are really just those 7 layer magic bars you’ve seen a thousand times, but in a Christmas-y disguise.  They’re not exactly fine baking– but if you like white chocolate (and I do), they are pretty scrumptious.  Love the cranberry and the orange peel is the perfect foil to all that sweetness.  Merry Christmas!

CHRISTMAS SEVEN LAYER BARS
1  1/2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs (1 pack–9 crackers)
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups white chocolate chips (12 oz. bag)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
2 tab. grated orange peel (about 1 orange)
1 cup pecans, chopped
14 oz. can condensed milk

Stir together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter.  Press the mixture into a 9″x13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Then layer on the white chocolate chips, coconut, cranberries, pecans and orange peel.  Drizzle the condensed milk evenly over the whole baking dish. Smoosh it down with the back of a spoon.

Pop it into the oven at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, just until the edges start to brown (keep an eye on it!)  Let it all cool before you cut nice neat little squares.

P.S. Store the leftovers in a storage container in a single layer in the fridge.

Simple Cranberry Cake

IMG_1558Hi all– Seems like every week at the market I pass by piles of bags of cranberries and cannot resist picking up a bag or two.  It’s that time of year.

Tonight the college kids are coming in and, of course, we need cake.  So cranberries in hand, I googled cranberry cake and here’s what I found.  It’s perfect– the recipe needs all the things you probably already have in your kitchen –and happily, one bag of cranberries.

If you have cranberries sitting in your fridge, you should give it a try!

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SIMPLE CRANBERRY CAKE
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 stick), softened and cut into small chunks
1 tab. vanilla
1/4 cup whole milk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups cranberries (12 oz. bag)
garnish(optional)– whipped cream*, a handful more cranberries, a couple spoons of sugar, mint leaf
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With an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar on high for 3 minutes until it expands and bit and is a creamy yellow color.  Then beat in the butter, vanilla and milk.  Finally, beat in the flour and salt.

Fold the cranberries into the stiff batter and spoon it into a 9″x13″ baking dish (or a 10″ springform pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake it at 375 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes until it’s golden on top and cooked through.

So homey served warm from the oven with mugs of tea–

Or let it cool.  Then shake together the extra spoons of sugar with the cranberries in a zip loc bag until all the cranberries are coated with sugar.  Layer the whipped cream,* cranberries and a sprig of mint on top the cake to add the pretty part!

*When you whip the cream, if you stir in 1 tsp. powdered sugar and 1 tsp. instant vanilla pudding mix to 1 cup whipping cream, it will stay stable all day and not melt all over your cake.

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Cranberry Chocolate Cheesecake

IMG_3328Hello–  Just 3 days ’til Christmas– that means only 3 cranberry days left!  Come January, there will be no more luscious cranberry desserts– It will be all healthy salads and back to exercising.  But until then, I’m digging in– cranberry chocolate cheesecake– and all those Christmas cookies tucked away in the kitchen.

CRANBERRY CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE

Crust:
1/3 cup melted buter
2 tab. sugar
1  1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Filling:
3   8 oz. blocks of cream cheese
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1  1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Sour Cream layer:
1  1/2 cup sour cream
2 tab. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Cranberry Topping:
1 cup cup sugar
2 tab. cornstarch
3 cups cranberries
1/2 cup water

IMG_3339Mix the melted butter, 2 tab. sugar and the graham cracker crumbs and press them into the bottom of a 9″ or 10″ springform pan.

With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar and eggs.  Then blend in the sour cream and cocoa. Spoon it in on top of the graham cracker crust.

Put it all into the the oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

While that’s baking, mix together the sour cream layer– 1  1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tab. sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

After 50 minutes, take the cheese cake from the oven and gently spoon the sour cream mixture over the top and smooth it to cover the cheesecake.  Put it back in the oven for 15 minutes more.  The cheesecake will still be a little “jiggly” when you take it out of the oven.

For the cranberry topping, stir the sugar and cornstarch in the bottom of a heavy pan– until the cornstarch lumps all mix in.  Then add in the cranberries and water.  Put them over medium heat and stir until the cranberries all “pop!” — about 4 or 5 minutes.  Let them cool before you spoon the cranberries and sauce over the cheesecake.

