December 30, 2012

Super Simple and Good Scents....Ringing in the New Year

Tradition! It's what we desire, what we hang on to, what we love! New Year's Day was always full of football games, pork and sauerkraut, freshly mashed potatoes and mother's divine oyster dressing. It's the only day out of the year.....I confess....that I embrace my Yankee heritage! No, we did not have ham, black-eyes peas and greens for the first day of the new year. However, I will be making Black-eyes peas for the love of my was his tradition so it's important to keep all the good luck flowing, right? In case you have yet, to decide on dessert, perhaps this marvelous Bananas Foster Cake will tickle your fancy! Whatever your traditions are, treasure them and share them with your children. These are the best of times!

1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 medium ripe bananas, sliced
1 cup chopped pecan
1 package SuperMoist yellow cake mix
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup dark rum
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350° F. Heat 1/4 cup butter and 1 tablespoon rum in a bundt pan, until butter is melted. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter. Arrange bananas evenly over brown sugar sprinkle evenly with pecans.

Beat cake mix, water, 1/2 cup rum, 1/3 cup butter, the cinnamon and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Pour batter over pecan mixture.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately run knife around side of pan to loosen cake. Turn pan upside down onto heatproof serving plate leave pan over cake 1 minute so topping can drizzle over cake. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm with freshly whipped cream of vanilla ice cream. Store covered in refrigerator.

December 29, 2012

Tuscan Pasta...Perfect for Cold Wintery Days

The Beauty of Winter

Winter days beg for hearty, hot Italian Meals with
Freshly baked Rustic Italian Bread

Tuscan Pasta
1 (20-oz.) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli
1 (16-oz.) jar sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce
2 tablespoons white wine
2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Garnish: fresh basil strips

Prepare pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, pour Alfredo sauce into a medium saucepan. Pour wine into sauce jar; cover tightly, and shake well. Stir wine mixture into saucepan. Stir in chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup chopped basil, and cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Toss with pasta, and top evenly with 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh basil!

December 28, 2012

Beer Cheese Dip....A White Christmas Indeed!

I believe it was magical.....they predicted we would have snow Christmas day and lo and behold....we did! Thunderstorms rolled across the Christmas Eve night sky and about 1:00 on Christmas day, here came the rain and sleet. Some of the family had just arrived. We prepared the Mimosa's and watched the snowfall! It was a snowstorm worthy of Maine! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas day and enjoyed family and friends.

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a cooking break! We need to begin the task of taking down the Christmas decor and prepare for New Year's Eve. This is an easy, I mean easy, delicious dip for toasting in 2013.
Happy New Year to All!

Beer Cheese Dip
2 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix
6 oz. beer

Mix together well and refrigerate til serving. Serve with a toasted and buttery herb baguette or any favorite pretzel or crackers.

December 24, 2012

Christmas Gift Everyone!

"So it was over. We grew up. World War II came and went. The grandparents died. Then the aunts and uncles. The sisters and I married. We all had children. We settled in the homes in the country, the sisters on The Place, almost within shouting distance of each other. Our children were now the cousins. We stayed in our individual homes on Christmas Eve, but we all descended on the Big House on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day in the morning."

"Oh, we were blessed. Let's don't give each other gifts; it's enough just to be together and love one another. Let's remember the true meaning of Christmas.

But....if you are going to get me another dress this year. be sure it has long sleeves!"

"Then they died. Both of them. In the house. At home. Christmas dinner moved to my house. Our families grew. Our children married and had children, each unit began staying at home as it grew, establishing it's own traditions."

"On the way home, I said, "Jimbo, will you do me a favor? Would you sing Silent Night for me?" And he did. In perfect pitch, key, tune, whatever words the people who know use to describe such an absolutely beautiful and perfect moment in music. Joy to the World..the Lord had come...Let earth receive her King.
And Heaven and Nature sing.....

