Posted by: scootrah | December 25, 2014

Holiday Cheese Appetizer – QUICK & EASY

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with activity this time of year – Christmas and Hannukah celebrations, the friends and family who may be in town for the holidays, kids on winter break back from college, end-of-year doctor appointments before insurance runs out or to meet deductibles….what a list! For those of us who like to cook and entertain, the challenge is to create delicious food that also allows us to take part of the festivities. But I’m here to tell you my friends that it can be done.

That brings me to this delicious goat cheese appetizer with pistachio and cranberries. It’s perfect for last-minute, unexpected company stopping by (because you know that will be happening from now and through New Year’s, right?), or the start of a more planned get-together. This appetizer comes from my work colleague Linny, who brings it in often and it’s always devoured quickly. The colors are beautiful and it looks as delicious as it is to eat. A few simple ingredients and not much prep time – what’s not to love about that?!

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  1. 6 oz log goat cheese
  2. 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  3. 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  4. 2 tablespoons honey
  5. crackers of your choice

Coarsely chop the pistachios….


…then roll the goat cheese in the chopped pistachios…


…place it on the plate or tray you’ll be serving it on, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup of dried cranberries, pushing some of the cranberries into the cheese….


…and finally, drizzle 2 tablespoons of honey over the whole thing…


Let the cheese come to room temperature and serve it with some crispy crackers – you’re done!



So what quick and easy appetizers do YOU have ready for the holiday season? I’d love to hear from you!

Posted by: scootrah | December 8, 2014

For those on the naughty list…

This might not be for everyone, but everyone knows somebody who should get this mug! I’ve already ordered two for co-workers!

santa mug


Santa made it easy to ORDER this mug through Amazon – just click this!

So, tell me in the comments, who will YOU give one to? The best comment will get one for free! Enter as often as you like, and Merry Christmas to naughty and nice alike!





Not that I need a reason to bake or EAT cookies, but if there’s a whole day associated with it, let’s celebrate!

As for a bit of cookie history, they have their origins in 7th century AD Persia, shortly after the use of sugar became common in the region. They spread to Europe through the Muslim conquest of Spain, and by the 14th century, they were common in all levels of society throughout Europe. In most English-speaking countries outside North America, the most common word for this type of treat is biscuit and the term cookie is often used to describe only certain types of biscuits.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Now these cookies I’m going to share are in the classification of drop cookie, which is the most common style we make in the USA. This version is a bit of a family affair as they started life as my brother Todd’s famous chocolate, chocolate chip cookie recipe. A great cook, Todd is constantly experimenting in his kitchen and comes up with some great stuff, but this cookie recipe is his shining star. Family members often request a batch as a birthday or holiday gift, and his co-workers are constantly needling him to bring another plate of cookies to the office. So with such mouth-watering pedigree, I figured it would be easy to make a couple of substitutions and create a cookie with a holiday bite.

I love peppermint bark, so using the chocolate cookie with peppermint seemed like it should work. I replaced some chocolate chips for white chocolate chips, added some peppermint and topped with candy canes for crunch – delicious! The cookie isn’t overly sweet – the cocoa and dark chocolate chips create a rich cookie that will please any chocolate lover, the white chocolate is unexpected and a great complement to the dark chocolate, and the peppermint gives it a bright, holiday finish. My niece Nicole and I have added these to our annual “Holiday Cookie Making Day”, which we’re planning in a couple of weeks.

This is a quick and easy dough, and a great way to use up any leftover candy canes over the coming weeks. Make sure to get a good white chocolate chip – look on the ingredients list for cocoa butter – if it’s not there, the white chocolate is waxy and untasty. I used Guittard vanilla chips, but Trader Joe’s has their own brand which is good and a little cheaper. And make sure to store these in an airtight container once you’re done or the crushed peppermint candy will soften and you’ll lose the crisp crunch.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips – milk and/or dark
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 or 3 candy canes, crushed or 1/3 cup crushed peppermint candies
  1. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda in a bowl and set aside
  2. Cream the butter for at least two minutes. Add the sugars and beat until well combined
  3. Add the eggs and the extract and beat until combined
  4. Scrape down the mixing bowl and add the dry ingredients. Mix at medium speed until dry ingredients are incorporated
  5. Drop by spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes in 375 degree oven until done
  6. When you take the cookies out of the oven, sprinkle them immediately with the crushed candy canes (make sure your hands are dry or the sugar from the candy canes will just stick to your fingers)
  7. Cool on pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 4 dozen

Posted by: scootrah | December 1, 2014

Amazing Pizza Box – serve and store in one

I saw this video and had to share it with you – it’s such a cool idea for a new pizza box – it’s the plates and a container for that last couple of slices all in one.

