FAIRYTALE FEASTS

BECAUSE ONCE UPON A TIME, I HAD THE MOST AMAZING [INSERT FOOD HERE] …

December 23, 2010

Fairytale Holiday Magic 5 Layer Bars and Red Velvet Trifle


Fairytale 5 Layer Magic Bars
(Yields 30 bars.)

This recipe is adopted from the queen of Southern cuisine herself, Paula Deen. I like to make my magic bars jumbo size, because they look cuter and more festive for a special occasion! I used to make these bars when I was in law school and bring them to the library for a study break treat. Hope you enjoy! :-) 

Ingredients:
2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 cup of butter, melted
 3/4 bag of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 bag of Nestle butterscotch chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 bag of coconut 
1 can of sweetened condensed milk.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press into bottom of a 9X13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle chocolate chips, butterscotch morsels, pecans. Sprinkle coconut on top. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the layers. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and cut into bars.





Fairytale Red Velvet Trifle
 (Serves 8)

This recipe is adopted from Aida Mollencamp recipe. It's really simple because you are using a boxed cake, and it looks very pretty and festive on the table! 

Igredients:
1 box of red velvet cake mix
2 cartons of heavy cream
1 container of cool whip
1/2 cup of coconut flakes, toasted
1 cup of confectioner's (powdered) sugar
Vanilla extract
Coconut extract

Directions:
Prepare the cake according to the instructions on the box and bake in a 9X13 inch pan.  Set aside and let cool completely.



Beat the heavy cream and sugar until it is light and fluffy and forms small peaks. Whip in a container of cool whip. Add a dash of coconut and vanilla extract.




Cut into small 1 inch cubes. Arrange 1/3 of the cups on the bottom of a glass trifle dish. Spread 1/3 of the cool whip mixture over the cubes. Repeat twice. Top with a layer of toasted coconut flakes and red and green sprinkles.




Enjoy! :-) 

December 22, 2010

Fairytale Christmas Cookies



"Think about what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for nap." ~ Robert Fulgham

It's holiday cookie time. This tradition is deeply rooted in history as it originated in the Medieval period, when cooks baked sweet foods to mark special occasions. When ingredients and spices like dried fruits, black pepper, cinnamon and ginger were introduced in the Middle Ages, these items became incorporated into the baked goods and thus, the Christmas cookie was born. Many of the recipes and ingredients that comprised the holiday traditions during those times have remained unchanged today.

The traditional Christmas cookie "swap" that many people participate in originated in the 1960s when it was suggested in a Betty Crocker cookbook that women hold a cookie exchange party.


"A Party Idea: A popular once-a-year party is the Christmas cooky swap party. Friends and neighbors gather, each bringing one dozen of her holiday specialty for each woman at the party. Cookies are set out to sample and admire and coffee is served. Afterward each one takes home a wonderful variety of festive cookies."
---Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, facsimile reprint of 1963 edition [Hungry Minds:New York] 2002 (p. 37)

Personally, I have never participated in a cookie swap and find making cookies a daunting and dreadful task. There are so many things that could go wrong, and they usually do if I am the one that is baking. You have to be mindful of so many details when baking and take great care when deviating from any ingredient or measurement. This year I made it a goal to make some of my favorite cookies to prove to myself that I was capable of baking.


Here are some recipes that I have tried and perfected. They're pretty easy and drama free. The first recipe is for my mom's chocolate chip cookies. Since I was a little girl, this has been my family's favorite and traditional Christmas cookie. My mom, who also lacks a love of baking, makes these cookies every year and we devour them. When I asked her for the secret recipe, she replied, "Oh, I just follow the recipe on the back of the bag of Nestle Semisweet Morsels."  She left out one important detail: USE CRISCO INSTEAD OF REAL BUTTER FOR THESE CHOCOLATE CHIPS.  If you don't have crisco or shortening, my aunt's advice for perfect chocolate chips is to follow the Nestle's recipe but add an additional 1/4 cup of flour and chill the batter for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking in the oven. Otherwise, you will end up with chocolate chips that look like this:


when you really want chocolate chips that look like this:


My Mother's Fairytale Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Yields 36) 

This recipe is adopted from the original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of Crisco shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)
1 cup chopped nuts

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.


BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.



Fairytale Raspberry Pecan Thumbprints
(Yields around 24)

This recipe is a slightly altered version of Martha Stewart's Iced Thumbprint Cookies, which can be found here on her website.  These thumbprints are buttery, nutty and extremely rich. I love them for that!

 Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 jar of seedless raspberry jam

Directions:
  1. Put butter and granulated sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and gradually mix in flour, salt, and pecans. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 325. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls, and space 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Press thumb into center of each cookie. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven; press centers with the end of a wooden spoon. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets.
  3. Fill the cookies with the raspberry jam as you serve them. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. 






Fairytale Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

This unique recipe for spiced chocolate cookies is from Everyday Food. It's different and delicious with the addition of chili powder. It can be found on Martha Stewart's website

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chile powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down side of bowl. Add eggs and beat to combine. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and chile powder (if using). Using heaping tablespoons, form balls of dough and roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place, about 3 inches apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set in center and begin to crack, about 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely. (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 week.).
Fairytale Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
 (Yields a little over 24 cookies.)

This is a fool proof Betty Crocker website that comes straight from their Sugar Cookie mix. Mint chocolate chip is my favorite flavor of ice cream and is on its way to becoming one of my favorite cookies! This is also a great recipe for St. Patrick's Day. (March really isn't that far away. Save this!)  

Ingredients:
1 pouch of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract
6 to 8 drops of greed food color
1 egg
1 cup creme de menthe baking chips (Look for Andes, available at Walmart).
1 cup of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, extract, food color and egg until soft dough forms. Stir in creme de menthe baking chips and chocolate chunks.
  2. Using small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 3 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Low Sugar Kisses. Mine are a little disfigured, but taste great! 

Fairytale Orange Dark Chocolate Kisses
 (Low Sugar Recipe)
 (Yields 36 cookies)


This is a low sugar recipe, adopted from Better Homes and Gardens, that great for diabetics or people who are just trying to be a little bit healthier this holiday season. I didn't make my cookies big enough for the chocolate chips - so make sure you don't follow my lead! But they taste great.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup tub-style vegetable oil spread
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar or sugar substitute blend* equivalent to 2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8  teaspoon salt
1  egg white
2  cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2  teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
40 dark chocolate kisses 

Directions

1. In a large bowl, combine vegetable oil spread and butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until very light and fluffy, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in egg white. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour and the orange peel. If necessary, cover and chill about 30 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 7 to 9 minutes or just until edges are set and bottoms are very lightly browned.
3. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool. Makes about 40 cookies.



Christmas Cookie goodie bag! A nice party favor for your holiday guests. If you are making thumbprints, be sure to wrap them separately in saran wrap first. 
Santa, we're ready for you! 
Enjoy!

December 21, 2010

Fairytale Pomegranate Feasts



“Let us go early to the vineyards to see… if the pomegranates are in bloom – there I will give you my love.” Song of Solomon 7:12


'Tis the season for one of the world's oldest and mythical fruits, the pomegranate.  Dubbed "nature's most labor intensive fruit" by Barron's Food Lover's Dictionary, pomegranates are the perfect seasonal fruit to zest up your holiday dishes. Pomegranates are large, heavy fruits with a thin, leathery skin.  The tiny red seeds that grown within a white membrane are edible.  These seeds, called arils, are en-coated in a red juicy pulp and are rich in potassium and vitamin C.  You can sometimes buy these arils separately, as prying them from the skin of the pomegranate can prove to be a messy and dangerous task.  Pomegranate juice stains easily, so beware!  Why go through the trouble of cutting and seeding these beautiful fruits?  Asides from the juicy flavor and delicious taste, pomegranates allegedly have more antioxidant power than other beverages, including red wine, blueberry juice, green tea and cranberry juice.

The pomegranate is rich in history and is believed to be one of the world's first cultivated fruits.  It has been a symbol of good health for centuries all over the globe, and because of this, pomegranates were often depicted in artwork and used as decorations.  The fruit originated in the Middle East over 4,000 years ago. Pomegranates were found in Iran and the Himalayas in Northern India, and then culitvated throughout the Europe, Asia, Africa and China.  In 957 B.C., the pomegranate decorated King Solomon's temple and the robes of  the Torah. The pomegranate also adorned Jewish coins, jewelry and furniture.

  In 1600 B.C., the pomegranate was abundant in Egyptian culture.  The Egyptians used the juice of the pomegranate to fight intestinal worms and used the pomegranate skin to dye leather.  Pomegranates were commonly found on Egyptian wall paintings in tombs as they symbolized life after death. King Tut also took a pomegranate vase into the afterlife with him. 
 