Pop it in the fridge until your ready to serve it up.  Merry Christmas!!

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Squash & Kale Salad

IMG_2778Hi there– It’s been nothing but gray skies and rain around here the last couple days–  but in dry, dry Southern California, we’re thrilled to see all that wet stuff coming out of the sky!  And to combat all that gray gloom, here’s a bright spritely salad.  Love all the colors and textures and tastes– the roasted squash, sweet berries, salty feta, crunchy seeds.  It really is a mouthful.

SQUASH & KALE SALAD
3 or 4 kale leaves, chopped fine
10 oz. (about 2 cups) butternut squash, peeled & cut in small cubes
3 tab. olive oil
garlic salt
dried basil
1/4 cup dried cranberries, minced
1/4 cup herbed feta, crumbled
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. cider vinegar
1 tsp. seedy mustard
1 tsp. apricot jam
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

In a bowl mix the squash with the 3 tab. olive oil, a few shakes of garlic salt and a pinch of dried basil.  When the squash is well coated, spoon it on to a baking sheet and scape all the extra olive oil from the bowl over the squash.  Bake it at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until the squash begins to brown around the edges.  Let is cool.

Then layer the chopped kale, roasted squash, cranberries, feta and pumpkin seeds onto a pretty plate.

In a container with a tight lid, shake together the 1/4 cup olive oil, vinegar, mustard, jam and salt & pepper– until it is thoroughly blended.

Pour the dressing over the salad and serve it up– Makes two or three big servings.

Cranberry Cream Cake

IMG_2813Hi friends– It’s that time of year when I can’t go to the market without dropping a bag of cranberries in my cart.  I think it’s because I know, soon, they won’t be around so I have to grab them while I can.  They always go into my absolute favorite orange cranberry bread first.  But there’s a whole lot of delicious ways you can use these little guys, including this yummy cake!

I have to say that his cake is just begging for a party– or a good Thanksgiving dinner!!  It’s bright and creamy, sweet with a little tartness in the cranberries.  Pretty and Pink!

CRANBERRY CREAM CAKE

Cake:
1/2 cup cranberries
3 tab. sugar
1 white cake mix
3 eggs
oil
water

Cream layer:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tab. cornstarch
1  1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 oz. box of instant vanilla pudding mix

IMG_2825For the cake layer,  mince the 1/2 cup cranberries to little bits– this is the hardest part! They keep rolling off the cutting board!  Then mix them in a small bowl with the 3 tab. of white sugar and set them aside.

Make the cake mix according to the instructions on the box.  Beat the batter for 2 minutes with an electric mixer and then fold in the cut up cranberries into the batter and spoon it into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or two round 9″ cake pan* that have been sprayed with cooking spray.

While the cake is cooking, make the cranberry “sauce.”  In a stovetop pan, mix together the 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch, until the cornstarch is all blended in.  Then drop in the 1 1/2 cup cranberries and 1/2 cup water.  Simmer them over medium heat, stirring as you go until it’s bubbly and the cranberry skins all pop.  Takes about 4 or 5 minutes.

Set that aside to cool.  (I usually spoon it into a heat proof bowl and stick it in the fridge to cook quickly).

When the cake and the cranberry sauce are cooled– Use an electric mixer the whip the cream and the 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  When it’s very stiff, stir in the box of pudding mix.  Then swirl the cranberry sauce into the cream, folding it in gently to leave streaks.

Top the cake with the cranberry laced cream and pop it into the fridge until you’re ready to serve it up.

*I use spring form pans because they are deeper to hold all that cream as you spread it on and you can removed the cake from the pan more easily to serve it…

Cranberry Apricot Pecan Bark

IMG_8292Hi all– Here’s a pretty last minute Christmas treat.  You melt the white chocolate and throw on the fruit and nuts!  Sound easy?  It should be, but last night I melted my favorite trusty rusty old mixing bowl overheating the chocolate (so sad) and when I ran out into the night to get more white chocolate my grocer was all out!  Ugh. But I persevered and it was worth it– think you’ll love this yummy bark!