Wouldn’t it be great if the major pizza chains adopted this so we’d get a little bit more use from all that cardboard before it went into the compost or landfill? I love clever stuff like this!


Posted by: scootrah | November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving leftovers – turkey and dressing waffles?!

How was your holiday? We had a great one – my brothers, nieces and nephew and some family friends for dinner, and I made sure nobody went away hungry. Even though I sent people back home with food for later, there are still plenty of leftovers in the fridge, and I like to put a new spin on them if I can – this year it’s dressing waffles.

No it’s not awful! We’re going to turn them into open-faced hot turkey sandwiches, and they are delicious! The waffle iron gets the dressing nice and crispy, and you’ve got all those pockets for soaking up that tasty gravy. Believe me, you’re going to love it.

While you’re heating your waffle iron, beat one egg in a large bowl…IMG_8402

…now add a couple cups of dressing and mix together well. This might seem like a lot, but since it doesn’t puff up like waffle batter, you need to have enough in there to be smashed down by the top of the grill to make the waffle…IMG_8403

…spray or grease your waffle iron well…IMG_8397 add the dressing to one section and close the lid…


…wait for it to be done – doesn’t that look amazing? And it smells heavenly! Now gently pull your waffle off the iron…


…top with sliced turkey and gravy – YUM!


My niece and I split one of these and it was plenty of food – it’s a lot of dressing, but it’s so good. You could also mix some mashed potatoes in with the dressing, but I found without the egg as a binder, you don’t get a good result.

Enjoy this waffle/sandwich twist, the perfect snack after a day of holiday shopping, right?


Posted by: scootrah | November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving – the final tips!

Here are a few things you can do today and tomorrow to make it so you can actually ENJOY the holiday, cuz that’s what it’s about, right?

– Peel and cut your potatoes for mashed potatoes – place them in cold water (to prevent browning) and refrigerate.

– Peel and chop any vegetables for your side dishes, place in a sealable bag or container and refrigerate.

– Cook vegetables for your stuffing, place in a sealable bag or container and refrigerate.

– Bake your pies, cool and cover with plastic wrap.

– Set the table…really. 

– Refrigerate wines and sparkling ciders that need chilling.

A few day-of-prep hints:

– Write out a schedule for the day and tape it to the fridge. You can cross things out when you’re done, and if you have kitchen volunteers, they can check the list for tasks if you’re too busy to assign something.

– Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature one hour before roasting.

– If parts of your turkey skin are browning too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil.

– Start testing for doneness on your bird 30 minutes before you think it should be done. If the breast is at 165 degrees, pull it out and tent with aluminum foil and let stand 30 minutes. The heat inside the bird will help with carry-over cooking, resulting in a well-roasted, moist turkey. – Once the bird is out of the oven and tented, let it rest 30 minutes to one hour before carving. You’ll need the oven time to finish baking and reheating side dishes, and the resting time will let the juices set. Don’t worry, it will still be warm!

– Keep a small saucepan of chicken or turkey stock at a low simmer on the back of the stove. It will come in handy for the gravy, to moisten stuffing, thin mashed potatoes and moisten glazed carrots or other vegetables.

– If you stuff your turkey, try wrapping it in a large piece of cheesecloth and insert in the bird. This will be an immense help in getting all of the hot stuffing out and letting the bird cool.

– Lump-free gravy: remember that hot roux gets mixed with hot stock and cold roux with cold stock. If you use packaged gravy mix (it’s OK, really!) and stock from the roasted bird, whisk a little cold water into the mix to form a paste, then whisk in the hot stock – you’ll get a better, tastier result with no lumps. And since everyone loves gravy, make twice as much as you think you’ll need and you’ll have plenty for leftovers.