 In 700 B.C. when Zoroastrianism became the major religion of the Middle East, the pomegranate became associated with fertility. The leaves of the pomoegranate tree, which remained green for the majority of the year, symbolized eternal life. Thus, pomegranate trees were planted in the courtyards of Zoroastrian temple.

Also in 700 B.C., pomegranates were introduced to the ancient Romans, who named the fruit "Punicum malum" or "Phoenician apple."  They grew in shady areas of residential courtyards for Roman people to enjoy.  Roman women wore headdresses made of pomegranate twigs to symbolize their status as married women.

In Greek mythology, Hades, Lord of the Underworld, famously used a pomegranate to tempt Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter. When Persephone succumbed to temptation and ate the arils of the pomegranate, she was joined to Hades forever.  Demeter, heartbroken at the loss of her daughter, prevented the earth from bearing fruit unless her daughter returned to her from the Underworld.  Zeus arranged a compromise with Hades, providing that Persephone would only live with Hades for one third of the year, and the other two thirds with Demeter.  The arrival of Persephone from the Underworld each year signifies the arrival of Spring.  

 
In Buddhism, the pomegranate is considered to be one of three blessed fruits. The legend is that between the period of 563-483 B.C., many of the Buddha's wealthy disciples presented him with lavish gifts. When an old, destitute woman presented the Buddha with one small pomegranate, the Buddha rang the bell of honor in her name and considered this to be his greatest gift. Pomegranates are widely depicted in Asian art as a tool to repel evil spirits and is a symbol of good health and blessings.

In Islam, the legend is each pomegranate contains one aril that has been descended directly from paradise. In 600 A.D., the prophet Muhammad considered the fruit to be a cornerstone of good physical and emotional health. Pomegranates are abundant in Islamic art and architecture. 

 The pomegranate arrived in North America around 1521 A.D., after Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortes conqured the Aztecs in Mexico, Spanish missionaries planted pomegranate trees.  The pomegranate was then transported north to missions in California and Texas. 

It is said that Thomas Jefferson planted pomegranates at his plantation, Monticello, in Virginia and that the English colonies attempted to grow them as well.  However, the fruit did not adapt to the harsh weather in the Northeast and fared better when it was grown in the south, namely, in Florida and in California.  Today, pomegranates are primarily harvested in California but are available throughout the United States. They are in season from August through December and are readily available in Northeastern Pennsylvania in November and December.
In 2002, POM Wonderful launched a line of conveniently extracted and packaged pomegranate juice. POM Wonderful grows, juices and bottles its own fruit and promises 100% authentic pomegranate juice free of added sugar, colorants and other low-grade fruit juices.
This year, I was delighted to receive a complimentary case of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice to use in my culinary recipes. As a little girl, I enjoyed eating pomegranate seeds and was amazed at the inside of the fruit. I wasn't aware of how many culinary uses there were for the pomegranate, and had fun experimenting with different recipes on the POM Wonderful site. The bottled juice is easy to use in the kitchen. Here is a sampling of the POM recipes below, great for easy and fun holiday entertaining. You can find more recipes by visiting the POM Wonderul website.

Mini chocolate brownies with POM cream cheese icing.
Pomegranate Cream Cheese Icing
 Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
14 oz. powdered sugar
Store bought mini brownies. (I like Sam's Club.)

Directions:
Pour the POM juice in a small saucepan and reduce on low heat until the mixture has a syrup like texture.Set aside and let cool.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese. Beat and slowly add the powdered sugar and POM syrup.

Ice the mini brownies with the POM cream cheese icing. Top with red sprinkles or pomegranate arils.


Mixed green salad with shredded chicken and POM Honey Dijon Dressing.
Pomegranate Pear Salad with POM Honey Dijon Dressing
(Serves 8)

This recipe is by Chef Michael LeClerc of 350 Main Brassiere in park City, Utah. It appears courtesy of POM and can be found here
Ingredients:

POM Honey Dijon Dressing 
Juice from 2-3 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates,* or 1 cup POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pear Salad
1/2 cup arils from 1-2 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates
1 lb. salad greens
1/2 cup sliced honey roasted almonds
1 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 ripe d'Anjou pears

Directions: 

POM Honey Dijon Dressing: Prepare fresh pomegranate juice.* In a large mixing bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, white vinegar, lemon juice and zest, honey and Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in the oil, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