"Oh Christmas gift! Christmas gift everybody!"
excerpt~"Christmas Gift, Ferrol Sams

December 23, 2012

White Chocolate Cake with Toasted Coconut and Pecans...It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas Eve!

A Junior League Classic

8 oz. white chocolate
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup coconut
1 t. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 oz. white chocolate
1 T. light corn syrup
2 T. heavy cream
3 T. toasted coconut

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Grease and flour a tube or bundt pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Melt 8 ounces of the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over simmering water stirring until chocolate has completely melted.

In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time beating until each is incorporated before adding the next. Slowly beat the melted chocolate into the creamed mixture.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together. With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk to the chocolate batter mixture. Stir in the pecans, coconut, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a tester inserted halfway between sides of pan comes out clean. Begin checking the cake at the 1 hour, 10 minute mark. Cooking time will vary depending on your oven.

Remove cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. After about 15 minutes, carefully run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Allow the cake to completely cool in the pan.

After cake has completely cooled, top with glaze, toasted pecans and coconut.

The Glaze

Place the pecans and coconut in a shallow pan and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or until slightly darkened in color. Allow to cool while you make the glaze.
Add the white chocolate, corn syrup, and heavy cream to the top of a double boiler or heat-proof bowl set over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the ingredients are combined.
Drizzle the top of the cake with the white chocolate glaze. Sprinkle with toasted pecans and coconut.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing...........

Strawberry Jam Coffee Cake.....A Breakfast Sensation!

Maine at Christmas....yes it was spectacular! Believe it or not, Texas is predicted to have a "White Christmas!" I doubt if it will be to this extent, but a girl can dream can't she?

Are you in a dilemma about what to serve for Christmas morning or Christmas Eve breakfast? I wanted to share this scrumptious coffee cake with you that will be a crowd pleaser at your breakfast buffet! It is very easy to prepare and! It is sensational!!

Strawberry Jam Coffee Cake
1 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 t. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 (18 ounce) jar of strawberry Preserves
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar

Beat Cream cheese and butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, beating well. Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla then add to the cream cheese mixture. Beat well. Combine the flour and next three ingredients to the cream cheese mixture and blend at low speed. Spoon half the batter into a 13" x 9"x2" baking dish. Combine preserves and lemon juice and spread over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over strawberry mixture. Combine the pecans and brown sugar and sprinkle over the batter. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes.

December 21, 2012

Hot Seafood Dip....Let the Party Begin!

Enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful season

One of "best of the best" old New Orleans Appetizers!

Estelle's Hot Seafood Dip
1 1/4 pounds of unpeeled fresh shrimp
2 T. butter
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
2 T. lemon juice
3 drops of Hot Sauce
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, drained
1 (14 ounce) cans artichoke hearts, finely chopped and drained
1/2 t. salt
fresh parsley
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Peel the shrimp and devein. Cook shrimp in the butter for about two minutes. Set aside. Combine mayo and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add shrimp, crab and artichokes. Sprinkle with the salt. Combine and place into a baking dish. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees F. for 25 minutes until bubbly and melted. Serve with Melba rounds or toasted  baguette slices.

December 20, 2012

The Christmas Punch to the Christmas Story

Through the eyes of a four year old.....Darling Grandson decided to put on a Nativity Play today. He played different roles…at times a shepherd (notice his shepherd’s hook....a candy cane). Emmit, Tiger, and Louie were the three wisemen. Eyeore and Giraffe were Mary and Joseph. And the panda was the baby Jesus. And of course, Santa. Then he decided to be one of the wisemen bringing gifts to the Baby Jesus…a crane, a fire truck and some eye glasses, which he presented in a pumpkin! Oh, the sweetness of it all......