– If your coffee maker has a thermal carafe, turn the brewer on when you sit down to dinner. The coffee will stay plenty hot by pie time, and your guests can help themselves while you slice the pie.

– To prevent runny whipped cream, treat it more like an emulsion. Pour about half of your cream into the mixer and whip for a couple minutes, then slowly add the rest and whip until peaks are formed. And add your sugar and/or flavoring while it’s still liquid! It really doesn’t incorporate very well if you wait until the end of whipping.

I’m grateful for all of you who are following my blog, and hope you have a wonderful day, no matter how you spend it!

Posted by: scootrah | November 25, 2014

Make it Easy on Yourself Thanksgiving – Tip #4

Did you remember to start thawing your turkey? Do it now!

Just put it on a glass plate or in a glass baking dish on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. You don’t want a rock solid frozen bird to deal with Thursday morning, and even if it’s not completely thawed by then, the little bit left it needs will be easy to do in a cold water bath.

Remember you don’t want to leave it on the counter overnight for thawing. Raw poultry is one of the worst culprits for food-borne illness. And a thawed turkey will mean you can get it good and dry for roasting instead of steaming!

Thanksgiving is a week away and I’m SO EXCITED!Basic - Crooksville - %22Thematic by%22 - USA

Here are a couple of things to do today to keep you going on your easy and stress-free holiday:

Do a check of your holiday linens – are your tablecloth, placemats or table runner clean? Do you need to pick up more napkins? What about new pot holders or dish towels for the kitchen if your guests will be helping out? All the departments stores run huge sales on linens now, so you can stock up or replace what you need at a reasonable price. Then this weekend I want you to IRON your tablecloths and napkins (If you hate to iron, take it to the dry cleaners and have them do it, really). It may sound silly to do it now, but TRUST ME – this is something you don’t want to be doing at the last second as guest arrive.

And what are you going to eat it on? After you’ve checked your linens, what about your dishes, glassware and cutlery? You might need to fill in a few pieces so add that to your shopping list. And remember, all this stuff is ON SALE this time of year!

Nothing dull about this – the most gorgeously roasted turkey or ham can end up a mess if you’re trying to carve with a dull knife, so get out your carving knives and get them professionally sharpened! I’m not talking about the little whet stone or electric grinder you use once a year for this…take them some place and have it done well. Make sure to include your paring knife and any others you might need for the big day. We are fortunate to have a local grocery store where I live that sharpens them for free in the meat department, but if you don’t, check online for a sharpening service near you. This is probably the most overlooked thing when getting ready for a big holiday dinner, but it’s so important!

Now that you’ve got a couple more of your preparation chores out of the way why not think about serving cheesy BACON STUFFED MUSHROOMS to your guests? My partner Rolland introduced this to our family years ago, and it’s now on the “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them” list, so here you go…

Bacon Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 12-18 medium/medium large white mushrooms
  • 6-9 slice bacon cut lengthwise (you need one full strip to make 2 mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tblsp bread crumbs
  • 3 Tblsp finely minced onion (more if you like more onion)
  • 1 1/2 Tblsp ranch dressing
  • toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray a broiler pan or wire rack with cooking spray. If using the wire rack, set on top of a cookie sheet.

Wipe off the mushrooms and remove the stems – set stems aside for another use.

Mix the cheese, bread crumbs, onions and ranch dressing together.

Now press some of the mixture into the hollow of the mushroom cap – depending on the size of the caps you have, this will be 1 or 2 tsps…

…place a stuffed mushroom cap toward the end of a bacon slice. You want to have a little bit wrap over the top to the center of the mushroom…


…wrap the bacon around the cap making an “X”…


…end with the tail of the bacon strip on top of the cap – you can stretch the bacon a bit if you need a little more length…


…secure it with a toothpick…


…and place on a broiler pan – now in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is nice and crispy (add a cup of water to the broiler pan before putting in the oven to make the pan easier to clean)…


…let the caps cool for 5 minutes before serving because they’re really hot….now EAT!