Pear Salad: Score 1-2 fresh pomegranates and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranates under water to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.) Toss the salad greens with just enough dressing to lightly coat. Top with almond slices, blue cheese crumbles and sliced pears. (Slice the pears at the last minute to prevent browning.) Garnish with fresh pomegranate arils.
Pomegranate guacamole with cucumbers.
 Pomegranate Guacamole
(Serves  8)
This recipe appears courtesy of POM and can be found here on their website.
 It's a really great way to incorporate healthy benefits of pomegranates into a festive holiday appetizer. It's also delicious on pita chips!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup arils from 1 large POM Wonderful Pomegranate
2 ripe avocados, pits removed, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped cucumbers
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Place diced avocados in bowl. Score 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.) Add 1/4 cup pomegranate arils and the remaining ingredients to the diced avocados. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place guacamole in a serving bowl and sprinkle remaining pomegranate arils on top for garnish. Serve with assorted color tortilla chips.
Mixed berry POM smoothies.
Fairytale Mixed Berry POM Smoothies
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
1 6 oz container of Fage Greek yogurt, 0% fat
1 cup of frozen mixed berries (or plain frozen blueberries)
1 cup of frozen strawberries
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/2 8-oz. bottle of POM Wonderful juice
Optional: fresh berries or pomegranate arils, and mint leaves as garnish.

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse.  If too thick, add more POM juice or some water and blend. Top with fresh berriesor arils and mint leaves as garnish.
 
 


Enjoy! :-)

December 1, 2010

Fairytale French Onion Soup

My French Onion Soup Haiku 
hot bubbling crock
onions, beef broth, Gruyere cheese
melting down the sides ...

When I am craving classic comfort food, a signature lunchtime staple comes to mind: French Onion Soup.
The origin of onion soups can be traced all the way back to ancient Roman times.  (Reinforcing my belief that all good food originates in Italy!)  "French Onion Soup," the version that combined beef broth with caramelized onions, originated in France in the 8th Century.  This soup became popular in the United States in the 1960s, when the nation experienced a surge in French cooking.  This trend was due to the publishing of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in 1962.  

French Onion Soup is still wildly popular in restaurants across the U.S. today.  It is usually served with croutons or bread and melted Gruyere cheese, which is to many people, the best part. Authentic Gruyere cheese, however, is not really French. It is Swiss, named after the town of Gruyeres in Switzerland. The French versions of Gruyere cheese are Comte and Beauford. A notable difference between the two is that in accordance with French law, French Gruyere cheese has holes in it, whereas Swiss Gruyere does not.  Gruyere cheese has a salty, nutty flavor and is oven creamy.

I love to order French onion soup for lunch in restaurants on snowy days. There's nothing like breaking open that golden cheesy crust that engulfs the crock of the hot onion broth. What's even better is the little slice of heaven that is tucked under the cheese: the baguette. It's love at first bite.

 

You don't have to go to a restaurant to experience this soup - it's easy to make in the comfort of your own home.  If you have broth, onions, and some red wine in your pantry, you're all set!   This recipe is rich and flavorful.  I substituted 2% Swiss cheese slices instead of the Gruyere to drastically cut down on the cost of the soup, as well as the calorie and fat content without sacrificing any flavor.  The buttery, cheesy and crunchy comforting goodness of this soup is hard to resist on a cold winter's night!

Fairytale French Onion Soup
Serves 4-6
Ingredients:
4 large onions
2 tablespoons of butter
6 cups of beef broth (you can use chicken if you don't have it but beef gives a heartier flavor)
1/2 cup of red wine
2 bay leafs
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together.
Pam cooking spray
2 sourdough rolls or French baguette
Kraft 2% Swiss Cheese Slices (8 slices)
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Peel and cut onions in 1/4 inch slices. Melt the butter in a dutch oven. Add the onions, sprinkle with some salt, and cook down over medium-high heat until the onions are soft and have some color, at least 10 minutes. (You want them to be soft and tender, not completely caramelized.) Add the broth, wine, bay leaves, and thyme. Simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, slice the rolls into 3/4 inch slices and spray with Pam butter cooking spray.  Place under the broiler and lightly brown each side.

When soup is ready, remove the bay leaves and thyme bundle. Ladle soup into 4 crocks/soup ramekins.  Top with toasted bread and 2 slices of Swiss cheese.  Bake at 425 degrees or until cheese is melted and bubbling. (You can use the broiler if necessary for two minutes.)