A Perfect Punch

If you grew up like I did, there was a bowl of punch at every social event of any importance...bridal and baby showers, weddings, holiday open houses and social receptions of all kinds. I have served this holiday punch for many, many Christmases in the same punch bowl. I do not add any alcohol to this so the younger ones may enjoy this refreshing and beautiful, festive beverage. It has just always been a favorite of the children, which is why it became one of our traditions. This is an old Southern Living recipe which will always be on the Christmas Eve menu at Estelle's!

Estelle's Christmas Punch
1 6- ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
2 6- ounce cans frozen limeade concentrate
1 6- ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 1 lb. 14- ounce can pineapple juice
1 pint cranberry juice cocktail
4 cups cold water
2 quarts ginger ale, chilled
1 pint club soda, chilled
Fruited Ice Ring, optional

Empty frozen concentrates, pineapple and cranberry juices and water into a large punch bowl. Let stand until frozen juice is thawed; still well. Add the ice cubes. Just before serving, gently pour in ginger ale and club soda. Garnish with a beautiful frozen ice ring, comprised of slices of lemons, limes, oranges, cranberries and mint!

December 19, 2012

King Ranch Chicken Dip..Entertaining for the Holidays

I just love having family and friends over for the holidays. It's good to keep things simple and allow your company to feel relaxed and have the ability to help themselves to the appetizers.

If you need something that will be a hit at your next holiday party, take along this King Ranch Chicken Dip. Most everyone has tried a King Ranch Chicken casserole, but honey, putting all of those cheesy ingredients in a dip and tasting it on a chip.....Wow-za!!! Men adore this dish!

King Ranch Chicken Dip
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
1 (10.75-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper to skillet; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until onion starts to soften. Add cream cheese and soup; reduce heat to low, and stir until cream cheese melts. Remove from heat.
Add chicken, 11/2 cups Cheddar cheese, tomatoes, oregano, cumin, and chili powder to cream cheese mixture, stirring until well combined. Spoon into a 9-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over dip. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with tortilla chips.

December 18, 2012

Weeknight Lasagna and the Decorations Just Keep Coming

Never hold me to it.....I said less is more when decorating the dining room, but then the mood strikes and I cannot contain myself....I get a burst of energy and decide to continue to go through the boxes of comes the deer family!

They have always been one of my favorite decorations and I have not put them out on display for a number of years. Now I ask you, are they not just beautiful? They are probably twenty years old and still just in beautiful condition. They are simply majestic and I thought what a beautiful addition they would make to the centerpiece in the formal dining room...wonderful memories of when the children were younger.

I keep asking myself how I did all the holiday decorating and cooking before retirement? Seems impossible now since I just have the luxury of doing it in small increments, but hopefully the end result will be something everyone will delight in.

So far we have Grandmother Grace's lace tablecloth, Grandmother Estelle's Christmas figurines, my Twelve Days of Christmas Valarie Par Hill china, my parent's wedding silverware and the Grandeur Noel family's coming together.....evolving slowly but surely.

The Waterford crystal goblets, along with the
red and green water stemmed glasses will be used this year!
The napkins are called
"Bountiful" from Mary-Lake Thompson.

Mae Mo is napping in a sunbeam which is the only reason she is not pictured on the dining table!  Now is the perfect time for an easy weeknight skillet lasagna! Ssshhhhh...kitty sleeping!

Skillet Lasagna
3 (14.5 oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
 salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
3/4 t. dried Italian seasoning
1 lb ground sirloin
10 (curly-edged) lasagna noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup ricotta cheese 
3 T. chopped fresh basil

Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until coarsely ground and no large pieces remain, about 12 pulses.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef to the skillet. Cook, stirring often and using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, about 3 to 5 minutes, or until it's no longer pink.

Scatter the pasta in the skillet, then pour the tomatoes over the top. Stir, increase the heat to medium-high, and cover. Cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the pasta is tender, 20 minutes (if you don't stir it, the pasta will clump together and stick to the bottom and sides of the skillet).