Posted by: scootrah | November 18, 2014

Make it Easy on Yourself Thanksgiving – Tip #2

Copeland Plate No. 2You confirmed your guest list, right? Now that you know who’s going to be at the table, you need to shop, so get your menu out and make your grocery list. Grocery stores will be less crowded this week, so stock up on non-perishable food items you’ll need – sugar, flour, butter, canned goods such as pumpkin, evaporated milk, etc. Check your supply of foil, parchment paper, cooking spray, and consider picking up some of those inexpensive disposable containers for guests to take home leftovers with (they’re recyclable!).

You can also pick up your frozen turkey – you should have a better selection of sizes if you get it now rather than waiting until the weekend. And don’t forget candles for the table and buffet – but choose unscented candles – you don’t want a strong candle to overwhelm the delicious smells coming from your kitchen!

Posted by: scootrah | November 17, 2014

Make it Easy on Yourself Thanksgiving – Tip #1

Thanksgiving is not just my favorite holiday, but it’s my favorite meal to cook. We always had big family gatherings Burslem R. Midwinter Ltd.when I was a kid – grandmas, mom and aunts bustling around the kitchen and occasionally pulling my brothers, cousins and me away from a Monopoly or Chinese Checkers marathon to help peel carrots or potatoes, set the table and stir gravy, while grandpa, dad and uncles occupied the kids with outside games, organizing and sorting Christmas decorations to be put up over the long weekend and keeping a toasty fire going in the big stone fireplace. My grandmother always served mountains of food at dinner, and she crowned the whole meal by serving each kid in attendance their own turkey leg.

But hosting and cooking a Thanksgiving meal can strike panic attacks in seasoned and novice cooks alike – first of all it’s not just a meal, but an event. With a large group of family and friends invited to enjoy the feast, there’s added pressure to set the stage for a relaxing and memorable celebration. Secondly, because the meal is pulled out just once a year, a lot of cooks feel a bit rusty with the food, timing and techniques necessary to pull it off. By planning and prepping the entertaining and food now, your culinary star will shine bright at the holiday table.

I’m breaking it down for you and giving you a tip or two each day so you don’t get overwhelmed next week – short assignments help you stay on track!

Do this today:

Who’s at the Table? By now you have probably invited friends and family to dinner and know who’s joining you. If not, DO IT TODAY – people may have to arrange travel, pet sitting, etc., and could have already accepted other invitations. Don’t assume that somebody knows they’re invited or because they’ve always come to your place for the meal that they’re expecting to again. If you have invited folks already, confirm with them TODAY – Although I prefer a phone call for this, a short email or text reminder with a request for their confirmation works too.

What are we eating? Look through your recipes and make sure you have the cooking equipment needed, then start your grocery list now. If you’re trying something new this year, give it a dry run in the next week, especially if you are unfamiliar with the techniques or ingredients used. This is not the meal you want your new holiday all-star to strike out at. I’ll be posting some of our family holiday favorite recipes in the next couple weeks for you to consider, and there are dozens of magazines on store shelves now with great Thanksgiving recipes to try if you’d like to add a new dish to the table.

So as for a side dish – why not bump up your regular glazed carrots with this honey lime version I make? The flavor goes great with turkey or ham, and will definitely satisfy your vegetarian diners. The grated ginger really puts the holiday flavor in it!

Honey Lime Glazed Carrots

  • 1 lb carrots, washed, peeled and oblique cut (or cut into coins if you prefer)
  • 1.5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
  1. In a saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp of butter over medium high heat. Add the carrots and toss to coat with butter.
  2. Add 1/4 cup water, cover tightly, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Simmer until carrots are almost fork tender – probably 10-14 minutes depending on the thickness of your carrots.
  4. Remove the lid and add the honey, lime juice, ginger and remaining .5 Tbsp of butter, stirring or tossing to coat the carrots.
  5. Continue to simmer until the remaining water has evaporated and the carrots are tender and coated with the honey lime glaze.
  6. Season to taste with salt and garnish with chopped parsley if desired and serve.

Quick AND easy! IMG_5371

Depending on your taste preference, you may want it sweeter or more tart, so adjust honey and/or lime accordingly.



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