CRANBERRY APRICOT PECAN BARK
16 oz. good white chocolate (2 2/3 cups chopped)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut to bits

IMG_8289Pull out a piece of parchment paper and draw a 8″x10″ rectangle with a pencil.  Flip the paper over onto a cookie sheet so that you can still see the lines but they won’t touch the chocolate.

Put 12 oz. (2 cups) of the chocolate into a glass bowl.  Microwave it 30 seconds and stir.  Do that twice more and the chocolate should be melted and smooth. Then stir in the other 2/3 cup of chocolate immediately until it is melted.  Quickly spread the melted white chocolate on the parchment and spread to cover the area of the rectangle.  Then sprinkle on the cranberries, apricots and pecans and press them down into the warm chocolate.  (It’s important to work quickly, so that the chocolate doesn’t cool and get hard before the toppings stick in).  Let is all sit a couple hours to harden completely and and then cut into polite little bits to pass around to everyone.    Pretty and so delicious!

Cranberry Orange Pecan Coffee Cake

IMG_8182Hi everyone– Found these friendly little paper baking pans at a Daisy store in San Francisco and I couldn’t resist filling them up with coffee cake to take to my teacher buddies at school.  Tried this cranberry version of my old trusty rusty blueberry coffee cake recipe and it turned out just fine.

CRANBERRY ORANGE PECAN COFFEE CAKE
1  cups cranberries, chopped to bits
1 orange rind, grated
5 tab. canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp.vanilla
1 tsp. amaretto
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
powdered sugar

IMG_8189Chop the cranberries to smaller bits and grate the rind off one orange.  Then mix together the oil, sugar, eggs and buttermilk.  Stir in the baking powder, salt, vanilla, amaretto and flour.  Then fold in the cranberries, orange rind and pecans.  Bake it all up in a 10″ square (or round) baking dish at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until pretty and brown on top.  When it cools a bit, sprinkle on powdered sugar through a sieve.

That’s it.  Pretty easy and delicious, just the thing to pop in the oven for Christmas house guests to serve along with a pot of hot coffee.

Coconut Cranberry Cake

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Hello friend– Last night was our school staff Christmas party. Unlike the teachers’ lunchroom at school, there were glasses of wine all around and we even managed to not talk over funny student stories and math scores.  I as planning to bring along my favorite Cranberry Christmas Cake, but then I got requests for good old coconut cake.  So I put the two together and this is what resulted–

COCONUT CRANBERRY CAKE
cake:
1 white cake mix
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups coconut

filling:
1 cup sugar
2 tab. cornstarch
2 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/3 cup water

frosting:
1 stick butter (1/4 pound)
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pound box powdered sugar
a few handfuls more of coconut

First make the filling, so it can be cooling to room temperature while the cake bakes. Stir together the sugar and cornstarch til blended. Then add in the cranberries and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly for about 5 minutes. Until the cranberries pop open and the sauce thickens.

Then bake the cake in 2 sound cake pans according to the box instructions, adding in the 1 1/2 cups coconut just before you scoop the batter into the cake pans sprayed with cooking spray. Bake and cool. Slice the two layers horizontally to have 4 flat layers.

For the frosting, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar until completely blended.

THEN– put it all together. Put the first cake layer on the cake plate and top with 1/3 of the filling. Repeat with the second and third layers, being careful that the filling doesn’t dribble down the sides of cake. Then put on the 4th top layer and frost it all up with the cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle it all, sides and top, with coconut and it looks like a big snowball! –a pretty Christmas cake.

Apricot, Cranberry Cornbread Muffins

Hi all– I was happy to run across stacks and stacks of those 1 pound bags of cranberries at the market last week.  I’ve been waiting for those things.   So it lovely to stir them into some breakfast muffins when Ani came home for the weekend.  Just add butter and honey as they come out of the oven– fruity and a bit crunchy around the edges.  Delish.

APRICOT, CRANBERRY CORN MUFFINS
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 tab. canola oil
1 cup milk
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped fine
1/3 cup fresh cranberries chopped fine

Stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Then mix in the egg, oil and milk.  Finish up, mixing in the apricots and cranberries.  Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins lined with cupcake liners.  Sprinkle with just a light sanding of sugar over the muffins and then pop them in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until just a little brown around the edges.