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

Remove the skillet from heat, and stir in half the mozzarella and Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the ricotta. Dot the remaining ricotta over the noodles in tablespoons, then sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Transfer to the oven and broil until the cheese melts and is starting to brown. Remove from oven, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

December 17, 2012

"God has called them all home. For those of us who remain,
let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory."
~ President Barack Obama

"I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depth of your sorrow,
 nor can they heal your wounded hearts," our President said at an
evening vigil in the grieving community of Newtown, Conn.
"I can only hope that it helps for you to know that you are not alone in your grief."

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict....Christmas Brunch is Served

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the
delusions of our childish days;
that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth;
that can transport the sailor and the traveller,
thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836

Holiday Brunch for Two Turtle Doves
Men love Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon
Slices of Rustic Country Style Bakery Bread
Softened Butter
6 eggs
6 slices of Smoked Salmon

Butter and toast thick slices of rustic french bread or you may also used english muffins. I love this so much more over the rustic country bread. Poach the eggs while your bread is toasting. Layer smoked salmon pieces over the toasted bread slices, top with a poached egg, salt and pepper to taste, then ladle over the warm hollandaise sauce. This is a elegant holiday brunch for two, when a large breakfast casserole would just be a tad much. Serve with Mimosa's and light the candles!

Estelle's Blender Hollandaise
3 egg yolks
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
3 drops of Tabasco Sauce
1/2 cup melted butter

In the blender, mix all ingredients together at low speed, except butter. Slowly pour in the butter while blending on low speed. Continue to blend until well combined. Add 1 tablespoon hot tap water before serving.   Refrigerate left over sauce.

December 16, 2012

Bringing Home the Holiday Spirit

Weary, but content, Christmas Day will wind to a close. We can at last simply sit and enjoy the sheer pleasure of just being together as a family. The children will plead for another moment or so to play with their new toys in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, then upstairs they will go for bedtime stories, prayers and a few last whispers about a very special day that will stay always in our hearts.

Throughout the festivities, as we feast and exchange gifts, we try never to lose sight of the true meaning of the holiday, the original gift, Christ the Lord. May we all remember to turn our full attention to the pleasure of sharing our holiday within the loving circle of family.

December 14, 2012

The Most Decadent Finale to Christmas Dinner and Finishing Touches

One of my dear Atlanta friends finds herself trying to decorate for the Christmas holidays and at the same time, is caring for an aging parent. I believe many of us have faced this difficult time in our lives and it is sometimes impossible to feel the joy and the happiness the season is supposed to bring. So, I thought we could use a bit of inspiration on how beautiful finishing touches can's all that glitters! Shiny surfaces to reflect the lights of the tree, garlands of gold, silver ribbons and the fragrant aroma of evergreens gracing the mantle. It's sometimes amazing how listening to some old favorite Christmas tunes will put you in the "Spirit of Christmas" before you know it. Today, I played some vintage Frank Sinatra holiday songs and envisioned my parents dancing and swaying in the living room....happy were my thoughts!

I love serving pound cakes! I wanted a show stopper dessert for our Christmas dinner and this is it! I have made both before and they are just scrumptious! So....I am going to marry the two together, serve them on heirloom crystal and take a bow! God Bless Us Everyone!

1 1/4 pounds good white chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 pounds frozen mixed berries or frozen raspberries

Combine the chocolate, heavy cream, and the vanilla in a heat-proof bowl and set it over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate melts.
About 5 minutes before serving, remove the berries from the freezer and place them on individual serving plates. Ladle the warm chocolate sauce over the berries and serve.

3 cups sugar
1/2 lb butter, softened
7 eggs, room temperature
3 cups cake flour, sifted twice
1 cup whipping cream ( heavy cream)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Butter and flour a 10 inch tube or bundt pan. Thoroughly cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in half the flour, then the whipping cream, then the other half of the flour. Add Vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Set in COLD oven and turn heat to 350ºF. Bake 1 hour to 70 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted in cake turns out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool thoroughly.